Thursday, January 28, 2010


OK, here goes. . .

I am fascinated by the First Family. I am fascinated by my fascination with them. And I am also fascinated by how many other people seem to share my fascination. Why does everybody care so much about the minute details of their lives? Why do I care so much?

Case in point: this post about the presidential snack {which is also the source of the picture below}.

It really cracks me up that this is public knowledge. Silly, don't you think? I mean, how does this information get leaked?

Yet when I read this, I admit that I was rather pleased to learn that I'm not the only one that eats "preschool snacks" every afternoon. You know ~ a balanced pairing of the simplest of finger foods. If the President does it, then surely it can't be that weird.

Here are a few of my favorites afternoon snacks:
  • almonds and orange slices
  • cheese and crackers
  • apple slices with peanut butter
Just like preschool, right? And now I can't help but wonder if the President likes these combinations, too. Maybe it'll be in his next press release. I know it's not the State of the Union Address, but apparently these things are important.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tea and Umbrellas

My toddler was invited to her first tea party a couple of months ago. It was such a fun birthday party idea. The "hostess" was none other than Mary Poppins herself! I didn't get a good picture, but the birthday girl was dressed up in the white dress and hat that Mary Poppins wore during the "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" scene.

Mary Poppins brought a trunk of costumes for the other kids to try on as she painted faces.

They played several games that were related to the movie. First they each carried a spoon holding a packet of sugar. Whoever kept their spoonful of sugar in place the longest won. Then they got little horse sticks to ride around like the carousel horses in the movie. Mary Poppins played the carousel scene on the TV, and whenever the movie stopped the kids had to freeze.

The children had a spot of tea and adorable cupcakes. And Mary Poppins reminded everybody to mind their manners. So cute!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Future of Fajitas

The future of fajitas has changed dramatically at my house. It's actually been years since I made fajitas. The reason is silly ~ my marinade calls for pepper jelly. I rarely have it on hand since I have no other reason to buy it. When I finished the last jar I had, several years ago mind you, I stopped making fajitas. I just happened to acquire more recently, and now I've decided that pepper jelly may advance to a kitchen staple for the sole purpose of making fajitas.

Why the advancement? Because last week I made a fajita discovery. I had the bright idea not to fuss with a grill of any kind. Instead I marinated veggies and tofu as I normally would, put it on a pan, and roasted them in the oven.

I put the tofu in a little early, then added the veggies to the same pan.

I also roasted a separate tray of broccoli with the leftover marinade drizzled over it. And I'm happy to report it all worked! There wasn't the same smoky flavor you would get on an outdoor grill, but otherwise the result seemed identical. It's so much easier for me to throw it in the oven and forget about it than to dutifully turn things on the grill or grill pan. So yes, there's a new future for fajitas at my house.

In case you'd like to open your own jar of pepper jelly, here's my recipe:

Tofu and Veggie "Oven Fajitas"
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar (I used apple cider)
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. pepper jelly
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne (less for a toddler's palette!)
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 12 oz. extra firm tofu, sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced
  • Tortillas
  • Fajita fixins
Mix all the ingredients, then pour over your tofu and veggies in an airtight container. Coat well, but be gentle with the tofu so it doesn't break. Marinade in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the tofu on a sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes. Add the veggies for another 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on everything to be sure nothing gets too brown. Serve on tortillas with fajita fixins as you please.

NOTE: Have fun experimenting with different veggie combinations. I think portabellas would be great!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pretty Peaches

We've now had our two new kitties all of three weeks. They are so much fun! And they clearly have so much fun, too. This morning I found an assortment of things they had batted around the house overnight ~ my keys, my watch, a pen, and one of my toddler's socks.

You've already met Bunny, so let me introduce her sister Peaches. Even though Bunny warmed up to her new surroundings faster, there are so many reasons I am so attached to Peaches. To some extent, she's the underdog of the house. She's the kitty we all wanted to settle in perfectly, but for a while it was questionable whether she would make it. And so she quickly became my little "project" as I worked to coax her out from under the bed.

Now she's definitely out and about more. Once you get to know her she's just as loving as her sister. I think she's so beautiful, with her sleek physique and exotic markings. And, as an added bonus, she cracks me up every time she enters the room. She usually comes bounding in. So much so that more often than not she has to regain her footing once she comes to a standstill. I laugh every time because her entrance is so "Kramer-esque."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

So Left Out

Last weekend my hubby and I watched Julie and Julia (finally, I know!). It was such a cute story and so fun to see Meryl Streep play Julia Child. But I have to admit that I felt pretty left out. All that French cooking, and there appeared to be little beyond dessert for the vegetarians. If it weren't for this hurdle I would have run right out and bought my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and started. . . well, mastering it! But alas, the hurdle is there.

