Monday, August 8, 2016

Six years old!

Middle had her sixth birthday last week while we were on vacation and she's headed to Kindergarten this fall.  She seems so big and still so little in so many ways . . . I've found that parenting is full of contradictions like this.  Over the past year, Middle has been working on this list of things that have happened since her 5th birthday so I think her 6th is the perfect time to share it:

Things I have been able to do since I'm 5
- Pour milk into cereal by myself
- Go on an elevator and escalator by myself
- Snorkel by myself
- Stand up paddle board
- See a sea cucumber
- Scooter to the park by myself
- Learn how to play frisbee
- Read some words
- Catch a frog

Middle is a noticer and a nurturer.  She loves all of God's creatures, great and small, and wants to work with animals.  She finds things and has a great eye for detail, fashion, and the things that the rest of us sometimes pass right by.  We are so glad to have her in our family!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Salad of the summer

We have a salad with dinner almost every night.  In the summer, it's not uncommon for the salad to be the dinner.  Last night, I mixed up some sliced peaches, rotisserie chicken, spinach, and bleu cheese and drizzled it with a balsamic vinaigrette and called it dinner.  It was good, but every year, there seems to be some salad that I fall in love with and make a billion times.  The recipe below is the salad in the photo above - it's a crunchy salad because of the seeds and nuts and the kale and romaine mix with this dressing will convince even your most reluctant kale eaters!

Here are some of the summer salads of the past:

This is a very rough recipe - I'll try to actually measure next time so I can edit and update!  But for now, this works - you can't really mess it up, just don't add all the dressing at once.  Use your judgment since there's not an exact amount of greens.

Crunchy Kale Salad:

Chop some kale into bite sized pieces.  Mix with about an equal amount chopped romaine and a cup of broccoli slaw (or chopped raw broccoli).  Toss in a bowl with this dressing:  Whisk together 4 T brown sugar, 1 tsp. salt, 6 T rice wine vinegar, some tabasco, 1/2 cup canola oil.  Let it set for about 10-15 minutes.  Then, mix in  toasted sliced almonds, toasted sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries before serving.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Atlanta Trip 2016

Our first trip of the summer was a long weekend trip to the Atlanta area to celebrate my husband's grandma's 93rd birthday.  Fifteen years ago we got married on grandma's birthday and we've made it a point to remember that date :)

Here are some photos of this special trip to the south:
In the Super Shuttle - all ready for a day of travel

We made it!  In Atlanta with Aunt Sharon

Really fun visit to the Center for Puppetry Arts

Enjoying water activities with NO CAST!

Hanging out with Great Grammy

Celebrating Gram's 93rd birthday

Arguably the best part of the trip for Middle - hanging out with Barkley

Enjoying the southern tradition of sitting on the porch

A fantastic New Orleans style farewell dinner at Henry's in Acworth

We also had so much great food.  From another visit to Henry's, to an amazing french toast casserole (that we even drizzled bourbon over and had for dessert the next day) to a fabulous birthday party menu - I had to work out extra after the trip!  This was one of my favorite things that our aunt made - a fresh, summery side dish that I'll be making soon.

Corn, Tomato & Avocado Salad (4 side dish servings)

1 pint grape tomatoes
1 ripe avocado
2 ears fresh sweet corn
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
one lime, juiced
3 T vegetable oil
1 T honey
1 clove garlic, minced
dash of cayenne pepper

Grill corn until it has some brown spots.  Cut off the cobb and set aside to cool.  Slice tomatoes in half and dice avocado.  Combine with the corn and cilantro.

For the dressing, whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Mix gently with the vegetables.  Let it sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Zucchini Basil Cous Cous

Our garden is growing!  It has a lot of direct sunlight and with the heat, some things didn't make it (most of our strawberries, broccoli, lettuce) but other things are coming in great (zucchini, carrots, herbs, sunflowers, tomatoes, and chile peppers).  It's small but the girls have delighted in planting, watering, and especially picking.  Our zucchini plant is hard to keep up with - we've given away some to family and neighbors and I've been making lots of new and old favorite zucchini recipes.  Middle loves it just steamed or sautéed with a little salt and has been opposed to grating and baking with it which is actually great.

You could do lots with this basic recipe - varying the herb that you use (mint? thyme?) to go with the rest of your meal would be a start.  I was thinking some feta cheese would also be a good addition for next time.

Zucchini & Basil Cous Cous (8 side dish servings)
Original recipe from Food Network

10 oz couscous
2 cups chicken broth
2 T olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cloves minced garlic
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 T green onion, sliced
2 T basil, sliced thin
salt & pepper

Bring the broth to a boil.  Stir in the couscous, remove from heat and cover.  Let it stand for about 5 minutes.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil.  Add the red pepper flakes, garlic, zucchini, and green onions.  Cook until tender (about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Fluff the couscous with a fork and fold in vegetables.  Stir in the basil.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Cold Supper

With hot weather returning to Southern California, cold suppers have replaced my usual rotation of soups and sandwiches.  This new version of a chicken soba noodle salad was a big hit and I wished I had made double the recipe.  It comes together super easy and hit the spot!  Ingredient note:  If you don't want the spiciness of the chili oil, you can leave it out and serve some Sriracha on the side or replace with some red pepper flakes.  You can also substitute whole wheat spaghetti or rice noodles for the soba.

