our willa bean is 4

It's late (almost 10pm!) and it's been a long but wonderful day of celebrating our dear Willa. We planned to keep it low-key this year but somehow it felt anything but that, but in all the right celebratory ways. Willa was thrilled.

We had a birthday party in the park yesterday with cupcakes and donuts and a bubble maker and a Minnie Mouse piñata. And for the first time ever, her scrooge mother didn't write "no gifts please" on the invitation so she got a boatload of amazing gifts, several of them of the Frozen variety. Princess Elsa 4eva.

And her Nana's in town.

Her Uncle got her a stuffed skunk with pink sparkly eyes. She loves skunks. Almost as much as Elsa. Sometimes more. Depends on the day.

And today we took a trip to her favorite park and she didn't even care that the train and petting zoo were closed or that a thunderstorm rolled in after 20 minutes of playing in the stream.

After that we went to see chickens and get fresh eggs at Auntie Al's work.

Once home, she and her brother ate a whole pint of raspberries in the backyard and then she watched The Cat and the Hat on the couch in minimal clothing.

We made pizza for dinner and she squealed when daddy threw the dough high up in the air. She got more presents.

I made her a "pink lady" cake with strawberries and as soon as she saw the strawberries smashed to the sides she ran over with arms spread wide and gave me a huge hug and told me it was the best cake ever.

Mid-cake eating we realized there was a rainbow in front of the house. Not a mini one, but a real-deal all the way across the sky one. She jumped up and down and said she "just knew" there'd be one on her birthday. Later she said it was the best gift she received for her birthday.

She used her newfound four-year-old strength to drag her mini trampoline upstairs and bounced on it for a good hour to burn off pizza and cake and present-induced excitement.

She got to stay up until 9pm. Wearing a glow bracelet from Nana and Bobo.

She makes us laugh and smile and sigh and scream and I can't imagine what our life would be like without the joy she brings to it each and every day. Happy birthday, Willa!

a happy birthday brunch for our three year old!

Willa turned three last week!

So far, I'm not sure what to make of this age. It's so hot and cold. Up and down. She's the cutest little girl EVER and then moments later she is so naughty. But I know it's all part of her development, and I'm doing my best to take deep breaths and be patient and supportive as she's learning.

She's working on being a big sister. She loves her little brother and enjoys having him around. She will say, "Hi little buddy!" when he wakes up from a nap, and if he's fussing, she'll say, "It's ok Cameron!" and then tell him something about what's going on. She has trouble sharing her toys with him. She often grabs things away from him. But she'll occasionally bring him a toy to play with, and she loves to share her food with him while they're at the table eating.

My favorite thing about Willa at this stage are our conversations. She loves to ask me questions. Lately we've been talking a lot about "workers" and what they build. She started with, "Mama, did workers build our house?" And now she asks if workers have built other things. The other day we were driving somewhere and she asked me to explain how the workers built our car. You can feel her mind working.

She remembers details and events of things we did so long ago. I am always surprised when she reminds me of them weeks or months later. She can carry on a conversation so well. It blows me away. She is getting so tall and so smart. I feel proud of the beautiful and inquisitive little girl she is growing into. She challenges and delights me each day.

Her birthday was a wonderful day! We were lucky to have family in town to celebrate and we threw a little brunch shindig with friends, donuts, cake, and an inflatable pink picture frame (Is that what we call it? No idea. But it was fun!).

^^"Mango cake!" For weeks before her birthday, Willa was telling everyone that she was going to have a mango cake. We weren't sure exactly what a mango cake was, but opted for vanilla cake with mango custard in the middle and buttercream frosting. It was delicious. Willa might have ruined her appetite with donuts, but I certainly enjoyed it. Huge thanks to the pastry chef! ;)^^

^^Cam slept for the first half of the party, but woke up and put on his party pants. He tried some snacks and was super excited to meet his Uncle Mike!^^

^^An inflatable pink frame = possibly the best $1.99 I've ever spent at Goodwill.^^

recently loved recipes

My mom is a recipe organization genius. When I was growing up, she always had tidy binders of recipes she'd clipped from magazines or got from friends. More recently, she reorganized all of these, along with newer finds from the internet, into larger binders. One for each type of dish. Then there's me. I mostly use Pinterest. And don't get me wrong, I love Pinterest as much as the next gal on the internet. I find it a great way to keep heaps of content organized. But, sometimes, I get concerned about those heaps. What if Pinterest crashes? Where will all my recipes go? How will I ever cook again? I suppose I do also have a box of recipe clippings that I never remember to look in. I am actually not even sure where it is.

