Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween! Maple glazed pork with apples

It's the spook-spookiest day of the year.  Full of treats and tricks.  We got started a bit early this year.  Carlsbad did a special Halloween event this weekend that a bunch of us were going to hit up.  But other plans and illness got in the way, so in the end it was just our little family that ventured out to check out the festivities.

The event got scaled back big time this year, and ended up being just trick or treating from store to store.  I wasn't too impressed, but Thatbaby loved it!

Especially when he figured out the whole "TRICK OR TREAT" = people giving you candy.  And as adorable as he was, most people were more than happy to let him look through their candy bowls to find the "purple one."  Although he also had a knack for picking lollypops and candy bars.

After a good hour of trick or treating, we were only able to steer Thatbaby away from his newfound favorite hobby by the promise of pizza.

Pizza and candy is the perfect way to spend a day.  Tonight we're headed out for more Trick Or Treating fun.  We'll eat with the Jurisslaves and then take the boys out.  Which means two nights this week I didn't have to worry about dinner.

But if we were eating at home, we would probably do something like this - porkchops glazed in maple syrup and topped with apples.  So very fall appropriate.  Pork, apples, raisins, cinnamon.  And just as Halloween is a mix of the tricks and the treats, this dish is a mix of sweet and savory.  All treat.

Maple Glazed Pork with Apples
4 apples, cored and chopped
1 cup apple cider
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 pork chops
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup maple syrup
  1. Combine apples, cider, sugar, raisins, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a pot and cook over medium high heat for 12 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Season chops with salt and pepper and cook for 6 minutes a side.
  3. Add mustard and maple syrup and cook for another minute.
  4. Top chops with the apples and serve.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The newest member of our "family": Italian Wedding Soup

It's been such a busy month that it has taken me a full month to get up to Los Angeles to visit The Actress and Baby A.  But this weekend I finally had time to make the trek!  And lucky for me, Baby A is still teeny tiny!  (Something you have to worry about when you have to wait a month to meet a new little girl.)

I got lots of prime baby holding time while I chatted with The Actress about all the fun aspects of new motherhood, like feeding woes and lack of sleep.  And then we headed out for a walk where we could talk about all the intimate details no one warns you about with birth and which become something completely normal to talk about with your girlfriends after they've had children.

Armani's back at work now, and working some long hours.  I brought up a big bag of dinners for my friends knowing they were probably exhausted in the evenings.  I've seen some controversy about what to bring to new parents which is something along the lines of "UGH!  Please don't bring pasta!  Everyone brings pasta!"  But I am undeterred.  In the first case, not everyone has people bringing them food.  And even when they do, that food is usually long gone after the first couple of weeks.  In the second, new moms are notoriously ravenous.  You burn a lot of calories making milk and feeding it to your young.  And finally, pasta freezes really well, which means you don't have to eat it the day it's brought.  

For The Actress and Armani, I made a lasagna, some baked ziti, and some Italian Wedding Soup.  I didn't have anyone bringing me food after Thatbaby was born, and baked pasta dishes were something I adored.  And this is surely soup season.  Italian wedding soup is one of the easiest in my arsenal.  Because it's just heating up chicken broth and then letting that broth cook your meatballs and orzo.  There's no excess fat in the form of oil or butter, just what's naturally in the chicken broth and meat, so you don't need to feel too guilty about it.  And it has just the right balance of dark green leafy vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein, which makes it the perfect meal for a new mom.

Italian Wedding Soup
1 lb ground turkey
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesean
1 sprig chopped parsley
1 egg
1/2 onion, minced
8 cups chicken broth
1 bunch of spinach, torn

  1. Combine the turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, onion, and parmesean in a large bowl.
  2. Roll 1 Tbsp of the meat mixture into a ball.  Repeat with all of the meat mixture.
  3. Bring the chicken broth to a boil.  Add the meatballs, orzo, and spinach.  Cook for 10 minutes, until orzo is cooked.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Worms Crawl In: Summer Soba Noodles

Happy Halloween Week!  We're in full Halloween mode over here.  On Friday night, DH kicked off the weekend by watching Mama.  I started watching it with him, but it was too sad for me.  I didn't get too far into it before crying and going to bed.

