Friday, June 28, 2013

Such a Snoop: Quinoa Salad

I'll admit it, I totally peek into other people's shopping carts and create imaginary lives for them based on what they're purchasing.  To be fair, I do the same with my cart - looking at the contents and imagining how they portray my life.

I can't help it, food says so much about who you are! And looking in my shopping cart would have most people scratching their heads, I'm sure with our range of items from Nesquik to buckwheat soba noodles.

This morning, as I was dropping Thatbaby off at daycare and putting his lunch away my eyes we caught by one of his classmate's lunches-quinoa! We're big quinoa fans in Thathouse, but I don't think it's a typical toddler lunch. But it should be. We started using it on a more regular basis as a protein substitute when Thatbaby was refusing to eat meat and it remains a regular part or our meal plan.

Now that summer's here we move from warm quinoa casseroles to cold quinoa salads.  Quinoa salads are incredibly versatile, limited only by what you have in your fridge.  Throw in some olives, feta, and tomato and you have a Greek salad.  Walnuts and apple make for a great fall salad.  Grapefruit, watermelon, and feta make for a fantastic summer salad.  This one goes for a bit of a southwestern theme with jalapeno and avocado.

Quinoa Salad
1 cup quinoa
3 cups water
1  cucumber, peeled and diced
1 red onion, minced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno, with seeds and ribs removed, and minced
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 avocado, sliced
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan.  Add quinoa and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Drain and let cool.  
  2. Combine the tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. 
  3. Add the cucumber and onion, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the quinoa and avocado, toss and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Take a Hike: Mediterranean Chicken

Thatbaby is at an awkward age for long leisurely walks.  He's old enough to want to be independent.  He's curious and dying to explore.  He works on his own timetable.  All of this makes it very difficult to take him for a hike.  I tried explaining this to Thatboy, who was convinced that the problem lay with me.  He was sure that in the right environment, Thatbaby would be the perfect hiking partner.

And so every day he insisted we go on a long hike.  Made even longer by Thatbaby's desire to TOUCH ALL THE ROCKS.  RUN THE OTHER WAY.  SIT DOWN AND REFUSE TO MOVE.  And of course, the desire to be carried every 5 feet.  Thatboy was wrong.

Instead, I present you with a snap shot of what our walks looked like by demonstrating Thatbaby's favorite positions.

There's the classic: NO BACK! NO BACK!

The Airplane:

The Shoulder Sit:

And the ALL DONE!:

Hiking was not a success.  You win some, you lose some.  If you want to guarantee success, you have to go with what you know.  For me, this is easy in the food realm.  I can ensure a winner by incorporating a ton of vegetables.  I'm lucky this works for my family.  We're not against meat by any means, but veggies are a great way create a more healthy, filling meal.  This chicken dish utilizes this method.  Looking at the pictures, you may not even realize there's chicken in here.  With loads of bell peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes the chicken is almost an afterthought.

Mediterranean Chicken
2 chicken breasts
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 yellow pepper, sliced
2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup black olives, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1 Tbsp basil
1 tsp oregano
2 Tbsp capers

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Place the chicken in a baking pan sprayed with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl combine tomatoes, tomato sauce, vinegar, wine, garlic, peppers, mushrooms, olives, raisins, basil, oregano and caper.
  3. Pour the vegetables over the chicken an cover with foil.  Bake for 40 minutes.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

More Playgrounds and Cookies: Peanut Butter Cookies

 This was a close one you guys.  You know how I like to pair cookie recipes with playground posts - but there wasn't much playground time 'round these parts lately.

And when we were with the inlaws, they much preferred taking Thatbaby on hikes versus taking him to the playground  (more on that tomorrow).   But there were 2 notable exceptions. 

One day TMIL and Thatboy went to meet with someone from the church to go over the funeral service.  Since this person happened to live on the same street as a playground, Thatbaby and I tagged along.  He especially loved the splash park part.

 I have such a water baby, that when I made him leave the super wet zone to dry off a bit, he managed to find a fun mini-splash zone to play in.  And made a brand new friend (who happened to be a day older than him) who loved splashing in water just as much.

And there was another day when the hike led us past a playground.  Thatbaby went crazy trying to get to the playground, but everyone pushed for the hike.  Luckily, we got to stop and play on the way back.