So. In an effort to bypass Pinterest (but not exerting anywhere near the impressive effort my mom does), here are a few of the recipes we've been enjoying in the past few months:

^^Homemade Pizza with "Lazy Pizza Dough"^^



1 Can of Chiles in Adobo, 5 Dinners Both the Kale and Pasta and the White Bean Chili recipes are surprisingly delicious given the minimal effort they require!

Summer Grilled Mexican Sweet Corn Quinoa Salad Bookmark for next summer! Lots of work, but so good.

Caponata Panzanella

Shaved Brussles Sprouts and Sweet Potato Salad



Cranberry and Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins

Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Bread (So good, but definitely a dessert! I'm adding cream cheese frosting when I thaw another loaf from our freezer.)

Flourless Apple Pie Pancakes


 What about you? What dishes have you been enjoying? And how do you keep your favorite recipes organized?

a weird but wonderful weekend

This weekend was odd. Lots of fun moments, but some awful ones as well.

Friday night we met up with friends at our local nanobrewery. It was great fun, but in bed a few hours later, I did not feel good. I thought to myself, could it really be two beers making me feel like this?

The next morning, we got up early and battled the traffic on 70 (ugh) to snowshoe at Lily Pad Lake trail (thanks for the great recommendation, Megan!). It was an absolutely perfect day to be outside. Blue sky; not too cold. But midway through our hike, I wasn't feeling so hot. The altitude? Once we were done, I felt worse, but thought maybe I just needed some lunch. Nope, that wasn't it, either. I spent the rest of Saturday in bed. Not fun.

On Sunday, things looked up a bit, and we took advantage of another beautiful Denver day by taking a family bike ride. We are so excited to have a new bike seat for Willa! And we finally found a helmet for her as well, so we were good to go. [Side rant: finding a helmet for a toddler is not easy. Apparently the more simple you want the helmet to be, the more you have to pay. The cheap ones at Target have Minnie Mouse, Dora, or some other sparkly princess on them. Or cars or superman. Ugh. And the nice, not ridiculous, gender neutral ones are $60. We probably would have splurged on that one, but we didn't want to wait for shipping, so we settled on this one from REI. It still has monkeys on it (not to mention skulls and crossbones!?), but at least it's gender neutral? And, also, why must a bike helmet be so gendered? Triple ugh.]

We ended the weekend with Char Kuih Kak for dinner, and of course, Downton! And thankfully, I'm feeling all better today. Here's to a good week!

P.S. As you'll note in one picture above, a 19-month old is not always super keen on something like snowshoeing. She was flailing and annoyed until she finally took a little snooze. Then, later, she had another moment of ruining the peace and quiet...I think she must have gotten cold. Just wanted to make this known, lest you think my toddler was somehow a non-crier, which is what I always tend to think when I see pictures of peoples' happy kids on their blogs.

friends + french 75s

Aren't visits from friends the best? For almost as long as I can remember, I've had to spend long periods of time separated from family and close friends. It's sad and it sucks but it's the nature of our current society and our geographically large country. And even though the methods of communication have increased since the solitary option of writing letters, nothing compares to just spending time together. Hugging, laughing, confiding...so important. So wonderful.

Turns out, having good friends in town to visit is even more glorious when you have a 16-month-old. Willa was DELIGHTED to have friends here. She showed off her favorite toys, grinned from ear to ear the whole weekend, and barely let out a single whine. Which made her mama and dada pretty darn delighted too. Not to mention, having friends who love her and want to spend time with her makes us so happy too.

Our visit with Alli and Pat of course included plenty of good eating and drinking (and a healthy dose of fresh air and exercise to balance things out). After they arrived on Thursday night, we caught up over sweet potato and black bean enchiladas and Unita brews. There was a lunch at Über Sausage (after my Lohi walking tour), a dinner at Old Major, a failed attempt to check out Williams & Graham, and drinks at Linger. (I also tried using Uber for the first time, which seems to me like a giant rip-off compared to a regular cab, but maybe I'm just not hip enough?) We met my parents in Longmont for beer tasting at Left Hand Brewery. I made a variation of these pumpkin waffles. We had lunch at Illegal Pete's.

There also was, of course, a stop at Mondo Vino. We were feeling a bit beer-ed out, as Colorado has a tendency to make one (in nothing but the best way), so we made some purchases to take the evening in a different direction. A gin direction. And gin and champagne direction. Could there really be any better direction?

We cheers-ed our friendship and a fantastic visit with French 75s. It's been a favorite drink of Alli's for a bit, and one we enjoyed together on her birthday recently, so we decided to attempt to make it at home. It's not hard: just gin, champagne, simple syrup, and lemon juice. It's pretty much perfect for anytime you want to celebrate with friends. Or you're beer-ed out.

