Sailing with the Shaws

One thing I’ve really wanted to do since we moved to the bay area was go sailing. Every weekend at the dog park we can see groups of sailboats in the distance and it always looks so fun. So I was really excited when Erin and Jason came to visit and we got to go sailing.

Erin’s aunt lives in Point Richmond and has a sailboat. It’s a beautiful older boat that they have been working to restore. She invited us to go out on the bay and I was able to get Mike to watch the baby while I finally got an outing.

Erin and I have been BFFs since we were dorky seventh graders. We used to dress in matching outfits and braid each other’s hair, resulting in crimped afros. We were awesome.

Still awesome after all these years. 

Anyway, sailing was amazing and I would love to learn more about it. I did have to take a Dramamine. The feeling of going over those rolling waves sort of reminded me of morning sickness. Imagine that for six weeks straight – ugh.

But onto better thoughts!

Erin and Jason appreciate good food and beer above all else, so we tried to show them some of our favorite places to eat and drink. We had pork mole, plantains, and guacamole at Talavera in Berkeley.

Saturday morning we headed to SF to show them the Ferry Building market. It was crazy crowded so we didn’t hang around too long.

The perfect image of San Francisco: Ferry Building, streetcar, homeless person’s cart.

Then we walked to North Beach so we could have Tony’s Pizza for lunch.

Banksy, I think.

I didn’t realize Tony’s doesn’t open until noon on Saturdays, but it was a good tactic to get there around 11:50 because we got a table as soon as they opened.

Ohhh, the lillet blanc fries.

Harper learns the merits of excellent pizza.

Later that day we tried to show Erin and Jason the Trappist, a really good Belgian beer bar in Oakland. But we got kicked out because we had Harper with us. Sad face! Instead we got a chance to show them some authentic Chinese food. We got together with our neighbors, Brandy and Kyle, and got a huge table at our favorite Szechuan restaurant.

That way we got to try all sorts of dishes, including eggplant with garlic sauce, short ribs, and spicy pork. And I had to grab a buttercream bun from my favorite bakery on the way out.

I think we showed them a pretty good time and I can’t wait for them to come back!

No. 32 Red Curry with Tofu

I’ve been trying to perfect a veggie curry recipe for a while without success. But I think I finally got it right. Mine is kind of a combination of Heidi Swanson’s weeknight curry recipe and the red curry from the Thai place down the street from our house, which I love and order often.

The Thai restaurant always deep fries their tofu, so it has a texture that stands up to being soaked in sauce. And I like that they add bamboo shoots. Theirs are more like thin sticks, so I took the canned bamboo shoots and cut them in half lengthwise.

The other thing I figured out is that it’s better to use coconut cream instead of coconut milk because the extra water from the veggies and tofu tends to thin out the sauce.

No. 32 Red Curry with Tofu

1 10-ounce package firm tofu, pressed and thinly sliced
Olive oil – enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet
1 red or orange bell pepper, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
2 cups fresh green beans, ends cut off and snapped in half
1 onion, sliced
1 can coconut cream
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, sliced in half lengthwise
brown rice for serving

Start by frying the tofu slices. You want to heat enough olive oil in a large skillet to just cover the thin slices, somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inch.

Fry the slices until golden on one side, then flip them over to cook the other side. When they’re done, drain them on a paper towel. You can use the remaining oil to cook your veggies.

Saute the veggies until they soften and the onions are translucent.

Next mix the curry paste with a couple tablespoons of coconut cream in a bowl.

Add this mixture to your veggies and stir until they’re all coated. Add the tofu and bamboo shoots to the pan and then stir in the rest of the coconut cream.

Let the curry simmer on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Make sure you taste the curry before you serve it. You may want to add a little salt or more curry paste. I usually end up adding some of both. The curry paste adds more heat, too.

When it’s ready, serve the curry over brown rice. Or, if you’re like us, leftover takeout rice. 🙂

Chicken with peanut sauce

This was another successful recipe I thought I should mention. The chicken cooks quickly and the peanut sauce would be great for a lot of applications — a dipping sauce for kabobs this summer, perhaps?

