Renae du Jour

Family, food and a few oddball observations

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Cayenne and Salted-Chocolate Popcorn

February 12th, 2011 · No Comments

It’s been a while since I last blogged, so I’ll reintroduce you to S.A.M., who turned two last week. He likes to sneak into the kitchen and crack eggs, is drawn to the knife drawer and plays with spatulas. He also loves dinosaurs and Elmo, and has become an expert in self-defense, due to unwanted hugging.

S.A.M. is playing with popcorn because last week some very nice people from The James, a swanky hotel in Chicago, visited my work to promote their property and they brought the best popcorn I have ever eaten. I’m not normally a fan of messing with things that aren’t broken (see my thoughts on S’mores) but in this case I’ve decided that someone at The James is a genius. The popcorn was spicy, salty, sweet and crunchy all at the same time AND there were chunks of chocolate at the bottom of my tin.

I don’t know exactly how they make their super-fancy popcorn at the James, but this is how I made it at home.

Cayenne and Salted Chocolate Popcorn

2 Cups unpopped popcorn

1 cup chocolate (I used chocolate chips)

1 cup white chocolate chips

1/3 cup salt

2 teaspoons cayenne peppper (more or less to taste)

Pop the corn and spread it in a thin layer on cookie sheets. Melt the chocolate and use a fork to drizzle (or in my case splatter) the chocolate across the popcorn.  Finely chop the white chocolate chips and sprinkle the chocolate on top of the popcorn. Let the popcorn sit on the cookie sheets until the chocolate hardens, but shake the popcorn around every once in a while to separate the chocolate lumps. Once the chocolate has hardened, mix the salt and cayenne and sprinkle over the popcorn and chocolate. It’s surprisingly delicious.

If you’re in Chicago and stay at The James you can have a bottomless bowl of popcorn, but I think an airline ticket and a hotel room is too much to pay for a bowl of popcorn.

→ No CommentsTags: In My Kitchen · Recipes

Playing the Food Game

September 3rd, 2010 · No Comments

Being a child who spends A LOT of time in the car, LK has created her own car game. It’s called the food game.

LK is the owner, chef and server at a restaurant, unless there’s a complaint. In that case, S.A.M. becomes the owner, chef or server. When D. is in the car he plays the health inspector and will shut LK’s restaurant down for health code violations, which is always good for some noisy drama.

The restaurant does not have menus, requiring the patron (me) to order off the cuff.

It’s much harder than it sounds. Here’s the short version:

LK: Let’s play the food game.

Me, thinking: I’m listening to NPR!

Me, turning down NPR: Sure.

LK: What do you want?

Me: What are you serving?

LK: No menu here. What do you want?

Me: A hamburger?

LK: We’re out of those.

Me:  Pizza?

LK: We’re out of those too.

Me: Ham sandwich? Cheese? Tacos? Chicken nuggets? Cocktails? Nachos? Mushrooms? Liver?

LK: Nope.


LK: Ummm… ice cream.

Me: If you don’t serve hamburgers I’m going down the street to the other restaurant. They have better service.

LK: We have hamburgers. Do you want pickles?

Me: The management is horrible here.

LK, pointing to the car seat next to her: That’s S.A.M. Talk to him.

S.A.M., slapping LK’s finger away: Grrrrr. Ugh. Grrrrrrrr. ROARA!

And then it all starts over, but I’m the restaurant. I serve gum and turn up the radio.

→ No CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Pinto Beans and S.A.M.’s Birth Story

March 11th, 2010 · No Comments

It\'s now a 23-pound bag of beans.

We still have the bag of pre-washed triple-cleaned pinto beans we purchased nearly TWO years ago, but the bag is closer to three-pounds now, give or take a few beans.  It’s also WELL past it’s expiration date– who knew beans expired? — but I’m having a hard time parting with it.

We’ve made soup, frijoles and chili, and we’ve used the beans for counting, sorting and art projects. The beans also made an appearance at S.A.M.’s birth Feb. 9th, 2009, so they’ll probably end up in his baby box.

Here’s how it happened:

The morning of Feb. 9 my water breaks so I decide it’s time to make a big batch of chili. I might be having a baby, but we still need to eat.

Mondays I work at home, so I reply to emails and dice onions between contractions. At 3 PM I call D., tell him the baby is on the way and ask him to bring home some canned tomatoes and spicy V-8, because I like my chili with a kick.

By 3:15 the contractions are rolling, one on top of the other, so I email my team and let them know my maternity leave is officially starting. I season the beans and then decide that I really need a nice hot shower to soften the pain.

Forty-five minutes later I’m sweating, writhing and nauseous. I think I have the flu, then remember I’m having a baby. Lena, our exchange student, asks if I’m OK and offers to make me tea. I howl. Lena looks worried and retreats to the kitchen.

D. walks in the door and calls the midwife to assist at the birth. He also calls my aunt and asks her to bring L.K. home.

Between contractions I remember to ask D. to add the chili fixings to the beans and hamburger.

I’m now in the living room, on my knees with my torso draped over an exercise ball. My body feels as if it’s twisting apart and the phone rings. D. says it’s the midwife, asking how close the baby is. I yell “SHE’S GOING TO MISS THIS BABY!” D. says something into the phone and hangs up.

I curse the midwife.

My aunt and L.K. walk in about 4:10 PM and L.K.’s so excited she’s bouncing up and down like she has springs on her feet. She’s jumping around me and singing while I’m working the exercise ball for all it’s worth, clenching my legs so I don’t push and wishing I had gone to a birth center.

