Sunday, February 27, 2011

Amelia's Hair

Amelia's hair has grown a lot in one year.  From this...

One year ago.

To this..

Amelia in all of her follicle-induced glory.
Now, granted - babies do a lot of growin' in a year.  But Amelia's hair has already started to fall past her shoulders.  Her hair has started to take on a personality of its own - filled with cowlicks, loose curls, and drama.

She has more hair than I do, and she's eighteen months old.

And, unfortunately for her, I have no idea what to do with so much hair.  She ends up having the sad, quirky Pebbles ponytail on top of her head, or she gets a clip put into her hair.  At this point, she refuses to wear a headband.

I can barely fix my own hair - and I've never had to deal with so much hair before. This morning, I tried to put her hair in pigtails for church.  It's a feat I was able to accomplish when she was younger and had less hair.  Now, her hair is starting to overwhelm me.  There's just tons of it.  I put her hair in the Pebbles 'do and we went to church.

Don't get me wrong - I'm thankful Amelia has so much hair.  It's not fun being thin-headed like me.  I hope that she'll have hair like her Aunt D'Anna or her Aunt Heather when she gets older.

I'm just worried that I won't ever be able to fix it.

Even her little "Pebbles" look is getting more difficult to accomplish now that her hair is getting longer.

Yup, I fixed this.  Sad.

 I think I need help...?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A + A on Valentine's Day

Amelia and her BFF Asher had a special play date on Valentine's Day.

Kathi and I decided that our kids needed to have a sweet little Valentine's dinner together.

So, Kathi and Asher picked up dinner and brought it over to me and Amelia.  Amelia made Asher a (really ghetto) Valentine, and Asher brought Amelia a little plate with flowers on it.  Amelia dressed in her purple corduroy dress with hearts on it, and Asher wore his (oh-so-adorable) bow tie.

Honestly, we did it for kicks.

And boy, did we laugh!

I don't really think the kids understood what was going on.

In ten years or so, they'll probably yell at us for embarrassing them in this fashion.

In two years, it will be hard to convince them to do this kind of thing on Valentine's Day.

I'm glad they're still little and naive.

The Adventures of Baby Destructo

She climbs on top of tables...

She destroys books...

Plex had arms in his past life.

She pours water on top of cell phones...


Baby Destructo can make mere mortal mothers weep in corners.  Baby Destructo can make you question your sanity.

The force is strong with Baby Destructo!

Watch out for your cell phones!  Watch out for your grilled cheeses!  Baby Destructo fears no one or no thing!

Back before Baby Destructo's powers were fully developed...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A haunting quote.

“How many interviews did I give and say, ‘You know what’s important between me and Miley is I try to be a friend to my kids’? I said it a lot. And sometimes I would even read other parents might say, ‘You don’t need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.’ Well, I’m the first guy to say to them right now: You were right. I should have been a better parent. I should have said, ‘Enough is enough — it’s getting dangerous and somebody’s going to get hurt.’ I should have, but I didn’t."  - Billy Ray Cyrus

Right now, I'm thankful my Mama wasn't my BFF.

Right now, I'm thankful that she (hopefully) passed on some wisdom about parenting to her daughter.

Right now, I'm kind of scared of the "me, me, me!" generation that's going to one day lead this world.

(Amelia, if you read this one day, I hope you know that I am not your friend.  When you graduate from college, we'll talk.  Until then, I'm your MAMA.  And I'm not saying this because I don't want to get to know you, or because I don't love you.  I'm saying this because you need a parent and not a party planner for your life.)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Vanilla Bean Paste and Oreo Cheesecake

I'm not a perfect cook.

I'm real, and I'd like to share my real experiences on here.

So, I'm going to be honest.

The first thing I thought about this morning was, "I am out of vanilla bean paste."

Not, "yay - is my child still asleep at 8:07?"

Not, "why am I awake when my child is still asleep at 8:07?"

No.  I thought about vanilla bean paste.

Because, quite frankly, vanilla bean paste is heaven in a little glass jar, and one of my new culinary necessities.

I made an Oreo cheesecake for a friend last night.  I haven't made an Oreo cheesecake in a few years.  I used to make them all the time, but people started asking for other flavors - dulce de leche, Nutella (okay, I'm the only one who asked for that), plain, etc.  An Oreo is an acquired taste, and not everyone likes them.

