Category: Mom’s Cooking

A long holiday weekend started with a major, MAJOR, M-A-J-O-R spring clean. By the early afternoon, the house sparkled and smelled of fresh lemon and pine. There must be something terribly wrong with me because I love to clean, do dishes, and fold laundry, too. I love a clean house even more. Showered and dolled up by 4 PM on Friday, I was ready and excited to meet up with friends. We visited the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for their open house where a friend of ours is a resident artist. We also saw a copper pour which was spectacular and reminded me that art can be physically demanding in addition to requiring incredible creativity.

The girls were back on Saturday and we resumed our family-oriented weekend visiting Smith Memorial Playground on a beautiful warm winter’s day. It is nice to see that Eliza is finally catching up to Sophia in her playground skills and our role as parents is less and less physically involved. The girls initially wanted to go to the zoo but our family was not the only with such aspirations and traffic was awful getting there which meant that the zoo grounds would be crowded. Everyone was very happy with the playground and a whole lot of fresh air.

Eliza and Sophia visited Baba and Deda where Sophia learned how to make varenyky (pierogies) and they both caught up with their cousin. This picture above is timeless and transcends many generations in my family; I have memories of the very same braids, wearing an apron with a little rolling pin in hand, ready to make something in the kitchen. And before me, my sister, and before her, my mom, and her mom before that. These three — there are no words only knowledge that this bond is solid and made for life.

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Our friends came for brunch on Sunday and brought an amazing rendition of snickerdoodle pie. Baking cinnamon-infused cookie dough into crispy pie crust really is a no brainer. I saved the recipe and shall have to learn how to make it very, very well by practicing often. Brunch was a simple affair and, in addition to the snickerdoodle pie, included buttermilk pancakes, turkey meatballs that the girls have dubbed amazeballs, and vanilla-bean cheesecake (all homemade). The kids played together and the adults conversed and tried to keep up with the continuous pancake, juice, and meatball requests.

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That was Sunday which we kept in line with the long weekend’s theme keeping things low-key and focusing on spending time with Sophia and Eliza. Saturday we took the girls out for chocolate croissants and coffee steamed milks, saw the Comcast Center’s Holiday Spectacular, made sour cherry hand-pies, and made a super comforting roast chicken dinner.

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Friday, for a real treat, we took the girls to the Please Touch Museum for a morning of play and discovery. We were there shortly after the museum opened and the girls didn’t skip a beat heading downstairs to the grocery store and hospital exhibits. img_7438.jpg

Before Friday, there was Thanksgiving which we spent with my family in Wilmington, Delaware having contributed a home-made cranberry pie with a streusel topping. The pie featured a home-made crust of which I am very proud of having gone as far as to blind bake it. 
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I had plenty of little fingers to help me measure out all the ingredients, stir the cranberries in the pot, and decorate the top with streusel.

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Thanksgiving was just as we liked it — fairly small, warm, and delicious. It was a real treat to just kick back and relax.

img_7448.jpgIn the end, even after all the other pictures featuring mouthwatering pies and glossy berries, this one (see above) is my favorite. It was taken using my phone and isn’t particularly well-framed but it conveys the very essence what our daily life is about — developing and nurturing a bond between Sophia and Eliza. Here is Sophia helping Eliza zip up her coat. She did this without us prompting simply because she wanted to help and to be the big sister. This Thanksgiving break was epic.

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Labor Day is always bittersweet. It is the summer’s last hurrah providing families and friends with a sun-filled opportunity to spend time together before the start of the school year. We made the most of the three-day weekend starting with Ladies’ Night on Friday. Evan was meeting a friend of his for dinner/drinks and so the girls and I took Old City by force on a beautiful First Friday. They loved visiting the galleries and felt so sophisticated sporting their purses that Baba bought them in Budapest. 

Saturday was just as action packed with a visit to my in-laws for a bit of time in the country, followed by a double birthday celebration for our cousins who turned six and seven. I loved that my family gets together for kids’ birthdays and spends time together just being while the kids play. The rest of the weekend was decidedly lower-key and craft filled. The girls spent most of the day on Monday at their Baba and Deda’s house and the highlight of the day was their visit with my sister. I am so grateful that she made time for her nieces and they were over the moon from all the attention.

