Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: Spaghetti with Zucchini, Mint, and Pine Nuts

It's no secret I've been complaining about our late summer for weeks now.  The plus side of the unusually warm weather means that we've still been able to enjoy beach days with friends.

Thatbaby loves going into the ocean, but his friends were a little more hesitant.  They did enjoy jumping and splashing in a big hole we filled with water.  And sharing snacks.

And squirting each other with water guns, squirters, and buckets of water. 

Thatbaby tried to teach Lexus about the joys of splashing in the waves.  She taught him the beauty of sunbathing.

So even though I whine and moan, I do make lemonade out of lemons. 

Tonight's "Midnight Pasta" is perfect for after a beach day.  It's quick, which is important, because the sun just saps your energy.  The zucchini and mint also make it feel cool and fresh.  And summery.  Even in the fall.

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Mint, and Pine Nuts (From Trail of Crumbs)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, sliced
2 small zucchini, cut lengthwise and sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1/2 lb spaghetti
2 Tbsp mint leaves
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

  1. Heat oil in large skillet on medium heat.  Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  2.  Add zucchini and cook about 5 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add red pepper flakes.
  5. Cook spaghetti in salted boiling water just until al dente.  Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup pasta water.
  6. Add pasta to the skillet with shallots and zucchini.  Heat about 1 minute, adding some of reserved pasta water if too dry.
  7. Remove from heat, add mint, half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and half of the pine nuts.  Toss to combine.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: Spaghetti with Pancetta Cream

I mentioned yesterday that we carved pumpkins over the weekend, so I thought I would backtrack and tell you a little bit about the picking of said pumpkins.  Our pumpkin patch visit!

We actually had to institute the "you have to be able to carry it" rule when Thatbaby wanted the biggest pumpkins he could find.

We also instituted the "one pumpkin only" rule when he attempted to take home every pumpkin he could carry.

We relented a little on that last rule, and let him take home two.

And we also gave in on his request to go on a hay ride.  Which he really liked.  Except for the pokey hay part.  Good thing I had a nice, soft, non-hay filled lap for him to sit on.

And a close up of our finished products - I did the carving on Thatbaby's but I let him design it.  He requested "circle eyes" a "rocket ship nose" and an "airplane mouth."

I ended up going the ghost route.

Thatboy was inspired by the weird lumps and scars on his pumpkin and used it to create a brainy monster.

Trail of Crumbs last 3 recipes are all versions of "Midnight pasta" - pasta made after late nights out.  Midnight pasta sounds perfect for Halloween, doesn't it?  Well, at least it sounds spookier than it is.  Really, they're just very quick pasta dishes (that make liberal use of red pepper flakes.)

Spaghetti with Pancetta and Cream (From Trail of Crumbs)
1 tsp olive oil
5 oz pancetta
1 onion, thinly sliced
red pepper flakes
1/2 lb spaghetti
2 to 3 Tbsp creme fraiche
2 egg yolks
1 cup parmigiano-reggiano
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.  Add pancetta and cook, about 6 minutes, until beginning to crisp but not burn.
  2. Add onion, black pepper, and hot red pepper flakes.  Stir and cook about 2 minutes.
  3. Cook spaghetti in salted boiled water just until al dente.  Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup pasta water.
  4. Add pasta to skillet with onions and pancetta. 
  5. Whisk together creme fraiche, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano.
  6. Toss into pasta and stir, adding some of reserved pasta water if too dry.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: Chicken in Vin Jaune with Morels and Creme Fraiche

Happy Halloween week my friends!  We spent all weekend decorating.  We started a couple weeks back, when Thatboy built and painted our tombstones.  That's right, tombstones.  Growing up, Thatdad always turned our front yard into a graveyard for Halloween, and it's a tradition I wanted to start up too.  Now that we have a front yard.

Saturday morning Thatboy painted the epitaphs on the stones while Thatbaby and I carved his pumpkins. 

Sunday morning, we got to decorating.  After we had the tombstones set up, I felt we needed a little something more.  So we introduced a new friend to keep an eye on them.  Thatbaby named him Jack. 

Thatbaby also had picked out a giant spider a couple weeks ago he really wanted to use in decorating the house.  After Thatboy hung it from a tree, I got inspired to create a spider infestation. 

I'm not letting the fact that it's still summer-hot out get me out of the Halloween spirit.  I'm going to keep acting like it's fall until Mother Nature finally gets the hint.  It's time for cooler weather!  Slow cooked dinners!  Mushrooms and roasted potatoes!

