Tuesday, June 2, 2009

so what did you do this may?

tuesday, may 5th: cheese enchiladas with green sauce, rice, beans, and beer.
perfect for cinco de mayo, no? i thought it was rather delicious, but i am a sucker for cheese enchiladas. i thought oliver would love it, too, but he was more keen on the rice and beans. that kid just likes to keep me on my toes.

wednesday, may 6th: avocado bacon burgers.
essentially just an excuse to eat avocado and bacon together for dinner. (another good excuse is avocado blts, in case you're looking for excuses too.) oliver loves burgers ("buhguhs!") so this was a hit for him too.

thursday, may 7th: chicken and rice casserole.
borrowed the idea, made up the flavors. we used a wild rice blend, and incorporated the leftover mustard cream sauce from the previous sunday's chicken.

sunday, may 10th: mustard crusted salmon, roasted sweet potato spears with bacon vinaigrette, and cucumber salad with mustard dressing.
we also started with a balsamic white bean dip with veggies, and for dessert i made lemon cajun sweet dough pies with whipped cream. this was my mother's day dinner for mom, who loves salmon, dill, and lemons. i love them all too, so that was a bonus. i didn't hear a single complaint from anyone else, either.
wednesday, may 13th: swedish meatballs with kale and rye bread.
bryan's request. i had wanted creamed kale, but bryan didn't mind the meal plan, and instead of using the swedish meatball recipe i had found, he decided to wing it, and instead made a meatball stroganoff of sorts. it didn't suck, though, so all was forgiven.

friday, may 15th: spiced lamb kebabs, stewed white beans, and grilled eggplant.
i'll be honest, i was prepared to hate this meal. i'm not a giant fan of lamb, especially something as fatty as ground lamb. but this was awesome. i probably liked it because it was spicy enough to cover any hint of lamb flavor. and oliver liked the grilled eggplant, go figure!

saturday, may 16th: boston baked bean sandwiches, salt and vinegar potato chips, and fresh strawberries.
this was actually lunch that day. i had come across the recipe in one of our saveurs, and bookmarked the online version, and forgot about it. re-discovered it while meal planning, and knew my boys loved beans, so we had to try it. i'm not too hip on baked beans, but still enjoyed it. and i do love salt and vinegar potato chips, as does oliver (the kid loves the weirdest things!).

sunday, may 17th: chicken with plum glaze, ginger scallion fragrant rice, broccoli radish slaw, and sauteed zucchini.
i omitted the horseradish called for in the chicken recipe, since i wanted to make sure oliver liked it (he did). i left the chicken whole; roasted it, and brushed it with the glaze in the last 30 minutes or so of cooking. i think this would be better applied to chicken pieces, and perhaps done on the stove in more of a simmer style - the chicken would pick up more of the glaze, and the plum flavor would concentrate. still delicious, though. mom, dad, and shannon joined us for dinner. shannon made a gluten free / dairy free lemon cake with chocolate frosting and berry glaze for dessert.

tuesday, may 19th: fish fry with smoked paprika mayo and peas with horseradish and mustard.
fish fries are a milwaukee tradition and thus an integral part of my nostalgia, and since bryan doesn't complain either, we have fish fries a few times a year at home.

wednesday, may 20th: mini fried chicken, potato salad, carrots, grapes, and pickles.
we decided to take a picnic at the zoo, and mini fried chicken sounded like the perfect portable meal. sadly for us, i didn't check the zoo hours, and they were closed when we arrived. FAIL. ever quick to think on our feet, we headed to the park by our house, and ate our picnic there. it turned out bryan made the best potato salad EVER, so i was no longer unhappy about missing out on the zoo. after dinner, we went and played on the playground for awhile, letting oliver run all over and tire himself out (or nearly).

friday, may 22nd: chicken fried rib eye steaks, yellow squash, and mac n cheese.
chicken fried rib eyes are a way to remind yourself god loves us. really, give it a try sometime. i doubt you'll disagree.

sunday, may 24th: oyster mushroom risotto and asparagus.
on our weekend trip to the dane county farmer's market on capitol square in madison, we picked up, among other things, asparagus and oyster mushrooms. the mushrooms were begging to be put into a risotto, which turned out beautifully. though the asparagus was the star of the meal - absolutely perfect, the sweetest asparagus we had ever tasted.

monday, may 25th: garden herb omlette with a single, ripe strawberry from our garden.
the strawberry plant experiment has been a great success! i didn't think i'd get any fruit from it, but it's been sprouting berries like crazy.

