You are currently browsing the archives for September, 2012.

What to do when your baby is awake in the middle of the night

  1. Have a plan.
  2. Carry out that plan.

Simple as that.

In a random moment of clear headed fortitude, Gary and I realized the need for such a plan. Theodore’s molars were swollen, meaning teething was once again immanent. In the past, we’ve just slogged through nearly sleepless nights, sometimes just barely keeping strung out emotions in check. I knew something had to change if we I was to keep my sanity. (Gary has a remarkable ability to remain calm even when sleep deprived.)

Our Plan? It involves late night/early morning public transportation, a 24-hour pancake cafe, and copious amounts of butter and syrup. And maybe orange juice.  A Pancake Plan. The inevitable night came. Sleepy cries turned into ever less restrained giggles. Instead of cursing the night, we shrugged on clothes reminiscent of a college freshman and shuffled out the door. Our street that was usually spiced with saxophones, cyclists, and strollers was now simply peppered with “closed” signs. The moon punctuated the inky sky as we waited for the bus. (Rave for door-to-door public transportation!)

We settled into a corner booth at Elly’s Pancake House and wrapped our hands around hot coffee mugs as Theodore practiced using a straw. Our fellow diners (breakfasters? What do you call a meal eaten at 4 a.m.?) seemed to be more on the staying-out-late end of the spectrum than our getting-up-early. Regardless, the ambiance of the place felt genial, as if Elly (whomever she is) opened her kitchen up just for you and whatever circumstances brought you there, accepting you whether your feet be shod in sparkly high heels or in slippers. Or your hair mussed from dancing the night away or from tossing and turning. Imagine shuffling down to your kitchen having finally given up on sleep and wanting only to watch time tick by on a different clock for awhile. Instead of stoically picking at leftovers in the light of the fridge, you are met with fresh coffee, good company, and ample stacks of pancakes. There are very few bad nights that cannot be made better by those things.

By the time the bill was paid, the sky had lightened and we were feeling similarly brighter having avoided a midnight mama meltdown in such a yummy fashion. As we walked the few steps from the bus stop to our door, the mood had mellowed a bit. With barely a word, we all three tumbled back into bed together for a 7 a.m. nap. As I drifted off with my two loves on either side of me (one of whom smelt faintly of syrup) I found myself almost looking forward to the next night the Pancake Plan would be needed.

Just almost.

Posted 11 years, 5 months ago at 9:20 pm. 3 comments

Milestones: the first balloon

Like all first balloons worth their helium, after it played awhile it slipped away unnoticed into the sky.

Posted 11 years, 5 months ago at 9:49 pm. Add a comment

The mac ‘n’ cheese kitchen: Pantry edition

The mac ‘n’ cheese kitchen: a room most often seen in urban areas that seems like an afterthought with a fridge squeezed in, postage stamp size counters,  and just enough cupboard space to store a few pots, bowls, and of course, your blue stash of mac ‘n’ cheese. I am now the proud humble renter of just such a kitchen. I must keep repeating my mantra of “beautiful kitchens do not good food make” as I attempt to render this kitchen functional for cooking more than macaroni. 

The pantry was my biggest concern moving into this apartment with a mac ‘n’ cheese kitchen. (Well, that and cloth diapering with a coin op machine in another building.) The cupboards were clearly not going to be sufficient to hold my collection of pots and pans, various mixing bowls, and a well curated pantry.

Following the best small kitchen advice I’ve heard, I looked outside the kitchen walls to find my pantry. As luck would have it, there’s a coat closet right around the corner. Not nearly my dream butler’s pantry but quite serviceable nonetheless. And you can’t beat the fully closing door to toddler proof the area. I had dreams of building floor to ceiling shelves like Erik and Kelly from Root Simple. Alas, my luck ran out when I discovered brick immediately behind the drywall. Were we planning on living here long term, I would have forged ahead. Instead, I decided to heed my rule about making use of what I already own and turn one of my metro shelves into a pantry in said closet. Conveniently, the upper shelves are just wide enough to store all my appliances, since counter space is the Boardwalk of this kitchen Monopoly.

Here’s the closet “before”:

And the pantry “after”:

*Want a pantry like this of your own? Watch for my upcoming post “Tips for Organizing a Bulk Foods Pantry.”

Posted 11 years, 5 months ago at 9:47 am. 4 comments

Kitchen Tip: how to juice old limes

Surely I am not the only one this happens to.

I buy a bag of limes, smiling at all the brightness they will bring to my cooking that week. I reach for them continuously for about four days and then… forget. Or hoard them for a special dish that doesn’t end up being made. The remaining third roll around my produce drawer, bread box, or kitchen counter like some kind of culinary diaspora. Brown spots appear and tender skin becomes callused. The poor exiles seem destined for the compost bin.

Surely I’m not alone in this. Surely it happens to other people.

Should you find yourself with tough limes, don’t despair. To make them tender again, zap them in the microwave for 30-45 seconds. If you don’t have a microwave, immerse them in boiling water for a minute or two. Be sure to let them cool for a minute or two before trying to juice them. Boiling lime juice hurts.

Most of the time this will tenderize them enough to use both the juice and the zest. However, if your limes are to far gone, the skins might still be too tough to zest. and you might not get as much juice as you would have with fresh limes.

This same trick works for lemons, too.

Posted 11 years, 5 months ago at 9:07 am. Add a comment

Milestones: the first splinter

It happened somewhere between the slide and the changing table. That’s all I know. The little trooper didn’t even cry when it happened.

