Saturday, August 28, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Mama School

I am so happy to be on the other side of our cross-country move! It has been a whirlwind of a summer, and I often worry if I gave our boys enough of what summer should be. But, one very high highlight was our mama school sessions (our hour together in the mornings during Nathan's naps). I have continued to frame the weekly activities around one story. I'll just record what I can remember...

Our first week was Robin Hood. One very exciting artistic development for Peter is his emerging figural objects--he draws wonderful people, like Maid Marian and Prince John shown here as puppets.
We also spent some time talking about coins, since Prince John is always counting his coins. I happened to have some old silver dollers and Susan B.'s in my purse (found when I went through my old childhood boxes at my parents) and showed them to Peter. I threw in some foreign coins for added excitement, and that made me feel justified in keeping them. And it is nice to see the old cintimes, pounds, and lire from pre-Euro Europe. Do they still use pounds? I always get mixed up there. I also had an old magnetic dart board and Peter and I had a archery duel. There were no fatalities.

We had to spend a week talk about the book What People Do All Day. Does anyone else love this book? We are all about Busytown.

Here is Farmer Alfalfa's farm:

Here is Stitches the Tailor's newly built house:
Peter and I built this popsicle-stick house while my brother was here and I sadly told Peter that I couldn't find any toothpicks for the windows. After my brother left our place to return home, I saw these little sticks that he had made for us out of extra popsicle sticks. I thought that was so sweet. Don't they look great?

We spent a week talking about the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I had some activities planned (Bridge building! Horns and their many uses! Troll home design!). However, we ended up spending all of our time on these awesome huge pictures of the characters
The artist with his work
Middle Billy Goat
Really, this is the scariest troll I've ever seen. Check out the face:

(so blurry! Oops) This might give me nightmares!

Biggest billy goat. I am responsible for the zigzags.
The face!

We have also been busy at the library, hitting them up for any extra craft activity they have going on. Here is Peter's skunk and rainbow fish.

As much as I'm looking forward to preschool, and for a moment to finally unpack those last boxes in the basement and do some sewing, I have really loved this time with Peter. I'm hoping to continue our morning sessions on the off-days of preschool. Two mornings a week seems perfect to me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Good Taste: Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs

Yes, another grilled chicken (drumstick!) recipe! I'm on a roll!

From August 2007 Cooking Light

1 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons basil oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
8 chicken drumsticks (about 2 1/4 pounds), skinned
cooking spray

1. Combine the first 11 ingredients (!) in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag, seal. Marinate in refrigerator 2 hours, turning bag occasionally
2. Prepare grill
3. Remove chicken from bag, reserving marinade. Place reserved marinade in a small saucepan; cook over medium heat 3 minutes. Place chicken on grill coated with cooking spray. Grill 30 minutes or until chicken is done, turning and basting occasionally with reserved marinade. Yield: 4 servings.

Thoughts: So many ingredients! I laughed when I saw 'basil oil'. Yeah, right. Maybe I'll be more into that someday. I have to admit, though, the chicken was delicious.

Good Taste: Sweet and Spicy Chicken

From June 2009 Real Simple

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 3 1/2-to-4-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces

1.Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the oil, chili powder, sugar, oregano, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place the chicken in a roasting pan and rub with the spic mixture. Roast until cooked through, 45 to 50 minutes. Serve hot, room temperature, or chilled.

Thoughts: I love roasted chicken--it makes itself. I used only drumsticks, since we were taking this to eat at the play in the park with friends. And I love the drumsticks the best. Never underestimate the drumstick.

Good Taste: Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Mustard

So many recipes....I have other things on my mind than food--it's true! But, I've been having fun with the grill this summer, so here are a few more food posts.

From Martha Stewart Living, June 2009

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
2 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 chicken cutlets (6 oz each)
1 large red onion, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
3 ounces aged cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
1 baguette, cut crosswise into 4 pieces and halved horizontally
3 tablespoons creme fraiche
3 sour pickles, thinly sliced lengthwise

1. Mix 1/4 cup mustard, the oil, dill, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add chicken and onion and toss to coat. Refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill onion, turning often, 8 to 10 minutes. Grill chicken on 1 side for 3 minutes; flip, top with cheddar, and cook 3 minutes more. Cut cutlets in half. Grill baguette, cut sides down, until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Mix remaining 3 tablespoons mustard and the creme fraiche in a small bowl. Spread onto cut sides of baguette. Sandwich chicken, pickles, and onion between bread.

Thoughts: I should always have Shane grill our chicken. My lack of patience always results in almost-safe-but-I-wish-I-gave-it-5-more-minutes doneness. Really fab French sandwich; actually so much better than all the on-the-go baguette sandwiches I ate in Paris (at Paul's--anyone remember that chain? Shane and I would always exclaim, "Merci, Paul" when we saw one. Had to be there, I guess.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Good Taste: Plum Upside-Down Cake

From August 2008 Real Simple

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan, at room temperature
4 firm, ripe plums, each cut into 8 wedges
1/4 cup plus 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
2/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the plums and 1/4 cup of the sugar and cook, tossing until the sugar dissolves and the juices from the plums become syrupy, 3 to 4 minutes. Arrange the plums in the cake pan in slightly overlapping concentric circles, starting from the outside. Spoon any pan juices over the top.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

4. With an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup of the butter and 2/3 cup of the sugar until fluffy. beat in the egg, sour cream, and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.

