biotin hair growth


Food Friday: Strawberries and Cream Mini Muffins

Posted by | FOOD | 6 Comments

I am sorry it has taken me so long to post this! I made these muffins for Meera’s birthday party (there was a photo of them in this post – click). Several people have requested the recipe, I had promised I’d post it, and I’m finally getting to it. These muffins are the most delicious, moist berry muffins I’ve ever made. For the past couple of years I’ve been searching for a good strawberry muffin recipe to make around Meera’s birthday, and have tried several recipes for strawberry muffins… finally I found a real keeper! Try these and you’ll see what I mean!

a b


(a Nigella Lawson Recipe) 

Makes 24 muffins


1 cup strawberries, slightly under-ripe, diced into quarter-inch pieces
1 squeeze of lemon juice
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 tsp. powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400. Line a 24-cup mini-muffin tin with paper baking cups.
2. Put diced strawberries into a bowl, spritz lemon juice on them and stir gently to combine.
3. In a medium-size bowl, stir together flour, sugar and baking powder.
4. In a small bowl, beat together oil, sour cream, vanilla and egg. Pour mixture over dry ingredients, stirring to combine with a wooden spoon. Fold in strawberries.
5. Divide batter evenly among the paper cups in the mini-muffin tin. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
6. Place tin on a wire rack and leave for 5 minutes. Take out the muffins and continue cooling them in the paper cups on the wire rack. When muffins are completely cool, place the powdered sugar in a small sieve. Shake sieve lightly to dust the muffins with sugar. Serve.

By Request: MorMor’s Swedish Butterhorns!

Posted by | FOOD | 6 Comments

by Guest Blogger MORMOR!

MorMor’s Swedish Butterhorns

It wouldn’t be Christmas without Swedish Butterhorns on Christmas morning. Because they love them so much I am always tempted to make them especially for Kyle, Owen and Braydon the minute they arrive for the holiday but I make everyone wait until Christmas morning and boy are they worth the wait! Like Heather said the kids stop opening presents when I announce they are out of the oven!!

I got this recipe from a Swedish friend’s mom Ellen Benson who lived in Manchester, CT in the early 80’s.

Part 1

1 ¼ cup hot milk

1 ½ cups butter

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs (well beaten)

2 yeast cakes

5 cups sifted flour

10-12 cardamom seeds (crushed fine)

Melt butter in hot milk. Add sugar. When almost cool add beaten eggs. Mix flour and cardamom, salt and yeast and add. (I mix yeast in a small amount of warm milk and add to the rest of the milk – dry or regular yeast may be used).

Beat this mixture WELL – hand will get tired! (I use an electric mixer with the bread hook.) Now cover in large greased bowl (enough for rising of dough).

Put foil over and refrigerate overnight.

Part 2

In the morning remove dough from bowl and put on floured board. Do not knead. Roll into a round ball. Now divide ball into 4 parts. Roll out each part into a 9-inch circle (I use a rolling pin). Now cut circle in half – cut in quarters and cut 3-4 wedges in each quarter – as you would cut a pie. Now roll dough – fat end first and top will have a small peak. Brush with beaten egg and place on a buttered cookie sheet. Cover dough and rise 1 hour.

Bake 15-20 minutes in 350 oven. Remove Butterhorns to wire racks and spread on the topping.


Confectioners sugar

Dash of salt



I don’t measure topping – just get it to a spreading consistency – not very thick.


1  2

3 4

Spinach Salad with Warm Squash

Posted by | FOOD | One Comment



(Shalinee and I are not posting for The Swap this week; the week was just too overwhelming — we were both sick, K & O started their first week of their new school, we’re at the end of the semester at Lehigh [a crazy time of year for professors], there were minor crises of all varieties happening in our lives, etc. — we just never got it together to do Swap. So…instead I’m posting this!)

