Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Livi just ate the tip off of a banana - skin and all.  :(  Breakfast wasn't ready yet and I had left some bananas out on the counter to ripen.  This makes me so sad.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Beans and Cornbread

Yesterday I decided to take a more proactive approach to family dinner and get back to meal planning again.  Rafe will eat just about anything, but the main reason I wanted to do it was for Amelia.  She isn't a big fan of not knowing what is for dinner.  I think she feels frustrated overall because it's her perception we never have anything she likes to eat, although she tells everyone that "Mama is a good cooker!".

I took out Rachel Ray's cookbook for kids, the Double Delicious cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld, and one of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food mags for them to look through and point out the pictures of food they wanted to try.  First off, RR didn't have pics and a lot of the food didn't seem that appetizing to me, so there were few takers on that one.  They found a lot in the other two they liked, including quinoa for breakfast (YEAH!).  But somewhere in the family planning session talking about favorite meals, Rafe told me what he'd really like to eat would be beans. Specifically, his dad's beans and cornbread.  His other favorite meal would be tbone steak, creamed corn, mashed potatoes and gravy and raw sliced onion.


If I'd known this 10 years ago, I could have saved myself a lot of rushing around on busy nights making dinner!  Although once he told me he liked to eat raw onions with it as well, I was sort of glad when I thought about that combination coming back to haunt us later.

So for dinner that night he got the T-bone dinner (seasoned with smoked paprika, kosher salt, steak seasoning with fennel and garlic) with all the trimmings.

But today, apparently, was the bomb.  I made beans, sausage and cornbread.   Using nothing from scratch and it was the hands down favorite.  Good to know!

1 28oz can maple baked beans
1 15oz can pinto beans
1 slice leftover overcooked bacon, crumbled up to get rid of it in the beans
1 lb all beef smoked sausage, cut in half moon slices
Heat to simmering.

1 package of Betty Crocker cornbread mix
(which isn't that good by the way unless you eat it immediately, and very crumbly... I like my recipe better0
I subbed bacon grease and some leftover garlic butter for the butter in the cornbread recipe because I didn't feel like melting my good butter for the cornbread.
Cooked in cast iron skillet

1 sweet onion, diced and served on the side raw
 Mix in your beans right before eating.

Now we're all smelling fabulous and Rafe is taking Amelia to a blues concert.  Easy Sunday :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

First Stitches

Olivia took a head dive into a coffee table tonight, gashing open her earlobe and the neck behind it.  She eventually ended up needing 9 stitches all together - 5 on the ear and 4 on the neck.  

The irony of all this is that it happened at an EFMP meeting - "Exceptional Family Member Program".  It's basically the military's special needs division and a wonderful resource. 

No, strike that, Mandy, it's AMAZING.  And AWESOME.  ;)  But I digress.

The flyer said children were welcomed.  They were and so both Rafe and I were there.  However, the meeting area wasn't really childproofed and when you combine that with a bunch of developmentally delayed kids running around, something was bound to happen.  I was actually surprised it was Olivia - I'm so used to her climbing, running, falling, crashing - all without getting hurt that I never thought it would really happen to her.  She's been remarkably good about falling with a kind of graceful descent.

It happened so fast that it was surreal - I heard this really loud thump like a book hitting the floor hard and then silence.  I didn't even realize it was a child at first, and it took me a second longer to realize it was Olivia.  Others closer to her grabbed her and she still wasn't making a sound and I couldn't see her face.  Rafe took her and started to hand her to me and by that time I could see her face screwed up in misery.  She finally burst out in a scream and cried for maybe a minute.  That's a pure PWS thing to cry for such a tiny amount of time...but it bothered me that she continued to whimper a bit after which is so unusual for her.  She feels pain, but not to the degree that most of us do.  I kept checking her face, even thought she had hit the right side of her face/ear and put ice on it.  I have no idea why I didn't check her entire face, but when one of the moms who had seen her fall re-enacted the fall I realized that I checked the wrong side.  

I lifted the hair off the other side of her face, expecting to see a red mark and that was about it.  Instead, I saw a torn ear, blood all over her hair and neck on the underside of her hair.  It's so thick and curly that had I not lifted it up, I would not have seen it at all.  

