Wednesday, July 08, 2020

NYC at home: Black and White Egg Cream

I'm not going to lie, New York City is probably my least favorite summer destinations.  I have been through too many sticky, muggy, hot and humid New York trips, pressed up against other wet and sticky bodies for one lifetime. 

But when I saw that Broadway HD was doing a free 7-day trial back in the beginning days of the quarantine, I thought it would be a great "pandemic adventure."  Everything we love about New York, without the humidity or the subway! 

I jumped on Goldbelly and ordered some of our favorite New York foods to keep the day authentic.  Like bagels.  Because no one makes bagels like they do in NYC.  Trust me, I've tried to find similar in other states AND other countries and there's no comparison.

After breakfast we headed out to create our own souvenirs.

One of our favorite things about New York is the museums, and Thatkid's favorite museum is the Museum of Natural History (the Nat is his favorite museum in San Diego also).  We did a virtual tour of the museum, visiting some of his favorite exhibits.

Thatkid's ideal New York trip would be to see every Broadway show there is - he'd do a matinee and evening performance each day if he could.   So we tried.

We started with Jekyll and Hyde.  One of my favorites, and which I saw with the Original Broadway Cast back when it first came out.

Then it was a quick trip to Nathan's for a hot dog with fries.  

Then a couple more virtual museum tours.

Our post-nap Broadway show was Kinky Boots.

And then we had dinner.  Know what New York food we were missing?  PIZZA!

My boys have been VERY into opera this pandemic.  Entirely due to The Met Opera's free streaming program and Met Opera Camp.    So when I saw that the nightly streaming opera was Cendrillon (or Cinderella) I thought it would be a great way to round out our day in New York.

And one last treat - black and white cookies!

I've tried to make my own black and white cookies and they just don't turn out the same.  Thatmom and I speculate that there's something about the New York water that just makes the chocolate taste better.

Instead, when I want a little shot of a New York black and white I go to a much easier recipe - the Black and White egg cream.  The egg cream is a New York staple - as much a part of their legacy as the bagel and the pizza.  It dates back to the Jews of Brooklyn to the late 1800s or early 1900s depending on which origin story you care to believe.  The original is just chocolate syrup (U-BET!), seltzer, and milk.  The black and white version also has a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Black and White Egg Cream
1/2 cup whole milk
4 Tbsp U-Bet chocolate syrup
vanilla ice cream
  1.  Divide milk between 2 glasses.
  2. Place 2 Tbsp chocolate syrup into each glass and stir with a fork.
  3. Continue vigorously stirring as you slowly pour in the seltzer until the glass is almost full.
  4. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Camp Our House: Black Bean and Chicken Salad

We decided last year we would go camping for Father's Day weekend.  Thatboy loves camping, and the weather is perfect for it in early June.   And then the Coronavirus became a thing and we weren't going anywhere.

When they mentioned that campgrounds would be opening, we had a serious discussion about going.  Seems safe enough, right?  Except I have some friends in Canada, where they're kicking the pandemic's butt, and I remember when their campgrounds opened and all the restrictions that were put in place.  One of my friends got an RV because one of the restrictions was that they weren't opening the bathrooms at campgrounds.  No such restrictions were being put in place in California campgrounds.  They were open for business as if there was never a shut-down.  So we decided no on the camping.  (As a side note- we were totally right because less than 2 weeks after opening, we'd already had an outbreak at a San Diego campground.)

So instead, on Father's Day weekend, we found a campground much closer to home - our backyard!

We found that scavenger hunts are a must when we go on hikes when we camp, and earlier this year I had found these "Seek and find" sheets in the Target Dollar Spot and bought them.  Lucky for me, they work equally well on hikes around the neighborhood.

Hiking around, you can work up and appetite, so when we got back, we made a little snack - butterfly trail mix bags.

I also pulled out some of our crafts from our camping supplies.  The kids had just as much fun making bubble snakes in the backyard as they do at the campsite.

We did some family tournaments, like cornhole and bocce ball.

And a little bit of archery

Another Target dollar spot find were these Backyard Bingo games.  (We have roadtrip versions too)

For lunch, I had "packed" us a lunch we would have had a campground - a leaf-less salad that travels well, watermelon, and some sangria for the grownups.

Our neighbors happened to be out of town during the week and we were in charge of feeding their cat and making sure their pool got used, so we spent the afternoon pretending it was a lake.  When we got back, Thatboy lit a fire and we all sat around reading by the campfire.

And doing that resting thing you do at campgrounds.

We grilled hot dogs for dinner, and ate them with more watermelon and lots of chips.

And after we had hot chocolate (which is my kids' favorite part of camping I think)

And smores (their other favorite part?)

