May 18, 2012

one year + 100th post + Hawaiian meatballs

Today is the one year birthday of my little blog. Were I not so tired, I would do some sort of review of the
last year of blog posts, perhaps highlighting my favorites and not-so-favorites.

It is also the 100th post. Only because I am a little OCD about stuff like that, so when I realized it could be the first birthday and post number 100, I had to do it.

Also, my mom came over today and we made one of Lane's favorite dishes: Hawaiian meatballs. Since all I want right now is to crawl into bed with a big bowl of life for dessert, I will just say this about the meatballs: sweet, salty, good.

Oh, and this about my mom: fun, good cook, I love her.

This time last year: Fruit Salad (kind of a lame post, actually, especially to begin a blog with) and Brie, Mango, Cilantro, and Red Onion Quesadillas

Hawaiian meatballs
adapted from Joy of Cooking

for the meatballs:
1 lb ground meat (we used chicken breast, other meats will contain more oil)
1 slice bread, crumbled
1/4 tsp yellow mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp minced ginger
1/4 c soisin sauce (1/2 soy sauce, 1/2 hoisin sauce)
1/3 c pineapple, chopped
1/4 of a green bell pepper, chopped
2 tsp lime juice
vegetable oil

for the salsa:
2 c pineapple, chopped
3/4 of a green bell pepper, chopped
handful of cilantro
green part of 1 green onion, sliced

for serving:
4 cups cooked Basmati rice
more soisin sauce (see above)

Combine the meatball ingredients and form into about 16 equal-sized balls. Heat a couple tbsps of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and add as many meatballs as will fit without them touching one another. Allow the meatballs to brown on all sides, repeating with as many batches as nessesacry. Then place them on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads at least 165 degrees.

Combine all the ingredients for the salsa in a medium bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve the meatballs with the salsa, rice, and soisin sauce. Enjoy.

May 17, 2012

peanut butter cookies with pretzels and chocolate chunks

Sweet and salty, chewy and crunchy, chocolate and peanut butter. These cookies are a pregnant gals dream come true (well, aside from maybe unlimited free foot massages).

These cookies are delicious, and also a little less guilt-inducing than the recipe on the back of a chocolate chip bag: they contain no butter and are partially whole wheat. At least, that's the excuse I am giving myself for eating three consecutively after lunch today.

Peanut Butter Cookies with Pretzels and Chocolate Chunks
adapted from "Peanut Chews" from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book

1 c smooth all-natural peanut butter
1/2 c dark brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
1 large egg
1/4 c water
2 tbsp corn syrup (honey also works here)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c white flour
heaping 1/2 cup pretzels, broken into small bits
3 or 4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
course salt (I was classy and dug out the pretzel salt from the bottom of the bag, this worked out quite well)

Cream together the first nine ingredients (peanut butter through salt), until smooth. Add the flour and stir until combined. The dough will become very stiff, use a stand-up mixer if you have one. Stir in the pretzels and chocolate.

Drop heaping tablespoon-fuls onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Either flatten the cookies by pressing a pretzel into the top of each one, or you can do the classic criss-cross shape using a fork (dip the fork in water when it begins to stick to the dough). Sprinkle with salt.

Bake the cookies for 9-12 minutes at 350 degrees, rotating the baking sheets half way through. The key here is to remove the cookies as the edges are beginning to brown, but the middles are just a bit on the wobbly side still. This will ensure chewy cookies with crisp edges. If they bake too long, they will harden.

Eat warm. Enjoy.

May 16, 2012

they are small people who will one day be big

Although my full-time job is being a mom, I am always a little nervous to write posts about parenting. I am afraid that you dear readers will glance over these posts thinking "Who is she to give parenting advice? What makes her an expert?" Being a parent obviously does not make me an expert, and I am well aware of this.

However, I did receive such nice and positive responses from the last parenting post that I have decided to try my hand at it again.

The subject of this post is something that has been on my mind lately: raising our children to know how to interact socially. There are many books and lectures and people who probably have PhD's on the subject, but what I have been thinking about is how our behavior as parents towards our children shapes their social behavior.

I see a lot of parent's who are positive role models for their children; but, sadly, I also see so many interactions (or worse, lack of interactions) that are not teaching good social behavior.
(Disclaimer again here: I know I am not perfect, and I am sure someone has shaken their head at something I have done as a parent.)

