Before Roman left with Ya Ya this morning, he wore Harper’s ski helmet around the house for a while. And nothing else. He was very excited and kept pointing to it saying “hat!” Roman will be camping out with Ya Ya and Pop Pop for the weekend while we take Harper skiing in Steamboat with her friend Katelyn. We miss him so much already, and it’s only been an hour!
Harper’s love of cooking has really kept me on my toes in terms of finding things to make. Before I get started on last night’s meal, I have a few clarifications:
- I am not completely obsessed with Giada! I happen to have a backlog of Everyday Italian on my DVR right now and there’s nothing else to watch while the Olympics are buffering, so that’s why I’ve been making so many of her recipes. Don’t get me wrong, they are awesome, but I don’t want you to think that I am some kind of Giada fanatic! I don’t actually own one of her cookbooks, but I would consider getting one in the future.
- I am not a culinary extraordinaire by any stretch of the imagination. I definitely served two generous bowls of Cheerios for lunch yesterday. I do happen to love cooking and my husband says I’m pretty good at it, and I try as much as possible to serve my kids fresh, homemade meals because I think it’s important. A lot of moms say they hate cooking once they have kids, but I think it’s more fun now since Harper is into it. We’ll see how long that lasts!
So anyway, onto the meatballs. Last night we made Giada’s (ha!) Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs. The meatballs were outstanding and I would 100% make them again. We often make Swedish meatballs and the kids really like it, but these were much better. The trick was definitely to mix all of the other ingredients first before adding the meat, then just barely incorporate the meat. The texture was just perfect. I don’t have a melon baller, so we used a cookie scooper instead. The meatballs were a little bigger, but it was so easy for Harper to use. Also, the only orecchiette pasta I could find was the Whole Foods organic stuff, and Portman and I both thought it was a little too thick and starchy. Next time I will go to Giant and try to find the Barilla pasta in the blue box.
Instead of cherry tomatoes I used grape tomatoes and just left them whole. We made both of the kids try one, but they were a little freaked out by the tomato “popping” in their mouths! Other than that they ate it with no complaints, and Harper put down at least 4 meatballs by herself!
Tonight we made strawberry cream-cheese crepes with blackberry “syrup” for dinner, mostly because that’s all we had the ingredients for and we are totally sick of waffles and pancakes! It was super easy to make and deeee-wicious. Harper ate two of them by herself! Roman, on the other hand, absolutely refused to touch them and went to bed after eating only 2 clementines. I don’t know if I should blame it on the ear infections or picky eating, but I am definitely looking forward to the day that he buys into this whole food thing!
Strawberry Cream-Cheese Crepes
In a blender, combine 4 whole eggs, 1 cup of whole milk, 1/2 cup flour, 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of kosher salt. Blend until completely mixed (and in our case, until the egg shell pieces are nice and incorporated). In a separate bowl, mix about 1-2 ounces of warm cream cheese (I just microwave for 20 seconds or so) and 1/4 cup+ of strawberry jam to taste.
Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat and melt a tablespoon of butter in it. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter in the pan and swirl it around until it is in a thin, even circle. Cook for about two minutes on each side, using a couple of rubber spatulas to flip it over (this is not a kid-friendly part!). If it gets folded up, you can just shake the pan around a little bit to get it flat again.
Place on a plate or baking sheet and spread a tablespoon or so of the cream cheese mixture on one side. Roll into a “hot dog” (according to Harper).
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup blackberries
1/4 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons sugar
About 1/2 cup orange juice (I’m not actually sure how much I used)
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in a few tablespoons of orange juice
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add blackberries and blueberries and sauté for a few minutes. Add sugar, orange juice, and cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil. (Harper said “oooh da orange juice makes it quiet!”) Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes until thick and syrupy. At this point you can blend it to make it smooth, or serve it with the berry chunks in it.
