Tuesday, February 28, 2012

You Don’t Know Jack

I’ve always liked the name Jack. It sounds strong, but approachable. At one time, I thought Jack would make a good boys name, but we went in another direction. I love the name we picked. It’s just that Jack is also a nice name.

At least that’s what I thought until my husband started calling our son Jack. It’s a playful nickname, but not for the reason you might think. The hubs really didn’t know how much I liked the name Jack, until now.

Occasionally, when he’s feeding, holding or playing with our son, my guy says, “What’s up, Jack?”

He says it because the kid is teething like a maniac. Our little one has teeth coming in everywhere. They’re partially in, hanging all over the place and when he smiles, so my husband says, he looks like a jack-o-lantern. Great.

Now, I can’t help but see it. Those baby teeth are right there staring back at me when he smiles, or talks, or even eats. Every once in a while, I see our adorable little boy and think a jack-o-lantern is smiling back. Frustrating, but true and so darn cute!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Oscars and the Grouch

The Oscars are on this weekend, but not in our house.

I used to watch celebrities and think, Someday I could do what they do. Well, someday is here, and let’s just say I went another direction. I’m not a grouch. I’m happy with my life, and I still enjoy arts and entertainment, but there isn’t much time to say movie, much less see one these days.

Anyway, who really needs Meryl Streep’s career creds or Melissa McCarthy’s humor, really? Okay, so maybe I’m a little grouchy, but it’s only because I’m sleep deprived and feeling wrinkly today.

Movies are a luxury. One of my Resolutions for The Twelve is to see more movies, but I have seen exactly one this year, and it was in my living room. Still, it’s a start. So, since I couldn’t offer much insight into the Oscars or the movies, actors and writers nominated, I thought I’d give you cocktail ideas to celebrate the silver screen instead. 

Oh, and here’s a cool link to this year’s Official Oscar Nominee List in case you occasionally get lost during the program like I do (used to). 

Blackberry Kir
            6 Tbs. blackberry liqueur 
            1 bottle (750ml) Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis, well chilled 
Pour 1 Tbs. of the blackberry liqueur into each wineglass. Fill each glass two-thirds full with wine (about 4 fl. oz./125ml). Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Easy Entertaining, by George Dolese (Simon & Schuster, 2005). Read more

            Ice cubes
            1/2 fluid ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
            1/2 fluid ounce Cointreau or triple sec
            1 fluid ounce brandy
            1 lemon wedge
Fill a cocktail shaker 3/4 full with ice cubes. Pour in lemon juice, Cointreau, and brandy. Cover and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds until the outside of the shaker becomes cold and frosty. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a wedge of lemon. Read more

Baby Bellini (Non-Alcoholic)
            1 1/2 cups peach concentrate, chilled*
            4 bottles (750 ml bottle) sparkling cider such as Martinelli's, chilled
            48 raspberries**
            *If you cannot find peach concentrate or purée, buy frozen peaches and purée.
            **Raspberries are generally sold in either 1/2-pint or 6-ounce packages; you'll need more than one 1/2 pint or one package for this recipe.
1. Pour 1 tablespoon peach concentrate into each glass.
2. Fill each Champagne glass two-thirds full with sparkling cider.
3. Drop 2 raspberries into each Champagne flute and serve. Read More


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Glory (Snow) Days

When we woke up this morning, it felt like a blah winter day. A brown-grey palette covered everything, ground to sky.

We got moving, slowly. I went out to run errands when it unexpectedly started snowing.
One minute, I’m buying buy pens, then I’m staring at a real snowstorm. Big white flakes blew everywhere. Honestly, I was elated. Nuts, right? Nope, just eager for some winter weather. It’s been mild this season, that’s fine when I need to run errands. But, not good when the family wants a snow day.

A couple weeks ago, I let my kid pick out a shovel. It was odd for a 50-degree day, a few people even laughed. I knew they were probably right and we wouldn’t get much use this season, but I let her have it anyway. Why? Because it’s still winter! There’s still a greater chance of snow than sunny and 70. Plus, it’s time to retire the dustpan and get her a shovel her own size. (Yes, my kid pushed around a dustpan. It was small enough she couldn't get hurt lifting a ton of snow, and she loved it.)

So glad I did. Today, when I asked if anyone wanted to go outside and shovel, I heard a shriek, “Yes!” Her response was so enthusiastic I had to laugh. It won’t last, I thought, someday when she’s a teenager she’ll probably ignore our requests or be too busy to make snow angels.

We geared up – it only took us 20 minutes – and went outside.

Let me say, having kids makes a lot of things more exciting. Like, shoveling snow. So, we played and shoveled, shoveled and played. We dug ourselves paths, threw snowballs and built a mini snowman. No facial features, but still recognizable.

