Friday, January 28, 2011

Fancy Fillo Chicken

Thanks to French Fridays with Dorie, I'm blogging two days in a row. Wow! Unfortunately, this week it became deadline cooking. But, the dish was worth the effort. This week's recipe from Around My French Table is chicken b'stilla.

It's a sort of Moroccan chicken pot pie. Although there were several steps and a few hours involved, it really wasn't a difficult dish to make. I love saffron and was excited to use it with a different combination of flavors.

I marinated the chicken thighs in onion, garlic, coriander, cinnamon, and ginger, and saffron overnight in the fridge. Then came slow cooking the chicken and making the sauce, which combined the savory of chicken broth with the sweet of honey. I followed the advice of fellow bloggers and tempered the eggs, which worked perfectly.

It was my first time working with fillo dough. It wasn't as difficult as I imagined.

It's like flexible paper, but a little more fragile. It ended up a beautiful color.

I did use some foil on top to keep it from getting too brown. I decided to forget about taking the whole pie out of the container and putting it on a serving platter. I thought it would just ruin what had looked pretty so far.

Of course, I couldn't wait longer than five minutes to dive in, which meant the first piece was not so pretty on the plate, but others looked better. Funny how it never looks like the picture in the book:)

It tasted great! It had a nice complexity of flavor and texture. I loved the little bit of crunch from the sliced almonds. My hubby thought it was a little too sweet. I would agree that the sweetness sort of takes over. The saffron ended up being a background flavor instead of the main attraction. However, I really enjoyed making and tasting something so different than the usual pot pie comfort food. It's been a long time since I've had Moroccan food, so this was a nice departure. I would recommend the recipe for a dinner party or other special occasion, since it does take some time and work.

I probably wouldn't have tried this recipe on my own, which is why this cookalong is so fun. Next week...basque potato tortilla (hey, isn't this a French cookbook? C'est la vie!)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Now, we're talkin'

By being such a blogging slacker, I've really missed out on opportunities to keep a good record of what Hana's doing. She is developing so fast! Of course, this is all new to us. Mieko's development was completely different. I feel like a brand new parent.

It's funny to look back at my worries last year, when she was about 18 months old and only saying four words... "hi", "no", "Dada", and "uh-oh". Most developmental checklists will say a child has about 50 words at that age. I asked every speech therapist I knew for advice. I realized she was communicating with sounds and gestures, which was key. She also experimented with sounds, but just didn't have a lot of words. I learned some of the tried and true techniques for promoting speech.... information talk (narrating everything you do), following the child's lead, and giving them a reason to talk (don't do everything for them). We worked hard on filling her receptive language bank with words. If you want a child to talk, then you have to talk to them. But, you also have to give them time and space to talk too. Wait time doesn't come naturally to a lot of us, but teachers and therapists know it's important.

Hana is now two years and three months old. She has at least a couple hundred words (we stopped counting) and she's saying sentences like these...

"I like peanut butter"
"I missed you Daddy"
"Say hi kitties" (this means she wants to go upstairs and pet her kitties)
"I don't like it"
"Hana, stinky farts"
"Sit here Daddy"
"Come here Honey" (kitty Jordan)
"I see piggy toes"
"Where going?"
"What doing Mommy?"
"I love you"

We also worked on communication with Mieko, but in much different ways. I don't know of any children or adults with full Trisomy 18 that are verbal. Though Mieko didn't have words, she communicated with smiles and so many expressions. She made sounds and some gestures. We used sign language when speaking with her, but she did not sign. She used pushed buttons to activate toys and the touch screen on a computer. We were thinking about getting some kind of augmentative communication device for her. Unfortunately, we didn't have the chance before she passed away. We spent a lot of time repeating and responding to her sounds and expressions. She still let us know just how she was feeling. She loved to clap and we will never forget all the raspberries.

The challenges are completely different now, but the lessons from Mieko stay with us too. There's so much to learn, but we are learning together and having a great time.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pieces of Chocolate Goodness

I'm interrupting this family blog to talk about food. I'm jumping into the Around My French Table Cookalong you'll find at French Fridays with Dorie. This week featured one of my favorite foods in the world... chocolate. It's called michael rostang's double chcocolate mousse cake.

