Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Bourbon Baked Beans

It's been a little quiet on the ole blog-o this week.  Which is due mostly to the fact that I've been without internet for the past 5 days.  Why?  Because we've been out in the woods!

It was pretty much a disaster of a camping trip.  I had warned Thatboy in advance that camping with our children wasn't going to be the relaxing vacation he envisioned.  I think the exact words I used were "This is going to be more work than vacation."  

He decided that he wanted to prove me wrong.  Fueled by visions of his own family camping trips (which occurred when he was a teenager and involved sleeping in campers or cabins with working kitchens) he promised to plan the whole thing.  His number one goal was to find a place with a nearby lake to swim in.  He found and booked the campsite.  "There's even a restaurant in town!  So you plan breakfasts, and we'll pick up lunch and dinner.  See, vacation!  No cooking!"

Except as we drove through town we noticed that the restaurant?  She was no longer open.  Closed for business.

And then we pulled into the campground and I asked what our campsite number was.  He didn't have an answer.  "I was going to look it up on my phone."  He didn't even think that maybe we wouldn't have cell service in the middle of the woods.  So we drove around and headed back to town to find someone with cell service to look up our reservation online.

Finally, we were back at the campground and ready to set up camp.

Because the local restaurant was closed, we ended up heading to Lake Arrowhead for dinner - which was about 30 minutes away.  During the drive Thatbaby fell asleep in the car.  

You guys know about the curse of the car nap?  If you're a parent, chances are you've experienced it.  They get just enough sleep to recharge them, making any subsequent sleep impossible.  The entire way home from dinner, Thatbaby sang and talked.  When we got back to the campsite and tucked into sleeping bags, he was bouncing off the tent walls.  It took forever to get him to settle down and go to sleep.

The next morning I went to make breakfast, only to find Thatboy hadn't packed any cookware.  Despite the fact I had asked him to make a list of all the things we had in our camping gear twice, and the fact that my mom had brought us up a cookware set that he claimed we didn't need because we already had one, and the fact that the morning we packed the car I tried to go over a list of "what we had."   Without a pan, there was no way to cook/reheat the food I'd brought.  And without a pot or coffee pot, there was no way to make the hot chocolate I'd promised the kids.  We did our best with foil, but ended up eating semi warm eggs and potatoes.  Thank goodness I had cooked them before we left or it would have been a real disaster.   

After breakfast we went for a little hike around the campgrounds, before getting dressed and heading to the lake for that swimming Thatboy had wanted to do so badly.  Except he hadn't done research to realize that the one part of the lake that allowed swimming was fenced off and no dogs were allowed.

So he and the boys went swimming, while I took Thatdog to a different part of the lake and we just sat and enjoyed the view for a few hours.  

(Between you and I, those quiet hours were some of my favorite of the entire trip!)  We met up for lunch at the "Artisan Faire" the town was having.  Which meant there was a food truck where we could grab burgers and hot dogs.  Camp food not at the campsite! 

While the kids napped, we drove to 2 different nearby towns looking for cookware so we could make breakfast the rest of the time we were there.  When the boys woke up, we headed back to the lake to give the boys their first fishing lessons!

We caught nothing.  Which was okay by me!  We headed to the next town over to grab dinner, only to find that there was no outdoor seating.  Which meant no dogs allowed.  And with the weather in the 80s, it was a little too warm to be leaving Thatdog in the car.  In fact, there were no restaurants for the next 3-4 towns over that allowed dogs.  So back to Arrowhead we went.  And another rough night was had.

Our second morning I was able to cook breakfast AND make hot cocoa.  While Thatboy built our first fire.

Today was hiking day.  And we headed up to the very top of Keller's Peak to the lookout for some killer views.

Thatboy and Thatkid headed up even further to the Peak's Lookout, while those of us with four legs, small legs, and fears of heights stayed down below.

I had found a great nearby hike for the family - National Children's Forest.  It was a little less than a mile loop, on a paved path, that promised beautiful views.  Thatboy wasn't thrilled about the idea of a paved path, but I knew it was exactly right for our little guys.  Including the one who didn't want to walk the entire trip. For 3 days he wanted to be carried everywhere we went.

The older one only made it about half a mile before he started complaining about how tired he was and how much his legs hurt.  Luckily I spotted one of those promised beautiful views and guided him towards there with the promise of a rest and snack.

We sat for a while and ate, and then, miraculously his legs felt better and he wanted to climb every rock in the area.  And the little guy, wanting to do whatever his brother did, decided he could walk a little (and climb) too.

