Drink your beer. And eat it, too. Happy St. Patrick’s Day weekend!
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.
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!
Do you have a favorite crock pot meal to share?
Chicken Tikka Masala in the Crock Pot
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
- Hot buttered rice and peas
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cook on LOW for 5 hours, or until the chicken is very tender.
- 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.
- Serve over hot rice and peas, topped with a generous amount of chopped cilantro.
(Adapted from Eat, Live, Run)
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.
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.
Spring: We hope you’re here to stay.
Our basement playroom is still a work in progress. But, in honor, of Dr. Seuss’ birthday tomorrow, I want to give you a sneak peek. I created three printables to hang above Sam’s new magnetic chalkboard, and I have included links to download them at the bottom of the post!
I chose my three favorite quotes from about a dozen I found through a Google search. I think they’re all very appropriate for a playroom. I used a dark gray background (to coordinate with our couch), simple white letters, and white frames with mats. I had the quotes printed on 8.5×11 standard paper from Staples, which cost less than $1.50 total.
We still need to add a white frame to the chalkboard and center the quotes above it. But Sam likes it so far!
Let me know if you would like to customize the prints, and I’d be happy to change the colors. Enjoy!
Life sure is fun with you, kid. You make us laugh every day with your new tricks, and it’s amazing to see your personality really beginning to blossom. You are silly and sweet. You are a genuinely caring boy. You are adventurous. And you love to exercise your independence.
This month brought new challenges, of course. Like trying to get you to sit in your booster seat for meals. You much prefer to sit — or stand — in the big chair. And let’s not even talk about how quickly you can climb onto the kitchen table. You are also far too efficient at pushing the chair over to the counter and climbing up onto it. You still try to scale Lucy’s gates, and you can crawl up and slide down the stairs almost as fast as I can walk them. You giggle hysterically when we hang you upside down or sit you on top of the refrigerator. You love to jump on the bed and free fall into piles of pillows. And, although I am trying to block this one from my memory, it is worth noting that we have watched you try to climb out of your crib. You use your arms to pull your chest up onto the rail while attempting to swing your legs over it. This is big trouble, mister, because the crib mattress is as low as it can go.
Though you sometimes make Mommy hold her breath with your acrobatics, I continue to be impressed with your coordination. You can now walk on your tippy toes and jump and spin. And you really only have one speed these days: fast. I love to hear the sound of your bare feet against the hardwood floors as you run around the house. You also still love, love, love to dance. As in you hand me the Xbox controller and try to push the ottoman out of the way and demand we break it down. You stomp your feet and kick your legs and wave your hands in the air … like you just don’t care. Sam, I hope you are always so free-spirited.
More new tricks this month include clicking your tongue and blinking your eyelids. You have also developed this incredibly cute little wave. You hold your hand close to your face and wiggle your fingers and say bye-bye in a high-pitched voice. And this little wave is often preceded by kissing your hand and blowing it into the air. Yeah, this combination is quite the showstopper. You’ve directed it towards ladies at Chipotle, baby girls at Barnes and Noble, and Lucy whenever we leave the house.
Speaking of Lucy, she is still your best bud. You two honestly look out for each other. If she’s in her crate while you’re eating (because it’s the only way to prevent her from jumping up to your plate), you will only eat about half your meal before you’re down and demanding we let her out. Then, of course, you sneak bites to her. Seriously. You do it under the table and behind your back. We’re on to you, pal! You also try to hold her water dish while she drinks from it, and you like to give her biscuits from her treats jar. The two of you make me dizzy with the laps you run around the kitchen — you with your ball popper and Lucy with her stuffed raccoon. Boy, I can’t wait to watch you play together in the backyard this spring!
It’s not all fun and games, though. Sometimes there are meltdowns. In fact, you had your first official “toddler tantrum” at music class this month. I believe this happened for a variety of reasons. 1) Our new class starts at 11am, and you typically nap at 11:30am. 2) We are now in the “big kid” class, and I think you were slightly intimidated by the two- and three-year-olds. 3) Your friend, Reese, shared a special snack with you right before class started. I tried my best to sneak it into your diaper bag. But you caught me. And you were obsessed with the bag for the entire class. And by entire, I mean until I took you out of the room, kicking and screaming, 10 minutes before class ended. Oh, buddy.
Other equally dramatic fits have occurred when I’ve attempted to leave you in the kids care room at Mommy’s new gym. I have promised you it’s a fun and safe place and that I will always come back for you. But you cling to me and scream as soon as we enter the building. The first time you cried for about 90% of the time I was gone. The second time was just slightly better. And after two weeks you still cry, but at least you calm down enough to sit at the table and watch the other kids play. Maybe next month you’ll actually decide to play with them?
Your sippy cup and Mr. Ribbit have become your security vices when I’m away from you. And your binkies, too, of course. You still use them — usually three of them — to sleep. But every morning and after every nap we “throw them into your bed.” Sometimes you whimper and prolong it, but you always end up tossing them in. And I’m trying to break you of the habit of using them in the car. I’m not looking forward to the day when we completely take them away. Though I would like to accomplish this before your second birthday.
