Meal Planning Tuesday.

March 31, 2009

bbq'd baby back ribs
barefoot contessa slaw (trying to use up that green acres cabbage, y'all!)
sweet cornbread
danica's mother-in-law's famous strawberry pie with fresh whipped cream

chicken pot pie
biscuit topping
green acres salad greens with avocado and herbed buttermilk dressing

caldo verde
green acres dinosaur kale
the farmers' potatoes
spicy spanish chorizo
leftover sweet cornbread

Around the World, Anyone?

So who hasn't dreamt of putting their lives in storage and travelling around the world for a year? I know I do. Often. My cousin and his wife have friends who decided to stop thinking about it and start doing it already. They just got married in San Miguel de Allende this month (I wish they were my friends just so I could have been at the wedding!), and now they are off on their Around the World Trip. They are in Ecuador right now and plan to make their way down through Latin America.

I plan to live vicariously all year long by following them on their blog The World Effect. Maybe you should think about it too. Unless you are planning the same sort of adventure for yourself. And in that case, I don't think we can be friends anymore. Waaaaaay too jealous over here.

AT House Tour.

March 27, 2009

Check out our house tour on Apartment Therapy... And then when you have 15 hours to kill check out their House Tour Archives -- the ultimate in voyeuristic eye candy!

I'm Making Pickled Beets.

March 26, 2009

I don't know if you've noticed, but I have 2 different pickled beet recipes in my sidebar. I think I had more recipes for them before I redid the site. You might say I'm pickled beet crazy. Actually, I'm pickle crazy, but there is something particularly appealing about pickled beets....they are sweet and earthy and a bit mysterious. Maybe because we didn't eat them growing up. In our family, we didn't really have any foods that were off-limits (we all pretty much liked everything!), but my dad didn't like beets. Or so he thought. I guess when you're the father of a family of 6, you get to make arbitrary decisions like "There shall be no beets."

Anyway, I was late to beets, as they say. But it was worth the wait. One of the premier beet moments I've had to date occurred a couple of summers ago when I was pregnant with Baby J. We were at my dear friend Holly's house and she (also pregnant) pulled out a big tub (that's how I remember it, anyway) or her Grandma Viola's Pickled Beets. Viola didn't make it, but she grew the beets and Holly used Viola's recipe. I sat over that tub and picked each and every last beet out with my fingers, greedily slurping up that sweet and sour purple-y brine.

Now, let me back up a bit. Viola is a very special person, and if these beets weren't so damned good, I would have to wonder if my own admiration for her is clouding my judgment. Viola is one of those "salt of the earth" people...those people you wish came along more often. She is sweet as pie and tough as nails (sorry for all of the lame cliches, she deserves better). She has worked hard all her life, raising children, as a successful real estate agent, and around the home. She also did things like become the first single woman in all of Pennsylvania to adopt a child. And after she was widowed and never thought she'd find true love or happiness again, she bumped into her high school sweetheart at the mall and ended up marrying him. She is an amazing gardener (thus, the beets) and she sends Holly and her family a few big boxes of treats in the mail throughout the year. Oh, yes, and she is one amazing cook. She is Slovakian and so she makes all that yummy Old World Eastern European Food.

So, I give you the Pickled Beets Recipe. I do hope you will try them and think of Viola.

Grammy Bachiak's Pickled Beets (Viola's Mother)

8 quart basket whole beets (I'm not sure how much that is, but I used four bunches)

Leave roots and stems on (cannot cut into beets as they bleed when cooking and lose their pretty red color and flavor). Wash very well as you are going to save the juice later. Put beets in cold water, only enough to cover beets and after water boils, cook for about 20 minutes. Allow to sit in hot water until cool enough to handle. Drain off the juice and save for later. Slice beets to uniform size and set aside.