Spinach Salad with Warm Squash, Goat Cheese, and Glazed Pecans

This is our Current Favorite Salad for Fall/Winter! Seriously, it is so good! Braydon even says that it is the best salad he’s ever had in his entire life. No kidding! And I make a lot of fancy salads… so that is really saying a lot! A couple of years ago I was out to lunch at a pretty nice restaurant for a work meeting one day. I ordered a salad off the menu that was described as “Warm Spinach Salad with Winter Squash.” It turned out to be an absolutely fabulous salad. I can remember thinking, “Wow! This is probably one of the best salads I’ve ever had, and it would be even better with goat cheese!” I’ve remembered that salad ever since. Recently I was back at that restaurant for another lunch meeting. I had been so excited to order that salad again, but it turned out they had taken it off the menu. I became determined to re-create the salad at home, but with some of my own twists to make it substantial enough as a stand-alone dinner salad. For K, O, and M – at least at this point – a salad, no matter how substantial, is really not enough for dinner. So, for them I’ll make some sort of simple pasta to serve with this salad. But for Braydon and I, this salad can 100% hold its own as a salad worthy of dinner. With a glass of wine and a crusty baguette… seriously… it is so good! Try it!

First, flash-roast some butternut squash. You can buy a squash and dice it up… or, to make things super simple (like I do!), you can buy a container of pre-skinned, pre-diced fresh butternut squash in the produce section. I dump that container out onto a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle with just a tiny bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for about 10 minutes (or until soft and caramelizing) at 450.

squash While the squash is cooking, whip up some balsamic vinaigrette. Wisk 1/3 portion balsamic vinegar with 2/3 portion olive oil (i.e., if you’re going to make about a cup of dressing, use 1/3 cups of vinegar and 2/3 cup oil — more or less depending on how much dressing you want to have). Add salt and pepper to taste.

vinagrette The only other things you need are: red onion (thinly sliced), goat cheese (crumbled), and some glazed pecans. You can make your own glazed pecans really easily by placing pecans, sugar, and cinnamon in a dry pan and cooking on the stove over med-high heat. I have done this many, many times. Stored in an air-tight container they will keep for a long time. However, you can also buy glazed pecans (of all sorts of varieties) in the grocery store. Recently we tried “Pecan Pie” flavored, and they were awesome (and went incredibly well in this salad)!

cheese and nuts When the squash is cooked, place it immediately on a bed of fresh spinach. It will start to wilt some of the spinach, which is a good thing! Add the other ingredients, toss with the vinaigrette, and dig in. You’ll think you’ve gone to Fall-Winter-Salad-Heaven. DE-LISH!

Getting Young Kids to Eat Fruits & Veggies

Posted by | FOOD | 11 Comments


This post has been a long time coming. Over the past few years of blogging I’ve had lots and lots of people ask me, “How on earth do you get your kids to eat all those fruits and vegetables?” I hate the thought of sounding like a preachy-know-it-all-Mommy-Blogger, so I’ve put off posting my answer to that. But, at the risk of sounding like a preachy-know-it-all-Mommy-Blogger, here goes—My attempt at a Top 10 List of Our Secrets for Getting Young Kids to Eat Lots of Fruits and Veggies.

