May 2010


We took Miles to the pediatrician today for his four month check up.  Looks like fatboy Miles is no more, although I think we had been suspecting he was stretching out a little.  Here are the stats:

  • Weight: 15lb 1 oz (60th percentile) – doubled birth weight!
  • Height: 26″ (90th)
  • Head: 16.5″ (90th)

Just a little change from last time.

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We had a weekend visit from Grandma Linda and Grandpa Wally.  Farmers Market, TexMex at a trailer, a possible cameo in a Food Network taping, Asti dinner, delicious brunch, lots of walks and time outside and I hardly remembered to get out the camera!  Here’s a few times when I did:

Sunday we spent some time on the green belt…

And Monday had lunch and attempted a photo shoot at Matt’s El Rancho…. Miles was not too happy about it!  In #3 he is doing what we call rigamortis of the baby 🙂

But he was happy to see his grandparents!  Next week we go to Chicago to visit the Bolhouse side.

The evolution of my taste in granola bars started in high school, with Quaker Chocolate Chip bars my best friend Sarah often had in her lunch.  In college, I graduated to Nature Valley bars; I would carefully open the package of cinnamon flavor, extract the bars, slather peanut butter in between and put it back in the package as a quick lunch during my matrices math class.  Then came the Clif bar craze, and then Lara bars.  The bars got less and less processed, with fewer and fewer ingredients (and sugar).  And then we were in China.  The availability shifted back to the high school- and college- taste bars, and I couldn’t do it.  We were importing the Clif and Lara bars until I found this recipe.  They are delicious, and remind me of Tim’s granola.  The recipe is infinitely customizable – swap out the extract, seeds, fruit, nuts, and spices to create your favorite.  And given my nephew’s reaction to these when we brought them to Oregon when he was 3, they are not just for grown ups.

Granola Bars (adapted from The Kitchen Sink Recipes blog)

  • 2 1/2 c old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c shredded coconut
  • 1/4 c flax seeds
  • 1/4 c sesame seeds
  • 1 c whole almonds
  • 1/2 c pistachio nuts
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c peanut butter
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 c dried apricots, sliced
  1. Combine oats, coconut, seeds and nuts in a 9×13 pan.  Toast at 325F ~ 30 minutes, stirring every 10.
  2. In a big deep saucepan or wok over medium heat, heat sugar, peanut butter, honey, salt and spices until melted together.  Reduce heat to low and add extract.
  3. Pour oat mixture into the honey mixture with apricots.  Stir until the sticky stuff coats everything evenly.  Keep stirring a little longer just to make sure.
  4. Line the 9×13 with parchment paper.  This is key for removing the bars unbroken from the pan.  Push the granola bar mixture into the pan, making sharp edges and packing it down slightly.
  5. Bake at 325F for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.  Use the parchment paper to lift the granola slab out of the pan, and use the sharpest knife you have to slice it into bars or bites.
  6. Store some next to the bed if you are nursing a baby, for 2 am snacking.  Don’t mind the flax seeds in the sheets. 🙂

Note: These bars are definitely of the chewy variety, I think due to the moisture in the apricots.  Subbing cranberries or raisins makes a crispier bar, but I also think you could play around with cooling, cutting, and then baking these again, maybe upside down and spaced out on a cookie sheet, to get more crunch.

What a month!  Miles resembles the tomatoes in our yard, growing like a weed and with fun changes every day (although he is not yet bearing fruit).  I just hope the squirrels continue to leave him alone.  Some updated descriptors from the last month:

  • Holy Roller! Miles learned to roll from his back to his stomach, and does this about once or twice a day.  He has also flipped the other way, stomach to back, although never while I am watching.  I read once babies learn this trick they get obsessed with it and do it all the time, but Miles seems to be content in only rolling when it serves him.
  • Coo Bear. Miles has upped his cooing, adding Grrr and MaMaMa sounds to the mix.
  • Peddler.  On his back, he will pump his arms and legs, looking like a flipped turtle (or a half-squashed roach, Tim pointed out).  While on his belly, he tries to crawl with his legs, resulting in either the plow scootch or a modified downdog using his head instead of arms.
  • Funny Man.  When not super tired, Miles is all smiles and giggles.  How did I live without this?
  • Player.  Not yet a player with the ladies, but with toys.  Miles has really discovered toys this month, and will spend some time on his mat batting at his animals, or trying to get them in his mouth.
  • Sucker.  Miles loves to suck his thumb, fingers, fist, my finger, the Ergo, a blanket, Sophie the Giraffe, pretty much anything he can get in his mouth.  Except a bottle.  Still doesn’t like to suck on that.
  • Drool Bucket.  It’s almost time to break out the bibs.
  • Texture Scratcher.  This one is weird to me, but he opens and closes his hands, scratching at different materials like a cat getting ready to nurse.  I’ll hear him scratching his crib sheets before going to bed, or my shirt while he is nursing.  Very odd.
  • Mom-beater.  I really can live without this one.  While nursing Miles will pull back a big roundhouse and wham! into my chest, over and over.  Picture an 8″ straight arm with a balled up fist helicoptering round and round, slamming into my breastbone.
  • Easily Distracted.  I guess this goes with the whole awareness theme here, but any little thing (did you cough? laugh? turn a page? is the fan still there?) gets him to look.  And if I happen to be feeding him at the same time, Miles will leave me out there high and dry, while he gets a little shower.  (P.S. Nursing moms – how did it take me 4 months to learn about the scissor clamp to stop the flow?  I now wait with my peace fingers at the ready – if they are not holding off the roundhouse.)
  • Scare-dy Cat. Certain sounds this month have startled Miles and caused him to break into a brief fit of tears: a Harley going past outside, a table of people errupting into laughter, me blowing a strawberry on his belly, etc.  We hope he grows out of this one and isn’t becoming a pansy.
  • Early to bedder. Miles has a new self imposed bedtime, and if we are not actively trying to get him to sleep at 7:30, he starts to meltdown.  This means that Miles is now going to bed before me!

