The Shared Cooking Experience {Cooking with Fire}

So it's been FOREVER since I've posted, which is mostly because I have been very busy. You may be happy to know that one of the things I have been busy is actually cooking. I have been learning new techniques, once of which is cooking over the fire. I have also been cooking new recipes, which I am excited to share with you guys.

One of the things I have found since my daughter was born is that recipe development takes longer. And that time is so precious! I find myself wanting to be around the people I love more, and to that end, I have been cooking with people more.

Recently, I've been cooking with my friend Jenn, who is also Ruby's godmother, and her fiancé, Andy. We've been busting out some truly amazing meals together, and having a fabulous time doing it. It all started when Jenn and I wanted to tackle some ravioli together several months ago.

I love making ravioli, but it's so much better when you do it with a friend and make a ton of ravioli that you can freeze and enjoy for the next several weeks. (Check out my ravioli recipes here and here). So there we were: my best friend, my daughter and I, and we were facing down a pile of flour that would become our ravioli.

The ravioli that began it all. 

The experience of rolling out what seemed like a million little raviolis was a lot of fun, if not labor intensive. As it usually happens with my best friend and cooking, our little ravioli adventure sparked something larger. It was around the table later that evening, eating our ravioli with her fiancé and my husband, we concocted a plan to cook over the fire a couple of days later.

Over the spring, we cooked over the fire together several times, and now that we are into summer, our fire cooking sessions are getting more intricate and we've been inviting more people. There is something magical that happens when you share a cooking experience around a fire. It's primal, and it keeps us coming back and growing our venture to include more people, more tricks and, ultimately, more love.

This was a chicken and lemon recipe, one of our first fire cooks. 

You can take something so simple: cooking around a fire, and make it into a day long event that feeds you, body and soul. I find myself looking forward to these days with friends and family; they are their own event.

It was my husband's birthday in June, and Andy (Jenn's aforementioned fiancé) and Jenn got him this book: Seven Fires, Grilling the Argentine Way, written by Francis Mallman. It's become our fire cooking bible, and we are just loving it.

This was our "traditional" Sunday Asado. 

Food has always been a way that I have connected with people, and the older I get, the more this continues to be true for me in an evolutionary way. Now that I have a child, I am especially grateful for her to see people gathering, putting down their phones, looking into the flames of a fire, and cooking a meal together. I want her to know that even in a modern society, we are ancient people and we can practice being present and cooking slowly.

I watched Cooked, ( on Netflix, with Michael Pollan), and he talks about how cooking over a fire is the bridge between the humans and gods. I don't know if I believe in god, per say, but I certainly feel cosmic when I'm communing in this way. I feel responsible for the food in a way I don't when I cook over a stove. I feel connected in an experience that is wholly enriching. And I would like to encourage others who may be interested, to give it a try.

My New Favorite T-Shirt

The other day I was having dinner with my dear friend, Paul, and his friend Nate, and Paul said of me, "No one loves where they live more than you." It's true. I love Delaware, like, so much. Moving away from Delaware is practically unfathomable for me. We have it all: beautiful beaches (actually, some of the most beautiful in country), open farm land, small town appeal, wonderful seafood, and of course, all my friends and family are here (well, almost.) 

Simply put, Delaware is an amazing place, and in particular, Southern Delaware. It's where my heart is. 

So when a high school friend of mine, Crystal, posted her t-shirts online, I was super duper DUPER stoked to grab one. And I wanted to share them with you guys in case you are from Delaware, live in Delaware, or are just feeling Delawarey. If you aren't, check out her other stuff, too. 

But you guys, this is my new favorite t-shirt. I almost don't even want to admit how much I have been wearing it. Gray is my black, so it's just awesome. Thanks to Crystal, I can wear this sucker out. Now I just need to get one for my daughter and we'll be set. 

This is Crystal, she made these beauties (and she has other goodies too!) 

This is muy bestie, Jenn, rocking her t-shirt. I love how she rolled the sleeves. 

And this is me! Seriously, I had no idea how hard taking an outfit selfie in the mirror was. GAH. But whatevs. I love my shirt, and the weird selfie. 

