Thursday, December 27, 2012

Beef Fried Rice

 My love for beef fried rice is inspired by my love for Ron of Japan. So whenever we go, my sister and I study the ingredients and method since it's one of those cook-in-front-of-you-restaurants. I have tried and failed many times to match the recipe and create a batch that tastes just as good as ROJ's BUT this time, this blessed time, I finally finally think I GOT it! So good and so worth the many trials.

The Recipe:
  • 2 cups white rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 large white onion, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil (not quite sure how much)
  • about 6 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 green onion, chopped, for garnish (optional)

The Method
  1. Cook rice and cool in fridge for at least a few hours before using (very important)
  2. Combine onion and ground beef, mashing together with hands. Add rice and fully combine. Season with a teaspoon or so of salt and a little pepper.
  3. Fry eggs in small saute pan, breaking up the yolk a little as it cooks. Set aside.
  4. Add a few tablespoons veggie oil, heat and add 1/3 of rice mix. Season with salt. Cook covered on med-high heat for about 5 minutes, allowing meat to brown. Stir and cook covered again about 5 minutes.
  5. Season with salt, a few tablespoons soy sauce, stir and allow to cook for another 5 minutes or until meat is cooked and rice starts to get a bit crispy.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with the other 2 parts of the rice mix.
  7. Add egg and garnish with green onion.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lucia Lately (9 months)

Whoa, where did the time go? We have known our little Lucia for a while now! According to her stats, she is just above average for weight and about 75th percentile for height. She is a busy and feisty little girl who enjoys "dancing" to music and is getting loud! Her favorite noises to make seem to start with 'B', like 'bah' or 'be' and sometimes something sounding like "Buddha" (more like "buddha, buddha, buddha"). She seems to like talking to herself while she plays or in response to us or others. Sometimes she just looks at you straight in the eye, waits a second til you are really looking back at her, and then pronounces "be!". She also loves to hold her right hand up high for a second then smack it down and yell "Bah!" or "Woulda-woulda". There are lots of other sounds but these seem to be her faves for now. She also has learned to use her voice for whining as well little glimpses of tantrums when she doesn't get something that she wants...just a little foretaste of the next phase I suppose. New to this phase is that she gets really clingy with us when we are around other people until she has a little time to get comfortable.

She is still crawling and standing but not quite letting go yet to free stand. She has gotten better at walking along things. She is exploring new places and finding all of the crevices of our apartment...and has the dirt under her fingernails to prove it! She's starting to get the whole cause and effect thing. If she does something that makes us laugh, she laughs then does it again. When she laughs, she has the cutest little dimple above her left cheek. And she really laughs now, like belly rolling, catch-your-breath kind of laughing. We just can't get enough. It is the best sound. 

She still clutches a little sock while she sleeps, a habit that began when she was about 2 months old. Most often when I go to get her in the mornings, she has long ago thrown her pacifier out of her crib but is still holding onto that sock. She now has her mor mor made 'blankie' so we are trying to work that in as well (mor mor is what the grand kids call my mom). She is still a great sleeper (almost 12 hours most nights plus 2 naps during the day). It seems those nights where she wakes up crying are due to her coming teeth. She only has one so far but that is just enough to chomp and chew on food. Now that we have introduced this concept of finger foods, she does not want to go back. When we don't give her something to feed herself, she just goes ahead and tries to get right out of her chair. I'm just glad that she likes eating. I love the bonding that comes from feeding her but I have to say that it is insanely cute to watch her feed herself. She loves all the new foods she has tried and it's fun that she can eat (almost) all the foods that we eat.

Some pics from the past month or so...

Meeting her friend Chloe

Chloe is so cute, look at that face!

Hanging out with my friend Natalia

Attacking her kitty. She does this with all her animals, should we be worried?

Play group at church


Lucia always wants to grab the camera now when I try to take pictures so I have a ton of pictures of her like this: blurry and crying.

Getting into trouble

You know, I thought we were done with the warm weather but then we had another 70 degree early December. (Thanks, global warming?)

We went ahead and set up the Christmas tree even though Lucia is the exactly perfect wrong age for a tree. The bottom row of lights are out from her trying to eat them and the ornaments don't start til a few feet up, but it's up! She tends to forget about it if the lights are off.

Naomi slept over last week and the girls had some fun time playing together once they both woke up (they didn't sleep in the same crib, that would have been a little too much fun)


At Caroline and Addison's 3rd birthday party. They still call her "Cia", so cute!

She's just one of the cousins

Trying to get a good pic in the mirror...not so much

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Lucia Day! (from our little Lucia)

One of the reasons why the name 'Lucia' is special to me is because I grew up celebrating Saint Lucia day at church. No, it is not a Catholic church but this is the one saint that is celebrated. It comes from the Swedish heritage that our church still honors. Sweden celebrates Sankta Lucia on December 13th. I'm assuming most of you reading this blog know about Lucia but I'll tell the story anyway. 

