Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chipot-what? Never heard of it.

But of course I have. And like millions of Americans, I love it deeply. This past weekend I tried my hand at some Mexican fare and ended up recreating most of what they heap in to my burrito bowl. The guacamole, black beans and rice and corn and tomato salad were tasty, I won't bother you with recipes (hint: take all of those nouns and add lime juice and cilantro), but the real stars were the carnitas and roasted tomato salsa. Both simple, make-ahead dishes perfect for a summer party.

Adapted from David Lebovitz and Chow
Serves 10ish

  • 7 lbs of pork shoulder, cut in to large chunks, about 5 inches long/wide, fat left on
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 whole dried ancho chile peppers
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp oregano or marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Water

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in large roasting pan over the stove. Salt pork and the brown on all sides, in batches so that you don't crowd the pan
  2. When all the pork is browned, remove and deglaze pan with about a cup of water, scrapping up the browned bits. Stir in spices and garlic.
  3. Add pork back to pan and pour over enough water to cover it about 2/3 of the way. Roast for 3 hours or so, until it shreds easily with a fork.
  4. When done cooking, remove pork from pan and shred with two forks.  Discard chile peppers and cinnamon. Carefully pour pan juices in to a fat separator and then add them back in to pan with the shredded pork. Serve with variety of taco accoutrements like guacamole, salsa (see recipe below), queso cotiija, rice, beans, etc
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Roasted tomato salsa
Adapted from Everday Food, May 2011

  • 3-4 largish tomatoes
  • 3 jalapenos, seeded or not depending on the level of spice you'd like and the potency of your peppers. (I seeded two of mine and it still had quite a kick.)
  • 1 large white onion, halved
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • juice from one lime
  • handful of cilantro leaves
  • salt and pepper

  1. Preheat broiler. Place tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic on baking sheet and broil until the skins start to blacken.
  2. Remove garlic skin and toss the roasted vegetables in to a food processor. Process until just smooth. Season with salt and pepper and add cilantro. Process for just a few seconds more to combine.

Monday, May 30, 2011

End of the weekend, Start of the season

Crab season, that is. Photos courtesy of Chris, whose fingers were not encrusted with Old Bay. This was my first trip to Cantler's in Annapolis and it totally lived up to it's rep. All of the crabs were excellent but the last few they brought me were gorgeous (and huge).

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A very special thank you to my friend Missy at Freezer Full, who chronicled her misadventures traveling to Cantler's today on Facebook and made me realize just how badly I needed crabs and what a perfect way it would be to waste away the evening. I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Weekend. I'm so sorry you missed it!

And of course, thanks to my brother Bird and the men and women that serve with him. I very much enjoy that blanket of freedom I sleep under every night, in case you were wondering.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday bliss: Lobstah rolls

From day and a half old Luke's Lobster in Penn Quarter. (The shop is a day and a half old, not the lobster. I don't think.) Lots of lobster meat, a tasty bun and an excellent way to kick of summer.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Quick and Dirty: Antipasto Pasta Salad

An oxymoronic entree. It's similar to pantry pasta, but cold and summery and with a few added elements (really, whatever else antipasto-like that was in my fridge). The real recipe here is for the balsamic vinaigrette. It is my go-to for any green salad and I love it with mixed greens, blue cheese and pear. But it works equally well with the classic Italian flavors of this pasta dish.

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Antipasto Pasta Salad
Serves 4 as an entree
Adapted from Everyday Food, June 2011

  • 12 oz cooked pasta is some fun shape
  • 1/4 c. pepperoncini, diced
  • 1 c. artichoke hearts, diced
  • 1/2 c. sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 oz prosciutto, diced
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella, diced or crumbled
  • handful fresh basil, chiffonaded 
  • For vinagrette:
    • 2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tbs water
    • 1 tsp fancy mustard
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  1. Combine first seven ingredients in large bowl. 
  2. Either wisk together dressing ingredients or shake in a small jar (I like to use the empties from this stuff)
  3. Pour dressing over salad and toss well. Serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


This was not going to be another pretty flower post. But then it was.

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It was this or the cell phone pic of my kid covered in yogurt. This is way better, Internet. I promise.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Quick & Dirty: Five Spice Salmon and Roasted Cauliflower

Some simple Asian flavors for a weeknight. The hot and spicy cauliflower is a nice balance to the rich salmon and they all roast up for a quick and easy meal. The cauliflower is based on this Chow recipe. And boy, do I love Chow. Have you visited yet? So much inspiration. I'm proud to say that I was probably one of their only print subscribers. For all two issues. Stupid dying media grumble grumble.

