Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Breakfast and a Boat: French Fry and Bacon Breakfast Casserole

Where I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, summers meant lots of time spent on the lake.  Fishing, boating, tubing.  It was a great place to spend those long, hot, summer days.

This past week has been a strange one here.  The humidity has been intense - unusual for Southern California.  Combined with the thunderstorms, it felt a little like Hawaii.  And with the heat, it felt like those summers I grew up with. 

So over the weekend, we decided to head to the lake.  Or "a lake" to be more precise, because there are several in San Diego County.  But on Saturday I picked up a magazine that spoke of Dixon Lake and the historic stories of old San Diegoans heading to camp there in the summer.  So we went to check it out.

The lake itself is picturesque, and in many way reminded me of the lakes I grew up with. With the exception of those mountains!  The lake sits in a basin, surrounded by mountains and trees.  You can't swim in the water, but you can boat.  And so boat we did.

We rented a peddle boat for the four of us.  It was Thatbaby's first time on one of these and he had a blast.  He was so quiet, sitting there and taking it all in.  But everytime we asked if he was having a good time he would nod his head very seriously.

Thatboy remarked to TMIL that she probably didn't think she'd be "camping" while they were here.  For him, being on the lake reminded him of his summers camping with his family.  With that in mind, I wanted to indulge him in a "camping" type breakfast.  Camping is in quotes here because I always tease Thatboy that his family, who proclaimed themselves to be avid campers, never actually camped.  They camped in lodges or campers, always with a working stove and oven.  So while my camping experiences involved cooking over an open flame, they ate the same foods they would have at home.  This is that kind of breakfast.  Filling, a great use of last night's leftovers, and there's something about breakfast casseroles that make you think about sleeping in a tent.  Maybe that's just me.  Since we know Thatboy has very little tent experience!

Bacon and Potato Breakfast Casserole
4 slices thick bacon, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8  eggs
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3 cups french fries

  1. Heat the oven to 350. Spray a baking dish with baking spray.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook until crisp.
  3. Add the onion, yellow bell pepper, garlic, and salt to taste, and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.
  5. Whisk in the milk. 
  6. Whisk in some salt and pepper. 
  7. Stir in the cheese, french fries, bacon and vegetables.   Pour the whole mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Whines, Wines, and Cake: Charlotte Russe

TMIL heads back home today.  Just in time.  I honestly don't know how much more I could take.  You know what they say about fish and house guests?  Well we definitely passed the three day mark. 

It's really hard to share space.  TMIL is so critical that she will literally look for anything she can sink her negative hooks on to, which means I spend the entire time she's here playing cheerleader.  Everything's great!  Everything's perfect!  It's exhausting. 

Since TMIL loves her wine (in a rather unhealthy way given that her doctors have told her she needs to cut it out) we thought she would enjoy a trip to wine country.  We spent the afternoon sitting at a table enjoying wine and cheese while she complained that she only liked whites and they didn't have enough whites for her to drink (as she continued to steal sips of our reds and declare how good they were even though she doesn't like reds).  Then we came home and she refused to eat dinner because she already had cheese.  Good times.

I'm celebrating her departure, and celebrations mean cake.  Or something cake-like.  This was actually inspired by the purchase of a charlotte mold.  I love getting old baking tools - there's something so nostalgic about it.  And now I actually have the space to house them in my kitchen.  It's a dangerous place to be.

Do you know about charlottes?  They're a French baked dish which are filled sponge cakes.  Like a very fancy twinkie.  The Charlotte Russe is a sponge cake filled with bavarian cream.  It's one of those dishes that looks fancier than it actually is.  And perfect for any form of celebration, big or small.

Charlotte Russe
1 envelope gelatin
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1cup heavy cream
sponge cake

  1. Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water and let it soften for 5 minutes.
  2. Mix the sugar and milk in a pan, add the gelatin , and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar and gelatin dissolve.  
  3. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.  Chill until  thick and syrupy, then beat until fluffy.
  4. Whip the cream into soft peaks and fold in the gelatin mixture.  
  5. Line a 1 1/2 quart charlotte mold with 1/2 inch thick slices of sponge cake.
  6. Spoon in the filling and chill until firm.  Unmold before serving.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mommy Mondays: Advice for a New Mom

Baby B is my first "real" niece.  Both Thatniece and Thatnephew were born when Thatboy and I were still dating, so I wasn't invested in them from the start the way I am with Baby B.  Add to the fact that my brother is one of my favorite people in the entire world, and the fact that I've already "been there done that" in terms of babies, it's really all I can do not to swoop in and take that baby from them every time they have an issue.

