Chicken salad again

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:51 pm

Tonight was the first of probably many future repeat meals in the Seriously, What’s for Dinner category.  Denny requested chicken salad, so that’s what we had.  We ate corn on the cob with sliced garden tomatoes on the side.

Of note:  the chicken salad contained diced bell pepper from the garden, our first successful bell pepper in history.


Anniversary tapas

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:24 pm

I think I’m more tired out by mental work than physical work.  To that end, I chose tapas for our anniversary dinner, because even though they’re kind of fussy and require some effort, I’ve made them so many times I don’t have to think.  The only thing I did that was at all new was the beverage.

The tapas were some of our standards:  baguette with manchego ibérico cheese (Tobin and I had a talk at the Co-op today and decided on the milder cheese that his daddy would probably prefer) and jamón serrano; bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with Maytag bleu cheese and almonds; asparagus that I cooked simply in a cast-iron pan with butter and S&P.  The baguette thingies got a drizzle of good Spanish olive oil and S&P as well.

For the bev, I macerated some sliced peaches (our special fruit) and Rainier cherries in amaretto and peach schnapps and lemon juice.  At serving time, I put a couple of pieces of fruit into each champagne flute along with a couple of spoonfuls of the liquid, then topped with champagne.

It was actually some sort of California sparkling wine, but you know.  It was good and I may just go have some more now, because it’s not going to keep, right?

Splorts, Illustrated

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:23 pm

I got this idea from Martha Stewart of all places (via Pinterest, probably).  I don’t know their official name, but we call them splorts.

They’re a really fun water toy.  They’re not quite as scary as water balloons for little kids, and they’re way less work than filling a million small balloons.  They also don’t leave latex crumbs all over the yard, which is important when you have a Tobin who puts everything in his mouth.  I also like that they use less water than the sprinkler in these droughty times.

Here’s what you do:  take four cheap sponges and cut them length-wise into 4 strips (I used a bread knife).  Gather them tightly in the middle with a rubber band and fluff them out.  Soak in water and throw at your target beloved child.  We just bring a big bowl out into the yard, fill it with the hose, and reload the splorts as necessary.


Caprese-ish salad and stinky/tasty compound butter

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:38 pm

I’m still excited about the tomatoes that are coming into ripeness in the garden, so we ate of their bounty again tonight.

I threw together something resembling a Caprese salad that wasn’t 100% traditional, but it was good.  It was just cut-up tomatoes, basil leaves, fresh mozzarella pearls (those little balls, or else you could cut up a larger chunk), part of a red onion left over from last night, some crushed red pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and S&P.

For the compound butter, I minced up a whole lot of garlic.  This was my first year growing garlic in the garden (thanks to my dad), and it’s so much fun using it.  I sauteed it in some butter until it was just barely golden, then I chilled it for a while.  I added some finely-grated parmigiano reggiano and more softened butter and smooshed it all together.

We ate that (and the Caprese salad) on baguette that I toasted in the oven a little.  It was very easy, fast, and doesn’t even require a whole lot of clean-up.  Oh, it’s vegetarian, too.  Usually we do meatless Mondays, but we got a little wild this week.

Grilled pizzas

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:33 pm

I actually made these last night, but I forgot to blog about them, so here we go.

This is an old standby recipe, and while it’s not difficult, it helps to have two adults out by the grill to work on it.  There are some things that need to happen quickly, and having four hands sort of eases the process.  Last night, my parents were here, so they could mind the short guys while DC and I grilled up the pizzas.

I had dough in the freezer.  It’s Cooks’ Illustrated’s herbed pizza dough, which I can’t find online, but I figure most pizza crust recipes would work as long as it’s a kneaded yeast dough.  I make a double batch when I do it, divide it into single-serving-sized blobs, and freeze the ones I don’t use.  I wrap them individually in plastic wrap.  They thaw pretty fast for a quick dinner.

The sauce was just last year’s all-purpose tomato sauce from the garden (tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, basil, salt, sugar), cooked down so it was thick.  I also added some of Penzey’s pizza seasoning.  For toppings, I used sliced little tomatoes from the garden, turkey pepperoni, thinly-sliced red onions, basil leaves, and provolone cheese.  It’s important to use toppings that don’t require thorough cooking, because that part of the process happens pretty fast.

To make the pizzas, heat the grill up (DC handles this part…I want to say medium-high or something?), then once it’s hot, turn it down to medium-low.  Brush one side of each flattened-out dough with olive oil, then slap them on the grill.  Close it so there’s an oven effect, and leave them on for 2-3 minutes (check carefully, because burned is trouble).

