Archive | September, 2013

Breaking Bread and Cheddar Garlic Drop Biscuits

24 Sep Go Running, Mama: Cheddar Garlic Drop Biscuits

I’m sure everyone has heard the saying “The best parents are those without kids” right? Man is that ever true! I’m not meaning it is a catty way here- I’m sure every parent can rattle off a dozen instances that a well meaning childless friend has yammered on in platitudes about how to raise the ideal, well adjusted child- and instead am thinking of all the ways I set myself up for parenting failures, disappointments and otherwise mega-frazzled moments by constructing rigid rules based on what “all the experts and research say” makes the best kid.

By now I’ve learned that the “best kid” is a well adjusted child with a mom who isn’t totally freaking out about how every little detail might derail her future trajectory to multilingual, violin playing, eco-sensitive rocket scientist success.  There is nothing more contagious than stress and anxiety, but I had my share of early parenting moments where I was thinking micro instead of macro.

For starters- We were a “cloth diaper or die” family. Honestly it wasn’t too much extra work in our everyday lives since I’m a stay at home mom, but it did make traveling tough. I was still at a point where I couldn’t allow myself to move away from not cloth diapering for a brief moment in time. It’s what is best for my child. I kept fretting. It’s what’s best for the environment. For some reason, I was convinced that using a disposable diaper would condemn me to early parenting failure. I would be a quitter.

And the last thing a hyper-hormonal, post partum woman needs is to feel like a quitter.

So when we moved from Chicago to Austin and the washer and dryer didn’t arrive for over a week, I insisted on hand washing and line drying all of our diapers while caring for an infant. I nearly lost my mind. More importantly, I think I also nearly drove my husband out of his. Boxes to unpack, damaged items to catalogue, 110 degree temperatures, and a crazy woman greeting him at the end of each day wearing a baby in a carrier and silently weeping over the fact that the diapers weren’t soft enough when they line dried. In reality, it probably wasn’t as bad as I’m picturing… but then again maybe it was.

It didn’t matter. I couldn’t give myself a break or cut myself some slack. I wasn’t ready for that yet. I wasn’t confident enough in my mothering abilities to realize that giving myself the flexibility to make changes in my style and unrealistic expectations wasn’t going to ruin my child. But time progressed… and I learned to relax. We took a few vacations during which I allowed myself to use disposable diapers. When Baby Bird moved up to trainers and the cloth ones we purchased were too big for her little thigh, I allowed myself to switch to disposables. Now she would fit into cloth trainers, but I’ve kept her in Honest Company training pants (which makes me feel less bad about my cloth diaper divorce) because I’m okay with not having to do the extra load of laundry.

Okay… so I could be swayed on types of diapers, but there was no way I was going to fold on my next parenting ideal- facilitating Baby Bird growing up in a world devoid of pink washing.

Go Running, Mama!: Breaking Bread- Cheddar Drop Biscuits

Growing up without gender biases ROCKS!

When we found out we were having a girl, I declared that we would remain gender neutral and not impose traditional roles and gender expectations. Nothing pink… nothing rhinestone… nothing princess… which worked for awhile. We were even able to manage a very gender neutral “SXSW” themed first birthday. Shortly after said birthday Baby Bird’s independent personality arrived which, as it turns out, is pink with sparkles and a tiara on top.  Eeek!

Thankfully this wasn’t my first go round with allowing myself flexibility on my staunchly decided upon parenting methods, and I quickly realized that allowing Baby Bird the opportunity to be who she wanted to be from day to day was far better and wiser than the alternative- denying her personality in the name of keeping pink zebra light up shoes away from a formative little girl.

Go Running, Mama!: Breaking Bread- Cheddar Drop Biscuits

When Baby Bird has her say in celebration terms…

And her preferred footwear is still sneakers- pink… but sneakers none the less.  Because she loved to run and jump and dig and build and poke things with sticks.  And even though this year’s Halloween costume wish list reads like the cast of a Disney Princess movie, she asked to be “a runner like Daddy” for Halloween last year.

Go Running, Mama: Breaking Bread and Cheddar Drop Biscuits

We were also a screen free family. When we moved into our home, there was no television. Well… there was a television that was only hooked up to a computer or antenna for Olympics or similar sporting events. I was determined that Baby Bird would grow up with an authentically Waldorf early childhood. When we purchased her an Innotab for a flight, I felt phenomenally guilty. When I learned that she could navigate my iPhone just from watching me and select the music she preferred I was distraught- obviously I relied too much on technology.