We spent this morning at the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum at Dulles and had the place completely to ourselves. It was so empty that even the museum guards were commenting on how unusual it was. Roman and Harper loved every second of it and took off running as soon as we got there, only pausing for a quick lunch of PB&J and yogurt. I think this was the first time Roman has been there since he started walking (actually, he took his very first steps there last summer), and it was SO much easier to just let the two of them run around and look at the planes independently.
Roman could not have been more excited about the airplanes, or “OHHHHHH!” as he called them. Literally, he would point at every single plane as we got to it and excitedly shout “OHHHHH!” as loud as he could. It was very cute! Harper was a running commentary with things like “see, Buddy? Dis one is all done fwying, but doze airpwanes are still fwying up dare,” and “Mommy you and woah-man go over dare while I do some somersaults, okay?” We had a great morning and both of the kids were asleep within 5 minutes of walking in the door. Harper actually said “can you just put me in my bed? I don’t need a story today.” That’s what I call a successful trip!
Last week Harper requested broccoli. Here’s how it played out: we took a family trip to Whole Foods before the post-blizzard “additional 8-10 inches” started to fall. The place was cleared out of most produce, but Harper quickly spotted the broccoli and declared “I wuv broccoli, wets get some!” Um, sure. For the record, I don’t “wuv” broccoli, but I fully support her attitude.
I actually do “wuv” my mom’s chicken and broccoli casserole. It’s definitely a comfort dish and is not something I would make in the dead of summer, but it’s great on a cold winter day. I made a few of my own changes (added shallot and garlic, big surprise) and, sorry mom, it was a lot tastier! I’ll include the full recipe below, but it’s pretty darn simple:
First, make a basic cream sauce using chicken broth and milk (with the addition of shallot and garlic), and add a generous amount of parmesan cheese:
Next, sprinkle salt and pepper on some chicken breasts and sauté until just done (alternatively, used rotisserie chicken cut into small pieces, skin removed):
Finally, chop the chicken breasts and place in a baking dish. Add some broccoli florettes, pour the cheesy sauce on top and sprinkle generously with additional parmesan. Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes until bubbly and crunchy on top.
- 2 chicken breasts or 1 rotisserie chicken
- 2 cups broccoli florettes (cut the larger ones into smaller pieces)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- salt & pepper to taste
Melt butter over medium heat. Add shallot and saute for a few minutes until soft. Add garlic and flour and stir constantly over medium-low heat for 5 minutes until flour turns a sandy brown. Meanwhile, warm milk and chicken broth in the microwave (they can be mixed). Slowly add the liquids one cup at a time, whisking constantly. Simmer for 10 minutes over low heat until thick and smooth. Turn off heat, stir in parmesan and salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 375. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt & pepper and sauté in a little bit of olive oil over medium-high heat until just cooked (or cut up rotisserie chicken into small pieces). Cool, then slice into larger-than-bite-size, but manageable pieces. Meanwhile, steam broccoli until just tender. Don’t overcook! Add broccoli and chicken to a casserole dish and pour on the cheesy sauce. Sprinkle generously with parmesan cheese and bake for about 30 minutes until bubbly and golden brown and crispy on top. Serve over rice and enjoy!
I’ve been radio silent for a week or so because I couldn’t think of anything to write about other than this ridiculous snow! We are finally dug out, school is back in session, and we are resuming a “normal” schedule, or at least as normal as it’s going to get until the snow melts. “Normal” these days means that Portman has to park in a snow-made garage – an alley between two 4-foot high piles of snow that has a small opening where he can back his car in. I park adjacent to a 15-foot high pile created from all the plowing in our parking lot. To get to the car, we have to carry the kids out one at a time through the snow tunnel on our back porch so that no one gets hurt. Roman and I already had one pretty major fall in which I dropped him onto ice from about 3 feet and then fell on top of him, but thankfully neither of us was hurt! We now keep boots and other snow-appropriate footwear by the door because that’s all we can wear, and we keep a shovel in the back of each car just in case we find ourselves in a slick situation or we need to dig out a quick parking spot in DC. It’s annoying, but we’re getting used to it!
