Homeschool How to: Managing the kitchen

Some time ago, a friend was visiting for a play date in the afternoon with my kids.  As she spent the afternoon with me, I cleaned up the lunch dishes and began making dinner.  She commented, “You must feel like you never get out of the kitchen!  You have to make breakfast, lunch and dinner every day!”

The truth is, when you are at home with the kids all day every day, sometimes the cooking does get to be a chore.  For me, it is not so much the cooking as the ideas that become a challenge.  I don’t want to feed my kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day, although I don’t mind it once a week.  I want to include vegetables and fruits, and I want lunch to be fairly quick.  So coming up with ideas for lunch is an important part of my homeschool management.  This winter, we have been eating lots of soup for lunch.  When I make the soup, the kids can make cornbread muffins or potato rolls to go along with the soup if there is time, or we can toast a loaf of store-bought bread if there isn’t much time.  Soup, with bread and fruit beside it, is a quick, healthy lunch for my family.

This Sunday, Shandy took Max on his “date”, and since Daddy wasn’t home, that means everyone else gets leftovers for dinner!  Lucy and I took advantage of our lazy afternoon to make 3 different soups for our lunches this week.

(Sorry, Iphone pictures — Daddy had the good camera.)  From left to right, we made sweet potato coconut soup, spicy cauliflower soup, Thai fresh pea soup, and blueberry baked oatmeal for Monday morning breakfast.  I chose these recipes because they had relatively few ingredients, similar cooking times, and didn’t require too much intensive effort.  Multi-tasking on recipes is difficult enough.  If any one recipe is also difficult, then the multi-tasking doesn’t work very well.

We started with boiling the rice and spices for the fresh pea soup, and then Lucy helped out by cutting up the cauliflower while I sauteed the onion and carrot for the cauliflower soup.  Meanwhile, we cooked the sweet potato for the sweet potato soup.  The recipe  calls for a baked sweet potato, but when yams were on sale last month, I bought lots and we peeled, chopped and froze them.  So I just boiled one quart size bag of the sweet potatoes until they were soft.

Lucy helped keep track of where we were in each recipe, and we worked really hard to put the right spices in each one!  After all, Thai spices and Indian spices are quite different.

An important lesson Lucy learned during the cooking session is “mise en place”, having the spices prepared and measured before starting to cook.  This is especially important in doing more than one recipe at a time, or preparing a recipe with many different ingredients used in succession.  I usually don’t cook this way, but if I am making Indian food I always do this.


This cooking project took only about an hour and a half, we enjoyed good company, and are well prepared for the week ahead!  Hope enjoyed your weekend as well!

Sweet potato curry soup


2 sweet potatoes, baked or cooked completely

1 can coconut milk

2 teaspoons sweet yellow curry

2 teaspoons garam masala

1 cup water

1 teaspoon salt, to taste

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.  Taste for seasoning.  If I was making this for just adults, I would add a sprinkle of cayenne.  The soup may be refrigerated until ready to serve.  Heat thoroughly and serve with a dollop of plain yogurt.


Kids in the Kitchen — Vegetable Beef Soup

First of all, let me explain why a vegetarian family is eating beef soup.  One reason is that we are not 100 percent vegetarian yet.  We are still in the cleaning all the meat out of the freezer, having one meal a week that contains meat stage.  Also, we feel that if we can verify the source of our meat — if the animal had a fairly normal, comfortable life before it was slaughtered (no feed lots) — then we probably can conscientiously eat it.  So I bought these soup bones at a local farm about a month ago, and have been waiting to use them.  In all honesty, this meal would have been just as good without the soup bones.  As it is, I used about 2 pounds of meat (one pound of it mostly bones) to make about 3 meals for our family.  Does that make us carnivores?  I guess so.

Next, I want to talk about kids and knives.  With my oldest two children, I was afraid to ever let them touch a knife.  I think my son was 12 before he cut up his own meat (not really.)  But we did not do food preparation that involved chopping.  With the younger ones, I realize I was a little overprotective.  Especially since we don’t have any little ones running around underfoot to distract and knock off balance, I allow my younger ones to use knives.  That being said, we are VERY careful.  Max is always seated at the cutting board, I am standing very nearby, and no one else is allowed in the kitchen.  For this soup recipe, Max did all the peeling (carrots) and chopped the celery.  He thought it was great fun.

