Sunday, June 30, 2013

toddler essentials: dress

Sunday, June 30, 2013
Time for round two of my toddler essentials!  I decided to go with clothes/accessories this time, partially because I have a few genuinely practical suggestions but mostly because I'm obsessed with finding cute stuff for my little guy.  I will attest that there is easily twice as much out there for little girls, but I am enjoying the challenge of seeking out outfits that aren't emblazoned with soccer balls and/or monkeys.  This isn't to say that those aren't appealing in their own way--it's just frustrating to feel like there is a lack of imagination when it comes to designing boys' clothing.

Here is a list of what I have relied upon most to dress my handsome A.

 H & M shirts and onesies.  I wasn't aware H & M carried kids' clothing until just before A was born, and truthfully, I didn't dive right in to shopping there until he was a few months old.  It was only then, when we were past the pajamas/wearable blankets/snuggly infant clothes stage that I really appreciated what they had to offer.  Not only is everything RIDICULOUSLY cheap, the designs are unique, with a bit of European flair.  My A sports sweater vests, brightly colored pants, and skinny jeans, and doesn't match every other kid on the block, which I appreciate.   As for the onesies, I know my guy is on the older side for wearing them, but I think they are super convenient for cooler weather-keeps him a bit warmer than a t-shirt would.  We do lots of layering in California, and even though we're going through an unseasonable heat wave, it's only a matter of time before it's cooler again.  At H & M, you can find organic cotton onesies in a variety of basic colors, 3 for $10!!! The pictures I included give a good idea of what you might find at H & M.  Check out those suspenders! 

Old Navy shirts and shorts.  I love, LOVE basic tees and shorts from Old Navy, and can't say enough good things about them.  They are affordable, hold up well, and come in a plethora of designs, enough to indulge my Toy Story/Finding Nemo loving boy and to please me with a few that are original, like this one.

Gap pjs. It is difficult for me to restrain myself when it comes to buying these pjs.  At first, I mourned the end of footed, one-piece pajamas, but once I put A in his first pair of Gap two-piece pjs, I completely forgot why I was upset in the first place.  They are, in a word, adorable, and he is adorable wearing them.  He has more than his fair share, but to their credit, the pjs are sized well and last for a long time.  We've been wearing 18-24 months for over a year, and are just now stocking up on 2T.  And in case you're wondering if my obsession is specific to Gap, the answer is yes. The quality and designs trump other brands, in my opinion.  We have had a few pairs of Carter's pj's, but they fade and weather quickly.

See Kai Run shoes. I read about See Kai Run on a blog a few years ago, and I was really excited to try out the shoes once A started walking.  My guy was barefoot for a LONG time-no shoes at all until he was actually walking.  He had hot, dry little feet, and he wasn't in love with the idea of shoes, just marched around without them until we tried a pair of these.  They are awesome-solid, easy to slip on, and best of all, smartly designed, with bright, modern colors and a marked lack of characters or trying-to-be-trendy patterns.  For the most part, I have relied on just the one pair of See Kai Run shoes in each of the three sizes A has achieved (5, 6, 7). He wears them until he can't fit them, every single day.

Sunday Afternoons sun hat. My dear mother-in-law picked up a pair of these hats for A and my darling niece L a long time ago, and I'll be honest-at first, I thought they looked like a pair of old ladies tottering around on the beach with their big hats.  However, I have since seen the error of my ways.  Not only do the cousins look super cute sporting their hats, hardly a beam of sunlight can penetrate them.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I've lost two hats already, and we have begun to accumulate quite the collection.  Because of this I can tell you with absolute certainty that the Sunday Afternoons hats are really the best-not cheap, but definitely the prime choice for protecting your toddler from the sun.

There are a few other things that I like to indulge in, every once in a while.  I like Gymboree for button-downs and the occasional t-shirt, and I was thrilled to find Hanna Andersen pajamas at Costco (yes,  I do have a strange pajama fixation). We are on our second pair of Converse sneakers, I've bought at least one item at Out of Print, and I take advantage of Gap sales when they come up.

I've decided to write about our eating essentials next time-it's about more than blueberries!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

out of control

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Oh hello, Fresno pepper-I didn't see you there.  

I feel terrible for my photo-centric laziness of the past few days, but this thesis work is. killing. me.  And I am too proud of my daily posting habits for June to let a day slip by me.  Seriously, though-these tomatoes are RIDICULOUS. It's like The Ruins out there!  The bowl is only a fraction of our bounty.  And we could have even more if I knew anything about how to properly plant and harvest.  I need many, many cages and stakes to contain the growth that has ensued from FOUR little plants!  

In need of delish tomato-based recipes!  Send help! 

Friday, June 28, 2013

wordless friday

Friday, June 28, 2013

- Posted from my iPhone

Thursday, June 27, 2013

fruitvale station

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Notwithstanding the subject of this film, the horrifying true story of Oscar Grant, which I am glad will be depicted on film, I am excited to see Michael B. Jordan snag such a significant and weighty role.  Those of you familiar with The Wire and Friday Night Lights already know what Jordan is capable of (Where's Wallace?!) but it would be awesome to see him garner acclaim for a film role.  Side note: Those two shows I just mentioned are probably the best ever made. Just so you know.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

desperation dinner

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This afternoon after I put my increasingly not-so-little A down for his nap and headed into the kitchen to tidy up the lunch dishes, I began to think with dread about the fact that I didn't really have anything planned for dinner.  In order to stick to my meal plan for the week, I would have had to run out for chicken and tomato sauce, and even though that list is small, I didn't relish the idea of dragging A into the grocery store.  Short trips like that are almost worse than big ones.

I took a look in the fridge, hoping for inspiration, and realized that I had just enough good produce and plenty of eggs-time for a frittata.  Next to beans and rice, or simple scrambled eggs and toast, a frittata is what I gravitate towards when I'm really desperate.  I made one for the first time about six years ago, in a rare instance of following a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe, and I've never really looked back.  For the uninitiated, a frittata is basically a combination of vegetables and/or meats sautéed together with a mixture of beaten eggs poured over it and then baked.  It's like an omelette, without the pesky trouble of having to flip it or ensure that the eggs in the filling are properly cooked through.

Now, a frittata is not rocket science, and there are a few different methods out there, but I will just include my basic routine here, which works out every time with no problem.  For some reason, I am always a bit fuzzy on how long it needs to bake-I rely on a general time frame and slice into the frittata to check for doneness.

