Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Eat Down Meals...

Last night I made those Niman Ranch pork chops, but I decided to try it in the slow cooker instead, using up more of the things I had in my refrigerator, pantry and freezer. I sliced an onion, added a cup of white wine, a bag of cranberries, a quarter cup of butter, a few sprigs of rosemary, a small handful of sugar and salt and pepper and placed it all in the slow cooker, on top of the pork chops. I cooked it on high for about 4 hours. It turned out really well! The 1 year old boy ate a whole entire pork chop, his picky two year old brother ate one bite and their dad ate the rest. I was lucky enough to have been invited to a friend's house for dinner with all of the moms in my playgroup. We had a lovely evening without our kids or husbands around!

Tonight I found a package of chicken sausage in the freezer. I also had a few bags full of various types of bell peppers from my produce CSA. I decided to go the slow cooker route again. This time I cut up a whole bunch of the peppers and a few onions and placed them in the bottom of the slow cooker along with 3 garlic cloves, some thyme, salt and pepper and about a half a cup of red wine (the dregs of a bottle that I had frozen awhile back, rather than throw out). I put the sausage on top and cooked it on low for 8 hours. It turned out pretty well, but not as good as last night. I served it with buttered noodles, peas and pan roasted brussels sprouts. Once again, the baby ate everything in sight, including two helpings of peppers and onions, the two year old ate only noodles and peas, and I ate almost all of the brussels sprouts myself.

I am beginning to be able to see the back of my freezer now, and the produce drawer is nearly empty and ready for tomorrow's delivery. I love Eat Down Week because it forces you to get creative with your cooking, which can be really fun!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Its Eat-Down Week

I spent so much time over the summer accumulating food. I made tons of chicken stock, roasted tomatoes, eggplants, canned green beans and apples, and also bought lots of meat through the meat CSA that I joined. I also froze all of the veggies from my CSA that my family couldn't eat in a given week. As a result my freezer is bursting at the seams, and so is my pantry, due to all of the sauces, jams and jellies I picked up at the farmer's markets over the summer. So I am declaring this week Eat-Down week. Time to eat down all that food.

We kicked off the week with a lunch of Collard Green and Sausage Soup, the result of the leftovers from my husband's birthday dinner in October. For dinner we had pumpkin ravioli from a local deli, with prosciutto (left over from my son's first birthday party) and spinach, topped with parmesan.

Tomorrow I am planning on cooking some Niman Ranch pork chops from my freezer, along with roasted brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce and mashed sweet potatoes. Sound like Thanksgiving without the turkey? I had the stomach flu at Thanksgiving so I am actually not sick of all that food!

Friday, November 9, 2007

All Local First Birthday Party (well, almost)

My younger son turned one today! Hooray! To celebrate we had a delicious local dinner. We started with a fun little appetizer of Humboldt Fog cheese from Cypress Gove ( on Acme baguette topped with blueberry jalapeno jam that I picked up at the farmer's market last spring. It was a fun twist on a family favorite: wheat things, cream cheese and pepper jelly. For dinner I kept it simple, which is often the tastiest way to go anyway. I roasted a Rocky Jr. chicken (, not the very best choice in local chickens, but still local. I made it a la the Thomas Keller recipe in a new cookbook I have called "Last Suppers." It turned out quite well! Along side the chicken I served a salad made from ingredients in my CSA box. By far the most popular part of the dinner was the always delicious roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash. This is a recipe I got from my mom, and is listed below. Full of butter and sugar so not exactly healthy but tasty nevertheless. For dessert we had an ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins. This was the not-so-local part of the meal, but definitely a hit with the baby and his older brother.

Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts

Serves 12
1 Medium butternut squash , peeled and cut into 1” cubes
2 Lbs Brussels sprouts, cut into halves
1 1/2 C brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter cut into 1/2’ cubes
1/2 bunch of sage leaves
1/2 C olive oil
2 T salt
2 t black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees

Mix al ingredients in a bowl, then spread on a large baking dis. Roast uncovered, turning occasionally, until the squash is tender and the brussels sprouts begin to brown..about 25 minutes.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dark Days Dinner #1

Happy Halloween!

We did our first Dark Days Dinner Challenge dinner for Halloween night. It wasn't anything to fancy, but it was a good healthy dinner to offset all the candy that made its way into our house.

Pumpkin Soup in a pumpkin, an old Julia Child recipe that I found on Saveur's site
Salad w/ radishes, radicchio, arugula, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, onion and parsley, all from my CSA box and the farmer's market
Acme Pain au Levain and an assortment of cheeses

I found this recipe for the soup on It was pretty good, the gruyere and spices were the only not local parts.