Once you have some nice grill marks on the bottom, brush the top with olive oil and flip them over.  Immediately spread the first grilled side with tomato sauce, toppings, and cheese.  Close the lid and grill for another couple of minutes, or until the cheese is melty and there are grill marks on the bottom.



The Tobin Times #11

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:48 pm

My little Tobin,

Eleven months.  Goodness me.  Can you believe this is your last month before you turn a whole year old?  One year ago, I was enormous and hot and grumpy and ready to meet you.  We had a hot, hot July last year, much like this one, only rainier.  Your brother and I stayed inside most of the month because I just couldn’t deal with hauling my gigantic, sweaty self out of the air conditioning.

We’ve had to stay inside a fair amount this July as well, but because I would probably lose my mind if you two boys and I were at home all day, we’ve been trying to have an adventure every afternoon.  You’re such a good sport.  You love—love—the downtown fountain, and we’ve been making good use of it.  At least once a week we make a trip to the library, the fountain, and the frozen yogurt place.  You’re braver in the water than your brother is, and I always have to make sure to bring a new diaper and a spare outfit for you.  One time I made the mistake of forgetting them, and I had to go buy an overpriced onesie with a cheeky slogan from Raygun.  It’s true that you’ve listened to NPR since conception, though, so I don’t really mind.

We’ve been spending time with Uncle Larry, Aunt Lily, Aunt Suzy, and Uncle Joe this weekend, all of whom came from their respective states to have a mini-reunion at Mubby and Skittergramps’s house.  You never sleep well away from home.  I bet you were up ten times last night.  I think what happens is that you wake up a little bit, and instead of falling back asleep like you might in your usual environment, you notice that things are abnormal and decide to wake up fully to investigate.

It is very annoying.

Still, despite your poor sleeping habits, you’ve maintained your jolly disposition.  Aunt Lily has commented about forty-nine times about your sweet smile and how you almost never cry.  Most of the group went to a water park yesterday, and Mubby was amazed by how much you enjoyed the water spouts, even when they squirted you in the face.  You rode around on the lazy river for a long time, and you had lots of fun with the various sprinklers in the kids’ pool.

You’re a fearless little nut, and you love to climb.  I took my eyes off you for about fifteen seconds the other day, and when I looked again, you had climbed up a two-level step-stool.  You can climb up entire flights of stairs (though getting down is harder).  You climb onto the trunk in the kitchen, the door of the dishwasher, the hearth, any chair you can find, and just about anything else that seems climbable.  You haven’t taken much for solo steps yet, but you can stand unsupported for a pretty long time.  The smart money is on you walking before your first birthday.

You’ve developed an appreciation of art lately.  Now, when your dad or I is holding you, you often point with your index finger at a photo or piece of art on the wall, which is a nonverbal request that we take you over to examine it more closely.  You love pictures of your brother most of all.  You call him baba, which we think means brother.  Another “word” you say is aaaaaah, which means you want a drink of water.  If you see someone else drinking water, you make that noise until we get you a cup of water too.  You also say it when you hear the word water, or even watermelon.  You do a pretty good job drinking out of an open cup.  Sometimes it spills down your front, and a lot of times you like to make bubbles in the water after you’re done drinking.  That’s okay.  Water is non-staining, and it’s been warm out.

You still put everything in your mouth.  You have six teeth, which you use to munch your Cheerios and the foam grips on the stroller handle and the couch.  You’ve pretty well shredded the foam guards we put on the sharp edges of the hearth for the purported reason of ensuring your safety.  I’ve sure fished a lot of chunks of that stuff out of your cheek pouches.  Your dad even caught you with an outlet cover dangling from your jaws.  Clearly, the inventors of these products have never met the likes of you.

You make me tired.  Your dad has been up against a big deadline at work lately, which has meant he hasn’t been quite as available as usual.  I know I’m lucky, because a lot of parents have to work much stricter hours than he does.  He’s able to go in a bit late and come home a bit early most days in order to accommodate our family life.  That makes it all the more shocking to my system when he has to work extra, though.  Being home with you guys until 5:00 every day is exhausting, and to have to wait until 6:00 for relief?  Ay yi yi.

Still, you are such a joyful little guy, it’s easy to keep smiling while I’m collapsed on the couch.  I love the way you say mamama when you want me, and how you like to cuddle when you wake up from a nap.  Your skin is so soft and your limbs are so squishy and kissable.  When I change your diaper and ask you if you want some tummy kisses, you blow raspberries (either because you know they’re coming, or as a way to prompt me to do them.  I’m not sure which.).

Is this really your last month as my baby?  It can’t be.  It seems so recently that you punched a hole in your amniotic sac (I swear that’s what you did) and made your way into this world.  You have been ready for everything since the day you were born, my little chub-chub.  I’ll ruminate more on that next month, on the anniversary of your great escape.  For now, I’m going to hold you as tightly as you’ll let me, until you squirm out of my arms because you want to go chase after your brother or put something non-biodegradable in your mouth.