4 c. beet juice, strained
1 c. sugar
1 c. vinegar (apple cider)
4 t. salt
Mix together and bring to boil. Put sliced beet pieces in this mixture and refrigerate.
I would try to wait at least a day for the flavors to develop, but I am not that patient.

Waldorf-Inspired Toys.

March 24, 2009

I really love the simple wooden toys C-Man plays with at his school and I would love to get some more for home. "Waldorf" toys can be expensive, however. They are usually handmade and made of products that aren't necessarily cheap (i.e. plastic)....which is all a very good thing. But it's an even better thing when you find an etsy shop like Natural Kids and Toys, which has many toys that are quite similar to the ones at C-Man's school at a fraction of the normal cost. Take a peek: I love this little bumble bee and honey set. Isn't it cute?? I know C-Man would go totally crazy for this ladybug-in-a-pot. That kid is the ladybug whisperer, I swear. He can find them ANYWHERE.
A little wooden bucket of eggs? Too sweet.
And these little felted birds in a nest are adorable too.

Imagination Kids also has some nice Waldorf-inspired toys.
I love this castle rainbow stacker. Classic Waldorf.

Meal Planning Monday.

March 23, 2009

Guest Momming at Design Mom.

I am thrilled to be blogging over at Design Mom all this week. Come on over for a visit!

For Your Little Bohemian Princess.

March 19, 2009

I am DY-ing over the girls' clothes by Pink Chicken.(I don't know how Baby J has lived this long without that swimsuit and matching swim cap.)

When Life Gives You Potatoes...

March 17, 2009

Make thee some Potato Leek Soup. I think I mentioned that B had another meeting with the farmers, and in addition to all that asparagus (thank you for your recipe suggestions!), I also have about 20 pounds of potatoes to deal with. Not that I'm complaining.

So when I went to Trader Joe's yesterday to pick up my corned beef, they were like "Hee hee ha ha ho ho, you needed to be here by last Friday to get some of that." And since I wasn't about to start running all over town trying to find out who still had corned beef left (plus it didn't sound that great to me....although I will miss that hash!!), I picked up some leeks instead and headed home.

The soup is truly easy as pie. Although I don't find pies particularly easy, so don't let that discourage you. First, get yourself a whole mess of potatoes. Peel them:
Then slice up a whole mess of leeks and cook them in butter over medium heat until they soften.
Put it all together with some chicken stock (at the risk of stating the obvious, I should mention those potatoes are now diced):
Simmer all of it until the potatoes are quite tender and then puree the soup in a blender. Add cream or half and half to your liking. This is not low-fat stuff here. Would I ever steer you in that direction??

Now, if you're all fancy, you can chill this soup and call it Vichyssoise, but I never much cared for it that way unless I'm sitting in a Very Fancy French Restaurant. At home, I like mine hot.

If you're not so fancy, but you must have some bread-y yumminess to go along with your soup, make yourself some Irish Soda Bread. Here studded with beautiful organic raisins. Yum. (Then, as I mentioned before, toast this bread the next morning, slather it with that Kerrigold Irish Butter all the stores have at this time of year and drink with copious amounts of Irish Breakfast Tea. It will not disappoint.)

B Had Another Meeting With the Farmers.

What am I going to do with all of this (very gorgeous) asparagus? Plus we got a huge bucket of potatoes dug that morning, with dirt still on them. Hello? I need some ideas.

Guess What? I Finished a Book!

And it had nothing to do with parenting or health or recipes. And most importantly, it wasn't a magazine. You see, ever since kids came along, my reading of books has gone down to almost nothing. Embarrassing. I'm so tired by the time I get in bed, and lord knows I don't have an hour in the middle of the day to curl up in a chair and read a novel.

But after one of my favorite bloggers (and writer herself) recommended The School of Essential Ingredients, my interest was piqued and I ordered it right away. I was immediately absorbed (the real trick these days) and I couldn't wait to get into bed at night to get through another chapter or two.

