Monday, June 29, 2009

I really, really want you to try this at home. A second post about Guatemalan pictures.

Okay. So, I wrote about the coolness of my sis Neely and the deliciousness of the stew she gave us a few weeks ago. I included the recipe, knowing full well it looked a bit complicated (read: lots of words). Plus, there was no personal testimonial or pictures to encourage you fine readers.

So, I had to make it myself to see if it was as easy as Neely said it would be. I found out this past weekend when we trekked up to the northern suburbs to dine with Sara and Josh that, indeed, it was novice-friendly.

It only has 10 different Ingredients. You can do that! Check it out...

40 oz. chicken broth (I use bouillon granules and water)
1 leek cleaned and trimmed, sliced in half lengthwise (I'm tempted to use a large white onion next time...I really think you could cheat here and go with the onion. If you do that, just cut it in half and toss it in like you would that silly ol' leek.)
6 -8 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless whole
1 Tbls minced Garlic (If you must, go ahead and use fresh garlic...overachiever!!! purist!!!)

10 Fire Roasted Roma Tomatoes (canned or do this quickly at home*'s EASY.)
5 -7 Tomatillos, canned
1 1/2 Tbls. minced Garlic (I'm stickin' w/the stuff from the jar. It's easy. And clean.)

1 dried ancho chili (Latin aisle) de-seeded, cut up a little bit (I only de-seeded)
1 dried guajillo chili (yup. Latin aisle) de-seeded and cut up a little bit, too

1 handful (or 1/2 cup) cilantro
1 handful (or 1/2 cup) mint

Ready? Here we go...

Put your chicken, leek (or onion), broth and garlic in a pot and bring to a boil. Then simmer on low for 20 to 30 minutes. (It's thighs, people...they won't dry out, so if you forget about them, don't worry. Quite honestly, I have no idea how long I simmered these thighs.)

After you get that going, put your tomatoes, tomatillos and garlic in another pot and simmer on medium-low for awhile...maybe 20 minutes as well. (Don't worry. Think: Chili. You can't ruin it.) See chicken on the left, tomatillo mixture on the right. Oh...and that's rice in the back left. I started that after I got the tomatoes going. You can do it all at once, pretty much. Nice. Easy.

Okay, so after the chicken/broth mixture has simmered awhile, throw those dried chilies in that broth to soften up. I don't have a picture of this, so here's me. Looking at the pots. Swell, huh? (or should I say swollen?!)

After the chilis soften up, use a slotted spoon to transfer them the tomatillo mixture. If you're using a leek, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to the trash. I didn't know that and used it, but it was a little stringy. If you're using a white onion, put that bad boy in with the tomatillo mixture. While you're at it, transfer the chicken thighs to a cutting board. You'll cut them up later, but not yet. Go ahead and add some of that broth to the tomatillo mixture, too. Oh...And now's about the time you add those delicious herbs. See how pretty?

I thought I was going to hate this next part, but it wasn't so bad. The tomatillo mixture goes in the blender (or food processor if it can handle soups). This was Sara's blender. It had a "veggies" setting. I alternated that with "crush ice". Remember, I put those leeks in there, so I needed the extra chopping power. But even without the leek, you want your chilis and herbs to blend thoroughly.

Return your blended mixture to the pot. The chicken should be cool enough to chop coarsely. Heck, you can shred it if you want. I don't care how big your chicken pieces are...that's your business! shoot. (okay. i'm getting punchy...let's wrap this up!!!) Okay...stir in your chicken. Now you're pretty much done!!!

Do we look stressed out? No. This recipe is totally do-able.

Sara was the first to taste it. I put her on the front lines, just in case it was horrible...or deadly. (I'm really kidding. I'd probably tasted it fifty times already.) She looks a little serious here. That's because awesome food is serious business.

Thanks to Sara's quick thinking at the grocery store and creative culinary skills, we had delicious black beans and corn bread to go with (or was it spoon bread? or both? anyway, it was awesome). Oh, that rice recipe is easy to follow and it was at the bottom of this post. It's really fun to make and would be a good addition to any Latin dish!

oh...almost forgot to tell you, we garnished with chopped cilantro and lime wedges.

Kid friendly? You bet!! Avery was the first one done!

Even Jillian approved.

And look at the joy on that face. That's right, Josh! That bite WILL be delicious.

This concludes my Guatemalan Stew propaganda. If I've convinced just one person to try this recipe, then I will have done my job.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"mom, do you still write your blog?"

Avery asked that today as I was driving the brood home. "Good question, I don't know what..." I trailed off as I imagined what I could possible have to say.

Probably just better to starting unloading the thoughts in a brain dump...

1. On Behaviors... Sometimes when my kids pick-up my bad behavior, it's so upsetting. But, sometimes, it's quite entertaining. For instance, today in the car, a van with one of those "How's My Driving?" stickers stopped abruptly in front of us. I didn't say anything this time, but I heard Avery squawk out, "How's your driving?? Horrible." I know, I know. I'm a Christian mom, right?! I'm supposed to say, "Avery, we should practice patience." But, no. I just nodded my head in approval and giggled.