  1. Start them young. We were letting all three of our kids gnaw on fresh fruit and veggies at very young ages. People worry about choking hazards, and rightfully so, but –whenever safely humanly possible— we have tried to let our bambinos eat the real deal as early as it can possibly be introduced. We are big believers in the baby fruit net (here is the one we always used, but there are tons on the market), and we used it early and often for all sorts of fruits and vegetables.
  2. Raw & fresh. We have always conscientiously worked hard to provide fruits and veggies raw and fresh. That means a lot of time spent cutting and chopping (major hassle), and it also means very high weekly grocery bills (seriously painful!), but it is worth it if it is at all possible (so sadly, and unfortunately, definitely not possible for many families to shell out the required cash; we are grateful that we can prioritize healthy food in this way).
  3. Eat fruits & veggies in their presence. Young kids mimic us, so we need to model for them. Braydon and I are big on fresh, raw fruits and veggies ourselves, and our kids see us eating it. This is hugely important because they want to do what we’re doing and eat what we’re eating. Fruits and veggies need to be a family affair!
  4. Make it finger-food/bite-sized. Chop it and slice it and dice it to make it easy to pop in the mouth. This is key as key can be. It is amazing how quickly platters of fruit and veggies will disappear around here if it is “cut” instead of “big” (as K, O, and M call it).
  5. Make it look good. If we handed them a pear, a banana, and a bunch of blueberries, it just wouldn’t be the same as presenting them with a platter that looks like the picture above (top of post). Braydon and I try to have some fun with this when we can make the time to do it (the photo is a platter that Braydon created one day). I think kids know when we’ve put some heart and soul into things. They appreciate it at some level. And they like it. We’ve been doing beautiful fruit and veggie platters for our kids since they were tiny toddlers. They love it. And don’t we (as adults) too? If it is pretty and colorful it seems a lot more appealing than it otherwise might be.
  6. Dips. We are big into dips, especially for veggies. And by “dips” around here, we’re generally referring to store-bought salad dressings. Ranch and Thousand Island are favorites for our three. Vinaigrettes too. They also love yogurt for dipping with fruit. And then, of course there is…
  7. Hummus. And other extras. Such as cheese, crackers, chips & salsa, nuts, etc. to go with a nice spread of fruits and veggies. These things mix it up, make fruits and veggies more fun, and add some breadth and depth and texture… and some good old fashioned protein. A bunch of baby carrots is one thing. A bunch of baby carrots with a nice little bowl of hummus to dip them in is another.
  8. Fruits & Veggies as “Appetizers.” We are big on the fruit and/or veggie platter as an “hors d’oeuvres.” While I’m making dinner we’ll often put a platter on the counter and the bambinos will go to town! They are hungry, they’re waiting for supper, and before you know it, the fruits and veggies are devoured. This does a couple of things: for one, it gets them to eat fruits and veggies right up front, and it also means that I don’t need to worry as much about serving a salad or vegetable with the meal.
  9. Buy it in bulk. I know this might sound crazy, but I’ve found that the best produce is at our bulk-club-store (you know… BJ’s, Costco, Sam’s, etc.). Seriously, believe it or not, that’s where I consistently find the best-quality, freshest, best-priced fruits and veggies. And when you’re eating as much of it as we are, buying it in bulk is a great way to go.
  10. Be as calm, cool, and collected about it as possible. I don’t think I’ve ever put fruits and veggies in front of my kids and said, “EAT IT!” I just act very laid-back about it from beginning to end. I put it out, without saying much about it, and then when it disappears I don’t say much about it either. There’s no big fanfare when they eat it, or when they don’t. I swear, this –playing it cool— is the most important trick in the book. Our approach has been sort of the polar opposite of the “sneak it in”-“hide-it-in-something-they’ll-eat” approach; rather than sneak fruits and veggies in to other things, we’ve been right up front about it from the start. We don’t make a big thing over how “healthy” or “good” fruits and veggies are; rather, we simply give it to them, without batting an eye, as if it were perfectly normal for a 2-year-old to eat raw broccoli and celery sticks. They don’t know otherwise… so they don’t know that, for example, kids are “supposed” to hate peas. And by the time they realize that… it is too late (because they already like peas).

What are your tips and tricks?

1 2 3

4 5 6

7 8 9

10 11 12

13 14 15

16 17 18

My Cousin Karen’s Salad

Posted by | FOOD, THE SWAP | 5 Comments


Since Shalinee and I didn’t Swap this week, I thought I’d share one of my favorite salads. I can’t use this salad for The Swap because it involves almonds (we have a No Nuts rule because Shalinee’s son, Alex, is allergic to nuts/seeds), but I’m sure that Shalinee would love it. This is based on a recipe for a salad that my cousin Karen used to make. It is no coincidence that I’m posting about this salad now; this time of year I’m thinking lots of my cousins Karen and Eric. Karen was a regular reader of the blog, and she would have gotten a big kick out of seeing this recipe posted here! [[[Love up to you Karen!]]] Anyway, last weekend I made a double batch of the dressing and the almonds (the key ingredients), and we’ve been eating variations of this salad all week. It is great with just about any dinner, and I love it packed for lunch at work. Karen’s friends have told me that she was “famous” for this salad – that she’d bring it to pot-lucks all the time, and that it got to the point where they were begging her to bring it whenever they’d have get-togethers. I can understand why. I can’t imagine that anyone wouldn’t like this. Try it—  you’ll see!

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp orange juice concentrate
sugar to taste (I use about 3 Tbsp)

Place all ingredients in a jar. Shake until combined. Store in fridge.
1 bag of sliced almonds (1 2/3 cups bag)
1 cup sugar

Put almonds and sugar in a dry pan on stove over medium-high heat. Watch carefully, stirring regularly, until sugar starts to melt. When sugar and almonds start to caramelize stir constantly so as to avoid burning. Keep stirring until almonds are toasted brown and coated evenly with caramelized sugar. Remove from pan by pouring out into a thin layer onto tin foil. Let cool. When totally cool, break up any pieces that might be stuck together. Store in air-tight container.
baby mesclun greens, romaine, or whatever you like
any combination of the following: dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, fresh strawberries, red onion, crumbled goat cheese, and/or any of your favorite salad toppings.
Toss together with dressing and almonds, to taste. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired.