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Five Spice Salmon and Roasted Cauliflower
Serves 3 (Odd portion, I know)

  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut in to smallish florets
  • 1/8 c. soy sauce
  • Splash of olive oil
  • One shake of crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp or more freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 salmon filets
  • Olive oil
  • 1/8-1/4 Chinese Five Spice powder
  • Kosher salt

  1. Preheat oven to 450. Combine first five ingredients in large bowl and toss. Toss every few minutes while you prepare the salmon.
  2. Drizzle salmon with olive oil and rub with spice and add a good pinch of Kosher salt.
  3. Spread cauliflower in an even layer on a baking sheet. Place salmon on separate sheet. Pop both in the oven for 20 minutes or so. Stir cauliflower occasionally. Fish will be done when the center is opaque and flakey, cauliflower is done when it’s tender.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Floral fanatic

Well, not really. But I was so pleased with my peony photo that I thought I'd use some other blooms to play with textures and other editing tricks. These are from Chris' favorite - a crazy rose bush on the side of the house.

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This experiment has not helped my 100 mm macro lens lust, though. Um, honey? Remember how you asked me what kind of jewelry I'd been eyeing lately? Scratch my answer about necklaces. I just remembered, I really want a a red ring.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mark my words

By the end of summer, you will have had it up to *here* with adorable pictures of my kid at the beach. I promise. Perhaps you'll get lucky and skyrocking gas prices will force us to cancel a few weekends. Oh wait, we have a hybrid. Bwahahahaha.

On a walk around Assateague Island, with crucial giant bottle of bug spray.

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Did you ladies get your tickets? To the GUN SHOW??

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I think I see ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. And maybe a pony.

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Collecting shells with Gangy.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Magic beans

I don't want to oversell it, but I may have discovered something that could potentially rock the world of parenting.  A vegetable-based snack that my 20 month old actually asks for by name. And that name is:

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Green Bean Chips. Or, in toddler - "Geen Beeeens!?"

They're just dehydrated green beans with a bit of oil and salt (though they still have less fat, calories and sodium than our favorite bitty baby bunny crackers). Despite containing no added sugar, they're incredibly sweet too. They are tasty little things.

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And they fit handily in a snack trap cup.

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In case you need evidence of their tastiness, this is what was going on while I was snapping a few of the above photos:

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And this is what happens when you take them away:

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(I wasn't being purposely mean. I needed to fix the top of the snack trap.)

I found them in the organic/natural section of Wegman's but can't seem to locate a source online. It seems that, like most magical things, they are a bit elusive.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spiced Quinoa and Carrots

Quinoa has quickly become a standard starch in our house. Although, I think it's technically a seed, so that makes it . . . something that's like a starch but not really. All that matters to me is that they sell an organic variety in giant sacks at Costco. But if you prefer to purchase things in more meager quantities (wuss!) you can find it near the cous-cous in most grocery stores. This dish has a bit of a Moroccan flair, courtesy of the spice blend, and tonight it jazzed up some mild-mannered sauteed chicken breasts.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug (The forecast calls for passing mint flurries.)

Spice Quinoa and Carrots
Serves 4 as a side

  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 a medium onion, diced
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • salt and pepper
  • handful of minced fresh mint (optional)
  1. Heat a few big swirls of olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and carrot and cook until soft, about five minutes. 
  2. Add spices and stir to coat. Add garlic and chicken broth. Cover pot and bring to boil. 
  3. When boiling, stir in quinoa. Cover and reduce heat to low to medium, just enough to keep it simmering constantly. Cook until quinoa is soft and has absorbed most of the liquid, 10-15 minutes. 
  4. Season to taste with a fair amount of salt and pepper (remember, the only salt it's had until now is the chicken broth). Garnish with mint if you have it and serve.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Previously, we discussed my general lack of horticultural skills. But I completely forgot about one giant botanical success.

My great big beautiful peonies!

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Pretty pink balls of perfumed fluff. I love them. I planted the bulbs years before they actually started to flower and was starting to give up hope when one spring they finally started to peek through the soil. My grandmother always said they needed ants to bloom, and these seem to have them by the truckload. They're still gorgeous, but ick.

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Also, I have a giant patch of chives that I can't seem to kill. We never eat chives, except when I'm desperate and out of onions. I don't know what possessed me to even buy that one little pot so many years ago. But they do have cute spikey flowers to photograph, if nothing else.

