Friday night pizza night

Friday night pizza night

I’ve gotten into the habit of saving pizza nights for guests, because once I cure the pizza oven, make the dough, make the sauce, mince the vegetables, and precook whatever chicken or sausage I may feel like, it just seems like a lot of work when there aren’t many people to enjoy it. But that’s just wrong. Why wait for guests or holidays to make a meal an occasion? I had the time and a hankering for pizza so went to the trouble for just LL and Kid Two and I on Friday night. Turns out it was not any more trouble than anything else I do. Kid Two practiced making the same face as the dog: Then we cooked our pizzas and watched Touch of Evil (Kid Two enjoys classic film noir) and I sat there thinking, as I often do, it just doesn’t get any better than this. The pizzas don’t get any better than this, either. LL’s favorite is salami, black olive, and mushrooms with tangy tomato sauce: I like prosciutto, fontina, and thinly sliced tomatos with arugula, but I don’t see the arugula here on this one! Look at this great thin crust, though:   I been thinking about the bacon and jalapeño pizza I used to love from Imo’s; it was my go-to pizza in high school. I made this one for Kid Two in honor of his starting high school. It has a base of homemade provel cheese sprinkled with sriracha, thinly sliced garden tomatoes in lieu of sauce, a sprinkling of crispy bacon, cooked fast, then topped with garden greens. It may be my new favorite. Here’s...
Very cool fuzzy cactus

Very cool fuzzy cactus

It was a foggy morning at the Big Sur Garden Gallery, where we stopped to admire their very cool and interesting collection of cactus and pick up a cappuccino and croissant from the Big Sur Bakery right next door. Here’s the star of the show:     Isn’t that so cool? I’ve never seen anything like it before. Here are a few other of the roadside cacti. This artichoke-shaped cactus is enormous, almost four feet tall.     Interesting shapes:     And cactus texture with a single tear:  ...
Farm Fresh vegetables at my door

Farm Fresh vegetables at my door

We’ve gotten to the point that a phone call or a knock on the door usually signals an intrusion; there’s rarely a friend or neighbor on the other end. People asking my opinion on politics and desalination, robots offering to reduce my credit card rate, Greenpeace canvassers, Mormon missionaries, door-to-door magazine salespersons . . . once a man in a refrigerated truck with an out-of-state license plate even knocked to ask if I’d like to buy some meat. I would love to see a Girl Scout or local kids raising money for their schools, but it’s not to be. I think all these type of sales must happen by their parents at the office. So last week when the door knocked and the dog barked, I rolled my eyes, pasted on a smile, and got ready to say no. But I was in for a surprise – the dog wagged his tail at the man. And he was a neighbor in a sense, a representative from Farm Fresh To You looking for new home delivery customers for their seasonal fruits and vegetables. It’s something I’ve always thought about doing, but not seriously. Now a farm found me, and the timing is great; I’ve been making baby steps toward planning our meals in advance and streamlining my grocery shopping. It seemed to be a good experiment to get a box of produce and plan a week of meals around it. I went for it. We received our first delivery yesterday morning, a box of fresh vegetables and fruits at my door before 8AM. Here’s a happy gorgeous way to start a morning:...
Pike Market, Seattle

Pike Market, Seattle

Soulard Market in St. Louis was my first farmer’s market experience, and as a girl I thought the whole experience quite alien – instead of linoleum floors and neat aisles, we’d walk the chilly concrete open-air hallway past stalls heaped with produce, whole fish piled on ice, beef tongue behind scratched glass cases and packets of novelty chocolate-covered insects to tempt. The bustle continued inside, with fresh cut flowers and kittens for sale and real fountain sodas against the far wall. Those memories popped into my mind after stumbling across Seattle’s Pike Place Market one Thursday evening. I’d flown into Seattle for BlogHer Food ’12 and was wandering along, getting my bearings, and there it was – a super-sized Soulard chock full of fish, flowers, and a multinational array of food. There was chocolate pasta and fresh garlic scapes, a Polish Pottery stall, one selling Middle Eastern spices, a woman selling ocarinas. It was marvelous. I didn’t take anywhere near enough pictures, but here you go – a few of the sights....
Baking with Downtown Tom

