That little girl is 10 months old today, y’all!  With Hazel’s foray into preschool, I have a little more time to focus on Julia.  Amos and I were thinking that we had Hazel using a spoon a little younger than this, so I got started with Julia last week.  She caught on pretty fast – my girls love to eat, and I guess she figured the more ways she knows how to get food in her face the better.

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The Big Grocery Shop

Do you guys plan a weekly menu?  Once I was at a friend’s house, and when I commented on how full her pantry was, she replied, “Yeah, I just go to the

Menu for Amos's birthday dinner...in 2004!

store every week and buy the things I like there!”  I was struck by her method of shopping.  Is everyone that carefree?  Since moving in with Amos, we have always had a weekly menu & accompanying shopping list.  At first, this was born of necessity; we were poor Auburn students who had to plan out every purchase to the penny.  At that time, too, I gladly ate junkier food in order to afford cigarettes (sometimes I can’t believe I ever smoked, and other times I can’t believe I ever quit!).  Now, though, it’s become a way to budget and to keep track of all the recipes we love and those we want to try.  I use blank white index cards to write the menu on, with the list on the backside; I’ve got all the ones we used from the last couple of years, and even the menu & list from the first meal I ever cooked for Amos!  But that’s another story.

Since that experience with my friend, I’ve come to realize that I’m in the minority.  I don’t think most households are so paperworky when it comes to their food.  It’s a system that works for me, and a rather fun one.  I enjoy looking through recipes I’ve bookmarked, online and in our cookbooks, and making a market list helps me keep track of all the things we need for the new recipes.  We even have a list of weekday meals that are our tried & true, easy to make on the fly, recipes.

This week we’re having:  onion anchovy pasta (recipe coming for that this week, probably), veggie pot pie, Filipino chicken (an Amos classic)

Stack of old menus

with broccoli crunch slaw, aigo boulido with grilled cheeses, some kind of fish (whatever’s looking good) and my favorite mushy peas, veg and potato frittata with a tomato balsamic salad, and a rice stir-fry with whatever veg we have left (Hazel’s request).  I’m so excited to try aigo boulido; I was just reading Julia Child’s My Life in France, and in it she recalls an episode involving this garlic soup.  After reading, I just had to try it.  Our Mastering the Art of French Cooking is all packed up and in storage, though, so I’ll have to make do with this recipe.  On that note…

Bon appetit!  

Hung-eeeee

That’s how my lispy toddler says “hungry,” and I’ve given up trying to correct her.  It’s cute, people, and she’s got too much to say to worry about controlling her face perfectly.  So this morning, when I told Hazel that we were going to give Julia solid food, she kept telling Amos and I that Julia was going to eat “food like us ’cause she’s HUNGEEEEEEEEEE, very HUNGEEEEEEEE, and I’m going to mix it up and eat it too ’cause I like oatmeal and why can’t I have oatmeal I don’t want

Here, eat this before Mama and Daddy see!

thosepancakesrightnow!”  Um, you get the picture.  It was way more exciting for Hazel than for Julia.  I love how interested she is in Julia; Hazel wanted to help at every step, from opening the box to actually feeding her.  I snapped this very quick shot almost accidentally (hence the blurry redness) of Hazel trying to sneak Julia’s first bite!

Oatmeal faceJulia did very well, though, despite being irritated about sitting up in the Bumbo seat.  She really seemed to like the taste and texture, but quit after a few bites to take a nap.  That’s my girl!

Oh, and I almost forgot!!  Last night, when I stripped Jules down for her nap, she was playing around on the

No mas! No mas!!!

bed and actually got her foot into her mouth.  She seemed pretty psyched about this, having now four permanently attached teething toys instead of just her two hands!

Happy Father’s Day

There are some holidays that I don’t get too worked up about; stuff like Labor Day just doesn’t really get me going.  Amos, though, takes holiday apathy to a-WHOLE-nother level.  That guy, if he had his way, would not celebrate anything from President’s Day to Christmas.  It particularly bothers him, he says, when presents are expected.  He’d rather give and receive gifts on the fly, not dictated by the day on the calendar.  I get it, I truly do, but now that we have kids, and especially one old enough to realize what all this stuff means, we’ve made sure to celebrate every birthday and holiday in some way.  With the small, notable exception of Mother’s Day.  He didn’t acknowledge that at all beyond saying, “Happy Mother’s Day” in the morning.  I get that’s his thing, but I was totally let down.  Plus, it turned out to be one of those awful parenting days where everyone is crying, running away in public, not napping, and just being irritable.

