Every Friday I suggest a wine that is rated 90 points or higher and costs less than $20.

Yes, I know it is actually Saturday. You know what, just for that you can make it two glasses!

Today’s wine comes to us from Calatayud, Spain for only $10. The Las Rocas Garnacha is an easy drinking, but distinctive red that reminds me of my days in Spain when wine was on every dinner table. Its a bit spicy up front, but finishes with some light fruitiness. Bonus: It has a beautiful deep purple color to it!

¡Salud!

las rocas

You may have noticed by now, I am not much for detailed recipes.  My goal is simply to provide inspiration. I don’t usually list ingredients up front, and I often estimate or encourage you to experiment with substitutions.  Most things that I cook do not require sophisticated skills, equipment, or ingredients.  If you change a little bit here or there, not one will be the wiser.

When I was first learning to cook, I was a by the book, word for word, step by step kind of girl.  I needed to know exactly how many carrots to use and exactly how long to bake them for.  One time in college, I tried to make chocolate chip cookies from some recipe I found online.  The recipe had a major typo – it said to use 1/2 cup of salt, instead of 1/2 tsp of salt.  But here is the best part – I did it! 

Well, I’ve come along way since then.  I still follow recipes on occasion, mostly for baked goods or sauces where proportions can really make a difference.   Other times, I just take inspiration from recipes I find on the food network, in magazines, or on other blogs, and change ingredients to suit my taste (and my pantry).  More often, I just make it up as I go.  My CSA membership has encouraged this even more. 

Tonight for example, I had tri-tip steak defrosted in the refrigerator, but didn’t have any plans for what to serve with it.  I needed something quick because we were going to try to eat at the same time as the Little Man, and Cheerios were only going to last him so long.  So, I opened the produce drawer and found carrots and swiss chard (both from my CSA box).  I have never made those three things together in my life, but thought it might work out.  And it was in fact, quite delicious. 

So, here’s what I did.  I set the oven to 400 and started peeling the carrots.  I got them on a baking sheet, drizzled olive oil over them, and sprinkled some kosher salt over them (This is a fantastic way to cook carrots – my absolute favorite!). 

On to the steak!  I heated olive oil in a pan over medium high heat until it was sizzling.  I sprinkled the steak with some Lawry’s Seasoned Salt (which is a really easy but effective way to season meat, by the way) and placed in the pan.  I flipped it around until browned on all sides and then put the lid on the pan to help the steak cook through.

Next I put olive oil in a second pan and brought it up to medium high heat.  I sliced an onion and the swiss chard.  I started with just the onion in the pan (sofrito effect) and then added the swiss chard.  The chard melted down like spinach.  I thought it might be a little bitter on its own, so I decided to add a bit of sweetness with a dressing of sorts.  I sprinkled it with kosher salt, then added a few shakes of balsamic vinegar, a splash of Worcestershire, and a squeeze of Dijon mustard and mixed.  I was careful not to add to much of the “dressing” because I thought it could be overkill. 

Right about then, the steak and carrots were looking done.  I piled the swiss chard onto the plates first and placed the carrots on top.  I sliced the tri tip and added it to the pile. 

Delish and nutrish (and it even looked a bit fancy)!

The Little Man goes to bed on the early side, so we have rarely (if ever) taken him out to dinner. But lunch and breakfast? He has been all over town! Sometimes he is asleep for these adventures but sometimes not. Sometimes he sits quietly in his car seat. Sometimes he gets fussy, and one of us has to stand up and bounce him around. Sometimes he is happy, but loud, cooing and giggling. If he is inconsolable, we take him outside. If he is just “expressing himself,” we don’t.

On Easter Sunday we took him to breakfast. We sat on an outdoor sidewalk patio at a semi-nice place ($10 breakfast entrees). The restaurant itself was empty, but ten patio tables were full. One customer had his dog with him. Little Man was about six months old at the time. He was very happy, and showing it.

While we were waiting for the check, a new group took the table next to us. Little Man continued with his happy squeals  while his dad lifted him in the air over and over again (see picture). The group next to us began talking loudly (clearly for our benefit) about how children have no discipline and parents let them do whatever they want and it must be a “west coast thing”.  Little Man did not appreciate their comments.

