Friday, July 29, 2016

Going Swimmingly: Corn Bisque with Cheese & Smoked Bacon

Summer means four things in Thathouse: Shrimp, Corn, Watermelon, and Swimming.  Despite not having a pool of our own (save for the ginormous inflatable one that fits a half dozen people) we've managed to spend a good amount of time in the pool every weekend this summer due to friends, family, and swim lessons.

My goal was to enroll both boys in swim lessons this month, but I slacked and when I went to enroll, the parent/child class was already full.  So this month was devoted to Thatkid.  Thatbaby will get his turn in September.

Although I feel a little bad for my poor second child, I'm also a little more concerned with getting Thatkid swim lessons, since Thatbaby is going to need to be held in the pool at this age regardless.  Thatkid however is more and more independent, and fearless.  So some skill is necessary.  And he's picked up a lot in lessons.

The big one this year was back float!  He's been reluctant to do this for years, but for some reason this year it just clicked.  It probably helped that he's really focused this year during lessons.  He loves them and wants to do everything he's told. 

One of our biggest issues with Thatkid and swimming is that he loves to swim underwater, but he's not so great at strokes or remembering to lift his head to breathe.  So his instructor has been especially good at focusing on those areas with him.

And last Saturday she pulled out the big guns...or should I say board.  Thatkid had his first kinda sorta surf lesson!

He's so excited about showing off his new skills when we go on vacation next month! 

As for the other summer aspects, I've been buying a watermelon at the store every weekend and we've been finishing it before the week is out.  Shrimp has become a weekly menu item (although it's really never as good as catching it yourself).  And corn?  We've been eating it off the grill, snacking on it raw, and even using it in soups.  Soup may not be the most summery of meals, but this is the best time for sweet corn and therefore the best time for corn bisque.  Plus, any meal where I don't have to turn on the oven and heat up the house is a winner in my book!

Corn Bisque with Cheese & Smoked Bacon
3 corn on the cob
1 1/4 cups milk
2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups Cheddar cheese, grated
3 oz smoked bacon, thinly sliced
salt and pepper 
  1. Remove the kernels from the corn.  Put them in a saucepan with the milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer 10-15 minutes, until the corn is tender.  Drain, reserving the milk.
  2. Wipe out the saucepan and melt the butter.  Add the onions and celery and saute about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  3. Add the flour and cook 2-3 minutes.
  4. Gradually stir in the milk and vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil and stir until thickened.  Reduce the heat and simmer 15-20 minutes.
  5. Add the corn and half the cheese and cook for 5 minutes.  Let cool.  Puree in blender or food processor.  Reheat and season to taste.
  6. Grill the bacon slices  on a grill pan until crisp.  Crumble and sprinkle the soup with the bacon and remaining cheese before serving.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Crave Wednesday: Bacon and Egg Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions and Arugula

Thatkid is a funny kid.  I get such a kick out of his quirks.  This year his friend Doc invited him to her Frozen Tea Party birthday party.  The invitation indicated that the kids should feel free to dress up.

Thatkid: Dress up?  I'm going to go as Ironman.
Me: I think they mean dress up like when you wear a tie.  Or you could probably dress as someone from Frozen.
Thatkid: I want to dress up as Kristoff then!

Which is how my child ended up wearing snow wear to a birthday party in July.

While almost all of the girls dressed up as princesses, Thatkid was the only boy in costume.  Which didn't phase him for a second.  He was so excited to be Kristoff.  The only way I could get him out of his too-warm clothes was due to the fact his friends were playing keep away with his hat.

The party started with all of the kids painting a "tea cup" (which was really a mug).

Next, they worked together to make chocolate chip scones to enjoy with their tea.

They decorated little bags which they used to go on a treasure hunt while the scones baked.  And then it was "tea" time.  The kids worked on their manners as they enjoyed apple juice, scones,, and then cupcakes.

