Sunday, August 25, 2013

on being five

 I ran into a friend at the grocery store the other day.  She commented on how Eli's face had morphed into a "boy's" face during the summer months.  True, he has gone through a growth spurt during these past few months.  His legs are longer and leaner and he is a few pounds heavier-though he still is a tiny thing.  The chubby cheeks I had kissed on when he was an infant, the round face that beamed throughout his toddler years have thinned, accentuating his dimpled cheeks.  He has grown right before my very eyes and I feel it bittersweet.

Five.  Even though he will not yet be in Kindergarten, he is still at a school age.  My heart aches to think of him growing up.  I hold on to his sweet kisses and hugs a little longer because I know it won't be the cool thing to do as he gets older.
I remember an elderly woman telling me to cherish the moments I had with my baby boy years ago, 'it all goes by so quickly,' she said.  I politely nodding and agreed but inside I was dying from lack of sleep and the constant turmoil of a colicky baby.  I wanted that time to pass, like a flash of lightning I wanted to take that quantum leap through space and time.  And now, almost five years after that conversation, I get it.  There is no need for a magic time portal. Time does go by quickly, cherish it.

And so here is to my beautiful boy.  So loving, caring and a genuinely happy boy.  I can honestly say I don't believe I've ever met a happier child.  Happy "Five" Birthday.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Strawberry Mango Salsa

I just found this recipe shoved within the deep, dark crevices of of my draft folder.  Why have I been holding on to it for so long?  I don't even know why.  I remember enjoying the warm flavors of the pork and the bright and bold flavors of the salsa.  I really loved the salsa.  I honestly have no idea why I set it aside.  Maybe the picture?  I do know this however...I need to share it before stews and braises become what one craves.  We've got about a month before that happens, right?

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Strawberry Mango Salsa
serves 4
Both pork and salsa recipes can be doubled to serve eight.  The salsa is a very flexible recipe and adjustments can be made to ones own taste.  Think pineapple, cucumbers, tomatoes...make it your own!

3/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1 pork tenderloin (1 pound)
  1. In a small bowl, combine coriander, cumin, salt, sugar, chipolte pepper and paprika.  rub mixture over tenderloin.  Place in a lightly greased 13"x 9" baking pan.  
  2. Bake uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees F.  Let stand for 15 minutes before slicing.
Strawberry Mango Salsa
serves 4

4 medium size strawberries, diced
1 whole mango, diced
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1 small jalapeno, diced
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar
  1. Combine strawberries, mango, onion, jalapeno, and cilantro in a small bowl.  Pour in lime juice.  Add salt and sugar to taste.  Stir to combine.
  2. Serve on top of chicken, fish, or pork.  Can also be served with tortilla chips.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

the first dip (field trip: barton springs pool)

"Ahh!  That water is COLD!"
The final week of summer break is here.  To celebrate the last of the dog days I took Eli to the iconic Barton Springs Pool.  It was a first for the both of us.

This man-made pool is about 3 acres in size and is fed by one of the largest natural springs in Texas.  Because of its source, the water is clear and cool, maintaining an average temperature of 68 degrees all year long.  The cold water is an initial shock to the system but on a triple digit day it is well worth it.
Just chillin' under the trees
I am always looking for new, fun, and relatively thrifty family adventures and Barton Springs Pool meets all of the criteria.  The pool charges $3 for adults and $1 for children.  We arrived in the noon hour on Monday and the parking lot was packed!  I felt a flash of dread warm over me as I pulled into the next to the last available parking spot-ugh!  I dislike crowded pools very much but because of the pool's enormity in size it didn't seem crowded at all.  We even set our blanket and bag down in a shady spot under a tree.

The pool has a shallow end which was great for us, since the little one doesn't know how to swim.  Because it is a naturally fed and natural bottom pool, the surface is slick with algae and there are tadpoles and schools of fish swimming amongst everyone.  Eli loved "ice skating" on the rocky surface and enjoyed watching the fish near the rocky beach at the end of the shallow end.