We headed back to the campsite where I entertained the kids for a bit while Thatboy ran and grabbed dinner to bring back and eat there.  Then we managed to actually get Thatbaby to sleep!  We stayed up with Thatkid doing glowsticks and smores.

The next morning was breakfast, more cocoa, and then packing everything up to head home.  The trip felt much longer than 3 days, and we were exhausted from poor sleep, lots of work, and bored children.  The campsite offered no showers or hot water, so we were definitely not at our best in the smell department either.

Things I learned from the trip:
1) Thatboy is not the planner in our relationship.  And I should stay being the one in charge of planning everything.

2) Children 5 and under are not great at "entertaining themselves" with nothing more than a ball and some trees.

3) I used to love camping in tents when I was younger, or when it was just Thatboy and me.  But with young kids?  I don't see the need.  I think we're going to stick with cabins for the next few years.  I mean, we can still get to do all the same thing, but with warmer, more comfortable beds, separate spaces, and a place to cook meals.

In truth, you can have almost all the "fun" aspects of camping without even leaving your immediate vicinity.  We have hiking, lakes, trails, all right here.  We set up the tent in the backyard every year and we have a firepit for making smores.  We even can eat campfood in the comfort of our own yard! Like beans!  A pot of beans has always been "camp food" for me.  Because it's easy to cook over an open fire or camp stove, it's filling, and versatile.  Even Thatboy's family used to make beans when camping and use them for dinners and breakfasts.

These are cooked low and slow, sweetened by maple syrup, flavored by bacon and bourbon.  Served with hot dogs, burgers, chicken, or steak - whatever you love to cook when camping.  As a bonus, they won't leave you smelling like a campfire for days after the fact!

Bourbon Baked Beans(From Cooking Light)
1 lb dried navy beans
3 applewood smoked bacon slices
1 cup finely chopped onion
5 cups water, divided
1/2 cup maple syrup, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp bourbon, divided
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp cider vinegar

  1. Sort and wash beans.  Place in a large Dutch oven.  Cover with water to 2 inches above beans, cover, and let stand overnight.  Drain.
  2. Preheat oven to 350. Heat pan over medium high heat.  Add bacon to pan and cook 4 minutes or until crisp.  Remove from pan, reserving 1 1/2 Tbsp drippings in pan.  Crumble bacon.
  3. Add onion to drippings in pan, cook 5 minutes or until onion begins to brown, stirring frequently. 
  4. Add beans, bacon, 4 cups water, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup bourbon, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, cover and bake for 2 hours.
  5. Stir in 1 cup water, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 2 Tbsp bourbon.  Cover and bake 1 hour or until beans are tender and liquid is almost absorbed.  
  6. Stir in vinegar and season with salt.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

On Sunday, Thatboy and I celebrated our 11 year anniversary.  11 years you guys.  That's over a decade of being married.

We celebrated by getting rid of the kids for a couple of hours.  That's right!  A Day Date!

We headed to Temecula for some wine tasting, but stopped on the way to grab breakfast.  It was one of those spur of the moment things, googling places while on the highway and pulling off before we got into town.

Our destination was Cork Fire Kitchen, the restaurant at the Temecula Creek Inn.  One of the things that makes this place especially special is that it's part of the same hotel group as The Surf and Sand, where we got married 11 years ago.

The inn itself was really pretty, and quiet.  It looked like a great place to stay if you were planning a trip to the area.  We are already trying to figure out a time we can come back and stay.

We decided to split a couple of their breakfast items, since both of us wanted to try the chipotle chorizo benedict.  We also ended up with the citrus chia pudding.  I've been really into chia pudding lately, and although Thatboy was wary, he ended up really enjoying it.

With the food in our belly, we were ready for our wine country adventures.

We had picked several wineries to try that weren't as kid friendly as the ones we usually go to.  Our first stop was Doffo.

We were expecting to be more wowed than we were.  The syrah and malbec were enjoyable, but the rest of the wine list left us unimpressed.

I did like the 3-D video they showed of the winery!

Our next stop was definitely somewhere we couldn't go with our kids.  Briar Rose winery is adults only.  That's right, you have to be 21 to even be on the grounds.  And just like the 21+ pools, we definitely enjoyed the child free atmosphere.  We enjoyed the wines here more than at Doffo, again sticking with reds.  Just due to lucky timing we even got to taste one of the oldest bottles in Temecula.  They had just opened the second pressing of a 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon.

If Briar Rose felt like something out of a fairy tale, that's because it was.  The winery is housed in a replica of Disney's Snow White Cottage, built by one of Disneyland's imagineers for his wife.

While working at Disney, he designed parts of Toontown and Fantasyland.  And the Toontown roofing found its way to this Temecula replica.