I love you, my little one.  Please sleep well tonight.




Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:26 pm

Tonight I picked the first ripe, red tomato from this season’s garden.  It was really beautiful on the outside and pretty darn good on the inside too.  Here I am spokesmodeling with it:

We were going to have it with burgers, but then I found out we’re going to some unusual burger place tomorrow night, so we did a last-minute switcheroo and had BLTs instead. I served them on whole wheat with baby romaine lettuce, with some potato salad and grapes on the side.

The only item of note here is that I have learned the best, best way to make bacon:  put it in a 9×13 glass pan (this only holds about 5 strips, which works for us, but you could use a bigger dish or two dishes if you need more), then stick it in a cold oven.  Turn the oven on to 400 degrees and set the timer for 25 minutes.

It cooks slowly that way, almost confit-style the way it cooks in its own rendered fat.  When the 25 minutes are up, take it out, wipe it off on some paper towels, and as my old college roommate used to say, “Viola.”

Did we like it?  Oh yes.  That’s practically the Platonic ideal of summer food.

Did the kids eat it?  Miles ate two ears of corn on the cob and skipped the sandwiches.  Tobin bonked his head getting into his high chair and spent the first half of the meal nursing (did you know how difficult it is to eat a BLT while acting as a food source yourself?) and then had a little bit of applesauce.

Other notes:  We’ll be having these many more times this summer.  We especially go for the thick-cut maple bacon.


Scrounge night

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:25 pm

Well, I had groceries ready for Denny to grill burgers, but he wasn’t feeling like grilling, so we scrounged.

Denny had leftover pizza, I had a grilled cheese (provolone and some sort of Mexi-blend on whole wheat), Miles had noodles, and Tobin had yogurt.  We all had peaches and cherries.

This is some inspiring stuff, I tell you.


Chicken salad

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:33 pm

Tonight we had chicken salad.  It’s a recipe that barely requires the oven (doesn’t require it at all if you don’t care about warming up the rolls), so it’s nice for excruciatingly hot days like this.

General recipe:

1 14-oz package boneless, skinless chicken tenders
fistful of garden herbs (sage, rosemary, basil, lemon basil)
A generous glob of sour cream
A generous glob of mayo
a handful of slivered almonds
maybe a cup of red grapes, halved
half a red onion, finely chopped
dried thyme (fresh would have been nice, but le jardin did not provide)
extra handful of lemon basil, finely chopped
generous dash curry powder

Poach the chicken in the water with salt and the fresh herbs.  Chill in the fridge (I did that last night.  You can also do this with whatever leftover chicken is around).

Chop the chicken into small chunks and add everything else.  Serve on toasted ciabatta rolls.  I served corn on the cob on the side.

Did we like it?  Yes.  This is the second or third time I’ve made it.

Did the kids eat it?  Nah, Miles stuck to the corn and Tobin is still mostly eating pureed food.

Other notes:  This is easy to make in advance and doesn’t use very many dishes.  It’s good for a lazy night and easy to tweak based on what you have on hand.

Inauguration of a new category

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:24 pm


I have started a new category.  I probably won’t start using it regularly for another couple of weeks, because we’re going to be out of town most of next week and I won’t be cooking for the family, but here it is.

The category is called Seriously, what’s for dinner?.  The purpose of it is to honestly document what we eat for dinner most nights.  What we eat is always a compromise between my interest in creative, fresh, healthy cuisine and the limited time and energy I have for meal preparation.  Previously when I’ve blogged food stuff, it’s been things I’m proud of—the more elaborate endeavors.  That’s not what this category is for.

Maybe it will be useful to readers (do I still have readers?), but mostly what I hope to do is get some data that I can use in the future.  What worked?  What did the family like?  What was time-consuming but worth it?  What was not worth repeating, and why?  The first of such posts is forthcoming.


Personal growth

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:23 am

M:  How old are you?

D:  I’m 35.

M:  When will you be 100?

D:  Well, in 65 years I’ll be 100.

M:  You are going to bump your head on the ceiling.



Adventures in reading

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:33 pm

Miles was snacking on cookies with letters on them.  He had three:  Y, F, and X.

M:  Is the X silent?

A:  Um…sure, it can be.

M:  Y…F.  Y…F.  Wife!  (pause)  How do you spell husband?


Monthly Miles Memo #54

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:18 pm

Happy half-birthday, Miles!

