Great Food Friday: Leafy Greens

Though I love me some greens, I don't have many really cool recipes for them. I guess I just usually eat them pretty close to their natural state: sauteed spinach with a sprinkle of balsamic or in a salad. So this week I'm posting about salad. I love salads, have since I was a child. They are kind of an obsession of mine - I'm always trying to think of new combinations. This one is definitely a favorite.

You'll need:
Baby Greens
Goat Cheese (think Chevre, not Feta), crumbled
handful of dried cranberries
handful of roasted sliced almonds
your favorite vinaigrette

In a big bowl, toss all ingredients. Eat.

Some other salad combos I love:

Baby spinach with strawberries and balsamic vinaigrette
Baby greens with Gorgonzola, toasted walnuts and pear

Looking over my salad recipes, I think the leafy greens may just be a vehicle for cheese. Oh well.


Baby Axel Update

A month or so ago, I wrote about my cousin's little baby boy who was born addicted to methadone. Last week he was finally released from the hospital (he was in for about six weeks). My uncle and aunt were granted custody - which is what we were all hoping for.

There was an intervention for my cousin - I didn't go, it was decided it would be better with just immediate family. A proposal was made for her to go into rehab for a month, then enter a halfway house where Axel could live with her, but they'd be under constant supervision.

She and her boyfriend (also the father) walked out. I am just stunned they could walk away from their baby, just like that. But addiction is powerful, and in reality, baby Axel is probably in a more safe, nurturing environment then he would have been with his mother. If she or the boyfriend show up, my aunt and uncle are to call 911.

My mom got to meet the little guy last week and said he looks good. He's fairly small (11 lbs at 2 months), but all I have to compare with is my gargantuan son. The pediatrician's prognosis is very good - and we're all hoping for the best.

Back when this all hit the fan, I contacted La Leche League about donating my frozen breast milk to Axel. I figured he needs all the help he can get. I was wondering how accepting of the idea my family would be, but everyone has been absolutely open about it and I feel really good that all the frozen milk I have stockpiled will go to good use. I will continue to send up as much as I can until I wean George. Hopefully whatever the milk contains that is making my kid grow so fast will work a little magic on Axel!


Deli Karma

Ahhh, the grocery store. I used to actually enjoy grocery shopping, but with a child in tow, it's a completely different game.

Today I had to do the weekly shopping. Usually I save it for a weekday night, but we were low on everything, so it was a must. Plus, its super hot and muggy right now, and I figured the store's AC would be a nice break.

I have a pattern when I shop. I walk in, and directly to my right is the deli. Brian likes to take sandwiches to work, so sliced deli meat is always the first thing I get. The line was long, but I hopped in to wait my turn. George was fairly well behaved at this point.

Thanks to some deli clerks who were running in slow motion, by the time it was my turn, G was starting to get a little whiny. He likes to be moving in the grocery cart. Anything else is unacceptable (I've been known to run down aisles and just knock stuff into my cart when he's starting to crab). I was just about to ask for my black forest ham, and this woman steps right in front of me. I was a little shocked, but didn't say anything. But inside I was fuming. I'm just a LITTLE passive aggressive.

She says," Do you have any pico de gallo - I mean good pico de gallo? The stuff in the refrigerated section isn't good pico de gallo, it has jalapenos. I can't have jalapenos, they're too hot." The poor clerk looked confused. She wasn't sure what exactly was in the pico de gallo, but she said she'd go check the container it came in.

A few notes here:
1) Good pico de gallo is made fresh. So if she was wanting the *GOOD* stuff, the deli counter at Albertson's probably wasn't the best place to look.
2) I would venture to guess that most commercially produced pico de gallos have hot peppers in them. Most likely jalapenos.

The deli clerk comes out. She tells pushy lady that the pico had serrano pepper in it, which is just like black pepper and offers a sample.

Oh yeah. I had a feeling this was going to get good.

You see, serranos are hotter than jalapenos. A lotter hotter.

At this point I had a choice - speak up or stand back and enjoy the show. Under normal circumstances, I'd have probably advised regarding the heat of serranos and direct her a few doors down to Trader Joes, which has a lovely assortment of prepared salsas.