Books are so hard to recommend. They are personal, like music. All I can say is, if you enjoy books about people and relationships and how food is connected to life, then I think you will really like this book.

Cold Sore Relief.

I understand this is not the sexiest of subjects, but I want people to know about this cream. If you are lucky and get cold sores (like I do!), hop on down to Whole Foods and get yourself some. I don't know about you, but I can never predict when these things are about to come on. For some, it's stress-related or diet-based. For me, there is only one predictor: something is on your calendar in the next couple of days and you want to look good for it. Maybe a vacation, a big party, or a run-in with your boyfriend from high school at the bookstore (that one wouldn't be on your calendar, but you most DEFINITELY wouldn't want a huge cold sore on that day, now would you?).

I discovered it when I was pregnant with Baby J. I didn't want to take the oral medication (which truly does work like a charm) or even the medicated cream (which also works). I'd been through every drugstore product without any good results. This stuff is made in Germany (I figure that's a head start right there in the healthy department), and you just put it on a few times a day at the first sign of a cold sore. Instead of lasting 7 days (or more), try 3, and it doesn't hurt and no one even notices you have one! I keep a tube of it (it's tiny) in my purse at all times.

Monday Meal Planning.

March 16, 2009

This week is a bit unusual. We have different things going on, plus we decided to "shop the garden" and "shop the cupboards" for our meals.

green acres arugula pesto and spaghetti
steamed artichokes

corned beef and green acres cabbage (ok, i do have to buy the corned beef)
farm-fresh steamed new potatoes
spicy mustard
irish soda bread (i plan to eat this for breakfast too, lightly toasted, schmeared with a little butter. i will have it with irish breakfast tea softened with milk and sugar. this combo is divine.)

portuguese kale and potato soup

corned beef hash with poached green acres eggs
green acres mixed greens

What do you have cooking this week?

Mommy Brain and the Asparagus.

March 15, 2009

B and I are both lawyers. Or, he still is and I'm not or taking a break or something like that. I love how people get a kick out of this: "Boy, you guys must really have some good arguments! Haha!" In reality, it is sort of nice to both be trained to do the same thing. You can relate to each other in the work world in a way that say, a lawyer and an artist could not. Although, for the record, I WISH I were an artist or something fun like that. I'm just trying to point out the upside here: we can talk shop, bounce ideas off each other, and when B says "I have to file a summary judgment motion in 3 days and I will be a depos for the next two -- argh!"... let's just say, I get it.

But. You knew there was a but coming, didn't you? Ever since I became a mom and our lives have become so different -- he works outside of the home, I work inside; he wears fancy suits to meetings with important people, I wipe a lot of snotty noses; he has deadline/client/pissed-off judge kind of stress, I have oh-my-gosh-i-can't-take-this-screaming-and-when-can-i-get-a-shower kind of stress. In other words, our work worlds are quite different now. I can still get it....I just have to make the effort to turn mommy brain off and lawyer/partner/wife brain on when B wants to talk shop. I imagine you other moms out there get what I'm talking about.

So when B was telling me about a new case he has representing a family of farmers, I just heard: "farmers." How cool! They have tons of farmland and they've been doing it for multiple generations. And did I mention they are farmers? And get this: when they meet with B, they'll bring him things like 10 pounds of organic purple asparagus. Picked that morning. Let me tell you, these were the perks I dreamed about in law school.

I immediately went into recipe planning mode and pulled out a long-time favorite: Cream of Asparagus Soup. You will LOVE this soup. And this is the perfect time of year to make it: the asparagus is sweet and plentiful. The soup truly is the essence of asparagus, so if you are a fan, like we are, make this soup. Cream of Asparagus Soup

Gourmet, March 2001

2 pounds green asparagus (peel the bottom halves of the asparagus)
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 to 6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Cut tips from 12 asparagus 1 1/2 inches from top and halve tips lengthwise if thick. Reserve for garnish. Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces. Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add asparagus pieces and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add 5 cups broth and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain. Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth, transferring to a bowl, and return to pan. Stir in crème fraîche, then add more broth to thin soup to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Bring soup to a boil and whisk in remaining tablespoon butter.

