Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day! Cinnamon Bun, Cinnamon Bun, Cinnamon Bun

In a wonderful alignment of the cosmos, today is not only Father's Day, it's the First Day of Summer AND what would've been my dad's 67th birthday.  His birthday always coincides with the first day of summer - a fitting day for a man who was a wonderful, kind and (mostly) fun-loving dad.  As most daddy's girls know, there exists this magical kryptonite to their dad's heart affording us the ability to melt away every ounce of resolve to properly parent and discipline an unruly daughter.  I, of course, had it and you know my brothers were completely jealous.  Kuen also wields this magical power over Gabe. 

My dad and my brothers.  Love these guys to the moon and back.

The man wasn't without his struggles but I'm so grateful that when I reflect on my childhood, I recall: laughter, McDonald's, Disney World and boating trips and mah-jong parties at our house where people would show up before dawn and stay late into the evening eating, drinking and having a good time.  My dad's motto was, "Don't worry, be happy."  Yes, the inspiration did come from the cheesy Bobby McFerrin number from the late 80's and there's even some cassette tape recording somewhere in a box of my dad and pre-pubescent brothers singing it on karaoke.  Oh, what'd I'd give to know where that tape ended up.

So. Much. Disney.
(and we loved every minute of it)

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of and miss him.  I can't believe it's already been over 8 years since his passing and yet, sometimes I feel like he's just out on one of his trucking trips.  It's like I can still pick up a phone and hear his voice in my head greeting me with his usual, "Hi dah-ling!" 

Cindy's wedding, 2006

I actually hope Kuen's rebellious stage comes before she leaves the house because it seems like when us late bloomers do it, we go full on BSC (bat-shit crazy).  I went through my awful rebellious stage in college (also, can we please just raise the legalization age for everything to 30?).  The regrettable tattoos and boyfriends are completely overshadowed by the fact that I just didn't give my parents the time of day.  Years of filial piety rhetoric that was drilled into my brain completely dissolved after leaving the nest.  Worst still, during my cousin's wedding I passed up on (what I didn't know at the time would be) my last opportunity to dance at a wedding w/ my dad.  GAH.  I know my dad would forgive me anything but it burdened me for a long time and now serves as a poignant reminder that my family is everything to me.  They may drive me crazy at times, but they're mine and I love them and I owe a debt of gratitude to each and every one of them.  The difficult lesson of the finality of death came with the loss of one of the most important people in my life.

I inherited my diabetic dad's infamous love of sweets.  One of his favorites was cinnamon buns from that popular mall chain.  My mom would always roll her eyes when we would split up from him at the mall only to find later at the food court rendezvous point my dad unapologetically holding a soda or coffee from the cinnamon bun place not even trying to hide the evidence.  They had the same supernatural power over him as I did and he would chant, "Cinnamon bun, cinnamon bun, cinnamon bun."  Dad was awesome.

Anywho - I didn't get around to actually making these this week but I plan on doing so soon.  When I do, you know I'll be thinking of my dear daddy and feeling forever grateful to him for being so awesome to my brothers and me.  Love you so much Daddy!

Minimalist Baker's Easy Cinnamon rolls (and they're vegan to boot!)

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.  Give your dad a big hug if you can (unless he's a complete jerk..and even then maybe still give him a hug).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Listing a List of Lists #10

Food I'm Loving:

I had a draft sitting in my blog since January that I never finished.  Needless to say, taking a vacation in February was ill-advised since it's a super busy time of year for me at work.  I had something here noting how I hated January because my entire blog feed had 10,000 recipes for freaking green smoothies due to everyone being crazy from their New Year's resolutions.  It would've been a negative time to blog so consider it a blessing in disguise.

Lesson: Don't ask your doctor for book suggestions.  Since my last post, I read this very scary book and I'm too scared to eat meat.  This happened briefly right before  I got pregnant after watching a rather graphic episode of Oprah where she sent Lisa Ling to tour a Cargill meat processing facility (just, don't).  Anywho, I just can't seem to give up the Chick-fil-a, especially since they just opened a few in Washington for the first time since I've moved here.  It's causing quite a stir.  This doesn't mean the smell of hamburgers on the grill doesn't make my mouth salivate, it just means I'm going to consume less meat.  Plus, cows and pigs are just so darn cute.  

I'm going crazy over these chickpea burgers.  It's like a giant falafel essentially, which, marry me.

A friend turned us on to these eggs and bacon (see?  We still eat meat) and it is AH-MAZING!  So glad this local, humane movement is catching on.  

Mushroom Kale and Goat Cheese Quesadilla sounds so good.

Have made this Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bar recipe several times within the last few weeks - super good and so easy.

This Avocado Hummus - c'mon, you don't have to be vegan to think that sounds delish.

Blackberry Coconut Scones - wauw.

Yet another reason to love Trader Joe's, I've recently discovered this Goddess Dressing that is suuuuuper yum.  Try it!

Interesting to Me:

If I'm being totally honest, I just couldn't stop laughing when I read this article about J.Law and her hot bodyguard and just felt I had to share on my blog.  So thanks, J.Law for both having a hot bodyguard and inspiring me to get on my blog again.