On Saturday morning, we did some pumpkin carving.

The original plan was for Thatbaby to put stickers on his pumpkin, but once he saw our carving tools, he wanted to carve a face on his pumpkin.

We ended up watching Paranorman during our carving.  Thatbaby wasn't entirely interested, but Thatboy and I really enjoyed it.  The plot was the same as a grownup horror film - a witch who was put to death casts a spell which raises the dead from the graves every year.  It was dark, it was scary, it was sad - I cried.  I cried a lot.  I cried enough that Thatbaby made fun of me.

I call it a pumpkin carving success.

We ended up eating out Saturday night (more on that tomorrow) but earlier in the week we had a very Halloween-y meal, a bowl full of worms (or soba noodles).  With slivers of tempeh and egg, woven between brown noodles, this bowl kind of looks like something that crawled out of grave.  But it sure doesn't taste like it.  Thatbaby went nuts over the tempeh, eating all of his and then asking for mine.  Thatboy and I like the earthy buckwheat of the soba noodles.  And everyone was a fan of the sweet dressing.

Summer Soba Noodles (from Japanese Home Cooking, as seen on Cate's World Kitchen)

8 ounces tempeh, thinly sliced
1/4 + 3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 eggs
salt and pepper
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 bundles soba noodles (about 6 ounces total)

  1. Prepare the tempeh: mix the 3 Tbsp soy sauce and ginger, then evenly coat the tempeh slices, cover, and chill for about 4 hours. 
  2. Place tempeh in a greased baking dish and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Let cool, then cut into matchsticks.
  3. Prepare the eggs: Beat well with a pinch each sugar, salt, and pepper. Heat a small nonstick pan over medium, add the eggs, and cook until set, then flip to cook through. Remove to cool, then cut into thin slices.
  4. Prepare the dressing: mix the remaining soy sauce, water, rice vinegar, and sesame oil.
  5. Boil the noodles just until tender, then drain and rinse with cold water. Arrange on 2 plates, then pour some of the dressing over the noodles. Arrange the egg and tempeh on the plate.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mommy Mondays: How do you know you're ready for kids?

The short answer to this is - you don't always.

When I was dating Thatboy I had an epiphany related to our relationship.  A moment where I just knew I loved him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.

I didn't have any of those kind of feelings about having a baby.  No bright light moments of realization. No "knowing."  Don't get my wrong, that biological clock thing is no joke.

But just because your body is saying "hey, you should start thinking about kids" doesn't mean you're actually ready.  

There are some who say you're never ready to have kids.  That you're never secure enough in finances, relationships, jobs.  These people will tell you to just go for it.  In my opinion, being "ready" is more psychological than anything else. I mean, of course it's important to be able to financially support your future family, but the real question is, are you ready to change your life?  Because having kids means that for a long time there will be no more leisurely strolls through the mall.  No more spontaneous weekends away.  No more sleeping all day Sunday, waking only to spend the day in bed.

I was less concerned about me than I was about Thatboy with the being ready thing.  I'm fairly selfless as it is, usually bending my wants to those around me.  But it was important to me that Thatboy wouldn't resent the new addition in our lives.  The new addition that would mean less going out to restaurants and movies.  Less traveling worldwide for a bit.  Less sleep.

But going back to my first sentence, even thinking we were ready didn't prepare us for how many sacrifices you make as a parent.  Little things you don't think about, like sleeping in, or being able to stop at the store on the way home from work.   So how do you know you're ready to be a parent?  About the same time you realize you're ready to make big sacrifices, without even knowing what they are.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Comfort on the Couch: Mushrooms, Spinach, and Soba Noodles

So many of our childhood memories are tied to food.  Special dinners out, special food for special occasions.  Thatboy and I are currently in disagreement over whether it's appropriate for him and Thatbaby to bring a box of crackers to the couch and sit and eat the entire thing in one sitting.  It's a habit he picked up as a child when he used to do it with his dad.