This time I got smart, and took off his shirt while he played in the water area, so he would have something dry to put on afterward.

With 2 new playgrounds to add to our roster, I feel completely justified in sharing these cookies with you.  I haven't made peanut butter cookies in years.  YEARS.  But there's something so perfect in their simplicity.  Sweet and nutty - without any add-ins or accoutrement.  They're perfect just they way they are.

Peanut Butter Cookies
1 stick butter
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Cream the butter and peanut butter in an electric mixer.
  2. Beat in the sugar and brown sugar.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.
  4. Combine the salt, baking soda, and flour.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to wet ingredients and combine thoroughly.
  6. Drop the batter by rounded tablespoons onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat.  Press each cookie flat with the back of a floured spoon.  Bake for 7 minutes.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Father's Day: Pineapple Pork Tacos

My original plan for Father's Day was to surprise Thatboy with a trip to visit TFIL.  I mean, when you think about it, it makes sense.  It's a day to celebrate fathers, and since we didn't have to worry about mine, we should be spending it with Thatboy's.  And it meant Thatbaby could spend time with his father AND grandfather on Father's Day.

When TFIL's health began to decline, I let Thatboy in on the secret trip.  It seemed even more important to spend the day with him.

And when TFIL got dispatched on hospice with only a short time left, we changed the flights so Thatboy could fly up immediately.  It seemed as though  we'd be spending Father's Day without him.

So I planned all sorts of fun Father's Day gifts we would have ready for him when he eventually got home - as a belated celebration.

When TFIL passed away, due to the timing, it looked as though we would be spending Father's Day with Thatboy after all, although not under the best of circumstances.  His main gift hadn't arrived yet - a photo placard of  TFIL, Thatboy, and Thatbaby, so Thatbaby and I scurried to put together something we could bring up with us.

Every day I grow and learn, trying to fill your shoes.
Now Thatboy can have a little bit of his son with him every day in a fairly inconspicuous way!

We pretty much ignored Father's Day though once Thatbaby and I arrived.  I was at least able to convince Thatboy to let me make him breakfast before we all headed to church.  Then we celebrated Thatnephew's birthday by having lunch together.  I was able to sneak Thatboy his gift right before we put Thatbaby to bed. 

If we had been home, there would have been more more of an acknowledgement, and a lot better food!  We fished for leftovers out of the fridge that night, but I'm sure Thatboy would have enjoyed these tacos even more.  Traditionally when I use pork to make tacos, I turn it into carnitas first.  Which is delicious.  But also time consuming.  Grilling a pork tenderloin is a lot quicker, and in general I like the idea of a taco as being a quick meal.  And pineapple is a very natural pairing with pig - think about Hawaiian pizzas, glazed pork with pineapple rings, and even pork tinga!

Pineapple Pork Tacos
  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, minced
  • 1/2 cup bagged broccoli slaw
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 pork tenderloin
  1. Heat a grill pan (or grill) over medium high heat.  Combine pineapple, garlic, and chipotle, lime juice, scallions, and slaw mix in a bowl, tossing to combine.  
  2. Slice the pork lengthwise and season with salt and pepper.  Grill for 8-10 minutes, until cooked through.
  3. Slice pork and serve with tortillas and pineapple slaw.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mommy Mondays: Back to the Breast

So around this time (June 2013) I was planning on a great blog entry about weaning from breastfeeding, using examples of how I was successfully able to stop.  I was expecting that by this time, my breasts would be my own.  Isn't it funny how expectations can be dashed?

I had actually successfully weaned Thatbaby down to 1 breastfeeding session a day - at night, before bed.  My favorite.  Our quite, cuddle time.

And the he got sick.  And I figured the extra session might help kick whatever was in his system.  So we were back up to 2-3 nursing sessions a day.

And then TFIL got sick.  And Thatboy was gone.  And it just didn't seem an appropriate time to mess with Thatbaby's schedule any more than life already had done.

Right now, he's back to where we were before I started the weaning process.   At this point, I'm following the "don't offer, don't refuse" philosophy I've been using since he turned one.  Which means he only nurses when he asks to do so.  He nurses before bed, and sometimes in the morning.   And we'll continue with this until Thatboy gets home next month and life returns to normal.

