Friday, January 31, 2014

Coconutty - Coconut Squares

Thatbaby has discovered coconut.  It's one of his favorite foods.  If he had his choice, he'd put it on everything.

Right now, I limit his coconut intake to two areas.  I'll let him sprinkle some on his cornflakes in the morning, and we've been making coconut cookies.

These do not photograph well.  Something about the stickiness of the bars means that cutting doesn't yield those perfect edges.  Or it could be because I didn't let them cool long enough.  Which I can only blame on having a 2 year who keeps saying:  "Not hot?  Warm?" every minute or so.

Coconut Squares
2 eggs
2 cups light brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups shredded coconut
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
6 Tbsp flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Spray an 8x8 pan with baking spray.  Beat the eggs until they're foamy.
  2. Beat in the brown sugar, salt, and vanilla.
  3. Stir in the coconut and walnuts.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over top and fold into the batter.
  5. Pour into the pan and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Cool in the pan completely before cutting into squares!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Boys and Trains

Mrs. Parrot and I have been trying to get our boys together since before the holidays.  Now that Little Parrot doesn't go to school with Thatbaby anymore, we have to work harder at playdates.  At the same time, even though BA goes to school with Thatbaby, we haven't been successful in finding a day to get them together either!  A couple weeks ago, Thatbaby asked to go to the "Choo Choo Park."  A quick email to the moms found that they were free that weekend, so off to the Choo Choo Park we went.

The boys were SO excited to see each other.  (Which is funny, because BA and Thatbaby had seen each other the day before).  There were hugs shared, and train rides taken.  And after, lots of running around in the park.  The boys loved racing up and down the bridge.

I love getting these boys together because it really is fun to watch.  I like that they love each other and love spending time together.  And to watch their excitement build and feed on each other, makes the entire playdate joyful.  Even when there are tears for lack of sharing.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Crispy Tacos

Every now and again, I run across a recipe that is so good, it makes it on to our weekly mealplan several weeks in a row.  This is one of those recipes.

The first time I made it, I had some spinach that was starting to show signs of better days.  Chicken tacos seemed a good idea, but I had those really big tortillas, which always make tacos awkward.  So I rolled the mixture up and put it in the oven.  Telling Thatbaby we were having "crispy tacos" for dinner peaked his interest.

I think the thing that sealed the deal though was that these are truly finger food.  Because you just pick them up and snack.  Thatbaby also liked dipping his in salsa.  These would be a great for Superbowl Sunday - easy to eat, easy to snack on, easy to serve!

Crispy Tacos
 1 chicken breast
1 bottle of beer (I used a winter ale - just pick something you have on hand that isn't too hoppy)
2 cups water
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 bunch spinach, chopped
1 cup monterey jack, shredded
  1. Preheat oven to 450.  Place chicken breast in a saucepan and cover with beer and water.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Remove chicken and let cool until cool enough to shred.
  2. Mix shredded chicken with paprika, salt, garlic powder, cumin, and chili powder.
  3. Spoon a line of chicken, spinach, and cheese on the bottom half of a tortilla.  Roll the tortilla up into a tube, placing seam side down on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet.
  4. Spray the tacos with cooking spray.  Bake for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Butterscotch Blondies

Okay, I have a small addiction to confess.

You see, it started innocently enough.  I had to be in Point Loma for work, and stopped in at Con Pane bakery for some fresh bread to have with dinner.  Which is when I saw it - the butterscotch latte.  While the Carmel Macchiato was my gateway into coffee drinks, butterscotch has always been my favorite syrup.  So I had to give it a try.

As luck would have it, I ended up having to make frequent trips to Point Loma.  And every time I rewarded myself with a quick stop at the bakery for, you guessed it, a butterscotch latte.

And if that wasn't enough, I had to continue my obsession with butterscotch at home.

Not with butterscotch on ice cream, or a butterscotch drink, but with a butterscotch cookie, or blondie to be exact.  Rich and chewy, all the benefits of a brownie without that pesky chocolate getting in the way of the smooth butterscotch.  These have just the right about of sweetness and help to curb these butterscotch cravings I've become a slave to.

Butterscotch Blondies
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray an 8x8 pan with baking spray. 
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.  Someone once told me that a wooden spoon is necessary for this.  I don't know if that's true, but I've taken it to heart.
  3. Spread into the pan and bake for 40 minutes.  Let cool and then cut into squares.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mommy Mondays: My How We've Grown

Now that I'm not doing monthly updates, I haven't shared as many adorable pictures of Thatbaby.  And honestly, it's a little crazy to see how much he's changed over the past 27 months.

