Sunday, May 1, 2011

Take Five..or make it Ten. Who's counting?

I think I must need a break. I didn't know I needed one. I got busy and I took one, quite on accident. But it felt so liberating. I haven't blogged, or facebooked, or tweeted for a bit more than a week. Instead, I've rollerskated, scootered, jogged, shot a few free throws, and played tennis with two little people that are getting rather big while I've had my nose in the computer. I've written a couple of letters (real paper and pen letters) and read more than a few books (current obsession-Emerson's essays). I've graded term papers and written letters or recommendation for several of my stellar students. (Here's hoping they get into grad school-they all deserve it.) I got caught up in the beauty and sweetness of the Royal Wedding. I've done the NYT crossword puzzle every day, and get this-my Quiet Man has done it with me with his own copy. That hasn't happened since we were dating, so you know, Kate and William don't have the monopoly on burnin' love, baby. (By the way, I can still smoke him on crossword puzzles,and he can still smoke me on pretty much everything else in the world, so not much has changed with 16 years of matrimony.) I called my sister Leslie three times this week. That's a record. I shed a suprising amount of tears when the Office said good-bye to Michael Scott. What a great boss he turned out to be, as Jim mentioned. And I mopped, dusted, and pretty much sanitized my house. The closets are next. I'm after you, hoardish, gypsy, cluttery clutter. You can run but you can't hide.This has turned out to be a pretty good break.
I didn't mean to take a break at first. But now it is quite intentional. I'm rather enjoying myself. Thanks for your email. I'll be back after my break.
PS There's plenty of good cookin' in the archives in the meantime. Dig right in and help yourselves.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter Dinner

Easter. It's coming up this weekend, later than Alice's white rabbit. Thank you, spring holiday, for your fashionably tardy arrival. I don't like Easter to kick St. Patrick's Day out of March. So, welcome late Easter. I'm glad you're here. Now let's eat.
Here's what we're having for dinner, with links for the recipes:
Mom's Feathery Rolls
Brown Sugar and Honey Glazed Ham

Super Easy Hot and Cheesy Potatoes or I might make something even creamier and cheesier. Roasted Asparagus
And these Easter Eggs. I'll be back soon with recipe.

Up Next: Fudge Centered Easter Eggs

Monday, April 18, 2011

Harry Potter World and Butter Beer

J.K. Rowling created a make-believe magical world of wizarding in literature. And now Universal Studios Theme Park has a for-real world of wizarding in Orlando, Florida that is every bit as magical as the pages it seeks to bring to life. The most exciting part of Harry Potter World isn't a ride, or a shop, or a show. It's just being there. For just a moment, you have the sensation that you have been admitted into the world of butter beer, flying dragons and magical candy. Walking throught the gates, you spot the snow covered (in the heat of spring, no less) houses of Hogsmeade

with Hogwarts rising in the distance.

Don't stop there. You'll want to head straight over to Honeydukes and Zonkos for zany toys and magical candy. There are two rollercoasters, one for big thrills and one for smaller thrills. We chose Flight of the Hippogriff, which was just thrilling enough for the eleven and under and thirty and over crowd. Anyone in between those ages would want to opt for the Dragon's Challenge. Maybe next time. The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the chief attraction of the park. The serpentine line stretching through the park will tip you off right away. The line will eventually wind through the Hogwart's castle, complete with Dumbledore's office,

talking portraits on the walls, live action newspapers, indoor snow, and the sorting hat. We were paying so much attention to the details, that we forgot to pay attention to this.

When they say that the ride may cause motion sickness, they aren't kidding. The teacups are child's play compared to this ride. This ride bends you sideways, frontways, backwards, and upside-down maybe. I couldn't keep track. If my stomach had been in my pocket, it would have landed on the floor. I confess to closing my eyes for half of the ride to minimize the impact. But the kids loved it. They really loved it. They were frightened by the dementors, whomping willows, and dragons but they weren't at all put off by the topsy-turvy shaking. What is it about kids and getting dizzy? They throw up on airplanes and cars but they laugh their way through the tilt-o-whirl.