I had to make some adaptations for the ingredients I had on hand and because I didn’t need quite so much chicken for two people. Here’s what it ended up looking like:

Chicken with peanut sauce
adapted from Nectar

1.5 pounds chicken tenderloins, or boneless chicken breasts cut into tenderloin-sized pieces

2 tablespoons grapeseed or safflower oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari
1/4 cup brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon coriander

3/4 cup peanut butter (I used smooth, crunchy works too)
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1 cup coconut water
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sliced scallions would make a great garnish!

rice (or just plain rice works too):
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup jasmine rice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced

At least 2 hours ahead:
Prepare the marinade by whisking all the ingredients together until the sugar dissolves. Coat all the chicken pieces in the marinade and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook.

You can also make the sauce anytime. The recipe says to mix it up in a food processor, but I think I just did it in a bowl with a spoon. Whatever floats your boat.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, start boiling the water for your rice. Add all of the ingredients and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. While that’s cooking you can grill or saute your chicken. I used my favorite nonstick pan and cooked the chicken with the marinade on the stovetop.

Put everything together and you’re done!

Two easy recipes you should try

It’s been so nice to have a little more time to cook lately. Harper likes to watch me cook, but she only stays entertained so long. So I’m trying to stick to recipes that can come together in about a half hour. Last week I tried some new ones, and I wanted to share them because they turned out great.

First up: tomato, mozzarella, and basil orzo, found on Sweet Paul.

It might be a little early for such a summer-y dish, but oh well. Basically, you saute up some red onions, then add in the orzo to toast for a minute.

Then you ladle in homemade stock and let it cook down, just like you would if you were making risotto.

Finally you add in chunks of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

The mozzarella gets all melty and yummy.

We used some of the leftover cheese to make salads.

Orzo doesn’t take as long to cook as risotto (maybe 20 minutes), so this dish came together really quickly. I will definitely make it again.

The second dish was Pioneer Woman’s spicy shrimp. It might be one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made.

Basically you just put some shrimp in a pan and add a little of this and a little of that (including as much hot sauce as you like),

then cover it with pats of butter and cook it under the broiler.

I did have to scale down the recipe (3 pounds of shrimp was a bit much for two people), but the full recipe would be great to serve to a group.

This time it was just me and my lovely assistants.

The shrimp comes out with a tasty sauce that you can sop up with toasted bread slices.

We added salad, too.

The only downside is that as fast as this recipe is to cook, it takes a really long time to peel all those shells and eat it. With a baby, eating time is definitely a factor. So maybe in the future I could make it with already-shelled shrimp.

A couple days later I discovered that leftover orzo was really good combined with leftover shrimp. So maybe these two would be good together one night!

Swedish shoes

Aren’t Mike’s new shoes awesome? We discovered this great store in Berkeley called Convert. They have a separate shoe store in the 4th street shopping district that is full of shoes that we both loved. Mike picked out this pair of Tretorn shoes — they’re Swedish.

On the women’s side they had some really cute and comfy looking heels by Maguba, also Swedish. I resisted buying any, but I am finally getting some Toms! I might be the only person in the bay area who doesn’t have them yet.

Fettucine with chicken and leeks

I just wanted to share this great recipe I tried the other day that is so perfect for someone who doesn’t have much time to cook anymore. It calls for rotisserie chicken, so one night we roasted a chicken and then used the leftovers to make this another night. A grocery store chicken would work just as well.

The next day I used the bones to make stock.

I don’t cook a lot with leeks, but they are such a spring-ish ingredient I thought they sounded good this week. I loved them in this recipe. The full recipe is on Real Simple. The only thing I changed was to use lemon juice instead of zest. Next time I think I might add a second leek.

Basically you just boil some fettucine and while that’s cooking make a cream sauce with sauteed leeks. It could not be easier.

Mix in the noodles and voila, dinner.

3 months

I know it’s sort of cliche, but I was thinking in honor of Mother’s Day that I would write Harper’s 3-month post as a letter to her. So here goes:

Hey puddin’,
So many people have said to me that three months is when babies start to turn a corner, becoming less fussy and more fun. Not that the past three months haven’t been fun. But they have certainly been the wildest three months of my life. So I have to say it’s true. At three months you are full of smiles, babbles and raspberries. You seem to be picking up a lot more with your eyes, and you’re constantly trying to figure out what to make of your hands and feet. Your pouty lip when you start to get upset is so cute I have to hold myself back from laughing.

