Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ethan's 3rd Birthday Party

Sophie's cousin, Ethan aka Little Romeo, celebrated his 3rd Birthday today. Sophie had one of the greatest times ever, zooming in on Ethan's million toys as soon as she arrived. She couldn't decide which one she wanted to play with first, so she played with them all. My family is all about the food when it comes to parties, and Ethan's parents provided a great spread. I loved the party. It was small and intimate, but had all the right elements: good food, good company and a very cute birthday boy.

Ethan graciously allowed Sophie to blow out the candles after he was done.
By the way, toddler candle blowing = spittle on cake

This "Finding Nemo" cake was da bomb. Wegmans does a great job decorating.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Valentine Heart Hand Stamp

image via little.lovely

I've never had a good relationship with Valentine's Day. Too much pressure, too commercial, and let's face it...Valentine's Day blows when you're single (and you care). So, a few years ago I decided never ever to celebrate that infernal day again. Fast forward about 10 years and one baby later and all I can think about this month is how sweet it will be to prepare valentines with Sophie. Check out the adorable and easy idea above from little.lovely! What is it about having a kid that just completely transforms you into a mushy sentimentalist?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Homemade Baby Food

image via Honest Fare

I never had the time or energy to make my own baby food when Sophie was an infant, but this time around I think I'm going to try (oh case you didn't know...I'm preggers!). I'm much more organized this time around (I hope). Honest Fare recently posted some really easy and delicious looking baby food recipes and I'm so going to try these!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Vietnamese Pork Chops

Believe it or not, although I'm Vietnamese-American, I've never actually made a Vietnamese dish before. I've always thought of them as complex and time-consuming, but this one was neither. Pork chops served with rice and sometimes a fried egg is a standard Vietnamese meal. It's nothing fancy, yet so flavorful and fulfilling. I prepared the pork chops a few hours ahead of time to let the marinade soak in and when it was dinnertime, all I had to do was simply fry them up. Easy!

4 pork chops (about 3/4 inch thick)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/3 cup green onions
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
green onion oil (optional - recipe found below)
"nuoc mam" - prepared fish sauce (recipe found below)
1. Combine sugar, minced garlic, green onions, lime juice, fish sauce and salt. The consistency will be thick and syrupy at first, but after a while the sugar will liquefy and it will be more watery.

In case you've never purchased fish sauce before, I recommend this brand. It can be found at most asian grocers.

I bought pork loin chops from Costco. They were about two inches thick, so I sliced them in half to make two thinner pork chops. Ideally, slice them when they are still frozen and you can cut them in thirds for more evenly and faster cooked pork chops.

2.Put pork chops in a ziploc bag with the marinade and let it refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight at most. While it's marinating, this is a good time to make your green onion oil and nuoc mam (recipes found separately below).

3.Pan fry or grill the pork chops until the center is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Remove from heat and brush with the green onion oil. Serve with rice, a fried egg and nuoc mam for dipping. You can also brush the green onion oil over your rice and egg.

cooking oil, such as canola or vegetable
green onions or scallions
1. Heat oil over medium-high heat.

2.Add chopped green onions.

3.Stir occasionally, allowing the oil to be infused with the green onion flavor. The onions should appear wilted after a few minutes, not crispy. Remove from heat.

4.The oil will have a greenish tint to it. Use this oil to brush on the cooked pork chops, or the rice and fried egg. The flavor is subtle, but delicious!

nuoc mam (prepared fish sauce)
lime juice (about 3 limes)
minced garlic
1-3 minced red or green Vietnamese chili pepper
fish sauce
1. Combine lime juice, sugar and a few tablespoons of water. I added a lot of sugar to mine, because I like my nuoc mam on the sweeter side. At this point, your sauce should taste like a very sweet (almost syrupy) limeade.
2. Add minced garlic and Vietnamese chili pepper. The peppers are very hot, so use sparingly. They can be omitted if you can don't like spiciness at all, however I don't recommend it.
3. Finally, add fish sauce sparingly, in drops. Continue tasting your sauce as you add fish sauce and stop when it reaches it's desired saltiness. This nuoc mam is a must-have with the Vietnamese pork chops. Serve in a small bowl on the side. I drizzle it over everything, but you can also just dip your pork chops into it while eating.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

National Aquarium in Baltimore

We've been waiting until Sophie was at the right stage in her development to appreciate visiting the aquarium, and this weekend we decided the time was right. Off we went to the National Aquarium in Baltimore bright and early Saturday morning. I was so proud of my little girl, so obedient and easy going the entire trip, even though the long car rides to and from were so tiring. All in all it was a fantastic day, and Sophie was excited and captivated by all that she saw.

