A Wee Organizational Project


Ok, so this is something I've been wanting to do for about a hundred years.  I was given a magnetized pen holder waaaayyyy back, and despite the fact that I never really liked the way it looked, I have moved it all over tarnation because there was just no denying it was practical for holding grocery list pens.  After scouring pinterest for ideas, I finally rummaged through one of those junk drawers that we all seem to wind up with despite good intentions and New Years resolutions, and came up with my own solution.  And my solution happens to hold a bottle opener. Handy!

Refrigerator Pen Holder

1 glass spice jar (available at just about any import shop for pocket change if you don't have one filled with a spice you could sacrifice without tears)
1 domino sized magnet (available at home improvement stores)
super glue (read back to make sure it works on glass)


Can you guess the directions from here?  Okay, I'll try to make this simple:

Good and glue that magnet onto the jar.  Wait until glue is rock solid, in my case, about a day.  Presto! Done. 

And if you bought a nice strong magnet, you can stick the bottle opener (my mom calls it a church key.  Does anyone else see the irony in this?) right on the side of the magnet.


Truffled Mac and Cheese

I've been plotting to invest in a really nice (read: hidden deep in the back of the cupboards where no one will accidentally grab it to fry eggs) bottle of olive oil for drizzling. I spotted this gorgeous white truffle oil on one of those rare days when I had both the time and money to invest in making up my mind to take it home, and tonight I finally got up the nerve to use it.  Oh, sweet truffles... Naturally, the first thing that came to mind was Mac and Cheese. I'm classy that way.  So, whether you have lost your mind and bought a ridiculously expensive bottle of truffled olive oil  or are just looking for a quick dinner your kids will actually eat, I bring you a 15 minute stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe that just happens to be heaven on earth, especially with a little drizzle...

1/2 package of pasta of your choosing
2/3 cup milk (I used 1%)
1 Tbls butter
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp fine dijon
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (more if you like)
White Truffle Olive Oil for drizzling

1.  While the pasta cooks, whisk milk, butter, garlic, dijon and Worcestershire in medium pot over medium heat.  Once the sauce has reached a smooth consistency, reduce heat to low and continue to stir until pasta is done cooking. Add strained pasta and cheese to the sauce and stir until cheese is thoroughly melted. Serve hot.  Drizzle truffled oil over top of each dish.  (Okay, maybe not for the kids.  They won't appreciate it, anyways.) Now try and tell yourself the oil wasn't worth the investment!



My, but what is this?  We had a little surprise when we opened our carton of eggs from the farmers market this week.  We have already (adamantly) established who will be eating this little beauty.  Now we must decide how it will be prepared.  Any suggestions?


Family Favorite

If you enjoy food like I do, then you too occassionaly become hung up on something you've tried in a restaurant.  Obsession leads to hungry daydreams. Then, naturally, a crazy woman takes over your kitchen, making a catastrophic mess of the place, ignoring neccessary responsibilities, and working maniacally to recreate it. Fortunately for my family and friends, I was eventually able to figure this one out.  Who's to say what might have become of us otherwise?

So, in hopes of sparing you the hours of kitchen scrubbing this one led to for me, let me introduce you to the very simple, very addictive

Butternut Squash Enchilada

1 whole butternut squash
6 large whole wheat tortillas (the softer, the better)
1 can enchilada sauce (important note here, this will all taste much better with a sweet sauce like La Preferida. http://www.amazon.com/La-Preferida-Enchilada-Sauce-10-Ounce/dp/B000S3T23K/ref=sr_1_1?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1341255902&sr=1-1&keywords=la+preferida+enchilada+sauce+mild The smoky sauces like Trader Joe's just don't play nicely with this one.)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup organic spinach, thawed and drained if frozen or washed and chopped if fresh
1 log goat cheese
Cotija cheese, shedded for sprinkling on top

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the stem off the butternut squash (so your knife doesn't get stuck and threaten to remove fingers on the next step.) Cut the squash in half and use a spoon to remove the seeds. Rinse. Cover generously with salt and pepper and put cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cook about 40 minutes, until the skin is golden and the squash gives nicely when you press against the skin.  Don't worry too much about overcooking it.  You want it to be very soft, and it tends to carmelize nicely if you leave it in a bit longer.  Tasty.  Remove from oven and allow to cool before scooping squash from the skin.  (This can be done the day before, making for a real quick dinner prep the next day. Just throw the cooled squash in a covered dish in the fridge and pull it out when you're ready for it.)