1 7-lb. Cinderella pumpkin, with a 2" stem (I couldn't find a local Cinderella pumpkin so I used a Jack O Lantern pumpkin instead)
7 tbsp. butter
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 1⁄2 cups fresh white bread crumbs, toasted
1⁄2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1⁄2 tsp. ground sage
Freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup grated Swiss cheese
4 cups Chicken Stock
2 bay leaves
1⁄2 cup heavy cream, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cut a lid about 4" in diameter out of top of pumpkin and set lid aside. Remove and discard seeds and strings. Rub inside of pumpkin and lid with 1 tbsp. softened butter, season with salt, and place on a baking pan.

2. Melt remaining 6 tbsp. butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in bread crumbs and cook for 2 minutes, then add nutmeg and sage and season generously with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, stir in cheese, then spoon mixture into pumpkin. Pour enough stock into pumpkin to come within 1⁄2" of the rim. Lay bay leaves on top, then fit lid onto pumpkin.

3. Bake until pumpkin begins to soften and brown on the outside and the stock bubbles on the inside, about 1 1⁄2 hours. Carefully remove from oven and transfer to a serving platter. With a long-handled spoon, scrape flesh from bottom and sides of pumpkin and, just before serving, stir in heavy cream if using.

It was really good!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dark Days Eat Local Challenge

I've signed on to another Eat Local Challenge. This one will be my third. The first was the Pennywise Eat Local Challenge, second was the Eat Local Challenge in September. Now here we are with what might well be the most challenging, though not as challenging here in Northern California as it will be for those in other parts of the country.

Here are the details from the Dark Days site:

It’s a challenge to continue cooking at least one local meal through the leaner days of winter. Your ingredients can come from your freezer, pantry, cold storage or local sources like farmers and other producers.

The rules are simple.

Each participant can set their own rules, but generally they are:
We have to cook one meal a week with at least 90% local ingredients
We have to write about it - the triumphs and the challenges
Local means a 200 mile radius for raw ingredients. For processed foods the company must be within 200 miles and committed to local sources.
Keep it up through the end of the year, and then re-evaluate on New Year’s Day

It has also been suggested that sharing the local meal with others each week is a good idea. I love that idea. I have become so boring to my friends and family with my "Eat Local" preaching. Maybe if I feed them once a week they will be more convinced?

I am a pretty committed locavore as it is, but it will be fun to come up with a special meal each week that is truly all local.

As soon as I've planned this week's meal I will post it here.

Cookie Bars

One rainy afternoon last week my two year old was harrassing me for a cookie, but I wasn't in the mood to go out. I looked around my pantry to see what I had that could be made into a cookie. I found oatmeal, butter, sugar, bananas, some chocolate chips. Here is what I came up with, it actually turned out pretty well! They were really sweet so I gave my son a big glass of milk with his, and I had a nice, hot cup of coffee with mine. Yum!

Banana-Ginger-Chocolate Bars

Preheat oven to 350

3C rolled oats
1C all purpose flour
2C dark brown sugar
2 sticks salted butter, softened

2C mashed bananas (very ripe - about 4-5 small bananas)
1/2t ground ginger
1/8t salt

2T crystallized ginger, chopped
1 - 12 oz bag semi sweet chocolate chips

1. In a large bowl combine oats, flour, sugar and butter with fingers until combined but crumbly
2. Press 1/2 oat mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 350 until partially baked and just beginning to turn golden brown, about 15 minutes
3. While oat mixture bakes, combine mashed bananas, ginger and salt in a bowl. Add crystallized ginger to the remaining oat mixture and combine.
4. When oat mixture is finished baking, remove from oven. Spread banana mixture evenly on baked oats, sprinkle chocolate chips evenly on top of banana, taking care not to let them touch the sides of the dish. Finally, sprinkle remaining oat mixture on top of the chocolate chips.
5. Return to oven until golden brown and baked, about 15-20 minutes.
6. Remove from oven and allow to cool, cut into bars.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More Apples

We are still harvesting apples from our tree. This time I got lazy and made applesauce for the freezer. I found this recipe in Martha Stewart magazine but altered it slightly by omiting the butter and reducing the brown sugar, our apples are quite sweet already. It couldn't have been easier, and now I have a freezer full of applesauce to enjoy this winter. Our apple crop is winding down, I'll use the rest of them in a few apple cakes to give as gifts to friends who are hosting us this weekend. The Meyer lemons and grapefruit are just getting started.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Honey Harvest

My father has been raising bees in his backyard in Berkeley since the spring. He just harvested his first batch of honey and boy is it good! It has a lovely flavor, with a hint of anise, which may have to do with the abundance of anise plants growing like weeds in the hills near my parents' house. We had it on our oatmeal at breakfast this morning. Delicious!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Chocolate Adventure Contest

My sister, who also loves to cook, and I heard about the Chocolate Adventure Contest sponsored by TuttiFoodie and Scharffenberger Chocolate, we thought it would be fun to try out a few recipes together and enter. In order to enter you have to create an original recipe using Scharffenberger dark chocolate (62%-99% cacao) and at least one of a list of "adventure ingredients."

