Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gumbo

Ahhh gumbo -- the dish where you can put anything that crawls, flies, walks or slithers. At least, that's what they say. I tried to think of a cool title for this blog, but I couldn't really. Nothing really rhymes with gumbo except jumbo. And well, I did make a jumbo pot of it. I generally only make gumbo twice a year as it tends to be a day long affair and requires the accumulation of so many ingredients. Might I just say that making gumbo in New England in the middle of winter is not as easy as it sounds. I generally make a shrimp and chicken gumbo to which I also add andouille sausage and crawfish. Sounds simple enough, but do you have any idea how hard it is to come across fresh shrimp and crawfish here, not to mention andouille sausage? In the end, it was a gumbo of frozen shrimp, kielbasa sausage, and the saddest part of all -- frozen crawfish meat. The gumbo looked a little plain without the crawfish claws sticking out, but it was still really, really good. I always forget how good gumbo is until I taste it again. And even though it is well worth the effort, this delicious taste will have to last me for another six months!

Monday, February 23, 2009

MYOP Day

also known as "Make Your Own Pizza" Day. This is one of those things that the girls really enjoy doing, and to be honest, I rather enjoy it myself. I guess there isn't a person in this house who doesn't love to cook. And I've found that in general they are most likely to eat the things that they took part in making. And pizza is no exception. It's really fun for the whole family because everybody gets to have their own pizza made just the way they like it. I generally just roll out the dough for everyone, and then everyone tops their pizza however they like. As you can see in the picture, Leila likes hers with ALOT of olives.
Here they are ready to go in the oven! We forgot to take a picture of them once they came out. Everyone was so excited about eating! But here's a picture of Gabrielle's after she was finished eating. Even on a homemade pizza, she still won't eat the crust.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

How My Children Entertain Themselves

Now that Leila has gotten a little older and a lot more verbal, her and Gabrielle have begun to play extremely well together. And it's really nice because for the most part they keep each other entertained, with a few moments of screaming and crying interspersed. Hey, the system's not perfect but it's pretty good. I'm always amused by the things that they find to do. On this particular day, Leila decided to hitch a ride on Gabrielle's back -- which is a little absurd because Gabrielle is only 6 pounds more than Leila. But Gabrielle managed to make it work with only a little bit of head banging and no crying from anyone -- Thank goodness!
video

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I'm Stuffed!

or rather it's stuffed, he he he. Stuffed french toast that is. As a break away from plain ole' french toast, this morning I made blueberry cream cheese stuffed french toast. Robert and I have made this in the past, but we used to use actually french bread. We would cut a slit in each piece and stuff it and cook like typical french toast. But the girls have never been too crazy about it, and we realized that it was probably because the french bread was too crunchy and hard. So now we have the new kid friendly version. It's also easier to make :-) Regular bread, spread with the blueberry cream cheese mixture, then covered with another slice of bread like a sandwich, and once again cooked like regular french toast. Leila ate a whole one by herself! This is definately a kid friendly breakfast (mommy & daddy friendly too cause it's rather tasty). Which reminds me of a version that we used to make before we found out Leila was allergic to peanuts. For those of you who like peanut butter, we used to make a peanut butter & jelly french toast. Regular bread spread with a creamy mixture of peanut butter and cream cheese, then battered and griddled like french toast and topped with strawberry syrup. Yummy!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Is a Pie still a Pie. . .

if it's missing a crust? This morning I woke up with a bit of a predicament as I had three over-ripe bananas on my counter. And while some may call me crazy (like my husband, for instance) I absolutely cannot stand the smell of bananas. And when bananas are over-ripe, it seems to make the whole kitchen stink! I can't even stand to have banana peels in the trash can. The smell makes me want to gag. Call me crazy if you want, but I could not handle having those bananas sit on the counter for the rest of the day. So I figured I could throw them away or make something with them. And since it would be so wasteful to throw them away, they got made into banana cream pie. But I've learned that when I am not really into making something (as I didn't really have a desire to make banana cream pie), then it's bound to not turn out very well. Like I didn't want to go through the trouble to make a graham cracker crust, so I decided to just use a regular pie crust. Which didn't turn out too well either, because when I pre-baked it, it shrunk itself into what looked like a pizza crust on the bottom of the pie plate. And still, I refused to make a graham cracker crust. The bananas, filling, and meringue were all ready to go. So what the heck, I filled my pie plate just as I should have, and my banana cream pie was baked with a partly missing pie crust. I was worried that the filling would stick to the pie plate since it didn't have a pastry around it, but it actually ended up turning out just fine. But if my banana cream pie is missing most of it's pie crust, is it still a pie?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Because I had nothing to blog about