Add lemon juice and garnish with asparagus tips. Isn't it pretty?

Holy Cuteness.

March 12, 2009

Lately, the kids have been having full-on dance parties in the backseat (while strapped into their car seats, of course). It's pretty hilarious to witness, and a bit dangerous, I might add. I spend far too much time looking in the rear-view mirror and not enough time looking at the road in from of me.

Baby J is a particularly enthusiastic dancer. Check it out. She takes a minute or so to get revved up, but she'll get there, I promise. Also, that is not an injured walrus you hear in the background. It's C-Man trying to hog attention per usual.

(I know most of you skip over bloggers' videos of their kids, hey, I do it too!)

Baby J Rocks Out from domestic reflections on Vimeo.

Vegetarian Cooking For Non-Vegetarians.

March 11, 2009

I could never see myself as a "true vegetarian." Give me my steak (rib eye, prime, medium rare, s&p, nothing else, thankyouverymuch), my burger, salami, bacon....I do love the occasional red meat. But truthfully, those indulgences are getting fewer and farther between. This isn't really by political message, no health issues, but I am finding that I don't really need a lot of meat to feel satisfied. (And for the record, I just don't really get into chicken unless it's in small amounts -- for instance, in a soup, shredded into enchiladas, etc.)

I remember reading a long time ago on a blog called Figs, Bay, & Wine (which, sadly, is pretty much now defunct), that part of our problem as Americans (OK, we have many), is that we truly believe what our elementary school teachers pounded into our brains during our monthly Nutrition Class -- that every meal must consist of meat, grain, vegetable and dairy. The suggestion in the Figs post was that we are grown-ups here and can't we balance our meals throughout the day (or even week)? In other words, go ahead and have that bowl of polenta and mushrooms for dinner if you had protein at lunch. Who cares? We eat too much when we feel we have to have all that stuff on our plates for it to be a meal.

And so. I've been cooking more vegetarian-ish meals. (Now, it does help that I have a cooperative husband -- he's definitely not the "meat and potatoes" kind of guy.) And I am much happier for it. It's better for the planet (so many fewer resources are used when meat is not involved), supposedly better for our health, easier to shop for, not to mention cheaper. But I think there are a few keys to making it work for those of us who still enjoy meat and don't want to give it up.

1. Don't make "fake meat" recipes. Forget the veggie burgers, veggie loaf, veggie meatballs, etc. (although I have a KILLER veggie burger recipe that I must share one day). Just make food that tastes good without meat (or with very little used). Which brings me to my next idea.

2. Use meat as a flavoring or accompaniment. Instead of having a slice of pork roast for dinner, use some bacon in a dish (that flavor goes a long way), or add some shredded chicken to those enchiladas but supplement it with cheese or vegetables.

3. Be sure to keep your favorite meals involving meat. We have friends who have carne asada burritos and shredded beef rolled tacos every Friday night. If that's you're thing, keep it. Just balance out the rest of the week with vegetable based meals.

4. Fat is your friend. Not on your thighs, but in your food, especially meatless food. Here's another thing wrong with Americans, IMHO. We think vegetables should be suffered through because they are healthy rather than something to indulge in. Use butter, cheese, even some cream. It really turns a vegetable from a side dish to dinner. Ideas: vegetable gratins and creamy soups (like my current favorite: cream of asparagus).

And so, with that lecture, I give you a recipe. This dish did not photograph well, but it could be one of the most delicious dishes I've made in recent years (B and girlfriend Elise agreed). It is rich, satisfying, very healthy and I don't think you will miss your pork chop at all.

