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Friday, April 30, 2010


Upcycled Sweaters Become Cute Wool Soakers

I've been on a mission to make wool soakers for the past few weeks. I recycle old wool sweaters to make the best diaper covers! Wool is fabulous: natural, breathable, highly absorbent. Oh, and did I mention these soakers are super cute? I usually buy the sweaters at goodwill, or at But remember my post about the free church yard sale that goes on every month or so? Well, last Saturday, I was driving by and saw it out of the corner of my eye. Baby T was asleep in the back seat so I had some time to kill. I swerved into the church parking lot and started rifling through the piles of clothes on the ground while a group of pre-teens took a liking to Baby T.

I guess spring is the time for purging your wool sweaters. I found thirteen wool sweaters. THIRTEEN! For free. One of the church volunteers kept coming up to me to give me additional grocery bags for my findings. At one point, I told her, "Thanks! I didn't expect to find so much." She said, "Thank the Lord."

In any case, I was incredibly grateful. I felt like I struck gold. I drove home with a multicolored sheepfest in my backseat.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Recipes from our CSA Box

Kale Chips

Wash and dry kale well. Spray with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Grill large kale leaves in one layer on metal cookie sheets in 450 degree oven until crisp. This will take approximately 10 minutes (flip halfway). You will have to make a few different batches, since only 3 or 4 kale pieces fit on a cookie sheet at one time. Remove from oven, and cut the leaves off of the stems with a sharp knife.

Sweet Potato Chips
Slice sweet potatoes thinly. (I used the slicer blade on my food processor). Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil and spread sweet potatoes on cookie sheet. Rub around in the olive oil and flip each sweet potato disc over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes, flipping halfway. Be sure not to let them burn. **A friend of mine gave me a tip: if you turn off the oven and leave the chips in, they will become very crispy. I didn't have time for this, but they were still great. Baby T really liked them too. Not so much the kale chips though, which got stuck on his tongue and made him gag and make some pretty funny faces.


Ooh, we have a lot of variety in our box this week! I love getting greens, but I also like getting different veggies that I can cook with or add to my salads. This week's box contained the following surprises:

(these are my best guesses, since it hasn't been updated yet on the website)
A large box of strawberries
Green Onions
a small ziploc of sugar snap peas (I think that's what they are)
1 zucchini

This is my menu for the week:

Thursday: Pizza bagels with kale chips and sweet potato chips
Friday: Dinner at Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop's
Saturday: Grilled eye roast with rice and salad (I'm going to cook extra rice to use for stir fry on Monday)
Sunday: Dinner at Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop's
Monday: Stir fry with zucchini and sugar snap peas (adapted from this stir fry recipe except last time I had to add a lot more spices, like curry), leftover eye roast, and brown rice
Tuesday: Pasta with wilted spinach, olive oil, and pasta sauce

I had some goat cheese from Nature's Way Goat Farm, so for lunches I made salad with leftover chicken, goat cheese, craisins, and honey vinaigrette. Yummy.

And for my salad, I'm adding my own radishes. Yup, from my very own garden. I don't know why it's so satisfying to grow your own food, or why it's so unbelievable when you pull up a radish and it looks like--a radish--but sure enough...

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Our CSA box this week was exciting, because we got…. STRAWBERRIES! This is always exciting. It’s a small package, but I was able to add strawberries to my morning oatmeal for 3 breakfasts in a row. Organic strawberries are amazing. Dark red and juicy, not orangey and tart like some that you might find at the regular grocery store.

We also received:
Salad mix
Garlic leek
Bok choy

I’m not as smart as you may think. I had to go to Black River Organic Farm’s website to find out what the Mizuna was. And I didn’t realize the garlic leek was a garlic leek. I just thought it was your standard leek.

So I bet you’re all wondering what on earth you’re going to do with the mizuna. Or what the heck it even is. Well, according to Wikipedia, it is a Japanese green with a slightly peppery flavor, similar to but less so than arugula. On the Wikipedia page there was a beautiful picture of a mizuma and daikon salad. This got me thinking: I know that daikon is a radish, and I was wondering what I would do with my radishes this week.

See below for my weekly menu and click on the links to view the recipes. Keep in mind I’m going to a couple of barbecues this weekend, so I won’t need to make dinner every night. I still have lettuce salads most days for lunch and add whatever’s on hand. They have “healthy” snacks for us at work, so I usually add some cheese and almonds. Or apples and craisins.

Wednesday: We didn’t go to dollar taco night this week, because we had so much filling leftover from the stuffed zucchini from last week. (Since I added ground beef to it, it made a lot.) We used it to make soft tacos. I made my own salsa again, but left out the onion and added tiny pieces of chopped up leeks. Making your own salsa tastes so much better than the jarred kind! I’m a fan.

Thursday: Still had leftover filling from the stuffed zukes and leftover sauce from the lettuce wraps on Monday, so we had spaghetti with the filling and the sauce over it. It was actually delicious. A little Asian, a little spicy, and very tasty.