Chicken Soba Noodle Salad with Hoisin Dressing (serves 2)

1 tsp. sesame oil
2 T rice wine vinegar
3 T soy sauce
1 T hoisin
1 tsp. chili oil (optional)
5 T extra virgin olive oil

12 oz soba noodles
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 cup broccoli slaw

2-3 T chopped cilantro

Whisk together the first 6 dressing ingredients in a large bowl.    Add the chicken, stir, and let it stand at room temperature while you cook the soba noodles and chop the vegetables.  Cook soba noodles according to package instructions, drain, and rinse with cold water.  Add the drained noodles and vegetables to the bowl.  Top with the cilantro.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Asparagus Salad

Let's start with some family news . . . 

Middle had her preschool promotion and is off to Kindergarten in the fall!
Big broke her arm (jumping off her bike) and did her last school project for the year
The girls and their cousins performed an original play in a park in Claremont
Little went to Chuck E. Cheese for the first time and LOVED it
We are on major count down mode . . . I only have ONE more day on campus and ZERO more papers to grade.  Big has 4.5 days of 2nd grade left and the little girls already started preschool summer camp.  The warm weather, a fun Memorial Day BBQ with the cousins, and lots of outside time has us super excited for the summer.

As you head into summer, here is a side dish that I love.  I posted about it a long time ago, but there are a few things buried in the blog that I wanted to share again.  My girls love asparagus and we normally just grill it or roast it in the oven, but this tangy, crunchy topping is really delicious.  It would be a great thing to bring to a summer BBQ or potluck!  

Sarah's Asparagus with Bleu Cheese (serves 6)

1 1/2 lbs fresh asparagus cut into 2 inch wedges (I used 2 bunches)
2 small tomatoes, cut in wedges or diced
1/3 c. sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 c. crumbled bleu cheese

3 T cider vinegar
3/4 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1 T sugar (more or less depending on your taste)
1 T onion, diced or grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/3 c. vegetable oil.

Cook asparagus in boiling water for 3-5 minutes or steam it until it's "crisp tender" (al-dente?). Add the tomatoes.

In a blender, combine the dressing ingredients and process until smooth. Toss with the asparagus/tomato combination and sprinkle the almonds and bleu cheese on top.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bistro Jeanty Part I

It's been 7 months since our trip to Sonoma and Napa Valley for my husband's birthday and we're still thinking about the food we ate and places we visited.  A couple of weeks ago, I searched online and found the original recipe (reprinted below without changes) for the cream of tomato soup we had a Bistro Jeanty, a delicious french restaurant in Yountville.  Like many post-vacation experiments, my re-creation didn't live up to the original.  I skimped a little on the cream and I don't think my tomatoes were as fresh and flavorful as they could have been.  I may try it later this summer with farm fresh tomatoes.  The other thing that didn't work out so hot was the puff pastry top - imagine a puff pastry pot pie crust over the tomato soup.  Mine fell into the soup and I rescued it, made some puff pastry triangles to eat on the side, and was overall disappointed.  However, I believe in what I ate there and this recipe is from their chef, so I want to try it again and I hope if you try it, you have better luck!

Cream of Tomato Soup in Puff Pastry (serves 6)
From Bistro Jeanty (unedited)
½ cup butter unsalted
½ lb. Yellow onions-sliced
6 ea. Garlic cloves
1 ea. Bay leaf
½ T Whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. Dried thyme leaves
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 ½ lb. tomatoes-ripe, cored, and quartered
1 cup water (no more-use onlyif tomatoes are not ripe and juicy)
4 cups heavy cream
2- 4 Tbl. Butter
salt to taste
½ tsp. Ground white pepper
1 lb. Puff pastry-or store bought sheets
1 ea. Egg- beaten with 1 Tbl. of water

Melt the ½ cup butter in a large stockpot over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns; cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Do not let the onions color. Add tomato paste and lightly “toast” the tomato paste to cook out the raw flavor the add tomatoes, and water if needed. Simmer over low heat for 30-40
minutes, until the tomatoes and onions are very soft and broken down.

Puree by passing through a food mill. A food mill works best however you may use a blender in batches or a handheld immersion blender until finished, the strain. Return the soup o the pot. Add the cream, salt, white pepper and remaining butter to taste. Bring soup to a simmer the remove from heat. Allow the soup to cool for two hours or overnight - in the refrigerator.

Divide the soup among six 8-ounce soup cups or bowls. Roll out the puff pastry to 1/4 inch. Cut into 6 rounds slightly larger than your cups. Paint the dough with the egg wash and turn the circles, egg wash side down, over the tops of the cups, pulling lightly on the sides to make the dough somewhat tight like a drum. Try not to allow the dough to touch the soup. These may be made up to 24 hours in advance and covered with plastic in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly paint the top of the dough rounds with egg wash with out pushing the dough down. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is golden brown. Do not open the oven in the first several minutes as the dough may fall.  Serve immediately.