You are going to have to search out that lacinato kale I keep telling you about (a.k.a. dinosaur kale or cavolo nero). It really does make a difference here.
Wilted Kale and Roasted-Potato Winter Salad
Gourmet, December 2008

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves (3 thinly sliced and 1 minced)
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup well-stirred tahini
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 pounds lacinato kale, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves very thinly sliced crosswise
Accompaniment: lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in upper third.

Toss potatoes with oil and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large 4-sided sheet pan, then spread evenly. Roast, stirring once, 10 minutes. Stir in sliced garlic and roast 10 minutes more. Sprinkle with cheese and roast until cheese is melted and golden in spots, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, purée tahini, water, lemon juice, minced garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth, about 1 minute. (Add a bit of water if sauce is too thick.)

Toss kale with hot potatoes and any garlic and oil remaining in pan, then toss with tahini sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze lemon on top. Very nice with a Pinot Noir, I might add. :)

photo via Mariquita Farm

Meal Planning Monday.

March 9, 2009

spaghetti with meatballs
secret red sauce
old school garlic bread

chicken gyros on pita
cucumber salsa

asparagus risotto

creamy polenta
caramelized green acres savoy cabbage

Happiness Is........

March 8, 2009

Eating a perfect steamed artichoke all to myself for dinner. With Olaiya’s Favorite Artichoke Dipping Sauce* . The BEST.

*I cut way back on the butter and it is still extremely delicious.

I Will Do One Thing Today.

Lately, I've been having a lot of those days when I feel like I don't get anything done. The kids. They are just taking e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g right now. (OK, I am being a bit dramatic, but you get my gist.) I think I should get one of these tablets and write something on it each morning. It couldn't hurt, right?

Available for $1.99 here.

Via i am a greedy girl.

Bauer Pottery.

March 7, 2009

I'm new to Bauer Pottery out of L.A. Not that it's new at all....I'm just slow to these things sometimes.

Now, my love for Heath Ceramics knows no end, but it is a wee bit on the pricey side. Bauer is a little more affordable and has a similar (earlier) California appeal. Check out a few of the cool pieces they have on their site:

I so want to put a big frosted lemon cake on that pretty stand.
And I'd make a big pitcher of lemonade to go with.
They make these adorable and quite practical Refrigerator Stacking Dishes (you can place them up to three high). Better than Tupperware, no?
And cute things for your this orb. I would put it in my herb garden outside the kitchen (after I replenish it with some spring herbs, that is).
These adorable dishes almost (I did say almost) make me want to get a pet.

All products available on Bauer's site and at their L.A. showroom.

The Cutest Cloth "Ziplocs."

March 4, 2009

I've been trying to wean our family off Ziplocs. OK, maybe not completely wean....there are times when only a Ziploc will do. But B and I began to notice how many of those bags we were going through and it started bothering us. Sometimes they get used for just a couple of hours and then what? Sit in a landfill for a million billion years. I don't want to know. I think I mentioned we started using those waxed paper bags (paper breaks down much more quickly plus you don't have the scary plastic factor). But these cloth bags might be even better! Great for a snack in the car for the kids or a sandwich for me. Aren't they cute??

Baja Memories.

March 3, 2009

I've really, really, really been enjoying the photos and bits of prose Cerre has been posting about her stay in Baja on her father's farmland. Here are a few teaser shots. I recommend you check out the rest if you are a Baja Lover, like I am. I totally wish I was down in that sweet, dry, dusty air right now walking the empty beaches.I'm remembering a trip down there with my family...maybe 15 years ago or so. We drove for two days to get to Bahia Concepcion, staying in little towns like Santa Rosalia and Guerrero Negro along the way. We snorkeled, slept under palapas on a beach we had to ourselves, harvested clams (which we steamed each night with butter and white wine), bought fish from 2 fisherman with a tiny boat as they pulled up to the shore (which we used for fish tacos with fat slices of mango on them), squeezed what seemed like hundreds of those tiny, sweet limes each night with my Uncle Brad to make margaritas I can still never duplicate..... I can't wait to take our kids down there when they get older.

