Mixed messages

29 08 2007

Have I told  you that I’m tough to shop for?  I am.  Everything I want is expensive and specialized and I don’t really want to receive that kind of thing as a present.  Maybe a good Christmas present this year is permission to go guitar shopping…

Anyway, last year for my birthday Karen got me, among other things, two soup cookbooks that have both served us well, except for the red wine broth that almost ruined Valentines day.  So this year I was excited when I received, among other things, two grilling cookbooks. Boy Gets Grill by Bobby Flay and Weber’s Big Book of Grilling.  She could’ve finished the job and got me a charcoal grill to go with it.  Our last Smokey Joe lasted 10 years.

I was very excited to see some of the recipes and stuff in these books.  Weber even discusses gas grilling.  But now I’m wondering at the message that Karen is sending me.  “I love you honey, but seriously, get that chicken under control.”

Pizza homework: on my own

23 08 2007

Karen let me do this one by myself.  I’ve been doing nothing around the house lately, including cooking, but that’s another post.

All the toppings except one

Tuesday (I think, it’s hard to keep track these days) I was talking with Isaac and mentioned to him “Why don’t we have pizza tonight?” I was greeted with a resounding “YES!” so I set to work. I’ve been collecting pizza dough recipes since I now have a working oven, and I saw this beauty over at Pinch My Salt, author of my Valentine’s day dessert. It’s whole wheat and rosemary pizza dough and it looked very good so I’ve had it on my mind for a while.

In the baking instructions I thought it interesting that Nicole suggests assembling the pizza on parchment paper and then baking it on the pizza stone at 500 degrees, parchment and all. The box says the paper is oven safe to 400 degrees. After some discussion the decision was made “Well, we’ve got a fire extinguisher, why not try it?” That and the fact that this dough sticks to the parchment like glue before baking and to pull it off would be to make it the shape of West Virginia. So we put it in the oven on the parchment paper and it didn’t burn the house down.

It’s a circle!!!

Is it bad when I’m shocked that things work out the way the recipe says they will? Holy cow, I could make circles! To me this dough worked better with my hands than Mario’s.

Enough of all this yammering, how did it taste? Nicole, if you’re reading this I will tell you this is the first time Isaac has eaten the outer crust of any pizza in his life.

Isaac eating the crust

This crust was good. Here’s the half cheese/half pineapple pizza for the boys:

Pizza with cheese and pineapple

I’d made a big batch of pizza sauce and frozen it in ice cube trays a while ago, so I thawed some of them and used many of our standard toppings:

Pizza goodness

We also made a now standard from Mario, with medallions of mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and tomato slices. However it got sliced and eaten so fast I never got a chance to take a picture.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 3 cups of all purpose flour. I used bread flour instead of all purpose because Karen told me to. And in the recipe Nicole doesn’t say how much rosemary to put in; I suppose she’s leaving it up to personal taste. I used one sprig’s worth of leaves, chopped very fine.


20 08 2007

Every now and then I’ll realize just how little I mention Benjamin in this blog. Of course, Karen talks about Ben all the time in her blog. I try to keep things here lighthearted and funny, if not a bit cynical. It’s impossible for me to be cynical about Ben, and he’s not doing anything particularly funny yet, so he tends to get passed over in my posts. I suppose that as he gets older and gets into mischief this blog may turn into my misadventures with him.

But then about a month a go (maybe more) Daddyforever tagged me for a meme, or something like that. He changed the rules so I don’t really know if it counts as “tagging,” but I took it as a kick in the butt to talk about Ben again.

Ben is a very interesting individual. Every night he peaks at about 11pm, entering into his happiest mood of the day. Maybe he’ll enjoy the club scene when he gets older. He does, however, go to sleep as soon as we turn out the lights. I hope that continues, or my love affair with coffee will grow even stronger.