tuesday, may 26th: szechuan ahi tuna, spring greens salad with asian dressing, and rice.
our butcher (whom we love) at the outpost tried a new spice rub on some lovely ahi tuna. it worked!

friday, may 29th: shake and bake style chicken, broccoli cheddar rice, and salad.
we went all american with this one (i even went for the thousand island for my salad, and bryan, the buttermilk ranch, because when we do it, we do it right). of course this wasn't actual shake and bake chicken - i made my own mix of homemade breadcrumbs, panko, and herbs, and baked the chicken. we had a ton of leftover rice from thai take out over the weekend, and this was the perfect use for that rice.

saturday, may 30th: grilled flatbreads with caramelized onions, sausage, and manchego Cheese, and spinach sauteed with garlic.
oh. my. goodness. this was very good. i added some fresh mozzarella to the pizzas, because that's the way we roll. the only way to make it better? add dessert. i made tarte au fromage with lemon cream and blueberry compote, from the sunday suppers at lucques cookbook. i accidentally picked up half and half and not heavy cream (the cream i bought was from a local dairy, and the glass bottles themselves not clearly labeled), so i didn't have whipped cream to fold into the lemon curd, but we ate it anyways.

sunday, may 31st:
BREAKFAST: caramelized red onion and fresh mozzarella omelette with bacon.
have i mentioned how great an omelette bryan makes? he used the leftover onions from the night before.

DINNER: grilled chicken, caesar potato salad with sugar snap peas and radishes, and jamie oliver's baked onions with bacon and rosemary.
a great summer meal. mom joined us. oliver loves bbq sauce, so after eating a little of his chicken, he kept asking "sauss peas," and licking sauce from his chicken bone. for dessert, i macerated strawberries in balsamic vinegar and basil, and topped them with sweetened mascarpone. it turns out i might be good at this food thing.

tuesday, june 2nd: seared pork tenderloin with bread and green bean salad with radishes.
a quick weeknight meal. oliver wasn't all that impressed by the pork (though i thought it was tender and delicious), but once i added some of his beloved bbq sauce, he was shoving it in his mouth (score 1 for mom!). which reminds me, i should probably stock up on bbq sauce.

wednesday, june 3rd: salt & pepper tofu, rice stick noodle salad, and broccoli slaw.
the concept of this tofu dish is to mimic salt and pepper squid, and bryan and i both really liked it (oliver had a tofu pup). i omitted the shrimp called for in the noodle salad, just to have a thai inspired side dish. for the broccoli slaw, i thinly sliced broccoli stems, and tossed them with sunflower oil, rice wine vinegar, a dash of sugar, and sunflower seeds. all in all, a great and relatively quick meal. very light, fresh, and vibrant tasting - reminded me why i love thai and vietnamese food so much.

WFD tomorrow: puffy tacos with smokey beef brisket. my plan for the tacos is really to steal the puffy shell idea - add the brisket and normal taco toppings, and proceed with the eating. remember what i said about tacos? yea, i can't wait for dinner tomorrow night.

wow, i really need to get on here more often. if i were smarter, i would update each night with notes from dinner. that way i could include multiple pictures for each meal without making the world's longest blog posts. problem is, by the time oliver is in bed, i have 90 minutes before i will inevitably crash in bed, and all i really want to do is sit on my bottom for that time, not do more activities.

which brings me to something i ponder quite often, and probably will for the rest of my life: i would really like, somehow, to simplify my life. i feel like we are always running around, and by the end of the day saturday, i'm exhausted, and come sunday night, i wonder where all the weekend went to. but it's not like we do all that much - it's mostly errands, laundry, things we can't give up (how else would all these delicious little groceries find their way into my fridge?). and it dawned on me weekend before last, that even if we're not running around, i'm still scrambling to find activities at home. part of it is just who i am - i'm at my best when i'm multi tasking. if i sit idle i feel as though i am wasting time. and there are always a million organizational-type projects to do when one owns a home. the other part of it is having a small child - if we're not at the zoo/park/nana's house/etc., i have to find something to amuse him with at home, be it toys, books, playing outside, or the dreaded t.v. (don't tell oliver's pediatrician, shhh). so i'd rather be at the zoo/park/nana's house, because even though that means loading up the diaper bag, snacks, and the stroller and zooming around the city, it's not only an easier way to entertain oliver, but it's enjoying doing these family activities we enjoy so much. it's why we wanted to have a family. so while at the end of the weekend i feel far from relaxed, i guess that's just parental/adult life. and i'm ok with that. i think i just need to give myself a break every once in awhile and ignore the laundry to take a nap, or indulge myself with not cooking, and get takeout instead - and not stress about it. i've been trying to do that a little more lately (even though it kills the anal retentive detail oriented person inside of me). i just need to get better at it.