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Oh yeah, and I found one other thing in my garden that I've managed to keep alive and well for a few years:
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No green thumbs there, just brown paws. Brown paws full of MUD.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sunday, continued

I almost forgot one of the most important parts -- swinging! This kid was on the swings for a solid hour yesterday. I now have to keep treats in the stroller to coax him back in. In the syllabus for my Parenting 101 course, "Bribery" takes up at least three class sessions. Study up, kids!

Triumph and Tragedy

We did it. We finally accomplished a goal, five years in the making.

Chris and I, as a team, finished an entire carton of Costco spring mix salad before it rotted. Unless you are a dedicated Costco shopper and salad eater, I don't think you understand the sense of triumph that we are feeling right now. They pack enough salad in that plastic clamshell to feed an army of mutant rabbits and in most cases it gets slimy the day after you open it. But it's so cheap! And with some strategy and dedication, we finally won. I won't deny that there was a bit of weeding and rinsing going on at the very end, but still. We did it.

U.S.A! U.S.A! If you can believe it, you can achieve it, Kids!

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(I promise those brown spots are vinaigrette. Mostly.)

Now, the tragedy. This is what the Peanut was wearing when I picked him up from daycare today:

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It seems he had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction and unfortunately we have been pretty lax about supplying an extra set of clothes. Evidently, the only garment available was a baby hospital gown from the dress-up box. So comically sad that I had to share it with the internet. It's like the time Bart came home with lice and Lisa without shoes, so they were sent to live with the Flanders'.

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And that, my friends, is life in the suburbs on Wednesday night.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Same great taste.

New look. Whaddya think?

The pattern on the background is  courtesy of Pixelsandicecream.com , an adorable source for patterns, brushes, clip-art, etc. The main font is hilariously titled "Shit Happens", from Dafont.com and it makes me giggle. Nascent design skillz by yours truly. I'm pretty sure they're not what crashed Blogger. Pretty sure.

Oh, and for Friday Bliss: Berger Cookies! I think you can only get them in Maryland (and at only the finest gas stations). In other states calling something that is predominantly made of fudge a "cookie" is probably considered false marketing. And yes, that is a dashboard in the background. These things don't make it all the way home - gotta snap 'em while you can.

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Who needs focus when you have fudge?

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Happy Friday!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Quick & Dirty: Thai Green Curry

Aside from a standard stir-fry, I rarely make Asian food at home. It’s not because I don’t like it or because I’m too busy eating my mayonnaise and bologna sandwiches on Wonderbread, but because I find them a bit intimidating. I shouldn’t – my family has fully embraced Asian cooking. Growing up, our spice cabinet was overflowing with labels written in foreign characters and there was always at least one ginger root slowly rotting in the vegetable drawer. Remind me to tell you about the time I accidentally gulped fish sauce thinking it was iced tea (Or don’t. Just the thought of it is makes me want to gag.).

My Japanese sister-in-law, a great cook who's spent time trekking through Thailand, hooked me up with this recipe. It's an uncomplicated, completely non-intimidating and yet kind of authentic recipe for one of my favorite take-out meals. This only involves a handful of “weird” ingredients – ones that are all shelf-stable and available in pretty much any grocery store.  The vegetables I’ve included are not traditional, though. I love Thai and Japanese eggplant, but unfortunately they make the Peanut’s face break out. Use them if you can, but here I’ve substituted green beans and baby corn.  Adjust the curry to taste, as this is relatively mild. Also, I'm still a little gun shy when it comes to fish sauce . . .

I decided to use this to kick off a new "Quick & Dirty" category. The topic of speedy weeknight meals pops up in conversation so frequently with my friends and family that  I wanted a way to collect and share my own. These will all be simple but relatively nutritious meals that come together in about 20 minutes. Hope it comes in handy! If not, there's always mayonnaise and bologna.

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Thai Green Curry Chicken
Serves 4

  • 1 tbs Thai green curry paste*
  • 1 14 oz can of coconut milk*
  • 1 lbs boneless, skinless chicken (thighs or breast), very thinly sliced
  • 1 c. sliced bamboo shoots*
  • 1 can baby corn*
  • 2 c. frozen green beans
  • 1/3 c. chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce*
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves
  1.  Heat large skillet over medium high heat. Dissolve curry paste in one cup of coconut milk. Add remaining milk and bring to simmer. Stir in chicken and simmer until cooked through, 5-10 minutes. 
  2. Add vegetables, fish sauce and sugar and chicken broth. Simmer for ten more minutes, until bamboos shoots taste like the sauce and not styrofoam.
  3. Add basil leaves and stir until wilted. Season to taste with salt, more sugar or fish sauce as desired. Serve over jasmine rice**
*Available in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores.
**To make this extra quick and dirty, I use Trader Joe's frozen jasmine rice.