You fell in love with Mickey Mouse this month. So many of your little friends watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and I finally introduced it to you. We only have three episodes on demand, but you don’t mind watching them over and over. I typically only allow you to watch one episode per day, even when you whine for more. Your favorite parts are when the characters sing “oh, toodles” and when they do the “hot dog dance.” Nana and Poppy have a gigantic Mickey Mouse at their house, and you love to talk to him on Skype. And you were absolutely obsessed with him when we visited this month.
We still try to do at least one playdate per week. We’ve attended a toddler bookclub and a Mardi Gras party and are looking forward to painting Easter eggs with friends next month. On Tuesdays we go to storytime at Barnes and Noble (though you are more interested in the train table and the lego table than the actual story) and on Wednesdays we go to Kindermusik. Sometimes you run errands with Mommy and you are usually a very good little buddy. Of course, it’s best if I have a supply of pretzel sticks in my pocket. And the first thing we do when we get to the grocery store is beeline for the deli counter where we get a slice of cheese. Sometimes you even get a chocolate chip cookie from the bakery. And you eat the whole thing.
Sam, your sweet tooth is seriously as big as your Mommy’s and Daddy’s. One of your favorite things to do is stand on the chair and help me bake. You dump flour into the bowl and watch the mixer swirl the ingredients together and then, of course, you lick the spatula. You haven’t met a chocolate dessert you don’t like.
You are still a very good eater, though you are easily distracted. You have mastered both the fork and the spoon and you can now slowly sip water from a big cup — as opposed to taking one big gulp at a time. And I’m pretty positive you went through a growth spurt this month because some days you just could not get enough food into your belly. One day you ate three — three! — whole bananas. Which you now ask for as “buh.” That same day you took a four-hour nap. Mommy checked on you at least three times. But you were perfectly peaceful with your arms and feet tucked in and your booty high in the air.
You regressed just slightly in the sleep department this month. There were several days where you napped for only 30 minutes, or skipped it completely, which meant you were a bear by 4pm. And we had some early morning wakeups. But you’re back on track now.
Diaper changes have become much easier. In fact, you now lay your bottom right in your diaper when we ask you to. Of course, you still like to run around naked after your bath. One night you pulled a few toys from the bin in your room: a cloth basket to hang around your neck, Mr. Potato Head’s green glasses on the tip of your nose, and a teething ring around your arm as a bracelet. You were still completely naked, otherwise. You had me rolling on the ground in laughter. Who says dress-up is just for little girls?
Sometimes during diaper changes we sing “five little monkeys jumping on the bed.” You anticipate the next lines by touching your head and shaking it for “no more monkeys jumping on the bed.” You also now do “itsy bitsy spider” and “the wheels on the bus go round and round,” as well as “five little ducks went out one day” with your rubber duckies in the bathtub.
You communicate with much more purpose and in more logical context than last month. Meaning you make consistent sounds for banana, cracker, bye-bye, hi, hot, ice, Lucy (baa baa because I suppose we say “bad Lucy” far too often?), momma, dadda, pop pop (for your ball popper), down, drum, and dance. You also have the sweetest little sing-song voice, which you use when you play with your trains and trucks.
You have 12 teeth — 4 on the top, 4 on the bottom, and 4 molars. You wear size 5 shoes, size 4 diapers, and mostly size 18-24 month clothing. You weigh about 24 pounds (and Lucy weighs 34 pounds!), and you seem significantly taller than last month. You can easily reach the door handles and countertops and have no problem climbing onto the couch. Some days you completely wear me out, but your snuggles at the end of the day make it all worthwhile.
Can’t wait to see what comes next.
Love Your Momma
Last Wednesday night, my mother and I attended a sold-out event at the Strand Capitol in York: An Evening with Ina Garten. I knew the The Barefoot Contessa was a popular Food Network chef and an accomplished cookbook author, but I really had no idea until last week that she was so beloved!
During the hour-long event, hosted by David Albright, executive chef of York’s Left Bank, audience members had the opportunity to ask questions. Every single one started with something like “Ina, you are amazing” or “Ina, you are my hero,” or “Ina, we love Jeffrey.” (Jeffrey is her husband who makes regular appearances on her television show. And, yes, Ina confirmed that he is her real husband and not her TV husband.)
The event was a bit disorganized with ushers scrambling to get microphones to people with questions, and the acoustics made it difficult for all of us — especially Ina, I am sure — to hear. But I appreciate the desire to create an intimate atmosphere. And we did get to hear Ina talk about her favorite cafes in Paris, what she means by “good olive oil,” and her most memorable dinner party guests.
Following the conversation, Ina stayed to sign books. My mom and I skipped out of the last interview question and ended up 16th in line. Good thing because we heard she was only signing 300 books — and there were over 1,000 in attendance!
After “meeting” Ina (staff members very quickly ushered us past her table) and with signed copies of her new cookbook in hand, Mom and I headed down the street to the Left Bank for dessert. Such a fun mother-daughter night out!
Ina’s new book, Foolproof, is all about entertaining with ease. It includes recipes “you can trust” to be simple and to impress family and friends and guests. Perfect timing considering that Nick and I hosted a small dinner party on Saturday night.
There are a few recipes in our repertoire that we love to make for company: Sweet Potato and Apple Soup; Mustard-Baked Chicken with Pretzel Crust; Roasted Butternut Squash Orzo; Carrot Cake. On this particular night, we chose our favorite Lasagna with Nick’s Focaccia Bread and Truffle Brownies for dessert. And for an easy appetizer, I looked to The Barefoot Contessa.
Ina’s Parmesan and Thyme Crackers take less than 15 minutes to prep and can be stored in the refrigerator until just before your guests arrive.
Combine butter, grated Parmesan cheese, minced fresh thyme, salt, pepper, and flour.
Form the crumbly dough into a ball and add up to 1 teaspoon of water if it doesn’t come together. (Yes, I did have to add water.)
Then roll it into a ~9-inch log.
Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until about 30 minutes before your guest arrive. Then remove it and slice it into ~1/2-inch rounds.
Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes until very lightly browned.
Cool and serve at room temperature.
We served ours with bruschetta, and they were a hit! In fact, Nick was convinced that I bought crackers and simply topped them with grated Parmesan and minced thyme and warmed them in the oven. (He was at class when I made them.)
This recipe for Parmesan and Thyme crackers is from Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics, which I also own. In Foolproof, she has a very similar recipe for Jalapeno Cheddar Crackers. I can’t wait to try them, along with … Caramelized Bacon; Penne alla Vecchia Bettola; Orange-Braised Carrots and Parsnips; Balsamic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts; Raspberry Crumble Bars; Cinnamon Baked Doughnuts; and more.
What’s your favorite foolproof menu?
Parmesan and Thyme Crackers
Source: Ina Garten
Makes 24 crackers.
- ¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 1 minute. With the mixer on low speed, add the Parmesan, thyme, salt, and pepper; combine. With the mixer still on low, add the flour and combine until the mixture is in large crumbles, about 1 minute. If the dough is too dry, add 1 teaspoon water.
- Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 9-inch log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the log into 3/8-inch-thick rounds with a small, sharp knife, and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes, until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking. Cool and serve at room temperature.
Sam is fortunate to have three great grandmothers and one great grandfather still with us, and we try to see them as often as possible. This week we were able to visit all three houses! Sam stayed out of trouble, for the most part, and was fascinated by their collections of ceramic ducks and roosters and teddy bears. He played with Grammy’s cats like they were dogs, and reorganized Grandma R’s kitchen cupboards. He entertained each of them with his storytelling and his dance moves and gave big hugs and kisses when it was time to leave.
They obviously adore him and spoil him! We love you all.
I have not spent a weekend with my best girlfriends since summer 2011 — we were obviously long overdue for a getaway. And so we packed our bags and headed to the Poconos last Friday night. I believe we spent 80% of the weekend in our sweatpants, lounging by the fire, drinking red wine, catching up on big things and little things, and reminiscing. We had nowhere to go, no work to do, no kids to care for. It was quiet and relaxing and perfect.
Here’s hoping that we don’t let almost two years pass before doing this again!
Something cold arrived on our doorstep earlier this week. And it was something other than the snow that has been falling every day for the past two weeks.
Say hello to the new Müller yogurt from Quaker. It recently hit supermarket shelves here in Pittsburgh, as well as other areas of the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Great Lakes, and Southeast regions, after generations of success throughout Europe.
The fine folks at Quaker were kind enough to send a few samples for us to taste and review … and giveaway!
First up: FrütUp. Unlike many brands that market a yogurt cup with fruit on the bottom, Müller puts its fruit on top as a light layer of mousse. Varieties include: Peach Passion Fruit, Luscious Lemon, Blueberry Bliss, Radiant Raspberry, Splendid Strawberry, and Very Cherry. Our Splendid Strawberry was just the right amount of sweet and creamy.
Next up: the Corner cups. These containers include lowfat yogurt paired with a side of fruit topping or crunchy cereal mix. We got Blueberry and Choco Balls, and boy am I glad we did. The vanilla yogurt was tasty on its own, but I especially loved the subtle addition of chocolate. It satisfied my sweet tooth and was much healthier than my typical afternoon cookie. Other Corner varieties include: Strawberry, Blueberry, Crunchy Granola, Choco Flakes, and Crispy Crunch.
Finally: Greek Corner cups. Similar to Müller Corner cups, these containers include mild Greek yogurt plus a side topping. We eat a lot of Greek yogurt, and Müller tastes very similar to others, but it’s the unique toppings that set it apart from other brands: Caramelized Almonds, Blackberry and Raspberry, Strawberry, and Honeyed Apricot. The Caramelized Almonds cup was fantastic! I don’t typically add nuts to my yogurt snacks, but I may have to start.
Overall, I was impressed with Quaker’s new product. And the price is competitive with other brands: $.99 for FrütUp and $1.29 for Corner and Greek Corner. But guess what? You have a chance to try it for free! Quaker is giving away five free product coupons to three lucky winners. Just enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!
Sam is a fan, too.
Disclaimer: I was given these products free of charge, but the opinions expressed are my own. I was not paid to write this post.