Archive for the 'Tasty' Category

Salad of the Month

Posted by laura on Dec 13 2009 | Tasty


I met this persimmon salad at Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco, and I’ll admit my first impression was that it was a bit fresh. In a good way, fortunately.

Let me start with a quick word about the restaurant – wow. Ha! Now here are a few more words: the staff hit the perfect balance of welcoming and professional, and the food was bright, creative and incredibly delicious. Every once in a while my mind flicks up an image from that meal, like a slide, and I’m back – sitting with good friends, watching mozzarella turn from a doughy mess into a soft balls, listening to the sounds of a restaurant filled with happy diners, taking my first bite of this salad.

Ok I’m back. Obviously, if you want the real deal, you should go straight to the source (come on, East Coasters, we have a spare room), but for a cheat that will still make you incredibly happy, here’s how it goes:

First you get some arugula – if possible the nice, small kind. Add some baby spinach if you’d like a slightly bigger salad and the arugula is overwhelming. (That’s what I did in the one pictured above.) Slice in a Fuyu persimmon and some Ricotta Salata. Toss lightly with meyer lemon olive oil and a little salt and fresh ground pepper. Then you’re going to want to be sitting down, because the first bite will knock your socks off. Where has this salad been all your life?

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Someone is Six

Posted by laura on Nov 14 2009 | Fun, Holiday, Tasty


That’s right – there he is, with his ‘worker pajamas’ and birthday toast. He’s six. Crazy. (Let me add that I’m fully aware that toast looks pretty dodgy. It’s vegemite. He loves it – what can I say?)

Never have I seen anyone relish a birthday like Hot Wheels. First there were the weeks of counting down. Then on Monday he started singing songs about the wondrous day. On Thursday, as we left school he informed his sister and me that he wanted his birthday to be perfect. “I want it to be perkect,” he said, and suggested that Honey finish all her homework and that I “do the dishes.” I informed him that it was in fact a birthday, not a coronation, but he ignored me.

Friday morning, I heard his feet hit the floor at exactly 6:15, and we were off. What a great day. He loved his presents, he loved his birthday crown at school, he told me incredulously that people kept wishing him a happy birthday! It was awesome!

As I’ve mentioned before, our elementary school has suspended edible treats for birthdays, so put away the cupcake tins, people. However, instead of just stopping there, they tell parents that “most” people bring in a non-edible treat for their children to hand out to classmates. And they do. That means no child wants to be the one killjoy not to bring something in. With Honey, we got around it by handing out daffodil bulbs. Hot Wheels had other ideas. He wanted to give out, well, Hot Wheels.


Shocking, isn’t it? We found a great deal on one of those big packs, so they were inexpensive, and I’m hoping that the other families will like them, despite the fact that they’re not biodegradable. We have these sheets with photos of the students in the class, and Hot Wheels spent a lonnnng time matching kids to cars. (That will probably be the next facebook quiz – “What Hot Wheels car are you?”)


The great thing about having leftover fish-costume fleece is that it’s super easy to whip up into gift bags, and now I have less leftover fleece!

So today we had a small party with six friends. It was a – brace yourselves – Color-Changing Hot Wheels party. Surprised?


Here he is, waiting for his friends to arrive. (At this point, the party was still over an hour away.)

We kept it casual with a bunch of track set up in the driveway, and a lot of just playing around the house. It was really fun, and although he didn’t quite explode with happiness, it was darn close.


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Honey is Nine

Posted by laura on Oct 11 2009 | Fun, Tasty


Wow I can’t really believe this girl is nine. Here she is riding down the driveway where she first met her Boston grandparents when she was just a few days old. I’d been sitting in the living room watching for them, and the moment I saw them pull in I was up from the rocking chair, through the door and in the driveway before they could get out of the car. I can still see Dad’s expression when he saw her; he froze and put his hands to his face like he was seeing something so amazing, so wondrous. It was one of those moments I can never forget. And now here she is, cruising off to school down that very driveway.


