Our usual Saturday tradition includes a trip to the Farmer's Market in downtown Santa Barbara. At some point during our shopping, there is always a detour to our favorite coffee shop, The French Press. Ewan has always enjoyed our coffee shop visits. He used to request to go just to watch the baristas grind coffee, but once Jason started including a scone with our coffee order, I believe the eating of the scone became his favorite part of our entire Saturday morning tradition.
Along with the scone comes a lesson in patience and a lesson in sharing. Our rule is that we all have to wait to start eating the scone until our coffee drinks are ready, and the scone has to be shared between everyone except Isla. Ewan is pretty good with both of these things, although he always wants the last bite to be under his control (mostly eaten by him, with possibly a little crumb or two handed out to Mama or Papa).
We've been missing our usual tradition sometimes lately due to busy work schedules and/ or Isla's napping, so I decided to make some scones at home to fill this void in my life. They don't quite live up to the ones from The French Press (which I highly recommend to any locals or vacationers), but they're pretty delicious, and I haven't seen the chocolate-blueberry combination yet...
Gluten free seems to be everywhere right now. The subject made big news again last month when Dr. Peter Gibson, the researcher who performed an experiment proving the presence of gluten sensitivity in people (other than only those who suffer from celiac disease), disproved his original theory.
I read numerous blogs written by people who eat gluten free diets because it has greatly improved how they feel, so I would never discount that. No one person's body reacts exactly the same to each food or type of food. And when a food is removed from someone's diet for awhile, the reintroduction can have pretty obvious and undesirable effects. As Dr. Gibson states, gluten is usually attached to FODMAPs, so they may be the bigger cause of sensitivity than the actual gluten in many people.
I know from personal experience that I feel much better when I completely remove processed sugar from my diet. I used to feel awful for hours after I ate pancakes at a restaurant that were made from 100 percent white flour (which I stopped doing because of this). I could continue my list and go into great detail about how different foods affect me, but my point is that although Peter Gibson's study was sound, if people feel better when they eat gluten free, let them eat gluten free. Not everyone has chosen to eat this way just because it sounded like the cool thing to do this month. It seems that educated people on a gluten free diet eat a more healthy diet because they have to eliminate so many processed foods and cook real food (like all of us should do anyway). Although the food industry is trying to ruin this necessity by jumping on the gluten free train, offering more processed gluten free foods by the day.
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.
We have been having record high temps in Southern California this week. It gets so hot in our house that I have been trying to use the oven as little as possible. And I don't feel like we've been hungry for very big meals anyway. A small cup of this juice is practically all Ewan had for lunch today when the temperature was over 90F before noon.
The great thing about this juice recipe is that it uses so many things that you might just toss into your compost: carrot tops, beet greens, and the tough stems from kale and Swiss chard. I made a double batch and added parsley to half and mint to the other half. Both versions were good. The mint definitely overpowers a lot of the other flavors, so I actually preferred the parsley version. It really comes down to personal preference.
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.
This was the first year we dyed eggs at our house, so I decided we should try our hand at natural dyes and see what resulted. Luckily, it is more about the process with Ewan than the results, and he didn't mind that our eggs didn't come out really bright. I think they're lovely, but the colors are a bit subdued and don't fit into the bright color palette that many expect around Easter time.
We just chose ingredients that we already had to make our dyes. We used (shown above from left to right) kale, turmeric, smoked paprika, and beets. The turmeric and smoked paprika were both in powder form from our spice cabinet. The kale came from our garden, and we actually just used the fiber that remained after juicing, hence the pink rather than green color. The beets were in our refrigerator. Some other ideas I've seen include red cabbage, red or yellow onion skins, wine, coffee, red tea, and cooked spinach. Part of the fun was looking through our spice cabinet and garden for ideas.
From what I've read, one of the better methods for making dyes is to boil the ingredients for 15-20 minutes. I was going for an outdoor activity during Isla's nap times, so I just poured boiling water over our ingredients and let them steep for about four hours. After four hours, we poured the beet and kale dyes through a strainer. We left the turmeric and smoked paprika alone since I didn't think it was worth the mess of straining powders. We also made a few purple eggs using blueberries, but we didn't make a dye for those.
A bit of beet dye landed in the kale and turmeric dyes, but I don't think it was enough to affect our colors by much. We also ended up with a naturally dyed tea towel as a bonus from the days activities...
Please continue to see our methods for making the dyes and coloring the eggs...