Artichoke Basil Pesto


Photos courtesy of Wikipedia

First of all I want to clarify the misconception that pestos must contain cheese and nuts — pine nuts, walnuts, etc… This is simply not true, I recently learned. You can make a nut-free, dairy-free pesto. I have and it was fabulous. So fabulous, in fact, that everyone in the family except for my oldest son had 2 helpings. He had three!

Before I go on to share my recipe with all you, I want to share what I have learned. Pesto is an Italian term derived from the literal translation, to pound or to crush. The orginal variations were made using a mortar and pestle. (Had they had my Cuisinart mini chopper back then I am sure they would have much prefered that method!) Pesto originated in Genoa. Pesto alla Genovese is made with basil, salt, garlic, and olive oil, pine nuts and a hard cheese like parmesan.

France also has a slightly different version of this sauce called Pistou that originated in Provence. In this version cheese is often (not always) added but the pine nuts are not.

So I guess my version is more of a Pistou than a Pesto… but you can call it whatever you like!

Ingredients:
1 cup of basil leaves, trimmed from stems
2 cans artichoke hearts
Juice of 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves (feel free to use more, much more!)
sea salt
pepper
olive oil, 1/2 cup for sauce — more for drizzling
pasta, 1 lb, your choice — I used linguine and it was perfect

Directions:
While making your pesto boil a large pot of water to cook your pasta and when water is boiling cook pasta for time indicated on the package.

The best appliance for this is a small food processor, a drink blender will work well too.

In the bowl of food processor add your basil, artichoke hearts (1 can, drained) 1/2 cup of olive oil, juice of 1 lemon a little salt and pepper and pulse until well minced.

In a saute pan heat up some olive oil, finely chop the other can (drained) of artichoke hearts and saute them until lightly golden brown. When the color is achieved turn the heat off.

Once pasta is cooked, drain it and return it to the pot. Stir in artichoke pieces and then add the pesto. If needed drizzle extra olive oil over the pasta and add some freshly ground pepper.

This dish can be served hot or warm, at room temperature.

Well, I Suppose Sippy Cups Really are For Chardonay — or Merlot!

I have a pretty good idea who did this!

It’s no secret that I enjoy a nice glass of wine at the end of the day. It’s beneficial for the heart (antioxidants) as well as the soul, my soul! I often leave it on the counter next to me while I work in the kitchen in the evening, or next to my computer on my desk, such as now. I try to leave my beverages out of the reach of little hands as I worry about Alexander reaching up, toppling the glass and ruining everything in sight. I also have to watch out for Christopher, my secret sipper, who has been known to steal a drink from whatever I may have in my glass at that moment.

Last night I was enjoying a nice glass of merlot and Alexander was enjoying a nice chilled cup of water in his brand new PBK sippy cup reminiscent of a baby beer stein! You can place the base of the cup in the freezer for the ultimate frosty mug effect. We were both quite happy. I left for a quick moment to run upstairs for a pair of pajamas for Alexander and came back to a very amusing sight!


Aren’t they adorable! For these and other wonderful children’s items for the kitchen or dining room table visit Pottery Barn Kids at http://www.potterybarnkids.com/

Please Accept my Appologies…

I have been terrible at keeping up my end of the food blog. Truth of the matter is that we have been so busy and have had no time to cook. I’ve been busy shuttling the kids hither and thither and often we are not home until after 6:30, sometimes after 7:30 at night. Then there is homework to supervise, kids to bathe, and the list goes on. It is easier to make a sandwich these days. And Don’s been traveling too, even more of a reason not to cook. Today we are all here and it is 4:00 pm and we have no activities and I should cook up some fabulous feast. Truth be told I just don’t have it in me. I think I will grab a box of linguine, a jar of Rao’s, the best jarred pasta sauce in the world and the only one I will eat. I’ll toss meatballs in for the kids that I have tucked away in the freezer. Totally uninspiring but the kids will be happy!