On Saturday she came over for the afternoon to work on our recipes with me. We talked about several different ideas, including trying to come up with some savory dishes, but finally decided on three desserts. I won't tell you what they are, just in case we win (haha), but stay tuned for the recipes once the contest is over! In the meantime, here's a picture.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Raw Milk

I have been reading a lot about raw milk in the papers lately. There was a big article in the New York Times over the summer. I have been wanting to try some raw milk, but didn't want to buy an entire carton of it at the grocery store. Last weekend when I was strolling through the Berkeley Farmer's Market I saw the Claravele Dairy stand. This was my opportunity! I asked for a small taste of the milk. It was really good. Not remarkably different than the Straus milk that I usually buy, just a bit creamier and milkier, if you can imagine that. It was a subtle difference. I bought a quart of it to take home. We drank it during the week. Everytime I or the Boogie had a glass I felt a little thrill. Similar to the thrill you get when you are about to ride a roller coaster - like you are doing something a little bit dangerous. I know that it is generally safe, but with the warning labels on the bottle and that I've read, I was always a little nervous one of us would get sick. Fortunately neither of us did. In the end, I have to say that I am pretty happy with the Straus Creamery milk that I buy and I think I will stick with that, despite the purported health benefits of raw milk. At least while I have such young kids anyway. I will definitely continue to consume lots of raw milk cheese though!

Incidentally, I recently read that the state of North Carolina is requiring raw milk dairies to put gray dye in their milk, since it is only legal to sell as petfood. Go ahead and fertilize the spinach fields with cow shit, look the other way at those mega-slaughter houses, but whatever you do don't sell carefully handled raw milk from small family farms to informed consumers! So crazy!

Book Review: The Year of the Goat: 40,000 Miles and the Quest for the Perfect Cheese

When I saw this book on a table at Barnes and Noble I had to buy it. Being the cheese lover that I am, I was intrigued by what I might learn about goat cheese. I wondered if some of my favorite local cheese makers would be written about in there. On top of the cheese aspect of the book, I was excited to learn more about the dairy goat industry. My family has a 400 acre ranch in Northern California, and my dad (a fellow cheese lover) and I often talk about how great it would be to move up there, raise goats and make cheese. I picked it up and bought the book immediately.

I enjoyed the book, but definitely felt a bit misled by the title. I learned more about the meat-goat industry than I did about making goat cheese and raising dairy goats. The book takes you on the cross country journey of a young NY couple as they try to learn everything there is to learn about goats in order to determine whether or not they want to quit their jobs and move to the country. It was a fun read and I definitely had moments of great envy. If I didn't have a house, two kids and a dog I would be all over my husband to take a similar journey with me. Somehow the thought of taking such a trip with two little boys seems far less romantic.

The only local cheesemaker that is written about extensively in the book was Redwood Hill Farms. They are well known for their goats milk yogurt, which is surprisingly tasty. The day after I finished the book I headed off for my weekly farmer's market shopping trip, and was delighted to see Redwood Hill Farms represented there. I bought a round of Camelia, in my opinion their best cheese. It is similar to a Camembert, one of my all time favorite cheeses! I also bought a little container of fresh chevre. We ate the Camelia with a nice Acme baguette and tomato salad for lunch that afternoon. Perfect!

I would recommend the book if you want a fun read, but don't expect to learn too much about goat cheese. Instead it is more of a well rounded goat education, which is also useful.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Quick and easy dinner

Monday night...hard to get back into the swing of things sometimes. This was one of those Monday nights that I just couldn't deal with an elaborate meal. My original plan was to make little pot pies with leftover chicken and veggies. I finally cooked my CSA Soul Food Farm chicken after 30 minutes of talking to it outside as I cut off its head and feet. My sister was in the kitchen with the baby and the dog, yelling at me "its already dead! it won't feel a thing!". Anyway, I didn't have it in me to make the pot pies tonight so I dug around in the freezer and pantry for something else to make. I came up with some nice local treats! I found an open box of lasagna noodles, which I broke up and cooked. I was cooking for a two year old and a 10 month old, so they didn't need to be pretty, and they weren't. I also found a package of Fatted Calf Breakfast Sausage and Happy Girl Kitchen pesto sauce. I cooked up the sausage, drained it, poured the cooked pasta on top and stirred in the pesto. Voila! A lovely dinner! I also gave the boys some peach Kefir to drink. The baby especially loved it. He had three helpings of pasta and sausage, plus an entire container of Little Bug Nectarines and Oats, and some Kefir from his sippy cup.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lamb Breast and Eat Local Challenge