I am a very seasonal food person; I like to eat and cook with the seasons. So, there are very few things that I make for our family all year long. This salad is one of the rare few. Karen’s original recipe called for simply greens, dried cranberries, and mandarin oranges (and the almonds and dressing, of course). It is great that way and that is how I make it during late fall, winter, and early spring. K, O, and M love mandarin oranges, so that helps make this salad always a big hit with them! During those seasons I love to serve this salad with a side of baked brie and crusty French bread (few things are as superb of a combo as toasted almonds and baked brie!!!). My favorite variation, however, is with greens, fresh strawberries, and goat cheese (there is something outrageously good about the candied almonds and goat cheese combo contrasted with the brightness of the fresh strawberries). So, as long as I can get relatively decent and relatively cheap strawberries (which I can, pretty much, during late spring, summer, and early fall), I make it with strawberries and goat cheese. From time to time – regardless of season – I’ll add thinly sliced red onion. This is a really easy and delicious salad, nice enough to serve to guests or to accompany a nice dinner. Simple enough to toss together on a weekday for lunch or dinner (especially if the dressing and almonds have been made in advance). And because it is easy-to-assemble, it is also my go-to salad for pot-lucks, picnics, or for including with a dropped-off dinner (for a family with a new baby, etc.). Try it! You’ll love it!

Food Friday: Mrs. Peterson’s Cheesecake

Posted by | FOOD | 4 Comments

This was our dessert for our Back To School Dinner 2010. Seriously, if anyone you love likes cheesecake at all, you must make this for them ASAP. It is, truly, the world’s best cheesecake.

Braydon loves cheesecake and often requests it for his birthday “cake.” But we didn’t fully realize how much K & O love cheesecake until our recent trip to Atlanta. Our first day there, we stepped into a little cafe to get a snack (the boys need a “snack” at least every two hours that they are awake — no kidding). Braydon and I were surprised when, amongst many, many, possible items they both chose a slice of plain cheesecake. We were then shocked at the speed with which they devoured it. That set them on an Atlanta cheesecake kick. We soon realized that we could get amazing cheesecake via take-out or room-service from the Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse that was located in the lobby of our hotel. Have you ever tried the cheesecake from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse? We never had before our Atlanta trip, but let me tell you, it is incredible. Hands down, it is the best cheesecake I’ve ever had— with one exception: Mrs. Peterson’s Cheesecake.

I had a pretty unique childhood, growing up at a camp that my parents ran. As a result, throughout my childhood I came into contact with many fabulous people. Mrs. Peterson is one of the most fabulous of the fabulous. I have incredible memories of her… like how she’d bring my sister and I big bags full of penny candy every time she’d show up in New Hampshire after her long drive up from Connecticut… or like how she’d welcome us into her home, as if we were family, to make korv before Christmas… or — and this is perhaps my most vivid memory of her — how, as a kid, I’d always know that Mrs. Peterson had come to camp when I’d open the refrigerator in our cottage kitchen to find two gorgeous, thick cheesecakes, wrapped tightly in saran wrap, just sitting there for our family. I’d know better than to cut into them, but I’d carefully peel up a tiny part of the saran wrap in order to try to dab a finger in and take a little taste. Even a tiny morsel was like eating pure melt-in-your-mouth heaven. Mrs. Peterson knew that my dad loved cheesecake, and she’d make him two of them at least once a summer. She’d make them in Connecticut and then transport them all the way to our cottage kitchen. I can remember, very well, how that loving and thoughtful gesture made me feel: really good. I loved that she did it for my dad — and I loved that she did it for my family — and I loved that she made not just one, but two (!) of these cheesecakes — and I loved those summer nights when we’d get to steal a moment together hidden away in the back of the cottage eating that special, special cheesecake. I have lots of other memories of Mrs. Peterson too. And to this day she’s like a grandmother to me (and like a great-grandmother to my bambinos). There are just some people in this world who are really, really special.

After I graduated from college and was living on my own, I found the recipe for Mrs. Peterson’s Cheesecake in a little box of recipes given to me by my mom. It was years before I became unintimidated enough in the kitchen to try it. The first time I got the guts up to make it was for one of Braydon’s birthdays (can’t remember which one). It was a labor of love (at the time this recipe seemed really complicated; now it seems really easy — funny how that is!). But I did it. I think I wanted to make him cheesecake from scratch for two reasons: 1) I knew how much he loved cheesecake and knew this one was the best cheesecake on the planet, and — more importantly — 2) Braydon was the love of my life and I wanted him to feel really good.