Friday: Perfect Grilled Chicken with grilled leeks and grilled potatoes.
Saturday: No cooking today, wahoo!
Sunday: Roasted chicken, Spring salad with mizuna, radish and roasted peppers.
Monday: Bok choy gratin, leftover spring salad if there is any
Tuesday: Sausage, spinach, potato and sweet potato hash

So my farmer's market shopping list looks like this:
lots of peppers (ended up not finding them...not in season. I'll have to buy at the grocery store)
goat cheese
sweet potatoes
ask about local chicken/beef (pretty good deals for local meat. On the list for next week's farmer's market!)

And I have to be honest, I got most of these recipes online. I wasn't feeling very creative this week. In my research, I came across this amazing website that seems like it's going to offer a lot of good ideas for future CSA box recipes, too. Score!


Recipes from our CSA Box

Perfect Grilled Chicken
There's really not much to this. To grill a perfect chicken breast, the trick is to cut it in half. Just chop it down the middle so you have 2 chunks of breast. It cooks the chicken more evenly and quickly so that the edges don't dry out. You can marinate the chicken first--that always helps. I usually buy my chicken fresh, then freeze it in the marinade. As it thaws out, it soaks up the marinade so it's really juicy once cooked. It cooks on a hot grill for about 4 minutes per side.

Grilled Leeks

I got this idea from this website. It was amazing. I just cut in half lengthwise, chopped off the tops and discarded them, brushed with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and grilled the leeks for about 5 minutes. Then I chopped them up and added them to the roasted potatoes. This will definitely be my go to recipe for leeks!

Perfect Grilled Chicken, Grilled Leeks, and Grilled Potatoes
Spring Salad with Mizuna, Radish, and Roasted Peppers

This recipe is adapted from this recipe from an amazing blog I stumbled across. On the blog, the recipe is for a fall salad. But I'm making it a spring salad. Why not?

Ingredients (serves 2 ~ 4)

* 1 bag of mizuna
* 1 bunch radishes, sliced
* 4~5 roasted peppers, thinly sliced **See below for roasting instructions
* goat cheese
* Balsamic vinegar and olive oil


Tear mizuna into 2 inch sizes and put a bed of it on a large plate. You can also cut it but when you tear greens you create more fragmented area that soak up the flavor of dressing or sauce. Sprinkle the sliced radishes on the middle of the bed of mizuna. Top with roasted peppers, and crumbled goat cheese and drizzle balsamic vinegar and olive oil.


You can cut peppers in half and remove seeds or roast them whole. I usually roast them whole. Preheat broiler on high and cook peppers facedown on a baking sheet 15~20 minutes. I just set my kitchen timer to check them every 5 minutes. If cooking them whole, I rotate them periodically. When the skin is evenly blackened, remove from oven and put into a ziplock bag. Close the bag and it will steam inside. Supposedly this helps the skin come off. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin. Cut the flesh away from the inner seeds, and use as you wish.

Bok Choy Gratin

Adapted from this recipe on

· 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
· 2 1/2 lb bok choy (not baby), tough stem ends trimmed
· ½ onion, finely chopped
· 1 clove garlic, minced
· 5 tablespoons salted butter
· 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
· 1 1/4 cups 2% milk
· 1/2 teaspoon salt
· 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
· 2 oz cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (1/2 cup)
· 1/2 oz finely grated parmesan (1/4 cup)


Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly butter a 2-quart gratin dish and dust with 2 tablespoons bread crumbs.

Cut bok choy stems and center ribs into 1/2-inch pieces and coarsely chop leaves. Cook stems and ribs in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes, then add leaves and cook 30 seconds. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle. Squeeze out excess water by handfuls.

Cook onion in 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and bok choy and cook, stirring, until greens are coated with butter and onion, 1 to 2 minutes. Spread bok choy in baking dish.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then add flour and cook roux, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Add milk in a slow stream, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring, 5 minutes. Add salt, and pepper, then stir in cheddar and 2 tablespoons parmesan and pour evenly over bok choy.

Toss remaining 1/4 cup bread crumbs with remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan in a small bowl and blend in remaining 2 tablespoons butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle mixture evenly over gratin and bake in upper third of oven until bubbly and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

**I’m going to add some potato to this dish to make it heartier. I’m just going to dice it up and add to the boiling water.

Sausage, Spinach, Potato and Sweet Potato Hash

Finally--a recipe I came up with myself.

Organic chicken and apple sausage from Costco (or you can use any sausage, or even bacon)
Bag/bunch fresh spinach
3 sweet potatoes, diced
2 potatoes, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a heavy pan. Add onions and cook until slightly soft. Meanwhile, microwave sweet and regular potatoes for approximately 6 minutes until softened (or boil and drain). Add to onions in pan, along with garlic. Cook until potatoes are soft, browned, and cooked through. Add sausage and cook until browned (you can cook this separately to make sure all the edges of the sausage are browned. That's how I like my sausage). Add spinach last, and cook until wilted. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


There are those moments in life that are so nostalgic that when you think back upon them they make you smile and tear up at the same time. In those moments, there is no future and there is no past, and you are contentedly nuzzled in the present. When you remember those moments, you’re filled with magic, and you get a knot in your gut knowing that you can never have them back, but you are fulfilled knowing that you were lucky to have experienced them.

