Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Family Dinner 5: Stuffed Grilled Tomatoes

Okay, I swear I am not working for Bobby Flay. It's just that hubby got his new grill for Father's Day and when he's into something he's into something, and the only grilling cookbook I have is Flay's Cooking for Life. I know, a trip to Borders is in order.

My husband and Awesome Stepkid R. are wing dudes. They love 'em. Boneless, Bone-in, BBQ'ed--they're in. Me, not so much. I have several issues with wings. a) they involve skin and bone, and both sorta give me the heebie-jeebies. b) they're messy and c) they're fried and fattening and I don't want my ass Super-sized.

I came across this recipe for Grilled Chicken Tenders with Spicy Chipotle Sauce and Blue Cheese-Yogurt Sauce in The Book, and thought, Yeah! Healthy (moderately) wing-tasting chicken! Without frying and skin and bones. Definitely a must-try.

***a small digression here. Memo to Bobby Flay: why must you give your recipes such long-ass, high-falutin' names? Can't you just call this Buffalo Bites Flay Way, or something? Just sayin'.

Anyways, here's the recipe. It's not difficult but it's long, so I'm going to have you go here.

The part of the dinner I was really excited about was the side dish: Grilled Stuffed Tomatoes. And sorry Bobby Boy, this ain't your recipe. I used Pat and Gina Neely's recipe which I found on the Food Network website . It sounded so delicious that I almost forgot about the chicken.

Grilled Stuffed Tomatoes
recipe courtesy of The Neely's
serves 6

6 large tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
6 ounces goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked orzo
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan

Preheat the grill to medium heat.

Cut the tomatoes and core them, removing all the seeds and juices.

In a medium bowl add the onions, basil, and goat cheese. Mix and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add cooked orzo and combine. Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes. Top the tomatoes with parmesan.

Even un-grilled, these guys looked good enough to eat.

Place the tomatoes directly on the grill with the cover closed and cook for 10 minutes. The juices will begin to run. Remove from grill and place on platter.

The Verdict:

The Buffalo Chicken Tenders were out-of-this-world delicious. The sauce was flavorful and spicy but not tongue-searing. We were fighting each other for the last piece. (I left the sauce off of the girls' chicken and they dunked them in ketchup). The dipping sauce tasted like the real deal, too.

The Stuffed Grilled Tomatoes were as delectable as they looked. I used Haystack Mountain Herbed Goat Cheese and I think using an herbed cheese was the way to go. I think the dish might be a little bland without the herbs. The girls ate the orzo and even a few bites of tomato, so I was a happy momma.

Both dishes are going to end up on our plates a lot this summer. Try 'em, you'll like 'em.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Miss M's Ice Cream Pick

I didn't forget about ice cream last week; we made one. I just failed to get pictures of it. If you want to read about last week's Dulce de Leche & Toffee Crunch ice cream, you can here.

It was little Miss Bright Eyes' turn to pick this week and Strawberry won the flavor roulette. Which strikes me as odd, because the little bugger won't eat a real, fresh strawberry to save her life.

Strawberries are absolutely gorgeous right now, so I picked some promising ones and figured that if Miss M. won't eat these strawberries, she's nuts.

I also gilded the lily by choosing a recipe from a couple of dudes who know ice cream.

And yeah, the above is a contender for Shitty Photo of the Month because I am too gorked out over the ice cream to notice the toy microphone in the background. And if you're thinking of buying your kid one of those microphone thingys, don't.

Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Ice Cream

1 pint strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium bowl, combine strawberries with lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar. Refrigerate for one hour.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar together. Beat in cream and milk. Add vanilla and strawberry mixture, including the juices. Chill in refrigerator until cold, then pour into ice cream maker.

Freeze per ice cream manufacturer's directions.

**Postscript: Everyone loved the ice cream, except for the girl who picked it. Sigh. She's nuts.

**If eating raw eggs gives you the heebie jeebies, you can use pasteurized eggs.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bring the Heat

Growing up, my husband used to eat his mother's South Indian curries and complain about the heat, gasping for his water glass. She would raise an eyebrow and say, "It's not too hot, you're too weak."

The first time his mother cooked for me, my husband warned me that his mother brought the heat when she cooked. I wasn't worried, because I like spicy food. A lot. Plus, his mother was also cooking for Awesome Stepkid R, who was then eight years old. I figured she wouldn't damage his tender tastebuds for the world.

