Birthday Week Menu

Okay, I sadly don’t have time to write an in-depth post about every meal in Scott’s birthday week.  But I do have time to tell you what recipes we used.  Not one was a loser.

And who gets the credit for this tasty menu?  Scott.  Birthday boy picks birthday food.  His birthday week always includes more fun recipes than mine does, but I have no one to blame but myself.  Now I just have to figure out what our kiddo wants for his first birthday week.  Cheerios covered in avocado?  Hmm.

  1. Nicoise Salad (The Kitchn)
  2. Fried Chicken (Pioneer Woman) with Buttermilk Biscuits and Salad
  3. Pesto-ish Chicken with Farfalle (inspired by Giada DeLaurentiis)… this is the only one that I did very much off-recipe.  I used a Southern Italian Herbed Chicken recipe from Giada and was going to use a Pesto Farfalle recipe as well.  Turns out the sauces were very similar, so I pieced them together into one recipe.  Made the chicken, made the uncooked sauce (much like pesto), made the pasta, combined into a heaping pile of deliciousness.  It saved lots of time, and we still had all of the tasty elements.  But I can vouch for the flavors of the Southern Italian Herbed Chicken.  You can find that recipe here or in Giada’s Feel Good Food.
  4. Green Chile Chicken (Pioneer Woman)… I used to swear by her Tequila Lime Chicken recipe, but I think there’s a chance that this is even better.  Maybe I would have to make them both in the same week so I could properly compare.  It’s a tough life.
  5. Bucatini All’Amatriciana with Spicy Smoked Mozzarella Meatballs (Giada De Laurentiis)… This one was not for the faint of heart.  There are multiple kinds of meat and cheese in the recipe.  Not a ton of veggies.  But.  It’s delicious.  So if you’re feeling like a bit of hearty Italian fare, you’ve found your recipe.  The flavors are rich and layered.  The pasta is a nice back-drop of simplicity for all of the richness.  It’s a winner.
  6. Thai-style Steak Salad (Serious Eats)… the only heresy I committed here was adding edamame to the salad.  It was nice to have the extra veggies in addition to all of those delicious herbs.  Lots of light, fresh flavor here.  Plus some steak so it isn’t too herby and light.  You would hate for it to be too light, you know?  🙂
  7. Cake!  The cake is important.  Hazelnut Crunch Cake with Mascarpone and Chocolate (Giada again, because we like her).

fullsizerender-6The cake was probably my favorite food of the week.  Big surprise, right?  The chocolate cake base was simple to make (thanks to the use of a box mix as recommended), and then it got fancy after that.  I’m terrible at making caramel anything, but the caramelized hazelnut crunch element wasn’t a killer.  And then everything together was just amazing.  Mascarpone whipped cream?  WITH CRUNCHY CARAMELIZED HAZELNUTS?  Yes, I’m screaming because it was so good.  But the kicker was the orange-chocolate crumble on top.  It was so unexpected and wonderful.  Thank you, Giada!

Happy birthday, Scott.  I’m glad you have such fun food taste.  Now it’s time to eat some lentils and spinach and 15-minute meals.  Whew.

Toasted Quinoa and Peach Baby Food? Heck Yes!!

Okay, this is going to be quick between finishing a batch of delicious baby food and doing the next step of homemade yogurt (and doing all of the katrillion dishes that I created last night and this morning… sigh).

I had a problem.  Babies eat baby food, right?  Baby food in the store is all fruits and veggies, unless you buy the super ridiculously expensive stuff that includes oats or quinoa or rice and some protein (mung beans and chicken???).  My baby doesn’t need food that fancy.

But he does need protein and grains.  Our kid will eat everything, which is awesome.  The only thing he has turned down is baby rice cereal, and I can’t really blame him.  It’s pretty darn bland.  That means he just eats fruit and veggies by the pound these days.  I wanted to help him meet the awesome world of other food so maybe he won’t get so hungry between meals.

I tried pureed chicken and pureed salmon with peas.  Both sound gross to me, but he’s game.  But I hadn’t really found a way to sneak in grains.  Enter a baby food cookbook and today’s super successful experiment.

Generally, I feel awesome about this.  I like the way it tastes, and little man has a healthy grain option that won’t eat into his college savings (sale quinoa).

(I promise this blog won’t henceforth be a baby food cookbook.  Just this once.  Or maybe a few times.  I also made Korean barbecue burritos and a super delicious corn and poblano taco filling recently.  Don’t worry.)

