Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer Cooking: Thai Beef in Peanut Sauce

I'll start this post by saying it's been a long time since I cooked an authentic Thai recipe. Most of the time I use Cooking Light recipes, and the real stuff isn't concerned with calories. Hence, the cast of characters:

Sugar, fish sauce, coconut milk, peanuts, red curry paste, lime juice, chicken broth, jalapeno, basil and beef sirloin

(do you know about TJ's thinly sliced beef sirloin? Ahh, perfect for any stir fry or taco recipe, with no slicing of raw meat required).

Word to the wise: while you are preparing and prepping said recipe, children might be up to the following:

exhibit B:

But it washes off, and dinner has to be made, so proceed:

Thai Beef in Sweet Peanut Sauce

1 lb. beef, cut into thin strips (or TJ's sirloin, already cut!)
3 TBS red curry paste (use less if your family isn't spicy-friendly)
half a lime, squeezed of its juice
1/2 cup basil leaves
2 cups coconut milk (can use reduced fat)
1/3 cup chicken broth
3 TBS sugar
2 1/2 TBS fish sauce (smells like cat glands but is essential in Thai cooking!)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup ground roasted peanuts (give 'em a whirl in the food processor or smash in ziploc with rolling pin)

Heat pan over medium heat. Put the curry paste in, along with coconut milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Put in beef and cook for 5 minutes, separating pieces as needed.

Meanwhile, mix rest of ingredients (except for basil) in a bowl. Add to curried beef and simmer about 15 minutes. Add basil, stir well, and remove from heat.

Serves 4-5.

Serve with your favorite steamed veggie and white rice!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sabbath Adventures: Berkeley

Once a week, I'll be posting about how we spend our day off each week. Most weeks, Friday is our Sabbath, and we try to incorporate something fun and out of the ordinary to celebrate our day together. (We also almost always take family nap on Sabbath, but that won't be nearly as exciting for y'all to hear about.) So without further ado, our first Sabbath Adventures post:

Berkeley: Steam Trains and Injera

We started out our morning with a hike in Tilden Park. It was cool, sunny, and a perfect morning to get in a little family hike. Maddie is getting to the age where she is a great hiker and adventurer, as demonstrated above. There was quite a bit of poison oak on the trail, and so as she marched behind us we heard her chant over and over, "Leaves of three, let it be; one, two three, let it be."

Our turnaround point was a gorgeous, damp Eucalyptus grove. We stopped for pictures and then headed back down the trail.

Our primary destination last Friday was the steam trains. Sam is obsessed with planes, trains and automobiles these days and so we were excited to see his response. Poor guy fell asleep between the hike and the trains (a five minute drive) and he was also fighting a cold and working on a couple of molars, so the response was thus:

He wasn't nearly as into it as we anticipated, but he watched in quiet concentration as we rounded the curves, whistle sounding, kids laughing.

When the ride was nearly over, he started breaking out in spontaneous applause, which we took as appreciation and excitement. All in all, the best $2 entertainment around, fun for parents and kids alike!

After the trains, we headed over to Berkeley to an Ethiopian restaurant where we feasted at an all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet: injera, lentils, greens, cabbage, yum! Maddie especially loved the cabbage and making conversation with the college students sitting next to us. Only later did we consider the ironic nature of an all-you-can-eat Ethiopian buffet (only in America, people, only in America).

And tomorrow we get to celebrate Sabbath again! So stay tuned for future installments.

Monday, July 26, 2010

through rose-colored lenses

The other day we set up Maddie's princess tent in the back yard. It was HOT in there.

But the lighting was so pink and warm and soft I just had to grab the camera for a few shots.


prince on the throne (camp chair) with his royal scepter (wooden spoon)

um, yeah, why is he so big?

sleeping princess

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Cooking: Farmer's Market Panzanella & Breakdown Mojito

Oh, how I love the Farmer's Market! Saturday's trip inspired tonight's dinner, a classic Panzanella (bread salad) with a special, secret ingredient.

Every good panzanella starts out with bread, in this case, a sweet baguette cut into small pieces and toasted for 10 minutes in a 375-degree oven.