Not much advice here, other than a word of warning about the best laid plans of mice and men.  This is applicable in so many situations in dealing with parenting.  As I mentioned even before Thatbaby was born, it's really important to remain flexible in terms of expectations.  Things just don't always go the way we expect or the way we want.  And that's okay!  No matter what your plans are, the reality is usually what's in everyone's best interest. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

From the Archives: Sausage Hash

Thatboy loves sweets for breakfast.  Pancakes, waffles, and the like.  I'm much more into breakfast savories.  There's nothing I like better than a nice omelet, or huevos rancheros.  I'm a definite "egg for breakfast" type of girl.

But not just any type of egg: eggs with spice, eggs with salt, eggs with veggies!

Hash is just my style for breakfast.  A mixture of sausages, peppers, and eggs.  In some places known as a skillet's cooked in a skillet.  The classic breakfast (eggs, sausage, and potatoes) but all cooked together.  Like a breakfast stew.   This is exactly the kind of thing that I would order if I saw it on a menu, but when I make it at home, I can eat it in my pajamas.  Which is also very much how I prefer to eat breakfast.

Sausage and Potato Hash
3 yukon gold potatoes
1 Tbsp canola oil
 1 pkg chicken sausage, sliced.
1/4 onion, sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sprig thyme leaves
1 sprig rosemary leaves
1 sprig oregano leaves
salt and pepper
5 eggs, slightly beaten
1 Tbsp butter

  1. Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.  Remove potatoes from water, let cool, then dice.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet.  Brown sausages, then remove them from pan.
  3. Add sliced onions, peppers, and garlic to the pan and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the diced potatoes, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Combine sausages with the potato mixture and place in bowls.
  6. Melt the butter in the skillet, and scramble the eggs. 
  7. Place eggs on top of the sausages and potatoes and serve.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

From the Archives: Toasted Ravioli

Before Thatbaby was born, Thatboy and I used to have "appetizer night" where we would make a dish traditionally served as an appetizer, open a bottle of wine, and make a meal of it.

Because sometimes all you want is something snacky and unhealthy.  Something fried and cheesy.  Something warm and gooey.

The nice thing about toasted ravioli is that it works now, even with Thatbaby (who doesn't do nachoes as well).  It's very baby-friendly (ravioli used to be something I always kept on hand for him when he first started solids) as long as your baby isn't eating these every meal. But really, you shouldn't be eating them every meal either.  But as an every now and then treat?  These are exactly what you want.  Crispy, chewy, cheesy!  Completely decadent - even moreso since they're so easy to make!  It's almost impossible to stop eating them once you start.

If you're not prone to eating appetizers for dinner, these work really well as...wait for it...appetizers!  Put them out for your next party and they will disappear as quickly as you can make them. 

Toasted Ravioli with Marinara Sauce (From What's Cookin' Chicago?)
2 Tbsp milk
1 egg
3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper to taste
1 package cheese ravioli (I used fresh)
2 cups canola oil
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Warm Marinara sauce for dipping

  1. Combine milk and egg in a shallow bowl. 
  2. Combine breadcrumbs and seasonings in a second shallow bowl. 
  3. Dip ravioli in milk mixture, and then dip in the breadcrumbs to coat.
  4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Fry ravioli in batches, 1 minute per side, or until golden.  Drain on paper towels.
  5. Sprinkle with parmesean and serve with the warmed marinara.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

From the Archives: Tortilla Soup

We went through a tortilla soup phase for a while where we were having it once a week.  I love the crisp bold flavors and Thatbaby loves soup of all kinds.  I played around with a bunch of recipes in an almost Goldilocks way.  This one was too hot.  That one was too thin.  Eventually I got to the point where I could figure out exactly what needed to be done in order to create the perfect tortilla soup.

This one is the perfect heat - using guajillo and ancho chiles gives it a nice smokey flavor which is still mild enough for the little guy.  This smokey flavor is emphasized by broiling the vegetables first, giving them a nice char that you're used to finding when dealing with chiles and is sometimes missing when using the dried variety.  And the thickness, from adding crushed tortilla chips, is the perfect way to go. 

I like to serve this with a scoop of guacamole in the bottom of the bowl, and the soup poured over top.  It's almost like a hidden treasure.  And both my boys like the tortilla strip topping!

