Ravi- You’ve Turned Two!!

Dear Ravi,

Last weekend was a very special time for both of us. Unfortunately I had to spend all of Saturday and Sunday at UCLA attending class. Mom and I made it a point that we still wanted to celebrate your birthday (and mine a little bit) so we decided to take Friday off from work and spend time together as a family. We decided to finally go to the zoo! I know that you absolutely loved the day and spend so much time exploring on your own. I thought we would never get past the initial flights of stairs and actually see animals, but see animals we did. We spend time seeing monkeys, visiting the birds, and seeing sea lions, seals, and giant otters that you called fish. We spent a lot of time just walking forwards and backwards and forwards and backwards again that, I admit, I did get tense with you a couple of times. I guess that I still don’t realize that the simple things like walking and climbing stairs are just as fun as actually seeing animals. Actually, from your actions Friday, they held your attention longer than the animals.

After the zoo, we went out and got you balloons at the local Party City store. Inside the store everything held your attention and you spent at least an hour just wandering amongst the aisles looking at stuff, picking up stuff, and generally exploring! Near the end you found balls (three of them to be exact) that you wouldn’t let go at any costs. You realized that we weren’t interested in buying them and the only way you were going to get them is to hold onto them at all costs. After fifteen minutes of fighting we gave up and decided to get you one ball. I was amazed that you understood this and even was willing to give the ball to the clerk (but not to Daddy or Mommy) to have it scanned. You’ve realized that having an item scanned is essential to getting it and that was the only way we could pry them from your hands!! We got you over a dozen helium filled balloons and included two of your favorite characters- Curious George and Spongebob Squarepants. They haven’t lasted long, but they were pretty for the day.

We then went home and spent a wonderful evening together playing with your balloons and toy ball, while relaxing to a home-made meal prepared by your Mommy. Actually, I relaxed and enjoyed a home-made meal. You just fought with Mommy and ended up eating nearly nothing. Sometimes I wonder where you get your energy from, because it sure doesn’t seem to come from food! After that you ended up getting cranky around 8pm and actually fell asleep on Daddy’s shoulder. I have to admit that when you fell asleep in my arms and I felt special. Normally Mommy is the one you run to for attention and love and I’m always the second choice. But on my birthday, you chose to fall asleep on me and I held you close for nearly two hours. That was the best birthday present you could give a Daddy and I will always treasure those close intimate moments with you. I know that my end goal is to make you a man and to help you learn to handle life, but quiet tender moments like that are still very enjoyable. Thank you so much.

Love,

Daddy.

Lego Pyramids with Personalities

Ravi and I love to play with his box of legos. He’s had them for awhile, but only recently has he been able to put them together. Before he learned how to put them together, he was only able to take legos apart. Typically, I would build stuff out of legos and Ravi would take my creations apart piece by piece until they were no more gleefully waiting for me to build something else for him to destroy.  A couple of days ago, I was in one of my weird moods and tasked with building lego creations, while Ravi was preoccupied with something else. ( I think it was his cars) Either way, I had a theme. My theme was Pyramids!!! But these weren’t just your basic pyramids! Heck no, I started building representative pyramids of myself and some of my close friends. Imagine the pharaoh of the land orders a pyramid to be built in his honor and commissions his engineers to build one. Since the engineers have never built a pyramid, they ask him what a pyramid is and he describes it to them. The finished pyramids are shown below:

I initially started with the multi-color one on the right. This pyramid was mine! It’s basically a boring exact monotonous representation of what a pyramid was, is, and should be. A pretty bland and feature-less replica, that while exactly correct, isn’t anything different or new. My wife always tells me that I’m a pretty boring person and so was my pyramid.

The all yellow one on the right is my wife! My wife is the cost cutting, hard-bargaining, no-holds barred person that will fight for a deal no matter the cost. (She should tell you the story of how she fought for a discount on our wood flooring! Bargaining while being pregnant and with a toddler limited her to only a 15% discount on the list price!) So when the pharaoh tells her to build a pyramid, and gives her a strict budget (like less than 15 blocks), she goes at it with gusto- cutting costs and trimming expenses! In building her pyramid she decided to trim dimensions!!! Why build a three-dimensional standard model when a newly designed two-dimensional one will do just as well and at a fraction of the blocks used!!! Way to save dear!

