Friday, August 26, 2016

Summer Splash: Golden Pearl Barley Soup

There's something to be said for tradition.  I'm a big fan of routine, I like knowing what to expect.  Plus, when you do the same thing year after year, you have something to look forward to!  Like Little LO's birthday party.  This is the second year in a row it's been at their local splashpad, which Thatkid adores.  And was excited about from the minute he was invited.

It only took moments after we got there for Thatkid to be soaking wet.

And shortly after that Little LO was in the same wet boat.

This party also celebrate Littler LO turning one.  Both he and Thatbaby followed their older brothers in getting as wet as possible.  Although they tended to soak themselves instead of each other.

With September only days away, the summer fun is almost at an end. We're trying to squeeze in the last bits of it over the next few weeks.  And taking advantage of the summer produce that won't be good too much longer.  Our house is awash in summer stone fruit and watermelon.  Everything I want to eat right now is light, like salads, or this brothy soup loaded with vegetables.  It may be a little early for barley soup, which to me is such a classic fall staple, but it doesn't have to be a heavy meal.  Keeping the emphasis on the vegetables means it's a great soup to enjoy year round.  Mine is filled with root vegetables, but really anything seasonal can be substituted.  It would be just as delicious with tomato, zucchini, and summer squash.

Golden Pearl Barley Soup 
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
3 Tbsp pearl barley
pinch of saffron
pinch of mixed herbs
2 oz rutabaga
1 carrot, chopped
dash of soy sauce
handful of mung beansprouts
freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat half of the vegetable broth in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onion and celery and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the pearl barley, saffron, and mixed herbs and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the rutabaga, carrot, and rest of the vegetable broth ot the pan, cover and simmer for another 20 minutes, until the vegetables and barley are tender.
  5. Add the soy sauce, pepper, and beansprouts, simmer for 2-3 minutes and serve.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Crave Wednesday: Dagwood Sandwiches

Thatkid has turned into quite the little theater lover this past year.  Which seems like it would be a given, since his parents met doing a play together.  It just runs in the family.

I'm not going to lie.  I adore the fact that he has a love of musicals.  He requests the soundtrack to Hamilton almost every time he gets into the car.  And what's even better is that he seems to have taken after me in his ability to memorize songs.  So he joins in the singing with me.  We're a regular Von Trapp family these days, minus a child or two.

He has an entire line up of shows to see this summer, and I was lucky enough to accompany him to two of those performances.  Our own little date nights.

The first show we saw was Peter Pan.  Which was the first show I ever saw on Broadway. 

He sat, enthralled, not wanting to leave even to go to the bathroom.  Curling up against me at the end, hours past his bedtime.  And now I am often treated to crowing and singing about how he taught his shadow to stick to the tip of his toe.

Last weekend we went and saw Beauty and the Beast.  This is a new show for me.  I know the story, and have seen the cartoon, but never the musical.  The venue was open seating, so as we arrived I told Thatkid he could sit wherever he wanted.  He chose the very last row, excitedly proclaiming every few minutes about what great seats they were.

But at intermission I lost my little theater date when he found a school friend was also at the production.  He spent the second act snuggling with her and sharing snacks as they remarked on their favorite parts of the show. 

Even though these end up being late nights for him, taking him to summer theater is one of my favorite things.  I think the outdoor venue is perfect for young theater-goers.  And the warm summer nights make the whole thing seem magical.  We bring our dinners with us.  Thatkid requests chicken nuggets, not minding that they're usually cold by the time we are seated.  I guess it's kind of like fried chicken at picnics.  Personally, I go for a great sandwich.  Delicious even hours after it's made.  I also think sandwiches add to the picnic atmosphere.  But not peanut butter and jelly, a night at the theater calls for something a little more...special.  Meats, cheese, and vegetables piled high makes for a really filling meal, just like something you'd grab at a deli or restaurant, but easy enough to make at home and throw in bag.