Breastfeeding A Toddler {Past 2 years}

Help normalize breastfeeding by sharing your story. <3
I am amazed to even be titling and writing this post. I think the best place to start is to say that I never dreamed of making it this far in my breastfeeding journey, and I don't know that many moms just sort of happens that way. For my daughter and I, we have found that it works well and we are happy with arrangement, although it continues to evolve.

Allow me to say one thing, so that it's clear: FED IS BEST. This is not meant to tell anyone how they should feed (or not feed) their baby or toddler. But what I found was that there really wasn't a ton of information available to moms like me, so I wanted to share my own experience, and this post is simply that: my experience.

When I brought my daughter home, my goal was to make it ten months with breastfeeding. In some of my darker breastfeeding moments, I would say, "I just want to make it to ten months." The reason behind that was simple--it was when I self weaned as a baby. Let's face it, the beginning is hard. Breastfeeding in the beginning is hard. But once we had the hang of it, well, it was a breeze!

I wrote about my experience breastfeeding past 1 year, which you can read here.  Breastfeeding a nearly two year old has it's own special circumstances and challenges. Here's what I have found so far....

The questions/judgments never stop
"When will you stop breastfeeding?" It's the most frequently asked question I get with regard to my breastfeeding. The simple answer is I don't know. On the heels of this I have also gotten some judgment about how she's "too attached" (which is just a facet of her personality, not breastfeeding), and yet others who will say that "if they can ask for it, they are too old." People speak from their own experiences, what can I say?

There was a brief period where I felt less comfortable breastfeeding in public, and at this point, I do generally like to wait until we get home. No one likes to feel judged, not even bossy old me! But I also decided to buck up, and not let anyone make me feel odd for doing what comes quite naturally. I'll say it again: the worldwide average for weaning is 4 years old. So everyone can just get over it.

We are learning our manners
At a year old, I was willing to deal with a little bit of nipple twiddling, but at almost two, that shizz has got to stop. Along with anything else I don't like, including if I am "not in the mood" to breastfeed. I will admit, this takes practice and a steel resolve because my kid is about as stubborn as they come. But it's MY body and I am sharing MY milk, so she's got to have respect and understanding.

I have found that being persistent helps. But I also offer alternatives. For example, she can "pat mommy nice" instead of twisting the hell out of my nipple. She can hold my hand. Or, if she doesn't want to follow my rules, she can be put down and try again when she's ready to play by the rules. Not that this always works out. But I'm trying my best!

I do get "touched out." 
Some days I just need space. When you are nursing a newborn, it's kind of the same, but they NEED the milk to survive, so.... not so with a toddler. When I'm "touched out" it's great to use distraction such as activities, a snack, or Daddy who can take her on a ride or outing to help me get a break. She's beginning to understand more and more, but she does love her "milks" so it's game of give and take on both our parts.

I find that I go through periods where I am more touched out than other times. Sometimes it's very challenging to hang in there when you experience a couple of weeks where you are at the end of the your touched out rope. But those periods seem to always resolve and we get back in the groove. I have learned it is normal to feel this way.

Still the best for boo boos and sickness 
One week my poor Ruby had a fever so high I was a little scared. I was so happy I was able to nurse her. Through teething, some pretty crazy falls, and other colds and bumps, nursing is the perfect way to soothe my child.

Also, last week when we went camping, she unexpectedly got sick. She didn't want to eat ANYTHING (which is very unlike her), so my mind was eased knowing that she could have breastmilk and gain the nourishment she needed. Breastfeeding is handy like that--even at two years old!

Nap times/Bedtimes
She still nurses to sleep nearly every time it's nap time or bedtime. The downside? I am STILL doing every bedtime and nap. I tell myself that this is temporary and I actually enjoy that time to connect with her and see her fall asleep. Someday in the all too soon future, she won't need me quite as much, and I know I'll miss that. (Even though it is somewhat overwhelming at times.)

Support is KEY 
I have an incredible village around me. Both my mom and my mother-in-law support my extended breastfeeding, and our community is also very pro-breastfeeding. I even have a couple of friends who are breastfeeding their two year olds, so I am able to reach out to them with questions. When I do reach out, it REALLY helps. I also joined La Leche league on Facebook, and I get good support there as well. I can't stress enough how important it is to know you are not alone in your journey.

