Thursday, March 31, 2011

Morning drop off

Today's TRDC prompt is about people that get under your skin. This story is fiction. The names are fake and so are the people. 

“Kids......time to go to school!” I say to my three little munchkins.

I throw on my favorite sweater and scarf, and slip into my Uggs. My keys to the Rover are on the counter with my bag.

“Come on everyone! Chloe, Parker, Madison, let’s go. Mommy’s ready.” I shout up the stairs with a little more urgency.

The school is only about 3 blocks away, a quick two-minute walk, but with three kids and daycare the opposite direction it’s just easier for me to drive.

We finally get in the car and get to the school in one minute.

There is always a line of cars in the drop off lane.

The kids are fidgeting in the back. Parker is eyeing Chloe’s lunchbox.

They are so darling. I’m such a lucky girl.

We finally get to the front of the line. Oh good. There is a spot right by the main entrance. I have no idea why everyone pulls all the way to the end of the lane. The kindergarten classrooms are not at that end. Why would I do that?

“Hold on guys, I’ll get the door.” I say to Chloe and Madison.

I take a sip of coffee, unbuckle my seat belt, adjust my yoga top, run my fingers through my long blonde hair for a quick touch up, and step out of the car.

I walk around to the passenger side and open the door. Chloe and Madison hop out. I grab their backpacks and place them on their tiny bodies. We hug. I kiss them on the cheek, give them a little pat on the butt, and off they go.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Whole Family Cookbook

Today I am doing something special. I'm helping promote a cookbook for blogger friend, Michelle Stern.

Her blog is called What's Cooking with Kids. Not to be confused with my What's Cooking blog. She's a chef. I'm a hacker. Her blog is all about teaching kids to eat healthy food by introducing them to locally grown fresh ingredients and then cooking together.

I really admire what Michelle is doing.

She flew to Washington D.C. to campaign for better food for kids in schools.

She's rallying her son's new school to have better food available for all the kids.

She's on a mission to get junk food out of our schools. She knows that eating healthy, yummy foods, makes for healthy happy kids. She's really trying to make a difference.

Here she is with her amazing family at their home. Oh, did I tell you she also lives here in the Bay Area?

The Whole Family Cookbook from Michelle Stern on Vimeo.

Her cookbook is full of delicious recipes the entire family will enjoy and can prepare together.

Here's a preview recipe of what you'll find in the cookbook.

Baked Apple Puff 
(recipe from Michelle Stern, What's Cooking)

5 T butter, divided
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3 T granulated sugar, divided
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/4 t. ground cinnamon, divided
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. flour
2 small crisp apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 450º
1. Melt 2 T butter.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, crack the eggs. Beat lightly. Add the melted butter.
3. Combine milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, vanilla, 1/4 t. ground cinnamon, salt and flour. Add to the eggs. Combine until well blended.
4. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch oven proof skillet. Add the sliced apples and cook until they are golden brown, 5 - 10 minutes.
5. Pour batter over the apples.
6. Combine 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon and stir them together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixer over the batter.
7. Place the skillet into the oven and bake for 15-25 minutes until gently browned and puffed. Do not open the oven door. Or it will deflate!
8. Remove the skillet from the oven. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Ok. So now it's time for me to step into the confessional. Elli and I had a million things going on while I was preparing this recipe. She is trying to finish reading a book called The Westing Game. It has challenging vocabulary. Even for me. I was making dinner. And trying to shoot a video for Whole Foods. So I was a little distracted and somehow in all the chaos I kind of forgot to put the MILK in the batter.

I had already popped the pan in the oven when I noticed that the milk was still sitting on the counter. CRAP! I opened the oven to see if it was too late to mix it in. Yep. The batter was already starting to bake. Too late. Wah.

So I kept an eye on it in the oven. It was golden brown after about 10 minutes.

Guess what? I may have created a new recipe for Michelle. It tastes like an apple crepe and has the same consistency. Not exactly the Puff Pastry she intended. But the flavor is awesome and we gobbled most of it up within 10 minutes.

So imagine how yummy it must be WITH the milk.

I bought a big bag of Fuji apples so we'll definitely try again this weekend when I have a little more time and I'm not so frazzled.

Yum yum.

Ok. Yes, I totally considered lying. I never promised a picture. But that's just not me. It would have been nice if I had another day to remake the darn thing. But of course I waited until the night before my deadline.

The book is available here at Amazon.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Phase 3 bites

I ran up the steps two at a time to get my charger. I left it upstairs and needed it before my computer died.

As I ran into the playroom/office I could hear the humming of the printer. It was shooting out a printout of something. I didn't print anything so I curiously glanced over to see what it was. I was shocked to see page after page of full-color printouts with one word on them. And when I say full-color I mean the entire white page is now red except for one teeny word. Lily.