so what are some of these things that have kept us oh-so-busy?

mother's day
bryan did good for mother's day (which in turn was good for him, because otherwise i may have kicked him in the nether regions - hard). he and oliver bought me a beautiful necklace and earrings set with my birthstone and pearls in it, some gorgeous flowers, and cards with very sweet notes written in them (oliver even signed his - with a marker).
as mom was having a brunch that day, i cut a bunch of rhubarb from our garden to make rhubarb almond bars. oliver enjoying biting the rhubarb, which is odd, because raw and without sugar, it's not the tastiest stuff. but again, i think he likes to confuse me, so i shouldn't be surprised. once at mom's house, oliver had fun terrorizing the cats, as usual. they can't hate it too much, though - the one cat, juliet, never hides and is always asking oliver to play (as much as a cat ever asks - i think by making herself available to him, walking up to him, and playing hide and seek, she's asking for it). the other cat, aurora, has even stopped hiding. so i hope she knows what she has coming.

i attempted to be Laid Back Mom, and not feel the need to chase behind oliver the entire time we were there. after all, he was surrounded by family, in a familiar and safe place, what could possibly happen? WELL. oliver and my cousin's 3 year old boy locked themselves in the bathroom where they proceeded to pull out all of the cleaning products, and sprinkle themselves and the entire bathroom with comet cleanser. oh yea, that was neat. i about had a heart attack when i found them, and of course was worried for the next 48 hours or so that oliver was going to die suddenly from some crazy brain defect because of inhaling god knows how much comet dust. to make things even better, i was Confident Mom that morning and said, oh no, we don't need an entire change of clothes just to have lunch at nana's! so i had nothing to change him into. he ran around the rest of the afternoon in only his onsie, which didn't seem to bother him in the slightest. still, the afternoon on the whole was enjoyable, and it was great getting to hang out with all the aunts and gram, and eat some very delicious food. everyone brought a dish, and mom made some really fantastic salads, so we stuffed ourselves. oliver's favorite were these little phyllo-egg-cheese-bacon cups my aunt made - he must have had 4 or 5! and that reminds me to add phyllo to the shopping list...

i had planned on making dinner for mom that day, so we had plans to have her and dad over for dinner. adrianne had called earlier in the week to say she would be passing through milwaukee on her way back from an event in minneapolis, and could i help her surprise mom? of course! so i casually mentioned to mom and dad that they should come over a little early, so we could take a walk to the park, and dad immediately thought something was up. mom was pretty surprised adrianne was there when they came over, and so, so happy. we had a great evening together.

outside time
we had quite a few spurts of really gorgeous weather over the last month (though it's chilly again now, WTF MOTHER NATURE?!), so that meant lots of reason to play outside. playing outside and taking walks may be oliver's most favorite thing in the world. it's not unusual for him to finish breakfast, and either run to the back door and ask, with such hope it's hard to resist, "'side?", or point out the window and ask "walk?" we've been going to the park, and he loves playing on the toddler sized playground there, though he gets a little intimidated when there are lots of kids there. when it's just him, though, he is king of the slides! we had bought that outdoor cube/slide thing, and while he still likes it, i think the slide is already too short for him (and he did figure out how to climb up the BIG slide at day care all by himself). i bought him some outdoor chalk, which is a hit, and he also loves blowing bubbles - though i do most of the blowing (he just wants to rub the wand on his lips). we have one wand that makes big bubbles, and he gets a total kick out of running through them, chasing them around. talk about CUTE. i'm pretty sure he would spend every single waking moment outside, if he could. and on the weekends, when we're not running errands, we pretty much do.

dane county farmer's market in madison
we had been wanting to go to madison to visit the renowned farmer's market there since we moved here. the first summer, what with being pregnant, moving a few times, buying a house, working on said house, and whathaveyou, we did not make it to the market. and last summer, with oliver so young and me being a total nap nazi (which i still am, by the way), we didn't go. so we finally did in may. our friend dirk lives in madison, so he met us at the market. the market is large, and pretty amazing - filled with everything and then some. since it's still early in the season, there were lots of spring greens and asparagus. there were also lots of mushrooms, as it was a good time for foraging. lots of plants, as well; we picked up quite a few things to plant, including a tomatillo, brussel sprouts, a giant blue hosta, and some wild grasses. there were multiple places with cheese, a number with meat and fish, and some with oils, herbs, and vinegars (i picked up a locally made, cold pressed sunflower oil). however, the place is always packed - which isn't a super bunch of fun with a stroller. of course no one wants to let the lady with the stroller through, either - even though mostly i just wanted to get to the outside of traffic and move faster than everyone else. it's also the reason i have no pics from the market itself, navigating a full size stroller through a sea of people while simultaneously trying to look at all the booths AND keep an eye on my husband pretty much left no room for picture taking.

