Monday, May 31, 2010

A perfect thing

I have this ongoing list that I keep. I call it my "List of Perfect Things". It's full of foods & smells & places & feelings & people. One of the things on my list is, "Watching kids eat something they love".

Mealtimes with my children are usually noisy & funny & crazy. I think it's because of them, of course. My son, who I call piglet due to his messy tendencies. My middle daughter who is the slowest eater in the universe. And my youngest who is anti-condiment of any sort - no mayo, ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, but who will clean a chicken or rib bone so well that you could use it as an artifact.
But I suppose I might add my own bit of craziness. I mean, I'm sure all the mothers out there photograph the food before eating it, or stalk those that I'm feeding like I'm the papparazzi. As you can see below, they love it, really.
But sometimes, I just can't help it. Seeing these guys together, each with their own little quirks, makes me smile. It makes me want to keep feeding them just to watch them enjoy it! It's what I do. Call me crazy....

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lasagna Lunch

I had half a box of lasagna noodles rolling around in the pantry recently. It happened to be a rainy Sunday afternoon and I was hungry. I didn't want to make a whole huge pan of lasagna, so I thought maybe lasagna rolls? This way I could make two different kinds! These were really not a fussy thing. I made a meat sauce for one and a cream sauce for one with shrimp & squash & sage. The shrimp one may sound a little whacky but my God, it was sooo good.

Now, I've been getting scolded about vague recipes...ahem, you know who you are....If you're not sure, you can always leave me a comment like the ones below (I am a comment junkie, you know!!) & I'll give you the scoop, but really, use what you have on hand.
"What kind of squash?!" I really don't know, I have a crazy, jack-in-the-bean-stock squash growing in my garden. It's orange, I used that. I had already roasted it, and had it in the fridge, so I just chopped it up. Easy peasy.
"Cream sauce??!!" Argh! a couple tablespoons of butter, a couple cloves of chopped garlic, some chopped onion & about 2 Tbs. flour. Saute for a bit, add a cup of chicken stock & a cup of heavy cream if you have it. If not, 2 cups of milk will work too. Or 1 cup stock, 1 cup milk... just go with what you've got!
"How much shrimp?" A handful? A cup? However much you want?? Just cook them separately and cut them into pieces.
"What kind of cheese?!" Really? Use what you have! I think I just had mozzerella, which is the best melter in my opinion, that's all I used.
"Sage??! How much sage? Fresh? Dried?" Good lord, if you have sage, use it. I happen to have some in the garden that I've managed to NOT kill yet. So I grab a few leaves, so that I don't plunder the whole plant, chop it up and there you go. If you don't have sage, don't freak out! Don't run to the store, don't not make this just because of that. Use parsley, or basil, or nothing.... And just pick up some fresh herb plants the next time your at Home Depot & plunk them in the ground, or a pot and your problem will be solved for next time.
Same goes with the meat lasagna... Saute some onions, garlic, hamburger, tomato sauce, then pile that & some cheese into a noodle & roll it up. Into the dish it goes, pour on some more sauce & some cheese & there you go! Bake these guys at about 325 till melty & brown on top.

And that's that! Enjoy!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Being Merry...

Ok, so this post has to do with neither Swigs nor Grinds, but it does have to do with Being Merry, which is just as important, right? For me, it is the smallest things in life that bring a smile to my face & a sense that there is beauty & joy in my world. Good food is one of them, a great glass of wine, being with the people I love, the laughter of my children, and flowers.

Whether it be a couple of floppy flowers in a vase, a withering bunch of fully bloomed peonies, or a single flower plucked from the yard, they bring a sense of life & beauty. I am a pretty fickle gardener, but when my roses muster up a flower, it is like an offering. The sight of it on my bedside table makes me smile. Even the tiny flowering clumps of parsley in a vase in my kitchen infuses me with something... real, calm, alive.

It doesn't take much. And every time I have a little blooming vase in my house, I remember that I really need to keep them around. Such a simple thing that can help in my mission of being merry.