-Preheat oven to 350-375.
-Prepare your filling.  I like to use combinations of whatever veggies I have on hand, and almost never make frittatas with meat.  This isn't really a health-conscious choice, more because if I've had to a resort to a frittata for dinner, I probably don't have any tasty protein on hand.  It would obviously be great with bacon, sausage, or ground beef or turkey.  On days like today, I attempt to dump in good amounts of everything I've got.  When I'm running low on produce, I'll drain a can of chickpeas to supplement the frittata.  Today's combo was halved cherry tomatoes (harvested from our ridiculously productive tomato crop), a package of mushrooms that were miraculously not slimy, two sturdy zucchinis, a handful of spinach, and a tired leek that had been languishing in the fridge for almost two weeks.
-Saute filling in a tablespoon or two (depending on how much filling you're using) of extra-virgin olive oil, in an OVEN SAFE PAN (this is critical, because you'll be transferring the pan to the oven).  The length of time will depend on the vegetable you use, but ultimately, what you're going for is a happy medium between raw and soft. You want a slight crunch to remain, because the veggies will be cooking longer in the oven.
-Whisk eggs with a bit of milk.  A good ratio is probably 3 eggs to 1 cup of uncooked filling, but this is flexible.  I usually make a six-egg frittata.  Season eggs with salt and pepper.
-Once the filling is ready, spread out evenly in the pan. Pour the egg mixture over it.  Swirl the pan around to be sure that the egg has spread completely throughout pan.  It's completely okay if there are sections of filling that are thicker than others.  If you'd like, sprinkle the top with 1/2 - 1 cup of grated cheese of your choice.  We like sharp cheddar, and of course, Gruyere.
-Pop in the oven for around 20-25 minutes.  The time might need to be adjusted according to how large your frittata is going to be (longer for more eggs).  You'll know it's done when the eggs have set completely and the top is golden brown-give the handle of your pan a shake-if it's done, you won't see any movement.  For a final check, slice into the frittata to check to see if it's cooked through.
-For a more complete dinner, serve with a nice green salad.  If you're desperate like we are, pass a bottle of Cholula and devour the whole frittata in one sitting.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

what we're reading now

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Just thought I'd share a few of our summer favorites!  Happy reading!

Eating the Alphabet and Planting a Rainbow, by Lois Ehlert.  Never in a million years would I have expected these books to be such a massive hit in our house.  They are classic concept books, featuring Ehlert's bright, simplistic illustrations, and while the idea of an alphabet book parading fruits and vegetables and a book about planting seeds seems straightforward enough, the actual subject matter is a bit obscure.  Purple bearded iris rhizome?  Rutabaga? Kohlrabi? Delphinium? Yet somehow, A has become completely infatuated with both books, has memorized Eating the Alphabet, and asks for them all. the. time.

Ten Black Dots, by Donald Crews. Along with Freight Train, this Donald Crews title is much beloved these days.  Another counting book, which involves large, solid black dots as they form different pictures to match numbers, it's been really useful for the incredibly un-fun current state of diaper changing.  All I have to do is begin repeating the lines of the book-A completes the sentences and stops thrashing like a madman.

I Know a Rhino. Not the most compelling little book in the world, I Know a Rhino has its own little charm.  It's about a little girl's collection of stuffed animals, and how she imagines them to come to life. The pages featuring the giraffe and brown bear are particularly adorable.  Even though I brought along a mountain of books on our recent vacation, it was this one, and only this one, that A wanted to hear.

Moo Hoo.  This particular book is probably my least favorite of all the ones that have become obsessions of A's. Illustrated by Mike Lowery, who also illustrated another favorite, What Can A Crane Pick Up, it's about the friendship between a cow and an owl, disrupted by the arrival of kangaroo.  The phrase "Moo hoo" is repeated on every page, which is, to be honest, grating for me but incredibly humorous for A. I think he also recognizes Lowery's illustrations,  because of his love for:

What Can a Crane Pick Up.  Since we're talking about Moo Hoo, I figured I would also share this book, which we have had for quite some time but is still frequently requested by A. Considering that A loves anything construction/vehicle-related, it's a perfect fit for him.  The book is about cranes and the myriad of things they can pick up, including library books, kites, and planes, all topics of interest for A.

Potato Joe. I picked this up on our last library trip, and it's a winner.  We've been reading quite a few concept books, so any time I see one that might give me a break from endless readings of Chicka Chicka 1-2-3, I grab it.  I love the pictures of fat, brown, potatoes on each page, accompanied by a sing-songy rhyme that isn't the least bit annoying.

Laura Numeroff's collection: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie + If You Give a Cat a Cupcake and If You Give a Dog a Doughnut.  To be honest, these books have never been my favorite.  They are ubiquitous at school book fairs and usually very popular in elementary school classrooms, so I really shouldn't be surprised that A is completely into them.  I originally owned the collection pictured here, but picked up the other two used when I saw how much he loved them.  I think I might have grossly underestimated the usefulness  of Numeroff's books.  She has tapped into something interesting with the "if-then" scenarios-none of the items are complex (in fact, they range from things as familiar to kids as apple juice to bubbles) but the kids are still asked to remember them from page to page.  That's why I don't feel the least bit bad when I pick up If You Give a Cat a Cupcake for the hundredth time-these books might not be what will be remembered in children's literature fifty years from now, but A is undoubtedly learning something from them.

Monday, June 24, 2013

and then I fell in love....SK's tomato sauce with onion and butter

Monday, June 24, 2013
Oh, the butter.

Given my spotty blogging history of the past year or so, you might have thought that one of the reasons I didn't post much, specifically about food, was because I had fallen into the "tired mom trap" of cooking the same old easy dinners over and over.  I am here to tell you that is exactly what has happened.  For the most part, I DO stick to a rather uninspiring repertoire.  The only reason my SH hasn't mutinied is because he isn't particularly enamored with food in the first place, and as long as there is some sort of discernible protein, he'll be (mostly) satisfied.

It hasn't been all bolognese and chicken satay noodle salad, though.  As I started to get the hang of being a new mom, I did gradually try a few new dishes, and some of them have made their way into the  still predictable rotation, including this unbelievable pot of deliciousness, Deb's tomato sauce with onion and butter.

My dear sister-in-law H pointed me to the sauce, which Deb detailed on a post that I definitely remembered seeing, but passed by because I was a bit turned off by the idea of a halved onion being thrown in with the tomatoes.  I do not know why I had that ridiculous idea, because the onion adds a homey depth to the sauce, a sort of savory counterpart to the pleasantly acidic tang of the tomatoes.  What is so good about this sauce though, the thing that makes it transcendent, is, of course, the butter. Five whole tablespoons of it, almost an entire stick.  It melts into creamy swirls, which you can see in my garishly lit photo, softening and yet somehow brightening the taste of the tomatoes.  I pour scoopfuls over angel hair pasta and sprinkle with just a bit of grated mozzarella, though Deb is right-it probably doesn't need anything extra.

