Coco – NUT!

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Since my little Beach Rose loves Curious George, she started asking about coconuts and eating them and how George cracks them open and why they look different than the coconut we used to put in our cookies.

So I figured it was time for a food lesson and took it upon myself to purchase one of these delectable hairy orbs.

We made a huge production of drilling a hole in it to fit a straw and all the tools Daddy had to use to saw and crow bar it open.  She was thrilled.

And we felt like heroes.

And then she started complaining that her mouth felt itchy.  My husband looked at me and said, “She’s had this before, right?”  And she had.  Sweetened coconut in our cookie batter.  And she’d been fine.  Plus it wasn’t a nut.

“Are you sure?”

I guess not?

It made me nervous that she was reacting this way so I ran to the computer to look it up…

“Fruit

Botanically, the coconut fruit is a drupe, not a true nut.[12] Like other fruits, it has three layers: the exocarp, mesocarp, and endocarp. “- according to Wikipedia

Then the rash around the outside of her mouth came.  And we gave her Benadryl.

And here’s what else I found when I did some more extensive research after that dramatic night…

“*The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) states: “Coconut is not a botanical nut; it is classified as a fruit, even though the Food and Drug Administration recognizes coconut as a tree nut. While allergic reactions to coconut have been documented, most people who are allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconut. If you are allergic to tree nuts, talk to your allergist before adding coconut to your diet.”1 “- states the FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) website.

If you’ve got a little one with any type of serious allergy, ask their doctor what other things they may be allergic to, even if it’s a stretch.  Apparently, allergies to coconuts are pretty rare, but look what happened.

Always play it safe.  You can just simulate eating a coconut like Curious George does using a piece of your child’s pretend food, or a ball or just show them a video of how it’s done!

Beef Stroganoff – “My Masterpiece”

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This is something I would definitely call my signature dish.  It’s one I make perhaps once a year, as a special occasion meal and it barely has any leftovers and just like those toys that are produced in limited quantities to make people berserk over them, family and friends beg for more.

It’s not that I’m a genius that invented this.  Oh no!  This is a classic!

It’s just that I grew up eating it and remember loathing it because the meat used stringy and chewy and ugh.  Of course, it was the meat that was called for in the original recipe.  Chuck roast.

No. No. No.

I now use filet mignon. Oh yes I do. And a lot of it.  And this is why I only make it once or maybe twice a year.  It is a luxury.  And has taken the dish to a monumental level.

This will soon become your masterpiece.  And it’s our secret!

Let the savory adventure begin!

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Cut 1 pound filet mignon into 2 inch strips.  Place on baking sheet.

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Sprinkle with salt.

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And freshly ground black pepper.

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Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a very hot large skillet; high heat.

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Add about 1/2 of the meat, in a single layer and cook until brown on one side,

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flip and brown on the other.  About 2 minutes total.

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Transfer to rimmed baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining meat.

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To all the yummy browned bits in the bottom of the skillet, add 2 tablespoons of butter, and melt over medium-high heat.

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Stir in 1/4 cup of finely chopped shallots with wooden spoon and sauté for 2 minutes, scraping up those yummy browned bits.

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Add 12 ounces of freshly sliced button mushrooms,

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sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and sauté about 8 minutes.

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Next you’ll need 1 cup of beef broth and

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2 tablespoons of Cognac.  Oh yes.  You definitely need this.  It imparts the perfect amount of intrigue to it all.

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Simmer until the sauce thickens and barely coats the mushrooms, about 15 minutes.

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During that 15 minutes, cook 8 ounces of egg noodles, as directed.  Drain.  Return to pot.  Toss with 4 tablespoons butter and season with salt and pepper.  Don’t be shy!

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Add meat and all the yummy juices on the baking sheet.  Simmer over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes.

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Stir in 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill.  Season with salt and pepper.

IMG_9740Divide noodles among plates and add steak and plenty of sauce. Garnish with sprig of fresh dill.

Servings: 4

Bon Appétit, Ma Chérie!

 

 

 

Strawberry and Rhubarb Crisp

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Am I jumping the gun and having a strawberry/rhubarb dessert combination before the snow is even fully melted!  What?  How can that be?

Ahhhh……..The genius of freezing fruit in the middle of their peak.  Right on a sheet pan in the freezer till firm, then wrapped in1 freezer-lock bag inside another.  You will thank yourself and your husband will thank you and your baby will thank you when you pull a dessert like this out of the oven on a cold April night predicting frost.  I promise you that!

Let the sweet adventure begin!