One day when she wasn’t feeling well and I had a mountain of email and product review blogging to catch up on, I snuggled Baby Bird on my lap, opened two separate windows on the monitor and let her watch an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. That day she fell in love with Mickey Mouse and learned to count to twelve… from a television program. I was simultaneously horrified, aggravated, and relieved.  I little bit of the right kind of screen time wasn’t going to ruin my child.

Go Running, Mama!: Breaking Bread and Cheddar Drop Biscuits

Baby Bird meets her hero

After that, the iPhone wasn’t off limits all the time.  iPads weren’t evil.  Computers are positive tools.  And television? I allowed Baby Bird to watch a program here or there. Her brain didn’t rot. She didn’t become commercially dependent, media obsessed, inactive, or uncreative.

Though we didn’t go all in and subscribe to cable or satellite, we plugged the television back in and bought a Roku box. It hasn’t kept us from engaging in activities as a family. Every meal isn’t spent glued to a program. We are still happy, healthy people. We break bread together in a civilized manner.

And the hubs and I aren’t above binge watching a series every now and then when Baby Bird is otherwise disposed… which is how we became Breaking Bad devotees. And how we ended up glued to our television at 6 am on Monday morning watching “Granite Slate”- because we can’t watch it live without cable, so we had to wait until the moment it was available on Amazon Prime the next morning. So… I’d call that pretty darn devoted for “screen free” folks.

Devoted enough that when Baby Bird sees the series promo photos pop up in the corner of Amazon Prime each time we open it she will exclaim “That’s Breaking Bread!”

Yes, Baby Bird… yes. That is Breaking Bread.

I’m not going to correct her. I’d far prefer she think I’m watching a show about eating meals together than a show about meth.

In the end, that’s just good parenting, right?

And below? A gratuitous drop biscuit recipe. Because a post about “Breaking Bread” requires the world’s easiest- and tastiest- carbohydrate option.

If Heisenberg wrote a drop biscuit recipe, this would be it.

Go Running, Mama: Cheddar Garlic Drop Biscuits

Cheddar Garlic Biscuits

  • 1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbs + 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp traditional Herbes de Provence (excluding the lavander often included in Americanized versions)
  • 3 tbs palm shortening
  • 4 tbs cold butter, cut into small cubes + more for to brish baked biscuits
  • 1 1/3 c shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 c whole milk

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Pulse dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor to combine. Add the shortening and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter forms pea sized chunks.

Transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in cheese and milk and mix until well combined taking care not to overwork the dough.

Drop scant 1/4 cup portions onto a baking sheet lined in parchment. Bake 13-17 minutes, until golden.

If desired, melt 2 tbs butter and brush tops of baked biscuits with a pastry brush.

Makes a dozen biscuits.

Exhaustion, Smoothie Pick-Me-Ups, and a Virtual Half Marathon Comedy of Errors

13 Sep Go Running, Mama!: Exhaustion, Smoothie Pick-Me-Ups, and a Virtual Half Marathon Comedy of Errors

I count myself to be a pretty lucky girl- things, for the most part, are normally going my way. I’ve got a fabulous family, I get to stay home with my daughter, and despite minor bumps or buggies we are all in great health and spirits! No real complaints… but his summer has done it’s part to throw me a few curveballs.

I launched into the summer feeling like I was on track to being in the best shape of my life. Sure sometimes I was tired, but I chalked that up to being a dance-teaching, marathon-training, mother of a toddler. Life is never perfect…. but it was pretty close. But the summer had a few health blips lined up for me- melanoma… surgery… recovery… and returning to training in the dead heat of a Texas summer. Yikes!

When I was able to lace up my running shoes again post surgery I was tired. Really tired. I looked forward to our trip to Breckenridge because I knew, just knew, everything would be fine when I got away from the heat. I’d been planning a 30+ mile run from Breck to Frisco and back for a good six months and I was already afraid I would have to cut the miles back just a bit since surgery had messed things up but I was sure I would still be able to pack in at least five slow pace, high mileage runs with no problem.

And despite having ease back into running for a month before our Breckenridge vacation, I still struggled through every high altitude run in the mild weather far more than I knew should be normal for me. The longest run I managed was 14 miles. That’s it. A measly 14 miles. And it was a debacle (those details are coming below, for the dedicate reader).

Something wasn’t right.

