Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Grilled Lemon Dill Potato Salad

Happy two months to this little lady!

It's really hard to believe Carson is two months old already, and in one short month I'll be going back to work. It's been such a joy to be home with my family this summer, watching Carson grow and packing Riker's days full of fun. And packed, they sure have been!

Even though I'm often tired, I get stir crazy staying inside all day, so it seems like almost every day/night we're out doing something, newborn and energetic toddler in tow. We've had the county fair, rides and fireworks at the boardwalk, beach days and pool days, countless walks in the park, a day trip to Philly, a birthday party at a bouncy house, a family day at a local winery, and even a float down the creek.

In between all the fun, we've also done a ton of work on the house, which we're trying to finish up quickly since we're having my sister's engagement party here next weekend. I've also been able to do a lot more cooking now that Carson is sleeping more. I am really loving this summer!

One thing I've loved the most is the number of friend's BBQ's, family parties and impromptu dinners we've gone to. Speaking of BBQs, if you're getting a little sick of the same old side dishes every weekend now that we're at the end of July, I present to you the grilled potato salad.

I've made this twice for family parties this summer and it was a hit each time. It's a refreshing twist on a classic potato salad, which I love because I'm not a big fan of the traditional mayo-laden kind. It has great char flavor from the grill, a little crunch from the onion, a nice zing from lemon, vinegar and capers, and a fresh flavor from the garden herbs.

Love those grill marks!

I'm also a sucker for warm salads. This can be served right off the grill or at room temperature, which makes for an easy dish to make and then take with you to a party.

Off to the beach!

Grilled Lemon Dill Potato Salad

Serves 8

5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced thick
1/2 red onion, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh dill, minced
2 Tbsp. parsley, minced
4 Tbsp. capers
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Salt & pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil; parboil the potatoes for about 5 minutes, until they are just fork tender but not quite cooked through. Drain and set on a baking sheet. Drizzle potatoes with olive oil and then grill for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are completely cooked through and slightly charred.

To make the vinaigrette, add olive oil, vinegar, mustard, lemon zest and juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper to a jar; shake or whisk until combined.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked potatoes, onion, dill, parsley and capers. Pour half of the vinaigrette over the salad while the potatoes are still warm so they absorb some of the dressing. Reserve the other half of the vinaigrette to pour over the salad just before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (Recipe ReDux)

I've been on the hunt for rhubarb for months now. Growing up in Vermont, we ate it every spring/summer in spades - it was always readily available and we would make rhubarb jam, pies, ice cream sauce, you name it. I even liked to eat it raw dipped in a little sugar. Love the stuff!

If you've never had rhubarb, it looks like large red celery stalks but tastes super tart, almost like a green apple. I like it for its tartness and love a plain rhubarb pie, but it also balances out really well with sweet fruit, which is why you often see it paired with strawberries. When I found it by chance in the ShopRite organic section the other day, I was giddy as a little kid and grabbed a few stalks with no real plan for it, until Sunday. As usual I was last minute on coming up with a ReDux recipe for the month, and as luck would have it, we had plans to have dinner at Matt's parents' house with a bunch of his aunts, uncles and cousins, and I had offered to bring a dessert. Rhubarb, meet berries and sugary crumbs.

This crisp is filled with summer berry sweetness and just a hint of the tart rhubarb, with an extra punch of flavor from some dark rum. It's perfect for a treat on a warm night with a glass of wine sitting by the fire pit. Ah, sweet summer.

 Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Serves 6-8

10 oz. rhubarb, cut into chunks (2 large stalks, or about 2 1/2 cups chopped)
4 cups strawberries, chopped
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. dark rum
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick cold butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 375.

In a bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and rum. Mix well and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add cubed butter and cut into the flour with a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs (do not overmix or use your hands, or the butter will become too soft).

Add the fruit mixture to an ungreased 8x8 pan, and scatter the flour mixture on top. Bake for about 45 minutes, until topping is browned and fruit is bubbling. Let cool completely so the fruit will set, then top with powdered sugar.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Things I've Learned

After a 5 week hiatus, I'm finally getting a chance to sit on the patio and catch up on email (sort of) and the blog. I've loved having this past month away from the digital world to enjoy my family, but I've missed it too. Although I've had plenty of sleepless nights, exhausted days, dirty diapers to change and bottles to clean, I can't say that I've been sitting around the house all day in sweatpants, un-showered and Googling like mad every time the baby cries - which is exactly what I did when Riker was born and what I thought life would be like the second time around. Having a baby for the second time has been an absolutely joyous experience, full of all the wonder and excitement of the first time but devoid of all the anxiety and confusion. Such a great and unexpected surprise!

I've learned a couple of things over the last five weeks as a second time parent:

1. It's so much easier to relax when you know that every cry doesn't warrant panic and it's okay to actually leave the house with a young infant.