One of the preschool directors asked if we had looked in to modeling for Thatbaby.  I laughed.  I am firmly of the belief that my child is adorable not because he's so good looking, but because he has a personality that steals the show.  Of course, he was the cutest baby ever born.

But like many babies, he quickly entered the little old man phase of baby-hood.

3 months:

6 months, or when he finally started developing baby chubbs!:

9 months:

1 year!

15 months:

18 months:

21 months:

It's kind of fun to see the changes over the past 2 years, but also how certain features have remained the same.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Runday: Training for 10 miles

So my first big race of the year is the Inaugural UT 10/20.  It's 10 miles, 20 bands, which is more music than the Rock n Roll Half I did!  I'm pretty excited about it because it's coastal, a run I do all the time.  And I like the idea of 10 miles.  More than a 15k, but not quite a half marathon.  And given that twice I've hit a wall at mile 11 during a half, 10 miles sounds like a great number.

This 10 miler is also a good chance to test out my new training plan for the half marathons.  It's a lot less mileage a week than when I typically train for a half, so we'll see how it goes.  This is what a typical week looks like:

Monday: 2 miles
Tuesday: 2 miles
Wednesday: 2 miles
Thursday: 2 miles
Friday: My early morning.  I get up at 5:30 and run as far as I can and still make it home by 6. 
Saturday/Sunday: One of these days I do my "long run" which started at 4 miles and will go up to 9 miles.  Yesterday I did 7, which means there are 3 weeks till the race!  The other day I do cross-training, which sometimes involves speed work on the treadmill.  (I know that's not really cross-training, but it gives me a chance to work on speed)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Apricot Pie

I rarely post recipes without pictures, but sometimes, you just have to.

See, I didn't take any pictures of this apricot pie, because I didn't think it was going to be blogworthy.  I know that sounds silly, but I've been playing around with pie recipes lately, so a lot have been coming out of my oven.  I've been messing around with fresh, frozen, and canned fruit.  Different ways of thickening.  Different cooking methods.  They're not all going to be winners.

And I had very low expectations of this apricot pie.  Apricots are not my favorite fruit.  In fact, I only made this apricot pie because Thatbaby and Thatboy both really like apricots.  Strike number 2 was the fact that you can't get apricots in January.  Except the canned variety.  As much as I don't care for fresh apricots, I really really really don't like canned apricots.  For me, they're too slimey. 

So this pie had a lot working against it.  But unlike 2 wrongs making a right, apparently 2 strikes can still make something delicious.  Something really, really good.  Right now this is Thatboy's favorite pie I've made.  Because of the canned apricots, the filling is sweet and simple.  Serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. We didn't, but you should!

Apricot Pie
2 cans of apricots in juice, drained
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp tapioca
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp butter
  1.  Preheat oven to 425.  Line a pie pan with half of the pie dough.
  2. Spread 1 can of the drained apricots in the pan.
  3. Sprinkle with half of the sugar.
  4. Spread the remaining can of drained apricots over the rest.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining sugar, tapioca, and lemon juice on top.
  6. Cut the butter into small pieces and dot over the filling.
  7. Roll out the remaining half of the dough and drape overtop, crimping the edges.  Cut a couple of vents in the top of the pie and bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Lower heat to 350 and bake for an additional 35 minutes.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Trader Joes Find

I think my affinity for Trader Joes isn't really a blog secret.  But I discovered a new (to me) product recently I wanted to share. 

I'm lucky enough to live in Southern California, where we have carnicerias at our fingertips.  Places where we can get thinly sliced, highly seasoned meats very easily.  Not everyone is so lucky.

Trader Joes has ready-to-cook pollo asada.  Thinly sliced, highly seasoned chicken.  I picked up a pack of it for a taco night and I can tell you, it's good.  And because it's so thin, it cooks really quickly.  I threw it on the grill pan, but you could broil it, or pan-cook it.  It works for tacos, quesadillas, burritos, or atop a salad.  Or just serve it up with some beans and rice.  Incredibly versatile, incredibly easy.  It's like buying the pre-cooked rotisserie chickens.  One chicken can make several meals.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tales from the Hearth

This weekend Thatbaby and I were sitting at the breakfast table when his foot got stuck in the rung of the chair.  As I unhooked it, I told him about how Thatmom had broken her leg in a similar fashion, while helping her grandmother bake cookies.