The doorbell rings again, and it’s our smililng neighbor bringing me a baby present. I’m draped over an exercise ball groaning, L.K. is dancing around me in circles and my neighbor is standing in my doorway. I turn my head toward my neighbor and say “this is not a good time.” My neighbor seems confused so I yell “NOT A GOOD TIME.” She leaves and I ask my aunt to bring L.K. somewhere. ANY WHERE. NOW!

It’s about 4:30 PM and I’m sure the baby is coming and I’m going to be delivering it without assistance. My aunt and L.K. leave and the midwife breezes through the door, checks me and says “the baby’s crowning.” Then she says “maybe we should take your pants off.”

Ten minutes later at 4:40 PM S.A.M. is born.  L.K. returns by 5 PM and tries to wrestle S.A.M from my arms.

A few hours later S.A.M. and I are cleaned up, in bed and the midwife tells me I need something to eat. I’m thrilled to say we have chili, and offer her a bowl. I’m incredibly proud– I had a baby AND made a pot of chili.

The pinto-bean attachment is odd, but I think it’s understandable. Twenty-five pounds of pinto beans have made quite an impression on my household.

Happy late birthay S.A.M.



→ No CommentsTags: Dreaming about Food · Uncategorized

S.A.M. Experiences a Sugar Rush

November 15th, 2009 · No Comments

S.A.M experiences his first sugar rush

S.A.M. had been playing very quietly in the kitchen while L.K. and I read a book in the living room. He was not very quiet once we pried this sucker out of his sticky little hands.

Somewhere in the high-pitched wailing I swear he looked at me with glazed eyes and shouted that we’d been holding out on him.  Life for S.A.M. will never be the same.

→ No CommentsTags: At Our Table · Dreaming about Food · Uncategorized

Four Teeth and He’ll Rule the World

September 19th, 2009 · No Comments

Two teeth and he wants steak.

If you look very closely between the carrot smears you’ll see S.A.M’s two teeth. They’re both on the bottom, which is something I’m thankful for every time he bites me.

When the top two teeth pop in he’ll have some ferocious power, and that might lead to a quick end to nursing. I suspect that’s alright with S.A.M, as he’s already trying to order steak, medium well, every time we’re in a restaurant.

→ No CommentsTags: At Our Table

In This Post, LK Learns How Bacon Is Made

July 17th, 2009 · No Comments

The scene:

7:30 PM, LK’s room, the bottom bunk. LK has lined her stuffed animals in a row at her feet and  I’m reading Laura Ingall Wilder’s “Little House in the Big Woods.” 

Me, reading: “Ma’s big butcher knife was already sharpened and Uncle Henry brought Aunt Polly’s butcher knife.”

LK: “Wait.”

Me: “Yes?”

LK: “Wait, wait, wait wait, wha, wha, whaaat?”


LK: “Are they going to kill a pig?”

Me: “Yes.”

LK: “Wh, wh, wh, why?”

LK looks near tears.

Me: “They want the meat to eat.”

LK looks uncertain.

Me: “Did you know bacon comes from pigs?”

LK: “No.”

LK’s bottom lip begins to quiver.

Me: “Yes. So to get bacon a pig has to be killed. But you don’t have to eat bacon if you don’t want to.”


LK: “Oh. I like bacon. START READING AGAIN NOW!”

Me: “Then Laura ran and hid her head on the bed and stopped her ears with her fingers…”

LK: “I REALLY like bacon. I like this book. They’re getting BACON.”


Conflicted, yet unwilling to give up bacon. She’s definitely my daughter.

Next post: LK visits a slaughter house.

→ No CommentsTags: At Our Table

We Don’t Eat Anything With a Belly Button, Unless it’s Bacon

May 10th, 2009 · No Comments

Some people say they don’t eat anything with a face. At our house we try to stay away from anything that has a belly button, but we can not help ourselves when it comes to bacon. We are crazy for bacon. Crazy.




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LK Asks “Where’s the Honey?”

April 25th, 2009 · No Comments

LK has a new favorite place and it’s the Honey Potty.  

She’s not sure where they keep the honey, but she’s willing to keep looking.

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Can a Coffee Get More Complicated?

April 23rd, 2009 · No Comments

This is my new favorite summer coffee drink and it has officially made me one of those people that I used to make fun of. It’s D’s fault because he is one of those people.

This is an iced, grande, Starbucks-double-shot, no classic, sub sugar-free vanilla with soy milk, please.

Seriously. I had to write down the order because I will never remember it. It takes longer to say than it does to drink.

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Easter Bunny or Hassenpfeffer: You Make the Call

April 21st, 2009 · No Comments

Feel the excitement of the Starburst Jelly Beans.

I think LK was more excited about her big bowl of candy than she was about Christmas. She had tons of questions: Where does the Easter Bunny live? (Palm Springs, of course.) How does the bunny get into our house? (He breaks in.) Can I meet the Bunny. (No, because the bunny only breaks and enters when everyone is a sleep. Now go to sleep. Go to sleep. SLEEP.)

We thought Easter was long gone, but then the star player, Bunny, made an appearance at the Alderwood Mall a FULL WEEK after we’d eaten all the jelly beans. LK acted as if she’d met President Obama. Her celebrity encounter outside the local Build a Bear started the entire Easter Bunny conversation all over again.

This time, D told LK that the Easter Bunny becomes Hassenpfeffer after Easter. He was making a joke, but Lena backed him up: apparently in her village it’s an Easter tradition for children to chase after wild rabbits with a pepper shaker. I can not make this up.

In Germany, the Easter Bunny really does turn into Hassenpfeffer.


→ No CommentsTags: Dreaming about Food