• Waking up on Christmas morning at 9 years old, and running down the stairs with your sisters, delighted at the presents lined up by the fireplace.

• Playing hide and go seek at 10 years old, alone with your thoughts in your hiding spot, your heart pumping at the thought of being discovered, and your mind clear in this moment to yourself.

• The last day of school, when the sun is out, there is a fresh breeze, and you and your friends are scattering out the door with the entire summer ahead of you, knowing that tomorrow you will sleep late, run in the grass, and swim in the lake.

• Your first time traveling around Europe without your parents, awestruck at the world that’s right at your fingertips.

• Waking up in your tent on a camping trip in the spring, with the warm cocoon of your sleeping bag nestled against your body, the sun on the horizon and the smell of campfire lingering in the atmosphere, and a fresh chill in the air that cleanses your soul with one breath.

• Your first road trip—a car packed to the brim, a map in your hands, wind in your hair, songs, laughter, and aimless chatter for miles and miles, hours and hours.

• Moving into your new house. Nothing on the walls, no dust in the corners, fixtures sparkling. A blank canvas that is all yours on which to make your mark.

• Waking up after your first night with your first baby, exhausted, but filled with new life, marveling at the little person you helped create—you just can’t get enough of him—sun streaming into the room, a quiet retreat from the world where you could stay forever, just the three of you.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Well, it was another beautiful weekend in North Carolina, and we all spent the day outside. It was fabulous. I took a break from all of the hard work and sewing I've been doing and played outside with Baby T while Big T went fishing. And ok, we weren't just relaxing--Baby T and I worked on my garden.

This is what an outdoor table looks like when you're trying to entertain an 11 month old and garden at the same time: bubbles, a woven wrap, some coffee, some water, and some plants.

The garden after transplanting some seedlings

One of our rain barrels (made by Big T!)
Our tractor

Baby T and I watering the plants

Baby T looking cute

And... winding down after a long day.

Friday, April 16, 2010


A coworker told me about the Doodlebops today. Apparently she had a niece who loved them. And when I had the song "Dinah don't you blow your horn" stuck in my head this morning, this coworker of mine was reminded of the Doodlebops. I was quick to inform her that I had never heard of the Doodlebops, lest she think that was the reason I had that song in my head. She described them as "Kind of like Raggedy Ann and Andy, but one of them is blue and the other one is pink. You should google them. They're really fun."

Now, before I googled them, I had visions in my head of a Blue Man Group/Barney combo. And I thought about how I prefer to limit Baby T's TV watching as he gets older and goes to school and everyone around him is talking about TV characters. Baby T can read books.

Then I googled them and found this image, which confirmed that preference:

So I wanted to be all witty just now and say "Nuff said," but clearly that's not the case. "Fun" is not the first thing that came to my mind upon seeing them. First, I tried to cover up my screen, since I'm at work and am certain this is NSFW (not safe for work). In fact, I keep Alt+Tabbing to make sure no one sees what I'm looking at. I'm a little afraid of these Doodlebops. We have the blue creepy clown from the 70s, a pink B-52, and what looks like a furry Mick Jagger wearing...knee pads? Did he just roller skate in from cheesetown? And what's with the gloves? You guys are obviously not cartoon characters. In fact, you are a little uber-real. What are you trying to accomplish? Then I read on Wikipedia that "The band members wear heavy makeup and/or prosthetics to look like live-action cartoon characters." Ohhhh! That explains it! [??] And then I read that "The Doodlebops' characters are members of a children's band." Uh, really? These guys must have hit puberty really early because they look about 40 to me. [I did stumble across a site that shows the Doodlebugs without makeup. At least they are not 40. They are also pretty normal looking individuals. Further adding to the weirdness is the fact that a site like this even exists.]

And then I read that they are Canadian.

Nuff said.


Recipes made from our CSA Box (Week 2)

Pasta with Arugula and Garlic
Uses arugula from box
This one was simple but delicious. Cook up any type of pasta you would like. In the meantime, heat up some olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and swirl around for a moment. Add a bag of washed arugula. Cook, tossing, until arugula wilts. When pasta is ready, add arugula and garlic mixture, a swirl of olive oil, and salt and pepper. Simple, peppery, and delicious, with the perfect bite to it.

Stir Fry with Chicken, Bok Choi, and Zucchini
Uses bok choi and zucchini from box

2-3 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
head of baby bok choi, sliced thinly
1/2 giant zucchini (or 2-3 regular sized zucchini), cut into french-fry sized strips
2-3 cloves garlic
2 TBSP coconut oil
1/4 cup chicken broth, stock, or white wine
Sesame oil
1 tsp finely grated ginger

Heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add garlic, bok choy, chicken, and zucchini. Cook chicken until brown. Add ginger chicken broth and simmer until chicken is cooked through and bok choi and zucchini are soft. Remove from heat, drizzle with sesame oil, and serve over rice.

