Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Making Baklava--in photos...

We had a family dinner this past Sunday and it was Chad's turn to choose the meal. Predictably he chose Reuben Sandwiches and Baklava. Baklava is a pain to make, but wonderful to eat. I don't make it very often, but we all love it when I do. This time I took photos of the process to accompany the recipe. So, for those of you who would love to make the best Baklava this side of Greece, here you go:


Make the syrup first, so it will have time to cool off.
Ingredients assembled. The pyrex pitcher has the ground nuts, bread crumbs and cinnamon.
2c sugar
1 1/2C water
1/2 C honey
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves

Syrup cooking on the stove.
Combine above ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat and boil gently until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes.  Strain into bowl.  Cool completely.

Nut filling
1 3/4C sliced almonds, toasted, about 7 ounces
1 3/4C walnuts, toasted, about 7 ounces
1/2C fine dry white breadcrumbs
2t cinnamon

Finely chop almonds and walnuts in a processor (or blender).  Transfer to large bowl.  Mix in breadcrumbs and cinnamon.

2   1-pound packages frozen phyllo pastry sheets, thawed, (available in large grocery stores in the frozen food section.
1 1/4C (2 1/2 sticks) butter, melted, lukewarm

Whole cloves

Buttering the pan. I use a pyrex baking dish which is a bit larger than a 9x13 pan.
Athens Fillo now comes in a twin pack, so you don't need to cut it in half first. 
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°.  Butter bottom and sides of a 13x 9x 2" glass baking dish.  Unroll stacked phyllo sheets on work surface.  Press on folds to smooth.  Using heavy sharp knife, cut stacked sheets crosswise in half. [If the dough is the right size to fit in your pan, you won't need to cut it. I found that  Athen's Fillo dough now comes in twin packs and doesn't need to be cut. Also, because of the size, not so much is wasted and 1# was enough.]

Place 1 sheet of phyllo in bottom o prepared dish (keep remaining sheets covered with plastic wrap and damp towel to prevent drying). Because many brands of phyllo are not long enough to touch both ends of dish, it may be necessary to stagger sheets so that 1 sheet touches one end of dish and the next sheet touches the opposite end.

First layer, butered.
Brush first sheet with melted butted.  Top with second phyllo sheet. Brush with butter.  Repeat, using 12 more sheets, buttering each sheet. (14 SHEETS IN FIRST LAYER)  Top with 3/4C of nut mixture.

Cover with 4 MORE SHEETS, IN SECOND LAYER, buttering each.  Sprinkle 3/4C nut mixture over it.

Do THREE MORE LAYERS WITH 4 SHEETS EACH, buttering each sheet and putting 3/4C nut mixture over each layer.

Sprinkling on the nut filling. Make sure to get corners.
Top with 18 MORE SHEETS IN LAST LAYER, buttering each, (reserving remaining phyllo sheets for another use, may refreeze).  Brush top sheet generously with butter.

Sometimes the dough rips. That is OK.

The dough is too short. Just put the next piece over the uncovered parts. With so many layers, it will all even out.
Using a long sharp knife, cut baklava lengthwise into thirds. To form diamond shapes, make 8 diagonal cuts, spacing evenly and forming about 15 diamonds (there will be some smaller pieces around the edge of the dish.)  Press a whole clove into the center of each diamond.

Adding the cloves. When the cloves are all in, sprinkle top with water. I just put some on my fingers and sprinkle the best I can.
Lightly sprinkle top of baklava with cold water.  Bake until pastry is golden brown, about one hour.  Remove baklava from oven and set on work surface.

Out of the oven. It smells heavenly.
Adding the syrup.
Gradually pour syrup evenly over hot baklava. 

Transfer to a rack and cool completely in baking dish.  Can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Cover with foil and let stand at room temperature.  To serve, transfer baklava pieces to a platter, using metal spatula as aid.

Cooled and ready to eat. This serves a LOT and tastes great left over.


Friday, October 8, 2010

How to Raise Boys Who Love to Read...

There was an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal by Publisher Thomas Spence on this subject. If you have been disgusted by all the Goosebump/Captain Underpants and other gross books that are marketed to boys, you will love this article.

One thing I think it left out, though, is to get children interested in reading, we need to show them that reading is interesting. If kids don't like to read--read to them. I dare anyone to read Robert Lewis Stevenson's Kidnapped to teen or younger boys and not have them beg for you to read another chapter. And try reading Huckleberry Finn aloud to a your children and notice their engaged faces and questioning minds.

Reading books aloud to your children can create a family culture, can allow you to talk about subjects that might not normally come up in every day life, and to walk in another's shoes. Reading aloud bonds a family together.

The gist of the article is that boys are behind girls in reading. It says, "in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents."

The author, Thomas Spence continues: "The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books"

BRAVO! I could not have said it better myself other to add that parents can read TO their children, even when an child does not want to read for themselves. It raises cultural literacy, vocabulary, listening skills and a host of other skills.

Mr. Spence finishes with this final comment: "I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable: There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls. How many of these families, do you suppose, have thrown grossology [reading gross books] parties?"

If you want help choosing great books for your children, I suggest ordering a Sonlight Curriculum Catalog
or email me. Even if you don't intend to homeschool, you can't beat Sonlight for being a great place to buy wonderful books that will even interest boys.

Take care,

For some more posts on Reading:

Monday, October 4, 2010

The blessing of having one income...

