Tuesday, December 16, 2014


So. In all my baby-wearing, love to cook glory; we had a huge mishap the other night. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

I've listened as people told me to be careful, I shouldn't cook while wearing my kiddos. And I've kinda laughed it off. I had 3 years under my belt without so much as a burnt fingertip on a child, so OBVIOUSLY I knew what I was doing. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll do as I please. Until December 11th.

That is the day that my 8 month old baby boy ended up at the Harborview Burn Unit.

Maybe it's because I was dead tired. Maybe it's cause I had a pretty bad cold and my common sense was numbed a bit. Any way you look at it, I was a GIANT idiot and my son paid the price.

I decided to make some fresh pea and sunchoke soup for dinner. I added stock and peas and roasted sunchokes and brought it all to a boil. Then I carefully ladled it into the blendtec. I was wearing little man at the time. Girlfriend was standing on a stool at the stove helping me cook. Hubbs was making sure girlfriend was not getting into trouble while doing that. I suggested he take the baby, but saw that he was with her, and decided I would just keep him on me.

I will tell you that I obviously filled the blender too much. And perhaps I should have instinctively known that. But I will also tell you that I read the blendtec manual when we bought it, and there's not a warning on there to not fill it after a certain point because it will blow the lid off. That motor is powerful. I had my hand on the lid. Little man was facing against my chest. It started to blend, and the soup started to erupt through the lid, burning my hand. I turned away from the blender, thinking I'd be protecting him. Instead of just hitting a button to stop the stupid machine from blending. Worst decision ever. The lid blew off entirely and rained down hot chunks of soup. I yanked him out of the ergo and literally threw him in the sink, washing it off. It took a minute to get his onesie off because he was struggling. Then I ran upstairs and put the both of us right in the bathtub to keep his skin cool and wet. I was fully clothed still. That's when I noticed that the skin on his arm started peeling.

We decided to take him to the ER. Why we thought it would be faster than calling an ambulance, I'll never really know. So many bad decisions that night. While hubbs drove, I was spraying a naked little man down with breast milk. I knew it healed sunburns, and I hoped it would help. But it didn't stop the skin from bubbling and blistering up. It might be one of the most horrific things I've ever seen. We got to the hospital, and couldn't find the ER, so we just went to the NICU, where girlfriend spent her first 2 months. The security guard there called an ambulance (the ER moved to a different campus), but the ambulance decided to take us straight to Harborview Burn Unit in Seattle. I think that's when it sank in that we did some serious damage to this poor baby's skin. And I would have a real hard time forgiving myself for this one. Luckily (???) for me, I had a lot of experience with babies and trauma, so I put on my game face and did what I needed to do. There's no crying in baseball and burn units, right?

We sat in the ER (not pleasant, especially for a 3 year old) for about 3 hours before being moved to a room in the burn unit. Everyone- ambulance EMTs, docs, nurses- all amazing. All reassuring me that this kind of thing happened all the time. That his burns were 2nd degree, but looked pretty superficial, so there shouldn't be any scarring. That there were only a few spots where the burns were white (apparently the white ones are deep). That the blisters that continued to bubble up and then burst all over little man and I were normal and supposed to happen. That he won't remember any of this. That yes the sheriff had to file a report on the incident, but it seemed pretty straight forward so we probably wouldn't be interviewed by CPS.

But mom guilt.

We finally went to the burn unit around 11 pm. Hubbs had taken girlfriend to the cafeteria to get some dinner, since ours currently resided all over the kitchen counters, cabinets, and floors. They stayed long enough to find out what room we would be admitted into. Little man and I hung out in a wound care room. I never ever ever want to be in a wound care room again. Everything is metal covered in plastic bags. Super sterile. And they told me they'd give him more oxycodone and a sedative, so that he wouldn't remember what they were about to do. I say they. Turned out it was the nurse and I. I did a lot of things in the NICU I never thought I'd have to do to my baby. But this?? This was the worst. I had to hold him down while they took tweezers to the blisters and dead skin to clean the wounds. Next to him, on my hands and knees, trying to hold him still and nurse him to calm him, while he screamed bloody murder. That's a forever image. Along with burning him in the first place. December 11th can suck it.

Thankfully, she was super efficient and got it done in about 6 minutes. She bandaged him all up and he immediately fell asleep on me. And I finally let it all go. I'm pretty sure I cried all night. I "slept" in 15 minute increments. Thank God, he slept next to me and was out until they had to wake him at 9:30 the next morning for his next round of wound care. This one not nearly as bad. I once again got my shit together to help torture/ bathe my son.

He slept through the rest of that day for the most part. He managed to sleep through his physical therapy, where I learned how to do stretches with him so the skin stretches naturally and doesn't pucker or stiffen. More and more realizing how bad this burn actually is. And the kicker? The soup got all over my hand, arm and chest. I didn't ever really wash it off, it kind of wiped off a bit when I took off my soupy clothes to go to the hospital. And everything was bright  bright red. But by the time we got to the ER? I had ZERO MARKS ANYWHERE. None. Not a bubble. Not even patchy red skin. I've never bruised easily, I've never broken a bone, and I heal really quickly. But this was just effing ridiculous. Am I made of leather? How the hell did my son get burned SO BADLY and I walked away without a mark? Not helping the mom guilt. And I feel like the cops were probably not believing my story since I was unscathed. I knew they wouldn't....but I had this fear in the back of my head that they might take my baby from me. All not helpful.

We were discharged from the hospital late afternoon the next day. With bandages, lotions, tylenol, oxy, and a little man bundled up in what looks like mouse pads (they release silver into the wounds which is anti-microbial and help heal and seal off the burns from air). All except for the chin, which we have to clean and bandage up twice a day. Not fun, painful for him, but at least it's healing.

And here's where I really struggle. I know a lot about what garbage they put in meds, in lotions, in vaccines. It was strongly recommended that he get the tetanus immunoglobulin and the tetanus vaccine (DTAP). I obviously saw the wounds, and knew him getting tetanus would be disastrous. So I said yes (although we gave him the immunoglobulin that night, and waited until the next day to do the vaccine). We had said we weren't gonna vaccinate him at all until he was at least 2...but sometimes you just gotta roll with it.