Towards the end of our stay.  We dried in the sun as we laid on our towels, watched the passersby and people jump off the spring board.  Our two hour stay was well worth it and we had such a great time!  We will definitely be back.

Things to remember:
  1. Bring cash as it is a "cash only" establishment.
  2. You cannot bring a picnic, cooler, food, or glass into the pool area.  Plan on eating before or pack a picnic and find a spot in Zilker Park.  You may bring in plastic water bottles, however.
  3. Bring water shoes.  I had learned this years ago in my teen years when swimming in New Braunfels, furry river bottoms creep me out!  The shoes give you good traction on the slippery rock bottom.
  4. Lay out and chill out for a while.  It is a great place to people watch.  Eli enjoyed watching everyone take turns on the springboard and couldn't peel his eyes off a girl with lavender hair.  Who knows, maybe someone will bring a guitar and serenade you as you bathe in the sun.

Friday, August 16, 2013

i have plans for you (recipe: crispy garlic bread)

Do you remember that super scrumptious baked manicotti with meat sauce I posted a few months back?  If you don't, I urge you to go take a peek at the recipe.  And then after that, write your grocery list accordingly.  And after you purchase all of the ingredients for baked manicotti invite some friends over for dinner Italiano.  And on the day of your dinner party prepare and bake the dish according to the instructions provided.  Remember to make this crispy garlic bread.  Maybe make sauteed broccoli rabe w/ sliced garlic and crushed red pepper.  Pour some wine.  Enjoy the creamy filling of the pasta and the absolute, divine, robust, flavor of the homemade meat sauce; enjoy the crunch of the bread.  Enjoy the wine.  Enjoy being amongst friends.

Crispy Garlic Bread
makes 12 slices

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
12 (1-inch) slices Italian bread
  1. Make Paste:  Adjust oven rack to middle position, place rimmed  baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Using fork , beat butter, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl until combined.  Spread butter mixture evenly over both sides of bread.
  2. Toast Bread:  Arrange buttered bread on heated baking sheet and bake until golden brown on first side, 8-10 minutes.  Flip and bake until golden brown on second side, about 5 minutes.  Serve.

Monday, August 12, 2013

a summer loaf cake (recipe: lime blueberry yogurt pound cake)

Sliced down the middle and into slices and ready to be placed on a platter for the potluck
I made this pound cake for a summer potluck in July.  In a pinch I used the lemon yogurt pound cake recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home, but substituted lime for the lemon and added fresh blueberries.  It was mighty tasty and was scarfed down quickly.  If you need to make something for summer's last hoorah-this sweet-tart cake would be one to take.

Lime Blueberry Yogurt Cake
recipe from Barefoot Contessa at Home, Ina Garten
yield:  1 loaf

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup fresh blueberries, washed and dried

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan.  Line the bottom with parchment paper.  Grease and flour the pan.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl.  In a bowl of an electric mixer, mix together yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lime zest, and vanilla paste.  Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  With a large rubber spatula, fold vegetable oil into the batter, making sure its all incorporated.  Toss blueberries in a pinch of flour until thoroughly coated.  Add blueberries to the batter and gently mix in.  Pour batter in prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, cake tester will come out clean.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lime juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear.  Set aside.
  4. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove cake from pan and place on a rack that has been set inside a rimmed cookie sheet or pan.  While the cake is still warm, poke holes on the top using a skewer.  Using a brush, soak the cake with the lime syrup.  Allow it to soak in.  Cool completely.
  5. For the glaze, combine the confectioners sugar and lime juice and pour evenly over the cake.

Friday, August 9, 2013

hay! is for horses. (click for more pics)

I travel the back roads most of the time when taking Eli to speech therapy.  The drive alone is not anything to look at but I am always on the lookout for a moment to capture.  The tiny farm that sits on the edge of the Blanco River has harvested and baled their hay this past week.  I couldn't help to think how hot those guys got-today's high is 102 degrees F and this has been a mild summer compared to it's previous years.  Sheesh.  It is so hot the horses remain under the shade of the trees seeking a cooler comfort.  Maybe come fall they will find it.  Come Fall.