French 75
Makes two drinks

2 ounces gin
1 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
4 ounces champagne
lemon peel

1. If necessary, make simple syrup: combine 1 part water and 2 parts sugar in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until incorporated.

2. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add gin, lemon juice, and syrup. Shake vigorously.

3. Pour half the mixture into each glass (champagne flutes or cocktail glasses).

4. Top with champagne and a lemon peel.

carrot and pineapple muffins

When it rains it pours. Things get worse before they get better. Misery loves company. Bad things come in threes.

Turns out I shouldn't have been complaining about my bad week on Friday night. My week actually got bad 24 hours later when I woke up sick in the middle of the night. All our Sunday Halloween plans had to be cancelled. A dinner date with friends we'd planned for weeks was postponed. All things besides getting through each moment seemed unimportant.

It was a nasty GI bug. I really hope you don't get it. It was a doozy. I felt the absolute worst for at least 24 hours. And not so great for another 36 hours after that. We're finally all better (knock on wood) but appetites have been slow to return.

Whenever recovering from an illness, I always feel inclined to make breakfast for dinner. This time was no different. Monday night brought us Joy the Baker's Lemon Ricotta Waffles. (Stop reading and go make them now! So good. No wait, read on about my muffins, then go make one of the two!) Yesterday, I took a break from baking but bought a bunch of baking supplies so today I could make carrot muffins. I needed to use up more carrots from our farm trip earlier this month. I also needed to use up some canned pineapple tidbits I bought on a whim thinking Willa would like them (she doesn't). I would usually throw raisins and nuts into a carrot muffin, but I had those pineapples, and nuts are kind of a chocking hazard for lil W. Soooo, below is what I made. And I surprisingly really dig the pineapple. You should definitely give it a go.

Happy Halloween!

Carrot and Pineapple Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
½ cup maple syrup (or any combination of honey, maple syrup, or sugar)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup shredded carrot
½ cup pineapple pieces (from a can)

1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, spices, and salt.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or a bowl with a hand mixer or using your brute arm strength) cream the butter, sweetener, egg, and vanilla. Once combined, stir in the applesauce. 3. Using a spatula, fold in the shredded carrots and pineapple.

4. Grease a regular-sized muffin tin (or use paper liners) and scoop approximately 1/4 cup of the batter into each muffin.

5. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and a toothpick comes out clean.

a day at miller farms

My garage is full of potatoes. And onions. And two kohlrabi. And a few other things that wouldn't fit in the fridge. Let's not even discuss the fridge. It's quite full. The carrots are crowding the oversized turnips and the peppers have overtaken the fruit crisper. You see, yesterday we went to Miller Farms in Platteville, Colorado. It seemed like we needed a fall family adventure, and I'd heard Miller Farms was a good place to have just that. Plus, it is halfway between Denver and Fort Collins, so Nana met us there for a day of farming fun!

But I have to say, when we first pulled into the parking lot and saw a giant wooden Sponge Bob Square Pants next to a bouncy house, I wanted to leave. I was looking for the pumpkins and produce, not gimmicks. Why on earth does Sponge Bob need to be at a farm? Can't kids just enjoy farm stuff at a farm? Anyway. We didn't leave. We paid our $15 per adult admission and made our way in.

Willa fed the goats and we tooled around in some miniature tractor bicycles before loading ourselves onto the tractor-pulled hayride for the real deal. Our ride took us to several stops around the farm where we were able to get off and pick our own produce. Our first stop was onions. Getting down from the wagon, I had no idea what we were picking. It just looked like semi-dry dirt fields. But as I got closer, I saw onions, nestled in the ground. Of course onions grow in the ground. I knew that. I'd just never seen it. And boy was I excited.

That was just the beginning of the produce excitement. Subsequent stops included carrots, leeks, celery, kohlrabi  cabbage, potatoes, corn, peppers, eggplant, and pumpkins. Have you ever picked a kohlrabi? Or a leek? You have to PULL on those guys.

It sounds a bit absurd to say it was a hard day's work, but all the fun and learning really was kind of exhausting. After picking all our produce we had to haul it back to the cars (warning: there's a mad dash for wagons when the hayride ends!), and then once home it required a lot of cleaning and sorting (and many curses at Denver Public Works for not yet having city-wide compost collection).