There are small courtesies that we need to be teaching our children by modeling to them. Open the door for your children. Turn down your music and make eye contact with them when they are telling you something. If you are handing them something and you drop it, say "oh, whoops, sorry," pick it up, and give it to them. Can you imagine if you were handing a pen to a stranger in line at the bank, or towel to a friend who was doing dishes, and you dropped it, and then just left it on the floor for them to pick up? You wouldn't, because that would be rude. (If you would, perhaps you need to reevaluate your social behavior!) What gets me the most is when parents become upset at their children for being rude, when the child was never modeled the polite way to do something in the first place. (Think of all the times you have heard someone growling in a terrifying voice "Don't you talk to me that way!" as they themselves are speaking horribly to their child.)

Children will mimic your actions; often at a younger age than you may think. Here is an example: At the end of dinner, Lane will often clear the table. Sometimes I will do it, too. Each time we take the dishes to the sink. The other person always thanks the table-clearer. I have never asked James to clear his dishes, I always do it for him. However, the other day he was sitting on a bar stool at the counter eating a bowl of yogurt (his favorite food in the world right now, by the way). When he was done, he slid off the bar stool and grabbed his bowl and spoon. "James, what are you doing?" I asked, imagining all the places he could take the bowl and spread the remains of the yogurt. He didn't reply, but walked right past me to the kitchen sink, where he deposited both spoon and bowl. James isn't even two years old. You see what I mean? He saw us modeling helpful behavior, and, without being asked, he began to do the same thing.

Another thing I want to touch on is electronics. I realize they are useful, and handy, and blah blah blah, I can't stand them! I truly feel like we are losing an entire generation of social inter-actors to text messages and X-boxes. But is it fair for us to limit their "screen time" when we sit at our laptops perusing the web while we should be playing with them? What about all the parents on cell phones at the park? Oh my gosh, don't even get me started! Okay, since I am started: I understand the need every once in a while to answer an important call (I really do know this, since we have been trying to purchase a house- and still are, more on that later- for over a year), but these parents who are just chatting with a friend, or text messaging, or looking through facebook, or whatever it may be... James and I always end up playing with the kids of such parents at the park (or even the library) and they instantly glomb onto me because they are so excited that someone is finally paying attention to them.

Okay, whew, breathe. I really didn't intend for this to be a rant against what I interpret as bad parenting. My point is, one day we will want to have a conversation with our child (or someone will) and it will not be possible because they won't know how to have a face to face interaction without text messaging or updating their facebook status throughout it ("My mom is blabbering on about something again... who wants to go see a movie later?"). One day we will want our children to have successful with relationships with friends, other family members, and eventually a spouse, and to do this, they will need to know how to treat people like people: help carry bags, open doors, offer to help with the dishes, say "bless you" when someone sneezes (James blesses me for everything, including yawns). The best way for them to learn this is for us to show the same courtesies towards them. They are people too, just a little smaller.

And, for pete's sake, get off your cell phone.

May 15, 2012

a picnic a week: sammies in the park

Happily, Mother's Day was very low-key this year.

My mom and I packed up the kitchen all morning, and we ordered Thai take-out for lunch. 

After she left, James and I took a long nap, then we made a family Costco trip. (side note: I purchased my Mother's Day gift at Costco; The Incredibles DVD. There is a coupon right now, so hurry!)

Lane suggested we grab some sandwiches after shopping, then head to the park to eat them. (oh, how he will love me if he sees this post and this picture of him)

The sandwiches were certainly nothing to write home about, but, as we were ordering, the man at the counter said something like "Would you like to add any drinks, chips, or a giant pickle to your order?" My response was "What about a giant pickle?! Yes!" It was so delicious, but so giant that I had to share. 

Altogether a pretty anti-climactic park trip.
I also photographed a few of James many "owies" from the weekend. It was a rough one.

I used my little pocket-sized camera to take these pictures, and my computer doesn't seem to want to turn this picture right-side-up, but I had to include it because it was so cute that James pointed out his owies.

To end a fairly boring post, I must give a huge thank-you to everyone who read and commented on our announcement. That was by far the most exciting part of my Mother's Day.

May 13, 2012

a mother's day announcement...

"Platform shoes on table tops, I think I'm gonna be a ladyOpinions flyin' right and left, I think I'm gonna tell them maybeThey're puttin' out too many phonograph records
I think I'm gonna have a baby."-Carly Simon, Hotcakes album

Yes, folks, it's true. James is going to be a big brother. Lane and I are going to be "Mama" and "Dada" to another little munchkin. Whoa.

