July 22, 2011

Tricks and Treats

First of all, the baby food sold in little pouches is too awesome for words (see Ella's or Plum Organics).  While Sweet P is definitely no longer a baby, I don't really care.  She has recently eaten broccoli and tonight she had spinach, peas and pears.  No bowls needed, just twist off the cap and give it to the toddler.  It's so fun that they don't appear to care what is in the pouch.  Verdict:  Yay!

Now pie, because eating vegetables means dessert.

Think about how you eat pie.  Go ahead.  First bite.  Second bite.  Good, now forget all of that.

How does a toddler eat pie?
However she darn well pleases!

Parenthood affords us the opportunity to see the world through new eyes. Watching Sweet P grow and learn sometimes brings to my attention how many constrictions we live by, without even realizing it.  So, start in the middle. Start in the back.  Do whatever you want!

July 16, 2011

Parenting Fail

I can't say that I understand a bully's motivation; causing a small child to cry is not a fun pastime in my opinion.  However, as a parent, there are days when it seems like it is an Olympic sport and you are about to win the Gold.  Refer to Screamy Mimi for cryings past.

As far as I can tell, Sweet P has the saddest sad face ever in the entire history of sadness.  Causing that face to appear is akin to having your heart ripped out, stomped on by a linebacker in rusty golf cleats and then run over by 73 dump trucks full of broken glass just before a dog comes and pees on it.

Here is a sad face:

Fresh from this morning due to cereal envy in conjunction with Daddy's absence and failure to save her from Mean Mommy.  Now keep in mind, this is not the full-on sad face.  She has this frowny, quivering lip pout that makes me want to do anything to make it go away.  Whole chocolate cake with sprinkles?  Every toy in the world? A unicorn?  Anything!!!

Instead, I have to be firm and follow through with the necessary parenting BS.  (That stands for Blue Shirt, if you didn't know.)  Below is a conversation Sweet P and I had recently at bedtime.

Me:  I've been working on the rail-

Sweet P:  No, no, Mommy! (*smack!)

Me:  (Puts Sweet P down in the crib)  No, you do not hit Mommy!

Sweet P:  (Spectacular sad face complete with pouty-lip super frown and giant teardrops)  Mooommeeeeeeeeeeee!

Me:  (Feeling like a dried-up dog turd)  You do not hit Mommy.  In fact, don't hit anybody.  That is not the way to express yourself.

Sweet P:  (Frown and tears continue) Mommy rock?

Me:  (Picks her back up and returns to the rocking chair)  You do not hit people.  No hit.

Sweet P:  No hit.

Me:  That's right, no hit.

Sweet P:  No hit.

The sad face has subsided by now and only a few tears remain.  I can see her thinking and she perks up,

Sweet P:  Daddy hit.

Me:  Nooooooooo, Daddy doesn't hit.

Sweet P:  Mommy hit.

Me:  ............................

Awesome.  Really glad we had this conversation.

So, how long do we have before day care sends Social Services?

July 06, 2011

Recipe: Creamy Pasta Primavera

I made a variation of one of my favorite invented recipes that I think came out really well.  It was tri-color rotini pasta with julienned carrots and zucchini in a creamy sauce with shredded Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and fresh parsley. Sounds decadent, but guess what makes it creamy?  Hummus!

I came up with adding the hummus to pasta sauce partly to create a lighter version of the garlicky cream sauce I love so much and partly to punch up the protein when Sweet P had less teeth.  The vegetables were easy, thanks to my awesome new julienne peeler from Pampered Chef.  That is, it was easy once I figured out how to use it without julienning my hand.  It was supposed to be a vegetarian dish, after all.

I imagine this would be good with just about any vegetables and any shape pasta you like.  Add some chicken or shrimp and dinner is done!

Initially, I had hoped the vegetables would get twisted into the rotini and therefore consumed along with the pasta.  Unfortunately, the toddler is always smarter than me.  I think some of the veggies may have accidentally been ingested, but she still won't eat the green noodles.  Next I think I'll try the cut spaghetti I found at the store so everything will be essentially the same shape.