In the end, here's what we came home with for our $30 admission:

  • 6 small pumpkins
  • 10 ears of corn
  • 3 ears of popcorn
  • ~30 small peppers
  • 7 baby Asian eggplants
  • 3 cabbages
  • 2 kohlrabi
  • 5 turnips
  • a bag of kale leaves
  • 6 leeks
  • tons of carrots
  • a bin of yellow, red, and white onions
  • a bin of red and white potatoes

It's going to take some serious strategy to use this all before it goes bad. I started by making a dish similar to this for dinner (peppers in place of tomatoes), freezing the corn kernels, and making carrot cake pancakes for Sunday morning breakfast. I'm excited for the challenge! Although I might be sick of potatoes in a couple of weeks...

labor day lamb ragù

My definition of what makes a good dinner has changed dramatically in the past year. The other night we had avocado toast and I felt accomplished for putting dinner on the table. Last night I was pleased to make spinach and gruyère quesadillas without burning myself as Willa clung to my legs. Despite resigning myself to slightly simpler (yet hopefully still delicious) meals, I make sure to get a bit more extravagant from time to time. And if having friends in town for Labor Day weekend isn't a reason to make a fancy meal, I'm not sure what is! So, Sunday night, after the littles were asleep, we sat outside and enjoyed Strozzapreti with Lamb Ragù.

This was my first ragù. Dan regularly makes a spectacular red sauce, but I have not dabbled much in the meat sauces myself. I tend to be pretty scared of meat in the kitchen, but I can manage ground meat. And this recipe was not really that hard, but it did have me try some new techniques. For example, a spice packet. I'd never made a spice packet! (Obviously, since it required an extra trip to the store when I realized I didn't have any cheesecloth.) And it held together through the entire simmering, which was the key to the flavorful sauce.

It was a great dish to make with friends over, because after the inital prep, the sauce has to simmer for 2 hours, giving you plenty of time to drink, socialize, and set the table. Above all else, it was just nice to try a new recipe and enjoy it with good friends, wine, and adult conversation. (I did of course make sure Willa got to enjoy some leftovers for lunch the next day!)

I was tempted to make this pasta dish too. Next time! What are your favorite "take more effort" meals?

happy birthday, mom!

Today is my Mom's birthday! Happy Birthday, Mom! Yay! So, obviously, this post is in honor of her. There are so many things I love about my Mom, but one of them is her skill in the kitchen. I'm sure I'm not alone; so many of us grow up learning to cook from and with our parents. I, too, hope W will someday have lovely memories of her time with me in the kitchen.


{Sesame-Spiced Lamb Meatballs and Smashed Chickpea Salad, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook}

Growing up, we always had a homecooked meal on the table at dinnertime. Family dinner happened almost every night, and my sister and I were responsible for setting and clearing the table. Some people remember specific dishes their parents made when they were kids, and return home as adults to again enjoy those meals. This isn't really the case for me. I cherish moments with my Mom in the kitchen; just being in the kitchen with her. Helping her prep. Talking. Getting out ingredients or dishes. Setting the table. And, of course, trying different creations.

{Harissa Ravioli, adapted from Heidi Swason's Super Natural Every Day}

My mom's cooking has evolved a lot over the years. She's much more adventurous than she once was. (She used to claim she hated curry. We've brought her around!) She now makes so many different dishes. She follows recipes. She improvises meals from the fridge.  She now orders specialty ingredients off the internet, and knows the pros and cons of every single one of our small town grocery stores. She does it all, really.

{Sesame Seared Tuna with a Soy Dipping Sauce}

W and I made a trip east at the end of May, and spent a week at my parents' house. Every night but one, we were in the kitchen, drinking a delicious libation; making a new dish. Mom is great about picking out and putting aside recipes she wants to try with me. She picks things she'll know I'll like, and dishes she wants me to help her make. She saves special bottles of wine for us, or makes special cocktails. My dad puts aside good beers for us to share. We always eat and drink well, and this trip was no exception.

{dessert wine from eleven winery on Bainbridge Island // Lug-Tread from Beau's All Natural Brewing Company}

So much deliciousness. So much wonderful time spent with family. It was a great week. Thanks, Mom (and Dad)! I love you.

recipe list for molly wizenberg’s “a homemade life”

Have you read "A Homemade Life" by Molly Wizenberg (aka Orangette)? It's a lovely book about Molly's life experiences and how they relate to food and eating. I bought it a few years back at her book signing at the University of Washington. I've slowly read through it, chapter by chapter, each one ending with a recipe. I've added a few post-its on things I want to make, but for the most part I forget what recipes are in the book. She includes an index in the back of the book, but I find it hard to navigate. So I finally took the time to compile a recipe index. It's been useful for me, so I thought I'd share, in case someone else might be having the same frustration with her book. All of the recipes I've made so far from the book are fantastic. I wholeheartedly recommend you try the Stewed Prunes with Citrus and Cinnamon (page 49). I know, I know, you're probably thinking, "prunes? ewwwww." But honestly. They're just dried plums. And once softened, they're so good atop yogurt. Try them.

