Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Menu of Summer Delights

Since I was working from home and for once had some energy left at the end of the day, I went nuts in the kitchen. First thing, I made some sandwich bread from my old standby recipe; I've really missed having fresh bread around as a regular thing, since our lives have been a little too nuts lately (not to mention how hot it's been).

That taken care of, I pulled out all of the great things I got at the market that morning and went to work. I made my first-ever pesto; that only took a few minutes. I sliced a bunch of vegetables and set them marinating, and sliced corn off the cob for Tuesday night's planned dinner, Open-Faced Jerk Vegetable Sandwiches and Summer Corn Soup.

Tuesday taken care of, I turned back to Monday night. Everything came together quickly and, amazingly enough, more or less at the same time. We had Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, corn on the cob with the husks still wet from the previous night's rain, and Pork Medallions with Lemons and Capers, which wasn't lemony enough for me--the pepper tended to drown the other flavors--but quite good.

I felt absolutely wonderful.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Three-Pepper Quesadillas

The usual jam-packed weekend. We spent Saturday morning doing house drive-bys in the Tewksbury area, and found some reason to be encouraged, though most of the ones we saw were in pretty bad shape on the outside or in awkward locations. We got lunch at a pizza joint in Billerica called Sal's (passable slices, but the TV was tuned to a Pauly Shore movie), drove by a couple more houses, and then made our way home.

In the afternoon we took turns running errands. We had decided to finally see Surf's Up, a movie L loves to watch Youtube clips of, so I had to make something that could be eaten in front of the TV. Normally I do pizza, but we had pizza for lunch, so I decided to stick with the flatbread theme and make quesadillas. I looked at what was in the pan and decided that it needed more heft -- as written it would probably make a fine addition to a menu, but as the only course, I chucked in some black beans (added bonus, L eats those). The movie turned out to be very entertaining, though L cried a bit at unexpected points, which I chalked up to over-excitement.

Sunday I spent the morning cleaning the kitchen and L's room, including packing away a bunch of her old clothes for eventual transport to the thrift store. It needs to be done, obviously, but it always makes me feel wistful.

In the evening we drove through one of the apparently never-ended rainstorms the summer is giving us, to Allora Ristorante in Marlboro, for dinner with my supper club buddies. In sum: excellent food, service could use some work. The bruschetta was like nothing I had ever seen, hefty triangles of toasted bread smothered in chunks of fresh tomato and balsamic vinegar, scattered with cheese. Fabulous, and much too much for one person. Then the organic greens salad with pears and walnuts, which was quite good, and the pesto chicken, which I somehow managed to eat all of, somewhat to my own surprise. One of my fellows got the osso buco and practically licked his plate clean.

It was not a cheap evening in terms of money or calories, but I'd definitely give the place another try and see if our waiter was just having an off night, or what. JJ behaved marvelously, L less so, but they had us in a private room so it didn't matter too much that she was running around (and under the table) for most of the evening.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dream Waves

Last night marks the third or fourth occasion in recent weeks when I have dreamed about a tidal wave. I do hope that this is just a rather obvious metaphor for a "to do" list that sometimes seems overwhelming.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Chickpea, Chard, and Tomato Stew

Another great way to get your greens, and assorted other veggies. This one cooks up quickly, and is actually a sort of takeoff on chili, both in flavor and thanks to the use of ground chicken (the recipe name makes it sound vegetarian; it is not, though it could certainly be adapted). It could have used more spice, in my opinion, but CL is famously cautious about its seasoning.

Chickpea, Chard, and Tomato Stew

This weekend with any luck we'll be going house hunting, and out for dinner with the supper club crew at Allora, so I might not have a lot of time to cook. I am trying to enjoy summer, which places its own restrictions on cooking, and not look ahead to fall just yet. It's a good time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summer Garden Pasta

So you went to the farmer's market and you have all this... stuff... on your counter. Sqash, peppers, onions, herbs, and you're not sure what to do with it. Dishes like Summer Garden Pasta are susceptible to a thousand variations--more of a method than a recipe. You can use any firm veggies you have on hand, just cut them so they take about the same time to cook, and any herbs (I have a ton of gorgeous basil right now, so used that), and any pasta, and you'll have a quick, healthy meal on the table. And there's no reason you can't add some chicken or beans or something if you must.

It's a surprisingly chilly day here in Worcester, and I'm glad I have soup on the menu tonight.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Facebook + Blogger = Bread?

On Sunday I finally got myself organized enough to make bread again for the first time since before Fourth of July (hey, that's a long dry spell for me...). Not just any bread, but a new bread, something I haven't done in what seems like ages. And not just any new bread, but the recipe I've bookmarked on my Facebook page since I first added the Epicurious link to it, oh, weeks ago now.

So. Oatmeal Wheat Bread. This is great stuff--tons of whole grains, and the oats soften the impact of the whole wheat. It took a while to make, but I'll do so again. I had to knead it by hand, since it was too big for my mixer, but I didn't do so for long; I used far less yeast than they called for and gave it a longer rise as a result, which (I read somewhere) also develops the gluten. And it's good bread, so what the heck.

In other news, JJ is about to cut his third tooth, the whole family except me (knock wood) has had a cold for several days now, and I am actually, tentatively, doing some writing again as of yesterday.