2. On Pregnancy...Today is Thursday. I'm 24 weeks pregnant. Every time I realize it's Thursday, I try to remember how far along I am. Then, I remember my friend Sara who was expecting two weeks behind me. Sara should be 22 weeks, but she's not. And I think of my friend Amy who was due a few days before me. And I think of my sister-in-law who's baby was due around the same time as ours. Pregnancy doesn't look like it did when I was 22 years old. Lots of things look different. There is so much sadness mixed in with joy.

3. On community...Tonight is the annual block party. No costumes costume this year.

4. On beverages...I miss beer. I miss wine. I don't miss coke, coffee or cafe lattes. I still enjoy those.

5. On Education... The more I think about our decision to send our kids to school, the more happy I am about it. I came thisclose to homeschooling again. I can say with confidence that I would have lost my mind if I had a toddler, a newborn and two children to educate at home. For those of you who do this, wow. You deserve a venti latte and a back rub. everyday.

6. On being so flippin' crafty...I love sewing, yes I do. I love sewing, how 'bout you?? Seriously, people. I'm so glad my family is completely chillax about our living room bathing in fabric while the iron and ironing board are almost always set up. I'm kinda glad I don't have a sewing room, because I can be in my own little sewing world AND be in the same area as the family. It's only annoying sometimes (for both parties I'm sure).

7. On boredom busters...I love google suggest. You know when you start typing something in and then it suggests what you might be trying to type? It's fun. For instance, I just tried, "what does it mean to ____" And here were the options:
-what does it mean to be an american
-what does it mean to be poke someone on facebook
-what does it mean to be human
-what does it mean to square the circle
-what does it mean to be in love
-what does it mean to be a christian
-what does it mean to go green
I know. It's pathetic. It's like a smoke break for me. (but, try it and enjoy.)

8. On the ever-shrinking house...I'd really like to finish off a room in our basement. Does anyone want to fund this? I need want more space. Have I ever mentioned that we have a small house? Usually I'm a pretty good sport. I don't like to actually go camping, but there's an element of campiness to cramming a biggish family into a tinyish home.

9. On board games...So, the other night, Avery asked if I could teach them Clue. You remember that game, right? Became a movie? Right. So, we start playing. And they start asking the questions. "How do you murder someone with a candlestick?" (According to Miles, "You burn them!") How do you murder someone with a rope?" "How do you murder someone with a lead pipe?" (According to one of them, "They smoke it and die.") "What if this gets too scary?" "What if it's like duh-duh-DUH!!" (that was scary music) "What if I have nightmares??" I didn't answer most of these questions. Like, I'm going to teach them how to use a wrench as a weapon?!! But, I did keep going. It's good for their logic skills, right?

10. On "Thank You" notes...I'm 32 years old. I am horrible. I RARELY send a thank you note anymore. I just wish "Thank You" notes were only for when you forgot to say "thank you" in person. Or if the person doesn't have a phone or email. Or...I don't know. I suffer from a disease called constantguiltbecauseiowesomeoneathankyounote. It's painful...hopefully more painful than NOT receiving a thank you note.

Monday, June 15, 2009

confession # 20 - dinner time

After preparing dinner, rarely do I want to sit down with my family and dine. After being nagged with "I'm starving", or interrogated about whether I think a particular child will like dinner, breaking up a fight, finding last minute substitutions for ingredients, calling out for everyone to "wash your hands" fifty times, I really feel like just loading up their plates, leaving them to enjoy dinner while I have some quiet time.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

humbling, shocking & depressing

...guessing that a particular item of maternity-wear is going to be huge on me only to find's too small.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Q: "how did you know to take her to the hospital?"

Okay, want the scoop on the pink arm. I feel pretty cazh about this ordeal, because, really, statistically speaking, we just knew we'd have to deal with this eventually. Of course, I thought my first kid fracture would have happened to one of the boys, but no. Leave it to the most determined and most fearless child.

So, I was making a snack of peanut butter and apples for Miles while he played with Jillian. Little did I know, he was making a barricade of large soft toys on the landing of the steps. The huge squishy square was no match for her strength. She pushed it...and went with it. All I heard was a thump. I ran to her, internally freaked out, bent down and gently stroked her back. Of course, I wanted to pick her up right away, but if medics are cautious about lifting an accident victim, I think I'll follow suit. It didn't take too long before I got over that notion and I picked her up and snuggled her for about 10 minutes while she cried.

I was still trying to figure out whether it was a "that freaked me out" cry or a "I'm in tons of pain" cry when the boys would carelessly walk in the room and ask to watch t.v. or would start singing really obnoxiously to compete with Jillian's noisy cries. seriously. They can be that clueless and insensitive. I know they're young, but c'mon?!!!

So, how did I know to take her to the hospital?

I offered her a handful of mini marshmallows. When I watched her strain to get one only halfway to her mouth and have to give up, I realized there was a huge problem. The boys were immediately sent to the neighbors and I headed to Children's ER.

