Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Backyard Olympians: Olympic Torch Chicken Wraps

Thatboy is REALLY not a sports person, except for some reason the Olympics.  He looooooves the Olympics and when they're on he basically doesn't sleep - just watches them for hours.

As you may or may not have heard, the Summer Olympics which would be happening right now, are not happening right now.

So we decided to have our very own Olympics, right here in our home. 

We divided the house into two "countries" and competitors from each country designed their flags which were hung on the Olympic grounds.

Since the weather was supposed to be exceptionally warm that day, we started with our Track and Field events.  Our first event was the 1k.

Each country picked an "anthem" and we held a medal ceremony after each event, playing the winning country's anthem.  Thatkid won the 1k, so he was awarded the gold medal. As a nice way to start the day, Thatbaby had earned a medal of his own.  By completing the 1k, he also completed the Trolls Virtual Kids race.  

Next up was the discus throw.  Which was easy enough to replicate with a frisbee.

And then came the javelin, a pool noodle subbed in for something pointier and more dangerous.

Since we didn't want a million running events, we subbed in some of those with more traditional races, like the 3 legged race.

And the egg/spoon relay

Next came the long jump

And we created our own hurdles by saving our weekly produce delivery boxes.

Our final event of the morning sounded good in theory, but didn't actually work out with a 5 year old.  We tried for "water balloon volleyball" which was tossing a water balloon back and forth between two towels, with each country holding one of the towels.  Unfortunately, both the tossing and catching proved to be a little much for Thatkid and we never got past the serve.

Since I didn't want to deal with an actual Olympic torch, I made a bunch for us to eat! 

After nap we were back at it with balloon tennis.  Each competitor got a tennis racket and a balloon and the one who kept their balloon in the air the longest won.

We had originally planned on using their bows and arrows for archery, but turns out Thatboy had thrown out all our targets, so I quickly improvised with water gun archery.  The boys had to shoot ping pong balls of golf tees with their water guns.  Thatbaby stole the show with this one.

Next up came the gymnastic events.  We began with rhythmic gymnastics where competitors from each country created and performed their own 30 second routine.

And then the balance beam - which was surprisingly one of the most challenging events.

We finished up with Olympic Ring tossing.

After the final medal ceremony, we headed inside for another Olympic torch snack.

We had a rather original closing ceremony.  Since it was so hot, we decided to end the day with a water fight between the two countries.

We retreated back to the Olympic village for some pulled pork sandwiches and Olympic onion rings.

I'll admit it was a hard to think up themed "Olympic" food when the Olympics are in your backyard.  It's not like I could just make food from the country where the Olympics were being held, although I did in the way with the pulled pork - totally a backyard food.  

Doing an internet search wasn't really all that helpful. . .until I happened across an article which mentioned that this "Blooming Quesadilla" looked like an Olympic Torch.  Bingo Ringo.  The idea is very simple - chicken, cheese, and taco sauce wrapped in a tortilla.  What makes it fun is that they're stacked and baked in a circular ring.

Olympic Torch Chicken Wraps (adapted from
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup taco sauce
10 flour tortillas
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
  1. Preheat oven to 375.  Combine chicken, onion, bell pepper, and taco sauce in a bowl.  
  2. Cut each tortilla in half.
  3. Add 2 Tbsp each of cheddar, monterey jack, and chicken to each half.  Roll the tortilla into cones, starting at the cut edge.  Create a ring with half of the tortilla cones, with the points in the center.  
  4. Sprinkle half of the  remaining cheddar and monterey jack over the layer.  
  5. Repeat with the second half of the cones to create a top layer, finishing with the rest of the cheese.
  6. Bake 20 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Backyard Beach: Italian Deli Pasta Salad

Before Thatkid was born, Thatboy and I had a Fourth of July tradition to spend the entire day at the beach.  We'd pack food, get their early for a good spot, stay for fireworks, and then I'd fall asleep in the car as we sat in packed parking lots waiting to get on crowded freeways to get home.

It just didn't seem sustainable with a small child, so once Thatbaby was born, we started a new tradition of spending the Fourth of July in the backyard with a blow up pool, lots of margaritas, and going to the neighbors to watch fireworks from their front yard.

Last year we went away for the Fourth of July.  Beach, no traffic, and it was so nice we thought we would make that our new annual tradition. But obviously this year that wasn't going to happen.  So we went back to old traditions and turned our backyard into a beach.

