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Chard Battle!

The winter garden did really well this year with minimal care thanks to record rains in San Diego.  Everyone on my block got a huge bag of lettuce at least once this season, and the cabbage, brussels sprouts and artichokes are filling our bellies.

The back bed in the picture below is filled to the brim with chard and beets, and however many stems I harvest, it seems like I wake up to a full bed each morning.  Something must be done!  When my sister was in town, we had some friends over for dinner and presented a whole chard-themed meal, Iron Chef style.  Allez cuisine!  This first dish wasn’t a part of that meal, but it certainly qualifies.

In addition to mountains of chard, I had a sad packet of puff pastry that was waiting to be used for something, anything!  I found a recipe for a spanikopita-esque casserole and adapted it to make this stunner.

Chard and Potato Strudel
inspired by this filo-dough-based recipe in Vegetarian Times

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1 onion, diced
8oz mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 large bunch chard leaves, washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 package frozen puff pastry, thawed but kept moist (under saran wrap, under a damp towel works well)

Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain and mash with the sour cream, ricotta and salt.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the onion until golden.  Add the mushrooms, garlic, red pepper flakes and sun-dried tomatoes and saute about 3 minutes more, until the mushrooms are starting to soften.  Add the chard and cook, covered for about 5 minutes more, until the chard is wilted.  Stir the mixture into your mashed potatoes and set aside.  Preheat oven to 375F. Spray 9×12-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

To assemble:  Lay out the puff pastry in a long rectangle.  Spread the potato chard mixture in a line down the length of the rectangle.  To make folding easier, don’t lay the filling down the very center, but set it off a bit.  Fold the rectangle in half lengthwise and pinch the pieces of puff pastry together.  If you have too much puff pastry hanging out on the edges without filling, cut it away and make adorable decorations.  Cut some vent lines in the strudel to allow steam to escape during cooking.

Bake about 30 minutes, or until golden.

I hope to share more of the chard showcase soon, and it looks like Beet Battle is next up:

101 in 1001 Update

To see the original list, click here.

It’s been a pretty productive month on the ol’ list, due in no small part to a trip that Chris and I took to LA for our anniversary.  My wonderful mother came to town to play with El Nino Grande for the weekend, and we jetted off for a couple of days.  My handsome husband even got me flowers!

85. Hike the grotto in Malibu

Victory!



This one 86. Swim under a waterfall is still undone.  By me, at least.

1. Go to the Getty Center

Lovely!  I could’ve spent 2 more days exploring this place – beautiful architecture and landscaping to highlight the amazing art within.

I’m excited for Ben to get a little older so we can return – we ran into a class field trip on the shuttle down to our car, and it looks like they were having a pretty amazing day.

We got close to being able to cross #4 off the list, but the Rose Bowl Flea Market was being held the weekend after our planned trip, so that was a no-go.

63. Sleep in until 9AM

Well, this is kind of a cheater – given two days to sleep in AS LATE AS I WANTED, my body woke up at 7:00 and 7:30, respectively.  So, I’ve decided to mark this one off, as I don’t want to force myself to lie in bed any more than feels decadent.

94. Take a bubble bath for at least 30 minutes

Again, in the same vein as above – I realized on attempt that I get super bored sitting in the bath for more than 15 minutes.  And the pruny-ness?  Mark this one done.

83. Repaint living room

It’s practically the same color (an unattractively-named Guacamole), but all the patch marks are covered and I don’t have to photoshop them out for our playtime photos, so I’m happy.

Family Meal

I got a little closer to my family cooking goal last week, when I made something that all three of us could eat.  Cooking and planning for Ben’s meals has taken precedence, so Chris and I end up eating a lot of fried eggs and buttered noodles for dinner these days.  I even catch Chris stealing bites of Ben’s food from time to time, just so he can have something homemade.

It turns out the solution, for now, is soup.