When I saw all these pages printing it just caused my brain to spasm and I freaked out. Money is tight. The ink in the cartridges is getting low. I've been smacking them against my palm to loosen every bit of ink powder.

I ran downstairs "Ellllllllllli! WHAT are you doing? What are you printing? You're wasting all our ink. What is this?!" I shouted.

Elli just stared at me like I was some sort of psycho mommy and her eyes immediately welled up with tears. "I'm sorry, I just wanted to make a picture for my friends. I'm sorry. I didn't know." she cried back.

"This isn't a picture. It's a name on a piece of white paper that is now covered in red ink!" I blurt back.

She just stared at me frozen, then her head sank.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

For all the single ladies

Ok. So I was reading my friend Lisa's blog Hearts and Logic today and saw a link she had to a website for a guy looking for a wife. She knows him. I trust her judgement. So, if you know any single ladies send them his way. If he marries your lady friend you get ten grand. Nice.

Click here to check out Chas.
Oh, the guy wants kids. So I suppose he's looking for a gal that can still pop out a few munchkins. Which pretty much rules out all the people I know. We're all teetering on the can't-do-that-anymore line. But I bet you know someone. Eh?

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Donut Palace

Today's TRDC prompt was to write a story (fiction or non-fiction) about the picture of the donut. I don't know why, but something about the picture made me imagine I was really tiny and I wanted to climb on the donut! So I wrote it as if I was an ANT. Don't ask. 

Sunday is my favorite day because we get to eat a donut from The Donut Palace.

My dad picks the biggest donut he can find and carefully carries it so none of the frosting or sprinkles fall off. He waits in line with the other dads. Then they all march in unison back to the colony.

Their feet move quickly and with purpose like a silent army.

"They're here!" we all yell.

We see a rainbow of colors. We can barely contain our excitement. This is going to be the best Sunday ever.

The donuts barely hit the ground and we are all over them like flies at a picnic.

"Dad, what's the donut shop like?" I ask with a mouthful. He's told me a thousand times, but I never get tired of hearing it.

"Well, there are huge bags of flour, sugar and sprinkles everywhere." he explains, as he's catching his breath from the long walk home.

"And rows, and rows, and rows of shiny donuts." We are all listening, imagining how amazing that must be. And wondering when we'll be old enough to go.

"Some are chocolate, some are rolled in sugar and some are filled with jelly." he says with a twinkle in his eye.

We feast until our tummies are about to burst and we can't eat any more.

Then my dad makes the most amazing and wonderful announcement.

"We're moving to The Donut Palace." he says.

"Our family is growing. The colony has plenty of workers. I have a lot of hungry mouths to feed. The Donut Palace has a nice garden out front. Fresh flowers for mom. And lots of nooks and crannies for you to play in. I know you'll miss it here. But this is a great opportunity." he says looking around at all of us with loving, concerned eyes.

I pinch myself. This can't be happening.

The next day we arrive at The Donut Palace and see this.

It's like a dream come true. I blink my eyes. It's not a mirage. It's like Mount Olympus. We stand at the base and look up in awe, mouths watering, our tongues licking our lips in anticipation.

We begin the climb. The shiny frosting is like freshly fallen pink snow. Our feet sink in. The sprinkles are like moguls. We trudge up the side until we reach the summit.

This is the best day of my life.

PS. My daughter read the story and asked if we could move to The Donut Palace. Ha. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Schools Rule Marin

Our county has just launched a campaign to help all the schools in Marin survive the massive budget cuts that are being inflicted due to the budget crisis in California. It's called Schools Rule Marin.

The goal is this:
"Together with the communities and businesses of Marin, we can bridge the gap between state funding and what it actually takes to produce happy, well-rounded, well-adjusted little members of society."

Just how much is "the gap" you ask? $55 million. In one county.


Just this morning Don and I just got to watch all the 4th and 5th graders at Elli's school perform dances they learned. The entire dance program is funded by another non-profit group here in Mill Valley called KIDDO! They have been raising money since 1982 to help support Mill Valley Schools. This year they raised $2.2 million dollars. Without Kiddo there would be no arts, dancing, music, poetry, technology, teachers and aides. So many things wouldn't happen.

We have to figure out how to save all California schools.

I'm excited for this new group and look forward to seeing what all these incredibly bright people come up with.

The website and ad campaign are from Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco. Nice work, fellas.

Click here for more info on how you can get involved. Or to donate. Money speaks volumes.

Thank you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Easy Chicken Scallopini with Mushrooms Recipe

I'm tired of all my usual chicken recipes. Tired of eating them and tired of making them. I'm in a chicken rut.

Then I remembered a chicken recipe I used to make when we first got married (ages ago) that Don and I really liked. It had mushrooms in it and gravy. I'm pretty sure we called it chicken and mushrooms. I used to make this a lot. We haven't had it in over 10 years, but I couldn't find the cookbook. So I started searching for something else.

Then Don came in the kitchen and asked me what I was going to make. "I don't know. What do you want?" I said in my most whiny, tired, sad, would-you-cook-dinner voice. I was really hoping he would magically jump in the kitchen and make dinner.

"Remember that chicken recipe you used to make a long time ago with the mushrooms and the gravy? Can you make that?" he asked.

Holy crap. Did he just ask me to make the very same recipe that was rambling around in my head? Have we have been married so long that we're now sharing brain waves? I think so. Scary.

I looked a little harder and found the cookbook. It's called "Chicken" by James McNair. I bought it because we like chicken. And the book was called chicken. And there were nice 4-color pictures with every recipe.

Chicken Scallopini
I laughed when I saw the name of the recipe, Chicken Scallopini. I don't know why we didn't call it by its name. Dorks.

Of course this time I had to improvise a little for ingredients I didn't have. I'll post the recipe for you and note my substitutions.

Chicken Scallopini with Mushrooms
(recipe from James McNair)

6 boned and skinned chicken breast halves
5 T. unsalted butter
5 T. olive oil
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 T chopped shallots (or chopped onion)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream (or milk)
Salt and pepper

1. Pound the chicken breasts to 1/8 inch thick. Reserve. Or, slice the chicken breasts into thin medallions. That's what I did.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons each of the butter and oil in a skillet. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and reserve.
 3. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons each of butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and saute. turning once, until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes total cooking time. (Mine cooked really fast because they were so small.) Remove chicken and reserve.
4. Add the shallots or onion to the pan and cook, scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until tender, about 4 minutes.
5. Add the white wine and chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook until the liquids are reduced by half. Stir in the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms and chicken and simmer to reheat.
*I didn't have white wine so I used 1 cup of chicken broth, and used 1% milk. The sauce needed to be thickened with a teaspoon of cornstarch dissolved in a little milk.

Serve immediately. We like to pair it with fresh steamed vegetables and rice, pasta or potatoes.

Serves 4 to 6.

Enjoy with a nice bottle of merlot or pinot noir.

Click here to purchase James McNair's cookbook in case you're in a chicken rut and want your own copy.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I don't remember what I did to set him off. But he was in a rage. His whole body was tense. His face was beet red, the sandy blond hair askew, the veins on his lean arms stood out. I had to get him out of the house.

It's a blur now, but he left. So I locked every door. The front door, the back door, the garage door all locked. I was safe. I kept a close watch on the windows to see where he had gone.

A loud thundering clap hit the house with a thud. The force was so strong the house rattled and shook from the vibration. And then I heard it again, and again, and again. The banging on the door and the screaming. "Let me in! Open the door! Open the door! aaaaaaaah!" he screamed desperate for the door to magically open so he could come charging in and confront me face-to-face.

He raced around the outside of the house and tried every door. They were all locked. He tried the side door on the garage thinking I would have missed that one. He was wrong.

Finally he couldn't take it anymore. He clenched his fist and punched his hand through one of the little glass panes on the door. It shattered in a million teeny pieces on the garage floor. His knuckles were scraped but he didn't feel anything. He quickly reached his hand through and unlocked the door. He was in. Ha.

He ran through the garage to the door that led into the laundry room. He grabbed the door knob with all his strength and turned it with such force he burned the palm of his hand. It was locked. His elation immediately turned to fuming anger. He was going to get back in the house one way or another.

With clenched fists he started beating on the door like roaring thunder. BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM. "Let me in!" he screamed at the top of his lungs. His 100 pound body slamming the door with all his strength and force as he flung his body and fists into it. Over and over, and over, until the entire door came crashing in to the ground.


He had slammed on it so hard the entire door and frame came crashing into the laundry room like a car hitting the wall at full-force. The door bounced off the linoleum floor and landed in a pile of broken wood with my brother laying on top.

I came running around the corner and was stunned to see him laying on top of the door. Sweating. Red faced. Anger had turned to fear. It was spread across his face.

"What have you done! Mom is going to kill us. We have to fix this NOW!" I shouted in a panic. We had officially crossed the line. We were going to be in so much trouble. My heart started to jump.

We had to fix this. We had to fix this before mom came home. She could not see what we had done. She would kill us. This was bad. Very, very bad. How and why? A broken window? A door off the hinges? We were in serious trouble.

Silently we each ran to get tools. We grabbed hammers, nails, glue, spackle, paint, everything. We could fix it. We had to fix it. Fast. We worked together to patch up our mess. The frame was split. The wallpaper was torn.

We were instantly a team working together. Our eyes locked. No more yelling. No more anger. Our petty argument was history. All was forgiven. We had way bigger problems to deal with now.

