Friday, August 12, 2011

My New Home

After pondering the move for over a year, I've migrated this blog over to Wordpress. All the old posts moved over and are now more easily searchable and quicker to load.

You can still reach the blog by typing or  Come on over! Or even better yet - subscribe to receive it in your inbox or Google reader.

Monday, June 27, 2011

After Defeat Comes Victory

I have some great recipe posts brewing for later this week: cheese souffle, canned nectarines, and homemade granola to name a few. I also will be reporting back from our thrill a minute trip to Iowa for the Indy 250 race and checking out Taste of Chicago, but tonight's post is dedicated once again to my kids and their swimming. It seems fitting that as the meets have taken over our nights and our schedule, it should take over my blog for a few days.
Last night I wrote about the lessons they took away from the pain of defeat on a cold and rainy night.

Tonight these pictures tell a different story.
Deep Breath.

What a difference a few days can make!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Unlocking the Power Within by Losing

When we headed out to our swim meet on Thursday evening, the sky was dark and threatening. I had a feeling it might be a difficult evening, but I didn't expect that we were about to have an epic night of great defeat. No matter how many sweatshirts you pack, there's some life lessons you can't protect your children from.

This is our first summer as a swim team family, with the exception of a short stint in Ohio last year. My kids are confident swimmers, happy frolicking in the deep end, but not very familiar with the different strokes. They have learned so much in a few weeks of daily swim practices, and propel themselves across the pool faster every day. They are loving the camaraderie around the pool and the games played during the long swim meets. Receiving ribbons for third and fourth place in their second swim meet was a huge thrill, and we expected the fun to continue on Thursday night.

As soon as we walked into the other team's pool club, we sensed the tension and confusion in the crowd. Kids were huddled together, shivering in the 65 degree temperature. Trains were whipping by every few minutes, and the announcements of upcoming races were muffled. Coaches were running around, calling out kids' names frantically, and chaos reigned. It was all too much for Jack and Bella; they came in last for each of their races, shivering under their damp clothes late into the night.

I felt powerless to ease their disappointment. I rubbed their shoulders to generate a little heat, complimenting them on their smooth strokes and their progress in just a weeks. But at the end of the night, when we finally piled into our warm mini-van, the tears didn't flow as I expected. Instead the kids talked about what a lousy night we'd just had and how the next one would be better. Somehow, they had learned to say, "I'll get you next time."

So many sports nowadays reward kids just for showing up, but swimming lets kids experience the bitterness of defeat. It can be a tough lesson, but with the right reinforcement, can also teach perseverance and the value of hard work. My kids are learning the power that lies in their bodies, the strength they have to push themselves across the pool. There will be other swim meets, warm nights playing with friends on the thick summer grass. There will be more ribbons, more victories to erase the memories of our dismal Thursday night. Race by race, lane by lane, they are unlocking the power they carry within.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

a Small Bowl of Cereal Has a Big Impact

I have to admit it, before this pregnancy, I never gave much thought to my cereal intake. I kept my pantry stocked with cereal flavors my children requested (within reason, we save the really sweet stuff for special treats on vacation), and on the rare mornings I took the time to eat breakfast, I reached for one of their boxes to satisfy a breakfast cereal craving. With the exception of the type of cereals that radically change the color of the milk in the bowl, it was hard to go wrong.

But this pregnancy changed my relationship with cereal, in a way that will impact my life long after I give birth. The nausea of first trimester made skipping breakfast impossible. I simply could not make it through the morning on an empty stomach. A nice bowl of cereal with ice cold milk filled my stomach and kept me fueled for the day. I also found that when the nausea crept back in at various times of the day, dry cereal was a fantastic way to have it retreat again.

I began giving the cereals in my pantry more consideration, and I realized what an important source of daily nutrients the right cereal can be. While the Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies and Frosted Mini Wheats my kids adore have many of the vitamins and nutrients their growing bodies need, I started looking for a cereal that was better designed for a woman's needs, one that packed more fiber for example.

Increasing your fiber intake by having a bowl of cereal that has at least five grams of fiber is such an easy to positively impact your health. The Mayo Clinic points out that having a high fiber diet not only
promotes bowel health and regularity, but it can also lower blood cholesterol levels and help you lose weight. It's amazing that a quick bowl of cereal in the morning can make such a difference.