Lettuce Wraps
Uses lettuce, radishes, and radish greens
This is adapted from this recipe, based on PF Chang's Lettuce Wraps

3 tablespoons oil
2 chicken breasts
1 bunch radishes with tops
3 TBSP chopped onions
1 tsp minced garlic
several large lettuce leaves

Special Sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (I don't have this, so will use apple cider vinegar)
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon hot mustard (I don't have this, so will use wasabi or horseradish mustard)
2 teaspoons water
1-2 teaspoon garlic and red chile paste (I don't have this, so will use some chili sauce)

Stir Fry Sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar)

Make the special sauce by dissolving the sugar in water in a small bowl. Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice and sesame oil. Mix well and refrigerate this sauce until you're ready to serve. Combine the hot water with the hot mustard and set this aside as well. Eventually add your desired measurement of mustard and garlic chili sauce to the special sauce mixture to pour over the wraps. Bring oil to high heat in a wok or large frying pan. Saute chicken breasts for 4 to 5 minutes per side or done. Remove chicken from the pan and cool. Keep oil in the pan, keep hot. As chicken cools mince radishes to about the size of small peas. Prepare the stir fry sauce by mixing the soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar together in a small bowl. When chicken is cool, mince it to the same size as the radishes. With the pan still on high heat, add another Tbsp of vegetable oil. Add chicken, garlic, onions, radishes and radish greens to the pan. Add the stir fry sauce to the pan and saute the mixture for a couple minutes then serve it in the lettuce"cups". Top with"Special Sauce".

Stuffed Zucchini
Uses zucchini and spinach from box

1/2 giant zucchini
1/2 onion
1-2 cloves garlic
approximately 3 cups fresh spinach
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup shredded cheese. (I will be using cheddar, but you could use just about anything: parmesan, goat cheese, etc).
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Take a giant zucchini and cut it in half. Take one half, and halve it lengthwise so you have 2 zucchini "boats". Drizzle cut side with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Either grill face down for about 5 minutes or broil face up for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and scoop out the center. Cut that up into small dices.

Heat olive oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion, garlic, zucchini pieces, and spinach. Cook until veggies are soft*. Add bread crumbs and combine well. Spoon mixture back into zucchini boats, top with cheese, and put under broiler until cheese is melted and brown.

*I will probably add ground beef to the onion and garlic mixture and cook that through, then add the zucchini and spinach.

Stuffed Zucchini

Caesar Vinaigrette
from Food To Live By, the Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBSP mustard (recipe calls for dijon but I use grainy deli mustard)
1 tsp anchovy paste (I never have this, so I use asian fish sauce)
1/4 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp tabasco sauce
3 TBSP lemon (the juice of one lemon)

Whisk these ingredients together. Then add, in a slow, steady stream, while briskly whisking, 1/2 cup olive oil. Continue to wisk until dressing thickens slightly.

Honey Vinaigrette* I have always eyeballed this one, so you can definitely fudge it.

Mix together equal parts honey, apple cider vinegar, and canola oil. Whisk or shake in a salad dressing shaker. Add a dash of salt to taste. You can also use olive oil for a stronger tasting dressing.


Our second box from Black River Organic Farm was even more bountiful than the first! Big T was a bit dubious, as he reported that the box felt pretty light this week. But inside, I found a head of red butterhead lettuce, red leaf lettuce, baby bok choy, radishes, a large ziploc of arugula, spinach, and a GIANT zucchini. The thing is bigger than my cat. Possibly bigger than Baby T. I get excited when there are veggies I can cook with (instead of just making salads). And it's important to me to make quick and easy, but healthy, dinners. So here's this week's menu:

Thursday: Pasta with Arugula and Garlic

Saturday: Stir fry with chicken, bok choi and zucchini over rice

Monday: Chicken lettuce wraps

Tuesday: Zucchini stuffed with bread crumbs, spinach, and cheese. Roasted potatoes. I'm still trying to figure out if I need a meat with this. I will probably just add some ground beef to the stuffed zucchini.

Lunches every day are salads with some avocado I have to use up. I am addicted to a new caesar vinaigrette recipe that I got from an Earthbound Farms organic cookbook that came to me free in the mail. My other favorite dressing is this honey vinaigrette, which is delicious if you like to add fruit, like orange chunks, grapes or craisins to your salads.

*By the way, I do eat on Fridays and Sundays, but we hang with the in laws on those days, so no cooking for me!

