Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2 Things To Do With Cauliflower

Cauliflower sort of gets a bad rap I think.

It's not colorful like a pretty salad, all green with spots of red, orange and yellow.
It's just sort of a big blob of white.
It's not sweet like a ripe yellow bell pepper.
It doesn't smell savory like a sauteed onion.
It actually sort of smells bad when you cook it.
It doesn't have the sugary snap of a sweet pea.
Nor does it have the pop of a fresh piece of golden yellow corn.
It's just sort of there.
But that's okay, every vegetable serves its purpose.

Last week in our CSA box I received 2 HUGE heads of cauliflower, and I have to admit I was perplexed.
Do I cut it up and serve it as part of a crudite and hope I get invited to many parties?
Do I steam it and mask it with loads of butter, salt and pepper and pray my kids will eat it?
Do I puree it and sneak it into things a la Deceptively Delicious?
I decided none of those options would do so set out in search of some new cauliflower recipes.

(half of one head of the largest cauliflowers I had ever seen)
The first is an adaptation of a Rachel Ray recipe
Cauliflower Sauce with Rotini Pasta:
1 pound Rotini pasta
1/4 cup EVOO
3 cloves garlic sliced
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 head cauliflower, stem removed and chopped
1 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock for all vegetarian)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
2-3 tbsp butter
3/4 cup grated Romano cheese, and an extra 1/4 cup for topping
salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup crushed croutons for topping

Boil pasta to al dente, drain and reserve 2 ladles of pasta water

White pasta cooks, make sauce by heating a deep skillet over medium heat with the EVOO. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes, then remove. Add onions and cook 5 minutes, then add cauliflower, chicken stock and rosemary. Cover the pan and cook 15 minutes. Uncover the sauce, add 1-2 ladles of the pasta water and mash the cauliflower with the back of a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add the pasta, cheese and butter to the cauliflower and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and top with the extra shredded cheese and crushed croutons.

(Cauliflower Sauce with Rotini Pasta)

The second recipe is a side dish and is from Barefoot In Paris (it calls for Gruyere, so you know right off the bat it's got to be good!)
Cauliflower Gratin:
1 head cauliflower, cut into large florets
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
3/4 cup grated Gruyere, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5-6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tbsp of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 tsp of salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce into the bottom of an 8x11 baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup Gruyere and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is browned.

(Cauliflower Gratin)

(Whisking to make a roux)
(creamy sauce after all the goodness of the
nutmeg, pepper and cheeses have been added)

(frozen bread ends and scraps to be thrown
into the food processor to make bread crumbs)
(Do you have one of these? It has changed my life)
(Well only my life as it relates to freshly grated Parmesan cheese and lemon zest)
But seriously this $10 Microplane makes it a snap to zest up citrus peel and grate all sorts of hard cheeses. Say goodbye to that canned Parm or even the pre-grated Parm. Once you go this route you will never go back. I promise.

Both of these cauliflower recipes were fantastic, but especially the Gratin. The cheesy goodness of the sauce was a total surprise. I really didn't expect it to taste so good. And the kids loved both dishes which is saying a lot. Besides my friend Laura's kids, I don't know too many other kids that are gonna do cartwheels over eating some cauliflower.

Let me know if any of you try these dishes and what you thought.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Had To Share...

...How $7.50 is making me a little happy right now:

When your favorite beauty supply store is having a 25% off everything sale, RUN, don't WALK! And find a fun accessory that you normally might be a little scared to try.

Headgear inspiration courtesy of this blogger

This Weekend

We did a few things this weekend:
We went here
Spent over 2 hours here (why is this place such a black hole?)
Planted some grass in hopes that it will sprout in time for Easter

But, without a doubt, the highlight of the weekend was watching THIS:

My little girl learn how to ride her bike without her training wheels!
You would have thought she had learned to fly the way I was
jumping up and down and screaming!
It was awesome. Truly awesome.
For some reason even more exciting than when she took her first steps.
And there she goes.
All SmilesAnd in case you noticed, that little handle bar hooked to the back of her bike is called a
Balance Buddy. It's to prevent sore backs from really excited parents trying to teach their children to learn to ride with no handle bars. No more bending over and holding on with all your might. It's awesome. I highly recommend it.