It made me think about the connections we make in the kitchen.  In many places it is not just a place of cooking, but one of community.  I can't count how many dinner parties I've been to where at some point we all end up in the kitchen, leaning on counters, and drinking wine while chatting.

We all have family memories tied to the kitchen.  Whether it's the smell of your grandmother's tomato sauce, watching her stir the pot, tenderly and gently, or the memories of helping your father at the barbeque.  In my family, I remember helping my father braid the weekly challahs.  Or making ice cream with him by rolling coffee cans across the dining room floor.  I remember stirring muffin batter with my mom, and helping her scoop cookie dough onto cookie sheets. 

I cherish those memories from the kitchen, and I'm hopeful that Thatbaby is beginning to make those same memories.  With his constant desire to "wach" everything I do in the kitchen and wanting to peak in the oven, we're off to a good start.  And I hope he continues to help in my cooking adventures.  I hope that he grows to view the kitchen as a place of warmth, a place of nourishment, and a place of family.  That he learns that it is a place that feeds the body and soul.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Basic Chocolate Cookies

Thatboy drinks chocolate milk every night.  And not even regular chocolate milk.  Made the normal way.  With chocolate syrup.  He uses Nesquik.  It's a source of contention between us, because I just don't get using a "convenience" item, when the real thing is just as easy.  I mean, Nesquik is really just cocoa powder and sugar.  It's not all that hard to combine them yourself.  (I have a similar issue with Bisquick)

I am all for buying store-bought cookies.  Because cookies are not a convenience item.  It's not so much that cookies are difficult to make, but it certainly takes more effort to bake cookies than it does to open a bag.  So if you're going to make cookies at home, then they really need to be worth it.  In the hopes that a chocolate cookie could steer Thatboy away from the fake chocolate drink, I made some homemade goodies.  Because even though there's nothing wrong with storebought, something you take the time to make yourself always tastes better.

Basic Chocolate Cookies
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp milk
2 cups flour
  1.  Preheat the oven to 375. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  
  2. Cream the shortening in an electric mixer.
  3. Add the sugar and continue mixing until light and fluffy. 
  4. Add the egg, vanilla, salt, chocolate, and milk and beat well.
  5. Stir in the flour.
  6. Scoop onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat.   Bake for 9 minutes.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mommy Mondays: The Fashionable Toddler

I rarely talk about Thatbaby's day to day wear.  I've shared my favorite brands, but not specific outfits.  Because Thatbaby doesn't really wear "outfits" per se.  Mostly I throw him whatever is clean (which becomes more difficult every day.  I think he's a mess magnet).

But when we took our family pictures last fall, I put some real thought into what he was going to wear, picking and pairing some of my favorite pieces.  I know a lot of people complain that it's hard to find cute clothes for little boys, and I would vehemently disagree.  Here's a prime example:

Sweater: H&M.  Seriously, I love H&M sweaters.  We stock up every winter.  They're classic and timeless.  I love the same styles on Thatboy!
Shirt: Old Navy.  I love this shirt.  It's a button up with little dogs on it.  As soon as I saw it online, I wanted it.  But of course, at that time they were all sold out of his size.  When we were in Palm Springs, I stopped into a store and found it on clearance.  Fate!  Thatbaby calls it his doggy shirt and wants to wear it all the time.
Jeans: Janie and Jack.  The thing I like about Janie and Jack clothes are that they are incredibly durable, but also the pants have adjustable waists.  Which is nice, since Thatbaby usually gets taller before he gets wider.  Which means we usually have to go up a size for height, and need some help from keeping those pants from falling down around his ankles.
Shoes: Pedipeds.  Yup.  We're still wearing those!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Runday: It's All About the Money, Money, Money

This Christmas/Channukah I asked for race fees as presents.  I made a list of every race I wanted to run this year, and gave it to Thatboy.  Which unfortunately, gave him a little insight into the costs of races.  "How much have you spent in races over the past few years?????" he asked me one night after noting that one of the cheapest races on the list had a $50 entry fee.

He has a very valid point.  And one that I had noted a couple years earlier.  Which accounts for my running fewer races the past few years, and why I've been asking for race fees as presents.

