Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Summer Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Panini with Balsamic Syrup

One of the many things I love about the Ks is what fantastic gift givers they are.  Every year they give us a Christmas gift that includes admission to a local attraction.  This past year, we got passes to the Living Coast Discovery Center, a place I'd been dying to visit.

Here in San Diego, we don't have one big aquarium, like the ones in Atlanta, Monterey, or Chicago.  Instead, we have several smaller aquariums that focus on local marine life.  The Living Coast Discovery Center is one such aquarium which is also a wildlife sanctuary. 

The parking lot is not at the actual facility, instead you are shuttled to the aquarium. 

When we got there, we were greeted by the two fish that have become the mascots of every aquarium across the country. 

And some less common mascots - a couple of turtles greet you before you can even walk through the doors.

While not large, the Discovery Center has a great assortment of animals - both marine and terrestrial.  Like iguanas and snakes, shrimp and jellyfish.  And one very active octopus.

I find aquariums are especially attractive for younger set, because they can get right up close to the animals.  Hey seahorse, I SEE YOU!

Outside the main building is an a garden and composting area, and the "shark tank" which houses several type of ray and shark.  We timed it so we could watch them being fed.

The shark tank also featured a turtle who had been injured by motorboats.  The injury caused her to be missing the back portion of her shell, giving her no ballast.  To help her, weights had been attached to her shell.

But it wasn't just sea and land animals who had a home at the Discovery Center, there was also an aviary.  An aviary with owls, songbirds, and eagles.  I think this is the closest I have ever been to a bald eagle!

The boys found their own little nest to curl up in.

Learning my lesson from our last museum trip, this time I was smart enough to pack a lunch.  And we sat in the warm sun, eating our sandwiches. 

There were plenty of spaces to eat, and have the boys run around a bit before heading back to the shuttle.  It's nice in cases like this for the boys to have a little freedom.  Eating is so hard with kids, that we've got into the habit of scarfing down our meals so we have hands free to manage the trouble makers.  So on this day, we were able to sit back and watch them run around the deck as we took bites of summer sandwiches.  I know it isn't summer yet, but when you're sitting in the sun, you can pretend.  It's easy to pretend when you're greeted by something as summery as a caprese salad.  Tomato, mozzarella, basil, and balsamic.  Made easier to transport by grilling it between two pieces of crusty bread.  And while this sandwich is arguably better warm, it still works pretty well when packed in a brown bag and enjoyed hours later.

Summer Tomato Mozzarella, and Basil Panini with Balsamic Syrup (From Cooking Light)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 piece Cuban bread, cut in half horizontally
1 Tbsp olive oil
12 large basil leaves
5 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
  1. Bring balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium high heat.  Cook until reduced to 3 Tbsp.
  2. Brush top half of bread with oil.
  3. Top with basil, cheese, and tomatoes.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Brush bottom half of bread with reduced vinegar and place on top of sandwich.  Invert the sandwich.
  6. Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add sandwich to pan.  Place a cast-iron or other heavy skillet on top of the sandwich and press gently to flatten.  Cook 3 minutes on each side or until cheese melts and bread is toasted.  Cut into 4 equal pieces.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mommy Mondays: Passover

Passover is only a few short weeks away, but I've already got my thinking cap on in the meal planning department.

Passover with kids makes this especially important, because it's much harder to turn kids away from their favorite meals than it is to get adults to eat something different.

With that in mind, and knowing that I'm not the only one searching for kid-friendly Passover fare, here are some of my tips and tricks for getting through the holiday.

Passover commemorates the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt.  But it was not an easy escape.  In fact, once the Pharaoh finally allowed the Jews to go free, he changed his mind shortly thereafter.  The Jewish people, aware of their tenuous grip on freedom, grabbed whatever was close to them and fled into the desert.  This meant that there was no time for their bread to rise, and they grabbed the still flat bread and packed it for sustenance on the journey.

In commemoration for the sacrifice and narrow escape, during the week of Passover, Jews don't eat anything that rise or puffs.  Just as the escaping Jews didn't have time to let their food rise.  This includes breads, pastas, grains, rice, beans, corn - or anything made with derivatives of those products, such as cornflower, corn oil, or tofu.

With the current popularity of Whole30, this mealplan probably doesn't sound as strange as maybe it once did!

For breakfast, I buy a special kosher for Passover cereal, although both of my boys are pretty big fans of matzah with cheese or butter.

While their preschool provides lunches, during Passover I send in food I know they can eat.  Like matzah sandwiches, matzah pizza, hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks, fruit, or yogurt.

Dinners have always been the easiest for me, because it's not hard to cut grains out and serve a well rounded meal.  We stick with meats and veggies, like broccoli, carrots, beets, and potatoes.  Things like shepherds pie, lasagna made with zucchini instead of noodles, and stuffed baked potatoes, are also easy dinners that everyone likes.