The next one on the list is the green one in the far right corner. I have a close friend of mine who is hyper-competitive. And when I mean hyper-competitive I really really mean hyper-competitive. His favorite past time (if you consider the amount of time spent) is arguing. No matter what you’re talking about or his level of experience, he’s got an opinion and gosh darnit, it’s the right one!! If you disagree, he’s happy to spend the next few hours convincing you (usually through sheer fatigue) that he’s right and you’re wrong. So he decided to build a pyramid as well as my wife’s, but only taller! It is kinda hard to tell, but his is the tallest and, therefore, gives him bragging rights. Naturally his is the best and, if you’re not convinced, he has the time to convince you!!

The next one on the list is the inverse pyramid in the back. This is another close friend of mine who happens to be severely dyslexic. If you put more than five letters together to form a word, chances are he can’t spell it. If the word is six letters long it’s almost guaranteed. His severe dyslexia has caused problems for him in the past, but isn’t that much of a hindrance now that he has a laptop. It automatically spells for him and now he doesn’t mess up. Before he got his laptop, he would always tells us of stories about how some high school (middle school, heck any school) teacher would give him an assignment in the middle of class that you would have to write down and then go do. Which he could never do very well because he would always misspell one (or two) crucial words and totally misinterpret the assignment and do it wrongly. I can totally imagine the pharaoh telling him that he needs  to build a pyramid  and what a pyramid is, but, tragically, my friend writes down the wrong instructions and builds an inverse pyramid!!!

Finally, the weird one with the white domes in the front is my son’s. His looks nothing like a pyramid, because who really wants to build a pyramid anyway! He’s much more interested in doing something so totally weird or different that you wonder what world he grew up on or what his parents taught him!!! (Shame on me and my wife!) The last time we took him to the playground all he wanted to do was climb up the slides and walk down the stairs. Sure you could go down the slides, but for him it was much more fun to climb up them. Or have daddy help him climb up the monkey bars!!! When we went to the park for a walk the first time and he encountered a hill, he decided to go up the hill backwards (naturally). That’s why he built such a weird pyramid!

Mario.

Lentil Soup Made Simple

There’s no doubt that lentils, legumes, and dry beams are packed with nutrients and fiber, which makes them great ingredients for baby food.  I have only cooked lentil soup once before and I have been wanting to try out different recipes.  My goal is to try a simple recipe that is easy to make, requires few ingredients, and simple flavor so not to overwhelm the Ravi’s inexperienced taste buds.

I looked through at least a dozen recipes, ranged from authentic Indian, Greek, to hybrid America.  Most of them looked awesomely delicious, but requires lots of ingredients that Ravi has never tasted.  Those will be great for me and Mario, but may not be so for Ravi.  In the end, I decided to go with my self invented simple recipe.

Simple Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

1  cup   Red Lentils

1  cup   Yellow Lentils

1  cup  Chopped baby carrots

1  cup   Diced Tomatos

18  oz  Chicken Broth

3  Chopped shallots

3  cloves   Garlic

1  tablespoon  Olive Oil

handful of parsley

Directions:

1.  Wash the lentils thoroughly till the water is no longer mirky.  Make sure to pick out anything that’s out of place, like little rocks or twigs if there’s any.

2.  Add olive oil to a pot and turn the heat on medium.  Add garlic to the oil and let it brown.  This is where you have to watch the garlic.  I made the mistake of getting distracted and the garlic turn black.  I had to start the process over again.

3.  Once the garlic is browned, add the shallots in.  Stir around to make sure the shallots are well coated with oil.

4.  When the shallots become soft, add in the washed lentils, chopped carrots and tomatos, stir for about 2 minutes on high heat.

5.  Add chicken broth and let boil. Once the soup boils, put on the lid and turn the heat to the lowest setting possible.  Then just wait about an hour, then done!

The preparation took about 25 minutes, including chopping and washing.  I did check back couple of times to make sure.  For the toddler version, I used my magic bullet and blended it up for 2 minutes.  The above picture shows the out of pot version and it was great for adults to eat.  The red of the tomato and yellow of carrots were preserved and looked so beautiful against the yellow lentil soup base.

Thank you for reading.  I hope to explore another recipe next week!

Sweet Pea Soup with Chicken

There is a war going on in my kitchen every Sunday afternoon.  Its my busiest time of the week.  Not only do I have to clean up all the yuck from the previous week, I also cook lunches to bring to work for the following week (I detest cafeteria food!).  Now that we have Ravi, I cook his lunches too at this time to bring to daycare.

In order to give myself a break, I am making it my business to collect simple recipes that I can wipe up very quickly.  I recently read an article about frozen food that captured my interest.  Who knew it can actually be better at maintaining its goodness than fresh in some cases?  I decided to abandon my “frozen is bad” attitude and give it a try.  This is my first recipe using a frozen ingredient for my 17 months old Ravi.