The nice thing about your backyard being a beach, is that unlike the real beach, you don't have to be in the water with the kids.

And there's still plenty of lying and soaking up the sun.

We made watermelon coolers with watermelon, lime, cucumber, and ice.  And then drank them all day.  Because fruity drinks feel like a vacation all on their own.

We also turned our water table into a sand table with kinetic sand and lots of sand toys to build castles or sand creatures.

Just like any other beach day, we packed a picnic lunch that would be easy to eat - chicken wraps, watermelon, and pasta salad.

And in the afternoon we broke out the chips and guac.

We spent the whole afternoon reading (grown ups) or playing in the pool (kids) until it was dinner.

Hot dogs, potato salad, grilled corn, and more watermelon.

After we made a "beach bonfire" and made smores, which is a pretty good way to end the the day.

The sleeper hit of the day was the pasta salad I made to have with lunch.  And Thatboy and I had it again the next day for lunch.  And probably would have had it the day after, except we ate had already eaten it all.

I think the secret is the giardiniera, which I would never have thought to put in pasta salad, but there was just something about that salty, briney flavor that had both of us going back for more.  And then Thatboy asked that I bookmark this recipe so I could make it over and over and over again.  So it sounds like we came out of this with a new tradition after all.

Italian Deli Pasta Salad (From Food Network)
 1lb penne, cooked
1/3 cup mayo
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
16-oz jar giardiniera, drained and chopped
1 cup diced provolone
1 cup diced salami
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped basil
  1. Mix the mayo, olive oil, and red wine vinegar in a large bowl.
  2. Add the pasta and toss.
  3. Add the giardiniera, provolone, salami, parley, and basil.  Toss.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

NYC at home: Black and White Egg Cream

I'm not going to lie, New York City is probably my least favorite summer destinations.  I have been through too many sticky, muggy, hot and humid New York trips, pressed up against other wet and sticky bodies for one lifetime. 

But when I saw that Broadway HD was doing a free 7-day trial back in the beginning days of the quarantine, I thought it would be a great "pandemic adventure."  Everything we love about New York, without the humidity or the subway! 

I jumped on Goldbelly and ordered some of our favorite New York foods to keep the day authentic.  Like bagels.  Because no one makes bagels like they do in NYC.  Trust me, I've tried to find similar in other states AND other countries and there's no comparison.

After breakfast we headed out to create our own souvenirs.

One of our favorite things about New York is the museums, and Thatkid's favorite museum is the Museum of Natural History (the Nat is his favorite museum in San Diego also).  We did a virtual tour of the museum, visiting some of his favorite exhibits.

Thatkid's ideal New York trip would be to see every Broadway show there is - he'd do a matinee and evening performance each day if he could.   So we tried.

We started with Jekyll and Hyde.  One of my favorites, and which I saw with the Original Broadway Cast back when it first came out.

Then it was a quick trip to Nathan's for a hot dog with fries.  

Then a couple more virtual museum tours.

Our post-nap Broadway show was Kinky Boots.

And then we had dinner.  Know what New York food we were missing?  PIZZA!

My boys have been VERY into opera this pandemic.  Entirely due to The Met Opera's free streaming program and Met Opera Camp.    So when I saw that the nightly streaming opera was Cendrillon (or Cinderella) I thought it would be a great way to round out our day in New York.

And one last treat - black and white cookies!

I've tried to make my own black and white cookies and they just don't turn out the same.  Thatmom and I speculate that there's something about the New York water that just makes the chocolate taste better.

Instead, when I want a little shot of a New York black and white I go to a much easier recipe - the Black and White egg cream.  The egg cream is a New York staple - as much a part of their legacy as the bagel and the pizza.  It dates back to the Jews of Brooklyn to the late 1800s or early 1900s depending on which origin story you care to believe.  The original is just chocolate syrup (U-BET!), seltzer, and milk.  The black and white version also has a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Black and White Egg Cream
1/2 cup whole milk
4 Tbsp U-Bet chocolate syrup
vanilla ice cream
  1.  Divide milk between 2 glasses.
  2. Place 2 Tbsp chocolate syrup into each glass and stir with a fork.
  3. Continue vigorously stirring as you slowly pour in the seltzer until the glass is almost full.
  4. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.