"I'm sorry." I said, taking a deep breath. "Me too." he whispered.

TRDC prompt for today was writing about forgiveness.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Erasing memories in Pine Point

Have you ever thought about what happens to a town that has one major industry and that industry gets shut down? You could try to reinvent the town. Or, you could just shut it down and erase it from the map. That's what this town did.

I first saw this video on Dooce back in February and it's kind of haunted me ever since.

When I was young we moved around a lot. My dad was an executive on the fast track which meant we moved for the next opportunity.

We enjoyed going back to visit the old neighborhood to see what our house looked like, and how big the trees had grown. I can't imagine going back and seeing nothing.

Besides the story being interesting. The way they tell the story fascinates me. It's kind of a slide show/video/hit the NEXT button kind of thing. The music is haunting, the pictures will remind you of those your parents probably have laying around in their house, and the cast of characters are in every town.

Watch and tell me what you think.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The big move

"Holy crap. What do you mean they lost the account?" I said stunned.

"They lost it." he said.

"But we already sold the house. I quit my job. Oh my gosh. What are we going to do?" I whined.

"I don't know. We'll figure it out. They still have one piece of the business. Just not the retail portion. It looks like moving to California will be a bigger adventure than we thought." he said.

We were unemployed and homeless. Sort of. He was technically still employed. We just needed to stay positive and hope everything would work out and as we made the big cross country move.

Three months later....

"It's over. We're letting you go. We just don't have enough income from the account to keep you." his boss said.


And then came the big announcement.

"I'm done. I can't do this anymore. I'm done with advertising." he proclaimed.

"Fudge! What do you mean done? Like, you're not going to look for a job kind of done?" I asked.

"I've had it with this business. Everyone is so dispensable. I want to do something else." he said.

"Okkkkkkkkkkkk. What are you going to do?" I asked.

"I don't know." he said, completely defeated. He had spent his entire career in advertising. He had reached a level that offered him great clients and a great salary. Quitting what he knew without a plan scared the crap out of him.

For years we had talked about having our own furniture/design business. We decided it was time to pursue that. I worked on a business plan for months. We went to a trade show in Las Vegas. And then we went and sought advice from an accountant and lawyer.

"You'll be out of money in six months." they said.

Great. Just what we wanted to hear.

This did not deter us. We were too naive.

So we started looking at existing businesses that were for sale. We checked out a store in Healdsburg, a uniform business in San Francisco (don't ask) and an upholstery/interior design store in Napa.

The upholstery business was intriguing. It had been around since 1947 and seemed like something we could grow and expand. Maybe it could become that eco-friendly store we wanted.

Six months later we bought that business. All of a sudden we were operating what is essentially a manufacturing facility of which we know nothing about, with seven employees that all spoke Spanish and very little English.

This was our dream? It was more like a nightmare.

Over the next few years we went through more emotional and financial stress than you can imagine. My husband ran the business. I worked for an advertising agency in San Francisco so we would have steady income and insurance. Challenging doesn't describe what we went through.

Learning to run this business wasn't anything like we expected. It was so much harder on so many levels. We were clueless. The stress and anxiety nearly broke Don. It broke my heart watching him struggle. This did not seem like a good alternative to the volatile advertising business. What had we done?

Fast forward to present day. We survived Don's near-nervous breakdown, the language barrier, and the horrible economy. Our little career zig zag has been the most challenging, eye opening, financial suck that we've ever experienced. Would we do it again? I don't know. We do make really beautiful furniture. But it sure has been hard.

Ask me in a few years after the economy has recovered and I'm employed again.

Pollin's Interiors and Custom Upholstery
Don's Interview in Marin Magazine "Time to Reinvent your life."

**TRDC This week's Red Writing Hood assignment is to write - fiction or non-fiction - about a time when you took a detour. Where had you intended to go and where did you end up?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

White chocolate chunk and coconut cookies

Today is St. Patrick's Day. And I kind of forgot. I'm wearing green because I still feel like some kid in the 6th grade may run up and pinch me any minute. Or my brother. He was good at that. He lives in Germany now. But I can still feel his strong hands pinching my arm on the one day when pinching was allowed.

So today I'm posting a cookie that is not Irish and has nothing to do with a saint or Patrick. Except that every Patrick I know will love this cookie. And since St. Patrick's day is known as feast day I think we're ok. So instead corned beef and cabbage how about a cookie? Or two.

My offer from yesterday is still good too. These cookies could be yours. UPS is ready to deliver.