When finished, we trudged in, tired from all the activity. We peeled off our damp gear and made hot chocolate. Flushed cheeks, warm mugs and marshmallows. It was the perfect end to our snowy play day. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto - Love it when a dinner comes together!

Want the convenience of store-bought ravioli, but tired of the same old flavor? Kick it up a notch with this Red Pepper Pesto Sauce. It’s got wow flavor, and doesn’t take long to make. I love it when a dinner comes together! Here’s the recipe I tested for Cook’s Illustrated.

If you’re not into red peppers, check out the Jan/Feb issue for these other recipes: Sage, Walnut, and Browned Butter Pesto; Green Olive, Almond, and Orange Pesto; or try Kale and Sunflower Seed Pesto.

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
Makes about 1 ½ cups

Fresh or frozen ravioli may be used in this recipe.

2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Salt and pepper
1 (20- to 28-ounce) package cheese ravioli
1 (17-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, rinsed and patted dried
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 ½ ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
½ cup raw shelled pistachios, toasted
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add garlic cloves to water and cook for 1 minute. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic to bowl and rinse under cold water to stop cooking, about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.

2. Add ravioli and 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return to pot.

3. While ravioli are cooking, peel and mince garlic. Pulse garlic, red peppers, basil, cheese, and pistachios in food processor until finely ground, 20 to 30 pulses, scraping down bowl as needed. With motor running, slowly add oil until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add 1 cup pesto to ravioli and gently toss to combine, adding 1 tablespoon cooking water at a time as needed to adjust consistency. Serve passing remaining pesto separately.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day

Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, celebrate the ones you love. If you like crafts, string up some hearts. If you enjoy cooking, try a decadent chocolate dessert. Even if you punch up your pudding with whipped cream, they’ll know you cared enough to do something extra.

Here are a few ideas. Enjoy the day!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Success or Mess: Rhymes with Dish Results

Let me start by saying, I’m glad I tried this. Then let me admit that I knew 20 minutes in, this was not the dish for my burger-lovers. Why?
  • I should have known when the recipe said to save the shells and bits of fish you normally discard it was too risky.
  • It smelled up the house something fierce. Even though I started early, it took a lot of work on my part to make it smell less like crab-boil.
  • It made me crabby because I was worn out after the whole thing, and instead of sitting down to share a Spanish feast, we ended up eating pizza. Full disclosure, it was my call on the pizza. When I tasted the dish, it was good, but not what I was going for, so pizza was the right choice.
  • They would have politely moved it around their plates, but I’d prefer it if the experience made them want to eat more seafood, not jump off a pier to avoid it.

Not a success, but catastrophe was avoided. I learned a few good ways to clear the smell out of the house in case it happens again.
  1. Open windows. Obvious, but even in winter, a little helps.
  2. Bacon. Cooked or charred, cooking bacon on your stovetop makes the house smell, well, like bacon.
  3. Aromatic tea. I boiled some water and let a few bags steep as I cleaned up. It tasted good too.
  4. Lemon – lots of lemon. Use it in the sink, or run a small piece through the disposal (if you have a disposal), you can even use it to help clean the counters. This stuff rocks!

Next time, it’ll be quick marinated seafood. Grilled. Outside. Maybe even consumed outside, but that’ll be a while since I’m looking at snow right now. Cheers!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Success or Mess: Rhymes with Dish

This is a picture of me about to embark on one of the biggest Success or Mess challenges ever. Serving fish to a mostly meat and potatoes crew.

It may get smelly, and it could get ugly. But, there are three things working in my favor:
  1. I put on makeup today, so maybe they’ll be so mesmerized by my cuteness, it won’t matter what I serve.
  2. My kid recently asked to try something new at Red Lobster. I love she wants to go somewhere new and try a new dish, but it's hard to get the gang to ground-fish zero, and what if she changed her mind after the first bite – I’d be eating crawfish for a week (closest to crow I could think of).
  3. There are at least three pizza joints nearby we can call if things get dicey.

We’ll see how it goes…

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tiny Teethers

If you’re looking for solutions to help a teething baby, check out my article in this month’s Metro Parent. You’ll find teething solutions that work and information about remedies you should skip. It's on newsstands now. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Outback Cruiser-Complete

What a project! It's great when our daughter focuses. You can really see the gears turning, and the result is this cool vehicle. You can see completed Cruiser pics below. She took time to set out the pieces before we got started, so it was easier to complete the construction, but not that easy. 

These Zoob kits are so fun. There are plenty of toys like this you should try. Just make sure you work them through together. It's not something you want to leave your kid to handle on their own, or they may get frustrated, that's no fun. 

Working on something more complex can help parents too. It challenges your brain. It also helps to show your kids teamwork can accomplish great things. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Outback Cruiser-In Pieces

Here's a project I'm building with my daughter...check back to see how this mess becomes a cruiser.

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