Here’s the recipe– make is soon for someone you love!

* * *

Mrs. Peterson’s Cheesecake

1 cup finely crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup medium coarse walnuts
1/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs
9 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup + 5 Tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 pint sour cream

Mix crumbs, melted butter, and nuts. Reserve about 2 Tbs of the mixture and set aside until later. Press the rest evenly over bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate to form a crust. Bake at 375 for 5 minutes. Remove. Beat eggs ’till thick and lemon colored. Set aside. Without washing beater, beat cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Add eggs and beat until blended. Pour into crust and return to oven at 325 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Stir together the sour cream, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 5 Tb sugar. Spread over the slightly cooled pie. Return to oven at 325 for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture on the top. This cheesecake is best when left overnight in the refrigerator. Serves at least 8 (it is very rich!).

P.S. Mrs. Peterson has long been one of our most loyal blog readers. So, I’m sure she’ll be surprised when she finds this post on her computer screen! If you try this cheesecake and love it, then you can give all your thanks to her– here in the comments to this post! :)

Back To School Dinner 2010

Posted by | FOOD | No Comments

first day dinner ky's plate

dessert plate dessert


Fancy Macaroni & Cheese

Make-Your-Own Salad, Favorite French Dressing

Papi’s From-Scratch-Sourdough Bread

and for dessert~~

Mrs. Peterson’s Cheesecake* & Fresh Strawberries

— — —

Tomorrow is the first day back for Kyle and Owen. They could not possibly be more excited than they are to get back to school. We’ve been trying to prepare Meera for what lies ahead… she is going to terribly miss her brothers being home. In what seemed to be an act of revolt and rebellion against the inevitable (K & O getting on that bus tomorrow morning and leaving her all to her lonesome), she insisted on finger-painting with her cheesecake this evening. To appease her, I promised her more crafts while her brothers are at school in the coming months.

Meera's dessert

And so… another school year is upon us. Back to the grind of getting up early, catching the bus on time, making lunches, etc., etc., etc. Summer is no longer. Fall is officially here. And so we go, jumping headfirst into a new school year. Anxiously anticipating all that is to come, but loaded with great memories of the lazy, hazy days of summer. So long summer! See you next year!

Hello Fall!


For our last year’s Back To School Dinner post: click here

*recipe for the best cheesecake ever (and believe me, you want to make this) coming Friday!

Food Friday: K & O Grocery Shop!

Posted by | BAMBINOS, FOOD | 9 Comments

Owen & Kyle Grocery Shopping, July 2010

I’ve been taking these boys grocery shopping with me for the past (almost) six years. Don’t get me wrong— it is also true that for the past (almost) six years I have actively and aggressively AVOIDED taking these boys grocery shopping with me. There have been phases — long phases — (honestly, much of the past six years) — where I would do pretty much anything to get to the grocery store without them.   The fact is, they have been more than two handfuls in the grocery store. Anyone who has ever tried to do serious grocery shopping with rambunctious and precocious and super-self-confident and active and curious and mischievous and spirited twin boys under the age of six knows what I’m talking about: it is nearly impossible. I have, on many more than one occasion, broken down crying in the middle of the supermarket. The occasions that I’ve gotten through unfazed have been extraordinarily rare. They want to do everything, touch everything, push the cart, get in the cart, get out of the cart, slam the cart into anything physically possible to slam it into. They talk to everyone they see. They have a zillion questions about everything. They are fascinated with the lobsters (seafood department); they are obsessed with asking for cookies (bakery department); they are fixated on the music-playing-greeting-cards; and they are enamored with those weigh-your-own-and-sticker-your-own computer things in the produce department. They want to climb into the freezers and see their breath. They want to count how many brands of toothpaste are on the shelf. They want to chat-it-up with the folks at the deli counter. They want to read the ingredient lists on just about every item in the store. They love the baggers in the check out line and want to “help” them bag our stuff. And they are just — seriously — very, very high energy. It is like a double-wide-tornado has hit the place and they are barreling through there like two little maniacs. They have just been really, really hard to handle. And it makes real grocery shopping (I mean anything more than a quick in-and-out grab-an-item-or-two-and-go food shopping trip) next to impossible. Anyone who has been grocery shopping with me and them over these years knows what I’m talking about [hello MorMor!!!!!!!!]. For most of the past six years, whenever I’ve come home from grocery shopping with them, Braydon has been flabbergasted. “You took them both with you???”  He has often asked in utter disbelief. I have — for the most part — rolled my eyes and then vented to him for a solid 10 minutes about how I will “NEVER” do it again. In addition, I usually have at least one insane story to tell, and numerous other observations, challenges, and/or notes-to-self to report upon after any food shopping trip with them. I love these boys. With a passion. But, seriously, grocery shopping with them has been TOUGH.