And I'm not a monster, so I obviously was not gonna say no to pain meds for him. To be honest, I was just SUPER thankful that they didn't pump him full of anti-biotics. I thought that would have been the very first thing they did, but they didn't at all and I'm forever grateful for that! But tylenol has some serious nasty crap in it. We're trying to see when we can wean him off of it without him suffering. And the lotion. It's in his open wounds, and it has ingredients that I'm just so not ok with. But we decided we'll stick with the lotion they gave us until Friday, when we have our followup, and then we'll switch to my lotion, and I'll add aloe to it. I did ask the doc, and he was delightfully surprised that I make my own lotion, and also said that it should be ok if the medicated lotion we are giving him started to give him a rash. But for now, he seems to be tolerating it, so I'm pretending not to know the chemicals in it and just sucking it up.

I was convinced that I would have one child who didn't have medicine as a part of their early life. I see some of the stomach issues girlfriend has, and I do think that some are linked to early meds (lifesaving meds, but meds all the same). And on top of me possibly scarring my son for life, I'm also really upset that he has to be on pain medication, and that we had to vaccinate him earlier than planned (and in all honesty, I most likely was NOT going to get him DTAP vaccinated). And I know, I KNOW, that advances in science and medicine are the reason why BOTH of my kiddos are alive right now. But out here in the crunchy northwest, I am also lucky enough to have doctors acknowledge the power of things like breastmilk, skin to skin contact between baby and mom, more natural options in medicine and healing. The nurse doing the wound care on little man was the one who suggested I nurse him during the procedure. I was afraid I would be in her way, but she understood how powerful and comforting that could be for him. And I'm forever grateful for that attitude both in the NICU and the burn unit.

All in all, I'm just having a huge bout of mom guilt. I still have some serious mom guilt for not being able to "incubate" girlfriend through the full 40 weeks. And once again, my body (and this time, my brain) failed my child. I know it'll soon subside, for the most part. But it sucks. December 11th sucks. My blendtec sucks. Not sure I'll ever make soup again. As it stands, I've only managed to make breakfast once since we've been home (today, since the hubbs went back to work and I have to feed my child). Tonight will be the first time I make dinner. And you can be damned sure that little man will be in daddy's arms while I'm doing it.

I am still a huge proponent of baby wearing, and I still know that if I didn't wear them while cooking, then cooking would not have been done. But I'll never use a blender or food processor again while wearing them. And I'll be a million time more thoughtful and careful about my actions in the kitchen, instead of just pushing to get it done.

And this kiddo? I'm sure he'll be fine. He shouldn't remember any of this. Hopefully there'll be little to no scarring. And this will be his war story. And he's just awfully cute.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sweet potato latkes topped with goodness

So, while searching for a yummy cranberry sauce recipe for Thanksgiving, I stumbled across Carla Hall's sweet potato latkes and cranberry chutney recipe. So I made the chutney and thought nothing of it.

Until the other night. When I had a ton of chutney, some sweet potatoes I didn't use for Thanksgiving, and some brie just laying around. And I was feeling particularly lazy, so didn't defrost any meat for dinner. And I was wondering how on earth I was going to somehow turn that into an entire meal. And then, brilliance struck.

I had eggplant. And brie. And pancetta. And so, I made some stackers.

I followed her directions for the latkes. Then I sauteed some eggplant in my trusty cast iron skillet in evoo, salt and pepper. Then I topped that with brie. I stuck that in the oven under broil until the cheese got all melty and bubbly. While it was broiling, I crisped some pancetta in the skillet. I topped the stack with that, and a nice big dollop of the chutney.

I honestly had no idea how this would turn out. But it was incredible. Shockingly amazing. All the salty, sweet, creamy, crispy deliciousness.

You should make this for sure!


Friday, November 21, 2014


I've probably made that claim before. But this time, I super serious mean it. Because this was the best meal ever. Not only was it the PERFECT way to end a week that wasn't so hot (so. much. house. to. fix.), but it also just matched the rainy cold mood outside. 

I mean.......

Come on now. That's perfection in a bowl right there. This is one of those meals that we wish we had people over for because everyone should know how freakin delish this is. But I'll share all my secrets. And of course, some of them are not mine. Because internet.

The meatball recipe is courtesy of Alex Guarnaschelli. You see her judge on "Chopped", and she just recently became an Iron Chef. And the woman can give perfect mom face. And apparently, she also has a mother that created the world's greatest meatballs. I was skeptical at first because really? Sour cream in meatballs with gravy? But I decided to give it a try. So here's what I did.

I used half pork, half beef. I actually used half breakfast sausage from whole foods, which is just ground pork with some sage in it. I didn't taste the sage at all, so you could go either way with that. I also NEVER have fennel fronds, but I happened to have them, so I used those instead of the fennel seed, because fresh herbs in meatballs make life sing. I followed everything else exactly as she said to. I thought it was CA-RAZY to not use garlic or onions in the meatballs, but she knows what she's doing. Oh yeah, and also I made my own breadcrumbs. I just used some baguette I made, ground it up, and toasted it in the cast iron skillet with some butter and olive oil. I recommend this. I hate store bought breadcrumbs.

So I cooked mine in a big ole dutch oven. The one I then made my gravy in.
I did just like she said, brown on all sides and leave the center rare. It took me 4 separate rounds to make all of them. Then I started on the gravy. I didn't use her gravy recipe, because I really like mine, and I super don't like sugar in mine. So here's what I did.

Remove the meatballs from the dutch oven and add a touch more evoo. I used shallots this time because I didn't have any onions. I ended up using 2 pretty large shallots, diced up. Then added some garlic (I use the lightly toasted garlic in evoo that I always have on hand). I threw in some tomato paste- I use the squeezy tubes of it and used about half a tube. Which probably equals 2 to 3 tablespoons. I let that all cook together until it gets a nice deep auburn color. Then add 2 jars of crushed tomatoes. Currently, we use the Jovial Organic brand that are plum tomatoes from Italy. I believe it's the only brand of jarred crushed tomatoes that they sell at the Whole Foods by me. And I love that they don't add basil or anything to it. Just do me a favor and NEVER EVER EVER buy cans of crushed tomatoes. SO. MUCH. BAD. Just say no. I digress.