2) Heat olive oil and garlic in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add spinach and stir for about a minute, until wilted.  Add squash and stir until heated through. Remove from heat.

3) Spoon about a third of the sauce into a 9 x 12 baking dish and spread it around.  Flip two tortillas in the sauce.  Spoon a bit of sauce in a 9 x 9 baking dish and do the same with a third tortilla. (This enchilada is for lunch tomorrow!)  Spoon 1/3 of the squash mixture onto each tortilla. Spread the mixture around the tortillas.

4) Tear open the goat cheese and sprinkle generously about.  When the whole log is dispersed, lick your fingers clean.  You deserve it.  Now wash your hands! I sure hope the kids didn't see you. 

5) Top each pile with a tortilla.  Spoon the remaining sauce over the tops.  Sprinkle with cotija cheese.  If you don't have cotija, feel free to use a mexican blend, or a pizza blend, if it comes to that.  Truth be told, I only put cheese on the top to send myself a signal about which enchilada has the extra goat cheese hidden inside.  If you notice a difference in the above photo, it's no accident.

6) Cook 15 minutes or until heated through.  Enjoy!


Booze-Free Peach Collins

We're dusting off the old grill around here, and that means it's time for entertaining.  I'm trying to expand my booze-free repertoire to accommodate all of our guests, and this is my take on a virgin Peach Collins.  Mighty refreshing!

Booze-Free Peach Collins

(per glass)
1/2 really ripe peach
1 Tbls simple syrup (recipe below)
ice cubes
Tonic Water

1) Cut peach halves into 4 pieces, removing skin.  Put in bottom of glass and crush with the back of a spoon until you've good and juiced the little buggers.  Add simple syrup and ice.  Fill with tonic water.  Stir and serve.

Simple Syrup

Boil equal parts sugar and water until dissolved.  Store in a bottle in the fridge for up to two weeks.


German pancakes

I love the morning.  Crisp air, birds singing, dew drops reflecting slanted light.  These things are the stuff of magic, I'm sure intended to fill a new day with promise.  Sigh.  Sadly, these things go mostly unnoticed around here.  We are too busy changing diapers, finding clean sippies and stumbling gratefully towards the coffeepot.  To top that off, the little people are usually on the verge of riot for breakfast.  This is my current go to breakfast.  It's so simple and cooks up beautifully enough to serve for a holiday or any old Tuesday morning.  Even better- leftovers make a great little snack that stores just fine in a baggie in the fridge.  Enjoy!

German pancakes

4 Large Eggs
1 Tbls Sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 c flour
2/3 c milk
2 Tbls butter, softened
Additional butter for serving
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
Berries or other fresh fruit

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Butter two 9 inch cake pans well.
2. Mix the eggs in a blender until light yellow. Add remaining ingredients and blend into uniform batter.
4. Pour half the batter into each pan.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until big, golden bubbles form.  Reduce oven to 350 and bake for 5 minutes, until cooked through. 
5. Serve topped with butter, powdered sugar and fresh fruit.  And coffee!


Housewarming Treat


It's official!  We've moved and are finally settled into our new home.  (Boy was that a long process!)  This outrageously good snack was introduced to me as a housewarming gift by my dear friend, Natasha (visit her gorgeous home blog at http://www.moderncottageblog.blogspot.com/ )  We've kept a batch on hand ever since.

(Recipe adapted from Ina Garten- http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/rosemary-roasted-cashews-recipe/index.html )

Rosemary Roasted Almonds

1 lb Marcona Almonds
1 Tbls butter, melted
2 Tbls fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp dark brown sugar

1) Preheat oven to 350. Spread almonds over parchment covered baking sheet.  Heat for about 8 mins, until they begin to turn golden.

2) While the nuts are heating, mix together remaining ingredients. Stir in the warm nuts until coated. 

Store in an airtight container.