Tortilla Soup
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb tomatoes
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles, stems, seeds, and ribs removed
  • 2 dried ancho chilies, stems, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 cup tortilla chips, crushed
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  1. Preheat broiler.Place onions, tomatoes, and garlic on a baking pan and broil until the tomatoes skins have popped and are charred, about 20 minutes.  Let cool.
  2.  Heat a skillet over medium heat and toast the chiles, 30 seconds per side.  Place the chiles in a bowl and cover with hot water.  Soak for 20 minutes.
  3. Drain chiles and place in a blender with the cooled vegetable mixture.
  4. Transfer chile mixture to a pot and add the chicken broth.  Bring to a boil. 
  5. Stir in the crushed tortilla chips, oregano, and salt and lower heat to a simmer.  Simmer 30-40 minutes.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From the Archives: Kasha Burgers

Thatboy, Thatbaby, and I are currently with the inlaws following TFIL's passing.  While we're here I won't be doing much cooking, so this week I'm pulling recipes from the archive to share, until I'm back in my own kitchen.

This recipe is part of my "vegetarian burger" quest.  The sweetness of kasha, with the saltiness of soy make a great combination.  I love the flavor of this, actually preferring it to the typical black bean burgers.  Kasha is another of those "wonder grains" which is a great source of protein, so works well as a meat substitute.  My only complaint is that the "burger" is still really mushy.  The reason this recipe was stuck in the archive is because I wanted to try it again, adding more flour in the hopes it would solidify the patty a bit more.  I used 1 cup originally, so I'm adding half a cup to the recipe in the hopes that it helps, but I would suggest playing around with the flour amount until you get something that seems more firm than gloopy.

Kasha Burgers
4 cups water
1 cup kasha
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp canola oil
1 green onion, sliced
1 1/2 cup flour
soy sauce
  1. Bring water to a boil.  Add kasha and salt.  Simmer for 15 minutes and remove from heat.  Let cool.
  2. In a small pan, saute the green onions in the oil.  Add to the kasha mixture.
  3. Preheat the oven to 300.  Once cooled, add the flour to the kasha and onions and mix well.
  4. Add soy sauce to taste.  Divided the kasha mixture into fourths, and form each fourth into a patty.  bake for 40 minutes.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mommy Mondays: Flying Solo

With TFIL's illness and death, I found myself traveling quite a bit with Thatbaby, on my own.  This post becomes a bit of a followup on my "traveling with a baby" earlier post on how to deal with travel when there aren't 2 sources of entertainment and only one person to deal with all the baby "junk."  Some tips and tricks to dealing with traveling with a toddler on your own:

1) Pack light.  I know, this is something that should hold true no matter what, but it's increasingly difficult when you have to lug baby gear around. The first time I flew alone with Thatbaby I was lucky in that Thatboy flew up first and I knew we'd be joining him later in the week, so I packed all our clothes with him so I only had to fly with a baby and diaper bag.   This last time I was not so lucky.  Remember to only bring necessities.  You can stop at a store when you arrive and pick up things like toiletries, diapers, and wipes.  For me, I ditched the idea of bringing a stroller.  This is one of those times being a baby-wearing mama is helpful, because anywhere I would feasibly need a stroller, I can wear Thatbaby.  And it's much easier to bring a carrier with you than a stroller.

2) Think about how you're going to maneuver around the airport.  I can't even tell you how many times I hear about how great a stroller is for the airport.  Honestly, I've watched those people with strollers and it looks entirely inconvenient.  Sure, they can hold a lot.  But I've been behind people in security who have taken 8-10 minutes to unpack the whole thing so it can go through security.  Then they have to fold it up while trying to wrangle their children, just to repeat the process in reverse on the other side.    On the other hand, I pop my diaper bag on the belt, waltz through the metal detector, get my hands wiped, and I'm good to go.  Most of the time while the other family is still getting their things back together.  The other stroller argument is that it holds the carseat.  But that's just not a good enough reason for an extra piece of equipment for me.  Instead, I throw the carseat on my back, baby on the front and I'm still not dealing with anything more inconvenient than a backpack.