As a part of my meat csa box for September I got a little package labeled "lamb breast." I was intrigued but not sure how to cook them, as I'd never eaten them or seen them prepared before. I searched online for recipes and didn't find much that sounded appealing. Most recipes involved stuffing them and I just wasn't in the mood for that big of a project, especially since its been so hot where I live. On Friday I had my parents over for dinner and decided to make the lamb breast as an appetizer. I followed a recipe that I found on Jacques Pepin's website, figuring it couldn't be TOO bad if it came from him. They were delicious! They were like little spare ribs. I served them with a bowl of the tomato flip I made a few weeks ago with the tomato surplus from my CSA produce box. What a treat!

For the rest of the meal we had Marin Sun Farms chicken breast roasted in the oven with Bariani olive oil, csa garlic, backyard thyme and backyard meyer lemons. I also roasted some of those wonderful csa tomatoes with basil and garlic and we had an Acme baguette. My father brought over some local wine and my mom made an apple crisp with apples they had been given by a guy who my father recently bought bees from. It was a totally local and totally delicious dinner! All in keeping with the Eat Local Challenge.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Comfort Food

Booking Through Thursday, Comfort Food:

Okay . . . picture this (really) worst-case scenario: It’s cold and raining, your boyfriend/girlfriend has just dumped you, you’ve just been fired, the pile of unpaid bills is sky-high, your beloved pet has recently died, and you think you’re coming down with a cold. All you want to do (other than hiding under the covers) is to curl up with a good book, something warm and comforting that will make you feel better.

What do you read?

I would get myself a bottle of wine, an Acme baguette and a wheel of Red Hawk and sit down on my couch with a nice cookbook. Probably one of Julia Child's books or some other big book with lots of interesting facts about food and cooking. I find cookbooks to be very comforting reading, and then you can stop at any point for a good cry and pick it up again when you've gotten a hold of yourself again.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Meal Plans

We have been getting absolutely overloaded with basil, peppers, eggplant and heirloom tomatoes from our CSA over the past few weeks. I have been doing my best to keep up and eat them all, but I finally just started roasting them all together, whizzing them up in the Cuisinart and freezing them as pasta sauce for the winter. Tonight my two year old had an absolute fit that there was sauce on his noodles and refused to eat them. His 10 month old brother, on the other hand, gobbled up the sauce on some overcooked noodles and ate a whole wedge of Parmesan cheese (this is how I know that he takes after his mommy where the two year old seems to take after his dad, at least in the food departmetn). I am finally caught up on the eggplant and tomatoes, at least until Thursday when the next CSA box arrives. Here's what's on our menu this week:

Monday - Leftover penne with roasted tomato and pepper sauce
Tuesday - Fritatta with carmelized onions, tomatoes and goat cheese, which I plan to buy at the Berkeley Farmer's Market tomorrow afternoon. Green salad with vinaigrette and, you guessed it, tomatoes!
Wednesday - Sloppy Joes made with ground beef from my meat CSA, peas from my freezer (not local but I already had them on hand). This should be an agreeable dinner for my two year old.
Thursday - I guess I will just have to get on with that chicken and roast it with some potatoes and other local veggies, green salad.
Friday - Date night - we're goin' out!
Saturday - Leftover chicken in some form
Sunday - We're goin' out again!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Desert Island Gear

My friend (and cousin's wife), Marsha just posted a fun little contest on her blog. In order to participate she asks that we post on our blogs what three things we'd take if stranded on a desert island. The first thing that came to my mind, perhaps because I've been up since 5 with my two year old, was my French Press and a very large supply of great coffee. They will come in a box together, so I am counting that as one item. I am pretty worthless without my coffee each morning, plus it is nice to have a glass of sweet iced coffee on a hot afternoon. I am sure there would be lots of very hot afternoons on a desert island, right? I would need some sort of entertainment, so my next item is a year's worth of back issues of the New York Times. First I thought maybe I'd bring some great book, but since I don't know how long I'd be stranded, I would probably get bored with that. But it would take a long time to get through a whole year's worth of New York Times papers cover to cover. The last thing I'd bring is a cow. Yes, a cow. Then I would always have milk for my coffee, I could make butter for cooking all of the fish that I'd be catching in, I could finally learn how to make cheese since I'd have lots of available free time, and I'd have a companion. Hopefully it would be a tropical fruit eating cow. When do we leave?

