food · slice of life

A Triumph!

Posing with Candy

Last night, at the end of the kids’ candy hunt, Ari spread his favorite candies out across the floor and dug into mellowcreme pumpkins. Then he managed to convince us to let him have Snowcaps, a Kit Kat, some candy corn (Controversial, I know!), and a Reese’s Miniature. It was all a bit much. But it was Halloween so we said yes — until we were worried he might vomit.

Before dinnertime this evening, Ari asked, “Will I get to have candy tonight?”

“Yes, but —”

Ari cut me off. “Good!”

“Wait a second. You need to hear what follows. You may have candy after dinner, but you have to eat your dinner.”

Tonight’s dinner was London Broil, green beans, and fingerling potatoes. Ari refused the potatoes (Fine, I can live with that.), but knew he had to eat the beef and green beans if he wanted two small pieces of candy for dessert. We thought it would be a slam dunk for him until he gagged on one of his green beans. He wasn’t choking on the green bean, per se. More like he was probably choking on the GOB of butter he felt the need to throw onto the green beans moments before.

Once the gagging was over, Ari declared, “I’ll just have my candy now.”

“Not so fast,” I replied. “I don’t mind if you don’t want to eat the rest of your green beans now, but that doesn’t mean you can have candy.”

“But I want candy.”

“I realize that, but you need to eat your vegetables. I’ll make you a deal.” I was about to make him an offer that I knew he couldn’t refuse unless the green beans were truly the source of him almost vomiting. “Have six more pieces of green beans and then you can have dessert.”

Ari, who still gets his green beans cut in half, selected six reasonably sized pieces. Without heaping more butter onto his vegetables, he managed to eat the rest of the green beans. After he chewed and swallowed the last piece, he hoisted his hands above his head victoriously, pushed his chair back from the table, and declared, “Candy time!”

Marc and I burst out laughing as he scrambled across the kitchen to find his candy bucket.

Searching for the Perfect Candy

Once he retrieved his bucket, he searched through it and went with a more popular choice: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

“You know Reese’s belong to Mommy, right?” I said.

He unwrapped his first peanut butter cup, looked me square in the eye, and said, “They don’t,” just as he chomped into the candy he earned.

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food · slice of life

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I kept the ice cream maker’s insert in the freezer despite having good weather last week for Ari’s birthday. I purchased the ingredients so I thought it would be wise to still make ice cream!

My father and Ari got to work making a vanilla bean ice cream base over the weekend. Ari lost interest after helping my dad measure all of the ingredients. By the time I exited my home office, I found my dad alone at the stove stirring the ice cream base. He had a handheld digital thermometer nearby to monitor the ice cream’s temperature.

As he stirred, I peeked my head over the pan. A heavenly vanilla scent wafted towards my nose. Perfection!

“Do you think it’s ready?” he asked.

“I have no idea. What’s the temperature?”

He dipped the thermometer into the ice cream base and read out “190°F.”

“What’s it supposed to be?” I inquired.

“The recipe doesn’t say. But I don’t want it to curdle,” he replied.

“Maybe lower the temperature,” I offered.

“I just did,” he replied.

Moments later, my father removed the ice cream base from the stove, transferred it into a bowl, and let it cool to room temperature before refrigerating it. The two of us spent the next few hours wondering if the base would be okay or if it was curdled and ruined.

This morning, my Dad removed the base from the fridge and tried to put it through a sieve. It was too thick! We consulted for a few minutes and decided he should go ahead with churning the base. What were the chances that it would taste like scrambled eggs? (High. The chances were sky high since we thought the base got too hot and it looked, well, curdled!)

Keeping a watchful eye on the ice cream maker.

Ari joined my father at the ice cream maker. Together, they watched the ice cream churn for nearly 25 minutes. As time went on, the base turned into something that resembled ice cream… not scrambled eggs! Once they saw it looking good, they added mini chocolate chips.

Once the churn was complete, my dad scooped the ice cream into bowls. I tasted it discovered the ice cream had the perfect mouthfeel. The churn was perfect. There were plenty of chips. Everything about it was balanced! And to think that we thought it was going to be a bust…!

Get this boy a chair! He ate his ice cream standing up in his helper tower!

Ari and I will try making ice cream again soon. What flavor should we make next?

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beauty · COVID-19 · food · slice of life

My Allegiances Have Changed

Recently, Marc and I took our kids into one of the local Giant grocery stores since we needed several items that couldn’t wait for the big Sunday shopping. (If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, then you know I’ve been a loyal Giant customer ever since we moved to Central PA nearly a dozen years ago.) Moments after walking into the store, Isabelle and I spotted three people without masks and several more who were wearing them incorrectly. At every turn, there were noses and mouths in our line of sight. Seeing as my kids aren’t vaccinated, Isabelle and I split up from Marc and Ari so we could get what we needed as quickly as possible and get out of the store.