as we haven't done anything or gone anywhere since our party. Robert came home and asked me if I had blogged today. Sadly, I had nothing to blog about. So while I was taking Copper to the vet (he's better now), Robert gave me blogging material. I made fried rice for dinner, not very exciting I know. And apparently Gabrielle decided it wasn't very exciting either because she asked Robert for something to go with it. So he gave her some kim, which is Korean for nori, which I guess is Japanese for seaweed. Anyway, whatever you call it, it's the stuff that you use to make sushi rolls. But we use it to make all sorts of other things like kim bop. So like I said, Robert said that he gave her some kim, and the next time he looked at her, she was making her own kim rolls by putting the fried rice in it. When we asked Gabrielle what made her decide to do that, she said "Well I had kim, and I said "hmmm, what should I do with this kim." Then I said, "I got it! I have kim, so I will take some rice and put it together and roll it up and eat it." And that's exactly what she did. When Leila saw her, of course she had to follow suit. And there you have it. . . something to blog about :-)

video

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ALOHA from Connecticut!

So Robert decided to throw a "getting through the dark ages party" which isn't as self-explanatory as he believes it is. I thought it was going to be a party where everybody dressed up like they did in the Middle Ages in Europe and eat roasted chicken with our hands, all the while cheering on jousters. But apparently it's really a party to make you feel happy while getting through the dark ages of winter. Get it? Christmas is over, spring is yet to come, and now it is just cold and depressing. So for some undepressing fun, Robert threw a luau! Yep, a luau, in the house, in the middle of winter, in Connecticut. And it was awesome! We cranked the heat up so the house was as hot as a summer's day (Thank goodness we don't have to pay for heat.) We invited our friends, and Robert got all the decorations, did all the planning, and even did ALL the cooking. After all, he was throwing the party. I did all the baking, he he he. The girls and I wore our Hawaiian dresses, and Robert wore his Hawaiin shirt, and it really did feel like a hot summer night in Hawai'i. Then came the food. First was the snacks, and unexpected big hit of the night. . . Kim chee dip. Yep, that's right. Dip made from kim chee, which is Korean spicy, fermented cabbage. And for anyone familiar with the smell and taste of the kim cheese, it is hard to imagine it as a dip for chips. But Robert made it all the same, kim chee mixed with cream cheese, and it was a hit. I have to admit, it was pretty good. I could probably eat a whole batch by myself, as long as I'm not competing with Jean, who practically did eat the whole batch by herself :-P. It's the pink in the bowl at the bottom. Doesn't look like much, but you've gotta taste to know how surprisingly good it is. There was also plenty of pineapple, cause what's a luau without pineapples? As well as watermelon, and mango bread (where my baking comes into play). For the main course, Robert served chicken and pork lau lau. Lau lau: meat and fish wrapped in or covered with leaves and steamed or roasted and traditionaly served at a luau. Robert's version included pork and mahi, or chicken and mahi, seasoned with Hawaiin red sea salt, wrapped in banana leaves, and "baked" over tea spices. He also served his version of Kalua Pork, which was really Chinese roasted pork that we got from the Chinese grocery store because let's face it, it's waaaaay to cold to be digging an imu outside. And besides, I think roasting a whole pig would've been a little bit of an overkill, don't you think? Along with that was rice, and the cutest and tastiest spamburgers you've ever seen. Ahhh spam, what's a Hawaiin meal without spam? And spam coupled with slightly sweet Hawaiin Bread makes for rather tasty little sandwiches. In fact, I could go for one right now. And for dessert, pina colada cupcakes with a beach/tiki theme. The result was pretty much blue mouths for everyone :-) All in all, I think it was a fun time had by all. And by the end of the night, I was finally able to get Gabrielle to say ALOHA!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day Delights

