Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Real Value in a Shared Dinner

He sat quietly for a moment, hands folded and head down in thought. He then looked up and said, “Michael brought him to me, I know.” He spoke, referring to a neighborhood kid he had started mentoring that was good but on the wrong path. “I needed him, I needed a reason to get out of bed. I needed someone to need me.” I believed he was right. The change was measurable. He wasn’t quite his old self, but you could see, the glimmer of hope that one day, he believed, he would truly be able to breath again.

It was the first time we had Peter over in ages. Ironic, since I talk so much about breaking bread and reaching out. Peter...Peter is different though. To see him is to rip a bandage off a festering wound. The loss of Michael is on him. It reminds me of how much I miss Michael and how different this would all be if only he were here. I know these encounters are hard for Peter too, sadly, for the very same reason. Several months ago when he was over he said, he knew he would cry the whole way home, because it didn’t feel right that Michael was not there. What can you say to that? It was true. It was like breaking a leg a mile down a deserted path and having to endure each painful step to get to help. But you keep walking forward, because what else it there to do really?

It is horrible to see someone you love in such pain. It is more horrible when you share, at least in small part, that pain. However, it has almost been a year, and he was finding some purpose again. He was still putting one foot in front of the other and he was getting somewhere. So was I, and I knew in that moment that it would never be the same. I knew I would always, in some small way, wish Michael had been there. I knew though, that we would all laugh out loud together again, and Michael would say a blessing of love over it all. So this night, we just ate our meal, and talked and healed … just a bit.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One Weekend….with Kids

The past year and a half has seen huge changes in the McCauley mansion (that’s what we like to call our house…we can dream…no?) Joel started his own agency, I have something in the works to be revealed at a later date, and most recently we have made a big change in our food. We have switched over to meat and eggs that are handled humanly, fed proper diets and allowed to see the light of day. I am not going to get preachy, don’t worry. It was just a personal decision, it is not for everyone I know.

In that vein we pulled resources with our neighbors and are put in a huge garden. We always do a garden, but this garden “should” provide not only all our veggie needs for summer plus allow a to put up quite a bit for winter. We have a large yard for the city and so we are putting the garden in our yard but our neighbors provided labor to help enlarge existing beds and put in a new one. We also are putting in non-GMO seeds. Again, promise no preaching…just a decision we made.

So in preparation for our hard work ahead that Saturday morning, we went to the local farmers market.

We are lucky to have one of the biggest farmers markets within walking distance of our house. During the winter the die hard sellers move from the local park to just down the road. It is mostly non produce venders (baked goods, local honey etc) but some of the farmers are there and have some winter produce, but mostly eggs and meat. I have to say I like the winter market much better. The summer market I think has gotten far too big and crowded, just this girls opinion. We got some breakfast sausage from Faith Farms to bring home and make brunch with. I have to say it was amazing. It was patty sausage, however it tasted like link sausage…go figure. Yumm, and a total treat. I love sausage but only indulge like 2-3 times a year. Then I found the mother load. Rona, from Sullivan’s Pond Farm ( I was drawn to her stall because of the lovely daffodils. Aren’t they amazing?

I stayed at her stall because of her cheese. I ended up buying two cheeses, a blue and a goat rolled in salt and pepper. The goat had some age to it so it was more firm than a typical soft goats cheese. I really can not express to you, the love I have for both of these cheeses. They were really good there, but it was cold morning. I got them home and the next day let them sit out and get some warmth to them. They amazed me. I think I scared my poor husband. Periodically I would take a bit and yell, “man alive!” I think he thought I had finally lost my mind. I am in love. Really, if you go to the south of the james market, go check her out.

We took all our goods home had brunch and then set about the work of the weekend…putting in our new Veggie bed. Even the kids got into helping.

After about 5 hours in the yard, mommy was off to girls night and a much needed beer!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Weekend Sans Kids---Hoooowaaa

So part of what I want to do with my blog is document time we spend with people we love. Over the past week, we have had our neighbors over, been to a party, been out on a date, been over to a girlfriends house for a girls night….none of which I took one single picture of. Sigh. I realize once the fun begins, I forgot about the camera. So, this will be a serious learning curve for me.

That said, this weekend the kids went to see Granddaddy and Grandma. That meant a whole weekend to ourselves. At first we planned to squirrel ourselves away and not see a soul. Then we decided we would have one night with friends and one night to ourselves. We finally decided, both nights with friends. Reality is, we don’t get a child free night, that also permits us to sleep until God wakes us the next morning often. Why not live it up? So Friday night we saw friends we don’t get to see nearly often enough. We had planned for a cheap night out, but at last minute they decided to bring dinner to our house and cook. Really how can you turn that down???

