Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How To Do a Risotto Bar

Last week, when I posted about doing a risotto bar for the family, a few of you asked for the details. And because I am a good friend (and it is delicious), I made it again on Sunday for some friends just so I could take pictures for the 'ol blog. You're welcome. 
Risotto is one of those things that everyone makes sound scary and difficult to make, but in actuality, it isn't at all. I first tried it a few months ago after getting a simple recipe from the book Bread and Wine and I was instantly hooked. 
It is easy, versatile, cheap and feeds a lot of people but feels fancy, and is now my go to for entertaining. 

What you need:
Arborio rice
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
White wine (could be substituted for water, you know we are drinking it and using it to cook around here)
1 onion 
2 cloves of garlic
chicken broth

Toppings (take your pick of any of these..you seriously use anything):
Shrimp
Chicken
Asparagus
Broccoli
Peas
Spinach
Tomatoes
Mushrooms
Bacon
Prosciutto
Cheese (lots of cheese)

Directions:
The night I had the big group over, I did a lot of prep at nap time. I diced the onions and garlic, cut the tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus and bacon. I also made a salad and made two loaves of Honey Beer Bread. That way, once everyone arrived, all I had to do was start cooking. The biggest challenge about this meal is that you are in front of the stove the whole time, but since most people hang out in the kitchen anyway, I find it easy to stir (and drink wine) while chatting away with my guests and letting someone else hold the baby. 

1. Heat a big pot on medium low with drizzled EVOO to coat the bottom.
Pour the entire carton of chicken broth in a separate pot and bring to heat (just below a boil). 
2. Add garlic and onions and stir until the house smells awesome and the onions are soft. 
At this point on the day I used bacon, I went ahead and started cooking it. Then I drained the pan, leaving a little big of grease and added the asparagus for a few minutes, then emptied that and added the mushrooms with a little balsamic vinegar, then all my sides were done except the shrimp which I would do very last. Side note: everything tastes better cooked in bacon fat. 
On Sunday night, I did prosciutto and that only takes a minute to heat up so I just did that toward the end. Diced panchetta would work well in this dish too. 
3. Add rice. I don't use measuring cups so I can't tell you how much. A cup and a half maybe? Depends on how many people you are feeding, but not really because it also reheats well, so there's your lunch for tomorrow. 

4. Add a little wine. Keep stirring (never stop stirring!). 

5. Start to add chicken broth by the ladle-full and yep, stir some more. The rice will begin to absorb the broth and you will just want to keep adding it and stirring until it tastes the way you want. It should always have a just a bit of a crunch to it. You will probably be stirring for 45 minutes, so go ahead and count that as your strength training for the day. 

6. As you get toward the end of the broth (I almost always use it all), add some salt, pepper and cheese (I use fresh grated Parmesan). If you aren't going to serve immediately, turn down the heat to simmer, pour in extra broth, stir, and put a lid on it. Set the table, put out your side dishes (go back and stir a little more), get everyone some wine and be seated. The rice will continue to absorb the liquid and not become too sticky if you time it right. If it does get sticky, then just add a little more broth (or water if you are out) and stir a little more right before serving. 

7. Let everyone top it with their favorites and enjoy!
Sunday's choices
Wednesday's choices

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jump Around, Jump Around

As we hit two months of summer freedom, I will have to admit: I am running out of exciting (and manageable) things to do. Obviously, we have been busy bees, but that is mostly for my sake to help pass the time of temporary single parenting until school starts and I know I will have a few hours a day to take a deep breath. I love letting my boys just play all day, but for sanity's sake, we also need to get out and do something at least once a day. 
Over the weekend, blog-turned-in-real-life-friend Karen and I were texting about getting together on Monday and decided it was the perfect time to try Flight Trampoline Park in Springfield, VA

Let me just tell you: SUCCESS.
This place was awesome. It was only about a 20 minute drive from our house (pet peeve about the DC area: nothing is easy to get to) and with the military discount it was $17 for both boys (and me) to jump. It is a huge warehouse full of trampolines, jumping pits and dodge ball courts. We happened to get there during Kids Flight so only only children 6 and under were jumping which was perfect since we didn't have to worry about big kids being too rough. The staff was also very attentive and does a great job walking around and reminding kids of the rules so no one gets hurt (and two Mommas who want to sit with babies and chat can actually catch up instead of hovering over big boys). 








We will definitely be heading back!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Weekend At Home

For the first weekend in what seems like forever, the boys and I hung out at home. Of course, we still did about 329480928342 things because that is how we roll, but it was really nice to just be around the house. 

Friday we met some friends at the Splash Park in the afternoon and then ordered pizza (first one since Kev deployed- Self five!) and rented The Lego Movie. Sadly, we turned that one off within the first 30 minutes- it was just a little too intense for my sensitive boys. 
So we settled for some Curious George and called it an early night. 

Saturday morning we did a little more work on the boys' new room
 and then Nana and Pop came over for the afternoon.
He's going to be 1 next month...
 Deb and I were off to my almost sister in law's bridal shower while Scott held down the fort with all 3 boys (brave man). 
Caitlin and friends
After a lovely and fun shower, we headed back home and Nana and Pop treated us to Chinese and took over bathtime and dish-doing for me which was an amazing break. 