Join me in pretending that fall has arrived and hopefully it'll be here just in time for Halloween this Friday!

Chicken in Vin Jaune with Morels and Creme Fraiche (From Trail of Crumbs)
2 cups dried morel mushrooms
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 to 3 shallots, diced
2 cups vin jaune or dry sherry
8 oz creme fraiche

  1. Rinse morels in cold water, then place in a bowl and pour hot water over.  Let soak and plump, about 15 minutes.
  2. Season chicken with salt, peppr, and nutmeg.
  3. Heat butter and oil in a large heavy bottom pot on medium high heat.  Add chicken and let brown, turning once, about 10 minutes.  Remove chicken to a plate and reserve.
  4. Add shallots to pan and cook 1 minute.
  5. Add wine and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat to medium high and let cook, uncovered, scraping bottom of pan with a spoon, about 10 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half.
  7. Remove morels from liquid, being careful to leave behind any grit.  Add morels to pot, stir in creme fraiche and add reserved chicken.
  8. Cover and let cook another 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  9. Taste sauce and add more salt and pepper as needed.  Serve warm over rice or with roasted potatoes.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Mommy Mondays: Picky Picky

Well I would love to tell you that at the age of 3, or sometime before that children magically become less picky eaters, but so far, in my experience this hasn't happened.

I've spoken a little bit before about how we handle eating in this house, but it's one of those subjects that should be updated.

As usual breakfast is our best "meal."  Thatbaby eats a full breakfast.  Which could be due to the fact that he's completely in control.  It's the only meal that he gets to pick.  Cereal, cereal bars, oatmeal, yogurt, it's his choice.  Although I do have a "pancakes on the weekend" rule that rarely comes in to play. 

His lunch is provided by his preschool, and most days he claims to eat all of his lunch, although there are days he'll tell me he didn't eat his sandwich, just the peaches.  There are, however, also days he claims to have eaten his salad, which doesn't usually happen at home.  On the weekends, he's hit or miss with lunch.  Sometimes eating all of it, other times just having a bite or two.  I think it depends on how tired he is.

Dinners are still our biggest struggle.  Between the picky eating (last night he decided he didn't like bacon any more) and the fact that it takes him a full hour to finish his meal.  But we try and just roll with it.  With one exception, when last week he asked for leftover pork instead of stromboli, I serve dinner, and if he eats it, he eats it.  If he doesn't, he doesn't.  Over the weekend he had virtually no dinner when he decided he didn't like the sesame noodles we were having.  On the other hand, he's beginning to venture out more, like asking for salad whenever Thatboy and I have it with dinner.

If Thatbaby had his druthers, he'd be on a straight snack diet.  That is his favorite thing to eat.  He loves to open "the brown thing" (the pantry) and pick something out.  Which could also factor in to the lack of appetite for lunches and dinners!   I've been reading about making "snack areas" for kids to grab their own pre-portioned snacks and I'm thinking of implementing that, so I'll keep you updated on how that goes.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Runday: Surfing Madonna

I ran the Surfing Madonna 5k last year and the entire time thought how much Thatboy and Thatbaby would enjoy it.  Because it's on the beach and the entire atmosphere celebrates the beach and the water.  Plus, a race on the beach meant a lot of room for Thatbaby to stretch his legs and run.  I didn't have to worry too much about the course.

So this year I signed us all up for the race!  Because the race runs at low tide, the race started at 2pm.  Which I thought was great, because it meant we didn't have to get up early to run it.   And then I realized that was smack dab during Thatbaby's nap time.  Perfect.

So we did an early lunch and tucked Thatbaby into the car, where we knew he would fall asleep.  The problem was, he was enjoying a really good nap.  So good, that he didn't want to wake up at 1:30pm.  He was in a royally bad mood.  Although he had been looking forward to the race for weeks, all of a sudden he didn't want to run it.  And when we lined up at the start he whined every 3 minutes "why aren't we running?"  And when it did start, he didn't actually want to run, he just wanted to be carried.

The course followed the same route as last time, up the beach for a mile, turn around and back for a mile and a half, and then another turn around for the last .6 miles.  Shortly before the first turn around, Thatbaby decided he was ready to run.

This was my first time running a race with Thatbaby, as opposed to pushing him in  a stroller or wagon.  It was fun to hold hands and race with him.  He loves running with me otherwise, but there aren't very many places where it is conducive to do so, so this was the perfect venue.

