Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Life (and food) with baby: part IV

In case you missed it, I've caught y'all up on how cooking and eating has changed (and hasn't changed) in our house since Emmett was born. I also shared the latest and greatest of breakfasts and dinners. But now for what has become party time for us - lunch!

Lunch is almost always fun for us for one of two reasons: Daddy comes home or we go on an adventure! We're fortunate to live just two miles from Luke's work, so he's able to sneak away most days to enjoy lunch with his two favorites :) And on days when Luke doesn't come home, it's usually because we've got sassy plans out. 

Since spring is now here in full force (at least that's what my allergies tell me - wah!), I invited Rachel and Amity on a picnic at Mayfield Park last week. It was beautiful there, and the peacocks were strutting around per usual which was lots of fun. It had been years since I'd been there, and unfortunately our strollers weren't cutting it on the stone path, so we ditched them and rocked our Baby Bjorns for a little hike. I got the cutest little sun hat for Emmett, but didn't get any good pics of it (this time, at least!). Besides the fine weather, I was inspired by the desire to make chicken salad. I've officially entered the world of professional recipe testing (WOOHOO!) and have been testing out mayo recipes for a client, so I had lots of mayo in the fridge, so I thought chicken salad was the best use for some of it :)

Emmett and I have had a blast going to baby swim class at Emler Swim School here in Austin with a couple other baby (and mom) friends. He already loved tubby time, so it came as no big surprise that he loves swim class. And, he looks SO cute in his little swim trunks :) E is usually super tired after swim class, so I'm able to run to the grocery store, feed myself and get stuff done around the house all while he sleeps (after the first class, he took a FOUR HOUR NAP!). 
My mom came to visit one week, so she came along to swim class and took lots of great pics. THANKS MOM!
What a determined little swimmer :)

I've also enjoyed meeting friends out to lunch (both working peeps and fellow moms). Some recent delicious spots have included Kome, Lucky's Puccias new brick and mortar, Z Tejas, 24 Diner, Food Heads and Roaring Fork (note, this was the first time E was actually awake for all of lunch - when he was 2-3 months, he kept sleeping through all my lunch dates!).

Pizza at Lucky's - DELICIOUS!

Sassy gumbo at the Farmer's Market - #putaneggonit

Kome sushi - yes please!
 Lunches at home really aren't all that different from before Emmett was here. Since I love to cook, I make a fun new dinner every night. I always make enough for leftovers, however, so lunchtime planning is a breeze (but usually not any more than that, I hate eating the same thing over and over again all week!). On the rare day when I don't have leftovers handy, I always have the essentials for a kitchen sink salad - grains to cook up fast, greens in the garden, whatever veggies in the drawer, canned beans, and a homemade dressing I can easily whisk up in the bowl and then just add the other ingredients to it and toss together (my go-to is equal parts Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil with S+P). Oh, and don't forget a sprinkle of feta or freshly chopped cheddar :)

Lunchtime fun - using the "R" brand we got from Luke's parents to brand our favorite tortillas

Tacos made new with fresh cooked tortillas for lunch! Why I love Margarita's
 That's all for now!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Life (and food) with baby: part III

Hello again! As I mentioned, I'm still cooking up a storm around here, though I do things a little differently now that baby Emmett is around. I caught you up on breakfasts (though I forgot to mention breakfast tacos, which are still a house favorite, but usually only on the weekends).

My kitchen organizational skills kick into high gear in order to make dinner a tasty, timely and non-stressful affair. I take into account our schedule for the day when I'm making meal plans, so that if I'll be out and about, I keep the prep time minimal. Or, if I anticipate Emmett being pretty fussy and hands-on during dinner prep, I'll make sure it's not a super temperamental dinner that requires exact timing or it tastes bad (like a sauce that needs constant stirring, or a high-heat cooking situation that might burn if I have to step away for a moment (or 20).

But before I share a few recent wins, hello from Emmett!
Happy St. Patrick's Day, y'all!
I thought I've be making a lot more pasta these days, but surprisingly I haven't. That said, this Bacon and Shrimp Pasta Toss from Cooking Light came together in seconds (I used greens from the garden, and I added in some sundried tomatoes from the fridge - what is this, 1994??). 
 I want to put this tahini sauce on EVERYTHING. I did a riff on this Cauliflower and Chickpea Quinoa with Tahini Drizzle from Cooking Light adding chicken and subbing in broccoli (it was on sale, otherwise I totally would've used cauliflower, my looooove). I love recipes like this because you can prepare each component separately ahead of time, if needed (i.e. cook the chicken, prepare the quinoa, roast the veggies and whisk the sauce) and then either rewarm and toss together, or even enjoy at room temp.