(Again, leftover from January...)I was a tad too young for leg warmers back in the 80's but I'm making up for lost time - who else is excited they're back in style?!  I had a Treat Yo Self moment and found some from Target.

I'm new to the Cards Against Humanity world and we played it while in FL (waaaaay back in February).  MAN.  Make sure the kiddos are fast asleep before opening the box.  The raunch was palpable but we had a hilariously good time.  

Just for Fun:
I got a nail art kit (don't laugh, it was on my Christmas wish list) and I'm L.O.V.I.N.G. it.  When do I find time to do this w/ a 3 year old, you ask?  Let's just say I won't know what to do w/ myself when nap time disappears.  I had a little impromptu nail session with Carrie when I went down to FL and I'm so annoyed I didn't get a photo of the finished product.  I feel like I should start a portfolio!

I've said it before, I'll say it again - I'm back (I think)!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Quick and Easy Lemon Chicken

We just got back from an epic trip to Florida.  I say I couldn't live there but I sure do find it hard to come back sometimes after visiting so many of my close family and friends.  In a strange and wonderful coincidence, the 3 girls I had as bridesmaids and I all had baby girls.  Girls rule!

Yes, we did the Disney thing.  Kuen's first trip.  As much as I'd love to get all "Oh gawd, it was Disney and I hated the mind numbing music, crowds, etc.", I actually loved it.  Kuen had a blast.  Aside from 2 rather titanic meltdowns - one experienced when I dared to take her in a race car at the ever offensive Tomorrowland Speedway.  What?  I'm from Daytona?!  She actually got a little violent when I tried the second, even more objectionable Dumbo ride.  The look on her face as she thrashed about as violently as only a 3-year-old can read, "how dare you try to make me fly on this adorably plump elephant with large ears?!"  Other than that, she had a great time and is full-on Disney Princess and Frozen-crazy.  This is something I've tried very hard to rage against but my resolve just melts away when I see how much joy she gets out of it.  I guess she'll just have to learn to love Disney Princesses and still grow up to be a strong, independent girl that doesn't need to wait for a man to be her meal ticket.

*steps down from soap box*

We stayed on property and needless to say, we ate a lot, ON PROPERTY.  Totally by design.  That Walt Disney really knew what he was doing, I mean, what a cash cow?!  They make it pretty hard to get on/off the grounds so it's just easier to stay and make them take your money.  I was happy to see that they actually did allow patrons to bring their own food and beverages in to the park so with a little planning, you can actually get away with a cheap(ish) Disney experience, but we didn't have time for that this go around.  Next time.

How are we going to top ourselves next year??

After 3 days of Mickey Mouse and Disney Princess paraphernalia, 20-80 minute ride lines, being ass to ankles with tourists from all over the globe and sleeping in the same bed as a nocturnally acrobatic toddler, I was ready to leave and have a nice home cooked meal.  I made this a few times while I was down in FL and it was a hit!

The sauce is definitely the best part.

It's one of those really quick meals you can throw together in 15 minutes, pop it in the oven and have some time to play w/ your kid(s) or veg out in front of the TV before the smells from the oven lure you back for some super fresh and delicious chicken.  This is a great make-ahead meal as well and can be prepped for a quick 30 minutes in the oven.  (Cindy - let me know how the crock pot version turns out!)

Note: The dish is very versatile - I usually use chicken thighs (bone in, skin on) because I think it's the most flavorful cut of chicken but I've used drumsticks as a backup.  If you opt for the white meat, make sure it's at least bone-in with skin.  The breasts will likely dry out if you use boneless skinless breast meat. The amount of chicken is scale-able.  I usually use 5-8 pcs of thighs depending on the size.  When I'm making this and serving immediately, I like to take the chicken out of the fridge to take the chill off.  This helps with not only cooking time but more even cooking.

Another note, I'm not writing in any measurements for salt or pepper.  I season all three layers (veg, sauce and chicken) but never measure it.  The amount of seasoning also depends on the amount of chicken you're using and your own tastes.  Just err on the side of caution, you can always add more but you can't take it out if it's too salty.

Quick and Easy Lemon Chicken

adapted from this recipe

serves 3-4

3-5 lbs bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (see above note for substitutions)
1/2 medium onion, diced (sometimes I add the whole thing)
1 to 2 lbs potatoes, diced (any waxy version is good - red or yukon)
1 fennel bulb, diced (celery works in a pinch)
2 lemons (cut in half, juice 3 of the 4 halves and slice the last one)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

optional: your favorite dried herbs - see the original recipe for inspiration, I always forget to include herbs but never miss it

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Dice the onion, fennel and potatoes and place in a roasting pan (you want something that's going to be deep enough to hold all the sauce) and season with salt and pepper.  Juice the 3 lemon halves, add olive oil and any optional herbs, add salt and pepper to taste.  Mix and pour 1/2 the sauce over the vegetables, toss to coat.  Season the chicken pieces and spoon the rest of the sauce over the chicken, coating both sides.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Again, this will depend on how thick the cut is and how cold your chicken is when it starts baking.  I always go by how brown the skin is which isn't scientific at all but hasn't failed me yet.  Make sure you let the chicken rest after it comes out of the oven for at least 10 minutes before serving with rice or noodles.