Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Dog Days of Winter

This has been the longest month EVAR.  With the flu circulating through the town and the bitter cold of the past week, CJ and I have not left the house as much as we would usually do.  It's not like I want to raise a wimpy kid towards the cold (especially with having a husband from Upstate New York), it's that I AM the wimp.  Our family room is probably the coldest room in the house, but CJ's toys are in there and he seems to have no issue with the temperature.  He'll even sit on the cold stone in front of the drafty fireplace and be perfectly fine.  I, however, have jacked up the temperature in the house and still just want to huddle under a quilt.  I have even started working out during CJ's naps here and there instead of first thing in the morning just so I have something warm to do.  Or, I cook.  I actually have two recipes that I'm including this week. 
That sliding glass door is sooo drafty

The first one is an old favorite- Pork and Peanut Noodle Salad from Cooking Light.  You roast a pork tenderloin (I always use whatever jelly or preserves I have on hand as a glaze) and mix it with soba noodles, some veggies, and a yummy peanut sauce.  And it's light!  The recipe says to serve it chilled- we always have it warm. 

The next one was a new recipe I tried off of the smittenkitchen blog- Carrot Soup with Tahini and Crisped Chickpeas.  A little involved, and I was a bit worried about the final product because, well, it was carrot soup (and no cream was added!) However, when you swirled the tahini (sesame paste) into the soup it actually was quite excellent.  I also could just eat the crispy chickpeas plain.  I think now I would like to add to my cookbook hoarding problem with the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Back to this never-ending month.  Like I said, we have not been getting out quite as much as usual.  I will say that I am blessed to have a son who for the most part can entertain himself quite well.  Even right now as I am writing this he just playing with his train.  He also really loves puzzles and throwing our cat's toy ball around.  And jibber jabbering to himself (so I am assuming he is pretending?)  Most days, he does get some TV time as well.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the TV (and other forms of a "screen" such as Ipads) should be avoided until a child is 2.  Well, apparently the AAP never had to cook dinner.  Or spend 12 hours all day cooped up in a house and have to find MULTIPLE ways of entertaining a child (that don't always create a mess.)  Now, I am not catching up on DVR'd episodes of American Horror Story with CJ in the room.  We stick to PBS, Disney Jr., and Nick Jr.  (and maybe if I'm folding laundry or something, an occasional Top Chef.  Sorry.)  I think the shows (at least the ones we watch) on these channels are actually pretty good, and educational.  I was cooking dinner one night and CJ was watching Super Why.  If you aren't current on children's shows, this one promotes reading.  I actually heard CJ repeating back letters as the cartoon characters were spelling out words!  Now, I'm probably making a bigger deal out of it by buying a letter puzzle and incessantly singing the alphabet song- but my point is, no more guilt about letting CJ watch a little bit of educational TV each day!  Now, if I could be a better parent and listen to more Choo Choo Soul and less Justin Timberlake in the car...

Kevin is out of town this weekend so that always means 3 things- earlier dinner, earlier bedtime, and catching up on my girly TV (love Downton Abbey!).  So, I must turn on Super Why for the Little Man and cook dinner.  And put on a pair of slippers. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hibernation, Appliances, and of Course Food

I am happy to inform you that so far this flu season, none of us have been affected... yet.  Well, no flu anyway.  We have had our share of colds, but nothing too debilitating.  It seemed like one out of every few posts on Facebook this past week have been about someone in a family (or whole families!) being bedridden for a few days.  So, needless to say, at the beginning of the week, I kept CJ home from the library.  I have seen him put a bunch of those toys they play with after singing in his mouth so who knows what germs lurk in that bin!  We have had a few playdates, but for the most part we have been holed up in the house.  Lesson learned- must put newspapers or plastic on floor when playing with Play-Doh.  That stuff is MESSY.  Who knew? (Well, apparently me who spent a good half hour Monday night scraping dried up Play-Doh out of the basement carpet with a butter knife). 

Our huge project this winter is getting the whole kitchen redone.  We were very happy with our kitchen when we first bought the house, but now we realize it is time for an upgrade.  So, we are getting all new cabinets, granite countertops, a backsplash, and appliances.  We are also changing the layout slightly so we can have more storage.  I am very excited about the whole thing, but can't wait until it is done.  The latest step in the process has had me picking out new appliances which is quite the headache.  Apparently nowadays everything breaks.  Quickly.  So, no brand has stellar reviews across the board.  I don't care if we get different brands for different appliances (we are keeping our Bosch dishwasher per recommendation) except that we need our refrigerator and wall oven to match because they will be right next to each other.  To find a brand that does both well- well let's just say I've been quite frustrated.  But, I think FINALLY we may have some winners- let's just hope that the oven won't explode when using the self-cleaning function (HA!  Cleaning the oven.)  Today we pick granite.

This week's favorite meal was inspired by trying to use up ingredients in our refrigerator before the renovation starts.  I decided to make a pizza using some leftover sausage, veggies, and a jar of pizza sauce I had on hand.  I like to make my own crust, and over the past year I have used this recipe.
Even though it comes out really crispy when using a pizza stone, it is not foolproof and there have been times when I'm about to call it quits when trying to press it into a circle.    So, I decided to try something new from a cookbook I received for Christmas. 

Jim Lahey's Perfect Pizza Crust from "Dinner: A Love Story"
3 3/4 cups flour (I substituted 2 cups of whole wheat flour for 2 cups A.P. flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons instant or other active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/3 cup room-temperature water

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until blended, at least 30 seconds. The dough will be stiff, not wet and sticky. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the dough has more than doubled in volume, about 2 hours. Divide the dough in two and shape each into flattened balls. (Dough can be frozen at this point.)
When you are ready to make a pizza, preheat oven to 500°F roll out one ball of dough in a rectangular shape and place on an oiled cookie sheet.