We did continue decorating and setting up Sophia’s room with goodies we find in our basement from our previous residences. I originally picked this rug out for Sophia’s nursery but we ended up putting it away in our house in Maryland after she started walking. It really fits into her space now and makes for a cozy play corner with her doll-house and a sitting pillow. We’re not ready for the school year and for fall in general but we did enjoy the weekend.

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Halloween has never been a huge part of our lives but this holiday is becoming much more fun now that we have little ones running around. Sophia requested to be a bee this year and we dutifully obliged. Old City and Society Hill were teaming with kids in costumes heading toward their schools at the end of last week. The kids, the costumes, the brightly colored trees all made for quite the magical atmosphere.


The weekend, despite the kids both getting head-colds, was spectacular. My parents took the girls on Saturday. Chicken noodle soup (homemade) and plenty of tea and other amazing eats helped Eliza and Sophia get better in no time. Meanwhile, Evan and I balanced chores, cooking, and even some quality time together. Too lazy and impatient to order take-in, I took matters into my own hands and made Singapore noodles from scratch in 15 minutes. Truly, it was done faster than I imagined, tasted super delicious despite not having made the whole thing in a wok, and I made it with a new curry blend I recently picked up. Evan made sous and we watched Star Wars with the volume set to normal not fearing that it will wake the kids up. The latter… with the volume on, for the first time in four years. Heaven. And if I must admit to other things that I have been able to return to, I’ll mention that I can now blow dry my hair in the morning. Also for the first time in four years. #parenthood

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Having gotten a bit of a break on Saturday, we embraced quality time with the kids on Sunday spending the better part of the morning in pajamas. The girls received calls from Baba and Deda checking on how they were feeling and even managed to entice my parents for a short visit that evening. Sometimes, when you’re not feeling well, a call—just a call, can lift your spirits. It shows that you’re thought of, cared for, and loved. Life lessons my kids are learning firsthand.

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Sophia and I also baked an upside down cranberry cake. She was fascinated about me calling it upside down and couldn’t wait to help and turn it over onto a platter after it baked. Cranberries are rich in Vitamin C, so it was obviously a decision with healthfulness in mind.

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And just like that, the weekend is over, the week begins and I can once again enjoy the city’s beauty during the peak of fall foliage. Whoever said that Philadelphia is a concrete jungle, clearly doesn’t know the city well. Can you guess where this was taken?

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Sophia turned four. Four is a big deal! Almost like a recipe — a party, a good party requires a few key ingredients. Good food. Check. It also requires good cakes, several cakes. Check. Some drinks — juices for the kids and beer/wine for the adults. Check, check. Last, but absolutely critical, a good party requires friends and family.

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We started planning Sophia’s party a few months ago because we like to take our time working out the menu, guests, and the theme. She was set on a Lego theme and no amount of persuasion helped convince her to change her theme. Evan and I had our hearts on a Totoro theme. We’re hopeful she’ll want to have that as her theme next year and if not, there’ll always be one of Eliza’s parties. We invited our close family and a select few friends. We would have invited more but space was limited and we wanted to leave plenty of room for the kids to enjoy catching up. As it was, there were over thirty people and lots of cousins and friends.

We made all of the food ourselves, save for a salad, a side and a kugel. There was the sausage and peppers, chicken baked in an asian broth dressed with scallions and sesame seeds, rice, a corn and edamame succotash, grilled cheese two ways, an apricot kugel, a fiesta and a quinoa salads, and stewed eggplant. I baked two cakes–a lemon layer cake and a chocolate cake. The lemon cake was a rich pound cake base with a home-made lemon curd and iced with a lemon-cream cheese frosting. The chocolate cake was death by chocolate a triple layer chocolate cake filled and iced with chocolate ganache. Lastly, and because we enjoy cooking together, Sophia and I made chocolate balls which were a rich chocolate cake mixed with ethereally light vanilla buttercream frosting and dipped in bittersweet chocolate. They were such fun to make and a huge hit at the party.