But these were not normal circumstances. I had a simmering baby, had been sweating like a pig all day and was tired. I was up for some entertainment.

The clerk passed the lady the sample in a little white paper cup. She sniffed it and then took a big ol' bite. I waited.

A few seconds passed - then pow! She started jumping around and saying 'hot, hot, hot.' Like a five year old. Over dramatic a bit? It was priceless.

She ran over to the cold drink section, cussing.

I sidled up to the counter and got my freaking ham, enjoying how the universe came through and punished the cutter. You don't cut off a woman with an infant at the deli line. Nothing good will come of it.


Great Food Friday - Quick & Easy

Most of my cooking these days has become 'quick & easy' out of necessity. I want to spend as much time with the kiddo as I can and he's not a fan of the kitchen (he has a special distaste for the food processor).

I promised Andrea I wouldn't post any recipes with cream of mushroom soup (and I have oh so many), so I decided to post a recipe I ran across earlier this summer and is great to make ahead and eat for days.

Hot and Cold Sesame Noodles

1 box spaghetti (I use whole wheat, it has a good nutty flavor)
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 rounded cup smooth peanut butter (microwave for 15 seconds to soften)
2 tablespoons cider or rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoon hot sauce (whatever you like, I used Franks - you know, the hot wing sauce)
2 cups shredded cabbage and carrot mix (buy it in the bag, pre-shredded)
1/2 red pepper, julienned
1 cup bean sprouts
3 green onions, chopped at an angle
crushed peanuts or sesame seeds to garnish

In a large bowl, whisk together the tamari, peanut butter, vinegar, oil and hot sauce. Boil the noodles to al dente, drain and shock with cold water to halt cooking process. Dump the noodles and all the veggies in to the bowl on top of the dressing. With clean hands (this is the easiest, I swear) toss all the ingredients together. Chill before serving. This is good with shredded chicken for a quick meal on a warm day. It holds up in the fridge (covered) for a good 4 days, if it lasts that long.


There is a Couch in My Kitchen.

While we were on vacation a little over a week ago, we had our hardwood floors refinished. It seemed like a good idea to go ahead and paint our living room and redo the trim while we were at it.

Now, we've been home a week and our house still looks like WWIII (as my mom would say). There is a couch (and a chair) in my kitchen that I have to crawl over to get to the fridge. Our table is outside. Our office/extra bedroom is so full of junk that it is a hazard to navigate. And our living room is a cornucopia of plastic, painters tape and dust.

This could very well be what pushes me over the edge.

I have never wanted to organize so badly. But, it is pointless, because I will come home from work tomorrow and all my work will be for naught. I have decided that once all the dust has settled (literally and figuratively) I will be having a massive yard sale to get rid of all our excess stuff. I say stuff, cause it's not necessarily junk, but it's not useful to us at this point in our lives. I mean, who really needs a boxful of VHS tapes when you haven't had a VCR in 5 years? Hoarding runs in my family and I need to watch myself...it's a sickness...really!

Hopefully this will all be over soon and we'll have a beautiful, freshly painted living room, kitchen and hallway. The other rooms can definitely wait. Until then I'll be cursing at the sofa blocking the fridge and the ever present coating of sanding dust on every stable surface...x*&@#%!


Good Food Friday: Cookies

Let it be known that my husband's nickname for me is Cookie Monster. I had a Cookie Monster coat (complete with blue fur and googly eyes) as a child and my first birthday cake was - wait for it - Cookie Monster. I have a problem with cookies. I actually try not to make cookies too often because I can polish off a batch by myself in one sitting. Ugly.
That said, I did actually make cookies twice in the last few weeks. The first batch I made to take on vacation - and they were very well received. I made the much praised/hyped/blogged about New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies. The best chocolate chip cookies ever? Hmmmm. Maybe. They were delicious. I used the darkest chocolate chips I could find (no, I didn't order the specialty chocolate disks from Jacques Torres!), but I think the thing that puts these over the top is the sprinkling of sea salt ...delicious. They're a bit labor intensive (the dough needs to be chilled for at least 24 hours) but I would give them a try, or at least sprinkle some sea salt on your next batch of Toll House.
For my dad's birthday last week, I made cranberry white chocolate oatmeal cookies. I find white chocolate overly sweet, but the the tart dried cranberries cut the sweetness perfectly.