Desert Island Gear

My friend (and cousin's wife), Marsha just posted a fun little contest on her blog. In order to participate she asks that we post on our blogs what three things we'd take if stranded on a desert island. The first thing that came to my mind, perhaps because I've been up since 5 with my two year old, was my French Press and a very large supply of great coffee. They will come in a box together, so I am counting that as one item. I am pretty worthless without my coffee each morning, plus it is nice to have a glass of sweet iced coffee on a hot afternoon. I am sure there would be lots of very hot afternoons on a desert island, right? I would need some sort of entertainment, so my next item is a year's worth of back issues of the New York Times. First I thought maybe I'd bring some great book, but since I don't know how long I'd be stranded, I would probably get bored with that. But it would take a long time to get through a whole year's worth of New York Times papers cover to cover. The last thing I'd bring is a cow. Yes, a cow. Then I would always have milk for my coffee, I could make butter for cooking all of the fish that I'd be catching in, I could finally learn how to make cheese since I'd have lots of available free time, and I'd have a companion. Hopefully it would be a tropical fruit eating cow. When do we leave?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Maybe I Should Be a Vegetarian?

I have so many conflicted feelings about eating meat. On the one hand, I hate the thought of animals dying for my food. On the other, I love meat and I do believe that humans were meant to eat it. I have solved this inner conflict for the most part by commiting myself to buying humanely raised meat exclusively. I even joined a meat CSA where all of the meat comes from small, organic farms. I haven't had an issue with any of the meat, in fact it has all been delicious. The only thing I have been having a hard time with is the chicken. You see, it came with its head and feet still on, complete with little eyeballs. Now, I have always said that people shouldn't eat meat if they couldn't witness the slaughter themselves and then turn around and eat the animal killed. I have even witnessed a chicken slaughter in person and ate chicken pot pie for dinner. But every time I think about cooking that bird, every time I pull it out of the freezer and look into its eyes, I am overcome with sadness for the life lost. Some might say it is just a chicken, and to give thanks to the bird and get on with it, but I haven't managed it yet. It keeps getting put right back into the freezer. I am in the midst of the Eat Local Challenge, and am running out of protein so pretty soon I am going to have to suck it up and cook the bird. I guess I have to wait for a day when I am feeling brave!

The last of the summer berries...

Last Tuesday I was having one-of-those-days with my two year old and ten month old boys. We needed to get out of the house and do something fun fast! I am currently participating in the Eat Local Challenge, so one of my regular one-of-those-days outings was out - the Starbuck's drive-through. Cookie for the boy, coffee for me and NPR on the radio. Everyone is strapped in and no one is getting into trouble. We decided to make the 30 minute drive to the Berkeley Farmer's Market, and I am so glad we did! I put the baby in the stroller and the Boogie walked alongside, holding the strap. We shopped, I bought the best iced coffee I have EVER had from Blue Bottle Coffee and then we bought a pint of beautiful little strawberries. The Boogie insisted that we sit right down on the curb to eat the "baby strawberries". I got maybe three berries, he ate every single one! Since then he's been bugging me to go back to the farmer's market for strawberries. Well, today is market day again, so off we went. And again he ate every single strawberry in the pint! I am sad that we probably only have a few weeks left of these delicious little berries. I guess we'll have to go to the market every week until they're gone.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

More Canning

I am on a roll! Today I canned several jars of Grandma's bread and butter pickles and a few jars of tomato flip. I can't wait to make a nice roast this winter to put the tomato (TOMAHTO) flip on. Yum!

Eat Local Challenge - Day One

Yesterday marked the start of the newest Eat Local Challenge, which I have decided to participate in. My rules this time around are as follows:
1. I will buy only local produce and meat/dairy products
2. I am not giving up coffee, but will buy only from local roasters
3. I will buy all pasta, bread and baked goods from local sources
4. I will make as many bread and baked goods at home as I can
5. I am not giving up seasonings, spices and sugar, but I will limit them to what I already have on hand in my cupboard
6. I will cut back on eating out, and will primarily eat at restaurants that focus on serving local and organic foods (we'll be visiting Chow a lot).
7. I am not giving up alcohol, but will limit it to what I have on hand, or I will buy locally produced wines.

Day one was easy, it was way to hot to do anything so I stayed home with my boys and ate what we had from our CSAs. No problem!