Go Running, Mama!: Exhaustion, Smoothie Pick-Me-Ups, and a Virtual Half Marathon Comedy of Errors

I get it kiddo. I’m tired too!

So I finally went to the doctor. He listened to me for a moment and said “You probably have mono.”

Mono? Pft… ridiculous! I’m a 33 year old mother of a toddler not a college student. He had to be wrong.

I plowed on through my additional symptoms and insisted that I had to have something to do with heat, or surgery, or anemia. Or- as I was deathly afraid in the depths of my soul- I just didn’t have enough energy naturally to handle all the things in my life that I love investing time and energy in and I just couldn’t hack it as the wonder mom I aspire to be each day. ‘Please don’t tell me that I’m just overextended and can’t handle it!’

He listened patiently and kindly and ran blood tests… including one for Epstein-Barr (mono).

Because, as it turns out, I have mono (and a severe Vitamin D deficiency which is as ironically humorous as vitamin deficiencies and skin cancer can be when paired with my Melanoma journey this summer). I’ve had it long enough that I’m no longer contagious. After careful consideration, he also decided that if maintaining activity kept me sane and didn’t make me feel worse that there was no reason for me to mope about the house waiting to feel like myself again.

Finding out I had mono had a profound effect on my well being. Finally there was a reason. I was simultaneously more tired after giving myself permission to be “sick” and unbelievably relieved and energized knowing that there was a reason for the madness. I can handle my “normal” life.

For a moment things just aren’t going to be my usual brand of “normal.”

I immediately invested myself in finding ways to up my energy nutritionally and have found two smoothies/juices that are helping me power through: mango avocado smoothie juice, and an almond cacao smoothie.

The mango avocado concoction in loaded with mangoes whose high antioxidant vitamin content help protect against oxidative cell damage and support the liver as it neutralizes and removes toxins from your body. Cucumbers contain the minerals sulfur and silicon that help support kidney and liver function as well as potassium that supports healthy fluid balance. Apples are high in pectin which binds to toxins and helps eliminate them from the body as well as provides malic acid which is used by cells for energy production. Avocados are rich in healthy fats, packed with antioxidant vitamins to guard cellular functions, and high in B vitamins that provide adrenal support during times of stress.

The Almond Cacao Smoothie is filled with raw cacao which contains higher antioxidant levels than most fruits and vegetables as well as high levels of magnesium which assists muscle function and relaxation not to mention the amino acid tryptophan which helps to improve your mood. Wheat germ provides protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, and is rich in minerals. Almond butter provides a respectable dose of zinc which is an essential nutrient for healthy immune systems along with protein. Hemp provides omega fatty acids.

I’ve been whipping up a pitcher of one or the other each morning to help pull me through while my energy level is still on the low side.

Go Running, Mama!: Mango Avocado Smoothie Juice

Mango Avocado Smoothie Juice

  • 2 apples
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 mango
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1 generous tsp flaxmeal
  • 1 tbs grade B maple syrup

Directions: Juice apples, celery, and cucumber.

Add juice to a blender with mango, avocado, flaxmeal, and grade B maple syrup and blend until smooth and well incorporated.

Makes four servings.

Go Running, Mama!: Almond Cacao Smoothie- dairy and soy free

Almond Cacao Smoothie

  • 2 c original hemp milk
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 tbs raw almond butter
  • 1 tbs raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbs grad B maple syrup
  • 1 tsp wheat germ

Directions: Blend ingredients in a blender and serve cold.

Makes four servings.

Knowing that there as a reason for my exhaustion allowed me to finally forgive myself for the comedy of errors that was my virtual half marathon. The folks at Jost Running have been kind enough to allow me to run their virtual races complimentary for three months and I was exceptionally excited to run the August Virtual Half at high altitude while I was in Breckenridge. Truly I had wanted to do the virtual full as part of my planned 30+ miler I was so hoping to complete before my summer showed me it had other plans, but when I started to level with myself about what was physically feasible while still enjoying a relaxing vacation- the super long runs just had to go!

I’ve finally hit the point in my relationship where a 13 mile training run “isn’t a big deal” so 13.1 miles at a slow steady pace at high altitude didn’t seem like a massive undertaking in theory. It seemed routine enough in my mind that I made the simplest, yet most critical error imaginable in under-planning for my run. It was the morning that the USA Pro Cycling Challenge was set to leave Breck for Steamboat, so the hubs had left very early for a rafting trip so that he wasn’t delayed by road blockages and had taken a key to the house. Grandma and I were left with one key and a toddler who, once dressed and ready, needed to get out of the house for a walk and outdoor play IMMEDIATELY. Since I knew that I’d be gone for two hours and change- slightly longer than Baby Bird’s morning playtime- I suggested that they take the key and we all started out the door together… locking the door behind us.