Insane Fish Tacos

A lot of things I do might be considered insane. Like forgetting how much I hate planning and attempting to stencil my bathroom. That was insane. Or taking two children under the age of four on a pair of overseas flights. Insane. And then there is the bottle of purple grey nailpolish sitting on my dresser right now. Pretty awful. But what we had for dinner last night? That was in a class all it's own. So good, friends. I couldn't stop eating.

If you like fish tacos (and come on, who doesn't like fish tacos?) give these a try. And while I'm usually all about substituting ingredients with whatever you have in the kitchen, you have GOT to get to the market before you try this one. Do not cheat on the arugala! Even if it means planning, and those are words you may never read from me again.

Insane Fish Tacos

First up, the sauce:
3/4 cup low fat or fat free greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonaise
Juice from 1/2 large lime
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp small capers
1/2 tsp cumin
1 Tbls fresh cilantro, chopped

1) Mix all the ingredients for the sauce together and let sit at room temperature for about an hour or cover and refrigerate overnight.

4 Panko Crusted Tilapia Fillets
1 bunch baby arugula, cleaned
1 ear corn, cooked and cut off the cob (white corn is, bar none, the best. Take it from me, I did my stint in the American Midwest!), or corn from can, drained
1 package small, soft whole wheat tortillas

2) Cook up those fillets. (Here's a handy link, if you need it: http://www.ehow.com/how_2094845_cook-tilapia-fillets.html  or prepare them according to directions if frozen.) Take a little handful of arugula and lay it in the center of the tortilla. Sprinkle with corn. Break up the fillets and spread them around and drizzle a good dose of sauce on top.

3) Fold up on the sides and eat. And eat. And eat... The good news is you are bound to run out sooner or later.



Something Squirrely

Before I get around to showing you any photos, I must warn you that this post includes a recipe that I am not entirely proud of. It has zero nutritional value but cleverly disguises itself as one of natures treasures. That's getting it all backwards, if you ask me. But it's all done in the name of celebration, and, well, because my preschooler insisted that her birthday theme be squirrels. Sweet. So here goes, a preview of my weekend to come. First up, preschool treats:

Donut Hole Acorns

1 package of donut holes
1 jar Nutella
Chocolate Flavored Sprinkles (I'm telling you, people, not proud.)
Thin pretzel sticks

1. Spread nutella on top third of donut hole. (Being round, its up to you to decide which end is up.)
2. Roll in sprinkles.
3. Break pretzel stick in half and stick that puppy down the center of the nutella.

Serve with loads of milk and a napkin. Enjoy


Curried Chicken Salad

It's fast becoming birthday season around here, and as I begin running around like a deranged little birthday elf, I find myself in the very fortuntate position of trying a number of new recipes that will make party day simple. My latest favorite is a curried chicken salad recipe from Ellie Krieger over at the Food Network. It's simple, healthy and mighty tasty. Just about right. So, if you're headed to our house, say, next weekend, don't try this at home.

So, here's the link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/curried-chicken-salad-recipe/index.html

And a hint or two- I tried it without the mayo and it was perfectly wonderful. I also found some luscious grilled chicken breast, which I chopped coarsely and saved myself most of the work. (Check Trader Joe's, friends.)


A Wee Problem

Oh dear, we've done it again. Someone forgot to put the lid on the butterfly jar, and here we are with a perfectly wild swarm. Whatever will we do? Hmm... might as well enjoy and invite a few little girls to lunch.

For the girls: Tiny PB&J or ham and cheese sandwiches. Very fancy, no?

We clearly survived the infestation just fine. Thanks for your concern. Now to round up all the rogue butterflies. You would not believe where some of them wound up.

And for the grown-ups,

Curried Quinoa Salad

2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup quinoa (about 6 ounces), rinsed

Chopped items
1/2 cucumber, chopped
1 mango, cut to bit sized pieces
1/2 c walnuts, toasted and chopped

1/4 c mayo
1/2 c plain lowfat yogurt
4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp chopped garlic
1/8 tsp worcestershire sauce
juice of 1/4 lemon
1 1/2 tsp reduce-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbls red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
a pinch red pepper flakes (if you want a little heat)

4 cups fresh spinach, cleaned

1) Prepare Quinoa per directions on package, or steam like rice. Set aside to cool.
2) Add chopped items to cooled quinoa.
3) Mix all dressing ingredients together with spoon or whisk.
4) Mix half of the dressing with the quinoa salad and set the other half aside. Divide the spinach between 4 plates and top with a hefty scoop of the quinoa salad. Drizzle remaining dressing on top.


