Monday, May 31, 2010

Co-op Cookin’: Grilled Chicken Salad with Fresh Strawberry Balsamic Dressing

The lettuces and strawberries are coming in huge quantities now – 2-3 heads of various lettuce and a whopping 6 baskets of strawberries a week for those of us on the fruit bounty option. I love a dinner salad on a warm evening, and this one worked out very well.


Grilled Chicken Salad with Fresh Strawberry Balsamic Dressing

1 head lettuce, washed and ripped into bite sized pieces
2 radishes, sliced
1/2 lb sugar snap peas, stemmed
1/2 c sliced green onion
juice of 1 lemon (about 2 T)
1 T olive oil
2-3 chicken breasts depending on size, pounded to 1” thick if they’re whoppers
lemon pepper seasoning
1 c strawberries, rinsed, hulled and chopped
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1/2 t sugar (or one packet Splenda)
1/4 t salt
2 T canola oil
1/4 c sliced almonds (toasted if desired), for garnish

Prep: Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch sugar snap peas for 2 minutes, then drain and immerse peas in ice water. Combine lettuce, radish, onion, and cooled peas in large bowl. Toss with lemon juice and olive oil.

Bring a grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Sprinkle lemon pepper seasoning on both sides of chicken breasts and grill until cooked through, about 6-8 mins per side. Allow to rest for 5 mins, then slice crosswise. Meanwhile, combine strawberries, vinegar, sugar/Splenda, salt, and oil in processor or blender and puree until smooth.

To serve, divide lettuce mixture among plates, top with chicken, then dressing, and almonds.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cookin’ the Book: Pioneer Woman’s Sour Cream Pancakes & Huevos Hyacinth

For the past two weekends, I made two new recipes from The Pioneer Woman Cooks. I’m attempting to cook every one of her recipes (in the book, not her site!) by the end of the summer, and am not sure if I’ll make it, having extended my deadline once already. Doing my best, though! :D
Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes are awesome. The batter comes together really easily, and they’re the most tender pancakes I’ve ever made, despite some over eager stirring by a certain over eager child I know. Super fast, super easy. I’ll definitely add them to my list of special weekend breakfasts.
Huevos Hyacinth is a dish I’ve read about a few times, and basically is lining a ramekin with ham and some other fixings, cracking an egg over it and broiling a couple of minutes until soft cooked. I really want to like it, since I like soft boiled eggs, and I love all the ingredients, but for some reason they seemed too runny to me. I might give it a go once more, with the dishes one notch lower under the broiler to try to achieve that elusive perfect degree of cooked v. runny. I like runny yolks, but not uncooked egg whites. It is an awfully pretty meal, I will say that!
Both these recipes are in the book only, so I’m sorry, but I can’t share a link to photos and a recipe… bummer!

My Two Sons

Sometimes I look at these stinkers and just laugh. They’re like twins separated by two years, right?


No? Well, they are nearly the same height and weight, at least. In most other ways they’re mirror opposites, which amuses me to no end.


I mean, look. In spite of an active toddler life, and an abundance of energy, Cole can only be described as burly. Ample. I remain confident that his healthy diet and all the time he spends playing outdoors, as well as systematically dismantling the house will pay off, and that he will always be a big, healthy boy, but with less baby fat. In the meantime, I mostly marvel at the differences between these two.


When Carter turns sideways, he very nearly disappears. Cole is there no matter how you turn him. He’s also determined to be involved in everything his older siblings do. He’s there, that way, too.



The big kids were jumping off the water feature into a large puddle they made in the sand area at the park yesterday. Over and over they jumped, hooting and whooping. Cole seemed busy doing his own thing…


…but eventually the little dude had to see what all the fuss was about. Ironically, he’s not nearly as brave as you might expect. In fact, he has a couple oddball phobias that I’ve never had to deal with before. He has this thing about his face being covered--or even wipe--that makes cleaning him and changing shirts particularly difficult. You’d think I’m killing the boy when I approach him with a washcloth!

So, he spent a lot of time mentally preparing for the big jump. I understand – I hate heights. :)

Ultimately he decided for the slide approach. It’s not going to win him any style points, but it works.



It works a LOT better than his hiding technique!