I should probably also mention, just in case it doesn't seem obvious, that this recipe is the EASIEST.  Three ingredients (not counting the pasta), all of which are pretty much pantry/fridge staples.  The sauce is equally delicious the next day, and as tempting to my little guy as to me.  I'm pretty sure it should be in your repertoire too.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

episode alert: the sopranos pilot (S01 E01)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I've been looking for a few new theme ideas to help keep me up and posting on the old blog, and being a television addict aficionado, I thought it might be fun to highlight individual episodes that I, in my infinite and profound expertise, deem compelling and/or spectacular.  *It is difficult at times to convey deep sarcasm properly with the typed word, but please note its presence here.

These episodes won't always be current (this first one dates back to 1998), but I will try to stick to things that are easily accessible.  Most of the series that I adore are on Netflix, and should your interest be piqued by anything I write about that isn't, I can promise it will be worth the $2.99 charge on iTunes.  I'll also tell you that while almost every episode I choose to highlight will be from a series that I watch regularly and admire, there might be a few exceptions.

With no further adieu, I submit for your scrutiny the very first episode of The Sopranos.  It seems apropos this week, don't you think? I'm always telling people that it's important not to judge an entire series and its possibilities on the pilot.  There is a lot of pressure on them to deliver-especially these days, to an even greater degree than when The Sopranos first aired-and there is simply no way, even in an hour-long format, that a series can really give the viewer enough of the story to ensure that their interest will be sustained over an entire season.  The best that most pilots can do is introduce the primary characters in an organized fashion, begin to develop at least one plot line, and provide a few memorable cases that effectively convey the genre of the series (i.e. if a comedy, it needs to have a few good laughs; if a drama, a shocking or tears-inducing event would be nice).  Now, the ironic thing about everything I'm writing right now is that even though we probably shouldn't judge the pilot, it absolutely has to have that expectation.  Most often, the pilot is the only part of a series that ever sees the light of day.  While I might advise you to watch at least three to four episodes before determining whether or now you'll keep watching, the reality is that if the powers that be in the entertainment industry don't think a pilot is worth spending additional cash to bring to full production, it's not going to happen.

The entire long-winded paragraph I've just forced upon you is all for naught, as it turns out, when it comes to the pilot episode of The Sopranos.  It is truly excellent, containing all the hallmarks of what makes a good pilot and even more.  This is a great accomplishment, considering that the story of a mob boss and his inevitable network of henchmen, lieutenants, and goons is a confusing prospect, particularly as it's occasionally difficult to decipher the many inscrutable nicknames when spoken with a Jersey/Italian accent as thick as peanut butter.  None of that matters in the pilot, however, which is more about the troubled anti-hero as he begins to face changing responsibilities in the "regime", beautifully conveyed by a metaphor involving ducks, if you can believe it.  During the final scenes, which set the stage for the countless times Tony Soprano sits across from Dr. Malfi, we were hanging on every word.

I've actually only seen a handful of Sopranos episodes, and I'm sure there are plentiful examples of great ones.  For once, the pilot is a good start.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

browsing history

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sneak peek pics from the Divergent set, including several glimpses of Tris and Four together.

I am not entirely sure I needed to read this: 10 natural ingredients you have no idea you're eating.

Lately, I've come a bit obsessed with Buzzfeed and their galleries and lists.  Here are a few of my favorites from the past few weeks.

-Shopping at Forever 21

-What morning looks like around the world.

Jenny at Dinner A Love Story wrote about this post on "vacation house cooking".  It's something that I constantly think about for our vacations, how to prepare tasty, affordable meals that won't take me hours to prepare.  I think we might've eaten much better while we were away last week if I had seen some of these great ideas.

Jenny ALSO found the most amazing children's book blog, Mrs. Little.  She wrote about this post, "What Would Half-Pint Do?"and after I clicked on the link, I fell in love.  It's an entire post describing what the author learned from Laura Ingalls Wilder's The First Four Years.

Entertainment Weekly's gallery of "snake-bit"movie productions, which sadly includes World War Z. Never a good thing to have a huge portion of your film rewritten mid-production.  I read the book, and while the book is always better than the movie, yada, yada, yada, it is really a huge disappointment to hear that the overall plot of a movie has been drastically altered from the book.  Even Sarah Linden and Brad Pitt can't save it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

the butler

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's hard to think that Lee Daniels' latest project could be anything but good.  That is a packed cast, no? And a really amazing true story.  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

toddler essentials: play time

Thursday, June 20, 2013
When my little guy was a wee baby, I compiled lists of our favorite things, the ones we felt we couldn't live without and used day after day.  You can take a peek here and here, if you happen to be interested. Now that he's a super active, speedy, chatty and growing little BOY (how did this happen?!), our needs are a bit more extensive and diverse.  Thus, I decided to start a little blog series of "toddler essentials", wherein I'll document our favorites for eating, playing, dressing, and perhaps a few other topics.  Since I'm in the midst of planning for the big second birthday, the fun stuff has been preoccupying my mind.

The play items I'm going to list here have all been "in circulation" for quite some time now.  I'm fairly confident that they'll keep A's interest for a while longer-he plays with most of them on a daily basis.

Play kitchen. I had my heart set on a play kitchen for A practically since his birth, and didn't even entertain the thought he might not like it too.  Thankfully, he has adored every play kitchen he's come across, so I knew it was going to be a worthwhile purchase.  Of course, I would've loved to have had  this painfully adorable retro kitchen from Pottery Barn Kids, but I have neither the space nor the mountains of cash necessary.  In the end, we went with a simple Ikea kitchen.  Every time we took a trip there, A spent all of this time in the kids' section with the kitchen.  It's basic, super easy to put together, and appealingly devoid of stickers shaped like food or flowers, which I appreciated.  There are lots of great DIY play kitchen ideas out there-I'm sure Pinterest is full of them-but I'm not handy or creative, and truth be told, I'm a bit lazy about those kinds of things.  We supplemented the kitchen with a dishwasher that I scored on Zulily, felt food from Ikea (fruit and vegetables, cheap and adorable), and the Ikea cooking accessories set.  I splurged on these adorable wooden play food toys-A loves to run over with the milk and juices and pretend for us to drink them.

ABC train. We have had the alphabet train since A was six months old.  At the time, he could sit up next to the train, listen to the music, and inevitably stick the letter pieces into his mouth.  Once he could move around more, he grew more enraptured by the train, attempting to push it around and pushing the number buttons.  After that, he figured out how to snap the letters into place.  Now, it's something he turns to regularly, usually every day.  It's a battery-operated toy, complete with borderline obnoxious music, but it's one of the best toys we have, enriching even more now because A knows quite a few letters.