It only took me a quarter mile to realize I forgot to bring water, so I quickly circled back to the house… that was locked. I did a few loops looking for Grandma and Baby Bird on their walk with no luck but didn’t want to waste too much time because I didn’t know how USA Pro Challenge closures might affect me coming back into town if I delayed my run too long. Plus, its was only 13.1 miles….

Less than two miles in my legs already felt like lead as had become the tradition in my runs over the past few weeks (Of course, I had know idea that I had mono!) which was insanely frustrating since I was maintaining a slow, even pace. Trying to focus on anything besides my heavy legs, I let my mind drift to the fact that…. I was a little thirsty.

Wait… No. Don’t think about that. Plus, the Fire Department always has a water station on the trail four miles out.

Just as I remembered, the Fire Station had water jugs set out for runners on the Summit County Rec Trail just past four miles. And they were empty. And I was tired. I assured my inner genius I should stay committed to this debacle by convincing myself that I could hold out and push slightly beyond where I had planned to turn around until mile 7 on the trail that passed by the high school athletics field- surely there would be a water fountain out there!

Mile seven was an enlightening one. I learned that, in fact, there is not a water fountain available to the public at the sports field. And I remembered that using that as my turn around point meant that the return seven would be uphill. Now, if I’d turned around half a mile early it still would have been up hill… but it would have been at least a half mile less of uphill at 9,000+ feet without any water.

I paused my watch to think.

Herein lies the true beauty of this being a virtual race- had it been a normal race this is where I would have decided to admit personal defeat for the first time and thrown in the towel (of course… they would have had water at every mile so I would have felt less defeated, but that’s beside the point) but as it was it was the only person I was currently beholden to was myself and I needed a second to think.

I paused my watch.

Time needed to stop for a moment. This run was simply me against me… me with me… and my personal course rules that day allowed me to recollect myself before pressing forward. I needed to think for a moment about why I run.

Go Running, Mama!: Exhaustion, Smoothie Pick-Me-Ups, and a Virtual Half Marathon Comedy of Errors

I thought about my inspiring husband, my beautiful baby girl, and the community or runners I have met. I thought about my health- beyond the exhaustion- and happiness. I looked around me at the mountains and back at the path that was appearing deceptively flat, I took a deep breathe, snapped a quick photo of the moment that kept me going, and clicked my watch back on- it was time for life to keep moving.

The beauty of my surroundings and my own internal drive kept me moving for the next three miles until reality in the form of dehydration, altitude, and undiagnosed mono kicked me in the gut and my slow pace went to sloooooow pace. I planned to ask the next cyclist who would pay attention to me on the trail if they had extra water, but everyone was in a major hurry to get into Breckenridge to watch the USA Pro cyclists head to Steamboat. I was closer to a jog by the time I passed a little furniture shop that apparently normally has water setup for runner but didn’t on that day. I must have looked pretty defeated at the time, because the sweet owner was outside and asked me if I needed to come in for a drink.

Pause.

That’s when the exhaustion really caught up with me. All I could think about was how tired I was and, as I stepped back outside, I noticed that on the main road there was a bus stop.

And I stopped my watch.

I decided to throw in the towel.

I sat down at the bus stop and waited, trying not to think about the fact that I had quit.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And finally figured out that busses wouldn’t be running until USA Pro Challenge had completely exited Breck.

I was four miles from home. I couldn’t call anyone to get me because the roads were closed.

I had two choices- run or walk.

I chose run.

I looked down at my watch and noted the time but left it off. These last four miles weren’t going to be about pace… they were going to be about me and my state of mind. Despite the fact that my footwear choice for the day was road running shoes, I decided skip off the rec trail and run the path along Blue River on the was back- if it was going to just be about me, I wanted it to be as scenic as possible.

Go Running, Mama!: Exhaustion, Smoothie Pick-Me-Ups, and a Virtual Half Marathon Comedy of Errors

Ironically, this became the best part of my run- pace wise and peace of mind wise. Focusing on the trail took my focus off of the rest of my struggles that day. I ended on my own terms and smiling… mentally.

In the end, it took me 2 hours and 22 minutes of running time to make it from our house to the high school back to Main Street- about 14 miles in distance. I’m glad I gave myself the flexibility and freedom that day to focus on what I did instead of getting caught up in the moments where I was doing nothing.