Apples Galore

We have an old apple tree in our backyard which has been VERY prolific this summer. I've been working hard to keep up with the tree, but despite my best efforts our backyard smells like a cider mill. On Thursday evening I picked about 40 pounds of apples to put up. You wouldn't even know I had touched the tree if you looked at it. I decided to make apple butter for my first round of apple canning. I found a nice recipe on Culinate and got busy. I made 16 jars of apple butter. I also had two weeks worth of green beans in the fridge from my CSA so I decided to make some Dilly Beans too. Only 5 jars of those. I can't wait to see what they taste like! I've never actually eaten a Dilly Bean before. Now I have to find a good recipe for Apple Chutney and something to do with all of the figs and grapefruit!

I am looking forward to next year when the Boogie and maybe even his brother can help me with the canning. This year I did it at night while they slept.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I was reading the Bay Area Bites blog the other day and there was a post about a company called We Love Jam ( The author of the post was writing about this amazing Blenheim Apricot jam they had gotten from this company. It is all hand made, even the jars are washed by hand, and old fashioned (which ALWAYS appeals to me). I also read that Food & Wine had written about it recently. I had to find out for myself so I went to their site and ordered a jar. The price was hefty and I was only allowed to order one jar due to very limited production. Well, it came today and yes, it is AMAZING. The texture is like velvet and it is perfectly sweet and apricoty with a hint of anise. It is like summer in a jar. It was hard not to sit down with a spoon and eat the whole jar. Now I am torn between eating it and saving it. I won't be able to get another jar until next summer! Darn! I guess I will just savor it slowly (and hide it in the back of the fridge so I don't have to share it!).

Monday, August 27, 2007

I'm Back!

I've been gone for awhile. I guess you could say I got sidetracked by life with my two little boys. I am recommited to posting at least twice a week from here on. While I was gone I have started a few new food related things. I have joined a CSA (farmfreshtoyou) that delivers local produce to my door every week. I have also joined a meat CSA which ensures that all of the meat products that my family eats have been humanely raised and slaughtered. I have also stopped buying as much prepackaged foods. I've been making crackers, yogurt, jam and cereal at home, among other things. I figure this not only reduces waste it is also a big step in the direction of a completely local diet. I kind of freaked out a bit after all of those food recalls. I'd rather take the extra effort to make things myself at home.

Here's the meal plan for the week:
Monday - Pizza made with leftover ingredients from the weekend (made by the Boogie and me!)
Tuesday - Lemon pepper pasta with tomato sauce and tuna, steamed green beans
Wednesday - Peppers stuffed with Spanish rice and ground chicken, salad
Thursday - Veggie and cheese fritatta (made with leftover veggies from the previous week's CSA delivery)
Friday - Out for dinner at my parents house to celebrate my sister's 31st!
Saturday - Out for dinner with an old friend (leftovers for the Boogie)
Sunday - TBD

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Monday, April 9, 2007

Farm Fresh Eggs

I have started buying my eggs from a local farm near my house. They are $6 a dozen but so worth it. They are the most beautiful eggs, inside and out. The shells are sometimes robin's egg blue, some are brown with speckles, some just plain brown and the yolks are the most vivid yellow, almost orange. They are so delicious too. Yum!


I've got to start taking/posting pictures.

We had a lovely Easter party. It started with an egg hunt for all of the 2 year olds, and one 4 year old. They had a great time searching for the eggs in our backyard while the parents watched and munched on salmon mousse, sundried tomato spread and brie baked with apples, walnuts and cranberries. It always amazes me how impressed people are by the sundried tomato spread that takes about 30 seconds to make. It might just mean that I have unsophisticated friends. Ha!

I decided to do a retro Easter dinner. I made a Beeler ham covered with pineapple rings, marschino cherries and studded with cloves and basted with pineapple juice cooked with garlic and fresh ginger. It came out perfectly. Delicious! I also made scalloped potatoes and a salad of baby lettuce, grapefruit (from our tree), baby red onions and avocado. To drink we served mint iced tea made with our own Meyer lemons and a nice Pinot Grigio. For desert a bunny cake! Vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting and dusted with coconut. I died some coconut pink with a beet juice dye for the insides of the ears. For the eyes I used bright blue chocolate caramel eggs that I bought at Peets, his nose was a chocolate egg turned sideways and pocky sticks for whiskers. I decorated the bow tie with jelly beans. It was quite a hit, I almost felt guilty cutting into him.