I recently received two different boxes of Kelloggs FiberPlus Antioxidants cereals to try which include
high fiber content and are rich in antioxidant vitamins C & E and was thrilled to find that they not only meet my goal of finding a more nutritious cereal, but are also delicious to boot. Kelloggs is also providing me with a stipend as compensation for sharing my thoughts with you on these cereals.

My favorite was the FiberPlus Cinnamon Oat Crunch in terms of taste and texture. It was great as an afternoon snack and with some cold milk for breakfast. I like a cereal that remains crisp even if you get distracted some early morning kiddie crankiness. One bowl has 9g of fiber which is 35% of your daily recommended fiber. I loved to combine the crunchy cinnamon cereal with slices of fresh bananas. The flavors paired beautifully and gave me an added potassium and fiber boost.

The FiberPlus Yogurt Berry Crunch was the second flavor I received, and I liked it less because I prefer to turn to fresh fruit instead of packaged fruit in my cereals. That said, the fiber content of this flavor was a little higher: 10g of fiber, so if you're a fan of fruity cereals, you should definitely try this flavor. It might be a fun cereal to try in a yogurt parfait with vanilla yogurt and sliced strawberries.

So take a look at the cereals in your pantry, especially the nutrition panel. You might be surprised by the goodness contained there, or at least inspired to make an easy change that will really impact your family's breakfast and snacking habits.

Fiber Boosting Yogurt Parfait
Prep Time: 3 minutes
4 strawberries
1/2 cup of plain or vanilla yogurt
1/3 cup of Fiberplus Yogurt Berry Crunch (or other crunchy cereal of your choice)
  1. In a pretty, clear glass or bowl, layer the different ingredients, beginning with the yogurt and finishing with the strawberries.
  2. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dinner at Alinea

In the home stretch before giving birth, we like to do something really special, a babymoon of sorts, something we won't have time to do in the haze of newborn care. I had dreamed of going to Alinea long before we moved to Chicago. When you live in in New York, it's easy to think that you're in the midst of the most exciting dining scene in the US, but I'd been reading about Grant Achatz for years, ever since Gourmet named Alinea the best restaurant in America, and was dying to experience his vision first hand.

Our dinner at Alinea was almost as expensive as a weekend away but was definitely the perfect way to celebrate, an experience we'll remember forever. 
If you were to walk by Alinea on the street, you would never know it. There is no signage, no bay windows to let you peak inside. Only the shiny address numbers confirm that you are indeed in the right location.
You'll know you're walking into another world, as soon as you pull open the nondescript metal doors and step into a crooked, narrow hallway lit with a futuristic red glow. It doesn't seem to lead anywhere until part of the left wall opens, letting you walk into the sleek atmosphere of Alinea.
Alinea only seats 64 diners at a time, in a handful of small rooms. We were greeted immediately and escorted to our table upstairs in one of the larger rooms. The decor was elegant but simple, everything, from the silverware laid out on the table after we sat, to the placement of the tables, felt calculated and precise. No menus were brought, instead the waiter just confirmed that our only dietary restriction was my husband's allergy to almonds, something I had been asked when I made the reservation three months earlier.
Then the feast began. And with the first course, Steelhead Roe in a rich sauce with watermelon, kaffir limes, and oxalls, we knew that we were in for more than just food chemistry spectacle. The food at Alinea is as exquisite as the fish at Le Bernardin, our favorite NYC restaurant. Each dish is a masterpiece, so delicious that it is sorely tempting to lick the plate.

In one of the temples of molecular gastronomy, things tend to come in unexpected forms. The foie gras was encased in jelly, just a tiny bite of flavors that still manage to capture the rich essence the ingredient.
The oyster course was not an oyster at all, just a rare leaf that tasted exactly briny and sweet like an oyster on the half shell.
My least favorite dish was the one I was entrusted to assemble myself. A rich stew of oxtail that I had to scoop and fold into a thin tomato pasta along with a myriad of toppings. In this era of social media, I appreciate the idea of letting the diner customize a dish, but it still felt a little messy.
I loved the dramatic instructions that came with the Truffle Explosion. "Whatever you do," the waitress said with a deadpan face, "do not open your lips once you've put this in your mouth. You would regret the consequences." I was almost tempted to defy her, but as soon as I popped the warm ball of truffle juice, I understood and in no way wanted to risk losing even a drop of the delicious storm filling my mouth.