Causing a Ruckus

 

They didn’t discourage us, though.  Here’s us on Father’s Day, causing a Ruckus again.

IMG_4333
Well, you can probably guess where I come out on this.  I plan to continue living my life and bringing my Little Man along for the ride.  What do you all think? Should we hide out at home until our children are old enough to understand rules and “appropriate” behavior?

The Little Man’s communication skills have been slowly developing over the past 11 months. Tiny Man was always way ahead of himself on physical milestones (rolled over at three months), but he was always closer to his adjusted age on verbal milestones. For months, he cried inconsolably at night as we all struggled to understand each other. We longed for the first smile, giggle, coo, gurgle, squeal, and sign of understanding. Each milestone was a celebration.

For the mom of a former colicky preemie, the past few weeks have been amazing. It all started with kisses. I began by putting my cheek in front of the Bunny and asking for “kisses.” If I put it in just the right spot, he would open his mouth and give me a big slobbery kiss. Then one day, I could just say “kisses” without putting my cheek in front of him, and he would turn towards me with open mouth.

This weekend, Bunny discovered a new game. He realized that when he lifted both arms over his head, we would do the same thing and exclaim, “arms up.” He started doing it over and over again, each time looking to see if we had followed his lead. Yesterday, I started asking him if we could do “arms up.” He would wait just a few seconds (for suspense) and then shoot his arms into the air.

But the most magical moment was today. Little Man has the book “Where is Baby’s Belly Button?” As you might expect, one page asks, “Where is Baby’s Belly Button?” To find the answer, you have to lift the baby’s shirt. As we were reading the book today, I asked Tiniest Man “Where is Baby’s Belly Button?” And what do you think he did? He lifted his shirt!

There is nothing like the feeling of finally being able to communicate with the one you love.

Ahh, now these are good times!

Every Friday I suggest a wine that is rated 90 points or higher and costs less than $20.

This week’s wine is an old favorite of mine.  I usually prefer Cabs, but this Merlot is wonderful.  In fact, this was one of the wines served at our wedding.  I found it yesterday at BevMo for $9.99 (Club Bev Price) and the sign said it was 91 points (though I have not been able to confirm that online).*

sterling vintners

At a winery once, I learned about the tannins in red wine, which are created by the skins of the grapes.  If I remember correctly, Cabernets in particular have a lot of tannins.  What is the taste of tannins? Well, I know it when I taste it, and apparently I am not the only one who finds it difficult to describe the taste of tannin.  Let’s just put it this way, tannins are what make a wine interesting. This wine has lots of tannins and it is everything a red wine should be.  This wine would be great with anything.  Try it with chocolate!

*One reader asked how the point system works. I will need to do a whole post on this one day when I have more time to research. In short, points are out of 100. As I understand it there are several different rating sources. I assume, like anything else, that the ratings are not always reliable. (In fact, I tried a red earlier this week that I decided not to recommend.) For now, I think the ratings are just a good way for those of us who are relatively new to the wine world to pick out a nice wine.

Dear Sweet Baby Bunny,

You amaze me every day. Last night the three of us had so much fun playing together after your bath time. Your dad laid on the floor and I sat nearby. I gave his fuzzy head a quick vigorous rub, and then you did the same. I gave his cheek a gentle kiss. You opened your mouth and did the same. Then you hovered over him and “played the dad drums,” raising your arms in the air and then hitting his back over and over again. Then you hugged him.

You are such a sweet boy, but you know a stranger when you see one. When some well-meaning baby lover tries to get in your face and make goo goo noises, you immediately give her squinty serious eyes or a great big grouper lip to let her know who she is messing with. Your exclusivity secretly makes your dad and I feel kind of special.

You are amazingly strong. When you crawl, you look like Michael Phelps in the 50-meter freestyle. As you cruise around the room, you pop up and down over and over again, sometimes holding a squat or a plank pose that would make Jillian Michaels cry. You heave large toys and books out of storage bins, and then back in when you decide it is time to clean up.