My favorite part of Harry Potter World was frozen, edible, and sweeter than a newborn babe. Frozen Butterbeer, my friends. It's a cousin to a rootbeer freeze with whipped cream, but the flavors are butter, toffee, butterscotch and vanilla. The taste is dazzling. The line is horrendous. Don't wait in it. Find one of these servers milling around and give them cash. They will be back momentarily with this. And you will be in butterbeer heaven. I've been playing around in my kitchen, trying to bring you a good copycat. Some recipes combine butterscotch ice cream syrup with cream soda and vanilla ice cream. It's a good shortcut and produces good results. But the from scratchy, caramely, butterscotchy syrup is better. Be sure to put your cream soda in the freezer until it's slushy. A true frozen butterbeer should have little bits of icy soda. Make the magic come to edible life at your house tonight. Cheers!

Frozen Butterbeer

(adapted from Fox News Recipe) Makes four generous servings

Estimated cost: $6.00 1 cup light or dark brown sugar 2 tablespoons water 6 tablespoon butter 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar 3/4 cup heavy cream, divided

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract Four 12-ounce bottles cream soda

8 scoops vanilla ice cream Place your cream sodas in the freezer about 30 minutes before you plan to have butterbeer. (This recipe takes about one hour because of cooling time.) In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar and water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring often, until the mixture reads 240 F on a candy thermometer. Stir in the butter, salt, vinegar and 1/4 heavy cream. Set aside to cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes). Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the vanilla extract. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Use an electric mixer to beat until just thickened, but not completely whipped, about 2 to 3 minutes. To serve, in the bowl of a blender, combine about 1/4 cup brown sugar mixture, 1/2 cup cream soda and two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Blend until smooth. Pour into glass and add additional cream soda to fill to the top. Stir with a spoon to blend. Top with whipped cream mixture. Repeat.

Up Next:

Chocolate Fudge Easter Eggs

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cute as a Button

Woohoo! Sailor just made it to the finals for a Little Miss Matched sock design contest. Now she needs your help. All you need to do is rate her Cute as a Button design with five stars. That's it. No registration or fuss. Just one little click. Voting is daily through May 2nd. Much obliged, friends. Much obliged. Here's the link and here's her little ol' design. PS If there was a cute as a button award for readers, I would give it to you. Thanks for your help always.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Magic of Healthy Living Weekend at Epcot with Pollo a las Rajas

Today has been a much better day than yesterday. For instance, nobody hacked my email this morning to beg all of my kith and kin for a wire transfer. It's the little things like not getting hacked and humiliated that can make a day so much brighter. And Blogher seems to be cooperating a little better today. Not perfect, but better. It's the little things like not having to download the same pictures 753.9 times that make my heart sing zipadeedoodah.

Now, onwards and upwards. Shall we?

Just a couple of weeks ago, Sailor was the lucky recipient of a hefty prize as an essay winner for Disney's Magic of Healthy Living contest. Sailor was just one of fifty. Her cousin, Annaliese, was another one of the fifty, and that made the prize just that much more special. My sister MK and her family joined us at Disneyworld for a whole week, culminating in the prize package weekend for the two girls. On Friday morning, the two girls were lucky enough to be part of a public service announcement that should show up on Disney sometime in the near future. The point of the public service announcement was to show some inexpensive and creative ways that kids could get fit. Sailor was filmed jump-roping and Annaliese was the hula-hooper. They were slated to have an interview with some Disney teen celebs, but the crew ran out of time. The girls were good sports, especially since they still got to meet some Disney VIPs, like Caroline Sunshine of Shake It Up. She was adorable, super friendly and really kind to her adoring little fans.

That evening we had our first official event in a giant warehouse-y structure within Epcot. When we walked through the door, we were greeted by Disney cheerleaders who were whooping and applauding. The whole place was cheerily decorated and full of wholesome Disney loveliness. We couldn't help but smile. Sailor was assigned a team leader with two other cute little girl essay winners. Our families sat together during mealtimes.
Here is Sailor with a healthy dinner. I think she was too excited to eat anything.

Several buffet tables were set up with a wide array of healthy choices, like fava bean succotash, root vegetable potato chips, roasted pork loin, heirloom tomato soup with tofu cream...
Disney put on quite a show for the kids. They watched a couple of picture collages on screen with pictures of the actual kids doing healthy activities with a few headshots sprinkled in. They also had a video message from the First Lady commending them for their commitment to healthy living. We had some Disney characters that showed up to boogie down with the winners, a pots and pan chef's band (The Jammers?), and were introduced to a few more Disney teen celebs that would be hosting for the weekend.
Dessert was an assortment of tiny puddings. We loved the Meyer Lemon and the Strawberry. I can't embrace tapioca in my pudding, even if it is chocolate.

