When did you learn to put your legs in separate holes in your pants?

When did you stop screaming at the sound of a telephone as if a UFO had landed on our dining room table?

When did you stop going up the stairs on your knees?

When did you start talking? First one word, now two, cleverly strung together.

Where did your blond hair come from?

Why do I never tire of seeing the dimple in right cheek?

When did you become the World's Most Irresistible Snuggler?

Why is the chocolate chip in your left eye the most charming thing I think I've ever seen?

Where did you learn to dance?

When did you start looking at the stereo, demanding, "GaGa!!!"

When did you learn to catch almost anything?

How are you drinking out of a glass and gently putting it in the sink when you're finished?

How do you always manage to get into the fridge when I'm not looking?

Why do you predominatly growl instead of talk?

When did you grow out of your onesies, and soon your diapers?

Why are you so stingy with your kisses, but always make it worth the wait?

When did you become so observant? Light. Dark. Cold. Warm. Bright. Shiny. Boy. Girl.

Why do you like to eat crayons and glue sticks?

How is your wispy hair the only lingering reminder of a baby that once was?

Who taught you how to throw the worst fits in the northern hemisphere?

Who gave you the ability to charm any woman between the ages of 35 and 65? It certainly was not your Dad.

My boy, where did your second year go? I sort of want it back.

*He turned two in November, but I never posted about this momentous occassion.*


Dinner @ 226 - Hacked Puttanesca aka "Prince Ali"

I have been stalling and waiting and procrastinating getting this post up. Why? Well, as I've mentioned before I got a new camera and I have taken some fairly decent photographs on said camera. Actually, I surprised myself with the decent-ness of the pictures. However, at the risk of sounding like my technologically challenged mother, I can't figure out how to get them on my computer. I'll spare you the details of my gajillion failed attempts. It's been comical and just a wee bit frustrating.

Lucky for you, I did finally wake up and realize, that this dish is far too awesome to keep from you even a moment longer. This is a meal where there need be no convincing the little people to finish their dinners. Instead, there are requests for seconds before my first plate is even cool enough to eat. It's the kind of meal where no matter what you're planning on preparing, someone is always hoping for this. It makes the whole family feel filled, but not in a glutenous-gratin & mashed potatoes sort of way. It is light, but wholesome. It cures depression. It stops the rain and beckons the sun. This dish, it's a miracle.

Everyone who has cooked probably has some version of this dish. Mine is totally bastardized and some Italians may banish me if they saw Puttanesca in the description. So, we'll leave that out. Reed calls it "Prince Ali" because I think it's the only thing she loves more than the Alladin Prince.

I'm going to give this recipe to you as a list of instructions because it's merely a guideline and a combination of ingredients that you can alter for your own big and little taste buds. We salivate over spices and slurp up anything salty and briny. If you're of the same style of eating, follow the guidelines closely. If you're taste buds are more subdued, lessen the red pepper flakes a bit and tone down the volume of olives and capers. Also, as a note, though I've made a bevy of changes to the recipe (and thus feel comfortable in calling it my own)the original idea came from Rachel Ray, of all places. That lady may be mind-numbing with her exclamations of EVOO and such, but she is a good starting point for those of you who are beginning on your culinary explorations. Simple ingredients. Simple Steps. Tasty food.

Prince Ali

2 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 t red pepper flakes
4 T capers, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
2 cans good tuna packed in olive oil
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes with juice, chopped (I prefer just squeezing them
through my fingers as I pour them into the pan, making smaller chunks of tomato)
a splash of decent white wine
1 box/bag of Penne Rigate pasta
Parmigiano Reggiano for topping the pasta

Bring a very large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta, stir and cook almost al dente. Reserve one cup of pasta water. Drain.

Meanwhile, warm the olive oil over medium heat in the largest pan you have. You're going to be adding your cooked pasta at the end, to mix it all together. So, you need plenty of room. I use this one. Add the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Saute over medium heat until everything is nice and soft. This is an important step because your building the base for this dish. You want to be patient and let the flavors really develop, but don't brown anything!

Now, add the capers, olives and tuna, with the olive oil from the cans. Break apart the tuna with your wooden spoon and let this all warm up together for about five minutes.

Add the can of tomatoes and juice, breaking the tomatoes apart as you add them. Stir, and simmer for five minutes. Add wine. Turn down heat and stir, and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquids have reduced. Add more pasta water if it gets dry and sticks to the pan. In this simmer phase, you want a very subtle bubbling, but not an out and out boil.

Add the drained pasta to your sauce and turn and mix until the pasta is evenly coated in sauce. Let simmer on low for five minutes, letting the pasta really absorb the flavors and finish cooking.

Serve topped with grated Parmigiano, and along side a great big greed salad with lemon vinaigrette.

I hope you have as many empty plates as we do, but don't count on many leftovers.