5. Pour the batter over the plums and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 1 hour. Place a large plate over the cake pan and invert the cake onto the plate.

Thoughts: Criminally simple for how tasty and pretty it is--20 minutes prep. Great way to celebrate summer's beautiful fruit.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Good Taste: Greek-Style Picnic Salad

From September 2007 Cooking Light

2 cups uncooked write rice
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 cups bagged, prewashed spinach (about 8 oz.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups (8 oz.) reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (15 1/2-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
10 lemon wedges

1. Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Cool to room temperature; set aside.

2. Combine boiling water and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl; let stand 30 minutes or until soft. Drain and cut into 1-inch pieces.

3. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach and garlic; saute 3 minutes or until spinach wilts. Combine rice, tomatoes, spinach mixture, cheese, and next 5 ingredients (though chickpeas). Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with nuts; serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Thoughts: Perfect last-minute meal, as most of the ingredients are already in the pantry. Would be so good with pine nuts, but pine nuts are as expensive as diamonds these days. Was there a pine nut catastrophe? This is such a deceivingly quick dish and very tasty.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Good Taste: Grilled Zucchini and Eggplant Pizza with Tapenade and Fontina

From August 2005 Bon Appetit:

1 1/4 cups warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
Generous pinch of sugar
3 1/4 to 3 3/4 cups all purpose flour, divided

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

3 medium zucchini, trimmed, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
2 small eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
3.4 cut extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup purchased black-olive tapenade
3 tablespoons mince fresh marjoram or fresh oregano
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 1/2 cups (packed) coarsley grated Fontina cheese
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

For Dough:
Stir 1 1/4 cups warm water, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl to blend. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes. Whisk in 1 cup flour; let stand in warm draft-free area until bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Stir oil and salt, then 2 cups flour into yeast mixture. Knead dough in bowl until almost smooth and beginning to pull away from sides, adding 1/4 cup more flour to prevent sticking. Turn dough out onto floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls as needed, about 7 minutes. Place dough in lightly oiled large bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, for topping:
Prepare barbecue. Arrange zucchini and eggplant slices on 2 large baking sheets. Brush vegetables with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until tender and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to platter.

Sprinkle 3 baking sheets with flour. Punch dough down. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces; roll out each piece on floured surface to 12x8-inch oval. Transfer to prepared baking sheets. Brush dough tops with oil. Place ovals, oiled side down, on hot side of grill rack and grill until bottoms are firm (watch closely to avoid burning), about 3 minutes. Turn crusts over, grill until dough is set, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to baking sheets, grill mark side up.

Spread 1/4 cup tapenade over each pizza, arrange grilled zucchini and epplant slices over. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon marjoram and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Drizzle lightly with oil. Sprinkle each with 1/2 cup Fontina and 1/3 cup Percorino Romano. Return pizzas to cooler side of grill. Cover and grill until cheese melts, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle pizzas with parsley; slice and serve.

Thoughts: This meal brought to us by Trader Joe's. Olive Tapenade: $2.50; Fontina: $3. So cheap. Anyway, the eggplant was too chewy after grilling, so I tossed it. This was my first grilled pizza and I am such a fan--no hot oven in the hot summer! This recipe was a hit with all the Lloyd eaters. Success!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Good Taste: Chicken Salad with Potatoes and Arugula

From August 2008 Real Simple

1 pound new potatoes
Kosher salt and pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 rotisserie chicken
3 bunches arugula, thick stem removed
1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan, shaved

Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain, run under cold water to cool, and slice.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Using a fork or your fingers, shred the chicken, discarding skin and bones.

In individual bowls, combine the arugula, chicken, tarragon, and potatoes. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Thoughts: Perfect autumn salad, especially on a busy day.

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Poisson Rouge

I have been very reluctant at giving my kids much screentime, but after a crazy summer of packing, moving, living at grandmas, moving again, and unpacking, there have been moments that I've needed a little something up my sleeve to help Peter stay entertained. My amazing friend, Krisanne, introduced me to the kids site, Poisson Rouge (red fish). It is endless! It has very cute, happy games, no annoying Dora or Elmo, and a cool art vibe. Peter can navigate it so easily, it scares me. I didn't know he could drag things on my laptop until I saw him do it so deftly on one of the puzzles. The website is French, although there are multiple languages offered. Once I walked in, and he was doing one of the games in Greek and trying to repeat the words--that was hilarious.

Does anyone else have any kids' websites to recommend?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Good Stuff for Me: What I'm Listening To....continued

I recently went to an art history conference in Amsterdam, where I had the opportunity to hear Neil MacGregor speak. Neil MacGregor is the director of the British Museum. After he spoke, I gasped! He was incredibly inspiring, thought-provoking, and best of all, a fabulous story teller. After talking to a few art history folks there, I learned that he is doing a series for the BBC called "History of the World in 100 Objects." Mr. MacGregor started these lectures in efforts to attract a more diverse crowd at the museum. These are 15-minute mini-lectures (lectures make it sound boring; these are really engaging, exciting story-telling sessions). All the objects are in the collection and each segment follows the thesis of the entire project: we, as humans, are more alike than we are different. At moments, these talks are so very poignant that I have to fight back the tears. You can listen to these lectures here.