Needless to say we missed the meeting and went directly to the Naval Hospital (with all of one doctor in the ER).  She was cheerful and chatty until we had to put her in a papoose wrap.  2 nurses and myself held her down while the doctor injected her with a local anesthetic before stitching her up.   While they were doing this, she began crying again.  She kept saying "ahl gah, ahl gah" (All gone, all done) over and over again, letting me know she wanted out of this.  Finally she began crying, MAMMA!  MAMMA!  

It was beautiful and painful at the same time.  She's only recently (as in 2 weeks ago) said MAMA! again for the first time since over 26 months ago.  Hearing her cry out for me was bittersweet, knowing that she needed me and wanted me, but yet not being able to give in and take her away from the thing that was upsetting her so much.   All in all an exhausting night.  My poor girl.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My beloved Amelia - Fall 2011

We had so many gorgeous school pictures to choose from, but this one really captures an elusive part of her personality.   They took these pictures outside in the Montessori school common grounds.  I love this picture and it also makes me sad at the same time... she really looks so grown up in this picture.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Steak Sandwich Wrap

Rafe works just a few blocks from where we live on Parris Island.  It has been one of the greatest blessings of our stay here.  He used to work at the Air Station, but I like this so much better.  He is home for breakfast with us in the mornings and home in time for dinner at night.  He also comes home for lunch, which is mostly fun for me to get creative with lunches sometimes since he is so willing to eat whatever I make.

This recipe is adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe from Everyday Food.  I didn't have all the ingredients so I subbed with what I had. Her recipe is the original and my subs are in parenthesis.

Steak Wrap
6 slices bacon (subbed 6 tbsp crumbled bacon bits)
1/2 cup low fat plain Greek yogurt (subbed Stonyfield Farm low fat plain yogurt)
1 oz Parmesan grated (1/2 cup cheap parmesan in a can)
coarse salt (forgot to use it)
2 pieces lavosh flatbread or sandwich wrap (used Aladdin Bakes thin plain wraps)
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1 reserved cooked steak, thinly sliced (not sure how much I used, probably about 4-6 oz)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (4 tbsp thinly sliced scallion, white parts)
1 cup baby arugula (2+ cups baby arugula)

The original recipe calls for mixing the yogurt and parm and layering the rest of the ingredients on two pieces of flatbread.  I really didn't feel like going to all that trouble; so I just mixed the parmesan, yogurt, bacon and scallion together and made a spread.  If I had to do it over again, I would throw in the dijon to the spread as well.  I just forgot to until I had already started making the sandwich layers.  So the end result.... just spread the mixture, layer with meat/arugula/meat/arugula and wrap.  I measured it and spread 4 tbsp on each wrap and had enough spread for 4 wraps.  Eat.  It makes a huge sandwich.  We could easily have split it (we're trying to eat smaller portions).  However, we did not and 3 hours later I'm still full.  

The reason I layered meat and arugula twice is that I think it made a better mouth full than just a chunk of meat and a chunk of arugula in a bite.  Either way works though.

Leftovers - Roast Beef Bowl

Obviously with a 5 lb prime rib and only 2 adults eating it in the house, we had plenty of leftovers.  I also had some leftover caramelized onions so I made a roast beef bowl out of those and today I made a steak wrap.

Roast Beef Bowl

  • layer of mashed potatoes
  • layer of caramelized onion
  • smaller round layer of chunked prime rib
  • gravy poured over the top
So simple (and kind of obvious) but delicious in a bowl reheated in the microwave.  I figured I could make more of those and freeze them if I froze the ingredients separately from one another on the bowl/plate I was freezing them in.  The gravy and meat can be frozen together.  You can pull the frozen bowl the night before to slow thaw in the fridge before reheating.  If you are doing it this way, you might want to actually make much thicker gravy than normal, since the thawing/reheating cycle from frozen will cause the ingredients to release more liquids.  That way your gravy will still be thick.

Rare Prime Rib

About a month ago, prime rib was on sale at the commissary for 5.99/lb.  I don't think I've ever made one at home and I thought it would be a nice treat to make for Rafe.  So I picked it up and put in the fridge, thinking I would find time to make it that week.   Never happened.  A couple of weeks went by and our afternoon schedules generally prevented me from making the prime rib for dinner in the normal way (350 degrees, 20 min. per pound).  At that rate, it was never going to get cooked!  Luckily, it was in cryovac, so the wait really didn't hurt the meat at all.