Yeah, forgot to take a picture while still on cookie sheet
I topped the pizza with fresh mozzarella, pizza sauce from a jar (gasp), cooked turkey sausage, broccoli florets, and mushrooms.  Yes, you do have to knead it a bit and wait to let the dough rise, but it was so much easier to press it out into a cookie sheet!  And, you get two balls of dough so now I have one in the freezer!  The middle of the pizza may not have been as crispy as I would have liked, but overall me, Kevin, and CJ gobbled it right up.  Win!  By the way, check out the blog Dinner: A Love Story.  I like it so much I had to get the book. 

We still try to go out to eat once a week (thank God CJ is typically good at restaurants) and we're always all about a new restaurant opening in our area, especially if it's non-chain.  Last night we tried The V Brew House in Ashburn.  It used to be the Shenandoah Restaurant (loved their Krispy Kreme Doughnut bread pudding!) which was short-lived unfortunately.  I had a grilled chicken sandwich with cheese, avocado, and bacon with waffle fries, Kevin had a New York strip steak with a loaded baked potato, and CJ had the kids' fish plate with mashed potatoes.  Me and Kevin's meals were okay, not bad, but nothing to get excited about.  The waffle fries were really good, and you didn't get too large of a helping.  CJ liked his meal, especially the free scoop of ice cream at the end!  The beer list is pretty good, I'm assuming at some point they will have their own beer.  The ambiance is nice, a little dark, but not too intimate that I felt bad bringing a child.  The bar area seemed hopping.  I would probably go back for drinks, but if I'm in Ashburn for dinner the much better choice is Ford's Fish Shack. 

We are off on this cold (but at least sunny) day to pick some granite!  Let's hope we find something we will be happy with! 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Happy New Year!

Well, hello friends.  Again it's long time, no see.  I am finding that more and more things that I have enjoyed doing in my "free" time are getting pushed down the priority list to make room for toddler activities- one of those being continuing with the blog.  But more on that later. 

Yes, October-December was super busy with the holidays and all of the preparations, as well as keeping up with our day-to-day activities.  We traveled to Syracuse for Thanksgiving, I ran a 10-miler in VA Beach with my friend Kat from college, we saw many college friends and old co-workers at holiday parties, my parents and sister came up for Christmas for a week, and then Kevin's parents, brother, and his girlfriend came down for several days.  Not to mention hosting some extended family.  And all of the preparations for guests, Christmas shopping, cookie baking, etc.  Phew!  All of this is why I love the Holiday Season though, and New Year's Day is always so anti-climatic when either people are leaving our house or we are coming home.
Unexpected White Christmas!
Everybody's leaving!

CJ's big present this year was a train table.  We were trying to save that for last when opening presents Christmas morning, but he escaped the living room and found it.  Well, needless to say, we opened the rest of his presents for him.  I actually think we all went a little overboard, and am going to try my best to not repeat next year (but the toys are so darn cute!)

CJ also liked the puzzles that he received

Since October, CJ has developed immensely.  He FINALLY started to walk (by himself) right before Thanksgiving.  One night he just let go of our hands and started walking around the house like he was a pro.  And that was it.   Now he rarely holds our hands when we actually want him too!  He also has had a language explosion.  I left CJ's 15 month appointment thinking we may need early intervention if he didn't have 10 words by 18 months- but now he has far surpassed that goal.  In addition to actually knowing many words (and mostly using them correctly) he is just very vocal in general.  You can barely understand a thing CJ says, but he'll just talk and talk and talk.  Sound familiar?  (He has a very talkative Daddy). 
Putting on his "shooos" while he is holding his "cack" that goes "eeoww"

I have not made many resolutions this New Year, but do have some goals in mind (difference?  goals seem more attainable than I WILL lose 20 lbs or whatever your resolution happens to be).  I only have a few.  As always, I am trying to keep up with working out and losing weight.  This year may be the year for pregnancy #2 so I have a few (well, maybe 10) more pounds to lose before I gain it back again.  HA!!  I have started Insanity again so if you hear some yelling coming from the basement of my house at 7AM that would be me.  It's probably the hardest and best workout you can do at home though, and it's what really helped me begin to take off some of that baby-weight last year. 

As I mentioned above, I have let some of my hobbies get pushed down on the priority list in these past months.  CJ and I keep quite busy during the week with two formal playgroups, library storytimes and playgroups, and seeing other friends.  Now we are taking Parent-Toddler swim classes as well once a week.  The only time I really have to myself is naptime in the afternoon (CJ needs to take naps until kindergarten!) and then some evenings.  Most of the naptimes were taken up by holiday stuff, so now I can hopefully devote more time to blogging, organizing pictures and scrapbooking, and of course cooking.  I ended up starting another 365 Project because I found that having one really keeps me motivated to take pictures and experiment.  This time I am uploading them to a website- if you want to follow along check out this link
At the library

Finally, each time I post to this blog I am going to post my favorite recipe of the week that I made.  (Yes, one of my goals is to blog at least once a week).  This week, I made recipe that I got out of "Eating Well" Magazine last June to use some of the abundance of cherries that we received from our CSA.  We ended up having to freeze many of those cherries and now I'm finally getting around to using them.  Although when thawed they aren't as pretty as fresh, they still taste fine.  The base is quinoa (lots of protein for a grain!), wild rice, cherries (I used sweet), cheese (I used smoked gouda), pecans, olive oil and vinegar (I used balsalmic).  It's a great light lunch dish! Here is the recipe.  The picture on the Eating Well site is so much better than mine, I really need to start using white plates when taking pictures of my food! 
Have a good week!