And I learned first hand how important it is to be properly prepared for every run.

And I took a really good nap.

Maple Bacon Biscuits

12 Sep Go Running, Mama!: Maple Bacon Biscuits

Hi, my name is Jenn and I’m about to make your weekend breakfast awesome. Legitimately awesome. Objectively awesome.

Maybe not healthy… but awesome.

Around here, weekends are about the long run. Which also means Sundays are about the equally important “post long run breakfast.” Usually that means pancakes, but that is a serious undertaking in our household because I strongly believe the only classic pancakes worth making are those with stiffly beaten egg whites incorporated throughout which means that they are only good straight off the skillet- no pre-making, early prepping, or-gasp- freezing excess for the next weekend allowed… because that would make pancakes with beaten egg whites just terrible. Flat, mealy, gritty….Ick! And this makes me sad because pre-making, early prepping, and freezing leftovers for easy breakfasts later in the week are basically the first three bullet points on my Mommy Kitchen Creed.

Last weekend I had biscuits on the brain after receiving a heavy dose of undeserved praise the previous night for the ultra easy cheddar biscuits I toted to accompany minestrone soup at our best-running-family-freinds’ house along with some thick cut apple cinnamon smoked bacon that was a prime candidate for post long run breakfast. Bacon biscuits and scrambled eggs seemed like an obvious conclusion to reach. It took about thiry seconds to find a recipe on Joy the Baker for Brown Sugar Bacon Biscuits that was an ideal jumping off point. And Joy was onto something that makes me really happy- the combo of baconiness and sweetness.

Yep, I’m one of those cliche individuals who loves the idea of bacon and sweets… as an occasional treat, of course I love the Vogues Bacon Chocolate bar. At the donut shop, I opt for a maple bacon donut. One of my running teams has a “bacon challenge” during marathons (Endurance Sports Connection/Run Disney so I can Eat Disney shout-out!). I own both smoked bacon sugar and maple salt. Because those things make sense together. They are good- cliches, trends, and faux hipness aside.

Sweet/salty combinations are undeniably amazing. The king and queen of this regal pairing? Bacon and maple syrup.

Okay, so bacon and maple syrup it is.

I played around with the inspiration recipe just a bit in order to form my own perfect marriage of maple and bacon in biscuit. And, as I said before, it’s awesome.

Please run before you eat these- because chances are you aren’t stopping with just one!

Go Running, Mama!: Maple Bacon Biscuits

Maple Bacon Biscuits

  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 tbs brown sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • butcher’s cut pepper (very coarsely ground)
  • 3/4 c cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 c + 1/2 c grade B maple syrup
  • 3/4 c buttermilk

Directions: Preheat oven to 370 degrees F.

Line baking sheet with foil and spread slices of bacon into a single layer. Sprinkle with pepper and bake until crisp, 15-17 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F.

Remove to layered paper towels to cool and drain. When cool to the touch, chop into medium chunks and set aside.

Add flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and a generous 1/2 tsp butcher’s cut pepper to the bowl on a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until flour mixture resembles a very coarse meal and butter has broken into pea-sized chunks. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, maple syrup, and egg. Add to four mixture and stir to incorporate, adding bacon immediately after buttermilk mixture.

Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead several times just to incorporate, being careful not to overwork dough.

Roll or at dough into 1.5 inch thickness and cut into circles using a biscuit cutter. Reshape dough to make additional biscuits with scraps, being careful not to manipulate dough to the point that the butter begins to melt (shape biscuits away from the oven!).

Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Remove biscuits from baking sheet to a cooling rack placed over parchment and drizzle each with 1/2 tsp grade B maple syrup before serving.

Makes about two dozen biscuits.

Kale and Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Kale Chips and Pine Nuts

10 Sep Go Running, Mama!: Kale Cauliflower Soup with Pine Nuts

There are three publications I wait for with bated breath- Martha Stewart Living, Nutrition Action Healthletter, and each and every Williams Sonoma catalogue. And, although the first two are completely amazing, my favorite is probably the Williams Sonoma Catalogue. There’s just something about paging through such a well curated and expertly styled selection of kitchen goods that is euphoria inducing. A hot bath, a quiet house, and a moment to daydream about how chic the agrarian trend of beekeeping could be? Oh Martha, wouldn’t you be proud of this stay-at-home-hot-mess if as I jarred my own honey and wrapped each one in a washcloth I knit with the Purl Soho kit and tied them off with a homemade Lifestyle Crafts letterpress tag. But alas… handicraft hobbies are pricey and Baby Bird’s schooling can’t be paid for in macrame tchotchkes, so those ambitious daydreams will continue to live tantalizingly on the pages of each William Sonoma book of temptation.