When we sat down to eat R.'s favorite South Indian Chicken Curry with Poori, I hesitated, watching father and son take their first fragrant bites. My husband chewed, swallowed and reached for his water glass. "Kinda hot there, kid," he cautioned. Awesome Stepkid R. was already on his third piece of chicken, hoovering it down like a pro.

That's my kinda kid.

R. and I love our spicy food. We put Sriracha, crushed red pepper and jalapenos on darn near everything. He can eat a "Thai hot" curry in a restaurant without a blink. He lives for habanero. In all things spicy, he and I are kindred spirits.

A few years ago, Awesome Stepkid R. was going through a not so awesome time. It was Christmas break and R. was still smarting from the defection of his best friend, who had suddenly decided that another kid was funnier, smarter, more entertaining than R. You think that bullshit only happens to girls, but it doesn't. The kid was crushed.

I was trying to get him to talk, but like many 12 year old boys, he wasn't a wellspring of information. He sulked in his room and answered queries with grunts. I decided we needed an activity to take his mind off his tarnished pride, so the Salsa Project was born.

"Let's make homemade salsa for Christmas presents this year," I said.
He looked up from his video game for a nanosecond. "Ummm. Kay."

I went online to hunt for recipes and came out 20 minutes later with some promising ones. We drove to the grocery store in silence. R. looked out the window, pressed his forehead to the cold glass. Finally, when we were almost to our destination he said, "Why don't we make two kinds? It'll be more fun."

It was fun. We made two kick-ass salsas that year and we were proud to give them and friends were thrilled to get them. We also started a new family tradition. Every year R. and I pore over recipes, trying to find the right one. It is a mark of pride that we outdo last year's effort. It's a great activity to pass time on a snowy weekend, especially if you're trying to wheedle information from a silent teen.

Our weekends aren't snowy right now but I stumbled across this recipe in Bobby Flay's cookbook Grilling For Life and I knew it was for us. "Hey, wanna make homemade pickled jalapenos?"

This time he drove to the grocery store. And I pressed my forehead to a hot window, wishing for air conditioning. Changes come 'round quickly over here, but one thing's going to stay the same. Awesome Stepkid R. and I will be futzing in the kitchen, looking to bring some heat.

Pickled Jalapenos from Bobby Flay's Grilling for Life
makes 10-15 jalapenos

3 cups white wine vinegar
1 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
10-15 jalapeno peppers (depending on their size)

Combine all of the ingredients except for the cilantro and jalapenos in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes before adding cilantro.

Pack the jalapenos into a quart-sized Mason jar or place in a medium bowl. Pour the warm vinegar mixture over them, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 2 weeks.

** Flay prefaces the recipe with the following: This is a great way to add POW to your dishes without adding fat or calories. They are great on burgers, hot dogs, sausages and, of course, nachos.

***Note from me: open a window or 5 when boiling the vinegar mixture. We drove my pickle-phobic husband out of the house--it's that pungent.

I see some nachos in our future!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Foto

Don't forget to play today. We suggest bubbles.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ina Garten's Gazpacho

Truth: I've eaten gazpacho six times (I've cooked it three of those six) and I don't really like it. I don't know why, exactly. I love a good Bloody Mary. I like tomato soup. I adore salad. And if you think about it, gazpacho is sort of all three of those things in one. If those things float my boat separately, why do I taste them together and think, meh?

I've just joined Barefoot Bloggers and, by doing so, have committed myself to cooking two Ina Garten recipes a month. While I'm excited to be part of a group of fantastic cooks and bloggers, I'm less than thrilled that gazpacho is my first assignment. But I'm game.

The Good News: Mother Nature cooked up a perfect day for cold soup. It's been rainy this summer, but suddenly Colorado decided to wake up and start steamin', and she means business! I was pleased because cold weather+cold soup=wrong.

Here's Ina's Recipe:

A few things about the recipe:

-it seemed kind of fussy to individually chop each vegetable and whiz it in the food processor? I mean, it's all coming together in the end anyways, right? But I did it like Ina told me to. Have no idea if it made a difference.

-I also followed Ina's instruction not to over-process the vegetables, but to be honest, I didn't like the little bits of texture in there. I sort of think a soup should be either rustically chunky or luxuriously smooth, and this was neither. I don't like soup with a commitment problem.