I have my own special food memories from my parents.  Most center around things that we'd do when the other parent wasn't home.  Like when my mom would go out of town, my dad would make us fluffernutters and sloppy joes.  When my dad was out of town, we'd do breakfast for dinner, and eat popcorn in my parents' bed while watching movies.

Last Friday night, Thatboy wasn't going to be home until late, leaving Thatbaby and I alone for dinner. I wanted to do something to make dinner special for him, so I asked if he wanted to eat our dinners on the couch while watching a Halloween movie (Toy Story of Terror - 2nd time for me, first for him.  It's THE movie in our house this Halloween).  Thatbaby was SO excited for this special treat.  We were eating ON THE COUCH!  He sat so carefully, paper towels spread across his lap, balancing his little bowl of noodles.

This was the perfect meal for Thatbaby, combining two of his favorite things - noodles and soup.  He wasn't a fan of the mushrooms and spinach (although I was) but he loved eating all the noodles, and then drinking his soup from the bowl.   He also thought it was super fun when I used my chopsticks to help him eat the noodles.  He still can't quite work them on his own, but it's something we'll work on.

Mushrooms, Spinach, and Soba Noodles
2 Tbsp canola oil
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 scallions, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger
3 cups chicken broth
6 oz soba noodles
1 bunch of spinach, chopped
1 Tbsp soy sauce

  1. Heat oil over medium heat.  Sauté mushrooms, scallions, garlic, and ginger for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken broth and 3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil.
  3. Add soba and reduce heat.  Simmer 5 minutes.
  4. Add spinach and cook for just a minute until the spinach wilts.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the soy sauce.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Boys' Night In: Thatboy's Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Shortly after we were married, I went for a run and sprained my ankle.  As I sat on our couch, my foot elevated and iced, Thatboy offered to make dinner for the two of us.  

Now, Thatboy does not cook.  Thatboy has trouble making those frozen meals in a bag.  You know the ones where you dump the entire thing in a skillet and just cook until it is hot enough to eat?  So you can imagine I was a little skeptical of his offer.

He was so proud of himself as he set the plates in front of us - spaghetti in a meat sauce.  He did it himself!  The noodles!  The sauce!  It wasn't a complicated recipe.  In fact, it doesn't get much more basic.  But the fact that he had come up with it himself, and carried it through, made it an extra special dish.

Last week I went out with the girls for some drinks and conversation, leaving the boys to fend for themselves for dinner.

Leaving Thatboy in charge of dinner often results in the boys having Chipotle for dinner  (which I guess I should be thankful for, because it's a step up from the Taco Bell Thatboy would eat before we had a kid).  But sometimes, Thatboy pulls one out of his back pocket.  Like the re-emergence of his famous spaghetti with meat sauce.  And because Thatboy doesn't do measuring, there was plenty leftover for weekend lunches.

Thatboy's Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
1 box of spaghetti
1lb ground turkey
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
parmesean cheese
  1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. While spaghetti is cooking, brown the ground turkey in a saucepan .
  3. Add the marinara sauce to the turkey and cook until the sauce is heated through.
  4. Add sriracha to taste.
  5. Drain the spaghetti and add to the sauce, tossing to coat.
  6. Serve with lots of parmesean cheese.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Getting Ready for Halloween: Gingersnaps

Now that I'm not focusing on Thatbaby's birthday, my focus has decidedly shifted to Halloween.  So we spent all weekend Halloween-ing.  

Saturday we went out and picked up the finishing touches for our Halloween touches (and the makings for Thatbaby's Halloween costume.  For some reason I thought it would be a good idea for me to make his.  Wish me luck.)

Sunday morning, still in their pajamas, Thatboy and Thatbaby continued with their annual tradition of putting up the decorations together (2 years in a row!)