Friday, April 9, 2010


Our Weekly CSA Delivery

Every Wednesday from April to July, we celebrate Veggie Christmas. Through our CSA at Black River Organic Farm, we get a big box of vegetables. Organic, locally grown, in-season vegetables. We don't know what we're going to get until the box comes, so opening it is like Christmas. Every week. Last year, Big T named it Veggie Christmas. And he doesn't even like vegetables that much. That's how amazing it is to get fresh, harvested-that-day vegetables. If you thought you knew vegetables, think again. This is not your grocery store organic produce. This is fresher than fresh, colorful, crisp veggies. It may be one of my favorite parts of spring.

There are times when I have no idea what to do with all of the veggies. There are times when I have to go online to research what a particular veggie is, because I've never seen it before. There are times when I have to research what recipes I can make with a turnip, or an English pea, because I've never used that veggie before. But, as you know, I love the creative process. I love making new, unique dishes. It keeps me on my toes.

It's also surprisingly affordable. I try to keep to a strict budget. I'm not made of money. We pay up front for the whole season, and it comes out to about $17 a week. For all the organic veggies you could ask for for an entire week, that's an unbeatable deal. And we're supporting a local farm--all the better.

This week we had a pretty light box. We had a relatively cold winter for NC, so the initial growth is starting off a little slow. But I'm pretty sure we have enough lettuce to last us for 2 weeks. On the day I bring home my box, I wait to open it up until I'm in the house. I usually open it, smile and squeal, and recite the contents as I pull each item out. I have a lot of work to do on Wednesdays. I like to wash all the lettuce and greens, dry it, and store it in ziplocs between paper towels to keep it fresh and to have it ready when I need it. (It's a good thing K-38 Baja Grill is across the street from the coop where I pick up the box has $1 taco night on Wednesdays, so at least I don't have to worry about cooking that night!)

This week we received:
  • A huge head of green leaf lettuce
  • A large head of bibb lettuce
  • 2 quart sized ziplocs filled with baby spring greens
  • A bunch of radishes
  • 1 garlic bulb
  • A bunch of cilantro
And this is my menu for the week:

Lunch - green leaf lettuce salad with radishes, cucumbers (store bought) and cilantro. [Cilantro really livens up a salad and adds a note of unexpected freshness to it] I had this with leftover soup from dinner earlier in the week.
Dinner - Spaghetti with Roasted Radish Greens, Garlic and Vodka Sauce, bibb lettuce salad with cucumbers. [As I was eating the bibb lettuce I thought it would be delicious with japanese carrot ginger dressing. Mmmm...note for next week.]

Lunch - same as yesterday
Dinner - grilled chicken, grilled asparagus (store bought), big salad (possibly with grilled lettuce)

Lunch - Spinach Dip with Radishes, homemade bread
Dinner - Grilled eye roast, homemade bread with garlic roasted on the grill, big salad

Dinner - Seared Scallops with Spicy Honey-Citrus Glaze, Cilantro Rice and a bed of wilted greens

Lunch - salad
Dinner - Open Faced Tostadas with [leftover] Eye Roast and Garlic/Cilantro Salsa


Recipes made from our CSA Box (Week 1)

Spaghetti with Roasted Radish Greens, Garlic and Vodka Sauce
Uses garlic and radish greens from CSA box

makes 2 servings

1 bunch radish tops, washed well and dried (save radishes for another recipe)
olive oil
1/2 box spaghetti
1 clove garlic, minced
bottled vodka sauce
sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, drizzle or spray radish greens with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and toss to coat. Spread on cookie sheet and roast in oven for about 10 minutes. Greens will wilt and get a little crispy.

Meanwhile, drizzle olive oil in a pan, and heat minced garlic until fragrant and golden. Remove from heat and set a side.

Boil pasta until al dente. After draining pasta, add to pan with garlic. Top with radish greens and toss while cooking over medium heat. Add vodka sauce and serve.

*Note: This is so flavorful that you could eat it without the sauce!

Spinach Dip with Radishes
Uses radishes from CSA Box

1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed (or you can use fresh when you get it in your box!)
1 bunch radishes, chopped
1 package Knorr Vegetable Soup Mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise

Mix it all together and voila!
*If using fresh spinach, chop and saute in olive oil before blending with other ingredients.
Servce with veggies, pita chips, bread, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Seared Scallops with Spicy Honey-Citrus Glaze with Cilantro Rice
Uses garlic and cilantro from CSA box
Adapted from this recipe I found when googling for ideas
2-4 servings (depending on how much of a piggy you are. We split a pound of scallops between the 2 of us.)
**This was the best recipe I have made in a long time! I poured all the remaining glaze we didn't use over the baby greens mix from the CSA and ate it the next day for lunch. Amazing.

½ cup local honey
¼ cup fresh orange juice
4 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons finely grated lime peel
1 ½ teaspoons hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)*

3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 large sea scallops, side muscle removed
Chopped fresh chives

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup brown basmati rice or jasmin rice
1 ½ cups chicken broth
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
zest from one lime
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. salt
For glaze:
Stir all ingredients in small saucepan over medium heat until heated through. Set aside.
Do ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before continuing.