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

2 sticks butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

Heat oven to 350. Beat together butter and sugars till creamy; add eggs and vanilla, mix well. Combine flour, baking soda and salt, then add to wet mixture. Mix well. Stir in oats, cranberries and white chocolate chips - mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 - 12 minutes till golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet, remove to cooling rack. Yields approximately 4 dozen (3 dozen if you have a problem with dough like I do).

Happy Baking!
xoxo Cookie Monster


Belated Great Food Friday: Company's Coming!

So I'm a little behind on this one...I was on vacation!
I usually like to try to grill when we've got people coming over, especially in summer - our little house gets pretty hot with the oven on, plus the grill is easier to hide...er, I mean clean up.

Marinated Grilled Flank Steak

This marinade is quick and delicious. The addition of vinegar speeds up the marinating process. Don't forget to cut the flank steak on the bias or you'll end up with fancy beef jerky!

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grill seasoning blend (recommended: Montreal Steak Seasoning)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika, ground chipotle chili powder or ground cumin
2 teaspoon hot sauce - eyeball it
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 splashes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds flank steak

Mix garlic, steak seasoning, smoked paprika, chipotle or cumin, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and vinegar. Whisk in extra-virgin olive oil. Place meat in shallow dish and coat it evenly in marinade. Let stand 15 minutes. Grill flank steak 6 to 7 minutes on each side. Remove flank steak from grill and let juices redistribute before slicing. Thinly slice meat on an angle, cutting the meat against the grain.

I like to serve this with mashed baked potatoes..your basic mashed potatoes with extra butter, fresh ground pepper, sour cream, shredded cheddar and green onion or chives mixed in. I don't have any measurements for this recipe, I just lob as much in as looks good that day. I highly recommend you try your mash with yukon gold potatoes, they're super creamy and delicious.

As a veg, I usually go with a tossed green salad of some sort or roasted asparagus or broccoli. If you've never roasted your vegetables, you have to try it - it gives them a completely different flavor - nutty and delicious! Here's a simple recipe I use a lot:

Roasted Chili Garlic Broccoli

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, eyeball it
5 to 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon grill seasoning blend (recommended:Montreal Steak Seasoning )
1 large head broccoli, cut into thin, long spears

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, chili powder and grill seasoning in the bottom of a large bowl and add the broccoli spears. Toss to coat broccoli evenly then transfer to a large nonstick baking sheet. Roast the broccoli until ends are crisp and brown and stalks are tender, 17 to 20 minutes.

The flank steak and the broccoli are bastardized Rachael Ray recipes (if you can't already tell from the liberal use of Montreal Steak Seasoning) - I must give credit where credit's due!


City Girl Hearts the Country Life

We just returned from a lovely break in Chelan. Being over in Eastern Washington is like going to another world. It seems like everything is just slower. I LIKE IT!
I was out for a early morning walk (because baby does not care if it's my vacation, he's getting up at 5 am, dammit) in this little town called Manson and it made me wonder what it would be like to live in a small town. Village, really. Okay, I did grow up in a 'small town' but honestly, if you can drive to a city in fifteen minutes, does that really count?
I stopped for a latte and a scone (that's pretty citified if you ask me, I should have gotten a cup of drip and a muffin) at this cute little ma-n-pa coffee shop. The owner was working behind the counter and there were regulars perched up on stools, chatting away about happenings around town. Baby was admired and flirted with everyone. We got the coffee to go and went and sat on a bench outside. I'm not lying when I say not one car passed in that 15 minutes we were sitting. Lovely!
Further down main street, there was a farmers market. Super fresh produce and flowers from local farmers - heaven.
So, now back on the west-side, I've fought traffic back and forth to work for two days, and I'm ready to go back to the middle of nowhere. I wonder if I could really hack it, being isolated like that. I'm guessing it would get to me after a while. The grass is always greener, right? Hmmm. Eastern Washington? Okay, the sagebrush is always browner - that sounds about right!