If you haven’t had Rao’s you should… and you should keep a few on hand in the pantry for emergencies! The restaurant of the same name is located in New York City on the Upper East side. It’s famous for being impossible to get a reservation. The restaurant has their own line of cookbooks with fabulous recipes. There is even a recipe of the month on their website.

The link to the Restaurant, it’s fabulous sauces, cookbooks, recipes and more is: http://www.raos.com/

So Long Old Friend… We Hardly Knew Ye!

Farewell Sal!

Christopher caught Sal the Salamander last summer at his friend Paul’s house. The kids waded in the brook behind Paul’s house, caught the little salamanders and tossed them in to the kiddie pool. Patrick, another friend, Rebecca and Christopher wanted to bring theirs home. The salamanders were placed in Dixie cups and brought to their new homes. Once we got home Rebecca insisted on transfering hers herself. I warned her not to as I didn’t want the slimy amphibian slithering out and onto the floor scurrying under the sink. But typical of her impatient self she insisted on doing going ahead without me. Her hand, not as steady as mine, slipped and out came Mandy… into the sink and then … down the drain … and into the disposal! “MOMMEEE! MOMMEEE!” She shrieked. I knew that was going to happen but she wouldn’t listen and she wouldn’t wait. After the initial tears, we did chuckle about it.

Christopher, my patient child did wait for me to transfer his pet Sal into a temporary home. We gave it a rock and I added some stress coat that we had on hand for our fish to dechlorinate the water. Sal seemed so happy in his new home and surroundings. Don came home that night and insisted that Sal have a proper home and went to the pet supply store to buy a tank fit for the persnickitiest amphibian. We put his rocks in there so he would feel at home and fed him salamander food. Sal’s new home was next to the fish tank on the kitchen counter. He loved to flirt with them and they with him. Our pets were happy. We took good care of them and enjoyed them. We cleaned his water regularly and marveled that he lasted as long as he did. On Tuesday we came home from school and noticed that Sal was very still. He gets still from time to time and a gentle knock on his cage will wake him up, sending swimming up and down his home like a little fish. He would always cock his head and look at us with a little smile as if to say, “Hey, I’m OK. I was just taking a little siesta!” But he did not wake from his siesta yesterday. Poor sweet Sal… Oh how you are missed!

We often read The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer about a little boy who decides to keep a salamander as his pet. The story unfolds as he answers all his mothers questions… Where will he live? Where will he sleep? What will he eat? What will he play with? It is a favorite of all of ours — beautifully told with stunning illustrations that capture the eye and the reader completely.

Back in the saddle again!

Well, we’re “live” back on the market… for better or for worse, and I suppose for richer or poorer. Fingers crossed that we can move the Crazy Crowded House fairly quickly. Of course we don’t market the nearly 2,400 sq.ft edifice as such. It was niether crazy nor crowded before the kids came into our lives and took over the place so that it resembles a cross between a toy store after an earthquake and the floor of a school cafeteria. Ok, we’re not that bad. That’s because I am anal and cannot stand to look at stuff. I use my Shark sweeper daily (sometimes more depending on a certain Little Blond Boy) and toys get jammed into drawers, armoires and closets. But god bless that one realtor or potential buyer who dares to open a door. He or she had better be wearing a helmet for protection. Ok, here I go exaggerating again. It’s not all that bad, but it certainly would be a little better if it was spring and we did not have pounds of down coats, snow pants and boots… endless amounts of hats and mittens slowly missing their mates…

When we first moved in to our Crazy Crowded House we barely had any furniture here and we were swimming in our space, thinking we would never run out of room. I remember my sister in law, also pregnant with her first imagining little children riding tricycles around the house. Until 9 months later and Rebecca came — along with swings, bouncy seats, Johnny Jump Ups, Excercausers, ride-on horsies, Gymini floor mats, books, books, more books, followed by bears and dolls and coloring supplies and doll houses followed by brothers and balls and trains and Legos and blocks. Our beautiful furniture was becoming burried. And the kids were growing older and crazier.