The inside also stayed true to the theme.  Although it's not open to the public, you can peek in doors and windows.

Other parts of Disneyland adorn the grounds.  The lanterns that hang on either side of the entrance once lit the way in the Haunted Mansion.

And the one above this clock once hung in Splash Mountain.

The rocks at the front of the grounds came from Indiana Jones.  And to keep with the Snow White theme, there are little dwarves hanging out all over the vineyard.

We spent a long time at Briar Rose and realized it would probably be a good thing to eat again.  At the recommendation of the staff at Briar Rose, we headed over to the restaurant at the Avensole winery.  We ended up making a meal of some appetizers.  Baked brie, roasted brussels sprouts, and a crab cake.

After lunch we had time for one more winery.  We went back to a tried and true, Palumbo.  We both really love this winery, but it's small, which isn't great for young children.  So we used this opportunity to stop by and pick up a bottle of one of our favorite Cabernet Francs.

We headed home and spent the rest of the days with our boys.  Who could care less about our anniversary.  Or 11 years.  They have their own things going on.  And while they want to include us in those things, it's really all about them.  What they want.  And right now?  What they want is ice cream.  It IS summer after all.  And we've been doing a lot of ice cream lately.  Including an ice cream dinner on Saturday night.  Thatkid even made ice cream at preschool last week, by putting cream and sugar in a bag surrounded by ice and "squeezing" it.  When he asked if we could do that at home I assured him we had a much better way of making ice cream - the ice cream maker.  Just pour the ingredients in, and no squeezing required!

This is a basic, light, ice cream.  Many cheesecake ice creams feature graham crackers, or more of a cake like consistency.  This one creates a cream cheese base with fresh blueberries simmered down to a thick syrup.  Pieces of blueberries remain making it seem really bright and summery.

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream (From Cooking Light)
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
4 egg yolks
3 cups 2% milk
1 cup half and half
3 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup water

  1. Combine sugar, cream cheese and egg yolks in an electric mixer and mix at high speed until smooth.
  2. Bring milk and half and half to a boil in a heavy saucepan.  
  3. Gradually add half of the hot milk to the cream cheese mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk.
  4. Return milk mixture to the pan and cook over medium low heat until the mixture reaches 160 degrees, stirring constantly.
  5. Place pan in an ice filled bool and cool completely, stirring occasionally.
  6. Bring blueberries, powdered sugar, and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and cool completely.
  7. Stir the blueberry mixture into the milk mixture. Pour into the freezer can of an ice cream maker and and process.  
  8. Spoon ice cream into a freezer safe container and freeze for 1 hour or until firm.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Chipotle Black Bean Dip with Corn Chips

On Monday I shared all about the kiddie concerts we've been attending this summer, but sometimes you have to leave the kids at home and take advantage of the summer concerts that don't involve "Old MacDonald."

The San Diego Symphony hosts "Bayside Summer Nights."  Which, as the name indicates, are summer concerts in the San Diego Bay.  There's a range of performers who accompany the San Diego symphony, from Wynonna Judd to  Tony Bennett.  When I noticed that Leslie Odom Jr. was going to be performing this summer, I immediately marked it on my calendar to buy tickets just as soon as they went on sale.

For those of you who don't live in the world of Broadway theater, Mr. Odom is the actor who won the Tony Award for his portrayal of Aaron Burr in Hamilton.   The role, and the critical acclaim attached to it, allowed him to pursue his singing career in a way he wasn't able to before.  Albums and concerts lay before him, an open door to do what he truly loved.  At least, that's they way he tells it.

It is a rare occasion that Thatboy and I are able to go out on a date night, most of our one-on-one time being relegated to days when we are both off from work and the kids are in preschool.

The venue for the summer concerts is one of my favorite aspects about it.  Music on the bay is lovely.  Boats drift in and bob gently against the shore, listening to the music.

While on the other side, you have the backdrop of the city.  San Diego doesn't have the imposing skyline of New York or Chicago, but it's not a bad view.

The evening itself was completely enjoyable.  In addition to listening to Leslie's voice, which is so unbelievably amazing, he kept us entertained with banter between numbers.  Talking about his career, his aspirations, and of course, Hamilton.  I'm too young to have ever attended concerts by any of the Rat Pack, but I would imagine the stage presence was similar.   One of the highlights of the evening was when he brought his wife, actress Nicolette Robinson, on stage to sing with him.  (It also made me feel incredibly old to realize we went to the same school, and she started after I was already married)

Thatboy loved that part too, because she also has a beautiful voice.  Their daughter is probably going to open the heavens when she gets older and starts to sing.