I went to Ellwood Thompson and got some yummy cheese and olives, and then by For the Love of Chocolate for some brownies and chocolates. So really talk about making out for us, we get to hang out with friends, they cook, and even our contribution we don’t’ have to cook! Score!

They made a coconut chicken soup that was amazing. Really, I don’t think anyone said a word while slurping it down. Then we had a very simple but wonderful argugula salad. For dinner it was fettuccini with muscles. The chef, felt he had put too many herbs in the sauce??? I thought he was crazy. It was amazing.

It was a great evening with great people. Who could ask for anything more. Plus when dinner was done, we got to just roll into bed!

The next night I have no pictures of. In fact the only reason I have pictures of Friday is my wonderful husband remembered to take pictures for me. We are so lucky to have great neighbors. Saturday one of our fabulous neighbors asked us over for drinks and cheese and then we went to Cielito. It was gorgeous here so we sat outside at their house. They made their secret libation called an “E.” I can’t tell you everything involved, but I will say it involves muddled basil and St. Germain. Lovely! They also got some amazing cheese from River City Cellars and these wonderful fennel olives that they brought back from a visit to Charleston. Joel and I had done a ton of work around the house and out in the yard that day so we were that wind whipped sort of tired, it was a gorgeous night, the drinks were amazing and the food was yummy….it was really and truly perfection. After some munchies and talk we went to the restaurant, and were lucky to get the last table outside. Joel and I have never been big fans of Cielito Lindo. We have never had anything bad there, but never had anything worth writing home about. However, it was close to home, we could sit outside and our neighbors swore they had the inside track on what was good to eat there. Turns out Taco’s Del Res, rock at Cielto.

So, lets recap….

No kids.
Great company.
Awesome food.

Can you say perfection??

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Clementine Obsession

Really, seriously, I can not stop wanting to put these little lovelies into EVERYTHING. As promised I have some recipes. Well one recipe, one just suggestion of one. The quinoa salad was really good. If you don’t like cilantro, I think you could substitute basil and it would be great.

Quinoa Clementine Salad

2 cup uncooked quinoa (I used red, but any would do)
1 bunch of green onions cut
½ C almond slices toasted
6 clementine’s peeled and sectioned
1 c. (aprox) of loose cilantro leaves
Juice of 3 clementine’s (about ¼ cup)
2 TBS olive oil

Make Quinoa and let cool. Add other 4 ingredients and stir. Add the juice and olive oil, if possible right before serving.

So we went back to get our third bag of clementine’s at Trader Joes. I mean they are so good I can’t stand it. They are sweet with a bit of sour. Mmmm. So today, Joel came home for lunch so I came up with this. I figured he would lover it or hate it. He moaned and gave every impression of deep love. I knew, however, I really struck a cord when he came in a minute ago an told me he was still thinking about the sandwich. Score!

I had a nice multigrain crusty loaf that I got at Trader Joes, but use whatever bread you like. I made a pesto mayonnaise and spread that on both pieces of bread. Then on one side I laid two pieced of bacon, the other one Clementine (peeled and sectioned) and in the middle a ton of arugala. It was really, really good. However, I am a sucker for a salty/sweet or savory/sweet combo and this had all of it, salty, sweet, savory and bitter. Mmmmm. The one thing I would try is a bit of goat cheese. It was wonderful as it was but I always have tendency to want to add cheese (in more ways than one:)

So the real question is… do you think there is a Clementine detox??

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Happy 5th Birthday Tristan

6:45 a.m., I am laying in bed sleeping, I hear from Tristan’s room, “Mommy?! Do you know what today is?” I reply, “Yes! Happy Birthday Tristan! Come here!” Typically in the morning he comes, jumps up in bed and we snuggle for last few precious minutes before I have to face the day. I hear, “Ahhh, Mommy, you need to go downstairs and get my food and do that thing we talked about. “ Sigh. He asked for breakfast in bed like Daddy got on Fathers day. Just a note, has mommy ever got breakfast in bed? No. Is she bitter???? I will leave it to you, to decide :) I reply, “I am on it Tristan. Give me a second and I will be back with it.” He reply's, “Okay mommy. Oh and don’t forget to sing me the happy birthday song too.” Roll of my eyes, “Of course, Tristan.”

I am not going to even get into how the hell he is turning 5 or how I feel about it. There is not enough space or time to delve that deep into it. Time….it always gets the better of me in so, so many ways.

He wanted banana pancakes, so that is what he got, and a slice of bacon. We brought it to him and sang the "happy birthday song."

He wanted hot dogs for dinner, and so he got that too.