Last night, my attempt to make this cheesecake was quite humorous.  I was talking with my friend Kim while I made the cheesecake, and the whole Oreos I nestled into the bottom of the cheesecake batter were bobbing up to the top.  I felt like it was a weird culinary version of that game at Chuck-E-Cheese where you hit beavers with a mallet.

"Did you flour your Oreos?" Kim asked after hearing me struggle.


I forgot to flour my Oreos so they'd sink.   I worked with the Oreos for a a little while longer and tried to batter the top evenly, but it didn't work.  After a little time in the oven, two of the Oreos still managed to crown the top of the batter like the teeth of a six-month old.

I knew my cheesecake was going to crack.

Overall, I've had more cheesecake successes than failures.  My gas oven has done a world of good in protecting my cheesecakes.  If you ever get a chance to purchase a gas stove over an electric one, I highly recommend it because of its even cooking quality.

But even my nice gas oven couldn't protect my cheesecake from my disastrous Oreo oversight.

So, when I woke up this morning, I knew it would be cracked.  (And I was right - it had two small cracks in the center.  Nothing major, but it didn't look stellar, either.)  And, at the same time, I knew I needed the vanilla bean paste.

I hate giving people cracked cheesecakes.  Usually, my solution to this problem is to cover the cheesecake with some sort of topping.  The most natural topping in this case would be homemade whipped cream.

Guess what I make my whipped cream out of?  Cream, sugar...and VANILLA BEAN PASTE.

So, I'm lamenting the fact that I'm out of this magical concoction of vanilla beans, extract, and ...well, who knows what else.  I'm sad that I was too dumb to flour my Oreos. I'm sad that my cheesecake cracked and that I'll have to top my cheesecake with whipped cream that doesn't contain vanilla.

Lessons for today:

1) vanilla bean paste (or at least vanilla extract) needs to be in the house at all times.

2) flour the Oreos.

By the way, you can order Nielson-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste at Williams-Sonoma.  You get four ounces for eleven bucks.  Two ounces of Publix brand's vanilla extract is eight or nine dollars, and Nielson-Massey is a top-notch brand, so I consider this a good deal.  The paste is a lot cheaper than whole vanilla beans, too.

I'm ordering some today, along with a tortilla press that I've had my eye on for quite some time.  I'll let you know how my next adventure in my kitchen turns out.

Here's a link to help you out: 

Vanilla Bean Paste

Monday, February 7, 2011

Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Pizza

I ate a roasted vegetable and goat cheese pizza at Cheesecake Factory a few weeks ago.

"I can make this," I thought as I was munching on it.

I'm not a stranger to making pizza.  Jeremy, actually, helps me make pizzas often.  He used to work for Buck's Pizza back in his younger and cooler days (those were the glory days for him and his buddies - just ask them).

Over the years, we've thrown lots of things on top of a pizza.  We've even made pizza on top of the Big Green Egg.  It was insanely good.

My attempt to make this pizza yielded a different result - but I think a few tweaks will help me out.

And here's a big plus - you can save the leftovers for pasta primavera!

First, I started off with some pre-made dough from Publix.  I could make my own dough, but I like Publix and have no problem with their dough.  I would, however, like to say that I cannot throw dough in the air.  It's just something that Jeremy can do that I am not able to do.  He acts like it is a simple thing, but it isn't.  I'm not much of a baker or dough-worker unless it concerns cheesecake.  Trust me on this.  My scones from last Christmas looked like the faces of little old men.

After Jeremy kneaded and tossed the pre-made pizza in the air, I topped it with what we call our "garlic base."  Basically, it's several cloves of garlic chopped and sauteed in extra virgin olive oil.  After that, I strained off the cooked garlic (I think it leaves a bitter taste if I include it) and brushed the garlic-infused olive oil on top of the pizza crust.

The night before, I roasted some veggies in a 350 degree oven for an hour.  I included:  2 pint containers of grape tomatoes, one eggplant, one bell pepper, artichoke hearts, a zucchini, and one onion.  I sliced them and covered them with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Today, I took some of the cooked tomatoes and onions and sauteed them in another pan with some garlic, tomato paste, olive oil (sensing a theme here?) and some chicken broth.  I added in some fresh rosemary and basil.  I took the mixture and blended it together with my hand-held immersion blender.  Voila!  Red sauce.