Recipes from "A Homemade Life" by Molly Wizenberg

Burg’s French Toast 39
Buckwheat Pancakes 68
Dutch Baby Pancakes with Lemon and Sugar 131
Italian Grotto Eggs 140
Stewed Prunes with Citrus and Cinnamon 49

Burg’s Potato Salad 14
Bread Salad with Cherries, Arugula, and Goat Cheese 115
Fennel Salad with Asian Pear and Parmesan 238
Spring Salad with Avocado and Feta 246
Frisee with Ham, Eggs, and Mustard Vinaigrette 264
Arugula Salad with Pistachios and Chocolate 296

Ed Fretwell Soup 156
Tomato Soup with Two Fennels 256
Butternut Squash Soup with Pear, Cider, and Vanilla 226

Bouchons au Thon 101
Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille 124
Doron’s Meatballs with Pine Nuts, Cilantro, and Golden Raisins 168
Cider-Glazed Salmon 181
Chana Masala 233
Little Corn Cakes with Bacon, Tomato, and Avocado 304

Cream-Braised Green Cabbage 186
Red Cabbage Salad with Lemon and Black Pepper 222
Slow-Roasted Tomatoes with Coriander 192
Slow-Roasted Tomato Pesto 193
Cranberry Chutney with Ginger and Dried Cherries 210
Caramelized Cauliflower with Salsa Verde 271
Zucchini Noodles with Pesto 273
Spicy Pickled Carrots with Garlic and Thyme 290
Pickled Grapes with Cinnamon and Black Pepper 291

Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake 20
Banana Bread with Chocolate + Crystallized Ginger 26
Coeur a la Creme with Raspberry Puree 33
Chocolate Cupcakes with Bittersweet Glaze 44
Hoosier Pie 55
Fresh Ginger Cake with Caramelized Pears 75
Fruit-Nut Balls 80
Espresso-Walnut Toffee 83
Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Glazed Oranges 88
Coconut Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache 94
Tarte Tatin 108
Jimmy’s Pink Cookies 132
Dried Fruit Pie 147
Rum Cream Pie with Graham Cracker Crust 150
Scottish Scones with Lemon and Ginger 174
French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon 204
Custard-Filled Cornbread 251
Pistachio Cake with Honeyed Apricots 278
Vanilla-Black Pepper Ice Cream 285
“Our Wedding Cake” 312

vietnamese sandwiches

Um, have you ever had a bánh mì sandwich made with sausage? Because I hadn't. Until this past weekend. And let me tell you, they're on to something. The first time I made bánh mì with pork meatballs I thought it was genius. But those meatballs have nothing on sausage. Homemade handmade housemade sausage. Let me back up a bit. Last Sunday, Dan and I headed out on our bikes for what I was calling "date day." We've been out on a handful of "date nights" in recent months, but we felt like getting out in the sunshine and enjoying the city just the two of us. I planned a little bike excursion for us since we haven't been able to bike together since W was born. We crusied along the bike trail alongside the Platte River, and our first stop was for some smoothies at Parsley. I'd heard they were the leaders in juicing in Denver, and some healthy drinks mid bike ride seemed like a good idea. Their smoothies were good, but they were nearly out of blueberries. So, they subbed in half raspberries for the "blueberry bliss" I ordered. It didn't work out well. You can't just mess up the integrity of your concoction, can you? I mean, I'm not in the juice business. But it seemed flawed.

Anyway. Post smoothies and a stop in the park to play some catch, we ended our ride at the new Über Sausage in Lohi. They'd just opend a few days prior (no alcohol yet), but the place was shiny and new and the staff was über friendly. Ordering "The Vietnam" was a no brainer, and we also got "The Club" (rosemary chicken sausage with swiss, bacon, avacado, and tarragon aïoli). They let you pick if you want your sausage on a baguette, pita, or salad. I like the choice, but it also seems like your choice could mess up the overall taste. I mean obviously "The Greek" should be on a pita, but why would you get "The Vietnam" on a pita? We got the "The Cobb" as well, and ponied up $1.25 extra to have siracha mayo on our tater tots (um, how on earth can a little mayo and siracha cost $1.25!?).

Both sausages were fantastic. The best part about The Vietnam was that the baguette was the perfect thickness and consistency. There's nothing worse than a baguette that overwhelms the rest of the sandwich.