Monday, May 9, 2011

La vie en rose

The restaurant where we had lunch yesterday handed out long stemmed roses to all of the moms that were dining.

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This was what it looked like after the Peanut tried to sweep the living room floor with it. But it's still the first flower I've received in a long time that wasn't purchased while waiting for a stop light, so I'll take it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Word to your mother

Me: [Singing the "It's Logistics" song from that UPS commercial]
Chris: Don't do that.
Me: Hey, you can't talk to me like that. It's Mother's Day. It's my day.
Chris: Why does your day have to involve ruining my day?

Anywho, we actually had a lovely Mother's Day. It involved seafood enchiladas, Berger cookies and wine. An ideal combination for this mother. Hope you all treated the mamas in our life with some respect and allowed them to sing whatever obnoxious commercial jingles they want to their heart's content.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday bliss: Smoked blue cheese

I guess I'm on a smoked cheese kick, since I also recently fell for smoked mozzarella. This is Smokey Blue from Rogue Creamery and it's destined to top salads, along with pear, pecans and a balsamic vinaigrette. I actually prefer the overtly smokiness of Moody Blue, but this will certainly do.

And I'm just going to shut up about cell phone pics. I'm clearly not going to stop posting them. And I blame Instagram.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Prison de bébé

I was standing in line at Paul, a new bakery in Penn Quarter,  the other day and while admiring the racks upon racks of fresh crusty bread and the displays of delicate French pastries,  this adorable (yet somewhat medieval) high chair caught my eye:

It is like the mullet of booster seats: business up top, party down below. Or prison down below. It's a banker's chair with a baby leg cage. The bakery has gone to great lengths to recreate a rustic French atmosphere, which makes me wonder if this is what all children's furniture looks like in France. Cribs with padded headboards and canopies? Mahogany swings upholstered in the finest chintz? Le Gaurde-meuble meets Graco.

By the way - the bread (particularly the olive bread used to make the tomato and mozzarella sandwich) is great, though the line and the service suck terribly.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Asiago and Basil Risotto

This sound fancy but was actually created in a moment of desperation. Since we'd been away for the weekend, our pantry was looking pretty sorry, save some arborio rice. Fate would have it that the last speck of cheese in the house was a perfect amount of asiago and my tiny (but mighty) little basil plant was thriving in a warm windowsill. I'd say that circumstance brought them all together for a delicious meal worth repeating.

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  • 1/4 c. onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs. butter (sorry, MK!)
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 3/4 c. dry white wine
  • 2 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 1/2 c. fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c. shredded asiago cheese
  • salt and pepper
  1. Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft. 
  2. Add rice and continue to saute and stir until it becomes a little bit translucent. 
  3. Pour in white wine and cook, stirring frequently, until it has all been absorbed by the rice. 
  4. While wine cooks off, heat broth for a minute or two in a large mug in the microwave. Until it gets a little bit steamy.
  5. Add 1 c. broth. Like the wine, stir frequently and allow it to be absorbed by the rice. Do the same rest of the broth, in 1/2 c. batches.
  6. When the rice is just cooked through and has absorbed all of the liquid, stir in basil and cheese.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I haven't written up tonight's recipe yet, but here is a sneak peak of the star ingredient:

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Welcome,summer. Now, get crackin' on some fresh tomatoes, would ya?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Accessories make the man

Just playing with some actions and templates. And faaaabulous accessories.

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beach bums

As you could probably surmise from Friday's post, we were away this weekend for our first beach trip of the year. Thanks for not robbing us, Internet strangers!

The Peanut loved the beach just as much as he did last year. He has lost his taste for eating sand, but not for running headlong in to the surf. Why are toddlers so obnoxiously suicidal? Friday was our only real day at the beach, Saturday and Sunday were a bit too chilly, but it was positively gorgeous. And there was hardly anyone there. Probably because it was still, um, April. Rock on, Global Warming.

Doing his best George Burns impression.

A sad little turtle Chris found.

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Enjoying the kite festival on the boardwalk.

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