In Motion on Vine

04.09.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Please tell me I’m not the only one whose iPhone is currently holding over 1,000 photos plus dozens of videos. Yes, it’s time to do some spring cleaning. Which means you get to enjoy a few videos from our wild and crazy and incredibly fun life. I created these short clips with the Vine app, which makes it really easy to record and share videos. You can find me on Vine @ Emily Wiley.

big slide from Emily Wiley on Vimeo.

pop pop machine from Emily Wiley on Vimeo.

plastic bags from Emily Wiley on Vimeo.

little Ikea builder from Emily Wiley on Vimeo.

throwing rocks from Emily Wiley on Vimeo.

Wednesday Randoms

04.03.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I’m behind on blogging — about Lucy’s introduction to obedience class, Sam’s language development, the new color of our laundry room, and the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies I can’t stop eating. Until I have time to formulate my thoughts into a coherent post, here is an update via bullet points.

• There is a wonderful little historic town adjacent to ours. Each fall it is host to Ligonier Days to commemorate the 1758 battle of Fort Ligonier. We attended two years ago for our fill of history, fall foliage, and pumpkin whoopie pies. I also visited during my culinary tour of the Laurel Highlands. Two weekends ago we went back for the 4th annual Soup’s On Soup Walk and, once again, I was impressed by Ligonier’s community outreach. Also, I wish more small towns could prosper like it does. It was a fantastic afternoon with friends and tasty soups like roasted cauliflower and brie, butternut coconut curry, and lobster bisque.

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• During the soup walk, we met the girls behind eatPGH. I picked up a copy of their new book, and I can’t wait to start eating our way through it.

• Speaking of Pittsburgh eats, we finally tried Burgatory. And for the first time ever, I had a burger with an over easy egg on top of it. Trendy, yes, but it was pretty fantastic. We also ordered a chocolate peanut butter shake for the drive home. And Sam refused to share it. (This is exactly why we did not indulge in one of their famous hard shakes. Next time.)

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• I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We really hit the neighbor jackpot when we bought our house. They’ve helped to mulch our flower beds and shovel our driveway. They graciously invite us to use their pool and deliver homemade desserts to our doorstep. They’ve saved me when I was sick or just plain overwhelmed during a single parenting week. Yeah, we’re lucky. We’re also the “young kids” on the block — by about 20 years. But who cares. We celebrated a 50th birthday last weekend and everyone partied like we were still in college. We hired a babysitter (the teenage daughter of another neighbor — score!), I wore lipstick, and Nick drank a few too many cocktails. The party was in their home, but they have the most legit basement bar I have ever seen — complete with a 12-foot beautiful marble top bar, multiple flatscreen televisions, and a “last call” bell. So. Much. Fun.

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• Here’s a sneak peek of our new laundry room and my most recent DIY project.

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• And, finally … Who You Gonna Call?

ghostbusters

The Easter Bug … and Bunny, too

04.01.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

While we were expecting a visit from the Easter Bunny last weekend, we were also host to a very unwelcome guest: the stomach bug. It hit Sam first — fast and hard. And three days later it got to me — just hours after Nick left for Chicago, of course.

How does a momma, who lives hundreds of miles away from family, cope with the stomach bug while simultaneously caring for an active toddler and a wild puppy? With Goldfish crackers and rawhide bones and far too much TV. That’s how. Also, neighbors who graciously take the toddler for two hours so momma can sleep and then send him home with slices of homemade pizza. TGFGN. (Thank goodness for good neighbors.)

By the time Nick returned from his trip, our laundry hampers were overflowing, stacks of dirty dishes still sat in the sink, and at least ten different varieties of crumbs could be found scattered across the living room floor and in the creases of the couch. But we survived. Whew.

I spent the next two days in bed or in the bathroom, very very sad to miss time with my sister and her boyfriend, but also grateful they were here to bring Easter cheer.

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Fortunately, I had the foresight to purchase a few plastic eggs at Target the week before, so we filled them with M&Ms and hid them in the backyard. It wasn’t the big egg hunt we had planned to do at our local farm on Saturday morning. And Sam wasn’t carrying a basket or wearing his cute checkered button-up shirt. But he still had a big smile on his face.