Then, I fill the jars about half way with filtered water, shake it up to get all the tomato remnants out of the jars, and add that to the pot. Then throw your meatballs back in, let it get to a low boil, then simmer for however long you feel like, but make sure the meatballs are cooked through before you turn it off. You won't even need to add salt or pepper because the meatballs impart such an amazing flavor. Caution- if you add salt at the beginning, it will almost definitely be too salty by the time it's done cooking.
Your entire house will smell like Italy and you will love it. You also will not be able to stop eating by the spoonfuls, or dunking bread into it while awaiting your spouse's arrival.

And also, you may have some adorable helpers who want to help you eat it by the spoonfuls. And take pictures.
Grating all the cheese. Nice work kiddo!

So yeah. Anytime you want a cozy, comfort meal, make this. It really doesn't take long at all, and it's SO WORTH IT. I'll be eating it again at 10:30 tonight after my son sucks the life out of me, er, nurses to sleep. For hours.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The tastiest pulled pork ever ever

I am not a fan of pulled pork. I've discovered I'm actually not much of a fan of what's considered "American food". For example, if given American cheese, I will rage to the food gods. Because it's simply not cheese. Your typical casseroles, meatloaf, pot roast, etc etc. Never been a fan. Some say I'm a food snob. They may be correct. But if you're not going to thoroughly enjoy your meal, what's the point of eating it?

What I'm also discovering, is that there are no bad recipes on www.thechew.com. Well, disclaimer. I haven't ever cooked any of the recipes that were put on there by the home chefs, or some of the guest chefs. I'm only talking the host recipes here- Mario, Michael, Clinton, Carla and Daphne.

And, since then, I've stretched my palate to include those American meals that I've up until now dismissed. And I'm finding I really love them. Like, dream about them and eat them cold the next morning love them. And this is definitely one of them.

Mario Batali's Halloween pulled pork sandwich. I happened to have pork shoulder just waiting to be made into carnitas. But I had 5 1/2 pounds of it, so I figured since it was just babygirl and I, we could take a pound or so and try this out. Plus, I had some sort of squash in my fridge that was never going to be eaten by us (it was a default item in our local produce delivery service last week, and we typically are not fans of squash). So this recipe looked perfect.

For the condiment for the sandwich, Mario says to make a pumpkin puree. Well, this kinda looked like pumpkin, right? Whatevs, it totally worked.

Roasted squash, roasted garlic, parmesan, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Works for me!

The brine for this was really interesting (a whole bottle of red wine if you're gonna use 3-4 pounds of pork shoulder). But by a half hour in, the smell in my house was amazing.

I actually followed his recipe (outside of the pumpkin thing) exactly. Because I happened to have all of those ingredients.  And I still had some of my crusty Italian bread left over from Sunday night, so I just used that and made open faced sandwiches.

Voila. Deliciousness. And delicious the next day. Looks like I'm a pulled pork fan after all.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Tapas Gone Wild! inside-out stuffed dates

I super love tapas. Everything about it totally suits my style. I always want about 47 different things on the menu, and unless I'm eating with that many people, pretty sure I'm not ordering that much food. Plus, I can't eat a lot of food at one time (a lingering side effect from years of stupid stomach issues), so the small plates totally work for me. And in 30 minutes when I'm hungry again? I can order another small plate. (this little issue is the bain of hubbs' existence. oh he of the I-can-just-eat-one-huge-meal-and-be-good-for-the-rest-of-the-day clan).

Anyway, my faves are usually the things that are shoved into a date. goat cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped dates?  BRING IT. And then, we hit a new tapas place and saw that they stuffed the dates with chorizo. Wait. WHAT!?! This is a brilliant idea. Except. No cheese? Bland. So, I reinstated the goat cheese. And then I was all "do I REALLY feel like shoving all this into a tiny little opening? that seems like work". And lo and behold, my newest "dip" was created. And I have no link to send you to cause this was all out of my brain!

I only have one pic, cause this dish took about 4 minutes to come together.

I used:
3 chorizo links (whole foods- so they're brat sized)
6 fresh dates (had to remove the pits myself, but if you do it with scissors you kinda feel like you're playing that game Operation and it's fun)- again we get these at whole foods in the produce section, they come in a tupperware thingie
a good hit of goat cheese
a good hit of cream cheese
a little honey if you find the chorizo has too much spice for you
grape tomatoes, cut in half
cotija cheese to grate over top

if you can find loose chorizo you don't have to slit the casing and empty it out, but whole foods only carries it in links, and I always feel the teensiest bit guilty when I ask them to take it out of the casings for me. Anyway, go ahead and empty those out into a hot cast iron skillet with some oil and brown it up. then throw in your chopped up dates, tomatoes, and your cheeses. Goat cheese is a really powerful flavor, but since I like a really creamy dip, I use cream cheese as well (also helps with that whole spicy thing for the toddler). It really is just putting a bit in and tasting it until it's delicious for you. I don't even add salt and pepper to this because the chorizo itself has so much flavor, as do the tortilla chips you eat it with.

Side note: Buy the in-house made tortilla chips from whole foods. IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Not in any restaurant ever in the US have I tasted chips like this. They're heavenly.

Anyway, heat everything up, then throw it in a bowl and grate cotija over it. Then dig in.

Seriously, the best.

And it's 100% ok to eat this "appetizer" as a main course. Because I said so. And I would never steer you wrong.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Farm Stand Chicken Pot Pie

Yup. dig in. Because this stuff is fantastic. And healthy. And helps fight colds (chicken stock base and such). And did I mention yummy?

Michael Symon strikes again. I pretty much followed his recipe this time, except I used what I had veggie wise. Plus, hubbs does not like mushrooms. So we subbed in peas. And we didn't have chard so we used kale.

So homey and yummy and comforting and made my whole house smell fabulous.

Honestly, I could have just eaten it all just like this. But when the man says to make a mashed potato crust, you make a mashed potato crust. Yes sir.

It's soupy goodness wrapped in mashed potato heaven, broiled to perfection. I am not exaggerating. Hubbs said he now can never eat any sort of chicken soup again because I've ruined it for him. This is all he will want now. Pretty high praise. Woot woot!