When I first started running races, it was mostly 5ks.  And they were between $20 and $25 to run.  Now it's rare to find a 5k for UNDER $25.  Most are now in the $40-$50 range.  And it's really hard for me to justify spending that kind of money to run 3 miles.  Which I do on a daily basis over the summer.  For free.  In fact, one of the runs on my list is a 5k that's on my regular running trail, 1/2 a mile from my home.  And it costs $60.  Guess who is NOT going to be running that one.

I can more easily justify the costs of half marathons.  Because I am far less likely to head out and run 13 miles without some other motivation.  And running with a big group of people, a finish line to acknowledge my accomplishment, and fun perks like a cool location, or great running route provides that motivation.  At the same time, I usually limit myself to one half marathon a year, because they are so costly.

I'm running a lot less 5ks this year, because of the cost.  Which is why my race calendar looks a little intimidating with all my "big runs."  I'm still keeping my eyes open for some cheap shorter races and will throw them in as they pop up!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Pork with Peppers

Thatbaby  has recently discovered the world of "Selfies."  I'm not entirely sure where he got it from, since the lack of photographs of me on this blog should be evidence enough that I'm not exactly providing him a model to copy from.

It's possible that he caught on to the self-timer trick we used to capture pictures of Thatboy's entire family over Christmas, and knows that you can press a button, and then run to be in the picture. 

I surmise this, because a couple weeks ago he started saying he wanted to take a picture, set my camera on the coffee table, pushed the button then looked into the lens and said "cheeeeeese."  Which then transitioned into me showing him the right way to face the camera, letting him push the button, and lifting him onto the couch with us to be in the picture. 

He's been hooked on the idea ever since and uses every opportunity he can to take his own picture.  In fact, when I went to download some pictures this week, I noticed a series of images that showed me how the boys spent some time while I got my nails done last weekend.

The other thing Thatbaby has been really into the past few weeks is pork.  I know, weird, right?  My kid didn't eat the veggie burger I packed in his lunch yesterday.  He completely ignored the flautas for dinner last night.  But put some pork in front of him?  He's all about it.  We've had pork once a week since the new year, and each time he is happy to finish his chop.  I was a little worried about these chops, with jalapeno, but a de-seeded jalapeno has very little spice.  Just make sure to get rid of those seeds.  And take out your contacts first!

Thatboy and I also really liked the pork.  We're a little easier to please with dinner, but there's something nice about a colorful topping to pork.  And the sauce helps to keep it from being dry - a big problem with pork!

Pork with Peppers
 2 Tbsp olive oil
3 boneless pork chips
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
juice from 1/2  a lime

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet.  Season the chops with the chili powder, cumin, and some salt and pepper.  Place the pork in the pan and cook 3 minutes per side.  Remove pork from pan.
  2. Add another Tbsp of oil to the pan and saute the peppers, onions, and garlic for about 10 minutes, until the peppers are soft.
  3. Add the chicken broth and lime juice and bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer and add the pork chops.  Continue to cook until the pork chops reach an internal temperature of 150.  Serve pork chops with sauce, peppers, and onions.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Strawberry Tart

This year we spent New Years Eve with Thatmom.  Instead of going away like we have for the past few years, we spent this holiday at her home.  She wanted something very low key.  And that's how it started out.

We talked about having a simple dinner, but she wasn't sure what we should make.  Thatboy and I discussed some options and came upon the idea of duck.  Thatmom had never made duck before, but I assured her it was as easy as roasting a chicken, and after she spent some time searching for recipes she got really excited about making duck for dinner.

The idea of duck for dinner elevated our "simple" meal.  And it expanded to include wild rice, brussels sprouts, and pureed rutabegas.  Our little party of 3.5 grew to include my cousin and her boyfriend visiting from Boston, and one of my mom's friends.  We drank wine, and then port.  We laughed and ate, heaping our plates full of the delicious meal.

And before my cousin and her boyfriend headed to the airport to catch a New Year's flight home, I brought out dessert.  A strawberry tart which, like the duck, is simple to make, but seems somehow elegant.  I was a little wary of the not so sweet December strawberries.  I'm sure this would be even better in the summer.  The orange glaze helps to add any sweetness your strawberries are missing, so if you are using summer berries, you can go a little lighter with the syrup to really let the berries shine through.

