Sunday, August 20, 2006

New purchase: Grill

I'm on a roll, aren't I? I think I finally lost my entire readership by slacking off and suddenly I'm pumping lots of prose onto the Internets. Perhaps this proves how insular blogging is.

Anyway, we bought a new grill a few weeks ago and I'm pretty happy with it. Here it is; available only at Lowe's.

The point is not the grill, however, the point is the cooking! For a while, I've been thinking about posting more about food and cooking, especially easy/fast/healthy meals that children will eat in the hopes of encouraging my meager readership to send their own meal ideas.

Here are my meal priorities: Balanced (protein, carb, vegetable), trying to eat more fish and less meat (not for any particular reason, just that meat is easiest and thus if I don't plan vegetarian or fish meals ahead, it becomes all meat), not super expensive, relatively quick cooking time (although sometimes longer prep time if done the night before).

So, to inaugurate my cooking posts, here're some of the things I've cooked on the new grill:

A terrific salmon recipe that I got from Jeff (he got it from the Black Dog Cookbook). The key is the marinade and getting one (or two) of those 2-3lb boneless slabs of salmon from Costco:

Marinade for a big ol’ slab of salmon, marinate from 4 to 48 hours (overnight is good). Makes enough for two slabs. Can use plastic bags for the marinating and then put on the grill.

1 cup olive oil
½ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp chopped parsley
¼ cup basil
¼ cup fresh rosemary
8 garlic cloves
1 tbsp salt
2 tsps pepper

Jeff grills it over fire, i.e. top open. I kept opening and closing the top as I cooked. You'll have to flip the fish at least once and two spatulas are recommended. You can see it's done when the flesh is opaque and don't worry if the slab falls apart -- your guests will eat it so quickly no one will have noticed.

A great end of summer dish especially if you've been growing parsley, basil and rosemary in your garden. Serve with carbs (Julie made Near East couscous -- five minutes) and a salad.

Our kids love it.

I also did a beer can chicken. There are recipes for it all over the web. Read these two and you'll have the basic idea. This one takes longer and is a weekend meal -- a little over an hour on the grill. But the kids love it and it's a spectacle.

Serve it with bread and roasted peppers: quarter them (throw out the seeds, stems and ribs), toss them in olive oil and salt and then set them on the higher shelf for ten minutes and then turn them over for another ten (or just leave them).

Here's the hamburger recipe that I'm slowly refining. Measurements are approximate:

for 5-6 burgers
1 lb ground beef
1 egg
3/4 cup bread crumbs
half a well chopped onion
three tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

I read somewhere to jam your thumb into the middle of each patty so that it looks like a red blood platelet (it didn't mention platelets, that's my helpful and anti-appetizing addition!); then, when the burger shrinks a bit, it still looks like a patty and not a spheroid.

And to end (for now), I tried grilled pizza the other night. Again, read over a few recipes for the basic idea, which I'll now repeat.

Let your dough rise and then roll it out (I've been buying dough from Bertucci's lately). Brush (or dribble) olive oil on one side of the dough and put it on the hot grill, oiled side down. I did this once by putting the dough on a baking sheet and just flipping it out of the sheet; the other time, I tried to drape it down on the grill which stretched it out a bit but turned out fine.

Let the dough cook a few minutes, until the bottom is cooked and stiff. Then (got those two spatulas ready?), flip the dough back onto the baking sheet, cooked side down. On the "uncooked" top, lay down your ingredients -- sauce, previously cooked veggies, meats and cheese. My kids love carmelized onions, broccoli, mushroom and pepperoni (and I use spaghetti sauce from a jar and slice up mozzarella cheese -- not the super fresh kind, but the ones that come in solid balls).

Be prepared: it's not pizza as you know it, but a variation. A yummy variation!

Send meal ideas and recipes!


We've been married for five years!

It feels like it was yesterday; it also feels like it's been 10 years! I'm not sure what that means.

Anyway, on our anniversary, we took the kids to see the Pawtucket Red Sox. Fun! We saw a double steal, a grand slam and a great sliding catch. Actually, I think the sliding catch is the only thing Julie and I both saw -- she also saw a few more homers and some other shenanigans while I was chasing children.

In a previous post, I mentioned that Sarah has pictures of our wedding at her family's photo site.

Travel bargains

I love James Fallows -- he used to edit US News and World Report and contributes regularly to The Atlantic. This month's cover story on Al Qaeda was written by him.

I didn't read it.

There was also a "classic" piece in their series celebrating the history of The Atlantic in which Fallows writes about word processors. Kind of amusing.

What I love reading him for are his tech news and summaries that appear occasionally in the New York Times (often Sunday Business) or The Atlantic. He's obviously a computer geek, but he's a geek who has a proper job -- writing and researching -- that's not dissimilar to my job. So when he recommends a product or website, it usually has relevance and purpose and not just bells and whistles.

That's all to say that is the coolest travel search engine I've seen. Fallows recommended it (in a sidebar to his third contriubtion to this month's magazine) and I tried it in booking tickets to Charlie and Stacy's wedding. You do a quick search of multiple airlines and online sites, and then the left sidebar does a great job of narrowing your search.

Try it, you'll like it!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mari has two dads

Today, Austin said that he's going to get big and become a daddy.

Then he paused and announced, "and then Mari will have TWO daddies!"

Later, in the bath, he was crying and screaming and when I came in he complained that Mari was getting his hair wet and, in fact, she was calmly and quietly taking a cup and scooping water onto his head. I found this hilarious and had to leave so I didn't laugh out loud at him.

Cool link

Check this out: rooms painted with optical illusions.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Favorite food

Last post on Toronto:

Our current favorite Chinese restaurant is Skyland de Shanghai on Silver Star Blvd in Scarborough. Yummy soup dumplings, really nice breaded and fried ribs, and lots of other delicious dishes. Check it out.

Queen Street West

It's become a tradition of our visits to Toronto that my parents graciously watch the kids while Julie and I have a day of shopping and eating out downtown. We usually go down to Queen Street to see what's new in the stores. Last time Julie bought something from Annie Thompson and we went to dinner in Leslieville.

This time we went first to Caban, a lifestyle store from the Club Monaco empire. How to describe it? Club Monaco is like Banana Republic for hipsters. One of my great non-buying regrets involved Club Monaco and a pair of purple pants (the other one involves Miffy, the mouthless bunny). Caban, then, is like ... Pottery Barns crossed with Urban Outfitters without the kitsch.

Anyway, Caban is going out of business (which is why I didn't bother to link to it). on the day we were there, the store had just initiated a 30% clearance on everything and had been diverting all merchandise in Canada to the Queen Street outlet. Needless to say, we found some nice bargains. I think the coup was the $69 pants that were tagged $5 -- and then the cashier took another 30% off. Yes, $3.50 for pants. Yes, that's 95% off the original price. Crazy.

We then drove west past Bathurst and went to Kolkid, a fun store with toys, books and clothes for kids. Julie thinks it might be better next time to shop at the designer cooperatives just down the street. They're neat and it's fun to buy from the designer (Annie Thompson had come from the back of the shop to show Julie all the features on her skirt last time).

We also spent money at Morba, another lifestyle type place, but with more furnishings, including lots of Danish modern and other vintage pieces.

We looked but didn't buy at Timmie's Doggie Outfitters. The website as of now is not live, but the blog has some nice pictures.

Then it was time to eat. We decided to graze and sample a few places. First we had a beer and appetizers on back patio of Squirly's. I may have overdone it, because after that I wasn't hungry anymore.

But we went on to Banu, an Iranian place for some salad.

And then we got to Habitat. Habitat is an interesting restaurant where they served "kaisekis"; essentially tapas inspired by ... anything. You order 3, 5 or 7 kaisekis and they come out beautifully presented.

We had 5 of these bite sized tastes and Julie's first reaction was, "Is that all there is?" and then after the food was explained to us, her reaction was, "Do we have to eat all of it?"

Here's what we had, clockwise from the bottom: foie gras with white beans and fried onions; a sardine on gazpacho; frog legs wrapped in bacon; a ravioli with two sauces and potato foam; and, in that egg shell, an oyster with mushrooms. An experience!

We had told the waiter that I have a mango allergy; Julie wondered if we should have mentioned that she has an aversion to amphibians. (I have to admit, the legs were tasty although a bit fatty.)

That's it for our night out!

In Toronto, with kids

In Toronto, we went to a number of fun places with the kids.

One thing we can recommend is the Kidstown Public Wading Pool in L'Amoreaux Park, Scarborough. I'm not sure if it's worth an hour's drive, but it was definitely worth the ten minute drive from my parents' house. But to call it a Wading Pool is like calling the Hindenburg a balloon. There are all sort of mechanical devices filling with water and tipping over to splash kids, slides and sprayers to run through, and (Austin's favorite) whales to sit on and pump back and forth that will shoot water out their spouts at other people. Lots of lifeguards on duty, a hotdog stand just outside the gate and it costs $1 per child to get in (no charge for adults). Amazing.

Turns out there's also a nice water park in the Toronto Zoo now. This one has environmental themes as you see how water comes from rain, feeds wetlands, goes down rivers and into the oceans and the polar caps.

The Toronto Zoo is a great zoo and we saw lots of great animals, like rhinos, elephants, red warthogs, polar bears, and most amazingly, baby Sumatran tigers! Here's the zoo's tigercam!

We also visited the Chinese Lantern Festival at Ontario Place. This was pretty special: artists were brought to create light sculptures that illustrated either Chinese history and culture, or more modern designs, like Toronto's CN Tower, or dinosaurs. This is going on for a few more months; if you want a coupon, go to this site. More pictures on Flickr here.

Toronto in the summer is great for kid visitors and their parents.

Now Monthly! What we did on our vacation


Back from our trip to Toronto where we had so much fun that this post will read like bullet points.

In case you're wondering, it's about a 9-10 hour drive from Boston to Toronto if you go around the eastern end of Lake Ontario (i.e. Watertown, NY over the Thousand Islands Bridge to Kingston, ONT).

The first night, we stopped in East Syracuse. The next morning, we made a quick drive up to Canada, the last hour or so was spent with me nervously clutching my belly because I forgot to bring our passports. The border guard was nice and let us in with Driver's Licenses and the kids' insurance cards but reminded us to bring their birth certificates next time. Whew!

We had lunch at a nice restaurant overlooking the harbor at Gananoque. We ate at the pub and Julie had Thousand Island dressing on her salad in celebration of our drive so far. I had an Alexander Keith's IPA which was tasty. Ah, Canadian beer.

From Gananoque, we took a nice boat tour to see some of the islands (more than a thousand). We learned that a) ten minutes is about as much of a boat ride as Mari is interested in, b) islands are defined as having i) six square feet of area and ii) two trees, c) gosh darn it's a beautiful place. Lots of the little islands have been in the same family for a century and there are funny stories about some of the sale transactions involving bottles of rum and ridiculously little money. One of my favorite fun facts is that there is a church on one of the islands and you can bring your boat over on Sunday afternoon, anchor, and then sit and listen to the services from your own craft. Must be hard to get much into the collection plate!

That afternoon, we drove into Toronto. No hurricane, unlike last year. In fact, there was hardly a cloud in the sky the whole time we were in Canada. Beautiful!

Okay, next post!