And the recipe says it takes 1 to 2 hours, but that's because he's including the time it takes to roast a chicken. Since I already had chicken that I roasted and pulled off the bones, it only took about an hour to put together. Or you could just use chicken breasts or thighs and not roast a whole chicken. But when you can make some delicious stock from the bones why would you not just roast it?


creamed kale pie

This is essentially a mash up of all the different forms of spinach pie I love. My mom's, my Aunt Stella's spanakopita, and all the fabulous spinach dips I've ever eaten. And I'm sure you'll never guess who's recipe this is....of course it's Michael Symon's. I'm nothing if not consistent.

He used a pre made pie crust. I had phyllo dough that I had to use up. Which means that in between each sheet of dough you butter it. Also butter the bottom of the pan. I didn't and it stuck. oopsie.

Also, I used kale. Cause it's what I had. Still delicious. Just put a few sheets of dough down, then throw in half the filling. Then fold over a few of the sheets. Then put the rest of the mix in, then fold over the rest of those sheets. Then add a few more sheets on top. Remember, butter between each one.

And then, awesomeness ensues.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sundried Tomato Sicilian Pesto & a new Foccacia!

Rainy days always make me hungry. Especially dark, cold rainy days. And I always want pasta. So I grabbed Mario Batali's recipe for this pesto, and yup. It's delicious. I tweaked it a bit. I kind of combined his classic pesto with this Sicilian one for the most fabulous pesto ever. In my humble opinion.

The changes I made. Instead of using mint, I used basil, because it's what I had on hand. I didn't bother getting almonds with no skin cause that's annoying, so I used the almonds I had already. And I have no idea what cheese he was talking about, so I just used Parmesan. It's what I had, and it is the undisputed king of cheeses, so I figured Batals would be ok with it. That's right. I totally just nicknamed him what Michael Symon calls him. Cause in my head, we're just that close. And also, he just made pepperoni bread on the show, which is my mom's famous dish and I've never heard anyone else ever call it pepperoni bread, so I feel like we're family. Totally logical.

Anyway, it's amazing. I followed his directions as far as cooking, or not cooking, it. Because I trust he knows exactly what he's talking about. I used fusilli, again because it's what I had. I'm trying to ensure that I only make meals that I don't have to go out and buy special ingredients for unless it's a special occasion, or we just happen to need to go grocery shopping. That whole sticking to a budget thing.

Also, because hubbs just got home from London, I made him some bread. I've done the other foccacia recipe a bunch of times now and I'm bored, so I decided to do another search. And I came across this blog/ recipe. And she's right. Foccacia is so bogus here. So I thought I'd give hers a try. And I'm pretty sure I'm never going back. I still add the rosemary on the top because I just heart it, but her recipe is pretty bad ass. it is literally the best bread I have ever made ever. Ever.

So there you have it. Comfy Italian food for a rainy gloomy day. And pasta face.


Feeling all the feels; a toddler story

Spending a month away from your home and your stuff and your hubbs can bring out the worst in you and your kiddos. Obviously. And there's no better way to test this theory than to spend that month in hot and humid. And so, we did.

And here are some lessons I learned, some tidbits I discovered about myself and my babygirl, and some other general nonsense that I find amusing.

First up. Babygirl does NOT fair well without daddy. 2 weeks with him gone made her a sobby mess almost every morning. So we decided that we'll have to cancel our plans to fly to Jersey for Thanksgiving and stay through the Christmas season while daddy travels back and forth. It does nothing but frustrate everyone involved. And also? If I come home to more piles of cat vomit again, there's a good chance that they will not survive.

But this brings me to my next point. The sobby mess. The LOUD sobby mess. I felt awful that my poor brother got stuck in a room with no door and missing a wall, and subsequently had to hear the screaming and crying all early. And I realize that it's not a pleasant sound. especially when it lasts for what seems like forever. But I'm SO grateful that she expresses her emotions. I'm beyond thrilled that she feels comfortable enough to just let it rip. And so. I don't stop her. I did try to take her into a different room so she wasn't waking the dead, but I did not try to shush her, or tell her it was all ok (because for her it wasn't), or tell her to quit her crying before I give her something to cry about. I let it roll. And I hugged her when she wanted a hug. And I just sat in the room when she wanted her space. And when she said "I want take a calm", we took a few nice calm breaths, and then we talked. And then she went about her day. Was it loud? Yup. Was it probably annoying to those around us? Yup. Did I care? Maybe a little, cause I don't like causing other people distress, but I'm finding as a parent that I care a LOT less about others' perceptions of me when it comes to my kids. And, let me be clear, no one suggested I should, but I am SO glad that we decided not to just smack the emotions out of my child. Because I'm sure from the outside, it just looked like I had a defiant child who was having a tantrum because I told her no or she couldn't have something that she wanted, and her screaming was perceived as just being an undisciplined brat. I know that's what I would have thought prior to having children. And I would have added "they should just spank her". My my my, I owe a lot of people apologies for my judgey-ness pre-kiddos.

And that's the thing. You, dear outsider, have zero ideas what my child is going through at that moment that you see tantrum. That you see "defiance". So you, dear outsider, don't get a say in how I tend to that child. And I'm sorry that your sensitive little ear drums just couldn't handle the 5 seconds you walked by us and witnessed chaos. But trust me, the 30 minutes that I dealt with it were no picnic. But let me assure you, I'm not about to do something I don't believe in to my child because you don't like her behavior at that moment.

Which brings me to my next point. "No". There's not one other word in the English language that your kiddo can say to you that gets your blood boiling like this word. But. I love it. Maybe it's cause I have a girl. Maybe it's because of my inability to say this word to people my whole life. Especially when it came to boys, and what they wanted to do, and what I didn't want to do, but didn't ever feel like I had the power to simply say NO. To say NO to the jokes at work that offended me, or the constant barrage of IM's, phonecalls, following and cornering me into talking to you because you really wanted to, even though I repeatedly tried to avoid you at all costs. NO to the date that bought me dinner so thought I owed him something.

Stay with me here.