White Chocolate Chunk and Coconut Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 t. vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
3 c. all purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1/2 bag of white chocolate chips
1 cup shredded coconut, toasted

Preheat oven to 350º

1. Spread coconut on a baking sheet and toast in your toaster oven until lightly browned. Don't burn the coconut!
2. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy.
3. Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla. Beat well.
4. In a separate bowl blend flour, baking soda and salt with a whisk.
5. Gradually add flour mixture to butter until combined.
6. Stir in white chocolate chips and coconut.
7. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
8. Drop by scoop or teaspoon onto your ungreased baking sheet.
9. Bake 10-12 minutes or just until the edges start to brown. They will look a little soft. This is good.

Makes 4 1/2 dozen.

**This cookie got two thumbs up from Don and Elli. And me.**

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Run for the Seals and LLS

Don ran in The Run for the Seals in the Marin Headlands last Sunday as practice for the big half marathon which is May 1st. He did it! He finished. He ran the whole way. Even up the hill which tortured all the runners at the very end. Elli and I were so proud of him.

We waited anxiously at the finish line for our superman to finish. Here he is!!!

Yay, Don!
27th annual Run for the Seals to raise money for the Marine Mammal Center.
View of the ocean from the marine mammal center.
Proof that this was serious business is around 1:30 of the video. Elli and I were concentrating really hard on all the runners looking for Don. I saw the camera guy (only because he walked right in front of me) but he didn't say anything to me or make eye contact so I figured he wasn't filming me. Check out my stern, un-fun face. What a dork. I could have smiled. Duh. Oh well.

But it's not really about me, is it?

Don did awesome. He beat the old lady that he was keeping pace with. Yay. And he feels so much better about tackling the half marathon in May. Sort of. That race is 13 miles. ay caramba.

The first thing he said was "I'll have to do that 3x for the marathon. Uggggggh." 

And then he said "Where's my free t-shirt?" Ya gotta love Don.

This was followed by Elli saying "Where's the party? You said there would be a party and cupcakes. I'm hungry. Let's go." And off she went in search of chocolate.

The Marine Mammal Center hosted the party. Whole Foods donated sandwiches, muffins, scones, bars and cupcakes. Noah's Bagels bought bagels, cream cheese, fruit and drinks. It was all really yummy.
Dons training is going well and he only has about $300 left to raise for the Leukemia Society. Want to donate to help us get closer? We have to raise $2500 or they whip Don with wet towels. Just kidding. About the towel. Not the money. We really, really need the last bit of moola, aka, donations. 'Cuz this blog still isn't rolling in dough and... well, let's not talk about my job status. Let's not go there.

I'll bake you cookies if you donate. Really, I will. Remember, I have some time on my hands these days. My specialties:
  • Snickerdoodles
  • White chocolate chip
  • Chocolate chip
  • Oatmeal
  • Gingersnaps
Leave me a comment with your cookie request.

I have a mandatory appointment at 1:30 today with CA Employment department to learn how to write a resume and look for a job. 'Cuz after all this time as a professional I haven't gained those skills yet. Grrrrr.

I'll need to do something after this sure-to-be-oh-so-fun meeting. I'll set the butter out now in anticipation. And of course wine is chilling, too. Just in case.

ok. Confession time. Just the thought of making cookies sent me straight to the kitchen. So I made up a new recipe: White chocolate and toasted coconut cookies. They are awesome. Elli and Don could not keep their hands out of the cookie dough. And Elli could not stop eating the cookies after they were baked.

I usually make these with macadamia nuts. But they are a little pricey on my penny pincher budget. So I used the shredded coconut I had in the freezer. The cookies are really tasty. I'll post the recipe tomorrow.

They are suuuuuuuuuuper yummy. Interested??????

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tomatoes eleven ways.

I was a fat and happy baby.

The pediatrician asked my mom what she was feeding me. She nervously said she was feeding me formula. And they both looked at this big, fat, chubby baby on the examining table with big blue eyes looking up at them. I was grinning ear to ear.

He then asked my mom how she was diluting it. Because back then the formula came in a concentrated form in a can and you had to dilute it with water.  My poor mom had one of those "Uh oh." moments. "Diluting it?" she asked? "I didn't know I was supposed to dilute it. I just pour it in the bottle." she said. I'm sure the doctor acted very professional but was cracking up inside. He then calmly explained to my nervous mom that by not diluting it she was essentially feeding me heavy cream. No wonder I was so fat and happy!

I went on my first diet when I was about five months old.

this is me at 5 months
Needless to say, the new diluted-formula-diet trimmed my chunky body immediately.

I don't think I was really digging this new formula though. I was hungry. So I started grabbing food off the kitchen table and eating it - including tomatoes. There must not have been any bread and butter within reach.

I can picture how my mom would have reacted as she turned around and saw me stuffing my face with a tomato. Especially after being scolded by the pediatrician. I would bet anything she immediately grabbed the Dr. Spock book to see if tomatoes were ok for babies.

