December 27, 2009

Christmas Eve Dance

Forget the traditional Christmas music, Ozzie wants to dance!

On Christmas Eve morning, after our traditional pancake breakfast, we found ourselves with some time to spare before heading out to my cousin's for our family gift exchange. In true Christmas spirit, Oscar decided to turn on Jay Sean (Down), you know your typical Christmas music. Hee hee. Ozzie loved it and got down! I think he was still high from the blueberry pancakes with whip cream and had some energy to burn off.

He gets his rhythm from his Mom. :) My favorite move is his shoulder shrug. I don't know how he did it but I swear it is the "snake"! Also notice he signs "eat" towards the end of his jig. Guess the dancing made him hungry again.

video
I apologize about the angle, I turned my camera vertically and totally screwed up the video. Another reason why my husband is in charge of all electronics in our home.

Enjoy and I hope your Christmas Eve was as fun as ours!

December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Thoughts

I subscribe to Gwyneth Paltrow's newsletter Goop. I have blogged about it before, it is loaded with mommy topics that I find interesting.

This morning Jesus was the focus of her newsletter. Gwyneth asked a few spiritual leaders to answer this question:

“The figure and teachings of Jesus are too often broken down, adapted, and then shaped to fit people’s own particular needs and desires. Who was the real, walking, talking, preaching Jesus and what lessons can we take from him today?”

I particularly liked Michael Berg's response. "Michael is a Kabbalah scholar and author. He is co-Director of The Kabbalah Centre, www.kabbalah.com. You can follow Michael on twitter, twitter.com/inspiringchange. His latest book is What God Meant."

"Almost all spiritual leaders of history are different than what most of us have come to think of them, be it Abraham, Jesus, Mohammad, or Buddha. In the case of Jesus, for instance, it’s known that many cultures have their own version of how he looked. In Africa, for example, he is often portrayed as having African features, whereas in North America he typically has North American features, and so forth. In most cultures his physical visage is made to look like the people of that country.

In truth, his teachings, as with his appearance, are often misunderstood.

To understand Jesus, it is important to understand the environment from which Jesus came. As Alfred Edersheim writes in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, “The Galileans are said to have inclined towards mystical (Kabbalistic) pursuits. Among such people, and in that country, Jesus spent by far the longest part of his life upon earth.”

Jesus descended from a long line of spiritual teachers. Therefore, the focus of his teachings was not so much on the physical practices of religion but more on the inner spiritual aspects. That is why he rejected rote observance of religion. He felt that in his time many who were practicing religion were coming from a place of just that – practice, not a process of inner change. This wrought all kinds of corruption and negative interpretations of religion, spirituality, and the understanding of God’s purpose for putting man on earth.

When you look at it from this view, one of Jesus’ important messages was don’t get stuck in the ritual. If you are authentic in your spiritual work, then you are constantly growing and improving on the inside. Never practice religion simply as an external action. The purpose of it all is to bring internal change to become a better person.

In line with this, therefore, was his great focus on the teaching of love and compassion. It is impossible for a person to call himself spiritual and yet have anger and animosity towards another human being. The core of spirituality is non-judgmental love.

Unfortunately, some take religious teachings, and even Jesus’ teachings, and use it as a platform for separation, looking down on people, or instilling fear and self-loathing. Clearly, one of his overriding messages was the Old Testament concept of “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself”. There is nothing a person seeking spirituality can be doing in their lives that leads to anything different than or opposite from this message. Jesus wanted us to understand that religious practice is here to bring us back to this goal.

If this is truly understood, then love and compassion must lead to tolerance. Through his experience as one who went against the status quo, he was both marginalized and persecuted. As a result, he clearly gained a great appreciation for the importance of holding a space for others who have opposing views. He spent his “Light” railing against intolerance and lack of human dignity for those who are different and to those with whom we very much disagree.

What he taught us is that underlying all our spiritual pursuits must be an understanding of human dignity and tolerance for all people. As Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

During this holiday season, we all have so much we can learn from the life and teachings of Jesus. To be religious or spiritual means a constant process of growing and changing, consistently becoming a better and better person, knowing that none of our beliefs can – nor should they – bring us anything but a growing sense of love, compassion, and tolerance for those whom we love, and, more importantly, for those with whom we disagree.

May all these teachings enable us to experience the great Light and power of this holiday season."