Sweet Pea Soup with Chicken

Ingredients:

12 oz bag Frozen Sweet Peas

6 oz Chicken Broth

3 oz Chicken Breast

1/2 Onion

Garlic

Olive Oil

Ingredients for Sweet Pea Soup with Chicken (Basil was not used)

Directions:

1) Pill and crush some garlic, brown in a pot with a little bit of olive oil on medium heat.

2) Chop onion and add it to the pot.  Stir to coat oil evenly.  When it is browned, add chicken broth to the pot.  Close the lid and turn to high heat.

3) Once the soup boils, add to it the entire bag of sweet peas and sliced chicken breast.  Close the lid and cook for 8 minutes.  Turn off the heat.

4) Once the peas cools, add it to a blender and let it run for about 2 minutes till the soup consistency is smooth.

Pour out and serve!

Making Sweet Pea Soup with Chicken

This dish took me about 40 minutes to complete, counting wait time for boiling and cooling.  A trick is to cool the peas in the refrigerator once it finishes cooking.  I generally lay a towel down first before put the hot pot down.  One thing to watch out for is to remove the lid.  It would allows the peas to cooling more rapidly, and also retain the beautiful green color.  I forgot to remove the lid this time and mine turned a little brown 🙁 … Got to remember next time.

I definitely saved lots time by using the frozen sweet peas.  I didn’t use the basil as I initially intended to, since the dish tasted so sweet and I didn’t think it needed anything else.  Since I store onions and garlic in my refrigerator (who doesn’t?! These practically last for decades in there), I could have avoided going to store to shop specifically for these ingredients.

Finger licking good!  And that’s what I did.  I would say I lost quite a bit of this soup to my “tasting.”  I also licked the spoons, bowl, blender cup edge…  It was so good!  Next time I would definitely triple the ingredients so I can get a bowl of my own!

Enjoy!

Pastina with Carrot Tomato Sauce

After a whole week of cooking everything with tomatoes, I still have some left!  This is what happens when you give into the temptation of buying a gigantic box of tomatoes from Costco.  When these shining beauties beckon you to take them home, like the sirens luring the sailors into shipwreck, we are blinded and forget to question our actions.  Like, what the heck am I going to do with a whole big box of tomatoes?!  I don’t even like them THAT much!  Needless to say, I will not buy another box from Costco again this year. Next year, however, this may happen again since memories of this week will likely be faded.

As I wondered around the kitchen pulling my hair out, I hear Mario saying:”… Ravi really likes these carrot tomato meals from…”  That’s right, we buy that stuff in little glass jars!  Why do we BUY that stuff?  We can easily make it… with my tomatoes and that bag of baby carrots I still have!

Aha!!!

Pastina with Tomato Carrot Sauce

Ingredients:

12 oz of baby organic carrots

4 large plump tomatos

~10 oz chicken broth (or water, vegie broth)

1/4 cup pastina

Dry or fresh basil and parsley

salt, and pepper

Directions:

Boil chicken broth in a pot.  Add chopped carrots, basil, parsley, and little bit of salt and pepper.  Close the lid and cook for 5 minutes on high heat.  Add chopped tomatoes and close lid again and cook for another 5 minutes.  Let cool, then run the solid portion through the blender for a good 3 minutes until the mixture is smooth.  You may not need all the liquids, only add enough to get the blender started.

Boil water in another pot.  Add pastina and cook for 3 minutes on high heat.  Pour the pot of water with pastina into a strainer, then add it back to the pot with the remaining liquid from the carrot tomato sauce.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes.  The residual heat should cook the pastina and allow it to expand and suck up all the liquid.  If not, turn on heat for a few more minutes.

Time to serve!  Just combine two together, and it should be close to room temperature by now so that the baby can enjoy.

It turned out this batch of carrot tomato sauce is HUGE!  Which is perfect for me to store up for later use.  I took the extra sauce and froze it using two ice cube trays.  Then take the cubes out and store them in freezer bags.  They defrosted very well.  The 1/4 cup of pastina with sauce yielded 2 meals, and the quantity can be adjusted as Ravi grows.

Well, that’s the end of my tomato recipe series.  Check out my Egg Tomato Noodle Soup and Mixed Rice Porridge with Tomato Sauce recipes from earlier this week.

Have a great weekend!

-Flo.