The most difficult food issue is snacks.  Because granola bars are out.  As are crackers and cookies.  And pirates booty.  So I stock up on lots of fruit - both dried and fresh.   Cheese and applesauce are good for on the go.  And we'll make popsicles for a special sweet dessert.

It sounds a little intimidating to cut out so many sources for a week, especially with kids who are notoriously picky eaters.  But it goes by quickly, and at least in my house, as long as there's enough variety, there is very little complaining.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Runday: Run the Solar System Virtual 10k

Last weekend I ran a very different kind of virtual race, Run the Solar System Virtual 10k.  Maybe not totally different if you're used to the app or virtual races related to ZombiesRun! Which is how I heard about this race in the first place, as Six to Start produced the app used to run the race.

This virtual race was put on my British Science Association in conjunction with British Science Week.   It was free to enter, although you could pay extra for a "medal pack."  And prior to the race, they provided a 5k training run through their app.

It gave you the opportunity to "Run the Solar System"  or a scaled down version of it anyway.  All the planets, smooshed into 10 kilometers.    In terms of what that entails, it means you download an app and start it before you run the race.  Every 500 -1,500 meters during the run, you hit something in our planetary system.   Which is a very interesting way to run.

The problem with most virtual races is that they lack the entertainment of an actual race.  You're out there, doing your own thing, on your own.  In my case, this was happening on a very dark and foggy early morning.  So there wasn't even anything interesting to look at. 

Which means I was especially appreciative of having a little voice in my ear, cheering me on, telling me how far I'd run, and most importantly, telling me allllll about the planets I was passing.  I'm such a science nerd you guys.  I love this stuff.  And it was fascinating to hear the facts and tidbits about the planets.  There were even clips from the first flight to the moon, and the landing of the mars rover!

As the race ended, the sun started to come up, though the fog stayed, and it definitely added to the mood.  When you finish the virtual race, your time is added to the leaderboard, with runners from around the world.

I really enjoyed this race and would recommend it to anyone.  I hope this is the future of virtual races because it was so much more interesting than most.  And unlike the ZombiesRun  race, which I would NOT recommend doing in the dark, this one was perfect for an early morning run, still under the moon!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Open-Faced Sandwiches with Ricotta, Arugula, and Fried Egg

February was Macy's Museum Month here in San Diego.  Which meant half price entry to most of the county's museums.  To celebrate, we took the boys to the Natural History Museum.

The main draw, our reason for the adventure, was for the dinosaurs.  Thatkid is partial to carnivores, while Thatbaby seems to be very into stegosaurus (stegosauri?)

And we got to see plenty of dinosaurs.

Museums can be hard for the younger set, who aren't always entertained by standing around and looking at exhibits.  The Natural History Museum definitely takes this into account.  There are so many different types of exhibits.  Like live animals

And stuffed animals.

And statues of animals.  

Some you can even sit on!

There are hands on activities.

And an IMAX movie theater with 3-D movies.  (Thatbaby didn't really appreciate this, but Thatkid loved it)

There are really interesting exhibits to participate in, like a Silver Stream trailer filled with maps and desert artifacts.

There were also a bunch of exhibits that involved being able to climb, crawl, or mosey through.

The boys had such a great time.  And my only complaint about the whole day was that we didn't realize how long we would spend there!  Which means it was soon past lunch, we were all hungry, and as wonderful as Balboa Park is, there is a dearth of food choices.  Which means we had a pretty crappy lunch.  Lesson learned - always pack a lunch.

This lunch is hardly packable though.  The problem with fried eggs.  I mean, you can't exactly reheat them and still have that beautiful runny, golden yolk.  And, I may be crazy, but I am not a fan of cold egg yolk, unless it's mashed up with cold egg white, mayo, and mustard.  No.  This is the kind of lunch meant to be eaten at home, straight off the stovetop.  And savored.  In truth, this is the kind of lunch you eat on days when the kids aren't around.  (Which also plays into that cold egg part) 

Just picture it, sitting at the table, a ray of sunlight coming in the window beside you as you expertly cut yourself a piece of toast.  The salty, creamy cheese topped with a bright, crisp salad, and of course, that yolk that adds a rich smoothness.  You take a bite and the rest of the day just kind of disappears.  It's just you, the light, and that sandwich.  Which will soon be history.