Strawberry Tart
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter
1 egg yolk
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup orange juice
juice of 1 lemon
1 quart of strawberries, hulled and sliced
  1. Mix the flour and 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl.
  2. Cut in the butter with your fingers until it forms pea-sized balls.
  3. Whisk the egg yolk and 2 Tbsp water and add to the flour mixture, mixing until it forms a smooth ball.  Wrap in foil and refrigerate 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425.  Press the dough into a tart pan and prick with a fork.  Bake for 12 minutes.
  5. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, remaining salt, orange juice, and lemon juice in a saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Cook for an additional 10 minutes and then let cool.
  6. Fill the tart crust with the sliced strawberries and cover them with the syrup.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Blondes of Winter

Thatboy is still incredibly close to his best friends from high school.  I remember the first time I met Magski, I felt so much pressure for her to like me.  After all, she'd been in Thatboy's life much longer than I had, and a good word from her would go far.

His little group has hit similar milestones at similar times.  Magski got married the summer before we did.  (Vegas got married a couple years earlier.)  And within the past 3 years, we've all had our first children.  Our first, male, blonde children.  Each about a year apart.  Each tiny little blonde terrors.  Each wanting to be just like the bigger one.

While we were up visiting the inlaws, we had our very first playdate with all three boys together.  We took them out to Tilden Park where they could run around being small boys.  Doing things small boys do.  Like playing with sticks in the dirt.

Cheeks was so excited when the big boys presented him with a stick of his own. But he is just starting to enter the toddler phase, so he did less drawing with sticks and more chewing on them. 

He wanted to do everything the big boys were doing, but he's just not there yet.  Next year is going to be much more fun.

One of the reasons Magski picked Tilden Park was because they had a steam train for us to ride.  She knows how much Thatbaby loves trains, and Ace is a big fan too.  In fact, at Ace's request, we got to ride around twice!  The second ride Ace and Thatbaby got to sit together on the seat, which was very cute.

In general, Thatbaby and Ace were incredibly cute the entire time.  Ace rode to and around the park with us, sitting in the backseat with Thatbaby and singing as loudly as they could.  We played a cd and every song was met with Ace chiming in "I know this song!"  And Thatbaby echoing "I know this song too!"  He wanted to be just as cool as his older friend.

We also, after getting lost a couple of times, made our way to the Tilden Park Carousel.  Magski and I took turns taking family photos, which ended up with me playing stunt artist as I maneuvered through a moving carousel and jumped, one handed onto an animal near the lion Thatbaby had ridden on.

Cheeks had fallen asleep on the way to the carousel, so it was really the two older boys enjoying the ride around and around.  And they certainly enjoyed it!  Even though Thatbaby managed to pick a non-moving animal, because he really wanted to ride a lion, he still cried when we got off because he wanted to go again.

Although I'm sure a lot of that was due to the fact that he was fairly napless that day.  After the carousel, we headed back to Magski's house where the boys rode bikes, scooters, and skateboards up and down the street.  At one point, Thatbaby was riding Ace's scooter, Ace was riding Thatbaby's skateboard, and Cheeks was on Thatbaby's bike.  It's going to be really fun watching these little blondes grow up and play with each other.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Veggie Loaded Lettuce Wraps

It's January, so you may have noticed a trend among your favorite bloggers to feature Light! and Heatlhy! meals.  Some feel like this is part of the whole resolution bandwagon, but in my opinion, this is a direct result of having eaten large, heavy, holiday meals over the past few months.  Combined with the lack of fresh and delicious summer produce.  It's only natural that come January we all start craving things that are crisp and light.

I get that because in January all I want is lettuce.  It's weird. I know.  I love big salads in the summer of course, loaded with juicy tomatoes, and lots of summer vegetables. But in the middle of the winter I want them too!  The problem becomes, there aren't a lot of great things to put into a winter salad.  Cucumbers are a little anemic and tomatoes are mealy.  The berries aren't sweet, and peas are non-existant.

So what's a girl to do?  How about a twist on a winter salad - lettuce wraps!  Cooked vegetables, wrapped in crisp lettuce.  Don't bother with the meat, keep it simple with chickpeas. 

