Saturday
May262007

Eggs and NotEggs

I'm fairly confident that J has an intolerance to eggs as well as dairy. I tested him a few days ago, and sure enough, he reacted. He seems to be ok with the tiny amounts in baked goods, however, but I wasn't sure of this until this week, so we had been putting other things in our recipies.
We had egg-free-dairy free pancakes a few times, which were very, very dense, but that can be remedied with additional rice milk. I actually prefer my pancakes thinner than most, so I'm used to adding milk as I cook them. I'm a huge fan of crepes, but since they have to sit for 30 minutes before you cook them, I don't make them too much for me and the boy. He has a hard enough time waiting for food to cook and cool down, so extra waiting is out of the question.

Anyway, while we were egg-free, I found a list of things that could subsitute for eggs ina recipie. As they don't have the pacakged egg-subs here, I chose half a mashed banana and a half teaspoon of baking powder as our sub in a zucchinni muffin recipie. It mixed ok, poured ok, but then it never really cooked. They were in the oven for an HOUR before they even came close to setting. It was like glue muffins. They never browned, and I was going to let them cool and then throw them away. J, however, saw me taking them out of the muffin tin (which is actually silicone), and asked to eat one. I checked the inside, and they had finally set, sort of, so I let him have one. He ate it, and had two more over the next two days, until I finally threw them away. Weird.

We're going to make zuchinni-oat muffins today, and we'll be using real egg. He had three chocolate chip cookies, made with real egg and dark chocolate, but rice milk not cow, and he was fine, so I think a muffin here or there with 1/12th of an egg in it might be OK. I'll keep an eye on it, though, and let you know.

UPDATE; So the oat zucchinni muffins have baked, taking ten minutes longer than the recipe said, but I think it's something to do with the super-havy-duty baking sheet that has to sit under the silicone muffin tin. They still seem REALLY sturdy to me, but taste pretty good. ANd easy to make, so here's the recipe.

One cup oats, instant is fine. One and a half cups flour, 2 and a half teaspoons baking powder, half teaspoon salt, half cup sugar. Mix all that together. In a seperate bowl, mix one lightly beaten egg, one cup milk of your choosing, one quarter cup melted margarine. Then mix the two bowls together gently, adding a half to one cup shredded, skin on, squeezed zucchini. BAke at 425 for about 20 minutes. Done when a knife or toothpick comes out clean.

A note about margarine: In the states, this would never be allowed in my house, but as there is no almond butter here, it's filling a calorie niche for J. I always prefer to cook with real butter, becasue even though it's full of fat, it tastes better and doesn't have trans fats. My father-in-law tells me they make margarine without trans fats now, but I hope I can avoid it all together. As alwasy, I prefer to eat food, not chemicals. The margarine I'm using, Rama, has no trans fats, so that's good.

J eats it with bread and jam, and of course on his muffins. I'll get soy butter when we get back to the states, or I may try a little butter, and see how he does.

Thursday
May242007

O the Player

J has had a fever for two days, so pardon the break. We didn't get much sleep Tuesday night, and I think I'm still tired from it. However, the babysitter is here, so I will take advantage of her last half hour to write to all my adoring fans.

At home, I am with J full time. It's awesome. I feel like I've been waiting my whole life to be with him, and he amazes me every day with who he is.He's a thoughtful, kind, bossy little boy, and the most fun I have ever had. He occasionally stays an hour or two with the neighbors, or with H or the in-laws if I have something to do, but nothing regular. It was, however, very exciting the first time he went to bed for someone else, sometime in February. We stopped nursing to sleep in January, when he was 2 years, 4 months, and so, Date Night arrived! Anyway, I don't have any regular help at home, but I get what I need when I need it as far as time to myself.

Here, a different story. H and the inlaws are working all the time, and I don't know many people, and those I do can't speak much English. So, five weeks into a three-month stay, I got O. One of H's friends was mugged and knocked out in the street, and O was one of the three girls who picked him up and got him to the hospital. She's also an out-of-work preschool teacher, although here they call it kindergarten, and speaks more English than I do Lithuanian. This is her second time, and she's brought a friend each time with better English. J is having great fun, telling me to go away while they play, and climbing all over her. When I told him about her coming over, and how she would play with him and take him for his stroller walk ( I dare not call it a nap walk), he decided she was "O the player". And she is.

In the states, I could never afford this much help. It's about a third the cost here. I would prefer she not have the TV on the entire time they're in the house, but it's only 7 more weeks, and besides, the shows they watch are 30-year-old Russian cartoons, so hey, he's getting even MORE international flavor in his life. As it is, I don't really care that much. The shows are all little forest creatures and stop-action puppets, so it's the opposite of cartoon network, which he is not allowed to watch.

I'm not as much a stickler for TV as some of my friends. He usually watches about 2 hours total a day at home, usually less, sometimes more, depending, but that's what Noggin's for. He also will ask to turn it off, or say, "I'm done watching my show," a lot, so I'm not concerned.

So that's it for today. I almost have a nanny. I feel so middle-class.

-Anne

Tuesday
May222007

Canned food

At home, I'm not real big on canned food, beyond a few fruits, as I've mentioned before. Too much excess sugar, fat and salt, and I can generally make the same thing, only better tasting. I haven't been able to stomach canned soup in years. It just tastes like salty glue to me. However, here I have discovered the joy that is Marks and Spencer, a clothing store that has branched off into prepared foods.

