Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I normally wouldn't blog about what I am eating for lunch (how much can one say about eating the leftover scraps of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that has been cut into a bunny shape?)

But today I made myself something worth mention. I stole this concept from Puck's at the Museum of Contemporary Art where I had lunch last week.

Drizzle a little pool of fruity olive oil on a plate. Mix about three tablespoons of goat cheese with chives, salt and pepper and mound into middle of plate. Spoon prepared olive tapenade over goat cheese mixture. Serve with slices of toasted ciabatta bread. Enjoy delicious summer lunch.

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Introduction to Rhubarb

Today was my first rhubarb encounter. By way of explanation . . . my sister-in-law and I decided to participate in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this summer. Our CSA, Homegrown Wisconsin, is a cooperative of organic family farms. We pay in advance for a share of the collective crop throughout the summer and fall. Each week we pick up a box of produce at a local site and the contents of the box vary as the growing season progresses. Sounds fun, doesn't it?

I picked up our first box last Wednesday and rushed home to unearth the contents. Green onions, head of lettuce, strawberries, chives, sunflower sprouts, spinach, baby arugula, kale and rhubarb. I could barely shut my refrigerator door.

We love to cook at our house. I love to shop for food. My general approach is that I want the highest quality, organic ingredients to cook with. But once I have obtained (and paid for) high quality products, I hate to waste them. It just seems so wrong to me. So I obsess a little bit about using every bit of fresh produce in our house.

With my full refrigerator, I have had to move fast with my meal planning. The kale and rhubarb have proved the most challenging. I have fed pureed kale to both my babies in the past because of its nutritional density. But I must confess to being wary of the bitter green (I am going to tackle the kale tomorrow).

On to the rhubarb. Last night, a friend suggested a rhubarb crisp. Apple crisp is always one of the highlights of my fall so this seemed like a sensible place to start with my rhubarb. I did a little research today and came across a lovely recipe on http://www.marthastewart.com/.

I am quite pleased with the result. The rhubarb itself has such a lovely pink hue so the dish has an appealing pink color. The recipe calls for a lot of sugar, but my research today seemed to indicate that sugar is a necessary part of cooking with rhubarb. Next time, I might reduce the cooking time in order to keep the rhubarb a little bit firmer. But I would definitely make this again. I am so tickled to have tried something totally new. I can't wait for the next box.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thirty-One Candles On My Cake

I am thirty-one years old today. I am not a big birthday person and now having given birth twice, I feel like birthdays should be a time to think about your mom and what happened to her on that day, not yourself. But today I have been thinking about myself and how perfect my life is. I don't mean fairy-tale perfect. But my days are pretty delightful.

My alarm clock is the sound of Ellie's feet running down the hallway towards our bedroom. With one of her baby animals in tow, she presses her sleepy face up to mine and makes the same request nearly every day, "Mommy, will you cuddle with me on the couch?" How can I say no (even if it is 4:30 a.m.)? Within minutes, Brendan senses that he is missing out on something and squawks at us from his crib.

My big eaters then demand their big breakfast. Usually blueberry pancakes with bacon. Sometimes scrambled eggs with english muffins and fruit. No bowls of cereal or frozen waffles for these guys. With full bellies (and about half a pot of coffee in my belly), we head into our playroom to take out the ten thousand toys that it I just picked up hours earlier. And we sit on the floor in our pajamas and play. I know that our schedules will not allow for this indulgence much longer with Ellie starting school in the fall, making this lazy time all the sweeter. I should make the beds or empty the dishwasher now, but I generally don't.

Brendan takes his morning nap while Ellie and I spend a little alone time together. Then we head out together (yesterday a walk to the library, today our local park). A little lunch together on our porch. God willing, naps that occur at the same time for a little reprieve. Followed by afternoon errands, or an art project, a swim, baking, or more playing on our floor.

After working absurdly long hours, Daddy appears at the door sometime in the evening. Ellie and Brendan wait at the front stairs, clamoring for his attention as though I have had them both locked in a closet without food or water for the whole day (he is the clear favorite). On a really great day, Daddy whips up an amazing dinner (short ribs braised in red wine with caramelized shallots and a horseradish potato puree on a recent Saturday night). Delicious. And the kids thought so too.

Then it is bath time, which is one of my favorite parts of the day. The chicks contentedly play with each other in a confined space while I am able to actually sit down on the step stool next to the tub and be lazy for twenty minutes. Then pjs and lights out for an exhausted baby Brendan. We begin a very prolonged bedtime routine with Miss Ellie. Bathroom. Snack. A little juice. Two books. Two songs. Bathroom again. Endless peeking out from her door. And on and on.

After the chicks are tucked in, I again think about cleaning up our continually messy house. This project rarely gets beyond the planning stage.