Music table.  This is another toy that has stood the test of time.  I purchased one as soon as A could pull up on things, and he was mightily entertained by the music, textured plastic, and even a little compartment where I kept puffs.  When he received a second music table for a first birthday present, I almost returned it, thinking we didn't need another.  I debated sending it to Texas to keep at my dad's house, but my laziness kicked in and I decided I'd add another toy to the repertoire.  As it turns out, he far prefers it to the original table, and dances to the various musical options every. single. day.  I'm so glad we kept it. Note: We still loved our first table, and I think it's a bit more interesting.

Balls.  This may seem a bit obvious, but I felt I had to include it anyway.  We have a wide assortment, from a solid basketball to soft pillow balls.  It never needs to be fancy-A's favorites are probably the super cheap balls we indulge him with on trips to Safeway.

Cars. Also a bit obvious, but just as much a part of the play routine.  We have many, and while some of my favorites are the fun B cars pictured above, A's might be the drugstore Superman car his dad picked up for him while we were on vacation last week.  

None of these suggestions are particularly special, but they have all continued to provide A with loads of entertainment.  Next topic: toddler essentials for dinner time!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

barefoot contessa's roasted shrimp with feta

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Last week I had an out-of-the-ordinary appointment that required a bit of a wait.  I had not yet eaten that day, and at the office where I sat impatiently, the television was tuned to the Food Network, a special kind of torture for someone as starving and prone to low-blood sugar attacks as myself.  I watched longingly as Ina Garten set about in her typical effortless fashion, making lunch for a friend that was of course enjoyed in an immaculate spring setting off the porch at the Hamptons home, complete with vases bursting with pristine hydrangeas.  Oh, Ina, I love you, but you are a bit predictable.

I've written before about Ina's bewitching presence.  Her voice is sort of low and syrup-y, with no discernible accent, just languid and dreamy.  Nothing ever takes very long in her kitchen, there are always loads of butter and cocktails, and her dinner guests (or darling husband, Jeffrey) find themselves sitting at beautifully set tables, surrounded by sparkling silver and fresh flowers.  Ina has inevitably had the foresight to prepare the dish long in advance, which means she spends all of her time at lunches/dinner parties/picnics/brunches chatting with her friends.  When you watch her, not only are you completely drawn into her presence, you become convinced that you too, can pull off a meal with such grace and aplomb as Ina.  An episode of Barefoot Contessa is a soothing as a cup of nice, steaming tea, and will leave you undoubtedly feeling inspired.  Of course, we can't all be as organized or skillful as Ina, but that thought is far from your mind once you've spent a half hour with her.

Needless to say, when I printed out this recipe yesterday, I wasn't sure if the real reason I wanted to try it was because I was unreasonably hungry the day I watched the episode featuring it, or if I might have just been in an Ina fog.  I like all of the ingredients on their own, enjoy Mediterranean flavors in general, and am certainly a huge fan of roasting my entire meal in one pan.  It wasn't with trepidation that I began the preparation, I just simply worried that it might not be as flavorful or filling as we wanted for our dinner.  I was in a bit of a rush (toddler-induced, of course) and I didn't even follow some of the directions properly (sauced the shrimp with lemon BEFORE putting in the oven, sprinkled the feta on TOP of the breadcrumbs instead of the other way around).

You guys, the final result was stupendous.  So. Incredibly. Delicious.  The delicate flavor of the fennel married perfectly with the tomato, lemon, and parsley to create a base for the shrimp that was mildly spicy, and the briny nature of the shrimp was countered by the salty feta, which, by the way, tasted especially amazing with its nice, toasty brown top.  Of course, the breadcrumbs, accented with threads of lemon zest, gave the entire dish the homey feeling that I love.  I will also admit that it wasn't a particularly fussy production.  The fennel does need to saute for a bit, but you can easily prepare the crumb topping or wash dishes while you're waiting.  The whole thing could definitely be finished in 45 minutes, maybe less if you're super speedy.  I suggest you make it immediately.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

choosing sides

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Far into the future, in the days when I long to recall what trivial pleasures possessed my mind during my (relative) youth, I feel confident that I will have great pleasure (and a laugh, no doubt) when I look back here on my scrapbook-of-sorts and see my ridiculous obsession with Twilight and its star-crossed leads.  While I won't delve into the absurd lengths my interest led me (hint: I drove thirty miles once to see a poorly-acted indie starring Robert Pattinson), I feel that I simply can't let the latest personal scandal go by without weighing in.  Unless you've been living under a rock for many years, you must know about the crazy fandom surrounding Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson and their real-life relationship.  And unless you've been living under a veritable pile of boulders, you probably know about the cheating scandal.  I won't go into further detail there-suffice to say, K-Stew became involved with her married director, was caught flagrantly canoodling with him in public, made an uncharacteristically revealing statement professing her love for Rob post-affair, and he took her back, up until about a month ago.  Just so you know I have a sense of humor and am not a psychotic fan, here is a little recap provided by Will Ferrell that brings me great joy.  

Anyway, after giving it a bit of thought and watching how it's played out so far, I have determined that it's time to choose sides.  

That's right.  Team K-Stew.  Now, before you protest with perfectly reasonable questions about why I could defend a cheating, notoriously awkward and camera shy individual with occasionally questionable hygiene habits, allow me to explain.  

1)First-she is 23 years old.  A young twenty-three at that.  More like 18 or 19 considering she is a child star that has never attended public school for an extended period, lived her entire life in a strange Hollywood bubble, and undoubtedly has suffered a little socially because of those factors.  This isn't Lindsay Lohan, or Britney Spears, and definitely not Amanda Bynes.  She is undoubtedly naive, probably slightly immature, and made an egregious error in judgment that many with more stability in their lives have made before her, all in the midst of strife at her otherwise solid home. Her now ex-boyfriend is 27.  

2)Family problems.  Stewart's parents (both in the biz) had been married for over thirty years, and divorced shortly after the cheating scandal.  You should know that for the four years-plus of their relationship, KS and RP went to great lengths to avoid being photographed together in any kind of intimate fashion.  Fans salivated over the tiniest touch of a hand on an arm.  My Lainey affectionately referred to them as "dumpster-divers", literally willing to jump into a dumpster to avoid being photographed together. And yet, Stewart was caught with her director in broad daylight, near a city park, and not even far from her own home.  It's not hard to believe that she wasn't in the best frame of mind given her family drama, and might have been taken advantage of while she was vulnerable by her older, more experienced director. 

