Tex-Mex Snacks

Tags

, , ,

My friend June and her sweet babbly baby Devin came over for “brunch” this week. I say “brunch” because there was nothing brunch-y about the meal, but it occurred before noon. I made an easy black bean salad, guacamole and kick-your-ass margaritas. Although wholly inappropriate for 11am, this little menu is perfect for happy hour or pre-dinner snacking.

Margaritas – Barefoot Contessa’s recipe is my favorite (no surprise there). They are not too sweet, frosty cold, and very refreshing. Combine three cups of ice (about one tray’s worth) with 1/2 cup of fresh lime juice, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1 cup of triple sec in a blender and blend until smooth. Add 1 cup of white tequila and blend for another few seconds. Serve over ice and enjoy. Don’t go crazy with a super expensive tequila but don’t totally cheap out. I use Jose Cuervo Silver for these.

Black Bean Salad – I found this recipe doing a quick search on Food Network’s site. Heads up: contrary to what the website says, it takes longer than 10 minutes to prep. It’s probably closer to 30 minutes to do all the chopping.  Because I wasn’t in the mood for a ton of spice, I used a half of one jalapeno without the ribs and seeds. I used champagne vinegar instead of sherry vinegar, and I also omitted the pinch of cumin because I wasn’t feeling taco-ish.

Guacamole – If you’ve ever eaten at Besito, you’ve probably had their tableside guacamole. Besito generously shared the recipe on its Facebook page a while back and it’s very easy to make. I don’t have a molecajete so I use the back of a wooden spoon to grind the ingredients together. If you’re making this for more than one or two people, you’ll want to double (triple?) this recipe.

Enough about food, here are the kiddies.

They’re on the move! And yeah, I know my kid is dressed like an old man. We didn’t leave the house that day.

Baby Gear Part I – Nursery Furniture

Tags

, , , , , ,

With babies popping up (out?) all over the place, and Nolan officially a toddler, I thought now was a good time to collect my thoughts and put together a list of what has been most useful to me in this first year of motherhood. I labelled each item as, Buy It, Borrow It, or Believe Me, You Don’t Need It. Just to clarify, when I say Borrow It, I literally mean borrow because you are giving it back. Being given something, such as a crib, because the owner really never wants it back, falls under Buy It.

Crib – BUY IT

The most important piece of furniture in your nursery, the crib can also be the hardest to choose. Although you may not even have one baby yet, it’s smart to look a few years down the road to help you decide what kind of crib you’ll want. Many become toddler beds with a removable side rail, some become a double-bed headboard (not so useful if you’re working with a small space and will wind up putting your child in a twin-sized bed), and some are not convertible at all. Consider how many children you want, and how many years they’ll be spaced apart (assuming things go as planned), to make the most practical choice for you. We chose the Sparrow Crib from Oeuf for our house and my parents generously purchased a Jenny Lind-style crib from Amazon (under $200) for their house. Jenny Lind cribs look like the one below and come in a variety of finishes and colors.

This is our crib (in Nolan’s room!)

Our crib converts to a toddler bed like this:

Changing Table – BELIEVE ME, YOU DON’T NEED IT

A changing table is nice for having open storage, but if your kid is anything like mine, the table loses its diaper-changing function when the baby is seven or eight months old. Nolan squirmed, rolled, sat up and climbed so much that we had to start doing all diaper changes on the floor. Instead, buy the changing pad and three (yes, three) inexpensive covers and attach the pad to the top of a sizeable dresser.

Dresser – BUY IT (used)

Dressers are expensive! Like, whoa, what the what, expensive. Go to a thrift store or garage sale and buy a high-quality wooden dresser that has seen better days and paint it. Or if you’re me, balk at exposing your fetus to paint fumes and ask your mom to paint it. Look for drawers that are made of solid wood and not fiberboard since it tends to sag and break over time like everything in my bedroom from Ikea. Painted furniture looks so lovely in a baby’s room. This is Nolan’s dresser that my mom painted. I bought new hardware online.  It’s cute but too small:

Here are some additional ideas for painted dressers:

Bookshelves/Bookcase – BUY IT

Like the dresser, you can buy used shelves and paint them, but there are more affordable options out there if you want new ones. Even though I have sworn off buying furniture from Ikea since my bedroom looks like an Ikea graveyard, I would make an exception for the Expedit shelves for a kid’s room. They kind of look like crap in the store just sitting there empty, but they can be dressed up with baskets and other niceties.