I especially liked the bold section. Food for thought on this Chirstmas Eve.

December 23, 2009

Chicken Piccata and Potatoes


Sunday night's dinner was Ina's Chicken Piccata and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes. YUM! I wanted to try her potatoes before Christmas. If we liked them I knew that I would make them again for Christmas dinner with the ribeye steak roast. We liked them!; so they will be added to our Christmas dinner menu.

I was so hungry that I did not pause to take a picture for you but above is a photo courtesy of the Food Network. Isn't she just the best?!

Ina's Chicken Piccata

Ingredients:
2 split (1 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 extra-large egg
1/2 tablespoon water
3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
Good olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
1/2 cup dry white wine
Sliced lemon, for serving
Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the egg and 1/2 tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast on each plate. Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Ina's Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes
1/4 cup milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut them into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Add them to the boiling water and bring the water back to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes fall apart easily when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan, making sure it doesn't boil. Set aside until the potatoes are done.

As soon as the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander. Place a food mill fitted with a small disk/blade over a heatproof bowl. Pass the potatoes through the food mill, turning the handle back and forth. As soon as the potatoes are mashed, stir in the hot milk mixture with a whisk or rubber spatula. Add enough buttermilk to make the potatoes creamy. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper, and serve hot. To keep the potatoes warm, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water for up to 30 minutes. You can add a little extra hot milk to keep them creamy.

Long live Ina Garten!!!

December 21, 2009

Argosy Cruise

In November our niece celebrated her 13th birthday by taking all of her friends on an Argosy Cruise around Seattle. Our boat, The Goodtime III, took us from Lake Union through the Ballard Locks to Pier 56 on the waterfront as a part of the Locks Cruise.

It is always fun to play tourist in your hometown. Seattle is such a beautiful city, even on a cold November day. Everyone especially liked sailing past the famous Sleepless in Seattle houseboat and going through the Ballard Locks. Seeing the Seattle skyline from the water is also quite spectacular. When the cruise was over, we ended with a pizza party at the Pier and a carousel ride.

Here are some pictures from our day of playing tourists.






Watching our boat go through the Ballard Locks


Mmm... pepperoni stick...


Got bored outside and decided to go through someones bags for treats.



Look Mommy I found water!



That wasn't exciting enough. What's in here?



Looking at the waves with Daddy






Family self portrait






Posing with Daddy






Posing with Mommy



It was really windy outside.




Checking out the horse on the waterfront.






Carousel ride!

December 20, 2009

Tiny Gingerbread Houses


photo courtesy of not martha


Have you seen these tiny gingerbread houses by not martha? So clever.

Making a gingerbread house with Ozzie is still on my list of things to do this Christmas. Maybe we'll make mini houses and hot chocolate instead of a big house. These are too cute not to try!

December 18, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree

The weekend after Thanksgiving was our weekend to pick out our Christmas tree from our favorite local tree farm, Poppas, in Hobart.

Ozzie thought the trees were only so so but he loved the tractors on the farm. He spent the whole time running away from the trees (and me) towards the tractors. He really really wanted to ride on one. Such a typical little boy.

After some careful inspection and plenty of warm apple cider from the gift shop, we found just the right tree this year. Here are some pictures from our adventure.




















As I mentioned earlier, every year we go to Poppas Tree Farm in Hobart. Look for a before and after post coming soon of Ozzie's first year at the farm versus this year. We took some of the exact same shots to have a fun comparison. Looks like we may have a tradition forming...

December 17, 2009

Succulent Wreath



I absolutely love this succulent wreath by Design*Sponge. Clever, clever, clever!!! I wish I had nothing else to do but sit around and create lovelies like this.

Check out their site for the full how to.

photo courtesy of Design*Sponge

Nie Nie




I found THIS article via Design Mom about Stephanie Nielson, author of the famous Nie Nie Dialogues blog. Stephanie's story is pretty remarkable. What she has survived and continues to endure is unthinkable, amazing and ever so inspiring. Please take the time to read her story. The article is so well written and powerful. I think it just may change your view on a lot of things.

Also, make sure to check out the Nie Nie Dialogues. Stephanie's blog posts {both before and after the plane crash} remind me how important my job of mother is and to treasure every moment of it, good or bad. Life is precious, Stephanie reminds me.

photo courtesy of Nie Nie Dialogues

December 14, 2009

Roasted Chicken with Brussell Sprouts



It's chicken roasting season folks! I can't tell you how many chickens I have roasted since the weather cooled down. I am pretty sure roasted chicken is the easiest comfort food to whip up on a cold winter night.