Sunday afternoon we all headed to the pumpkin patch to pick out our soon to be jack-o-lanterns.

This year we let Thatbaby pick out his own pumpkin.  Which took a very very long time.  Because he would pick one and declare it the winner, until he turned to his right and saw another one he liked better. Again.  And again.  And again.

Finally he picked his little pumpkin (he wanted one he could carry).  And then he took great pleasure in finding giant pumpkins to sit on.

And of course, there were tractors to ride.

And wheelbarrows to explore.  See the difference in pumpkin sizes?  You can totally tell which belongs to Thatboy, Thatbaby, and me.   Thatbaby calls his a "baby pumpkin."

Thatbaby's not too particular about his squash varietals.  When he founds this wheelbarrow he picked up each one to tell me "yike dis one mama."

Other than pumpkin flavored everything, there isn't really a food associated with Halloween.  After seeing something adorable while surfing the web this week, I saw something fantastic - gingerbread men skeletons!  I wanted to make cookies anyway this weekend because Thatbaby got some car and plane cookie cutters for his birthday.  I thought it would be fun for us to make cookies together using his gift.  Gingersnaps were my cookie of choice because they're egg-free.  Which is a big deal when you're making cookies with a toddler who wants to Eat.All.The.Dough.   

I pulled out my gingerbread man cookie cutter to add to the planes and the trains.  And then I decided to add my own twist to the skeleton men and make some mummies also!  

Christmas has Christmas cookies, and now Halloween has its own special treat!

Ginger Snaps
1/2 cup molasses
4 Tbsp shortening
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Heat molasses to boiling point on stove.
  2. Pour molasses over shortening and stir until shortening is melted and combined.
  3. Combine flour, baking soda, ginger, and salt.  Add to molasses mixture and mix until well combined.
  4. Roll out until thin, and cut with cookie cutters.
  5. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat.  Bake for 5 minutes.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Besties and Birthdays: Tequila Lime Ziti with Shrimp

I know I've said it before, but I love Thatbaby's daycare.  Not just for the center itself, but also because the friends he's made there are amazing.    I've also mentioned that a lot of his classmates are also October babies.  Which means this month is a month of transitions.  They're aging out of their class.  Technically they can stay till 2.5, but since there's only 5 of them, we're moving them all by the end of the month.  Thatbaby is moving on to preschool with 2 of his besties on November 1.  But 2 others headed to their new school the first week of October.

One of those friends, I'll call him Little Parrot since he loves repeating what I say (he's incredibly verbally advanced), was especially close with Thatbaby.  He took it pretty hard when Little Parrot moved schools, and asks about him on a regular basis.  We've been lucky with the birthdays this month because last week Thatbaby got to see Little Parrot at his party.  This week he got to go to Little Parrot's birthday party!

Little Parrot loves trucks and tractors, so that was the theme of this party.  

Thatbaby was so happy to see his friends again.  Anything Little Parrot did, Thatbaby wanted to do too.  Before too long they were joined by Thatbaby's cohort in crime.  He's part of a trio at school I've started comparing to the A-Team.  This little guy is the B.A. Baracus of the group.  The muscle.

Little Parrot, BA, and Thatbaby had a ton of fun running around throwing and kicking the ball.

Little Parrot isn't a fan of the swings. But Thatbaby and BA are!

Eventually all that running around mean the boys had to sit and take a screaming break.  Seriously, it is so much fun to watch the kids hang out.  They adore each other so much.

Of course, it's not a party without cake!  And tractors.

And our little guy passed out almost as soon as we got him into the car.  We're going to really work to make sure Thatbaby doesn't lose touch with Little Parrot now that they're not at the same school.  It'd be a shame to lose such a great bestie.