We went to the farmer's market this morning. Squash, zucchini, tomatoes, kale, peas in their pods, and a bunch of basil that has perfumed most of the apartment by now. I have actually had time this week to figure out a list of recipes based around what I thought we were likely to find, so I should be actually cooking this week.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Where We've Been

Appalling lack of posting here, for which I apologize to anyone actually reading this. Having the internet connection in the office/nursery/guest room is something of a problem when one actually has a guest occupying the room. My mom arrived on Saturday from PA to spend a few days with us while we celebrated L's fourth birthday, and even though we didn't really do anything, it was surprisingly hard to find time.

Part of this is because while we were out shopping for birthday presents on Sunday, I picked up a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, which ended up entirely obsessing us (we finished it last night!). Other than that, we had some unexpected trouble with her car and with one of our computers, which ate up some time. D had a trip to make into Boston to visit people there, so we spent a day without a car. And on Tuesday evening it became clear that L was coming down with a cold (what a birthday present...), so aside from the obligatory visit to the quilt shop so my mom could add yet another project to her list, we just played with the kids and hung around yesterday.

I will be posting the recipe I used for L's cake, because it is hands-down the best chocolate cake I have ever made. I just need to find the time to type it!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Farmers Market Update

The Chandler St. farmer's market in Worcester appears to be in full swing, with a handful of new vendors this morning. In addition to three stands selling the usual veggies (one had corn--already?! color me suspicious as to its provenance), there was a new Hmong farm , a bread baker (looked good, but at $6.50 a loaf I'd just as soon bake my own), another baker, and a woman selling jewelry. I got bok choy, lettuce, a very ripe tomato, a cucumber, and some potatoes. Not sure yet what I'm going to do with all of them. D is having some work done on his gums today, so he might not be able to eat salads for a bit.

I meant to take a picture but forgot. I'm taking a few days off next week so should not be in such a hurry on our next visit, maybe I'll remember to do it then.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Kids Moving Right Along

Can't believe I forgot to mention this in yesterday's post, but on Sunday night JJ said "maamaaamaamaaa". We're very excited! And last night L actually ate some pasta.

I'll get back to posting recipes soon, but this week I haven't had any time to plan or to shop.

Monday, July 7, 2008

We're Back!

Spent the holiday weekend in NH, as is traditional. D's entire family was there, a relatively rare event, so the place was packed to bursting--thirteen adults, three children, two dogs, and two cats. Should more kids come along we're going to have to start getting creative with the space.

We drove up on Thursday morning, beating the traffic, and got settled in among the family members already present. I had volunteered to cook that night, and made my pulled chicken with a bean salad from The Silver Palate Cookbook. Keeping things simple. Other people straggled in over the course of the day and late into the night, card games were played, overexcited children played with each other and fought their bedtimes, and eventually people more or less collapsed.

Friday morning was the parade in Moultonborough, as small-town as they come, with fire trucks and old cars and a handful of floats, and the annual library book sale, at which we all exercised commendable restraint (for once). Then back to the house for a swim and dinner and then back out for the fireworks--L's first, and which she apparently enjoyed, much to our relief. I stayed behind with the baby and a few others.

Saturday morning L got to go in grandma's kayak, now that she has her very own life jacket, which thrilled her beyond words, and in the afternoon we went to the beach, where she got a bit too much sun but otherwise had a wonderful time.

The evening involved a family meeting about the future of the property, which went well, and then the annual lobster dinner (with steak for those of us who can't handle having our food stare at us while we disassemble it). Yes, there are a few traditions at work here. JJ got bit overstimulated and had to be taken upstairs, where he quickly quieted down and went to sleep.

Sunday morning, with suitable pomp, we buried his placenta there, just as we did his sister's. With luck and good planning, they will be able to spend many summers there, just like their father and his sister and cousins have, and their parents before them. The rest of the day was split between chores and swimming.

We got on the road a bit later than planned, around 4, and thanks to heavy traffic on 93 did not get home until around 9:30 (with a stop for dinner at a Friendly's in Concord, where I was somewhat bothered to see that their children's menu noted that the hot dogs contain milk, but made no such claim for the macaroni and cheese). JJ was unusually unhappy and cried for most of the trip (ouch), but seemed thrilled to be home. We staggered in, said hello to the cats, got the kids ready for bed, and went to sleep. Now here it is, Monday, and there's so much to do before next weekend (when Nana will be visiting for L's birthday) that it just about boggles the mind.

It was a nice weekend, and it's nice to be back.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

On the Virtue of Asking Questions

If you have been staring at a spec page for an hour or more, trying to make sense of it, you should send an email list of questions to the software developer who wrote it. Doing so all but guarantees an epiphany five minutes later, ensuring the maximum amount of feeling like an idiot for wasting his or her time.

A Red-Letter Day

Last night my very own daughter, the one who regularly flies into hysterics if faced with food she thinks she won't like, ate a piece of broccoli. Raw. And a piece of pasta that wasn't star-shaped and in a can of Campbell's soup.

She has been doing this sort of thing more often lately, which leads me to a tiny flicker of hope that we won't be sending her off to college with a diet consisting solely of hot dogs and yogurt. The funny thing is that she will apparently try new foods if they are given to her at the counter where I'm prepping them. Put them on a plate, on the table, cooked, and she will utter her charmingly phrased demand, "Maybe I should have some yogurt instead?" Mind you, she so far has only eaten one piece of each experimental food, but I figure it's progress.

JJ is also coming along, though we are still trying to find the best window for giving him cereal, where he's hungry enough to eat it but not so hungry that he doesn't want to deal with the whole spoon thing. He's still waking up at night, but goes back to sleep much more easily than he was for some weeks. He's going in this afternoon to get measured for what his pediatrician calls a "hat" to reshape his flat spot.