Oatmeal muffin magic and recipes for happiness

Oatmeal muffin magic and recipes for happiness

You certainly have a recipe for a perfect roasted chicken or chocolate chip cookies – for some dish that makes you and your family smile – but have you ever considered your recipe for happiness? It’s a little bit harder to describe, hmm? That’s the question the Allrecipes.com team posed to us bloggers at this year’s BlogHer Food ’12 conference, and it’s definitely something to chew over. Food is a way of bringing people together, of showing love, and of sharing a culture – all things that bring happiness. How do you put it all together? I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do just that – to think about my recipe for happiness and share it with Allrecipes’ Fresh Bites blog. Of course, it involves my children, and cooking, and being creative. Click here to read Muffin Magic – One Family’s Recipe for Guaranteed Happiness. And thank you, Allrecipes, for letting me stop by your blog and share a...
Fruit of your labor

Fruit of your labor

This Labor Day weekend, the Cabrillo College Farmer’s Market was ripe with summer’s bounty, baskets overflowing with tomatoes, oranges, eggplants, peppers, strawberries, as well as a sneak peak at fall’s flavors, the first local apples of the season and enormous cabbages. Kid Two and I made a quick stop for a breakfast of hot corn on the cob, a couple raw kumamoto oysters, and a shot of kimchi juice from the Farmhouse Culture stand and wandered around for a bit to enjoy the warm sun, blue sky, and music. The energy was fantastic. Here are a few things that caught my eye: [print_gllr...
Homegrown tomatoes

Homegrown tomatoes

Only two things that money can’t buy That’s true love and home grown tomatoes LL and I used to listen to Guy Clark’s song “Homegrown Tomatoes” from the 30-foot sailboat that was our first home, the first years of our true love but before we had a place to try our hand at homegrown tomatoes. It was the pre-iPod, pre-internet, pre-child era, when Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, and Lucinda Williams serenaded us weekend mornings from a mini-CD player perched on a teak shelf and we watched blue herons dive for sardines next to our dock in the twilight. We eventually landed in a little corner house in our coastal beach town where it took almost a decade to plant our first tomato bed. We learned that summer’s fog does keeps mornings lovely and cool but makes it difficult to successfully grow lush crops of most varieties of love apples. I’ve learned to use fresh soil each season, to prune the plants as they grow, to stop watering as soon as fruit develops for best flavor, and to not worry when the leaves turn yellow and the plant appears to die off early – it’s just the life cycle. We still don’t have a dependable variety or two we plant each year, though. We tried the San Francisco Fog variety to great success, but that cultivar has disappeared from the nursery starts lately. Last summer, we had large, round, Oregon Springs, a variety recommended by an CSA stand intern at our Saturday Farmer’s Market because “how hot and sunny can Oregon’s springs be?” It was a good choice, though; they were...
Dog menu on the puppy patio (everything eats)

Dog menu on the puppy patio (everything eats)

Downtown dogs definitely don’t have any trouble finding food in Santa Cruz. If not for our pup, though, I probably never would have known; Koah has opened my eyes to an animal-lovers dog-eat-food world. Kid Two and I saw that we can take pup to Cafe Limelight for lunch, where we can not only sit outside and eat, but the dogs have their own menu.   Koah prefers fresh roasted turkey. Bully sticks take him months to devour, and he’s never tasted the other options.   Although a week or so later, I was tempted enough by this display at El Salchichero to add a smoked pig’s ear to broaden Koah’s palate. He wasn’t convinced, seeing as the treat was about as big as his head. I had to give it to a neighbor dog.   Everything eats....
What’s your million-dollar a year dream job?

What’s your million-dollar a year dream job?