 

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I’m also glad we had the opportunity to dye eggs with friends at a playdate earlier in the week because we didn’t have a chance to do any of our own.

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And on Easter eve, still laying on the couch, I realized I didn’t have an Easter basket for Sam. Thanks to Amazon Prime, I had a few gifts to give him, but there was no festive basket to fill with fake grass and colorful eggs. And so I chose the next best thing: a toolbox. Which, really, for our boy, was far better than a frilly basket anyway.

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And so ends the story of our Easter 2013. Typically, details and sentiments are so very important to me. But in this case, they were not. I had my boy back in my lap, and that is what mattered most.

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Letter to Samuel: 18 Months

03.26.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Happy half-birthday to our sweet and silly Sam!

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It’s hard to believe that we celebrated your first birthday six whole months ago. It feels like just yesterday. And yet you have changed so much. You become more independent and more opinionated each day. Your current favorite word is “no” and you say it all the time. “No” you don’t want milk. “No” you don’t want Mommy to change your diaper. “No” you don’t want Lucy to take her ball out of your hands. “No” you don’t want Daddy to put on his jacket and go to work. “No” you don’t want to close the refrigerator door because you would rather rearrange its contents than eat your snack. You get the idea. Sometimes it’s hysterical to watch you say “no no no” and shake your head with such ferocity. And other times the “nos” lead to full-blown tantrums, and then it’s not so funny. Oh, toddlerhood.

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You also love to say “ohhh” and “oh no” and “whoa.” You are so full of expression. Your Nana says she would expect nothing less with me and your Daddy as parents. What can I say — we have personality, and we passed it along to you.

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You constantly surprise us with your attention to detail. If you see a piece of trash on the floor, you immediately pick it up and throw it in the trash can. And if the trash can drawer is not pushed in completely, and you notice it, you must fix it. If we leave our shoes sitting near the front door, you open the coat closet and put them inside. You actually like to clean up your toys — and each has its place on your shelf.

I have learned that if I just involve you in my daily chores, I can get so much more accomplished. You dust the furniture and sweep the floors and take the utensils out of the dishwasher and put them into the drawer. Daddy thinks you work too hard, but you honestly love it. Yes, you are my son.

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We got a new washer and dryer this month, and you think they’re just about the coolest things ever. You love to move towels from one to the other, and you get angry if Lucy steals a sock from the basket you’re trying to load. You love to watch the clothes spin, too, and thank goodness for the child lock feature.

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We had a few warm days this month (though not nearly enough, if you ask me!), and you spent an entire morning shoveling dirt and making piles of rocks and sweeping the driveway. I absolutely cannot wait to spend our spring and summer outdoors. I think I see a garden and a sandbox and a water table in our future.

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You have incredible concentration and dexterity for a one-and-a-half-year-old. This was best exhibited this month when you  helped Mommy assemble your new table and chairs from Ikea. Without any direction from me, you put the long screws into every available hole on the chair and proceeded to pound them with your hammer and tighten them with your drill. I finished assembling the second chair and the table after you went to bed that night, and I couldn’t wait to show you the next morning. But instead of sitting down in your new seat, you turned the chair onto its side so you could take it apart and put it back together again. Yes, you are — and always have been — our little engineer.

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You have begun to show more interest in crayons and stickers and play-doh. But these things still ultimately end up in your mouth, and so we have to limit our time with them. You also love to make copies on Daddy’s printer. Sometimes you stick your hand on the scanner bed, and we end up with a dozen copies of your little paw.

You are also entering a cars and trucks and trains stage. You will stand and play at your train table for 10 minutes at a time, which is practically an eternity for a toddler. I love to hear your little “vroom vroom” and “choo choo” sounds. You push the cars up and down the hills and through the tunnels, and I can just see your imagination at work.

You have discovered our box of winter accessories and like to try on hats and mittens and scarves. You also love to walk around the house while wrapped up in blankets. It’s a pretty funny sight.

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Dress-up is especially fun when Mr. Ribbit plays, too.