I think for Sydney's birthday though instead of getting a bike with training wheels we will get him one of these. Anyone have one?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Better Late Than Never; P & L - The Jeggings Debacle

My friend Lisa facebooked the other day that she was "fired up" about her new jeggings. JEGGINGS?!?! What are jeggings? 9 months out of the fashion industry and I'm already losing touch? I thought about it for a few minutes and then figured it out.

Oh of course, Jeggings = jean leggings!

While I'm not one to jump on a trend (it took me over a year to try a skinny jean), I was intrigued. I love leggings and I love jeans and I love skinny jeans. It should be a match made in fashion heaven, yes?

NO. N-O. N to the O.

Imagine squeezing into a VERY tight pair of jeans, 2 sizes too small, and the only way you're actually able to squeeze into them is by way of an elastic waistband.

And what does an elastic waistband on a pair of jeans remind me of?
Yup, a pair of maternity jeans.

I debated over these jeans for about 20 minutes until Art couldn't take it anymore and begged me to just make up my mind. I took a chance and brought them home. I took them back to the store the very next day.

Besides reminding me of a pair of maternity jeans, I felt like I was suffocating in them. They were just SOOO tight. I kept imagining myself trying to wear them in the summer and passing out from heat exhaustion. I really don't know how Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler wear such skinny jeans on stage. I guess that's really the least of their worries. And they just don't have the same give as a legging, which mold to the contours of your legs. These tugged and sagged and flattened in places they shouldn't.

I can tell how uncomfortable I am in the picture below because I have my arms crossed, which I never do.
It's too bad they were so uncomfortable because they had a really cute zipper ankle detail.
Overall though, a big fashion DON'T for me.

This is what I ended up changing into.
Same frilly blouse but with a good old pair of simple skinny jeans. {Art was telling me I need to stop putting my hands at my waist in this picture}
About 2 weeks ago now

Top: Gibson
Jeans: Gap
Shoes: Sam Edelman
Necklace: Juicy Couture
Sunglasses: Marc by Marc Jacobs

Daniel's Adoption Celebration Party!

I found this frilly top on the sale rack and it was love at first sight. The sweet pleated detail at the yoke, the 3/4 length sleeve, the gorgeous season-less print and the flouncy silhouette are all just perfect. I can see myself really dressing this up (although, when am I going to do that?), or wearing it with just pair of jeans all spring and summer long. I think it will look great even with some cut off jean shorts. The necklace was a Valentine's Day gift from Art, and I can wear it with just about anything. He did good right? Oh and those shoes are so soft I can walk miles in them.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Things I learned in My Vegetable Garden Part 1

Happy Sunday and Happy Spring my friends! Since Spring has officially Sprung, I wanted to share some basic tips that I've learned from our first year of vegetable gardening at the Long Beach Community Gardens.

Let me preface this by saying that I am NO expert at gardening at all, but in the last year through several trials and errors, I did learn a few very basic things that I wish I would have known going into the whole gardening thing. Think of this as a dumb-dumb guide to the very basics of vegetable gardening, especially here in Southern California. I will do a series of posts in the next couple of weeks detailing topics such as the vegetables we planted and what we learned from them, how to fight off aphids, and what to do in summer when it gets really hot.

So let's get started!

First and foremost, do a little planning when it comes to prepping your SOIL. I know, I'm a wing-it type of gal too, but I cannot stress how important it is to start off with enriching your soil and getting it in good shape. You can plant the healthiest and best plants/seeds in your soil, but if the soil is poor in drainage or nutrients, they won't thrive. On the other hand you can plant some really poor plants in super rich well drained soil and they will come to life and flourish.

Some books will tell you to send your soil off to labs for testing and all that, but to start off, if you live here in Southern California, I can pretty much guarantee that you have clay soil. To help with drainage for your clay soil, start off by adding gypsum to help loosen up the soil and assist with drainage. If you think your soil might by sandy, however, ask your experts at the nursery what to do, because I don't know! See, I told you I wasn't an expert.

Testing your soil will tell you what kind of nutrients are in your soil, whether it is alkaline or very acidic and so forth. But like I said, if you don't feel like doing this, then just ask your nursery to recommend a soil builder that has a very general, equal mix of the basic nutrients nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Add it it your soil and mix it in well. This will get you off to the right start, I promise.