It was a warm day, we're having an unseasonable October, so it should be no surprise that Thatbaby alternated between running with me and riding Thatboy's shoulders.  But we made it the whole 3.1 miles!  And crossed the finish as a family.

Thatbaby was super proud of his medal.  And the surfboard keychain he got from one of the vendors after.

I do love how family friendly this event is.  There's even a kid's race, which we didn't participate in because of nap.  A big race perk for me was there were Cliff Mojo bars being handed out on the course and at the finish.  Thatbaby was complaining about being hungry the entire time, so having little granola bars available kept him happier on the course.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: Cream of Chestnut Soup

I am so happy it's Friday.  I know you understand.  And I feel like this every week.  Because Friday means I (usually) have two days where I don't have to put out fires.  Or deal with ridiculously complicated situations that pop up.   I always imagine the weekend means I'll have time for myself, and even though that rarely happens, the fantasy persists.

This weekend we're prepping for Halloween!  Decorating the house, watching movies, carving pumpkins.  It's my most favorite time of year.  Along with the seasonal food that comes along with it.  

I wrote earlier that Kim Sunee uses chestnuts a lot in the book, often in ways I'm not accustomed to.   This is a recipe that I can get behind though.  Chestnut soup.  So perfectly autumnal, right?  Doesn't it just sound like something you would serve at Thanksgiving? 

The soup is sweet, a combination of the roasting of the chestnuts and the creme de marrons.  And with the warmth, it really brings to memories those street-corner roasted chestnuts.

Cream of Chestnut Soup (From Trail of Crumbs)
1 tsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
14 oz roasted chestnut
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 to 4 sprigs thyme
1 quart chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 to 2 tsps creme de marrons 
  1. Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium high heat.  Add shallots and apple and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add chestnuts, salt, pepper, and thyme.  Stir and let cook about 1 minute.
  3. Add broth and bring to a boil, skimming fat as it rises.  Reduce heat to medium low and let cook about 25 minutes or until chestnut and apple are tender.  Remove from heat.
  4. Remove thyme sprigs and discard.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer chestnut, apple, and shallot to blender nad puree until smooth.
  5. Add a little broth if too thick.  Pour back into the soup pot.  Heat to low. 
  6. Stir in cream.
  7. Stir in creme de marrons.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: La Daube Provencale

This is not a weeknight meal.  This is a hang home all day and let things simmer kind of meal. Which is one of my favorite kinds.  Because it means I get to be home all day.  And that rarely happens.  Last weekend we had an uncharacteristically empty weekend.  Just a birthday party Saturday morning.

And yet, somehow we ended up going to a pumpkin patch, getting Thatbaby's hair cut, running some errands, painting tombstones and attending a street fair.  You know, your basic do-nothing weekend.

I much prefer the weekends where I can hang out at home with my family, smelling the wafting scent of marinated beef cooking and listening to the little bubbles popping as it gets softer and more tender over the hours.

Red wine adds depth and complexity to this relatively simple dish, and the orange adds a new flavor element.  Sunee adds tapenade to thicken it, but I didn't find it to really add anything.  Served over polenta, it's the perfect way to end a lazy day at home.  If those actually happened.

La Daube Provencale (From Trail of Crumbs)
3 lbs beef chuck
3 medium onions, quartered
3 to 4 carrots, cut lengthwise and cut into thirds
bouquet garni
3 cups dry red wine
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 to 4 garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
1 orange
1 1/2 to 2 cups beef stock
2 to 3 Tbsp black olive tapenade

  1. Combine beef and 2 of the onions and next 3 ingredients in large bowl.  Let marinate 5 to 6 hours.
  2. Heat bacon on medium high in a large heavy-bottom pot about 5 minutes.
  3. Place flour in a shallow bowl.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove beef with a slotted spoon and drain well.
  6. Lightly dredge beef chunks in flour, adding a little more flour, as needed.
  7. Add beef to pot and let brown, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes.
  8. Add remaining onion and let cook about 5 minutes.
  9. Add salt, pepper, garlic, and a strip of orange rund, and stir.
  10. Add reserved wine marinade (reserve onions, carrots, and bouquet garni)  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium high and let wine reduce, skimming fat, about 15 minutes.
  11. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups beef stock or water, stir.
  12. Add reserved onion, carrot, and bouquet garni.  Stir and cover pot and let cook on low heat about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. 
  13. Remove orange rind and bouquet garni and discard.
  14. Zest remaining orange and add to pot.
  15. Squeeze juice from the orange, add to pot and stir.  Let cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  16. Heat on medium to warm before serving and stir in tapenade.