Forget about that special occasion, or waiting for that special someone to have the spark of thoughtfulness to realize the real power of flowers; go out and treat yourself to a bundle of something beautiful to brighten your day and remind you of life and the little things that make your heart beat. And don't forget to stop and smell them.....

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

So the other night I had a massive craving for a cookie. Just one, that's all I needed. It was almost bedtime for my kids, but I went for it anyway. We whipped up a batch of these thin, crispy, chewy, chocolate cookies, sat around the kitchen chopping block, dunking warm cookies in milk, past bedtime. I think I racked up a few good-mom-points, and had more than my "one" cookie!

They're even called "Top Secret Chocolate Cookies", so that should make you love me all the more, I've made you privy to a top secret COOKIE!


Watermelon Cocktail

I know I've been delinquent in posting lately... but as a peace offering I'm giving you this lovely, refreshing cocktail!

I kind of glommed on to the limoncello method here - throw some scraps of watermelon into some vodka & let it sit overnight, then add ice, some sugar or simple syrup, a little lemon lime soda and dump it back and forth between two glasses (I'm sure there's a technical term for this...).

And that's it! Now grab your beverage, pull up a porch swing, kick back and watch the grass grow! Cheers!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons... Make Limoncello!

A couple of years ago my sister was walking around the Arts District galleries and a friend of mine asked her, "Would you like some limoncello?"
"Lemon Jello? ok sure", she says.
When he comes back with a little glass of yellow liqueur, she was introduced for the first time to this sweet, citrus beverage, which is not lemon Jello.

Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in Southern Italy. The first time I had limoncello was on my birthday a few years ago with a friend who boasts that he doesn't buy limoncello, his mother makes it for him. What the? You can make it? Since that discovery, I have treated myself to limoncello only a few times, and it's usually when I'm with my sister.

Well, this year, for the first time in years, my sister is coming over for her birthday. So I decided to take my maiden voyage in limoncello making and this will be my birthday present. I turned to Giada DiLaurentiis, the Food Network's resident Italian. The whole process was amazingly simple and consisted mainly of lemon peels soaking in vodka on my counter top for four days.

If you like a potent, but sweet & tart little beverage, this you must try. Here's what Giada says to do:


  • 10 lemons
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle vodka
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar


Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use). Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith. Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.

Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.

This makes enough for two bottles, how convenient! One for my sister, one for me!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fan of the Year Award

I love that there are people who actually read these posts, leave their comments and consider themselves "fans or followers". It really is so much fun to see how we can keep in touch with people I know and even get to know people who are drawn to the feeding frenzies.

But one of these wonderful people has gone above and beyond. After reading a post where I was flipping my lid over some Indian spices that I "splurged on", she posted a comment asking if there was an Indian store near me - and of course there isn't. SO, what does she do but schlep some all the way from Delaware, deliver them to my sister who brought them over to me on Sunday! Tons of them! So here they are settled into their new home in my spice department.

Thank You SOOOOO much Melinda!!!!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mom's Rule, Babies Drool

Today is Mother's Day. Geeze, am I grateful for mothers! I am so grateful for my own mom. She is a tornado. I call her the Tasmanian Angel. My parents are old school foodies. They were foodies before being a foodie was cool. They were foodies before there were foodies. My mom comes from a family of foodies, really. But they were foodies out of necessity, not as a hip, obsessive status.

My mom grew up on a farm in Minnesota. With 10 brothers & sisters. My grandpa worked the farm, and grew, raised or traded almost everything that came into my grandmother's kitchen. And my grams ran a tight ship. There was a day for baking bread, a time for canning fruits and vegetables for winter, a day for baking cakes and sweets. This was not based on what was on sale at the store, what she happened to be craving, or a new recipe she had heard of, but by what was growing in the garden, ready for slaughter, or simply what was on hand.

And mealtimes were not necessarily a time described as "eating, drinking & being merry", you ate what you were given. All of it. There was no talking at the dinner table, & obviously no being picky or complaining! But that was life, back in the day, with little means and a lot of mouths to feed.

