31 May 2011

These days

I should be sleeping.  He is.

Instead, I'm posting here.  Tonight, I had to get a little time to myself after the munchkin went to sleep.  This is a new thing -- him falling asleep and sleeping for a few hours alone.  Nice.

Life around here has begun finding a nice rhythm.  We're beginning to start on house and garden projects again.  Byron has built another four raised beds to complete the design for our at-home vegetable garden.  I've managed to get my pots planted with annuals for the season.  We are beginning work on the front yard landscaping projects -- this will take all season I think.  For now, we've pulled out the 1960-vintage sprinkler system and are working to tear out all the sod.  Lucky for us, Byron's dad has taken on the project.

I've started cooking meals again (as I hope you can see from my recent post). I'm not making every meal a memorable one, believe me.  Suffice it to say that my home cooking is merely punctuated by quesadillas now, in contrast to the steady diet of them that we have enjoyed in recent weeks.  I've been inspired by the latest Heidi Swanson cookbook, "Super Natural Every Day."  Loving it.

That and buttermilk.  I've really gotten into making things with it these days.  Can't get enough of the tang.  Around here it is buttermilk pancakes and waffles on the weekend.  This streak is further aided by my acquisition of a new waffle iron -- it's a thin, 1/2-inch thick waffler that makes much nicer waffles than all those thick waffle irons.  Then there's the homemade buttermilk blue cheese dressing that I figured out how to make recently.   It's great on wedges of iceberg lettuce.  Heck, it's good on anything.  You could probably drizzle it on cardboard . . .

I've also been making some new friends.  Having a wee one lends itself well to meeting other parents.  Of course to start with, it's our babies that we have in common.  But I feel lucky.  I'm finding that many of the men and women that I've met are people I enjoy, aside from the kid thing.

I'm part of a mom's group that meets every Wednesday.  Initially it was an eight-week session, but we've kept on meeting -- going for walks, having lunch together in someone's home, hanging out with the babies.  Tomorrow we are walking the Arboretum.

The other group that Byron and I have become part of is a group of eight couples that have met for the past 12 weeks to share our ups and downs of parenting and to learn together.  It's a group facilitated by PEPS, a local parent education non-profit.  Although our initial 12 weeks of weekly meetings has concluded, we continue to meet up with the others each month for various activities.  I'm looking forward to our next get together:  a low-tide beach walk led by one the moms who is a marine biologist.

Well, that's all for now.  My munchkin is muttering on the baby monitor.  Plus, this mom is getting tired.  This is my life.  And I like it.

26 May 2011

Growing Anticipation

I just bought a CSA share for summer 2011.  My p-patch is poised to yield peas sometime soon (thanks to my dad's hard work to whip it into shape).  My handy husband is building four new raised beds for our home garden.  I have eight packets of heirloom organic seeds ready to plant, and I picked up my tomato starts last Saturday.  I'm ready.  Can you tell?

Organic homegrown and local produce makes me feel good.  It inspires me to cook more and to cook more healthfully.  And, if you use seeds for the plants you grow (and make a point to use up all the fruits and veggies that come in your CSA) it can be cost effective, too.  Not to mention that it tastes better than other food! 

I have great plans for growing stuff.  Up until now it's been a bit chilly around here, but hey, I have a toasty grower that I can employ to get things started.  Plus, the time is near when all those little seeds are going to take off without extra help.  My gardens will have zucchini, yellow summer squash, red potatoes (those are growing already in burlap sacks on the patio), snap peas, two kinds of kale, several lettuces, herbs or all kinds, green beans and yellow beans, and maybe I'll put in some favas later in the season to overwinter.  I'd like to grow some winter squash (but it may already be too late for that). I've got four tomatoes already (although they are sitting in the kitchen) and will probably find a few more before June is through. 

I'm growing two kinds of raspberries and a fig tree (in a pot) here at the house.  I hope to add a couple dwarf plums and a pear to the yard this year.  And maybe I can find a spot to tuck in a few blueberry plants.  Not sure where to put strawberries, but I'd really like some of those, too.  I've decided this is the great part about putting in a new home garden and landscaping.  You can add edibles everywhere.

This time of year is so full of expectations, ideas, and anticipation of all the food (and fun) that is to come.  Watching the plants grow and harvesting the food, or picking up my CSA box each week and discovering what it holds inside, cooking, sharing, serving it to my family and friends, canning and freezing -- these are all things I look forward to so much.  And this year I get to add one more activity to that list: introducing Wyatt to fresh produce as he begins his foray into real food in a month or so.  

Now, if the sun would just warm that dirt a little more . . .

23 May 2011

A great way to eat beans

Giant Beans with Chipotle and Kale.  We have enjoyed this dish more than once in the kitchen of our friends Sarah and Alex.  Inspired by their versions of it, I've been meaning to make it, myself, for a while.  Today I found the time. 

Let me first say that the recipe is from one of my favorite sources -- 101 Cookbooks blog.  I always seem to like the results of the food I make from Heidi Swanson's recipes.  This one does not disappoint either.

I made the dish according to the recipe, except that I started with Rancho Gordo's giant Christmas Lima beans.  The beans were large to begin with.  Then I soaked them overnight and they became giant. 

Christmas Limas after their 24 hour soak.

Although I've always had the dish with white beans, I definitely liked the extra nuttiness that the Christmas Limas gave it.  Not sure I'd call it an improvement to the recipe (it's a pretty good recipe), but certainly not a detractor.  Plus, the substantial nature of the limas stands up well to the bold seasonings.  I would use them again.

My advice is to not skimp on the red pepper flakes or adobo in the tomato sauce.  I used just what the recipe called for -- plus one chipotle pepper -- and it was perfect.  Once the tomato sauce gets mixed with a full pound of beans, you really don't get much of it in every bite.  But what you do get has a nice heat to it.  A beer alongside keeps the fire under control, if you wish.

