Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fart Free Cassoulet

A terrible thing happens when Jen eats beans. Through the magic of breastfeeding the most common side effect of beans is transferred directly to our babies. They become, fussy, uncomfortable, farting machines. Everyone loses in this equation.

More on this later.


Wombats Sitting Up

After getting the guys home from daycare I set them up on a quilt to play where they learned the value of sharing. At least for about ten seconds. Then they resorted to every dirty trick in the book to steal toys from each other including techniques such as brute force, sneaky moves, and eye-gouging.

Jen mentioned the other night that she would have liked barley with the lamb stew I made. I already had a plan to use polenta as the starch/base so I felt bad I was not able to oblige. I figured I'd try to oblige tonight as temperatures dropped from where they were yesterday in the mid 50s. I also figured to avoid the farting dilemma that I would use good old barley.

Barley Cassoulet

I decided to make a version of cassoulet. Actually I made it yesterday and cooked if for about eight hours before finally cooling it and saving it for tonight. Purists will argue with me calling it cassoulet as I went a little non-standard with the recipe and decided to substitute barley for the traditional white beans.

As far as the stew went I pretty much threw together everything that was leftover in the fridge and freezer: garlic, onion, parsnip, rutabaga, ham, Andouille sausage, duck legs, bacon, pork belly, bay leaf, oregano, rosemary, diced tomato, chicken stock, and a Winter Shredder beer from Cisco Brewery.

The result with barley was very tasty. I'd highly recommend this option to people trying to avoid beans whether for their own gastrointestinal health or that of their babies.

St. Bernardus Abt 12

To go with this nice winter stew I opted to crack open another Belgian Quadruple, this time going with Abt 12 from St. Bernardus. This is a beer that most say is comparable to Westvleteren XII. Ever since having the Westvleteren XII I've felt obligated to try more of the style as comparison. It was a bit unfair since I've been aging this one for well over a year so its had a chance to mature a bit in the bottle.

The beer aged very well and was right in long with unaged Westvleteren. I suspect the aged Westvleteren may edge it out. I'm looking forward to trying that a year from now.

Tonight, after a relatively easy round of getting the Wombats to bed, we are left to lounge about and watch some hockey in the manner of two care-free childless adults.

That should all change in a few hours or so.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pizza, Beer, and Pizza Beer

Last night Jen had a fantastically easy night of putting the guys to bed. For some reason they just went directly to bed with little or no fuss. All that was required was a little gentle back-rubbing and the Wombats went straight to sleep.

Or so she claims.

When I got home around midnight I attempted to polish off the remaining 120 Minute IPA in the fridge.

What to do with the rest of a Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

It turns out my method for preserving the carbonation didn't exactly work. Take note: don't attempt this technique for yourself.

Elliot in the Morning

Martin in the Morning

This morning was a mixed bag with Elliott being ready to tackle the day and Martin being nearly catatonic. I was fine with both of their states given that they slept mostly through the night. It seems like the better they sleep through the night the harder it is to wake up in the morning. Eventually we were able to get ourselves out of bed, get the Wombats to day care, and go about our day.

FaceTime with Nana STIM

I picked the guys up early and took them home to FaceTime with their Nana who was very happy to watch them bounce in their Jumperoo, play int heir walkers, and generally wreak havoc in the apartment as we caught up on things.

Martin is Unhappy about the Feeding Schedule

After our talk they began to get hungry. I fed Elliott first since he was fussing the most and Martin was not happy about this turn of events. Let this serve as a lesson to Martin for the future. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, my friend. Looks like you're going to have to up your fuss game for next time.

Kale and Avocado Salad with Grape Tomatoes, Red Onion, and Pine Nuts

Once we wrangled the babies to bed, after their baths and after their dinner, I threw dinner together very quickly. I made this salad with kale, avocado, grape tomatoes, red onion, pine nuts, currants, olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Total prep time: five minutes.

Meatball and Grilled Artichoke Pizza

For pizza I used some meatballs that I'd made earlier in the day with ground beef from the freezer, garlic, toasted and crumbled leftover bread, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, Worchestershire sauce, and a little egg. I cooked the meatballs then topped the pizza with them, some mozzarella cheese, grilled artichokes, sliced red onion, and fresh basil. Total prep time: five minutes.

In the past week I've had two of the best beers I've ever had in my life: Westvleteren XII and Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA. I figured I'd follow that with another beer that is sure to be in my top ten . . .

Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer

Mama Mia! Pizza Beer!