Sunday, the boys and I were up early so made it to 9am Mass and the pancake breakfast afterwards. Because of travel, we hadn't been to Mass in a few weeks and it was so refreshing to be there. 
Afterwards, we came home and I mowed the lawn while the big boys played in the mud and Wells napped then later that afternoon, Cate and Alysa came over to hang out and for dinner.
 (I also re-made my risotto so I can do a post for all who asked the the recipe last week!)
A few games of front yard baseball (thanks to some new toys from Uncle Pete and Aunt Lori!), it was bath and bed for some worn out boys. 

It was busy, but such a nice weekend. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

This Week We

...Randomly lost the internet. Luckily, I found it, not sure how, but I am happy about it. 

...spent another day at the Farm on Monday with my aunt and cousins. My 'aunt' is married to my mom's youngest brother, so we are actually just a few years apart and our kids are too. We had a blast hanging out and can't wait to see them again. 
....Tuesday came home, unpacked, happily crossed 5 days off the calendar and went grocery shopping in a torrential downpour- big thanks to my friends Shawn who let me drop the big boys off to play with her big boys so I didn't have to lug all 3 little humans through the rain.  

...Wednesday, hung out with my friend Jen, her son Sean and her sweet twin baby girls who my boys just adore. 
Bennett is petting Katie, not poking her in the eye and Claire was allll smiles for Cullen
...Had that kind of an afternoon where I drafted a funny post in my head titled: 
Ways They Drive Me Crazy 
Included in that unwritten post (since I had no internet) would have been:

Cullen: What time are we going to Sam's tomorrow?
Me: 3
Cullen: What time are we going to Sam's tomorrow?
Me: 3
Cullen: What time are we going to Sam's tomorrow?
Me: I AM NOT ANSWERING THAT QUESTION. YOU KNOW THE ANSWER.
Cullen: Mommy, my brain isn't on today. 

And then had a lovely (and hilarious) dinner with the uncles and girlfriends and my parents to farewell to Kathleen who is leaving us for Nashville - We miss you already Leen!
I did a risotto bar which worked out perfectly and was a fun and fancy way to please everyone's tastes. 
the fixings to add to a garlic/onion risotto
....Thursday: Continued with Ways They Drive Me Crazy
Example:

Wells- wakes up at 5:45, goes to back down at 7- C wakes up at 7 and immediately asks if we can start rearranging his room (he and Bennett are going to start sharing and are so excited about it), when I said I need Coffee first, he asks if I want to play football in the basement (boyfriend hasn't even gone to the bathroom yet, I am not joking about this being immediate)- I convince him to cuddle and watch a show (so I can shut my eyes for another minute) but then B comes down and wants to cuddle too, but he wants to the red blanket and C already has the white blanket, and we are watching Sheriff Callie but B wants Daniel Tiger and WAFFLES. WE WANT WAFFLES. 
So yea.. no extra twenty minutes of sleep for me. 
And mess, so much mess, all the time
After W woke up we headed to Homegoods and Target to start a little makeover for some big boys' room (which will give us a guest room upstairs and give them a playroom in the den with a door I can close when I don't want to see the mess. Woohoo!)

and then in the afternoon met Cara, Sam and Julia at the pool and for dinner. 

Lastly, Things That Don't Drive Me Crazy:
When the boys (and I) write letters to their Daddy. 
And knowing that another month of deployment is down. 
And when Bennett wears a Cat mask. 

Happy Weekend to you all!

*****
PS- Thanks to all again who offered to donate a backpack and supplies to our first service project - school starts August 6th so if you can get your packs in the mail before then, that would be amazing! Don't forget to link a pic on instgram with #packapack if you would like to share.
Julianna- Can you please comment with your email so I can send you the info?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Night Away

A few weeks ago my friend Cate came over for dinner and we got to talking about taking a little trip to NYC to see our friend Laura. While I love my children and husband very much, the fact is, I hadn't been someplace, not pregnant, with just girls for a night since 2009. It was definitely overdue. 
So we cleared a day in all our schedules (but sadly Alysa, who would normally be along for this ride coudn't make it), bought train tickets and on Saturday morning we were off for 24 hours of fun. 

We spent the majority of that time eating (amazing) food and drinking (a lot of wine) and reminiscing on stories of our 15 year long friendship. It is actually interesting because we were all part of the same large group of friends in high school and while we were close, it was definitely not like now, and then in college we all went our separate ways and saw each other over breaks, but it was when Kev was deployed the second time to Iraq (right after we got married in 2007) that Laura, Cate and Alysa really became some of the best friends I have ever had. 
From then on, we've been there for each other through it all: babies, breakups, jobs, moves, big loves, big losses, new houses and a few good trips. 

Here we are in 2008 during Kev's deployment and then this past Saturday night at dinner
The weekend was just what I needed: adult conversation, a change of scenery, so much laughter, an excuse to get dressed up and most of all, perfect company from these amazingly true friends. 
We missed you Lys!


You ladies really are the best- thank you so much for always being there for me, loving my family, keeping my wine glass full and making me laugh. I am so blessed to have you all in my life.

And a huge thanks to my mom and dad for braving another weekend with my little crew. 
We are incredibly lucky to have you!
Bringing home Black and Whites seemed like the right thing to do

*****
PS: Julianna and Bridig can you please comment with your email address? 
I can't find a way to contact you about sending a packback. Thank you!