For the record: I have always been fully aware and completely grateful for the remarkable fact that they virtually never— ever— ask for anything at all —- and never have — I mean nothing at all —- while we grocery shop. For that I have always been truly thankful. The rest of their grocery shopping selves, however, leaves a lot to be desired. It has been, simply, a major challenge to food shop with them. I could split them up (they are always much better when separated) and I’ve done that during periods of time in the past years (i.e., taken one with me one week, and then taken the other one the next week), but it never seems to stick (partly because it is just pragmatically hard to figure out how to have childcare coverage for one while I take the other, and partly because they both want to go so badly). Since Meera joined the mix the whole challenge has been even that much more challenging.

I’ve gone back-and-forth about it in my mind over the years. On one hand, why bother bringing them? I mean, they have plenty of life to live and plenty of time to figure out (or not) how to grocery shop. No biggie. Why put myself through torture? On the other hand, I have always been pulled toward bringing them grocery shopping. For one thing, they love it (which is shocking, since I spend at least half the time yelling at them, threatening them, and shooting them the hairy eyeball). But, go figure (?), they really, really do love grocery shopping. And I figure, for how long will my boys want to do that with me??? I also (as ridiculous as this probably sounds) have always wanted to bring them up food shopping so that they are fully prepared when it is time for them to do it on their own someday. I am, after-all, trying to raise up progressive liberated manly men. They should know how to grocery shop — and I want it to be in them from the start… not taught to them frantically in some crash-course the night before they’re leaving for college. Seriously, I want my boys to have gone grocery shopping their whole lives. And, of course, there is the time factor. I mean, I grocery shop once a week — and it takes a couple of hours for the whole entire round-trip all-included she-bang. That is two hours that they could spend with me, or without me, and whenever humanly possible I will always choose the with me over the without me. So, there it is.

And, here comes the noteworthy point that this has all been leading to….

Drumroll please…

This summer I’ve been making it a point to bring them grocery shopping with me. I have a routine where I’ve been going on Monday afternoons. Given the way my summer routine is rolling, it just happens to work out that I can relatively easily pick them up from Margie and take them food shopping with me while Meera is napping at home. It has become a weekly routine for us three this summer. And, I need to make a note that FOR THE PAST MONTH THEY HAVE BEEN TRULY A PLEASURE AND A JOY TO SHOP WITH. Yes, it is true. So very blissfully wonderfully true: K & O have been awesome to grocery shop with. And that is huge. I mean, HUGE!, especially considering our sordid history with this. They seem to have turned some sort of corner right around age six. And while it would still be a lot easier to shop without them than with them (or, at a minimum, split them up), they have actually been quite a lovely duo to shop with, and — believe it or not — actually quite helpful. They each take one of the smaller sized carts; they push them around relatively civilly; they load them up with the items from our list; and they put everything onto the conveyor in the check-out line when it is time to pay up. They even help bag when we don’t have a bagger in our lane. And (and this still shocks even myself) they are trustworthy in the parking lot (that one is a biggie). I’m not holding my breath or counting on this sticking forever— but my hopes are high and I’d probably wager quite a bit at this point on my boys’ grocery shopping future potential and promise.

This is a huge deal — huge huge deal — here in J-M-land. And while some of this is surely developmental (something about turning six?), I’m (legitimately or not) giving myself a huge pat on the back for this one, because, quite honestly, I consider this to be one of my greatest life accomplishments to-date. No joke.

Food Friday: Cheater “Homemade” Pizza!