-To chill or not to chill the serving bowls? I didn't. Don't know if it mattered.

Again, alas, my reaction is...meh. I think it's a texture issue for me. I felt like I was, to be honest, eating a bowl of salsa. And if I want to eat a bowl of salsa, it's a helluva lot easier to just open a jar and add a spoon.

The flavor was okay--I might add some fresh herbs or even some crushed red pepper next time. If there's a next time, because I think I'm not a gazpacho girl. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Yo, Momma!

7 Things My Mother Told Me That Were Bullshit:

-You're going to poke an eye out.
-Eating broccoli makes you pretty.
-Boys don't marry the cow if they get the milk for free.
-Your hair is actually quite pretty, dear.
-It will only hurt a little.
-Good things come to those who wait.
-You are a very brave girl.

7 Things My Mother Told Me That I Thought Were Bullshit but were Actually True:

-You have a very good brain, so use it.
-Apply sunscreen.

-Take a sweater, just in case.
-Everything in moderation.

-Boys don't give roses to girls who pick noses.

-That peckerwood with the long hair you're dating is all wrong for you.
-No matter how big you get, you still need your Mama.

Happy Birthday, Mom. Thanks for being my anchor in this scary, turbulent sea.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bobby Flay's Grilled Chicken Tenders with Spicy Chipotle Sauce and Blue Cheese-Yogurt Sauce

Grilled Chicken Tenders with Spicy Chipotle Sauce and Blue Cheese-Yogurt Sauce
serves 6

Blue Cheese-Yogurt Sauce

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons finely grated red onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours before serving.

Grilled Chicken Tenders

2 pounds chicken tenders
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat your grill to high.

Toss the chicken tenders with the oil, salt, and pepper. Grill until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the tenders from the grill and place in a large bowl while you prepare the spicy chipotle sauce. Lower the heat of the grill to medium.

Spicy Chipotle Sauce

1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 to 3 tablespoons chipotle puree
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon ground New Mexico chile powder
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Bring the vinegar, oil, chipotle puree, honey and both chile powders to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat on the grill. Remove the mixture from the heat and whisk in the mustard and the butter.

Pour half of the chipotle sauce over the tenders and toss well to combine. Divide the tenders and blue cheese sauce among 6 plates. Serve the remaining chipotle sauce on the side.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Family Dinner #4: Father's Day BBQ

Miss D.'s heart belongs to her daddy--always has. He's the a'la mode on her life's pie. When she was little, she'd screech in delight when he came home from work, throwing herself at him with a Cowabunga! pounce that took his breath away. Actually, she still does that.

I call it the "Elvis" treatment because she really does look like one of those frenzied fans, shreiking for the King. Okay, sure, I'm a little jealous. At times I might have felt just a teensy bit affronted at my second-fiddle status, but when I see things clearly, I realize that a girl who loves her daddy like that is a beautiful and wonderous thing.

So here's to you, Daddy-O. You put the spring in our step, the smile on our face, the wiggle in our caboose. We love ya, Wallet Man!

To honor you (and your new father's day toy)

we break out the Bobby Flay treatment. Only the best for you.

Bobby Flay's Smoky and Fiery Skirt Steak with Avocado-Oregano Relish
from Bobby Flay's Grilling For Life

serves 6

Smoky and Fiery Dressing

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic

2 chipotle chiles in adobo

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Combine the vinegar, garlic, chiles, honey, salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil and blend until emulsified. Add cilantro and pulse 2 times just to incorporate.

Avocado-Oregano Relish

2 ripe Hass avocados, pitted, peeled and coarsely chopped

1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped

Juice of 2 limes

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl.

Grilled Skirt Steak

2 pounds skirt steak, cut crosswise into 3 equal pieces

1 tablespoon canola coil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Heat your grill to high. Brush steak with the oil and season both sides with salt and pepper. Grill, turning once, for 6-8 minutes until slightly charred and cooked to meedium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes.

Cut the meat against the grain into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Drizzle each serving with dressing and top with 2 tablespoons of avocado relish. Serve the remaining relish on the side if desired.