Neither girl could sit still!

Because Father’s Day comes after Mother’s Day, I thought briefly (ok, maybe for longer than I’d like to admit) about wreaking some kind of karmic vengeance for the screamy holiday I had.  But really, I thought I would use this as an opportunity to show Amos how we can exploit these kinds of holidays to do the fun stuff that we really like but don’t do that often.  Soooooo, I planned a fancy antipasto dinner for Amos (really for all of us).  As a gift, I bought him a natural foods cookbook (used, $5 with shipping, and totally rocking) and helped Hazel make him a shirt that reads, “Hazel Loves Daddy.”  She also made a tank top for herself and a onesie for Julia.

We had SUCH a lovely time!  This antipasto was one of the funnest meals we have ever had.  Because it was for our dinner rather than an appetizer, I made sure to have a couple choices for each of the basic antipasto elements.  Here’s a rundown of the menu –

Fruit:  heirloom tomatoes, cantaloupe, and cherries (all served at room temp, thankyouverymuch)

Meat:  speck, an aged soppressata, and anchovy fillets

Veg:  roasted cauliflower, asparagus, a roasted pepper salad, and artichoke hearts tossed with sundried tomatoes and fresh thyme

Cheese:  Shropshire blue, a young manchego, and a 2-year-old aged gouda

It was just lovely.  Nothing was really difficult to put together, either.  In fact, most of the food just needed to be basic prepped, like slicing the melon.  The veg I just roasted in the broiler with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and the roasted pepper salad that actually required a recipe was just mincing a bunch of delicious stuff up together.  We toasted with prosecco, which I thought was an excellent palate cleanser for this type of meal.  Hazel went nuts (check out this hilarious video of her, plus my first attempt at subtitles for her!), probably because she got to stay up a whole hour and a half past her normal bedtime.  It was one of the best nights we’ve had together as a family, and I just love that I got to be a part of it with those lovely people that make up my family.

Recipe: Pesto Orecchiette with Clams

Monday nights are like the battlegrounds of motherhood for me; I have Julia all day, then I have both girls from 4 PM or so until 10:30 PM when Amos comes home from teaching his late class.  I don’t know if it’s my anticipatory stress level or Murphy’s Law, but it always seems like my normally sweet, easy-going daughters have some major issues on Monday night.  Tonight was no different; Hazel, having not napped at all today, was also sporting a big bruise from being (accidentally) stepped on by one of the younger kids, while Julia was in full-on screamo mode, needing to nurse while I needed to make Hazel dinner and then needing to be held while I needed to clean Hazel up, eat my dinner, and play/or something with Hazel.  Julia almost NEVER needs that kind of attention, and when she does it usually doesn’t last very long before she falls asleep.  Except on Mondays, where she needs to be held for a back-breaking 2 hours.

But this post is supposed to be about a recipe, right?  Well it is!  It’s about this easy, elegant meal you can make while you’re nursing a baby & holding her in midair with one arm and continually reassuring a toddler that yes, you are making dinner and no, you will not eat hers.  So here’s the rub:

Pesto Orecchiette

1 lb. bag of orecchiette (aka hats)

1 lb. asparagus, ends broken off & chopped into about 1″ sections, nothing precise

1 jar of pesto

1 can of diced tomatoes (we like the fire-roasted variety)

1 can of chopped clams, although I think I’ll double up next time

a bit of chevre, if you’re feeling decadent

s&p to taste

1.  Start your pasta water boiling (don’t forget to salt the water!).  Whenever it boils add in your pasta and cook al dente; that is happening on the side while you proceed with the rest of the recipe.

2.  Saute your asparagus in some butter, with a little salt and pepper.

3.  Once they look nice and shiny, but are still a bit undercooked, add in the clams, (drained) tomatoes, and just a bit of the clam liquid.  You could also add in a splash or two of some nice chardonnay, if you have it lying around (which I did, yay for us).

4.  Let that asparagus simmer in the lovely liquid the clam juice, tomatoes, & butter have made.  Just cook it until you like the texture.

5.  Drain your pasta when it’s finished, add in the asparagus mixture, and stir in at least half the jar of pesto.  You could go more or less, just depending on how you feel.

6.  Pour yourself a glass of that chardonnay, dish up a bowl of pasta, and top it with a few crumbles of chevre.  Enjoy!

Fish & Chips

Delicious, eh?