Posted by | FOOD | 4 Comments

Pepperoni Pizza and a Bowl of Cherries

When we lived in Boston during graduate school, we had dinner every Wednesday night with our best friend Beth. We’d rotate week-by-week between our two apartments. Sometimes we’d invite other friends to join us, sometimes it would be just us, and our “Wednesday Night Dinner” was always special. Many a glass of wine and 20-something-meaning-of-life-conversations were had! We did it for six years. And then graduate school ended, Braydon and I moved for my Lehigh job, Beth went on to seminary, and we have missed our Wednesday Night Dinners ever since. We dream of one day living close together again and getting back to our old routine. Hopefully some day that dream will come true. In the meantime I find myself reminiscing dreamily of those Wednesday nights. Very often when we’d go to Beth’s house she’d make pizza. She had worked in a gourmet pizza shop during college and she wasn’t afraid to get creative. Early on she figured out a SUPER trick: buying the pizza dough from a nearby pizza place. Not only did this cut out a huge step — thereby making the pizza making so much simpler — but very often the pizza dough from a good pizza parlor was a lot better than any we could ever hand-make. The trick stuck. After Braydon and I moved from Boston we went several years with hardly ever making our own pizza. Honestly, it made me miss Beth too much to do it. Plus, we could get amazing pizza in our new region of the country (NY/NJ/and even eastern-PA has some awesome pizza!). But recently I’ve started making “homemade” pizza more often. I call this Cheater Pizza because — like Beth — I’m no fool, and I buy the dough at our local pizza shop. Most people don’t even realize it, but if you go into a pizza place and ask for a dough ball they’ll almost always sell you one for a buck or two (usually even at chain pizza places). This makes pizza making incredibly easy, quick, and fun.

Making Pepperoni Pizza

Kyle, Owen, and Meera love pizza. We still buy pizza a lot. But we also can have a really good time making “homemade” pizza together at home. The bambinos’ favorites are plain cheese or cheese and pepperoni. I buy a really good jar of gourmet pizza sauce from the grocery store, we slather it on all over the spread out dough (so as to avoid making any ‘crust’ on the edges of the pizza… because they “don’t like” the “crust part”), then sprinkle on grated mozzarella and pepperoni, and we are good to go. All you need to make awesome homemade pizza is a good pizza stone. We heat ours up in the oven to 450-500 degrees. Then we put the stretched out pizza dough right on it, top with the ingredients, then place back in the hot oven to bake. Cooking it this way, it only takes about 5-10 minutes for the pizza to be ready. Just long enough to set the table, toss a salad, and pour our drinks.

Making BBQ Chicken Pizza

Over the past couple of months we’ve taken some pictures of our pizza and pizza making. A favorite is BBQ Chicken Pizza.  Over a layer of BBQ sauce we throw on diced leftover chicken, slices fresh mozzerella, and fresh sliced red onion.  This stuff is awesome.

BBQ Chicken Pizza Done

The best part about doing pizza this way is that while Braydon and the bambinos run out to buy the dough ball I have a few minutes to heat up the pizza stone and prep the ingredients. When they walk in the door we can get right to the fun part– assembling the pizza. It is all lickety-split.

Prepping for Brie, Almond, & Green Apple Pizza

This is one of our favorite “Beth Pizzas”: brie cheese, slivered almonds, and sliced green apple. You bake the pizza with just the brie and almonds, and then right when it comes out of the oven you put the cold, crisp, tart, fresh apples on there. Seriously, if you’ve never had brie pizza, try it. It is to die for. Eating it brings back so many good memories of eating pizza in Beth’s kitchen in her apartment in Brookline.

Brie, Almond, & Green Apple Pizza Done

A new favorite of ours is pizza with balsamic vinegar drizzled on it. You can drizzle it on before or after the baking, but we prefer it to be done before so that it gets baked right in. K & O (Owen especially) love pretty much anything with balsamic vinegar on it.

Chicken, Caramelized Onion, Monterey Jack, Balsamic Vinegar

In this case we had some leftover grilled chicken breast. But I’ve often used rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Easy.

Chicken, Caramelized Onion, Monterey Jack, Balsamic Vinegar Pizza Done

There are tons of great pizza ideas out there. And Beth used to make some incredible ones (like a potato pizza that was out of this world!). Three more of our other favorites are:

  • pesto, mozzarella, roasted red pepper
  • alfredo sauce, cooked shrimp, parmesan, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • “Mexican”: salsa, ground beef or chicken, fresh chopped tomatoes, cheddar

This is pizza making at it’s super easiest best and it is very fun to do. I highly recommend this to all you graduate students, medical students, and law students who are reading! Tell me if you try it!!!