Then today I was delighted when I saw this recipe for Mushroom Bourguignon by Smitten Kitchen posted over at Amateur Gourmet. That's right ~ mushroom! I guess there's hope for vegetarians and French cooking mingling every once in a while, even if it doesn't involve Julia Child.

Are there other amazing vegetarian recipes for French cooking that I should know about? Hmm. This might require some research.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Seasonal Blending

All of a sudden it seems like the perfect time for a smoothie. I probably feel that way because smoothies remind me of summer. (Warm nights on the patio, everybody's carefree attitude, vacation ~ what's not to miss?) And today is certainly a day to daydream of summer. Currently there's a storm sitting over Northern California. The wind is outrageous, roaring outside and whistling as it rushes through the rafters of my house. At times it looks like the two redwoods looming over my backward may come plummeting down. Eek!

But back to the smoothies. . . One final reason to make a smoothie is that they're an easy way to detox from November and December eating. And they taste great!

The basics of smoothie-making are straightforward enough. The most important rule is to use enough liquid so that your blender can handle the frozen fruit. (I broke many blenders before I knew this, so take heed!) Use at least a cup of liquid, and add more if it seems too thick or if your blender is having trouble processing. Start with a few quick pulses to break up the frozen fruit, stirring with a spoon once or twice in between pulses. Finish by letting the blender run for ten seconds or so.

My basic recipe includes:
  • a cup or more of orange juice (this adds sweetness)
  • about 1/3 cup of yogurt, plain or vanilla (more if you want a creamier smoothie)
  • 1 banana, preferably cold
  • several handfuls of frozen strawberries (approximately 2 cups)

I sometimes substitute other frozen fruit for some of the strawberries, such as frozen blueberries or peaches. But since the strawberries add a lot of sweetness, I usually don't eliminate them altogether. Happy Blending!

Monday, January 18, 2010


When was the last time you "lunched?" While I admit that I rarely do what I would call "lunching," I always find it to be so refreshing. Last week I lunched with a dear friend at a Davis eatery.

Just to be clear, we didn't dine. We didn't grab some grub. We lunched in the most ladylike manner possible. We gossiped and people-watched. We complimented each other's accessories. We even whispered a few "did you hear?" remarks under our breath. And I'm almost sure that our pinkies shot out as we delicately raised our glasses to our mouths.

Perhaps most importantly, we lingered over our food. We savored every bite, partly because it was delicious but also so we could squeeze in a few more tidbits about wedding dresses, our families, and our aspirations.

Are you wondering what we lunched on as we lingered, complimented, and sipped last week? Salads, of course!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bundle of Love

I am currently holding a bundle of love in my lap. As I mentioned before, our holidays included the addition of two new cuddly companions at our house. Meet Bunny:

Bunny has to be the softest, sweetest, cuddliest cat I've ever known. She will actually wrap her little paws around your neck, tuck her nose under your chin, and give you a tight hug. I must admit ~ I was a bit alarmed the first time she did this!

Bunny's sister is equally great. Unfortunately her favorite hangouts are dark and cozy, making picture-taking rather difficult. I promise to introduce her soon.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ooey Gooey

My hubby's birthday was last weekend, so my toddler and I set out to make him a special birthday treat. I settled on a recipe from here for a Snicker's ice cream cake.

I've never made an ice cream cake before, but I will definitely be doing this again. First of all, this recipe was truly decadent. It took less time than making a real cake. And, as an added bonus, I didn't have to use the oven at all. That makes it perfect for my toddler-assistant, and a great hot-weather dessert. (Note to self: remember this in August. Please!)

To make the cake we mixed chocolate ice cream with creamy peanut butter. Then we layered it with cookies and caramel. I added a few special touches of my own, including crushed, salted peanuts to the caramel layer and a few chocolate chips on the bottom of the pan. My toddler put her mark on the cake by arranging the cookies in her own charming way.

You'll see it's not the prettiest of desserts.

But my, was it tasty. Do you see the parts that are oozing a bit? That's the caramel layer. Yum!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Movie

I had an interesting conversation with my toddler yesterday as I drove her home from preschool.

Me: So what did you do at preschool today?
Toddler: We watched a movie. It was a movie, but it didn't have Mickey Mouse or Dora the Explorer in it. But it was still a movie.
Me: [puzzled ~ surely they aren't showing them movies at preschool now!] Oh really? Are you sure you watched a movie?
Toddler: Yeah. It was a movie.
Me: OK. Well, what was it about?
Toddler: There was a dream.
Me: Oh. So when you took a nap you dreamed about watching a movie?
Toddler: No. I watched a movie at school. With a dream.
Me: You watched a movie. So then who was dreaming? Was somebody asleep?
Toddler: No. I watched a movie about a man.
Me: And the man was dreaming while he was asleep?
Toddler: No, he wasn't sleeping. He just HAD a dream.
Me: [trying desperately to piece this together] The man HAD a dream?
Toddler: Yeah. But he wasn't sleeping. He just had a dream.
[long, long pause]
Me: Ohhhh. Do you mean that you watched a movie about a man named Martin Luther King?
Toddler: Yeah. And the man had a dream. He wasn't sleeping, but he had a dream.
Me: Got it. Well that's great. He was a very important man, you know.
Toddler: I know. Because he was dreaming, right?
Me: Actually, yes. Because he was dreaming.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Only in San Francisco