Open Faced Sandwiches with Ricotta, Arugula, and Fried Eggs (From Cooking Light)
4 slices whole wheat country bread
cooking spray
2 cups arugula
1 Tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 large eggs
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta
1/4 cup grated fresh parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat broiler.  Coat both sides of bread with cooking spray.  Broil 2 minutes on each side or until lightly toasted.
  2. Combine arugula, 2 tsps oil, juice, salt, and pepper. Toss gently.
  3. Heat 1 tsp  oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Crack egg into pan, cook 2 minutes.  Cover and cook 2 minutes or until whites are set.  Remove from heat.
  4. Combine 1/4 tsp salt, ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and thyme.  Spread over slices.
  5. Divide salad and eggs evenly among toast slices.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mommy Mondays: Infant Hearing Tests

I was chatting with a friend the other week and she mentioned she was about to have her son's hearing tested.  She asked about the process, knowing we had done that with Thatbaby.  And it made me realize that this is a topic that might be good to share information about, since it's not that common a process.  I know before Thatbaby got tested, I turned to L&O for as much information as she could provide.

At 12 months, the only recognizable word Thatbaby had was "uh oh."  But he did have a couple other words, that  Like zuzzz for shoes and appajay for pumpkin.  It made me question where there was something wrong with his hearing that was causing him to mishear and mispronounce words, and making it more difficult for him to acquire language. 

I brought it up at his 15 month appointment, and his pediatrician wasn't terribly concerned since he had passed his newborn hearing test, but knows that I'm not usually the parent who worries unnecessarily, so he referred me to a pediatric audiologist for a hearing test.  While we were in the office, he did a visual inspection of Thatbaby's ear with the otoscope, to make sure there was nothing obviously wrong with his ear structure.  There wasn't.

Now, here arises the real question.  The hearing test itself.  How do you test the hearing of a nonverbal child? Well in our cases, this is what happened, which is also similar to L&O's experience and the experience of a friend whose son had a hearing test the same day at Thatbaby.  So I'm hoping this is universal enough to help anyone else about to experience the test.

The first part of the test was objective.  While Thatbaby sat on my lap, the audiologist placed an instrument in each ear and measured the waves that bounced back from the cochlea/cillia in front of the cochlea. 

The doctor then repeated this form of testing, this time measuring the waves bouncing back from the ear drum.

These tests all came back with normal results.  According to the tests, all his ear functions were working normally.  So then came the subjective part of the test.  He should be able to hear, but could he?

Thatbaby and I sat in a box of a room with me sitting between two speakers and him on my lap. Beneath each speaker was a stuffed animal. In front of us was a stuffed animal (one of those yappy electronic dogs).

The audiologist would randomly alternate between speakers above each side animal and see if Thatbaby turned toward the noise/animal. Between each side he would set off the yappy dog in front of us. (Thatbaby caught on to this pretty quickly. He would turn toward the appropriate animal, then immediately look at the dog to wait for it to turn on. As soon as the test was over he went running up to the dog)

Which answered my question about his hearing.  Everything was functioning normally, and he was hearing fine.  Which meant he was just quirky with his pronunciations (still is) and  just on the slower side when it came to speech.  The entire experience was fairly quick, and very painless.  Thatbaby even danced down the hallway after it was over. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Runday: Running Spring

Tomorrow is the first day of spring.  Although, to be fair, it's been feeling awfully springy around these parts lately already.

It started on my run a couple weeks ago, when I noticed giant patches of vibrant purple flowers.  It was just after some heavy rains and it was a nice reminder of the beauty that comes after the storm.

And then L&O posted some pictures of the flowers around her campus, taken during one of her walks.  And I was inspired.  I started keeping my eye out along the paths and trails I run for blooms of my own.

Over the course of the past week I saw flowers of so many shapes and sizes.  Small clusters, giant petals, flowers that reached up to the sky, and others who covered the ground in their brilliant hue.

One of the things I have openly admired about SDMom is her ability to always be grateful for her surroundings.  She takes nothing for granted.  Giving myself a floral scavenger hunt of sorts while I ran accomplished a similar feat.  Sometimes I complain about running the same routes.  It gets boring.  It's a bit suburban without beautiful views of mountains, rivers, or oceans.  But seeing so many flowers made me appreciate the beauty of the neighborhood and how unboring my scenery really is.

Have you found something unique about your favorite running route?
Do you ever stop to smell flowers?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Mini Falafel Pocket Sandwich

 It's baseball season!  Well, it's actually been baseball season since January.  That's when practices started.  Which seems ridiculously early.  And part of the reason most of the practices have been called for inclement weather.

Thatkid is once again on the Dodgers.  But this year, the Dodgers are comprised mostly of his friends.  There are 3 other kids from his team last year, 1 of his old friends who wasn't on the team, and 1 of his new friends. 

 Also new this year is the graduation from the tee to the pitching machine.  Batting has never been Thatkid's strong suit, but now he really has to focus on hitting the ball.  And when he focuses, he does a great job!  The past 2 games he's gotten hits!

And while he may not be the next Hank Aaron, he definitely stands out on the field.  He's got his own signature move.  His slide.