**And nope, I didn't give the spicy dressing to the girls; no tears on Father's Day for us!
***And if you are wondering, that steak+dressing+avocado=man heaven. Make it next year, or for July 4th, or any time you want to see your guy roll his eyes in gustatory bliss.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Popsicles for Breakfast: Yes, you can!

We're into frozen treats this year, which is a little silly because we've had a lot of rain. But despite the weather, summer goes on, and this year we are experimenting with our own popsicles.

You'd think that my previous tangle with mango would make me steer clear of the suckers, but I'm not that smart. I still had some loafing about in my refrigerator and I am too cheap to chuck 'em. I also had a lonely can of pineapple juice sulking in the pantry, and so mango-pineapple lassi popsicles were born.

If you aren't Indian or don't eat Indian food, you might not know what a lassi is. A lassi is an icy, frothy smoothie using fruit and yogurt. It gets hella hot in India and a nice cold lassi is a good way to refresh yourself.

Ours looked like this:

Mango-Pineapple Lassi Popsicles
makes 6-10

2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chunked

1 cup pineapple juice

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt

3-4 tablespoons sugar or honey (depends how sweet your mangoes are)

dash of cinnamon

Place the mango and the pineapple juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Add yogurt, honey and cinnamon and blend until well combined. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until firm.

We made the popsicles yesterday evening and froze them overnight. This morning, the girls woke with visions of popsicles in their heads, and, when I thought about it, these had a bit of nutritional value, so I said "go for it."

They thought the idea of popsicles for breakfast so exciting that they declared today a holiday. We dressed for the occasion.

So not only is it the first official day of summer, it is also Eat a Popsicle in a Tutu day. Bunny ears optional.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

When Barbies Go Bad: A Pictorial

I woke to quite the sight this morning. I've always suspected something lurking beneath that plastic, polished facade of hers. And now I know. Barbie has a dark side.

Just ask my playroom. Apparently, Barbie and her Posse got into some mischief last night.

Where's that innocent smile? Those perky, bright eyes? That immaculate posture? The Barbies that met me this morning don't look too coherent and are, don'tcha think, a bit disshevelled?

There's a possibility, just a tiny one, that Barbie and her minxy friends might have been inbibing in spirits and puffing on the giggle weed, because rampant snacking was necessary.

Those watery tarts!! That's the last time I'm letting them out past curfew. I'm wise to them now.

Dulce de Leche and Toffee Crunch Ice Cream

Dearest hubs won the ice cream smackdown this week, and that man loves his sweets and loves his chunky ice cream. He initially chose Rocky Road, which made my heart sink. For a girl who likes her ice cream chunk-less, Rocky Road is the wicked stepmother of ice creams.

Fortunately, he eventually settled on Heath Bar Crunch ice cream. Which is still chunky but hey, at least it's only one kind of chunk to deal with.

I perused some recipes and then remembered my friend Tamar, who grew up in Colombia, years ago told me how to make homemade caramel, or as they call it, dulce de leche. Wouldn't toffee bits taste even better in a caramel-flavored ice cream?

I was afraid it would be too sweet for me, but the girls thought caramel ice-cream was a hot-dang good idea, so we decided to go for it. I'm starting to wonder if we'll make a single by-the-recipe ice cream this summer. Maybe we T's are just Ice Cream Renegades.

Homemade dulce de leche is simple. Take the paper off a can of sweetened condensed milk, plop the can into a pot of boiling water, lower the heat and just simmer it for 3 hours. Then let the can cool, open it up, and viola! Caramel.

The hardest part of the recipe was getting the girls to wait 3-plus hours for the stuff to cook and cool. They nagged me so bad that I threatened them with baths at 10:30 in the morning. They were smart enough to decide to ride scooters outside.

Dulce de Leche and Toffee Crunch Ice cream
makes 1 quart

1 can sweetened condensed milk, prepared as above
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups 2% milk
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup chocolate covered toffee candy, such as Heath, Skor, etc.

Scald the milk (bring it slowly just to the boiling point) in a saucepan over medium heat. In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs together until thickened. Add the condensed milk mixture. Slowly add the hot milk in, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring well.

Return the mixture to the saucepan. Heat it gently--do NOT boil--over medium-low heat until the custard thickens. It should be done when it coats the back of a spoon.

Cool mixture completely.

Add to ice cream maker and churn for 20 minutes. Add the toffee bits and churn 5 minutes more. Transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze 2 hours or until set.