This is a beer that I kept running into and eventually just had to buy before it was too late. If their website is any indicator then production of this beer must have stopped some time in the late 1990s just going on the number of animated GIFs and overall design of the site.

The beer is actually brewed with oregano, basil, tomato, and garlic and the bottle proclaims: Beer So Good . . . It Deserves a Wine Glass!

The animated GIFs also makes this claim.

The beer tasted heavily of oregano, slightly of the other ingredients, but mostly of water. After consuming a little pizza it was indistinguishable from any crummy lager you'd have with beer. It's definitely an interesting beer but there is a strange blankness to the taste. I feel like it could use something in the way of body to round it out.

Agua de Piedra 2009 Malbec

Jen was not having any of this beer so we opened this Agua de Piedra 2009 Malbec from Argentina. A friend had given this to me a couple of years ago and we just got around to opening it. After I was done with my beer I enjoyed a glass of this. It was a nice accompaniment to pizza and a great beer to enjoy with the rest of the hockey game after dinner.

Apart from all of this I got some cooking done for the rest of the week so it looks like we'll be in quick and easy meals for the rest of the week.

Now I just have to plan out my beer choices a little better.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

El Regreso de los Bebés

After a pretty good run of sleep the babies have seemed to return to their sleep habits of 3-4 months ago. Teething has kept Martin up late most nights while an insatiable hunger has caused Elliott to wake several times in the night. Both of them have become extremely apt at sleeping through their feedings. Even their mother has become pretty good at this. Unfortunately I have not yet perfected the art of sleeping while I feed them. I just cross my fingers that it will be Elliott who wakes up since he eats about four times faster than his pokey older brother.

Martin's nighttime crib-journeys sometimes leave him with various limbs sticking out of the crib which I postulated may cause him to wake up. Since I'm so incredibly smart I figured I'd purchase some breathable crib bumpers for him so that this wouldn't happen.

Super Effective Crib Bumper

Super Effective Crib Bumper

That was a huge waste of time and money.

Silly Hats

In other news: Jen recently instituted a period of each day where the guys have to wear hats while they zip around in their walkers. This has not seemed to hamper the Wombats' playtime and has brought their mother pure, unbridled delight.

Blood Orange and Pomegranate Salad with Seville Orange Juice, Avocado, and Macadamia Nuts

As the babies settled down in bed I put together this salad with greens, sliced blood orange, pomegranate, macadamia nuts, avocado, olive oil, and juice from a Seville orange. I had intended on putting slices of Seville orange as well but by the time I had peeled the orange I was left with a completely destroyed orange and all the seeds had popped out over the cutting board in a gruesome scene of citrus homicide.

Pan Roatsed Pork Chop with Candied Pecan Sweet Potatoes, and Garlic Creamed Kale

For the main course I made a pan-roasted pork chop from Lucki 7 Farms in upstate New York. I also made creamed kale with garlic, butter, cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; and sweet potato with a little cream, butter, and chopped candied pecans.

Martin Refusing to Sleep

Part of the way through dinner we learned that Martin's screaming was not going to stop. When we took him out of his crib he immediately stopped crying and we put him out on the floor to play while we finished dinner. It seems that the only thing that can stop him from crying is the simple knowledge that he is not sleeping.

Even though he is completely exhausted.

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA (2011 Batch)

For beer tonight I cracked open a bottle of 120 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head. I've been sitting on these since 2011 and haven't tried one yet so after more than a year of aging I thought it would be appropriate to pop one open mostly because 120 minutes is about the average amount of uninterrupted sleep we can hope to get these days.

This beer was completely different than I'd expected. At approximately 20% alcohol I could only deal with half of the 12 oz. bottle. It was probably the most complex beer I've ever tasted and I really didn't find it to have much hop bitterness at all. Perhaps after a year of aging the bitterness had mellowed to all the fruity aromatics that I experienced.

This is not really like beer, it's like an after dinner brandy or port.

What to do with the rest of a Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

This beer was a little too much for Jen which means that I inexpertly wrapped up her half, in hopes of preserving its combination, and stuck it in the fridge. We'll see how it handles this.

Perhaps it will be what gets me through tonight's 3:00 AM feeding.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Best Beer (and Babies) in the World

Last night was a train wreck. Martin continued his trend of only wanting to sleep in our bed. The problem is that with Jen home it's a bit tighter in that bed than it was with her away. This meant that he centered himself in the bed and got a fantastic night's sleep. Jen and I were pushed to the sides and both had horrible nights.

