Springtime, Easter and More Lamb

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When I think back to spring of last year, I recall a lot of details, particularly related to the extreme tiredness and discomfort of growing a little human. But when I try to recall years past, everything kind of blends together. I recall bits and pieces, like Hawaii or my 30th CocktailParty, but otherwise the last five years seem to have come and gone, quietly.

But, this year, there’s a baby. A “not so little” 6 ½ month old! A little dude with big cheeks, wiggly legs and super bright eyes that are trying so hard to keep up with the constant smile on his lips. And this first spring, with our little Viggo, has already been one to remember. We’ve had several visits to Descanso to see the various gardens bloom. We started up our evening neighborhood walks where we forage for loquats. We dyed eggs for the first time, and had a delicious Easter with our friends. Little guy even had his first purée, carrots from dad’s garden. 

It’s been exciting to start new traditions, settle into routines and watch as Viggo discovers the world around him. And there’s more adventures to come. Later this month, we’ll be taking our first flight with Viggo to attend a wedding in Georgia. Snakes babies on a plane – yikes! 

But before that, there’s a lamb recipe to share. It came from the April issue of Bon Appetit. We didn’t seek it out, but came across it at an opportune moment, and decided to go for it. It required some prep work, but turned out quite tasty (and I think we’re officially ready for a break from lamb now). As in my previous lamb post, leftovers made for delicious sandwiches.
I finally made my mom's beet and walnut salad, which is always a hit at Easter dinner. It's really simple - grated beets (roasted or boiled), walnuts, sour cream, a little water, and salt and pepper.
The husband's olive bread... rising.
Little guy had his six-month check-up and vaccines before Easter and spent the weekend recovering, which meant lots of snuggles and naps with mom. But, despite feeling under the weather, he wanted to help in the kitchen.
Easter potluck plate (above) and a photo with my favorite guys (below)!
The husband pickled the leftover eggs.
Evening walks. Checking out the Little Library in our hood.
Viggo's first purée. He was really into selecting the finest carrots.
And happy birthday to me! I get to spend it with these jokers. 

Olive-Stuffed Leg of Lamb
Serves 8
1 shallot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup pine nuts
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
¼ cup drained oil-packed anchovies
¼ cup finely grated lemon zest
¼ cup mint leaves
¼ cup parsley leaves
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
½ cup olive oil, plus more
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 3–4-pound piece butterflied boneless leg of lamb 

1) Preheat oven to 425°. Finely chop shallot, garlic, nuts, olives, anchovies, lemon zest, mint, parsley, and thyme in a food processor. With motor running, stream in ½ cup oil; process until blended. Season stuffing with salt and pepper.

2) Unfold lamb on a cutting board and season with salt and pepper. Spread stuffing over top; roll up lamb from left to right. Position seam side down and tie closed with kitchen twine at 1 ½" intervals crosswise, then once lengthwise. Transfer to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with oil. We did something of this sort, it just didn’t look all fancy.

3) Roast until lamb is starting to brown, 30–40 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325° and continue to roast until a thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 125°, 35–45 minutes longer. Remove lamb from oven and tent with foil; let rest 15–20 minutes. 

Do Ahead: Lamb can be stuffed and tied 1 day ahead; cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before roasting. It was definitely handy to get this part done the night before. 

The full recipe found here, is served over a salad with feta. We didn’t go this route. Instead I made simple yogurt sauce.


Lamb Sandwiches and Growing Babies

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I have obviously been failing at blogging. And despite managing to cook at least 3-4 days a week, I'm NOT managing to take photos or remember recipes or do the dishes (the husband has been on dishes duty for a long time). I am however managing to work and keep the baby clean and fed. So that's something, right?

On Valentine's Day, we hosted a small dinner party, our first since the baby. After tucking him in at 7:30, we enjoyed French martinis, cheese, lamb, couscous, cucumbers in yogurt and steamed beets (steaming is in everyone!). And I have zero pictures to document the meal. But everything was delicious, although the lamb roast could have definitely used a sauce. 

What I did manage to get, the following day, was a photo of the sandwich I made with the leftovers. The husband will say, without hesitation, the sandwich was better than the roast the night before, and even though I can't say that without hesitation, it was a really, really good sandwich. Served on a freshly baked baguette, with lots of mayo and mustard, topped with sauteed greens from the garden, this was a sandwich you thought about days after eating it.
Lamb marinade.
In other news, I recently finished a book by one of my favorite bloggers. If you're looking for something funny and smart to read, I highly recommend Bon Appetempt: A Coming of Age Story. Not only could I relate to this book on many levels, but I passed it on to the husband, who I thought it would definitely resonate with, and he's been enjoying it, giggling in bed while I try to sleep.