I was recently sobbing over the sink after a particularly trying few days. I exclaimed to my husband, "If I have to breastfeed one more day I am going to lose it!" He gave me a hug and assured me that it was going to be okay. And it was...just because I have been at this for two years doesn't mean that I don't have hard moments still. Learning to set limits and boundaries is what parenting is all about, and this is a facet of it.

Have you entered a stage of extended breastfeeding? What has it been like for you? Share your experience in the comments section below!! 

The Boyfriend Boxes

My mom is moving out of her office, which also happened to be a place we lived when I was a teenager. So, my husband and I went to go through some of the things that had been left behind over the years, and help my mom clean up a bit. When I arrived I was in for quite a surprise...for there they were: boxes, with boyfriends in them. 
I don't know how far away I had tucked the memory of making these boxes into the folds of my mind, but I tell you, it was DEEP. I literally had no recollection of making these very carefully (and sexually) crafted boxes to keep my then-boyfriend memorabilia in. Nonetheless, I had. 

These boxes were really something to see; adorned in glitter and sexual words and pictures. In a way, they made me feel classic. After all, my high school generation was the last to live without Facebook, and I guess when you don't have all that online stimulation jamming the wires of your brain you have to occupy your time somehow. 

Opening these gems, I found a treasure trove of notes, playbills, pictures, and other things I am not willing to admit to, that were the pieces of my former self. It was sort of neat seeing all the makings of the woman I was to become....all of those love notes were a reminder of the idealist I had been back then, and they were each little bricks in the road to the wife I have become. 

There was only one thing left to do with these boxes: have a ceremonial burning of them. I mean, I couldn't have these suckers hanging around my house with my child someday. No, no. They had to go. So, my mom, my husband and I went through them, had a selected reading, and then gave them a funeral. 

Really, this was the best time ever to have a boyfriend box burning. I have a husband, a child, and I turned 30 this year. It's been a time of closure for me. Sometimes closing doors can be difficult, or sometimes it can fun and ceremonial, like burning an old boyfriend box. Either way, it's an exercise in letting go...a sort of spiritual offering, at least for me. 

During the boyfriend box burning, I let go of the girl I was once and incorporated her into the woman I am today. That woman is ever-changing, as women tend to be. She still feels girl-like at times, but what I realized when I delved into the boxes of my past, is that I am far from being a child. It happened without me really noticing. It was a slow burn, if you will. And while I am far from fully baked, I like to think the dough is pretty well set at this point. 

Product Review: Ben & Jerry's NONDAIRY Ice Cream

Yesterday I went to the store and bought out all their corned beef brisket. Literally. Because it's just that time of year when I'm craving it so badly that I need to it all. As my daughter and I were on our store adventure, I figured I would check in *yet again* to see if the new Ben and Jerry's nondairy ice cream was out yet.

I have been waiting as patiently as a newly lactose intolerant Italian woman could for this product to hit the shelves. And then, there it was: hidden in the "nondairy" ice cream section instead of the Ben and Jerry's section (cause that makes sense to someone?). I might have squealed. Okay, I totally squealed. But so would you!

Every day during the last trimester of my pregnancy, I downed some sort of frozen ice cream gelato, or ice cream, or literally whatever I could get my sugary little hands on. And then, that child was born and with her came a new dairy free life that has found me missing my ice cream.

I quickly scooped up two cartons and brought them home of army ice cream loving heart to consume. There are LOTS of dairy free frozen treat options out there. Of course, there is sorbet, but there is nothing like ice cream, and duplicating that goodness can be a challenge. And it's not that there aren't already good ones--there are. But they can I put this? Pretty vanilla.

 I had high hopes that Ben and Jerry could give me that boom pow ice cream experience I was missing. So how did they stack up, you ask? I have tried two, the "Peanut butter and cookies" and "Fudge brownie." Let me break it down for y'all.