Elliott's First Grocery Store Shopping Cart Experience

After dragging ourselves out of bed we brought the guys to the grocery store. It was an unnecessarily long shopping excursion which made the guys a little restless. Elliott calmed down after I let him ride in the shopping cart for the first time. He seemed to really enjoy this even though he would occasionally slide to one side and hit his head on the side of the cart.

First Peaches

First Peaches

At home, after a lovely two-hour nap, we made them their first fruit: peaches. They were frozen and a little acidic but the guys seemed to enjoy them. They're slightly below avocado in their list of favorites but I'm confident that if they had fresh, ripe summer peaches that they'd probably be straight at the top.

The Wombats' Favorite Foods (in descending order from favorite to least favorite)
  1. Sweet Potato
  2. Avocado
  3. Peaches*
  4. Butternut Squash
  5. Carrot
  6. Peas
Serenading the Wombats with Neil Young's "Southern Man"
After their nightly ritual they still were not tired so I took out my guitar and sung them the classic lullaby, Neil Young's Southern Man. Some babies like songs about wheels on the bus or the lives of infant sea-dwelling mammals. Our babies like songs about racial tension in 1970s America.
Lamb Stew with River Horse Belgian Freeze
For dinner I made this lamb stew with garlic, onion, potato, carrot, parsnip, rutabaga, rosemary, turkey stock, flour, salt, pepper, and most of a bottle of Belgian Freeze beer.
Brouwerij Westvleteren Westvleteren XII
While the stew finished and the wombats slept I poured this Westvleteren XII from Sint-Sixtusabdij in Belgium. Jen had picked this extraordinarily hard-to-get beer up for me for Christmas and it was among one of the greatest Christmas presents I've ever gotten, right up there with the time I got the Soundwave action figure from The Transformers.
Westvleteren XII Six Pack Box
For the first time ever it was released as a six pack -- an extremely expensive six pack that looks like it was designed by the makers of Wolfenstein 3D. The verdict was that this beer was pretty damn good. Was it the best beer in the world? That's difficult to say. It was certainly excellent. It was certainly among the best of its style that I've ever had. I just don't feel comfortable comparing it to wildly different beers. In the realm of Belgian Quadruples it is definitely tops. The history and story behind the beer are romantic and it's hard to taste it without allowing that reputation to cloud your judgment. I'm glad I have a few extra bottles to try aging. I'd love to see how the flavor is affected over the years.
Blue Castello with Candied Pecans
Along with the beer I put out this Blue Castello cheese with candied pecans. Jen enjoyed the beer but she enjoyed the candied pecans even more. She even ate more of the cheese than I did which is rare as she is not as in love with blue cheeses as I am.
Lamb Ale Stew with Polenta

Finally the stew was ready after the Wombats (mostly Martin) had settled down. I served it over a creamy polenta with some additional fresh rosemary.

It was a great night. We had a great time with the boys. I got to make a winter stew in the freezing cold. I got to have the best beer in the entire world. It really doesn't get that much better than that.

Now it's just hard to stay up to watch hockey when we are so unbelievably exhausted. We're still getting used to the fact that a simple day off with the babies is one of the most tiring things that can happen to us in our lives.

But maybe the babies will sleep straight through until 7:00 tomorrow morning and we will be completely refreshed.

I have no idea what I would do with that kind of sleep.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hey, Jealousy

Last night Martin made it his business to only sleep in the bed with me. He had no interest in his crib whatsoever. The only thing that would calm him down was sleeping in the bed with me and turning himself horizontally so that he took up about 75% of the width of the bed and I had to sleep on my side. Every so often I would creep a little and he would give me a swift kick in the ribs to keep me in line.

Good Morning, Martin

In the morning Martin was looking a bit more rested than I felt.

Elliott Jealous of Martin's Jumperoo Time

Before Jen got home from the airport I put Elliott in the walker and Martin in the new Jumperoo we got last week. Elliott does not like it when people other than him get to use the Jumperoo. He mostly just glares until that person (usually Martin) is removed and the Jumperoo gets its rightful passenger: Elliott.

Teething Martin

Martin was having a bit of a rough afternoon with teething pain. We gave him some tablets and finally some Tylenol.

Teething Martin

Eventually he fell asleep after chewing on the obligatory giraffe-shaped teething ring.

Wombats Hugs

After a family nap we fed the guys and let them play around a bit. Then we gave them some gentle persuasion to exchange some hugs. They hugged each other a bit but mostly Elliott tried to suck on Martin's forehead when Martin wasn't busy trying to strangle Elliott or Elliott wasn't busy trying to headbutt Martin.

Now that's brotherly love.

Roast Berkshire Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Pee Wee Potatoes, and Garlic Broccoli Rabe

For dinner I roasted a pork tenderloin, some pee wee potatoes, and cooked some broccoli rabe. Whenever we eat broccoli rabe these days we think of the time we were seated beside a couple at a restaurant in Burlington, Vermont. When the plate arrived it had broccoli rabe on it. The woman ate the broccoli rabe and then proclaimed: "I don't know what that is but it is not good!"

Stonewall Kitchen Maine Maple Champagne Mustard

To accompany the pork I put out this Maine Maple Champagne Mustard from Stonewall Kitchen. It was pretty much as delicious as it sounded.

Epic Brewing Brainless IPA Release #2

While away Jen was jealous of my time with the Wombats. I was jealous of her independence and ability to grab a drink with friends.

Jen returned from Utah with not one, not two, not three, but four amazing beers that you can't get in New York. Apparently there was one polygamy-themed beer at the hotel she was going to bring back but some good friends recommended a drive to Epic Brewing where she picked up some great stuff.

Tonight we had the Brainless IPA Release #2 tonight, a limited edition Belgian style IPA. It was one of the more beautiful beers I've ever seen and the taste followed up the appearance quite nicely. I'm jealous of the people of Utah having access to such a great brewery.

It's great to have Jen back at home. Not only for the baby help but for the companionship and the rousing conversation while we watch NHL hockey and discuss the wonders of parenthood.

And for the free beer.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Single Dad Chronicles (Part 3)

I normally sleep well after a night with no sleep and last night was no excpetion. After struggling to get the babies to sleep they kindly slept uninterrupted from 8:00 PM to 4:00 AM. I actually got to sleep by 10:00 PM and mostly slept until 4:00 AM. At 5:30 AM Martin began to let out a quiet moan and act completely out of character. His hand and feet were freezing. Sure it was only 9 degrees outside but that logical explanation wasn't enough to get my paranoid brain working.

I foolishly Googled his symptoms which lead me to the conclusion that he had bacterial meningitis. That was the end of my sleep for the night.

Wombats at the Doctor's Office

I showed up at the doctor's office when they opened but they could not take us so seeing that Martin was in much better spirits I took him to day care then brought him in at the end of the day where he was seen by the doctor who concluded that he was just teething and/or fighting off a low grade virus.

While we waited for the doctor I entertained the boys with my amazingly realistic fart noises. It was a pretty big hit but they were a pretty easy audience. I killed.

Wombats Eating Dinner in the Bathroom

The doctor mentioned keeping the babies in the bathroom while we run a hot shower. This seemed logistically difficult so I decided to run a hot shower and feed them in the bathroom. This was a little strange but it did seem to help their congestion a bit.

Afterwards they lost interest in their bottles and started playing with each other and making each other laugh. Apparently they don't need my comedy any more.

After getting the to bed Martin cried for a while. I tried giving him Tylenol, soothing his gums, offering him a frozen towel to chew on. Nothing worked. Then I decided that he must be hungry. I made him a bottle and he chugged it down. Apparently I forgot my own wisdom. It's always that they're hungry.

It's always that they're hungry!

Hot Dogs with Avocado, Onion, Pale Ale Mustard, Hot Sauce, and Celery Salt

For dinner I thawed out some frozen hot dogs and made these dogs with avocado, onion, hot sauce, celery salt, and mustard.

Drake's Brewing Drakonic Imperial Stout

For beverage I cracked open this Drakonic Imperial Stout from Drake's Brewing in San Leandro, California. This was purchased for me by a friend at work who returned back from California. This is not available in New York so it was a real treat to try.

Jen flies out soon to return home. It has been an interesting challenge to be a single parent but I am greatly looking forward to her return. Having an adult ally around in this fight will be greatly appreciated. An extra set of hands to wrangle wombats will be a welcome delight.

Oh, yeah, and I miss her conversation too.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Teething and the Single Dad

Last night was a bit of a challenge but it quickly turned out to be okay except for the fact that I was paranoid and couldn't sleep. I did get a little bit of shut eye between 4:00 AM and 7:00 AM but the alarm ruined that and it was off to the races.

Good Morning Bubses (Round 1)

In stages I slowly got the guys ready for their day. They were both in very good spirits. Apparently despite Martin's cough and fussing he slept quite well. Elliott also had a wonderful night. I, on the other hand, sat up Googling reasons for Martin's temperature, cough, and fussing. All results pointed to that he was teething but each time he let out a wet cough I snapped to attention and went to check on him.