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In an 8 x 8 inch pan, add 1 pound (about 4 cups) hulled fresh strawberries and 12 0z (2 cups) rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of white sugar (and 1 tablespoon cornstarch if using frozen fruit).

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Stir to incorporate.

 

Next prepare the topping:

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In large bowl, mix together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour,

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3/4 cup oats,

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1 teaspoon cinnamon,

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and 1 cup brown sugar,

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using a fork.

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With your fingers, cut in 1/2 cup of cold, salted butter until it resembles a very lumpy, course meal.

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Sprinkle topping evenly over the filling,

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until completely covered.

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Bake about 25 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven.  Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Serves: 8

This dessert is delicious piping hot or at room temperature or cool or 5 days old or…it’s unbelievable, every time.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.  Perfect pairing.

Bon Appétit, Ma Chérie!

 

A Man Called Ove

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Thing Called Love.  The title of the book could have come from this saying of and that would be so apropos…

A man.

With a heart that was too big for this world.

What it means to be a man.  How to build with your own hands.  How to fight for what’s right.  How to treat others.  How to be loyal.  How to love.  How to be responsible.  How to contribute to society.  To be decent.

How Ove learns to be the incredible man that he is because of his father.  His father who is also uncommunicative, and yet a man of principle.  A man who does not concern himself with the business of others or talking about them.  A man who teaches his son that a man is what he is because of what he does, not what he says.

How Ove is as a husband.  That unfaltering love and loyalty and devotion.  You want to believe that your husband is cut from the same cloth that Ove is.  That his love for you is as intense and immovable.  I know that these characters are fictitious, but you don’t want them to be.  And you don’t want their characteristics to be either.  You want to be like his wife, Sonja.  You want to be near her.  You want to be as good and as optimistic and as grateful for what life does offer her instead of focused on what is taken from her.

How Ove is as a person.  How he rebels against the world’s celebration of mediocrity. How he feels as though one should be able to do their taxes, change their tires, lay some tile, install a light switch themselves, instead of boasting that they’d paid someone else to do it for them.

This book makes you want to be a better person yourself.  Man or woman.  You feel as though there is so much to give of yourself to others by the time you’ve read the last sentence.

Oh, and the tragedy of the death of someone you love.  The missing of someone.  The little things.  At the most random of times.  Smiles.  Holding their hand. The loneliness.  The lack of interest in life.  The draining of all color in your life.

And love…most of all this book is about love.  Being loyal in love.  Appreciating love as its newness wears off.  Loving for faults, as well as despite them.

A rare treat of a book.  At the end of every chapter I told my husband that the book was killing me.  It pulled at my heartstrings in a way no book has in a long time.  It was tragic and comedic and lovely.

It reminded me of watching a good foreign flick.  The ones where you laugh, you cry, you love, you hate and you leave satiated and richer for the experience.

 

Kitty Heaven

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Yup.  It’s official.  It happened.

After 19 years of my little 4-legged sidekick softly padding around next to me, I find myself flying solo.  My first “baby”, my confidante, my furry friend who’s unconditional love for me brought me so much comfort and happiness has been called to Kitty Heaven.

And my heart is heavy.

It’s been a day.

And yet, as much as it pained me, what was so important about today was setting aside how I felt and trying to gently explain to my innocent 4 year old why her beloved kitty was dying.

Gosh that was hard.  But, you know, it went so much more smoothly than I ever thought it could.  And I believe it has everything to do with the fact that Mama & Daddy were truthful about the entire thing and kept her in the loop.

We told her that the kitty was very old and that we thought she was very sick.  We told her that Daddy would take her to the vet so that the doctor could decide if the kitty was ok to come home or if she was in too much pain.

When Daddy came home without her, we explained that the vet gave her some medicine to help her sleep and that she died in her sleep and that she was gone to Kitty Heaven.  We explained that God would make sure that her older sister, who was already up there and bullied her here on earth, would be extremely nice to her in heaven.

We told her that the kitty’s body would be put into the ground.  We showed her the kitty’s coffin and Mama watched with her as Daddy lowered her into the hole in the backyard by the Raspberry & Blackberry bushes.  We placed her special “card” that she’d colored for the kitty to take to the hospital with her on top of the kitty’s coffin, secured it with a rock and Daddy filled the hole.  We tried our best to explain how the kitty’s body would be in the ground while her spirit, who she was inside, would be playing and eating brie & popcorn & chasing mice in heaven.

And after kitty was buried and Mama shed quite a few tears over her little grave, we had to tell her that now was not the appropriate time to request that we get her another kitty for her to play with.