For scallops:
Preheat broiler. Melt butter with oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic. Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper. Cook scallops until browned on 1 side, about 1 minute. Turn scallops over and cook 1 minute. Spoon 1 teaspoon glaze atop each scallop. Place scallops in broiler until glaze browns, about 1 minute.

For Rice:
Add the oil to a sauce pan and heat on low. Add the garlic and rice to the oil and saute for 2 minutes on medium heat stirring frequently.

Add the chicken broth, salt, lime juice and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes or according to rice package directions.
When the rice is done, add lime zest and chopped cilantro and stir to mix in. Serve immediately alongside scallops. Top scallops with glaze.

*I think I'm going to try serving the scallops on a bed of baby greens and topping the whole thing with glaze. Yum!

Open Faced Gorditas with [leftover] Eye Roast and Garlic/Cilantro Salsa
Uses garlic, cilantro and lettuce from CSA Box

For gordita base:
1 1/2 c masa harina
3/4 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 TBSP chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup chicken broth

Combine masa harina, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives, then roll in your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add broth, stir just until moist. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 5 or 6 times.

Divide dough into 6 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball. Press each ball into a 6 inch circle on a lightly floured surface (cover remaining balls to prevent drying). Heat a large nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray or spray olive oil. Place 1 gordita in pan. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove gordita from pan. Repeat with remaining spray and gorditas.

To assemble:
Top gorditas with leftover eye roast strips, avocados, tomatos, cheese, and lettuce (or whatever mexican delights you want to use). Top with salsa and sour cream and enjoy.

For Garlic/Cilantro Salsa:
1 can Ro-Tel Tomatoes and Green Chilies
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic
2 TBSP cilantro
1-2 TBSP lime juice
Olive Oil

Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add garlic and saute until fragrant. Mix with Ro-Tel, cilantro and lime juice in a small bowl. This tasted a lot like the salsa at K-38 Baja Grill. Delicious!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tips for Traveling with Baby

Airplane travel with baby is a lot more fun than traveling alone

You would think that traveling with a baby is a nightmare. I thought it would be. But I have taken 4 round trip flights with Baby T, and it’s surprisingly easy. Traveling with baby definitely keeps you busy, but it makes the time go by faster and you’re at your destination before you know it.

The first time I traveled with Baby T, he was about 3 and a half months old. I was nauseous for about two days before the flight because I was so nervous. We were traveling alone. Just the two of us. No one to help us out. I was freaking out. Well, it ended up going without a hitch. He nursed a lot--for most takeoffs and landings. And slept the rest of the time. And the layovers were simple. Getting through security was a little crazy, but when is it not? These days, you practically have to strip naked and remove everything from your bags anyways, so what’s an extra baby, stroller, car seat, and quart sized Ziploc bag filled with meds thrown in the mix?

We flew again for Thanksgiving, when Baby T was 6 months old. This time, I had Big T with me. Which helped, because Baby T was turning into a squirmy little worm. Everything went well, except for a few freakouts on Baby T's part. On the plane. Which wasn't fun, but what can you do? That was the start of one of Baby T's nursing strikes, and I think one of the main issues was that I was so paranoid about Baby T’s ears that I forced him to nurse during every takeoff and landing. And I think he was like, “Mom, quit it! I’m so not hungry. Get your damn boob out of my face!” (And just in case you’re doubting this, Baby T probably really does talk like that. He gets it from his mom. We have to work on that.)

We traveled again at the beginning of March, and then for our big vacation at the end of March. This time, Baby T was crawling and pulling up on things. This made him extra squirmy, but also let him get out his extra energy at the airport between flights. Yes, I was the mom letting her baby crawl all over the filthy floor, kicking muffin crumbs out of the way and pulling used water bottles out of Baby T’s hands, and apologizing when he went crawling like a maniac, giggling the whole time, towards a man using a laptop. (Computers are an obsession of his).

It’s actually fun and exciting traveling with Baby T, and he is a people watcher, so airports and airplanes are his favorite places. And I have to admit--it’s really fun to be Baby T’s mom and watch him melt strangers’ hearts with his sweet smile. His favorite thing to do on the airplane is stand in my lap and peek at the people in the rows behind me. If someone smiles or waves at him, he puts on the charm. If nobody pays attention to him, watch out—crankopottamus!

Here are some tips from my travels that have helped me immensely.

Entertaining Baby:
  • Bring a variety of toys and books to keep baby busy--but know that baby's favorite toy will probably be a water bottle or the safety card in the seat in front of you, and you will probably never pull out any of the toys you brought.
  • Keep in mind that a new toy will probably last a little longer than one your baby has played with over and over again--even if it's a favorite. This is where my Quiet Book came in handy!
  • If you do end up pulling out a toy, be prepared to learn new tricks and make a fool of yourself in public. One of Baby T’s new games [certain to invoke hilarity] is when Big T puts Baby T’s toy in his mouth, shakes it around, and growls like a dog.
  • If your baby eats solids, bring a snack trap filled with puffs or cereal. Even if your baby has not quite mastered the snack trap yet. This provides hours--literally HOURS--of quiet determination as baby fishes for snacks.
  • If you have ever been that person who, when your airplane seat is continually kicked by the child behind you, has turned around repeatedly and given that child/parent dirty looks, sincerely send out a karmic apology to that family. Realize that your child will now be the one kicking and patting the seat in front of you and there’s not much you can do to stop it. Offer a weak apologetic smile to the passenger in the seat in front of you.