Veggie Loaded Lettuce Wraps from Branny Boils Over
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup
juice of 1 lemon
1 can chick peas
1/2 carrot, diced
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1 can chopped water chestnuts
1/4 tsp anise seed, crushed
1 head of romaine lettuce
  1. In a small bowl, combine the agave nectar, water, soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, and lemon juice. 
  2.  Spray a pan with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium heat.  Add the chickpeas, carrots, bell pepper, water chestnuts, and anise seed.  Cook for 2-4 minutes, until veggies are tender-crisp.
  3. Add the sauce and cook until most of the sauce has evaporated.
  4. Serve with the lettuce leaves.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mommy Mondays: It takes a Village

The saying "it takes a village" dates back to times when tribes or villages provided resources for mothers and families.  I don't think we've moved so far from that time period, except now, that "village" is a little less personal.  We still don't do things on our own, but our "village" is virtual.  It is a composite of online resources that we can turn to with all of our questions.  It thought I would share with you some of my village - the resources I turn to when it comes to child-rearing.

Kelly Mom - the number one research for all things breastfeeding. 

Sugar and Dots - Kimmie is a fantastic resource if you're interested in babywearing.  She knows just about every type of carrier out there, and which works best.

For mamma runners I love Cate's World Kitchen and Run Aud Run.  Cate doesn't blog anymore, but her blog is still a great resource.  She had her daughter a month before I had Thatbaby, so she was always right ahead of me, providing inspiration and a peak into the future.  Audrey still blogs, and between the two of them, they provide really great advice on keeping active through pregnancy and continuing to run while balancing work and being a new mom.

Sarah's Cucina Bella/The Lunch Box Ladies - Sarah recently formed a collaboration with great tips about lunches for little ones, but before that you could find her insight on her own blog.  Her food and family philosophy is one that I hope to follow.

If you're a pinterest person, then Wanlifetolive and KimberleyMichelle are great blogs for you.  Even moreso if you have a daughter, like they both have.  Jenny is THE Donna Reed of the modern era, between sewing adorable outfits and creating amazing cookies.  And Kim is the DIY queen.  Whenever I'm trying to figure out whether I should buy something or make it, I turn to one or both of them.  And if you have any questions about Disney, these are the women you should ask.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Runday: Speeding Up

I've never been an especially fast runner.  And I'm really okay with that.  I tend to run for me, and not for any highly competitive reasons.  Besides, most of the races I run you get a medal whether you come in 3rd or 103rd.

But as I mentioned last week, one of my resolutions this year is to run a sub-30 minute 5k.  No great reason, just because I think it'd be fun.  And it's attainable, with some work.  My PR for a 5k is 30:32.  Which is only 33 seconds away!  Of course, that was back before I got pregnant, had a baby, and had to balance working/running/and being a mom.

But that does bring me to my solution on how I'm going to meet my goal. I've found 2 things work for me on increasing speed - increasing my distance and speed workouts on the treadmill.  See, back when I got that PR, I was training for longer runs - 10ks, 15ks, half marathons.  For me, the more long runs I do, the easier it is for my body to go faster on those shorter distances.  And as much as I hate the treadmill, it's a great way to increase speed by pushing myself to go faster, increasing the amount of time at higher speeds as I'm able to.  Last weekend I played around on the treadmill, upping my speed to 8mph (a 7.5 minute mile) first for 10 seconds, then upping it until I ran it for a full minute.  Eventually I'll be able to hold it for longer and longer.  While a 7.5 minute mile is not really my goal, forcing myself to run it makes a 9 minute mile more within my reach!

I'm also trying to increase my iron.  I've never actually been diagnosed with anemia, but I do find that when my iron intake is higher, I'm not as tired.  So I've been trying to include more green leafy vegetables in our diet.  Which isn't hard, because at this time of year, green leafy vegetables are the ones that still taste good!  (I'm looking at you tomatoes)

Kale and White Bean Soup
1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can cannellini beans
1 head of kale, chopped
6 cups water
3 Tbsp basil, chiffonade
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  1. Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the beans, kale, and 2/3 cup of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Uncover and add remaining water, basil, and parsley.  Bring back up to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for an additional 20 minutes.

I'm also really loving our beach morning surfing/running plan.  Yesterday morning Thatboy and I had our outlines drawn in sand and got to watch a surfing dog.

Friday, January 10, 2014

All Over the Bay

Thatboy loves the Bay Area.  I don't have the same affinity for it.  But really, he doesn't blame me given that the only time I've really spent up there is time with his family. Who rarely ventures from their home, and for whom a "trip to the city" means a trip to the Museum of Modern Art.  In an effort to get me to love the Bay Area, the day after Christmas, Thatboy planned a day where he could show me his favorite parts.