I'm sure many people would agree that San Francisco is a foodie's paradise. I know this, but I continue to be surprised. Only in San Francisco would you find fine dining inside a museum. At the Academy of Sciences even the commoner's cafeteria-style dining is an experience.

We visited yesterday, and when we got hungry for lunch we headed to the Academy Cafe. The cafeteria is set up with many different stations, serving gourmet options from around the world. While it doesn't look like much in the pictures, one glance at the menu tells you that this is quick food at its best. And one look at all the eager chefs standing ready to prepare your lunch of choice tells you that you are in San Francisco.

My hubby and toddler scoped the place out for their meal of choice, and then I was charged with collecting our museum feast. I sheepishly stood in line at the noodle station. When the expectant chef finally looked my way to take my order, what did I ask for? "Plain spaghetti with butter and cheese, please." That's right. I bypassed the rigatoni with wild mushroom cream and nutmeg. I didn't care about the duck sausage either. All I was after was my toddler's favorite. Afterall, I was a paying customer like everyone else. There's nothing wrong with simplicity, right?

I quickly moved aside so that the people behind me could place their orders, which would surely be far worthier of the gourmet chef preparation being offered to us. It turns out the person behind me wasn't so unlike me after all. She wanted "plain spaghetti with butter and no cheese." And the person behind her? "Pasta with butter and cheese." Two more after that were the same, too. By the time I left with my plate of perfectly prepared pasta with freshly grated parmesan the tables had turned. It was now the chef that looked rather sheepish. And really darn frustrated.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Saved By the Bell-Shaped Pasta

I just love this pasta glossary, recently featured on the Kitchn. It reminded me that not all pastas are created equal. Sometimes it really does matter what shape of pasta you use.

Pasta is often my go-to genre when there are many hungry bellies to feed and when I hope to satisfy vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. It also works well for both children and adults. Recently I've been saved by two particular shapes of pasta. On Christmas Day I was saved by the bell-shaped pasta Campanelle, which I made with Mark Bittman's Chestnut Cream. The sauce was super simple, could be made in advance, and was hearty enough to satisfy any appetite. As a nice plus, it could also be easily adapted to a vegan diet by substituting a non-dairy milk. The Campanelle shape held the sauce well and prettied up an otherwise mono-color dish.

On another occasion I was saved by the corkscrew-shaped pasta Cavatappi, which I think is the perfect choice for multi-generational mac 'n' cheese. When it's smothered in cheese sauce it has the look of elbow macaroni for the kids, with a little sophistication for the adults.

When I volunteer to take a main dish to a party at my toddler's preschool I most often turn to the quick and foolproof quesadilla, which can also be dressed up to suit a variety of tastes. But for my toddler's recent holiday party I branched out and made a super-simple and super-sized batch of Cavatappi macaroni 'n' cheese. This recipe also lends itself to adaptation, since you could easily substitute a stronger cheese to make it more over-the-top. (Goat cheese? I've tried it, it's great. Blue cheese? That'll be next!)

Recipes below. . .


Mark Bittman's Chestnut Cream
available here on page 457.


Macaroni 'n' Cheese for a Crowd
Serves 12-15 adult main course portions
  • 1 1/2 lbs pasta
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 3 cups milk
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups shredded cheese (I used 3 c. sharp cheddar and 1 c. medium cheddar)
  • salt and pepper
Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water per instructions. Meanwhile melt the butter in a saucepan on medium-low. Whisk in the flour and mustard and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the milk and cayenne, and whisk to start breaking up the clumps. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, whisking very often. Once the milk is just at boiling, turn the heat to low. Slowly add in the cheese, whisking constantly. The cheese may appear to clump at first, but if you keep whisking it will smooth out. Once the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth, add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the hot pasta and stir to coat. There will be a lot of sauce at first, but the consistency will be perfectly creamy once you stir it a bit. Serve hot.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christmas {Un}Mentionables

I promise this is my last post about Christmas, but I just had to share this.

We made many memories this holiday season, but some of the most memorable moments involved comments made by my toddler. As she learned about the things we do to celebrate the holidays she made big efforts to participate. When I planted an amaryllis bulb, she dutifully helped it grow. When we decorated a gingerbread house, she checked daily to be sure that none of the candies had fallen off. And when there were other mishaps with the decorations, she made sure things were fixed as she thought they should be. Her intentions were innocent of course, but it sure came out in a funny way.