I love that Thatboy marches to the beat of his own drummer.  And I hope he stays that way, although I know peer pressure is more influential as he gets older.  He cracks me up.  We're planning a trip up to Yosemite, so we've been talking about our plans.  When we drove to Humboldt, we left early and stopped for breakfast.  There was talk about stopping at McDonalds, but McDonalds has nothing really Passover friendly on their breakfast menu.  Remembering that, Thatkid asked if we could stop at McDonalds for breakfast on our way up to Yosemite.  When I told him that was a definite possibility he started cheering.  It was only after he finished cheering he asked the all important question - "What does McDonalds have for breakfast?"

Between you and I, it has been so many years since I've been to McDonalds for breakfast, I'm not even sure what they have.  Egg McMuffins and pancakes?  That's what I remember, so that's what I told him.  And I can't get really excited about either.  Because when it comes to breakfast sandwiches, the McMuffin is not my cup of tea.  You want an egg sandwich?  How about one with bacon and caramelized onion?  Sweet, smokey, and eggy!  And arugula makes it feel more like a real meal, not something that was just reheated and tossed on a tray.  Because sometimes I march to the beat of my own drummer too.

Bacon and Egg Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions and Arugula (From Cooking Light)
8 center cut bacon slices
4 cups thinly sliced onions
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp Mexican hot sauce
3 tsp butter
dash of sugar
2 tsp canola oil, divided
8 slices whole wheat bread
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups arugula
  1. Cook bacon in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings.  Drain on paper towels.
  2. Add onion, 2 Tbsp water, and hot sauce to drippings in pan, cover and cook 3 minutes. Uncover and cook 5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently.  Set aside and keep warm.
  3.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add 1 tsp oil to pan, swirl to coat.  Place bread in pan and cook 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.  Set aside and keep warm.
  4. Recoat pan with 1 tsp oil.  Crack eggs into pan and cook 2 minutes.  Gently turn eggs, 1 at a time, cook 1 minute.  
  5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  6. Place 1 bread slice on each plate and arrange arugula evenly over bread.
  7. Place onion mixture, 1 bacon slices, and 1 egg over each serving.
  8. Top with remaining bread slicecs.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mommy Mondays: Mommy Mornings

Mornings are hard.   They were hard before kids, but at least then they were predictable.  All you had to do was get yourself ready.  You knew how long that would take and could plan accordingly.

All bets are off when kids get thrown into the mix.  Will you be able to get a shower in before they wake?  How long will it take to convince your 4 year old he doesn't need to wear 3 pairs of underwear?  How do you get ready while simultaneously fishing the baby out of the dog's water bowl?

Breakfast often gets thrown to the wayside, which is a shame, because as you may or may not know, it's supposed to be the most important meal of the day.    Thatkid usually eats in the car - toast and yogurt or a smoothie.  I often use breakfast as a way to keep Thatbaby entertained while I get ready for the day.

Fruit is a big go-to.  Some days I'll just ply him with bananas and berries until we're ready to go.  French toast is also an easy breakfast.

But what I like most of all, is something that I can make on the weekend for easy reheating during the week.

"Egg cups" are one of my favorite morning meals.  I chop up some vegetables and cook them with egg and cheese in muffin cups.  Small, easily reheatable, and even transportable for mornings when I need to bring my breakfast with me.

This is Ina Garten's version of the egg cup.  Everyone in the family likes this one, and the bonus is that it's loaded with greens.  Breakfast taken care of?  One less thing to worry about in the mornings and one step closer to getting you out the door.

Mini Italian Frittatas (From Ina Garten)
2 Tbsp olive oil
 1 1/2 cups chopped leeks
4 oz sliced Italian proscuitto, coarsley chopped
8 oz baby spinach
2 1/2 Tbsp julienned fresh basil leaves
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups grated Italian Fontina cheese
8 eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
salt and pepper
4 Tbsp frehsly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan.  Add the leaks and saute for 3 minutes until tender.
  2. Add the prosciutto and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, breaking it up with a fork.
  3. Add the spinach, tossing with tongs, then cover the pan and cook for 3 minutes, tossing once while it cooks, until the spinach is wilted.
  4. Off the heat, stir in the basil and lemon juice and set aside for 5 minutes.
  5. Divide the mixture with tongs among the 12 muffin cups, leaving any liquid behind.
  6. Sprinke the Fontina evenly on top.
  7. Whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.  
  8. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the filling each cup to the top.
  9. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Runday: Running belt and a giveaway

6 years ago I picked up a Spibelt running belt at a race expo.  Since most of my running pants don't have pockets, I needed something to hold my ID, emergency funds, phone, and keys. 
I loved that it didn't bounce when I ran, and that it fit everything, and that it lasted for 6 years!  But I didn't love the fact that it took on kind of a bulky awkward shape when crammed to the gills.  So I thought this would be a good opportunity to try something new.