This year at school they’ve instituted a new no-food birthday policy, and yet they told us at back-to-school night that most families bring in something to give out for birthdays. Seriously. I think this is a little nutty. However, it’s a bit stinky to be the only family to skip out on the birthday treat thing so we put our heads together to think of a little something to give that wouldn’t break the bank or add just another plastic tchotchke to the collection. There are 28 kids in the class, so it’s worth thinking about! Then one day I was coming out of the grocery store and I saw daffodil bulbs, two bags for $7 and 15 in a bag. Perfect! For each student we put two bulbs in a paper bag with a little ribbon and a label (a few extras for the teacher’s bag with the flower on the front). It’s an ideal time of year for putting in the bulbs, and daffodils always remind me of Nana, who loved seeing them in the spring. I’ve had some nice comments from the other parents, and it was easy peasy. Slam dunk.

For her birthday, Honey had a sleepover with just a couple of friends she’s known for a long time. She originally wanted to go camping, but all the sites around here are completely booked out. Then she wanted to set up the tent on the back deck, but it got so cold at night this week we knew they’d all need to come in at 3am. So, after all that, we just put the tent in the art room. I highly recommend this, for any occasion whatsoever. It’s crazy fun.


For some reason, Honey’s not so big on cake, but this year she was remarkably specific. She asked for a round vanilla cake with just a bit of lemon, mint green frosting with a blue circle in the middle. Right.


I love how that second shot has the salt shaker in the background. I probably should have photoshopped that out, but I kind of like the random quality we’ve got going on there. Anyway, they had some pizza, ate some cake, watched a movie from the tent and then conked out at 9:30. Did you get that? 9:30. I think that might be some kind of record for a 9 year old sleepover. I think we should get parent scouts merit badges for that.

Right before I went to bed I tiptoed in to make sure everything was ok. In the dark room, the tent emanated the most incredibly soft, rhythmic breathing, making me want to sit and listen for ages. It felt like an art installation piece. Everyone slept till seven (seven! I just heard another record breaking), had pancakes and played till it was time to go home. What a terrific night!

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There is no Casanova in the Kindergarten

Posted by laura on Sep 22 2009 | School, Tasty

Last week, the subject of birthdays had come up, and Tom asked Hot Wheels who he might like to invite to his birthday party this year. After listing a few friends’ names we were familiar with, he casually added, “my girl.” (He actually said “my gril” but I thought the barbecue image would just throw you all off.) It made me wonder when he started listening to the Temptations. Tom got to the bottom of it; Hot Wheels’ girl is a new classmate (let’s just call her K) who is super cute and tomboyish and fun. Turns out she likes him too. So fine, I think. Sweet.

Then yesterday I was chatting with Hot Wheels about his day, asking him what he did at school, and he said, “I played with K.” “That’s great,” I replied, “What did you play?”

“We played the kissy game.”

And that’s where we are. 3 weeks in. He was crushed to learn that it’s simply not appropriate to kiss your classmates. I tried to explain it to him without my voice rising and cracking in panic over the hours of teacher meetings in our future. 3 weeks in, and thankfully only just over 500 to go. No problem!

I guess it’s pretty hypocritical of me to say anything; I myself was engaged in kindergarten. When Bret and I looked down the corridor of our elementary school, we could see the future. The rest of our class would leave fifth grade through the doors at the end of that hall and turn right towards middle school; we’d simply turn left to wedded bliss. That was the plan, anyway. Bret’s family moved away the next year. Stupid Montagues.

Overall, however, school has been going great, particularly in kindergarten. My favorite thing so far has been hearing Hot Wheels singing new songs around the house practically every day. One afternoon he was snacking away in the kitchen and suddenly started up with Waddly Acha. I hadn’t thought of that one for years – I can still see my cousin Mary teaching it to me when I was in elementary school (this was years after I’d been dumped by my fiancé) and it brings back such great memories.

Honey’s classes are serious now, because they are in Fourth Grade. Fourth Grade, it turns out, is not for sissies. It’s not good enough to get the problems right, you have to write them perfectly as well. One missing comma means you get the question wrong. Very serious. Except for one day…

There’s a teacher across the hall named Mr. S. He’s a fourth grade teacher and he means business. He wears a suit to school and calls his kids by their last names. Or sometimes by a number. His room is a bit like basic training. However, he has an impish streak and loves to drift over to Honey’s classroom and interrupt her teacher, whose name is Mrs. S. (no relation). One day last week, he kept meandering into their classroom. “We have work to do, Mr. S.” Mrs. S. said to him. “You have to go now.” But he kept on drifting back in and bugging them. Finally, Mrs. S. closed the door after him and locked it. A short while later, the kids could hear the classroom printer running. Their teacher took the paper out of the tray and held it up. “Dear Mrs. S,” it read, “HI! – Mr. S.”