While decorating the tree. . .
Toddler: Mommy, here's the snowman.
Me: Oh yeah, isn't it cute?
Toddler: Yeah, but it really needs a hooker. [Editor's note: to hang on the TREE of course!]
Me: [unsure how to respond] What was that?
Toddler: Mommy, I need a hooker for the snowman!

On Christmas morning . . .
Me: OK, now your stocking is all empty.
Toddler: Yep. Now can we put the stockings on the hookers?
Me: Umm...
Toddler: [exasperated that I'm not moving more quickly] Mommy, the stockings need to be on the hookers!

And that's all I have to say about Christmas 2009.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas Edibles

Each year we have the same breakfast menu on Christmas morning. As far as I know my mom started this tradition before I was born, and now I'm continuing it with my family.

Breakfast Menu
Belgian waffles
Fresh strawberries
Freshly whipped cream

As I mentioned before, I wanted to keep things pretty simple on Christmas Day this year. But since we had a few extra guests at our house, I also wanted things to be nice. Planning a dinner menu was a bit of a challenge since we were a mix of vegetarians and carnivores.

Even though the menu would surely be all-vegetarian, I didn't want the meat-eaters to miss the meat too much! Plus, one person is diabetic, and needs to be able to control her carb intake. I was also feeding both adults and toddlers, so I needed at least one dish that was simple enough for a toddler's palette. I ended up making two dishes that could be considered main courses ~ a pasta and a substantial gratin.

Here's the menu in full:

Dinner Menu
Simple hors d'oeuvres ~ Almonds with sea salt / Aged cheddar and crackers / Cream cheese with pepper jelly
Main courses ~ Campanelle with chestnut cream / Gratin of eggplant, zucchini, and chickpeas
Sides ~ Spinach gratin / Green Salad / Rolls with butter
Dessert ~ Chocolate raspberry tart

We devoured the tart, can you tell?

The most interesting thing I made was the chestnut cream because I don't think I've ever even tasted chestnuts before. (Much less cooked with them!) In the end, my favorite dish was the spinach. It tastes rich enough to eat as a spinach dip, but it's also (reasonably) healthy enough for an everyday meal.

Spinach Gratin
Adapted from a spinach tart recipe in Vegetarian, edited by Nicola Graimes
  • 1 pound frozen spinach
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 8 ounces cottage cheese
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2/3 half-and-half or cream
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square pan or similar-sized casserole dish. Put the spinach and onion in a pan, cover and cook slowly until the onions are translucent and the mixture is moist but not watery, approximately 15-20 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Turn the spinach out into a bowl and cool slightly. Add the remaining ingredients and place in the prepared pan. Bake at 400 for 35-40 minutes, or until bubbly and golden around the edges.

I'm happy to share additional recipes ~ just email me!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas Visuals

I'm finally getting around to posting about Christmas. Better late than never!

We usually have an intimate Christmas at our house, joined by a small handful of relatives. This year we had a few more visitors than usual, with a total of 6 adults and 2 children. I did my best to have a few Christmas decorations out, but I always keep it fairly simple.

We had a nice tree with tons of presents underneath...or rather around.

I brightened up my brown tablecloth with some red accents ~ crab apples, of all things! They looked so beautiful and red at the store that I just had to use them for something. So I cut a little slit in the top of each one and used them as placecard holders.

I have a snowflake hole punch, so I added one final red accent by coloring the paper underneath red.

I love making centerpieces using edible components. It's my favorite form of foodplay. Usually I just see what's most beautiful at the store and throw it in a nice dish of some sort. This year I layered cranberries and mixed nuts in a trifle dish. Fun!

By far my favorite Christmas visual from this year was the gingerbread house that my toddler and I decorated. I bought the gingerbread pre-assembled. Then I added red and white icing accents.

And finally my toddler decorated it with candies. She got really into it, and I thought she did a great job.

I was also pretty proud of the candy cane I drew freehand.

Hope your holidays have been filled with nice visuals, too!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Another Holiday, Another Parade

Happy New Year, everyone!

We now have three parades saved on our DVR for my toddler's viewing pleasure. She really loves parades - the music, the costumes, and now the floats! But our favorite part of the Rose Bowl Parade, hands down, were these guys:

You can read about them here.

It turns out that these aren't the only furry creatures we're celebrating today. We decided to start the New Year by adding two new members to our family. We now have two gray tortoiseshell kitties settling in at our house! As soon as they get better acclimated I'll be sure to share pictures.

We found our feline friends on I love this site! But my advice is to view with CAUTION. You just might want to adopt every cuddly friend you see like I did!
Related Posts with Thumbnails

  © Blogger template 'A Click Apart' by 2008

Back to TOP