When you get frustrated, you make the funniest noises. Sometimes you raise your hands over your head, scrunch up your nose, open your mouth wide, and sniff sniff sniff through your nose over and over again. Other times, you grunt and strain like you are in a strong man competition, as if you are saying, Hey! Listen to me!

Sometimes you make sweet sounds. In a soft voice, you quietly say, ahhhhhhhhhh. Other times, you make goofy noises, like zerberts or like the rolling “R’s” in the Spanish word perro.

You love to watch things fall. You throw peas and cheerios from your high chair and look over the edge as they join those who have gone before them on our stained carpet. When I shower, I put you in your pack and play with some toys. You then proceed to hold each toy over the edge, while you look at me with mischievous eyes. You tentatively let each toy leave your hand. You then quickly look over the edge as if to confirm that gravity is still in effect. Last night, you tossed your dump truck off the balcony and into the living room. Good thing we got that balcony baby-proofed!

Usually, you move very quickly and impulsively. But when presented with a stack of blocks, you stop and consider the situation for a moment. You then (very) carefully attempt to remove only the top block from the stack. You like a challenge.

When you were a newborn, I used to lie on the floor next to you and read you book after book. You would just lie there and stare at the colorful pages as I turned them. Now, you are usually too busy for books. When you are willing to indulge me, you quickly flip the pages to get to the one you like. You chew on the paper or cardboard until it begins to disintegrate. I think you like eating books more than peas.

Sometimes when I am eating an apple, I let you chew on it too. The other day, I let you eat some of my pluot. You loved it. You grunted when I took it away.

This morning before I left for work, I held you and said, “kisses. kisses.” You sweetly opened your mouth and gave me a big slobbery kiss on the cheek. I love those kisses.

I hope you have a good day today. I can’t wait to hear your sniffs and rrrrrs tonight!

Love,
Mom

This post is the first in a collection of breakfast recipes that may one day be served at my bed and breakfast.

I have had a long-time love affair with breakfast. Its hard to say when it all began. I have so many breakfast memories. I remember my parents making french toast and pancakes on weekends when I was a child. I remember going to Saturday “fat breakfast” (eggs, bacon, potatoes, cuban toast, and cafe con leche) at the Cuban coffee shop with my dad. I remember going to Einstein Brother’s Bagels with my friends in high school. I always got the cinnamon sugar bagel with honey butter (yummm). In college there were Krispy Kreme Donuts and Bageland. My summer in Spain was filled with chocolate croissants. Many a Law School morning started at Panera.

During law school, my love of breakfast became a love of bed and breakfasts. A week and a half after we took the bar exam, we got married at Sweetwater Branch Inn. I remember the stuffed French Toast I enjoyed for breakfast that morning.

In Alexandria, I enjoyed the sunnyside egg over hash browns at Jack’s Place for a time, but most of all I remember pumpkin pancakes on a fall weekend getaway to Lexington.

And then we arrived in breakfast Mecca – San Diego. Oh, how I love San Diego breakfast! I love the bread plate at Bread & Cie. I love the morning glory pancakes and the chorrizo eggs at Naked Cafe. I love the power pancakes at Crest Cafe. I love the cornmeal blueberry pancakes and the coconut french toast at the Mission. I love the breakfast burrito at Ki’s. I love the coast toast (and the view) at Brockton Villas. I love the chunky apple muffin and the pumpkin muffin at Come on In Cafe. Obviously, I could go on and on!

Today’s recipe for Cottage Stralmond Cakes is inspired by the morning glory pancakes at Naked Cafe and the power pancakes at Crest Cafe. Do not be scared off by the cottage cheese – it just adds texture!

Cottage Stralmond Cakes
Let’s make this easy. You can start with any pancake mix you are used to using. If you have a pancake recipe, use that. If not, I recommend Bisquick mix (I find that it has less of that artificial sweet flavor than some of the pancake mixes). Make pancake batter according to recipe or box instructions.

Then the fun begins. For every two cups of dry pancake mix, add about 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1/4 cup sliced (not slivered) almonds, 1/4 cup dry oats, and 1/2 cup sliced strawberries. (You can always change the amounts and ingredients to suit your preferences. None of these ingredients are essential to the basic pancake recipe.)