To catch you up to speed, here are some FAQ's:
Q: Was this one planned? A: um, yes
Q: When are you due?A: They say November 24th; but we all know how babies are, so probably more like December 1st. I am 12 weeks now.
Q: What is it?A: It's a baby! We won't find out the gender until around early July. And, yes, we are definitely finding out. 

Q: How are you feeling?A: Much better, thank you. I was miserably nauseous from about 5 to 9 weeks. And dizzy. And did I mention the nausea?
Q: Are you having any cravings?A: Oh yeah. Mostly salty. As in, buying cases of black olives from Costco. I've also craved some downright bizarre stuff that the thought of now makes me want to puke. For some reason or another, pregnancy has made me even more sensitive to dairy. Also, meat is totally unappealing. So, we have kind of gone vegan, which Lane loves, of course (cough, ha). I still can't give up butter, though. (side note: the other day I was feeling a little down about the semi-vegan-ness because I really like cheese, and then I realized vegans can eat peanut butter and jelly. Hooray!)
Q: Are you showing yet?A: Yes! So much earlier than I ever did with James. I even feel like I beginning the mom-waddle a little. Or maybe it's all the olives I've been eating.

Q: How does James feel about all of it?A: He is still trying to figure it out. He says things like "Baby, Mama tum!" Which means there is a baby in my stomach. He lifts up my shirt and looks for it sometimes. We have explained to him that the baby (and Mama's tum) is going to grow big, and then it will come out and live with us. He is a bit confused about this part. I don't blame him. It still baffles me.

So happy Mother's Day to all you moms, including those with "baby in tum."

May 11, 2012

tiny sesame crackers

Just the other day I declared to my husband that I was through baking with James. I usually love to cook with him: letting him stir things, add in ingredients, push the button on the food processor. But lately he has been following his own creativity in the kitchen, and sometimes we just don't see eye to eye on things.

For example, he thought there should be chili powder in the lentil mix for the wraps I made. He also thought chili powder would add a nice touch to the dining room floor. In addition, he seems to be following the school of thought that you can just throw as much or little of any ingredient into a bowl, bake it, and it will turn out just fine, regardless of how many times I may say "No, James, we have enough flour in the bowl now." Or, "James, you have already doubled the baking powder that was called for, please don't put any more in."

Despite my declaration to bake only at nap time or at night, I caved today when he decided he wanted to put on his apron and "help" make something. I figured we could use some snack crackers, so I grabbed the whole grain cook book and thumbed through to see what we could make from the ingredients in our pantry.

This resulted in James eating spoonfuls of sesame seeds ("Good!") and pouring sugar everywhere. He somehow also managed to get sesame seeds on his chubby little feet.

Sigh. At least the crackers turned out delicious.

Tiny Sesame Crackers
adapted from King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking

1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter, chilled
5 tbsp sesame seeds
1/3 c milk
1 tsp sesame oil (optional)

Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingers until the butter is well incorporated and the texture is like cornmeal. Stir in the sesame seeds.

Heat half the milk with the sesame oil over medium heat until warm. (skip that step if not using the oil) Combine all the milk and the oil together into the flour mixture. Mix well to combine until a thick dough forms.

Place half the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to about a 7 inch by 8 inch rectangle. Cut into 1 inch square crackers and transfer to non stick baking sheet or a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325 for 15-17 minutes, or until the crackers are firm and the edges are just beginning to become a golden-brown. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Roll out the scraps from the first two batches only once, otherwise it will become too tough.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container. Enjoy.

May 08, 2012

lentil wraps with tahini sauce in homemade pitas

I am a little disappointed in myself for completely ignoring the holiday last weekend which would have given me every excuse to get my Latina blood flowing and create some sort of Central American themed delights. Instead, we spent the weekend running around like chickens with our heads cut off.

First of all, I worked two shifts at my favorite coffee shop. After the shift Saturday (which began at 5:30, mind you) we headed over to my cousins for a Cinco de Mayo/ birthday/ house warming. On Sunday we were supposed to attend another house warming after I was off work, but found out that a potential renter was going to come see our house, so we frantically scrubbed, then ran to the park right in time for them to show up. (Luckily, they liked the place, so our landlords will not have a house sitting vacant for long. On the other hand, maybe this means we should start packing?)