Plus, the airlines have been super sweet about taking my gate checked carseat, in its bag, from me as soon as I arrive at the gate.  Which means that once we get to the gate, I'm back to just having to deal a baby on my front and a diaper bag.

3) Fly during naptime.  This can certainly backfire on you if your child doesn't sleep, but if they do OH MY GOODNESS!  What a difference.  I have flown with Thatbaby first thing in the morning, I have flown with him right before naptime (so we land and he falls asleep in the car), and I have flown during his naptime.  Flying during his naptime meant he slept the entire trip.  So I didn't have to worry about toddler tantrums, or him wanting to run up and down the aisles of the plane.

4) If you can afford to, fly first class.  Normally this is not something we upgrade too.  For an hour flight up to the inlaws, it's just not worth the added expense.  But when I was buying a ticket to fly up after TFIL died, it was actually cheaper to fly first class.  I asked my online message board buddies if I was a terrible, horrible, no good person for even considering bringing my toddler into first class and they all assured me it would be fine.  I was all prepared to tell y'all that it doesn't matter where you fly with a toddler, first class or coach both are going to be difficult experiences, and when flying by yourself you won't get to take advantage of the first class amenities like premium entertainment or free booze.  But there are other perks that make it all worthwhile. First of all, there were 2 other babies in first class.   Which meant 3 out of the 11 first class passengers were under the age of 2.  And that meant that 7 out of those 11 passengers were not going to be bothered by my child.  The second thing that made first class such a great idea was the roominess of the seats.  It was much easier to get Thatbaby to sleep, when he could curl up beside me, instead of trying to sleep on top of me and the person beside me. And being able to fully recline with my feet up was helpful for that aspect also.  And he loved sleeping on the first class pillows!  Had he not slept the entire time, we were far enough away from our seatmates that he wouldn't have disturbed them either on my lap or the space in front of my chair.  (You can't kick the seat in front of you when your legs don't stretch that far!)

5) Pack a ton of "occupiers."  I'm ridiculous with the number of activities I bring along.  The ones I've found to be most effective are:
*Color Magic Travel Pack - markers that only mark on special paper, so no worries about your child drawing on the plane, the chairs, other passengers.

*Nesting Dolls - These keep Thatbaby occupied for what seems like a while (although I'm sure it's only minutes - which can seem like an eternity.)  He likes to take them apart, stack them, put them back together, etc.
* Magna doodle - along the same lines as the color magic, this gives him a chance to draw without the potential for making a mess.
* Inflatable mini beach ball - because it inflates/deflates it doesn't take up too much room.  And it's light and small for a little game of toss or roll.  But I've found Thatbaby's favorite activity (which works really well for a plane) is to have me blow it up, and then giving it to him to squeeze all the air out of.
* Food!  Thatbaby gets a special smoothie for takeoff (to help with the air pressure) and then I pack all kinds of snackies for him to keep him busy during the flight.  There's usually a full container of fruit (berries seem to work best for this purpose), goldfish crackers, teddy grahams, freeze dried bananas, or other special treats that only make their appearance on plane trips.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mother's Little Helper: Macaroni and Mushrooms and Cheese

Growing up, Thatdad did a lot of the cooking in my family.  Thatmom was off being Wonder Woman - working, teaching, going to school, and being a mom, and that meant her time was usually far more stretched than Thatdad.  And Thatdad grew up as a latchkey kid of a single working mother, so he was no stranger to the kitchen.  In fact, he taught Home Economics for a period, back when high schools still taught that sort of thing (ahhh the memories.  I was just talking to a bank teller about how I learned to balance a checkbook in school)

Which is not to say Thatmom didn't cook - because she did.  And there are certain foods that I will always associate with her.  Like one of my all time favorites- chili!  Or macaroni and cheese.  Thatdad didn't make macaroni and cheese.  He heated up a mean Stouffers (and I will always have a soft spot for that gooey, unevenly heated dish) but it was Thatmom's baked macaroni which set the standard for me. 