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The adults socialized, the kids played, we sang happy birthday, blew out candles, ate cake, and opened presents. Sophia was thrilled that her friends and family made the time to join us in celebrating her birthday. She loved her presents. This birthday was for Sophia but it was a family party where we came together with people we love and spent time catching up.

IMG_3315The picture is a bit fuzzy… it is the best one I have until my sister and brother-in-law look through their pictures. They hosted the party opening their house to our guests and helped enormously. Their selfless generosity is the very definition of family. This is what families, real, close-knit families do–make time, open their home, their hearts, and enjoy the pitter patter and laughter of tiny guests. I couldn’t be happier that Sophia and Eliza are learning by example. And thank you Anna, David and Alex for your open home and open hearts. Truly.

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The much anticipated Pope’s visit has come to an end and in a few short hours life will be back to normal. 

  
Admittedly, we did not know what to expect in choosing to stay in the city and shuttering ourselves in. I was concerned about crowds, but my worries turned out to be unsubstantiated.

We did work from home on Friday and took it easy the rest of the weekend. There was laundry, cooking, and fall cleaning. Missing what has become a weekly delicious delivery service from my parents which usually consists of things like blintzes and a full dinner (often sustaining us for more than 1 night), I got down to business and made … blintzes.

Evan made japanese meatballs with home-made teriyaki sauce and now I won’t ever try store bought. Not even from fancy gourmet brands. Besides all of the daily household chores, there was old fashioned family time without any external distractions or incentives to go and do something. Old-school family time. We didn’t rush anywhere, not even the park or playground in the mornings. Lazy, coffee-laden breakfasts morphed into play, into snacks, lunches and spontaneous movie nights.    

As I folded the 6th load of kids’ clothes, having pruned both the girls’ closets and readied them for the coming cooler months, I realized that I have, gradually, embraced the business of the typical weekend, just as I have the changes to my life after becoming a mom. 

The beauty of it all became suddenly obvious. I don’t miss labor and delivery or the first few weeks at home with a newborn, mastitis, colicky babies, changing (and paying for) 12+ diapers a day, blowouts, and what my mother-in-law charmingly calls the bewitching hour. I miss the little things like sibling kisses, baby hugs, and first tall castles out of wood blocks. Rather, I don’t miss them just yet, but I know that I will, miss them, one day when they’re not so readily available. This weekend? This weekend I missed my mom’s blintzes and her birthday. Happy Birthday, Mama! 

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What weekend? We aren’t complaining since our weekends seem to fly because we’re having a good time. Sophia started school this past Wednesday and we’re getting into the swing of things with drop-offs, pick-ups, snacks, and learning to be punctual. Summer’s definitely over but the warm weather persists and there is no better place we’d rather be than in the city on a warm weekend day.

STEAM or Science Technology Engineering ART & Math is something we’re enjoying as of late. Sophia threw clay for the first time ever. She loved it. I loved it, more; I loved seeing her trying and learning something new.

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Here is a video of her actually doing it.

After throwing the clay, she painted her bowl which will then be glazed, cured, and fired.

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We can pick it up in a few weeks. The studio which sponsored this amazing event (where Sophia also contributed to the community sculpture) is also hosting several Family Days which we’re planning to take advantage of.

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We treated the girls to a breakfast out which, for them, is a special treat. Eliza has never been to a restaurant for breakfast before and thoroughly enjoyed herself. We walked home through Independence Park and, for the first time ever, Sophia asked us to read the placards describing the history of each site.
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And after all that, we made time to stop by a children’s toy store so well curated that I wanted to be a kid again just so I could play there.FullSizeRender 8Alas, all good things and great weekends must come to an end. Ours didn’t end without ringing in the Jewish New Year with my family and our family friends. Home-made mouth-watering brisket, mashed potatoes, three cakes, and more sides than I dare brag about mention made for a delicious meal but more than that, it was (as it always is) about the quality time with people whom I love.

FullSizeRender 3The sun may set on our weekend and this (Jewish) year, but it shines bright on new beginnings.