I never think of soup as a dinner option – it always seems like a lot of prep for the payoff, I tend to think it’ll be bland, and my fickle appetite can’t always deal with the prospect of eating an entire vat of soup for the week.   But with a pantry full of sweet potatoes and the choice of takeout or buttered noodles ahead of me, this soup was the perfect solution.  I’ve been sneaking spices into Ben’s purees for weeks now, and I found a recipe that, aside from the red pepper flakes, had all ingredients that he can eat.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup,  from The Splendid Table

1c chopped onion
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large knob ginger, grated (about 1 Tbsp)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (I left these out for our littlest tongue)
2 1/2 lbs peeled diced sweet potatoes
6c chicken broth
goat cheese or yogurt

Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a dutch oven or large stockpot.  Saute the onion for about 10 minutes, or until soft.  Add the garlic and spices, saute for another minute.  Add the sweet potatoes and broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and puree the soup with a hand blender (or, allow to cool and run it through a blender in batches).  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and garnish each bowl with a dollop of goat cheese (or yogurt if you’re a baby).

Now all you need is a spoon – choose your tool.  I upped the iron content and thickness on Ben’s bowl with a bit of turkey puree, and we were free to eat as a family.

I think it’s a hit.

Dreaming of Summer

It’s starting to warm up in San Diego after a particularly unusual wet and chilly winter.  Spring is just around the corner (and I’ve got the seed catalogs piling up to prove it), but the last few days have felt summery to me.  It’s just the right feel in the air to remind me that these gnarly colds will clear up soon and we’ll be all cleared for a hot, sunny summer!

Ben and I spent all afternoon yesterday playing outside on the lawn, and when we came inside nothing sounded better than this old favorite.  I got the recipe years ago, and I no longer remember where it’s from (Cooking Light, perhaps), but it’s the perfect warm-weather healthy salad to fuel your high energy summer afternoons.  There’s very little prep required if you let Trader Joe’s do the work for you on this one, and all the ingredients are adjustable based on availability and taste.  This will taste a little better when your garden is bursting at the seams with cherry tomatoes, but if you’re feeling summer nostalgic, it’s ok to cave and get some overpriced tomatoes at the store.

Bean, Tomato and Shrimp Salad (gosh, that could sound better – let’s call it Salad of the Summer)

1 bag ( oz) shelled edamame, cooked according to package directions
1 can (15 oz) canellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 bag ( oz) frozen medium shrimp, defrosted and rinsed
16oz cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 lime, juiced
generous swig olive oil (2-3 Tbsp)
handful of cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

We have many more things to talk about – progress made on the 101, freshly baked bread, hot and comforting soups, and a new obsession with cookies baked in mini-muffin pans.  Be back soon.

In ice-cube form, clockwise from top left: mashed potatoes, peas, chicken.

This is why I haven’t been posting any “people with teeth” recipes.

44. Donate blood

Thanks for upping my iron, Canada Steakburger!

50. Get a new phone

I got right on this one.  My phone had been interrupting me every couple of hours with a ridiculously long error message of some sort, and I was eligible for an upgrade.  I went for the HTC Pro Touch 2, because it does the most stuff while allowing me to stay in my crazy cheap plan.  Now to figure out how to use it.  I can already tell that this is going to make #99 VERY difficult.

51. Get a GPS

Included in the new phone!  Score.

60. Go to a class at the local YMCA

Zumba!  Ay-yi-yi!  I was the tallest by at least 5 inches, the least coordinated, and (I like to think) the most enthusiastic.  I’m sure I sparked some after-class laughs from the regulars.  But I’ll be back, it was super fun.

95. Sign up for bone marrow donor registry

This was a bust, actually – due to back problems, I’m medically ineligible.  I’m still going to count this as fulfilled, but will try to replace it with another goal.

I’m making pretty good progress on the ongoing goals as well – I wrote a long piece in Ben’s journal about his first holiday season, have been reading my little brains out in the evenings, gave Chris a massage, have been doing lots of reiki and even started tackling the freezer.   Go me!