He sang a mix of songs from Broadway and his albums, and ended the evening with a bang.  Literally.  Bayside Summer Nights ends with fireworks, and these were the perfect accompaniment to one show-stopping number.

To top off the evening, after the show, Leslie stuck around for a meet and greet with all his adoring fans.  We waited in line for over an hour, but I can't complain because it wasn't like I had just spent the past two hours putting on a show.  The man must have been exhausted.  He looked tired.  But he was sweet, and kind, and generous with his time.  Plus, you make some pretty amazing friends standing in line for so long.  I was sandwiched between a mother and daughter, and an adorable couple, and we passed the time talking to each other.

I don't have as many tips for grown up summer concerts.  We sat in seats, so no blanket was necessary, although we did still bring snacks.  Grown up drinks were had, the kind you don't share with your kids.  And chips and dip took the place of cheese and crackers.  This dip is intended to be served hot, but it works just as well cold.  It was brought because it's a "grown up" dip, the inclusion of the spicy chipotle just doesn't fly with our kids.  Which is fine, because it worked perfectly well with our grown up, no kids allowed, evening with stars under the stars.

Chipotle Black Bean Dip with Corn Chips (From Cooking Light)
6 corn tortillas
cooking spray
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1  can black beans, undrained
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp crumbled queso fresco
1/3 cup canned no-salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Preheat oven to 400.  Cut each tortilla into 6 wedges.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  
  2. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
  3. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook 8 minutes or until tender.
  4. Add cumin and garlic.  Cook 1 minute.
  5. Add oregano and beans and bring to a boil.  Mash with a potato masher and reduce heat.  Simmer 10 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally.
  6. Spoon bean mixture into a 3-cup gratin dish coated with cooking spray.  Top with cheese.  Bake for 12 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
  7. Combine tomatoes and chile in a food processor and process until smooth.
  8. Spoon tomato mixture over bean mixture and sprinkle with cilantro.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Mommy Mondays: Kiddie Concerts

As I mentioned last month, I love going to outdoor concerts with my kids during the summer.  At one of the concerts, the couple sitting beside us leaned over and said "boy you guys are pros at this thing." Which made me laugh, because I didn't realize there was any sort of skill involved in attending summer concerts.  But I figured I would share our methods, in case anyone else out there wanted to step up their game.

1) Know your venue.

Summer concerts are held in all sorts of places.  Parks, pavilions, museums, here in San Diego, we even have them on the deck of an aircraft carrier!  We plan our arrival time based on what else there is to do.  Something like a museum, we arrive early enough to set up a blanket and let the kids run around playing.  Other venues, like a closed off lot with a stage, we arrive closer to the start of the concert.

2) What to bring?
A lot of people bring lawn chairs to concerts.  We do this for movies in the park, but during the concerts the kids spend more time on their feet than sitting, and often we're away from our spots, so it's easier for us to just bring a large, waterproof blanket.  Machine washable is a must, because it inevitably gets something on it.  I bring a separate bag filled with dinner and snacks, and that's really it.

3) What's to eat?

We've been to concerts where nothing is available to eat, where food trucks are present, or recently a concert that was catered by a restaurant with a small menu of premade food to purchase.  But if you have kids, you know you're better off bringing your own, just in case.   Our "just in case" always involves cheese and crackers.  Right now Thatkid is a huge fan of "goat cheese sandwiches" or goat cheese between two crackers.  Thatbaby is all about the gouda.

One of my favorite things to bring is sandwiches, and I love love love a couple of local grocery stores that have prepacked "kids meals" which come with a sandwich, drink, and snack (or two or three).

And of course, there must always be fruit.  Which Thatbaby somehow always seems to take possession of.

4) What to expect.  I've noticed a lot of parents try to get their kids to eat before the concert.  Which is definitely one option.  My kids need a little warming up to the music, so we start eating when the concert starts.  This gives them time to watch and take it all in while eating.

Often by the time they're finished, they're ready to go up and join in the fun.  Thatkid will take breaks from eating to run up and sing and dance to a song he knows.  Thatbaby waits until he's all done, then wants one of us to go up close to the stage with him.  Which is why we don't bring chairs.

The great thing about summer concerts for kids is that they're really geared toward them.  There's usually at least one song that every kid knows, like Old MacDonald.  And just as you love it when a song you know and love comes on the radio, kids get really excited when a band or singer is singing a song THEY KNOW.

5) The aftermath.  In our neck of the wood, these concerts begin and end fairly early.  Which means they extend the bedtimes of my children, but not by too much.  And what really helps is bringing pajamas with us.  We change the kids before heading home, so that when we get home, they can march right to bed.  With a song in their heart.