Dagwood Sandwiches (From Cooking Light)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsps dill pickle relish
8 slices 10-grain bread, cut in half diagonally
4 small curly leaf lettuce leaves
8 slices tomato
3 oz thinly slide deli no-salt-added roasted turkey breast
2 sliced reduced-fat cheddar cheese, cut in half diagonally
3 oz thinly sliced deli 25% lower sodium Black Forest ham
2 slices reduced-fat Swiss cheese, cut in half diagonally
8 thinly sliced green bell pepper rings
16 thin slices cucumber
4 pimento stuffed olives
8 grape tomatoes

  1. Combine first 3 ingredients.  
  2. Spread about 1 Tbsp mayonnaise mixture on 1 side of each of 4 bread triangles.
  3. Top with 1 lettuce leaf, 2 tomato slices, 3/4 oz turkey, 1 cheddar cheese triangle, 3/4 oz ham, 1 Swiss cheese triangle, 2 bell pepper rings, and 4 cucumber slices.
  4. Cover sandwiches with remaining bread triangles.
  5. Thread 1 olive and 2 grape tomatoes onto 4 long wooden picks and secure the sandwiches with the pics.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mommy Mondays: 14 months

Weight: 23lbs (+14bs 12oz) (leftover from 12 months)
Height: 32 inches (+10.5 inches) (leftover from 12 months)
Head: 18.4 inches (leftover from 12 months)

Sleep:  Still bad.  I'm so beyond over it at this point, since by now Thatkid was sleeping through the night.  Thatbaby is not.  Not only is he not sleeping through the night, but he doesn't nurse to sleep.  Even when Thatkid woke, he would eat and go right back to sleep, Thatbaby is up up up.  He hates sleeping.  It takes us forever to get to sleep, and if he wakes, forever to get him back down.  Whcih time is marked by screaming and thrashing.  It is not good times.

Eating: Still loving watermelon.  I keep a bowl in the fridge, which he has figured out and loves to dig into it.  He comes running whenever he hears the fridge open.  He's also much better with drinking whole milk, which has not lowered his desire to nurse on the weekends.  He has also discovered smoothies this month, which is an easy breakfast go-to for the boys. 

Best Moment:  He's walking!  This feels like a big deal because we thought it was going to happen earlier.  He was so much faster with physical development than Thatbaby, and Thatbaby was walking by 13 months.  It's really hard not to compare.  But I now have 2 mobile children.  (although I would much prefer having 2 children who slept through the night)

Monthly Wisdom: It's not my place or my story, but I'm coping with some heavy stuff right now, so my monthly wisdom is to remind myself how lucky I am.  That even the worst of what I'm going through is better than what others are dealing with.  It's all about perspective.

Goals for the Upcoming Month:
- more sleep, for everyone

Things Thatbaby is doing:
- teething: another tooth this month
- walking
- waving at cars/buses/trucks that pass by
- "tickle tickle" : he attempts to tickle you on command while saying something that can be translated as "tickle tickle"
- words: He's still not saying anything recognizable, other than maybe "Dada" but he's really started communicating.  With the pointing and signs, he does a pretty good job of getting his wants across.
- His new favorite book is "Pat the Bunny Birthday."  He loves to sniff the scratch and sniff pizza, pat the bunny, find the bunny under the bed, and blow out the candle.
- Scootering.  He figured out how to use Thatkid's scooter and he's amazing at it.  He pushes himself up and down the paved part of our backyard.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Runday: Yosemite

It's no secret that one of my favorite things to do on vacation is bring along my running shoes and use them to explore my new surroundings.

We spent last week in Yosemite and I was really excited about getting a chance to run through the National Park.  But like most things in my life, the best laid plans often go awry.

To begin with, Thatbaby had some major sleeping issues during the trip.  Which means I wasn't sleeping much and definitely not in the mood to rise early and head out.  I was soaking every nonexistent minute of sleep I could.  

Our last morning I decide that it was now or never, and since we didn't have anything planned other before packing up the car and heading out, I didn't need to rise especially early.  And I took advantage of that fact.

My plan was to do one of my Zombie Runs, which is one of my favorite things to listen to when I'm running by myself.  Except I had no service or wireless, which meant I realized very quickly into the run that I wasn't going to be able to download the run and use it. 

Which wasn't a huge deal.  I had music on my phone and running to music is always enjoyable.  Except I hadn't charged my wireless headphones, so before the first song was over, they gave me the "low battery warning" and turned off. 

This was obviously the run where everything went wrong.  I shouldn't say that.  Because the run itself was great.  I ended up being my own soundtrack, signing in my head as I took in the beautiful sites. 

I ran a path we had traversed numerous times during our stay in Yosemite, but this was by far the most enjoyable time.  All by myself with no distractions.  It was still early enough that I didn't run into many people who were also out, which almost made me feel as though I had the whole park to myself.   I felt like I could enjoy the trees, the mountains, the air. I wish I had gotten out more often, but I'm so grateful for the the fact I got out at all!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Crave Wednesday: Classic Italian Panini with Prosciutto and Fresh Mozzarella

I love summer concerts.  Outside, in a park, it's one of my favorite family time activities.