Second, it sounds so basic, but mark your crops! Maybe I'm the only dense one, but I can't tell you how many times I laid down seeds, or even plants, convinced that I would remember what I had planted there, only to forget 3 weeks later. And don't just use the seed packet or plastic tag that comes with the plant as your marker because after a few weeks of watering the paper packet or tag will disintegrate. Oh, and use a waterproof pen :) Yes, I am dense I guess!

Third, cover your delicate crops! We always had things like lettuce, chard, beets, and peas covered with netting. We also tried (tried being the operative word, we definitely weren't diligent) to cover our seeds every time to prevent the birdies from eating them. Little creatures like raccoons, squirrels, possums and bunnies love the sweet leafy greens and it will devastate you if you find your beautiful romaine eaten to a nub one morning. I can speak from experience.

We used what's called masonry ladder (find it at Lowe's/Home Depot) and would cut and bend it over our crops. We then covered it with fabric netting. We started off using basic tulle, but then discovered it was far too delicate and would rip on the masonry wire. The heavier netting, much like the stuff they use under petticoats, stood up much better. You can find it fairly cheap ($2.49/yd) at Fabric Barn.

Here's a good picture of the heavier type of netting.
Masonry ladder comes in smaller sections like this below
Or wider sections like this, either one works just as well
After you've planted your crops, mark your calendars! Mark the date you planted as well as important dates like when to thin out your crops and when to harvest, because trust me you will forget and then you will end up with overgrown useless vegetables.

Here's a perfect example of an overgrown vegetable as a result of forgetting to harvest in time; a beet the size of a 5 year old's head!
Lastly, it does help to read a book and do some research. If you have the opportunity, it greatly helps to do the research beforehand, but if you're like me, you're so excited to start planting that you don't have the time to read a whole book! Don't despair, chances are you'll have good luck in Spring just because the conditions here in Southern California are so darn good. But trust me, come summer you will want some knowledge under your belt so you can plant appropriately, tackle the heat and learn to deal with aphid infestations.

I haven't found one great gardening book yet, so if you have some recommendations, please post them in the comments section! I've read How To Cheat At Gardening and Yard Work by Jeff Brendenberg and 52 Weeks In the California Garden by Robert Smaus. How To Cheat had a lot of useful tips, but it wasn't specific to our climate or vegetable gardening in particular, so the information was all over the place. 52 Weeks, while it was specific to California, was not geared to vegetable gardening alone. Some friends have read Square foot Gardening and I hear it was good.

What I do recommend whatever you do though, is do some research on the vegetables you're planting so you know how to properly care for them and when to pick them! We were always stumped as to when to harvest some vegetables! We picked quite a few melons before their time.

Alright friends, I think this post is long enough and I have unruly children in the house! I hope you find this information useful :)

Happy Gardening everyone! May you go forth and prosper!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reason # 37 of Why I Am Certifiably Insane - Ode to St. Patty's Day

The other day as we're driving home from Preschool pick up, Taylor asks me, "Mommy is St. Patrick's Day the next holiday, or is Easter next?" I of course replied "St. Patrick's Day". She then replied, "Well then why didn't we decorate for St. Patrick's Day? Why did we already decorate for Easter? Mom, you're confusing me, you're tricking me!"

"Gee, sorry honey"...what are you supposed to say to that? This has been her shtick lately. I'm always confusing her and tricking her. Last weekend when we had to postpone a sleepover due to my strep throat, she accused me of tricking her and got very angry with me. Of course Taylor, I am contracting highly painful and contagious sicknesses for the sole purpose of tricking you. Ah, the mind of a 4 year old.

But of course, in a moment of weakness driving home yesterday, I started to feel guilty for not putting up any St. Patrick's Day decor, or doing any crafts. Truth be told, I don't really get the whole celebration, and I'm just not digging the kelly green. But, I am half Irish, and my maiden name is Fogarty. So I figured I better get on the bandwagon and throw up some shiny shamrocks.

I stopped at Joann's for some last minute decor, and while there, I thought it would be a fabulous idea to make Leprechaun traps, make some gold coins to use as bait, AND, make Taylor a cute green top to wear to school the next day, because the girl doesn't own anything green because it's a boy's color. Of course right? Of course.

This is at 5:30 pm last night mind you.

This is where the insanity part comes in.

So by 8 pm we had made our traps and gold coins and set them out to catch some pesky green fellas.