we had additionally made plans to meet one of the moms from my message board, tammy, and her daughter, alli, for lunch. they live in madison and though we'd been "talking" online for over a year, had never met in person (i know, we're slackers, aren't we?). so after the market, we met them at texas tubbs for lunch. the tacos were good (and those of you who know me know i am a total sucker for tacos), though the kids were more interested in running all around the restaurant. alli wanted to play with oliver, though he started off a little shy, then turned into a big ham, showing off and being a silly goof. oh, i know, i could hardly believe it either.

surprisingly, oliver did relatively well on the drive both ways (about an hour drive each way). he no longer takes a morning nap (unless he wakes up before 6), but the lull of the car on the way out there did make him pretty sleepy. he refused, however, to fall asleep, which just kind of made him cranky. so he did fuss and whine most of the way out there, but it wasn't a total meltdown, so i'll call it a draw (better than a fail!). about 10 minutes from the market, he managed to get his water cup open, and drench himself. this time, though, i was Smart Mommy, and had a full set of clothes to change him into (and used a diaper on his seat so his butt wouldn't get wet again - genius, right?). on the way home, we were trying to beat the naptime clock. i was hoping he would stay away and take a real nap at home, otherwise he'd just sleep the hour in the car and buck his nap at home. again, he got VERY tired, but fought sleep and took a good nap once we got home. WIN.

talking, talking, talking
oliver, lately, has been repeating EVERYTHING. the kid is turning into a proper parrot. he definitely still babbles a lot, but he has been increasing his vocabulary daily, and it's clear he's storing up even more words. words i didn't think he knew will come popping out, in their proper usage, and take me by total surprise. his fake phone calls have taken on a new life, as he babbles away with the occasional word tossed in. this also means we have to watch our language very closely; we're not potty mouths, but he hears EVERYTHING, so NO SWEARING (bryan). at target the other day, i forgot something on my list from a few aisles back, so i said "oh, shoot!" guess who kept repeating that one?

goofing around
of course, we've just been hanging out, having a grand old time. oliver is SO SILLY, he is just a riot. he plays pranks and jokes around. he'll do something he'll think is hilarious, and crack up. it's hard not to be infected by his giggles, and that mischievous little grin of his. though his favorite game is "Give Mommy a Heart Attack." whether it's not listening and thinking that is just so freaking funny, or being a serious daredevil, the kid is giving me gray hairs faster than old age is. i'm not sure which of those games he enjoys more.

shannon was in town for a week, so oliver got to show his godmother just how goofy is has become. she is spending the summer in minneapolis but came for a quick visit after school and before work / her internship started. we had a great visit with her and saw her lots.

of course there are many more cute pictures (and videos!) of my goofy child in the may and june galleries.

our 7 year wedding anniversary
last thursday, while getting ready in the morning, bryan and i suddenly realized that the coming monday was our anniversary. at least we *both* forgot. bryan bought me 7 long stem red roses, something he does every year, as well as chocolates and a bottle of bourbon (does the man know me or what?). mom offered to babysit so we could go out. bryan really wanted a nice steak dinner, but i was uneasy about spending $200 on a meal, so after much thinking and searching, we settled on speed queen bbq. we had been hearing about the place and wanted to try it out and i had been wanting some smoked pork butt, so we headed downtown. oh. my. jesus. it was so good. real bbq, right here in milwaukee. it reminded me so much of many, many great meals at places like daddy d'z and rolling bones in atlanta. bbq means jesus loves you. and the speed queen should settle the whole religious debate - there is a jesus, and he's downtown smoking pork butts.

