Sunday, March 20, 2011

Photobooth with Caiden Keats

Caiden loves to take pictures with me. She requested we take these...

Photo 1. My mistake, I didn't do a closed-lip smile. Sorry, Caiden.

Photo 2. That's better, we both have closed mouths.
She's happy with me again.

Photo 3. Now she wants to show teeth like me. Crazy picture time!
Oh wait, she thinks her eyes weren't as open as mine.
I convince her its alright.

Photo 4. She makes me do "thumbs up" with a full-teeth smile.
And the thumbs had to be in just the right spot.

Photo 5. She'll be fine by herself, thank you very much!
And please process me red, she says.

She's very demanding, you know.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mid-Week Munch: Kettle Corn

I moved to Connecticut when I was 14.  It was part of a traumatic chain of events which thrust me into a whole new world (but not like the song).  I have to admit that previous to my stint in CT, I had been firmly planted in the "home-school weirdo" club.  Thus, along with massive culture shock and freshly-divorced-family-syndrome, I began my time at private school.  This is where my friend, Liz, comes in.  The first girl I met at my new school, she was a fiery-spirited girl with red hair to match her temperament who firmly took me by the wrist and led me into the frightening world of my peers.  I spent almost every afternoon at her house after school that first year, just two houses down, in the old white (haunted?) house with the picket fence.  Here I learned much from this aspiring basketball star/writer/lawyer including how to make kettle corn, which we usually coerced her little sister into making for us to enjoy whilst watching "Trading Spaces" on TLC every single day.  Its been years since I've had kettle corn, but I just recently picked up the habit again.  Kinda brings me back, ya know?

{Liz and me, circa 1999}

Kettle Corn is a fair classic which apparently dates back quite some time into early colonial days or something.  Popcorn kernels popped with oil and sugar and seasoned with a few dashes of salt for good measure--salty and sweet--just the ticket for a rainy afternoon, don't you agree?

Kettle Corn
serves 4-6

You will need:
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 to 1 tsp salt (I prefer coarse grained Kosher Salt--no additives to alter the taste)
Large pot with lid

To make:
In a large pot, heat oil and 3 kernels of corn over medium/medium-high heat until kernels pop.
Pour in the remaining kernels and remove from heat for 30 seconds.
Put pot back on heat and sprinkle sugar over kernels.
Cover with lid and shake pot over heat until popping slows/stops (making sure to keep shaking to avoid burning the sugar and kernels!).
Empty contents into a big bowl while sprinkling salt evenly and tossing.
Enjoy warm.

{More stories about Lizzie can be found here and here as well as on her own, very well written, blog here.}

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Monday was the first day of the week and I spent it doing many things for the first time... for instance:

Today was the first time in a long time that we visited the park;

It was the first day I climbed up on the very tall, sky-scraping rope pyramid at the park;
First time I played hide and go seek/tag at the park with my kids plus one stranger kid;
First time I talked separately with both children on an imaginary phone, invited them to my imaginary house, and fed them imaginary cookies;
First time I made Boston baked beans;

{Photo from Simply Recipes}

First time I have ever used, seen, and touched salt pork;
First time setting my iPhone timer for 8 hours! (baked beans);
First time I made only one small batch of cottage pie, instead of a massive batch;
The first time I have used an American Express giftcard on Hautelook (Lorac makeup 80% off? Yes, please!);

The absolute first time I have ever IRONED my bedsheets! (annoying, but worth it this one time... they were very wrinkly and now I can say I've done it!);
First time watching Exit Through the Giftshop documentary by Banksy-- 2 thumbs up!;
First time (this year) I got tricked by my battery operated clock in the kitchen which hasn't yet been "sprung" forward;
First time receiving a package from "Kiddins" (filled with extra goodies!);

{photo from Kiddins}

Any firsts for you on the this beautiful first day of the week, hhmm?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mid-Week Munch: Chicken Tortilla Soup

{The Mid-Week Munch is a weekly series in which I plan to post a new recipe each Wednesday.  Getcha over that hump!}

I first experienced chicken tortilla soup (which sounded odd to me) on Balboa Island, where we would often go to walk around the tiny island and enjoy the air and quaint little shops in the evenings.  I came to love this filling soup, with rice on the bottom and chunks of intriguing vegetables floating about and slices of fresh avocado and tortilla strips crowning the top.  I can no longer visit the island as often as I would like so I set about to recreate it.  It is a winter favorite!

For this soup, I like to buy a whole chicken from the market and have the butcher chop it into pieces for me (Yes! They will do that for you on request!).  I then use the thighs, legs, and wings to make Arroz Con Pollo and the breasts to make this soup. (Save the neck for chicken stock later.)

For this soup, it is best--and easy--to make your own chicken stock which can be done using the carcass of an already baked chicken or alternatively you could just take a whole, raw chicken and use it to make both the stock and the chicken for the soup.  Here is a good recipe for that. Don't be scared!

This is a delicious alternative to chicken noodle!  It is a little bit of work, but not too much--definitely worth it.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
serves 4-6

You will Need:
2 chicken breasts
2 TBL olive oil
a mixture of 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 or 1/2 tsp paprika, little sprinkling cayenne pepper
1 white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
3 TBL tomato paste (optional)
3 TBL cornmeal (optional)
1 quart chicken stock (preferrably homemade, which is super easy)
can of corn
About 2 or 3 zucchinis, rinsed and cubed or cut into thick chunks
2 cups white rice or spanish rice
Garnishes: fried corn tortilla strips (chopped corn tortillas fried till crispy in oil)
                1 avocado, sliced into slivers
                1-2 cups fresh chopped cilantro
                lime, cut into wedges
                sour cream

For the chicken:
1. Start by rubbing chicken breast with 1TBL olive oil and rubbing them with seasoning. Set aside any seasoning you have left over.
2. Bake on a tray in the over at 375 for 20 to 25 min. or until done.
3. Remove and let cool before shredding chicken with a fork. Set aside.

For the soup:
1. Meanwhile: Heat remaining 1 TBL olive oil in a stock pot on medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, tomatoes, and any left over seasoning to the pot. Cook stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes, until cooked down and pulpy.
2. Add 3 Tbl tomato paste (if using) and 1 quart chicken stock. Season generously with salt and pepper if you are using homemade stock (otherwise, check for salt and season accordingly).
3. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and simmer for 20 min, keeping a lid on it slightly ajar.
4. If using cornmeal (which will add a little heft to the body of the soup), add a little hot water or some of your stock to the cornmeal and stir.  Add cornmeal mixture to pot and simmer for another 30 minutes.
5. During the last few minutes of cooking, add zucchini.
6. Remove from heat, add shredded chicken and corn and let sit for 15-20 minutes before serving.

For serving:
1. Place 1/4 cup or so of rice in the bottom of each bowl.
2. Ladle a hearty amount of soup with plenty of chicken and veggies into each bowl.
3. Garnish each bowl to taste with cilantro, avocado, sour cream, tortilla strips and lime.
4. Enjoy!