My sister-in-law once posed the question, during a family dinner: If you could get paid a million dollar a year salary to have any job you wanted, what would it be? We went around the table and answered that we’d be presidents and novelists, brain surgeons and astronauts, each one of us choosing a career we felt was important and worthy of that million dollar salary. She had an interesting take on the question, though, saying she would want to be the one at the beach passing out towels. I’d get paid a million dollars a year anyway, she pointed out. Why overexert yourself? An interesting point, I thought. I hadn’t thought of choosing a relatively mindless job, leaving your brain free for interesting after-work activities. But after seeing this sign at our local Whole Foods, I’ve found the perfect million-dollar dream job gig:   I can totally see myself cruising around the county, visiting chocolate makers, bread bakers, and sausage purveyors. Making the rounds of the farmer’s markets and fishmongers. Mildly exerting, quite important. So my new answer is: if I could earn a million dollar a year salary to do anything at all, I would absolutely become the Whole Foods Local Forager. But come to think of it, I’ve got that job already, I just don’t get paid for...
Tijuana dogs with homemade buns and memories

Tijuana dogs with homemade buns and memories

We saw Tijuana dogs – aka TJ dogs – all over San Diego last month, from the Marriott’s Tequila Grille to Little Italy’s Craft + Commerce to the food vendors on the walkway next to the otherwise staid USS Midway Museum.   Tijuana dogs are the ultimate street food – basically a bacon-wrapped hot dog with toppings. I’d never heard of them before, and from I could taste was definitely missing out. . . they are much better than you’d think, a perfect bite of salty, savory, tangy, and hot. For all you uninitiated, here’s a great Tijuana Dog graphic from food writer and cartoonist Hawk Krall that explains all the delicious possibilities:   One of the best things about traveling is finding, then trying to copy at home, those wonderful new tastes you discover along the way. TJ dogs were no exception, although I assumed they’d be hard to recreate, and wasn’t fully inspired to try it out until I discovered el Salchichero butcher shop in Santa Cruz, where chorizo bacon and handmade perro calientes spoke to me: We can become the Tijuana dogs of your dreams; our spicy salty goodness bringing back plumeria-scented memories of bike riding on Coronado Island, of gazing in wonder at enormous golden zodiac heads, of strolling through the Gaslight District and Little Italy in the twilight with your family . . . I think that’s what they said, anyway. They were convincing, nevertheless. And it turns out Tijuana dogs are a super-simple thing to make at home. Just start by wrapping a slice of bacon, spiral-style, around a hot dog.   Now put your raw...

Learn to scramble eggs with California Kid Kitchen

Some families watch baseball, others lean toward Survivor or X Factor . . . we watch cooking competitions. Next Food Network Star, Top Chef, and Iron Chef all reign supreme around our house, and sometimes while we’re walking pup we challenge each other to come up with dishes for outrageous, imaginary Chopped baskets. So it was probably just a logical step for LL to challenge Kid Two to come up with a cooking video of his own. He does cook a bit, and not just by toasting his own frozen waffles. He’s a master of scrambled eggs and Julia Child’s chocolate mousse, he makes pizza dough, minces veggies, and rolls out ravioli. But It took the free time of summer vacation before Kid Two could take his dad up on the challenge, and today presented him with a belated Father’s Day gift – the first installment in California Kid Kitchen: Scrambled Eggs. I just love this so much, on many different levels. In the most basic way, he really does teach kids how to scramble eggs, assuming no knowledge but without talking down to anyone. And it very much captures his laid-back personality, tossing out information when interesting and/or necessary, but not filling empty space with words. No worries that the stove was dirty, or that he used a knife to do the scrambling. Plus, he composed the background music himself! So without further ado, here it is . . . California Kid Kitchen Episode One: Scrambled Eggs. Made with love from Kid Two to LL for Father’s Day 2012. embedded by Embedded...
First pick of home-grown blackberries