A few weeks ago we had a mail day that produced the trifecta- Martha, Nutrition, and WS… Hooray! After Baby Bird’s bedtime, I cozied into bed to scheme about what I can’t wait to make (Plums with Sparkling Wine, Black Pepper, and Tarragon), what steps I need to take to improve my health (looking over the US nutrition report card made me glad the plums topped my “to be cooked” list instead of the beautiful flourless chocolate espresso cake), and what kitchen goodie I’d love to get my hands on (obviously, I could be creating far superior pizzas if I had a pizza peel). As I devoured the pages of the WS catalogue, tucked onto a page with the new VitaMix blenders that are short and squat enough to fit under the cabinet on the countertop (right after I have a special pull out drawer made for my VitaMix during our kitchen remodel no less) was a recipe for Kale and Cauliflower Soup.

I’m a sucker for a nutritious, healthful soup and an absolute kale nut so it was immediately bumped above all the recipes from the September issue of Living on my “must Make” list. I made a few adjustments to suit our tastes at home- I eliminated the celery and doubled the kale along with cutting back on the vegetable stock to create a thicker soup. I also opted to season my kale chips with blood orange pepper- my newest spice obsession.

It was easy, yummy and nourishing. This is one we will definitely be revisiting as we start into Autumn and dream of crisp weather that we will never see here in Austin.

Go Running, Mama!: Kale Cauliflower Soup with Pine Nuts

Kale Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Kale Chips and Pine Nuts

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 bunches curly kale, stems removed, leaves chopped, keeping each bunch separate
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 4 c vegetable stock
  • 1 c water
  • 1/3 c pine nuts
  • olive oil
  • butcher cut pepper
  • Maldon sea salt
  • blood orange pepper

Directions: Preheat over to 450 degrees F.

Toss cauliflower florets with 2 tbs olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally. Roast 20-25 minutes, until edges are golden and crisp.

Reduce oven to 300 degrees F.

Toss one bunch of kale with 1 tbs olive oil and season with salt and blood orange pepper. Arrange in a single layer on baking sheet. Roast, rotating half way through and stirring several times, for about 25-30 minutes until kale is crisp.

Meanwhile, in a stock pot over medium heat, saute the onion in 2 tbs olive oil until tender. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cauliflower and broth and increase heat to medium-high to simmer.  Cover, reduce to medium-low and cook 10 minutes.  Stir in the remaining bunch of kale, increase heat to medium and cook uncovered for 10 minutes.

Puree soup in blender or using an immersion blender.  Top bowls of soup with kale chips and pine nuts.  Add kale chips immediately before serving as they will lose crispness once in the soup.

Fly High Baby Bird

9 Sep Go Running, Mama!: Fly High Baby Bird

The new school year has begun and once again my two and a half year old little Baby Bird is home with me. I love it. I absolutely love our time together. This fabulous stay-at-home momminess is what I wanted so badly when I was picturing the ideals of motherhood as I incubated my little one for nine months. Eleven months out of the year I am confident that my decision to stay home and have my daughter at home with me are the right decision for us.

But right now I’m in the midst of that one month that makes me doubt my choice ever so slightly- Back to School month.

My social media, email, text inbox, and even mailbox are flooded once again with “first day” photos taken by other mothers I love and respect of their children- many the same age of Baby Bird- embarking on the journey of education outside of the home with a new lunch tote and big big smile.

My reasons for not enrolling Baby Bird in early education are valid- As a former educator I’m easily qualified to facilitate creative play and scaffold early academic skills. We can work on basic life skills in real situations. I’m always aware of her areas of deficit and advancement through our constant interaction. And we have no shortage of peer group playdates. Rough days can be rough days. Our schedule is ever flexible.

But just as valid are the reasons that other mothers I respect choose to send their children to early childhood programs- Their sons and daughters are learning to accept instruction and feedback from other adults. Their peer group reaches beyond the scope of mom’s hand-selected playgroup. Their growth is monitored through someone else’s lens with a broader perspective. They learn to navigate rough days. Their schedule marches on.