Scoop 1/4 cup of batter and pour into pre-heated pan. Flip when small bubbles appear on uncooked side of pancake. Cook a few more minutes until pancake appears cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve with butter and warm maple syrup.

At various points in my life I have tried to like running. The peak of my running career was during my second year of law school. I maxed out at 6 miles (once). Right now, not so much. But no matter what, I always love walking. I love walking for exercise, for relaxation, for sightseeing, and even for errands.

There have been a few times in my life that I have lived in a place that allowed me to enjoy true walkability (though I’m not sure I appreciated it). Now we are in San Diego where public transportation is rarely used and the only thing worth walking to from our little subdivision is a Starbucks and a Fresh & Easy grocery store. The Mayor drives 30 minutes South and I drive 20 minutes North to reach our respective work locations. But even here, we still make the most of what little walkability we have. Every morning the Little Bunny and I go on a run walk that ends at our neighborhood Starbucks. Every evening, the Mayor joins us for a walk back to Starbucks and then on to Fresh & Easy.

While I enjoy these jaunts, I would love to have more of my world within walking distance – perhaps a favorite breakfast place, a better grocery store, a mom and pop coffee shop, a nice park and library. Of course working within walking distance of home would also be ideal, but given the realities of a modern family with two working parents, I wonder if that is possible short of moving to NYC.

You can find the “walkability” score for your neighborhood at this site.

Readers, do you agree with your neighborhood’s score? Any readers have great walkability?

Every Sunday I suggest an easy picnic recipe – something light and portable, perfect for some outdoor family time.

Little Man’s Aunt Polly is in town this weekend, and he is smitten! Yesterday, we decided to go scope out Bonita Cove as a potential picnic location for Little Man’s first birthday. In theory the spot is ideal – it is on the bay, it has a playground, and it has big shade trees. And we had a great time (though parking was scarce). We practiced walking in the grass, and the Little Bunny started getting more adventurous, crawling off his mat to grab random leaves and acorns. We also read The Little Island while Little Man made goo goo eyes at Aunt Polly.

 

Aunt Polly Makes Bunny Faces Too

Aunt Polly Makes Bunny Faces Too

 

 

For lunch we packed these Sweet & Savory Clubwiches (recipe adapted from this Cooking Light recipe I found a few years ago). They are delicious!

 

Sweet & Savory Clubwiches

Sweet & Savory Clubwiches

First, prepare the bacon. I use fully cooked turkey bacon, sprinkle it with brown sugar, and bake it at about 400 for 5-10 minutes. Just follow the directions on your package of bacon and cook until you achieve your desired texture. The brown sugar makes an awesome sweet glazed crispiness on the bacon. Cut bacon strips in half.

Next, assemble your sandwiches. For the bread, I use Hawaiian Sandwich Rolls. They have started coming out with these larger sized Hawaiian rolls, but even if you can’t find them, you can use smaller rolls for mini sandwiches. I have even seen Hawaiian sliced bread. Spread dijon mustard on bread. Layer sliced turkey or chicken, bacon, bread and butter pickles (these add more sweetness than dill), and swiss cheese.

Finally, press your sandwiches. If you have a sandwich press, that’s great. I just use a pan with some olive oil and press with a cast iron hand press. You could also use a heavy pan or plate on top of your sandwich. You could even use any heavy household item covered in aluminum foil. Cook on both sides until browned and cheese melts.

Cut sandwiches in half diagonally.

Every Friday I suggest a wine that is rated 90 points or higher and costs less than $20.

Well, this week I accidentally picked up a wine that is rated 89 points, but I’m glad I did. This week’s wine is Mason 2006 Sauvignon Blanc. Its available for $11.95 at http://www.napacabs.com.

Mason 2006 Sauvignon Blanc

Mason 2006 Sauvignon Blanc

This wine is sweet and citrusy. Perfect for a summer afternoon event, or just a glass on the porch with your sweetie. According to Megan Mason, her husband, Randy, makes “yummy wines.” I’d say she’s right!

By the way, the 2007 model of this wine is 90 pts.

About Me

Mom to a one-year-old Super Bunny. Amateur cook and photographer. Tiny living enthusiast. Lawyer who would rather write about muffins than motive.

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