Do I love the fact that my daughter says "NO" to me as often as she does? Of course not. I'm a parent, and I want her to know that she has to listen to and respect me. HOWEVER. I want her to use that NO. I want her to wield it's power. Often. I want her to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that she is allowed, ENCOURAGED, to say NO when it makes her uncomfortable. Uneasy. When it's her body. When it feels wrong, even if it's a trusted adult telling you to do it. Use that NO. Yell it if you have to. Even if it's to daddy or I. Sometimes, she says no just to try it out. Says no, but does what I ask. And sometimes, she says no, stands her ground, and I realize that she's right and she can say no. I pour her a drink and she says NO because she wanted water, not milk. It's her body. She's right. Bring on the no.

If someone could tell me where the switch is to flip on and off your perception of when you're able to use NO when you're 3, then by all means, I won't let her say no to me anymore. But since that doesn't actually exist, I'm gonna go ahead and let her say it. I don't ever want to take that power away from her. Don't get me wrong. When we want her to do something, and she says no, we get on her level, look her in the eye, and explain that she needs to do what we're asking (put away toys, don't spit water at your brother, etc). And she usually does it, as most toddlers usually do. But I don't tell her "You're not allowed to say NO to me". Because that's not what I want for her. And it could just be my sensitivity and issues with it that lead us to parent this way. But either way, it's how we roll.

And her volume. Oh, her volume. When she gets excited, this girl can out-scream a shrieking monkey. It's loud, kind of hilarious, and at times, a bit much. But I'm not about to kill her excitement, her pure joy, for the sake of my ears. So we roll with it. And we roll NOTICEABLY, because loud. But, when you take a look at her face (and little man's face, because of course he got the screamy gene as well), and you see the pure elation. Well, you don't ask them to dampen it down. You just can't.

I started writing this post about a week after we got home from Jersey. That was at least a month ago, if not more. It felt angry then. And like I was desperately trying to justify my parenting, our behavior, our perceived errors. So I held off. But now, rereading? I love it. And I'm sticking with it. Because it's how we choose to parent our kiddos. And it's working for us. Quite well, actually. I love that they feel all the feels, because I never did. I always wanted to be perfect. I hate confrontation. So regardless of how I felt, I buried it down and pushed through. Never talking to anyone about my true feelings, sometimes getting really frustrated, and finally exploding until the point of no return, which resulted in ended friendships and lots of tears. I'm working on this. I'm working on finding my voice, for the sake of my kids. But I'm making sure they always know they can use theirs.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mexican Pot Roast Tacos. Just Say Yes.

Yup. I love these. They are one step down from the amazing pork carnitas recipe I recently stumbled upon (because I love a pig. I do I do). But this is amazingly delish, and super easy to throw together. The meat is a fairly cheap cut (beef chuck roast), and you do a whole bunch then have leftovers, with which to make nachos, or sandwiches, or just eat it cold out of the fridge....You can cook it in a crock pot, but I really hate those things, so I did it in a dutch oven.  I used Tyler Florence's recipe because I wasn't finding anything I really liked in my "authentic Mexican pot roast" google search. And I love his dimples. So, of course.

You start by browning the meat. Then add some onions and garlic. I should note that from the burek I made the other night, I had leftover 1/2 lard, 1/2 oil- so I cooked the meat in that.

Then you add all the liquid and spices and bring to a boil. I didn't have ancho chil
i powder, but I had dried ancho chilis, so I just added a little warm water and used the blendtec to get it to a paste. I also used maybe a quarter of the amount of cayenne pepper he said to and the liquid was still CRAZY spicy....but not the meat.

It simmers for 3 hours then looks like this.

Then you remove from the liquid and break apart with a fork. You of course "taste test" the entire time you're doing this.

And then you thank the Lord that you made a triple batch of tortillas and froze a bunch so that you simply need to heat them up in a pan and BOOM. Pot roast tacos.

And tomorrow, pot roast nachos.

Done and done.


Burek & Baklava- the Serbian/ Bulgarian Life

UPDATE. Michael Symon has a recipe for baklava, because of course he does. It is the best I've ever eaten. And it's pretty too....
this was my second time making baklava, first time making his recipe. the directions were easy and the result was amazing!

So. Hubbs is the big 35! And to celebrate, I made him a feast of his heritage. Although I know I didn't quite do Tete Yovanka justice, I tried as best I could. And here's how I did it.

I used blogs and the Bulgarian cookbook hubbs' parents got for us to make these.

For starters, to make my own phyllo dough, I used this blog. There is a Bulgarian dish called Bonitza that is very similar to burek, but I think the dough is thicker. Which is why I made my own. (I cheated for the baklava and used frozen, organic phyllo dough). I don't use this blog's filling because it's not how his aunt makes it. And feta > cottage cheese any day of the week.

So here's the recipe I used for the meat and cheese burek:

about 1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1 white onion
1/2 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper
1 egg

I cooked the meat, onion and parsley. remove from heat then add the egg.

the cheese filling is just 1 lb feta (Bulgarian sheeps milk feta is the best, but French feta is a close second. Greek feta is not creamy enough).
2 eggs
Mix together

Then, you follow the directions from the blog as far as shaping and filling the dough. Do fold the dough over each layer. I did not do that and there was not nearly enough dough in the pie for all that meat and cheese. I made one layer meat, the other layer cheese, with a teeny bit of meat sprinkled on top.

In the cheese pie, the filling is a bit different. I added a cup of yogurt to it. And another 1/4 pound of cheese.

As I said, make sure you fold the dough over the layer instead of leaving it hanging over the side like I did.

Then follow the baking instructions from the blog. Once it's done cooking, cover it with a kitchen towel while it sets...hubbs' said that's how you keep the top soft.

And now for the Baklava.

I had to get creative since I didn't have enough walnuts, so we used half walnuts and half pistachios, which is actually quite delicious. And I thought that there was honey in it, but the Bulgarian calls for a sugar lemon syrup which you make instead of honey. Still delicious.

You will need six sheets of phyllo dough if you only want one layer, which is what the recipe calls for, but I'm sure you could double it easily.
about 2 cups of butter, melted
about 2 cups of chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
lemon juice

grease your baking pan
make the syrup by bringing sugar and 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. turn off heat, then cool and add lemon juice, to taste. let cool.
layer 3 sheets of phyllo, buttering each one
mix the walnuts with the cinnamon and spread over the sheets
(at this point I added a little bit of the syrup I made because I thought it'd taste good over the nuts)
cover with the next 3 sheets, spreading melted butter on each one.
Bake at 400 degrees until top is golden brown.
Remove from oven and pour syrup over the top. Let it stand for 24 hours to soak.