 We like keeping tamales in the freezer to then build an easy meal around them. One of my go-to's is roasted sweet potato with tamales. This one I also topped with diced avocado and queso fresco. I also love topping baked sweet potatoes with black beans and sauteed greens, or with chili.

This Balsamic Chicken with Walnuts and Olives was a weeknight win for sure. I wisked together the sauce, toasted and chopped the walnuts, and chopped the shallots ahead of time. Then, I went ahead and did a tahini lemon dressing and tossed the kale salad (because bonus! kale tastes better if you like it hang out in dressing for a while!). When I got the call from Luke that he was headed home, I fired up the pan for the chicken and dinner was finishing up when he got home 10 minutes later. BAM.

Another freezer go-to? Delicious ravioli! I never kept it in the freezer before, but I love having it around to toss with whatever veggies I have on hand that I roast. No sauce needed - just a little olive oil, parm and salt and pepper.

That's it for now - more weeknight dinner successes soon! 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

An evening at Counter 3. five. vii

Life with baby has been a blast, but Luke and I are always looking for fun ways to enjoy time with just the two of us. When we got invited to the media dinner to try out Counter 3. five. vii I JUMPED at the chance because a) we'd heard a lot about it b) it's fancy pants and new and c) DATE NIGHT! Thanks to the lovely Meg (the reason for my vacation in Portland back in 2013) and her husband Matt babysitting Emmett, we enjoyed a few baby-free hours filled with adult conversation, and some adult beverages.

Jason Huerta, their sommelier, is AWESOME. We were big fans of his and loved that he came over to our seats with every pairing in the seven course tasting menu to describe the selections he chose. And yes, there was a sherry and a beer on the list. I'm embarrassed to say I think that's the first time I'd tried sherry - I always thought it was what older ladies drank? It was fun trying pairings that were way beyond the expected.

Be prepared, the space is beautiful. The design is sleek and clean - kind of like a sushi bar/open chef's kitchen, except it's fine cuisine. It's posh while at the same time so welcoming - a great combination for a restaurant in my opinion. The only thing I was left wanting was a hook for my purse haha :)

We enjoyed the seven course tasting menu, with pairings, which was a compilation of offerings from their different tasting menus (the name says it all - they have tastings for three, five or seven courses). It was fun starting with an amuse bouche that featured a delightfully sweet and salty financier cake.

Some of the highlights for us included the pork jowl and the beef tongue (I didn't think I liked tongue, until I tried this one). Each plate was a piece of art and had such exciting, complex flavors. And, it was fun having the chefs and different servers talk about the different dishes, not to mention watching all the action in the kitchen! 

Lawrence Kocurek really knocked this one out of the park! I can't wait to try it again for another date night. Luke says this is the best dinner he had in well over a year :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Life (and food) with baby: part II

Hello again from babyland! Yesterday I was excited to announce that I'm embarking on a new chapter - that of stay-at-home mom. I'm so happy to get to continue to spend lots of time with sweet little Emmett, and hopefully get more time to keep on cooking, recipe testing and blogging. In that vein, I promised to update y'all on what we've been eating, so I thought I'd share the skinny on breakfasts.

We're lucky to have a baby who already sleeps through the night -- sometimes. Some days he wakes up when Luke does, so they breakfast together while I catch a few more winks. Other days, we're all up together at the same time. Either way, Emmett loves his "party chair" that vibrates and has a little musical disco ball, so I'm able to cook with both hands while he's happy too. Then, when it's time to eat, E moves to his activity mat so he can bat around at his toys while I eat and read the paper - and make silly faces at him of course!

The "party chair" - E is a fan!
Breastfeeding is no joke. I'm ALWAYS hungry, but especially in the morning after 12 hours of not eating! Not surprisingly, pancakes are still one of my favorites. Smothered with some Justin's Maple Almond Butter (I buy these by the armful whenever they're on sale!), these pancakes have some staying power.

I keep a container of my homemade whole wheat oatmeal pancake mix in the cupboard, so whenever I spot a super ripe banana in my produce basket, I know it's pancake day! Then I just mash it up, add an egg, milk and vanilla and scoop in my mix. It takes less than 5 minutes and only dirties one bowl. Bonus points if I have berries to add in. Negative points when a piece of bacon sneaks in on the side. :) And did I mention coffee? ;)

Toast and eggs are another favorite, whether it's avocado toast with a hard boiled or fried egg on top, or scrambled eggs next to a piece of jammy toast. Always with fresh fruit on the side!