Baking with Downtown Tom

A few weeks ago, before St. Louis temperatures turned to the sweltering triple-digits, my dad Downtown Tom was on a baking frenzy, concocting treats for my mother, brothers and sisters, and niece and nephews from the groovy concrete kitchen of his rehabbed hat factory-turned-urban loft. He sent me photos since I’m not around to sample his delicacies. Luckily he’s as good a photographer as he is a cook – these are all great pictures! Keep scrolling to the bottom of the page; he also sent a pretty good cookie recipe for you to try. He’s definitely mastered the cinnamon roll. This last batch is perfectly browned and buttery-looking; very drool-worthy:   Key Lime Pie, I’m not so sure. He sent me this photo with the line, “We followed directions. Pie was chewy.” Since following directions is not a family trait, though, I’m really not surprised it turned out like this:   And finally, the cookies. He copied this recipe from an old cookbook he had laying around, using dried cranberries in place of the coconut. whole wheat flour in place of the Rice Krispies, and omitting the chocolate chips. It looks like a nice dense cookie, and not too sweet – a perfect snack for my niece and nephews when go to visit: Here’s the recipe for you to try and substitute as you see...
Hot puppy kibble salad

Hot puppy kibble salad

Our pup has a seriously great life. At least, I think it’s great: morning romps through a nearby field to dig out gopher holes and chasing butterflies . . . afternoon romps on the beach to noshing on sand crabs and play tag with pelican diving in the waves . . . and anytime cuddles with his boy.   I’ve had a huge learning curve, though, in learning how to care for a pup. This is our first dog, and I wasn’t anticipating how much a 4-pound, 9-week old rescue puppy could tug at my heartstrings. He cried the first time he smelled bacon cooking in the kitchen. He cried the first time I made burgers. And he cried the first time he smelled real charcoal barbecue, this tiny thing just learning to walk on a leash, refusing to budge, loving the aroma of beach party dinner. What’s a mom to do? I fed him.   I started to sprinkle a little granola in with his kibble to make it more appetizing, or parmesan cheese, or cooked rice. I’d give him bits of cheese or hot dog as “training rewards” during the day and then get irritated when he wasn’t excited to see his bowl of kibble at 5pm. This was NOT working for either one of us. I didn’t make any – or many – mistakes feeding my kids, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I was following a pathway to terrible doggy eating habits. I realized my problem was that I didn’t think it fair for pup to smell me cooking all this great food for...
Biking the Silver Strand

Biking the Silver Strand

  I’d heard there was biking on Coronado. I took this as a personal challenge; there’s nothing more I love than than wandering down a new street or trail. There’s a thrill of discovery in experiencing a new piece of the world first-hand, the sounds and smells and weather, the secrets, all those things you’ll never find from a photo on Google Earth. So, while most vacationing families left the Marriott this particular June morning to check out Legoland or Sea World, I took the proverbial road less traveled, hustling Kid Two into a ferry across the bay to rent fat blue cruisers and take off into our unknown.   The path took us under Highway 75’s swath of blue steel toward our reward, Glorietta Boulevard, a wide, tranquil avenue smelling of eucalyptus and lined on one side with large, lovely homes gazing out over a golf course, a tennis club, the iconic Hotel Del Coronado, and Mad Men-esque towers of the Coronado Shores Condominiums. My plan was to go as far as the trail took us, so instead of a quick loop around the island we turned south at the marina, red-turreted rooftops of the Hotel Del at our backs, to Strand Way. Here it’s a proper bike path smelling of plumeria and rosemary, lilies and lantana – all tidy mounds of shrubs lining a nicely groomed trail.   I’ve led the boys down a few sketchy paths in the past, though, so Kid Two was justifiably suspicious of my plan as the trail took us from plumeria paradise past a enormous, traffic- and construction-laden compound, as we...
Bienvenidos a Old Town