In fact, he may well be the world’s worst hider. :)


Friday, May 28, 2010

{this moment :: backwards day}


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Co-op Cookin’: Chard Rolls


Chard, chard, chard.  CHARD!  I have lotsa chard.  I need to figure out lotsa ways to make chard.  This is one I made up last week, based on cabbage rolls.  We adults liked it a lot – possibly more than with cabbage – and my 8 year old didn’t complain, which, some days, is a victory. :)

Chard Rolls with Homemade Tomato Sauce
2 28 oz cans whole tomatoes
1/2 stick butter
1 small onion, peeled and cut in half
8 large Swiss chard leaves, stem removed
1 green garlic, sliced thinly (could also use green onion, regular garlic, etc)
1 Leek, quartered and sliced thinly
1 lb ground beef
1/2 c oatmeal or breadcrumbs, whichever you have or prefer
1 egg, beaten lightly 
salt and pepper to taste
1.5 c chicken broth

cooked rice
sour cream (optional)
Sauce: Combine canned tomatoes, butter, and onion in a large sauce pan.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a simmer.  Cook 45 minutes.  Remove onion and blend sauce to desired consistency.
Rolls: Combine garlic, leeks, beef, oatmeal and eggs in bowl and mix until just combined.  Divide into 8 oblong 3” portions.  Overlap the two sides of a chard leaf where the stem was removed and place a portion of beef there, then roll inside leaf as you would a burrito.  Place roll, seam side down in skillet with lid.  Repeat with remaining leaves and beef portions.   Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  Cook until instant read thermometer reads about 165, about 10 minutes.  Discard any remaining broth.
Serve over rice topped with tomato sauce and sour cream.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Co-op Cookin’: Garlicky Lentils

It’s funny how we sometimes decide we don’t like a food simply on principle.  Until a couple of years ago, I’d never had lentils, and never felt the need to try them, despite knowing how iron and fiber rich they are.  They seemed mysterious and suspect—like something I was either not old or exotic enough to appreciate.

Then I actually had them, and slapped my own forehead.  We loved the smoky simplicity and were cured of our lentil prejudice for good.

Here’s one favorite recipe, modified for co-op produce on hand.  Diced onion can be substitued for leek and garlic cloves stand in perfectly for the green garlic.  I buy precooked lentils from Trader Joe’s (I believe it’s the Melissa’s brand repackaged for TJ’s)—of course cooking from dried is fine, too!

Garlicky Lentils

1/4 c Olive Oil
1 green garlic, sliced thinly (could also use green onion, regular garlic, etc)
1 Leek, quartered and sliced thinly
1 pkg Prepared Lentils (or 3 c cooked at home)
1/4 c Chicken Broth
1/3 c chopped fresh parsley

Prep: In small bowl, combine oil and garlic; set aside.  In medium pot over medium heat, saute leek for 1 min, then add lentils and chicken broth.  Cover and simmer for 3-5 min, then turn off heat.  Stir in oil/garlic mixture and parsley, then serve.

Braised bratwurst, garlicky lentils, escarole salad with strawberries

Friday, May 21, 2010

{this moment}


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Make It Work.

A while back I mentioned that I was trying to make better use of the limited storage and counter space in my kitchen instead of merely whining about it, which, while cathartic, was producing zero results.  I know, go figure.  :)

Remembering one in my kitchen growing up, I decided a tiered hanging basket might help contain all the fruit, a problem for a few days a week after ‘grocery day’ because of counters covered with melons, etc., blocking the door to the microwave, causing a lot of mumbled cursing as the grown ups knocked things over and into the sink.  After a bout of analysis paralysis, I ordered one off Amazon.  Some reviews complained of a cheap chain that breaks easily, but I crossed my fingers and clicked.

The chains were indeed dinky.  First, they all broke near the topmost links when Carter was giving the baskets a spin.  I was able to fix it, but then it broke again, and again, and we finally didn’t have enough chain to work with.  Also, I was rather tired of horribly bruised fruit.  Blech.

Paul suggested I, um… not buy the absolute cheapest model, since we knew we liked the baskets: his words were, “You’ve proved the concept, but we need better construction.”  I read more reviews and damn if that chain problem wasn’t mentioned for the $50 baskets as often as the $12 one.

It was time to make it work, I decided.  So, off to Ace Hardware the boys and I went (small boys LOVE hardware stores, and I love Ace because they actually ask you how they can help you).  $2 later I had some lengths of chain that can hold as much as 90 lbs ready to take home, and… it works!  It’s been 2 months, so I feel pretty good about my fix, even if my husband thinks it looks a bit industrial.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Co-op Cookin’: Fresh Fava Beans with Green Garlic


Cooking for one’s family, day in, day out can be a challenge on so many levels. Back in the DINK days, it was easy-easy. First off, I am lucky that my husband is very adventurous about new foods and recipes—his only ‘rule’ pertains to fish: fresh only, no frozen. I made almost exclusively ‘new’ recipes and would joke that if Paul liked what I was making for dinner, he had better “enjoy the hell out of it because I might never make it again.” I wasn’t really kidding, though. There are a couple of dishes he remembers dimly (and probably as more delicious in his memory than in reality) and tries to describe to me to see if I’ll make them again. I never remember, though.

See, here’s the thing: I like making new foods far more than I really enjoy anything else about the whole eating process. I enjoy sitting down to supper most days, but sometimes I am so over what’s for dinner by the time I have looked at and and smelled it for an hour that I’d be happier with a ham sandwich. For me it is the cooking, not the eating.

