Friday, December 19, 2014

Candle Chase: Creamy Parmesan Chicken

I had to google the name of tonight's song.  I know nothing about it, but I know it.  I don't even know how I know it, just that I do.  I probably learned it as a schoolchild, although it's hard to imagine my hyper-Christian schools teaching it to us.  In any case, the version I know has a hauntingness to it that this one doesn't.  This is a preppy peppy version of the song, so imagine it slower.  It's especially great for young toddlers learning to count!

The timing of Chanukah this year means we're preparing for Christmas at the same time.  Tree, lights, and last weekend we found some time to decorate our gingerbread house.  Thatboy was very into it this year.

  We let him take a lot of artistic control over house, because really, it's all about the kids, isn't it?  I was head elf in charge of icing placement, and Thatboy played the architectural role of construction of the home and front yard landscaping. Thatbaby took the reins when it came to candy.  Both in terms of placement, as well as taste-testing.

 One of my favorite traits about Thatbaby right now is that he loves broccoli as much as candy.  It's so weird, but I'm taking advantage of it.  Right now, he saves his broccoli for last, even stealing mine off of my plate.  He will eat his main course, then ask for dessert, but tells us he wants to save his broccoli for after.  Sounds like a typical kid ploy, right?  Except he means it.  On nights he has dessert, he goes right back to his broccoli afterwards to eat it. 

This meal was a huge favorite for Thatbaby.  While he normally dilly-dallies over his meal, he gobbled up this chicken lickety split.  I don't know if it was the cheese, the creamy sauce, or that he also has an affinity for tomatoes.  Whatever the reason, like the broccoli, I'll take it while I can.

While I was an ambassador for the Fit Foodie 5k, one of the perks I got was Sartori cheese.  Lots and lots of cheese.  It's been over a month and I still have a fridge full of cheese.  It's amazing and wonderful and I'm always looking for ways to use it.  Which is really where the inspiration for this chicken came from.  Chicken Parmesan is a classic dish, but the perfect melty quality of the cheese makes it great for a creamy sauce too.

 Creamy Parmesan Chicken
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts, pounded flat
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chardonnay
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup parmesan, grated

  1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat,  Add the chicken and cook about 5 minutes per side, until cooked through. Remove from the pan.
  2. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up browned pieces from bottom of pan.
  4. Add the broth, cream, sundried tomatoes, and parmesan.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 4 minutes.
  5. Put the chicken back in the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook until warmed through before serving.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sov! Sov! Sov!: Sufganiyot

The song of the day is Sevivon (Sov! Sov! Sov!).  It's my all time favorite Chanukah song, and my favorite one to sing Thatbaby.  He likes it too, mostly because he likes to sing out the Sov! Sov! Sov! part.

Part of the beauty of the Jewish holidays is the traditions behind them.  And for most holidays, that includes some traditional food.  Chanukah is no exception. At Chanukah we eat foods fried in oil, to symbolize the oil that burned for 8 days while waiting for the replacement oil.  The Chanukah miracle. 

Sufganiyot are jelly doughnuts, fried in oil. 

My plan was to make these with Thatbaby.  They're a very kid friendly activity, along the lines of sugar cookies (as long as the adult does the frying).  I made them with Thatniece and Thatnephew years ago and they were a big hit.  But time is not on my side right now, and there wasn't enough time to get Thatbaby's assistance.  Next year.

1 package dry yeast
4 Tbsp sugar
3/4 cup warm milk
2 1/2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp butter, room temp 
strawberry preserves
canola oil for frying
  1.  Mix the yeast, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the milk. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Mix the flour and mix it with the remaining sugar, salt, cinnamon, egg yolks, and the yeast mixture in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  3. Knead the dough for 10 minutes or so, until it forms a ball.
  4. Add the butter and continue to knead with the dough hook until butter is incorporated into the dough.  Cover with a towel and rise overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into 2 inch rounds.
  6.  Place a teaspoon of preserves in the center of half of the rounds, top with the other half, pinching the edges together to seal.  Let rise for and additional 30 minutes.
  7. Heat oil to 375.  Cook the doughnuts in batches, until browned, about 3 minutes per side.
  8. Drain on paper towels and roll in sugar.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chanukah Oh Chanukah: Latkes!