Toasted Quinoa and Peach Puree

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 peach, peeled and cut into large chunks

How To

  1.  Rinse the quinoa under cold water, then drain well.  Transfer to a medium pan and toast over high heat 5 minutes, stirring continuously, until any excess water evaporates and the quinoa is slightly brown and begins to pop.  Slowly add 2 cups water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer 30 minutes, or until tender.  If using a blender with a plastic container, let the quinoa cool before blending.*
  2. When the quinoa is cool (or hot, if your blender has a non-plastic container), put about half of it in the blender container.  Add peach and blend until smooth.  Add water until the mixture is your desired consistency (thicker if I was planning to feed it to little guy with a spoon, slightly thinner to go into a resealable food pouch).
  3. Put the delicious food into a serving/storage container and let your little person enjoy.
  4. Store the extra cooked quinoa for at-home dining (maybe with another veggie or a pureed meat option for baby).  I basically didn’t want to make a small serving, since this is a bit of a time commitment.  It’s like making awesome leftovers.  Why wouldn’t you?

*This step of the recipe is word for word (until the very last sentence) from page 47 of Healthy Eating for your Baby & Toddler by Renee Elliott.  Thank you, public library.  Thank you, Renee Elliott.  It seems like a good baby cookbook, although the ingredients are a bit exotic.  It’s a good starting point for figuring out how to create a balanced diet for a new person.  I’m planning to make the recipes a bit more low-key.  This recipe was originally mung beans with toasted quinoa.  I don’t have mung beans in my pantry.

 

Eggs Benedict with Apple Sausage and Mustard Hollandaise

Since I talk about food all the time, you can guess that there were foods I missed eating during pregnancy.  There are so many dern rules about what could hurt your baby, and it feels wrong to eat those things, even if the odds of actually hurting said baby are really slim.  So I tried to be good and avoid everything on the major “don’t eat this” pregnancy lists.

What did I miss most?  Strangely, the list consisted of Hollandaise sauce, lunchmeat, and wine.  It’s an odd assortment and not indicative of my normal eating habits, but that is in fact what I missed most.

So imagine how excited I was about a plan that involved us making Bobby Flay’s Eggs Benedict with Apple Sausage and Mustard Hollandaise for my family while they were here over Christmas.  No risk of hurting baby now, just tasty food.

The only blip in the plan was that as usual, we had bigger  menu plans than we had free time.   Sigh.  So our Eggs Benedict glory happened when no one was in town but little ol’ us.

It didn’t matter in the end.  It was still delicious.

The mustard Hollandaise had perfect tang to go with the poached eggs, and the apple sausage was just different enough to be really fun.  I mean, as fun as food can be (which is pretty fun,  in my opinion).

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I don’t recommend making this on the night that you decide to get your newborn to sleep in his crib no matter how sad that makes the newborn.  Hollandaise doesn’t go well with wailing baby.  Not many foods go well with wailing baby, actually.  But if you’re lucky and have a spouse who is willing to tag-team the cooking, you can go for it any ol’ time.  I made the sausage and prepped the other parts of the dish.  Scott made the Hollandaise and the eggs. And he took the picture.  Thanks, babe!

Neither of us had made a Hollandaise sauce before, but Bobby Flay’s instructions worked quite smoothly.  No fear the fancy sauce.

In other news, I keep thinking of funny life lessons I’ve learned in 6 weeks of parenting, and I then promptly forget them.  Yup.  Brain like a sieve.

Source of sieve brain?  This little guy:

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Who is now a happy crib-sleeper.  Yay!!!!

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Rosemary Skewers (Simple Enough for New Mom Brain)

Since it has been a while between posts, I’ll announce that A) Scott had a work Christmas party today, and B) I have New Mom Brain.  Two facts, one more fun than the other (I think the new baby is more fun, but I suppose there’s a case for free party food trumping late-night crying baby).  And now let me introduce you to a recipe that connects both of those facts: The Pioneer Woman’s Rosemary Skewers.

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photo by Ree Drummond

Okay, so the recipe is ALMOST New Mom Brain safe.  I made them last night for the work party today, and I may or may not have forgotten to use the artichoke hearts in the pantry.  Sigh.  That said, they did look delicious without the artichoke hearts, too.  Salami and mozzarella and olives, oh my!  I swapped regular black olives out in favor of Kalamata olives, because Kalamata olives have about ten times the flavor.  That’s the only change I made to the recipe on purpose.