 Other breakfast favorites are:
  • Microwave oatmeal with a scoop of nut butter, a scoop of jam or some homemade apple butter. Add fresh berries, banana slices or apples sauteed with a little butter and cinnamon and brown sugar. Don't forget a sprinkle of coconut flakes, pepitas or nuts!
  • Overnight oats when it warms up a bit. Equal parts oats, Greek yogurt and milk stirred together and refrigerated overnight, these are so easy the next morning if you don't have time to cook!
  • Breakfast tacos! These are still usually just a weekend affair unless I have already cooked potatoes around.
Being the breakfast lovers that we are, I have so much fun making it at home that we rarely go out for breakfast. But when Luke was still out on paternity leave, I couldn't pass up the chance to try Dai Due's new brick-and-mortar spot for breakfast. Y-U-M, whatever you do, get a place that has bacon on it! They cook it over an open fire so it's both perfectly crisp while melting in your mouth. Luke and I both loved it, and we rarely see eye-to-eye on the doneness of bacon :) We bought some from the retail portion of the shop to enjoy at home the next day - not quite the same, but still amazing.

Emmett did a great job as our breakfast date!

If you follow me on Instagram (apronadventures), I tag fun food photos with #newmomfood. You'll also get your almost daily #babyemmett photo fixes, if you're into that sort of thing ;)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Life (and food) with baby: part I

Greetings from the other side! After a nice long blog break, I'm excited to share some updates and tips on life with baby.

First off, meet Emmett!
 Born December 11th, we've enjoyed the last 2+ months getting to know him and enjoying his sweet hugs, snuggles and general good looks. Each day is different, but for the most part, he's a very good baby, not to mention, a good eater, just like his mom! So far, we've lucked out :)
Life with baby has changed our eating style for sure, but for the most part, we're cooking just as often as before! A few notable changes:

1) The recipes are simpler. These days long ingredient lists or complicated steps just aren't happening. One, because I totally have "mommy brain" and can't be trusted to keep track of where I am in the process, and two, because more and more, Luke is helping with recipe prep and cooking, and I know he appreciates it when I keep things simple so that he can pull it off.
2) Planning in advance is a must. This means more than ever before, I'm chopping ahead of time and even doing some of the cooking in advance as much as possible. It's rare I'm able to make an entire dish from start to finish in one time period due to a needy baby, so having veggies prepped and grouped together with their portion of a recipe, sauces whisked up and meats trimmed and prepped makes me getting dinner on the table at a reasonable time a reality.
3) We repeat meals more often. I don't have as much time to leisurely peruse recipes like I used to, so I have started relying on a few staple recipes or recipe styles. Before, it was rare we ate the same thing twice in our house unless it was REALLY good, mostly because there are SO many recipes I want to try!
4) I take more short cuts. Sometimes it's buying an Indian food simmer sauce so all I have to do is saute meat and veggies, then add in the sauce. Other times I'll snag pre-marinated meat from the butcher. I've started stocking the freezer with some delicious ravioli that I can just add to whatever veggies I find in the crisper that I then do a quick saute with. These little time savers make all the difference, when before I wouldn't have even considered it! 
5) I only grocery shop once a week. I've always been a meal planner, but I had the luxury of working above the store, so needless to say I was popping down every day to snag an ingredient I might have forgotten in my larger shop, or letting myself wait until the day-of to get produce at the perfect level of ripeness. Luckily, there's one just a couple miles from my house, so one-off stops aren't out of the question, but with a baby in the mix, those random stops are few and far between!
Things that haven't changed:

1) Breakfast is still king. Whether it's a weekend morning and the whole family is eating together, or a it's a weekday, it's rare that I have cereal for breakfast. Nursing is hard work, so I'm constantly hungry! Without a substantial breakfast, I'd be eating every hour on the hour (just like Emmett sometimes :) )
2) I still cook dinner almost every night. I still don't love eating the same thing all week long, so even if I do a big soup or crock pot dinner, I'll freeze any excessive leftovers rather than eating it 4x a week.
3) I still LOVE to cook. But it's a different kind of love now. I'm more focused on ensuring we're eating a well balanced diet (not that I ignored this before though!) to make sure I'm a) losing the baby weight and b) getting nutrients that I then pass on to baby Emmett.