Lemon Ricotta Tart (with Berries)

Alright- I'll admit it. I like to have a little something sweet after each meal. Or with each meal. Or smack dab in the middle of the afternoon when I have nothing else to eat. To prove this point, I currently have little tiny stashes of dark chocolate hidden throughout the house. So sorry to my husband if you're discovering this for the first time right now. I still love ya. And no, I won't show you where they are, but if you ask really nicely I might go uncover a small bit for you when you're not looking.

My love for sweets translates into a lot of mad-science action in the kitchen, and this Lemon Ricotta Tart was the result of some of that play.

Lemon Ricotta Tart (with Blueberries)
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to directions on package
3/4 lb part skim ricotta cheese
1/4 c sugar, plus some for dusting pastry
zest and juice of 1/3 lemon
1 egg
2 cups blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or strawberries, cleaned

Mix ricotta, sugar, lemon and egg just until blended.

Place thawed pastry on parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle remaining sugar over the top. With a knife, lightly score a 1/4 inch border around the edge of the pastry and poke a few holes in the center.

Spread the ricotta mixture evenly inside the border.

Top with berries.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 for remaining 25 minutes, until the ricotta is set and the pastry is nicely browned.


Stargazers Soup

Favorite recipes, like many other things in life, have a way of adapting themselves to fit in with our changing scenery. I first made a version of this soup with tiny star-shaped pasta (stelline 74) and imagined it accompanying us, piping hot in a thermous lid, as we laid on fresh-cut grass, trusty telescope by our sides, to watch the stars on a summer night. Well, that and I thought the pasta would intrigue my then two-year-old. Not so much. The pasta made the soup too starchy, and my toddler would not go near anything with star pasta or called star soup for months. Then winter came. Snow piled up copiously around the house, we began another flu season and the members of our household began a game of cold and flu tag, and I gave the soup a few tweaks, most significantly changing its name. I won't tell you what we call it, just that it is named after a highly annoying cartoon character, which seems to do the trick with the preschooler set. Its great as a baby food, as well.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and if I don't get my way with the thermous this summer, maybe you can do it for me.

Stargazers Soup

3 stalks celery, chopped
3 cippolini onions, chopped
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 32 oz box chicken or vegetable broth
2 good sized carrots, chopped
1 large sweet potato or yam, chopped
1 c frozen, chopped organic spinach, thawed (don't worry about draining!)
1 16 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1) Heat dutch oven over medium heat with Olive Oil. Add celery and onions and cook until transluscent (just a couple of minutes.) Add salt and pepper to taste.
2) Add broth, carrots, yam and spinach. Bring to boil and cook until soft (about 15 minutes.)
3) Add beans, reduce heat to medium low, and cook, covered about five minutes. Blend with immersion blender and enjoy with a nice piece of crusty bread.


Fresh from the Dairy

Of all the places I've visited, two have made an exceptionally lasting impression on my life. The first was Siberia. My summer on and near Lake Baikal was just this side of heaven and it changed the direction of my life entirely. Interestingly, it is also where I first milked a cow. It was in a tiny, dusty village with exceptionally generous people and the wiliest piglets you can imagine. We drank the milk while it was still warm. A might strange, I'll admit, but fresh as it gets.

The other is England. I am endlessly intrigued by its marriage of modern and traditional, and while all my former visits have been defined by a sense of mobile independence scurrying about on the trains, my most recent visit introduced me to a different side of Britain, and it was just what the doctor ordered. Well, that and a few odd g and ts, of course.