Rebecca is now at the kitchen table doing her homework trying to find a historic personality that would be representative of the word “perseverance” and Alexander is dancing to Blue’s Clues… and Christopher, Christopher! I had practically forgotten about him. He’s, at this moment, unusually quiet… that won’t last much longer. I can’t believe that there is enough peace and quiet here to write… usually I am looking for a place to run away to, but usually I am found!

This is nice. This is really very nice… wait… I knew it! I spoke too soon! Have to go before someone gets hurt!

Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul


My friend Sarah (her husband Jim, really, as he is the family chef) turned me on to this great stuff called Better than Bouillon. And it really is. It is a paste, a concentrate of chicken broth, if you will. And it makes the best base for a soup. (It comes in a wide variety of flavors and styles, like beef, mushroom and vegan for my Veggie Friends. There are USDA Organic versions as well.) I really think that I have found my liquid gold.
Here is what I did to make my soup:

Follow the directions on the jar — dissolve 6 tablespoons of the bouillon into 2 1/2 quarts of water. If this is too salty, as it was for me, keep adding water.

While soup base is simmering peel and dice 3-4 carrots and toss into the base, then dice up 1 chicken breast (already cooked — I set asside some of the chicken I used to make the chicken salad last night) and toss that in as well. I love celery in my soup, but my kids do not. If I could I would add 2 celery stalks, peeled and diced. Simmer for about 20 minutes. While the soup is simmering add some pasta in another pot (about 1/2 of a 1lb box. I used the enriched Barilla macaroni). Once the noodles have been cooked, drain and add to the soup. At the last minute I decided to add in a handful of frozen peas to add some color.

This one was a hit!

(My friend Sarah just told me that Jim cooks his pasta right in with the soup so as to use and clean one less pot!)

Chicken Salad with Fresh Rosemary

I know that many of you are patiently waiting for something to show up here! It’s been a hellofaweek and I have not had much time in the kitchen for anything fancy. Throwing together some pb&j is what life has come to these past few days.

I was determinted to grill some chicken last week but then Don went out of town and then the snows came and it became nothing more than a fleeting desire. Then yesterday I noticed that the chicken had to be used ASAP and since the grill was buried beneath the snow and I had no desire to smoke up the kitchen I just did what I normally do in such a time… toss it all into a huge pot of boiling water and cook for about 25 minutes. (Yes, I trimmed it all first!) Rebecca had requested chicken salad and so her wish became my command, with a twist! I had quite a bit of leftover rosemary that I used a few nights earlier for the roasted potatoes and decided to add it to the chicken salad. What a refreshing flavor it added. Everyone adored it and gobbled it all up!
Ingredients:
Chicken breasts*
1 to 2 sprigs of fresh Rosemary
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Mayonaise (I prefer Hellman’s light)
*I tend to buy them in bulk and on sale when I can and that is a good thing, because like the oven roasted carrots, this disappears quickly.
In boiling water place all trimmed chicken breasts and cook for 20 – 25 minutes so that chicken is entirely cooked, remove from water when done and let cool, about 10 or 15 minutes or so.
Cut chicken into small cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. Add as much mayonaisse as you would like. (I start off with about 2 heaping spoonfulls and add from there if needed) Mix well. Add salt and pepper and mix well. Chop fresh rosemary, add to chicken salad and mix well.
Refrigerate, if you prefer, before serving. (This still tastes great a day or two after it has been made.)
Please do not serve this with your standard supermarket bread. It really deserves better. We love a fresh chewy rye, semolina, sourdough or a crunchy baguette. If you have access to a good baker use those breads!

A Few of My Favorite Things

Oftentimes when we look at Alexander we all ask why? Why did we go for that third kid? Why would we want to, knowingly, add to our ever-growing chaos and mayhem? Why would we want to further complicate things? Why would we want to ruin our idyllic life with two young children? (My kids were 3 and 5 when I first learned about the Third Child — a secret I hid from Don for over a week) Like all other times I panicked… was plagued by the same universal fears all expecting parents experience. Would I, could I possibly love another even half as much as I loved my other two? Have I ruined their lives? Would we be able to handle everything emotionally, physically and financially?

