Tuesday, February 19, 2013

5 Ethiopian Birr

That's what it cost me for this gorgeous photo of these Ethiopian girls who ran to catch up to us during our hike on Sunday.  They insisted on practicing their English and then when I asked if it was alright if I took their picture they posed like pros.  Then they stuck their little hands out for money.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine heart bunting

I whirled myself into a flurry of surprise Valentine preparations last night after my daughters were fast asleep. I made heart shaped muffins with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting for breakfast (shoot-that's actually a cupcake.  Yup!  They ate cupcakes for breakfast today).  I hung streamers that started at our chandelier but then the long tails wrapped all around the room ending in a hidden spot and attached to their Valentines surprise.  A different color streamer for each girl!

I also spent a good hour and a half stitching stuffed paper hearts for my Valentine bunting.  Bunting sounds cuter than garland doesn't it?  Anyway, I cut out the hearts and then had a fabulous idea to hand stitch two hearts together and stuff the middle with bits of paper towel so they looked like little heart pillows.  Four needle wounds to my thumb and 5 heart shaped muffins later; I had them stuffed and stitched but not hung.
Thank goodness for Aunt Megan leaving these adorable metal hanging clips.  All I had to do was punch a little hole in the hearts and hang them on a hook.  I used bakers twine on the mantel and clipped the little hearts on.  Sometimes the best craft ideas are last minute and a bit of a race to get done.  What good would a Valentine bunting do me on February 15th?
What do you think?  I think the stitching adds so much character to the paper!  Happy Valentines Day!

savory Valentine

Believe it or not, I try to limit the amount of sweets my kids eat.  It's challenging when the counter tops are littered with chocolate covered spatulas and freshly baked scones are cooling on racks every day!  But, I always insist they eat a healthy dinner.  I try to force them to eat vegetables every day.  Some days they eat a pound of broccoli and love it, other days they turn their noes up to anything green.  What gives, right?

My kids never lack for sweets to nibble and this Valentines Day won't be any different.  I have heart shaped pumpkin muffins in the works for a special Valentines breakfast.  So for dinner they are getting vegetables all packaged up with cute little heart biscuits.

Heart shaped biscuits with roasted broccoli and white beans

Roasted broccoli and white beans
4-6 oz prosciutto
1 cup of roasted broccoli (I used leftovers from the night before.  If you want to roast it fresh just cut the florets in small chunks, drizzle with olive oil and salt in a 375 degree oven until the edges are crisp and brown with a nutty flavor).
1 8 ounce can white beans drained and rinsed
olive oil, salt and pepper
1 large carrot diced in small chunks
1 large white onion chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Brown the prosciutto in a dutch oven, remove and let it cool and crisp up on a paper towel.  Using the same dutch oven add 1 Tbsp of olive oil, the onions and carrots.  Saute until softened, about a few minutes. Chop the roasted broccoli into smaller pieces and add to the dutch oven along with the parsley and finely chopped prosciutto.  Cook a few minutes and then transfer the vegetables to a bowl.  Add 1 Tbsp oil to the dutch oven and 1 Tbsp flour.  Whisk until the flour is coated and turning a light brown.  Slowly add the chicken broth and whisk so no clumps will form.  Bring to a boil to thicken.  Add back the vegetables along with the white beans.  Simmer on low. Taste for salt and pepper.  The sauce thickens and coats the vegetables and beans, making it an easy dish to scoop on biscuits.

Heart Shaped biscuits is from this recipe here.  This time I added a bit of chopped Gouda cheese to the dough.  I used a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut the biscuits.  They were baked at 425 degrees for 16 minutes.

The girls liked their biscuits cut in half and each half topped with the broccoli and beans.  The prosciutto adds a nice flavor to the sauce as well as enhancing the nutty roasted broccoli flavor.  All around it was a super kid friendly meal.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Negash Lodge Wolliso

Our first road trip with the kids for an overnight stay was last month to Negash Lodge in Wolliso.  It's about an hour and a half south west of Addis Ababa.  It was a relatively easy drive (made even easier by NPR podcasts) and once we arrived I was more than pleasantly surprised at how nice the lodge was.  By all accounts, if Mom is still happy two hours into the trip; the place is a winner.  The accommodations are very family friendly and we'll definitely be back.