You just have to be willing to feed the baby with your chin while eating dinner, be prepared to scurry out of wherever you are if she starts wailing, and plan for road trips to take about double the time they would normally take. It's all good.

2. Having a second child doesn't change life all that much. While it certainly is a lot more time consuming, I don't feel like things are as crazy as I thought they would be. I think that's because when you have your first child, your whole world changes - you have to get used to an entirely new life and new routine. Since we've already adapted to life as parents, adding a fourth member to our family has just been really fun and not very stressful.

3. It really is possible to love another child as much as your first. I realize that might sound awful, but I really did have small fears that I could never love another child as much as I love Riker. Little did I know that my heart could grow even bigger than it was before. It's hard to put into words how much I love them both. They are my everything.

4. Having a baby in the summer is awe-some. Not only is there more to do during the summer (I had Riker in the winter, and baby and I were stuck inside for the bulk of three months), but extended daylight and warm weather seems to make me feel less tired even after being awake most of the night. We also have the added bonus that Matt is a teacher and has the summer off with me. He's coaching soccer all summer since their pre-season starts in June, so he's been working a few hours 4 days a week, but we've still been squeezing in lots of fun summer activities and making the most of our time off together. We're determined to make this the best summer yet, exhaustion and all. Not to mention, having a second parent at home is making it infinitely easier for both of us to adjust to the extra work of a second child.

So far the last five weeks has included:

- Lots of family and friend BBQs and pool days

- Blueberry picking 

- Taking Riker to his very first movie - an adventure, to say the least. Thankfully it was a free movie as part of our local movie theater's "Summer Movie Series", so the theater was packed with other small children and mine wasn't the only one who was constantly up & down and talking loudly. :/ My friend Heather and I ended up leaving before the movie ended, me with a crying baby in one arm and a kicking toddler in the other, but hey - it was fun while it lasted. Ha!

- A vacation home in Vermont to visit my family and take Riker to a farm museum, the lake I swam in as a child, and for an overnight stay at Jay Peak Resort to splash around in their indoor water park.

I have to say, this water park was awesome, and so was the food and gorgeous hotel.

My favorite meal there was a "locavore buffet" where all the foods were sourced from local farms. I didn't snap any pics of that since I was too busy taste testing nearly everything they had to offer.

We had such a blast on our little vacation, and part of the reason we had so much fun is that we had no expectations and just let the kids' schedules dictate what we could and could not do. We fully planned on the drive to take 10+ hours since we have to feed the baby every 2-3 hours, but we incorporated fun activities along the way so that it wasn't stressful - we stopped at several playgrounds to feed Carson so Riker could run around, took a break to watch the World Cup in Albany, ate at one of our favorite restaurants in New Paltz, and made a pit stop at Lake George so Riker could swim.

- Getting a babysitter a few times here and there so we could enjoy some time with friends during the USA finals and over 4th of July weekend.

- Spending time on the beach, of course. Don't worry, Carson has her very own tent and umbrella to keep her shaded. ;)

We even had a kite-flying beach picnic last night with some of our good friends. I always feel so grateful to live where we live when we're up at the ocean.

All in all, it's been a really great couple of weeks and I'm thankful for every minute I have home with my babies right now.

On to #5...

5. Eating "one pot" meals are the easiest way to make sure we eat healthy meals balanced with protein, healthy carbs and veggies when we don't have time to cook a big meal. It's way too easy to skip making a vegetable when we just throw stuff on the grill or make a simple pasta meal, so I've been making a lot of big salads and "bowl meals" to make sure we're still eating our greens. Some favorites include:

Taco Salad - always a pleaser.

Cauliflower "rice" (recipe found on Pinterest) with shrimp, onions & peppers, lime and cilantro.

Hawaiian quinoa bowl with zucchini, carrots, coconut flakes, cranberries, pineapple and macadamia nuts (chicken on top for Matt and Riker). Red wine occasionally on the side too...

Yogurt bowls with assorted fruits (whatever's in my Door to Door Organics box that week), dried cranberries or raisins, and almond / walnuts (mainly for breakfast, but yogurt bowls & smoothies have made their way to the dinner table too).

Mediterranean Couscous Salad - which I actually made for a family BBQ.

6. Even when life seems crazy and you're tired beyond belief when the baby starts to cry at 3 am after you just finished feeding and putting her back to bed...be thankful for everything. All of it. In the weeks since Carson was born and we had that terrible scare, I've heard too many horrible stories of parents losing their newborns at birth. I can't even imagine having to experience the loss of a child, and am thankful every day for our two little miracles that sleep safely in their beds each night. It's really easy to get tired and overwhelmed with the day-to-day of parenting two children, but whenever that feeling inches up, I just look at their tiny faces and am reminded of how blessed we are. 

They are only this little for a short time, so I'm cherishing every second we have before they grow up on us.