101 in 1001

I’ve been working on this for a while now, and I think I’ve come close to final.  My 101 goals in 1001 days starts today.  I’ve thought of starting one a few times in the past, but somehow have never put it together.  A big impetus for starting now is having my husband and son in my life.  My time is definitely more limited, and I’m paying a lot of attention to the ways that I choose to spend the time I have.  I have one major goal when it comes to Ben, namely to keep the kid alive and happy, but I’d like to keep track of my personal goals as well, to keep that side of me alive.  Without further ado, and in no particular order,

1. Go to the Getty Center
I’ve been meaning to take a road trip to LA and visit the Getty since I moved to San Diego 11 years ago.  It’s free, beautiful, and just up the road.

2. Buy a bigger house
This is pretty ambitious, and would probably happen close to the end of the 1001.  I love our house so much, and I especially love our neighborhood.  As much as it’s the perfect place for us now, I can see that as Ben grows, we are going to need some more room around here.  In the meantime, we’ll get more and more creative with organization.

3. Train for and complete a race
Unfortunately, I’ve been instructed to stop running due to some back issues that I have, so I’m going to need to find another medium in order to complete this one.  Do they have triathalons with something different for the running portion?  I’ve got some research to do.  And some training.

4. Go to the Rose Bowl flea market
Another LA destination I’ve always meant to see – I love a flea market, and this one is supposed to be legendary.  Perhaps I should want on this one until I’m ready to furnish our new home!

5. Learn to sew
In order to cross this off the list, I have to have enough proficiency to complete a simple project, like making a skirt or something – is that simple?  Well, basically I have to be able to do something more sophisticated than sewing on a button.

6. Post on this site once a week for 6 months
This is something that I’ve struggled with (clearly) – I won’t post for a few weeks, then I feel like my next post has to be impressive, so I wait until I have something appropriate with pictures included.  Weeks turn to months, then I’m too far gone to come back.  I’m thinking that this 6 month streak will give me the momentum I’m looking for to set a new habit.

7. Decide about having another baby
Aaalright, don’t get excited.  If this were to happen, it would be near the end of the 1001.    And as we’ve already covered, another human won’t fit in this house, so it’ll be largely dependent on the success of #2.

8. Read a book for myself every month
Cookbooks, instruction manuals and Elmo’s “So Big” don’t count. I’ve got a big pile of books just ready to be tackled thanks to Paperback Swap, and I’m starting with Olive Kitteridge.

9. Meet with a financial planner
Sounds like something adults do, right?

10. Find/organize/archive all our photos
Some are on an external hard drive, buried deep in the shed (more about that later), some are online, some are at work, etc – it’ll feel so good to have everything sorted out and saved.

11. Take Ben to Disneyland

12. Learn more about my camera
It’s a little embarrassing how little I understand – I use it most often on Auto Focus, and I’m sure that I could take some amazing pictures if I read some online tutorials or something.

13. Take swimming lessons with Ben
This one will happen pretty soon, I think – we already go to the pool every Friday as a family, and he loves splashing around already.

14. Don’t order takeout for a month
Whoa.  This might be hard. Burger Lounge just opened right next to my work.

15. Go back to Portland
Chris and I had the most amazing trip a few years ago and I’d love to try it again.

16. Install backsplash in the kitchen
We were lucky enough to have the kitchen remodeled this year, and the backsplash will make it all complete.  This has been so completely put on the backburner (heh) in my mind that I don’t even notice it undone anymore.

17. Have one dinner party per month for a year

18. Become an active investor
I’d like to understand more about money and how to grow it – do I sound like the perfect late-night-infomercial client?  After accomplishing #9 above, I’ll clarify what this goal really means to me.

19. Pay off my car
Should be do-able, and then I’ll be debt-free, except for this thing I live in.

20. Start a college fund for Ben
I mean, the kid is kind of a genius, so this might not be necessary what with all the scholarships he’ll likely get.  If so, it’ll be Chris’ and my world tour vacation fund.

21. Lose the baby weight
It’s not a ton, and I’m largely (no pun intended) happy with my body, but I definitely feel more comfortable when I’m a few pounds lighter.  Now to kick this pesky ice-cream-at-night habit I picked up during pregnancy.