On our way to the multi-themed party we swung by Trader Joe's to buy some flowers, and a snack. The snack was a wrap similar to this one, but I was sure I could make it better at home. Not to brag, but I was right.

Lentil Wraps with Tahini Sauce in Homemade Pitas

for the lentil mixture:
1 1/2 cup cooked lentils
1/2 cup chopped white onion
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp water
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 cup parsley

for the tahini sauce:
1/4 c sesame seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp water
large garlic clove, chopped
1/4 c parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
large sprinkle salt
pinch red pepper flakes
sprinkle cumin

Combine all the lentil mixture ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Do the same with the tahini sauce ingredients. I was not able to make the tahini sauce a smooth mixture; adding liquid seemed to help, I would like to know the secret to this if anyone has better luck.

for the homemade pitas:
adapted from Bread Machine Magic
1 1/8 cups water
2 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1  1/2 tsp sugar
1  1/2 tsp Red Star active dry yeast for bread machines

Combine ingredients in bread machine*, and select "dough" setting. (Or if you have a machine like mine, set it so that only the first two cycles, knead and first rise, are accomplished.).

Once it is done, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it into a thick log. Cut the log into two even pieces, and continue to divide pieces until you have eight similar sized pieces. Using your hands, roll these into balls. Then, using a rolling pin, roll into discs about 6 inches in diameter. Cover them with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise while you preheat the oven to 500 degrees (about 20 minutes).

When the oven is ready, bake the pitas on a non-stick or slightly floured baking sheet, four at a time, for about 5 minutes. When you remove them from the oven, place them on a plate and cover with a damp towel so that they soften, about ten minutes.

*If you don't have a bread machine, these look pretty darn good also.

Toppings for the wraps:
shredded cabbage
thinly sliced bell pepper
thinly sliced red onion
spinach (I didn't try this, but I think it would also be good)
lemon wedges

Assemble your wraps: Cut open each pita half way and layer lentil mixture, tahini sauce, cabbage, bell peppers, red onion, any leftover parsley, or whatever else sounds good. Serve with lemon wedges on the side. Enjoy.

May 06, 2012

lentil, quinoa, cauliflower garden burgers

The search for a good garden burger is not an easy one. There are the weird ones that are made to taste like meat, completely abolishing the point of eating a vegetarian hamburger. Then there are the ones that seem to be made of all sorts of grains: oats, bread crumbs, barley, etc. While I am certainly not opposed to carbs, it seems to be overkill to place a patty of oats on a bun made of grains. 

I wanted to come up with a recipe that contained protein and vegetables. So I grabbed a bunch of odds and ends from the pantry...

...added some sauteed veggies...

...mixed them all together...

 ...formed them into patties, cooked them up...

 ... added all sorts of toppings, and ate them.

Lentil, Quinoa, Cauliflower Garden Burgers

2 tbsp olive oil
1 heaping cup of chopped leeks
3 c cauliflower florets
sprinkle of salt and pepper
1 1/2 c lentils, cooked (about 3/4 cook lentils uncooked)
1 c quinoa
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
4 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire
sprinkle hot sauce
1 humongous clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 egg + 1 egg white

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add leeks. As they begin to brown, add cauliflower. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Cook until cauliflower is slightly browned and tender. Put into a blender or food processor and pule until chopped finely (or chop finely).

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil, add quinoa. Reduce to simmer and cover. Allow quinoa to absorb water and fluff with a fork.

In a large bowl combine 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and next six ingredients (through olive oil). Whisk well. Add in cooked lentils, quinoa, sunflower seeds, and chopped cauliflower/leek mixture. Beat in egg and egg white with a fork.

Heat a large pan over medium heat and brush lightly with olive oil. Form the mixture into patties a few inches across and about 1/2 inch thick. Allow patties to cook well (the patties should no longer stick to the pan when cooked), then flip and allow to brown on the other side. Serve on a good bun with all the fixin's. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: I can't lead you to believe that these patties stuck together well. You really have to pack them together tightly, and be extremely careful when flipping. Also, do not use too much oil when cooking and do not let the heat get too high or low. Aside from all that, they are easy to make, really!

May 02, 2012

blueberry lime scones

The last 24 hours have been a bit chaotic around here because, as you may know since I keep bringing it up, we finally bought a house after our crazy house hunt, and I was informed Tuesday afternoon that a potential renter is coming to look at our rental house tomorrow morning.