For some reason, I cannot seem to stay out of the kitchen, especially when a holiday is around the corner. I crossed the line into candy making. This is not the first time I've made candy as I've made fudge quite a few times, and even not-so-successfully attempted turkish delights. In honor of Valentine's Day, I decided to make some truffles for Gabrielle's teachers. They were actually pretty easy to make, and I ended up making waaaay more varieties than I needed. I didn't give her teachers the milk chocolate ones with brandy, or the white chocolate ones with Kahlua :-P, but I did give them some of the regular white chocolate and milk chocolate ones, and well as some dark chocolate with orange, which I now regret because I gave some to my friend Jean to try and she said they were REALLY bitter because they were rolled in cocao powder. Sorry Jean! Why didn't I know that? Because I hate dark chocolate and refused to tasted them. They looked like the right consistency so I was willing to let em go. Guess next time I should have someone taste them before I give them away. Either way, it's really surprising how easy they are to make. And to think I've been paying Lindt Chocolate 59 cents for just one of them! I think I need to start being my own Master Swiss Chocolatier
:-P I think I ended up making over 100 truffles in eight different varieties. . . white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate with khalua, milk chocolate with brandy, milk chocolate dipped in white chocolate, white chocolate dipped in milk chocolate and on and on and on. . . you get the idea.! And now most of them are sitting in my fridge where they keep tempting Robert :-P. So if you live near me and you're reading this, be forewarned, I may be showing up at your doorstep with truffles in hand!
And as if that wasn't enough, he he he, I made more cupcakes :-P Yeah, I'll admit it. . . I am crazy cupcake lady. Or maybe just crazy lady in general! I actually made these for Gabrielle's class for her Valentine's Day party. But because I overfilled the muffin cups on the first try and they ended up looking ugly, I made a second, much prettier batch. What can I say, I am a perfectionist. Although truth be told, I think the ugly batch was tastier because they had more of the yummy filling in them. I love cupcakes with filling, it's like a surprise! Earlier this week I made vanilla cupcakes with a strawberry mascarpone filling. I forgot to blog about them and didn't take a picture of them because they were ugly too :-(. I wasn't too crazy about them, but the filling was really tasty. Anyway, back to my Valentine's cupcakes, otherwise known as Cherry Cordial cupcakes, well they were Devil's Food cupcakes with a cherry pie and cream cheese filling (that you can't see very well in the picture, but it's truly what made the cupcake great) topped with that cherry buttercream frosting that I love so much. What else can I say except delicious??? I think I'm addicted to cupcakes. Aaaaargh. . . . somebody stop me!

A lefty in the family?

One of the interesting things that we've noticed about Leila is that she doesn't seem to know which hand she wants to use to do things. Now I know that it can take children up until they are 5 to figure out whether they are right or left handed, but we knew Gabrielle was right handed (or rather Gabrielle knew) from practically the first moment she picked up a crayon. She was ALWAYS done everything with her right hand. Leila, on the other hand, ALWAYS alternates between hands. While coloring, she colors first with one hand and then puts the crayon in the other hand and colors some more. She'll throw you a ball with her left hand or her right hand, depending on which hand is closer to the ball. And even when she eats, it seems that she doesn't have a preference. If you put her spoon and the right side of her bowl, then she'll eat with her right hand, and if you put it on the left, she'll eat it with her left. It's really rather almost bizarre how she uses both hands evenly. But the most amusing thing happened last week when I made bulgogi. Bulgogi is Korean barbequed beef, and for those of you who haven't tried it, it is delish! The beef is thinly sliced and marinated before being grilled, although I actually cook mine indoors over a griddle. It reminds me of a really juicy, thinly sliced, high seasoned steak :-) (which I guess is what it is). But I think that the marinade is what really makes it so great and so different from anything else. For those of you curious for the recipe, here it is: Go to a Korean or Asian grocery store, or maybe even look in the Asian section of a regular grocery store, and find a bottle that says "Korean Barbeque Marinade" on it :-D. Make sure it has Korean Pear in the ingrediants because I think that's what makes it truly spectacular. Yeah, so I'm a cheater when it comes to this dish, but it's phenomenal and truly easy to make. And the kids love it too. Which brings me back to my original point because we gave the girls chopsticks to eat their dinner with that night. And lo and behold, Leila ate her food with her chopsticks in her left hand! Truly bizarre to me because I don't think I've ever seen anyone use chopsticks with their left hand (although I'm sure plenty of left-handed people do) and also because no one even showed her how to hold them with her left hand. I wouldn't even know where to begin. I'm interested to see if she does end up being a lefty, which would make her the first in our family. Our maybe she'll be ambidextrous. . . . which would also be the first!