Happy Chanukah everyone!  This week I'm going to take a page from my dear friend Reid and share a different Chanukah song each day.   Last night was the first night of Chanukah.  And in honor of such, I've picked Chanukah Oh Chanukah as the song of the day:

I picked this song because it completely encompasses our holiday meal last night.  Chanukah is not one of those big feast holidays.  There's no big turkey and family dinner like at Christmas (turkey right?  Thatboy informs me that's tradition even though his family does steak and rice.)

Despite this fact, Thatmom came over for a very festive dinner. 

 While I got the table ready she played with the sevivon (dreidels) with Thatbaby.  And just like the song states, there were plenty of latkes to eat.

And after dinner, there were, of course, presents.  Thatbaby couldn't be torn away from his new train table.

(I was only after I took a photo of Thatbaby playing that I was able to snap this because he ran screaming from the room "don't take my picture!")

Thatbaby made us a present in preschool.  Let's just say it was...heavy.

 (yeah, that's a brick)

Given that we will be spending half of Chanukah with the inlaws, I prompted Thatboy to open his "I'm not an alcoholic" gift last night.

And  I didn't make out too poorly myself! 

Latkes are plenty easy to make, but incredibly time consuming.  When I was a kid, I was in charge of grating the potatoes and onions.  It's a great job for a kid, but Thatbaby isn't quite there yet.  Other than that it's pretty basic.

2 lbs potatoes (I used Yukon gold, but you can use any potatoes.  Even sweet potatoes.  Or a combination of varieties)
1 onion
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
oil for frying
  1. Grate the potatoes and onions into a bowl of cold water.
  2. Drain potatoes and onions, then place in a kitchen towel and wring out to remove any excess moisture.
  3. Add eggs, flour, and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Heat oil in a large skillet until hot and shiny.  Mound potatoes and onions in your hand to form small patties.  Place patties in hot oil and cook, about 5 minutes per side, until brown and crispy.
  5. Drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Night Lights: Take and Go Winter Sandwiches

On Saturday night we headed to the San Diego Botanic Gardens for their annual Garden of Lights.  We've been going every year since Thatbaby was born and it's always a big hit.  The first year was wonderful because he was just beginning to focus on objects and was in awe of the lights.  This year however, he has really got into the excitement of it all.  He points out every Christmas light we see during car rides, so was beside himself when we told him we were going somewhere covered in lights.  Even moreso when we pulled the sled out of the garage and told him there'd be snow.

The snow is one of Thatbaby's favorite part of the Garden of Lights.  Growing up in Southern California, we don't see snow on a regular basis, so we take it when we can get it.  And Thatbaby can't get enough of it.  He took turns with Thatboy and I going down again and again.

After that he ran to play in the rest of the snow.  Which was a little packed and icy.  He spent a lot of time falling down, and laughing hysterically.  And trying to make snowballs which were really ice balls, and throwing them at us.  And laughing hysterically.

After we got our fill of snow, we headed out to check out the rest of the gardens.

Thatbaby ooohhed and ahhhed over all of it.  Running up and down the light-lined paths.

We got him to slow down to sit and listen to the performers of the evening singing Christmas songs.  He was so good, a fellow spectator commented on how sweet and calm he was.  She left right before he started shaking his head like a maniac to make himself dizzy enough to fall off his chair.  Which he did 3 times.

Thatboy felt this was the most successful trip to the Garden of Lights we've had in the past 4 years.  What made the night so successful?  According to Thatboy it's because we brought our own dinner instead of stressing about eating before, after, or spending a million dollars on the food available there.

Typically, this is the kind of setting that calls for a picnic - sandwiches to be easy and packable.  But cold sandwiches are no fun on a cold winter evening.  So instead, I used an old camping trip - wrapping warm sandwiches (and potato wedges) in foil to keep them warm. 