I contacted SDMom to ask about her favorite running belt.  She gets sent a bunch of different ones to review, so I thought she would be a great resource.  She told me her favorite was the SLS3 running belt, so I ran right out and got one.
This is a prime example of how not all things work for all people.  Because while SDMom loved this running belt, I hated it.  It never stayed in place and usually ends up right under my bra line, stopped in its journey north only by larger geographical impediments.

Luckily, Thatboy had already got a replacement for me, wrapped and waiting for mother's day. HipsSisters is a very different belt that the above two running belts.  Instead of being a small pouch on an elastic band, the entire belt is a pouch.  A large piece of stretchy fabric with two zippered pockets and one smaller pocket which opens to the top. 

Because of the design, it almost functions as a second top of my pants.  It doesn't ride up, it doesn't get bulky.  In fact, because it lies flat against my pants, most of the time you would never even know I was wearing it.  But like most things, experience is the best way to determine if it's for you.  So I'm giving away a HipsSister running belt to one of you!    Like all my giveaways this one will run until next week, so enter now and happy running!

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Friday, July 22, 2016

All's Fair at the Fair: Red Lentil Soup

I'm always surprised by people who don't take advantage of their local fairs.  I've been going to the fair since before I can remember, starting with the New York State fair.  That's the one I have no memory of.  I have loads of memories of going to the county fair with friends as a teenager, including the one time I had to pass off my candy apple to a friend when we turned the corner and saw my orthodontist.

And now I get to help my kids make memories.  So far they love the County Fair just as much as Thatboy and I do.  And why not? There's so much to do and see.

The theme of the fair this year was Wonderland and the fairground was transformed into a topsy turvy Alice in Wonderland inspired fantasy land.

If you have a small child at home, chances are you know all about Paw Patrol.  It's a big thing in our house.  And when I found out that the Roll Patrol Tour Bus was making a stop at the fair, I made sure our visit coincided with theirs.

The tour bus had a slide, a jungle play area, and a huge screen to play

The dogs in  Paw Patrol all have special jobs and corresponding cars.  So Chase, the police dog, drives a police cruiser.  Rubble, the construction dog, drives a backhoe...tractor...some construction vehicle.  So there was also a playzone set up where the kids could drive the pups' cars.  There was also an area with all the toy playsets set up for the kids to play.

But the highlight was getting to meet the pups themselves.  We got to see Sky

And Rubble

And Thatkid got to meet two of his favorites-  Chase and Marshall!

When we finished up with the celebrities, we headed over to Thatkid's favorite part of the fair - the rides!

Thatbaby even got in on the rides, riding his first carousel.  Which he loved so much!

We headed over to the kids' art area.  And while Thatboy and Thatkid admired the artwork, Thatbaby entertained himself in the play supermarket.

Next stop was The Farm, which has gardens, and horses, and butterflies!

All that activity had us work up quite the appetite.  So we pulled up a spot of grass in front of a stage featuring different singers and bands.  And we partook in fair food.  Thatkid had a hotdog, Thatboy had a grilled cheese with pulled pork, I had a chicken and waffle sandwich.

Thatbaby's first fair food was a grilled cheese sandwich with some tomato soup to dip it in.

And of course there was funnel cake.

After lunch we went to check out the photography exhibit, which is Thatboy's favorite.  But while we were eating lunch, I was planning a special surprise for Thatkid.  Turns out his best friend was also at the fair, and so his mother and I made sure the boys met up.  We brought them over to check out the rocks and minerals.