I Do It My Way

So for Superbowl Sunday, Robert had wanted me to make Monte Cristo Sandwiches. But that didn't happen because of the crazy day we had then. A week later, I was finally able to make the sandwich for him for lunch. For those of you that are not familiar, a Monte Cristo is basically a fried ham and turkey sandwich. For Robert, it's one of his beloved favorites that he used to order from Bennigan's down in Virginia. Unfortunately for him, Bennigan's has since filed for bankruptcy and closed all their restaurants, although they have been trying to reopen a few. Luckily for him, since we haven't lived near a Bennigan's since leaving home, I long ago learned how to make Monte Cristo sandwiches. I was a little suprised when I googled Monte Cristo sandwiches because there are so many variations and ways of making it. But none of the recipes that I found or pictures that I look at, save Bennigan's, make them like mine. But I still think my way (Bennigan's way) looks the yummiest :-P. I supposed I may be a little biased. The jist of it is 3 slices of bread with deli sliced turkey and ham and swiss cheese. Then cut in half, stuck with toothpicks, dipped in a basic batter of flour, water, etc. Then deep fried (because everything is better fried :-D) and then sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with a side of raspberry jam. It smelled and looked so good that I had to make one for myself. It was a HUGE meal in itself. . . though delicious. . . and I wasn't hungry for the rest of the day. YUM!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wasting away again. . .

yep, at Margaritaville :-P. I was in a rather pouty mood when Robert came home from work last Friday, so he decided to take me out for dinner (kids included of course because it was too late to get a sitter). And I would've been happy going to Chili's. . . aren't I easy to please? Instead, Robert suggested we take the girls to Margaritaville's, and I thought that was a SUPER idea. Unfortunately, Robert still hasn't figured out which parking garage to park in, so we ended up walking all the way through Mohegan Sun Casino (which is huge) with the girls. And you know, for some reason people tend to give you these nasty looks when you bring your children to the casino. It's not like I'm taking them with me to go gamble. They really won't let you in the gambling area with anyone under 21, even if they are 2 months old an in a stroller. We tried that with Gabrielle, and the security guy was like "Sorry, no one under 21." Anyway, we finally trekked all the way to Margaritaville and the moment we stepped in, Gabrielle was in heaven! She immediately started pointing out everything there -- the sailboat, whale, blender, seaplane, everything! We could barely get her to walk upstairs to our table. Leila seemed to like it, but she obviously wasn't as enthused. And she seemed to think that it was too loud in there because she just sat there with her hands over her ears. We were sitting on the upper deck, and apparently Gabrielle has really good eyesight. While eating, Gabrielle noticed the people on stilts making balloon hats. Just as we finished eating, one of the guys on stilts came upstairs and headed straight for our table. Gabrielle was soooo happy and excited! As the guy started blowing up the balloons to make her something, Gabrielle shouted out, "This is the Best Resturant ever!" loud enough for the people next to us to get a good chuckle. Of course, she was quickly disapointed when the balloon man gave her this flimsy looking parrot, that he had to explain to us. You know your ballon-animals need work when you have to describe what your looking at to a 4 year old and her parents. But he was quickly redeemed when he made it into a hat....because that's all she wanted (just like the ones we brought home from when Robert took me out). Leila got a nice rose...which proceeded to 'Pop' before we even left the Casino....the balloon man needs more training. What about the food you say? Well the girls had SEVEN DOLLAR mac-and-cheese!!! SEVEN DOLLARS!!! Yes, seven dollars for each of them for a bowl of mac and cheese. I could've bought 14 boxes of blue box special for that price! Oh well, Robert and I shared the Nacho Volcano, which as you can see is huge! It's the biggest plate of nachose I've ever seen. On a side note, as soon as we left the restaurant and was walking back to the car, Gabrielle asked for ice cream (because she's gotten some from Ben & Jerry's at the Sun before)...so Robert, being the pushover he is...got us Krispy Kreme doughnuts instead! The Fresh-Hot-Now sign was on and even though I absolutely love Krispy Kreme, I was too full to eat one :-( But hey, at least by the time we got home, I was in a much happier mood :-D