Staying Organized and Managing Your Way Through Security and the Airport:
  • I find that having a big tote bag with dividers and a simple closure is convenient. I don’t want to use a bag that zips completely shut, because it’s a pain to have to pull out toys when baby is screaming in your lap and you only have one hand, and are trying to bend over and keep baby’s hand out of the hair of the person sitting in front of you all at the same time. But you don’t want a bag with NO closures at all, because then all your stuff can fall out. I use a giant tote bag (handmade, of course) with 3 compartments: one for diapers, wipes, and wetones (I stick my quart sized containers in this compartment), one for books, and another for toys, blankets, etc. It has one giant button so I can button the top together but still reach in and grab what I need.
  • Pack a lot more extra diapers than you think you’ll need, wipes, a change of clothes for yourself and baby, and an extra blanket in your carry on. If baby spits up (read: pukes) all over you, you can change your shirt and use a blanket to clean it up with. If baby poops all over himself, you can change him. If you miss your connection and get screwed by the airline and have to stay in a hotel for the night (take it from me, this does happen), you have extra diapers and wipes for the night and the next day.
  • I bring my biggest stroller and the car seat with me. I’m still using the bucket car seat, and even though I don’t have a travel system, it lays in the stroller. The reason I bring my biggest stroller is because I’m going to gate check it anyway, so I might as well be able to use it to carry as much as possible right up until I board the plane. I carry Baby T in a baby carrier. This way, he’s right on my chest where I know he’s safe. I don’t have to worry about him being knocked around by passengers rushing by, and he’s right where I can see and feel him. Then, I use the stroller as a luggage cart. When I board the plane (I try to be the first one on), I just fold up the stroller and leave it and the car seat at the end of the jetway (unless I’m bringing my car seat on board.) 
  • Wear your easiest slip on shoes, and no belt. You will have a ton of crap getting through security. Bending over to tie your shoes would just be a hassle.
  • Wear your baby if possible, especially through security. I have used both a wrap and an Ergo. Wrap is easy for popping baby in and out, but the Ergo is more versatile for me right now because I can easily pop him in a back or front carry. Most airports won’t ask you to take baby off to go through security. Just ask right before you step through the scanner: “Can I wear my baby through?” Usually they’ll motion you right through. NOTE: In the 4 round trip flights I have taken, I have never been asked to take baby out of the carrier. However, Baby T and I usually get an extra pat down. One of these pat downs took an extra 10 minutes, as I had to wait for a female attendant, and then she asked if I could undo the waist strap of my Ergo. Um, if I do that, my baby will fall out. So I had to pretty much undo the whole thing anyway. But that was once out of 8 security lines I have been through with Baby T. Wearing baby makes it much easier to grab your things on the other side. Also, Baby T stays calm and less squirmy in a carrier on my chest, so I try to wear him for as long as possible once on the plane.
  • You can bring an extra quart sized bag for baby. What I have usually done is filled this with meds. (I like to be prepared when traveling, so always have various infant Tylenols, saline drops, children’s benadryl just in case of an emergency, etc.) If you have meds, they don’t have to be in an actual Ziploc, so I carry mine in a zippered clear makeup pouch. If you do have meds larger than 3 oz (or bottles or baby food), they will make you open the container so they can test it. You need your hands free for this. Another reason to wear baby.
On the Plane:
  • When you get to the gate, ask if there are any empty seats near you. If possible, arrange to bring your car seat on board. Usually, they can work with you. This was huge for us. Baby T is not a fan of being strapped in the car seat, but he was able to sit in it for a while (while busy with the snack trap), which was a nice break from having him strapped to my chest. He also liked to stand up in it while holding onto the handle. Extra entertainment at your fingertips!
  • If you’re on a small plane, there may not be changing tables in the bathrooms. To prepare for possible emergencies, dress baby in multiple layers, and for pete’s sake, put something over his onesie. If he has explosive poop that leaks out the side of his diaper, you want as much fabric in between you and baby as possible! NOTE: a baby carrier hides any leaks from disgusted eyes in the airport. I dressed Baby T in pants that had a quick drying outer layer (like track pants) and an inner layer that felt like sweatpant material. Believe me, it helped hold in the explosive poop and dried quickly when the pee leaked. On my next flight though, I got wise. I used an overnight disposable diaper with a cloth diaper cover over that. Genius. No leaks. If your flight is not full, you can use an empty row and an airplane blanket to change baby’s diaper. If you do have a changing table in the restroom of your plane, don’t bring your whole diaper bag in there. Grab a diaper, the wipes, and go.
  • Try to give baby something to suck on during takeoff and landing. Swallowing will help prevent baby’s ears from popping. But relax. If baby won’t suck, he won’t suck. Forcing him will suck a lot more. Trust me on this one.
  • If baby starts screaming bloody murder, you can try these tricks. I have tried them, in this order. a). Try a new toy. b). Offer baby food or the breast. c). Put baby in the baby carrier and walk up and down the aisles. d). Look at your spouse or partner with desperation in your eyes. e). Realize that baby is probably just exhausted from all the stimulation and know that sometimes, there is nothing you can do. Relax. The sounds of the plane are drowning out most of your baby's cries. Who cares about what everyone else thinks? The calmer you are, the calmer baby will be. Sing, hold baby close to your heart, and know that you will be landing soon.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Making a Quiet Book