I of course could not wait 24 hours to try it. So I had some and it was still delish. But I'm looking forward to my piece tonight that's been soaking!

Love, Eastern European style.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why I'm Pissed off today- Germ/ Bacteria Edition

Let's have a chat for a minute, shall we?

Can we just for one second take a nice deep breath, as a nation, and just CALM. THE. EFF. DOWN.

Seriously. The media is NOT doing us any favors here. In order to grab headlines, they take the most obscure, every day, common sense things, and turn them into THE SKY IS FALLING EVERYONE IS GETTING SICK AND GOING TO DIE OH MY SWEET LORD JUST STAY IN YOUR HOUSE AND WRAP YOURSELVES IN BUBBLE WRAP AND NEVER EVER LEAVE EVER!

Today, a total of 3 TIMES before noon, I saw a "story" on the news. A story about why you need to change out your toothbrushes regularly. And not keep them directly next to the toilet. Because germs. And bacteria. AND YOU COULD GET SICK! AND DIE!

Ummm. #1. DUH. change your toothbrush.

#2. germs and bacteria are not all bad and scary. If one is never exposed to germs and bacteria, then one can never build up any sort of immunity and hence will just get sick all the time. Which is why they've done all those studies about how all of the anti-bacterial hand sanitizers, soaps, cleaners, etc etc have actually made us worse for the wear.

People. We do not live in our own sewage anymore. That was taken care of in the first half of the 1900's. Back then, yes people died from things that are considered easily curable now. Mainly because they lived in their own filth, worked 16-18 hours a day (men, women & children), never saw the sun because of those jobs, and were malnourished.

But we're way past that stage. And now, the pendulum has swung WAY too far in the other direction. And part of the problem is the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, WE NEED HEADLINES THAT GRAB media that we live with. Because there are just not that many tragedies to keep up with. So they decide instead to try to scare the crap out of us. With nonsense.  It hurts my brain.

Typically, I don't have the TV on. Except for when both of my children have plotted against any sleep I might have wanted the night before. Then guess what? A little GMA and Kelly and Michael is required. Except now I'm tired AND pissed off. So there's that.

The point is. There is some scary shit out there. Terrifying really. The stuff that my blog typically deals with (Big Pharma, Big Ag, Government essentially treating this country like lab rats with all their science disguised as food and medication....), parents getting arrested for doing things that our parents did without a second thought. We don't need to make shit up. Or turn toothbrushes into death sentences.

Perhaps there could be a news station that broadcasts the correlation between our complete and utter fear of germs....and our inability to fight off viruses, like the new enterovirus.  Or the flu. Don't even get me started on the pure lunacy of the flu vaccine. Our bodies were created to fight off these things. When we were growing up in the 80's and early 90's, the flu sucked, yes. But it did not kill people. It was not considered an epidemic. Enter the all sanitized, all the time generation and guess what? FLU is picking people off. Superbugs are now around that we can't kill. We are filled with pesticides and toxins and plasticides and chemicals and phthalates and synthetic hormones and antibiotics and on and on and on....

And now? Well, we're paying for it. And for once, I would just like to see someone, somewhere, talk about this issue without being called a quack. Or told that there's no science to back that up. Correction. There's no science that was funded by the government and the big companies producing this garbage to back that up. Because money.

So honestly. Let's stop being sheeple. Let's stop sucking up what they're selling. Let's stop pretending that the reason we're so sick as a nation is because we're not eating enough of the "diet and health" food they're selling. Let's stop pretending that we know the long term effects of the newest science experiment they're pushing on us without us knowing.

And let's just stop watching the news.

Side note. Please don't send me nasty comments about how terrifying Ebola is. I get it. It is scary. But please remember. It doesn't kill everyone that gets it. In countries where clean water is hard to come by, then yes it's a lot harder to fight off. And do I want to get it? No. I do not. But this post is not really about Ebola. The end.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Moussaka, you get in my belly

Oh Michael Symon. My hunky Greek iron "the chew" chef crush. I heart him SO. MUCH. My dream is to be asked to cook on The Chew with him. this would be a hell of a lot easier if I still lived in Jersey, as it tapes in NYC, but I digress....

This man has NEVER EVER EVER created a recipe that wasn't pretty much the best thing I ever tasted. No wonder he's undefeated on Iron Chef. The man is foodie gold. And this recipe?? Uhhh, yeah. I made this recipe for my Greek uncle. Who not only absolutely loved it, but gave some to his neighbor, who's from Turkey, who said that that Moussaka was better than his mother's!!!!! WHAT!?!?! That's crazy sauce. But I'll take it!

The reason is because this recipe is so phenomenally fantastic. Seriously. I hate casseroles. I'm not a big fan of stews. And every other time I ever ate moussaka, I hated it. But the hubbs comes from that part of the world, and so as a favor I made it for him. And of course, I turned to my buddies on The Chew for a recipe and I got this gem. It's so good that Carla Hall STILL gets teased 2 years later for going into the backstage fridge and taking Michael's leftovers that he was saving for his wife. Just STRAIGHT UP TOOK THEM because that's how good it was. I follow his recipe exactly, except I use both eggplant and zucchini because I love them both and some people find too much eggplant a little bitter.

First you make the meat part of the dish. Oh yeah, I use dried cranberries instead of dried currants because cranberries in everything I say. And then you pan fry up the eggplant. I tried to put it in the oven to roast instead, to save myself some time. Epic fail. So I gave in and did it the long way. That's the only way to get that nice brown on it and not have it dry out.

Then you make the bechamel. Which for this is a goat cheese, lemon zest and honey bechamel. And you use egg yolks to get it uber creamy. I could eat this by the spoonful. But I didn't. Instead, I used some of the baguettes I made from the other day as a utensil to shovel it into my mouth. DO. NOT. JUDGE. ME.

Then you do the layering. Eggplant, meat, eggplant, meat, top with bechamel. He's pretty specific with his instructions which is really nice. Especially if you didn't happen to watch that episode. But I totally did, so there.