Our star ingredient: heirloom tomatoes. Look at that sheen, that color, that shape.

Three heirloom tomatoes, all chopped up, equals a sunset-colored feast for the eyes and stomach.

And our secret ingredient? Watermelon! Okay, not so secret, but if you haven't combined tomatoes with watermelon, you are seriously missing out.

Next you head out to your miniscule herb garden to gather some fresh basil.

Get it done.

Throw in some half moon cucumbers, again from the market.

Red onion. But really? It's totally purple. Anyone else confused by that?

Oh, and if you had a day like I did, here's the extra special addition: summer lovin' mojito!

The finished product: red, orange, yellow, green, pink and violet. Every color of the rainbow but blue (unless you count the bowl). This is what summer is all about!

Eating the panzanella, drinking your mojito outside: pure Summertime enjoyment.

Farmer's Market Panzanella
4 servings

8 ounces bread, any kind of your liking, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
3 heirloom tomatoes, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
1 cup watermelon, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces (leave in fridge until ready to serve)
1 cup cucumber
8-10 small basil leaves, julienned
1/2 cup red (purple) onion, sliced very thin vertically
3 ounces feta cheese
salt & pepper
white balsamic vinegar
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375. Place bread cubes on baking sheet and cook for 8-10 minutes, until toasted. Set aside and let cool.

Place tomatoes, cucumber and chilled watermelon in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and let sit about five minutes. Toss in onion and basil. Add bread cubes and splatter with oil and vinegar, to your taste. Add salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste, and sprinkle with feta. Enjoy!

Breakdown Mojito
(adapted, barely, from Sunset)
1 serving

Place 20 mint leaves and 2 teaspoons superfine sugar in a glass. Use wooden spoon or muddler to coarsely crush leaves.

Add 4 TBS light rum and a 1-2 TBS of dark/golden rum to glass. Stir in 3 TBS freshly squeezed lime juice. Mix. Add ice cubes to glass.

Top with 4-6 TBS diet 7up (or club soda).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Maddie: three and a half

Sweet Madeleine...(ba bum bum bum)

Good times never seemed so good!

3 1/2 is so much fun. In fact, the picture below perfectly captures who you are at this point in time: playful, joy-filled, imaginative, determined, focused, somewhat impractical and quite silly. You are full of zest, loaded with personality, and the most naturally funny and clever person I know.

From sun up to sun down, basically you never stop talking, unless one of the two things are going on: 1) you feel nauseous and are about to barf (as found out last week), or; 2) the T.V. is on. You are, should we say, a chatterbox. As it turns out, both your Daddy and I were both incessant talkers as children, so it makes sense that at least one of our children would carry the characteristic (Sam has yet to make his oratory debut).

Physically, you are capable of so much. You climb trees, ride a bike, run, gallop, pump on the swing, jump long distances, and can even do jumping jacks. You've mastered the Holbrooks' rope swing, fireman's pole at the park, three-wheeled scooter, mini cooper, and you can even push your brother in a swing.

In addition, you are working very hard on your letters, able to trace and sometimes write your own name. You are fiercely determined to master new skills but grow easily frustrated by difficulty. If you're going to do it, you want to do it e x a c t l y right. This makes for excellent mastery but quite a hair-raising process.

You are extremely confident and self-assured, launching into performances for family and strangers alike, approaching groups of teenagers with ease and affability, and engaging just about anyone in in-depth conversation. It is a joy to watch you as you work a room, and girl, do you work it.

Speaking working it, you are a master negotiator. You weasel and talk your way through any situation with the conniving and amiability of a Washingtonian lobbyist. On vacation one night during dinner you proceeded to engage us in "potty talk," only to be quickly reminded that "the table is no place for such conversations." Without pause, you excused yourself from the table, stepped away but a few feet, and asked us, "How about now?" You continued to step further and further away, a knowing smile on your face, our very own Verizon guy, "How about now?" "And now?" "But I'm not at the table." It was one of those moments where I had to physically turn away from you, cover my face, and exchange glances with your similarly bemused father before producing any sort of controlled disciplinary response.