In the meantime, I sat in my little wooden high chair, with the spindle columns, and my pudgy little fingers were grabbing tomatoes and stuffing them in. Imagine how fun it must have been smashing juicy tomatoes on the tray of my high chair, sucking the juice, and gumming the meaty flesh with juice running down my face and my fat little arms. (I know saying "flesh" sounds a bit creepy and weird like something out of an Anthony Hopkins movie. But that's what it's called, right?)

Tomatoes are still one of my very favorite vegetables. I know it's technically a fruit, but to me it's a vegetable. Here are my top ten 11 favorite ways to eat a tomato.

#11 Spicy Bloody Mary. Cheers!
#10 Mediterranean Herb Dip with sun-dried tomatoes
#9 Vodka Sauce over lobster ravioli
#10 Roasted plum tomatoes served with a steak
#7 Homemade Salsa with fresh tomatoes, cilantro and lime
#6 Creamy tomato soup with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich
#5 Homemade pasta sauce with turkey meatballs
#4 Caprese Salad with fresh mozzarrella and basil
#3 Heirloom tomato salad with basil vinaigrette
#2 BLT on sourdough toast
#1 Cherry tomatoes right off the vine (or straight out of the carton)

What's your favorite?

Sorry for the lameness of the TRDC post. I was having an off day. It happens. Today's topic: tell us about your favorite fruit or vegetable. I have so many favorites I had a hard time deciding. I settled on the tomato. I could easily have written about corn, or strawberries, or raspberries, or apples, or potatoes. I was so hung up on picking the perfect one it totally ruined the moment for me. Oh well.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

This just in....I like Butterscotch pudding

Thank you to P&G’s Have You Tried This Yet? program and Kroger for sponsoring my writing about trying new things and breaking out of my everyday routine. Click here to find great savings on high-performing P&G products at a Kroger store near you. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Let's talk about pudding. Butterscotch pudding to be more specific.

I have had a thing about butterscotch for years. And it's not a good thing. I haven't touched a butterscotch candy since about 1978.

My grandma Madge used to keep a tin of hard candies in her Buick. These candies would sit in the tin on the little ledge behind the back seat baking in the hot Florida sun. The entire car smelled like butterscotch.

I'm prone to getting car sick. So riding in the back of that Buick smelling those candies and her perfume just about did me in. It was a nauseating smell. Now don't get me wrong, I loved my grandmother. She had a passion for cooking and baking just like me. It was the car and candies I disliked.

The totally ironic thing is that in 1989 I GOT THAT CAR. And it still smelled the EXACT SAME. Only worse. Much, much worse. But we'll save that story for another time.

So a few years ago we were in a fancy schmancy restaurant here. Butterscotch pudding was on the menu for dessert. Ick. No way am I getting that. Blech.

We asked the waiter what he recommended for dessert. "Hands down, the butterscotch pudding. It's the most popular dessert here." he said, full of butterscotch spirit.

"Are you kidding me? Really? Ugh." was my response. I hate butterscotch.

"It's really delicious, you should try it. I guarantee you'll like it." he said.

"Ok. Bring it on. Let's give it a try." I said.

A few minutes later he brought over the most beautiful little dish of pudding which was topped with a dollop of whipped cream. It was so good. It did not taste like the candy I remembered at all. It was creamy and yummy. We practically licked the bowl clean. And I have been thinking about it ever since. Not everyday. But I do think of it from time to time. (I have food on the brain 24-7.)

So today I am flipping through the February issue of Marin Magazine and guess what? They have a feature on Scott Howard, a local chef, and his favorite dessert recipe....Butterscotch Pudding. Ha!

So now I have to run to the store and buy butterscotch chips. And heavy cream. And eggs. And a vanilla bean. Pretty much everything but the 1/8 cup of sugar. Buh bye.

Here's the recipe in case you want to try it too.

Butterscotch Pudding (picture from Marin Magazine)

Butterscotch Pudding
(from chef Scott Howard, Brick & Bottle restaurant)

6 egg yolks
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
5 ounces butterscotch chips
Whipped cream topping (Homemade or canned. You decide.)

1. Split and scrape vanilla bean into a sauce pot with the cream and bring to a simmer.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar and whisk until blended. Yolks should be lightly pale.
3. Slowly ladle 1/4 cup of the hot cream into the yolks to temper them, then pour the yolk mixture into the remaining cream in the sauce pot. Using a rubber spatula, stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes.
4. Place butterscotch chips in a large mixing bowl and pour the hot liquid over the chips and whisk until the chips are completely melted.
5. Portion into ramekins.
6. Refrigerate until fully chilled and set, approximately 3-4 hours.

Serves 2- 6

Cheesy Crackers and new Trés Chic wine from Spain

We're still out of crackers here. So when I saw the recipe on Smitten Kitchen for Goldfish crackers I had to make them immediately. I seriously read the recipe and headed straight for the kitchen.