And that, my friends, is the beautiful, nicely crusty topped all done and baked moussaka. Stupid good. So good that I made 2 extra pans of it to freeze because it takes about 3 hours to put all this together if you're wearing a giant baby and amusing a toddler, and dammit I'm only doing it once in a while but I want to eat it always all winter long.

So yeah. There you go. I know it's been a while since my last post (my meals have been repeats and/or lame lately), but this one totally makes up for that. Promise.

And you know. It's greek. So if you hurt yourself while you're cooking, just put some windex on it.


PS. Just a reminder, since it's been forever and a day, that all of the ingredients I use are organic, never from a can ever ever ever, and are as processed free as humanly possible. I mean, I obvs don't churn my own butter, but you get the picture.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Peanut Butter Pork, better than it sounds

So we had some pork tenderloin chops. And I decided to go all Michael Symon on it's ass. This is a really yummy recipe and I suggest you try it. I used what I had on hand for the salad...so no bean sprouts or jalapenos or peanuts. I had cherry tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, some lettuce and almonds. And I made corn on the cob cause we had it and corn works with everything. It was kind of like eating a deconstructed bon me sandwich. YUMMMMM.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fancy Pants Meatballs & Spaghetti

We were in Jersey for a month. My grandma passed away, and we had a vacay planned out there, so the trip became uber extended. There will be posts about Jersey for sure, but I should probably go ahead and make sure that I've found every sneaky pile of cat vomit from when we were gone prior to blogging. I digress.

But since I super rocked it in the Italian cookery tonight, I figured I'd share this. because YUM. We happened to be watching Master Chef the other night (since cancelling cable, we only get the basic channels, so this is now the only cooking competition show I get to watch. sad face.) And one of the chefs made her spaghetti and meatballs. they were a 5 meat blend- pork, beef, veal, something I can't remember, and MORTEDELLA. Say what!?!? So we of course had to try it. and holy freakin crap it's delicious.

For those of you who don't know, Mortedella is kinda similar to bologna. But it's an Italian, amazing cold cut, not some oscar meyer crap. It doesn't have all the nasty stuff that bologna does, but it does have pistachios in it. I thought I would never in a million years eat it, but I tried it recently, and I heart it. So we went right to whole foods and picked up a pound. And here's what I did with it.

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 pound spicy italian sausage
3 slices mortedella
1 thick slice of bread (2 if they're thin) soaked in whole milk
some roasted garlic
salt and pepper

I'm lazy, so instead of using regular ground pork, we get the spicy stuff and it imparts a lot of flavor. You basically mix that all together, but don't over mix otherwise the meatballs get tough and chewy. Heat up a dutch oven or whatever pot you're going to cook your red gravy in. Yes, gravy. that's what it's called. Moving on.

put a little evoo in the bottom and roll up the meatballs to whatever size you prefer. I ended up making about 20 slightly smaller than a golf ball size. brown them, then throw in the onions and garlic until soft. add some tomato paste- I gave the tube a good few squeezes so maybe about 2 to 3 tablespoons- and mix until it's spread fairly evenly over everything. add some fresh basil, then add your crushed tomatoes. I used 2 jars but maybe could have used another half a jar. Set in on simmer and let it cook- meatballs will flavor the gravy a bunch and they'll finish cooking in it. I cooked it for about an hour, maybe a little less. Don't add salt until the very end. You may find you don't even need any.

Meanwhile, boil the water for pasta, cook it for about 4 minutes less time than needed, and finish cooking the pasta in a mix of the gravy and some starchy pasta water in a cast iron skillet. Add some cherry tomatoes for some fresh flavor (not needed but WORTH IT). plate it up, throw some meatballs on there, cover with parm and/or mascarpone and/or ricotta and go to town. because EVERYONE loves some spaghetti and meatballs. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Oh-Zoat Oh-Zoat, aka Risotto- gluten and optional dairy free!

Girlfriend loves her some "oh-zoat oh-zoat". If you have not had risotto, you are missing out. It's Italy's delicious version of a rice dish which means gluten free for all you pasta lovers who can no longer enjoy pasta! Though it looks creamy, the base is just white wine and chicken stock. Bonus points if you use your homemade chicken stock since it's one of the healthiest things on the planet to eat.

Here's my go-to risotto base recipe. It is, of course, Michael Symon. He uses vegetable stock since he was making a vegetarian dish, but I use chicken stock. And I typically only need half the amount he says to use. I also add meat because I'm married to a Serbian who needs meat at every meal. This time, I used zucchini and summer squash and a bunch of garlic scapes (it was clean veggie drawer dump day) and I didn't have tomatoes so I used salami. why not.

I threw in the onions first, then the rest of the veggies, then the salami, and then the rice. but I followed the directions for the most part after that.

pre-rice, all cooking up in the dutch oven


PS- the parmesan at the end is optional if you are dairy free.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Quinoa Tabbouleh and Mini Meatballs

delicious, nutritious, and adorable. cause mini.

Recipe courtesy of Michael Symon, of course. It comes with a meat option as well, but it's not what I had defrosted so I didn't use it. I pretty much followed his recipe except I didn't add quite as much mint or lemon. hubbs is not a lover of all things lemon like I am.

And I just through the mini meatballs together.

1/2 lb organic grass fed ground beef
1 organic egg
1-2 slices of bread soaked in milk (I used some of the baguette I made. If you use sliced bread I would only use 1 slice)
a spoonful of roasted garlic
salt and pepper

mix all together. make small balls. toss em in a hot cast iron skillet with some extra virgin olive oil.

Dinner is served. In about 40 minutes, including quinoa cook time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Carnitas- you may never go out for Mexican again

ever since traveling to Mexico for our honeymoon do-over (a long story involving my non US citizen of a brand new hubbs who did NOT update his Yugoslavian passport, and was therefore threatened with deportation at the airport the morning we were supposed to leave for Playa del Carmen, leaving us to then go to Disneyworld for a week instead, thus taking the Mexico trip on our 1 year anniversary.....) I've been OBSESSED with authentic mexican food. And 100% COMPLETELY UTTERLY BITTERLY disappointed in anything less. like the "mexican" food that has the same 3 ingredients in every dish they offer- greasy meat, some sort of tortilla, and a crap ton of nasty cheese. NOT MEXICAN FOOD, PEOPLE.