Enough school stories for now. Let’s look instead at this gorgeous bag of cucumbers that Joan dropped off yesterday.


Trust me – they’re cucumbers. I know they look like lemons in this picture – that’s because they’re lemon cucumbers. Tricky little things. She popped a fennel blossom on the top just to make it pretty.

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Posted by laura on Aug 02 2009 | Fun, Tasty

Don’t know if you could hear it from where you are, but our Australian family arrived on Friday morning, and it’s been a lot of noisy fun since they arrived. The first day we only had about two hours with everyone awake simultaneously; the rest of the afternoon the cousins did their best sleeping koala imitations in various rooms of the house, draped deeply over furniture and even each other. At one point our niece was sleeping half on her aero bed and half on the rug like she’d just spilled out of a basket of laundry. It was sweet and soporific.

On Saturday, there were games and walks and swims and homemade pizza that was heavenly. Keri introduced us to a new recipe – she thin sliced butternut squash and roasted it with some olive oil and cumin until it was soft and delicious. Tom made his thin crust pizza dough and then Keri topped it with the roasted butternut, pesto, feta, a little fresh mozzarella and parmesan and some sautéed mushrooms. Wowee. It was incredible. She also put together this beauty:


This one had a tomato base with the same squash and cheeses, but it also had some arugula, just for kicks. We loved it.

Last weekend, Courtney and Russell stopped in with their daughter Ducky (the perfect baby) for a visit. Maybe it’s not fair to call her the perfect baby. Not because of the perfect, mind you, but because of the baby. At one and a half you’re not really a baby anymore, but although she’s walking, ‘toddler’ seems to imply at least two years, don’t you think? ANYway, this girl is stunningly beautiful and sweet and good natured and we all want to keep her. Example: we were sitting in the kitchen getting caught up when Ducky wandered in to see us. She was headed straight for her mother when at the last second she veered and held her arms up to me. I kid you not. And the fact that I was sitting closer to the snacks had nothing to do with it.

We had a great visit, and at one point Russell told us that he’d had success making these blueberry scones from Cook’s Illustrated. We looked to see if it was in my fancy new baking book from those folks but no luck. However, it was online and I tried it out yesterday morning. It looked a little intimidating on the first read-through, but once I stopped panicking, I realized it wasn’t so bad. The coolest part of the whole thing was – now hold on to your (chef’s) hats, everyone – you take frozen butter, grate it, and then just toss it into the flour instead of cutting in regular cold butter. I know. Earth-shattering. Here’s how they came out:


They were a bit flumpier than the ones in the pictures online, but they tasted just fine. I’d been thinking of subscribing to Cook’s Illustrated, but it turns out their website is subscription based, so I can get all the content there and save the paper. There’s such a wealth of information around each recipe: how-to videos, ingredient comparisons and definitions, extra instructions. They don’t just tell you how to do something; they tell you why. Now I must come up with something stunning for dinner. Where’d I put that phone?

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Happy Easter

Posted by laura on Apr 14 2009 | Fun, Holiday, Tasty


Well we’ve had another lovely Easter. Lucky one, as last week was grey and gusty, and we were a little concerned that the hunt would have to be called for rain. But the weekend was stunningly beautiful and warm, so all went according to plan. Mum’s coffee rolls came out great and Lena’s ricotta pies were gone in a flash. Boy I love Easter treats! 


Our friends had definitely been practicing looking for things, because they were efficient hunters! I’m feeling confident we won’t find too many eggs lurking in the garden in the months to come. There’s usually a couple though, which always makes me think we should bump up our home insurance policy at this time of year. 

daffodilsHave a look at this unbearably lovely daffodil that Joan gave us – it’s a tiny little plant in the coolest twiggy base… it looks like something out of a fairy tale. Stunning. We had a wonderful time visiting with everyone, and couldn’t believe how fortunate we were with the weather.