…or should I say Dash.  Or Marcus.  Or Dora.  Or Brother Bear.  I can never tell what you’re going to want to be called on any given day, so I just call you Miles and wait for you to correct me.  You’ve been very imaginative lately, and you’ve continued to emulate your favorite characters from books and movies.  Your current favorite books are Harry Allard’s Miss Nelson Is Missing and Miss Nelson Is Back, though the kids in those books aren’t named, so you haven’t made people call you anything from that series.  We’ve been having a lot of fun completing tasks for the library’s summer reading program, and I think you only have one task left to complete before you claim your prize.

Despite being sick part of the time, you’re convinced that Breckenridge, Colorado is the best vacation spot in the world.  While I’m eyeing tropical destinations, you’ve decided we have to go back to Breckenridge for our next trip.  When I asked you what you liked so much about Breckenridge, you told me it was the swimming pool at our condo.  I’m sure that’s not the only fun you had.  You seemed to enjoy taking a pony ride and hanging out at the Riverwalk.  You weren’t too crazy about hiking, but that might have been because you came down with a 102F fever shortly after our ill-fated hike.

Now we’re back home, and everyone is healthy.  We’ve been in the middle of a drought and heat wave the last few weeks, so I’ve had to modify our afternoon routine a little.  We always have an adventure after Tobin’s early afternoon nap, but since it’s impractical to go outdoors, we’ve done other things.  We often go to the library and play in the downtown fountain.  One time we went to the Coral Ridge Mall (pretty much my least favorite place on earth, but it wasn’t too bad on a weekday afternoon).  One time we went all the way to Coralville to try a new frozen yogurt shop (as opposed to the downtown one, our usual haunt).  Whenever we go to a new place, you look forward to finding out what color the floor will be.  I don’t know how you ended up fixated on that aspect of places, but sometimes you’ll ask me to go to “that store with the green floor” and I have no idea what you mean.

I guess that’s part of being (relatively) short.

Another part of being short is having to stand on step-stools to see what’s going on with the pancake griddle, and that set of circumstances led to an unfortunate burn on your arm last week.  You did some major howling, and I’m sure it hurt.  You did a good job holding it in cool water and letting me put aloe and a bandage on it.  You still have your dislike of Band-Aids, which I can’t figure out, because don’t all kids love Band-Aids?  Not you, though.  Therefore, I had to wrap your arm in a bandage with self-adhesive medical wrap all last week.  It made things look much worse than they were, since a couple of Band-Aids would have accomplished the same goal.  It’s nearly healed now, though, so I think we’re going to survive.

Along with new arm skin, you seem to be growing a new confidence.  We’ve noticed a steady increase in your social savvy ever since you started school, but yesterday we saw an unprecedented outgoingness in you.  We went to our friends’ daughter’s first birthday party, and you initiated interactions with multiple adults and kids.  You even got a little out of hand, whacking people with a stuffed bear when you should have stuck to gentle bumps.  A little better sense of control would have been good, but mostly I was so proud of you for putting your usual shyness aside and hanging out with people.  Similarly, you played with your cousins really well at a family get-together last week.  I had to drag you away from both events.  As we were making our rounds saying goodbye to people at the birthday party last night, a woman complimented me on my haircut.  Because I have some social awkwardness of my own to deal with, and because I’m bad at taking compliments, I tried to defer it by saying, “Oh, I just don’t have very pretty hair.  If I had pretty hair like you, I’d keep it long too.”

After I said that, you scolded me.  “You were just kidding about not having pretty hair,” you said.  You were really a bit grumpy at me for saying such a thing, and it warmed my heart to hear you defend me like that.

You’re still very happy hanging out at home in front of your computer, which is what you’re doing right now.  I’m glad, though, that you’re finding enjoyment in interacting with others, too.  Now when I pick you up from school, you’re just as likely to be working with a friend as working by yourself.  You’ve especially taken to some of the new kids in your class.  I think you embrace the big kid role, the veteran, maybe because you’re such a good big brother at home.  More than once lately, when we’ve been in the company of babies, you’ve launched into the ABC song to try to soothe their crying.  It usually works.

Last night I came into the playroom while you and your dad and Tobin were playing Legos.  I sat on the floor next to you and instigated a game of “I love you more than…”  You told me you love me more than chocolate cake, Saturdays, and stuffed animals.

I don’t have to tell you that I love you more than swimming pools, garden tomatoes, and lemonade.  But I will.

My sweet Miles, I love you more than the deepest swimming pool, the ripest tomato, and the sweetest and tartest lemonade.  Thanks for making me smile.




A neverending supply

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:09 pm

I was bemoaning the fact that Tobin had a restless night and did a lot of nursing.  He seemed to want to nurse again early in the morning.

A:   Oh, Tobin, I don’t know if I have any milk left.

M:  I think righty could use a drain.

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