22. Learn conversational Spanish
Yikes – this list is revealing some pretty embarrassing facts about me.  One of the most shameful is that, after living in San Diego for 11 years, I can still only say “Hoy es Miercoles” and a handful of other phrases which I remember from middle school.   I’m open to suggestions for language tutorial programs or recommendations for local classes if anyone has them.

23. Re-tool my resume

24. Explore the job field – go on 5 interviews
I’m a very lucky girl to have been employed at the same place for almost 10 years – I love what I do and the people I work with, but when working on grants nothing is guaranteed, and it’d be good to be prepared should the worst hit. This may require me applying for 500, from what I’ve heard of today’s job market, but that’s ok.  I’m curious to see what’s out there, and could probably use some interview practice.

25. Cut Norman’s nails
The poor cat.  It’s not hard, I just lost the clippers a few (ahem, probably 10) months back, and haven’t replaced them.  At least she’s the town badass, with her super dangerous claws.

26. Take Ben camping
Nothing like smores and watching the stars.

27. Whiten teeth
The last couple of times that I’ve done this, I’ve ended up with really sensitive teeth.  I’m sure there’s some kind of new product out now that won’t require me to eat only warm foods.

28. Sing karaoke in public

29. Have family photos taken every year
I think it’ll be good to do sometime around Ben’s birthday, so that I’ll remember.  I’m tempted to follow the example on Raising Hope (link to the episode here), where the mom made everyone dress up following a particular theme every year.  I do love a good costume, but should probably play this one straight.

30. Floss every day for a month
No flossing, dingy teeth and an extra couple of pounds?  I am a pretty, pretty girl.

31. Take my multivitamins every day for a month
I’m great about this during the work week, because the jar sits on my desk and reminds me every day to take one.  It’s the weekends that are a challenge, so I’ve got to come up with some solution to make this one a habit.

32. Throw a surprise party

33. Visit a winery
Someone recently was telling me about a bike tour of vineyards in Napa – if they have something like that in Temecula, I’m all over it.  Will look into it.

34. Get passport stamped
I may not go overseas, but hell, you need a passport for Mexico these days, so this might not be too difficult to accomplish.

35. Go to the drive-in
I adore a drive-in, and went pretty frequently before el bebe (hey, I guess I know some more Spanish).  The perfect date: dinner or cocktails in Coronado followed by a drive across the strand to the Imperial Beach drive-in.  Heaven.

36. Write in Ben’s journal every month
Something my dad did for me and for my sister – my most valuable possession, and I’m hoping it’ll be cool for Ben to read someday when he’s older, so we can swap notes about our experiences of him growing up.

37. Start a supper club
How fun would this be?  Once a month, or maybe once every two, cooking on a theme at a different person’s house – anyone game?

38. Visit friends in Colorado

39. Grow everything from seed for one season
I’ve attempted this before, and always end up caving when I visit the nursery – the starts are always so enticing, and provide that immediate satisfaction that just doesn’t come with seed planting.  I’m sure I can grow enough from seed that I won’t need the starts, especially after we altered an AeroGarden to be an indoor grow house.

40. Build raised beds for the west side of the house
Well, I’m going to have all these seeds to plant…  I’ve been filling up the beds that Chris made when we first moved in, and have commandeered every available pot as well – I think it’s time to expand to an unused section of our yard that’s currently overrun by lawn.

41. Have a yard sale
I’ve kind of lost track, but my hunch is that the mister and I have a lot of crap that we could get rid of.  I’m sure it’s miserable in practice, but I have a yard sale fantasy of snuggling up with a pot of coffee in the front yard as people stroll over to chat and hand me wads of money for my stuff.

42. Make Thanksgiving (or Easter, or Christmas) dinner

43. Have a birthday party for myself
I tend to downplay my birthday – it never seems like a big deal, and I’m usually happy just having a low-key celebration.  But it’d be fun to do it up big one of these years.

44. Donate blood
I do try to every few months or so, but am almost always too low on iron.  Maybe I’ll go on an all-spinach and steak diet for a couple of days and try again.