I meant to take pictures of it, but it was served at the end of a long and successful Father's Day barbecue and before I could think to take a snap, the whole shebang was gone. Guess it didn't suck, eh?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Family Dinner Night #3: Lore's birthday!

Another party+family dinner night, and for a great reason! Our Lore is 20 years old! Happy Birthday to the best Mexican import since Modelo Especial!

Her birthday feast was a tribute to Mexico, and boy, did we have fun! The adults in the group kicked things off with Pink Grapefruit Margaritas. Woot!

The Menu:

Pico de Gallo

Mexican Pot Roast Tacos
Rice Salad with Herbs and Grilled Veggies
Grilled Corn, Mexico-Style
Cold Beer and Lemonade

Homemade ice cream

The pot roast tacos are a Tyler Florence recipe. I made some adjustments. I cooked the meat the day before the party (mine had to simmer for 3 1/2 hours, not 3), took the meat out to cool, shredded it, and removed any excess fat from the meat and the sauce. Then I reduced the sauce down, gave it a whiz with the immersion blender and plopped the meat back in. Can I just say that it turned out heavenly? The Carnita God had smiled on us. Moist, flavorful, scrumptious meat heaven. I think some of the men actually swooned.

I'd made grilled corn before, but not Mexico-style. I did some research and came up with something that Lore said was a pretty good facsimile.

Grilled Corn, Mexico Style
serves 8

8 ears corn
1 cup reduced fat sour cream (feel free to use full fat if it floats your boat
1/2 cup good quality mayo (I did not use low fat because I don't like it)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 limes
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
1 cup queso fresca, crumbled (Mexican white cheese)
Cayenne pepper

Shuck corn and remove the silk. In Mexico, they usually leave the husks attached--they make a cool little handle for easy eating. I didn't want to fuss with husks, so I took them off completely. Soak the corn in cold, lightly salted water for about 25 minutes to prevent from burning and drying out on the grill.

Grill the corn on a hot grill for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally so it cooks evenly all over.

Meanwhile, mix mayonnaise, sour cream, salt and cilantro in a bowl. Spread over the hot corn.

Top corn with a hefty squeeze of lime, a tablespoon of queso fresca, and some cayenne pepper.

For people who don't *do* sour cream (hello! hubby) I made this compound butter to go on the grilled corn.

I really wasn't sure about the creamy sauce on the corn. It sounded kind of revolting, to be honest. But Lore and her friends went NUTS when they saw it.

"Just like they do it at home!" they squealed, and their smiles made the little bit of research I'd done completely worthwhile.

Corn, Mexican-style is surprisingly delicious! The richness of the sauce is cut by the lime and the cayenne, and the salty cheese and smoke from the grill add depth. Somehow it just works.

As the party wound down, one of Lore's friends said, "What a great party. And that corn? Best I've ever had."

Pow! I am the corn Superstar!

And you can be too. Run down to your farmer's market, shuck some corn, fire up the grill and give it a go yourself. Now.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cooking Together: Andes Mint Ice Cream

Hey, we got a new toy!

On Friday, the Awesome Fed-Ex dude dropped our Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker on my doorstep. I know, I know, most people bought those things years ago but I am slow.

The girls worked themselves into a frenzy, jumping up and down and arguing which flavor of iced bliss we needed to make first.

Eventually, I just picked out of a hat. Miss D. won; she picked her favorite flavor of ice cream, peppermint, which alas, is one of my least favorite flavors on the planet.

Not that I have anything against the flavor of peppermint, because I like it. What I object to are the super-hard, overly sweet nuggets of mint candy that plague my molars and threaten to de-rail my dental work. Am I the only person on the planet who doesn't enjoy crunchy things in her ice cream?

Even nuts. Nope. I like my ice cream smoooooooth like a Lounge Lizard. No cookies and cream, no Chunky Monkey for this girl.

Plus, peppermint is a flavor usually eaten in December and it's June, for chrissakes. But tell that to Miss D., who was beyond thrilled to win the ice-cream-face-off.

I checked out several recipes for a simple vanilla ice cream, figuring that I could just substitute a lesser amount of peppermint extract for the vanilla. Add crushed bits of peppermint candy and done, right?