Bassinet – BORROW IT

I loved having a bassinet in our bedroom for Nolan’s first few months. Newborns are heavy sleepers but wake up often for feedings and having a bassinet bedside made for a much easier night. We borrowed one from my sister-in-law and kept the one that came with our stroller in the living room. Depending on your baby’s size, you’ll likely use a bassinet for no longer than four or five months. Since it will be stowed away in your room, don’t get hung up on what it looks like or if it’s your style, etc. Definitely buy a few bassinet sheets for the inevitable middle of the night, “He peed through the diaper!” moments. Those are great.

Glider/Rocker – BUY IT if you want a few kids or think you’ll keep it in your bedroom when your kids are older, otherwise, BORROW IT.

I’m probably not the person to speak to about gliders because I chose the Luca Glider, which is the same one as Rachel Zoe. To be fair, I had it first.  It was (another) generous gift from my parents and I love it and I’m not going to apologize for it. So there. Oh, and I got the matching ottoman. You can certainly find less expensive options at the major baby places. This is the chair in Nolan’s room, next to the changing table I wish I never bought:

Moms and moms-to-be, what nursery furniture do you love/recommend? Where did you find inspiration when creating your nurseries?

Stay tuned for Baby Gear Part II – Nursing/Feeding

Roaming Red Hook

Tags

, , , ,

With the Fourth of July landing on a Wednesday this year, Matt and I found ourselves looking at each other that morning asking, “So…what do you want to do for the fourth?” On a whim (and with Google Maps’ assurance of a traffic-free BQE) we headed to Red Hook, Brooklyn for lobster rolls.

I read about the Red Hook Lobster Pound last year and made a mental note to visit. More recently, I read about two-hour wait times but I made sure not to mention that to Matt when we headed out. Thankfully there wasn’t an ounce of traffic on the way there and we made it to Red Hook in a half hour. Although it’s definitely not as “developed” as Park Slope or even Williamsburg, Red Hook isn’t the shady crack den it once was. There are some pretty tree-lined residential streets just blocks from industrial and shipping warehouses. The Red Hook Lobster Pound is a walk-up-to-the-counter type of place, with an informal dining room next door. I got a lobster roll and it was one of the best I’ve had. The lobster meat was incredibly tender and not at all chewy. The only downside is the size. It’s so small that I could have easily eaten two without even having that, “Ew. I’m disgusting. Why did I do that to myself?” feeling. Thankfully, I stopped after one and had room for the one, I mean two, nope it was actually three desserts I had soon after.

Matt and I split a decadent whoopie pie at the Red Hook Lobster Pound. Instead of a whipped cream filling, it had butter cream frosting and wow, it was good.

After strolling around (in the 90 degree heat), I thought I was seeing a mirage when I spotted the sign for Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie. We followed the painted wooden signs and boy, I am glad we did. All the place sells is Key Lime Pies and they are damn good. We got an individual sized one to split, along with a Swingle, which is a mini pie dipped in chocolate and served on a stick. To give you an idea of how good everything was, I don’t even like Key Lime Pie and I can’t stop thinking about going back.

Image: Flickr

Just down the block from the Red Hook Lobster Pound is Baked, a popular, new-ish bakery featured on The Food Network and Martha Stewart. Unfortunately, I had already eaten lunch and dessert (x3) by the time we passed it, so for this trip we had to skip it. Next time, I’ll definitely stop in.

 

What’s Been Cookin’ in our Kitchen

Tags

, ,

As I wrote recently, I’ve been getting a ton of recipes from Pinterest. Most come from people’s blogs, so before I give one a try I always look through the comments carefully. You usually have to skip the first bunch because they are always, “This looks great!” “Mmmmm! Can’t wait to make it!” Instead, keep scrolling and look for ones that say it was good or indicate what tweaks were necessary to make it better.

Here are a few I’ve been happy with recently (with my adjustments, of course):

Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Parmesan Spaghetti – I’ve made this twice and I love that it can be put together in under a half hour. My suggestions: I like crisper prosciutto and I HATE cutting it raw (slimy, clingy, yuck). Lay out the pieces on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 3-5 minutes (depending on the meat’s thickness), then you can just break it up when it’s nice and crispy over the finished dish. I also found that the cream sauce thickened much faster than the recipe indicated so watch for that. If it gets too thick it’s very difficult to mix with the pasta. Last one, I omitted the mushrooms because we’re not big fans over here.

Man-Pleasing Chicken – I’m a little put off by the title but this took about 60 seconds to assemble. Although the sauce the chicken cooks in is primarily Dijon mustard, it actually doesn’t taste like mustard when it’s done. Seriously, I don’t even like mustard. My suggestions: Don’t worry if you don’t have rice wine vinegar. Most other types are fine (maybe not balsamic!). I used Champagne vinegar.