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You continue to pretend play with your kitchen, too. Though you now prefer the real thing. If you hear the words “cook” or “bake” or “help Mommy” while in the kitchen, you immediately grab a chair and pull it over to the counter. You regularly help to stir pancake batter and spin lettuce leaves and roll pizza dough and any other task we deem suitable for your little hands. I am just thrilled that you are so interested in food, and I hope you are always so willing to be my sous chef.

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Your food preferences have not changed much since last month, except you have discovered the joy of “dipping.” Pretzels into peanut butter, scrambled eggs into ketchup, pork into applesauce, french fries into ranch dressing. You’re obsessed. You still love bananas and berries and grapes. You typically prefer meat over vegetables, and you rarely leave a rigatoni or tortellini on your plate. One night I prepared stuffed sole for dinner, and because there were only two pieces, I made chicken nuggets for you. But guess what. You preferred the fish, and so Mommy had to eat your nuggets. Actually, this happens quite often. You end up in my lap at the dinner table with my fork in your hand. But I don’t mind. At least you’re eating!

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18months17

And, yes, you still have an unbelievable sweet tooth. Favorite indulgences this month included a chocolate peanut butter milkshake from Burgatory (which you did not want to share with Mommy and Daddy) and Hershey’s kisses (which you can unwrap all by yourself).

samthebaker

You and Lucy are still the best of friends — and partners in crime. She started obedience class this month, and we’re hoping life gets a little less crazy with a trained puppy in the house. But for now you continue to throw your toys over the gate to her and chase her around the kitchen with your “pop pop” machine and give her bites of whatever you’re eating. You try to lift her cheeks to see her teeth and sometimes you pull her tail, but the sweet girl doesn’t flinch. Perhaps we should send you to obedience class instead?

But then there are moments when Lucy is on the receiving end of your biggest hugs and kisses, and it makes all the wild times worthwhile.

18months8

You are our affectionate little man. You have learned to give real kisses (as opposed to open mouth ones) and will give hugs to anyone who asks for one. Sometimes you put lotion on my face or brush the hair out of my eyes, and I just melt. We now hold hands while walking, and your hands still feel so itty bitty in mine.

One night Daddy tried to rest his head on my shoulder after a particularly long day. You were busy playing until you saw this unfolding. And immediately said “no no no” and came running over to claim your spot. I have to admit, I kind of loved it.

Yes, you are my snuggle buddy, but sometimes you surprise me with your bravery. For example, you have no fear when it comes to slides and were the youngest kid by far in the Chick-fil-A playplace this month. You climbed up all by yourself and squealed while coming down the tube slide. You did it at least a dozen times and, of course, you did not want to leave when it was time to go.

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You weigh about 26 pounds (50th percentile) and measure about 32 inches tall (40th percentile). You have a mouth full of teeth, which makes you look like such a big kiddo. You have started to mimic everything we say, and I can sense your verbal communication skills improving every day. Your favorite animal sounds are “baa baa” and “quack quack.” And you know all of your body parts.

We introduced the potty to you this month. And for a few days, you were pretty obsessed with it. You sit on it (naked, before your bath) with a book in your hands and sometimes you “squeeze,” and we try so hard not to laugh. I don’t think any of us will know how to react when something actually ends up in that potty!

18months2

Oh, sweet boy, you light up our lives. We love you more than you will ever know!

Visiting Virginia

03.20.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Every time we go to Virginia, we have at least four houses to visit and fifteen more people to see. So the weekends are super busy, but full of fun.

First stop last weekend: Kirsten’s apartment. We took advantage of the beautiful afternoon and went for a long walk around her neighborhood. Sam fed the fish and blew bubbles into the sun and made piles of rocks.

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bubbles2   rocks

Of course, Aunt Kiwi spoiled Sam with an early Easter basket full of candy, which kept him occupied while Nick and I ducked out to meet our friends in DC.

