Thursday, September 13, 2012

Foods I Love and Baby Update

Max is 7 weeks old today.  I think I'm finally getting used to mothering a newborn (getting up every 2 hours overnight, preparation for diaper blowouts, dealing with baby meltdowns).  No, it's not easy, but babies must use their cuteness as a weapon because as soon as I get frustrated he looks at me and does something adorable.  Oh, babies!

I've cooked a few new recipes and I'd love to blog about them.  However, I'm typing this with Max in a  baby sling and sleeping on my chest and I don't know how much time I have.  Instead, here are some foods/drinks (both homemade and store bought) that I've been loving lately:

1.  Soups and stews - Summer is winding down and temps are dropping into the 60s at night.  My husband brings me fresh sweet corn every weekend (he gets 12 ears for $2 in Lancaster County) and I've been making corn and cheddar chowder and creamed corn. I've also made a large batch of chunky chili. I froze the leftovers for future meals. I know it will come in handy when I have a crazy day in a few weeks and I don't want to order takeout.

2. Edy's Fruitbars - I'm sure I mentioned this before, but these popsicles are the bomb! Costco sold them all summer in a 24 pack and ShopRite often has them on sale. Of course, you can probably buy them at every grocery store in America. My favorite flavors are Mango, Grape, and Lemon. The best part is that they are 80 calories a pop and have no artificial sweeteners.  I started loving these during my pregnancy and I'm still hooked on them.  Good thing I have a chest freezer in the basement.

3.  Boxed Wine - Yes, wine in a box. I was skeptical because I associate boxed wine with cheap, inferior product, but there are some decent choices out there. I decided to try boxed wine because I'm nursing Max and I have to limit my alcohol intake.  I enjoy cooking with wine and I also enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, but I felt that opening an entire bottle could be a waste.  I picked up two brands (Bota Box and Volere) at Costco and I was pleasantly surprised. I love that the wines stay fresh for 4 weeks (or more) after opening and that they come with a spout that allows you to pour just as much as you need, whether it's a full glass or just a splash for your favorite recipe.  I've been keeping one white blend and one red blend on hand for cooking and meals.

I've also learned a few things that have worked for me in parenting a newborn.  I know that every single baby is different, but here are a few things I've realized:

1.  Embrace the fact that you'll be up at odd hours.  I do most of the baby duty because I'm on maternity leave and my husband is working.  I'm also the one with the food since I'm nursing.  Max gets up every 2-3 hours (including all night long), so I use my DVR to record daytime talk shows and cooking shows to watch at 3am.  I also use the HBO GO app and the Netflix app to stream movies and television shows during those lonely late-night feedings.  I like to save the most interesting shows for 2am... gives me something to look forward to.

2.  Noise-canceling headphones are great for meltdowns.  No, I'm not telling you to ignore your baby, but when I can't figure out what Max wants I hold him in my arms and turn on my iPod.  I can see and feel him, so I can still console him, but I can listen to Thriller or my favorite financial planning podcast while my baby cries it out.  Sometimes I even sing to him.  By the time the album ends or the interview is over, he's often asleep.

3.  Amazon Mom is the bomb.  It's a version of Amazon Prime that offers free 2-day shipping on tons of stuff (including non-baby stuff) for free for 90 days.  I've used the service so much that I'll be paying the annual fee to continue it.  I've been able to find rare items in the exact color/style I need and have them delivered within 48 hours (or less).  This comes in handy for everything from DVDs to breast pumps to diapers.

4.  Baby wearing is convenient.  Granted, Max only weighs 7 pounds or so, but it's really convenient to wear him in a sling during the day.  I haven't tried it on an errand (I just use a stroller), but the baby sling is great for afternoons when he's fussy and just wants to be held.  I can keep him very close to me, but still fold laundry, start dinner, read email or do anything else that requires two hands without worrying about the baby monitor.  It's one of those things that works for me for now.

