One thumb up, plus a middle finger

Thanks for the helpful unsolicited advice, Stranger.

Here’s to you, lady in the pharmacy. Love, Committed.

I was at the pharmacy the other day, toddler sucking her thumb quietly in stroller, when the woman ahead of me in line turned around and exclaimed, “That’s gonna RUIN her teeth! RUIN them!” as she gestured her thumb toward her mouth. Was she telling me to make my 2-year-old stop sucking her thumb right now?

“Oh, yeah,” I said, trying to brush it off. “I’m not too worried about it.”

But she insisted, “No, they’ll be ruined! It’ll save you a LOT of money in braces if she stops.”

“Thanks, but she’ll probably have braces anyway. I’m not too worried about it” (and please leave me alone and deal with your own problems…don’t you have a urinary tract infection to take care of?).

She made one more urgent gesture and walked away.

I wanted to make a gesture of my own.

Listen, I know every parenting decision is basically controversial. This “baby sleep expert” tumblr underscores how confusing it can be to do the right thing when it comes to your kids. I also know that this woman meant well and that she probably dealt with the heartache of bad teeth in her childhood and only meant to spare my daughter a lifetime of dental misery.

HOWEVER. I never asked for any advice. And in giving unsolicited advice, she is assuming that I don’t know any better, which can come off as insulting. Moreover, she didn’t ask if I was concerned about the thumb sucking, which would have opened a dialogue about how her dentist actually said it wouldn’t be an issue for another few years, that her doctor said that braces are cheaper than therapy (self-soothing is a valuable tool), that my husband and I were both thumb suckers, and had braces for unrelated reasons…she was basically telling me how to be a parent without knowing that hey, I’ve already looked into this and I’m okay with it.

So a word to all you wise, unsolicited-parenting-advice-givers: if I want your help or advice, I will ask for it. And if you give it, I will appreciate it. Otherwise, please mind your beeswax.

No More Balking at Chicken

I was a breast gal. A chicken breast gal. But I got tired of the dried-out, one-note grossness and switched to thighs. While these have more flavor and tend to be juicier, I really wanted to go back to breasts. Mostly because they’re easy to cook. Tonight, I think I unlocked the secrets to making UNREASONABLY JUICY and delicious chicken breast.

You will need:

  • A good pan (cast iron was what I used)
  • Olive oil
  • Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice (bottled is fine)
  • A bowl or freezer bag for marinating
  • Paper towels
  • Tongs
  • Cutting board
  • Chicken breasts
juicy chicken

This was so. damn. good.

1. Marinate

      – I use a combo of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce (that’s really how it’s spelled–I had to look it up), and lemon juice. No recipe, just equal amounts of the sauces, then some lemon juice for good measure.

      – You can marinate as long as you like, but I actually only had about 8 minutes.

2. Heat the pan

      – I used a cast iron skillet, and heated olive oil to just below medium on our gas stove (between 3&4). Heat for a few minutes so the oil and pan are evenly hot.

3. Dab your chicken dry

      – Thanks to Robert Irvine of Restaurant Impossible, I had the forethought to use paper towels to dab and squeeze most of the liquid out of the chicken. Robert’s tip was actually to do this with scallops. The reasoning was that removing the moisture allows the meat to sear, rather than steam. When it steams, the moisture INSIDE cooks out, and you end up with a dry, chewy blob of yuck. I thought I’d try it with chicken. Holy crap, I’m glad I did.

4. Cook it

      – I learned this tip from Gilles LeFort of Ecole de Cuisine Le Fort outside of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. To get a nice sear without charring your meat, turn it every few minutes. I know some people think this is a sin, but I’ve done this for every steak since his class and it’s been carnivorous perfection. Basically, cook 2 minutes on each side, then turn every minute until it’s done. The amount of total time depends on how thick each piece is, but the breasts we made were on the thinner side, and it took about 12 minutes total. (FYI, a medium-rare filet takes 8 minutes over medium heat).

5. Rest it

      – Once the chicken is cooked through (no pink jelly in the middle, juices run clear), take it out of the pan and let it sit on a cutting board for 2 minutes. This allows the juices to stay inside. If you try to cut it right away, all the juicy goodness runs out, and you dry out your meat, yet again.

6. Devour it!

We went Mediterranean with it this time, piling the plate with homemade hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, capers, olives, and roasted red peppers. MMMMM!

hummus and veggies

So good, even a toddler will eat it!

Cupcakes and Pipe Dreams

I had simple visions of my daughter’s second birthday. A small gathering of friends, a song, some bubbly and cupcakes, hugs, and bedtime. What instead happened was a mysterious chickenpox-like outbreak on the kiddo’s legs, a trip to the doctor, and a day home from daycare. Not to worry, we’re getting through it, and made the best of a day cooped up in the house. However, I still have cupcake envy.

Had I had the afternoon to do it, I would have loved to make cupcakes like this:

Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle

Samoa from Trophy Cupcakes

Or this:

Cupcake Royale in Seattle

Triple Threat from Cupcake Royale

But instead, we went with the box kind. And you know, they don’t taste great, but it was fun to make together. I’d love to whip together my own organic, hand-picked, single origin, roasted-chocolate-salted-tamarind-pink-peppercorn-caramel whatever, but who am I kidding?

Toddlers can help cook

Boxed stuff: easy mixin’

I did make my own frosting. Mmm…butter…
I used this recipe from Martha Stewart. I halved the recipe for one box-worth of cupcakes, but kept the full amount of vanilla. I added in food coloring to get the purple color. And voila!

Chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream

Fake it ’til ya make it.

Frozen vanilla buttercream frosting

Genius idea for leftover frosting: freeze it!

I did have a moment of redemption. I had a little frosting leftover in the piping bag, and figured, why waste it? So I lined a little tray with parchment paper and piped small florets. I have to say, the ones with the chocolate chip on top were the perfect treat! I mean, it looks less pathetic popping these in your mouth than scooping spoonfuls of frosting, right? Right?

Anyway, all’s well that ends well. We had a nice little celebration and will get together with friends once the threat of contagion has lifted. Happy birthday, kiddo!

2nd birthday cupcake

Happy birthday!