It was actually quite easy to make with not a lot of ingredients. Melting the chocolate and whipping the meringue went well. I loved pulling out my Kitchen-Aid again, after a long hiatus. The recipe calls for twice baking the cake. First, you make a bottom shell using just the ring of a springform pan. This is where not following directions got me into trouble. You were supposed to put either a silicone mat or parchment paper underneath the ring and on top of a sheet pan. Well, I couldn't find either one, so I just put it on top of my non-stick and slightly warped cookie sheet.

As you can see, some of the cake oozed out the side. I saw that others had this problem too. The cake didn't puff up along the sides as described in the book. It remained a flat shell. I made the "warm" cake recipe. I chilled the shell for just an hour in the fridge instead of overnight. Then , I baked the remainder of the batter as directed on top of the shell. It came out looking and smelling lovely.

The big problem came when it was time to serve to some of my friends.

The cake was positively glued to the cookie sheet. There was no way of prying it off without turning it into cake "shards". So, that's what we ate along with some vanilla ice cream.

My buddies, the knitting chicas, were fine with that. All that chocolately goodness was still there, just didn't look so pretty. Lesson learned. Directions are there for a reason. At least the failure was still pretty satisfying. Next week...chicken b'stilla.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy 2011

Another year, and another opportunity to start blogging more. I've really been inspired by my friend Jen who has been blogging everyday of this year, so far. You check her out her blog Jfibers here. For more motivation, I've also decided to join my other good friend Heather on the cookalong for Around My French Table. It's connected to the author's blog French Fridays with Dorie. I will be blogging about the week's recipe every Friday. This week, I'll post my adventures with Chocolate Mousse Cake.

But, before we move on... let's cap off 2010. In mid-December, I finished my Early Childhood Special Education student teaching and submitted my portfolios (with help from some friends). Now that I'm done with my coursework, I'm just waiting for the Minnesota Department of Education to grant me a license. Then, I'll be an official teacher. Woo woo! In the meantime, I'm subbing for Osseo Public Schools in their Infant/Toddler program. It's been a great experience. Unfortunately, it's only a six week maternity leave fill-in. I'll be looking for a more permanent job after that. I'm enjoying the home visits with babies, toddlers, and their families. This time around I'm getting some great experience with assessments too.

OK. I digress. After finishing student teaching, we drove to California for the holidays. First, we went to Northern California to visit relatives, including Hana's namesake Auntie Hanami.

My brother and his wife also met us up there. Then, we headed down to LA for a few more days of sun, warmth, and time with friends of family. We were really excited to see Jess and her family, who were home from Australia.

Hana had a great time with Grandma and Grandpa.

It was a very Hello Kitty Christmas, as you can tell. Hana wanted to open EVERYTHING. All we heard all week was "open it".

We had the chance to see the San Diego Wild Animal Park and Shawn played as much golf as possible.

It was such a quick trip, but worth the effort to see friends and family. Hana did pretty will with all the driving. She entertained herself with the La Bamba puppy from the Aunties. You can see the yotuube video here.

As soon as we got home, we were surrounded by more friends and family for Eric and Sarah's New Year's Eve wedding. It was awesome. The bride was gorgeous, the groom got "Rick rolled", and the party was stupendous. Hana had so much fun dancing, she was out there bouncing around for about three hours. Amazingly, she made it to midnight. We couldn't think of a better way to ring in the new year.

Since then, it's been back to battling the snow. It's snowiest winter of the last eight years. Hana is back at daycare. She loves being around the other kids, but once again, she's been sick. I hope she has immunity of steel after all this. Otherwise, she's been happy. She loves to sing and often wakes us up in the morning singing a favorite song, like "Baa Baa Black Sheep". But, she's also become a very stubborn two year-old. We are going through many battles over putting on coats, etc. But, we are also thankful to have such a headstrong girl.

Even during these busy times, we keep thoughts of Mieko with us. The holidays are always a challenge. For some reason, the new year is a hard time for me. Mieko would be seven this year. We try to think of all the wonderful memories we have together, but there will always be a piece missing in our lives. I'm looking forward to sharing what Mieko taught me during my new career.

Happy New Year Everyone!