3)Talent.  Ok, so this is a superficial point to grant K-Stew, but let's face it.  She is vastly superior to R-Pattz when it comes to acting ability.  Nay-sayers, I point you to Into the Wild and The Cake Eaters.  She's solid, even though she has some tics that definitely need to go.  I wouldn't say that Rob is a terrible actor, but so far he hasn't shown us anything miraculous.  I think he's getting by with a pretty face, British charm, and general affability.  

4)Post-split behavior.  This is what really made up my mind.  Obviously, no one knows the real details surrounding the break-up, but the pair truly are in the public eye, whether they like it or not, and neither opted to stay at home after the split.  They've each been seen a few times, out with friends.  RP kept company with Katy Perry, a mark against him not so much because of the previously-established friendship but because of the obvious attention it draws towards him.  Also, Katy is still dealing with John Mayer.  So by association I'm already grossed out.  But, sadly, this isn't the worst part.  Rob decided to move out of the home he shared with Kristen in the middle of the day, driving a truck the opposite of nondescript and loading the back with luggage and belongings stuffed in trash bags.  It's very difficult to think this was anything but a calculated move.  He could have hired any number of professionals to do the moving for him, and even if he did want to do it himself, certainly knew that he's a primary target for the paparazzi that are undoubtedly stalking the neighborhood.  No, he telegraphed that move out for the "world" to see.  Stone cold.  

So there you have it.  My thoughts regarding the Twilight saga's true life saga.  Yes, I wrote an entire post about it.  I should be ashamed.  

Tomorrow I'll post about something useful, like a delicious dish for dinner or list of practical items for entertaining a rambunctious toddler.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

you need to see this: Luther

Monday, June 17, 2013

I've admired Idris Elba since his undeniably memorable stint as Stringer Bell on The Wire, arguably one of the best television series ever produced.  If you've not seen it, I heartily admonish that you head to your library, post haste, and borrow the whole thing.  The library is a great place to find the show, because it certainly isn't streaming on any major service, and, as usual for HBO fare, is extremely expensive.

This post isn't about The Wire, but instead to share Luther, the BBC series starring Elba as the eponymous John Luther, a troubled, savvy police detective.  I'm always fascinated by foreign television series-it's interesting to see how they differ from ours (you might be interested to know that American television is typically much more violent).  Luther is unique in that there is a recurring would-be villain, played by Ruth Wilson, an actress with a startlingly bewitching face.  Wilson's character, Alice Morgan, has an ongoing cat-and-mouse relationship with Luther, who finds himself constantly struggling to rise above the darkness of his job.  It's not an action-packed series, but instead focuses on the psychological intensity of its primary characters.  The season three trailer just aired, but you can catch the previous seasons (which are both quite short) on Netflix.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

what I'm reading now

Sunday, June 16, 2013
Lest you all think I've abandoned my own reading habits, I've decided to post a few of the great books I've devoured this year.  My list should come with a disclaimer: with one exception, all of these books were read for what I like to call "pure entertainment value."  There is no East of Eden here, in other words.  In the midst of working on my thesis, I've taken to reading lighter fare-I'll often sit with my book or Kindle (which I have taught A to call "mommy's book") while my little guy plays, a pastime that wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable or successful if I were reading something that required a bit more attention.

In the Woods, Tana French. A totally riveting Irish detective thriller that I could not put down.  It's like a better version of The Lovely Bones, and much more complex than most average titles in the genre.  Tana French has several other titles to her name, but I've heard from a very reputable source (sister-in-law H) that it's the best.

The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe. The subject is certainly sad, but I found the reading of this memoir therapeutic, given my own life experiences.  Will Schwalbe writes of the informal "book club" formed between himself and his mother Mary Ann as she goes through treatment for stage iv pancreatic cancer.  They read everything from Herman Wouk's Marjorie Morningstar to Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist to Stieg Larson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Every chapter is based on one central book, neatly interwoven with the conversation between mother and son.  Usually, the subject matter of one book leads to discussion about others, and in the midst of it all, Will Schwalbe is the recipient of a wonderful gift-the opportunity to spend time with his mother, unobstructed by the inevitable stresses and hustle and bustle of daily life.  There are several books that I became intrigued about reading after finishing the book, and I took it upon myself to find an appropriately old copy of Daily Strength for Daily Needs, the devotional that Mary Ann clings to throughout her treatment. In the preface to Mary Ann's 1934 edition, bishop William Lawrence wrote "Since this little book was published empires have fallen, theologies have been rewritten, wars have been fought and standards of life have changed, but men are still men, their yearning in times of disaster for comfort is still keen and the call for courage strong..." Gems like this one from the selected novels in  the book club are scattered throughout the memoir.

The Stand, Stephen King.  I've figured out that I am a sucker for end-of-the-world, dystopian futures, plague-infested type novels.  See The Passage, The Twelve, Divergent trilogy, World War Z, etc.  The Stand is probably the grandfather of all these other works.  A massive tome, particularly when you choose the uncut version, which includes some hundreds of pages not part of its original publication, I was in a funk for days when I finished it.  There is definitely some meandering, which is not unusual given the sheer volume of the work, but for the most part, I was completely intrigued from start to finish.  I've only read a few of Stephen King's books (Misery and The Shining), but they pale in comparison.  Even though I know it won't be the same, I'm going to start Under the Dome soon, if only to recover from finishing The Stand.

Life after Life, Kate Atkinson. My gossip guru, Lainey Gossip, is not only the source of infinite knowledge regarding celebrities but is also quite well-versed in compelling fiction. She wrote about Life After Life and described how she read through it in one busy traveling weekend, taking it with her everywhere, from elevators to press conferences.  It is the never-ending story of Ursula Todd, who seems fated for death throughout her life.  My beloved sister-in-law H likened it to A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book-naturally I immediately purchased that one too.

The Twelve, Justin Cronin.  I waited with baited breath for The Twelve, the second book in Justin Cronin's trilogy.  I've written about the first title, The Passage, in passing, and while it would be useless to provide a decent plot summary that would not make me sound crazy (search for the cure for cancer/eternal life leads to disastrous consequences, turning vast majority of the population into zombie/vampire hybrids), I can say that yet again, I am in a state of anxious anticipation for the eventual release of the third and final book.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

ring of fire

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I was trying to think of a neat little post for today, seeing as how it's 10:20 pm and I am extremely tired from my week of vacation.  Yes, the old adage is true, I need a vacation FROM my vacation.  This little gem fits the bill. Anything to share more of Maisy and Lennon Stella with the world. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Vacation view

Friday, June 14, 2013



Thursday, June 13, 2013

taking a toddler out to eat

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The very title of this post might sound ominous to some of you, and I am going to tell you right from the start that nothing that I say here is revelationary or rocket science. Not a single hint of mine is brilliant or even creative.  But for the sake of remembering what this time in our life was like, spending our days with just the one little guy, I thought I might record our typical routine when we head out to eat.  I should tell you that we make a conscious effort to go out often, usually 3-4 times a month. Normally, I am not a huge advocate of eating out-it's healthier, and certainly cheaper, to eat at home.
There is something so nice, though, about a family tradition of a special meal out, and I'd like to think we are making our own.  I'd also like to think that we're doing our part to provide A with some opportunities to practice good behavior.