When I'm looking for a meal I can make and then reheat, like I've been doing the past week, macaroni and cheese rises to the surface.  It's a no brainer.  Especially with my new "no boil" method

Macaroni and Mushrooms and Cheese 
1/2 cup butter, divided
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper 
1 pound shells 
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
2 cups shredded fontina
2 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 sprig thyme (leaves)
1 sprig rosemary (leaves)
3 Tbsp fresh basil, chiffonade
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup panko

1.     Preheat oven to 400. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
2.     Whisk in the flour, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until a bubbly paste forms.
3.     Whisk in milk and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes.
4.     Stir in salt and pepper. Remove sauce from heat.
5.     In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 5-8 minutes.  
6.    Add the thyme, rosemary, basil,  and half of the garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
7.    Toss pasta mushroom mix and parmesean, and 1 cup fontina in a large baking dish. Pour sauce over, submerging pasta.  Cover and bake about 20 minutes.
8.    Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add  remaining garlic and panko, toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
9.    Uncover the pasta and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and panko mixture.  Bake about 10 minutes longer, until top is golden brown.    

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Single Parenting It: Steak Torta

This is the second time Thatboy has left me at home with the baby while he's headed up to be with TFIL.  The first time, last month, I contacted L&O for some tips/advice.  Since Mr. L&O doesn't have a normal 9-5 job, L&O functions as a single parent many days/nights of the week. 

As usual, L&O had some great advice for me.  Which I implemented.  And though I would not say I'm handling this with any semblance of grace, at least we've got a bit of a routine down.

It starts with Thatbaby waking me up.  Which can be anywhere from 6am to 7am.  (And as nice as that 7am sounds, it only happens when he's up all night.  Sunday night I got 80 minutes of sleep all night) 

We then put on sweatshirts and shoes and walk Thatdog in our pajamas.  Then we have breakfast.  From then on I do my best to wash my face, get dressed, and do my hair and makeup with a constant soundtrack of "mama mommy mama mommy mama mama mama mama mama mama."

After work, I pick him up and we head home to give Thatdog a quick walk.  Then I try to heat up dinner to a constant soundtrack of "mama mommy mama mommy mama mama mama mama mama mama."  After dinner, it's time for Thatdog's long walk.  We head to the trail about a quarter mile from my house, but we rarely make it there.  Thatbaby gets too distracted by snails, bunnies, birds, trucks, and ants.

When we come home, it's bathtime.  Then pajama time.  Then story time.  We usually call Thatboy at this time and he reads a story over the phone to Thatbaby.  Then it's nursing and bedtime.

And then I head to the shower.  And then I make dinner for the next night.  And then I clean up all the dishes.  By this time it's around 10:30 and time for bed for me!

In light of this, we've been having very easy peasy meals that don't take long to prep or reheat.  Things like pizza, veggie dogs, mac and cheese, and sandwiches.  For these tortas I cooked the meat the night before and just assembled the sandwiches after work.

Steak Tortas
  • 1/2 lb carne asada
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 chipotle chile, minced
  • juice of one lime 
  • 2 torta rolls
  • 1/2 cup refried beans
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar Jack cheese
  1. Heat grill pan over medium high heat.  Season the carne asada with salt and pepper and grill about 4 minutes per side.  Let rest 5 minutes, then slice thinly.
  2. Whisk together the yogurt, chile and lime juice.
  3. Spread refried beans on the bottom half of the torta roll then top with the steak, avocado, cheese, and yogurt sauce.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Putting A Birthday on Hold: Garbanzos and Smoked Sausage

I often joke that my birthday is always disappointing.  Except it's not really a joke.  Take my 16th birthday, when my parents both went out and bought themselves new cars - which I wasn't allowed to drive, because they were new.  Or my 21st birthday, when no one came to my party because it was the weekend before finals week.  Or my 30th birthday, when I got laid off and we lost a house we were buying just days earlier.

When Thatboy asked what I wanted to do for my birthday this year I told him we probably shouldn't plan anything, because it never works out.  But, like he does every year, Thatboy tries to make my birthday special.  He told me to cancel all my plans for my birthday weekend.  He had something planned.

When he found out his dad was dying, one of the things that made Thatboy hesitate to head up was the fact he would miss my birthday.  But I convinced him that in the upcoming weeks he would regret not spending time with his father far more than he would regret missing my birthday.  Beside, I'm used to my birthday sucking. 

So we cancelled all of Thatboy's super secret birthday plans - the surprise dinner with L&O, the surprise wine-tasting trip, the surprise movie at the "grown up theater." 

