Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Super Salads

I have been all about the dinner salads recently. Even though I vastly prefer someone else to make a salad for me (it just tastes better that way), my desire for something cool, nutritious and satisfying overrides my distaste for making my own salad. And though I have a tendency to get in to a rut when it comes to salad making, I surprised myself recently with some new, and delicious, creations. Here is one that was especially good.

Salad "recipes" always seem silly to me, so I will just give the gist of what I did.

Mediterranean Salad
-Assemble whatever greens and additional veggies you like on your salad. I used some chopped cucumbers, red pepper, tomatoes.

-In a frying pan saute some mushrooms and sliced onions until they soften. Then add some zucchini slices to the pan and fry them up with olive oil, salt and pepper. (Our garden produced a huge zucchini, and I have been using it in pieces for over a week.)

-Take the zucchini out and sprinkle some grated Parmesan on top. Don't skimp. Don't wait until the rounds get cold or the Parm wont get melty and extra delicious. Cut up the zucchini to a size that suits you.

-Add the grilled veggies to your salad and dress with oil and balsamic vinegar. I also added some diced fresh mozzarella and some chicken tossed in pesto.

Yep, I put more grated Parmesan on top. I didn't say it was a "lite" salad, I just said it was yummy.

Pesto Pizza - On the Grill

It is hardly news that this summer has been fracking hot. Even though my house has central AC, I am loath to heat up my kitchen with the oven unless there is a really compelling reason. Normally, making pizza would fall into this "compelling reason" category. But last year, I finally learned to make pizza on the grill, and now pizza is in our summer dinner repertoire. Yay!

If you have a grill and some pizza dough, give this a try. Super easy.

-Heat your grill on high. My lamo grill thermometer, which may be entirely inaccurate, says that high is 400ish.
-While the grill is heating up, roll out your pizza dough and assemble your toppings on a plate to bring out to the grill. This is key: pizza on the grill is quick, so you need to be ready to go all at once.
-Slide the dough onto the grill and close it up. Let it cook for 3-4 minutes. Take a peak. If it has firmed up and getting grill marks, use tongs and flip it over.
-Quickly put your toppings on and close up the grill again. Wait another 3 minutes or so. Peak. Melty cheese? Browning crust? You are good to go. Pull it off and let it cool for a few minutes before you serve it.

Last week I used the grill method to make a delicious pesto, chicken and fresh mozzarella pizza. It rocked.

The beauty of using the grill, in addition to preventing your kitchen from becoming a sweat lodge, is that you can easily grill vegetables to adorn your lovely pizza. I grilled up onions and zucchinni for this one, though the zucchini ended up being a side dish.

Also, if your children, for reasons unfathomable, reject pizza as a dinner option, use some of the extra dough to make grilled pita. Just roll it super thin, toss it on the grill and don't flip it. It will make a super cool bubble for your kids to pop.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Reading

I will admit that I am not always thrilled by the prospect of my daughter growing up. (Maybe it was four days looking at scantily clad teenage girls on the beach. Maybe it is the increase in eye rolls. Maybe it is fact that in the not too distant future she will be as tall as me.) When they are babies, it is so easy remain focused on just getting through the most recent phase and mastering the next milestone (sleeping through the night, sleeping in a bed, crawling, walking, talking, giving up the bottle, drinking from a cup, eating real food, potty training, binky relinquishing, etc.) But as they grow up, and those milestones spread out, I find myself clinging to the wild fantasy that my kids can, maybe just for me, stay young forever.

But the one thing about a growing up girl that I can embrace without ambivalence is Kara's reading repertoire. We still read lots of picture books, which I still love. But we have now fully entered the age of chapter books. Granted our first forays into this new, big kid arena have been the Magic Tree House series  and the Rainbow Fairies books - neither of which could be characterized as rich or deep . But we are getting close to the age for E.B. White. (Stuart Little is waiting in the queue behind a seemingly endless supply of fairies.) And he is just a gateway to Roald Dahl. And before we know it the Narnia books will be on the shelf...and from there it is just a short walk to Ender's Game, and all of Dave's plans to make Kara in to a super-nerd will be realized.

I realize I am doing it again. Looking ahead to the next book when I should be enjoying where she is at right now. But I can't help it entirely - those fairy books are killing me. Except that she loves them. And I love that she loves to read. And I love to read to her. I suppose E.B. White can wait. For at least another couple of months.

For a great resource, check out Pam Allyn's What to Read When.She not only makes recommendations by age, but she also groups books thematically (books about school, books about imagination, books about death of a pet etc.).

Also, if, like me, you have a nostalgic pang for all things E.B. White, check out this review of The Story of Charlotte's Web on Fresh Air. I was all choked up driving home. Sounds like a wonderful exploration of the author and his masterwork of children's literature.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pure Joy

We just got back from a long holiday weekend at the beach. Is there any better place to capture the pure joy of summer?

All pics by Dave. Amazing.