Suffice it to say, unless you spend a LOT of money here, you're not getting authentic Mexican. which is hilarious, because in Mexico, the best food is typically found on a random street corner food cart for very very cheap. We rediscovered our love for it on our 5 year anniversary trip to Cabo, where babygirl was conceived. I am convinced that is why Mexican food is her favorite.

So I decided to make it my mission to simply cook the best Mexican food in the area. And I think I do. but finding the right recipes was a bit of a challenge. I've already given you the yummiest refried bean recipe. And now, I'll share with you my findings on the best meat possibly on the planet. Pork Carnitas.

Here's what I learned after cooking this recipe twice. First, use lard. Just use it. Don't be all "but it's so fattening" about it. I can promise you that anything else you use will either a) taste like garbage b) wreak havoc on your system or c) both.

Second, the first time I made this, I simmered it on the stovetop for the hour and a half it says to, tasted it, and it was AMAZING. Then, I put it in the oven like it says to to finish it off. And it dried out a bit. It was still delicious, but just a teeny bit less so than before it was put in the oven. Which bummed me right out.

So this time, I browned all of the pieces of pork first. Then brought everything to a boil, then simmered it. I noticed it was starting to dry out a little bit (this may have had something to do with the fact that I cut the recipe in half), so I just added a little bit more lard and water and I put a cover on the pot. The crispy-ness I got on the pork from browning it first remained, and the meat was juicy and wonderful and heavenly and angels singing and unicorns and rainbows...

So moral of the story? Totally cook it this way.

And of course, you must have the accompaniments to the carnitas. So. For the bomb guacamole, here's what we do. We cut up some onion and put it in our dedicated awesome guacamole maker (it's a mortar and pestle). throw some sea salt on them and grind those bad boys up, getting the onion juice out and pulpy. then throw in some avocado and some lime juice. then start mashing. Done and done. Seriously. It's the yummiest way to make guacamole, takes about 2 seconds, and between the lime juice and sticking an avocado pit in it, it will stay green for that night and usually the next day.

that big old gray thing is obvs our guacamole bowl maker. And truth- this is the first time I made the carnitas...I didn't take a pic of the guac this past time.

And of course, no good mexican dish is complete without the tortillas. I have a hard time eating store bought tortillas anymore, because homemade are a zillion times tastier. And they're not hard to put together. A little time consuming for the actual cooking of them- one at a time in a cast iron skillet. But worth it. We make a ton, end up freezing some, and then they last for 2 or so weeks. I have no idea if they last past 2 weeks....we've never made it that long.

And more truth. I've had a specific recipe that we've used for years now. They're delicious. But we bought this tortillas press, and it simply doesn't work without also having to roll out the dough. Which is beyond frustrating. So this time, after I had already made the dough, I looked online for some tips on how to make flour tortillas and successfully use the press. And I stumbled on a recipe that calls for more lard and less flour. which totally makes sense, since the press doesn't work because the dough just shrinks back as soon as you take it out of the press. So I am including the new recipe here. And use lard, again. Crisco is disgusting. And the lard makes the difference. I have used butter in the past when I didn't have any lard and they are still yummy, but there is definitely a difference.
So you just stick each one in the press and then cook it in your cast iron skillet.
I don't think you need salsa or sour cream for these. Hubbs disagrees. He uses salsa and sour cream on all forms of his Mexican food. He's wrong, but whatevs. You do however definitely want to grate some cotija over the top. Parmesan's Mexican cousin, this cheese is amazeballs and should be the only cheese you use on Mexican food, ever. While, queso fresco is also delicious, but I really don't enjoy that sort of cheese on my tacos or burritos. Cotija it is! And this time, I put some refried beans on mine cause they came out extra yummy so I had to.

And there you have it. Carnitas for days. And it really is so simple to put it together. They tell you how you can do it in the crock pot, but I loathe those things, so I didn't use that. But if that's your jam, then you totally can do that. Any way you slice it, this is the best way to eat pork ever ever.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The quick Alfredo you've been dreaming of

I am SO not the only one who dreams about food. And sometimes, I just want me some pasta. The pasta that my daughter refers to as "mac & cheese". Technically, she's not wrong. According to the all knowing Mario Batali, this is Italy's mac & cheese, introduced to Americans during a war (I don't remember which one), and when the guys brought it back they jacked it all up and out popped little blue boxes of crap. Don't get me started.

This is the real deal. Although Batali doesn't use any milk in his at all, I do cause I'm a rebel and I'll never ever be any good. (5 points if you get that song reference. that, and, you're old).

So anyhow, this is my recipe. I have a recipe for Alfredo that takes a little bit more time, and is a little bit more like what you typically think about when you dream alfredo (a little saucier), but I actually prefer this one. So.

Cut up your sausage links into bite size-ish pieces and throw em in a medium hot skillet with some evoo. brown well on all sides. drain the fat. then add whatever veggies make your heart sing. for me, today, that was mini green peppers, cherry tomatoes, and oven roasted tomatoes. and some garlic. of course.

Then, add equal parts fat and flour. since we made about a half pound of pasta I used about 1 1/2 tbsps of each. I used butter because duh. Once you've whisked the flour and fat all together so that the flour is now a tan color and the consistency of wet sand, go ahead and add your WHOLE milk slowly, while whisking. Use whole milk. Always. All the other types of milk are over processed using chemicals and totally ruin any nutritional value your milk had before they messed with it. Plus, it tastes better. so win win. You don't need that much milk. I'd say I used about a cup. And grate in some Parmesan cheese. Like, a lot. Do not, however add salt or pepper until after you've tasted it at the end. I find that the sausage gives it enough flavor and it doesn't need it.

During this process, you should be cooking your pasta in water as salty as the sea. And do NOT put olive oil in this water. Your pasta will not soak up any of the delicious sauce, it will just slide right off and that's just stupid. Do not fully cook your pasta. Subtract about 4 minutes off of it's cook time.

Add some of the salty, starchy water to your pan. I used about a ladle and a half. Then add your undercooked pasta.

Let that goodness cook up all together until the pasta is done.

Then this happens. You're welcome.