Bleary-eyed, I climb into bed every night with my husband, the ultimate creator of all of my happiness (going on eight years now). But I am too tired to ever tell him that and he gets whatever I have left to give at the end of the day (which is very little at that point). But it feels good to be there with him.

This is a wonderful, exhausting, joyous life. Happy birthday to me.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

That Damn Ice Cream Truck

As our summer gets going, the chicks and I have been spending lots of time in sandboxes and swings at our local parks. But not a day passes where our lovely outing to the park is not sullied by the sounds of an ice cream truck just beyond the playground fence. Followed by the predictable, "Mom, can I have . . ."

I am still figuring out how to handle this situation. Last summer I told Ellie that it was a music truck and that seemed to satisfy her. No luck with that now that she is three. Lately, I have just been telling her that I don't have any money (which is almost always true). But that usually leads to crying and a request to go to the ATM.

I believe in having a treat from time to time. And we certainly don't lead a sugar-free lifestyle (as the employees at the corner gelato store can attest). But I do try to feed my kids real food and a giant Dora the Explorer ice cream bar just doesn't seem like a good idea. I also recognize that a three-year-old isn't going to understand why I let her get ice cream at the park today, but not tomorrow and every day after. And if Ellie gets ice cream, Brendan will attack hers until he gets his own. It's just not a road I want to go down.

So I have come up with two decent summer treat alternatives. I bought a star-shaped popsicle mold last year that has been great fun. We mix pureed watermelon and orange juice together, fill the molds and wait for them to freeze. A few hours later we are having orange-watermelon pops on our porch. I also freeze Stoneyfield Farms Organic YoKids Squeezers and a totally revolting tube of messy yogurt (who thought of that?) suddenly becomes a push-up pop.

Neither of these solutions helps with the ice cream truck at the park dilemma. But it seems to make the crying subside somewhat once we get home.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Birds of a Feather

I wanted to show off my mobile. It is made by Helene Ige. A lovely thing to behold for the kids AND the adults. I got mine from Grow at 1934 West Division in Chicago.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Corn Salsa

I was a little surprised to see all of the corn available at the market this past week. I'm no farmer, but isn't corn supposed to be "knee high by the fourth of July?" It just seems a little early to me. Anyway. Yum. Fresh corn is here! It's arrival delights me so because corn is the main ingredient in one of my favorite summer dinners: corn salsa and grilled wild salmon (best eaten on the porch with sun shining, lovely family assembled, glass of wine in hand).

Corn Salsa: A Tutorial


After removing husk and silk, rub ears with butter and season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning frequently so the ears get some brown caramelized spots.

Once the corn has cooled, cut the kernels from the ear (I know of two different tips for safely and neatly accomplishing this: (1) cut the ears in half so you have a flat surface to cut on and (2) place a cereal bowl upside down inside a larger bowl and the cut corn will fall into the larger bowl, rather than go all over your floor).

Add finely chopped scallion, cilantro, and red bell pepper (in whatever proportions appeal to you). Toss with a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

The beauty of corn salsa is the possible variations: black beans, avocado, chopped grilled zucchini, heirloom tomatoes. You could use it as an accompaniment to fajitas. And any leftovers make a delicious quesadilla.

Sadly, my sweet Ellie doesn't share my affinity for corn, reminding me that she only "likes food that isn't yucky." More later on healthy meals that my children will actually eat.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Ms. Mary Mack . . . Meet Mr. Johhny Cash

Ever since my three-year-old Ellie was born, my head has been full of children's music. Shortly after her delivery, my brain became a wasteland of rhymes and silly lyrics, often accompanied by hand gestures. (This seemed to come at great expense to the knowledge and information that previously resided there).

I am not even apologetic about the fact that I have come to really like children's music. I know a lot of children's songs. Ellie also knows the words to quite a few songs. We've been to music classes led by folksy women with guitars. We have been attendees at a number of children's concerts. We listen to music at home. We listen to music in the car (so much so that on the rare occasions that I am without my two usual passengers, I often drive for ten minutes listening to the soundtrack to Aladdin before I realize I don't have to be).

My husband has quietly, but firmly objected to this inundation of children's music (ostensibly because he thinks kids can get the same benefits from the music we listen to, but also because he doesn't want to drive around listening to "Take me ridin' in the car, car . . . ").

As a result of his slow and steady campaign on this issue, something of a musical revolution is underway in our house. Ellie now seems to have a genuine preference for Bob Dylan ("Tangled Up in Blue" in particular) over our usual musical fare. She says, "Daddy, let's listen to Johnny Cash next. He's got good songs for tapping your knee." "Who sings 'Rock the Casbah?'" she asks. And under the category of things you don't expect to hear from your three-year-old, "Mom, can I get an iPod?" This morning, I overheard her singing to her baby doll, "Because you're mine, I walk the line."

Meanwhile, I hum "Three Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" quietly . . . to myself.