Moral of this story: if you're in Denver, go to Über Sausage. If you don't, buy yourself some appropriately flavored sausages and make your own bánh mì. Stat. Oh and get out on your bike this spring. Biking is fun.

Pork Meatball Bánh Mì
Saveur's Banh Mi
Master Banh Mi Sandwich
Banh Mi with Lemongrass Pork
Vegetarian Spicy Banh Mi

great recipes. that your baby will like too.

Before having a baby, I hadn't thought about many of the challenges that would come along with a little one. (The crying, for example. Oh my gosh the crying. I naïvely thought that babies only cried when they needed something and if their needs were met they didn't cry much. Maybe this is the case for some magical babies out there, but not mine. I was not prepared for the crying.) One thing I did think a lot about, unsurprisingly, was food. I was barely pregnant when I was thinking daily about how my little one would not EVER be ordering off the "kids menu." I read Hungry Monkey and French Kids Eat Everything, and formed a lot of strong opinions about how kids should be eating and what is wrong with how a lot of kids in our country are fed. Now, who knows what will actually happen...I'm sure there will unfortunately be quite a few chicken tenders in our future. But nevertheless, I set some mental goals for how I want to feed W, and how I hope she'll eat. My main principle has been to try my  best to feed her whatever we're eating, as early as possible. Since she started solids at 6 months, she's tried quite a few new foods. I started off making purées of mostly vegetables (didn't have her try fruits until after 7 months) but by 8 months she was pretty much done with purées. Despite not having any teeth, she wanted to eat whatever we were eating. Fantastic! Since this is what I wanted anyway. However, there are still some considerations that must be made when planning meals. I tend to make a lot of salads, and salad greens aren't really something a toothless 10-month old can manage without gagging. But I've found a good number of meals that satisfy all members of the table. Including our dog, who gets lots of scraps these days.

{enjoying some cantaloupe // we love her phil + ted's high chair! it attachs anywhere so she's part of the fun}

{whole wheat coconut waffles // baked polenta with tomato basil sauce}

FAVORITE RECIPES. Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas (Cookie + Kate) This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I've written about it before. It's just so easy. So healthy. So delicious. And on top of all that, it's great for little ones. The sweet potatoes are so soft that they're easy for little gums to chew, and the black beans with cheese make for yummy and nutritious bites as well.

Baked Polenta with Tomato Basil Sauce (Joy the Baker) This is a delightful comfort dish. Lacking a bit on the nutrition side, but it's still a good introduction to the taste of tomatoes and basil. I'd leave out some of the hot pepper flakes, or portion out some polenta before adding the pepper, depending how your kids feel about spicy. I figure kids all around the world are eating spicy food, so you might as well try giving it to them! Also note that this dish gets really hot. Make sure to let it cool before feeding your little one. (Yep, I maybe made that mistake. Felt like a terrible mother...)

Creamy Curried Cauliflower Soup (The Kitchn) So good! So easy! Delicious for all members of the family. Also freezes well.

Market Fritatta (Lottie + Doof) This is one of my favorite fritatta recipes. Easy and delicious. And eggs are great for little mouths. (I know some parents prefer to wait until a certain age to give eggs...I subscribe to the research that indicates there's little evidence that waiting to give children certain food will prevent allergies and in fact being exposed to foods earlier rather than later may prevent some allergies. But of course do whatever you're comfortable with!)

Red Lentil Dal with Tamarind and Asparagus (Food + Wine) I make a lot of lentil/dal dishes for W. They're easy to eat since they breakdown so much, and are also a good source of protien and fiber. I really liked this recipe though, because it introduces some new flavors - tamarind and asparagus. Asparagus tips are easily chewed. W wasn't sure what to make of them at first, but started to like them after a few tries.

I could go on an on...so many great recipes! Check out my pinterest pages for more ideas!


When we were packing up to move from Seattle to Denver, we, like most moving are apt to do, tried to streamline our belongings. For a variety of reasons, I really wanted to get rid of our Sausalito dinnerware from Pottery Barn. (I couldn't recommend it less. Chips! Scratches! Too big!) I was able to restrain myself enough that we didn't end up plateless upon arrival in Colorado, but I did get rid of several plates and mugs. For our wedding, I registered for 12 place settings, which was all well and good, but who the heck needs 12 mugs? I mean, seriously? Since we of course have plenty of other mugs from colleges, jobs, and all those other random places you pick up free mugs. In a moment of frustration, packing up our 20th "kitchen" box, I proclaimed, "the only reason you need this many matching mugs is if you host a lot of brunches, and we never have any one over for brunch!" In that moment of decisiveness, I threw out most of our mugs. (Er, I put them on the side of our busy 4-lane road under a "free" sign, and they were gone in less than 5 minutes.) The past two weekends, we've hosted brunch. Apparently, when you have kids, brunch is great. The little ones are rested. Smiley! (And also, Denver seems to be all about brunching. Every restaurant serves brunch. Reservations are accepted!) Thankfully, I was able to pull together 4 Sausilito mugs so we could all enjoy coffee in a mature, matching fashion. But if we have more than 4 coffee drinkers over, I may be doomed. Or it might just be time to spring for the white dinnerware after which I've been lusting for years.