Lately, our restaurant adventures have usually taken place after church.  We go to an early service, which leads me to my first essential tip for a successful meal out with a toddler.

1) Eat early! 11 for lunch, 5 or 5:30 for dinner. I'm crowd-shy anyway, but it's approximately 8,000,000 times easier to have a pleasant meal without the stress of other busy patrons.  There are so many reasons this makes eating out easier-service is faster, my little guy can take a walk through the restaurant without bothering anyone, and if for some reason he's not feeling it on any particular day, there are fewer witnesses to the inevitable meltdown. This also is key for that dreadful transitional time to one nap, when, if you're anything like us, you are struggling to keep your baby awake for a little longer in the morning, but know that your time is extremely limited.  Side note: Truthfully, breakfast and lunch are much better times for a successful meal out in our experience.  The end of the day simply isn't A's best time.

2) Don't put your toddler in the high chair until the food has arrived. I learned this lesson the hard way, plopping A down in the chair right away only to discover that it held his interest for 2.5 minutes before he demanded "Out!" and then fought us putting him back when it was time to eat. I have never repeated this error since the first disaster.  Instead, I pull out my bag of tricks or take him on a friendly walk.  When the food comes, I do any necessary prep (cutting into smaller pieces, etc.) and only then put him in the chair.  Works like a charm (for a little while at least, usually enough to get a decent amount of my own plate eaten).

3) Have a bag of tricks! I don't carry anything out of the ordinary, usually just a pack of crayons, small blank notepad, and maybe 1 book or 1 small toy.  Nothing that crowds my bag or makes a mess. Yes, most restaurants have a coloring page and crayons, but it's good to be prepared, and even if they do, it is still an additional item for entertainment.

4) The aforementioned friendly walk is a great way for your toddler to burn a little energy, and you can make it especially productive by taking him to the bathroom for a proper hand washing (which in itself can be supremely entertaining).  Patrons won't mind seeing an adorable, HAPPY kid wandering around.

5) Last, but not least, our ordering routine. I am APPALLED by the sad state of kids' menus in virtually every restaurant I've ever been.  It's rare to see anything besides chicken fingers and Mac n' cheese. Decent vegetables are like an endangered species. Even fruit cups are plain and uninspired. There are a few local spots with better choices, but most continue to be awful.  What I usually do is share my order.  Goodness knows portion sizes these days are ridiculously out of control, so it's not like I'm losing anything. If what I'm craving doesn't have a side of veggies, I'll order a side salad, just to ensure we have something a little healthy.  I am not always virtuous, of course, and there have been plenty of French fries and bites of pizza shared between us and our little boy.  We try our best!

Like I said, these little tips aren't new, or even thoughtful.  I also know that it will be a whole new ball game, so to speak, once the is more than one child in the mix (we hope that time isn't far away!). By sticking to the routine, though, we have managed to have some great family meals together. And I love our new tradition.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

bourbon-marinated pork tenderloin

Wednesday, June 12, 2013
We've had this bourbon for QUITE some time, I promise!

Marinating is a new thing for me.  Too many times I've glanced over recipes requiring a marinade and forgotten them, mostly because I felt that I just couldn't be bothered to knock the ingredients of a marinade together.  The irony of my laziness is that a properly-timed marinade (meaning, one has marinated the food for the amount of time suggested, not a mere half hour before dinner) can be a time-SAVING device, and certainly has the potential to push a meal from ordinary to exceptional.  Yes, you do have to take the time (preferably in the morning) to make the marinade, but after that, your work for what is usually the main course of your dinner is essentially done.  It's true that a fussy marinade loaded down with many ingredients is understandably daunting for a busy mom just trying to get a decent dinner on the table.  There are some great, tasty recipes out there, however, which are really worth the effort.

I started rethinking marinading while reading Dinner A Love Story, a great foodie blog that focuses on having great meals that the family can eat together.  Jenny (and her husband, Andy) not only come up with wonderful recipes, but also have lots of hints on how to save time and work with picky eaters.  I should also tell you that neither of them are particularly judge-y on the occasional meal out.  In fact, when writing about meal planning, Jenny encourages a dinner out or prepared item from Trader Joe's (or from whatever grocery you frequent) at least one night a week, just to make things easier.  

The pork tenderloin recipe from their new cookbook is literally one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten.  We've made it many times, and it is rare to have even a morsel left over.  The marinade is a cinch-takes less than five minutes to make, and everything is neatly put away in a plastic bag.  It helps that we've really been enjoying bourbon this year, so our marinade is made super classy and delicious with the addition of more than decent bourbon. 

Bourbon-Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin, adapted from Dinner: A Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach

1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound)

In a large zipper-lock bag, combine the bourbon, soy sauce, sugar, oil, and ginger.  Add the pork and marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 4.  When you are ready to grill, remove the tenderloin from the bag, reserving the marinade, and grill it over medium-hot coals for 15-20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, until the middle is firm but not hard to the touch.  (A meat thermometer should read 140 degrees). Add the marinade to a small saucepan and bring to a boil; boil until it becomes slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.  Slice the pork on a cutting board and transfer to a platter, spooning the sauce over the top.  (Side note: I've never actually followed through with this last step-can you imagine how good it would be?)

Bonus: Check out this post with Jenny's marinading suggestions.  I too, want to marry marinating.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I was simultaneously horrified and frightened while watching this trailer.  Its focus is Tilikum, a male orca in captivity responsible for three deaths.  I've only now been reading a bit about the film, but what I've learned so far has really made me think twice about the idea of taking my little boy to Sea World or any facility that derives entertainment from the animals through performance.  I can't say that I'm not happy to take A to a zoo or aquarium so that he can see animals that he will never otherwise encounter, but I also know the idea of wild animals in captivity shouldn't be so easy for us to accept. 

The Hollywood Reporter's review of Blackfish at Sundance is very informative-definitely a good read if you'd like to hear more about the documentary.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

mechanical bull

Monday, June 10, 2013
I'll let Jimmy announce the news.