Fudge Brownie- I cracked this one first because I love me some brownies. A word to the wise, it's best to set these out for a few minutes and let them get a little soft--but isn't that like all Ben and Jerry's? The quality of the chocolate was a little bitter, but that didn't bother me. It's not going to be quite as creamy as a milk product, but I would say it does pretty well. I enjoyed it, and so did my daughter!

Peanut butter and cookies- This one is a cookies in vanilla ice cream take, and I have to say--in our house at least--this was the favorite. It was creamier than the chocolate, and I, admittedly, had a hard time closing the carton. Not being able to stop eating this was my highest hope, so I was pretty pleased. This is the one I will likely buy again and again. Oh, and it wasn't "overly peanut buttery," and that was a good thing. Winner. All the way.

Some other notes: These frozen treats are awesome because while you cow milk lovers are sucking down a ton of calories, these are the healthier option. They aren't even that high in sugar, which is pretty cool too. And if you are like me, and just want a nondairy ice cream, these are going to be your best bet for indulging. It's interesting that they chose almond milk. I am a fan of almond milk myself, and personally I find it a good option for ice cream making.

Now, let's all go out and buy these so that they are popular and they make even more flavors for us to enjoy....mmmmkay. Also: if you've tried any of the other flavors and want to share your take in the comments section below, please do! 

Our Friends With FOUR Kids

"It might be a little crazy," my friend Emily told me matter-of-factly. We had planned a long overdue trip to see our friends in Cumberland; and when I say "long over due" it had been over three years since we had seen one another. Life gets busy. I had a baby, she had two, and before we knew it, time had gotten away from us.

That, and I suffer from being a homebody. Having a child, it's been easy to sit on the excuse that it's easier not to travel. But in reality, my daughter travels quite well. It was time to leave behind excuses, and homebody tendencies, and hit the road!

So it was decided--we were taking out first "big" family trip to see my friend and her truly big family. Four kids is nothing to sneer at. She and her husband have put in some serious work building a family, and from my perspective of having just one child, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I knew that a lot of playing was definitely on the menu for our weekend, and I couldn't wait.

The first day we got there, I immediately felt at home. Her four curious children ages six, five, two and half, and six months are a little unit and they eagerly welcomed in my child, almost two, with open arms. "C'mon Ruby, come see this!" There was virtually no warming up was awesome. Over the weekend, my little girl simply fell in line. We shared meals, played in the snow, enjoyed a campfire, and just hung out....because when you have four kids, you don't need to go anywhere for it to be a party.

Those who know me either in real life, or just from my blog, likely know that I am pretty firmly in the one child camp. I am happy with my current decision to have an only.... that is until I had this weekend with my friends. Quite unexpectedly, the four children didn't feel at all like "crazy." It felt more like "just right." In a way, it was one of the most relaxing weekends I have had a long time. I was able to sit back and let the kids play while I drank some wine, watched movies, and took the amazing view from their hilltop house.

Watching my daughter enjoy her friends (who are now more like pseudo-cousins) made my heart swell to epic proportions (like, I literally cried tears of joy). For the very first time, I could *almost* see myself with more kids. Maybe a whole village of them. The truth is, I envy that large family and all the noisy joy it brings. Not to diminish my own joy, of course, but there was something so satisfying about seeing all the kids running circles around the house and screaming as they chased each other in whatever imagination game they were playing.

My friend Emily and I are flip sides to each other's coins. We sort of always have been this way...I'm a staunch planner, she's go with the flow. She has all the softness of a butterfly and I'm built of hard edges. It's funny how these differences have given way and played out quite literally in our family choices.

In our separateness, there is a divergence that is striking: society judges moms with one kid just as harshly as they do moms with lots of kids. In the end, though, we are the perfect compliment to one another, just as our friendship has been. The pieces truly fit together so beautifully, and allow my child (as well as me and my husband) to experience being a part of that big, busy family, even if it's only for a weekend. This is what I love about diversity--it truly gives us gifts that are unexpected and special. Could one exist without the other? Maybe, but we're better together!

Chicken & Garlic Recipe {A Garlic Challenge}

Me, my husband, and my best friend Paul all love garlic. When we dine together, we could chase vampires away from a vicinity of a couple of city blocks--of this I am sure. Earlier this week, Paul came over and he cooked us a delicious meal of turnip greens, sweet Italian sausage, garlic, and elbow macaroni. It was delicious.

