Sunday, March 20, 2011

Big Guy turns 31

Matt's birthday was on St Patrick's day. It always is, of course, so we always make him green pancakes for breakfast.

This year the kids served him his breakfast wearing the ties we got him for a present.

But the REAL present was that we cleaned out the garage for him. It took ALL day the day before his birthday. We never cleaned out our garage before we even moved into our house and the previous owners had left behind some real trash. Add to that all the junk we've thrown in there over the last 2 years and we hardly had room to park our one car in our 2-car garage! So, it was an epic day. Cleaning it with me actually wore Samuel out which I didn't think could happen. He kept saying to me: "can't I even get a REST!....ANY kind of REST!?"

So then the big guy put on his new greenish tie (for St Patty's day) and went to work.

And then the real fun began.

I cooked for about 8 hours that day! We started with my mom's recipe for Oreo Ice Cream dessert (Matt's favorite).  You mix a can of evaporated milk with 4 squares of baker's chocolate and a cup of sugar until it's boiling. Then you boil it for 8 minutes stirring constantly. This is the top layer.

Then, while that is cooling, (and it MUST cool all the way) you chop up (or bang up in a bag) an entire bag of oreos. This is for the first layer. As in, it is the crust. You mix that with a stick of  melted butter and then press it into the bottom of a 13X9 pan.

I happened to get OREO brand but you can use the store generic and it's just as good.

Then you take a BOX of vanilla ice cream (1/2 gallon) and slice it into 1/2 inch slices until you have covered the oreo crust in the pan. Mush it up until it's one smooth layer.


Then, after freezing that for a while (to keep the ice cream from getting too melty) you put your TOTALLY cooled chocolate topping on the top and then cover in peanuts if you so desire. I forgot to take a picture of the end result, but I found this one online. This is pretty much what it looks like except that this one seemed to use a peanut butter ice cream or something.

But that was just the beginning of my cooking. I then attempted to make Julia Child's beef bourguignon which is an epic recipe apparently. It took forever and had about 18 steps. I won't give the whole recipe here because if you want to make it, you can see it here: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/beef_bourguignon/. But really, don't do it.

This was cooking the pork belly.

Then there was browning the meat.

"Searing" it, to be exact.

Then, things just got out of control. There was tomato paste and wine and cognac and tiny chopped carrots and large chopped carrots....

...and pearl onions which had to be blanched and then peeled (after soaking them in ice water)....

....and mushrooms to be chopped and sauteed, (except, after that I removed them altogether...we just needed the "essence" of them because Matt doesn't really like mushrooms).

And then it boiled and simmered and it went on and on....

....until it was done.

And then we ate it with friends.

And then we had the dessert. Happy Birthday Matt! We love you. And next year, I promise to go grab a sack of White Castle hamburgers for your birthday instead so you don't have to watch the kids for 3 hours after work and listen to me cry while I finish "surprising" you with this fabulous dinner. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grammy and Grandad were here...and Luella was dedicated

This was a big weekend for us at the Harris household. My parents were here. They were in Ohio last week visiting Laura's family, but they came home by way of Chicago to see us. Yay! My kids love their Grammy and Grandad very much.
Sammy is Grandad's buddy and they spent a lot of time together.
For instance, my dad spent a few hours a day in our basement doing a band with Sammy and Claire. It's really cold in my basement so that accounts for Grandad's quilt. Haha! He also buys things off of Ebay that he thinks the grandkids would like and brings them with him when he visits. This time he brought a microscope so Claire looked at things under the microscope for about 4 hours a day....that was right up her alley.

On Friday we got to see my cousins and Aunt and Uncle from Barrington. I didn't get any pictures that night, but this is Carl with his fiance, Abby. They are planning their wedding and are getting married 2 weeks before my sister, Katie, this summer.
We also saw my cousin Hilary and her husband Mark.

And of course they brought their baby girl, Leia, who, as you  may remember was born on Luella's due date so they were very cute together! My Aunt Becky and Uncle Rich were there as well but I can't find a picture of them. Regardless, it was great to see everyone and we all stayed up late and partied together. Good times.

But on Sunday morning, we had Luella's dedication at church. It was neat because both my parents and Matt's parents were able to be there along with Aunt Rebecca, one of Matt's sisters.