All of this time indoors has left Portman and I with no more excuses to figure out where this baby is going to sleep. I’m 31 weeks pregnant and we haven’t done a single thing to prepare, so this past weekend we tackled our biggest obstacle: our closet. At this point our plan is to temporarily use our walk-in closet as a nursery. We plan to move into a much bigger house this year, but not before the baby is 6-months old or so. We would also love for some of the kids to share rooms, but so far that has not worked out. We tried putting Harper and Roman together and here’s what happened: Both were fine for a bit, then Roman started crying as he sometimes does when he is going to sleep. Harper immediately hopped out of bed, climbed up on his crib and said “Hey buddy! It’s okay! I’m gonna sing you a song…. I love you, you love me…” and so on. This freaked Roman out beyond description and we had to promptly end their sleepover.
So anyway, on to the closet. We mercilessly divided our clothes into 3 piles: spring/summer stuff going into bins under the bed, fall/winter stuff going into vacuum-pack bags under Harper’s bed, and clothes to donate. I’m happy to report that the donations pile was by far the largest, and after two hours of cleaning, we pretty much emptied the closet.
It turns out that the closet is pretty darn big without all of our crap in it, so our next step is to hang some additional shelving, paint it (Portman says pink, but I don’t know how marketable a house is with a pink closet), and move in the crib. Yup, we’re putting a full-size crib in a closet. Crazy? Probably, but there’s no room anywhere else!
In addition to digging out our closet, we spent lots of time digging out Portman’s car. Portman had the bright idea to “just let it melt” rather than deal with it, and consequently his car turned into what we fondly referred to as the “salt dome,” like one of those giant domes of salt that you bake fish in. It really did resemble it! In the end we paid two neighborhood kids $50 to help us dig it out, and it took about 8 man hours to complete the task. Here’s what we had to contend with:
Portman parks in front of our house, so his car was plowed in with about 4-feet of solid ice. It was a pain in the butt (and arms, and back), but we got it dug out and now he has a nice little parking garage made of snow.
A shot of the snow tunnel to my car:
We enjoyed a rare opportunity to visit with the Bastos family when their flight got canceled. Harper and Katelyn picked up right where they left off over Christmas and we didn’t see them for several hours. They enjoyed a quick lunch on the counter since the little kids (Roman, Abby and Megan) took all the booster seats:
What’s the best thing to do when you are snowed in? Eat! So, that’s what we are doing. Last night Harper and I did make-your-own mini pizzas. I wasn’t sure how this would go because neither of our kids really likes pizza, but both of them ended up gobbling it up. Maybe it was just that good, or maybe they were starving and didn’t care. Who knows!
We made our own crust, but the only dry active yeast I had in the house expired in 2008, so it was a little bit more like pita bread. It still got the job done, but I would probably recommend either using store bought dough or making sure that your ingredients are fresh! I also couldn’t find my large biscuit cutter, so we used a plastic cup to make 4-inch-ish pizzas. They were a little rough around the edges, but it worked perfectly fine.
Harper made cheese pizzas for the kids using quattro formaggio and homemade marinara sauce. I LOVE Giada’s marinara sauce recipe and always have some in the freezer. It has a ton of veggies in it and it is super easy to make. The only change that we make to it is to add a few red pepper flakes because the Wills like it spicy, and I puree it in batches once it has cooled so that the veggie chunks are a little smaller. I make a huge batch of it every few months and store it in 2-ounce baby food freezer trays. They are the perfect portion size for a quick pasta lunch for the kids or for things like mini pizzas, and you can use as many portions as you need if you have an adult-size recipe.
For mommy and daddy, Harper made caramelized onion and goat cheese pizzas. It was definitely a fun activity for Harper and we will do it again soon… with non-expired ingredients this time!
Marinara Sauce (courtesy of Giada):
Follow this recipe adding a pinch of red pepper flakes with the tomatoes. Once it has cooked and cooled, remove bay leaves and pulse it in a blender for a few seconds until it is a little less chunky.