No matter what your mug situation, I recommend hosting a brunch sometime. There's no better way to start a weekend morning than by enjoying coffee and breakfast treats with friends. And smiley kids.

Boozy Bake French Toast | Smitten Kitchen
Orzo Scramble | Giada de Laurentiis
Banana Oat Pancakes | Cookie + Kate
Frittata Bites | epicurious
Vegan Waffles with Oat Flour | Basic Taste
Baked Blueberry Whole Grain French Toast with Streusel Topping | The Yummy Life

sweet potatoes

Fall has arrived. Well, actually, the weather got a bit carried away and skipped fall pretty much altogether and jumped to winter. And then it jumped back to summer. It was 28 degrees two weekends ago and yesterday it was almost 80. Whatever the temperature, the leaves are changing and I'm finally able to feel excited about fall flavors in a way I couldn't a few weeks ago. I haven't dove in on the squash yet, but I have been enjoying a lot of sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes certainly aren't just a fall food. I am known to enjoy a sweet potato fry any month of the year, but the do lend themselves well to heartier fall dishes. And word on the street is they're pretty darn good for you too.

{colorado aspens}

Before I go any farther, we must address the nomenclature of the sweet potato. In most grocery stores I've shopped in, I see the "sweet potatoes" sitting next to the "garnet yams." For the longest time I had no idea what the difference was, and when I was shopping for a recipe that called for "sweet potatoes," I'd buy either one. Usually I'd go with the ones labeled "sweet potatoes" (obviously), but if all they had were "yams" (or if the "yams" were on sale!), I'd go with those.

Turns out, there are many varieties of sweet potatoes. Check out this Saveur slideshow of 16 types! I think the "sweet potatoes" you see most often in stores are Beauregards or jewels. And those "yams" are usually garnets. Because, get ready for this, yams are actually nothing like sweet potatoes! They're a different food altogether. Huffington Post gets to the bottom of it, if you're curious. I was.

Anyway. The point is you can buy whichever type of sweet potato your store happens to carry, and maybe if you're lucky you'll be able to find an heirloom variety. My hands-down favorite thing to do with sweet potatoes is to roast them. With some ancho chili powder. Or whatever seasoning you like. Smoked paprika works well. Or regular paprika and a little bit of cayenne. Once roasted, I love to eat them plain, or eat them on an arugula salad with a bit of crumbled goat cheese or feta. Here's what you do:

Ancho Chili Roasted Sweet Potatoes
2 medium sweet potatoes, any variety
2T olive oil
2-3t ancho chili powder
1T coarse salt

1. Cut sweet potatoes into 1/4-inch rounds. (You can peel the potatoes if you hate the skin, but I wouldn't recommend it. The skin is completely edible and contains lots of nutrients.) 2. Preheat oven to 450. 3. Mix olive oil, salt, and spices in a large bowl. 4. Add the sweet potatoes and stir or toss until most potatoes are coated in oil and spices. 5. Arrange rounds on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. I like to baste the rounds with more seasoning, using a pastry brush. 6. Bake for ~40 minutes, flipping potatoes rounds over (and adding more seasoning if desired) over after 20.


{sloan's lake, denver | photo courtesy of my mom}

Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie
Sweet Potato Falafel

eating with a newborn

The whole time I was pregnant, in my mind I saw marked line between how my life was then, and how it would be post-baby. As excited as I was for our baby girl to arrive into our life, I was thoroughly convinced nothing would ever be the same. I'd make pancakes on a Saturday morning and think to myself that I'd never do that again once the baby was born. When I went to bed exhausted at 9pm, I thought about how I'd never again carelessly drift off to sleep. Every time we went to a restaurant, all I could think about was how I'd never eat out again. People told me I'd only eat freezer meals for the first 6 months, so I'd best stock up. I was pretty freaked out. I don't like freezer meals. Good news! I was seriously mistaken. Turns out, my life after having a baby is still my same life. Crazy, right? Yes, yes, of course there are changes. And yes, it is unquestionably a HUGE adjustment. But it's no where near the dramatic change I had built it up to be in my head. Best news of all? We didn't eat that many freezer meals! I even made waffles when W was one week old! I do, however, have seriously less time to cook, but I've figured out a way to still enjoy delicious and nutritious food. (Nutrition is important post-baby! Man, was I a hungry gal!)