Add in kids, and aaaallllll those snacks and meals, and I practically live in the dang kitchen. Thing is, they are not so much on the adventurous eating band wagon. Bunny and Cole will eat a variety of foods, and Carter is moving along slowly, but they’re not going to get excited about paella anytime soon. New veggies? No thanks. No, reallyno thank YOU.

Getting back into the co-op groove means new foods. I love it and am determined to get a new taste or flavor inside little tummies a few times a week if I can. It’s different being handed a mixed bag of fresh produce. Here you go – make something of THIS.

Sometimes it’s intimidating! Before I ever joined the CSA, I’d only heard of fava beans, really. I’m sure they were in the produce section somewhere, but I sure wasn’t seeing them.

Anyway, I’m going to document some new recipes along the way. Here’s the first. :)

This week was the first week fava beans were large enough to warrant shelling. Young favas can be cut into bite sized pieces and eaten pod and all, but after a few weeks it’s time to get a’shelling. My kids seem to love helping with shelling, pushing the button on the salad spinner, etc., so it’s pretty quick work.

Fresh Fava Beans with Green Garlic

fava beans, shelled
1 green garlic, sliced thinly (could also use green onion, regular garlic, etc)
unsalted butter
salt to taste

Prep: Steam beans for 5 mins, then, if desired, remove the beans from their silvery-grey ‘coats.’ Quickly saute garlic in butter, then add beans.

This is so simple, but it was great. Plus, if you go by the mantra that one eats with their eyes first, this is some eye candy!

007 Salmon with favas and fauxtatoes (whipped cauliflower).

Water, Soil, Sunlight…

This year we managed to get our tomatoes into the ground at a great time – unlike last year when I froze out one ‘start’ because of a late March frost.  Whoops!

Paul and Bunny ventured out and returned with 4 beautiful plants to afford us a variety from cherry tomatoes to big old beefsteak.  It was a good thing they went, because I’d have probably chosen heirloom plants, which are peskier to keep happy during our extreme heat months.  Ultimately, as much as I love the colors and novelty of heirlooms (novelty and heirloom… hmm…), what we really want is to be overwhelmed with tomatoes come midsummer.  Good thing I was taken out of the equation!

After digging and digging, the area in which we grew a few very successful plants a couple of years ago was prepped—even with some of my ‘homemade’ dirt that my little worm ‘pets’ have been busily making.  Yesterday I asked Paul which plant was which variety, merely out of curiosity, since it really doesn’t matter – it’ll be obvious which is a roma and which is a cherry soon enough and they all have the same requirements anyway.

Well, this uncertainty would simply not do for my daughter!  Proper signage was in order, pronto.  I have seen a few super cute ways to make both sophisticated and childish veggie signs, but Bunny came up with her own design.


These puppies are certainly not going to last a month, being made out of construction paper.  They’ve probably faded a few shades in the past day alone, going by some gnarly results of… let’s call them experiments involving leaving a dark colored item of clothing outside in a sunny spot for 2 days straight.

I love the names for each variety.





This one is completely correct.  Boo.  ;)

Friday, May 14, 2010

{this moment}


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.

Friday, May 07, 2010

{this moment}


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Some Days

I only have the three children, but there are days…


…when I can really relate to this fine mama.

Monday, May 03, 2010

A Walk in the Park – Literally.

Yesterday I took the kids to Happy Hollow. I know… on a SUNDAY! What the heck was I thinking? Actually I was thinking, “Paul needs to get some reading done and I need to get out of the house with these kids so I don’t become the hush-hush woman again.”

I never take the kids to, well, pretty much any kiddie attraction on weekend days because I find we all lack the patience to stand and stand (and stand) in line. I like the weekday crowds much better, thanks. I also like that it’s not necessary to have my 2 year old tethered to me to keep from losing Mr. Wanderlust.

So yeah, this was looking to be a spectacular idea. Onward, soldiers! Yay, Happy Hollow on Sunday afternoon!

The parking lots close to the entrance were full to bursting, so I decided we’d just have to park way down at the farthest lot, and have a little walk.

Let me tell you: for me, the walk was the highlight of the afternoon! We really enjoyed it, and it was the first time we entered the Japanese Friendship Garden. It blew me away, and I practically filled my memory card with photos. I could pretty much point the camera anywhich way and get a beautiful shot.


I have an oddball fascination/appreciation for Japanese culture and aesthetic—must be all the apparent anal retentiveness offset by utter goofiness—so I was grooving on this place!


And, hey! Ducks!


Carter plopped down and insisted we watch the duckies paddle about for a nice long while.


It was remarkably easy to forget there was a busy city all around us. Well, until the announcer at the baseball field said something over the loudspeakers… except for that, it was just like being isolated. Actually, though the place was crawling with people gawking at everything, much as we were, the signs requesting that tranquility be maintained really did work. It’s a pleasant place!


Sometime we’ll need to picnic here and skip the (way overpriced, way under-tasty) concessions at Happy Hollow.


Right about there looks nice…


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