Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Latkes-- Finally! with zaatar aioli

We finally made latkes for Hanukkah. I waited until my in-laws were here-- that way the trouble it takes to make them would be worth it and they could do most of the clean up (Thanks!). Actually, I didn't make them at all. Ron did most of the work. Ron doesn't cook much but certain things must seem like a "man's job" to him-- making pancakes, eggs, grilling outdoors, cooking edamame and making latkes. Those are his specialties. We used a simple recipe. What I contributed, however, was a delicious za'atar aioli.

This very basic potato pancake recipe is from Jewish Cookery by Leah W. Leonard (Crown Publishers, 1949). It always works.
Serves 4-6.

6 medium potatoes
1 onion
2 eggs
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
Vegetable shortening or oil for deep frying (I use peanut oil, but any kind of vegetable oil will do)

Pare and grate potatoes into a mixing bowl. Squeeze out liquid. Peel and grate onion into potatoes. (I grate both together in the food processor). Add eggs, flour and salt and stir to make a smooth batter that will drop heavily from the spoon. Heap the shortening in a heavy frying pan (use a heavy, cast-iron skillet for the best results), using enough to cover the pancakes amply — about a 1/2-inch deep. Drop the batter from a spoon into the hot shortening, making pancakes about 3 inches in diameter. Fry over moderate heat until brown on the underside, turn to brown other side. Lift out and drain off excess fat on paper towel. Serve plain, with sour cream or applesauce.


1 large garlic clove, peeled
1 cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup za'atar spice mix
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Recycled Polarfleece PJ Blankets

I've been holding onto Alex's polarfleece PJ's (He has quite a lot of them-- don't forget-- it's Wisconsin!) more or less since he was born. He spent so much time in them that first year that they hold many many memories for me. You can see him wearing them here, and here for example... Now that I've finally finished the baby quilt for Yonatan in Holland and given up on my summer project (a picnic blanket) and my fall project (a Halloween wall hanging) and my winter project (a Hanukkah garland) where only the picnic blanket was even remotely started, I thought it was time to make Alex a PJ blanket.

It was tough to destroy those PJ's. First of all, cutting into them at all made me feel guilty. Surely another child could get lots of use out of them. I've given away or sold almost all of Alex's clothes thus far. Second of all, cutting the PJ's makes you feel as though you are flaying a human being open. They are precisely the shape of a small child and I felt like Hannibal Lecter as I dismembered the pajamas leg by leg and arm by arm, carefully preserving as much fabric or "skin" as I could. After a while it got much easier and I just felt like a common butcher. Polarfleece is easy to sew with and the blanket was made in an afternoon.

Then Talia wanted one too, of course. I had given away most of her pj's to my niece Marley but I had all the 4T ones from last year and a few that we handed down to Alex (he wears lots of pink pajamas). Her blanket sewed up even quicker because I put the squares in a simple pattern and was able to chain piece. For the backing I used ultra-soft polarfleece (that stuff that's even softer than polarfleece?) light blue with white stars for Alex and pink minkee with raised hearts for Talia. She was beside herself at Joann's because she wanted something as soft as Alex's but they didn't really have any pretty ultra-soft and the minkee is so sweet. She just. couldn't. decide! I don't usually take her with me to pick out fabric because I can't concentrate with her there. Plus it was already almost 8pm but I really wanted to buy it before everything closed for xmas. I did not use any batting because these are hugging blankets (called softies in my house), not covering blankets and they needed to be very malleable. I didn't baste them or anything-- just put them right side together, sewed around the perimeter, turned them right side out and did some minimal in the ditch "quilting"-- vertical lines for Alex and concentric squares for Talia.

They were about as well received as anything could be. The kids love them and I get to enjoy those cute little PJ's forever. Reduced, reused, and recycled!
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Saturday, December 20, 2008


Mac-n-Smoked Gouda with Cauliflower from Rachael Ray

Made this and sent half to a friend who is on bedrest. It was good and had a nice kick. The panko topping is my own touch because more is always, well, more. This recipe definitely makes enough for two families! It tasted better when it was just made rather than reheated (more cheesy/gooey). Also, while it surely is a 30 minute recipe it seemed like I used every dish in my kitchen so there was a lot of clean up.
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Finished and on its way to Holland!

I finally finished the baby quilt for my friend in Holland. I re-basted it (although it still gave me problems) and for a while I had written it off- it just wasn't going to be my best work. In the end everything quilted out and it came out great! It's on my king sized bed so it's actually bigger than the photo suggests. I'm in love with it and I'm sorry to say goodbye to it. Someday I will make a quilt that doesn't get sent away.
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Thursday, December 18, 2008


Last night Talia was talking about making a gingerbread house at school and I told her I had never done that. She was surprised. She said, "Didn't you ask your mom?" And I said, "You mean Nana?" And then we looked at each other and laughed because Nana doesn't cook. Ever. She can't even boil water.