This visit, I stayed with several members of my family in a house in the heart of the Cotswolds. The hills were rolling, we were surrounded by livestock and distant church spires and the local pubs served local, fresh food along with glorious pints of English brew. It was a slow and simple life we led during our two week visit, making short trips to some beautiful manor houses and charming old towns, but most of all, enjoying each other and the occasional strolls through the countryside. And at the start of each new day, we enjoyed fresh eggs and milk from a local farm, and cream so thick it rolled out of the cup like molasses. Now there is a trip to celebrate. And here are a couple of recipes we enjoyed whipping up in our English kitchen:

Mom's recipe for butter:
1 cup fresh, rich milk
a pinch of salt.
Mix with whisk (or in our case, a spoon) until desired thickness

*Mom says the cream she used as a girl took about 15 minutes to whip into butter. I do not tease when I say the double cream we were using in the Cotswolds took less than a minute.

Great Wolford Eggs

1-2 Tbls butter or extra virgin olive oil
2 tomatoes, chopped
1- 2 eggs per person, depending on how hungry you all are
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained (squeeze water out through dish towel)
2 Tbls fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter or oil in large skillet and add tomatoes. Cook until tender. Meanwhile, mix eggs, spinach, basil, salt and pepper in a large liquid measuring cup and pour into the skillet. Scramble until cooked through. They should be done within 10 minutes or so.


The Perfect Cup of Joe

I may have picked the worst day ever to consider giving up coffee. It seemed like a great idea until someone in this house of mine decided the day should begin with crying and screaming at 2:15 a.m., and then of course I remembered that there was no good reason I should give up something I so thoroughly enjoy. More like love. So, with a renewed devotion, today I bring you some tips from my days as a barista for making the perfect cup of coffee (drip coffee, that is), heavily weighted, of course, by my own tastes and preference.

First things first: The beans- they must be whole. I know what you're thinking: "Okay, this is going to be one of those coffee snob posts, isn't it?" Yes, for the most part, it is, but keep in mind that my coffeemaker probably looks a lot like yours, so you have no excuse to not give this a try.

If you have a grinder at home, check the instruction book for how long you should grind them. For a pot of drip, run a blade cutter (one of those things used on nuts and herbs on which you push down the button the entire time it runs) for about 15 to 20 seconds or a burr grinder (which crushes the beans between two disks and is made specifically for coffee beans)set to medium. They also should be fresh, if you can get them that way. Try an independent roaster who roasts in small batches. These beans are less likely to taste burnt that those roasted in large batches like certain giant coffee chains I shall not name. If, like me, you don't have access to fresh beans, look for something in a small foil bag with a valve on it.

Some of you may not know what type of roast to go for, so here's a quick tip: If you don't know, start with something that says medium. The darker the roast, the stronger the flavor. French roast is pretty much the darkest there is, and to someone new to coffee or just looking for a smooth, mellow cup, it will pretty much knock you down. And, in my opinion, the light roast isn't really worth bothering with. And if you really want the flavor (and the smell), grind your beans right before you brew.

My former employer, the best coffee roaster in Atlanta, was pretty adament that a great cup of coffee needs to be brewed at a water temperature between 195 and 205 degrees F. If you have a hot water tap, you're in luck. They will generally get your water in that zone. If not, too bad. Your little coffee maker, like mine, doesn't stand a chance. Between you and me, I think we'll fare alright with our cold little cups of coffee. One thing I am a stickler for, and you should be too, is good water. Where I live, water out of the tap tastes a little funky, so I use the filtered stuff. Always. If it tastes funky by itself, it will certainly taste funky disguised as coffee.

When you're coffee is brewed, don't do like I do and let it sit there for an hour. Take at least one sip while its fresh. Now that's the stuff. Worth getting up for, right?

One last tip, and besides finding quality beans, this, I believe, is of the utmost importance. Don't mess around with skim milk or non-dairy creamers. (Have you ever read the labels on those things? Scary.) Buy yourself a carton of half and half. It makes such a luxurious cup, and once you get started you'll never look back. Add sugar if you like (I do - lots!) and if you really crave something special, whip up some flavored whipped cream. I know a fella who insists on drinking his cup with almond whipped cream every day. Wise man. (Check out my recipe for cinnamon whipped cream in the archives and substitute the cinnamon for 1/2 tsp almond extract or just about any other extract you like.)

So, try it and let me know what you think. Worth giving up the tall skim vanilla latte for?