Caesar Salad – Ok, this one isn’t from Pinterest, it’s Barefoot Contessa, but I served it with the Man-Pleasing Chicken so I figured I would include it. While this recipe isn’t difficult, it is a bit involved. Thankfully, everything can be done ahead of time. My suggestion: I halved the dressing recipe and it still made plenty. I considered halving it again but it’s difficult to do things in small batches in a food processor. Again, I wouldn’t bother with the tedious chopping of the pancetta. I would buy it in slices and roast it for a few minutes until it’s crispy, then break it up over the salad. Finally, don’t even think about omitting the anchovies. I know they look gross (I gagged a little), but they are what make Caesar dressing taste the way it does.

Green Monster Smoothie – This smoothie is healthy and filling and although it looks weird (it’s green and filled with raw spinach), it tastes like delicious peanut butter, banana, tangy goodness.

Imaginary Friends

Tags

, ,

Most of us have favorite famous people, actors, writers, athletes, etc.,  whom we would love to meet. But are you like me? Do you have a few people who you really believe could be your friend? When you see them on television or read about them in a magazine, a little part of you thinks, “If she got to know me, I’m sure we would really hit it off!”

Here are mine:

Ina Garten – Although something tells me she might not be that  nice, I admire her so much and want her to take me under her wing and let me stay in her East Hampton home when she’s away. I would also love to double date with her and Jeffrey.

Joanna Goddard – The writer behind A Cup of Jo, Joanna and I have so much in common it scares me (and would probably scare her if I tracked her down and started frantically listing all of our common interests).

Meryl Streep – Don’t you think she would make the loveliest aunt or neighbor? I would make a blueberry crumb cake (Ina Garten’s recipe, obviously) and she would stop at Starbucks on the way over. Sigh.

I sometimes spend too much time thinking on this, planning ways we could meet. Ina often features her favorite spots in East Hampton so don’t think I haven’t kept my eyes peeled for her when I’ve visited. If I stroll down Main Street in the fall every day, I’m bound to run into her, right? Joanna Goddard lives in Manhattan and our sons are about a year apart. Maybe if I hit up the parks in her neighborhood enough times, we’ll cross paths? I have a feeling Meryl would be tougher to connect with, what with her being one of the most famous actresses in America.

Who would you love to befriend? Who are your celebrity kindred spirits?

Want to read this book with me?

Hi moms (and soon-to-be-moms, and future moms, and people in general), I’m going to read this book, are you interested?

From Amazon.com:

Today’s busier, faster society is waging an undeclared war on childhood. With too much stuff, too many choices, and too little time, children can become anxious, have trouble with friends and school, or even be diagnosed with behavioral problems. Now internationally renowned family consultant Kim John Payne helps parents reclaim for their children the space and freedom that all kids need for their attention to deepen and their individuality to flourish. Simplicity Parenting offers inspiration, ideas, and a blueprint for change:
 
• Streamline your home environment. Reduce the amount of toys, books, and clutter—as well as the lights, sounds, and general sensory overload.
• Establish rhythms and rituals. Discover ways to ease daily tensions, create battle-free mealtimes and bedtimes, and tell if your child is overwhelmed. 
• Schedule a break in the schedule. Establish intervals of calm and connection in your child’s daily torrent of constant doing.
• Scale back on media and parental involvement. Manage your children’s “screen time” to limit the endless deluge of information and stimulation. 

A manifesto for protecting the grace of childhood, Simplicity Parenting is an eloquent guide to bringing new rhythms to bear on the lifelong art of raising children.

Joanna Goddard from A Cup of Jo recommended this book on her blog a few months back, and I saved it on my wishlist for the summer. (Since nothing says a steamy summer read like a parenting book.)

Let’s shoot to finish it by the end of July and meet at a Starbucks (or bar) to talk. For my long-distance friends, maybe a few Skype chats to discuss? Leave a comment below or send me a message/email if you’re interested!

Enough is More Than Enough

Tags

As I mentioned in my last post, I have become quite the little pinner on Pinterest. If you’re new to Pinterest, it’s basically a set of online bulletin boards you create to save (pin) ideas and images you see on the internet. When you click the image, it takes you to the site from which it was pinned. I have a board for recipes I want to try, ideas for stuff to do with Nolan, pictures of kitchens I like for when I win the lottery or become famous, etc.

I spend most of my pinning time on food and house stuff, so I am frequently directed to blogs.  I’ve been amazed at how accomplished people seem to be! Professional-looking photographs, elaborately themed birthday parties, Halloween costume creating extravaganzas – you name it, people are doing it and they are kicking ass at it. Sometimes I wonder, why am I having so much trouble? If I can cook a meal, bathe Nolan and watch one show on my DVR, I consider that an unusual success worth celebrating with a glass of wine. Sure, many of these women don’t work outside the home, but neither did I for nine months.

Some examples…

Doesn’t everyone use electrical tape to create avant-garde art?