I topped the pizza dough with the "white sauce" and some of the red sauce.  I topped the the the whole pizza with half of the of the roasted veggies, fresh mozzarella, Parmesan,  salt, pepper...and, of course, goat cheese.  I've really taken a liking to goat cheese.  Tasting it makes me think of fried green tomatoes, since most restaurants pair the two together.  (Goat cheese + tomatoes = perfect, by the way.)  Goat cheese is tangy, crumbly and creamy all at the same time.  Tasty.

I saved half of the veggies, most of the red sauce, and some of the cheese for some future pasta primavera.  After I was done assembling the pizza, I popped it in my very hot oven (I prefer the gas side of my oven for pizzas...and everything else) and let it cook away.

The result?  It was good.  I think I should maybe do a better job adding a little definition to the veggies by not cooking them as long as I did - they all sort of became a little ambiguous in the concoction.  I would also like to add a little bit of vinegar to the mix, too.  I think I'll purchase canned artichokes to add a little vinegary taste to the pizza.

Here's the recipe in true "recipe form" if you would like to have it:

Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Pizza
Serves 4 for a dinner-serving size, or 8 or more if you're turning it into an appetizer pizza

1 pre-bought dough ball from your local grocery store or pizzeria

Veggie Topping:
1 red bell pepper
1 eggplant
1 sweet onion
1 can of artichoke hearts, drained
1 zucchini
2 pint containers of grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Pizza Sauce:
1/2 cup roasted tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cloves garlic
2 fresh basil leaves (or one teaspoon dried basil)
salt and pepper, to taste

To top the pizza:
1 8-oz ball of fresh mozzarella (in the specialty cheeses section)
4 ounces of goat cheese
1 tablespoon of thyme leaves (fresh is preferred)
2 fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper

Olive Oil Base
5 or 6 garlic cloves
1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

For the Vegetables:
Slice all of your vegetables in small, bite sized chunks (cut the grape tomatoes in half).  Place the tomatoes, onions, and eggplant on one side of the baking sheet, and place the artichoke hearts and the red bell pepper on the other side.  Cover the vegetables liberally with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Roast the red bell pepper, zucchini, and artichokes for around 35-40 minutes (so they still retain their texture), and the onion, eggplant, and tomatoes for one hour.  When the vegetables are roasted, set them aside.

After you take out the veggies, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

For the red sauce:

Dice the garlic cloves.  In a skillet, heat up the olive oil - throw in a piece of the garlic and add both garlic cloves when the small piece of garlic begins to sizzle.  To the mixture, add chicken broth (slowly so it doesn't burn you), tomato paste, roasted tomatoes, salt and pepper, and herbs.  If you would like a smooth consistency to the sauce, use an immersion blender to mix the ingredients together.

For the "white" sauce:

Dice the garlic cloves.  Place the olive oil in skillet. Heat the mixture until the garlic sizzles and becomes golden brown - but do not burn the mixture.

To assemble the pizza:

Using a floured surface, roll out the pizza dough.  If you know how to toss pizza, do so accordingly.  Place the rolled out pizza crust onto a large, round pizza pan (or a square pan if you don't have a round pizza pan). 

Coat the pizza with the "white sauce" (excluding the garlic - it can taste bitter if you leave it on the pizza).  Then, coat the pizza with a small amount of the red sauce.  Save the rest of your red sauce for your pasta primavera.

Top the pizza with your roasted vegetables, mozzarella, and Parmesan.  Dot the top of the pizza with small chunks of the goat cheese.  Save some of your cheese and veggies for the pasta primavera - trust me, there will be plenty of much cheese and veggies left.

Top the pizza with the fresh thyme, salt and pepper, and place into the hot oven.  It will cook in approximately 12-15 minutes, or until the sides of the crust are golden brown.

That's it!  For the pasta primavera, cook half a box of your favorite pasta.  In a separate pan, add your leftover red sauce and your leftover veggies until they heat back up.  Add your cooked pasta to your veggie and red sauce mixture, and then top with your leftover cheese (the goat cheese makes this dish extra creamy and wonderful).  Voila!  Simple and easy!

Let me know if you plan on using this recipe!  I hope you enjoy it!

Here's a picture of the finished product: