Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer of tomatoes: Homemade Marinara Sauce

I haven't written many posts about my garden this year. Honestly, I haven't been spending as much time out there since Olivia was born. Fortunately, the work I put in early in the season has paid off and the garden has been producing nice results. I find it interesting to see how the difference in weather impacts how plants thrive from year to year. Last summer was much cooler and wet, which was great for growing snap peas and lettuce, but caused tomato blight. This summer has been long and hot- great for tomatoes and peppers, not so much for peas and lettuce. It might be the simple, little world I live in right now, but I find this fascinating. Anyhow, this has been the summer of tomatoes. I planted cherry, grape, and roma plum tomatoes up a trellis against our fence. These plants are unbelievable- nearly 7 feet tall! I also planted some larger varieties in the garden plot which have also produced a nice yield. Needless to say, I have more tomatoes than I can eat. So, I make sauce. It is very easy to do and makes me feel good not to waste tomatoes. I have been making this weekly and freezing the sauce we don't use. Once you make the basic marinara sauce, it can be easily adapted to make tomato cream sauce, puttanesca, or vodka sauce. Here is my very basic method and recipe. Feel free to play around with it, adding whichever ingredients you like!

Marinara Sauce:

2lbs fresh tomatoes
1 sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs olive oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup fresh chopped basil
kosher salt
black pepper

Add tomatoes to a boiling pot of water. Boil for about 30 seconds, remove with slotted spoon, and then place the tomatoes into a bowl of cold water. The skins will now peel off easily. After you remove the skins, quarter the tomatoes and remove the seeds. Give the tomatoes a rough chop, place to the side.

In a dutch oven or heavy bottom pot, saute onion in olive oil over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, add garlic. Saute for 2 more minutes and then add tomatoes. Remove the thyme leaves from the sprigs and add to the pot, along with the chopped basil. Season with salt & pepper, according to your taste. Simmer on medium low for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, allowing the sauce to reduce to your liking.

Once the sauce has cooled, puree in a blender.

Yields about 2 cups of marinara sauce

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Weekend trip to the Gold Coast of Connecticut

Last week, I found myself craving the beach. Upstate New York is beautiful but I sometimes feel a bit land-locked. Sure, we have the Hudson River and some very nice lakes, but after spending most my life in Seattle, I miss that salty air. I suggested to Adam that we take a day trip to the coast of Connecticut and he agreed but thought we should just stay the night. With a quick visit to, we had a reservation at the Marriott Hotel & Spa for just $60. I love that website and highly recommend it if you're looking for a hotel reservation. It's especially good for last minute bookings- I've used it four times and have always gotten nearly a 50% discount.

We left Albany on Saturday after Adam's morning round of golf and arrived in Connecticut around 3pm. We would have arrived sooner but little Gavin got carsick twice. That poor kid does not travel well by car. We have gotten used to it and pack plenty of clothes, towels, etc. As I said to Adam, what are our choices, deal with a puking kid or not go anywhere? My will to travel is strong enough to handle a little vomit! It just takes us a little longer to arrive at our destination. 

We visited the area of Fairfield County in Connecticut. They call it the "gold coast" of Connecticut because of its very wealthy population. We stayed in Stamford, which is the most urban area in the county, about five miles from Greenwich. Greenwich is where many celebrities and socialites own homes, including the Giffords, Ron Howard, Mel Gibson, and many others. Yet, we didn't have any celebrity sightings while we were there. Adam was especially disappointed! We enjoyed driving through the neighborhoods and seeing the beautiful homes. Greenwich is a very cool town, low-key but has a swanky vibe. As much as I would have loved to sit outside at a bistro with a glass of wine, we had two little sidekicks with us and chose to spend our time at the beach.

After driving through town, we stumbled upon Greenwich Point Park. We got to the gate and were told that we needed to go to the civic center that sells one-day passes. So we had to drive back into town, find this little shack outside the civic center to purchase a pass. Apparently, Connecticut isn't the most welcoming bunch when it comes to visiting their parks. We were laughing at how stupid this seemed all the way back to the park. I mean, really, can't they just take our money at the gate? They seriously have someone work at the gate and turn people away? But, according to some blogs and websites I've read, they really don't want tourists. They don't need the revenue in swanky Fairfield County! But, I tell you what, this is one beautiful park! It's right on the Long Island Sound and looks across at the Manhattan skyline. There is a rocky beach with lots of trails for walking, biking, and running. We spent a good hour watching Gavin throw rocks and then drove to the other side of the park where there is a really nice sandy beach. We spent some time walking in the water and playing in the sand. It was so relaxing and a great trip with our kids.