I love using the rosemary from our yard, which brings me back to a favorite point of mine.  You should absolutely plant rosemary in your yard or have a pot of it in a window somewhere.  It’s so cheap to plant, and it’s almost impossible to kill.  That is an absolutely wonderful combo, and it gets you fancy food like rosemary skewers without having to buy dozens of rosemary stems with fancy food prices.

Also, may I introduce you to the source of my New Mom Brain.  I think he’s pretty cute.  He might keep me from making complicated recipes for a while, but that’s okay.

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Finally Friday

I know it’s been a short work week for me so far (fifth work day coming up tomorrow), but it feels like it’s been a long work week.  I’m sure you understand.

As a result of said week, I’m daydreaming my way through lunch pretty seriously.  One of my two excellent college roommates and I used to play a game of “Where would you rather be right now?”  It’s a useful game for any day that isn’t actually a vacation.

This is where I choose to be (mentally) during my lunch break today:

photo from chicagotribune.com

photo from chicagotribune.com

I choose to be on the beach with a good book, burying my feet in the sand, applying sunscreen at perfect intervals (which is never how it actually works), and eating ice cream at equally perfect intervals.

Soon.

Also, I understand that I’m terribly antisocial, and I should have picked a beach picture that includes family or friends or something active.  But like I said, I’m terribly antisocial sometimes.  My family loves me anyway.  Thanks, family!

Vanity of a 29.8-year-old

In general, I like to think of myself as not super vain. (Keeping the bar high, right?) I like pretty clothes, but I also care as much about comfort and machine washableness as I do about pretty. So imagine my surprise when I started considering dying my hair. To cover grey hair. Oh my!

Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the use of hair dye on any person for any reason. I’ve always considered getting highlights or going auburn or a myriad of other hair color choices. When it came down to it, I’ve been too lazy and scared and cheap to dye my hair in the past.

Where does the idea of vanity come into the mix?  Well, I love it when people age gracefully.  I love seeing grey hair on other people–young, old, and in between.  I also love my family, and grey hair at a young age is a family tradition.  Because of that, I always thought I would just go with it when grey hair came my way.  My plan was to not care and move on with life.

But then I saw a whole passel of grey hairs right next to each other. I never knew that grey hair multiplies like rabbits. Seriously, how did that happen overnight?  And since when did 29.8 count as “aging”?!  I suppose I’ll feel exactly the same way when I’m 39.8 and 49.8 and 59.8.

I’m considering bold headbands and sparkly clips.

photo from the Garlands of Grace Etsy shop

photo from the Garlands of Grace Etsy shop

I’m considering pretending that grey is blonde. (“Look at all of those natural blonde highlights I suddenly have!”  I have a strong imagination.)  I’m trying to stick with my guns on the hair dye issue.  I know I would get lazy and cheap again in the near future, so I might as well just go with it now.  I’m just really struggling with the whole “be cool with it and move on” thing.  Dang vanity.

Holiday Residue

There are a few things happening in my brain right now.

1) I’m sleepy.  It’s a half hour before I have to leave for work, and I am desperately fighting to be productive.  One load of laundry has been switched over.  Dishes have been loaded into the dishwasher.  Lunch has been put together.  I have plopped onto the couch.  (OH NO!)

2) I’m really grateful for Thanksgiving.  Scott’s family, who is also my family, is wonderful.  They helped with all of the craziness of cooking multiple meals for 9 people.

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They were gracious about everything that turned out looking not quite like a magazine picture.   (It still tasted delicious).

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They were patient when our turkey came out of the oven a bit later than planned.  It was a tasty turkey, for sure.

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And some of them did super cute things like this:

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See that pink sleeping bag?  There’s a little munchkin in that sleeping bag, and both the munchkin and the bag made their way around the living room and hall and various other places.

And now that the cute munchkins (who are becoming less munchkin-like all the time) have left the building with their parents and other family members, it’s time to keep moving.  My body and my brain want to stop here for a while.  Let’s hang out on the Sunday after Thanksgiving for a week, shall we?

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.  As evidenced by the fact that it’s now the Monday after Thanksgiving.

For just another minute, I’m going to relish the success of a good weekend with family.  My very favorite recipe from the weekend was all Scott’s doing.  He made Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie.  Yum!  He even added one pie crust recipe with another innards recipe to make it just about perfect.  I think his main ingredient adjustment was to cut the number of chocolate chips in the recipe in half.  I wouldn’t normally condone that type of behavior, but it turned out just right.

So just to recap, take this crust and smush some of this into it.  And bam!  We’re planning to make it again soon.