But then I started to worry and overthink things (gee, a shocker, I know). Suddenly, I had memory lock: is the peppermint ice cream in the grocery store peppermint flavored and studded? Would adding peppermint extract to the ice cream base cause a hideous, funky Binaca thing in my mouth?

No worries. I figured I'd just go to the grocery store, find some peppermint ice cream, taste it, and figure it out.

Oh yeah. Did I mention it's freaking June? Just try to find peppermint ice cream in June. Double-dog-dare ya. I was on my own.

I decided against the extract. And against the hard starlight mint candies. Sorry, purists. I spied Andes mints in the candy aisle and grabbed those. I don't know why I love those things, but I do. I think it reminds me of eating at a "nice" restaurant (eg: not Denny's or Whataburger) as a child. See, growing up, we were, well...okay, there's really not a nice way to say it...poor. If we ate out, which was very rare and a HUGE deal, it was someplace like Arbys. I see that big old hat sign staring out at me from a freeway and I still get excited, I do.

But on my birthday every year, my parents took me to a REAL restaurant. The kind with dim lighting and tinkly music and waitstaff. And those scrumptious Andes mints that came with the check that made me feel like Posh Spice.

I digress. Anyways, the Andes went in the cart along with cream and whole milk and sugar. When I got home, I faced mutiny.

"Uh-uh, that's not the kind of peppermints that go in the ice cream," Miss D. scowled.

"No, these are special, super-fancy, Princess mints," the manipulative mommy replied, unwrapping one and popping it into her mouth. "Mmmmmmmm."

Hey, we do what we need to.

The girls broke the mints into little pieces and we added them to a very straightforward vanilla ice cream base and in half an hour we had little spoonfuls of happy waiting for us. We tasted, deemed it delicious, popped it back in the freezer for a few hours until Lore's birthday party.

Life is good.

Andes Mint Ice Cream
makes about 1 quart

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (I use 1/2--it's plenty)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup Andes mints, broken into bite sized pieces

Whisk first 4 ingredients together until blended. Add to a cold ice-cream maker bowl and switch machine on. churn for about 20 minutes. Add mint pieces; churn 5 minutes more. Pour into a quart container and freeze 2 hours. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Victory Garden: Obama Inspiration

Not unlike many households in America, we find ourselves following the Obama family with interest. Perhaps it's because we share some commonalities: we have two small girls, we are multi-racial, and the girls desperately want a puppy (nope, not gonna happen). We are also trying to eat more locally grown, organic produce.

Miss D. came home from school this spring all a-buzz about the Victory Garden the Obamas were planting.

"Can we plant a victory garden this year, Mama?" she asked.

Miss M. overheard her sister's plea and seconded the vote.

Problem is, I have a black thumb. I kill living green things. No lie, I even killed a cactus once. It's that bad. But it's pretty hard when faced with enthusiasm like this.

Oh boy.

The Obama victory garden is, of course, a much more grandiose affair. We don't have 1100 square feet to plant on, we don't have beehives and beekeepers, and we certainly don't have hordes of volunteers clamoring to do such thrilling tasks as spread shit and yank up weeds.

But the great news is, we have lovely, generous neighbors who also happen to have two girls, a mixed race family, and an interest in all things Obama.

They wanted to plant a Victory Garden, too. And after a little negotiating, we came up with a pretty swell plan. The K Family (and welcome to brand new baby boy G who is joining the girls!) next door offered to grow the veggies, and we agreed to focus on herbs.

I put mint IN the garden, which is probably a bad idea. If it threatens to take over, we may need to find a new home for it.

I found some cool varieties of Thai basil, and since both families love Asian food, that went in. Along with flat leaf parsley, italian basil, rosemary, cilantro and chives.

The K family planted broccoli, which looks pretty cool.

They also planted zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, and some dang gorgeous peppers.

And my favorite flower in the entire world.

Did I mention how blessed we are to have such amazing neighbors? So welcome to the K-T Victory Garden. The garden has 4 eager little workers waiting to get their hands dirty this summer and hopefully try some new, fresh produce. And at the rate the rain's been falling, it looks like it might be a bumper crop year.

We will keep you posted.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Aqua Fresca: Your New Favorite Summer Drink

The day before Lore's 20th birthday, I wanted to surprise her with a little taste of home. I'd heard of Aqua Fresca before but I'd never tried it. Aqua Fresca is Mexico's answer to lemonade, except instead of lemons they use some sort of cooling, refreshing fruit like watermelon or cantaloupe.

