Friday, March 28, 2014

Grilled cheese and tomato soup

The other day I made grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner.  This is a fairly common dinner for us, we have it every few weeks.  I always make the soup from scratch and it is super easy.  I just saute an onion in some olive oil until it is soft, add some garlic, lots of basil, salt, and a couple cans (or a quart of home canned) of diced tomatoes (I like the Costco brand organic ones, when I don't get around to canning my own).  I throw the whole batch into my blender, return it to the pan, bring it to a boil and add a bit of cream at the end to round out the tangy deliciousness.

I love all things southwestern so one day when we were out of bread, I decided to make a southwestern twist on our usual grilled cheese and tomato basil soup.  So we had quesadillos and southwestern tomato soup, topped with avocado and a dollop of chipotle adobo sauce (I buy cans of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and then I puree them in the blender in the sauce and store it in the fridge, it is our favorite spicy southwestern sauce).

To make my Southwestern version of the creamy tomato soup:
1 medium onion - diced and sauteed until clear or even a bit browned in a bit of olive oil or butter
1 big spoonful of diced garlic
~2 cups of salsa (I used my homemade salsa made with fire-roasted tomatoes and loads of cilantro)
2 small cans or 1 quart of diced tomatoes
pinch of oregano
cumin to taste
sea salt to taste
some cream

I blend all of that except the cream in my blender then put it back on stove to warm up.  I add the cream right before I serve it.  It is awesome the second day.

I love it with the chipotle adobo sauce and avocado slices. Audrey had hers with avocado and fresh cilantro. This is one of the best foods I have ever made and ever consumed.  I enjoyed and savored every single bite.  The creaminess of the avocado in each bite of the spicy warm tomato soup with the cilantro and cumin in there.  So so good.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Something fishy

Yesterday Meri and I went to Costco to grab a few things and saw that they had wild caught Atlantic cod at a good price. I was hoping to find decent fish to eat at some point this week, so that seemed like a good idea.

I consulted "the Google" to find a recipe, since I have never cooked Cod.  I found a recipe for Poached Cod with Cabbage and Peas. That sounded interesting and I happened to have 1/2 a head of cabbage sitting in the fridge with no particular recipe in mind.  While the cabbage and peas were sauteing, I grabbed the package of cod and found...  a worm trying to wiggle its way out of the package.

I am not super squeamish, I worked at a salmon cannery in Alaska one summer for heaven's sake, but I am also not one for feeding my family parasites.  So once again, I consulted "the Google" and learned that the worm in the flesh just meant that it was "fresh" and was not to be worried about in the same way as a hookworm or other intestine bound worm.  I have picked tapeworms out of salmon roe (just part of roe processing), so I know what they look like.  This cod worm was not that type of worm.  So, after a good Google search, I just picked the worm out of the fish, inspected the fish well for any other interesting things, washed it, and cooked it.

The dinner was delicious!  Because of the worm, I probably over poached the fish, it was falling apart when I took it out of the liquid.  Luckily cod is a nice firm fish and the extra cooking just meant a little more time to absorb the yummy poaching liquid.  The recipe called for adding chicken broth and lemon juice to the saute pan (after you remove the cabbage and peas).  I squeezed 1/2 of a fresh lemon into a bit of chicken broth and added a bit of white wine too (a late harvest Riesling).  I served it with a bit of fresh lemon, that was nice to squeeze onto the fish and a bit of the same white wine for the adults.

Poached Cod over sauteed cabbage and peas

Friday, March 21, 2014

Gym fun

While I truly believe that being healthy and fit has very little to do with a gym, I have loved my membership these past few days.

We joined on Tuesday. Wednesday I met with a personal trainer and went through a strength training circuit with her (this was included in the membership).  Thursday after school I took both girls to the daycare and swam laps for the first time in forever.  It turns out that "small" pool felt much larger once I was swimming in it for the first time.  I also forgot some strokes, so I am going to look those up on youtube.  After I felt like I got a good swim, I went and grabbed the girls from the daycare and took them swimming too.  They *loved* it.  Audrey is taking lessons at the rec center on the weekends, so this was awesome to just let her practice a little in such a low-key and fun way.  This morning I tried Zumba for the first time.  It is awesome.  It is everything I ever wanted in a workout class - fun, high-energy, dancing to hip-hop.  I want to do Zumba everyday.