Last week Nana told me she was invited to a cookie exchange. She would never have gone except it was her supervisor at work who was hosting it. She said she was just going to pick up cookies at Costco and I suggested she make these pretzel kiss things since they were just about the easiest thing in the world. I emailed her the recipe and she gathered the ingredients. Or should I say, probably my dad gathered the ingredients because my mother hasn't set foot in a grocery store in about 5 years.

It was a disaster. This is the email she sent out:

1. Call daughter Nikki
2. She makes fun of you and gives you an “easy” recipe that EVEN YOU can make!!!!!!!
3.Buy waffle pretzels…chocolate kisses…M&M’s
4. Put pretzels on wax paper (why I even have wax paper is a great question!)
5. Put a kiss on each pretzel
6. Make oven 175 degrees
7. Wait 4-6 minutes
8. Nothing is happening
9. Take picture to prove this
10.Make oven to 300 degrees so faster melting will take place…or any melting actually
11. Fire alarm goes off
12. Husband says “I told you to buy the damn cookies at Costco!”
13. It smells!!!!
14. Take out of oven and try to hurry to put M&M’s on non-melted kisses
15.Kisses crumble and all smells burnt
16. Take picture to prove attempt at baking
17. Drink a BIG MARTINI
17. Call Nikki and berate her
18. Go to supermarket and buy world’s best cookies anyway that everyone will want more than the crap everyone baked!!!!!
19. Drink a LOT of wine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then she sent out an addendum to the first email:

Actually 18A. --- BEFORE "Drinks wine!!!!"
20. Attempt to get to Cookie Party---car won't start, get charged, car stops 3 minutes later while driving - able to sorta pull into weird gas station - have Barb's cell # (THANK YOU!!!!!) - get picked up by Erica and Stacie (Thank you!!!)
Epilogue - Bruce picks me up --- charges car, starts!...stops!...starts!...stops! --- is now in front of Ben Franklin School waiting to be towed to Flemington!!!! Bruce eats half of loot on way home!!!!!!
Conclusion - Nice Jewish girls belong in bakeries and restaurants, NOT in kitchens!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The photo that accompanies this post is of the batch that I made for the cookie exchange and fundraiser that I went to tonight. They turned out beautifully.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

Cooperative Play

The kids are still playing well together, although Talia is presently chasing Alex with a bracelet attached to a necklace (therefore making a leash) that she wants him to wear but he is refusing. She originally had the necklace tied around his neck so maybe I'm romantisizing their relationship? I'ts 9:40am and I haven't fed them yet so I guess I'll go do that... We're staying home in PJ's all day today, which is becoming a winter tradition. Wait, I think it was a summer tradition too.
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Your mom lets you out of the house like that?

I remade this outfit for Alex. He can actually breathe while wearing it now. It's very cute but also slightly ridiculous looking.
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Friday, December 12, 2008

911... What's your emergency?

Talia had her first ballet recital. I am happy to report that while she is not the most graceful student in the class she seems to hold her own for the most part. Alex was a total menace during the "performance." Everytime I took my camera out he was whining and stamping his feet because he wanted to hold it.

At one point there was a little break and I let him run around in the parent waiting room. There I discovered that one of the grandparents who had come to watch the show was feeling faint. He drank some water and took some slow deep breaths. His pulse was normal and his color looked ok. A few moments later he was unresponsive but still breathing. I tried to call 911 but my phone doesn't work well at ballet (it's in the basement). I had to leave the room-- with Alex-- and walk until I had better reception. I answered the dispatcher's questions but I wanted to get back and see how he was doing. The dispatcher didn't want me to get off the phone but he kept asking how the patient was now. I kept trying to explain that I wasn't with the patient because I had no reception there. Finally I hung up on him so I could get back to the man. He came to and seemed disoriented, very pale and diaphoretic. Paramedics came after a few minutes and they took over from there. I missed a major part of the ballet performance but I felt like I had done my good deed for the day.
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A little gel

A little gel never hurt anyone... right? Sometimes we get bored and play with hair products.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Baby Shoes and More

I've been crafting baby shoes lately. I have lots of friends with new babies and I'm trying to perfect my shoe making. I actually corrected a big problem AFTER I made all the ones pictured here. The most fun is embellishing them with different things- cloth covered buttons, fabric flowers and yoyo's thus far. I'm getting the time down as well and found that the ones made with cordouroy do not need to be faced. I've also made some shirts for birthdays and that lightning bolt one covers a big stain on one of Alex's shirts. Actually, I think you can see the stain in the picture but thankfully, not in real life.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Second Snow Day