You possess an amazing, giving, generous heart. You are constantly sharing with your brother, offering him bites of delicious food and even taking turns with your most precious new toys. You respond with tenderness and compassion to physical and emotional hurts. You are quick to seek forgiveness and also to forgive. Many times you have amazed me by coming forward on your own to admit bad behavior, the angst written all over your face.

You continue to dress yourself, pick out your own shoes and accessories, and come down the stairs looking like something straight out of a Fancy Nancy story. If you had it your way, you would wear a fancy dress every day, with flip flops (but that is only because you can't wear clip-clop shoes out of the house). You sit still while I brush your hair and love to wear it "all the way down."

Who knows what the future holds for you, whether you will wind up in congress fighting for human rights or traveling abroad to take care of "people without homes," becoming a preschool teacher or songwriter, poet or even Professional Fairy Princess Bike Rider?! One night we were talking about Daddy going back to work, Mama resuming her work in the home, and you surprised us by saying you needed to get back to work as well. Doing what, we asked, and you responded, "Taking care of the homeless people. Like Eskedar's dad, that's what I do."

Sweet Maddie, I love you so much it often hurts. My heart is so filled up with love for you and yet also so broken with compassion when you hurt or must learn a hard lesson. You have taught me the heights and depths of parental love. Thank you.



Sunday, July 11, 2010

11 on 11*

contentment: watching morning cartoons

bark outside on my morning newspaper retrieval

morning craft project: invites to a special playdate

Sam got in on the craft action

someone's not super excited about accompanying Mama on her long run

just chillin' at the park

um, yeah, she's looking way too big in this photo

Lunch, courtesy of Boppa: Domenico's chicken salad

iced coffee and errands without kids
(first time all week I've been out, no thanks to the stomach flu infecting half the family)

visiting the neighbors and coming home with lavender bears


*yep, kind of missed 10 on 10 yesterday, but since 11 is my favorite number, I decided I could just do it today!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Just Plum Yummy

double fisting

Summer Cooking: Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis back in the Spring of 2001, as a young, married, newly employed, college graduate. I think I probably suffered from the condition since high school, and when I was finally diagnosed it was a relief but also very disheartening, as I realized it was something I would wrestle with the rest of my life.

Almost immediately I started following a really strict diet called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Basically I ate fruit, vegetables, cheese, nuts, meat, lentils and homemade yogurt for months. And I healed. Completely. I slowly introduced other foods back into my diet and my colitis stayed in remission for over six years. Anytime I started to experience symptoms, I would go back on my diet to get things under control.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding kind of messed with that remission status (not to mention the fact my diet for the most part did not resemble the one described above), and I've been struggling with my health off and on the past 18 months.

So I decided to go back on my diet as much as possible to help my body heal and get things back on track. Today I was really craving something sweet, when all of the sudden it hit me: I could make a really good frozen yogurt with diet-approved ingredients. I threw together this Strawberry Frozen Yogurt in just a few minutes:

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
3 cups greek-style yogurt (I used a combo of plain 2% Fage and TJ's nonfat vanilla)
2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries (I used a combo)
squeeze of lemon juice
*splash of kirsch or vodka (optional; this keeps it soft)

Process/pulse strawberries in a blender until pureed. With blender running, add honey to taste. Add lemon juice and liquor.

Place in fridge to cool for one hour (I just left mine in the blender jar and I only waited about 48 minutes).

Process in your ice cream maker for 25 minutes

*So I basically just threw this recipe together and into the fridge, minus the alcohol, when I decided I should probably check a real fro yo recipe to make sure I wasn't going to mess things up. What should I find, but a David Lebovitz recipe, almost exactly like mine! Wow, I didn't know I was that good. Ha ha. (I got the suggestion for kirsch from him, and I don't know what difference it would make, but my batch turned out awesome! I also used 3 cups of yogurt, whereas he used 1.)

It was so good, I served it to my kids for dinner with toast. Seriously. I'm that Mama today.