Update!  It took me so long to get the original picture off of the camera that I have tried the recipe with the cut spaghetti.  For those with picky eaters, the majority of the zucchini just disappeared into the pasta.  You would never believe that there was a whole giant zucchini in the bowl.  It's not as pretty because I didn't have any herbs on hand beside rosemary (which was already on the chicken), but Sweet P loved it!

I did my best on the amounts, but I am of the "that looks about right" school of measuring.  If all else fails, taste it.  Faincy chefs say they never serve anything without tasting it first.  Simple, yet effective.

Ingredients:8 oz pasta
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 medium carrots, julienned
3 cloves of garlic, minced (more or less depending on your preference)
1 large or 2 medium zucchini, julienned
1/2 cup hummus
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
pasta water or chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or whatever herb you have available)

Cook pasta as directed on package.  While the pasta is cooking, saute the carrots with salt and pepper in olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet for 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two more before adding the zucchini and a bit more salt and pepper.  Cook for a few minutes more, until carrots are softened.

Reduce heat and add the hummus, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Begin adding pasta water or broth and mix until a sauce has formed.  (this would be a good place to taste and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice.)  Stir in the Parmesan cheese and parsley, reserving some for garnish.  Stir in the cooked pasta, adding more water or broth if it is too dry.

Put in a serving dish and garnish with remaining Parmesan cheese and parsley.

July 01, 2011

Beauty and the Yeast

Oh, hello there.

What? What's this I'm eating?

It's just a grilled cheese sandwich I made with some bread I baked the other day.

From scratch.

You know, I'm a baker

I bake bread

With flour and yeast.

And the kneading and rising and punching down.....

.....okay, I think I'm done.

Thanks for letting me toot my own horn there for a minute. I felt like I deserved at least a little bit of bragging after finally triumphing in what I estimate to be roughly an eleven year battle with certain fields of baking in general and yeast dough in particular. I can bake just about any type of cookie or cake with no problems worse than some occasional overflow or pan-sticking issues. Pies are iffy, but yeast breads have always been my nemesis, with the exception of a few sourdough successes, but those don't really count.

This eleven years ago previously mentioned is the first time I can remember trying to bake bread from scratch. It was to be rosemary olive oil bread and it was going to be fantastic!

What I ended up with were some very fragrant doorstops.  I think I either created some small, matter-sucking black holes or I really screwed with the law of conservation of mass because those bad boys weighed way more coming out of the oven than they did going in.

There were some other less memorable but still ill-fated attempts at bread-making over the years culminating more recently in an attempt to make focaccia, because who can mess that up, right?  Apparently I can.  I'll refer to it as the focaccia/Frisbee incident and leave it at that.  (These also involved rosemary.  Coincidence?)

The fact that I could not do something so seemingly simple and basic as baking aq stupid loaf of bread was incredibly annoying to me.  I use yeast at work to ferment things all the time.  I am the boss and the larger life form, I make the rules.  (Not really, just go with it.)  The yeasts were not going to beat me!  Especially not some run-of-the-mill, ho-hum, yer momma yeast that I bought in bulk at Sam's Club!!!

So, how did I finally succeed?  The same way the cave man showed his superiority over the apes:


Specifically, my Kitchen Aid + the dough hook.  I've always felt that my problem was overkneading.  This method takes that responsibility out of my hands.

I started simply with the basic white bread recipe in the little book that comes with the Kitchen Aid.  It came out fantastic!  After even this small measure of success I will admit to having delusions of great grandeur involving never buying bread from the grocery again and my house always smelling deliciously of yeast and fresh bread.  People will come to visit and I'll come out of the kitchen in a flour-spattered apron with a smudge on my nose and say, "Oh, hi.  I was just baking some baguettes..."


What?  Right.  Well, let's see if I can at least repeat the magic one more time before I swear off of commercial bread forever.

Yes, that big bite was me.  I think I was still chewing when I started giddily snapping pictures, as if the loaves were going to disappear before I could prove to anyone that I had actually baked good bread.

P.S.  All of the vegetables on the plate with my grilled cheese were purchased at the Raleigh Farmers Market, as was the butter on the bread in the second picture.

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