I hope everyone had a lovely Fourth of July weekend. My parents were in town, so we had an activity-filled week with museum and beach trips; blueberry, raspberry, and peach picking; gardening; and lots of cooking. Jason and I even made it out on a second date in less than a month thanks to more family being in town to babysit.
This dinner was actually made before my parents' arrival, but I'm just getting the chance to post it as part of the Monday Meals series. Ewan really loves making pasta with our crank machine, so we did this one recent afternoon as a little activity while Isla was taking her afternoon nap. I like this kind of activity so much better than making playdough since we can eat the final product.
Peach season has officially arrived at the Training Taste Buds household. We have a white peach tree in our yard, and I spend a few weeks each summer trying to let as few as possible go to waste. We give them away, trade with friends for other garden items, freeze them, cook with them, eat a lot, and this year I'm adding drying to my list of things we do with them. I don't know if it's the drying or because we thinned the peaches for the first time this year, or possibly my three-year-old helper/ eater, but we are doing a pretty good job of keeping very many peaches from getting overripe and falling off the tree so far.
One of my favorite things about summertime is evening picnics. The kids and I usually have several picnics a week at lunchtime since we are fortunate enough to live where the weather is nice enough for picnics year-round. But, it tends to cool off so much in the evenings even before dark that we don't do many evening picnics until the days are longer.
I recently heard about packing salad in a jar, and it is pretty brilliant. I used to do something similar, always placing the lettuce on top when packing a salad for work, but the tall, skinnier container works really well and makes for a great presentation when dumped out onto a plate. I conveniently have a lot of jars that I already use for making yogurt, sprouting legumes and grains, and storing all sorts of pantry items.
We had both a dinner and breakfast potluck at the campground, and this was my contribution to the dinner. The meatballs could easily be omitted for a vegetarian dish. I chose to serve this over pasta, but it would go well with just about any grain, or even by itself.
Here's a recipe for later this week once you're ready to take a break from grilling after the long holiday weekend. Ewan actually loves balsamic vinegar (he is so different from me as a child) and really likes when we have a salad made with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. So I thought, why not put that salad over fresh pasta, and add some greens to the noodles?
Making homemade noodles is a very fun toddler activity if you have the equipment and the patience for the mess that almost definitely accompanies it. I have a hand crank machine that I actually lent to Ewan's preschool a few months ago so that the kids could make noodles. They had a great time with it, but it is very time consuming when a three-year-old is your assistant, so we save it for making ravioli or lasagna noodles (neither of which we've made in quite some time).
My juicer came with several pasta extruder attachments, and it's like a giant, motorized play dough fun factory that actually makes real food. Since we got this juicer, I've made homemade pasta a bit more frequently.
We actually had this for dinner tonight, something baked in the oven! I am so happy that our most recent heat wave finally ended, and I was able to turn on the oven last night and tonight for the first and second time in two weeks. We were out of town for part of that time, but that's still a pretty long time for me not to use the oven. We have been grilling, eating salads, occasionally using the stovetop to cook eggs, and eating out more than normal. Anything to avoid making the house hotter than it already was.
Like the majority of Santa Barbarans, we do not have air conditioning, something I hope to never need. However, a couple of back-to-back days over 100 degrees was really warming up our indoor space. It honestly wasn't that bad, nothing like those St. Louis summers I remember as a kid, but I felt bad for the kids since it was still so hot when it was time for them to go to bed. They were both always so sweaty anytime I had to check on them.
I mentioned last week that we had afghan food while we were recently in Monterey. One of our favorite dishes was eggplant that was part of the vegetarian platter. We asked the restaurant owner how it was prepared, and he told us they brown the eggplant and then cook it in the oven for a long time. He didn't mention what kind of spices they used, so I decided to just cook an eggplant this way and see what resulted. I only added a little oil and salt, and nothing else. It was really good and very easy. Plus, I find that minimal seasonings go over better with kids.
Last week we took a short trip up to Monterey for a few days. I had hoped to get this post finished before our travels, but things were just too crazy. We had some friends house/ dog sitting, so I spent all of my "free" time getting the house in order enough for people to stay here.
The kids and I had a great time in Monterey while Jason attended a conference. We spent nearly an entire day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and part of another day at the Dennis the Menace Park. We also tried Afghan food for the first time, and all of us loved it.
I made this curry on one of the hot days before we left town. It thickens quite a bit over time and is actually really good cold, which is how I ate some of the leftovers for lunch the next day.
I feel like Mondays come around pretty quickly these days. It was probably not my best choice of day for a weekly goal since practically my only free time happens on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at the moment. Jason was out of town over the weekend, and I never found any time to work on my blog. Somehow, I didn't find myself getting to sleep until after 11, never accomplishing anything other than regular household duties. It didn't help matters that I had a teething baby on my hands.
This morning in the middle of a crazy breakfast, Jason asked me if it was the weekend yet. I just laughed and told him that my new weekend starts on Monday, since Ewan is able to go and get a lot of energy out and take a break from playing with his sister like she's his new favorite wrestling buddy.
Today, for my Monday Meal, I bring you a hearty salad. It's great for a hot day when you don't feel like turning on the oven, like today if you're in southern California where the temperature was nearly 80F by noon.
My friend, Harmony, introduced me to a variation on this recipe originally. I took her recipe, a mix of bruschetta sauce and lentils, and added grain and cheese and served it over greens, making it into a salad. It is delicious both ways.
I use a bruschetta sauce mix from Trader Joe's in this recipe, and to make it really quick, you can also purchase their cooked lentils. You can also replace the bruschetta mix with a blend of tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil.
My husband and I took several series of cooking classes through what used to be called Adult Ed at Santa Barbara City College. It was a lot of fun, and we both picked up some new tricks and many great recipes. We also met a lot of wonderful people and still keep in touch with our teacher, Jane. She is such an amazing person and a wonderful chef.
I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. Mr. Taste Buds has been really busy lately, so I spent Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday with the kids. We had a nice family lunchtime outing on Saturday while he took a break from working.
I had been contemplating taking both kids swimming by myself and finally went for it this weekend on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Isla watched from her stroller for awhile each time while I spent some one-on-one time with Ewan. Then Ewan spent a lot of time diving down to pick up toys from the bottom while I worked with Isla. It worked out better than I could have hoped.
We also met friends for a picnic and saw many more at a kite festival in town on Sunday. Trying to fly a kite while wearing a 20-pound baby in a front pack with a three-year-old as your assistant actually isn't too difficult until you have to worry about the kite crashing into the hundreds of people around you or crossing lines with the other hundred kites in the air. Needless to say, we only spent about ten minutes actually trying to fly our own kite. And I didn't remember to take my camera, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have gotten much, if any, use in the chaos.
I had hoped to make this dish again when I wasn't so rushed at dinnertime, just for a second photo opportunity. My poached egg was a bit overcooked for my taste. But I couldn't miss my Monday deadline on week two of my new feature (my photo editing software is not accessible to me at the moment). I figure it's good to admit that things don't always turn out perfectly, although I really loved this dish, even without a runny egg yolk. I'm a big fan of healthy, one bowl meals lately. Our toddler really liked this meal too, however I just placed each ingredient in its own spot on his plate rather than stacked together in a bowl.