toddlers and tequila

on the bar

The life of a drinks writer often requires tasting your way through a lot of bottles. And sometimes, there are more bottles than the writer and his wife can taste through on their own. So we invited some friends over yesterday for an early-afternoon tasting, and while Julian entertained their twins and Mira (mostly) napped, we grown-ups sipped and sampled and shared our observations with Mike on a range of tequilas for an upcoming Serious Eats piece.

starters

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Though more booze was dumped than swallowed, I made sure we had plenty of food to fortify us. I laid out chips and my usual homemade salsa and guacamole, as well as David Tanis’ Crudités à la Mexicaine to start, then followed up with heartier fare.

david tanis's crudités à la mexicaine

esquites

There were little cups of Esquites, basically Mexican street corn off the cob; then quesadillas with zucchini butter and grated cheddar and jack cheeses.

quesadillas with zucchini butter

wings and tenders

Next came a platter of sweet and smoky chicken wings (and tenders for the kids), which I marinated overnight in buttermilk and spices and a pinch of turbinado sugar, then roasted and tossed with a little melted butter and scallions.

hanger steak bites with pickled onions and cilantro mayo

Finally, my riff on this winning Flank Steak sandwich recipe from food52: I seared chili-marinated hanger steak and sliced it thin, serving it on bite-sized slabs of Texas Toast with a smear of cilantro mayo and a pile of pickled red onions on top.

Jules and friends

little black dress

We wound down around 3, as the kiddos were clearly getting tired after their big day of play. We got Julian and Mira down for their afternoon naps after sending our friends on their way with hugs and thanks and promises to get together again soon. It’s been a long time since we entertained at home, and I’ve missed it. I wasn’t sure we could pull it off with two little ones at home, but yesterday’s gathering went so well, I’m eager to try again, soon.

summer lovin’

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Dinner, last night. In an attempt to get as many vegetables into us as possible, I threw together a tart, crunchy, juicy salad of shaved purple carrots, chioggia beets, cucumbers and radishes, with wedges of first-of-the-season heirloom tomato, tender baby lettuce, and lots of snipped scallions in a lemon and coriander vinaigrette. I added lots of shredded zucchini to my kofta-style meatballs, and served them on top of freekeh and lentils and crispy sweet onions, all of it drizzled with a goat yogurt tzatziki sauce. Bright flavors and colors for our dimly-lit late night meal, and a crappy camera phone photo for the record.

daddy’s day

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We started him off with biscuits, breakfast sausage and sunny eggs, some sweet little strawberries too.

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My young kitchen assistant did a wonderful job helping me whip up this old favorite recipe.

32 weeks old. Baby's first breakfast sausage.

Even the littlest Dietsch got to partake. She loved her first taste of pork sausage – definitely her daddy’s girl.

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After a trip to the park, and a whole lot of running and climbing, we returned home for naps and a little quiet relaxation before dinner prep began. On the menu: a Caesar salad, with spears of romaine and a garlicky, anchovy-rich dressing, loaded baked potatoes, and a totally decadent butter-basted ribeye steak for two.

Man versus meat. We all win.

He insisted on cooking his own meat.

The ice cream I brought home for dessert went uneaten. There’s always tonight.

on a blanket in the park

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…we lunched on cold meatloaf sandwiches, pimiento cheese and green goddess dressing with crackers and crunchy vegetables.

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Julian ate two giant, juicy peaches, then ran around with his “brand new full-size soccer ball!” until his cheeks were red and his little legs all wobbly.

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Mira rolled around on our blanket, watching the leaves above us rustling in the breeze and investigating blades of grass and fallen acorns, smiling and giggling, just taking it all in. This was the first of many picnics she has to look forward to.

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Mike mixed us up a sipper of Campari (shhhh) and raspberry shrub, topped off with a little fizzy water – refreshing and low-octane.

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A good time was had by all.

green thoughts

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Finally.

We’ve finally made it through what felt like the longest winter ever. I spent the better part of it housebound with a newborn and a very cooped-up 2-year old, cursing the weeks upon weeks of blustery weather, most days too dangerously cold to venture out with the little ones.

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Despite being stuck at home so many hours and days in a row, I found little time or energy to cook anything of note, or to write much at all.

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This past winter was a particularly hard one. I feel blessed to have had my mom here with us for a few big chunks of time, and she and some dear neighbors took great care of us, feeding us well in the weeks and months after Mira’s birth, but even with that help I have struggled. I bounced back so quickly after Julian was born, and expected the same this time around, but things could not have been more different between my first pregnancy and my last. I’m battling nerve pain and other physical issues, still, at 6 months postpartum. And the depression that I was so afraid of, and that I managed to avoid the first time around, has reared its ugly head again. I’m trying hard to drive it off, to keep the worst at bay, but it’s not been easy. I wake up, and I am working at it, every single day.