We have been doing lots of cooking from the garden, eating salads topped with sardines, or one pot pastas with sausage and chard or kale, roasting carrots and garlic and sticking to simple and satisfying meals during the week. Because by the time we get home, bathe and play with the little guy, there's not much time left for any complicated cooking. The new weeknight routine, though different, is comforting, and usually ends with wine or beer while we watch Viggo snooze on the baby monitor.
Looking through the last three months of photos on my computer, it's crazy to see the rate this kid is growing. He's changing all the time, and changing us as well. For one thing, the husband now sleeps in. (Sorry parents with kids who don't sleep, we lucked out). My new favorite hobby is to hear Viggo laugh until he hiccups and watch him as he struggles to flip himself from his belly to his back, something he can't consistently do yet, but tries so very hard, it's sometimes painful not to intervene. 
We are still making regular visits to our favorite walking place, Descanso Gardens, and going on adventures to Ojai and Newport Beach. Traveling with a baby has been a test in patience and creativity. We are preparing for a week-long trip to Georgia next month. I can't wait to see how many days we'll last until one of us breaks. I say four. Until then, we have a six-month birthday to celebrate, Easter with friends, and more Sundays in bed cuddling until second breakfast.


Halloween to Christmas: Holidays 2014

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The holiday season is almost over.  And I realized I hadn't even posted about Pumpkin Carving. So here's a busy (lazy) mom's overview of our celebrations since October, mostly so I can remember them next year. Especially if there's any debate over who had the best pumpkin.

Oh, and our little Viggo is three month's old today. Three! How did this happen? I go to work next week, and am terribly sad about it. I did not expect to be this sad. So wish me luck for an easy transition, where I don't cry at my desk (more than once a day).
For the first-time ever, the husband won the carving contest with his Lincoln. And no, I did not select him as winner because he gave me a baby, as some suggested. I think everyone else just dropped the ball.
Viggo is already learning about the judging process. It's not easy to pick a winner, little guy.
Pumpkin carving would not be complete without chili.
This year, the husband organized our friends to put on a second Koncert for Karine. It was actually called Kristmas 4 Karine and Baby Viggo, and featured holidays carols and tunes. Although I laughed at this premise, just like the first time around, it was a sweet and cozy way to kick-off the holidays with our friends. We're lucky to have a group of talented musicians, singers and poets among us, and enough folks willing to listen and cheer them on. Viggo and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
And of course, our favorite get-together of the season is Xmas Eve Eve. This year, we made fresh pasta and wild boar ragu. We drank lots of rum punch and wine. And Viggo was showered with love (and many gifts!) by our family of friends. He's still getting the hang of posing for photos, but I'm sure by next year, he'll be a pro. 
Hope you had a memorable holiday season as well. Next year, we're planning a little trip north, where Viggo will get to experience a white Christmas. Here's to 2015!


Lemon Love: Lemon Lavender Gelato and Preserving Our First Crop

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This gelato recipe is from way back, when I was still very pregnant and not into blogging. Now, even though I'm no longer pregnant, I've still been not into blogging. Mostly because the few quiet moments I get, I utilize by Googling "how to get spit up smell out of clothes". So yeah, gelato.

I made this for a dinner party. It was delicious. We used lemons from my husband's co-workers tree. This week, our own lemons were ready, and I was reminded of this delicious recipe while I spent an afternoon in the kitchen making preserved lemons with my little guy. He indulged me by posing for a few photos.
Finally, lemons from our mini tree. A decent first-year crop. You can find a recipe for preserved lemons here. And feel free to add whatever spices you like. Below I used anise.
Lemon Lavender Gelato
Serves 8

4 Tablespoons Dried Lavender
4 Large Lemons
1/3 Cup Honey
5 Egg Yolks
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Heavy Cream

2 Cups Whole Milk

1) Peel lemons.

2) In medium saucepan, combine milk, lavender, lemon peel, and honey.  Bring to a gentle boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let steep for 15 minutes, then strain mixture reserving the milk and discarding the lavender and lemon peel.

3) Beat egg yolks and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow, about 5 minutes.

4) Return milk to the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Take one cup of the warm milk and mix it into the egg mixture.  Next add the egg mixture into the pot with the milk whisking everything together.

5) Continue to cook over low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat and stir in cream. Strain mixture into a bowl and refrigerate until cold.

6) Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker.