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 Bird, come see this!" There was virtually no warming up period...it 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!!!