Instead, I was awoke at 4:40am the morning of my birthday by Thatbaby.  I was able to get him back to sleep, but only till 6:30.

Even though he was far away, Thatboy still managed a surprise.  While I was putting Thatbaby down for a nap, I got a text from both him and The Pirates letting me know there was a treat waiting for me outside the front door.  Frozen yogurt from the three of them, and flowers and a gift certificate from a nail salon from The Pirates.

When Thatbaby awoke, we got ready for Jurisbaby's birthday party and headed out.  How adorable are these little blondies? 

Thatbaby saw that Jurisbaby wasn't wearing any shoes or socks and he immediately had to follow suit.  The only birthday plan I didn't cancel was my birthday dinner with Thatmom, Thatbrother, and UDubb.  We were supposed to meet at 5, but they ended up running a little bit late, so Thatbaby and I entertained ourselves at the Splash Park that's part of the same shopping center as the restaurant.

It was Thatbaby's first time playing in the water here.  He wasn't mobile enough last year, and it's been too cold up till recently.  He loved it.  As you can clearly see.

Unfortunately, this meant I had a very wet baby at dinner.  But a wet, happy, baby, and that's really what matters, right?  Dinner with my family was very nice.  I always enjoy being with them, and the new restaurant we tried is great.  I'm thrilled it's good, close, AND has a happy hour.  

In general it was a pretty good day, just a lousy birthday!  Since we went out, and I didn't cook, I will instead share an archive recipe with you.  Something that definitely won't disappoint.  You won't feel sad or unfilled.  And there's nothing to bemoan.  Instead this simple and hearty dish will leave you satisfied and full.  Warm and comforted. 

Garbanzos and Smoked Sausage (from Adventures in My Kitchen)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 12 oz. smoked turkey sausage, sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp capers
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 roma tomatoes peeled, seeded and diced
  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and brown on both sides.  Remove sausage from pan and set aside.
  2. Add pepper, onion and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are transluscent (about 5 minutes).  
  3. Add cilantro, stir and allow to cook 1 minute. 
  4. Add capers, vinegar, beans, tomato sauce, chicken stock and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat  and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Add sausage to pan, stir and allow to simmer an additional 10-15 minutes. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New Old Friends: Crockpot Enchiladas

When Thatbaby started at daycare, his class was comprised of two age groups.  There was the "older kid" group - kids born between January 2011 and August 2011, and then the "younger kid" group - kids born in October 2011.  Thatbaby fell into the latter group, along with four other kids.  When Thatbaby started, all those kids were around 5 months old.  And now they're all working on 20 months!

I've watched them all grow together, their little personalities developing, friendships forming. (Thatbaby is apparently part of a three-some known as the "three amigos" who love to get into trouble together)  When they were 11 months old, they all moved out of the infant room together and into the "Wobbler Room." They started walking, talking, and dancing together.  They held each other's hands to play rousing games of "row row row your boat."

At 18 months, they all moved into the "Toddler Room."  Well, all but one.  Smiley, one of my favorites (I hate saying that, they're all my favorites) didn't move up with them, instead she left the daycare to head to one closer to her parents' workplace.  I missed Smiley.  She used to greet me and Thatbaby every morning by running up to us.  I got hugs.  She held my hand.  She played "row row" with Thatbaby and I.

A couple of weeks ago I emailed Smiley's mom to see if there was any chance of getting the little ones together.  She was thrilled at the suggestion and on Saturday we headed to a nearby playground to meet up with them.

It took them both a little bit to get reacquainted.  I think Smiley recognized me before Thatbaby.  But before long they were chasing each other and fighting over playground balls.  We already have plans for the next playdate.

When I was in girl scouts I remember singing the Silver and Gold Song - "Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver and the other's gold."  Like everything else in girl scouts, these are words to live by.  And it makes me happy for Thatbaby to keep up with good friendships. 

Likewise it's good to be reacquainted with other old favorites.  Like food favorites. When we go to a Mexican restaurant, I usually order fajitas.  Thatboy usually orders enchiladas.  I rarely order enchiladas because I feel like they're something easy to make at home.  But I don't make them all that often.  So I thought I would revisit them before Thatboy headed out of town.  For him.  I'm lazy though, so these enchiladas are made in the crockpot.  They are just as good as the kind you make in the oven though.  So in a way these are old friends, made in a new way!