If it all sounds so simple and blissful, that's because it was. And if it sounds like "Where's the nearest Four Seasons and pool boy??" Well, maybe it's not really a trip for you. :)

all photos by 2 or 3 things

Those Darn Coffee Crunch Bars.

March 2, 2009

OK, so you're going to want to pull out a pen and piece of paper, or turn on your printer, or do whatever you do when you don't want to forget something. (If I may be so bold.)

These here are Orangette's Coffee Crunch Bars (and you're not going to want to forget them):This is the second batch I've made...this time from a version a bit different than was printed in Bon Appetit. After a few email exchanges, Molly was sweet enough to share the "real" version as I believe she thinks it is superior. And, well, I must agree. But, when you're talking Coffee and Crunch and Chocolate and Almonds and Cookie Bars....well, you're already ahead of the game in my book anyway.

I seriously can't keep my greedy paws off these. And the note at the bottom of the recipe is true: the flavor is even better the next day. So try to use some restraint. Not that I could. Coffee Crunch Bars

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

½ cup tightly packed light brown sugar

½ cup tightly packed dark muscovado sugar (I used light because that's what I had)

½ tsp. almond extract

2 Tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee

½ cup sliced almonds

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.In another medium bowl, cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer, beating until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the almond extract and instant espresso, and beat 1 minute more. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture in three doses, mixing until just absorbed. Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips. The dough will be thick.

Turn the dough out onto an ungreased (approximately 12" x 17") rimmed baking sheet. Using your hands, press the dough evenly into a 12" by 12" square.Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the top looks set. Cool in the pan for 1 minute; then, while still hot, cut into 24 (2" by 3") bars. Transfer immediately to wire rack to cool completely. Bars will crisp as they cool.

Note: Bars will keep, sealed in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 5 days. Their flavor improves with time.

Yield: 24 bars

p.s. These taste divine, obviously, with a coffee, but I like to have a couple with a glass of icy-cold lemonade. Mmmmmmmm.

Mac 'n' Cheese Fit For a King (and Ballerina).

March 1, 2009

I had one of those "Uh-oh -- one hour till dinner and I have no idea what to make" moments this afternoon. We had been at Snook's Princess Party this afternoon, so that means there wasn't a lot of food consumed by the kids (too busy playing and looking cute in their king-with-a-sword and ballerina outfits....see below):
Luckily, I discovered I had the ingredients for my favorite homemade Macaroni and Cheese. In all honesty, however, Snook's dad had made some really good mac 'n cheese for the party and I just didn't get enough. This recipe always comes together quicker than I think and it is So. Darn. Good. You can add the chipotles if your family is into that sort of thing. Today, I left them out as we have been having a few mystery tummy aches lately. Which means I give a good few shakes of Tabasco on my serving. Just the spicy tang I like.
Macaroni and Cheese With Garlic Breadcrumbs, With Chipotle and Without
Gourmet, December 1999

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped chipotle chiles in adobo
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 pound macaroni
2 pounds extra-sharp Cheddar (preferably white), grated

Heat butter and oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook garlic and bread crumbs, stirring, until crumbs are golden. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Chop chipotles.

Melt butter in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over moderate heat, then add flour and cook, whisking, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, cream, and mustard and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes.

Cook macaroni in a 6- to 7-quart pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain in a colander and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in white sauce, cheese, and salt to taste.

Fill a 1 1/2-quart shallow casserole with half of macaroni mixture. Stir chipotles into remaining macaroni. Spoon into another 1 1/2-quart shallow casserole and sprinkle both with bread crumbs. Bake casseroles in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

Macaroni and cheese may be made 2 days ahead, put into casseroles, cooled completely, and chilled, covered. Do not add bread crumbs until ready to bake. (Baking may take longer than 30 minutes.)
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