and then there's the part where i'm a zealot . . .
food is my religion. my food sources, the ethical treatment of animals (not in a crazy P.E.T.A. way, but in a let's keep 'em healthy and happy and not ruin the earth while raising them, then grill 'em & eat 'em kind of way), the preservation of our earth, my local economy - all these things are extremely important to me. i spend a lot of time and energy reading as much as i can about current commercial practices, how politics affect our food supply, what new research is finding about food (especially health and environmental impacts) - on and on; getting the whole view. i am beyond passionate about it, and i think if people KNEW what was going on, they would be sickened too. believe it or not, i am quite a bit quieter about all this than i could be. i speak about it sometimes here, but rarely in actual person to person conversations, unless the topic is invited. (seriously. just ask me sometime, and i'll talk. you'll be sorry, but grateful for how little i usually talk about it.) but there are several bills which have been introduced into congress which threaten everything i believe in. passage of these bills would shut down small farms, organic farms, farmer's markets, and c.s.a.'s. i implore you to PLEASE read about these bills and speak out! whether or not you buy organic, these bills WILL negatively impact your health, and it will contribute greatly to a worsening of our already fragile environment.

the introduction of these bills stands against everything america claims to be. they will destroy small farms, and our local, organic food sources. doing so not only ruins our standard of living, it will greatly affect the health of both the human population as well as of the earth. removing the ability for small farms to operate ensures the growth of large industrial farms, which then promises only commercial agricultural products will be available. the farming practices on these farms are destroying our ecosystem through the rampant use of fertilizers and pesticides, and the monoculture practiced on these farms is destroying our soil. the animal waste generated through such places and handled through improper practices, such as "manure lagoons" on commercial beef feedlots, is also affecting our environment negatively. these things are destroying our health through not only pollution, but also contamination (note that all recent outbreaks of contamination occurred in large, commercial facilities, not small farms), and via the hormones and antibiotics used in the animals and passed to our systems upon consumption. this bill is not progress, it will move us back 35 years. please read between the lines of this bill. support our right to a healthy environment, and our own physical health.

these bills pose under the guise of doing the public good by creating new "food safety" regulations. the problem is that these new regulations will not be able to be conformed to by smaller producers. the congressmen (and women) introducing these bills are playing on peoples' fears about the recent rash of food outbreaks. there are already regulations in place to protect us from these types of things - they are simply not being enforced (did you know that the peanut butter salmonella outbreak occurred because the CEO of the company KNEW about the contamination, but shipped the product anyways? and that federal agencies had cited the facility with failure to comply to safety regulations but did nothing about it?). why would any new legislation be enforced? follow the money, because that's what this is truly about.

regulation of food safety is NOT a bad thing. but what these bills promise to do in the name of food safety IS.

H.R. 814: TRACE Act of 2009
aims to " . . . establish a traceability system for all stages of manufacturing, processing, packaging, and distribution of food." any " . . . cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses, mules and other equines, and poultry presented for slaughter for human consumption . . . " present traceability " . . . to any location at which the animal was held at any time before slaughter; and (2) each carcass or part of a carcass and food product forward from slaughter through processing and distribution to the ultimate consumer." eggs also fall under this bill. essentially, all meat and eggs will need to wear gps tracking devices, and all farmers (i use that term rather loosely, as i'd hardly call those who work on commercial feed lots "farmers") will be required to maintain records for each and every animal and egg.

S. 425: Food Safety and Tracking Improvement Act
this goes hand in hand with the above bill, requiring " . . the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a traceability system for all stages of manufacturing, processing, packaging, and distribution of food through which the Secretary can retrieve the history, use, and location of each article of food shipped in interstate commerce." essentially, that the information obtained via the tracking required by the above law be entered in and made available via, say, a computer system.

H.R. 759: Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act of 2009
this law requires from ". . . each food facility: (1) a hazard analysis of facilities that manufacture, process, pack, transport, or hold food for consumption in the United States; (2) identification and implementation of preventive controls; and (3) a written food safety plan." it also includes " . . an accreditation system for food facilities . . . " and " . . . an active surveillance system for food."

H.R. 875: Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009
removes the FDA from food related laws, and renames the Secretary of Health and Human Services as the authority. (the FDA would be re-named the Federal Drug and Device Administration.) names the secretary as the responsible party for implementing and enforcing the above laws. makes special provisions for " . . . a DNA matching system and epidemiological system for foodborne illness identification, outbreaks, and containment."

H.R. 1332: Safe FEAST Act of 2009
additional regulations related to all the above laws. (only the full text is available, please follow the link)

so PLEASE... help stop these heinous acts which will only benefit big businesses, at the expense of our health and that of the earth! SPEAK OUT. call your local representatives, sign petitions, GET THE WORD OUT. and then i promise to shut up about it.

follow these links for further action:

information on each of the bills, and where to go for additional information, and who to contact regarding them.

This special one click action page . . . will submit your personal message on the issue above to your local daily newspaper as a Letter to the Editor as determined by your address, as well as to both of your senators and your house representative if you like all at once. You can even select exactly who you want your message to go to.