Now it’s the 14th, and it’s our friend Anne Marie’s birthday. For those of you who don’t know her, Anne Marie is one of our most remarkable friends. She’s generous, endlessly kind and smart as the dickens. She remembers everything you tell her, and is insanely well read, so consequently she can have an informed conversation on pretty much any topic you can fire her way. If she wasn’t so kindhearted she’d be really intimidating.

The major bummer is that Anne Marie has MS, and can’t move below her neck, which means she needs a lot of assistance. (Good thing we have such a great healthcare system in this country, right?) Things have been really tough for her this past year. You may have heard that California has had a slight bit of trouble managing its allowance, and consequently Anne Marie has lost a major chunk of funding for her care. She also lost income from other sources, so things are always right on the edge of scary for her.

This makes me really mad. It makes me mad because even if she weren’t brilliant and funny and thoughtful, she would still deserve better. It makes me mad that her energy and experience are not being shared with the world as they should be, but are being drained by worry and the scramble to make ends meet. It infuriates me that this woman can speak something like six different languages, and can’t scratch her own nose if it’s itchy. Have you ever had a really itchy nose? Can you imagine having to wait for hours for someone to come to your apartment to scratch it for you? I can’t. It makes me all prickly just to think of it, and that’s got to be the least of her discomforts.

I belong to a group of volunteers who originally formed to help Anne Marie out by feeding her dinner on the weekends. That volunteer group is now really a fan club as well, and we try to help out by holding one major fundraiser each year, although we’ve begun adding more since one doesn’t cover the need anymore. If you’re local, and you’re around on April 25, we’re hosting a dinner fundraiser  - I’d be delighted to hand on details. But even more importantly, if anyone out there has any tips or ideas or suggestions on raising money for individuals with serious illnesses, please leave me a comment! I’m convinced that someone out there has the know-how to help Anne Marie out. I just have to find out who.

Happy Birthday, Anne Marie! And Happy Spring, everybody. Have some lollies.


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Something Funny Going On Around Here

Posted by laura on Apr 02 2009 | Awesome, Tasty

Yesterday things were a leettle topsy turvy in our house. The kids’ clothes were all in different drawers. The milk was pink. There were odd messages on the blackboard. And the food was just a bit backwards, if you ask me.

Breakfast: macaroni and cheese, spinach, sausage

Lunch: cereal, muffin, banana

Snack: mini sandwiches, jicama

Dinner: ice cream



Amy brought her kids over, saying they were only going to stay a moment, but somehow Tom talked her into letting them go to the park with our kids for just a little while. After they left, we got to work making the dinner. Whew! That was taxing. 

When the kids came home and saw the table, I think they might have been the happiest people on the planet. It was a good, good night.



Here’s a shot of my dinner:



Now that’s what I’m talkin about.

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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Posted by laura on Mar 17 2009 | Holiday, Tasty

irishbreadTime for a cup of tea and some Irish bread, wouldn’t you say? I made mine last night so the morning wouldn’t be a rush. Called home to wish Mum and Dad a happy day, and found out Mum just finished making FIVE Irish breads.




Looks like someone is angling for my button!

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Monday Muffins

Posted by laura on Mar 16 2009 | Tasty

bananamuffin It’s rainy and grey again – perfect muffin weather. We walked in from school, dropped our bags on the floor and threw these muffins together. They’re my absolute favorites, and I can have them mixed and baked in a half an hour. Then my only task is to restrain myself from eating every last one.

Back when we first found out about Hot Wheels’ allergies, my cousin Sarah sent us a box. If she hadn’t already earned my undying love for all kinds of coolness, like letting me play with her shoes back when she was in high school and for teaching us how to hurdle one night when she was babysitting, she would have had it with this box.

We had just been told casually that Hot Wheels couldn’t eat eggs, soy, nuts, peas, and a few random odd things like shellfish. We also found out that he was allergic to dust mites, which meant no rugs, drapes, books or stuffed animals in his room (ha! at the time he was just shy of 2 years old). We needed to buy all kinds of new protective bedding and clean out his space. He had other allergies, but he’d just have to deal with those because the rest were such a royal pain, they were all we could manage.