Dinner @ 226 - Lentil Rice

Lately, it seems, I have been the go-to girl for family nutrition. People approach me all day long to ask why their children don't eat the foods they are supposed to. Working at a grocery store, especially one that is aimed toward a healthier crowd, I hear every dislike every child has ever muttered. Ethan doesn't eat his vegetables. Emma won't touch food that is green. Max gags on meat. Jonah spits out any and all fruit. Jaden is not a fan of anything crunchy. Ava despises anything creamy. William makes his icky face when he sees beans. And Grace won't even be in the same room as a tomato. And, they all loathe lollipops. Just kidding, that last one has never happened, in history.

Food is so important to me and my family. Jason often mocks me because I spend so much time researching, listing, turning down pages, Googling, marking, highlighting and talking about our own kids' diets. Yes, I think about it alot. Maybe too much. Maybe an unhealthy amount, which would be fairly ironic. The point? Well, there are several.

First, none of us parents are immune. Like you read in this post, my children go through phases also. They've spit out their fair share of brussel sprouts. But, here's the thing; I never said, "Oh, the kids don't like brussel sprouts so I'm not going to buy them anymore." Kids are complex creatures, far more so than we give them credit for. I believe that most of their preferences at younger ages are merely a way to garner just a teensy bit of control. It's a power play, really. Give a kid something safe like a hot dog, chicken nuggets, chips, french fries or a peanut butter sandwich and it's easy for them to eat. They stuff it into their tiny mouths without having to think about tastes and textures. They're in their comfort zone, everything tastes the same as it looks. No surprises.

Take a kid out of their comfort zone and they will exercises their right to choose in an attempt to show you that they wield some power. After all, you chose to give them Curried Eggplant. And, you are going to pay for it. If you fall for the trap and make them a hot dog after they refuse your expertly seasoned Curried Eggplant, they will continue to wield the power every mealtime after. Or, as long as you allow. There is a painful, but simple way to achieve success if you are caught in the middle of this scenario. Serve the Curried Eggplant. After they refuse it, you gently tell them, "This is the only option we have for dinner tonight. So, eat your yummy eggplant so you don't get hungry." If you've been in this tug-o-war with your child for some time, it may take months to get out. But, you will. If they continue to refuse the Eggplant, let them know if they aren't willing to eat dinner then they can leave the table. Don't give in and supply them with a small handful of saltines because you think they may wake up hungry in the middle of the night. Yes, toddlers get hungry. It happens. But, their appetites are so small, if they skip a meal it will not affect their growth or overall happiness. It's not ideal but you're working towards a greater goal. Several meal-less nights may result in an adventurous eater in the future. So worth it, if you ask me. So, stop worrying. If they were truly hungry, they would eat the eggplant. Remember that. If you were starving, you would eat your least favorite food, wouldn't you?

In addition to this attitude, you need a guided menu to help you branch out their "likes." I have many dishes that I serve at least once a month, if not more. Most of these meals include ingredients that I can keep in my pantry (alongside fresh produce) and don't take hours to prepare. That way, I can quickly prepare a meal that everyone will slurp up. No excuses.

Lentil Rice came in to our lives a year ago. It was a chilly night and I was flipping through the pages of this cookbook, which has come to be one of my favorites. I hadn't gone to the grocery in days and was struggling for some divine dinner inspiration. I was actually looking for a Lentil Soup recipe but didn't even have the carrots that were required for a good soup base. On the opposite page was this recipe. It's simple. It's savory and faintly spiced. It can be served alone, with a salad. Sometimes I put a fried egg on top to increase the protein. It can also be served alongside some grilled sausage or fish but it is so warm and filling, I hardly ever go that far. Sometimes, I cook some carrots (in cream) because Beckett adores them.

Lentil Rice recipe by Tessa Kiros

I will note that we all like our Lentil Rice topped with a dollop of whole milk yogurt and either a generous squeeze of lemon or a puddle of red wine vinegar. If your name is Jason, your puddle will look more like a pond.

5 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Large Red Onion
2 Cloves Garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Sweet Paprika
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1 1/2 Cups Brown or Green Lentils, rinsed and picked over
4 Cups Water, plus one Cup
1 Cup Long Grain White Rice
2 Tablespoons Butter
5 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Parsley

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion over medium-low heat, stirring often, until it is golden and sticky looking. Add the garlic, cinnamon, paprika, and coriander, and stir until you can smell the garlic. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, put the lentils in a large pan, cover with 4 cups of water; and bring to a boil. Skim the surface and then simmer for 30 minutes, adding some salt halfway through.

Scrape the onion mixture into the lentil pan and add the rice, butter, half the parsley, 1 cup of water, and a dash more salt. Stir well and bring back to a boil. Cover, turn the heat as low as possible, and cook for 15 minutes or so, until all the water has been absorbed, and the rice is cooked through.

Remove from the heat and fluff up. Cover the top of the pan with a clean dish towel, put the lid back on, and leave it for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining parsley and fluff it up again before serving.

Serves 4

Creamy Carrots also by Tessa Kiros

I find this preparation of carrots to be rather indulgent. I actually prefer them roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper in a very hot oven, most of the time. And we eat them like that, most of the time. But, on a very cold night when the body craves comfort and the little blond haired boy looks up and says, "Cay-uts peeese," these carrots sound just about right.