This is a great soup to start in the early afternoon and allow to simmer until dinner time.

Vegetable Beef Soup

2 pounds beef soup bones

2 onions, chopped

6 medium potatos, chopped

1 quart tomatoes or 2 16 ounce cans, juice and all, chopped if they are whole

1 quart water

6 carrots, cut in bite sized pieces

6 stalks celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1 Tablespoon bouquet garni or similar Italian-type seasoning (I like plenty of rosemary when I have it)

1 Tablespoon salt

Put all ingredients in a large stock pot.  I don’t ever let this soup come to a boil because that makes greasy foamy stuff come off of the bones, and I don’t want to skim that off my soup.  Instead, I heat it on medium high to a near boil, then turn to low, put the lid on, and simmer for as long as I can.  When I am nearly ready to serve the soup, (when I put my rolls in the oven), I remove the meat and bones and break the meat up into bite size pieces.  Then I return the meat to the pot, taste for salt, and serve.


Enjoy your soup!  Have a great day.

The Value of Running Partners — and a Quick Soup Recipe

This is what we looked like after our run today.

This picture should be  called Eden and I and the Non-Participant.  Yes, he ran.  Yes, it was a good run.  No, he doesn’t want you to know about it.  Eden and I ran four miles because she is starting to train for her first half-marathon next summer.  Our mouths are hanging open because we were trying to show you how we could see our breath (it was only 32 degrees) but we couldn’t catch it in the picture.

I guess I was boinging after my run today.  It is wonderful to have a running partner to help get you out of the house.  When you’ve both got up and got dressed for your run, you can kick each other out the door.  As a parent,  I am excited about setting a good exercise example for my kids.  Having them as running partners is a blast.

Yesterday’s run was even better — I ran 11.4 with negative splits (last miles faster than first miles.) If you can get yourself out the door, the temperatures are great to run in right now.

I also made this great soup yesterday.  I got the recipe out of Runner’s World magazine, and juiced it up a little bit.

Tomato Chickpea Soup with Pesto


2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, peeled and chopped

1/2 bunch celery, washed well and chopped

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

64 ounces tomatoes

1 quart water

2 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

basil pesto for serving

Saute onions, celery, and garlic in olive oil in a large stock pot until wilted, about 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes, water, salt and Italian seasoning and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, then add chickpeas.  Cook for about 10 minutes more, allowing flavors to blend.  Serve with a scoop of basil pesto on top.  This was a delicious, quick, lunchtime soup.

Hope you enjoy your day.

Vegetarian Mulligatawny

As promised, a great race recovery soup recipe for today.  If you do your long run on Sunday like I do, this is a great soup to set on low on the stove and go out for your run.  Make the rice before you hit the shower, and you will have a great meal without too much effort.  Also, unless your family is huge, you will have another meal for sometime through the week already made (=more run time!)


Makes about 12 servings

Adapted from the New England Soup and Bread Cookbook

2 Tblsp. Olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, smashed

4 large carrots, peeled and cut up

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 small head cabbage, chopped finely and rinsed

1 quart canned tomatoes (32 Ounces)

8 cups water

1 pound lentils (I use the red lentils for this soup.)

3 tsp. curry powder

3 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. ground coriander


Cayenne to taste

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed well

1 can coconut milk

2 Tblsp. Honey

To serve:

Basmati rice

Cilantro chutney

Peach or pear chutney


Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot.  Add onion, garlic, carrots and celery.  Allow to sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add lentils, cabbage, tomatoes, water and spices.  Stir well and bring to a boil, then cook on low about 40 minutes until the lentils are soft.  Meanwhile, cook the rice to serve with your soup.  I like brown basmati rice the best.  When the lentils are soft, add garbanzo beans, coconut milk and honey.  Stir well and heat about 10 minutes.

Serve soup in bowls over basmati rice with condiments and naan on the side.  This makes a wonderful, easy way to get your Indian food fix for the week, and has protein and carbs to be a great race recovery soup.