I wanted to cry when they asked us if we would commit to bringing Luella up in a home where her faith can flourish. Yikes! It's such a big job being a parent. What a heavy responsibility we bear.
Then it was over to our house for pizza. This is grandma and Rebecca with the newly dedicated Wella Wella.  Does she look any brighter or shinier? :)
The dads (grandpas) had a great time discussing teacher's unions....
...and Grammy held Luella who suddenly burst into fever halfway through the afternoon.
Thank goodness Grammy was here to rock her back to health. :) We miss you mom and dad! Thanks for coming.

Make this on St Patty's day

I stole this recipe directly off of a different blog so just know that I'm not claiming any responsibility for the fabulousness of this food, but I DID make it and it's good in my opinion. A few people have asked me about it, so I'm posting it here.

It's a recipe for corned beef that is baked and not boiled and I definitely prefer it to the boiled. It's all about this sweet hot mustard recipe that you put on top. I couldn't find the mustard sauce at the store, so I googled it and then WAY downscaled it from THIS recipe.
You start with a scant 1/4 cup of dry mustard and mix it with about 1/4 cup of sugar in a sauce pan.

Then, you whisk in an egg yolk and about 1/4 cup of vinegar until it's well blended. Finally, turn on the heat and cook this custardy mix, whisking constantly, until it is smooth and thick, (about 5 minutes?). Remove it from heat and whisk in about tablespoon of honey. Save it for later.

Now, get yourself a really good, uncured piece of corned beef (I got mine from my meat coop and it was awesome. Then, I got it from Whole Foods when I made it again  for my whole family and it was too salty, I thought, but everyone else said it was okay still).
Then, just follow the recipe for the baked corned beef from Simply Recipes and it will be divine. It basically involves poking cloves into the meat, slathering on the sauce and baking it in tin foil for 2 hours on 325. Then, at the end, you take off the foil, cut off the fat (well, I did) and then reslathering it with the last of your sauce and broiling it for a few minutes. Let the meat rest and then slice and serve.

Dont' forget some kind of potatoes and sauteed cabbage. The first time I made mashed potatoes and sauteed purple cabbage. When my extended family came over I made the crispy potatoe galette from Taste the Love  and they were pretty good and fun to make. 

*Even Luella loved the corned beef! Which may account for the wicked diaper rash she has had this week. Oops! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Little Red Hen

Claire's "troupe" has been working on practicing the play "The Little Red Hen". This weekend we had them perform the play for their moms and dads (and a few others) at Bridget's gallery on south Halsted street.

 
This lovely lady and her husband (Nicky and Eric) were kind enough to paint a backdrop and sew costumes for the kids LATE into the night before the play. When she said she was making costumes, I was planning on a few paper ears taped onto a headband or something, but I should have known.
She went ALL out! Look at Talia, our cute Little Red Hen!

And the cats!

And Talia's little brother, Ellis, was the frog. But wait for it. I know Ellis is cute, but wait....
Look who was the pig!

Holy Shamoly. Ridiculous amounts of cuteness. Look at the ears. The best part is she kept crawling around and making little grunting noises the whole time like a real little piglet. Haha.

We couldn't really talk most of the big girls into being the animals (I guess I should have thought about the fact that 8 year old girls don't usually want to dress up as pigs and frogs)....

 so the rest of the girls were our "narrators".

We let the little brothers and sisters be the other parts. Like, Sammy, who was a stellar "Miller".

My big sewing contributions were these little chick marrionettes, (in this play the Little Red Hen has 10 chicks that eat the bread at the end).

And I made the sacks of flour and grain. Woohoo! I have wicked sewing skills now.

They were super cute. Are you seeing the backdrop that Mr Erick painted for us?

It was heavily attended by moms and dads and a few friends of the families.

And the bonus was that they had worked hard on an original play entitled: "Sammy and the Six Princesses". Sam was a knight who had to win the love of the princesses by doing "challenges".

Mainly they sent him to find certain treasures that he had to bring back to them.

The main point of this play was the costumes. The girls wanted to wear dresses and Sammy wanted to be a knight.

This is Zoe (Sammy's favorite)!


After the play we served fresh homemade bread, (you know, like what the Hen would have baked).  And bread pudding. And tamales. And salmon. A slightly odd combination of foods that came together out of our unorganized potluck, but they were all delicious! At the end we gave the girls (and boys) their "performance" badges. They did great!