Okay, so Ben weighs a little over 13 pounds, and for that weight he’s in size 3 diapers and 6-9 month clothes. That’s unusual. It’s because he’s shorter than normal, so he’s a bit on the chunky side. I can’t say that he’s chubby, because all references to weight in our house are tempered by Jonathan, who weighed 27 pounds at six months.

Ben at the Doctor’s office

Ben is enjoying his physical therapy sessions a lot these days. After 16 months he’s getting tired of being horizontal, so he’s very interested in sitting up and standing, all of which we practice during PT.

Ben standing next to his saucer

Occupational therapy is going well too. We’re focusing on feeding him by mouth, and we’re still giving him little tastes of food at a time. Sometimes he’s not in the mood for this and complains at first, but his OT is very patient and positive, and he always comes around for her. If only she could stop by every day…

Ben is playing and happy

He’s also playing with toys a lot these days. He likes grabbing toys, not just mashing them with his hand. Yes, Dawn, he really likes that singing bunch of flowers you gave him. I’ve often heard that children with special needs love music, and that is certainly the case with Ben. Finally someone who will appreciate my guitar playing. Isaac has been learning music from the Zelda video games on the piano, and Ben loves listening to all that. And one morning I was playing one of those baby CD’s for him and he wasn’t too enthused about it, but he quieted right down when I switched it to Green Day. Maybe next I’ll try Jackyll…

So that’s another post about Ben. I’m going to try to incorporate him more into my regular posts, but I’ll probably end up ruining that too…

Harry Potter and the Trip to Starbucks

17 08 2007

I have emerged from my self-imposed hermitage from society and I can honestly say that this was the hardest Harry Potter book to read.  The boys wouldn’t give me any time to myself. So I was relegated to reading times from 10:30pm on, basically reading until my eyes no longer stayed open.

Reading Harry Potter is like watching BBC. It makes me feel cultured, even though there’s a bit of toilet humor. And there’s something about British humor that makes me proud of myself when I get the joke. It’s not that often that we here in America read anything with words like git, prat, codswallop, skulduggery, and snog (my personal favorite). I was hoping to see bollocks (Gordon Ramsay’s second favorite word) used in book 7 when Harry’s 17, but no dice. Perhaps in the British version…

The “bad guy” in the Harry Potter books is the evil Lord Voldemort, who is a much more interesting character than Harry. Voldemort thinks that death is the worst thing imaginable, which means he’s never seen any of the Saw movies.

I didn’t read the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I had J. K. Rowling read it to me. I know, I’m a dork, but that was cool. It was also nice because I could watch that while Karen was finishing the book downstairs. She’s usually such a fast reader…

As a parent I’ve always been on the lookout for great children’s books, and we’ve managed to find a good number of them for our boys to read over the years.  The Harry Potter series is definitely on our “must read with the boys” list.  There are some really awesome children’s books out there that are a lot of fun to read.  So I have a question for you.  Everyone has at least one or two favorite children’s books, either from their own childhood or from reading with their kids.  What are some of yours?

I have no identity of my own any more

12 08 2007

Quick! Do you recognize the man in this picture?

who is this guy?

How about this one?

Oh, it’s him.

I went to the grocery store this weekend, and while I was there I ran across two people I know. They both had the same greeting: “At first glance I thought you looked familiar, and then I realized it was you, but with no kids.”

Perhaps it was the lack of a scowl and I had nobody to be screaming at.

Sponsored by the letters A and B and the number 59

7 08 2007

dulce de leche is Spanish for happy

Inspiration can come from everywhere. For cooking, mine usually comes from the first two letters of the alphabet, which, when placed in, well, alphabetical order, are really the initials for Alton Brown (cue Good Eats theme music). He dedicated a show to milk, and in it he showed how to make your own cottage cheese. Ew.

But before that he showcased two desserts that I swore I would attempt. He made a tres leches cake and dulce de leche. It’s August, it’s ungodly hot, and there was an awesome ice cream topping staring me in the face. I had to make it. Now.

I had several reasons for being confident in this recipe. First, it only had four ingredients. Second, the directions included mixing everything in the pot and letting it simmer for three hours. “Sounds like soup,” I thought. I make good soup.