It's the best of both worlds.  Easy to pack, easy to eat, but still warms you up from the inside.  Grab a thermos of hot chocolate and you're ready to hit whatever winter festival is in your neighborhood!

Take and Go Winter Sandwiches
3 sandwich rolls
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 steak (or chicken breast or 3 sausage links, etc.), cut into small pieces
2 Tbsp butter
3 slices provolone

  1. Preheat oven to 250.  Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add pepper, mushrooms, and onions and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.  Remove and set aside.
  2. Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet.  Season your meat with salt and pepper and cook until done, about 5 minutes.  
  3. Add in the veggies and cook for another minute until warmed through.
  4. Divide the meat and veggies into 3 piles.  Place a slice of provolone atop each pile. Cook for an additional minute until cheese is melted.
  5. Cut open the sandwich rolls and place a pile on each one.  Wrap each sandwich roll in foil.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mommy Mondays: Going from 2 to 3

Thatboy and I waited 5 years after we were married to start trying to grow our family. For us, we wanted to wait until we were ready.  Mostly, I wanted to wait until Thatboy was ready.  Adding a third into the mix changes things up and as much as babies are amazing, if you're not prepared for those life changes, it can be really hard.

The day after Thanksgiving, we went out to breakfast with the family.  UDubb and I sat next to each other and were talking about new mother stuff.  Her best friend is due in January and we were discussing how different your life is once you bring a baby into it.

We both agreed the stupidest thing people warn you about is the lack of sleep.  Yeah, sleep is different with an infant, but after a couple weeks, you really get used to it.  It's not the biggest change in your life.

For me, the biggest change had to do with free time.  It becomes virtually nonexistent.  If you're home with the kids, it's not like you're sitting and watching television.  Most of your time is dictated by the schedules of your little one.  And I give a serious side-eye to anyone who expects to come home to a clean house and a hot meal when their wife is home with their infant child.  It's hard to get things done with a baby.  If you're working, you're usually racing home to pick up the kid, take care of dinner, and get them to sleep.  Those hours after work before bed become minutes once everything is said and done.

And then there are the weekends.  I can't speak for everyone, but for me, there's no time after work to run errands or pick something up, which means everything has to be done on the weekends.  Cleaning is also a weekend job.  And of course, as your child ages, there are a million activities in the weekend.  Playdates, birthday parties, swim lessons, the works.  Have a free weekend?  Excited to spend the day lounging on the couch?  Not so easy when you have a kid who doesn't really want to just sit on the floor quietly coloring. 

Before we had a child, I told Thatboy he had to be done being selfish.  It's not just about you anymore.  So my number one recommendation for those thinking of having a child is to make sure you're ready to share your time.  And give up those lazy weekends!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Runday: Jingle Bell Run Race Recap

It's that time of year again, one of my favorite hallmarks of the holiday season - The Jingle Bell Run!  This is my fourth year running this race. Although running is a bit of stretch, for the past 2 years I've been walking the race with the rest of the family.  I love it as a family activity, even though I think I get more out of it than the other participants who complain about being tired and hungry the entire 3.1 miles.

But I can't help it.  I love the community atmosphere.  I love the costumes.

And I love the family atmosphere after the race.  Since one of the sponsors is Sprouts, this is probably the best post-race spread you can get.  There were bagels, doughnuts, coffee cake, chips, oranges, bananas, and after you collect, they hand you a reuseable shopping bag filled with popcorn and kind bars.  And the drink situation has the typical water and coffee, but also hot chocolate and apple cider.

There's also a beer garden with the San Diego classic, Stone beer.  I told Thatboy we take it for granted that this is our typical race beer as opposed to the Miller Lite or Michelob Ultra that is often handed out at non-San Diego races.

 Since most of the kids aren't hanging out in the beer garden, I love that The Jingle Bell Run has a host of kids activities for them.  Thatbaby is old enough where I thought he would enjoy the 1k Reindeer Dash.  And he kind of did, but he was a little tired from the 5k.  He shed his early morning fleece for his spiderman shirt underneath and seemed to have a burst of speed anytime a spectator yelled "go Spiderman!" at him.

