Sunday, January 31, 2010

All better

Jack, being two, has probably bonked his head, oh, let's say, a million times. He actually doesn't cry that much, unless it's a really good one. Lately, he'll come crying to me and point to where it hurts, demanding a kiss. Then he declares "all better!" and will often let me cuddle him for a bit longer before running off to inevitably bonk his head again.

Tonight, as we cuddled, I thought how fantastic it is that this little amazing person finds the most comfort and most security in the whole wide world in my very own arms. I just love being someone's "all better."

Soup's on

After a weekend of eating, tonight it's soup for us. Our good friends Emily and Steve are making the same soup in St. Louis tonight (Emily, please post your thoughts!).

Kid sidebar: I gave Jack a handful of dried pasta and it's kept him busy for at least 15 minutes so far - he's been stirring and pouring it into different bowls with various spoons and measuring cups. It's a welcomed relief to Jeremy: Jack's previous activities this afternoon have been putting on my old make-up (he still has brown eye shadow streaked on his baby cheeks), walking around Flashdance-style in one of my pink tank tops and trying on my heels. (I implored him to try flats instead).

But I digress. 

We made Ina's Italian Wedding Soup with what we had in the house. I used whole wheat dried bread crumbs and whole wheat pasta, and it was fine and a tad bit healthier:

Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics

For the meatballs:
3/4 pound ground chicken
1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons milk
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
10 cups homemade chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don't have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.
In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The key is "rustic"

It’s Saturday night, and friends are coming soon for a glass of wine before we all head out to dinner. I happened upon this recipe online – crisp rosemary flatbread. It is simple and quick and will be great with a bit of cheese and glass of white wine.  Also, I’m a big fan of “rustic” fare – no perfect lines here.  And, gentle reader, they are good! If you make them, be sure to roll them out very thin for a cracker-like consistency. 

Honestly, the toughest part of this recipe has been trying to keep Jeremy from eating them all before our guests arrive at 7.

From Gourmet, July 2008
Active time: 15 minutes; Start to finish: 45 minutes
Think of it as a cracker version of rosemary-flecked flatbread. But these are the easiest crackers you’ll ever make: Rather than cutting the dough into small pieces, you bake three large pieces, then break them into smaller ones to serve. The jagged edges invite nibbling.

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary plus 2 (6-inch) sprigs
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
Flaky sea salt

Preheat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet on rack in middle.

Stir together flour, chopped rosemary, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead dough gently on a work surface 4 or 5 times.

Divide dough into 3 pieces and roll out 1 piece (keep remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap) on a sheet of parchment paper into a 10-inch round (shape can be rustic; dough should be thin).
Lightly brush top with additional oil and scatter small clusters of rosemary leaves on top, pressing in slightly. Sprinkle with sea salt. Slide round (still on parchment) onto preheated baking sheet and bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer flatbread (discard parchment) to a rack to cool, then make 2 more rounds (1 at a time) on fresh parchment (do not oil or salt until just before baking). Break into pieces.

Note: Flatbread can be made 2 days ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Check it out!

I now have my own domain name:

Please update those bookmarks!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To the brink and back again

Whoa - I am so overwhelmed with work lately. I want to call some of my fundraising friends and ask them if they feel like they are doing three jobs, as I feel. I was really at a breaking point yesterday, and I think I just needed - literally - a break. Jeremy was great to go home first to take care of Jack, so I decided to walk halfway home before grabbing the bus. As I crossed the Wabash Avenue bridge over the Chicago River, the wet snow pelting my face, I felt a bit of peace. Finally! A moment to myself that didn't include work or home. Crazy, I know, but it felt good to mix up the routine a little.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"It's a fish"

My first experience with total Spanish immersion was in the fourth grade. My family had just moved to Charlotte. This was before Charlotte's big boom, and the public schools were definitely not great. Unbeknowst to me, the first teacher who showed up to my classroom on my first day at school was not my homeroom teacher but the Spanish teacher. She began speaking only in Spanish, and I almost burst into tears, wondering where my parents had taken me to.

23 or so years later with some high school Spanish under my belt, I was prepared for my next Spanish immersion: toddler Spanish class at Language Stars. Living in Chicago, if one has the resources, you have your choice of classes for your kids, including hip-hop and super hero training. Jeremy and I were playing it pretty straight, taking Jack to a free language class to see what we thought. Jack was quiet and shy at first and seemed to be just taking in what his Spanish-speaking teacher was saying. Today's lesson was small, medium and big. About mid-way through the class, I repeated pez grande ("big fish") to Jack as I held up a stuffed fish. He finally spoke. With a withering look, he said, "No, not grande, Mommy. It's a fish."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti: What we can do

With the devastation in Haiti, I found this information from the Arabella Philanthropic Investment Advisors to be helpful. This is targeted at the major donor (i.e., not me!) but it does give a number of good causes to support during this tragedy. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Just a word to the wise...