Now, you might think, just call the store manager. Well, I’ve done this at more than one of the local Giant grocery stores. Nothing seems to change. Things have gotten worse ever since the vaccine came out. Therefore, when we needed more deli meat this morning, I told Marc, “I’ve had it with Giant. I’m going to Stauffers today and I’m going to buy several kinds of turkey for you to try. I refuse to put the kids at risk for a preferred brand of deli meat.” (We’ve been discussing the deli dilemma for a while so this announcement didn’t come as a shock to him.)

The kids and I arrived at Stauffers and were greeted by this sign at the entrance:

I had heard Stauffers of Kissel Hill, which is a local grocery and gardening store chain, has been strict about masking in the supermarket during Covid. In fact, the couple of times I’ve been there in the past year, I always noticed how clean it was. But they don’t carry our preferred brand of deli meat, which is why I haven’t shopped there consistently.

I looked at the sign and declared to the kids, “This is my kind of grocery store.”

As we walked inside, I cleaned my cart (pulling from the ample supply of cart wipes) and walked to the deli with the kids where I proceeded to buy multiple kinds of turkey breast for Marc to sample at lunchtime. Then, we moseyed around the store since people were following the masking guidelines. Imagine that!??!

* * * * *

In the late afternoon, I went downtown to a new stylist for a haircut. NOTE: There was nothing wrong with my former stylist. She’s given me great cuts for the past decade! However, she works in a salon that’s located in a health club where masks are optional. Last fall, I told her I needed to find somewhere else to get my hair cut until I was vaccinated and the case rates came down. (I didn’t want her to think it had anything to do with her on a personal level.) She understood. I saw a new stylist in November who worked in a salon that’s Covid-safe, but the cut she gave me was mediocre and the one she gave Isabelle was dreadful. Therefore, I made an appointment another stylist, but I had to wait five months to get in!

This afternoon, I donned my mask and drove to downtown Lancaster for a fabulous curly cut. Before I sat down in the new stylist’s chair, I told her who’s been cutting my hair for the past decade and why I made a switch because of the mask-optional building she works in. She seemed shocked since she, too, didn’t feel that masking in an indoor space should be optional during a global pandemic.

I got a precise cut that brought my curls back to life. Once I was out of the chair I made an appointment for Isabelle to see this new stylist in late June. I’m confident she’ll work wonders with Isabelle’s curls too.

*****

The grocery store in the early morning and the haircut in the last afternoon have me rethinking my allegiances. And while it may seem like a no-brainer to some people, this has been hard for me. I’m a brand loyal person. (I haven’t willingly used anything other than Colgate toothpaste since I was old enough to make my wishes known to my Crest-loving parents as a young child.) However, the pandemic has made me put health and safety first. While I’m vaccinated, I am unwilling to take unnecessary risks since I understand one could still get coronavirus, albeit less severe, after vaccination. Plus, it’ll be months before my kids get their vaccinations. Therefore, I’m choosing to support businesses that are doing their part to keep me and my family safe.

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food · slice of life

Breakfast for Dinner – Again!

I’m in the midst of two professional book reviews. I’m prepping for an upcoming webinar. I’m in the midst of laying out the Author Spotlight Series on TWT. That’s a lot of I’ms…

I have a manuscript I need to read and a blurb I need to write about a forthcoming professional text. I have a short story to revise for my high school’s literary magazine (which I was invited to be an alumni contributor for). I have a blog series post to write. That’s a lot of I haves…

Ari double-checks to make sure I’ve left out a pound of bread.

My neck is achy. It’s been bothering me for nine days. (Well, 22 years, but who’s counting?) There is just no way that I’m having an argument with anyone over dinner tonight. So, tonight is BREAKFAST FOR DINNER!

Most weeks, we eat breakfast for dinner — usually on Thursday nights. But this week, I have more plates spinning than usual so breakfast-for-dinner night is TONIGHT. Who cares if it’s only Tuesday!?!? (Trust me, my children will not care.)

Right before Passover, I found a recipe a gluten-free French toast casserole on All the Healthy Things. I tucked the recipe aside for use after the holiday. Today felt like the day to whip it out. Since it’s a make-ahead recipe, Ari and I made it soon after we finished breakfast.

Perhaps this video will give you a sliver of insight into why Isabelle has nicknamed my mornings with Ari “baking preschool.” (I can’t shoot videos when we’re using measuring cups or the kitchen scale since that would probably lead to a disaster.)
We made some changes to the recipe so I’m hoping it tastes good because I don’t have a plan B for tonight if it doesn’t.

It’s nearly 5 p.m. My work isn’t done. (Does anyone ever really finish with all of their to-dos in a day!?!?) My neck still hurts. But, my oven is preheating and I’m about to put the casserole in the oven. All I have to do is slice some fruit, set the table (Hey, kids! I have a job for you!), get the drinks, and sit down to eat at six.