Afterwards we headed over to the kid's tent where there was airplane and truck building as well as cookie decorating.

I really do love this race.  For me it is the perfect way to usher in the holiday season.  Even if it's less of a run and more of a morning out with the family.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas is For Kids: Lazy Carnitas

We got home from vacation just in time to head over to the Pirates for their holiday party.  Thatboy remarked that in the span of a year, the party guests ratio had changed.  We are now outnumbered by children.  Which isn't so bad considering that kids really get into the magic of the holidays.  We headed down to the beach to watch the tree lighting.

We actually ended up missing the lighting itself because the boys were going crazy on the playground.  We did catch a quick glimpse of Santa before Thatbaby flipped out screaming that he didn't want to see Santa.  I believe 2014 will be the year of no Santa pictures.  Instead we got a quick picture of the lighted tree before heading back to the Pirates.

Once there, the kids did a gift exchange and popped open Christmas crackers.  Which reminds me, I need to find that silly crown and tape it for him.  Or maybe I'll just wait until he remembers it.

Then the Pirates popped on some Christmas cartoons and the kids gathered around the firepit watching Rudolph and Frosty until their little eyes got droopy and yawns formed on their little lips.  Then we all went home and dreamt of sugarplums.

This pork is very un-holiday-ey.  Tamales are traditional for Christmas.  And I love tamales. But tamales are a little time consuming.  This is ridiculously easy.  And not so time consuming.  Usually when I make carnitas it's an all day affair.  For my crockpot.  This is a 15 minute meal, tops.  It probably can't really be called carnitas, it's just pork with taco seasonings.  But carnitas sounds fancier right?

Lazy Carnitas
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 pork tenderloin, cubed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add pork and spices.  Stir and cook for 6 minutes, until cooked through.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Just a Quick Weekend Getaway:Chicken Noodle Soup

I mentioned yesterday that we were anxious to get our decorations up because we were out of town last weekend.  It was just a quick trip, we left on Friday night and came back Sunday afternoon.  We didn't catch up on any sleep, and our Sunday was a whirlwind getting ready for the week, but sometimes you just need that break from the everyday.

We got to spend some great family time.  We spent Saturday morning at the Living Desert, one of our favorite parts of Palm Desert.  It was a great morning to be there, we happened in our feeding time, so we got very close and personal with some of the animals.  Like the giraffes.

Thatbaby had a request, he really wanted to ride on an animal at the zoo.  Seemed like an easy enough wish to grant.

But riding on a statue of a warthog wasn't good enough.  So we found him something a little

Riding a camel was the highlight of Thatbaby's day.  He loved every moment of it.  It makes me smile, because he is so like me in that regard.  Fearless when it comes to real animals, but terrified of costumed characters like Mickey Mouse. 

We spent the afternoon at the pool.  In December.  Completely spoiled, right?  Then in the evening we kind of attended the Palm Springs Parade of Lights.  It was completely coincidental and I would have avoided the crowds if I'd known better.  But I didn't.  And so we ended up eating at a restaurant a block away from the parade while Thatbaby and Thatboy ran up to look at the passing floats every 5 minutes.

It's hard to vacation in December.  You come home, still in vacation mode, knowing the holidays are right around the corner.  It's very demotivating.  All I want to do is, nothing.  I'm ready to just curl up on the couch with a blanket and movies.  Dinners here are going to get lazy my friends.  Soup lazy.  Soup lazy is the best kind of lazy, because you can even be lazy eating it.  Curled up on the couch with a blanket and movies. 

Chicken Noodle Soup

1/2 bag of egg noodles
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
28 oz chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
  1. Cook noodles according to package directions.
  2. While noodles are cooking, place the chicken, onions, celery, carrots and mushroom in a crockpot.
  3. Stir in the broth, cream, oregano, thyme, and basil.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook on low for 8 hours.
  5. Stir in egg noodles and serve.