But it's not too hard to call back to those early days myself.  Those days when every person you met had "advice" for how to raise your new baby.  "Let your baby cry to develop its lungs"  "Don't hold the baby too much or you'll spoil it."  "You should fill the bottle with cereal so the baby sleeps through the night."  It's overwhelming.

Really, there is one piece of advice that every new mom should have, and one that I passed along to UDubb:  You are doing a great job.  You have carried this baby for 9 months.  You know her better than anyone does.  Go with your gut, because only you really know what's best for your baby.

You know what?  New parents are going to make mistakes.  It's inevitable.   But what they don't need is people making them feel like things they are doing right are mistakes.  My best advice is to build them up, give them the confidence.  Babies don't break easily (their skeletons aren't even really fully solidified yet!) and new parents are inherently nervous.  So why add to that?

I firmly believe that no matter what difficulty is thrown their way, Thatbrother and UDubb, like every other new parent before them, will figure it out.  And its much easier to do that without a million people telling you that you're doing it wrong, or trying to give you a better way to do it.  So the next time a new mom asks you for advice?  Tell her she's doing a fantastic job.  And the next time you're questioning yourself?  Remember, you're doing it all right.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Runday: Skirtin' Free

A couple of weeks ago, my friend SD Mom hosted a running event in conjunction with Running Skirts.  It was a running and shopping event.  Seeing as how I'm a fan of both of those things, it was a no-brainer that I would attend.

When I arrived SD Mom had a whole little goody table set up, with MamaChia squeezes, Nutzo, bagels, bananas and more.  She takes such good care of us.  Once everyone got there, we headed out for a run.

We did a short little coastal run, stopping on the way back for a little selfie action.  We went out in different groups.  I picked the latest (sleep-in-est) group.  We all got back to the store at the same time though.

After we rehydrated and refueled, we were turned loose in the store.

I'm already well acquainted with Running Skirts.  Thatboy introduced me years ago when he stumbled in one day while waiting for an oil change.  He came home with a pretty pink bag, filled with a pretty pink skirt.  And he loves spoiling me there around the holidays.  It's his one stop, stocking filling shop.

In general, I'm not a big skirt/short runner.  On long runs, where I turn into a sweaty mess, I do my best to avoid chafing.  But the thing that I like about Running skirts is that they have built in compression-like shorts.  That are fairly long.  Long enough that my thighs don't rub together.  And what's more important is that they don't ride up.  And they're super cute.  (See how good I am?  I put function over fashion!)  And they have a little pocket for keeping little things. 

One of the reasons I attended this shindig was because I wanted to pick up a new skirt for the race I'm running next weekend at Disneyland.  2 guesses as to what my running costume is going to be.

Special thank you to SD Mom for putting this event together.  Isn't she the cutest/best?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Visiting: Bavarian Cream

TMIL is currently visiting and staying with us.  This understandably adds an extra level of stress to my already stressful life.  Because TMIL is not an accepting, loving kind of mother-in-law.  Instead she's a negative, judging kind of mother-in-law.  When we told her we were buying a home, instead of being excited for us, she told us as many horror stories as she could about the area we were moving to.  Not that she had any actual knowledge about the area being as she lives hundreds of miles away and has never actually been there.

I feel like every meal I put on the table needs to be flawless.  (Tonight's meal included a salad, and apparently she can't eat leafy greens)  This means we have some sort of dessert every night, as the perfect way to round out the meal.  And because I'm short on time, it needs to be something I can prepare ahead of time.  And because I can't risk failure, it needs to be easy.

Puddings are a really hard dish to mess up, don't take long to prepare, and taste even better the next day.  This Bavarian cream is a cross between a pudding and a custard.  It's got the creaminess of the custard, but a more solid consistency.  It's sweet, it's easy, and it's pretty.  Perfect to serve for picky company.