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CONVERSATIONS · food · slice of life

There’s Nothing to Pick #SOL21

Ari and I were sitting outside talking about his upcoming half birthday.

“Can we have cupcakes after lunch and after dinner?” he asked.

“We’re just going to celebrate with cupcakes after dinner on your half birthday.”

“Can we go apple picking like we did on my birthday?” Ari asked.

“Apples aren’t in season,” I replied.

“But I liked picking apples on my birthday. What can we pick?” he wondered.

“There’s nothing to pick,” I responded. “Nothing is really growing yet.”

There were stuffies involved in the conversation too!

Ari looked at me with big eyes. “Nothing?!!?”

“Not yet. Soon, but not in time for your half birthday.”

“What about bars? Can we pick bars?”

I burst out laughing. “Granola bars don’t grow on trees, silly.”

He smiled, knowingly. “Can we eat bars then?”

I suppose granola bars would be better than cupcakes for the morning part of his half birthday…

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food · slice of life

Pho Happy #SOL21

This afternoon, just before I put Ari down for a nap, I said, “We’re ordering from Rice and Noodles tonight. What would you like?”

His face perked up. Rice and Noodles, which is a Vietnamese restaurant, has been his favorite place to eat — dining in before the pandemic and take-out since the pandemic began — in Lancaster. (We found it a few days before it was featured in a New York Times article about Lancaster’s global cuisine scene.

“I want my usual and I also want my own pho,” he replied.

“Sure, I’ll get you your own pho. This means I won’t have to share mine!” (Ari loves pho and lands up eating a lot of my noodles and broth every time.)

“Good!” he declared.

*****

Marc unpacked the take-out bags from Rice and Noodles this evening only to discover something was missing.

“Did you order Ari’s chicken and rice?”

“I think so,” I replied. “The receipt got emailed to your phone. Would you pull it up?”

I checked the receipt. Sure enough, a kids’ com ga nuong was on the bill. I called Rice and Noodles, explained that it was missing, and asked if Marc could pick it up in 45 minutes. They said yes.

As luck would have it, Ari had an appetizer (i.e., the pho) that was ready to eat. Since he’s four, he got annoyed since he wanted to eat his entree first. We explained the soup would come first, that it wasn’t a big deal, and that they must’ve been extremely busy tonight since this is the first time in almost two years that the restaurant has ever made a mistake.

Begrudgingly, Ari began eating the pho. Before long, he completely forgot about the missing entree since he was slurping the soup and lapping up the noodles like an animal. (Hence the reason he was sitting in his old booster seat, wearing a bib, while eating the pho.)

“Mommy, I think I like this better than what I usually get.”

“That’s great, buddy! But you still have an entree coming.”

“But what if,” more slurping, “I want more pho later?”

“If you finish your chicken and rice, then you can finish the rest of the pho later.”

He smiled, seemingly pleased by that idea.

food · slice of life

Bundled-Up Date Night #SOL21

Thank goodness for patio heaters or we’d never have been able to make it through dinner outside this evening.

I found myself on Resy moments after my husband said, “My mom offered for her and my dad to watch the kids so we could go out on a date night.” It’s hard to reserve outdoor seating at local restaurants so I was shocked when I found a 5:45 p.m. reservation at Luca. Naturally, I booked it, then texted my husband to make sure Luca was okay. (It was.)

The confirmation email arrived a few minutes later and that’s when I realized that I inadvertently booked a table for Sunday night, rather than Saturday night. (Nothing was available on Saturday night.) While Marc had no problem dining out on Saturday night, he told me it was supposed to be windy. I checked the weather. Sure enough, he was right. BUT I DID NOT CARE. Wind isn’t rain so I believed I could hack it.

As we got ready for tonight’s date night, I found myself dressing in layers (e.g., long sleeve tee beneath a sweater, knee socks). The wind was already blowing 10-20 MPH and gusts were predicted up to 35 MPH. I brought a hat and sweater just in case. I asked Marc to bring a blanket, which he thought was a bit much.

“I really could care less if people think we look crazy sitting outside with a blanket on our laps. I’d wrap myself in fur Snuggie if were socially acceptable.” (BTW: I’m anti-fur and anti-Snuggie. I invoked both of those things to make a point.)

Marc found a fleece blanket, folded it, and packed it in the car.

It was 56 degrees when we arrived at Luca. If there weren’t any wind, I doubt we would’ve needed the heater turned on beside our table. But it was windy.

Marc was reluctant to don the blanket, but I insisted. He was happier with it on. Marc didn’t think he needed a hat, but eventually covered his head with it.

We may have been cold, but the time together was worth it!