I typically use the recipe below from Tyler Florence as my starting point and then modify it for my mood. Sometimes I omit the lemon and add an onion or only use parsley instead of all three herbs. It all depends on my mood and what I have on hand. This recipe is so adaptable to whatever suits me, it is a great foundation!

Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken from Tyler Florence

Ingredients:
1 (4 to 5 pound) free-range chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, halved
1/4 bunch each fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley
1/4 cup olive oil

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Rinse the chicken with cool water, inside and out, then pat it dry with paper towels. Season the cavity with salt and pepper, and then stuff the lemon, garlic, and herbs inside.
Place the chicken, breast-side up, in a roasting pan. Tie the legs of the chicken together with kitchen twine to help hold its shape.
Season the whole thing with a fair amount of salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
Roast the chicken for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Don't forget to baste the chicken with the drippings and rotate the pan every 20 minutes or so to insure a golden crispy skin.
The chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer says 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (the legs of the chicken should wiggle easily from the sockets too.) Remove the chicken to a platter and let stand for 10 minutes, so the juices settle back into the meat before carving.

Because I actually like roasted brussell sprouts, I served Martha's brussell sprouts on the side instead of your typical potatoes.


Roasted Brussell Sprouts

Ingredients:
2 T olive oil
1 lb. brussell sprouts, trimmed and quartered
3 to 4 shallots, quartered
Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper

Directions:
Heat oil in a non-stick skillet on medium heat
Cook brussell sprouts until browned
Add shallots and cook until tender
Season with salt & pepper to taste
Serve immediately

Healthy comfort food, what beats that? Even Ozzie gobbled it up!

December 13, 2009

Circular Scarf


My friends and I just had our annual gift exchange dinner and as usual it was so much fun. Every year we play the white elephant game with a gift in the $20 range. This year the theme was a "favorite" thing.

If you have never played the white elephant game, here is a brief explanation.

Each player brings a gift that meets the party criteria. Again this year ours was $20 and a favorite item.
The participants pick a number.
The first person chooses a gift to unwrap.
The second person can either steal their gift or choose to unwrap another present.
Each gift can only be stolen three times before it is laid to rest in the hands of the lucky owner!
Since the first person did not get a chance to steal, she can choose anyones gift at the end of the game and that person is forced to take her gift.

I bet you can imagine how a little (okay a lot of wine) and 14 girl friends can get out of hand when a particularly lovely gift is opened.

This year it was the circular scarf. Two friends actually bought the scarf for the game and both were stolen to the limit of three times. Every one of us wanted those lovelies! The fangs were out and the taunting was endless. It was great great fun!

The scarves were such a hit I thought I'd share the idea as a possible Christmas gift for the lady in your life.
HERE is a link to American Eagles version but you can find the scarf in just about every department store. It is so versatile and can be worn three different ways, making it a must have for every women's winter wardrobe.

Free Holiday Music from iTunes



I just saw this via Stephmodo and thought I'd share. Who doesn't love a free cd? Especially a free cd of Christmas songs.

Click HERE to get the free album from iTunes.

Enjoy!

Santa Who?

As I mentioned earlier, we took Ozzie for his Santa pictures a few weekends ago and he hated every second of it. But after the Santa debacle, we decided to have a late lunch at our favorite noodle restaurant around the corner from Santa's house.

Once safely away from scary Santa and Mrs. Clause, Ozzie's mood turned around and he was quite the ham at lunch. I decided to take a few shots of him dressed up in his cute plaid shirt and was greeted with this cheesy smile...







Then the fatigue set in, which I think explained the huge sobs with Santa. After his smiling fit Ozzie gave me 2 huge yawns before going delirious.






Which leads us to this video. Clearly he has lost his mind here but at least he forgot about Santa.





video

Spicy Meatloaf with Roasted Vegetables

This is cold weather cooking at its best folks. I saw this recipe in the October issue of Cooking Light magazine and was intriged by the "spicy" meatloaf.

If you know my husband, you know that he loves anything spicy. So anytime I can find a recipe with a little heat I want to try it out. This particular recipe called for Sriracha {or rooster sauce as we call it at our house because the bottle has a picture of a rooster on it} which is my husbands absolute favorite condiment.