It was a great day!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Gourmet Everyday Quick Kitchen

Okay so this is officially my favorite feature in Gourmet Magazine now. Every single thing I have ever made from this section has been terrific. This months issue (April 2007) is especially good. I have a friend who just had her second baby and I made her a meal almost entirely out of this issue:

Chicken thighs and drumsticks roasted with lemon and thyme (both from my garden)
Roasted beets a la Jamie Oliver - SO GOOD!
Peas with horseradish mustard sauce (from Gourmet - not spicy at all just yummy!)
Rice Pilaf - from a box I am sorry to say
Rhubard Strawberry Pudding this is real winner. I mean this is so good! I altered the recipe slightly, ommitting the cornstarch because I didn't have any on hand and I didn't have the energy to drag my 2 year old and 5 month old boys out to the store for that one item. Here is the recipe...definitely try it! I have made it twice this week.

Rhubarb Strawberry Pudding Cake

1/4 C water
1/3C + 1/2 C sugar
2C fresh rhubarb stalks, chopped
1C strawberries, chopped
1C flour
1 3/4 t baking powder
1/2t salt
1 large egg
1/2C whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1t vanilla

1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400. Butter and 8 inch square glass dish
2. Stir together water, 1/3C sugar and rhubarb. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, then simmer stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in strawberries.
3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and remaining sugar in a bowl
4. Whisk together egg, milk, butter and vanilla in a large bowl, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.
5. Reserve 1/2C of fruit mixture, then add remainder to baking dish and pour batter over it spreading evenly. Drizzle remaining 1/2C fruit over batter. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center of cake portion comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in a pan on a rack 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Book Review: Mostly True by Molly O'Neill

I bought this book a few months ago. The subtitle caught my eye: A Memoir of Family, Food and Baseball. I thought the involvement of baseball in the subject might intrigue my husband enough to actually get him to read a food book. I started reading it on a recent trip to Mexico. I really enjoyed it! As the mother of two boys, I could relate to the author's life with 5 younger brothers. It is as much about baseball as about food. It is a nice quick read, very funny and well written. Pick it up, I am sure you'll enjoy it.

Little Shrimpies

So I made the shrimp with arugula and couscous for dinner last night. I was not sure how well the shrimp would go over with The Boogie, but I figured I'd give it a shot. He loves to watch the Signing Time videos and he recently learned the sign for Shrimp on the "Zoo Train" episode. I had planned to capitalize on that to get him to eat the shrimp. I peeled two shrimp for him and he ate them right up! I peeled two more, told him to eat his "little shrimpies" and he ate another one right up, declaring "Little SHRIMPIES!!" several times as he ate it. When he took a bite out of his fourth shrimp he wrinkled up his nose and said "don't like it" and that was that. No more shrimp for him, he must have sensed my delight in his eating them, and in true two-year old fashion, decided to do things his way. He moved on to the couscous, which he loved. Then we went out for strawberry ice cream cones.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Today the Boogie has been an unbelievably fussy eater. He is showing his almost-two year old personality for sure! So, when I went to make this asparagus pasta I was not optimistic that he'd be eating it and was expecting to be making him a bowl of cereal instead. That is the alternative that I offer he truly doesn't like his dinner but has given it a genuine try. Anyway, he loved the pasta and picked out all of the asparagus first! Yay! The recipe I used was from Epicurious, it was quite tasty. Next time I think I will add a few shavings of lemon zest to brighten it up a bit.

Asparagus Pasta

4 oz sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut on a long diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 lb orechiette or other small pasta
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 1/2 oz) plus additional for serving
Zest of 1 lemon

Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 6 minutes. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet, then add oil and onion to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, about 4 minutes.
Add asparagus and sauté, stirring, until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
While onion is cooking, cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta in a colander.
Return pasta to pot along with asparagus mixture, 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, and cheese. Add remaining 1/2 cup cooking water to skillet and deglaze by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits, 1 minute. Add to pasta and toss over moderately low heat until combined well, about 30 seconds. Mix in bacon, serve with additional cheese and lemon zest sprinkled on top.