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We have wanted to eat at Graffiato since watching Mike Isabella on Top Chef Season 6. He became just a little famous for the pepperoni sauce he prepared on the show, and I do believe it lives up to its hype. It’s smooth and spicy with a hint of fennel and is the perfect accompaniment to roasted chicken thighs. It’s also awfully good smothered on flatbread (we ordered two rounds).

graffiato1

Also worth the visit: the wood oven pizza. We got the White House with mozzarella, taleggio, ricotta, prosciutto, black pepper honey and the Jersey Shore with fried calamari, tomato, provolone, cherry pepper aioli.

graffiato3

On Saturday morning we headed out to Fairfax to visit more friends, and Sam thoroughly enjoyed being the center of attention.

fairfax

And then it was back to Aunt Kiwi’s so Sam could nap — and Nick, too. When everyone was awake again, we treated ourselves to ice cream. And Sam said his first official two-syllable word: “ice cream!”

icecream

Final stop on our whirlwind weekend: the home of college friends and one of Sam’s best buddies. It’s so much fun to get these guys together every few months and watch what they get into. Ally and I swear they share tips on how to drive their mommas crazy! But they make us laugh, too. A lot. Plus it’s pretty awesome to put the boys to bed, change into sweats, and drink beer with good friends.

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Believe it or not, there were still quite a few friends missing from this trip. Which means we must do it all over again soon!

Chicken Tikka Masala in the Crock Pot

03.14.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Nick has been enjoying a very wonderful spring break from school. Actually, we’ve all been enjoying it. No class on Tuesdays and Thursdays means leisurely dinners with glasses of red wine. It means no late night homework sessions and no group project meetings on Saturday mornings. It means he has more time with Sam and Lucy, and I have more time to … organize the office, paint the laundry room, convert the basement into a playroom. You know, stuff that’s impossible to do while chasing a toddler and a puppy.

But it’s back to class next week. Back to reality. And back to crock pot meals. Fortunately we’ve found a few favorites that we don’t mind making over and over and over again. Here is one.

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This recipe comes from Jenna of Eat, Live, Run. It’s spicy and comforting. It’s simple to make and perfect for Nick to eat on his way out the door. I like that he can enjoy a hearty home cooked meal before a full night at school. It’s Indian food made easy. Though, we are anxiously awaiting an authentic Indian meal prepared by Nick’s classmate and friend, Rajesh, and his wife, Ayantika!

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Do you have a favorite crock pot meal to share?

Chicken Tikka Masala in the Crock Pot

(Print the Recipe)

Serves 6.

For the Chicken

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 whole jalapeno pepper, stem removed and pierced several times with a sharp knife

For the Sauce

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp Garam Masala
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, about 2-3 inches, peeled and grated
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp raw sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

To Serve

  • Hot buttered rice and peas
  • Chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Cut the chicken into 1 – 1 1/2 inch pieces. Sprinkle the coriander, cumin, and salt over the chicken, then stir in the yogurt until all of the pieces are evenly coated. Cover lightly and let sit for 10 minutes before proceeding.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Raise the heat to medium high and quickly brown the chicken. Transfer browned chicken to the crock pot, and throw the pierced jalapeno in on top.
  3. Return the pan to the heat and melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and kosher salt, then stir. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to lightly brown around the edges.
  4. Stir in the garam masala and ginger and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute) before raising the heat to high and adding the crushed tomatoes and raw sugar. Stir well, scraping the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a boil. Pour over the chicken in the crock pot.
  5. Cook on LOW for 5 hours, or until the chicken is very tender.
  6. Whisk the cornstarch into the heavy cream until smooth. Pour into the crock pot, and stir until combined. Cook for 10 minutes more, or until bubbly around the edges.
  7. Serve over hot rice and peas, topped with a generous amount of chopped cilantro.

(Adapted from Eat, Live, Run)

Dear Mother Nature

03.11.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Mother Nature: I believe you’re confused. Just five days ago you dumped eight inches of snow in our backyard. We bundled up and pulled on our boots and made the most of the mid-week snowstorm. But, really, we’re ready to bid farewell to winter.

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You were kind enough yesterday to grant our wish and delivered warm sunshine to our doorstep. We spent hours outdoors — collecting rocks, taking walks, kicking balls, and digging in the dirt.

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Spring: We hope you’re here to stay.

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