So that's my update.  I'm looking forward to getting some free time to write up some recipe posts, but until then this will have to do.  I'm happy that I'm still loving to cook and bake, despite the fact that I have to schedule my cooking around caring for Max.  I'm looking forward to Max getting big enough to help me in the kitchen.  What have you been up to lately?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Roasted Tomato Salsa

It's September.  Wow.  Where is 2012 going?  My garden wasn't the best this year but I do still have a ton of basil, chives, sage, and rosemary.  I also ended up with a stack of perfectly ripe tomatoes and jalapenos last week, so I decided to make some salsa.  I normally use this recipe (inspired by Pioneer Woman), but I discovered a new option on Pinterest and decided to give it a try since I have a bumper crop of tomatoes and jalapenos at the moment.  I'm pretty sure I'll be cleaning up and clearing out my tomato plants in the next week or so, so here's a recipe for you if you have some tomatoes on their last hurrah.

I modified the recipe to suit what I had on hand and our preferences for salsa.  I used jalapenos instead of serranos, a little less onion and I added lime juice.

This recipe wasn't difficult at all... the worst part was waiting for it to be ready!

Cut up some tomatoes, garlic, onions, and jalapenos and lay them on a roasting pan lined with parchment paper (an oil-free way to prevent sticking... also makes cleanup a breeze).

Roast them at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until everything starts to get a nice char on the edges.  At this point your house will smell intoxicating. I could not stop smiling while waiting to pull this out of the oven. How could something that smells this good not taste amazing?

Next, you need to wait for your hot vegetables to cool down.  I scooped them onto a plate, popped them in the fridge and made a trip to ShopRite to pick up some fresh cilantro (I never have any luck growing my own) and some tortilla chips.  Yes, I'm one of those people who goes to the grocery store three times a week, even though I keep a running list on my iPhone.

By the time I returned home with a bunch of cilantro and a bag of tortilla chips it only took me 5 minutes to whip up this salsa in my food processor.  And you know what?  It delivered on taste!

Here's what I love about this recipe:

1. It yields a thick salsa.  You can process it to have less chunks, or you can leave it chunky.
2. It is fresh.  It doesn't have the overly-processed vinegary taste that you find in jarred salsa.
3. It uses my abundant, fresh summer peppers and tomatoes in a creative way.
4. Roasting the vegetables really transforms the taste... the flavor seems more pronounced, yet the garlic and jalapenos are more subtle.
5. I don't have to peel and seed the tomatoes!

If it's summer and you have access to fresh tomatoes, I'd take this approach.  If it's the middle of the winter and you want a convenient salsa that's just as tasty, try this version.

One note about heat:  I used two seeded jalapenos and I feel the salsa is mild to medium.  I wasn't reaching for a drink as soon as I ate it, but it left a nice tang on my tongue.  You can adjust the heat level up or down by using more or less peppers or by leaving the seeds in or taking them out.  I think that this version, as written, is a crowd-pleaser and should not offend people who are sensitive to spice.

Thanks for being patient with me as I adjust to parenthood.  I know the blog posts have been pretty spotty.  Thank you to everyone who continues to send well-wishes!  Max will be 6 weeks old tomorrow.  Here's a recent photo of our little guy looking more like a toddler than a newborn:

Roasted Tomato Salsa
inspired by One Particular Kitchen
yields about 4 cups of salsa

8 medium-sized tomatoes, halved (your favorite variety)
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 jalapenos, seeded and halved
4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
1 Tablespoon kosher salt (if you use regular table salt, start with less and work your way up)
Juice of one lime
1 handful of fresh cilantro
tortilla chips for serving (I like Tostito's Scoops)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread tomatoes, onion, jalapenos, and garlic in a single layer.  Roast until onions, peppers, and garlic are starting to develop a black char on the edges and tomatoes are bursting and sizzling.

Set roasted vegetables aside to cool (or speed things up by placing them in the refrigerator).

Place roasted vegetables, salt and lime in a food processor.  Process or pulse to desired consistency.  Use a tortilla chip to do a taste test and add more salt, if desired.  Refrigerate and serve with tortilla chips.
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