Right now, Thatbaby's other bestie is pasta.  He asks for it almost daily.  In fact, when I was making shrimp for dinner, I asked for his suggestion on a side.  One guess what he suggested.  I had already marinated the shrimp in a tequila lime sauce, which doesn't exactly scream "pasta."  But I've made chicken in a tequila lime cream sauce before, and thought it would work well with this dish too.  Thatboy really enjoyed it.  He liked the fact that it was both sweet and tangy.  He felt like the dish was buttery and comforting.  It was a resounding success.

Tequila Lime Ziti with Shrimp
 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tequila
juice and zest of 2 limes 
1  tsp ground coriander 
8 oz ziti
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup cream

  1. Combine oil, tequila, juice and zest of one lime, and 1 tsp coriander in a small bowl.
  2. Reserve half of this "sauce."  Pour the other half over the shrimp and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  4. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.  Grill shrimp about 2 minutes per side.
  5. Melt butter in a small skillet.  
  6. Stir in flour and continue cooking until a bubbly paste forms.
  7. Add cream and stir about 1 minute, until starting to thicken.
  8. Add in the reserved tequila lime sauce and cook until heated through.
  9. Combine pasta, cooked shrimp, and sauce, tossing to combine before serving. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mommy Mondays: Talking Troubles

Having a child is like entering a giant competition with no rules.  You have no idea what you're supposed to do, so you look around and try to do what everyone else is doing.  Except, childhood does not follow a cookie cutter outline.  So you spend most of your time worrying why your child isn't doing what everyone else's children are doing.

It starts early on - with sleep.  The Actress texted me this week because everyone is making her feel that her 2 week old may be waking too often.  She asked if Thatbaby was a good sleeper at that age.  "No baby is a good sleeper at 2 weeks old" I told her.  "People just don't remember."

From then on it's a race to make sure your baby is the first to roll, to crawl, to walk, to talk, to write their dissertation.

At 2, the constant discussion revolves around speech and vocabulary.  Just last week at Girls' Night Out with my friends we got into a discussion about speech therapy and our children. And my perspective is - this is one of those areas where there is a wide range of normal involving speech.

I remember early on not being able to wait until Thatbaby could communicate.  Counting down until he could say "mama" (oh if I had only known how that would turn into his constant cry of Momma-mommy-mama-mama-mommy.)

I tend to think Thatbaby is smack dab in the middle of all things developmentally related. And I base that on - comparing to the people around us.  And me.  The family lore is that I was speaking full sentences by 18 months, before I even had teeth.  Thatbaby wasn't.   And that never concerned me.  Some of my friends with slightly older children had 1 year olds who perfectly annunciated words like "apple" and "crusher."  Thatboy couldn't.  And that never concerned me.   It didn't concern me, because I had friends at the other end of the vocabulary spectrum also.  A friend with a child who barely had 3 words at 18 months.  A friend with a child who is about to be two and isn't putting together sentences yet.  But all children develop at their own pace, and speech is included in that.

I love that Thatbaby can communicate, because it does cut down on his own frustrations, but that doesn't mean we can always understand him.  He still has his moments where we have no idea what he's talking about.  And he still mispronounces words and has some speech idiosyncrasies.  Such as using -sh instead of -s at the end of words.  But you know what?  He's 2 years old.  I think that's pretty par for the course.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Grab Your Popcorn: Pasta with Portabellos and Broccoli

As I type this, I'm watching Toy Story - of Terror.  I can't help it.  I'm a sucker for Christmas movies too, but I love the Halloween specials.  Mostly because they're usually cartoons you know and love, with a fun Halloween twist.  Like Toy Story.  Or the Smurfs.

We have a Halloween tradition of carving pumpkins while watching scary movies.  For the past two years, we've done this after Thatbaby goes to bed, or while he's napping.  This year we're really excited that he'll be able to join us - if he has the attention span for a movie.  We haven't experimented with that yet.

With Thatbaby in mind, we've decided to tone down the scary for something fun and kid-friendly.  So I've been going over my favorite Halloween type movies to figure out what we should watch.  Which is how it came on my radar that Thatboy hasn't yet seen Hocus Pocus.  So we have our Halloween movie picked.    And, in the spirit of my Halloween posts, here are my top 10 Halloween movies!