We have now visited all of the New England states. We have seen a lot and there is still much to explore. I feel lucky to be able to take these mini-vacations on a whim. I'll admit, travel is different with two small children, but we really have a good time! Here are some pics!
Adam, Gav, and Olivia, looking for the best skipping rocks in Norwalk, CT
This little guy would rather throw rocks than pose for a pic with his mama, so I had to scoop him up!
My sweet girl
Gavin and his absolute favorite past-time
My two favorite guys at Greenwich Point Park

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I blinked, and a month went by...

Olivia has been with us for a month already! Adam and I say to each other, almost nightly, "How in the world do we have 2 kids?!?" It's definitely been an adjustment but we're starting to settle into a routine. Gavin is completely secure with his role and has started to help me take care of Olivia. He tells her to quiet down and sticks her binkie in her mouth when she cries! He likes to list off all of our names when we say we're about to go somewhere, "go to the store with Gavin, Daddy, and Mama!" With a little coaxing, he has added "Livia" at the end.

Olivia is proving that she is not only physically strong, but also very emotionally strong willed. The girl is a bit high maintenance! She likes to be held- pretty much all of the time! Adam joked that it's no wonder she was a week late coming out, she might as well still be inside of me because she clings to me so much. I wouldn't mind so much if this wasn't the hottest summer I've ever experienced! The humidity has been relentless. We have had only a handful of cool days- and by cool, I'd take 75 or 80. It's not been ideal weather for snuggling a newborn.

Sleeping has been going ok. She is pretty fussy in the evenings and I'm not sure if it's a mild case of colic or if it's just how she rolls. Between the hours of 4pm and 9pm, she makes her presence very known. We're pretty much convinced that it's not Olivia that is difficult, but that we were super spoiled with Gavin. Once we get Liv swaddled up, she tends to sleep anywhere between 2 and 5 hours at a time and she even once blessed us with 6 straight hours. All things considered, can't really complain too much.

As requested, here are some baby pics- it's hard to narrow them down but I did my best.
Tummy Time
Sweet little duck
Cute little bunny
Hanging out in her fairy crib

Kid Rooms

I have been busy getting Olivia's room set up all girlie and proper for her. I had a whole, old-fashioned, blue and white theme planned but my mom took me to Potterybarn Kids while she was in town and we were welcomed into the pretty little world of pink! Once you have a little girl in your arms, fairies and princesses are very hard to resist. My mom spoiled us and purchased all of her crib bedding and it is really adorable. Here are photos of little Liv's room- it's pretty much complete, aside from finding an area rug and a bookshelf.
I found some inspiration while at the Potterybarn from things that I really couldn't justify spending money on.  I found that shelf at Michaels for $8 and painted it pink. The letters for her name came from JoAnns. The lamp was inspired by a pink rose covered lampshade that was $100 for the shade alone. I couldn't find roses so I went with yellow flowers. I found the base at TJ Maxx. The things you can do with a hot glue gun and a little craftiness!
Fairy crib bedding and tulip wall decals...
The pictures on the other wall have animals and say "Imagine" "Wish" and "Believe"
Here is a closeup of the lampshade I made...
Before Olivia came along, we needed to move Gavin to a "big boy bed" because we needed the crib mattress. I found Gav a platform bed that is navy blue with three little drawers. He loves his dinosaur sheets and his latest past time, jumping off the bed.
He was really happy that I washed his blankie today...
This is what Gavin does during "quiet time"

Monday, August 2, 2010

Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos

As much as I love summer and all of the fresh produce that is at hand, I have to admit that it's been hard to commit to cooking dinners regularly. Obviously, part of that is having been insanely pregnant at the beginning of summer and then being busy taking care of a new baby. But, really, I just can't get excited about food and meal planning. It's been a really hot summer which sort of suppresses the appetite and Adam and I find ourselves doing the whole, "I don't care, what do you want?" song and dance. Eventually, we just make PB&J sandwiches and go to bed. However, last week I decided I had to make something good and I remembered my mom mentioning fish tacos using frozen mahi mahi. I decided to give them a try and am so glad that I did. It's a great meal that takes very little time and is absolutely delicious. I didn't think to take a picture, so you'll have to use your imagination. Here is the recipe, enjoy!

Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos, adapted from Bobby Flay

- 1 pound mahi mahi
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 2 limes, juiced (or 1 really juicy lime, if you're lucky enough to get one)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 jalapeno, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- flour tortillas

Garnish with whatever fixings you like. Here is what we put in ours:

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
sour cream
chopped cilantro leaves
diced avocado

Prepare grill- will want a medium-high heat. Meanwhile, place fish in a shallow baking dish. In a bowl, whisk together, oil, lime juice, chili powder, jalapeno, and cilantro. Pour over the fish and let marinate for 20 minutes.

When grill is ready, remove fish from marinade and place onto grill. Grill for 4-5 minutes on the first side, flip and grill for another couple of minutes. Fish should be flakey but not dried out.

Place tortillas on the grill and grill for 20-30 seconds.