Here are my how-to-eat-well-when-you-have-no-time tips:

1. FREEZE THINGS Definitely make food ahead and freeze it! Just don't make too much. And keep in mind how many meals you might need. I know lots of people, ourselves included, who moved not long after they had a baby, and you can't take frozen food with you! Some of my favorite items to stock in the freezer (even if you don't have a newborn!) are:

Breakfast items. You know what they say: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Especially with a new baby. You're up on and off all night, and exhausted, and if you're not careful it'll be noon before you realize you're still in your PJs and you haven't had any breakfast. This sad state of affairs can be prevented by a freezer full of breakfast items. I made Heidi Swanson's amazing Orange and Oat Scones, which can be quickly microwaved/toasted and fill you up well. I also had my favorite cinnamon raisin bagels on hand. I'd also hoped to throw a batch of Dorie Greenspan's muffins into the freezer before baby W came along, but I never got to it.

Sauces. Pestos. Pasta sauce. Chimichurri. Freeze anything you can think of that will easily spice up vegetables or pasta or lentils or fish. As much as I enjoy my veggies, I'm a flavor junkie, so I need condiments! I love making cilantro pesto: purée cilantro, lime juice, a fresh jalapeño or serrano chili pepper, pepitas or sunflower seeds and olive oil. Divide into small jars and freeze.

{broccoli, zucchini, and penne with cilantro pesto}

Curries. I love freezing curry because unlike many dishes, the flavors don't diminish in the freezer. Once defrosted, eat with rice or naan, and you have a nutritious and flavorful meal. One of my favorite curries is the Vietnamese yellow curry from Essentials of Slow Cooking, but I also recommend Smitten Kitchen's curried lentils and sweet potatoes, as well as red lentil curry from Real Simple.

Beans + Veggies. Even when I have plenty of time to cook, I always keep my freezer stocked with frozen peas and corn, as well as any array of beans. Just put beans (either cooked from dried, or from a can) in a freezer safe container, and add water to cover by at least one inch. Make sure to leave enough room at the top of the container for water to expand!

2. PREP WHEN YOU HAVE TIME Since having W, I still "have time" to cook, but the time is distributed differently than it was before. I try to take advantage of free moments to prep food so it's ready in my fridge. For example:

Wash/chop veggies. As convenient as those little baby carrots are, I hate paying more for them at the store. I also find the "real" carrots have more taste. So I buy a pound bag of carrots and peel and chop them into sticks all at once. I do this with celery too. That way I have snackable vegetables in my fridge whenever I'm craving something healthy. If they're not there, I'm more likely to go for the chips...I also wash and store lettuce, spinach, cilantro etc. as soon as I'm home from the store, so it's ready to go whenever I need it.

Find some make-ahead recipes you love. It's not rocket science, but making food ahead can be a godsend when you're busy. When I have time, I like to make breakfast ahead so it's easy to grab in the morning when I'm famished. I LOVE making a week's worth of steel-cut oats in mason jars, and if I'm having company or just want a tasty breakfast, this make-ahead baked french toast is delightful. And so easy!

3. SPEND MORE MONEY AT THE STORE This contradicts what I said above about carrots, but I think it's totally worth it to spend a bit more money on foods that make your life easier. (I certainly buy the baby carrots from time to time! I'm just a cheapskate and say to myself at the store "I can peel those myself!") In the weeks right after W was born, I stocked the fridge with lots of fruits and vegetables, hummus, individual yogurts, CLIF bars, cheese sticks and "healthy" chips/crackers. I also like to keep frozen raviolis and American Flatbread pizzas on hand; add greens and both make great dinners in a pinch.

{365 organic spinach and cheese whole wheat raviolis with salad}

4. PICK RECIPES THAT AREN'T OVERLY AMBITIOUS This shift hasn't been the easiest for me. I like to try new recipes, and I usually pick ones that are pretty involved. But in the past few months I've tried to focus on putting a healthy dinner on the table as the primary goal. Of course I want it to be tasty, but it doesn't need to be fine dining. I went through my recipe archives for some quick and easy ideas. A book I got as a baby present has been a great resource too! I tend towards pasta with veggies, but my current go-to is: Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw.

The final piece of this "eating well with baby" puzzle is obvious: go out as much as possible! Great food! No dishes! But more on that in another post.