Tim had a rough night the other night; a tummy bug kept him up more than me & Miles and left him feeling drained and with an I’m-never-eating-at-that-place-again resolve the next day.  I wanted to make something restorative and benign, yet delicious (to get him back in the eating groove), for dinner and immediately thought of this dish.  The name may seem complicated (moo-djah-DAH-rah), but the simple combination of rice, lentils and onions is exactly that. Even if you don’t love one or more of the ingredients on their own, I urge you to give it a shot.  It comes together quickly, is super healthy, and is a very inexpensive meal.  The combination of rice and lentils create a perfect protein, making meat unnecessary.  It keeps, freezes and reheats beautifully, so you can cook up a whole bag of rice ($1.29), a whole bag of lentils ($0.69), and a bag of onions ($1.49) and make many many meals. Pair it with steamed greens (or not), and enjoy.

No photos of this one; delicious as it is, it ain’t too pretty.

Mujadara (adapted from Herbavoracious)

  • 2 Tbsp oil or butter
  • 2 big onions, sliced into 1/4″ half rings
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup brown or green lentils (not red or French)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper
  1. Heat oil or butter in a wide bottom pan.  Add onions and cook over high until brown and caramelized.  Cooking over high is quicker, but requires some babysitting.  If you are babysitting someone else, leave it at medium high and give it a little more time.
  2. Combine rice with 2 cups water, and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to low, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed (~40 minutes for brown rice).  Do not overcook the rice, or the dish can get dry.
  3. Add lentils to ~3 cups of water, and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium and simmer until cooked, yet still lentil-shaped and a bit crunchy (~20 minutes for the brown lentils I got).  Do not overcook the lentils, or you will have lentil soup.  Drain and wait for the rice.
  4. Combine cooked rice, lentils and seasonings.  Taste and adjust salt as necessary.
  5. Top with caramelized onions, and feel happy when Tim asks if there is any more.

I’ve been reading a lot recently, especially with the loss of my laptop (it went away with the AMD badge).  Reading is a nice quiet activity I can do while Miles naps or nurses.  My technique for selecting books at the library is to go through the “new” section and pick up books with interesting titles or covers.  There are fiction and non-fiction, and I especially like to pick things off the rolling carts at the end of the aisle – these are either the newest, or they have been checked out recently, which I take as a good sign.  I’ve been averaging 12 books a check out, and I go almost biweekly.

29GiftsBookCover.jpg

Last week, I checked out a book called “29 Gifts”.  Its a memoir, written by Cami Walker, a young woman afflicted with MS.  “29 Gifts” refers to a prescription given to her by a healer to help her deal with her situation.  The idea is to mindfully gift something each day for 29 days, and your heart will be opened to receiving and to experiencing gratitude.  I love this idea, and loved the book.  In fact, she started an online community 29 Gifts where she and others who take on the “challenge” record their experience.

So, I’ve decided to take it on.  I do not plan to blog about it, on this site or hers, but record my thoughts in a journal next to my bed.  I hope to open my mind and heart through this exercise.  As a new mother, I feel I am constantly giving – to Miles, to Tim – but often at what I consider to be my own expense.  This leads to negative energy, which is the last thing I want for my family.  It’s not something we like to talk about or even acknowledge, but I imagine a lot of new mothers experience these feelings.  My goal in going through the 29 Gifts exercise is to alleviate some of the guilt and resentment I have built up, and replace it with an abundance of positive, loving energy.  I also hope to learn to give graciously, and in turn receive graciously with gratitude.

I invite you to join me in the 29 Gifts challenge, and I’ll let you know how it goes for me.

This past Saturday we welcomed a cold front to Austin, and we enjoyed gray skies and temps that barely reached into the 70s – a good 20 degrees cooler than Monday through Friday.  We opened the windows, and I cooked up this dish while the boy slept and Tim checked up on the 5k results (he won his age group!  and PRed!).  It’s as comforting as a cheesy Italian dish can be, but with a hint of springy freshness thanks to the fresh parsley in both the dumplings and the sauce.

Moosewood has a different name for this dish: Ricotta Gnocci and Mondo Bizarro Sauce.  Mine is more boring, but probably a bit more descriptive of what you really get.  Don’t expect gnocci-esque flavor or texture from the dumplings, and the sauce is a delicious oil-free pesto.

Ricotta Gnocci (adapted slightly from The New Moosewood Cookbook)

  • 1 lb ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 lb (4 oz) mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 c minced parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 c parmesan
  • 1 1/4 c flour
  • black pepper
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together ricotta and eggs.
  3. Add all other ingredients and mix well.
  4. Drop ~1 Tbsp balls of mixture into boiling water.  Allow water to come back to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove boiled dumplings to a baking sheet to drain. (Note: you can stop here, and wait for your company to arrive.  Heat the dumplings for a few minutes in the microwave before broiling.)
  6. Butter a 9×13″ dish.  Arrange dumplings in a single layer on the bottom of the dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan.
  7. Broil ~5 minutes, until starting to brown.
  8. Spoon sauce over and between dumplings, continue to broil another few minutes, until sauce is warmed.  Serve.

Mondo Bizarro Sauce (adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook)

  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 c fresh basil leaves
  • 1 handful parsley
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 t salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 c parmesan
  • 1/3 c pinenuts, toasted
  1. Put the garlic, basil, parsley, and spinach into the food processor or blender and process to a paste.
  2. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and pulse 10-15 times to incorporate.
  3. Add cheese and pinenuts, pulse 5 times, just to mix.

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