Afterwards, Disney got the kids all pumped up again showered the kids with ticker tape.

We exited through the tunnel of amped-up cheerleaders and headed back to the hotel.

The next morning, Sailor went off on a bus with the winners. We attended a separate breakfast for the families.
We met up with Sailor and her gang at an empty field inside of Epcot. I would never have know these places existed.

The winners particpated in outdoor games throughout the entire morning. Simple games from all over the world. The equipment used was very simple: a ball, a balloon, a rope, a Chinese jumprope. Again, the idea of the weekend was to show that getting fit is fun and doesn't require a whole lot of money, equipment, or time.

There were lots of famous athletes and Disney celebs on hand to hang out with the winners. Maybe you will recognize them. I'm sorry to say that I did not. I don't know who famous people are. Who is Kim Kardashian? Why is Snooki famous? These things I do not ever hope to know.

We had a fun make-your-own lunch spread out on a lazy susan. There were sauteed peppers, grilled chicken, spinach, chopped onions, salsa, chutney, beans, pitas and tortillas-and it was up to you to decide how you wanted to make it. For dessert, we had a fabulous brownie with a banana macaron and strawberry basil ice cream with a green tea swirled cookie thingy. The brownie was excellent. Was it healthy and low fat? Maybe? I got the chef's business card so that I can email him for the recipe.
After lunch the kids met back with their groups for more games inside of Epcot.

Sailor's group went to a grassy knoll in Germany to meet with Dopey and Helga to play more games like "What time is it, Mr. Wolf?"
The also had a gardening class from preteen gardening expert Katie Stagliano of Katie's Krops.
In the evening, we headed back to the warehouse for an awards ceremony and formal dinner.
We ate heirloom tomato water, a grain salad, and a Vietnamese spring roll for appetizers.

The girls were busy sticking foil Mickey Mouse shapes on their water glasses.
For dinner we had roast chicken, heirloom beans and Mickey Mouse polenta. Nice little touch.
The kids marched up on stage to get Healthy Living "diplomas."

I didn't get any pictures, but afterwards Mickey came out to bust some moves with some young, fit Disney singers and dancers. To cap off a great weekend and a great event, we headed into Epcot to watch the fireworks over the lake and enjoy an outdoor dessert bar. My favorite dessert was the low fat lemon cheesecake push pops.

The whole weekend was incredible. I was so impressed with the winners and their families. We met some really remarkable people. Disney was so kind and generous to all of the winners and their families. Their hope is that we will come home and use what we've learned to promote healthy living in our neighborhoods and communities. We've got lots to think about. The best news of all is that Disney is hoping to do the event next year, too. I'm hoping that your kids will be there next.

And now a recipe to share from Epcot. This one hails from the Mexican restaurant inside the pyramid. It would not have been served at Healthy Living event, but I think you will like it anyway. Serve it with chips and salsa and a bed of rice for a lovely meal.

Pollo a las Rajas

4 chicken breast halves

1 cup of chorizo, casing removed and diced (I left this out.)

1 large red bell pepper

1 large Spanish onion

1 large poblano chili

1 garlic clove, chopped 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup sour cream

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1/2 cup half-and-half cream

1. Season the chicken breast halves with garlic, salt, and black pepper.Place the chicken breast halves in a roasting pan and bake in the oven at350 for 20 minutes or until cooked.2. In a saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of oil and lightly sauté poblano pepperuntil skin starts separating. Peel skin from poblano pepper. Make a slit andremove all the seeds. Slice onion, bell pepper, and poblano pepper intostrips.3. In a heavy skillet heat remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and add chorizo,garlic, onion, and peppers. Cook over medium high heat stirring occasionallyuntil onions and peppers are soft.4. Add sour cream, half-and-half, black pepper and salt and simmer for threeminutes.5. On ovenproof serving dishes, place 3/4 cup of vegetable mixture. Top withroasted chicken breast. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese on eachserving plate. Broil until cheese melts and turns golden.

Up Next:Harry Potter World and Frozen Butterbeer