It’s been nearly two and a half years since that child, now known as Alexander, made his very memorable arrival into the world, our family and my arms. In all honesty there have been equally as many ups as there have been downs. Transitioning to that third child, with a greater age difference than the other two, has been trying and difficult for me. My life has been turned upside down. A third child is more, much more, than one more mouth to feed, one more bed to make, one more load of laundry (MUCH more than one more load of landry. The third child means making sacrifices. Things I would love to be able to do that I just can not at the moment, but will be able to as soon as school starts up again in about 300 days! It does sadden me that my other two have to make sacrifices too. They never asked for him and sometimes I feel terribly guilty asking them to give up or forego something and having them put the baby’s needs ahead of their own. Children should not have to make sacrifices. Last summer was terribly difficult for them as they had to work around the baby’s schedule. I will feel forever guilty about that. Rebecca, for the most part is good, very good about helping out with Alexander when she is asked to. But sometimes, there are a few, she doesn’t want to. I keep having to remind myself that she is only 9 and taking care of her brother is neither her job nor her responsiblity, yet by that same token she does need to contribute to the family and helping out with Alexander is just as important as making her bed, setting the table or putting her laundry away. Christopher doesn’t seem to be quite as affected, partly because I do not trust him yet to look after his brother and partly because his brother does not get in his way quite the way he does with Rebecca. The only time I ever see frustration in Christopher is when he is trying to build, whether Legos or blocks, and the little one comes and knocks it all down which sends Christopher flying out of the room in tears. And rightly so, who can blame him? Yes, there are moments when Rebecca will exclaim in exasperation that she wished her youngest brother was never born. I can not tell you the amount of guilt I feel when those moments happen. I try to give my kids equal attention but it is hard and the youngest really does need me the most. I can honestly say without a moment’s hesitation that I love all my children dearly,completely and unoquivocally equally and without them my world would be nothing. Though given the day, I may like one more than another!

I was making a mental list of my favorite things the other day, while listening to the song made famous by Julie Andrews a long time ago and realized that the one thing that has complicated our lives so is also responsible for many of my favorite things. With all the near heart attacks he causes, and the frustrations and all the other things that go hand in hand with having an extremely inquisitve and smart two year old boy, I can honestly say I am in a much better place because of him!

Here’s my list of a few of my favorite things:

(Apart from the obvious a glass of red wine at the end of the day!)
Champagne
Good, dark chocolate and when I do not have those m&ms will do
My children’s kisses
Looking at the world through the eyes of a child
Snuggling in bed with Alexander early in the morning before everyone else is awake
Warm baby hugs just as Alexander is waking up
Rebecca’s infectious laugh
Freshly fallen snow and playing in it with the kids
The smell of rain on a warm summer day
The smell and feel of freshly mowed grass
Running barefoot through the sand when the weather starts to warm up
A really good book that you can lose yourself in
A really good movie that’ll make you laugh and cry
Movie theater popcorn
Paris in the Springtime
The South of France
Florence, yes in Italy
New York City
The caroussel on the beach in Newport, RI
The Soda Fountain in Ocean Park, ME
And the Graham Central Station ice cream they serve!
Long bubble baths at the end of the day
Clean sheets
Stargazer Lilies

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Anyone in there?

Peek-a-boo, Becca! I see you!

You would think that living in Connecticut, a quintessential New England state that we would have quintessential winters with lots of snow. You would think we were living in an old Currier and Ives post card. But here in Southern, coastal Connecticut such is not true, sadly for the kids. We brace ourselves with each promise of a snowstorm. Sometimes schools are prematurely cancelled as the snow quickly turns into and remains nothing more than a bitter cold rain. Every once in a while we have an ice storm and schools close again but ice storms are not as much fun as snow storms. You can not run and play and sled in them. You cannot make snow angels or snowmen with carrots as noses.