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The weekend was mild permitting us to pick cherries and enjoy the outdoors. The week is starting off hot and very humid and that calls for one of my favorite things: a summer borscht. Admittedly, I have not cooked this batch or any other batch. For whatever reason, I find the process of cooking borscht (hot or cold) daunting. My mother’s summer borscht is divine. If you have never had cold borscht, you should know that it is served with fixings such as hardboiled eggs, cucumbers, sour cream and dill. They elevate the very simple, clean broth to an exceptional first course.

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Is the weekend really over? Time flies when you’re having fun and we really had a great weekend. The only issue was that it was far too short, or it sure felt that way.
Strawberry picking season is finally here and so we headed to the farm bright eyed and bushy tailed this Saturday morning to pick strawberries. Sophia and I fed the farm animals while Evan picked. Strawberry harvesting is not that easy and it almost feels a shame to cook with any of them once you’ve worked so hard to pick them. We opted against making strawberry pies or cobblers or even ice cream and are just eating them out of hand.

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We also had a special treat this weekend in seeing our good friends from Philadelphia. They were enjoying a long weekend in Baltimore and were generous enough to drive a bit further southwest to have dinner with us. Sophia enjoyed spending time with their son who is also two years old.
We also couldn’t pass up a visit from my parents this weekend who re-supplied us with Baba’s famous meat blintzes and other delicious treats. However, my parents weren’t here on just a culinary delight delivery mission. It just so happened that Sunday was our anniversary and we got a chance to get out for a lunch-date while Sophia enjoyed some time with her grandparents.

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Alas, since the weekend was rather busy with being out and enjoying company, there wasn’t as much cooking as is typical around these parts. I did choose a Chicken with Cardamom Rice recipe from my Jerusalem cookbook that Evan cooked and it was a-h-m-a-z-i-n-g. Here, see for yourself.

AnnivWeekend4You’re probably thinking to yourselves … “where’s the dessert?” Fear not, there were home-made, extra fudgy brownies and home-made vanilla ice cream, too. It was our anniversary, after all!

 

 

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Whew… and what a busy and delicious weekend it was. I guess we missed being home over the weekend having been gone for the past two and so we both rushed home from work with bags full of groceries and had every plan to stay, relax and cook. The weather has been beautiful and that has influenced both our time outdoors and our menu.

Before I tell you about the menu and all the fun things we did, I cannot in good faith hold back the fact that Evan has officially indoctrinated Sophia into the club of Popcorn Connoisseurs.

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As you can see, she is deliberating on whether she should have yet another perfectly popped corn morsel. Not just any popcorn, but Evan’s special, home-made popcorn too. It was a huge hit and I am glad that they have yet another thing they can share. In fact, I am not sure who was more excited about the popcorn, Evan or Sophia. In the end, I am sure her love of this snack was always a foregone conclusion. She is so much like him, it was only a matter of time!

As for what we did the rest of the time? There was fun at the big playground with a castle, a pirate’s boat and an adventure course. There was also a trip to the nursery to get some tomato, pepper and herb plants which was followed first by fervent planting and then serious groans from some sore backs (actually, just mine, but for good reason!). This year, Sophia has really embraced gardening and was so very happy to plant each and every lettuce and snap peas.

While not planting or running around the playgrounds, we stayed home, watched Cinderella and cooked. There were Evan’s obligatory asian-style, barely cooked snow peas,

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and an old-fashioned burger that we made by grinding the meat ourselves (yes, it does make a difference) … with some oven fries.

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They were chased by homemade rhubarb and raspberry frozen yogurt

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These are farmer’s cheese shortbread cookies that I used to love as a child. I had these vivid memories of my mom making them and since this weekend we celebrate Mothers, I thought it appropriate to make something that brings me such warm memories of my own mom.

Are you with me? Oh yes, moving on from sweet and Russian-themed to spicy and Mexican to Breakfast Burritos we made for lunch …

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This weekend was absolutely splendid and oh-so-delicious. I just we didn’t live so far away from our families and could share the spread with them.

 

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