As the years progressed and the family grew up and migrated West to California, life and family meals changed. My childhood mealtime memories are radically different than my mom's. My parents have always been in the food business, from being the neighborhood butcher, to having their own restaurant. Huge family dinners at my grandma's house had zero resemblance to the strict silence of their childhood dinners. Out of that scene, emerged the loudest, funniest, craziest family gatherings you would ever want to be a part of.

Holidays were always celebrated together. Around my grandma's or an aunties table. There was the kids table, at which I was the low kid on the totem pole, being the youngest of about a million cousins. And then there was the grown up table; a loud and ruckus place where if you said, "Toss me one of those rolls...", you better be able to catch. My grandparents had long since abandoned efforts to quiet this group & had actually even enjoyed it - but they would never admit to such things. My grandpa always injecting his famous phrase, "listen to the mouths!", in the midst of all the chatter.

And then there was the famous pie fight. A gathering that lives on in infamy, a legendary family tale. It was at one such gathering at my grandma's house. Dinner was over and the million of us kids moved on to our own mischief, while the grown ups started their card games and revelry. That's when the commotion drew all of us grandkids to the entrance to the kitchen/dining room where to our astonished, disbelieving eyes, we witnessed our parents, mid pie fight! We thought for sure someone was going to be in soooo much trouble. We waited, jaws hanging to the ground in expectation of my grandparents killing one of their offspring. But as my grandma wiped a blotch of whipped cream from her brow, there was only laughter.

This is my family. My own parents gathered their own children around a New Year's meal of crab legs on the deck of a rustic ski lodge, laid out a spread of goodies at Christmas, and taught us all to love and cook food at their restaurant, where they became "a household name". My mom ran a tight ship in her own way. Her way of cooking rarely involves measuring, but more of a little of this and a little of that.

So when I think of moms, many of my memories go straight to the kitchen or the dinner table. Sometimes to a picnic, or a restaurant. Always, to a woman who provided for her family, loving them not always with spoken words, but with homemade breads, stews, pies, baked beans, prime rib, and even pie fights.

This mother's day, I send my love to all of the mother's in my own family & all my friends who taught me to be a mother myself, and to all of you. May you share a meal, and maybe even venture into a food fight... whatever you choose, may it live on in the stories and memories of family.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Holy New Pastrami Invention!!!

We've been having a huge calzone addiction around here, and since I discovered Jamie Oliver's killer pizza dough recipe (See the January Pizza Dough post), I have been keeping a supply in the freezer.

So the other night, the calzone addiction crashed into the sandwich addiction and out came this Reuben calzone. We made it just like a Reuben sandwich, with the thousand island dressing, pastrami, cheese & sauerkraut. This made me realize how the calzone is really the Italian cousin of our beloved sandwich. The only thing different was the bread. And this dough is so killer, it blows nasty rye bread out of the water!

Of course, my mind has been racing with all the other sandwich-y possibilities to meld into a calzone. Let me know what YOU come up with!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I have been feeding a man who is mourning an awful, untimely death. During times like this, it's strange the way every day things fall away & everything is dwarfed by the hole that is left when someone departs. That feeling of being scooped out, your insides a hollow shell that must continue to trudge through the day. There is also that feeling of watching someone you love who is hurting - a feeling of helplessness. All I know how to do is be there. And feed him.

And the tricky thing with feeding the broken hearted is that there is no desire to be fed. The pit in the stomach does little for the enjoyment of food. But the gnawing hunger on top of that pit only makes it worse. However, I have seen something: It seems that when you can't bring your self to move, and when the loop of memories & thoughts won't turn off, there is something to be said for stopping to take something into the body that will nourish & strengthen.

When there are no words that need to be said, a simple bowl of scrambled eggs, or a plate of spaghetti & meatballs, or even a coffee cup full of Mocha Almond Fudge ice cream can begin the process of healing an un-healable wound. The mind must shift to taste & texture, making room around the pain and welcoming the true meaning of "comfort food".

Once again, I am grateful for the role of food. As distraction, comfort, and nurturing - to fill the pockets of grief that words, embraces & even love can't reach. And I am grateful for swigs. For something that can be lifted in salute to the fallen, in remembrance.

Cheers to DB and those who loved him.