I dug through Elli's collection of mini cookie cutters hoping I would find a mini fish. I didn't. So the little heart cutter was going to have to work. Because I seriously wanted to make them right then.

The crackers are light, and cheesy and addicting.

Whole-Wheat Goldfish Crackers
(from Smitten Kitchen)

1 1/2 c. sharp cheddar cheese grated
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. onion powder
1/4 t. salt
cayenne pepper (optional)
onion salt (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350º
2. Mix all ingredients in a food processor for about 2 minutes until the dough forms a ball. I added a few shakes of cayenne pepper to give them a little kick. This is optional.
3. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8" thick.
4. Use mini cookie cutters about 1" in size.
5. Sprinkle a little garlic salt on top before baking (also optional.)
6.. Baked on an ungreased parchment lined cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes.
7. Store in an airtight container.
8. Share with your kids, or not.  We enjoyed them with a glass of wine.
Makes about 100 little crackers.

The recipe is really simple to make. You could definitely do this with your kids. Don thought it was a lot of trouble for goldfish crackers. I don't know what he's talking about. He didn't do anything but eat them. If I want to make goldfish crackers than I can. And I will. What does he care?

Now let's talk about the happy juice. You didn't you think I forgot about the wine did 'ya? Ha.

We tried a few new wines from Trader Joe's. These are really inexpensive, as in less than five bucks. Normally I wouldn't even buy these wines because they're too cheap. But I got an email from Louis,  the producer, in SPAIN. So I had to try them. Yes, SPAIN! He found me. Sweet!

And you won't believe this. One of the wines, the cheapest of the cheap, was tasted by Robert Parker, Jr. and got 86 PTS. Here's what he, and the Wine Advocate, had to say.
"The least expensive wine to be recommended in these pages in close to 30 years, the 2009 La Granja Tempranillo is a 100,000 case cuvee made at a cooperative in Cariñena. Dark ruby colored, it offers up a nose of red cherry accompanied by a whiff of incense. Sweet, ripe, and tasty on the palate, this nicely balanced effort will deliver uncomplicated, straight-ahead pleasure over the next 2-3 years."
Now, I'm not sure people will actually cellar this wine for a few years. But it's definitely worth grabbing a case and throwing it in the hall closet (err, cellar.) Come on, it's $47.88 for a case. Ha! That's just a little more than those darn kabobs. And twelve times the fun.

I love making new friends. Especially friends that make yummy wine and live in Spain. I'm not sure I would have tried this if I hadn't heard from Louis. So gracias!!

2009 Tempranillo, $3.99, 86 PTS Robert Parker, Jr.
2009 Syrah $4.99
2009 Tempranillo Garnacha $4.99

Here's are two more reviews I found for the Syrah and The Tempranillo Garnacha. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The sweet smells of my life

The house is quiet. I have the kitchen to myself. I'm relaxed, and my mind is clear and uncluttered. It's early Saturday morning and everyone is still asleep.

I get the coffee brewing. The smell of coffee gets my senses going. Then I start pulling ingredients.

I already know what I'm going to bake. I've been thinking about it and smelling the sweet smells of cake in my head all night.

I gently sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and the other dry ingredients. Butter and sugar are creamed together in my mixer. I gently toss the blueberries in flour. The cinnamon and sugar mix is gently stirred while the oven is preheating.

I quietly mix everything together. I don't want to wake everyone up.

The pan is greased. The batter is gently folded in. And in the oven it goes.

I sit down with my coffee and enjoy the taste of freshly ground beans as I sit in the dark in our living room.The sun is starting to glow. I love morning.

The house is so quiet. I can hear birds chirping, and the wind gently blowing.

The smell of cinnamon and butter starts permeating the air. I just sit and enjoy the silence.

The sweet smell of cake has made its way upstairs. I hear little footsteps in the hall above. Then the sound of stairs creaking and feet skipping down the stairs.

"Hi mom! Something smells good. Is it Blueberry Boy Bait?" she asks as she climbs into my lap with her favorite blankie. Her legs curl up on the chair and her head rests on my arm. Her hair smells sweet and flowery like a rose.

"Yep. Smells good doesn't it?" I say, happy that she still likes to snuggle even though she's nine and getting more and more mature every day. She's still my little monkey.

"I love you, mommy." she whispers.

"I love you too, peanut." I whisper back and give her a gentle squeeze.

We sit for a while in the dark quietly chatting about nothing until the timer goes off. Then we're off to the kitchen.

Lights are turned on. The dogs run downstairs with a thundering roar. The hubby gets up. Cartoons start playing on the tv. The fridge is opened and closed. Cabinets slam. Email is checked. The phone starts ringing.....

Ahhhhhh. Here we go.