1 large onion sliced vertically (thin slices)
2+ teaspoons sugar
1/2+ teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
Heat a little bit of olive oil over medium-low heat, add all ingredients and sauté for at least 40 minutes until golden brown. If you don’t have that kind of time, you can turn up the heat but they won’t end up as sweet. You can double or triple the recipe as needed, just don’t add as much salt each time – a teaspoon or so is enough for the entire batch! Same goes for the sugar and herbs.
You may (or may not) have noticed (or cared!) the list of recipes on the left. I’ve had a few people mention that they like the recipes that I post, so I (okay, Portman) made it a little easier to find them. I will continue to post good ones as we make them. Harper is totally obsessed with cooking, to the point where she now requests to watch “cooking shows” instead of cartoons, so we should have a few more fun ones to write about!
On that note, I thought I would share one of our all-time favorites, “Spinach Pie.” It is actually my mom’s recipe for spinach quiche, and it has always been a family favorite and a hit with kids. I know, I know… kids eat spinach? Huh? I swear my kids LOVE it and I loved it as a kid, so there must be something to it! We make it about once a week and Harper even takes it in her lunch to school.
1 pie crust, partially baked
2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 heaping cup ricotta cheese (about 8 ounces)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup cream (milk works fine)
Nutmeg – a lot – I think I end up using about 2 teaspoons or more
Salt and pepper to taste (yes, I taste it with raw eggs)
Preheat oven to 375. Mix all ingredients and pour into partially-baked pie crust (I usually bake it for about 10 minutes while I’m mixing the ingredients). Sprinkle more parmesan on top for a nice crunchy crust. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy on top. Cool and enjoy!
So, you’ve probably heard… we got some snow this weekend. About 29 inches, to be exact. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen before, and we used to frequent Whistler in January, so we’ve seen snow. This storm made our December blizzard seem kind of boring! It started snowing on Friday, but really didn’t stick until after dark, when we were getting 2-3 inches each HOUR. This continued until about 9 o’clock Saturday night, so yeah, we got a lot. Here are a few facts to help you visualize just how much snow is 29 inches:
We couldn’t open any of our doors because there was a foot and a half of snow blocking them shut. We ended up going out the sliding door, but Portman had to quickly shovel the snow out of the way so that it didn’t fall into the house.
If you look out our front door, the snow goes straight from our stoop out to Portman’s car, where it hits his car at the level of the side-view mirrors. It is literally the same depth all the way from our house to the mirrors.
We (Portman) dug a path on the patio that looks more like a tunnel. the snow on either side of it is above both of the kids’ heads!
It’s not supposed to get above 25 degrees this week, and they are forecasting even more snow on Tuesday and Wednesday (one report said up to 10 inches), so we are in it for the long-haul. Yippee.
Yesterday we were completely snowed in until dark, but today we bundled up and played with our neighbors, Ellie and Annie. Ellie and Annie’s daddy manned the sledding hill and Harper and Ellie loved it. Annie and Roman were not such huge fans, but I’m pretty sure they were just freezing! Daddy took Roman home for a nap, but Harper and I crashed at Ellie’s house for the afternoon. It was SO nice to get out of the house… we love our neighbors!
Tonight Harper and I made Giada’s Pastina with Peas and Carrots for the second time, with a few of our own touches. The first time that we made this recipe was the first time that Harper ever ate a carrot voluntarily. It is a huge hit and I think it is just “deeee-wicious,” as Harper says!
Harper has proven that she is 100% a more adventurous eater when she gets to help make the meal, so unless we are having fish sticks, she is in there cooking with me. As far as tonight’s meal goes, we follow the recipe exactly, using tiny shell pasta, except that we add one minced garlic clove after the onions have sautéed for a few minutes and we add about 1/3 cup of parmesan with the rest of the cheeses. It’s outstanding, and a perfect toddler meal!
Roman even gobbled it up this time, except that he picked all of the carrots out. Unfortunately tonight’s meal coincided with him learning a new word, “toss,” or “tah” as he says, so he “tah’d” all of his carrots one-by-one onto the floor. Oh well, maybe next time!