Good Morning Bubses (Round 2)

After I got them both ready Elliott decided there hadn't been enough baby bile in my life and spit up all over himself. This required a quick costume change for him. I will need to locate a new pillow for myself this evening.

9 Degree Wombats

Their smiles turned quickly serious once I got them outside to experience their first day of single digit temperatures. I don't think they were too crazy about it. I got the car warmed up for them but they were eerily silent on the trip home.

Italian Wedding Soup

After a more than two hour festival of horrors I managed to get them to sleep tonight. They are both teething and picked the moment of Jen's work trip to display their worst symptoms to date. With both of them screeching and unwilling to eat the avocado that I had freshly pureed for them I was forced to use some daddy instinct and strategically work both of them closer to bed. Elliott went the easiest (as he does most nights) but Martin put up an admirable one hour fight against slumber. The problem is that they're just little babies and I'm a grown ass man.

I am way smarter than them and I always will be.

Afterwards I just reheated some Italian wedding soup and slurped it contemplatively.

New England Brewing Co. 668 The Neighbor of the Beast

As a reward for my hard work I poured myself this 668 The Neighbor of the Beast from New England Brewing Co. It's always strange having a Belgian-style ale out of a can but getting over that mental block this was a very nice Belgian strong pale ale. New England Brewing Co. comes up with some incredible names for their beers. Their names are actually so good that I think they could get away with the quality of their beers being a bit lower. However, they strive to deliver great-tasting beers as well and this one is no exception.

So, after all that, I'm ready to pack it in and attempt to get a decent night's sleep. Here's to hoping the Wombats show some mercy to their poor old dad.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Today Jen flew out to Salt Lake City for a work trip. If you're thinking this doesn't sound fair you are right. However it could be said that this is similar to the time that I flew out to San Francisco for a work trip and left Jen alone with the babies.

Personally I think that's comparing apples to oranges. That time was much easier for me.

Elliott and Martin Interacting

I'm getting pretty good at feeding the boys by myself but they do get a little rambunctious. It's a little challenging to get them to focus on the feeding instead of on slapping, poking, and scratching each other. It's somewhat heart-warming when I consider that they really had no clue (or care) that the other existed for the first four months of their life. However it would be nice if they could continue to ignore each other through a feeding so I could actually get some food in their mouths without them trying to eat each others' toes.

FaceTime with Mummy

After dinner we had a FaceTime chat with mummy. She was very happy to see them but it was a short-lived conversation as both Wombats decided to start losing their minds.

This would continue over the course of the next hour where I attempted to juggle both of them. As I thought I finally got them both to settle down I went into the kitchen to begin the process of washing huge numbers of dishes. After a minute a feeling came over me that something wasn't right. My Daddy-Spidey Sense started tingling. I went in the room to see Martin looking distressed. I touched his belly and it felt like a rock. As I went to pick him up an enormous fountain of regurgitated butternut squash shot out of his mouth into the air, dirtying everything within a ten foot radius.

This had never happened before with Martin so I could only assume he had been saving it for the moment Jen left. I brought him into the bathroom, disrobed him, and left him lying on the bathmat as I ran back to the room to give his shrieking brother his pacifier back.

After a quick bath and pajama change I rocked him for a while then returned him to his crib and rolled him over to his side where the exhaustion of the night's events caused him to quietly fall asleep.

Shells and Cheese with Basil and Hot Sauce

With the boys asleep I had very little time or energy to make myself dinner. I brought a pot of water to a boil while I did the huge amount of baby-related dishes, then made this shells and cheese from a box.

In college I am afraid to say that I lived on Velveeta Shells and Cheese. It's worth mentioning that I got my degree in culinary arts. Even still I made this most evey night. I used that training to doctor up the standard recipe by adding dried basil and hot sauce to the batch. That really kicked it up a notch.

One time one of my chefs lectured us about cooking crap at home while we learned all day about cooking technique. That made me feel guilty. I went home and made a roast chicken with asparagus and made Bearnaise sauce with tarragon I picked from my mother's herb garden.

The next night I returned to Velveeta Shells and Cheese.

Tonight I returned to those roots but used a popular organic brand which contained actual cheese in lieu of Velveeta.

Sixpoint Brownstone

To go with this culinary delight I poured myself the seasonal Brownstone from Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn, NY. This was a really tasty dry hopped nut brown ale that actually went quite well with my $0.99 dinner. The maltiness complimented the cheese sauce packet quite nicely.

It's all about culinary excellence.