First pick of home-grown blackberries

My neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks, so that awkward strip of land between property line and county-maintained street is a landscape free-for-all, a curb value coda. A few neighbors fill the space with asphalt. Others plant prim mounds of multicolored lantana, rosemary and lavender bushes, pots of bamboo, or birds of paradise; almost everything grows here. Many carefully groom the space with pebbles that coordinate with their house color. Many also just let weeds and visiting cars fill the space. Last year I ripped out a native landscape garden I’d established in our strip during one enthusiasm in favor of my newest obsession – growing only/mostly things we can eat. Kid Two helped me dig deep holes in the clay dirt, mixing in fine soil, filling the space with tiny springs of bareroot grapes, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and huckleberries. One day, I thought, we’ll be able to pick a few berries as we walk to the beach, or gather an after-school snack, or maybe even grow enough for a batch of homegrown jam. Dream-berries. The reality of a berry patch has certainly not been as glamorous as my fantasy. We navigated the jigsaw puzzle of drip irrigation only once, but everything else is continuous. Fertilizing, mulching, weeding the prickly California roses that kept sprouting up, figuring out how to train the prickly brambles away from the street, from scratching my arms and leaving stickers in my thumb. We’ve done the work randomly, mindlessly, losing track, really of when to expect a harvest. Life was that much sweeter then, after pulling into the driveway from vacation – mind already building the endless...
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...
Inspiring street tacos at the Tequila Grille

Inspiring street tacos at the Tequila Grille

If you ever discover termites are devouring part of your house, and to fix that problem you must remove all the food, the medicines, the 125-gallon fish tank, the 30-gallon fish tank, the 10-gallon fish tank, and the houseplants – as well as the plants living quite heavily on the outside wooden deck – 11 potted palms, 5 potted citrus, 3 bananas, and a bird of paradise – and for a minimum of 3 days your house will look like this:   I highly recommend this as a place to wait out your banishment:   There’s absolutely nothing wrong with San Diego’s Marriott Marquis. It’s walking distance to Seaport Village, the ferry to Coronado, Gaslamp District, a cool funky shopping mall, the Midway Museum, and the trolley to Old Town and beyond. There’s a Starbucks right there in the hotel to start your day with a venti black tea and a cup of fresh fruit. There’s a big hot tub, in case it’s too cool to swim in the June Gloom. And there’s a nicely groomed lawn right there next to the pool where your kids can practice their diabolo chops.   And best of all, the Tequila Bar & Grille, their house cantina, is completely awesome. The food is interesting and tasty, served piping hot by friendly staff, and with normal restaurant prices – probably because of all the nearby competition. And it totally rocked for an awesome late lunch/early supper after our big Silver Strand bike ride. Kid Two and I ordered too much food, of course – every taco on the menu was a bit much! – but...
One composed bite

One composed bite

Poolside at San Diego’s Marriott Marquis, post Silver Strand bike ride. I pulled together this fetching, perfectly composed bite from our Tequila Grill appetizer selections: a single crunchy tortilla chip, spread with creamy guacamole, layered with a spicy bit of chipotle chicken, and topped with tangy pickled red onion. So pretty and tasty I felt like a Food Network...
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...
Soft pretzel by the sea

Soft pretzel by the sea

Seaport Village, to be exact, where Kid Two and I are hiding out while our house is being termite-proofed. Banishment at the Marriott Marquis is not a so bad … here is our view:   We slept in, finally venturing out about noon for breakfast and found these enormous buttery soft pretzels at Wetzel’s: Missing Kid One and the pup, otherwise a perfect way to start a summer...
Kitchen homonyms

Kitchen homonyms

Kid Two suggested I write a children’s book about kitchen homonyms just after I’d made an eyeball-rolling joke about needing to knead that evening’s pizza dough. How cool is that – at 13, he still thinks his mom is interesting and capable! Read the list then let me know if you want to work on it with me!

Mama Magic

My magic wand is eighteen inches long. A pewter mermaid-fairy perches on top of a thin stainless steel stem, hands held high above her head offering up a clear crystal marble. Knee-length hair winds around her body, and her wings – embossed with tiny pink and yellow crystal stars – fan out from her back. A miniature crystal bouquet hangs from her tail, which wraps around the stem. Read more . . .