One day I just decided to go ahead and cook it, working around the afternoon schedule of doctor's appointments and school pick ups outside the house.  I took it out of the package, rinsed it quickly, threw it in a 2" half hotel pan, and liberally covered it with California garlic pepper and some kosher salt.  I threw the whole thing in a cold oven, turned the oven on to 270 degrees and left the house.  When we came back 3 hours later, I pulled it out of the oven and let it rest while I made mashed potatoes, gravy and the veggies for dinner.  The bonus to doing it this way (low and slow) was that rather than having the outside cooked well or mid well and the inside mid-rare as is the norm, it was a lovely rare to medium rare the entire way through.  One of the most perfectly cooked prime rib I've ever made.  My oven runs cold, which is why I cooked it at 270 vs. 250.  If it worked well, I'd probably do it at 250.  This was a 5lb prime rib, so at that temp instead of 20 minutes per pound cook time, I used roughly 35 minutes per pound.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Tree as Art Form

Originally we were going to fully decorate for Christmas this year on Thanksgiving weekend.  We (and by we I mean the royal We as I simply watched as Rafe and Amelia did all the work) got as far as putting up the tree with the lights on before deciding it was too risky to put ornaments on the tree or decorations up with Destructor  Olivia running around the house.  

Somehow over the next few days, decorations still mysteriously appeared on the tree.  Every day I'd walk by, only to discover something new on the tree.  My photos are terrible, but you get the idea.  Toilet paper and paper towel tubes, musical instruments, windmills, necklaces, artwork and toys.  This is only the start... as the days went by it increased!  She even went so far as to make a Nativity scene at the bottom of the tree using mostly her imagination and just a few items.  Apparently I really fell down on the job this year.  At least one of us has the decorating gene!  She certainly didn't get it from me.  Must be Rafe's side of the family.  

This one touched me the most... her nativity scene.  The nest of branches is the manger, the piece of paper lying on the toilet paper tube is a drawing of baby Jesus and the tube is his crib, and there are drawings of the three wise men, some animals and something else.  The big tube is the star in the sky and of course the lovely parents to the left.  I think she's got a future in modern art.  

These are place settings she made... we all had one at our places at the table.

This was my only contribution to holiday decorations! :)

Amelia and her art

A few months ago, Mia's art teacher told me in an aside that while she wasn't supposed to have favorites, she really had a soft spot in her heart for Amelia in her class.  She told me that she actually had to work on not calling on Amelia first because she was always so eager to do exactly what the teacher asked and with much enthusiasm, and that she was actually an excellent artist.  In our house, we have a corner of our kitchen set up as her "craft table" - parts of which have since expanded to shelving elsewhere to hold her supplies.  She's always creating something out of the materials around her, constantly surprising us.   

Recently, in an order to begin to tame the art monster that threatens to overtake our available storage, I decided to start photographing her art and keeping it that way (takes up SO much less space).  In the process of photographing this (and your eyes aren't deceiving you - she created everything backwards): 

I discovered THIS:

I'm not sure what it means.  And I'm even less sure I want to ask.  

On the other hand, I was quite impressed with her cleverness.  Until I took the photo and looked
 on camera, there was no way to tell that there was a figure in the clay/playdough.

Probably screaming to get out.  :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Soup for a cold day...

We're big fans of soup in this house.  Today was unexpectedly cold and I was able to put together a soup from ingredients hanging out in the house and it hit the spot.  I'm also trying to use up all of our pantry and freezer ingredients in preparation for our move this summer.  I have to document everything we feed Livi exactly for one week for a study she's in, so I thought I would get back in the habit of writing recipes for the food I make.  It will help when Rafe asks me to make it again - for once I can accommodate him!  This soup ended up being much more spicy than I anticipated, so the Mia had a cheese quesadilla and Livi ended up with a peanut butter, honey, cinnamon sandwich on cranberry bread.  I always told myself that I would not be a short order cook for my kids, yet somehow I ended up exactly that.  Ugh.