The tweezers were a no-go. He was too interested in the new “toy” to let me use them effectively at all.

Any tips on how to get a splinter out of a toddler’s hand? Or do you just leave it there and hope for the best?

Posted 11 years, 5 months ago at 8:42 pm. Add a comment

{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from Soule Mama. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Posted 11 years, 5 months ago at 8:07 am. Add a comment

On my counter

This week my kitchen counter has:

:: been a sedate background for the wild (and sometimes obscene) curlycues of fresh okra
:: carried the weight of the world on it’s shoulders in the form of dirty dishes
:: felt the first autumn breezes saunter in through the open window
:: been lost under a bushel of basil
:: taste tested my basil pesto recipe with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and five spice powder
:: kept up good cheer when my batch of fermented pickles was only almost successful

Posted 11 years, 5 months ago at 8:52 am. Add a comment

Spicy Salmon Peach and Barley Salad

“If this is a salad, then anything is a salad,” Gary teased me last time I served this and expressly called it a salad. His taunting highlights something I’ve  given idle thought to before: the definition of a salad.

Any quick search of a recipe site will prove salads are much more than beds of lettuce. I’ve seen just about any vegetable made into a salad; some of the best are completely sans lettuce, like the black bean and corn salad that graces so many picnic tables in the summer.

Nor are “salads” purely the domain of vegetables. Where would lunch be without the tuna  or egg salad?

Perhaps “salad” refers to a cold temperature? But no, obviously there is hot German potato salad and wilted salads made with hot bacon dressing.

Could “salad” be a preparation technique of mixing  disparate ingredients into a big pile and uniting them with a dressing? Hmmm…. mayb—- Nope. Both the casual Caprese salad of neatly overlapping mozzarella cheese slices, tomato slices, and basil leaves and the elegant towers of a sea scallop, caramelized onions, and a cornichon served in white tablecloth restaurants testify against that.

I remain at a loss. I only know that a salad is different than a casserole, which is different than a soup. And that this is surely a salad.

I used unhulled barley rather than the more common pearled barley because in addition to retaining more nutrients, I enjoy the chewiness of unhulled barley. While the long soaking step is technically optional, I strongly recommend  making the time for it as your barley will cook more quickly and your body will be better able to absorb the nutrients from the grain. The added vinegar aids in the neutralization of phytic acid, a nutrient inhibitor.

Szechuan peppers are not actually related to regular peppercorns. They are members of the citrus family and hence impart an almost floral aroma and flavor. Szechuan pepper is a component of the popular Chinese Five Spice mixture. They compliment other truly spicy flavors like cayenne and chili by contributing a tingly sensation on your lips and tongue. Most bulk spice suppliers will carry them, and they are unquestionably worth trying. Though if you cannot find them, you may substitute plain black peppercorns.


Spicy Salmon Peach and Barley Salad

2 wild caught Alaskan salmon fillets about the size of a deck of cards, or two cups leftover flaked salmon
2 Tbs coconut oil (if using leftover salmon, omit this)
1 cup dry unhulled barley
2 cups chicken stock or water, plus extra if necessary
3 ripe peaches, peeled or unpeeled as you prefer
1/2 sweet onion, peeled and sliced thinly on a mandolin
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 Tbs fruity olive oil
2 Tbs cider or rice wine vinegar
2-3 Tbs of spice mix, to taste
1/4 cup of any mixed herbs you have-  I like garlic chives, thyme, basil, and oregano

Spice Mix
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tbs whole Szechuan peppercorns
1 Tbs whole coriander
1 tsp red chili flakes
a pinch or two of cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 Tbs salt

The night before, toast the barley in a saucepan by placing it over high heat and giving it an occasional gentle shake or stir until the toasty aroma fills your kitchen.  Take it off the heat and let it cool slightly. Then add water to cover the grains by several inches. Dribble in a little vinegar and give it a stir. Cover the pan with a tea towel and let the barley soak in a warm place overnight. Whenever you’re ready to cook it the next day, drain the water and return the barley to the pan. Add the chicken stock and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer covered with a tight lid for about 45 minutes. Check it a few times during cooking and replenish the liquid if necessary.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat until  it shimmers. Add the salmon fillets skin side down and sprinkle the tops with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a lid and cook until the fish flakes easily, lowering the heat if it begins to burn. Cut it into large chunks. It will be further broken up when you mix the salad together. If I can resist eating the crispy skin, I mix it with the salad as it is a source of healthy fats; if it’s texture bothers you too much, feed it to your cats. Set aside until the barley is done. If you’re using leftovers, just remove it from the fridge when you start the barley so it can come to room temperature.

Combine all your spices in a mortar and pestle or a spice mill and grind until they are powdered. Sometimes the Szechuan pepper refuses to powder completely. In this case, you can either go with it or shake it through a fine mesh colander to remove the stubborn bits.

In a large bowl, combine the warm barley, chunked salmon, garlic, onion, and peaches. Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar and sprinkle with a Tbs of the spice mixture. Mix well, preferably with your hands so you can feel when it’s all been evenly incorporated. Taste and see what you think of the spice. Add more until it suites you. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep the leftover spice in an airtight jar in a dark cupboard for next time.

If you have time, let it sit in the fridge for a few hours so the flavors can meld. If you don’t, serve it with confidence because it will still be good. Just before serving, mix in the chopped herbs. This salad is good cold or at room temperature. I like serving it on a bed of wilted greens.


Posted 11 years, 6 months ago at 2:55 pm. 1 comment