Our appetizer and pizzas were delicious. (If you’re gluten-free, you’ll want to make your way to Luca at some point. They make the most delicious gluten-free pizza, using Caputo’s Fioreglut Flour, I’ve ever tasted!) Even though Luca makes one of my favorite desserts, Budino, I couldn’t stand to be outside any longer since it was so windy that the heater beside our table blew out twice during our meal and needed to be relit.

We ended up driving to a local ice cream store. We took our ice cream back to our heated car where we ate it with our heat seats blasting.
food · slice of life

Brunch on a Friday Should Be a Thing #SOL21

You’ve heard of Sunday Brunch, right? Well, thanks to Ari, I’ve come to realize that brunch doesn’t have to be relegated to a Sunday. Since I work in the afternoons, there were many days (in our pre-pandemic life) that Ari would insist on going out for brunch in the middle of the week. Why not?

This morning, Isabelle and I went out to brunch… just the two of us. She had a day off from school and I wanted to make sure she did something independent of her brother. Therefore, I asked the kids’ sitter if she could come earlier than usual so Isabelle and I could go out for brunch. (We fibbed and told Ari that Isabelle had a medical appointment since we knew he would’ve been upset if he didn’t get included.)

I haven’t dined indoors, at a restaurant, since March 10th, 2020. Therefore, I was delighted to learn Commonwealth Kitchen & Cafe was only open for outdoor dining. It was 64 degrees and sunny when Isabelle and I arrived at Commonwealth. We grabbed a table, placed a contactless order, and enjoyed each other’s company.

“When was the last time we ate outside? Was it October or November” I asked Isabelle.

“I think it was early November,” she replied.

“I can’t even remember where we ate since it feels like it was an eternity ago,” I said.

She nodded, knowingly.

We had a leisurely brunch — on a Friday! We chatted about the summertime and about some of the outdoor things we hope to do as a family. Nothing earth shattering was discussed, but it was so lovely to be out with my daughter.

food · slice of life

The Juice Was Worth the Squeeze. #SOL21

“I wanna do the orange thing like I do with Daddy!” Ari declared.

“What orange thing?” I asked.

“I’ll show you,” Ari replied.

Ari walked ahead of me, went into the kitchen, and laid out the following items:

I took note of the immersion blender cup. “Are you doing an experiment?” I asked suspiciously.

“Not an experiment!” he said.

“Are we juicing a clementine?” I asked as if it were the most preposterous thing I could imagine.

“Yes!” he said with delight.

“Why?” I asked.

“Daddy lets me,” he said. Then he added, “It’s the truth.”

(The addition of it’s the truth usually means it isn’t, but I knew my husband was working in the OR today so there was no way I was going to reach out to ask him.)

I traded the blunt knife for a sharp one and told Ari, “I’ll wash and cut, you juice.”

“Okay, Mommy.”

“Why are we doing this?” I asked.

“So, I can drink some orange juice.”

“But you drank orange juice for breakfast. And, besides, this isn’t going to give you that much juice. Also, do you really need a 16-ounce cup for a tiny amount of orange juice?

“Yes,” he replied with certainty.

After the clementine was juiced, Ari grabbed an enormous straw, stuck it in the cup and slurped up the fruits of his labor.

I had to laugh since I was in a Zoom meeting just yesterday where I heard someone ask, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” I understood what she meant, but hadn’t heard the expression before (and subsequently looked it up to learn its origin). In today’s case, the juice was worth the squeeze for Ari.

* * * * *

A few hours after the juice squeezing, I texted Marc.

Ignore Marc’s typos. Looks like a classic Siri error.

Apparently, Ari was telling the truth.

Also, I’m buying Marc a juicer for Father’s Day.

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food · slice of life

Breakfast for Dinner #SOL21

Everyone is happier on breakfast-for-dinner night. There’s less whining. I don’t hear how much do I have to eat or what’s on this chicken? I started making breakfast for dinner on a weekly basis about a month or two ago. I consider it an act of self-care. (Seriously.)

Ari requested cornmeal pancakes when he overheard that I’d be making breakfast for dinner. The thing about cornmeal pancakes is that you have to make the pancakes and the syrup FROM SCRATCH. Then you have to stand over a hot griddle making six pancakes at a time. It’s a lot for a weeknight.

After giving it some thought, I decided cornmeal pancakes could be made tonight if I made them using the sheet pan method — meaning that I put them in a parchment-lined sheet pan and baked them in the oven. (I like the sheet pan method since it allows me to eat with my family, not when they’re finishing their pancakes.)

Ari helped with every part of the pancake-making process.

Click here for the Cornmeal Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup recipe. If you wish to make this recipe gluten-free, then try Blends by Orly’s Sydney Blend Gluten-Free Cake Flour. To use the sheet pan method, bake at 425°F for 12 minutes. Then, turn the broiler on high for 1 – 2 minutes to your desired level of brownness.

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