1)  Nightmare Before Christmas - This is actually one of my favorite Christmas movies true.  I just love this movie period.  It's JUST scary enough.

2) Corpse Bride - Comes in a definite second to Nightmare, but is just as Tim Burton perfect.  I'm actually dying to see Frankenweenie too - I'm sure it'll end up on this list eventually, I just haven't seen it yet!

3) Hocus Pocus - It's Halloween!  It's Witches!  It's a young Thora Birch!

4) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Not the Johnny Depp version, but the Disney one.  The cartoon.  The one that will have you buh-buh-buh-booing over Ichabod, Ichabod Crane.

5) It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! -  Probably the original Halloween "special" featuring cartoon characters you know and love.  Besides, don't you love the idea of a pumpkin coming and bringing gifts?

6) Beetlejuice -  Fun scary movies are some of my favorite, and this is the best of the bunch.  Because if you have to be dead, you might as well do it with panache.

7) Rocky Horror Picture Show - I remember watching this show with my dad.  It has just about everything.  A monster, aliens, singing AND dancing.  So much better than the traditional Frankenstein.

8) Gremlins - I feel like this is one of those "You know you're a child of the 80s when...." kind of movies.  Seriously, Gremlins is such an integral part of my childhood.  Don't get them wet, don't feed them after midnight, and don't expose them to bright lights.

9) Ghostbusters - Another one of my classic 80s childhood movies.  Sure there are sequels, but none are as good as the original, with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper.

10) Little Shop of Horrors - Another one of those funny, scary, movie musicals.  It has a monster, an alien, singing AND dancing!

Before I got into a television show about toys being in terror, I treated my family to a very non-terrifying meal.  A special request of Thatbaby for "pasta" which had him picking out pieces while saying "yum broccoli!"  (Seriously, whose kid is this?)  After dinner, there was dancing and singing.  No monsters, no aliens. Just good, old fashioned boogie-ing down.  But it's still early in the month, there's hope for some creepiness ahead.

Pasta with Portabellos and Broccoli
1 egg white
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup panko
1/2 lb chicken tenders
8 oz pasta
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour 
1 cup milk
1/2 cup mascarpone
1/4 cup parmesan
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 broccoli crown, chopped
8 oz portabello mushrooms, sliced

  1. Preheat oven to 425.  Place the egg white and panko in two separate shallow bowls.
  2. Dip the tenders in the egg white and then roll in the panko.
  3. Bake for 13-14 minutes.
  4. While chicken in baking, make pasta according to directions on the box.
  5. While pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a skillet.
  6. Add the flour, whisking until smooth.  Cook for 1 more minute, until a nice paste forms.
  7. Slowly add the milk, whisking to combine.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower heat and cook until thick and bubbly. 
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the mascarpone and parmesan, stirring until the mascarpone is melted in the sauce.
  9. Remove the sauce from the pan and heat the oil in the skillet.
  10. Add the broccoli and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes.
  11. Combine the broccoli and mushrooms with the cooked pasta.  Stir in the sauce.
  12. Divide between bowls.  Slice the cooked chicken and place on top of the pasta.  Serve!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

X-treme Weekending: Chicken Mole Wraps

3 years ago, Thatboy helped initiate a community event - The Southeastern X-Fest.  They brought together a group of pro-skateboarders, pro-bmxers, and community members for a day of fun.

This year we were looking forward to taking Thatbaby who is really into skateboarding.  (Enough that we have to hide Thatboy's skateboard in his van so Thatbaby stops obsessively trying to sit or ride on it)

Thatbaby was enthralled by the kids skating.

And it was neat to see some "old familiar faces" as the pro-regulars were there.  I'm a big fan of John Pope who really seems to love the "play" aspect of skating.