Thatkid has practice during the week, and games every weekend.  Because our weekdays aren't full enough!  And now that daylight savings has started, we've been taking advantage of the light and spending longer at practice.  So baseball nights means I have to have dinner ready to go as soon as we get home.  Which means my love of sandwiches has become a need for sandwiches.  They're an easy dinner which is also filling since all that batting, running, and fielding leaves Thatkid pretty hungry.

This falafel sandwich is especially convenient because the falafel can be made ahead of time.  And while I prefer it warmed up, it definitely can be eaten cold. I can't speak to every child, but my boys love garlic yogurt sauce, the tahini added to this one didn't change that fact.

Mini Falafel Pocket Sandwich (From Cooking Light)
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp cold water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/3 cup boiling water
2/3 cup bulgar
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup parsley
1/4 cup cilantro
3/4 tsp cumin
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 egg white
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 whole wheat pitas, halved crosswise
1 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup thinly sliced English cucumber
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
  1.  Combine yogurt, tahini, cold water and lemon in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill.
  2. Combine boiling water and bulgar in a small bowl.  Cover and let stand 25-30 minutes. Drain.
  3.  Process garlic in food processor until minced.
  4. Add bulgar, parsley, cilantro, cumin, chickpeas and egg white to food processor and process until smooth.  Divide mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each into a patty.  Place patties on a baking sheet.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
  5. Heat half of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add 4 patties.  Cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Repeat with remaining oil and patties.
  6. Spread 1 Tbsp tahini-yogurt sauce inside each pita.  
  7. Fill each pita half with 2 patties.
  8. Divide tomato, cucumber, and red onion evely among pita halves.
  9. Drizzle each with 1 Tbsp sauce.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Mommy Mondays: 21 Months

Weight: 27lbs 6oz (+ 19 lbs, 2 oz) (from 18 months)
Height: 35"(+ 13") (from 18 month)
Head: 19" (from 18 months)

Sleep: I feel bad and whiney - things here are pretty much the same.  I remember when he used to sleep through the nights sometimes.  Now a good night he only wakes once.  He is doing a great job of naps at preschool, which has always been true.  I just wish he didn't always wake up crying.

Eating: This month he's all about the oranges.  And raisins.  And oatmeal.  And waffles.  And yogurt.  This kid loves to eat.  He nurses before bed and usually once during the night. 

Best Moment: Thatbaby has learned trickery.  When we were at the aquarium earlier this month we were watching the sharks when he grabbed him arm and yelled "OWSH!"  He grinned and pointed at one of the sharks.  "Did that shark bite you?"  "Yeah.  OWSH!"  and then he looked at me and said "Tick you!"

Monthly Wisdom: We're dealing with a lot of hitting, pushing, biting, right now.  Which is really difficult to deal with, but I remind myself this is just a stage.  It's his way of expressing frustration.  Right now, he is finally able to express what he wants, and hasn't quite figured out that just because he wants something doesn't mean he gets it.  As he gets older, he'll get better at communicating. And he'll develop a better understanding of wants, needs, and compromises.  Until then, its all about redirecting and removing him from the situation.

Goals for the Upcoming Month:
- More sleep

Things Thatbaby is doing:
- "Mine" and "My turn" are now regular parts of his vocabulary.
- He loves to "dress up" and dance to music.
- He counts.  "Twooooo,  Niiiiine,  Twooooo, Niiiiine."
- He is very very very into animals and knows so many of them by name.  He can also do most of their noises.
- He also loves trucks.  He has a truck book he reads over and over again.
- He started preschool!  The first day he cried and his teacher cried.  But after that they said they've never seen such a fast transition.  They also said they've never seen a kid quite like him.  He is quiet and sneaky.  So very sneaky.  They'll turn around and he'll be missing, off somewhere getting into trouble.
- He can do somersaults
- He has figured out puzzles.  I swear it happened within a week.
- He can buckle himself into his carseat.  At least the top buckle.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Runday: Take A Hike

Thursday afternoon SD Mom texted me to see if I wanted to go for a "hike" on Saturday morning.  Knowing that "hike" was code for "run" I told her I was in, as long as we could guarantee being done by 8am, so I could get home in time for Thatkid's baseball game.

SD Mom made no promises, but I did some math and figured we'd be starting early enough.  So we met in the dark and started up the trail.     The first part is fairly flat, so we ran.  And pretty much we ran until it got light, at which point we started on the rocky, uphill part of the trail.

Walking this portion of the trail was nice because it really gave us a chance to take in our surroundings.   With all the rain, the whole area was greener than it has ever been.

After a very long and strenuous climb, we made it to the summit.  Where there was a lot more green to be seen in the surrounding basin.

Our way back down was a little treacherous.  The loose rocks and steep incline meant I was not the only one who ended up on my bottom.

We crossed rivers that never existed, some by bridge, and some by rock.
And in the end, covered about 6 miles in 2 1/2 hours.  So it was a good thing we started early!