My sister in law, Keri, had helped me to completely clean out our kitchen and pantry shelves – a task that took us all day and was more help than I ever could have imagined – and I was still trying to figure out what foods could go back on those shelves. To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement.

Then in came Sarah, who had been through all of this with her son. Unfortunate for them but very fortunate for us. The box she sent was filled with recipes (including a cookbook from the Food Allergy News Cookbook) and foods they liked – most memorably a bag of cheesy puffs that made us all very happy. Her knowledge truly carried us through those early days.

In the cookbook she sent me, I found the recipe for banana muffins that is still my favorite to this day. (Check out the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network website – they’re an incredible resource for food allergy issues.)

I’ve made a few changes to the recipe, but here it is:

2 bananas, mashed

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup safflower oil

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup wheat flour 

1/2 cup white flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 heaping tbsp ground flax

tiny handful of chocolate chips, chopped up fine

Bake 325 degrees for 20 min (makes ~11)


When our bananas go brown, we throw them in the freezer, then microwave them to thaw for baking. For some reason, I think this makes them better in baked goods – they’re smoother and mushier, so they’re well incorporated in the final product. I’ve also used regular bananas that are a bit soft, and they’re still good, but I like the frozen ones even better. Go figure. I also like to use the King Arthur White Whole Wheat in these – just has great flavor and texture. The flax gives them a slightly nutty flavor, which is nice. And finally, I use about 20 chocolate chips and chop them up in to teeny pieces – it makes the muffins taste unbelievably chocolatey (I think because the flavor is spread throughout the batter) and the kids think they’re getting away with murder.

Best part – they’re not bad for you! In fact they’re pretty good for you. I entered the ingredients into an online recipe calculator, and they come out to 140 calories, which isn’t bad for a muffin. Plus, if you pick your chocolate chips carefully, they can be vegan as well, which can be handy.

Tea break!

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Posted by laura on Mar 11 2009 | Not So Fun, Tasty

It’s been a sick start to the week, and not in a cool, insane kind of way – more like the sad, droopy, bags-under-their eyes way. Actually Hot Wheels is feeling good again so he’s back at PreK this morning, but Honey’s still looking a little grey. I should probably dust off my gown for the Bad Parenting Awards, because we’re bound to get a nomination for Monday morning. Honey had not felt well on Saturday, but on Sunday she seemed like she was making some serious progress; she took a bike ride and played with a friend in the afternoon. She wasn’t feeling great Sunday evening, and in the morning she was a bit draggy, but it was Monday morning, after all, and she seemed to be holding her own. She literally had one foot out the door when I said, “Wait – let’s just check your temperature to see if something’s going on here,” and it was 101.8. Hm. Step away from the backpack, girl; you’re staying home.



We kept Hot Wheels home too, since it seemed like he was bound to have whatever she had, and sure enough by afternoon he was running a temperature as well. At least I assume he was, by the steam rising from his forehead. He can never hold a thermometer under his tongue, due to the combination of a well-honed gag reflex and a permanently blocked nose. I really have to get one of those ear thermometers.

The good news is my mother gene eventually showed up for work that day, so on top of running drinks and soul food for the patients, I was able to get the invoicing done for work, throw in a couple loads of laundry, clean up a bit, bake the bread and make these lemon poppyseed muffins. We have a wealth of fruit right now from our lemon tree shrub and Joan’s tree across the street, so I’ve been looking for good recipes. I got this one from Allrecipes, and they turned out well – I ended up using some whole wheat flour, vanilla yogurt and cutting the amount of poppy seeds to less that 1/8cup, due to personal preferences and what I had in the house. This recipe was great, though, because it actually called for lemon juice and not just zest.

potpieLast night I made pot pie since, well, it’s pot pie. No need for excuses. Hot Wheels was so happy he was singing to it. I had onion, butternut, carrot, sweet potato and zucchini in there and they all got along quite well. With just a top crust, it’s easy to plunk down on top of some chicken or a veggie meat thing if you like. Great for tailoring meals for different diets. 

Now I’ve got to go be Nurse Nancy. Remember to drink plenty of fluids, everyone!

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