I found a couple of recipes on the Food Network website . After reading through them (and the reader reviews) I adapted this recipe from Michael Chiarello.

Aqua Fresca
adapted from Michael Chiarello's recipe
serves 4

3 cups watermelon, peeled, seeded and diced

1 1/2 cups water

1 to 4 tablespoons sugar, depending on how sweet your melon is

2 limes, juiced

mint, optional

Puree the watermelon in a food processor or blender. Place a fine sieve over an empty pitcher and pour the watermelon mixture through the sieve. Discard pulp left over in sieve (you will just have clear red-pink liquid left over) It looks like this.

Add the remaining ingredients (start with 1 tablespoon sugar) to the watermelon liquid and stir. Taste for sugar, adding more if necessary. Chill until very cold. Re-stir the mixture and serve over lots of cracked ice, with a garnish of lime and mint, if desired.

This is one stunner of a drink. And boy, is it good. I must admit, the first thing I thought when I tasted it was: ooooh, gotta try this with vodka in it! Taste test on the adult version pending.

I also thought that the color of the strained watermelon juice was so gorgeous (and so potent smelling) that you could probably combine a few tablespoons of it with Prosecco to make a Watermelon Bellini.

Any way you decide to try it, I encourage you. Our whole family loved it (Daphne gave it a 10!) and on a hot day, it will hit the spot. And as we were finishing, Lore said the magic words: This also is really good frozen like a popsicle. As soon as our new popsicle molds arrive, expect a review.

Happy almost birthday, Lore!

Mindworm: The Late Edition

I get Earworm all the time. For those of you who don't know, Earworm is that pesky phenomenon of having a suck-ass song stuck in your head for hours, sometimes days, on end. The last episode of Earworm I had resulted in the destruction of Mira's favorite toy: The singing Yo Gabba Gabba guitar. Think happy thoughts, happy thoughts, and they'll come right back to you...Think happy thoughts....Yeah.

Last night I had that other irritating phenomenon. I call it Mindworm. I don't know if there's a technical term for it but it goes something like this: Hubby snores. I wake up and kick him. He doesn't feel a thing. Kick. Nothing. And then the brain starts a churnin' with inane thoughts and I can't turn it off. Sometimes for hours.

So I thought I'd share the wealth with you.

~ I need to stop reading Perez Hilton. It's a time-suck and he's mean.

~Yesterday Perez reported that Anthony Bourdain dissed Mario Batali's show Spain...On the Road Again because it co-stars Gwyneth Paltrow. "Why would you go to Spain with the one bitch who refuses to eat ham?"

~Oh yeah, that's why I read Perez Hilton. I'm mean, too. Gwyneth Paltrow: Freakshow.

~Somebody once told me I looked like Gwyneth. Who was that? Can't remember. Whoever it was, he's an asshole.

~I read the book club selection on the plane to Greece; I have no idea anymore what it was about?

~ Need to Google: Early Onset Alzheimers

~Hubby thinks I look like Blondie from the comic strip. Grateful he doesn't look like Dagwood.

~You know what's gross? People who put fruit in cottage cheese. Gag.

~I do not have Parkinson's. I do not have Parkinson's. I do not have Parkinson's.

~Grocery list: corn tortillas, limes, Band-Aids, edamame.

~Will eating too much soy really make hubby grow boobs?

~Why can't I link on Twitter? I'm an asshole.

~If I think the curse word but don't say it, do I owe the Bad Word Jar?

~I used to have a really cute butt. Now, not so much.

~Call tomorrow to schedule mammogram. 40 sucks.

~Would it be wrong to deep fry edamame?

~Awesome stepkid R is suddenly showering every day. Shower=Girls?


~Would it be a mistake to put mint in the garden this year?

~What the hell is chervil, anyways?

~If this mosquito bite on my toe doesn't quit itching, I'm going to kill myself.

~Need to Google: West Nile Virus.

~Jamie Oliver: love him or hate him?

~Does Miss D. really think I love Miss M. more than her? Do I act like it?

~Think happy thoughts, happy thoughts, and they'll come right back to you...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New Addition to the Family!

Relax, I'm not pregnant. I'm crazy, but not that crazy. And NO, I didn't get another pet, because I'm already fantasizing about Skipper the guppy's death someday. Cleaning fish tanks blows.