In the next post, I'll share some of the foods we've been eating lately!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Challah French Toast with Cinnamon Brown Sugar Apples

Anyone who follows my Instagram feed knows that I have got it BAD for breakfast on the weekends. I pop out of bed and run down to make my (half caf) coffee then get started. While we eat pretty well during the week for breakfasts (green smoothies, pancetta and egg breakfast sandwiches, oats in a jar with all the fixins), weekends I get to spend more than 10 minutes on breakfast. I think this recipe took approximately 12 minutes though, so it might just sneak itself into the week day routine! 

Since we enjoyed a freakishly cool mid September day, I busted out the cinnamon container for a day of fall recipes, and this was up first. I can't wait to recreate it!

Challah French Toast with Cinnamon Brown Sugar Apples

1/2 loaf challah bread (brioche works too, you could do regular sandwich bread, but this will be WAY less exciting)
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk (I used whole)
2 tablespoons cinnamon, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 apple, sliced (peel on or off, your choice!)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Justin's Maple Almond Butter (I'm HOOKED on this and buy it 6 jars at a time whenever it goes on sale, but freshly ground almond butter would be nice here too!)
Maple Syrup

Preheat a nonstick skillet and a cast iron skillet on medium heat. 

Slice the challah bread into thick slices (mine were about 1 inch thick). Whisk the eggs and milk together, then add in 1 tablespoon cinnamon (reserve the other tablespoon!). Spray the nonstick skillet with cooking spray (or melt a little butter if you dare). Dunk each challah slice in the milk mixture to get it nice and soaked, then place on the nonstick skillet. Cook about 1 1/2 minutes then flip and cook another 1 - 1 1/2 minutes. Remove and keep warm.

In the meantime, melt the butter in the cast iron. Toss the apple slices with the remaining 1 tablespoon cinnamon and brown sugar, then add, in one layer, to the cast iron. Turn apples after 2 minutes and cook on the other side another 2 minutes.

Spread the French toast with your almond butter (I do about 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons per slice) and top with apple slices, then drizzle with maple syrup. Enjoy!
Enjoy with bacon, coffee and fall decor! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Naughty Mac and Cheese

When asked my favorite foods, I spout off my top three at lightening speed - cheeseburgers, queso and mac & cheese. Healthy and sophisticated, right? :) 

Needless to say, it's a good thing Luke isn't crazy about mac and cheese, otherwise I'd probably make it every week. I often try to go middle of the road in terms of naughty and nice components, but this one is like 95% naughty - sorry about that. I use whole milk here for extra creaminess, but by all means use 1 or 2% milk if you'd rather - but you may need to bump up with an extra tablespoon each of butter and flour to help thicken things up a bit. My one nice concession (other than the cauliflower, which doesn't REALLY count since I douse it in olive oil before roasting...) is whole wheat pasta - I find in a creamy sauce like this, I don't mind WW at all, so I go for it.

Naughty Mac and Cheese

1 head cauliflower
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 thick slices bacon
1/2 onion, chopped
1 pound whole wheat pasta (I used elbows, shells work nicely too!)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
4 cups whole milk, room temperature
6-8 cups shredded cheese (I mix gruyere and extra sharp cheddar for maximum flavor and meltability), room tempterature
1 cup panko or breadcrumbs
3/4 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cauliflower into bite-sized florets and spread on a baking sheet. Give it a few turns of olive oil (probably 3 ish tablespoons) and salt and pepper, then toss to combine. Roast 30 minutes, turning once, until browned. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile heat a skillet on medium heat and crisp up bacon. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to remove excess grease, then chop into small pieces once slightly cooled. Reduce the skillet heat to medium low. Add onion to the bacon drippings in the pan and saute 10-15 minutes until beginning to caramelize. Remove from heat.

Set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Once water boils, cook pasta according to package directions and then drain. 

In the meantime, warm a large sauce pan (I used my dutch oven) on medium heat. Melt butter, then whisk in flour. Let this cook 45 seconds - a minute, stirring almost constantly. Slowly whisk in milk. Let cook on medium heat until thickened, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Once this has thickened, season with salt and pepper and add cheese, one handful at a time, stirring after each addition, until incorporated and smooth.

Add cooked pasta, cauliflower, bacon and onions to cheese sauce and stir to combine. In a small bowl, stir together panko with parm and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle evenly over mac and cheese.

Bake 20 minutes in the 400 degree oven, then finish until the broiler for a minute to get a nice golden brown topping. Enjoy!

The finished product hot out of the oven! Definitely give it time to cool off :)