The Yuzu Snow palate cleanser marked a clean break between the main part of the meal and the fun of dessert. It too was delivered with strict instructions, this time to not lick the ceramic cone it was served in to avoid possible injuries. Once we tasted the delicate floral ice shavings, we had to physically restrain that little kid urge in each of us to lick a metal fence on a freezing winter day. The temptation was intense, but the child-like memory put us in the mood for dessert.

The next dessert course was whimsical as well, featuring cotton candy, caramelized squash and globules of brandy.
But the grand finale was the true masterpiece of the meal. The chef (normally Grant Achatz who is now busy wtih Next and Aviary) came to our table and crafted a Jackson Pollock style painting with cold hot chocolate, blueberry, frozen chocolate mousse, and a riot of other ingredients. He scooped and flicked for a good five minutes before declaring the work complete. It was so beautiful that we were reluctant to eat it, but once we started digging in, we couldn't stop.

Happy Wordful, Five Minutes Wordless, and Way-back wednesday.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Taste of Chicago Ticket Giveaway

This Friday through July 3, Chicago will be taken over by the nation’s largest food festival, Taste of Chicago. I can't wait to check out the festivities and sample food from nearly 60 different Chicago restaurants.

It's easy to go nuts at festivals like this one and gorge yourself on all the different offerings, but this year, Humana is one of the festival sponsors and they're promoting healthy and tasty alternatives at the Taste of Chicago to keep you on the right track while taking part in the fun. They've put together the Humana Healthier Choices guide that showcases 20 healthier appetizers, entrees and desserts from 17 participating Chicago restaurants. All of the Humana Healthier Choices, evaluated and selected by a panel of local medical experts, are low in calories, sodium and saturated fat, but high on taste – and will be marked with the “green apple” symbol on the menu boards at the festival.
Bloggers like Food Diva will be doing demos at the Taste of Chicago.

Humana has offered my family two sets of complimentary tickets (24 tickets) to Taste of Chicago and has also provided me with two additional sets for you to giveaway to one of my readers. Perhaps we could even arrange to experience the Taste of Chicago together!and encourage your winning reader to do the same.

To enter to win, please leave me a comment about whether you've ever attended the Taste of Chicago. I'll select the winner at random on Friday, June 24. If you win, you'll pick up your tickets at the Humana booth at the Taste of Chicago.

And there's many ways to earn additional chances to win, just make sure to return here to leave comments for each additional entry. You can:
    • Follow @Frenchfoodiemom on Twitter
    • Tweet about this contest.
    • Like the Chefdruck Musings Fan Page
    • Post about this contest on your Facebook page.
    • Post about this contest on your blog.
    • Subscribe to Chefdruck Musings.
    • Tweet about this contest on multiple days, and you'll get multiple entries. Just don't forget to leave me a comment each time you perform an entry action so that you get credit.
Congrats to Commenter #13 - Just Another Mom - she won the tickets to Taste of Chicago!

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    S'Mores Summer Fun

    S'Mores are one of the best parts of summer. You can fancy them up or keep them traditional, but it's impossible to resist the fun of melting a marshmallow over an open flame on a warm summer night. Last summer in Ohio, we had a fire pit in our backyard that got a lot more use than we expected. There was something magical about watching the kids run around the flames, laughing, and licking marshmallow and chocolate off their fingers.

    This summer, I'm partnering with the Motherhood and Hershey's on a special S'Mores promotion.  In a few weeks, I will be posting about a surprise theme involving Hershey’s and S’mores. I don't even have the full details of the surprise theme yet, but if S'Mores are involved, I know it will be mouth watering and fun.

    You too can get involved in this summer's Hershey's S'Mores Campaign to win some fun prizes and share your love of S'Mores. Beginning this week, families are invited to capture and share their favorite S’mores moments on the Hershey’s brand Facebook page for a chance to win S’mores-themed prizes. The grand-prize is a Canon Rebel Camera, slate marble outdoor firebowl, $250 SnapFish gift card, roasting skewers set and all of the ingredients needed to make S’mores, including Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars. You can download the Say S’mores application on the Hershey's Facebook page to participate in monthly photo contests and receive coupons.

    Stay tuned for my S'mores surprise theme post later this summer and enjoy your own melted chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker fun in the meanwhile. I'll be receiving a small stipend from Hershey's in compensation for helping to promote their campaign.


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