We got a bunch of inches of snow yesterday and all the schools were closed. In the morning the kids played well together. They disappeared into the princess tent for a tea party and played together without intervention for at least 45 minutes. Miraculously I got Supergirl to come over for 4 hours in the afternoon. She even took Talia outside. Ron came home an hour early and we all went out to snowblow/ shovel/ play in the snow. The kids were asleep by 8:30 and they each only woke up once so... not a bad day overall. I'm sure there are many more snowy days to come...
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Friday, December 05, 2008

Giada's Tomato Soup with Lemon Rosemary Creme Fraiche

Ron said (and I quote...), "I could eat this soup every day." Is there a better endorsement?

I tivo Giada's Everyday Italian daily and always check out the first few minutes to see if anything looks good. I try a lot of her recipes. This one is easy and delicious. I love tomato soup and I love creme fraiche so... there you go. The only change I made to this recipe was to use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, of course. Also, from the picture on the website I think I pureed mine (with an immersion blender) more than she did.

Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon and Rosemary

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 15-ounce can cannellini (white) beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, plus 1 teaspoon, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup creme fraiche
Zest of one lemon

1. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, covered.
2. Puree the soup in a blender in batches, being careful to remove and discard the bay leaf. Return the soup to a soup pot and keep warm over low heat. Season with salt and pepper.
3. In a medium bowl fold in the lemon zest and the remaining teaspoon of rosemary to 2/3 cup creme fraiche. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and dollop each bowl with the lemon rosemary creme fraiche. Serve immediately.
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Thursday, December 04, 2008

To re-baste or not to re-baste?

That is the question. I was so excited to be moving on with this project. I finished the quilt top and carefully basted the three layers together. Or so I thought. I moved the rug out of the way, I taped the backing and batting to the floor. I got down on my hands and knees. I basted every two inches. I really thought I did a good job. Now, as I'm quilting it I realize I must not have done a good job because I'm having to take out the pins and really re-align the top as I go along. I've done over a third of the quilt and it seems I will have to rebaste most of the rest. Extremely extremely frustrating. I want to push through it but I've spent so much time on it-- choosing the design, picking the fabrics, cutting, sewing, aligning, trimming, picking out backing, laying it out, basting, choosing a quilting design and all the teeny tiny steps in between. I MUST rebaste it. The whole quilt will be second rate if I don't and I'll never be able to think about it or look at it if I don't. I definitely feel guilty when I think of other projects where I didn't take the time to fix mistakes. Quilting is a true love of mine and I want to be proud of my work. So, back down on the floor I will rebaste the quilt. There's a few hours I'll never get back...
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Another Hop Skip Jump Quilt-- basted!

I've been working on this one for a while-- I just need to quilt it and bind it so I can send it to a new baby in Holland! The joke is that the first quilt I made for big brother Yoav was really tiny-- about the size of a receiving blanket (that's being generous). I have since made Yoav a bigger quilt. I was going to make this one only three rows but I didn't want it to be square. I had enough fabric cut to add the fourth row so I went for it. Now it looks ridiculously large for a baby quilt. I'm going to quilt it really simply so it should only take an afternoon or two-- that is, if I ever got an afternoon or two... I'm hoping to finish the whole thing this week. The baby is at least a month old by now!

This is based on the pattern Hop Skip Jump by Denyse Schmidt (I did it freehand). This is the second one I've made.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Vintage Bed Sheet Lounge Pants

Picked up a really soft king-sized bed sheet at the thrift store. Used a pair of pj pants as a pattern and sewed this up extra quick. I've sewn with bed sheets often and find that they always come out of the wash wrinkle free. I don't know what the content of the fabric is but it's a definite bonus. Also, working with sheets is great because the sides are usually pre-hemmed. I offered to make Talia a matching pair and she rolled her eyes at me. I thought maybe the butterflies would be enough to get her attention but obviously, they are NOT her color. She wants a pair-- just not these. Hoping to get some sewing done over the Thanksgiving weekend. Likelihood... low.
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What We're Eating: Asian Trio of Stir-Fried Bok Choy, Asian Slaw and Sesame Noodles

I got bok choy over the summer and made this recipe and served it with a pan-fried hoisin noodle cake (way more trouble than it's worth!). I saw baby bok choy at the first indoor farmer's market this season so I made it again, this time with an Asian slaw and sesame noodles.