45. Get a raise

46. Go dancing with Chris
I might change this to take dancing lessons with Chris, so that we can go to the Lucky Star and dance with the best of ‘em.

47. Go to a national park
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Yosemite, and I’d love to go back in the spring, when all the snow has thawed and the waterfalls are raging.

48. Get tattoo removed
Eh, I’m not sure if this is a huge priority for me – I hardly ever notice the mistake I made when I was 16.  But if I were approached by the tattoo removal society and asked to be their best test case, I certainly would accept. Your move, fake society.

49. Go surfing alone
More than being its own goal, this encompasses a number of things that would need to happen to get to the end – I’ll need to get back in the water, to begin with!  I’m always more comfortable surfing with Chris nearby, but there’s a certain freedom and exhilaration that I feel when I’m facing the ocean (and the rest of the lineup) alone.

50. Get a new phone

51. Get a GPS
Part of me thinks I don’t need this, but I’m sure I would use it more than I anticipate.

52. Organize my desk
I moved my desk into Ben’s room, so it’s not really functional as my craft space any longer.  I need to go through it, organize what’s there, and figure out how to make it use-able again.

53. Throw a birthday party for Ben every year
I’m not planning to go all theme-y right away, until there are things that he wants at his party – the first year it’ll be enough to do a cake and have all his little buddies over to play.

54. Get my makeup done professionally to learn new everyday tricks

55. Go on a family picnic
One of my very favorite things in this world is a picnic.  I can’t wait to sit with my two favorite boys and chow on food out of a basket.  We’ve got a park just a half block away, so there’s really no excuse at all!

56. Go to Glen Ivy Hot Springs
Another place I’ve been meaning to visit forever.

57. Make PlayDoh from scratch
My mom used to make us play-doh, and I can still remember the salty deliciousness.  I’m sure it’s not meant to be treated as a salt lick, but as I can remember, that was half the fun.

58. Donate my wedding dress

59. Go to a church that I enjoy
I’m not a religious person, as a rule – I tend to turn off when preached to, and have never felt a strong pull to any religion.  That being said, I appreciate spirituality, and find comfort in a room of kind people, so why not give it a shot?  I may start with the Unitarians, just to ease my way in.  A Quaker service would be interesting – I like the idea of hearing God in the silence.

60. Go to a class at the local YMCA
I believe I just mentioned that we have a park about a half-block away from my house.  In that park?  A YMCA that I belong to.  A YMCA that I have never entered.  Instead, I drive 15 minutes to the bigger YMCA because it has a hot tub.  If I went to this local one, I could save myself some time and use it to run myself a hot bath in my very own tub afterward.  Makes a little bit of sense.

61. Build a website from scratch

62. Have a facial

63. Sleep in until 9AM
I’m gonna need some cooperation on this one from the 6AM contingent.

64. Go to Julian to pick apples
I’m a sucker for a “pick your own” gimmick.  Plus, there’s the beautiful drive, plenty of fantastic hikes and the promise of pie at the end.  Sold.

65. Get Lasik
Ahh, to be able to see the clock in the morning.  I’m a good candidate, what with my almost complete blindness, and I have a flexible spending option through my work.  It’s too late to sign up now, but next year I’ll give it some serious consideration.

66. Go to storytime at the library
Ben is still a bit young for this, as he has trouble being still for the 90 seconds it takes me to change his diaper, but soon he’ll be sitting up and eager to hear a new story.  Hopefully some of the libraries will still be open in San Diego when this day comes.

67. Walk across the Golden Gate bridge
Bay Area born and raised, but have never done this.

68. Volunteer at the food bank
I used to volunteer at the food bank pretty regularly, through Volunteer San Diego.  It’s a fun evening of packing and loading boxes with lovely people.  As I remember, it’s one of the volunteer events that meets a little later in the evening, so hopefully it’ll fit in well with my schedule.

69. Spring cleaning

70. Read 10 books from this list that I haven’t yet read

71. Do an urban assault ride

72. Take a first class plane ride
Decadent!   Preferably one on which they will serve me cookies hot out of the oven.  Do they do that, or is that just in my fantasy?