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Black Rice Anyone?

By Monday, everyone was pretty much back to normal. Gabrielle stayed home because she was obviously sick and so we just hung out at home. I was up for experimenting with food again and so I pulled out the bag of Black Sticky Rice that I'd found at the Chinese grocery store. As you can see, the grains really are black and they sorta look like bird seed. And when you rinse them off even the water turns black. It's really kind of bizarre. I made them into this nice little yin-yang design with regular sticky rice. The girls were very amused by this. Anyway, I made the rice like a traditional Thai dessert, turning it into a type of rice pudding with coconut milk. Then I spooned warmed coconut milk on top, and sprinkled it with some shredded coconut. It was like a little rice pudding sundae. And it was yummy! The rice is really interesting. Sort of like brown rice, it doesn't cook down or get mushy. It keeps a sort of crunchy/chewy/nutty consistency. It's kind of hard to explain. Even stranger, when you cook it, it smells like popcorn! But I really like it. In fact, I could eat it all day! But then again I really like rice. And add coconut to that, and I LOVE it! I even ate some with some cut up mango, and then I was really thinking that I could eat this for every meal. Then I made another batch or rice pudding in a more traditional, western way. I mixed this one, half black sticky rice and half white sticky rice. When it cooked up, it ended up being purple. I made this one with a cinnamon stick, and then I sweetened/flavored it with a can of sweetened condensed milk! Yummy! I bet for traditionalists, this would go great with some raisins in it. But I'm not a fan of raisins and think it's great the way it is or also with the addition of some mangoes :-)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

As The World Turns

It's amazing how quickly things can go from great to really, really bad and then back to normal when you have children. When we woke up this morning, the girls were suffering the beginning symptoms of a cold (runny nose, sniffling, sneezing) but otherwise were in good spirits. We decided to spend the day at home since they were obviously starting to get sick, and the girls jumped right into reading, playing and having fun. Overall, a calm, quiet, fun morning. Then Leila started wheezing. Okay, no problem. She nebulized and then was back to playing again. A couple hours later she was wheezing again! That wasn't a good sign but I decided to let her nebulize again and hoped that we could keep her breathing under control. I knew we were going to eventually have to go to the doctor because this has become something of a routine with her this winter -- she catches a cold, she starts having trouble breathing, we go to the ER or doctor, and she ends up on steriods. But I was really hoping that I could control it until we could go to the doctor's tomorrow. Unfortunately, as we were making lunch, she threw up and I knew I had to take her to the ER. It was a good thing I did because she was definately having trouble breathing (obviously. Why else would I take her?) She ended up having to get a shot of steriods in her thigh (because she threw up the medicine they gave her) and needed 3 breathing treatments, which is much more than she's ever needed. When they finally let us go home, she still wasn't breathing at full capacity, but she was a little better. Then wouldn't you know it, on our way home Robert called and said that Gabrielle had thrown up while taking her nap. Apparently the fun never stops. By the time I got home, Robert had Gabrielle all cleaned up, but her face was covered in little red spots. Petechia, or basically burst capillaries all over her face, from having thrown up so hard. So now she looks like she's got freckles all over her. Soon after, they ate their dinner of plain rice (our staple dinner whenever they've been sick to the stomach. It's great because they like rice so much that they never complain) on Superbowl Sunday and then they were off to bed with little drama. And just like that our household was back to normal again.