And as if God was watching over our sad little scenario in the backyard and decided to lighten things up a bit, he sent over the neighbor’s cat to come looking for a little attention from his small friend.

 

 

 

Read to Baby?

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I remember the first time I read to my little Beach Rose.  She was 1 month old.  She kept sliding into my lap and she couldn’t even hold her head up straight yet.

But, her eyes were glued to the pages.  I was blown away!  I told my husband and he gave me one of those dismissive “Oh yeah?  That’s great!” responses, when you know he was thinking that his wife was just losing it.

Well, after a couple of weeks of my trying to convince him that it really was miraculous and wonderful and that he should try it for himself, he finally decided to….

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and was all sentimental when he came downstairs after putting her to bed.  I snuck up and took this picture of him reading the age-appropriate One Fish Two Fish classic to her while she stares intently at the book while holding his thumb the entire time.  Amazing!

Start a bedtime routine with your kids when they’re babies.  And incorporate books into that routine.  Regardless of their age, they will appreciate the consistency & schedule, the sound of your voice & its intonations and seeing the pictures!

Don’t fuss too much as to what to read to them…there are a lot of age appropriate book lists out there or check with your librarian for ideas.  But I remember my brother-in-law reading an article in Time magazine about the financial crisis in a soft voice as a bedtime story when my niece was an infant and she was captivated!

Check out this site for some great ideas for baby reads

Two Layers of Sheets?!

The single best strategy to simplifying your life as a parent is……..wait for it…………………

two layers of sheets in the crib or the bed.

There is absolutely nothing worse than when your child gets sick and throws up.  It never happens at a convenient time of day, nor does it happen in a neat way.  I’d be surprised to hear that there are a lot of kids out there who throw up, every time, in the toilet bowl!

And unfortunately for you, 2 am is not the most optimal time to be digging around in your linen closet trying to find that spare set of sheets, and then making the bed up, only to find yourself in the same situation an hour later when they vomit again!

Or you are potty-training your 3-4-5-6-etc year old at night.  And there are some Oops! evenings/mornings/middle-of-the-nights when they may wet the bed.

Aaaaaaaaaah.  The joys of parenthood.

Well, actually, you will find parenting that much more enjoyable now that I am about to impart upon you my great tip.  And once you’ve adopted this practice you’ll wonder how you ever got along before you did this!

Double up and/or triple up on the layer of sheets on your baby’s crib/child’s bed.

That’s it!

I was extremely lucky to be given a set of 4 waterproof pads as a gift at my Baby shower.  If you do not have any you can purchase them for around $15 and they are priceless.  Forget the trash bags under the sheets; they drive the child crazy, the urine runs right off it onto the mattress and they never seem to cover enough surface area or they just get shifted during your child’s sleep.

Put the waterproof pads on top of the mattress pad.  Cover with a sheet.  Layer with another set of waterproof pads.  Cover this with another sheet.  And repeat again if you have that many pads and sheet sets to go a third round!

The brilliance behind this suspiciously OCD  practice is that the next time you are awakened in the dead of night by a stomach bug that’s wreaked havoc on your child’s bed, floor and pjs, you can easily strip the bed of the 1st layer of sheets and waterproof pads and you still have 2 more to go through before actually having to exert much effort or thought…

although you’ll still have to wash the floor and give the poor baby a quick shower…haven’t come up with any short-cuts for these yet…

 

Butterscotch Brownies

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Okay.  Whenever you hear the word brownies, your mouth waters, right?  The fudgy consistency, the divine richness of the chocolate, etc, etc.

So………….why mess with perfection, you may ask?

Because when you taste these marvelous blond cousins to the brownie, you will thank me for introducing you.  But, before I do, you must get rid of all thoughts of the chocolate version.  It’s not fair that you compare the 2.  They are, after all, only related by name!

Let the sweet adventure begin!

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Cream together 1/2 cup of salted butter, room temperature, and

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2 cups firmly packed brown sugar, for about 5 minutes.

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Add 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla and mix until combined.

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Add 1 cup flour to the mixer along with

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2 teaspoons baking powder.

Mix until all ingredients are well combined.

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Spread out in well greased 9 x 13 inch pan, with a rubber spatula.

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Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes,

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till the sides pull away from the pan and the top cracks.

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Serving warm with ice cream will make you oh-so-very-happy!  But they are quite impossible to resist at room temperature as well.

And since these make at least 24 brownies, you may have to drop off plates of them for the ladies at the library, at school, the neighbors, etc, so that you don’t end up eating the whole lot of them!

Bon Appétit, Ma Chérie!