Typically we hit up the Botanical Garden for their summer concert series.  And I had every intention of doing it again this year, when I noticed that one of our favorite entertainers was performing a little closer to home.

Thatkid loves Hullabaloo, so that's the band we usually see during the summer concert series.  They're ubiquitous with kids concerts here in San Diego.  So it really wasn't terribly surprising to find out they were performing at the Children's Discovery Museum's Summer Concert Series too.  Since we already are huge fans of the Children's Discovery Museum, the idea of getting to play, picnic, and listen to music seemed like a really great way to spend a Friday night.

The museum has extended hours the nights of the concerts.  We tried to get there a little early for the boys to play.  Thatkid made a beeline for the outdoor area and we set Thatbaby up with the water and legos.

In addition to extended hours, the museum had food and beverages for the concert goers.  There was a food truck with organic meals.

Wine and beer for $5 a glass, and Italian Ice for dessert.

We settled in for dinner while we waited for the music to begin.  Thatboy had lamb and brussels sprouts, while the boys and I had macaroni and cheese.  Mine was a little more grown up with lobster in it.

When the music started, the kids rushed the stage.

Thatbaby got into the action.

As did Thatkid.

When Hullabaloo took a break we enjoyed some Italian Ice.

This was the first time Thatbaby was really able to enjoy the museum. He went down the slide, played with magnets and compressed air, and especially the little air hose!

There's one more concert, this Friday, August 5.  I highly recommend it if you don't have plans and you're in the area.  They allow you to bring your own food if you're not so into the food truck.  And since sandwiches are my favorite summer picnic food, let me recommend one of those too.

A panini is the ultimate comfort food sandwich, with warm, melty cheese and crunchy bread.  Making it on a grill pan makes it seem like a great summer alternative to anything requiring an oven.  And grilling is so summery, right?  This one, with mozarella, tomato, basil, and prosciutto seems like a bright Italian day, sitting in a piazza and listening to a local musician serenade you.  Bring that same feeling to a summer concert near you!

Classic Italian Panini with Prosciutto and Fresh Mozzarella (From Cooking Light)
1 loaf french bread, cut in half horizontally
1/4 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
1 cup shredded fresh mozzarella cheese, divided
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 oz very thinly sliced prosciutto
2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
cooking spray
  1. Hollow out top and bottom halves of bread, leaving a 1/2 inch thick shell, reserve torn bread for another use. Spread 2 Tbsp mayonnaise cut side of each bread half.
  2. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese and basil on bottom half of loaf.
  3. Top evenly with tomato slices, prosciutto and 1/2 cup cheese.
  4. Cover with top half of loaf.  Cut filled loaf crosswise into 4 equal pieces.
  5. Heat a grill pan over medium heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add sandwiches to pan.  Place a cast iron or other heavy skillet on top of sandwiches; press gently to flatten sandwiches.  Cook 3 minutes on each side or until bread is toasted.  Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Going Swimmingly: Corn Bisque with Cheese & Smoked Bacon

Summer means four things in Thathouse: Shrimp, Corn, Watermelon, and Swimming.  Despite not having a pool of our own (save for the ginormous inflatable one that fits a half dozen people) we've managed to spend a good amount of time in the pool every weekend this summer due to friends, family, and swim lessons.

My goal was to enroll both boys in swim lessons this month, but I slacked and when I went to enroll, the parent/child class was already full.  So this month was devoted to Thatkid.  Thatbaby will get his turn in September.

Although I feel a little bad for my poor second child, I'm also a little more concerned with getting Thatkid swim lessons, since Thatbaby is going to need to be held in the pool at this age regardless.  Thatkid however is more and more independent, and fearless.  So some skill is necessary.  And he's picked up a lot in lessons.

The big one this year was back float!  He's been reluctant to do this for years, but for some reason this year it just clicked.  It probably helped that he's really focused this year during lessons.  He loves them and wants to do everything he's told. 

One of our biggest issues with Thatkid and swimming is that he loves to swim underwater, but he's not so great at strokes or remembering to lift his head to breathe.  So his instructor has been especially good at focusing on those areas with him.

And last Saturday she pulled out the big guns...or should I say board.  Thatkid had his first kinda sorta surf lesson!

He's so excited about showing off his new skills when we go on vacation next month! 