We began with a trip to Point Reyes and the lighthouse.  The lighthouse was closed, but we were still able to hike up to the vantage point and see it. 

We didn't spend a lot of time at the lighthouse (although we spent a lot of time getting there!) because Thatboy wanted to have lunch in Sausalito.  I had been to Point Reyes before (just not the lighthouse) but this was my first time in Sausalito.

It was a cute little bayside community I would love to spend more time getting to know.  Our time there was a little short, mostly because we were meeting TBIL, TSIL, and Thatniece for dinner in San Francisco.  We got there a little early, so we headed down to Pier 39, where it was still Christmas!

And I got to see the sea lions!  13 years I've been going to San Francisco, and this was my first time seeing them!  They were a huge hit with Thatbaby too.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Honey Mustard Chicken

I love recipes that come together quickly.  I feel like at the end of the day I'm always rushing to get dinner on the table, and dinner for the next night made so I can get to bed at a reasonable time.  Often nights I don't get to sit down until it actually is time for bed.  And I know I'm not the only one out there in that situation.  So here is one of my favorite easy dinners.  It can be adjusted in a number of ways with different sauces, but I personally like honey mustard, so that's the version I'm sharing with you.

Honey Mustard Chicken
2 Tablespoons honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  1. Whisk together the honey, mustard, vinegar, oil, garlic, and 2 Tablespoons of water.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium high heat.  Cook the chicken for about 5 minutes, until cooked through.
  3. Add the honey-mustard sauce and cook for another 3 minutes, turning the chicken to coat.   

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

White Bean Ragout with Polenta

A hearty vegetarian stew served over creamy polenta is the perfect way to warm up these cold winter nights.

Thatbaby is a typical toddler with his eating habits.  He is perverse in his delight of a food one day and the complete refusal of it the next.

Luckily for us, this hasn't seemed to apply to beans.

Beans which he will pick out of soups.

Or stuffed peppers.

Or the bowl where I have them sitting waiting to be used in a recipe.

In keeping with my philosophy of not stressing about whether Thatbaby eats every meal put in front of him, I try to offer one bean-containing meal a week.  It's a surefire way to ensure one dinner gets eaten.

Personally I like the inclusion of these vegetarian meals.  There's something very healthy feeling about them, like a cleanse for the system.  A lot of vegetarian fare gets a bad rap - "rabbit food" as my father used to call it.  And the lightness of it can often seem more fitting for summer than winter.  But eliminating meat from a meal doesn't have to make it less than satiating.  A thick ragout, simmered on the stovetop is just as filling when it contains beans instead of beef.  And while this dish could benefit from summer tomatoes, it loses nothing by the inclusion of the canned variety.

White Bean Ragout with Polenta
1 cup polenta
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 sprig parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can cannellini beans

  1. Bring 4 cups of water and a pinch of salt to a boil in a saucepan.  
  2. Add polenta in a slow steady stream  and cook while stirring for 2 minutes.  Cover and cook for 10 .minutes. Uncover and cook while stirring for 2 minutes.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Uncover and cook while stirring for 2 minutes.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Uncover and cook while stirring for 2 minutes.
  3. While polenta is cooking, in a separate pan heat the olive oil.  Add the parsley and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the sage and tomatoes and cook for 12 minutes.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste, then add the beans.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Serve the beans over the polenta. 
  7. cook 5 minutes. Uncover and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Cover and cook 5 minutes; uncover and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Serve polenta with bean mixture.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Baby Visit!

It's time to promote Jurisbaby to Juristoddler, because there's a new Jurisbaby on the scene!  A couple of weeks ago, the Juris family welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world.  And I know she's beautiful, because I got to see her on Sunday. 

As far as babies go, her entry into the world was much less traumatic than her older brother, and so far she's proving to be an easier infant.  Juristoddler is growing into his role as older brother as best as one can expect of a 2 year old.  Which is to say, there are still tantrums and hysterics, but they tend to occur during periods where any 2 year old would likely behave in the same manner.

Mr. Jurisslave went back to work on Monday, so I dropped off some food with them during my visit so no one would have to worry about dinners this week.

 As we were about to leave to see Jurisfamily, Thatbaby pointed to a tray of hermits we had made the day before and asked if we could bring "tookies to Jurisbaby."  So at the last moment, I filled a container with these molasses, raisin, and nut cookies.