Saturday was his birthday party. It was the first year he asked for friends. Normally, he just wants the grandparents. We had the family first, and then later the kids came. Joel and I embrace the low key. We try to keep things simple. In that vein, the kids that were invited were not allowed to bring presents. Insanity... I know! I also know that some thought we were mean parents. Maybe. I just really feel that, first, he has enough. However, mostly I want him to learn to honor company for company's sake. Their gift to him was them sharing time with him. I want him to learn to ask people to share time with him for the joy in that, not for the crap he can collect from the invitation. So go ahead call me mean... I just hope he won't in therapy one day!

It is amazing to see how your children learn the social dance. To see how excited he was to show his room to friends and show them his special things was precious to me. You realize that for five, he is sharing himself. I loved to see it.

Our wonderful neighbor made his cake. It is really one of the cutest cakes I have ever seen, and if you live in Richmond, e-mail me if you want the contact information.

Not only was it a cute cake but it was crazy good (as always Mark!!), and I find it rare to get that combo. Tristan agrees.

Finally, after all the excitement of the day our neighbors stopped by for a special birthday wish for Tristan, and Jillian got some snuggle time.

We are lucky, so lucky to have great family and friends. It is days like this that really make me remember what my heart knows. We are blessed. even if time is not my friend...

Literally seems like yesterday...sigh...

Friday, March 5, 2010


I just couldn’t resist getting this up. Yesterday was Tristan’s birthday and I will be getting a post up about that, however in the meantime I could resist sharing.

I came home from dropping Tristan off at preschool and saw my neighbor was home. He has been going through a rough patch so I put some tea on and decided to invite him over just to give him a pep talk and time to vent. Turns out , I just missed him and so I decided to sit down and have tea with Jilly. We play tea party all the time but I thought I would actually give her some warm milk with a splash (really like a 1/8 of a teaspoon) of tea so we could have a “real” tea party. She was thrilled. We were having such a good time I thought I would give her a lollipop I had been saving since Valentines Day (I am super stingy with the sweets). Ultimately I think it is good, because if I gave them out all the time I doubt I would get blog fodder like this… really this is the “best ever, ever.” It is a bit long, but I don’t know how to edit down the video, and apparently the video won't load here so go lick the link, it is worth it!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Who the Hell Said This Would be a Success Only Journey?

Cuz they lied.

I was excited to start the chronicles. This, was snapped at dinner last night. Jillian did not want to eat dinner. In her words, “iz yucky.” The rule is, you don’t have to eat but you do have to stay while the rest eat. She went… postal. Absolutley and totally, postal. So she got put in the other room until she could pull it together. I simply told her when she could calm down to please come back because we would miss her. She wailed, she screamed… I grabbed the camera. Funny taking pictures of her must have made her realize she was acting a fool and she stopped.

Then she sat at the table.

Then she ate.

Turns out the avocado wasn’t so yucky after all, turns out “iz yummy mama.”

And there you go…

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Breaking Bread

Ever wanted to do something more?

Something better?

Have you ever thought, who am I?

Where do I belong in this world?

I do. Every day. That is where I am. So what does that have to do with you and food? Right? Patience, my friend, patience. This is going to be a long ride…just come with me. Hopefully it will be worth it.

Those of you that follow my blog know that about a year ago a good friend of mine died. At the time I ran a contest imploring you guys to break bread or break open a bottle with a friend. The other day I looked at my husband and said, “You know it has almost been a year since Michael died.” I think about him often and when I do, I miss him. Terribly. He was wicked, and dear. He made me laugh until it hurt. Around him, I felt loved. Since then I have felt compelled. I felt, there was something I should be doing, but what? That thought has been weighing on me so heavily of late.

What? I hear you, but what?

Then, finally, slowly my thoughts started coming together. Still, just this morning I couldn’t fully get my hands around what I wanted to do. I was talking it through with the great Lucy’s mom and telling her, I wanted to change my blog, change the focus of it, but I couldn’t get my hands around exactly how.

So let me back up just a bit. I love my blog. Not , however in, “it is the best blog out there“ sort of love. I love MY blog, in the,” it is mine, I created it, it is an extension of me, my thoughts,” sort of love. I started my blog on the very first day I heard of a blog. I started it, as a sort of on-line recipe box for my family. It never, ever, in a million years dawned on me that people would really read it. As they did, though I realized there was this void, in me that needed this. I was a stay at home mom with two babies and I missed having something to say that wasn’t just about the latest trick on how to get breast milk stains out of clothes and how to make taking a rectal temperature more pleasant for everyone involved. My blog got me out into the world, the world outside of just mommy hood again. Thank god. Really.