8 Medium Carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch rounds
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 to 2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/2 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream

Simmer the carrots in salted water for 10 to 15 minutes until they are quite soft and fraying on the outside, but still just a bit firm on the inside. Drain and put them in a large nonstick frying pan with the butter and parsley. Saute over medium heat until the butter starts to sizzle and turn a little golden, then pour in the cream. Let the dream bubble up and reduce a little, then serve hot.

Serves 4


New News. Wait... isn't news always new?

Hello people. Hello blog. I have far from forgotten you exist but have neglected you in the most callous of ways. You are always in the back of my head, whispering into my ear that I should be spending more time with you. And, really blog, you needn't be so subtle because I totally agree. The good news? Well, I have decided to revamp the blog, redo its mission, take some bad ass *pictures* with my new camera and most importantly: dedicate a few hours a week to write and publish and share.

The bottom line is that I like to write and I like to share. Another reality is that I have a very chaotic life with fleeting moments of quiet and calm. So, this is not a promise of weekly posts but rather, a mission statement for myself to publish more frequently and regularly and with more purpose. ReLaunch slated for October 4. Please, come along, I'd love for you to join me.


Keep your face always towards the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you. That quote was gifted to me engraved on a piece of cheap-o particle board in scripted black font by my very best friend when we were about six. It hung on my bullitin board throughout high school. It most likely cost her (read: her mother) sixteen ridiculous dollars. It was from Dollywood and the thought of it still makes me smile. In fact, the thought of her makes me smile (and tear up all at the same time.)

*photo not taken with new camera


grapes a go go

I have a confession. I feel like a bad mother even uttering the words. I feel like a culinary failure. I feel like I am failing my children in being their personal nutritionist.

My boy will not eat fruit.

Oh, the horror. Shocking, I know. Okay, he eats every vegetable that I put on his green plastic plate, so long as its properly seasoned and cooked to tender perfection... which is always, duh. He gets down with the ever so occasional banana and I feel like I've won a war. I know he's a healthy baby, have you seen him? My phone line is already busy with recruiters scouting him for linebacker. Seriously, he's a big kid. A large individual. A (very) healthy baby. But, no fruit? Come on. Fruit was my reliable snack when Reed was this age. But Beckett? Hell to the NO. I am ashamed to say it but I have even tried peeling his grapes. That is shameful mothering, that is performing a service that I have guffawed about in the past. "What? That mama did what for twenty minutes before she served her baby a bowl of grapes? Is she insane or just miserably bored?" The child still spit out his perfectly peeled grape. So, I resorted to feeding him his fruit serving in smoothie form, which he slurped up every time. I felt a small sense of accomplishment but still felt like I was masking something that was better left untampered and NOT teaching him to appreciate the taste and texture of a peak-season strawberry and therefore sentencing my son to a life of unhealthy habits and culinary pickiness, which would send me reeling.

When Reed began her exploration of table foods two years ago, I decided I was not a short order cook. Yes, I love to cook but no, I will not make four entrees for four people. I really believe it is the only option if you want to avoid raising a child who eats chicken nuggets, and little else. If you don't like tomatoes and I make slow roasted tomatoes, you can eat the fish and salad instead. But, I assure you - I will keep bringing tomatoes to the table and one day, maybe you're incredibly famished, or maybe you missed your nap and are a little delusional, or maybe you're just feeling all kinds of open-minded and maybe you'll try one and maybe, just maybe, you'll like it. And eat another. But, if I give up and never serve tomatoes, you would never have that opportunity. And, I feel that is a great disservice to our children. Here's the deal, eat what I serve or, well, I suppose that's kind of the only option. Ick, sounds meaner in writing than it does at the dinner table. Promise. I just can't stomach the thought of sending a picky eater (read: unhealthy eater) out into the world. There are already enough of them.

People are amazed when they see my children's diets. They eat far better and much more varied than most adults and I am proud of that. Or, Errrr, I was. Until Beckett decided he was a member of the anti-fruit committee and rejected every piece of fruit ever. While my other child could survive on fruit alone. So we continued with the smoothies. I made lunches and put sliced nectarines on Reed's plate and one (always at least one, in hopes) on Beckett's. Then I read this post, from an uber cool mama. Ummm, yeah... her baby is stealing her fruit specific produce. Thieving! Hijacking! Forget the peeling and the chopping and the blending and the plating and the serving, he's tearing at the grocery bags seconds after his mama returns from the store, bypassing chips I'm sure, and gnawing happily (and cutely) on a peach. Oh, the jealousy turned me all kinds of red.

And then today,
without any prodding
or other adult coaxing, prompting or intervention of any kind
his sister gave him half her grapes
and I walked away to find a sponge to clean up the grapes he would spit out or smash or throw.
Except, today was different.
Today was that day.

I came back to this...

and, when he was finished he held up the grapeless green stem and slurred, "awwwwwwll gaaaaaaahhhhn," and went on his way in search of more. I tried not to smother him with kisses and relief.