Gourmet, May 2002

Before dinner I also made a nice loaf of banana bread to use up all of the bananas that I had bought for last weeks banana phase, which was short lived. It turned out nicely and we enjoyed a small slice for dessert.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Farmer's Market and our weekly menu

This morning I did my favorite weekly errand, shopping the farmer's market. I sent the Boogie and his dad off to have breakfast with some cousins who were in town, and I took our younger son to the farmer's market. I set two personal records at the market today. The first was my arrival time, I got there at 8:30. Most Sunday's I don't make it there until after 11. What a difference it makes to arrive early! All of the vendors were in cheery moods, eager to talk about all of their produce. And the produce was especially lovely, not wilted as it becomes by late afternoon. My other record was the amount of money I spent. Today I walked in with a twenty dollar bill and vowed to leave when I had spent it all. You can get quite a lot for $20! Here's what we went home with: a bag of baby chard, a big bunch of golden beets with the greens still on - a two-fer!, a sweet little bunch of baby carrots, two bunches of arugula, a bag of fingerling potatoes, some crisp, juicy pink lady apples, a gorgeous basket of strawberries - the Boogie's favorite fruit at the moment, a bag of oyster mushrooms - a special treat for me since no one else in the house will touch mushrooms, a bunch of skinny asparagus - the Boogie's favorite new veggie and seven baby artichokes. This will feed us well for the week!

After I return from the market with our load of fresh produce, I like to plan our meals for the week. Here is what we'll be having:

Sunday - Dinner out in the City!
Monday - Pasta with asparagus and Canadian bacon(it will just be the Boogie and me for dinner and he is always a fan of noodles!)
Tuesday - Hamburgers made from the Grass-Fed beef I bought at last week's market, sweet potato fries and a salad
(the Boogie and his dad will be on their own, I am taking the baby out for dinner and a movie with a friend)
Wednesday - Arugula shrimp and couscous
THursday - Chicken breast cooked in tomato sauce with chard and polenta. This is one of my favorite quick dinners. Here's a rough recipe:

1 shallot, chopped
1 bunch chard, washed and rough chopped
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in half
1 jar of tomato sauce

Saute the shallot in olive oil, add the chard, on top of the chard place the raw chicken and then pour the tomato sauce over all. Cook on med/high heat until chicken is done. Spoon over polenta. It takes less than 15 minutes and is so good!

Friday - Boneless pork chops, sauteed baby artichokes, sauteed cubes of butternut squash
Sauturday - Steak night! Niman Ranch Rib Eye steak, covered in salt and pepper and seared to medium rare, 8 minutes per side in a really hot grill pan, roasted beets with balsamic vinegar, garlic and thyme, sauteed beet greens and roasted potatoes

Finally, I am going to make a nice cream of brocolli soup with the brocolli we never managed to eat from the market last week. I'll freeze it to eat on a chilly night.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Wine Country Fare

Today we took the Boogie and his brother on a picnic in the Napa Valley to celebrate his grandmother's 64th birthday. We made the usual stop at the Oakville Grocery to stock up on goodies and then headed to the Louis Martini winery for a tasting and a picnic. We tried several delicious wines, and my father bought an entire case of one. After the tasting we all sat outside and dug into the goods we had gotten at Oakville. I gave the Boogie a bunch of new treats to try. I started him off with a taste of salami which he loved. Then on to the cheese. I have an obsession with great cheese and I am hoping to pass it onto my boys. His first taste was a small bit of St Agur to which he replied, "don't like it!". Then I tried him on a taste of Brie de Meau, he gave this one more consideration but clearly wasn't wild about the somewhat pungent flavor. The next cheese was a small slice of Comte half of which he ate and half of which he spit out. Finally I gave him an aged Farm Gouda which is sweet and caramelly. He loved it! His lunch mainly consisted of the gouda, salami, sweet baguette from Acme bakery and an apple. Sounds good to me! For dessert I gave him a violet scented marshmallow stick and some chocolate covered raisins. Those were clearly the hits. More candy! More candy! He declared until it was all gone.

Feeding our Boy

Boogie is our nickname for our elder son. He is quite a boy. He is also known in our family as a "perpetual motion machine" because he is always on the go. Literally. He moves all over the place in his sleep, and when he gets sleepier he gets more active! This is why he has always been categorized as underweight and a "failure to thrive" case by his doctors. He was a hefty 8 lbs 4 oz at birth, but has tracked in the 3rd percentile for weight for most of his life. He is about to turn two. My task is to raise a kid with a broad and sophisticated palate and to keep trying to put weight on the boogie! I am dedicating this blog to my adventures in feeding him. We have another son who is only 4 months old at the moment. We will start feeding him food other than breast milk soon, so my comments on his eating habits will appear here too.

I am what many would call food-obsessed. I love food, all kinds, and have very high standards for the types of foods I will feed my family. I insist that I develop children with broad palates. It will make their lives better in so many ways! This is at times a battle because my husband does not hold the same food standards as I do, although I am working on him! He is more of a food-from-a-box type of guy, thanks to his mother who fed him a steady diet of processed foods when he was growing up. After 3 years of marriage to me he is starting to appreciate my way of eating, and reluctantly agrees that we should instill this in our kids. So here's to the good life...good food, good fun!