Lizards (not scary), dogs (terrifying)

By the time this was taken, she was as tired as the turtles were.

The dolphin show really woke her up!

Friday Fun

This past Friday was the first day in a long time where I didn't have to go to work or volunteer. Usually on any day I'm at home during the week, I drag Sophie along with me to run all my errands. She sits patiently in the backseat of the car on these rides, allows herself to be taken in and out of shopping carts, and generally is a real trooper on these days. So, since Friday was a totally free day, I decided to make it all about Sophie. As soon as we woke up that morning, we headed straight to the At Play Cafe for a morning of fun.

Why isn't the scanner on this shopping cart responding to my phone call?

"Someone" has not quite perfected the art of sharing yet.

Designer Spotlight: Courtnay Daniels Haden

Hard to believe that this elegant San Francisco Victorian was the one in which Danny, Jesse and Joey raised all those girls. Designer Courtnay Daniels Haden bought the house in 2006 and transformed it into the chic and classical home that is featured in the January/February 2010 issue for Elle Decor.

all images via Elle Decor

Sensory Table

image via IKEA Hacker

I absolutely love this idea of turning a $15 IKEA nightstand into a sensory table for your toddler. You can fill it with sand, water, cornmeal, small Legos...any ordinary materials easily found in your home. Throw in a few cups, funnels, shovels and you have an instant toy for your child to spend hours and hours playing with. This is perfect for those of us who are cooped up inside with a bored kid for the longgggg Winter.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Kids' Aprons

Although Sophie's not quite old enough for these yet (nor does she have any interest helping me in the kitchen) I can't help but be excited for when I can buy one of these adorable aprons from Anthropologie for her.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Crewcuts does it again

J.Crew's Crewcuts line is so dependable for cute and classic kids' clothes. I even like their line for boys, and boys' clothes are so hard to get excited for. I just picked up this adorable outfit for Sophie to wear to her cousin's birthday party next week.

And she'll top it all off with these awesome shoes from Primigi, $55

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Roast Salmon and Potatoes

I made a very simple meal of Roast Salmon and Potatoes tonight from Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home and it turned out pretty well! I love the recipes in this book because the ingredients required are so few and basic that I already had everything at home. Prep time was only about 15 minutes and it was nice and healthy--it doesn't get better than that.

roast salmon and potatoes
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
1 pound fingerling or yukon gold potatoes, halved lengthwise
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 fillet (2 pounds) salmon, preferably wild, skin on
Mustard-Herb butter (see step #2)
fresh herbs, plus more leaves for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush bottom of roasting pan with oil. Place potatoes in pan; season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Toss to coat, and spread in a single layer. Roast 30 minutes, turning with a spatula after potatoes begin to turn golden underneath (about 2o minutes).

2.While potatoes are roasting, prepare Mustard-Herb Butter. Mix 1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 1/4 cup tightly packed small herb leaves such as parsley, thyme and chervil. Add coarse salt and pepper to taste while mixing.

3.Season salmon on both sides with salt and pepper. Push potatoes to edges of pan, and place salmon, skin side down, in center of pan. Brush with remaining 2 teaspoons oil, and roast salmon until it barely flakes on the edges when pressed, 25 to 28 minutes for medium-rare (it will still be pink in the center).

4.Brush salmon and potatoes with herb butter while still hot. Serve, garnished with herbs. Bon appetit!

A glimpse of Spring

It's been so miserably cold for so long here in the D.C. area that yesterday's 50-something degree temps felt downright balmy. My "mom guilt" was overwhelming me because Sophie's been cooped up in the house for what feels like weeks now, so we went to our neighborhood playground for fresh air and exercise.