Mixed Rice Porridge with Tomato Sauce

For a working parent, weekend is usually the busiest time.  It’s kind of like squeezing all of the things that needs to be done throughout a week into two short days: shop for groceries, cook for next week, see friends and family, …etc.  All the while making sure that the little one is not getting into serious trouble, like driving a screw driver into his eye, or accidentally call the 911 (because he loves to play with the phone), or fall down from the table that he just proudly climbed onto.  Let’s just say busy is an under statment.

Did I mention taking care of a kid is harder than working?  Sometimes I almost wish there’s no weekends… okay, not really…

Last weekend was particular tough because baby Ravi was sick.  He was unable to breath through his nose due to congestion, as a result he slept very poorly.  He also refused to eat his meals, though he did drink his milk.  I was so sad watching the cute little baby fat on his cheeks fading away by the second…  I wanted to cook something special for him.  Something very soft, fresh, and savory.  Something new that he hasn’t had before.  Something simple, well because there’s about ten thousand other things that still needed to be done before the sun goes down.

I happened to have LOTS of great looking tomato on hand, so that has to be my key ingredient.  I finally decided on making a Wild Rice Porridge with Tomato Sauce, because it was the simplest and tastiest thing that I could think of.  The porridge was made with mixed rice, included black rice, brown rice, red rice, and white rice, cooked in chicken broth for about an hour.  Why such a long time?  It turned out that the darker color rice was way more fibrous than I have anticipated so I just kept cooking it till it was soft enough.  A simple tomator sauce was made with just a little olive oil and some greate tasting sarding fish to pick up that ultra savory taste.  The sauce went through the blender to smooth out any chucks.  I kept the cook time short to preserve the anti-oxidents, vitamins, and the color.

MIxed Rice Porridge with Tomato Sauce, A Toddler Recipe

The dish looked and smelled absolutely wonderful.  Mario followed his nose into the kitchen, commented on how good it looks and asked if it was a snack for him.  The best compliment came from Ravi, who ate half a bowl of this porridge, which was way more solid food than he ate most of this weekend.   He needed the energy, as his illness didn’t stop him from going outside to play and get dirty.  Here’s a picture of his hands half an hour before we dragged him in to take a bath.  His hands were several shades darker by then.

Ravi's dirty little hands

Another great weekend to remember.

-Flo.

Egg Tomato Noodle Soup

One thing I wanted to focus on this year is to cook tastier and healthier meals for Ravi.  I believe it is important to introduce him to new flavors and spices, and my approach is to adapt adult recipes for toddlers.

A new recipe I am cooking today is called Egg Tomato Noodle Soup, and it has been my family’s favorite comfort food for ages.  I have cooked it before dozens of times for myself and Mario, but this is the first time for Ravi.

Egg Tomato Noodle Soup

Ingredients:

1  egg

1  small tomato

16 fl oz  chicken broth

2 oz bundle of dry noodle

very small amount of salt, ground pepper, and olive oil

Key Ingredients to Egg Tomato Noodle Soup

Direction:

Boil 4 cups of water in a small pot.  When the water boils, cook the noodle in the pot for about 4 minutes.  Remove from water and chop to short pieces after it cools.  Here I used dry buckwheat noodle, which has a dark grey/brown color.

Beat the egg, and then stir-fry with a little bit of oil.  Finely chop after it cools.

Blanch the tomato and remove skin and seeds.  Finely chop.  Stir-fry the tomato in a pan with little bit of olive oil for about 1 minute .

Add chicken broth, egg, noodle to the pan with tomato.  Let it cook till the noodle is very soft.  I like my noodle a bit dry, you can certainly add more soup if desired.

Add salt and pepper if needed.  Spoon out the noodle soup and serve.

Egg Tomato Noodle Soup, recipe converted for toddlers

For some reason the combination of egg, tomato, and chicken broth is just irresistable.  My little taster, Ravi, ate half of the noodle soup in one sitting and I am glad there is still enough left for tomorrow.

The tomato is highly nutritious, containing large amounts of vitamin C and lycopene which acts as an antioxidant.  Eggs are also nutritious, and it is recommended that toddlers eat 3 egg yolks a week. This recipe can also be prepared for adults, just skip the fine chopping and go straight to tasting.

I hope you all enjoy this dish as much as our family does.

-Flo.

Fake Cry!

I found a picture to accompany Mario’s “The terrible twos!!” post.  Here’s Ravi fake crying, with such conviction!  I know this because about ten seconds later, he accepted a piece of chocolate from me and forgot about his cry like it never happened.  You can also see he drooled EVERYWHERE.  You would think he’s teething, but I haven’t seen a tooth in months.  Seven teeth at 16 months?! Come on baby, grow some teeth!

-Flo.

Ravi's Fak Cry