I'm talking about Lorena, a sweet little ball of energy from Mexico who is staying with us for 8 weeks this summer. She turns 20 this week and the girls love her already.

I think the above blurry photo just might qualify as the inaugural "Shitty Photo of the Week," but dang, my hands were shaky. And Miss D. is missing 6 teeth and 2 more are loose. Anyone hearing Dueling Banjos around here? Maybe fuzzy, in her case, is good.

Having Lore here provides two-fold joy: the girls are now interested in learning about Mexican food and I have some extra time during the day to focus on trying to learn this blogging stuff.

I jumped into this blog knowing nada about what blogging even was, let alone the skills it entailed. And I've had a rough self-esteem week, but everyone's sick of me pouting about it.

So on to the fun stuff. Today we made Lore's favorite snack from home! It's very refreshing on a hot day (which it wasn't, dammit). In Mexico, there are vendors all over towns and beaches selling it from little carts. And it's good lookin', which never hurts. And--viola! It's good for you!

Lore loves this snack so much that she brought her own seasoning from Mexico so we could make it, but I think you could make a reasonable facsimile with cayenne pepper, salt and lime juice.

Lore's Favorite Snack

Mango (a little under-ripe, peeled, pitted and cut into strips)
Jicama (peeled and cut into strips)
Cayenne pepper, salt and lime (or if you are lucky, Tajin seasoning from Mexico--www.tajin.com).

Drizzle the strips of mango and jicama with lime juice and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until icy cold. Then sprinkle a dusting of salt and about half that amount of cayenne. Unless you are Lore and you like more. We did just a moderate amount for our maiden voyage into Mexican street food.

The girls didn't enjoy the snack with the hot pepper on it, but they decided mango was okay. It's not going to be their favorite prom date, but they will eat some. We're giving it another try on top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

They thought jicama was weird. "It's sorta like celery," Daphne said, wrinkling her nose. For those of you who haven't heard of jicama or eaten it before, jicama is a white, juicy, crunchy, watery root often called the Mexican Potato or the Mexican Turnip. It has a tough skin that you need a darn sturdy vegetable peeler to get off. It doesn't really taste like much (sorta like a water chestnut or the aforementioned celery). Jicama picks up the flavor of just about anything you put on it, and lime and salt and cayenne flavors it nicely. It's oddly refreshing.

I loved Lore's snack and can't wait until the REAL hot weather gets here, because I know Lore and I will be sneaking out to the backyard with a plate to share.

More delicacies from Mexico to follow! Adios!

******Postscript: A few minutes after peeling the mango, my hands started to itch and I got a few hives. Turns out, it's not uncommon for people to have an allergy to mango skin. My reaction was pretty mild; I took a few Benadryl and I was okey-dokey, but some people have mango-skin horror stories out there. You might want to put on some rubber gloves when you peel your mango, just to be safe.

Later, I called my mom and she said that her mother, who retired in Ft. Meyers Florida, had mango trees that she cut down because she was wildly allergic. Huh. The things you find out from a mango.

Guess I'm Kreative AND Craptacular!

Thanks to Eat, Bitch & Whine for awarding me a Kreative Blogger Award! It was very nice of her, since it's obvious from the last post that I'm thinking I suck.

Now it's my turn to name my Kreative Blogger awarded buddies, and share the wealth!

So here's the rules:
(1) Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
(2) Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
(3) Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
(4) Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
(5) Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
(6) Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
(7) Leave a comment on each of the blogs, letting them know they have been nominated.

Here are my awesome Kreativ Bloggers! You guys make me smile, laugh and sometimes cry!

1. evil chef mom

2. parenting by dummies

3. Phoo-d

4. the world according to me

5. bad mommy moments

6. Inktopia

7 .family of foodies

Seven fast facts about me:

1. My high school nickname was Pyro. (don't ask)
2. I secretly wish I could be rid of Skipper the guppy, but he will not die.
3. My comfort food is pho (Vietnamese noodle soup).
4. My first job was pumping gas at my dad's service station.
5. My right eyelid twitches all the time and it makes me barmy.
6. I have a fondness for Australian expressions like barmy, tosser and dag.
7. I am an enabler.

Have a great day, everyone. I'm off to learn to shoot a camera.