Writing helps, and planning meals, and cooking, and I’m trying to do all of those things more often.

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It was a long winter, but we made it through. And each day is a little longer, a little lighter, a little better.

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Green is all around now, from trees in bloom in our Brooklyn neighborhood, to the first spring vegetables at our farmers markets. It feels like a celebration, and I have never been so grateful, so eager to partake. I’m ready to send our trusty friend the potato on a long hiatus, to get back in the kitchen and cook something a little fresher, a little lighter, a little better.

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Winter is finally behind us. Here’s to a new season, and to embracing the green.

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Green Rice

I’ve been working on a “green” rice for a few years, as a simple and kid-friendly vehicle for lots of tender spring vegetables. You can add whatever young green vegetables and herbs you like, but the below includes our favorites.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion, spring onion, or scallions (green and white parts)
kosher or sea salt
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
1 1/4 cups water (you can substitute chicken or vegetable stock)
1 lb. fresh fava beans, shelled and peeled
1/2 lb. blanched, shelled peas (or an equal amount frozen/thawed)
1/2 bunch asparagus, tips and stalks separated, stalks sliced into very thin rounds
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup very finely chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon, or a combination)
1/2 cup finely grated pecorino romano

Heat the oil in a wide sauté pan until shimmering, then add the onion and a pinch of salt, and cook just until soft. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add the water and cover, reducing the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes. Uncover and gently fold in the favas, peas, asparagus, and artichoke hearts. Add another pinch of salt and re-cover, continuing to cook until the rice is cooked and the vegetables are tender, another 10-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the herbs and grated cheese. Use a fork to gently fluff the rice and stir the herbs and cheese through.

a good place to start

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This week has been a doozy. We were able to take our very cooped-up kids out for a bit over the weekend, but the cold and snow came back with a vengeance Sunday night, and we’ve been fighting the bad weather blues ever since. My commutes have been long and frustrating, with truncated workdays and late returns home throwing us all off schedule, but the one thing we’ve been really grateful for is the promise of a good, hearty meal at the end of the day.

We were the lucky recipients of another delicious “meal train” dinner Monday night, and yesterday I put a new spin on an old favorite: Lemon Artichoke Chicken by our friend Liz. Liz’ original recipe is one of those wonderful dishes that is simple enough for a weeknight, but elegant enough for company. We usually love it served simply with salad and bread, but last night, craving something a little more rib-sticking, I decided to make a few modifications.

The first of them was unintentional, but a happy accident: instead of the skinless, boneless chicken breasts the recipe calls for, Mike had pulled some boned-out thighs from the freezer. They were thin enough that they didn’t need pounding, and in the end they lent a more robust flavor to the finished dish.

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After browning the chicken well on both sides, I removed it from the pan and added some sliced crimini mushrooms I needed to use up, as well as a good amount of thyme. I deglazed the pan with the juice of a lemon, and a hefty splash of vermouth in place of the sherry since it was what we had on hand, then I added a can of drained white beans along with the artichoke hearts. I put the browned chicken right back into the pan with the beans, artichokes, mushrooms and sauce, added the panko-parmesan topping, drizzled on some olive oil and then put the whole thing into a hot oven. I ended up baking this for about 40 minutes at 400 degrees, until it was bubbly and browned on top.

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While my variation of this dish isn’t going to win any beauty contests, it hit all the right notes, with its creamy beans, tender chicken and artichokes, the crunch of the panko and the brightness of lemon. The fact that it all came together in one pan was a bonus. Thank you, Liz, for your recipe and for the inspiration – it was a very good place to start.

the swing

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I returned to work this week, just one day after Mira turned 10 weeks old. Mike is home with both kids now, trying to balance his writing projects with wrangling a newborn and an energetic toddler. Monday was rough all around, but each day has gotten a little bit better, and I’m pretty sure that we’ll soon be right back in the swing of things.

We have been helped immensely by parent-friends in our neighborhood, who have dropped off a series of delicious dinners, and also by a bit of planning ahead. I made sure that our fridge and freezer would be stocked with heat-and-eat options to help ease us through this first week post-maternity leave – a chicken and black bean chili I put together a couple of weeks ago, a couple of par-baked frozen pizzas, and the ingredients for this ingenious and really tasty sheet pan supper, which I spotted on Pinterest some recent sleepless night. Right now, easy is essential.

Our kielbasa came from Flying Pigs Farm, and instead of using bell peppers (as in Foodie With Family’s original dish), I added some well-drained sauerkraut to the mix. I also ended up baking it for closer to an hour, cranking the heat up to 500 for the last half of the cooking time to get everything nice and browned and crisp (our crappy apartment oven is likely to blame for that). Since I had started early, timing wasn’t a problem, and I’m never going to complain about the smell of garlicky sausage and onions wafting through the air as they cook. We all loved this dish, and it could not have been easier to assemble, or more fun to eat. This one is definitely going into the rotation.