Bienvenidos a Old Town

If you’re visiting San Diego for a day or four and need a good old-fashioned tourist experience, visit Old Town, the bougainvillea-studded, Mexican-restaurant filled, historic center of San Diego.   You will want to eat, and it’s honestly impossible to choose which of the Mexican restaurants to dine in. I started with this list on the neighborhood website then start cross-referencing with Yelp and Chowhound, soon falling into a spiral of uncertainty that was neither helpful nor tasty. In the end we chose Cafe Coyote. It was highly recommended by cab driver and concierge types. Yelpers swooned over their delicious tortillas.   I didn’t understand until we arrived, thought, that those beautiful flour tortillas are actually handmade in full view of the street; lovely Mexican women in embroidered puebla blouses pulling off small handfuls from the mother dough, briskly rolling them into perfect, thin, pliable circles, then cooking quickly on a hot, hot grill. These aren’t delicious tortillas; they’re fabulous tortillas. You really have to try them. Even if you’re just wandering down the street on your way to or from the Sheriff’s Museum or looking for a quiet corner to sip a cold drink, you can pause and buy 2 for $1.00 directly from the cooks. Try them in cinnamon; they’ll work a spoonful of the spice right into the dough – then slather with a slab of butter and munch as you walk.   Wandering past the trompe l’oeil walls toward the restroom, I had a sudden memory blast of eating in the same restaurant almost 30 years ago – the summer I spent in San Diego as a mother’s helper for...
Mita Gourmet

Mita Gourmet

When you land in Loreto, Baja California Sur, once you get through customs and settled into your casita or cabana, it will be time to get your bearings over a bit of dinner. Mita Gourmet is an excellent place to start. Located at the eastern edge of the historic plaza, it’s easy walking distance from anywhere you may be staying in town. Sit outside, take in the activities on the square, and sip your first margarita. Hopefully, guitarist Herzon Rivera will be there too, picking his way through a set that ranges from “My Way to “Wish You Were Here” to “Hotel California.” He’s awesome – make sure you have an extra 200 pesos to buy his CD. Be sure to order a bowl of crema de almejas with a side of flour tortillas. Chef Juan Carlos makes the luscious, velvety clam chowder with béchamel and chocolate clams, a local specialty named for the color of their shell, not the taste: The menu is quite extensive if you’re still hungry; it’s very old-school steakhouse with a Mexican flair and as much heat as you can handle. LL’s fresh halibut Veracruz, packed with chocolate clams, shrimp, olives, onion, and pepper in a zesty tomato sauce topped with a scoop of rice, was also quite tasty. Sadly, the photo doesn’t do it much justice: Mita Gourmet, like most of the restaurants in Loreto, does not take credit cards. No worries, though; there is an ATM on the opposite side of the square where you can get pesos from your credit or debit...
Vacation photos and lunch

Vacation photos and lunch

It’s happened a couple of time this summer that we’ve been hanging out on rocks in the Big Sur River gorge, or kayaking in the harbor surrounded by diving pelicans, and I’ve been caught with an uncharged camera battery. I’ve grown accustomed to documenting many of these moments in our lives, and it felt strange each time to be forced into a simple enjoyment of the moment. My favorite Corita Kent quote had sudden real meaning: “Life is a succession of moments. To live each one is to succeed.” Then I found this poem: The Vacation by Wendell Berry Once there was a man who filmed his vacation. He went flying down the river in his boat with his video camera to his eye, making a moving picture of the moving river upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly toward the end of his vacation. He showed his vacation to his camera, which pictured it, preserving it forever: the river, the trees, the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat behind which he stood with his camera preserving his vacation even as he was living it so that after he had had it he would still have it. It would be there. With a flick of a switch, there it would be. But he would not be in it. He would never be in it. And I worried. About living through my camera instead of in the moment. I’ve taken thousands of photos on hundreds of hikes trying to capture the loveliness of the world as I see it, and the innocence and joy of the boys...

More mixed messages in the grocery line

Temptations in aisle 5 at Deluxe Foods. January magazines, in all ther fat-burning, fashion-forward, new you glory? Or a tin of December’s close-out truffles? Wasn’t it Jerry Garcia who said that choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil? A drastic thought for the grocery line, perhaps, but nevertheless. I just went home with a bag of satsumas, a pound of tilapia, and a bottle of Hey Mambo Swanky...