Do I need to say anything, or does the picture alone make your mouth water?  This was SUCH a great meal, made even better by how it came about.  Amos and I have been watching Oliver’s Twist recently, which is a show Jamie Oliver did in the early part of the century, in which he cooks things at his flat for his friends.  In the first episode he made fish and chips, a quintessential English dish, for some American friends who had recently moved to London.  Hazel just happened to be watching this with us (she really likes this cooking show) and said, “We could have that at our house!”  So take THAT, Jamie Oliver!  We let her have a say in the weekly menu as often as she’s interested in giving her opinion, so of course we wrote it down for this week.  Those mushy peas are killer, dudes.  That is going to be a staple in this household.

What We’re Eating

A couple of weeks ago, some new friends invited us over for dinner and served this awesome lamb, cooked long and slow on the grill.  Amos talked to the wife, who’s Australian, about the food from that area (I guess lamb is a bit more common there, and not the dried out variety served with mint jelly), and he was inspired to make lamb himself.  Today he spent hours in the kitchen making this lovely dinner:  braised lamb shank, stewed carrots and tomatoes, and an Israeli couscous and black rice salad with pumpkin seeds.  That sweetheart even made a dessert on the fly; using canned pears and peaches from my grandma, he made a kind of cobbler with a cinnamon and oat bran crust.  The dinner was amazing, and his doing all the washing up was just beyond awesome.

Hazel was pretty excited about our dinner, too!  That is her normal face for pictures now, apparently.  In real life she’s saying, “cheeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssse” until you take the picture.  Seriously, she will not break character until you turn the camera around and show her the picture.  One day, when she asks why we only kept the weird pictures of her during this time period, we will delight in telling her that this is all on her!

Pizza Night

The best pizza comes directly from my husband, not from any pizza joint!  I love it when Amos makes pizza, and so I was super psyched that Hazel chose pizza as her meal this week.  See, we’ve started this thing where we ask Hazel what she would like for dinner when we are making out our weekly menu and grocery list.  I think it’s really fun, and it fits in with her personality and character since she loves food and helping us cook.

Anyway, this was the first week that we let her choose a family dinner item, and so pizza it is!  She helped Amos make a broccoli, onion, mushroom, and green pepper pizza on whole wheat crust.  In the interest of time we didn’t make the sauce (Amos’s sauce takes a couple of hours).  I love this picture; she was showing me the pizza and saying, “Cheese” while trying to also smile, and so we end up with a picture of a very intense Vanna White clone.  Love it.

 

Sunday is SO not a day of rest.

One of my friends said that today, and I'll be hornswaggled if she didn't just put the lid on the jar right there.  (I'm being very indulgent in my Southern-ness these days.)

Yesterday I was strolling through one of my favorite close-out places and I saw the cute, yet irritating, trendy cookbook Deceptively Delicious that was such a biggie a few years ago.  When I saw the book I was at first annoyed all over again – I mean, why do vegetables have to be incorporated sneakily??  Granted, we don't have a picky eater in Hazel, but I think that's in part (if not wholly) due to our attitude about food and her role in the family's meals.  But I actually took a closer look through it because I've lately been interested in making desserts that I feel okay giving Hazel.  Now that I'm in Alabama again, and the family gets together regularly for big meals, I've felt horrible both eating very sugary desserts and in denying them to her.  As a result I've been looking into desserts that don't use processed ingredients and that incorporate vegetables in some way.  For that reason, plus the $3 price tag, I decided to give it a go.
Later that night, reading the book in bed, I realized that I actually like this book (still not interested in the title, though).  Jessica talks, albeit sparingly, about the focus on sugary food for kids as being the reason for her interest in writing this cookbook, and I can get behind that.  So today I decided to try her recipe for these cute little lemon cupcakes.  
And then I realized that this recipe called for five egg whites, meaning I'd have five yolks left, plus a lot of lemon…obviously I needed to make lemon curd to put with these cupcakes, since they would be frosting-less.
Egg Yolks & SugarAdding the Zest

In the end I had a delicious dessert that was only half decadent (that lemon curd has 3/4 c. of sugar and 3/4 of a stick of butter!!!).  Although my cupcakes stuck to the wrappers I was still pleased with the end result.  And after all this mess I grilled pork chops, then 10 ears of corn to combine with a simple vinaigrette for the Sunday family get-together, which is probably why I almost fell asleep in the car.  

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