Stir Fried Bok Choy (modified from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop):

1 medium head of bok choy, stems separated from leaves, large chop (I used a bunch of baby ones this time)
1/3 c water
4 tbl hoisin sauce
2 tbl rice vinegar
fresh pepper
1 tbl peanut oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbl ginger root, minced
salt and pepper

1. Combine the water, hoisin, vinegar and pepper
2. Stir fry the bok choy stems in oil for two minutes. Add the garlic and ginger for 30 seconds and then the bok choy leaves along with the hoisin mixture for about 3 more minutes. Season to taste.

Asian Cabbage Slaw (modified from Farmer John's Cookbook by John Peterson):

I actually used a bag of pre-shredded slaw-- I think this one was actually shredded broccoli stems with carrot and red cabbage. I added the red onion. The recipe calls for:

2 c shredded cabbage
1/3 c grated carrot
1/2 c minced red onion
2 tbl fresh mint (I used dried)
2 tbl fresh cilantro
2 tbl rice vinegar
2 tbl peanut oil
1 tbl rice wine
2 tsp honey
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
salt and pepper

1. Mix the dressing well and then toss it with the combined vegetables.

A side note: When it comes to seasonings I generally believe more is better. For something like this I might use more rice vinegar and honey and maybe a little more toasted sesame oil. I try not to use too much more oil but I like big flavors, so I generally up the vinegar or mustard or whatever gives a dressing it's tang.

Sesame Noodles:

I used this recipe. I added more cayenne, omitted the sesame seeds (just lazy) and pretty much tripled the recipe since I used closer to 1 lb of pasta, not 1/3 pound. I mean, come on, how many people will 1/3 pound of pasta feed?
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Monday, November 24, 2008

First Snowy Day

Today is the first time this season that snow has accumulated in Madison. Being the fantastic mother that I am, I actually took the kids out. Talia had a hundred problems getting dressed-- mostly due to her itchiness, which I had mostly forgotten about since last year. Her skin doesn't LOOK or FEEL particularly dry but she is sooooooo itchy all the time, especially in the winter. I don't know what her problem is. She couldn't wear her new snowsuit because she then couldn't reach her itchy spots. It was ridiculous, really. She also had problems with her boots (too tight) and her gloves (she couldn't scratch herself) and after it was all over she freaked out in general because I told her she could not have hot chocolate. The whole point of me taking them out in the snow was so that I could move them out of the house and closer to my goal of going to the grocery store. So she couldn't have hot chocolate until we came home from the store. Nor would I stop and put her new earrings in, which she had forgotten about until that moment. Plus I didn't want her to change her pants because I told her not to make snow angels unless she was wearing her snowpants. Then she just. couldn't. hurry. up. Just a typical morning trying to get her out of the house.

This was Alex's first time in the snow as a toddler and he really enjoyed it but wouldn't wear the mittens I bought him. I don't blame him-- what can you do with mittens on? The new boots I got for him worked beautifully and Talia's old snowpants fit great. He was able to walk around quite well and was generally happy, which seems to be his disposition. It wasn't too cold out and the snow is mostly gone by now. I have a pile of wet boots, pants, gloves etc to dry and put away but considering that was our only activity of the day and the kids were good at the grocery store (I had to feed them bread, an apple, goldfish, and buy a water bottle) I guess that's ok.
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Friday, November 21, 2008

Farfalle with Roasted Butternut Sqush, Pine Nuts and Parmesan

Roast the butternut squash (toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven at...350? 400? for 20? 30? minutes-- I can't remember off the top of my head, sorry. I'm sure either will work). Cook pasta al dente and add back to pot after draining. Add a little cream and heat through. Toss with toasted pine nuts, grated parmesan, salt and pepper. Ummmmhmmmm.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Target Hack

There is a glass front cabinet (one of many in the house) at the end of my kitchen island. I had been thinking of hanging some fabric inside for a while. I don't keep anything too special in it (water spotted vases, a pitcher, my eletric kettle) and I feel like it's one of the first things people see when they walk in the door. I love my new placemats from Target and noticed a matching shower curtain made out of heavy canvas. I cut it, hemmed it and hung it up (ok, i used scotch tape) inside the glass doors. Instant transformation.
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What We're Eating: Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

Slice 'em up, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a single layer at 425 for about half an hour. Almost finished with my CSA potatoes from the fall. These were pretty good but I'll say it again: I HATE POTATOES!
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Car Playmat

Sewed up this little playmat for Alex (and one for Talia too-- when did I start having to make TWO of things?) It has chalkboard fabric on the other side but I haven't dug out the chalk just yet. He actually seems to drive his cars over the roads and it's pretty cute.
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