Love him.  And extremely excited for new music, especially after the drama following the last tour.  Rolling Stone has a great write-up for the Kings' performance at the Governors Ball in NYC over the weekend.  Though critical of the technical issues, the article is overall positive, and I have to admit that I love the line  "Kings of Leon are not a band who openly delight in their jobs..."  Having seen them in concert myself, I know this to be true.  They just get up there and sing.

Mechanical Bull is an interesting title-I'm thinking southern flair?  Back to country rock roots, like Youth and Young Manhood

Sunday, June 9, 2013

song sampling

Sunday, June 9, 2013
A few years ago, I got into the habit of drafting a playlist for my fave songs of the season.  I had to go by season, because I'm so rarely in the car long enough to listen to new stuff, and thus terribly out of the loop when it comes to anything new and interesting.  Now that we listen almost exclusively to The Frances Collection audiobook while in the car, I can only imagine that I'll hear fewer and fewer new tunes.  These aren't all new, but I've really enjoyed snatching bits of them on quick trips to the grocery story or occasionally while I'm cooking dinner.  If I ever pull the trigger with Spotify, making these lists for the ol' blog will be a lot quicker.  For now, feast your eyes on my meandering thoughts and occasional video clips.

Vampire Diaries gems:
Kiss Me, Ed Sheeran. Probably my favorite song on the whole list, and one that I listen to the most.  I LOVE it.  Ed Sheeran has been collaborating quite a bit with Taylor Swift lately, and I have a feeling he'll get bigger and bigger. P.S.He's British. How is it possible that the nation has created so much great music?  It doesn't seem fair.

A Drop in the Ocean, Ron Pope.  That's right-I included a clip of my most beloved guilty pleasure, showcasing the song that I've listened to literally hundreds of times in the last year.  This is what happens when you have your own blog.

Soundtracks are my favorite:
Love is Blindness, Jack White, Great Gatsby Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. I've loved this song from the moment it was featured in the first trailer.  Random trivia: it's a U2 cover, arguably made even better.

Young and Beautiful, Lana del Ray, Great Gatsby Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Isn't Lana del Ray kind of a big deal?  Whether she is or not, this song is perfectly fitting for Gatsby and a great addition to a soundtrack already riddled with solid songs.

Cover Your Tracks, A Boy and his Kite, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Let's not bring up the memory of the scene for which this song sets the stage.  The wound of the infamous breakup still smarts.

Where I Come From, Passion Pit, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Even SH can't deny the appeal of this super relaxing, yet upbeat tune.

Tomorrow Will Be Kinder, The Secret Sisters, The Hunger Games Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. A beautiful, lilting song. I think my mom would have loved it. 

just because:
I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), Sleep at Last. I love the original song, but this slowed down cover is equally wonderful.

New Theory, Life of Leisure. The perfectly delicious gem of a song from my BFF Rose.  It hurts my heart to think I haven't written of her in so very long.  She continues to be a beacon of wisdom and brilliance, and she can still identify the very best in music.

Zou Bisou, Bisou, Jessica Pare. The worse possible gift for Don Draper becomes a wonderful present for the rest of us. And for the record, Jessica Pare IS singing.

Demons, Imagine Dragons. Since I'm not so much for radio or Spotify these days, I find songs in more unconventional spots, like movie trailers.  The one was featured in the trailer for The Words, which I've not seen.  I can't speak for the quality of the movie, but the song is totally one of those that sweeps you away into romantic daydreams.

Honeypot, Bob Schneider. Schneider is an Austin-based, Texas country musician and he's been immensely popular in those circles for a long time.  Pop culture reference: He also happened to date Sandra Bullock, long before the days of Jesse James, Ryan Gosling, and now little Louis.  Anyway, my dad introduced me to this song, which made me want to listen to everything he's ever sung.

Mirrors, Justin Timberlake. I don't hate myself even a little for LOVING this song.  Second favorite.

yes, just like everyone else, I love the Lumineers:
Ho Hey, The Lumineers. No matter how many times I've heard it, the song still warms my heart.

Stubborn Love, The Lumineers. The whole album is great, but this song is the one I usually have on repeat.

guilty pleasure (aka my Nashville addiction):
I Will Fall, Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen of the Nashville Cast. I do enjoy the mainstream country songs on the show (Hayden Panettiere's Boys in Buses is played around here more frequently than I'd like to admit!) but my favorite performances are inevitably the ones showcasing the partnership between Scarlett and Gunnar.  The characters themselves are at best silly and soapy and at worse mildly annoying, but when they sing together, it's magical.

When the Right One Comes Along, Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen of the Nashville Cast. See above.

Ho Hey, Lennon and Maisy Stella of the Nashville Cast.  This isn't the first time I've written about the Stella sisters, and I hope it won't be the last.  Please, Stella sisters, remain pure and uncorrupted!  No Juliette Barnes-behavior form you!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

top 5 Melissa and Doug toddler treasures

Saturday, June 8, 2013
Every since my little guy grew old enough to really appreciate his toys, I have had to restrain my every impulse not to purchase all the items in the Melissa and Doug collection.  While they're not all made in America or by old European men who sit at ancient wooden desks and hand pain each toy with careful precision (yes, somehow this is the image I've conjured into my head), the majority of M & D's stuff is solid wood.  There is very little plastic, and not much in the way of batteries and bells and whistles.  Almost all of the toys would provide interest for a child for many years, and the fact that they're well-made means they hold up well.  I'll be the first to admit that they're not the cheapest toys on the block, but for my money I'm so happy that A has a modest collection of toys that encourage his intellectual development and foster creativity, without lots of cool sounds and special features.  Don't get me wrong-there are great benefits to some of those toys, and when I get around to writing a new "toddler essentials" post, I'll probably even include some of them.  I just like the idea of toys that make him "work a little harder", so to speak.  Here are some of our favorites:

Deluxe Pound and Roll Tower. We've had the tower since before A turned 1, and he's always had fun with it.  When he was really little, he liked the feel of the balls and hearing them clatter down into the tower (which we had to orchestrate).  Now, he's a total pro, calling the balls out by color and asking for his "hammer."

Wooden Animal Nesting Blocks. We haven't had these blocks very long, but I imagine we'll be playing with them for quite some time.  There are gorgeous, brightly colored pictures of different animals on every side of each block, and A likes to identify them before toppling the tower I've built for him.  So far, he's not so keen on actually building towers, only throwing mine down.  A little warning here: the blocks, being made of wood, do not have baby-friendly softened edges.  They're HARD.  If your toddler is really rambunctious, as mine can be, you have to keep a close eye on them while they're playing so as to avoid bumps and bruises.

