Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fraggle Hair

I don't know what it is about this picture, but Shelby's hair reminds me of a Fraggle....

Shelby came home from school with this cute little ponytail. I love it!! It makes that long hair look even cuter! I think it will be a great "summer look." Plus, it's long enough she can still play with it when she's tired!

When I picked her up, she got up from her chair and pushed it in! What a big girl! I asked her teacher about it, and she said Shelby takes directions well! She picks up her toys, she sits for story time, she socializes with the other kids, and uses her sign language!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Week 11 Menu

Sunday: Homemade calzones (with leftover ingredients from the ravioli party with the girls!)
Monday: Leftover pizza
Tuesday: Meatloaf (make ahead)
Wednesday: Pumpkin Pancakes
Thursday: Murgh Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Grandma & Grandpa Lawrence here!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Defying Gravity

Defying Gravity
Originally uploaded by scottlawrence
Saturday was Scott's birthday...I'm married to an old man again! :)

We were off to a slow start when Shelby decided to climb out of her high chair and take a little tumble. By the afternoon, she was her old, no napping, expressive, Goldfish-loving self!

Since it was such a beautiful day, we decided to have dinner at Joseph's - our favorite little pizza place in Atlantic Beach. We called ahead for the pizza so we wouldn't have to wait. The owner just loves Shelby (who doesn't!?) and stops at our table several times during our visits. After 15 minutes our pizza wasn't ready and she went to check on it. 30 minutes after that: still no pizza! It turns out they lost our order! They gave us salads, garlic bread, and even a giant loaf of garlic bread to take home along with one hundred apologies!

After dinner, we went down to the beach. Shelby took off running toward the ocean! I had to jog to keep up with her. She was so excited! We ran up and down the beach, splashing in the tide pools, pointing out the birds, and getting her feet wet. The highlight was when her Daddy was swinging her around. You can almost hear her happy squeals coming from the picture!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Oven Fries

I am such a sucker for oven fries. After all, Rule #39 in Michael Pollan's new book is: "Eat all the junk food as long as you make it yourself."

My only problem is I can't get them crispy enough. I've quartered them, sliced them in a mandoline, sliced them in a food processor. I've used a little oil, no oil, vegetable, and olive. They always end up a little limp. Mike, my brother-in-law, got me the America's Test Kitchen family cookbook last year. I've been exploring it lately*, and found a recipe for oven fries. The tag line said, "oven fries so crispy, you'll swear they're take-out." Sign. Me. Up.

Oven Fries
From America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

3 large russet potatoes (10 oz each), cut lengthwise into 10-12 evenly sized wedges [Note: I left the peels on...because I'm just that kind of girl]
5 T vegetable oil [Note: Don't use olive oil here; it will overwhelm the flavor of the potatoes]
Salt and pepper

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 475-degrees.

2. Place potatoes in a large bowl, cover with hot tap water, and allow to soak for 10 minutes. While potatoes are soaking, coat a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with 4 tablespoons of the oil. Sprinkle the baking sheet evenly with 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

3. Drain the potatoes, spread them out over paper towels, and pat them dry thoroughly. Toss the dried potatoes with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Arrange the potatoes, cut-side down, in a single-layer over the prepared baking sheet. Cover the sheet tightly with foil and bake for 5 minutes.

4. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the sides of the potatoes touching the pan are crusty and golden, 15-20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 10 minutes.

5. Using a metal spatula, scrape to loosen the potatoes from the pan, then flip each wedge over (keeping the potatoes in a single layer). Continue to bake until the fries are golden and crisp on both sides, 10-15 minutes longer, rotating the pan as needed if the fries are browning unevenly. Transfer the fries to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain and season with sale and pepper.

*This cookbook is great! They have some great kitchen techniques, utensil reviews, and tips. I highly recommend it for the chef who wants to branch out from her comfort zone, but still keep the menu accessible.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Week 10 Menu

Sunday: Mahi Mahi and oven-roasted potatoes fries
Monday: Lox and bagels
Tuesday: Chicken BBQ Pizza
Wednesday: Stuffed Peppers
Thursday: Spinach and Chick Peas
Friday: Leftovers.
Saturday: Ravioli party with the girls!

St. Pat's

It's been quite a week. We've been a bit distracted, but we did take time to celebrate St. Pat's (not that Scott or I is more than 1/16th Irish!).

At school, they celebrated with green snacks, shamrock deedlyboppers*, and a party. At home we had cornded beef and potatoes ala Crock Pot. Just for kicks, we gave Shelby a few cubes of beef. She scarfed it down and demanded more! She had as much as I did!