Also I desperately needed a new recipe for ground turkey. Turkey spaghetti has more than its fair share of our dinner rotation.

I decided it to pair it with roasted vegetables adapted from the millions of roasted vegetable recipes found online.

Roasted Vegetables
3 shallots, peeled and cut in half if large
4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths (halve the thicker end pieces lengthwise)
4 carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
3 turnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch squares
1/4 c olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Toss all vegetables in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in 450 degree oven for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.


Spicy Turkey Meatloaf from Cooking Light
Ingredients:
1 T butter
2 c chopped onion
1 (8oz) package presliced mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 c panko breadcrumbs
1/4c fat free, low sodium chicken broth
3 T chopped flat leaf parsley
1 T low sodium soy sauce
1 T Sriracha
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey breast
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1/2 c ketchup
1 T brown sugar
1/8 t dry mustard
1/8 t ground nutmeg

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Melt butter in large nontsick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, mushrooms and garlic to pan; cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes.
3. Combine mushroom mixture, panko, and next 8 ingredients (through egg) in a large bowl; stir well to combine. Shape turkey mixture into a 9x5 inch rectangle on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray.
4. Combine ketchup, brown sugar, mustard and nutmeg in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Spread ketchup mixture evenly over top of meat loaf; bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160 degrees. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

December 12, 2009

Lettuce Wraps with Hot & Sour Soup



I found the recipe for Vietnamese Pork Rolls (aka lettuce wraps) in the Cookie magazine article, 30 meals in 30 days, months ago but finally got around to trying it a couple of weeks ago. I really wish that I would have tried it sooner because it is absolutely delicious. I think it gives PF Changs' Lettuce Wraps a fun for their money.

The recipe calls for pork but I also made it with ground chicken and it was equally as good. Actually a little better in my opinion because the chicken is lower in fat.

Lettuce Wraps
For the rolls:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
8 sturdy leaves from a head of Bibb lettuce
1 carrot, cut into strips
1 cucumber, cut into strips
2 to 3 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

For the dipping sauce:
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 garlic clove
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons lime juice

1.In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, sauté the garlic in the oil until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.
2.Add the pork, five-spice powder, soy sauce, and brown sugar and sautè until the meat is fully cooked and browned.
3.Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce by whisking the four ingredients in a bowl.
4.Serve in hand rolls fashioned out of the lettuce leaves. Garnish with the carrots, cucumber, scallions, and cilantro, with the dipping sauce on the side.

I served it with Hot and Sour Soup from Everyday Food's Great Fast Food cookbook; which is quickly becoming my favorite cook book. The recipes that I have tried so far are delicious and really are fast; this is helpful when you are chasing a toddler around while trying to cook.

Hot and Sour Soup
Ingredients:
2 cans (14.5 oz) reduced sodium chicken stock
2 T soy sauce
1/4 to 1/2 t red pepper flakes
8 oz fresh shitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps thinly sliced (about 4 c)
3 to 4 T rice vinegar
2 T cornstarch
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 package firm tofu, cut into 1/4" cubes and drained well
2 T finely grated peeled fresh ginger
3 scallions thinly sliced

Directions:
1. In a large (5 quart) pot, combine the broth, soy sauce, red pepper flakes and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms; reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together 3 T of the vinegar and he cornstarch. Add to the pot; simmer, stirring until the soup is thickened, about 1 minute.
3. Add the egg through a slotted spoon and stir to form ribbons. Stir in the tofu. Remove from heat; let stand covered for 1 minute. Put the ginger in a small sieve and squeeze to release the juice into the soup (discard the solids). Taste; add remaining T of vinegar if desired. Serve sprinkled with the scallions.

Asian cooking at its best!

December 10, 2009

Santa Pictures

It really doesn't really feel like Christmas until you get a picture of your screaming baby with Santa and Mrs. Clause.




Poor guy started crying the second we walked into Santa's house for the picture. No candy cane bribes here, he HATED every minute of it!

Ozzie sure has grown though. It is amazing the difference a year makes. Last year I think he was just as terrified but scared into shock. These pictures still crack me up.




Notice his shock and awe in this picure.


Hope your holiday season is happier than Ozzie's visits with Santa.