 Bavarian Cream (From the Fannie Farmer Cookbook)
1 envelope gelatin
2 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup heavy cream
  1.  Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water and let soften for 5 minutes.
  2. Beat the egg yolks slightly.
  3. Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan until very hot, then stir a little into the beaten yolks.
  4. Return the yolks to the remaining milk in the pan and add the sugar, salt, and gelatin.  Stir constantly over medium heat until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until cool.
  5. Add the vanilla.
  6. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry and fold them into the custard.
  7. Beat the cream until it barely holds soft peaks and fold it into the custard.  Spoon into a 2 quart mold, cover, and chill until firm.  Unmold before serving.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer Pick Me Up - Ice Coffee with Jelly

It should come as no surprise that we are insanely busy right now.  During the week it's nonstop action from the time I get up at 6am until I finally collapse in bed sometime after 11pm.  There's the getting ready process in the morning, then work, then coming home and taking care of dinner, bedtimes, and prepping for the next day.  Plus a little workout time worked in - when there's time. 

The weekends are no less stressful.  Sometimes I even wake up earlier to get a run in before the day starts.  There are errands to run, housework to catch up on, and always some sort of fun event to attend - like Little LO's birthday party last weekend.

So how do I get through these long, very full days?  I'm not much of a coffee drinker.  But sometimes I make exceptions.  I am very picky about my coffee when I do drink it.  We have a fantastic local coffee shop that really helps me get through my Saturdays.  I'd much prefer to drink there than at Starbucks.  In general I don't really like Starbucks.  But when I was in college, Starbucks introduced a drink that was on the menu for a very short time period which I adored.  It was the only time I willingly and gladly chose Starbucks over other coffee shops.

So what was this magical drink?  It was a coffee with coffee jelly.  Since I love Boba (drinks with tapioca balls) this quickly became a favorite drink.  I was really sad when they stopped serving it.  So of course I had to learn how to make my own version.   For me, this is the perfect summer drink.  I haven't ever tried it with hot coffee, but I worry that it would melt the jelly, and therefore lose the consistency.  But with a nice ice coffee, it's the perfect way to cool down and start the day.

 Ice Coffee with Jelly
1 pot very strong coffee
1 envelope of gelatin
6 Tbsp sugar
  1.  Mix the gelatin, sugar, and 1/2 cup of cold water in a small pan and let soften for 5 minutes.
  2. Add 2 cups coffee and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin dissolves.
  3. Pour into a tray and chill until firm.
  4. Turn tray onto a clean work service and cut into small squares.
  5. Place 1/4 cup of coffee jelly in each cup and top with cold coffee, milk, and sugar to taste.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Best Buds: Orange Jello

When we moved into our new house, we left a lot behind. Like our bed that was probably 10 years old, and our couch which was in such bad shape we couldn't even get any organizations to accept it as a donation. 

We've replaced the big things, but we're still waiting on the couch we ordered.  And I've been holding off on having people over, because I hate forcing people to sit outside, since there's no place for them to sit inside.  But the days and weeks are dragging on, and honestly, one of the best things about having a house is being able to entertain.  So despite the lack of seating, we had L&O&family over a couple weeks ago.

The nice things about friends is that they don't care too much about the lack of a place to rest their bottoms.  And Thatbaby and Little LO had so much fun running amok in the backyard.

They took turns riding the bikes and motorized wheels, but then Little LO realized there was room for him on the back and they could ride together!

We didn't take advantage of our orange tree the night they were there, but it's perfect for one of the classic kid's desserts - J-E-L-L-O.  Honestly, it takes just as much time to make it from scratch as it does to make the store-bought version, but the taste is worlds apart.  There is so much more flavor when you make it from freshly squeezed juice.  It's brighter, and the sweetness isn't as cloying.  Once you try this, you will have no desire to ever grab that little white box again!

Orange Jello (From the Fannie Farmer Cookbook)
2 envelopes gelatin
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon

  1. Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water and let soften.
  2. Add 1 3/4 cup boiling water, stirring to dissolve.
  3. Add the orange juice, sugar, and lemon juice.
  4. Pour into a 1-qt mold and chill until firm.