And then we let them stay up late telling "spooky" stories, which turned into silly stories.  We also let them stay awake in the tent whispering and giggling for a while.

Eventually the boys fell asleep, and Thatboy and I stayed awake listening to every little sound - we were both a lot jumpier in our own backyard than in the middle of the wilderness!  Our only problem is that the kids have been asking to sleep in the backyard every night since then.

One of the things that kept the whole thing feeling "real" (especially since we had indoor plumbing) was the fact that I did my best with authentic camping food.  We learned a couple years ago that the best way to keep our kids happy was to bring mostly prepared food.  Either foods that could be eaten cold, or foods that were already cooked and just needed to be heated.  The boys lack the patience for true camp cooking.  This salad is perfect to make ahead and bring with you, but that also makes it great for picnics - and when this is all over, summer barbecues.   Because there's no lettuce, there's nothing to wilt.  Rather than dressing, which can get gloopy even without lettuce (and yes, gloopy is the scientific term) there's just some lime juice which keeps everything fresh and bright tasting.  

Black Bean and Chicken Salad
1 can black beans
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 shallot, minced
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp cumin
1 avocado, diced
  1. Combine beans, corn, shallot, tomatoes, and chicken in a large bowl.
  2. Add the lime juice and cumin and toss well.
  3. Gently fold in avocado.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Fair Play: Oven Broiled "Grilled" Cheese

One of our favorite summer activities is going to the fair.  The kids love the games and rides, the whole family loves the exhibits and the food.

Since our county fair is cancelled this year, we held our own fair in the backyard.

We made sure there were games.

And prizes to go with the games

And we even got them some new backyard toys which subbed in for rides.

This saucer swing has turned out to be a great pandemic purchase.  They've used it every day since our backyard fair.

I ordered a kit so we could make our own funnel cakes.  Because what kind of fair doesn't have funnel cakes?

Each of the boys set up their own exhibit for us to visit.  Thatkid chose "Rocks and Minerals" which is their favorite exhibit at the fair.  Thatbaby decided he would do the animal exhibit.  It was a far cry from the cows and goats we usually see.

The little guys usually get corn dogs at the fair, and since that's an easy enough thing to replicate at home, we all had corn dogs for lunch!

While Thatbaby napped, Thatkid got his face painted.  It's MUCH cheaper at the backyard fair than at the actual fair.

When Thatbaby woke up, we broke out our cotton candy machine and whipped up an afternoon snack.

And then I taught myself how to make balloon animals!  Or at least balloon parrots which is what the boys wanted.

We headed back outside for a little hula hoop competition.

And some spin art.

Thatboy and I like to try the new and unusual foods at the fair.  That's a little harder to replicate at home, but I thought we could work it out by doing twists on regular ole food.  So we had a "choose your own adventure" grilled cheese.  I've had some fun grilled cheeses at the fair - like buffalo chicken, or macaroni and pulled pork.  

Thatbaby stayed pretty traditional with just cheese, but he did use 3 different kind of cheeses.  Thatkid went for some adventure and picked several meats, cheeses, and avocado for his grilled cheese.  Thatboy went with truffle butter, harissa,  bacon, and cheese, while I went with tomato basil sauce, caramelized onions, and cheese.

For the past few years, the fair has been having some pretty fun doughnut desserts, like doughnut cotton candy sandwiches.  We went for an easier fair dessert - doughnut ice cream sandwiches!

It wasn't exactly the same as going to the fair, but it was a pretty good replacement for these times.

I'm not going to lie - one of the reasons I picked choose your own adventure grilled cheese was because I could make everyone's dinner at one time that way.    Even with everyone picking their own toppings.   That way everyone could pick what they wanted, I could pop it all in the oven, and then we could all eat at the same time.  Really, a mother's best friend.

Oven Broiled Grilled Cheese
8 slices of bread
4 Tbsp butter, room temperature
Cheese - cheddar, gruyere, muenster, monterey jack, mozzarella, swiss, feta......
Other ideas - salami, bacon, ham, turkey, chicken, pepperoni, mushrooms, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, sriracha, pesto. tomato sauce, harissa, tahini, alfredo, barbecue sauce, wing sauce, tapenade, pickles, ranch, Italian dressing.....

  1. Preheat the broiler.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Butter each piece of bread with 1/2 Tbsp of the butter.
  2. Place 4 of the bread slices buttered side down in on the baking sheet.  
  3. Top each of these bread slices with cheese.
  4. Top the cheese with whatever toppings you want.
  5. Add another slice of cheese on top of the toppings and then the remaining slices of bread, buttered side up.
  6. Broiled the sandwiches about 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden.  Flip them and broil for another 3 minutes.