Stamp and Sort Mailbox.  We purchased the mailbox for A at Christmas, and it was BY FAR the most popular gift of the holidays.  It contains six solid wooden "letters" of varying thicknesses, which can be inserted into the matching slots of the mailbox.  There have been a few occasions wherein A has given into his toddler frustration of not selecting the proper slot for each letter, but for the most part, he loves it.  He likes to tell me that he's sending mail to his cousin L.

Vehicles. There are lots of great vehicles in the collection, perfect for little toddler hands pushing around the floor all day long.  We love the garbage truck, and this cargo carrier has been a huge hit with A.

Puzzles. Oh, the puzzles!  There are veritable mountains to choose from, and because they're fairly affordable, it's hard for me to keep from buying a new one every time we stop at our favorite toy store.  I've managed to rein myself in, however, and kept A's collection to a manageable 7-8 puzzles, neatly stored in a wire M & D puzzle rack, of course.  The one pictured is a big favorite these days.  A likes to dump the puzzle out and "pretend" to fit a piece into every single slot on the board, saying "Not that one!" until he finds the right slot, announcing "That's better."  Love that kid :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

the greatest event(s) in television history

Friday, June 7, 2013
Right off the bat I'm going to warn you that there is a bit of adult content in these videos.  Not anything so inappropriate that they're NSFW, but there is a crass phrase or two.

Now that my little PG-13 warning is out of the way, please enjoy these hilarious shot-for-shot recreations of the intros to two deliciously silly shows of the '80's, featuring the talent of Adam Scott, Amy Poehler, and Jon Hamm.

Hart to Hart.

Entertainment Weekly's review of the Greatest Event in Television History

How on EARTH did I miss the Simon and Simon bit? It came out MONTHS ago!  I have an especially soft spot for the original show-it was one of three or four that my parents enjoyed watching when I was growing up.  We didn't have a television, so in the evenings the three of us would walk to my grandparents' house (just up the hill from ours) and the adults would watch while I ran around and amused myself.  My grandfather and dad would often dance with me when the theme songs came on-back then, the theme song of a show was like a little movie trailer, featuring popular scenes and a long, dramatic score that became comfortably familiar.  The other shows they loved included Magnum P.I. and Dallas.  It really was the '80's.

Simon & Simon.
Entertainment Weekly's review of the FIRST Greatest Event in Television History.  Be sure to watch the original intro to Simon and Simon.  I miss Gerald McRaney.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

browsing history

Thursday, June 6, 2013
I've held onto a few of these finds because they're so wonderful, like the Office cast visiting Scranton. Most of them came from my afternoon web jaunts in the last few weeks.

-The Office casts visits Scranton in advance of the series finale. Love this photo mosaic on NBC's website, too! Of course, I had to include a nod to PB & J.

-Reading about Crayola crayons. Love the gorgeous photos.

-I NEED to find some ramps and make this pizza!

-The Hollywood Reporter's potential Emmy nominees for Best Dramatic Actress roundtable.  Whew, that's an awkward sentence! I haven't watched the entire video, but the transcript is great.  Especially love Monica Potter.

-Amateur Gourmet is a new-to-me blog, but definitely a happy find.  It was the obsession with Ina Garten that won me over.  I too, find myself mesmerized by Ina's warm dinners for Jeffrey.


-25 signs you're addicted to books. It's a bit crass, but I admit that #17 rings quite true for me, followed by #18. I also find myself at #25 ALL THE TIME.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

wild rice gratin with kale, caramelized onions, and baby swiss

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I've given myself a lot of credit on this blog for being what I'd like to call an "early adopter" of kale.  It certainly didn't hurt that I've just always liked the taste of dark greens, and once I moved to California and was exposed to the piles of Swiss chard, collards, and, of course, kale at weekend farmer's markets, it was easy to start trying different things and become a pro at cooking them well.  Technically, most people that live here have long been familiar with the most popular, super healthy veg on the block.

Over the last few years, I've discovered quite a few kale recipes that I love and prepare regularly.  I've written about baked rigatoni with kale, a big dish of comfort where strips of kale get toasty and brown amidst creamy, cheesy sauce and pasta.  And of course there is sweet potato and kale pizza, so good I could eat it every night and never tire of it.

Well, my friends, there is a new kale recipe in town, and it shot right up to the top of my list of favorites from the moment I read about it, in Deb Perelman's new cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.  Even if it didn't contain kale, wild rice, and Swiss cheese (gruyere for me, please!), the odds of an SK recipe being anything other than delicious would be monumentally low.  Deb never lets me down!

An added benefit for the gratin is that it's perfect for little ones.  I have been, and continue to strive to prepare meals for us as a family instead of making separate meals for my little guy, but there are times when we're craving a deliciously greasy pizza from our favorite local spot, Pizza My Heart, or something else I might deem a bit too rich for him.  On those nights, you'll usually find a sliced avocado with scrambled eggs and toast on his plate.  That's no shabby dinner, mind you, but it feels more warm and wholesome for us to all be eating the same thing.

As you can see from the photo I've included, SK's gratin is a hit in our house.  Little A slurps up the caramelized onions and chopped kale like an old pro, loving every bite.  I will tell you that the inclusion of toasty bread crumbs and the aforementioned cheese certainly pushes the dish from something hearty and healthy to something heavenly and addictive.  Even though he is a great little eater, even my A probably wouldn't devour the dish with such relish minus the cheese and carbs.

Wild Rice Gratin with Kale, Caramelized Onions, and Baby Swiss, adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman

wild rice:
5 cups cooked wild rice (from 1 2/3 cups uncooked)

caramelized onions:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups stemmed, ribboned kale leaves (from an 8-ounce or 225-gram bundle)

2 cups (8 ounces) coarsely grated Emmentaler or another Swiss cheese (I used gruyere)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 tablespoon to grease the dish; 1 tablespoon melted, for crumbs)
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
Table salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook the rice according to package directions (I  used a bag of wild rice from Trader Joe's).  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, caramelize the onions.  Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat.  Add onions, sprinkle with salt and a little pepper, and cook until they're tender and sweet, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes (Incidentally, the fact that the onions take a while to cook gives you time to chop the kale, grate the cheese, and gather other ingredients).  Add the kale ribbons, and cook until they wilt a bit, about 5 minutes.  Stir together the onion-kale mixture, wild rice, and 1 cup grated cheese in a large bowl.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed (I opted out of getting another bowl dirty and instead dumped everything into my baking dish).
3. Assemble the gratin.  Use 1 tablespoon butter to generously coat a 2-quart baking dish.  Spread the wild-rice mixture into prepared gratin and pour broth over it.  Sprinkle remaining cheese over gratin.  Toss breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon melted butter and salt and pepper to taste; sprinkle over cheese.
4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a little bubbly and beginning to brown on top.