I used feta cheese this time.  Will try queso fresco next time.  I think I might like a melty cheese a bit better, but I must admit I like the saltiness of the feta.  I also baked the dish on convection bake and it was toasty and browned in about half the time.

After baking, but before the bread crumbs and pesto.

My pesto turned out to be a bit of a rough chop pesto -- my food processor didn't do such a great job on such a small quantity.  Tasted great, though.

The bread crumbs were fresh from a loaf of multi-grain bread I had in the fridge.  I over toasted them, but they tasted great nonetheless.

Ready to serve.
This dish takes a bit of time the first time you make it, if only to get familiar with what gets added when.  Next time I know I'll be faster. Planning ahead for the beans is totally worth it, by the way.  Dried beans that are cooked until just tender are so much better than anything canned.  Especially for this dish.  The last thing you want here is mushy beans.

We ate it alongside sourdough toasts and creamy cheese. . . not exactly Mexican, but, hey, how can you go wrong?

17 May 2011

Island Food Recap

I've been meaning to write about some of the food we enjoyed on Maui for a while now.  I even took photos of some of my favorite meals so I could show you.  Thanks to Wyatt's appetite I seem to be able to eat what I like these days without any negative waistline results, and I took full advantage of this feature on our recent trip.

I only have one recipe to share.  But hopefully the photos will spark some ideas for your table -- and maybe make you a little hungry for good food (if not also for a tropical vacation).

Our daily dose of granola, yogurt, fresh fruit with coffee and a coconut bagel with passion fruit cream cheese.

Lunch at Longhi's featuring Longhi's signature salads -- sooooo crisp, cold, fresh and yummy.  We ate every morsel.

Longhi's Salad
as featured on Longhi's website at www.longhis.com
½ cup dried cannellini beans, or l cup canned
1 head romaine lettuce
1 cup green beans
½ onion
1 tomato

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 oil-packed anchovies, chopped
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup Gorgonzola cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

If you are using canned cannellini beans, drain them, rinse in cold water, and drain again. If you are using dried cannellini beans, soak them for 30 minutes and rinse in fresh water. Put them in a pot, add water to cover, and bring to a boil. Simmer the beans until soft, let cool, and refrigerate.

Wash and dry lettuce leaves, wrap with paper towels, and put in refrigerator. Steam green beans until cooked but still crisp; slice onion; cut tomato for salad.

Place the vinegar in a wooden salad bowl. Mash the anchovies into the vinegar with a fork. Whisk in the mustard, continuing until thoroughly incorporated. Add 2 tablespoons of the Gorgonzola cheese and mix well. Add fresh ground black pepper. Now add the olive oil, again mixing well.

Remove the lettuce from the refrigerator and cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Add the lettuce and the other vegetables and beans to the bowl and toss well with the dressing. Sprinkle salad with 2 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.
Longhi's also has delicious complimentary bread.  Three kinds of foccacia -- jalepeno, herb and cheese, and tomato.

To celebrate Byron's birthday, we ate lunch at Mama's Fish House -- our appetizer of seared Ahi with a crust of cracked black pepper, fennel seed, and a little something red in there too.  Served with a sesame-soy type sauce.

Salad of fresh tomato, sweet onion, Gorgonzola and micro greens with a vinaigrette.

Sauteed Ono with caramelized onions and roasted tomatoes, with snow peas and bok choy on the side.

Grilled Uku, fresh pineapple salsa, grilled vegetables and green rice.

Banana macadamia nut crisp with vanilla bean ice cream

Roadside, near our condo, we found a local entrepreneur making Huli Huli chicken -- "huli" means turned. We had to try it.  Plus, it smelled divine.  Really.

The chicken made great filling for our tacos -- alongside beans and a fresh tomato, cucumber and sweet onion salad with yogurt dressing.

08 May 2011

A first

This was my first Mother's Day.  My mom and dad were visiting, and we also spent time with my sister, her boyfriend, and my father-in-law.  This weekend, the house seemed to always be full of people I love.

Today I woke to a smiling little boy and little feet on my thigh.  Then came a card, beautifully written, and a little turquoise blue box. We had waffles with toasted pecans, strawberries, yogurt, and real maple syrup from Cornell. My sister gave me tulips.  My mom gave me gardening money. Jill sent me See's. I got text messages from friends. And at about two o'clock there was a knock on the door and a box of two dozen roses from Byron. 

Mother's Day is the first holiday I've ever had to "earn" or qualify for.  Totally worth it, I tell you.  I love being Wyatt's mom, and I'll always remember this first celebration.

03 May 2011

A Week of Maui Haiku

While in Maui, I gave myself only one task each day:  to update my Facebook status in haiku.  As you may recall, an "English haiku" is basically an unrhymed Japanese poem in three lines.  The first line has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables, and the third line has five.  Haiku often contains images of the natural world.  (Food is a lot like nature . . . right?)

Here's a look at my week of haiku poems -- in the order I wrote them -- illustrated with photography this time.
A ripe papaya
Coconut bagel, toasted 
Ice, coffee, lanai

From lanai I see
Breaking waves, sea turtle, fish
A baby smiles

Mom and baby whale
a big jump, fully above
Blue, white, gray, flukes . . . gone

Slow lunch at Mama's
Ahi seared, Uku, Ono
Umbrella drinks too

Baby in good hands
An hour and a half for me 
by the pool, alone

Chirpy voice, little
Feet in my back, hand on me
This is my wake up

A day of sun, surf,
more whale watching and a beach,
plus Maui Tacos

Made it home just fine
It's not 85 degrees here :(
Haiku ends here too