We split up after as they headed home and we headed over to the animal exhibits.  Where Thatkid got to pet a cow AND learn how to milk one.

And then it was time to head out.  But not before taking our annual fair picture!

I am such a sucker for fair food.  It's one of my favorite summer indulgences.  But it's all about balance.  For every funnel cake there has to be a huge leafy salad.  For every grilled cheese, there's a bowl of lentil soup.

Most lentil soups are made with green lentils, but when I saw a bag of red lentils at Trader Joes I thought it would be a nice change.  To change it up a bit from what is usually a great winter dish, I added some extra spice and the perfect summer accessory - lemon!

Red Lentil Soup
 4 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup red lentils
1 Tbsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
4 cups beef broth
juice of 1/2 lemon
  1. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the lentils, cardamon, allspice, and lemon rind.
  3. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Cool slightly, then place in blender and puree.  
  5. Reheat gently and season to taste.  Stir in the lemon juice and remaining oil.
  6. Top with croutons and serve.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Crave Wednesday: Steak Baguette with Pesto Mayo

Thatboy, knowing how important my birthday is planned a special celebration for just the two of us.   I knew about it for a while, or at least that he was doing something and I needed to keep a Saturday in June free.

On my birthday, things became a little more clear.  My present was a beautiful perfume bottle.

Thatboy told me that in addition to the beautiful bottle, for my birthday I was going to be creating my own signature scent.  We were going to a perfumerie.

On a bright and sunny Saturday, Thatboy and I headed to Tijon Fragrance Lab in La Jolla.

When we got there, we met with Vanessa.  She sat me down and asked a bunch of questions about scents I was drawn to.   Then she disappeared, leaving me with a bunch of bottles I was free to smell to see if they swayed me one way or another.

Vanessa reappeared with a selection of scents she had selected based on my responses.  Lots of citrus notes, some fruit, and what she felt were "clean" scents. 

Some missed the mark, while others hit it out of the ball park.  Eventually we were left with a nice collection of scents I liked.  That's when the fun began.  Vanessa took those scents and combined them to create two different perfumes.  She let me smell with each addition and we decided whether to add more or leave it as it was.

When she was done, I had two distinct perfumes, one a light and fruity scent, the other a more subtle, deeper scent.  I joked that one was young and carefree and the other was older and more worldly.   I ended up bottling the second - a blend of oak moss, green apple, and dune grass. 

With some time to kill before our dinner reservation, Thatboy and I took a walk down to the coast.  It's been a while since the two of us spent some time without the kids and  we enjoyed every minute of it.

After a bit we headed to Whisk n Ladle for dinner.  We started with the cheese and charcuterie plate and a couple of cocktails.

Then moved on to wine and dinner.    Thatboy had fried chicken, while I had gnocchi with spring peas.

What I love about Whisk n Ladle is that the menu changes almost daily to capture seasonal menu items.  Which is what I ideally love to do at my own house.  This is made easier when my neighbor brings over a flat of produce from his garden.  Bright summer tomatoes, grapes, passionfruit, and basil.   Fresh basil doesn't last long, so my solution is always to turn it into pesto.  Which freezes well, but is also a big hit in our house. 

Homemade pesto, paired with red ripe tomatoes is such a great summer treat.  And when paired with fresh crusty bread and steak, it makes sandwich perfect for days at the beach, or summer concerts under the stars.  Both of which we take advantage of during the summer.

Steak Baguette with Pesto Mayo (From Cooking Light)
12 oz boneless beef irloin steak
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp canola mayonaise
2 Tbsp pesto
1 baguette split in half horizontally
1 cup packed arugula
3 slices red onion
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced lengthwise

  1. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.  Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper.  
  2. Add steak to the pan and cook 2 1/2 minutes per side or until done as desired..  Remove steak from pan and let stand 5 minutes,  Cut steak across grain into thin slices.
  3. Combine mayo and pesto, stirring until well blended.  
  4. Spread pesto mayo over cut sides of bread.
  5. Layer bottom half of bread with arugula, red onion, steak, and tomato.
  6. Top with top half of bread.  Cut sandwich diagonally into 4 equal pieces.