Highlights of the lodge:

The grounds are alive with all sorts of indigenous wild life.  Colobus monkeys and birds were my favorites.  The girls loved watching the monkeys.

Colobus monkey indigenous to Ethiopia

common wild monkey

There was a pool and a playground to entertain the children for the afternoon.
Ahlynn's after-swim machiato.  

Aunt Megan working the see saw

The lodge grounds were beautiful and green with lush foliage, trees and flowers.

The restaurant served the best pizza we've found in Ethiopia.  Even better than Antica in Addis Ababa which I just raved about!  The pizza was good by U.S. standards.  Sauce being the key.  Americans like a good amount of well spiced pizza sauce on our pizza and Negash Lodge is the first place I've had pizza with the right amount of sauce in Ethiopia.  Pizza makers in Addis Ababa take note!

The rooms are clean and well decorated.  There are large family style cottages peppered throughout the grounds and then smaller modern rooms surrounding a courtyard.  Next time we'll try the cottage but we found the modern rooms to be very comfortable.  The large Western style bathrooms were wonderful.

The courtyard next to the modern rooms was a nice place for the adults to sit, drink beer, read and talk once we'd put the children to sleep for the night.  Anyone with small children can understand my appreciation for a lodge with nice balconies, verandas or outdoor seating close to the rooms for this purpose.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Antica-the best pizza in Addis Ababa

When we first learned that we'd be moving to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Justin sheepishly kept mentioning the consolation prize of our new home would be the ability to get an abundance of good Italian food.  There would be mozzarella and tomatoes and pasta available because the Italians don't occupy anywhere without bringing, and then leaving these things, right?  I had a hard time believing it at the time.

After living in Addis for a year, I am happy to say he wasn't wrong.  There is good Italian food in this city.    The mozzarella IS plentiful, as well as the ricotta, tomatoes, olive oil and Farina.  There are a few good Italian restaurants who make homemade pasta.  Pizza is everywhere.  There is a ton of mediocre pizza being made in this country.  But there is also some really decent pizza being made.  I'm not sure that I really needed a consolation prize after falling in love with the local culture and food, BUT having good pizza as a restaurant option is a highlights of Ethiopia for me.

We've tried a lot of pizza joints and we thought we'd found our favorite until we tried Antica a few weeks ago.  It was one of those restaurant names that kept floating around in conversation and we never knew quite where it was until one day (when Megan was in town) we found it!  We'll never go back to the other pizza places.  In a place where all the restaurants have access to the very same ingredients, Antica does brick oven thin crust pizza the best.  They have the best quality cheese, ham, mushrooms and a larger selection of combinations. My very favorite is the Buffalo chicken pizza which is topped with grilled chicken and blue cheese.  In the chaos that is lunch with our three children, the Buffalo chicken pizza was not the one sitting in front of me for the easiest photograph.  Below is the mushroom and ham pizza.  A very good option as well.
We tend to frequent restaurants at times when we're the only patrons so it's always quiet, if a bit dark on the inside.  I can picture the vibe in the evening as cozy and jazz club-esque.  The staff is friendly and the pizzas come quickly and fresh.  It's a perfect combination for our family.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Adelaide and the Tooth Fairy

Addie has had a loose tooth now for a week or more.  Wiggly enough that I had to look at it and then gasp because her adult tooth had already come in behind the baby one.  She was relieved to find out this was supposed to happen and has been happily wiggling and tugging away at it.  She came home from school today with a shy closed mouth smile and then the huge announcement that her tooth had fallen out!  During art class!  She saved it in a plastic bag!  Everyone wanted to see her new smile!  Her friend Justin at school lost his first tooth today at school too!