So I told myself that I was going to start out slow, but I have just enjoyed it so much, that I haven't started as slowly as I intended.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Getting Fit

Before I had Meri, I was an exercising fool.  It just felt good both physically and mentally.  I ran (slowly) a couple times a week with my neighbor in the evenings and then I discovered swimming. I took swimming lessons to learn how to lap swim to add a little variety to my fitness.  I wanted to get better at swimming and remember what I was being taught, so I thought I would practice what I was learning once a week in the morning before work.  I enjoyed it so much that I literally woke up at 4:30 am without an alarm clock excited to go to the pool.  Soon I started going just about every morning before work - just because I loved it so much.  

My love for it ended abruptly when a certain sweet baby started pushing on my lungs.  Suddenly it felt really scary to be in a 8 lane 50 meter pool that was 14 feet deep at the deep end and 8 feet deep at the shallow end, while not being able to take a good deep breath.  So I stopped.

But lately, I have been jonesing to swim again. The rec center that I went to is not really very close to my house.  Once I made it there in 17 minutes when I got lucky with the lights at 5 am.  Usually it was closer to 25 minutes.  So I have been looking for other options.  Recently a sport and health club facility opened in the Wegman's complex near my house with a 4 lane 25 meter pool shallow pool (only 4 feet deep). 

Today Meri and I went to check it out and I ended up signing up for a one person membership with the rest of the family getting free memberships for 3 months.  If the whole family actually uses it, we can upgrade to the family plan later.  I am *super* excited about this.   

The pool seems small in comparison to the rec center, but it is also lightly used according to the club.  Lane sharing was a regular sport at the rec center - one that I will not miss. Plus they have family swim time in two of the lanes in the afternoons, so I can take Meri and Audrey.  The club has an amazing daycare with a nanny camera that lets you see what your child is doing from any of the workout machines on a certain channel.  Two hours of daycare is included every day.  Meri went right in so I could take the tour and she didn't want to leave when I was done.

I am also going to try some of the group classes.  Zumba looks like so much fun, so I will definitely do that one and I want to try this crazy bodycombat class that is a mixture of martial arts - sounds interesting.  Unfortunately, the yoga classes are right at Audrey's schools drop off time, so I probably won't get to try those classes until summer.   

Sunday, March 16, 2014

St Pattys Day

I love St Patrick's Day.  It is a fun holiday to celebrate and yet it doesn't involve gifts or too many expectations - just fun.

Every year I make my Guinness Chocolate Cake.  I also make corned beef and cabbage, which I love.  But the real star of the day is always the cake. 

It starts with a good cake recipe with buttermilk, coco powder, and Guiness.  After it bakes, you poke holes in it and pour on a soak of Guinness, cocoa, sugar, and vanilla.  Then you turn it over and repeat.  Finally, you cover the whole cake in a chocolate ganache.  It is awesome.

Meredith and Audrey loved it!

Monday, March 03, 2014

Christmas makings - ornaments

As previously mentioned, this year I planned to make ornaments for cousin Christmas gifts. I started with the cousins on Ryan's side because we usually buy something for each of the kids, so each present I made was money saved.

I found some graph paper from my nerdy days of math fun (sometimes being a packrat is useful) and sketched out each of their names across a grid of 32 x 13 squares.  Each square represented one stitch in the middle of the ornament, and I repeated the pattern once for a total of 13 rows of 64 stitches (16 stitches on each of 4 needles).

Once I got the hang of it, the ornaments went really quite fast.  I also realized that my color work skills are still at the beginner level.

I completed all 7 ornaments for Ryan's sisters' kids and then I decided that everyone else (including my sweet girls) will have to wait another year.  I was pleasantly surprised that Audrey and Meredith were really excited by the ornaments and wanted me to make one for each of them.