We have had one income our whole married life. My husband has worked 1, 2 and sometimes 3 jobs at a time so that I could stay home and raise and homeschool our 5 children. And now that the kids are grown and I am more grateful than ever that we were able to live on one income.

Let me say, for the record, that I did work from home at various things during the years; sometimes because we needed a bit more money, sometimes for fulfillment and for a bit more money, but I never had to work away from home.

College graduation carrying Cris
When we were first married I was 19 [gasp] and had just finished my freshman year at Michigan State University. Bob worked and put me through college. I did not have a job--I went to school at a quick pace and we pitched in together to make supper, do the laundry and so on. I graduated from college in 3 years and 1/4 quarter [back in the days before MSU had semesters].

I finished my last class 4 weeks before our first son Cris was born. When I graduated it was like getting a raise, because we didn't have to pay for tuition or books anymore. I stayed home with Cris. It was really God's provision, I think, that I didn't have a job first because I am pretty sure it would have been hard to live on one income if we had been living on two.

Through the years I have babysat at various times and when we lived in Florida I did licensed home daycare to supplement our income. It was hard, and some days were long, but I was able to stay home with our children and I really did love the children that came to my home day after day.
Daughter Kari [L] and daycare best buddy Arden

Later, in Kentucky I baked bread for 5 years to earn a bit of money and to also teach the kids a bit about business. They all pitched in and helped.
Baking Hot Cross Buns to sell at Easter time
By this time we were homeschooling and I found that I could represent our homeschool curriculum as a Sonlight Consultant and make a bit of commission. That was in 1999 and I am still working part time in that capacity. I love the interaction with the parents I meet at the conventions and I count it a privilege to be able to encourage homeschool moms and dads.

My team in Indianapolis in 2009.

When Scotty graduated I said to Bob, "You weren't thinking I was going to get a job now, were you?" He said he wasn't I said, "Good. I wasn't either."

But, you would think I would be bored or unfulfilled. I'm not. I continue to encourage homeschool parents and I also have a nice little soap business that fulfills my creative needs and supports my soap-making habit. I have so many things I am interested in and even without homeschooling full time, I still don't think I will be able to live long enough to do everything I am interested in.
Soap on shelves

And now, with two grandbabies, I am very thankful that I am not working outside of our home. I get to babysit them a few hours a few days a week. How awesome is that? What a joy to be able to love and care for the next generation.

I think if I would have had a job it would have been hard to quit, but because I have been at home the whole time grandmothering is just an extension of what I have been doing all along.

Granddaughters Elinor and Allison
If you are living on one income [or mostly one income] so that you can stay home with your children. If you have to watch what you spend and sometimes wonder if being full time mom is worth the sacrifice, I have to say, "There is nothing better-your sacrifice is worth it!"

Take Care,

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Potato soup with ham. I added 2 cans of canned cheddar cheese soup to the pot for a cheesy flavor. .
I am not sure what this means, but I have seen all kinds of "a Palooza's" lately. A Scrapbooking-a-Palooza, a Birthday-a-Palooza and others. So, whatever it means, the truth is, I love to make soup when the weather gets cold. It got down to about 40 degrees last night, so today was a soup day. I am going to try to post a different soup recipe weekly for a few weeks, so today is the first day of Soup-a-Palooza at my house.

Baked Potato Soup

Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, till they are soft when you stick a fork in them:
  • 4 Large or 8 small potatoes [wash then prick each with a fork several times before putting it in the oven. I just sit them on the oven rack, but you could put them on a cookie sheet if you want to.] When done, take out of the oven, cut in half, let them cool a bit and scoop out the pulp.
If you want bacon or ham [optional] prepare it as follows.:
  • Fry 12 pieces of bacon till crisp and crumble or cut into pieces. Divide in half. Save 1/2 of it for people to sprinkle on top when they eat the soup and put the other 1/2 into the soup.
  • For ham, I like to add cooked diced ham or a small canned ham [Dak brand] and just break it up as you add it.
Melt over low heat:
  • 1/2 C [1 stick] butter, then add:
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper or white pepper or both!
  • 1 tsp dry mustard [optional]
  • 1 tsp garlic powder and/or onion powder [optional]
When the butter and flour mixture boils add about a quart of milk, skim is fine. Stir until the soup is thick. I usually add some water, up to 2 cups if it seems too thick.

Add the potato pulp and ham or bacon if using.

It is great just like this. But you can do a variety of things with this basic soup. Here are some ideas:
  • Add chopped parsley--dry or fresh.
  • Add 1 8oz container of sour cream just before serving [non-fat is fine] Don't let the soup boil after adding the sour cream or it might separate.
  • Add chopped green onions [2 chopped green onions is plenty or you may want to use some for garnish only.]
  • Add 1-2 cans cheddar cheese soup and and equal amount of water
  • Have grated cheddar cheese, bacon bits and chopped green onions available for people to add to their soup.
I usually make way too much so I put the left overs in glass quart jars in the fridge. It keeps for at least a week and makes a good snack, lunch or dinner. No matter how great of a restaurant I go to, if I get potato soup, it is never as good as my homemade. As a note, I don't usually add cheese right to the soup because if you do and the soup boils, it can separate. That's why I usually add canned cheddar cheese soup or just have grated cheese on the table for folks to add to their soup after it is in their bowl.

Take care,