Lucia was a young Christian girl from Italy who was said to have given all she had to the poor and was known to secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians hiding in the catacombs under the city. It was said that she wore candles on her head to light the way. She was martyred for her faith in 304 AD. Lucia means light in Italian which is a fitting name since she brought light and hope to others in need.

There are many stories of how this tradition came to be celebrated in Sweden. One version is that the monks that converted Sweden to Christianity brought the story of Saint Lucia in an effort to change the pagan 'festival of lights' tradition on December 13th into Saint Lucia day. The celebration continues, still representing bringing light and hope into the darkest time of the year and marks the beginning of the Christmas season.

Here's my attempt at taking a 'Lucia' photo with Lucia...

 It was an effort to get her to be by the light without eating the light. That restriction meant there were a lot of photos like the one above.

 We celebrate at church with a breakfast and program that tells the story of Lucia. Here are Sonja and Gwen at the breakfast. They also played a part in the program and did a very impressive job singing in Swedish.

It always ends with the high school girls singing the Swedish Lucia song, one of them taking on the role of Lucia herself complete with a real (and lit) crown of candles. The copper tray and pot carried each year is the one that I inherited from my grandma (who started the Lucia celebration at church many years ago). The tray was a gift for my great-grandmother when her family went on a trip to Sweden without her since she was too young to go. One of the reasons it is special to me is because her initials 'EMJ' (for Elvira Martha Johnson) that are carved into the tray are the same as mine (Elsa Martha Johnson)!

Happy Lucia Day! May we all represent light in the darkness today.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pesto Avacado Melt


 The Recipe 
  • 2 slices of bread
  • Pesto (homemade or store bought)
  • 1/2 of an avocado, in chunks
  • 5 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 5 small slices cheddar cheese
  • Salt

The oozing cheese holds it all together

The Method

Layer up with pesto, avocado, tomato, salt and cheese and throw under the broiler for a few minutes.

This is a great way to use up extra pesto. I sometimes get bored of just using it with pasta. So yummy and so simple. Enjoy!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Spanish Tortilla

Don't let the name fool you. A Spanish tortilla is like an egg casserole with potatoes and veggies except without the half and half or heavy whipping cream. And a bit different of a method. I used a mash up of a few different recipes this time but I'm going to try my best to remember what I did. This recipe is versatile, use whatever veggies you love. 

I used these ones:

The Recipe:
  • 4 Yukon gold or small russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 4-5 mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 eggs
  • 6-8 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper

The Method
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Boil potatoes about 5 minutes, remove from water and lay out on a paper towel lined tray in a single layer
  3. Heat 3-4 tablespoons of oil on med-high heat, add veggies and season with salt and pepper. Saute veggies until tender, about 7 minutes, let cool
  4. Whisk eggs with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, add cooled potatoes, veggies and let sit about 15 minutes (it releases the starch in the potatoes or something)
  5. Add 3-4 tablespoons of oil to a large saute pan, add egg mixture, pushing potatoes to the bottom
  6. Cook on med-high heat for a few minutes
  7. Transfer pan to oven and cook at 350 for about 20 minutes
  8. Allow to cool a few minutes. Invert onto a plate to serve

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tortellini with Roasted Asparagus and Onion

More Real Food: simple and fast but really good. It's crazy how such a simple thing like roasting the veggies make them so sweet and tasty.

The Recipe (not the most precise but that's how I do it):

  • 1 Package Tortellini (I used cheese)
  • 1 bundle asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large white onion, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • a few tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • a few tablespoons butter
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

The Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Toss veggies in oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes or until veggies starting to brown on top.
  3. Meanwhile, cook tortellini according to directions
  4. Mix butter, salt and pepper with drained tortellini. Toss in veggies.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

BLT Pasta

 More real food. And I know it looks simple but this recipe is real good.

The Recipe:
  • 1/2 lb pasta (I used bow tie)
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 10-20 grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup creamy salad dressing (like Caesar or ranch)
  • salt and pepper

The Method
  1. Cook pasta according to directions.
  2. Cook bacon. My favorite method is baking bacon (place bacon on foil lined baking sheet, place in oven, turn oven on to 425, check after 20 minutes, bake until crispy)
  3. Mix vinegar, mayo and dressing. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Layer pasta, about 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups arugula and halved tomatoes. Drizzle dressing on top.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Real Food: Quinoa Crusted Pork

Since becoming a mom, the time I have each day seems much more precious. I work part-time, watch my sister's daughter while she works part-time and oh yeah, one more thing...taking care of a baby is a time-suck!

