Rice, shrimp, and more rice, and then preschool and cinnamon rolls

I mentioned in an earlier post that I made some unremarkable rice pilaf from Barefoot in Paris.

Here it is.


We’ve been spoiled by a rice pilaf recipe that I use from a cookbook we bought at the Greek Festival in Richmond, Virginia, and I’m just not sure any other pilaf will compare. If you have a hankering for the same flavors that appear in the tomato rice pilaf in Barefoot in Paris, I’d steer you toward the tomato soup in Foolproof instead.

But we found a surprise new favorite in the shrimp and mango salsa recipe from Parties!

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After a few somewhat ok attempts at the grill and several spectacular failures, I’ve figured out the perfect technique with a charcoal flame: let my Eagle Scout husband do it. The feminist in me dies a little bit inside to admit this, but I’m not gifted with the open flame. I was the girl that volunteered to write up all of the lab reports in high school chemistry to anyone who would light the damned flame for the experiments. I just don’t do fire. Neil does, and the shrimp were delicious. He’s not really much of a shrimp/seafood/shellfish guy, but these changed his mind. I made a half batch, which served the two of us for dinner, and we had some leftover to eat cold the next day.

Along with the shrimp, I made the crusty basmati rice from Foolproof. Neil really liked it, and I liked it ok. I think it was definitely better than the tomato rice pilaf, but not as good as our old Greek standby.



I’m afraid all of this is a little bit boring and bland, though, compared to what Rowan and I cooked up in the kitchen last weekend. When we were on vacation last month in Wisconsin, we discovered a little diner in the Dells that had cinnamon rolls as big as Rowan’s head. He loved them, and he’ll still you that it was his favorite part of vacation. (This, from a child who really doesn’t love eating, and who had a blast doing everything else on vacation, too.) I promised him that we’d try to recreate them at home. He was my enthusiastic helper. (I dressed him in the garishly loud shirt that day because we were going to a huge train show downtown at the convention center, and I didn’t want to lose him in a sea of other 3-to-8-year-olds who all look the same in a huge room. By the way, he’s totally and completely over trains, being a big and important first grader, but that didn’t stop him from going back (again and again) to the LEGO train display.)


And we even used painter’s tape to delineate how large the rolled-out dough should be on the counter. (3M should be paying me for this!) That’s 15×10 in case you’re wondering.



The end result was very, very sticky and rich. There was a lot of filling, which contrasted with our vacation cinnamon rolls, which were much more doughy. Even if you’re going for an over-the-top gooey roll, I would cut back the filling by at least half on these, which originally came from The Pioneer Woman’s cookbook.


That didn’t stop Rowan from devouring several of them, but I think we’ll try a different recipe next time.

But! Most importantly of all! The one and only Benjamin Neil Willard started preschool last week.

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As a kid who loved school, starting in preschool, I’m so happy that he was so excited to go to school on his first day. He loved it. He’s wearing his brother’s hand-me-down clothes, which is really no surprise, but he even insisted on carrying Rowan’s lunch box and (monogrammed) backpack. No identity crisis for this one – he knows who he is, and he owns it, in spite of the initials on his “packpack.” I got out the “real” camera to take the first day of preschool photos, and the lens fogged up so badly within seconds of being outside that the camera wouldn’t even take a picture. I said, “Gah, I can’t do this.” (Neil was at an early morning bible study which runs into a staff meeting, so I was the solo photographer this time.) I went inside to grab my phone to take pictures, and poor Ben turned around and said, “Does this mean I can’t go to pwee-school?” Oh, oh, oh… if I could do anything to take away those split seconds of disappointment that went through his little mind, I would have done it in a heartbeat. I’m glad he said something instead of just melting down, because I was able to tell him in a hurry, “Oh of COURSE you’re going to preschool!” Sweet boy. As you can tell from these photos, he recovered quite nicely.

You wouldn’t think that two kids in school would send us into too much of a tizzy, but with two different schools/calendars/dropoffs/pickups/schedules/rules/lunches, along with ramping up my piano teaching schedule for fall and trying to keep pace with the new program year at church, not to mention adding new babysitters and their schedules into the mix, my calendar looks like someone melted a bag of Skittles all over it. It’s a little crazy, but the good news is that everyone seems to be enjoying the ride. There might be a lot of takeout consumed here in the next few months, as we all get used to the new schedules. But then there will be a new Ina cookbook, and no amount of back-to-school coffees/conversations/cocktails/cockamamie is going to keep me from that. Stay tuned!

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1 Comment

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One response to “Rice, shrimp, and more rice, and then preschool and cinnamon rolls

  1. Wearing someone else’s hand me down monogram is the pinnacle of cool. Well played, Ben. Well played.

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