Get outside, Family!

Get outside, Family!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Make a Snacky Shacky

A good use for all that Halloween candy that has already started to collect around here. The house is a pound cake we made from scratch and sliced down to flatten all four sides. The cake did dry out, but the icing helped.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cooking Vs. Enjoying a beautiful October evening

The Winner? Leftovers!

October Night #1
Tonight I completely understood the concept of McDonald’s. There was homework, music practice, a baby to feed, a dirty diaper, boogies to wipe, dishes from breakfast to clear, laundry to fold and a gorgeous October day outside. It was warm, with dappled sunshine and the sky as blue as I’ve ever seen it. The kind of day you want to breathe in and taste and absorb through your skin because you know winter is coming. Not the kind of day when I want to stand at the sink rinsing a partially frozen roasting chicken and scraping a butternut squash. So I didn’t. We also didn’t do McDonald’s. We had dried-out leftovers and a salad. Not especially tasty, but we did get outside to play.

October Night #2
Another beautiful night! We sat out swinging for a good hour after we should have been inside marinating salmon. The Chef was in high spirits, it’s still exciting that he can swing himself six months after he stopped asking for a push. Little Zi could stay in his baby swing all day watching cars pass, listening to planes overhead and squirrels in the dried leaves. Salmon stayed in the fridge and leftover meatloaf made an encore appearance.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On the Road with Chef Zi

Under the harsh conditions of a tiny hotel suite kitchen, Chef Zi helped prepare a pancake breakfast for his family. We cheated a bit, using a Bisquick mix so we didn’t have to buy baking soda or oil. Good thing, because there were no measuring spoons, cups or a whisk. A sauce pan worked nicely for mixing up the batter, and the cakes were cooked in lotsa butter.

No miserable wait at a crowded restaurant with two young children. No spending a lot of cash for cardboard pancakes that can be swallowed only with the lubricating effect of syrup out of a tiny plastic container. The added bonus was the Chef was kept occupied long enough for Papa Zi to read the paper. Mama Zi got to watch a TV movie while Papa cleaned up.

Mama Zi tip for cooking pancakes while playing with children: Cook on medium to medium-low heat. It takes longer, but no burning if you get distracted.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cheese, Glorious Cheese!

A Guest Chef recipe by Xandra, who blogs at This post originally appeared there.

As I half sit, half lie on my bed, I contemplate my situation. I have always been rather obsessed with cheese.... but today I have reached a new high for cheese appreciation.

I know, cheese? After reading any of my other posts one might ask whether this is still the same person writing. Rest assured, it is, I have just decided to comment on the lighter sides of life. Not that cheese is a light food, on the contrary, it's not particularly healthy in large doses at all.

To continue on with my original thought, I've had so much cheese today, that my stomach is now regretting it.
Spaetzle with cheese, then cheese and crackers, then chicken soup with spinach and cheese...
I. love. cheese. Probably more than chocolate, which if anybody who knows me heard me say that, would consider a very serious statement. It's just, you can do soooo much with cheese.
I have a whole cookbook only about cheese.

Here is a taste of my Spaetzle with cheese:
Spaetzle (a German noodle)
half and half
salt and pepper
half an onion
giant eagle Mexican shredded cheese mix
Gruyère shredded cheese

Boil the Spaetzle. Meanwhile put butter in a pan, sauté the onions, add half and half and the now cooked Spaetzle. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cook until most of the half and half is evaporated and the onions are softish. Then get out a pan, butter the bottom, pile in some of the Spaetzle mix, put on some of the cheese (both the Mexican mix and the Gruyère). Add the rest of the noodles and top off with more cheese. Put it in the oven, and wait impatiently for the top to become golden and crispy... or in my case don't (I was too anxious to eat it).

Serve it warm, with salad if you want something healthy to make you feel better about gorging yourself on this cheese feast.

Enjoy (and try not to eat it all at once like I did, you will regret it, because then there won't be any left of the next day.)

Dishwashers regurgitate on dishware

Finally paying cooks and diners back for years of crusted on leftovers First my mother said her dishwasher stopped working, and she washed her dishes by hand for weeks before ultimately buying a new one. Then my mother-in-law started having the same problem, blaming the white clumps in the bottom of the washer on the fact that she was using powdered dish detergent instead of liquid. Papa Zi is usually the first to spot trends and spin conspiracy theories, but neither he nor I connected the dots when the white film arrived on our dishes and glasses. We were just too glad to have another reason to kick Moaning Myrtle – our chest-vibratingly loud dishwasher and inspiration for the Harry Potter character – to the curb. But before we even had a chance to press our noses to the door of new, sublimely quiet, highly efficient models, we learned the truth. Turns out the detergent makers have changed their formulations to eliminate phosphate, and this has taken the kick out of many detergents. As of July, Pennsylvania and other states have begun requiring phosphate-free dish soap in order to reduce a major pollutant to streams, rivers and lakes.

A whohoo for cleaner water systems. The chemical sorcerers redesigning the detergents should be able to make do without phosphate since we clean things without it all the time. Apparently, the liquid phosphate-free products are working much better than the powdered ones. We have not found this to be the case, however, and are basically having to wash our dishes by hand before we put them in. To avoid this, I’m reusing dishes a lot, which is okay. Maybe things don’t need to be as shiny clean as we’ve learned they must be from dish soap commercials from these same manufacturers that urge us to find ourselves in our reflection in our plates. But I still don’t like serving the Little Zi’s on dishes and glasses covered in visible soap film and bits of last night’s dinner; that can’t be healthy for them. Maybe we need a new washer afterall…

Monday, October 4, 2010

Eggs-traordinarily eggs-cellent egg beating

Because no week can start with too many carbs or fats, the scone and homemade butter breakfast feast opened with appetizers of Mama Zi's pancakes and bacon. (These held us over and kept everyone in a good mood while the scones baked.) Chef Zi beat the eggs, trying a variety of his grandparents' whisks before settling on a medium-sized tool.

When the Chef was younger, he was allergic to eggs and couldn't eat a lot of delicious treats made with them. He still has several other food allergies that dictate a lot of his menu, but he has outgrown the one to egg. I think when he cracks open eggs and smacks them around with a metal instrument, in his mind, he's kicking his allergy's butt.

Zi's in the buttermilk

On a beautiful fall morning, Chef Zi and his Auntie Fi Zi Re made butter the old-fashioned way -- with a carton of cream, a food processor and laptop open to these instructions from the Food Network's Tyler Florence.

It was fun to make. It was a surprise to see inside the food processor, changing into butter from whipped cream. It sounded like it was popping, like a vrum vrum vrum sound. It tasted wuuuunderrrrful (trilled R). It took 5 minutes. (The butter) looked like popcorn coming out of a train (moved arms in small circles to demonstrate the rods that move a steam locomotive's wheels.)

-- Chef Zi

Auntie Fi and the Chef's cousin Chef Re used the remaining buttermilk to make wuuuuuunderrrful berry scones. More on that in a future guest blog.