Our usual evening routine on my working days is: get home around 6:45, feed Lucia, get Lucia ready for bed, put her to bed, make dinner for us. As you can see, dinner comes last (and late). I grew up eating dinner later so I really don't mind that (and Matt has taken a liking to it) but I am always looking for recipes that don't take much time or effort.  I love making dinner and I think it's an important part of our family life but because it comes at the end of my busy day, I have had to sacrifice some of my more time consuming recipes to the all powerful parenting gods. Real food please!

In general, I am a person that needs a plan. Matt likes to tease me for my inability to answer open questions. What's your favorite movie? My mind goes blank. Not only can I not think of my favorite movie, but I cannot think of a single movie or only the dumbest ones. The same thing happens when I go to the grocery store without a plan or list. I just go blank. No ideas, or just bad ones. I need ideas! And what better ideas than my own? The other day I hunkered down and wrote down like one million 'real food' ideas and I want to keep those ideas alive. I am going to attempt to jot down the ones that work (electronically, in the form of this blog) so that I can check back for ideas when I draw a blank.

I am not professing that these recipes are the fanciest but ones that work for our family in this phase we find ourselves in. The criteria for my 'real food': real good, real ingredients, real quick and real-istic.

So I'll start with the quinoa-crusted pork I made the other night...

The Recipe:
  • 3-4 boneless pork loins
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • a few dashes soy sauce
  • a few dashes siracha chile sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil 

The Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Season both sides of pork with salt and pepper. Make marinade: mix together barbecue sauce, Worcestershire, soy sauce and chile sauce. Cover pork in mixture and marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes (flipping pork half-way through).
  3. In the meantime, mix quinoa and breadcrumbs together. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Let pork come to room temp. for about 10 minutes.
  5. Heat some olive oil in a shallow, oven-proof saute pan.
  6. Shake the excess marinade off each piece of pork, cover all sides in quinoa mixture. Sear on med-high until browned, about 4 minutes. Sear other side for a few minutes.
  7. Finish cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until meat registers at 150 degrees.

(The marinade could be varied in many ways. I just made this one up from the stuff we had around. You could also add shredded Parmesan to the quinoa mixture. I served this with simple roasted potatoes and salad.)

It's not long now til we are in the next phase when Lucia will be eating dinner with us too and trying all the foods that we love!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lucia Lately (8 months)

Lucia is 8 months old now and she just gets more and more fun as she grows. In an effort to record all of her stages of development, I'm going to try to summarize her current stage. She's got the crawling thing down now and she currently loves crawling around, crawling under things, trying to go over things (including a step or two) and standing herself up onto just about anything. She's been flirting with the idea of letting go while standing a time or two but she's not quite up for that yet. She is a busy little girl, always on the move. I can barely get her to sit with me for longer than a few minutes because she always sees something interesting and then once I set her down, she's off! This stage brings some new challenges but I enjoy it. She follows us around our apartment like a little puppy now that she can get herself where she wants to go. And it's fun to see where she chooses to take herself; usually she just wants to be in the action, where the people are. She loves to play with her cousins and it is so fun to watch her get excited to see them and play with them. She seems to love people in general, making eye contact with everyone, smiling and squealing at strangers that walk by her, and even waving a little bit now. But she is also starting to show signs of clingy-ness to mama around strangers.

Lucia is a great sleeper and sleeps almost 12 hours at night and takes two solid naps during the day. Man oh man, do we love getting good sleep again! Thank you, Lucia! We are also enjoying this new stage where she wakes up and talks to herself rather than screaming and crying until we ("we" meaning "I") get her. All of her little "talking" noises are just so cute and she is especially loving it these days when we repeat the "bas" and "das" back to her...she just can't contain her laughter, so cute. She still eats pureed foods and lets us know she's hungry now by making "mmm" "mmm" noises or crawling over to her high chair. On a related note, her first little tooth is starting to pop through...better late than never, right?

Here are a few pics from the last month or so...

She's practicing her standing up on everything these days

Enjoying one of our last 80 degree days of the season with a walk to the lake. I believe the next day was about 40 degrees cooler.

One of her favorite spots to grab some toys. Her favorite non-toy toys are this electronic catch phrase game and the remote control. She also likes being read to, playing with books and playing singing games like "this little piggy".

You can see in the background that her exersaucer has been converted to the final stage now that she can stand up on it.

With great-grandpa Ray

Showing off her skills: standing while holding onto something else with her hands.

We celebrated 8 months with some cheerios

She wasn't quite sure what to think about them

When I watch her sleeping like this, I just think to myself that I can't believe that I am so lucky to have this little girl as my daughter. We are so blessed.

And just for is a picture of my grandma with all her granddaughters at my cousin Beth's bridal shower.

We've been enjoying our fall and hope you have too.
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