Step one was to pour the milk into the pot. Isaac did that:

Cooking is easier when the kids do the work

Step two was put in a cup and a half of sugar into the pot. Isaac did that too. At this point he said “I’m bored,” and left the kitchen. “Your patience will be rewarded” echoed in my head. He was gone when time came to add the baking soda so I did, and I added the vanilla bean as well.

Karen told me a while ago that “yummy” or “yum” is not masculine enough and shouldn’t be used in my blog any more. But Alton uses words like “goodness” and “happiness” to describe food. So let me just say that dulce de leche is Spanish for happy.  Happy eating, that is, not cleaning.  This was very hard to clean up afterwards.

The Food Network is channel 59 on my cable box.

Wrinkly feet and pasta

5 08 2007

We’re done socializing until Christmas. We weren’t our usual antisocial selves these past two weeks. On the bright side we did go to pool parties two days in a row, and we learned that swimming is Isaac’s new favorite thing to do. I got to take Ben into the pool and he loved it. Isaac liked playing with Ben in the pool too, although Ben didn’t like being splashed in the face. But he stayed in the water with me so long that his feet got all wrinkly:

Ben’s wrinkly feet

Since Karen is going back to work this week we did as much cooking as possible, and we’ve got leftovers for three days I think. Tomorrow I’ll try to cook for two more days and that will be it for the week. Tonight we made lasagna rolls we found on Cooking Light magazine and Mario’s mushroom soup:

lasagna and soup

It’s kind of fun when we cook together. First of all, dinner is edible. You know what I did for this dinner? Not much. Karen did the assembly work, which is why the lasagna rolls look so nice and round. I’m sure I could’ve made it into something resembling a jellyfish. Karen also made the sauce and used three times the amount of garlic in the recipe. Karen and I loved it but the boys kept saying “too much garlic!” In their lasagna rolls we just put the sauce and some mozzarella cheese, told them it was “pizza noodles.” In the future we might just use pizza sauce for them since we like the garlic.

Vinegar is vinegar

2 08 2007

It was one of those days when I felt I could do no wrong. I’d been watching a lot of the Food Network and felt invincible. I wanted to make my own steak sauce. Watching Bobby Flay make them on camera gave me a false sense of security. He talks about them casually, making it sound easy, while he puts them together with at least 200 ingredients. I knew it was my time.

Looking for a steak sauce recipe I saw this one from Bobby Flay and thought it sounded doable. So I set off to the grocery store in search of sherry vinegar, piquillo pepper, horseradish, and molasses. These were the ingredients we didn’t have on hand. They didn’t have piquillo pepper, so I got some poblano peppers instead, and they didn’t have sherry vinegar. Hmmm. Nobody around here has sherry vinegar.  I thought about just using sherry, but then the thought came to me, right there in aisle 12. “I don’t really know what sherry vinegar tastes like, but I like balsamic vinegar; I’ll just use that.”

For future reference, when you get ideas while you’re in the grocery store with three unhappy boys under the age of six, they’re not good ideas.

Every so often I’ll make something so bad that even I can’t muscle it down. This was one of those times. My first thought was “Maybe it’ll taste different on the steak.” But no, nasty in the bowl is still nasty when you put it on the steak. Karen spent a half hour trying to save the steak sauce, but the only one who ate it was the garbage disposal. Apparently balsamic vinegar is nothing like sherry vinegar. I ended up making Cabernet steak and mushrooms instead (which included another trip to the grocery store, and the liquor store for the wine).

This was one of those life changing moments when I realized one of my limitations. But I was so depressed at the time that I couldn’t even enjoy the steaks I’d made. I had been looking forward to this for weeks, and come to realize that I have no ability to make my own steak or barbecue sauces. Even from recipes.

If you’re wondering why there are no pictures to document my enlightenment, it’s because this happened last summer, and is one of the original inspirations behind this blog.