Of course, she really seemed fine at the ER, but...she wasn't.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

jillian's fashion essentials

Very obsessed with wearing the bike helmet (and, yeah...she has a cast)

And snow boots--especially in warm weather--are a MUST. (I have to hide these.)

Fake glasses are always good. Brent and I give thumbs up to glasses!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

One of my many jobs: deciphering Miles' notes

Wanna give it a try??

It's a list of things he's thankful for. (I had to guess that, too.)

This has the same spacing he wrote out.

"viteeogeam's. sokr. sokrboll.e.fren's. 4 famly.amom hwodosint wont me to be akinqlaner. g. footboll.afootboll."

By the way, there are notes like this all over the house. He's been writing like this for years. It's almost like a foreign language. And, I should probably have an honorary degree in Milesese by now...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

he wrote another post...for another blog

Recently Brent bicycled into work downtown with his buddy, James. I guarantee you will enjoy this quick read on James' blog about his experience. Maybe you'll even be inspired to start cycling to work....or maybe not.

aaaand she's a great cook (amazing recipe included)

Those of you who know my sister Neely, don't know everything about her I'm sure. She picks stocks for a living. She is wife to an wonderful artist. She's incredibly generous with anything she has to give. She could never be described as lazy (ever!). And she's a doting Mama to an incredibly adorable boy, Samuel, who was born in Guatemala. Aaand, man, can she cook!!!

When Brent and I first moved to Minneapolis, we lived with Neely and Steve...for TWO and a HALF MONTHS. They weren't parents yet, and still let our family of four take over two bedrooms the whole house. One of the things that amazed me was Neely's energy level. She'd leave before anyone was up and come home after a full day and whip up an amazing dinner. (I'm sheepishly now wondering why I didn't make dinner every night...)

As I said, Neely is always sharing the bounty. So even now, if she makes a big batch of anything, we get surprised with the "excess". Yeehaw. Last night, I felt particularly blessed, as I was in the hospital with the kids (I'll explain later. We're fine. Don't worry.) when I got a call from Neely.

Neely: "Hey, Jen, I know you don't have any minutes, but I made this Guatemalan stew and it's more than we can eat. Can I drop it by?"

Me: (realizing it's 4pm and I haven't thought about dinner.) "YES!!!"

So, as I pull up to my house, there she is with said stew including the garnishes (an avocado, a lime and a tub of sour cream...I know...those items are a major indication this will be good!).

As I'm prone to--wait for it--take a huge whiff of my food before I eat it, I took in the most glorious aroma. (I promise you, the smelling everything's not even conscious. Do not take offense if I dine at your table and smell everything first...I'll try to stop.)

Anyway, I think I ate portion of it while heating it up. Amazing. With her permission, I'm sharing the recipe.

Oh...and by the way, she learned this at a Guatemalan Cooking class her best friend got for her as a gift. Good friend! Good Mama! Good sister!

So, without further ado, I introduce Neely the stock picking chef!!!

"I learned how to make this traditional Guatemalan stew at a cooking class by a Guatemalan chef, but I made some adjustments to take the "crazy" out of it...."

Step One: place the following ingredients in a stockpot, bring to a boil, simmer for 20-30 min.
2 lbs. turkey or chicken thighs, boneless/skinless
1 head of garlic, slice the tap nearly off; paper on.. no need to peel
1 leek, cleaned, trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise
32-48 oz. chicken broth/water/whatever

Step Two: place the following ingredients in another large pot and cook on low to medium heat
you can roast your own tomatoes (10), tomatillos (5) and garlic (3-4)... OR you can use the following:
1 large can of whole tomatoes, i like to use the fire roasted muir garden type
1 large can of crushed tomatoes, again, the fire roasted muir garden type
1 can of cooked tomatillos (in the mexican food aisle).. the can will have 5-10 tomatillos in it
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled/smashed

Step Three: prepare your chiles
use a pair of scissors to de-seed (empty) and cut up: 1 ancho chile pepper and 1 guajillo pepper
use some of the hot stock to cover the peppers in a bowl for 5-10 minutes in order to soften up

Step Four: blend, baby, blend
add the chilis (including the juice) and a solid handful of each cilantro and mint to the Step Two large pot of ingredients
use a really good immersion blender to puree the ingredients all together

Step Five: add the chicken and serve over rice* (i'll email my new favorite rice recipe)
cut the thighs into smaller pieces and add, along with 1-2 cups of the broth, into the stew

And for the finale... here's the official name of this stew: 'Kac Ik' (I am NOT making this up)"

Serve over Arroz con Maiz, recipe by Amalia Damgaard

1 c. rice
1.75 c. chicken broth (i use the leftover broth from the stew recipe)
1 Tbl. oil
1 garlic clove, rough chop
1 small onion, grated in your cheese grater
1 celery stalk, whole and bruised (take back of knife and bang it along the stalk)
juice from 1/2 lime
1 c. frozen corn

Bring to a boil, stir once, cover, lower heat to simmer and cook until water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Discard the celery and serve