Something out of nothing

When you have two active and adventurous little people living in your house, certain things happen more regularly than they used to. Which is to say they happen when they never ever did before. Things like birds stuck in the laundry room (with subsequent panicked calls to the humane society), legs stuck in between furniture slats (with subsequent panicked calls to your spouse), and paint samples stuck in mouths (with subsequent panicked calls to poison control, and also your spouse because the comment “he should be fine, but if he starts vomiting uncontrollably or having a seizure, call 911” is actually really not all that helpful, poison control lady, though I do appreciate your advice about attaching a sharpie marker to all containers of toxic substances in the house to “mark their current levels” so that next time he ingests something deadly and terrifying I will know precisely how much he drank! But of course, again, I digress …)

Today, it was a panicked call to the pediatrician and then a visit (luckily to her, and not the ER) for a little non-operative emergency extraction. Removing playdough from ear, if you want the precise procedural name. Removing still warm, homemade orange playdough that I thought would make me an awesome mom for today, rather than an apparently negligent one. It seems that the warmth actually caused the problem – I was told by a three year old in the know that he thought warm playdough would “sound good” and so, obviously, he made earplugs out of it.

swear I keep an eye on my kids. It takes them the tiniest fractions of seconds to do these things. They are amazing, really.

Anyway, our wonderful pediatrician reassured me that he was fine, that his hearing was not damaged, that she couldn’t even tell what color the playdough had been so I must have gotten most of it out. In her lovely way she made sure that he knew that playdough does not belong in your ears (she also checked his nose, throat, and other ear, just in case) – and then she said to me “It’s hard not to overreact when they’re jamming foreign objects into their bodies.”

Absolutely right, indeed, it’s hard not to – wait. Overreact? But I really couldn’t tell if I had gotten it all out of his ear, and then he said his ear hurt, and anyway it was their receptionist who said “Better safe than sorry, so why don’t you bring him in!”

In retrospect, perhaps his ear hurt from my inexpert attempts at dough removal. Perhaps a different, braver mom would have gotten it out and let it be, rather than obsessing about playdough coated eardrums and the staph bacteria potentially harbored in the salty orange goo. Perhaps I mountained the molehill. Perhaps I even, maybe, overreacted.

When we got home, me feeling slightly incompetent and extremely frazzled, Lucas irritated and hungry, Jacob delighted with his Dinosaur Train sticker and orange lollypop, I realized that it was almost 5:00 and we had no dinner in sight. We were approaching melt-down hour and I had no plan. Another mom-fail – it was shaping up to be just that kind of day.

But then I remembered: we had leftover soup in the fridge!

Lucas was too hungry to wait, so he ate pancakes from the freezer. I am counting this as a win, seeing as they were whole-grain and unsweetened. He also got some stale cheese crumbs that he must have found under the highchair seat cover, making it actually a pretty well balanced meal. Or at least a meal.

But for me and Jacob – leftover Green Soup, a couple slices of stale crusty bread revived in the toaster, and poached eggs.

For the second time today, I kind of managed to make something out of nothing :)

Green Soup
This soup began when I had turnips and leeks from our Farmer’s Market and was feeling soupy. Unsure where to go with it, I tried Chez Panisse Vegetables (always a good bet!) and found a recipe that sounded pretty good for a pureed leek and sweet potato soup. I liked the idea of sweet leeks and sweet potatoes, but my guys prefer chunks in their soup and I also wanted to make it more of a meal. The buttery yellow sweet potato flesh and pale green leeks, sitting next to the soft white turnips and deep-hued turnip greens, was so pretty – I decided not to mess up my color scheme, and added a big scoop of French lentils (those pretty forest green ones that cook in about twenty minutes). This is quite a flexible soup, with a gorgeously green and herby flavor that like many soups gets deeper and richer as it sits in your fridge for a few days. Here is my basic recipe, but this one begs for experimentation, so have at it!

2 tablespoons butter
4 leeks, sliced thin (white and pale green parts only)
1 cup dry french lentils, picked over and rinsed
6 cups vegetable bouillon (made with 1 Rapunzel Sea Salt & Herb bouillon cube)
1 bunch young white turnips, peeled and diced
1 large sweet potato, diced (peeled or not, per your preference)
Greens from turnip bunch, ribboned

Melt butter in your soup pan. Saute the leeks until they are fragrant and soft. Add lentils to the pan, stir around for a moment. Add bouillon broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. ** Simmer twenty minutes. Add turnips and sweet potato. Simmer ten minutes more. Add turnip greens. Simmer ten minutes more. Taste the soup and see if the lentils are soft. Adjust seasonings.

Note that once it is done cooking, Green Soup is actually more of a drab olive green color. But tasty! We love this served with crusty bread and a poached egg. It ages well, and makes a good base for building your vegetable soups all week long. (Add diced tomatoes, or additional broth and pasta, or whatever your farmer’s market turns up, and just keep having soup for lunch each day! :)

** You can also at this point do the ‘dump everything in’ soup making method, which still tastes great, but your potatoes and turnips might get mushier than you wanted, but has the bonus that you don’t have to keep checking on it/adding things.

Playdough
This is the recipe that Jacob’s nursery school has used for its weekly playdough for 50 years. It forms a soft, supple, surprisingly strong playdough and it is so easy to make! It can easily be doubled or quadrupled, and is hard to mess up – kids can do every part except the heating on the stove themselves. 

1 cup water
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
Food coloring

Mix everything but the food coloring together in a soup pot. Then add food coloring and slowly mix it around, watching the mixture change color. Adjust coloring to your desired tone. Once it is all mixed, have a grown up heat the pot over your lowest heat setting on the stove top until a dough forms (five to ten minutes – see photos below). Remove from pan and knead the dough until it is a consistent texture. It will be nice and warm and super soft, and will keep fresh for a long time in a zip lock (once it has cooled, and assuming it is not lodged in your ear canal).

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