Andouille, Fennel and Leek Soup
1 tbsp oil
1 yellow onion, medium diced
1 leek, diced and rinsed
1 fennel bulb, cleaned and diced (including stalk but not the fronds)
  • Heat oil to almost smoke point in a heavy pot (I used my Le Creuset pot again).  Toss in the onions, fennel and leek and let sit till they are slightly caramelized (with color on them) and stir.  Continue to let sit for a bit and then stir until the vegetables just begin to get shiny. 
1 bulb (approximately 17-20 cloves) garlic, minced
  • Add the garlic and stir.  Cook for 2-3 minutes more.
1 lb. andouille sausage, diced (I used Smithfield, nothing fancy)
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 Idaho potato, peeled and diced
1 (14 oz) can turnip greens with juice (seasoned Southern style)
2 Turkish bay leaves
1/4 tsp caraway seed
8 cups chicken stock (I used some saved from a roasted chicken, some from a can and the rest from a paper box)
  • Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Simmer on very low for one hour.  Serve with crusty bread.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Hoppin' John - This year I'm making my own good luck!

A traditional Southern food for New Year's Day is Hoppin' John, collard greens and cornbread.  The foods are supposed to bring good luck in the New Year - beans representing coins, greens representing paper money and cornbread representing gold.  It's usually made with ham hocks, beans and rice with a bit of salt.

The leftovers are called Skippin' Jenny.  No clue as to why.  :)

Many years ago I worked as a Sous Chef at a restaurant in Kansas City called Cafe Allegro.  The Chef at the time (Sue Dubowski)  is one of the best chefs I have ever worked with - her knowledge and abilities were incredible.  I could never be half as creative as the Chefs I worked with, but I always felt blessed to be able to work under them.  She created a dish that went on the menu that I still think about to this day - Fried Soft Shelled Crab with Hoppin' John.  Her version is the best I've ever tasted.  The recipe below is as close to that as I can come.  I remember making it one night and asking one of the waiters there, who had lived in the south, to taste it as I was making it.  I added and adjusted according to his suggestions.  This isn't entirely authentic to what I made that night, but it is pretty close!  Below is what I cooked up yesterday; probably not quite the same as all those years ago.  In that restaurant, everything was cooked from scratch so the peas were cooked from dry and we used ham hocks and white rice, among other small changes.  With 2 kids and a busy holiday season, I just pulled from my pantry.  I made a roasted chicken and gave some away to a new mom down the street and we had ours with baked tilapia sprinkled with Paul Prudhomme's seafood seasoning.  Rafe loves this - I got an unqualified, "I wouldn't mind having this again" from him.  He's a guy who will eat anything I make but has just a few favorites.

I usually serve it with lemons and scallions for garnish, which is definitely not traditional.  The lemon really brightens up the flavor of the beans when squeezed over the top.

Hoppin' John
3-4 stalks celery, medium small dice
2 med. onions, medium small dice
1/5 bulb (about 6-7 very large cloves) garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 cup minced ham (or any smoky/salty meat - ham hock, andouille, bacon, smoked turkey, etc)
vegetable oil
Heat oil in heavy pan (I used a Le Creuset big pot) on high just till it begins smoking.  Add the celery and onions and let sit briefly to get color on the onions and celery, then stir.  Turn heat down and let sit for a minute or two each time between stirring - not enough to burn the celery and onion, but to start to give it some color and flavor.  When the celery and onions first begin to get a little tender and brighter in color, add the ham and garlic and stir.  Continue cooking till the flavor of the garlic has bloomed.

cooked brown rice
2 cans (15 oz each) black eyed peas
cayenne pepper
When the garlic has bloomed, add the peas and cooked rice.  Sprinkle lightly with cayenne.  Stir gently and simmer till rice has finished cooking.  Add more chicken stock as needed.  The end result should be thick and sludgy like, with beans intact for the most part.  Season to taste.  Serve with lemons on side and scallions sprinkled over the top.

Cooked Rice
1 cup brown rice
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp (approx) dried minced onion
2 cups chicken stock
kosher salt to taste
Cook in rice cooker till almost finished, but still slightly under done.  Add to pot of beans to finish cooking.