Taylor couldn't fall asleep, convinced that the Leprechauns were going to sneak into her room and blow dust in her eyes.

Thanks preschool for giving my imaginative daughter more fodder for bedtime delaying.

By 9:30 Art was ready to destroy the dream and tell her Leprechauns don't exist, but he resisted.

And here I am finally getting around to making her top at midnight.

This is the part where I thought to myself, why didn't I just go to Target? Oh I know why, because I felt the need to overcompensate due to the fact that I've forgotten the last 3 events at preschool including bike day (she was the only child bike-less), PJ day, and Olympics Week where she was supposed to wear red, white and blue.

So Taylor was going to wear green gosh darn it, and to make up for all my recent transgressions, it was going to be home-made!

Anyhoo, when all's said and done, it was worth it. She loved her top. They were both enchanted with the Leprechaun visit and the notes that were left for them. And a magical day was had at preschool, where Leprechauns left slimy footprints everywhere, turned the toilet water green and left shamrocks and gold nuggets everywhere.

{Leprechaun Traps set in our backyard}
{Syd finding his trap had been sprung}

{Coins and a note left by the pesky Leprechauns}

{Taylor reading her note}

{It was my workday at her preschool so I'm wearing my green chucks in celebration!}

It was fun seeing the holiday from a child's perspective, and I can now say that I am a fan of the St. Patty's Day. I'm going all out next year.

Luck of the Irish to You!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Couple of Tidbits

A new bloggy friend of mine, Janna at 2 Cool 4 My Minivan nominated me for a Blog Award last week! My first one...I was so honored and excited. Thanks Janna! So now I'm supposed to list 7 random little facts about me and then nominate 7 others, however, right now I can only think of 4 things and hence 4 other blogs. I am trying my best but right now all I can seem to concentrate on is sewing! So here are my 4 instead of 7:

Here goes:
1. I am a morning and night person and can usually function off of 6 hours of sleep
2. I am obsessed with my latest beauty buy, hot rollers.
3. My manicures last me 1 day, while my pedicures last me 1 month. Random and Weird huh?
4. I hate to put away my clean laundry and I hate to clean out my fridge; my two most dreaded chores.

And My Nominations:
1. Laura at Crooked Moon Mama
2. Rachel at No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane
3. Miranda at Stratford Family
4. Summer at Summer On the Bright Side

Thanks again Janna for the nomination! I wish I was a little more with it, but I am FRANTICALLY sewing away for a craft fair that I'll be hosting at my house in a little over a week!

There will be 6 local Long Beach mamas here, selling handmade and heartfelt items. I'll be selling my Baby Taylored clothing items. Mrs. 17 will be here selling her fab necklaces as well as some vintage goodness. Laura from Crooked Moon Mama will be here selling her all natural and organic soaps, lip balms and other magical potions! In addition there will be gorgeous stationary, amazing candles and oh so sweet felted items!

I'm thoroughly excited and thoroughly exhausted, but I can't wait to preview some fresh new items. The details are below, and I'll definitely post another reminder or two in the next few days. If you're in the local Long Beach/Orange County areas, please do stop by. Children are welcome indeed :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

How To Eat Spaghetti

For this demonstration, it first helps to have a scrumptiously cute 2 year old boy with the most awesome curly hair You start by twirling the spaghetti real good around your fork

It is an art form you know, getting a good twirl

Then take a BIG bite

And start the slurping!

Charlie, we have a loose noodle, copy that Bravo

C'mon buddy, you can do it! SLURP with all your might!

That's it, get a good hold on it with your lips. Don't let it get away!

You almost have it!

I know it's a monster of a noodle, but you're almost there!

Yes, bite it into submission if you have to!

Shoot, it's getting away again!

Now we're talking! Use that tongue boy!

Okay, okay, okay!

And you've got it in the bag!

VICTORY is yours!

Oh yeah, that's good isn't it?!?! Mommy's a good cook :)

YES!!! HAHAHA! That noodle's got nothing on you kid!

My bubba is the cutest little thing in my world. I love him so. Poor guy landed up in the ER this weekend after taking a nasty spill, resulting in two staples in the back of his head. He was a trooper through it all. Didn't even get a local anesthetic. OUCH! I tend to lean towards the dramatic, but even Mr. H was a little shook up by his accident. May this be the last of his head wounds for a while. From my lips to God's ears!


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