Now, I want to take my blog from something I do, to something….more. I don’t want to just chronicle the recipe for a meal I made. I want to chronicle the meal.

I think we have forgotten how to break bread as a nation. We have forgotten to sit down and have meals as families. We have forgotten how to have meals with friends. We have forgotten how to have community meals. Or perhaps, not forgot. Perhaps, just got too busy. We made a mistake. We stepped away from the table. Look around though? Do you see the impact.? It is tangible. It impacts our children’s behavior. It changes their sense of self. It is destroying their health. It is impacting our joy. We have forgotten that a meal is a ritual. It is a ritual that honors the food we eat, how it is prepared and frankly the person that took the time to make it. It is a ritual of fueling our bodies, enriching our families and spreading love. Love. Sigh….and I am back to missing Michael. I missed too many meals with him, because we were “too busy.”

Because of this, our lives, our world is substantially less rich. We need to get back to the ritual of breaking bread. Of sharing a meal and sharing ourselves. So in that spirit, I am beginning my chronicles. I will still have recipes. However, I am going to focus on breaking bread with the ones I love. I am giving your more of myself in this. You will get a more intimate invitation into my life. Isn’t’ that what it is about? What good are we, if we don’t give our greatest gift. Our time, ourselves.

So today, Tristan’s preschool was cancelled due to a broken broiler. Luckily for him he and his lady love Lucy had a magical play date. Sadly for him (and Lucy!) she is sick :( So how was I going to salvage the day? We went to Trader Joes to restock on my daughter's blueberry obsession, and then decided to do the insane…the unthinkable…take the kids… to a restaurant…by…my…self! Cue the whodunit music. Insane (and yes I know myself is one word). Ever so stupidly I told Tristan this prior to our outing at TJ’s. TJ’s was awful. The kids fought and whined the entire time. I fussed and whined the entire time. Plthh. By the end, I really would have rather shot my left foot off than take them out to eat. However, a promise is a promise, and so I went. We went to Maldini’s, because A) it is spitting distance from my house and I just wanted to get near home, B) it was kid friendly. The pictures aren't was is dark in there. I have to say it was lovely. Lovely. The kids were doll’s, they ate their salads even. I couldn’t believe it. Even Baby Jaguar (Tristan’s lovey) and My Baby (Jillian’s lovey) enjoyed the salad .

Where had the two terrors I just had at TJ’s gone? Why were they being so good?

All I can figure, is that It made them feel special. Little did they know, it made me feel special too.

Love the video, Jillian can't even be bothered to answer. Sadly I miss capturing her happy food dance and outrageous moaning of food joy... she is her fathers daughter!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Buttermilk Cheese

A while back Joel and I took a cheese making class at the Complete Gourmet. I have, several times since that, tried to make goat cheese using the recipe for a cows milk cheese we made in class, to no avail. One thing she specifically said in class is that ultra pasteurized milk is not good for cheese making. I finally concluded that that was the reason my cheese would not set up (it would separate but the curds were so small, I would end up with about a tablespoon remaining in the cheesecloth.) and abandoned the idea all together. Sigh.

Then I saw this post over at One Couples Kitchen and was excited to try again. I figured maybe they had the one recipe that would work! It did not work for me and I must say I feel a little bitter they are all happy and cheesy and I am sad and without.

That said, I pressed on. I made a cheese out of Buttermilk. I thought that might give me the tang I craved. It was really good, not goat, but a good sub in a pinch. Someone suggested it would be great in stuffed shells…..maybe we will see more on that later??? Hmmmm.

For now, here is what I did. I don’t think the lemon was necessary, but probably gave some extra tang. I made this up, so for all I know the cream wasn’t necessary, but I had it and needed to use it. Note: there is proper cheese making cloth that you can get at Complete Gourmet and I am sure Sur la Table, however you can use that stuff from the grocery store, just double up.

8 c. buttermilk
1 c. heavy whipping cream
½ c. half and half
1 tbs lemon juice (I used fresh, but I have used concentrate before…your call)
1 tsp course salt
Copious amounts of pepper

Heat the first three ingredients slowly until you see the curds and whey separate (best way to describe is your milk looks like you left it in sippy cup underneath your car seat for a week in the heat, floating in what looks like lemonade?) . Add the lemon. Let sit a minute or two off of the heat and slowly pour or ladle though cheesecloth lined colander. Once a good portion of the liquid is out salt and pepper the curds and smoosh (yep that is an official cooking term) about until mixed. Bundle the cheese cloth and then hang for about an hour to let drip. The longer you let it hang the drier it will get.

Spread and enjoy.  Next time I am going to try my hand at Chevre with this cool kit.  I will post up how it goes.

Remember the Green Duck contest…75 buck guys!