Bell said, "That's pretty awesome, Addie!" and completely meant it.  We hoisted her up to look at her beautiful new holey smile in the mirror.  She pulled out a perfect little treasure box to put her tooth in  under her pillow for the tooth fairy.  The conversation continued like this:

Addie: Do you think the tooth fairy will come tonight and find my tooth?
Mom:  I'm sure she knows about your tooth.
Bella: Maybe we should call her just to make sure.
Mom: She'll come, she's magical like Santa Claus.  He found our home for Christmas. I'm sure the Tooth Fairy is just as clever.
Bella: (looking in the mirror with a toothy grin) When are my teeth going to come out?
Mom: Hopefully no sooner than they are supposed to.
Addie: What do you think the fairy will leave me? I want chocolate!
Mom: Well when I was little the Tooth fairy left me money for my teeth.
Addie: I wonder if she'll bring American or Ethiopian money.
Mom: I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Addie couldn't stop mentioning how exciting it was that she lost her first tooth.  She said she feels like a six year old.  I can't help but wonder if there is anyway I can make time stand still, just a little bit, so the girls stop growing up already.  Ash is saying "Night Night", drinking from a big girl cup (no lid) and using a spoon. Bella is drawing faces with arms and legs sticking out the heads and putting on her own clothes (not without mishaps). Addie's loosing her teeth.  Sheesh!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

browned butter walnut cinnamon roll cake

Phew!  That's a mouthful of a name huh?

I'm fascinated with the idea of roll-up cakes.  Not cake-rolls shaped like logs, but thin layers of cake rolled and placed on a plate, flat side down so you can see the swirls on top.  I have a recipe I'm dying to try when I can locate the right ingredients, but for now I decided to adjust a classic cinnamon roll recipe to scratch my roll-up cake itch.

I used my favorite cinnamon roll recipe but changed a few things.
fragrant and toasty browned butter
Changes for the filling:
Brown 2/3 cup of unsalted butter and brushed a thin layer of it on the dough before spreading on the filling.
Add 1 cup of pulverized walnuts to the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Changes for the frosting/icing (depending on how much milk you add)
1/3 cup browned butter was used in place of softened butter for the icing

Changes for the assembly:
Instead of rolling up the dough into a long log and slicing it for individual cinnamon rolls; I sliced 4 long strips. Approximately 3 x 24 inches.  The first long strip I rolled into a large cinnamon roll and placed it in the middle of a 9 inch greased and parchment paper lined (only on the bottom) round cake pan.  The next strip carefully wrapped around the cinnamon roll in the middle and continued doing this until the cake pan was a giant cinnamon roll.  This method is not easy.  Lots of the filling is lost in transfer and trying to get the dough to wrap well.  Don't fret, just push the filling in between the layers.  It' won't look perfect but it doesn't really matter because the second rise will fluff out any mistakes.

Changes for baking:
I still baked this cake at 375 degrees like I do the cinnamon rolls.  It took a good 25-30 minutes though.  The last 8 minutes I covered the pan with aluminum foil so the top wouldn't brown any more.  To ensure your cake is done use a knife and gently peak between the middle layers.  It it's still too doughy, cook it for a few more minutes.  I would start peaking around minute twenty five.

Let the cake rest in the pan for about 5 minutes after removing it from the oven.  It should come out smoothly without issue because of the parchment paper on the bottom.  Let it cool a bit longer then drizzle the icing on top and sprinkle with any stray nuts that fell off the cake.  Slice and enjoy with coffee or if your my daughters tomorrow at breakfast; jump for joy about getting an awesome treat like this on a school day!

Ashlynn in the bath

Note the mouth in motion-Ashlynn is a talker and she chatters away any chance she can get
I have tons of photos of Addie in the bath as a baby and toddler, a good amount of Bella doing the same thing, but not many of my youngest daughter splashing around.  I have my camera with me a lot during the day so it's not for lack of trying.  Bath time with three girls, at once, all by myself is simply chaotic.  I'm generally grinning and bearing it so we can all just get through the routine without too much shouting (from me).

 But tonight Addie was busy exercising at bath time-yep push ups and head stands and all sorts of crazy moves.  So I snagged the younger two girls and plopped them in the tub first.  It quickly turned into a giggle fest as they made fountains with the bath toys and tipped water over the side for Lucy.  Ashlynn thinks it's absolutely hilarious to see Lucy lapping up the bath water.  I grabbed my camera and snapped a few pictures before snapping everyone back in to shape for bedtime.  The fun they were having was contagious!