Friday, October 31, 2008

Amanda turns 29!

Check out those yummy leftovers!

One year ago!!!

Oh, my little baby!!!

Laurel attacks the cake

Laurel's Birthday Party

I didn't have a side table for the paper goods and the drinks, so the table looks a bit cluttered, but it was a smashing success! It was such a treat to surprise our neighbors with the three cakes; our 8 year old friend was in particular ecstasies. That's a caramel frosted carrot cake, a chocolate bundt with crystallized ginger and a bittersweet chocolate ganache (thanks Eliza!), and a red velvet with chocolate shavings. Delicious delicious!

Laurel's first present opening

Thank you Oma and Opa!

Late October in Austin...

...means Laurel can still get away with wearing summer dresses. Sunday was in the mid-80s.

This Girl LOVES her black beans

I have a black bean recipe that's a riff off of Provo's Cafe Rio and they are so yummy - we eat them on salad all the time. Laurel is always coveting our food, so I thought I'd see what she thinks of them. She just devours them - plus it's fun for finger painting!

Prettiest Baby Ever!

Daddy Shenanigans

How Luke keeps Laurel entertained at the table...napkin as a hat, anyone?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Pasta Miracle

So we spent an evening last month hashing out how to eat even more cheaply because our grocery costs have been exceeding our designated budget line item. One of the cheapest meals around is admittedly pasta: a box of Barilla is about $1.65 and you can find a jar of good sauce for $2.50 - divide that into 2 meals minimum and that's a great deal. But man, we needed some better deals. At our house, we always make pasta sauce from scratch (unless I'm doing lasagna), but convenience dictates that bottled pasta sauce, on some days, is more attractive. So we've been entertaining the idea. But the idea turned into reality when our local grocery store had a $2 deal: 1 bottle of Classico + 1 box of Barilla. We loaded up! Our food storage is now high in lycopene and carbs! We've been having fun doctoring the sauces with peppers and mushrooms from the farmer's market.

Today's postings dedicated to Sarah!

Note that Laurel is just getting a little hair curling around her ears - hallelujah for the rest of her hair catching up with her forelock!

Date Day

I was in charge of date night last week. Which is actually "date day" since we don't hire a babysitter very often. Anyway, this is the first grocery store I spied when we arrived in Austin and I've been dying to go. We consider dates a success if they qualify as adventures, and this met our high standard. It caters to the local Hispanic and Asian population (menudo, anyone?), but it also has some great international aisles: German marzipan, clotted cream, coconut milk (Mom, they had small tins of Inka!!!)... We left with a churro and an Aeoro candy bar. Yum!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Her hair is so much longer in front than in the back; sometimes I can cajole her into tolerating a rubber band to discipline that 80s bang, but she's not always thrilled about it. And when she eventually pulls it out, her hair is even more exciting!

Sometimes I sweep my floor...

So this is the accumulation of 3 square meals a day - on the floor - beneath Laurel's high chair. That's the remnant of a pear, along with some baby carrots (she loves to chew on them). I also spy some peas and some cottage cheese curds...

An Apple A Day, Keeps Mom Sane

In the mornings when I pull an apple out of the fruit bowl, Laurel throws a fit until she gets her turn at it. I take just enough bites to remove the peel and then turn it over. It entertains her for a good long time - I can usually get through the breakfast dishes and begin lunch prep before she fusses to get out of her high chair.

Positive Peer Pressure

So although the local mantra is "Keep Austin Weird" (a movement begun to promote locally-owned businesses), it might as well be "Keep Austin Fit". Our home is steps away from the hike and bike trail (voted #3 among the nation's urban hiking trails) surrounding Ladybird Lake. (Yes, that's Ladybird as in Ladybird Johnson. Love it!) Incidentally, this is the same hiking trail that Luke's recruiting professor took him to back in April when they discussed the nitty gritty about the program. At the time it was freezing in Boston, and 70 degrees in Austin; urban jungle in Boston, flora and fauna in Austin...No wonder we ended up here for his PhD!

Luke heads out most mornings for the 3 mile loop; Laurel and I do the same walk several times a week and are proud that we can make it door to door in under an hour.

Yep, those are pictures of the Texas Rowing Center (10 minutes from our house along the trail). Be still my heart! Unfortunately, access for me isn't in our budget these days, but I still salivate over their shells.

So we hope for visitors; bring some sturdy shoes because we'll invite you on a walk while we catch up!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Whole Grain Goodness

Shortly after being married, I began regularly baking loaves of sandwich bread using fresh ground wheat. So yummy! However, our oven in Cambridge was a complete disaster, so the wheat grinder and bread pans sat neglected for 2 years. I finally cleaned out the grinder and have been reveling in my soft, warm flour. I was dying to do more with my beautiful flour when I realized that I had never subbed whole wheat flour for white flour in cornbread. I decided to whip up some after church as a side to a fab bbq chicken recipe (see Cook's Illustrated for an amazing dry rub) and I entirely substituted the white flour with white whole wheat flour in my mother's recipe. Wow! It yielded a denser bread, but it was very satisfying - a heartier, nuttier taste that would be excellent with butter and Grade B maple syrup. (Although I know certain friends of mine prefer to eat their cornbread with either honey or stewed tomatoes.)
Mom, I finally finessed making steel cut oats in the microwave! This is a huge deal! Our breakfast most mornings is steel cut oats these days; I had been reading about them for years and finally decided to try some and I am a definite convert - they have a fabulous texture that can only be described as toothsome. (Yes, they are expensive in the fancy tins at the store, but if you can find them in bulk at a natural foods store they are super economical. You can also order them online at Bob's Red Mill.) Traditional recipes call for stirring it in a pot on the stove over the course of 15 minutes at least and that gets really old really quickly. My mom had been cooking hers in a glass measuring cup in the microwave and I couldn't figure out how she made that work. I think I've done it one better though. Instead of dirtying an extra dish, I put the oats directly in 2 small bowls, add the water, nuke them, stir them once, nuke some more and wa-la! Add some golden raisins, a little butter and salt, and if you have any leftover ricotta, I highly recommend that being added as well. Nothing like some A.M. fiber!