Not having any desire to cook two dinners a night, I have been buying food for my husband there, in the back of a clothing store. I stumbled onto it through a book I was reading, "The River House", and investigated the shop which is about a mile from our apartment. H is fond of the chicken tikka masala, and if you get a can of that, plus one bag of microwave rice, it's the perfect instant meal for him, with no leftovers to worry about. There's also chicken korma, and I got him spaghetti and meatballs, too. I'd still rather eat food I've made, but since H has no hangups about poisoning himself through canned food, he's happy, I'm happy, and I don't have to worry about what to feed him.

Another nice thing is the Marks and Spencer canned food has far fewer unidentified additives and no corn syrup and such, as it is from England, where they don't put corn syrup in EVERYTHING, like they do in the states. So it's not quite the drek that Chef BoyArDee is.

Anyway, J is watching his favorite show, Big Cook Little Cook, another fine English import, and it willl be over soon, so I must go.

Thanks for reading,
-Anne

Monday
May212007

Poop in the potty!

Obviously, we won't be discussing a recipe today.

Since we've been overseas, about a month, we have been doing some light potty training, mostly out of boredom. J is 32 months, and pretty good at holding it and has no problem going outdoors or in public toilets. He particularly enjoys peeing in the river at the bottom of the hill. However, he seems completely oblivious to noticing the urge, and will often come up to me and say, "look what happened," and ask why his pants are wet. It's still all me bringing him to the potty. We weren't even attempting poo, and I would just stick him in a diaper every other afternoon. He's quite predictable that way.

Yesterday when I was laying down for a minute while his dad was home, he started to go in his underpants. he always comes up and says, "Can I have a few minutes" before pooing. H asked him if J could try and make it go in the potty, and J said OK. H left him alone on the potty and he finished there. Hooray!

Earlier that day, while he was peeing, J said, "hey, some poops are coming out," and did a teency one in the potty.
We were happy for him, but never really have made a big deal out of it, and don't do stickers or m&m's or shaming or anything. i figured we'd just go all the time and talk about listening to your body and he'd figure it out.

The next step is getting som kind of warning from him BEFORE he starts, but hey, one thing at a time. I'm just glad he's not afraid of the potty. I also know a lot of kids go back and forth with this kind of thing, so I'm not claiming sucess by any stretch of the imagination. It's just nice to know there's hope.

And he looks super cute in the tiny European boy undies.

Sunday
May202007

Sweet and Sour chicken

Dinner last night was a hit. We had my father-in-law over, and he really enjoyed it. The last two times, I tried new things, and they were just this side of poison. The first time, I had cooked some mystery fish filets, and forgotten to take the giant broiler sheet out of the oven. It took so long to cook that R left before he could eat anything. The second time, I cooked a cut of meat I THOUGHT was pork tenderloin. It came in the same kind of packaging, with a picture of a dancing pig on it, and seemed to be the same cut. The striations looked a little off to me after it cooked, and after five minutes of thinking it was the worst, toughest pork tenderloin in the world, we all realized it was roast beef. By then the slices had been cut too thick, so we couldn't really eat it. I also made the mistake of using my immersion blender to try and make mashed potatos. Did you know you could make industrial adhesive out of potatos? Becasue apparently that's what happens when you immersion blend it to death, like I did.

So last night, Jamie Oliver's Sweet and Sour Chicken from his book, Happy Days With The Naked Chef.

Take some bell peppers, two each of red, orange and yellow, two red onions, and chop them into quarters, the onion into eighths. Throw in a giant bowl with a chunked pineapple, three good chunks of ginger, grated with the skin on, garlic cloves peeled but not chopped, and olive oil and sea or kosher salt. Swirl all the veg together to marinate while you prep the chicken. Do the usual chicken stuff, wash, pat dry and rub with a bit of olive oil and salt. Dump the veg into a big, deep oven-safe pot. At home I use my 7.5 quart LeCruset orange dutch oven, which I probably use 4 times a week. Worth every penny.Put the chiken on toop of the veg, and roast at 375 according to weight of the chicken. Baste if you want to. Since I put mine in breast side down, if I forget to baste it's not that big a deal. If you have it breast side up, I'd def. reccommend basting. I tend to throw some white wine in the pot too, to make basting easier.

After it's cooked, you can serve half of the roasted vegetables, and then process, not puree, the rest, minus any liquid which might be in the pan, with two tablespoons of sugar and 6 tablespoons balsalmic vinegar. I process all the vegetables, then freeze the leftovers in three quart containers so I can just roast a chicken and have the sauce already made. It's so good, I eat it on toast. This is one of my favorite Naked Chef recipes. There are other good ones too, so you should buy his book.

A few notes.
When I say olive oil, I am referring to extra virgen olive oil. I prefer Spanish for cooking and Greek for salad dressings and such.

As always, fresh is better than canned, but chopping a pineapple can be a hassle, and the taste isn't really affected.

Last night, due to lack of resources and a smaller pan, I only chopped one red and one yellow pepper, and used two small white onions instead of red. It was still delicious. You can get red onions here, but the one we had was molded all the way through, so hey, subsitution time!