If you are struggling with a box, and your two-year-old says, "I help," and moments later reappears with a pair of scissors, it's time to put a child-proof lock on your junk drawer!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A foodie's son, part 2

I am very lucky that my nanny likes to communicate with me throughout the day using Instant Messenger. I love knowing about Jack's day in real time. Today, Maria mentioned that they had to run by Whole Foods. A direct quote from her: "upon approaching, Jack recognized and identified Whole Foods like we were going to Disneyland." it's not only me who gets excited about over-priced, organic food...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Yes, but he's my weirdo

Jeremy and I had to get out of the house this afternoon - we have been home much of the weekend, avoiding the winter cold and watching waaaay too much football.

We took Jack to the Garfield Park Conservatory - one of my favorite places in the wintertime. It's free and has easy parking (two pluses for city living). And the humid air just does wonders for my dry skin!  Also, there's something satisfying about seeing all of the green, lush plants with the dreary January weather right outside the windows.

We were in the kids' area, and then it happened. I'm surprised it's taken this long, really. Well, here goes, gentle reader: Some kid called Jack "weird." I did not point out to this 5-year-old that his mother was ignoring him while playing on her iPhone (seriously, he tripped right behind her and she didn't even look up, but I don't judge). Jack of course had no idea that people were judging his hissy-fit on the slide, so it only gave me pause for a second. That's a bit of parenting I'll learn down the road. For now, I'm happy to stick with fighting about graham crackers versus Goldfish crackers at snacktime and worrying about potty training...

The best bolognese sauce

Jeremy’s and my goals in life run from the big - next move? next baby? to the small - finding the best bolognese sauce in the world.

I am happy to report that we have accomplished one of those goals.

We have been looking for a good bolognese sauce recipe for years, pre-wedded bliss even. We have used the slow cooker; we have cooked on the stove top. We settled on one recipe for a few years; Jeremy wrote it in his chicken scratch into my little recipe book. Recently, he opened up the search once again.

We were recently re-introduced to Cook’s Illustrated by our friends, and we’re in love. They had a classic bolognese recipe that we tried last Saturday night (we only used beef and pork; no veal in our house):

Classic bolognese sauce
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Makes 3 cups, enough to sauce 1 pound pasta.  Don’t drain the pasta of its cooking water too meticulously when using this sauce; a little water left clinging to the noodles will help distribute the very thick sauce evenly into the noodles, as will adding an extra 2 tablespoons of butter along with the sauce. Top each serving with a little grated Parmesan and pass extra grated cheese at the table. If doubling this recipe, increase the simmering times for the milk and the wine to 30 minutes each, and the simmering time once the tomatoes are added to 4 hours.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons minced carrot
2 tablespoons minced celery
¾ pound meatloaf mix or ¼ pound each ground beef chuck, ground veal and ground pork
Table salt
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, packed in juice, chopped fine, with juice reserved

1. Heat butter in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion, carrot, and celery and sautè until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add ground meat and 1/2 teaspoon salt; following illustration below, crumble meat with edge of wooden spoon to break apart into tiny pieces. Cook, continuing to crumble meat, just until it loses its raw color but has not yet browned, about 3 minutes.

2. Add milk and bring to simmer; continue to simmer until milk evaporates and only clear fat remains, 10 to 15 minutes. Add wine and bring to simmer; continue to simmer until wine evaporates, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Add tomatoes and their juice and bring to simmer; reduce heat to low so that sauce continues to simmer just barely, with an occasional bubble or two at the surface, until liquid has evaporated, about 3 hours (if lowest burner setting is too high to allow such a low simmer, use a flame tamer or a foil ring (see related Quick Tip) to elevate pan). Adjust seasonings with extra salt to taste and serve. (Can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several days or frozen for several months. Warm over low heat before serving.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Comments wanted!

I've finally "fixed" my comments section. Comment comment:
1. Click on "comments" under the post
2. On the "comment as" drop-down menu, please choose "Name/URL"
3. Enter your name (no URL needed, unless you want to promote your company, organization or blog!)
4. Type your comment and hit "post your comment"
5. Type in the word verification and voila!


Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Phew! Had to take a teeny break after the 25 Days of Christmas cookies, but I am back, rested and ready to write.

Tonight, I seriously told Jeremy that I was interested in language classes for Jack. I asked him if he preferred Jack to take Spanish, French, Italian, German or Mandarin.  He said he would prefer for him to learn how to throw a baseball. Well, then.

Resolution, who? Why do resolutions have to start in January (besides the fact it's the beginning of a new year, that is)? Who wants to be healthy when it's 5 degrees outside in cold Chicago? All I want is to eat a bowl of macaroni and cheese and someone to rub my cold feet as I lie under a blanket.

Mom, I love you, but I thought someone died when I saw I had a missed call from you at home and two missed calls on my cell phone (and I believe I have a voicemail waiting for me at work) tonight. Luckily, she was just wondering if I wanted one or two sets of tongs from Sur La Table. For the record, they are awesome -- my mom used them to serve her side dishes at Christmas. I highly recommend them!

Okay, now I'm getting warmed up...more to come, including some fabulous recipes from the holidays. Happy New Year!