Click here for the Blueberry Boy Bait recipe.

**This post was inspired by The Red Dress Club. Imagine you are meeting someone for the first time. You want to tell them about you. But instead of telling them a laundry list of things you show them a scene from your life that best illustrates your true self. Click here if you would like to learn more about TRDC.

Monday, March 7, 2011


What do you do after a job interview? I bake these.

Blondies with chocolate chips, toasted coconut and nuts
I had an interview in San Francisco last week. It went ok. Definitely could have gone better. No fault of mine. Just not a perfect fit experience-wise. That happens. But I was still kind of bummed.

A few things crossed my mind as I was pulling away. The first was shopping. The second was eating (it was lunch time). And then I thought of shopping again. One of my favorite stores in San Francisco is Isda & Co. and it wasn't far from where I was. The Ferry Building with the Blue Bottle Coffee store was also close by. But shopping isn't what an unemployed person should be doing. So I went home before I did something I would regret. 

I made myself a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich and looked up recipes on Smitten Kitchen to find something to bake. I always love her stuff.

The Blondies recipe was just what I was looking for because it is flexible. And flexible (or adaptable) is the name of the game around here.

These bars are moist, slightly gooey, with a crisp top. I asked Don what he thought and he asked me to please stop making them that he's trying to lose weight and he can't stop eating them. Ooops.

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

8 T. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla)
Pinch of salt
1 c. flour
Mix in 1/2 - 1 cup of chocolate chips, nuts, or dried fruit.

I mixed in:
1/2 c. coconut toasted
1/4 c. chocolate chips
1/4 c. chopped nuts toasted (macadamia and almond)

1. Butter an 8 x 8 pan. Preheat oven to 350º
2. Mix melted butter with the brown sugars. Beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla.
3. Add salt. Stir in flour. Mix in your additions.
4. Pour in to prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until set in the middle. Less is more. Cool completely before cutting.
5. You can easily double this recipe.
6. Store in an airtight container for three days. (That's how long ours lasted.)

What's next? Homemade goldfish crackers. Yup. Ya gotta love Deb from Smitten Kitchen. Oh, and some new cheap wines. happy dance, happy dance....

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Underwater Freakout

It's The Red Dress Club Friday. Today's topic is WATER. Check out my post on my newly created TRDC tab. Go. Then come back here to get the recipe for the soup. Buh-bye.

Wonton Noodle Soup

You won't believe this, but I actually Googled "What to do with a big pot of chicken stock."

I have a kitchen full of cookbooks and I couldn't think of anything to do with this giant pot of stock other than 1) put it in jars and freeze it 2) make chicken noodle soup. I have no room in my freezer for jars of stock and I wasn't in the mood for traditional chicken noodle soup.

I stood there for a while thinking. What can I make.....tap....tap.....tap......

Then it suddenly hit me. Chinese soup. That's what I want. Wonton soup. I thought to myself that has to be the easiest soup on the planet to make, right? But I don't know how to make it. Recipe. I need a recipe. Only I would need a recipe for the easiest soup on the planet.

I have a cookbook YAN CAN COOK. So I looked up Wonton Soup and it takes like 4 ingredients. Bingo! All I needed was chicken broth, sesame oil, frozen wontons, and rice noodles. And I have all that stuff in the kitchen. PERFECT!

It tasted great the first night. It was hot and spicy and filling with the wontons and noodles. The wonton filling gave the soup nice additional flavor as you bit into the wonton.

Soup on day one.

But on night two Don suggested we should add some vegetables. So we stopped at the store on the way home and picked up this.

Added this for day two.
It definitely added more flavor and nutrients. Honestly, though? I kind of liked it better the first night. Maybe it's because we also added purple cabbage (not shown) which turned the soup a lovely shade of gray.

Wonton Noodle Soup
(adapted from Yan Can Cook)

Big pot of homemade Chicken Stock (or 6 cups of low-sodium canned)
Wontons (3 per person)
Rice noodles (1/2 box for four people)
Salt and pepper
1/2 - 1  t. Sesame oil
Vegetables (your choice, bok choy, carrots, green onion, mushrooms, etc.)

1. Heat chicken stock in a large pot
2. While stock is heating cook rice noodles according to package instructions. Rinse when cooked and divide among soup bowls.
3. Add sesame oil to the stock. And salt and pepper to taste.
4. Once stock is boiling, drop in wontons. They are ready when they float to the top.

Day two additions:
1. Roughly chop a handful of carrots, mushrooms and a shallot and sautee them in a large pot with a teaspoon of evoo. Once the vegetables are soft, add the stock and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 10 minutes. Add the baby bok choy and a handful of chopped purple cabbage and the wontons and cook until the wontons rise to the top.

Serves six as an entree.

PS. Check out my new post on the TRDC tab. Thanks!