The best part of my day is walking into your room when you wake up in the morning. You used to cry to be picked up, but now you just babble in your crib until someone comes in. Then you smile a huge grin, as if to say, “I’m so glad you’re here!”

I know every mom thinks this about her child, but you are off-the-charts cute. From your chubby cheeks to your round belly to your adorable toes, you are infinitely kissable. I probably give you at least 100 smooches a day. I love your auburn hair, especially the way it sticks out in all directions, just like your dad’s. Your eyes are such a pretty bright blue. I’m not sure they’ll stay that way, but according to my limited knowledge of genetics it’s a 50-50 shot. I could stare at you all day and I pretty much do. When you’re resting on my lap after a feeding, with a little dribble of milk running down your chin, it just kills me.

So far your personality seems to be that of a girl who knows what she wants (how familiar). You love to eat (also familiar) and you love being outside. In fact, we spent so much time toting you around outside during the witching hour(s) that we ran into some neighbors with twins born on the exact same day as you. They were out walking, doing the same thing. In fact, I’ve made a lot of new friends through moms groups. We have our babies to thank for bringing us together, which is pretty cool. Imagining you all eventually crawling and then toddling around together is even cooler. Also terrifying.

All that eating has made you grow and grow. Some days I notice you growing out, some days growing up. You’re already in a six-month sock (which you definitely didn’t get from me). All those growth spurts come with a lot of middle-of-the-night feedings. But generally you are like your mom — you love a good night’s sleep. Thank goodness! You don’t love to nap, though, so we’ll work on that.

Your lack of napping has made me realize that I can’t be the relentless multitasker I used to be. When I’m with you I have to slow down. Dinner might come together over a three-hour period. TV watching comes with a lot of DVR pauses. Orders get made, but much more slowly. In short, I can’t do everything I want to do the minute I want to do it. And that’s what parenting is all about. There are great sacrifices. And there are big smiles. It’s a wild ride. Some days I have wanted to get the heck off. But other times I am so overwhelmed with love for you I couldn’t possibly put it into words.

I am really looking forward to this next month with you. You’re getting closer to being able to hold your head up and grasp things with your hands. You kick so much I’m thinking we need to get you a jumper thingamabob. You’re on the verge of giggling, and I can’t wait for that. For you, everything is new and anything is possible. I can’t imagine being on this ride without you, peanut.


Garden, check

We have been having the most beautiful weather here (spring is more like our summer), so it was really starting to bother me that our garden was completely grown over and messy with a bunch of pots full of dead plants.

My mom came to visit, so we recruited her to help us dig weeds, shop for plants and revive our little garden.

I finally discovered a little bird living in here.

We ended up pulling out a ton of dead plants and replacing them with a layer of rocks. We found a local store that has a pebble/mulch bar where you can pick out your ground cover of choice. The rest of the place is full of boulders that you can buy buy the pound or by the ton. We picked out some individual rocks, including a cool turquoise one, a lava rock and one that was full of quartz.

Some of these little plants should become a lot bigger eventually.

We got a new tomato plant and some new strawberries for our pot.

At the garden store we found one pimiento de padron pepper plant, which we felt we had to have. Those are the peppers we enjoyed so much on our honeymoon in Spain. Just to be cheeky we planted it in an old compost pail (the lid broke a while back).

I got some more herbs for our planter box. Hopefully you’ll be seeing those later in some recipes.

The front of our “lawn” has these tufts of blue grass that were getting all weedy in between. I planted some hardy flowers in those spaces and they are already blooming.

For my other planters I got some pinks, mimulus and mums that look like little daisies.

We have this little side garden that was just covered in mulch, but I decided that I’d go ahead and plant some flowers there and see what happens. Based on the amount of weeds that used to grow there, I think there’s enough sun.

Of course I had to revive my little succulent soda box.

And I was pleased to see more of these pretty succulents emerge once the garden had been weeded. I just love their bright red flowers.

Overall, I’d say we made a huge improvement! And since the baby likes to be walked around outside in the evenings, we can enjoy our front yard a whole lot more. In fact we are thinking we need some seating out there now.