Forget about just growing herbs, you should build the container too!

Ok, this one I actually want to do. But I know I’ll never get around to it. So now I feel bad again.

Then the essay “Your Children Want YOU!” started floating around and I felt a whole lot better. Read it. Right now. Hurry! The title might turn off readers without kids, but I really believe the sentiment applies to everyone. It’s not just about people’s relationships with their children, it’s about  people’s relationships with everyone important to them. Your kids (friends, loved ones, coworkers) won’t like you more for hand-crafting their favorite flowers in fondant icing. They like you because you because you’re thoughtful and loving. (If you’re not thoughtful and loving, well, they probably don’t like you as much.)  That’s not to say that completing a project or creating something beautiful isn’t satisfying and wonderful – it is! But we should use sites like Pinterest and Facebook for ideas and inspiration, not to make us feel inferior and useless.

So go forth and multiply your pins! Just don’t get down on yourself if you never make that rainbow layer birthday cake.

What’s New

Tags

, ,

Hey, world! Here are a few things that have kept me busy and piqued my interest lately:

Pinterest – holy mother of all time suckers. I have a whole post on Pinterest in the works, but if you haven’t pinned, get busy.

Bronx Zoo – we went here yesterday for a birthday party and it was so fun. I go every few years and each time I think, Wow! I need to get here more often. It’s lovely and so nicely cared for.

Cooking Food Stuffs – the aforementioned Pinterest has kept my kitchen BUSY. This BLT Quinoa Salad is delicious, these Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps taste like they could be from a restaurant, and if Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars sound like something you might enjoy, then you have to make these. If they don’t sound like something you would like, please leave. Or see a mental health professional STAT.

Reading – being back at work and reading the literary gems of high school students keeps me pretty busy so I haven’t been reading much fiction lately. I started the memoir Bringing Up Bebe and really enjoyed it but had to return it to my library since it was a 7-day loan.  English teacher + mother of baby = not finishing a book a week. I’ll probably buy it from Amazon next time I’m on there. So in about five minutes. I think I’m the last woman on Earth to read 50 Shades of Grey. It’s on my to-do list for the summer.

ABC Kitchen – Matt and I went here for lunch over the April vacation and had a pretty amazing meal. I will say this, the place tries really hard. A little too hard if you ask me. It’s a bit over curated for my taste and just felt kind of forced. Everyone was friendly, the food was original and delicious but the space and the “uniforms” were a bit of an eye roll. Is it weird that I’m being a snob about a restaurant’s snobbery?

This Guy – he’s been keeping me busy and happy :)  Here he is doing some work on Matt’s computer.

And enjoying some Starbucks:

What about you, friends? Read anything great lately or have something worth sharing?

Heading Back to Work

Tags

I returned to work almost two months ago (where does the time go??) and wrote about it for Long Island Parent Source:

Before I gave birth to our son Nolan last April, my husband Matt and I planned and saved and determined that I could take maternity leave for nine months. At the start of my leave, nine months sounded like forever. I had the summer to look forward to, the back-to-school whirlwind I wouldn’t be a part of, the holidays – it seemed like so much time. And in many ways, it was so much time -  I’m well aware that some women return to work after a few short weeks! That being said, even after taking an extended leave, returning to work was really difficult. Continue reading here…

Best Kitchen Gadgets Under $20

Tags

, ,

The kitchen is a room that is easy to fill with expensive goodies. Appliances (big and small), fancy knives, pots and pans – thousands of dollars spent faster than you can say Crate and Barrel.  The good news is that there are tons of useful, fun tools and gadgets that aren’t pricey but still making cooking easier. Here are some of my favorites:

Microplane Zester ($15.95) - a must-have for zesting citrus fruits, you can also use this for fine shavings of chocolate and cheese.

Citrus Reamer ($3.95) - while it certainly doesn’t have the power of a large electric juicer, this little sucker makes it surprisingly easy to get tons of juice out of citrus fruits. This is a favorite of mine when making cocktails!

Steaming Basket – an easy way to gently cook vegetables and it’s invaluable for making baby food!

Liquid Measuring Cups ($11.95) – did you know that liquid and solid measuring cups aren’t the same? It’s true. One cup in a dry measuring cup is different than one cup in a liquid container.  It makes a big difference when baking because you need precise measurements. This measuring cup from Crate and Barrel is pretty with its green markings, don’t you think? Pyrex and Anchor make sets of these in different sizes for very reasonable prices.

Cookie Dough Scoop ($12.95) – If you bake cookies with any regularity, using a scoop helps keep the cookies a consistent size so everything cooks evenly. It also keeps your hands clean (that is until you start eating cookie dough).

 What about you, fellow home cooks? What low-cost gadgets and tools are invaluable to you?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 412 other followers