73. Back up music on work computer

74. See the Grand Canyon
Family road trip!

75. Go fishing
My husband is turning into quite the kayak fisherman (which means that I’m becoming quite the fish filleter – just as long as their eyes are covered before I get into the room).  I’d love to spend an afternoon on the lake with him, reelin’ em in.

76. Set up the greywater system
When we moved in, we set up a washer/dryer to be greywater compatible, but haven’t completed the circuit yet.   We have some trees planted now that would be the perfect recipients, as greywater shouldn’t be used for edibles, and they’ll get a good soaking once a week.

77. Put together (or buy) emergency preparedness kit

78. Clean out the freezer
I’ve been making and freezing all of Ben’s solid food, so there are about 20 plastic bags with food cubes in there right now, completely covering anything else that might be there.  It’ll be good to make an inventory and work my way through some of that hidden deliciousness.

79. Find and use a babysitter
This should probably get taken care of sooner than later, as there are some things on the list that won’t get done without it.

80. Take Ben swimming in the ocean

81. Learn how to do my hair
Have never known.   Or cared to find out, frankly, but who knows?  It might not take much time for me to look 100% more presentable than I currently do.  I’m going to start by growing it out a bit.

82. Build and organize storage shed
So, you may have heard of our torrential rains down here in Southern California.  After a few days of heavy downpour, our shed’s roof just couldn’t take it anymore and caved in on all our stuff.  We’re still waiting on the insurance people to come out, so it’s just been sitting like that for the last week or so.  I’d imagine there’s some gross in there.

83. Repaint living room

84. Go to a mommy-and-me class

85. Hike the grotto in Malibu
Chris and I did a hike nearby when I was pregnant, but I was too pregnant to do the full deal.

86. Swim under a waterfall
Hopefully it’ll be warm enough on our grotto hike (above), otherwise I’ll find another.

87. Can or preserve something I’ve grown

88. Visit our friends in Boston
We were slated to go to our friends’ wedding in Boston when Ben was 3 months old, but he had hernia surgery a few days before and we ended up cancelling our flight.  I so wish that we could have taken the trek, and I’d love a re-do.

89. Update my wardrobe to be more work-appropriate
Because shopping exclusively at Target leaves some things to be desired.

90. Redesign wedding ring
For our five-year anniversary, Chris had said that he’d like to flank my engagement ring with another wedding band.  I love the ring I have, but I think that I can come up with something that’s a little more me.

91. Save [private] as an emergency fund

92. Go through photos, set aside those to be photoshopped and do it

93. Practice reiki every day

94. Take a bubble bath for at least 30 minutes
I’m gonna use up ALL the hot water, y’all.

95. Sign up for bone marrow donor registry

96. Exchange massages once every 2 weeks
The beauty of marrying a massage therapist.

97. Complete a puzzle
I used to love to put puzzles together on rainy days.  It’s been probably 20 years since I’ve done one.

98. Get rid of the dirt pile
Ach, the pile.  It’s like a living, breathing thing which haunts me. We initially dug out some of the yard to level out our garden, then added to it when we landscaped the curb strips, and it has grown ever since.  It’s full of rocks, so is unlikely to be used in bulk, even when I build those new raised beds, so it’s got to go.  Caved-in shed, blue tarps over dirt piles, it’s white trash heaven up in here.

99. Give up the internet and TV for one week

100. Family kayak trip
It can be pretty brief, since I’d imagine that wrangling this squirmy little boy onto a boat will be a feat in and of itself.  But it’ll be enough to set a precedent, since I’d imagine that someday this will be one of our favorite family activities.

101. Start an annual family trip to Catalina Island
When I was a kid, my grandparents would take my sister and I on their boat and sail from LA to Catalina every summer.  We’d stay for a week, swimming, exploring the island and eating salt water taffy – it was kid heaven.  Chris and I went back a couple of years ago and it was just as magical.

So that’s the plan – I may amend some of these goals as I learn more, but am excited and motivated to get going.  I’ve got until September 25, 2013.  Go!

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