I also highly recommend this to families with young kids. I have this thing about wanting my kids to know how some of their favorite “treat” foods (that we usually only buy or eat in restaurants) are made. I have made a point to cook some of these things with them so that they “get it” that it is all created somehow someway by someone. We’ve made doughnuts together, french fries together, popsicles together, etc. Pizza is on that list. I want them to know how it is done so that they never think that you can just pay a few bucks and —ta da!!!— something magically appears. No… somebody —an actual person— had to make that out of real ingredients (or at least somebody could make it — and used to make it — even if now a machine might often be involved). It is really awesome for kids to make things that they love to eat, and to understand how some of their favorite “junk foods” are created… however, nobody is going to enjoy any of it if we’re stressed about stuff like kneading dough and waiting all day long for it to rise and then dealing with a flour-covered wreck-of-a-kitchen. Yes, I know, I know, pizza dough is actually not hard at all to make. (and yes, I have made it with K & O, so they do know you don’t just buy it at Sal’s Pizza Parlor). But really– buying a dough ball for a dollar makes the whole thing soooo much more fun and stress-free. It makes it actually possible to whip it up quick on a busy weeknight or after we come home from a weekend outing. It is a great idea for kids’ parties too: make your own pizza! (just cheat and buy the dough balls! your life will be so much easier!) And with a salad, or a bowl of fruit, this really can be a dinner to celebrate!


Food Friday: 4th of July Trifle!

Posted by | FOOD | 2 Comments

Owen, Meera, and I just made this 4th of July Trifle this morning in preparation for our Holiday Weekend Kick-Off Feast tonight! So easy and so fun and sooooo scrumptious!

In a clear bowl, layer the following, repeatedly, in order:

  • pound cake, diced into bite-sized pieces (we bought good quality store-bought pound cake; Owen had a ton of fun cutting it up!)
  • vanilla pudding (we made a big package of Jello Instant Pudding! O and M’s favorite part was sampling that!)
  • whipped cream (we made homemade: heavy cream whipped up with a bit of vanilla and sugar; next favorite part was sampling that!)
  • fresh sliced strawberries and whole blueberries

Top with fruit in flag design. Can store in fridge for several days.

Happy 4th of July!!!

Food Friday Foto: Summer Breakfast with the Loveys

Posted by | FOOD | No Comments

Will catch up with blogging soon. In the meantime… this is just a not-so-great-snapshot taken with our old camera, but I love it. Summer breakfasts are so much better than school-year-breakfasts. Leisurely and lovely– and sometimes even at “Richard’s Counter” (our name for our big kitchen counter– custom built for us by our neighbor Richard a few years ago– and since then always been called “Richard’s Counter”). Pancakes three different ways– chocolate chip for Owen, Blueberry for Kyle, and Plain Jane for Meera. Real syrup for O and M (the real deal from maple trees New Hampshire liquid gold). Fake syrup (‘Log Cabin’ or whatever) for Kyle. Orange Juice all around. K & O are still in their pjs. Meera is already in her princess ballerina bathing suit with a bow in her hair (upon waking up in the morning she always immediately insists on “getting dressed”). And my favorite part of this picture…. all three of them have their loveys… of course. With Owen– Lovey Lion and Lovey Lion’s Twin Brother. With Kyle– Honey Bunny and Honey Bunny’s Twin Brother. And with Meera– Bunny.

Food Friday By Request: Sangria Recipe

Posted by | FOOD | One Comment

This is the sangria we had on Meera’s birthday.

Over the years we’ve tinkered with various Sangria recipes. But once we perfected it (or, at least, for our own tastes, we had come up with the perfect recipe) we have pretty much stuck to it. Here’s our version. The best in the world, in our humble opinion!…

Our Perfect Summer Sangria

  • 1 orange, halved and sliced
  • 1 lemon, halved and sliced
  • 2 limes, halved and sliced
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup Cointreau
  • 1 cup good (not from concentrate) orange juice
  • 1 large (1.5 liter) bottle of good dry red wine ~~ in case you want to try it– our current favorite “house” red wine (i.e., relatively cheap and relatively good!) is Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. I think it is an AWESOME wine for the price. We’ve been drinking this for well over a year now and I’m still not even close to being tired of it. We used it to make the Sangria on Meera’s birthday and it was great.

Put fruit slices and sugar in bottom of a large pitcher. Muddle gently with a wooden spoon. Add all other ingredients. Stir to mix. Pour over ice to serve. YUM!!!!!!!!!