Crockpot Enchiladas
1 lb ground beef
1 can whole tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
6oz tomato paste
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
9 corn tortillas

  1. Brown ground beef in a saucepan.  Remove ground beef from pan.
  2. Place tomatoes, onion, and garlic in a food processor and puree.
  3. Heat tomato sauce in the saucepan.
  4. Add cayenne, salt, and tomato paste.  Bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer and cook for 7 minutes.
  5. Place 3 tortillas in bottom of crockpot. 
  6. Top crockpot with a third of the ground beef, a third of the sauce, and a third of the cheddar.
  7. Repeat layers two more times.
  8. Cook on low for 7 hours.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mommy Mondays: A Crazy Toddler Day

This is my "day in the life with a 20 month old" but it's not really a typical day.  TFIL is not doing well.  He's currently been discharged from the hospital for home hospice care.  Thatboy left on Wednesday to be up there for his father's last days.  Because of that, our schedule was a little off from normal.

3:36 am -Thatbaby wakes up.  Because he's been sick with whatever took him to Urgent Care I take the opportunity to nurse him.  And we end up on the couch together.

7:05am - Thatbaby wakes up for the day and demands I help him take off his pajamas.

7:10am - Thatbaby demands a "moy" (smoothie).  Again because of the illness, and teething, he's on a food strike - with the exception of "moy."  I make him one filled with mango, yogurt, and spinach.

7:12am - Thatbaby satisfied, naked, and "fed" I jump in the shower, get dressed, do my hair and makeup.  While I do this, Thatboy tries to get things ready for his flight the next day.  Then we trade off and he jumps in the shower and gets ready.

7:28am - While I'm getting ready, Thatbaby asks to brush his teeth.

7:56am - I throw in a load of laundry.

7:59am - I get Thatbaby dressed for school.

8:02am - I clean up the kitchen from this morning's "moy" making and put our lunches in our bags.  Now that Thatbaby is in the toddler room, they don't heat up his food, so I heat it in the morning and put it in a thermos so it's still warm at lunchtime.

While I'm doing this, I hear an "uh oh" from my bedroom.  Then Thatbaby started screaming for me "MOM MAMA MAMA" and I found this.  This my friends, is why I can never get anywhere on time.

8:30am - We leave for daycare.

Thatbaby has a rough time and doesn't want me to leave, but eventually he finds some ants and convinces his classmates to come join him for some bug-time.

8:56am - I stop off at the bank to deposit a check.

9:12am - arrive at work, have breakfast.

12:00pm - lunch time!  I was starving so I completely forgot to take a picture of my sandwich, but there was a sandwich with hummus, spinach, salsa, and avocado along with my rice, apple slices with peanut butter, banana, raisins, and some squares of dark chocolate.

5:07pm - leave work.  Thatboy left work early, so he picked up Thatboy from daycare.

5:22pm - I get home and walk Thatdog.  I get dinner ready and clean up the kitchen while I wait for the boys to get home.

Sausage Soup with Sauerkraut
1 lb ground chicken sausage
1 onion, chopped 
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 lb sauerkraut 
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups chicken broth

1. Brown sausage in a pot. 
2. Add onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Remove sausage, onions, and garlic from pot.
3. Add apples and cook 15-20 minutes until tender.
4. Add the sauerkraut and cook an additional 10 minutes.
5. Add wine, scraping browned bits off bottom of the pot.
6. Add the chicken broth and sausage.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook 20 minutes.

6:21pm - dinner!
6:41pm - I head out for a run.  This night I do one of my Zombies Run mission.  I usually don't do these during the week because my running partner (Thatdog) spends so long sniffing and dilly dallying that we get caught by the zombies.  But my running schedule has been really off lately with Thatboy out of town and me out of town, so I jumped on this chance to get a run in, and do a mission, even if I had to do it with Thatdog.

7:15pm - Home from my run, the boys are already doing bath time.  I give Thatbrother a call to update him on TFIL's condition.

7:45pm - Bedtime for babies!  I give Thatbaby his last nursing of the day and put him to bed.

8:30pm - Usually I make lunches and dinners at this time, but with Thatboy leaving instead I just spend some time with him.
9:30pm - We head to bed.