Just before Thanksgiving all the forecasters told us to be prepared; the Big Storm was coming. We ran out and got snow bibs, new hats and mittens and snow boots. We were so excited. It snowed a lot, several inches in fact. But typical to our southern location the snow turned to rain before the kids had a chance to romp in the cold, powdery white stuff and before they could pelt one another with snow balls. The next day the sun came out, the temperatures soared and the itsy bitsy spider crawled back up her water spout. The children were terribly dissapointed.

Thursday night the weathermen promised us that our storm would come. Despite all their fancy shmancy new dopplers I called their fib. I called them all liars, each and every one of them. After all, we had been lied to one too many times. That night the kids went to bed with their pajamas on inside out and backwards, tossed ice cubes out the window and slept with spoons beneath their pillows thinking this would somehow cause the clouds to explode with snow. I let them delight in their supersitions and then sent them off to bed not one minute later than normal because the weathermen are always wrong.

At midnight Alexander beckoned for me from his room as he usually does. We are working hard, so very hard, to stop this. I went in and calmed his fears and sent him back to sleep. In my bed I looked up at the sky through my skylight. It couldn’t have been clearer. I knew those damn weathermen would be wrong.

At 5:00 am Alexander was up and eager to play, much to my chagrin. I brought him back in to bed with me in hopes that he would fall back asleep. As we lay snuggled up close next to each other I looked up at the sky. This time I saw nothing. The skylight was completely blanketed! I then looked out the window to see a good couple of inches on the ground already. How peaceful, magical and serene it all looked. How excited I was for the kids, and I do suppose also for myself.

Yesterday I was out with Rebecca while she romped and I took some pictures. Today we all went sledding and had such a great time. Oh what fun it was pretending to be a kid! Alexander insisted I bring home his snowball. It’s in the freezer. Tomorrow we are off to build our snowman!

What’s the Word on the Street?

Perhaps we should be using this to clean some little mouths?

If you have kids of the Sesame Street set you’ll know this phrase. It seems my children have chosen an inappropriate word to use this week. A word especially inappropriate for the Sesame Street set. It’s true, little children are like parrots and repeat everything you say at the most inopportune times and with the utmost clarity. The other day Alexander and I were in the grocery store (where, you should know by now after reading my blogs, if something will go wrong it will go wrong there.) Alexander was asking for a bottle of water. He was thirsty and I inadvertantly left his started one in the car. I really did not want to get another 24 pack of kidsized waters, so I offered the Dasani in the refrigerated section by the checkout aisles. I had him promise and practically swear that he would not spill the water all over himself or pour it out all over the floor. Without those sports tops the worst can and will happen. But my child was thirsty and I had a long way to go before we would be done with the shopping. I much prefered buying him a bottle of water over, let’s say, a chocolate bar. He was great with it. Took small sips and placed the top back on when he was done.

As we were in the checkout aisle and I was unloading another bazillion dollards of food, produce, paper goods and whatnots on to the belt I heard an “Oh Shit, Mommy!” from the tiniest little voice. I was not the only person to turn around to hear such an expletive from such a cherubic little face. It seems my little angel decided to pour the bottle of Dasani all over himself. My face turned from several shades of pink to sunset to Maine Lobster red. “Alexander!” I said to him in an attempted quiet tone, “that is not a nice word to say!” People all around burst out in fits of laughter.

The very same night I was bringing Rebecca home from her ice skating session. I had a sitter at home to watch the boys and was supposed to drive the sitter home because her car had broken down and Rebecca really wanted to come with me. I told her that if Daddy was home she would stay home because it was 8:00 and she still had to shower and do her homework. If Daddy was not home yet she would have to come with me. We pulled into the driveway and as soon as we saw Don’s car she said “Oh, Shit!”

I have absolutely no idea where on earth they learned that horrible word!