This summer I decided that the ideal compromise would be to enroll Baby Bird in one day of the Mothers’ Day Out performance arts program at the dance studio where I teach class. She is familiar with the location, the teachers, and loves dance and art and I can get some work taken care of one morning a week while watching her dance and play with peers on the studio monitors. Win/win!

And yet, as the beginning of the school year approached I couldn’t help but wonder if I was making the right decision. Could Mothers’ Day Out stand in for a “school” experience? Was she going to get something out of the program, or was it simply for me?

If Baby Bird was going to be involved in a program, I wanted her to be excited and invested in it.  I just could n’t wrap my head around how a 2.5 year old could be genuinely invested in something.  Luckily, the universe has a way of working things out for me.

A week before fall semester was to begin, Baby Bird and I spent a considerable amount of time at the studio helping get everything ready for the new year.  During that time our studio dance company, Push, was present seven hours a day for choreography camp.  Each day, I would sneak Baby Bird into the studios so that she could watch the dancers in person who so captivated her on the monitors and through the studio windows.

Her response made me feel immediately at ease with my decision to enroll her in Mothers’ Day Out at the studio as well as immensely excited about what the art of dance has to offer her in the future.  At the end of the week, I couldn’t help but share my observations with the company directors Kristin and Danielle (edited only to remove Baby Bird’s real name):

Go Running, Mama!: Fly High Baby Bird

Baby Bird with some of the older Push Company members

Kristin and Danielle-

I know y’all have been working unbelievably hard this week and I wanted to take a moment to share a little something with you from our family’s personal experience.
Baby Bird is no stranger to our studio, nor does she cross paths with many strangers at Balance- most students and parents know her by name at this point. It should come as no surprise that she loves to dance given her continued exposure to studio life and her access to caring, nurturing instruction.
Despite her frequent appearances at the studio year round, this week has provided her a unique opportunity to experience dance through the eyes and emotions of other young dancers- an opportunity normally only experienced by current company members- by being present at the studio in the whirlwind of choreography camp.
And something magical is happening within her little soul.
I’ve taught little ones for many years, so as an instructor I felt up until this week that I understood the depth with which a preschooler could love dance. For them “love” is enjoyment, a pastime, a hobby that consumes them when present but not much beyond that. If you had asked me Monday evening, I would still have told you that a toddler couldn’t be moved by dance. Couldn’t be captivated. Couldn’t be compelled into action by something greater than momentary enjoyment.
I was wrong.
I’ve allowed Baby Bird to stealthily slip into the studio several times throughout the week to watch the PUSH kids (whom she has referred to as “the beautiful dancers” since the first time she was enchanted by watching Mattie rehearse) because I thought she would enjoy it. What I got to witness in my child as a mother/dancer will never leave me.
I watched as your dancers moved her. I watched as their movements captivated her. I watched as the yearning to move consumed her… and has compelled her into a never ending stream of consciousness dance from the moment we arrive at home until the moment it is time for bed each night.
She moves with the honesty and abandon she was able to catch glimpses of as your dancers rehearsed. She is unrestrained and unafraid. She is alive with a very real love for something far greater than us all- the need the express the purpose of the universe through dance.
It’s been a long week for you all. You are tired, sore, and mentally burdened. You’re focused on the improvements that need to be made with time as the season progresses. Rightfully so.
But please know this- the effort, discipline, and passion that is being put forth by your students right now is already giving birth to the next generation. Each movement, however labored it might be from tired muscles, plants a seed for a child looking in from the outside. Each drop of sweat waters it. When you are able to reap what this generation has sown through their effort I know with sincerity that the results will be astounding.
Thank you to your company for silently and unwittingly giving birth to a passionate little dancer this week. Tiny eyes are watching each step they take; the responsibility they carry unintentionally is immense.
Very truly yours-
Jenn
Go Running, Mama!: Fly High Baby Bird
Confidently, Baby Bird and I both faced her first day of Mothers’ Day Out with a smile.  She wore a brand new leotard and carried a lovingly packed lunch tote… and refused to pull her hair back- that’s the kind of start to be expected from my little redhead.  I know that she loves to dance and that she will stretch her creative side while she learns to take instruction from other adults and interact with her peers.  And she will keep learning from me at home as well.
I’m still doing what’s best for me and my mini-me.
It’s a win/win.
No guilt necessary!
Go Running, Mama!: Fly High Baby Bird

Baby Bird (left) with her teacher and a favorite toddler friend also embarking on her first day of class without Mommy

Thank you to Shawna Hesketh Photography for the beautiful images at the barre from Balance Dance Studio’s Path to Push program.