* "Deedlyboppers" is a onomonopaeic, Benjamin word for the boingy antennae on a headband.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ginger Fried Rice

I think that spring is finally trying to beat out winter. We spent a fair amount of the weekend outside. And, our menus need to change, too! Heavy sauces and wintry comfort foods no more!...Well, may not "no more" (they are so yummy!), but maybe make some room for lighter more flavorful dishes!

I saw this recipe for Ginger Fried Rice on "Smitten Kitchen." I have tried on several attempts to make my own fried rice. It always ends up being a little soggy and not flavorful enough. So, naturally, I was a little wary. But, with the egg being served sunnyside up on top of the rice instead of scrambled throughout, I just had to give it a shot!

I fried up the garlic and ginger as directed. Watch your skillet like a hawk! Those little bits go from raw to super-fried very quickly! Mine might have been overdone just a tad. I'm not sure if it stemmed from the self-inflicted extra-crispiness or what, but I didn't get a ginger taste in the dish. The leeks are so mild that I think it needs a little zing from the ginger. Next time: fry the garlic and add the minced ginger while stir frying the veggies.

Also, to make this a heartier Sunday dinner, I added some grilled shrimp. Any of your normal "fried rice proteins" would work nicely here. Just make sure the seasoning on the meat doesn't compete too much with what you have going on in your skillet!

Originally uploaded by scottlawrence

Ginger Fried Rice
Stolen from Smitten Kitchen who stole it from Mark Bittman

Serves 4

1/2 cup peanut oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 leek, thinly sliced; white and light green parts only, rinsed and dried
8 oz sliced mushrooms --> I added these...really any veggie lurking in your fridge that you can stir fry will work well here!
2 scallions, chopped
2 cups day-old cooked rice --> I cooked 1c (dried) rice in the morning (yields 3c cooked rice) and used it for dinner that day...pretty good results
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons sesame oil (for some heat but the same awesome flavor, use hot sesame oil)
4 teaspoons soy sauce

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and salt lightly.

Reduce heat under skillet to medium-low and add 2 tablespoons oil leeks mushrooms, and scallions. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender but not browned. Season lightly with salt.

Raise heat to medium and add rice. Cook, stirring well, until heated through. Season to taste with salt.

Remove rice from skillet, wipe out skillet, add a little extra oil, and fry eggs, sunny-side-up, until edges are set but yolk is still runny.

Divide rice among four dishes. Top each with an egg and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Sprinkle crisped garlic and ginger over everything and serve.

Week 9 Menu

Sunday: Grilled shrimp and Ginger Fried Rice

Monday: Pasta with pesto and veggies

Tuesday: Panzanella with leftover shrimp

Wednesday: Corned beef on Irish soda bread for St. Pat's!

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: French dip sandwiches

Saturday: Scott's birthday!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Oskee Wow Wow!

For those of you who are not familiar with Oskee Wow Wow...first of all: shame on you! Second, here is a brief history. And, third, shame on you! If you know me at all, you know that Benjamins bleed orange and blue when pricked, they know all the cheers at the football games, and have intense debates whether the "G" in Foellinger is a hard or soft "G."

To help cultivate a love for all things Illini in a third generation, Grandma & Grandpa Benjamin got Shelby a cheerleading outfit!

Here is Shelby finishing a complex tumbling run across the endzone after another Illini touchdown.

Go Chief
Originally uploaded by scottlawrence

Shelby performs the "Three-in-One" during halftime. The "Alma mater" is next. Shelby is crying on the inside because her "Chief" isn't out on the field with her.

Go Chief
Originally uploaded by scottlawrence

Shelby leads the crowd in a rousing cheer because the Illini are headed to the Rose Bowl!....hey, a girl can dream, can't she!

Go Chief
Originally uploaded by scottlawrence

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Popovers from Heaven

On Wednesday, we're having our church small group over for dinner and the start of a new video series we'll be discussing. We're going to grill some burgers, and cook up some couscous. Then, I found this recipe for popovers on The Bitten Word and thought it would be a good addition to the meal. Instead of serving a brand new recipe to guests, I decided to try it out on my favorite guinea pigs.

OMG. Heaven's to Betsy. Sweet Jiminy Christmas. These suckers are good!!! I have an issue with kitchen equipment that is used for one purpose only. So, I do not own a popover pan. I have confirmed tonight that a muffin tin will work just fine.

I halved this recipe and still had enough batter for 16 popovers (using a 1/4-cup measure). The guys on Bitten Word showcased 2 different Martha Stewart popover recipes. I used some directions from each, and had great results.

Best Popovers Ever
Original Recipe From Martha Stewart's Twitter Feed

Place pan in oven. Heat to 425F .