I like the "play" aspect of cooking too.  Which is why I take some of my classic favorite and turn them into something new.  It's been a while since I've made chicken mole, which used to be a weekly staple. I turned it into a wrap and we happily munched away.  Thatboy had his chicken sans mole, because it was "too pie-cy."  I guess he only likes x-treme when it has four wheels and a board.

Chicken Mole Wraps
1 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 Tbsp ancho chile powder
1 chipotle in adobo, minced
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp raisins
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 chicken breasts
2 lavash wraps
red leaf lettuce
1 carrot, shredded

  1. Preheat oven to 400.  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chili powder, chile, cinnamon, cloves, chocolate and garlic and stir until chocolate is melted.
  3. Add the broth, half of the tomato, raisins, peanut butter, and sesame seeds. Bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer and cook about 12 minutes.
  4. Pour the sauce into a blender and process until smooth.  
  5. Place chicken in baking dish and pour the sauce over.  Bake for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
  6. Slice chicken and arrange on the lavash with lettuce, remaining tomato, and carrot.  Roll up and serve.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Thatbaby has been looking forward to his Choo Choo Birthday party for longer than he was looking forward to his actual birthday.

  Sunday he got all dolled up so we could head to his party.  Due to his love for all things train, we held it at the Model Railroad Museum.  And gave it a train theme.  I ordered a printable pack from nickwilljack and used it to set the stage. 

We invited all of Thatbaby's friends and had quite a turnout.  He was so happy to see all of them.

It was fun to see him really come out of his shell around a group of kids he knew.  He can be a little nervous and clingy, but in a place he knew and loved, surrounded by people he knew and loved, he really bloomed.  He took his friends to his favorite parts of the museum, welcomed them in and showed them the train table, played with them, and was generally very independent.

And the kids really seemed to have a great time.  It didn't hurt that we had our own train tables, dedicated just to the party.

And our own window into the model trains so they didn't have to go far to watch the choo choos going past.

They also got to run around the museum and see even more trains.  They especially loved running back and forth between the toy train room and the party room.  There was lots of yelling, pushing of buttons and screaming "Thomas! Thomas!"

I kept the food very kid friendly, and very trained themed.  Even the containers.  Which is one of my proudest accomplishments.

The Food Train!

We had "Station House Sandwiches" - Soy Butter and Jelly sandwiches in train shapes.  (One of Thatbaby's daycare classmates has both nut and seed allergies, which makes peanut butter and sunbutter off limits.  If you're looking for a nut-free alternative for your child, Wow Butter is a big hit in our house)

Train Wheel Pasta Salad - Pasta Wheels with tomatoes, cucumber, basil, and mozzarella tossed with Caesar dressing.

"Depot Dip and Veggies" - carrots, celery, and cilantro chive yogurt dip.  (Thatbaby's new favorite Trader Joes find)

Caboose Kabobs with pears, apples, and grapes.

And instead of the ever so popular candy buffets, we did a popcorn buffet!  Because Thatbaby loves popcorn.  I mixed up a couple flavors and let the guests mix and match.  Thatbaby snacked on this throughout the party.

And to drink we had water and "Diesel Fuel" - blackberry lemonade.

And of course, it wouldn't be a party without cake!  Last year I made the cake, this year I ordered it from Elizabethan Desserts, our favorite local bakery.

Thatbaby has been singing Happy Birthday all week.  "Happy Birthday dear mommy daddy"  "Happy Birthday dear cereal"  and so on.  But he was overjoyed when his friends all gathered around to sing happy birthday to him!

Blowing out the candles.

And then eating it.   The cake was a big hit.  All the guests loved it, so maybe our favorite bakery is going to become the favorite bakery for a lot of other people.  By the way - this cake is supposed to feed "15-20 people."  It fed 52.  And we had leftovers.

We sent each of the kids home with a little train-themed goody bag.

They each got a bandana, a train whistle, a conductor's hat, and a personalized little wooden train with their name on it.

And Thatbaby didn't leave empty handed either.   We have such thoughtful and generous friends.  And it was so wonderful to be able to share his choo choo birthday with them!