#FirstontheFirst: Gateau Larsson

1 Sep Go Running, Mama!: Gateau Larsson- Almond pastry with custard and lingonberries

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

If you cook, it’s pretty safe to say that you probably have a few favorite food bloggers that you now follow.  Most likely, along with discovering their personal brands of kitchen genius, you’ve also been drawn in by their adorable personalities or hilarious outlook on life.   One of the pretty awesome things about being a quasi-food blogger is that I now have an excuse to interact with some of those personalities I’ve enjoyed so much beyond the comment line of their blogs.

Recently I’ve joined Kate from Food Babbles– one of my own personal favorite food bloggers- and the rest of the First on the First crew to challenge myself to make something I’ve never tried each month.  This month we committed to making Gateau Basque.

Gateau Basque is a traditional pastry in the Pays Basque region of France- for you non-Francophiles that’s a region that borders Spain’s Basque County and Navarre- made from an almond pastry crust filled with custard.  There seems to be some disagreement over the authenticity of the often added brandied cherries.  The more I read, the more I began to feel the addition of fruit made it decidedly non-Basque and more of a mainstream French pastry.  But the truth is, fruit flavors perk up what would otherwise be a rather plain pastry.  It’s the reason in life that the cheese Danish is never the first to go.  So I decided that my Gateau Basque would have to have fruit.

Go Running, Mama!: Gateau Larsson- Almond pastry with custard and lingonberries

In honesty, my Gateau Basque began to take shape immediately after returning from vacation which is my nice way of saying I was feeling a bit lazy and cut some corners.  My crust pays homage to Daniel Boulud’s Gateau Basque crust without being as complex or fussy (Forgive me! Fussy in the best way, Daniel… I just couldn’t hack it this week!)… and without five eggs.  My custard is simply the same tried and true custard I’ve used for many kitchen applications gussied up with vanilla bean paste in place of vanilla extract or another flavoring.  I baked mine in a cake pan  and left it in the pan to serve instead of using a spring form pan because I just didn’t feel like searching again for the spring form pan that I’m pretty sure was left at a holiday gathering last year (My kitchen is crazy organized, so if it’s missing it must truly be missing!).

And I opted for lingonberry jam in place of the brandied cherries because I was far too busy unpacking to fuss with drunken fruit- but if you’ll allow some posturing on my part I’m going to say I selected the lingonberries to honor our family’s Scandinavian roots.  Thus the Gateau Larsson was born!

Go Running, Mama!: Gateau Larsson- Almond pastry with custard and lingonberries

Gateau Larsson

For the Crust:

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c almond flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 tsp pure lemon oil
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

For the Custard:

  • 3/4 c whole milk
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

For Assembly:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • water
  • 1 c Lingonberry jam
  • vanilla infused sugar

Directions for Dough:  Whisk together flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy.  Add egg yolks, lemon oil, and almond extract; mix until smooth.  While mixing on low, slowly add flour mixture.  Beat until mixture is thoroughly combined.

Divide into two portions- one slightly larger than the other.  Flatten each portion into a disk, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate at least three hours up to one day.

To prepare the custard:  Heat milk and cream in a small saucepan on medium-low heat.

Whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch.  When milk mixture is hot, slowly pour it into the yolk mixture while whisking continuously.

Return mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking continuously until custard becomes very thick.  Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla bean paste.

Transfer custard to a medium bowl, place plastic wrap directly on the surface, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To assemble:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Grease the sides of a 9 inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Roll larger half of dough into a 10 1/2 inch round.  Place dough in the bottom of the pan, pressing against the edges of the pan.

Add custard, spreading evenly.  Dollop the Lingonberry jam on top of the custard and spread to smooth.

Roll remaining dough into a 9 inch round.  Place on top of filling, crimping down edges of dough to seal.

Whisk together egg yolk and 1 tbsp water to form an egg wash.  Brush egg wash over entire crust, including crimped edges.  Sprinkle edges with vanilla sugar.

Using a fork, lightly drag the tines across the surface area of the crust to create a crosshatch pattern.

Bake of 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  Reduce heat to 350 a bake 15 minutes more or until cake id golden brown.  If crimped crust edges are browning too fast, cover edges with foil.

Cool for at least 45 minutes before serving.

Don’t forget to check out all the other #FirstOnTheFirst bakers’ Gâteau Basque this month!