Our landlords have been so amazing to us that I want the house to look perfect and be absolutely spotless when the possible renters come to take a look at it. Unfortunately, due to recent illness (and the fact that one of the current renters is a toddler) our house is the opposite of spotless. My list of "to-dos" for today was about a mile long and included, but was in no way limited to: "deep clean bathrooms, deep clean kitchen, sweep and scrub all floors"... on and on it went. I had plans to go visit my dad, but cancelled so that I could stay home and clean. By about dinner time I decided that the house was actually probably in worse shape than if we had been gone all day. I have been trying to think of something witty to write on our chalkboard that would explain the mess to the people who will be touring through our home, but all I can think of is simply writing "I wish I could say it doesn't always look like this."

I am definitely the type of person that adds things to my to-do lists that were not there originally, but I need the satisfaction of crossing them off. Over the last two days it has been things like: "play at the park, stay up way too late watch episodes of Monk when I should be cleaning or sleeping, make scones a third time in less than a week to make sure the recipe I made up is actually good"... which brings me to the real point of this post: the scones.

After making three batches, James and I have deemed the recipe "blog worthy" and so here it is. And, honestly, I'm not too sad that we had to experiment by making three batches (he helped with every one of them) when we should have been scrubbing the floors.

Blueberry Lime Scones
makes 8 good sized scones

2 cups flour (I used 1 all-purpose and 1 whole wheat pastry)
1/3 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1 or 2 limes
1/2 c butter, cold and cut into cubes
1/2 c milk (anything from heavy cream to soy milk will work)
1 egg
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 c blueberries (I used frozen and tried to remove excess moisture)
1 tbsp turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)

Place dry ingredients (flour through lime zest) into a food processor and pulse until mixed well. Add butter and pulse until a mixture resembling course sand has formed.

Beat the egg into the milk and pour into the dry ingredients, pulsing to incorporate. Add lime juice, mixing the  entire time. Gently stir blueberries into the dough.

Turn the dough out onto a well greased baking sheet and form into a round, flat shape, about 1 inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges and attempt to separate the wedges. (If this doesn't work, you can also remove after baking about 15 minutes and separate the wedges then.) Sprinkle evenly with the turbinado sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the scones are light brown on top. Serve warm. Enjoy.

May 01, 2012

a brunch menu

I made breakfast for dinner a few evenings ago and the whole while I couldn't help wishing that I was actually making it for breakfast. And I wished it was a party.

What I mean is, I realized that the menu was so simple, fresh, tasty, and filling that I wanted it to be brunch time and to have my kitchen bustling with several guests sipping coffee and mimosas, and all trying to help out, but actually getting in the way (that is how all dinner parties unfold at our house, and I wouldn't have it any other way).

If you throw a brunch any time soon (plenty of eligible weekends coming up: mother's day, father's day, Pentecost... do you really need an excuse?), this is a great menu to use. You could hop over to the farmers market early in the morning and gather most of your ingredients, and then be home in time to brew the coffee and leisurely begin throwing it all together as your friends meander in, pour themselves a mimosa, and stand around in your kitchen.

loaf of artisan bread, sliced
12 medium red potatoes
1 large leek, sliced and then slices cut in half
good eggs (local = most fresh; pick some up at the farmers market)
olive oil
bacon or turkey bacon
berries or other fruit

Place potatoes on a baking sheet and cut an X on the top of each. Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the potatoes are easily cut with a knife, but not mushy. Wedge potatoes roughly.

Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium high, add a cup or so of chopped leeks to the pan and the potato wedges. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add olive oil as the potatoes cook to add moisture and ensure that they brown, turning every couple minutes.

Cook the bacon until crisp, then remove from pan. Add a couple tbsp of olive oil and then a few leeks to the pan, depending on how many eggs you will be cooking (about 1 tbsp leeks per egg). As soon as the leeks begin to brown add a couple tbsp butter (again, depending on the number of eggs, but make sure to coat the pan). When the butter has melted, crack the eggs right over the leeks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fry until done, flip if you want the eggs well done.

Toast the bread. Serve an egg over each slice of bread with potatoes, bacon, and fruit on the side. Enjoy.

PS if you want a sweet baked good to go with this menu, stay tuned and I will post it soon... hopefully tomorrow.