As for the other summer aspects, I've been buying a watermelon at the store every weekend and we've been finishing it before the week is out.  Shrimp has become a weekly menu item (although it's really never as good as catching it yourself).  And corn?  We've been eating it off the grill, snacking on it raw, and even using it in soups.  Soup may not be the most summery of meals, but this is the best time for sweet corn and therefore the best time for corn bisque.  Plus, any meal where I don't have to turn on the oven and heat up the house is a winner in my book!

Corn Bisque with Cheese & Smoked Bacon
3 corn on the cob
1 1/4 cups milk
2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups Cheddar cheese, grated
3 oz smoked bacon, thinly sliced
salt and pepper 
  1. Remove the kernels from the corn.  Put them in a saucepan with the milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer 10-15 minutes, until the corn is tender.  Drain, reserving the milk.
  2. Wipe out the saucepan and melt the butter.  Add the onions and celery and saute about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  3. Add the flour and cook 2-3 minutes.
  4. Gradually stir in the milk and vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil and stir until thickened.  Reduce the heat and simmer 15-20 minutes.
  5. Add the corn and half the cheese and cook for 5 minutes.  Let cool.  Puree in blender or food processor.  Reheat and season to taste.
  6. Grill the bacon slices  on a grill pan until crisp.  Crumble and sprinkle the soup with the bacon and remaining cheese before serving.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Crave Wednesday: Bacon and Egg Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions and Arugula

Thatkid is a funny kid.  I get such a kick out of his quirks.  This year his friend Doc invited him to her Frozen Tea Party birthday party.  The invitation indicated that the kids should feel free to dress up.

Thatkid: Dress up?  I'm going to go as Ironman.
Me: I think they mean dress up like when you wear a tie.  Or you could probably dress as someone from Frozen.
Thatkid: I want to dress up as Kristoff then!

Which is how my child ended up wearing snow wear to a birthday party in July.

While almost all of the girls dressed up as princesses, Thatkid was the only boy in costume.  Which didn't phase him for a second.  He was so excited to be Kristoff.  The only way I could get him out of his too-warm clothes was due to the fact his friends were playing keep away with his hat.

The party started with all of the kids painting a "tea cup" (which was really a mug).

Next, they worked together to make chocolate chip scones to enjoy with their tea.

They decorated little bags which they used to go on a treasure hunt while the scones baked.  And then it was "tea" time.  The kids worked on their manners as they enjoyed apple juice, scones,, and then cupcakes.

I love that Thatboy marches to the beat of his own drummer.  And I hope he stays that way, although I know peer pressure is more influential as he gets older.  He cracks me up.  We're planning a trip up to Yosemite, so we've been talking about our plans.  When we drove to Humboldt, we left early and stopped for breakfast.  There was talk about stopping at McDonalds, but McDonalds has nothing really Passover friendly on their breakfast menu.  Remembering that, Thatkid asked if we could stop at McDonalds for breakfast on our way up to Yosemite.  When I told him that was a definite possibility he started cheering.  It was only after he finished cheering he asked the all important question - "What does McDonalds have for breakfast?"

Between you and I, it has been so many years since I've been to McDonalds for breakfast, I'm not even sure what they have.  Egg McMuffins and pancakes?  That's what I remember, so that's what I told him.  And I can't get really excited about either.  Because when it comes to breakfast sandwiches, the McMuffin is not my cup of tea.  You want an egg sandwich?  How about one with bacon and caramelized onion?  Sweet, smokey, and eggy!  And arugula makes it feel more like a real meal, not something that was just reheated and tossed on a tray.  Because sometimes I march to the beat of my own drummer too.

Bacon and Egg Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions and Arugula (From Cooking Light)
8 center cut bacon slices
4 cups thinly sliced onions
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp Mexican hot sauce
3 tsp butter
dash of sugar
2 tsp canola oil, divided
8 slices whole wheat bread
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups arugula
  1. Cook bacon in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings.  Drain on paper towels.
  2. Add onion, 2 Tbsp water, and hot sauce to drippings in pan, cover and cook 3 minutes. Uncover and cook 5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently.  Set aside and keep warm.
  3.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add 1 tsp oil to pan, swirl to coat.  Place bread in pan and cook 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.  Set aside and keep warm.
  4. Recoat pan with 1 tsp oil.  Crack eggs into pan and cook 2 minutes.  Gently turn eggs, 1 at a time, cook 1 minute.  
  5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  6. Place 1 bread slice on each plate and arrange arugula evenly over bread.
  7. Place onion mixture, 1 bacon slices, and 1 egg over each serving.
  8. Top with remaining bread slicecs.