Sift 2C flour + 2.5t salt

Heat 2C milk (for the sake of time, I microwaved the milk for 45 sec, stirred, then for 45 sec more)

Whisk 4 eggs slowly. Add in milk & flour

Spray hot pan with cooking spray. fill halfway up with batter. (a 1/4-cup measure seems to do the trick)

Bake 20min turn. Lower oven to 350F, and bake for 20 min.

Invert to remove.

Week 8 Menu

Sunday - Steak and asparagus
Monday - Pasta with freezer-veggie-surprise marinara
Tuesday - Stovetop chili
Wednesday - Burgers and popovers (from Bitten Word)
Thursday - Cranberry Brisket (via Crock Pot)
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - out with friends

Saturday, March 6, 2010

New Vacuum

We finally broke down and got a new vacuum. Our old one just wasn't cutting it. We got a Dyson ball vacuum. Oh my goodness! It's awesome! It's so much quieter and does such a better job than the old one. I can't believe we were accepting that old vacuum for so long! It's sad when a new household appliance is the highlight of your week!

Shelby was very intrigued. She wanted to touch all the parts and accessories. I think that as soon as she can push the vacuum around, she'll be vacuuming up every piece of carpet in the house! She's certainly her mother's daughter!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gobi Matar Sabzi

This was my first foray into Indian cuisine. I haven't eaten that much Indian food. So, I don't have a good point of reference. The recipe I went off of is from my "menu planning" blog - This Week for Dinner. I was pretty pleased with how it turned out!

It took about 30 minutes to prepare. There is a lot of prep work. Once the prep is done, the dish comes together pretty quickly. The seasoning is just right. It definitely has an Indian flavor. The recipe calls for an "onion paste." I'm sure such a thing exists at a specialty foods store, but I couldn't find it. I used an onion, my zester, and A LOT of elbow grease to make my onion paste. The only issue was that it created a river of "onion water." In the future, I would have a paper towel underneath to catch the liquid.

I don't think I can eat this dish every week, but it is a great way to spice up (no pun intended!) the week! It will take a place in the rotation.

Gobi Matar Sabzi
Original recipe from my veggie world

- 1 big onion ground to a fine paste
- 1 big tomato pureed
- 1 tsp ground ginger --> I used 1t of fresh, minced ginger
- 1 tsp garlic powder (or minced fresh garlic, 1-2 cloves)
- 1 tsp green chili paste --> I used on 1/2 tsp of my stock curry paste, & wowza! It was spicy! I will tone it down next time
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
- 1 cup cleaned cauliflower florets
- salt to taste (between 1 tsp and 1 TBSP)
- pinch of turmeric
- 1/4 tsp red chili powder
- 3 tsp garam masala powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tbsp oil
- chopped fresh cilantro

In a large skillet, heat oil (mediumish heat). Add onion paste and fry till cooked or until raw smell disappears. Add ginger, garlic (if using fresh), green chili paste and saute for one minute. Add tomato puree and cook till paste is thick. Add powdered spices and salt. Stir then add vegetables. Cover and simmer over medium heat until cauliflower is tender [about 15 minutes on low/med]. Add chopped fresh cilantro prior to serving.

Serve with basmati rice, with fresh cilantro added to the rice just prior to serving.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chicken ala Pumpkin?

Ok. By now you have to know our affinity for pumpkin. Pie. Pancakes. Roasted. You name it. When I put together my menu for the week, I originally planned on Chicken ala Orange. This recipe was my inspiration.

When I put together the ingredients last night, I had a streak of creativity*. I saw some pumpkin puree in the pantry and had my inspiration. I subbed out the cream of chicken for pumpkin puree and whole milk. Instead of sweet potatoes, I used apples.

I was thinking about the meal all day today. It could be the next world-famous "soccer mom go-to dish." It could be a total disaster. When we got home, the house smelled great! The chicken: okay. I think the dish has great potential, but it just needed more flavor. I relied on seasoning on the chicken breast to flavor the whole dish. But, this dish needs some pizazz in the puree mix. The next time, I think I'm going to go for the whole cadre of pumpkin spices, but add some bite and heat. I'm thinking black pepper and fresh ginger.

Below is the recipe with the flavor kicked up.

Chicken ala Pumpkin Pie

3 apples, sliced
2 T brown sugar
2 chicken breasts
3 T flour
12 oz pumpkin puree
1/4 c whole milk
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/4 t cardamon
1/4 t garlic powder
1 t black pepper
1 T ginger root, minced
1 orange, zest & juice

1. Slice apples and place in bottom of Crock Pot. Sprinkle brown sugar over apples.
2. Season flour with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken breast with flour mixture and place in Crock Pot.
3. Whisk together all other ingredients and pour over chicken.
4. Set Crock Pot to low for 8-10 hrs.

*Thank you, Mikey, for encouraging me to be creative with my cooking!