Before our trip to Punta Cana, I knew I wanted to make Baby T a quiet book to keep him busy on the plane. A quiet book is a soft activity book made of fabric. The possibilities are endless. You can make lift-the-flap pages, pages with buttons, snaps, zippers, buckles and shoelaces, pages where you match shapes, etc. I had been meaning to make one for quite some time.

But of course, I started the Saturday before our trip. It took me a week to make these 8 pages. I worked every night until midnight or so. Nothing like a little procrastination to get me going!

The book is held together with ribbons, and more pages can be added as I make them. It definitely kept Baby T occupied on the plane ride, and I love looking at it myself! Knowing I can make something this special for my baby and keep adding to it with developmentally appropriate pages as he gets older is amazing. This is something he will hopefully be able to pass down to his children.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Break From Reality

Our Trip to Punta Cana

Baby T, Big T and I spent last week in the Dominican Republic for some much needed R&R. I think it goes without saying that it was amazing. I didn't think about work until Tuesday, when all I thought was, "Wow--people are working right now, and I'm not. Ha!" And then I continued to down my pina colada and bask in the sunlight.

We met up with my parents, and my sister and her kids. It was a blast. I don't think I have ever seen Baby T happier. He loved everything: the water, the beach, his cousins, his aunt and grandparents.

Our little guy is quite the swimmer. The pools at the resort were the kind you could wade into, with a sloping bottom. Perfect for Baby T. He would crawl around in the shallow end, and when he got too deep and his face went under, well, he would try to keep going. He never inhaled any water or choked. He knew that he needed to hold his breath. And the best part was, he didn't care that his face was in the water! I think we have the next Michael Phelps on our hands (only better looking). And with more of a potbelly.

On the beach, Baby T was so independent. He loved playing with the sand toys and smashing sand castles. He didn't care that he had sand up to (and in) his ears. When his cousin A gave him a great big hug (i.e. tackled him and pushed him face down into the sand), he came up smiling.

He grew up a lot on this trip, too. The baby who was barely eating solids before we left ate just about everything I offered him at every meal. Since it was buffet style dining, and we sat down to 3 meals a day together (ok, we pretty much spent the entire time eating if we weren't at the pool or on the beach), I think Baby T got used to seeing people eat. And he wanted to eat too. The little man is still a huge fan of bananas, but tried beans, grilled chicken, lamb (loved it), plantains - fried sweet ones and mashed savory ones, mashed potatoes, carrots... He also became a big fan of the snack trap. So did I, for that matter. Did you know that a snack trap and some cheerios can keep your baby entertained for hours at a time?

Baby T also perfected his waving and pointing skills.

Everyone at the resort--employees and guests alike--would stop in their tracks when they saw him. They would wave to him and say hello, hug him, kiss him. It was unbelievable. So he figured out that he could sit by the edge of the pool and wave to everyone that walked by. He would raise his hand and yell "AH!" (which means "hi" in  Baby T speak). If someone walked by and didn't say hello (which happened rarely), he would keep his eye on them, wondering what their freaking problem was. "Um, hello? I'm cute over here?" The little man loves attention. It's possible that he's practicing for a future in politics. Or as a religious leader.

TANGENT--When T was 3 months old, I brought him to my friend's wedding shower. A 3 year old there kept calling Baby T "Baby Jesus". I have no idea why.Then, a few weeks ago, at a restaurant, a woman stopped in her tracks and commented on "What a little angel" Baby T was. At the resort in the DR, one of the employees called him "An angel from God". And when we got back, when my neighbor was watching Baby T on Tuesday, I guess he was talking up a storm and waving his arms around, and her 4 year old son said, "He's preaching!" Is someone trying to tell me something? Maybe my little guy is just going to be quite influential. Maybe he'll be the next Stephen Gaskin. I always wanted to live on The Farm.../TANGENT

Now that we're back from our vacay, reality has hit us like a ton of bricks. I'm not a fan. The boogers are back, laundry and dishes are piling up, idiots keep calling complaining about their free stuff, and I keep forgetting to buy cat food. Bring me some sun and sand and a pina colada, though, and I'll be fine.

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