His meal included probably 15 (ish) cloves of garlic. When he chopped them, it looked like a mountain.... a beautiful mountain of garlic.

After dinner, we were all sighing our sighs of satisfaction and I was saying how I can never really get enough garlic. We all agreed on this, my husband noting, "People say, 'eh, too much garlic,' but I don't really feel that way." So I proposed a challenge of sorts, a garlic challenge. A challenge that would hopefully answer the question: how much garlic is enough garlic

One of my favorite recipes is Chicken with 40 Garlic Cloves. It is a decadent garlic feast, and a dish that I've been playing with for about a year now. I originally got my recipe from Saveur (CLICK HERE for the original recipe) and while it calls for at least 40 cloves of garlic, it also says you can use up to 100. 

While that might seem a shocking number, to me it seemed like just the right amount! So, I counted out my cloves of garlic. Turned out, I ended up with 111 cloves of garlic, which seemed like it set just the right tone for what would be my magnum opus en garlique. 

111 garlic cloves <3 

What unfolded in my kitchen can only be described as the best Chicken and Garlic dish I have ever, ever made. It's my new standard for this dish. Some notes on this masterpiece....I used chicken leg quarters. This is a dark meat dish, and I've used the separated legs and thighs, but the quarters were easier and somehow better. Classically, this dish calls for a white wine,  dry vermouth, or cognac. But I didn't have any of those (surprisingly). So instead I used marsala wine. It was stellar. So, basically, you can use whatever you have, but if you have marsala wine, use that. Or whatever. It'll turn out well. 
Also, let's take a moment to talk about garlic. I recently read some nasty things about garlic imported from China. I was pretty surprised to learn these things, and I had never even considered checking where my garlic was coming from. So, if you are buying garlic, try and verify where it coming from; don't be fooled by "distributed by such and such in the USA." California garlic is probably the way to go (and, hey, supporting American is always awesome, right?) 

Lastly, I would like to urge you, "Fear not the 111 cloves." Garlic is life. It's arguably the very best spice in the whole, wide world. If you are skeptical, start with 40 cloves and work your way up. This is definitely a dish you will want to make again and again. 

As for whether or not you can actually have too much garlic...well, the jury is still out on that one. As it happens, 111 cloves was not too much. Was it enough? Hmmm. I could have gone a little farther. But I breathed a sweet sigh of satisfaction watching my almost 2 year old daughter bite into a garlic clove with delight--easily one of the best moments of my week! 

Chicken and 111 Garlic Cloves 
Time: 1 hour | Serves 4 | Difficulty: Easy (ish)

You Will Need:

4 Chicken quarters
111 garlic cloves, peeled (I bought pre-peeled)
1/2 cup marsala wine
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
A bit of butter for greasing your baking pan.


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Go around your pan a couple times with the olive oil and give it a good coating. Heat the pan to medium high. While it's heating, give your chicken a good salt and pepper.

When your pan is heated, brown your chicken. I had to do mine in two batches. Let the chicken brown for six minutes on each side, flipping it once.

When the chicken is browned on each side, remove it to a large baking pan. I greased my pan with a little butter first. Once the chicken is done, keep your pan nice and hot and throw in your garlic and onions, allowing them to brown a little bit, about 5 minutes or so.

Once the garlic is nice and browned and fragrant, add your half cup of marsala wine (or whatever alcohol you are using). Allow it to cook and reduce for a couple of minutes.

Next, sprinkle on your flour and mix to combine. Add your chicken broth and bring it to a boil to thicken. Remove several spoonfuls of the garlic (which will still be whole), and put them on your chicken in the pan. Using a masher of some kind (I like my old fashioned potato masher) mash the remaining cloves of garlic in the pan. Finally, pour that sweet, beautiful sauce over your chicken.

Put the whole thing (uncovered) into the oven and allow it to cook for about 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. I served mine alongside a salad. But you can also serve it with mashed potatoes, or even pasta. This dish goes really well with just about anything--especially a good glass of wine!!!