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...
Homemade provel cheese

Homemade provel cheese

  True story: St. Louis-born in a decidedly un-foodie time, I did not know that provel and provolone were two different cheeses until after I had moved to California and was married with a baby. Really. I had a sudden taste for one of those delicious house salads we used to get from Talayna’s back when there was only one enormous and dirty location in DeBaliviere, before it got all prettied up and moved. The salad was an enormous mound of iceberg lettuce with a few Greek olives, cherry tomatoes, croutons, and delicious gooey tubes of provel cheese, all tossed together with the house dressing, a garlicky creamy Italian that my BFF assured me her mother said was very close to Marie’s. I can’t find a picture of it, but here’s a similar salad from Leo’s Pizza in Kansas City that will give you the idea: I made the salad that night with provolone and was disappointed. Where was that soft, gooey cheese I craved? I confessed to LL being confused that the provolone in California was so – different from my midwestern cheese. “But we called it provel,” I reasoned. “Maybe there’s some difference.” And that’s when I learned they’re two completely different cheeses. “Provel is like Velveeta,” he informed me. It’s processed. It’s not even cheese. I’ve never seen it around here.” To this day, I have no idea how my native California-husband knew about provel 22 years ago when just 2 years ago even Anthony Bourdain hadn’t. He just knows things, it’s his superpower. So I moved on and found other cheeses, and for all these years provel was just...
Ice cream bread is a real thing

Ice cream bread is a real thing

I thought the email that Downtown Tom forwarded me from a distant cousin was a joke – the one that said “ICE CREAM BREAD TWO INGREDIENT (no joke!)” in the subject line. It had to be a joke, right? The only two ingredients were 2 cups of softened ice cream and 1-1/2 cups self-rising flour. But it made sense that it would work. Ice cream is milk and eggs and sugar; self-rising flour has baking soda and salt, so all the components are technically there. So in the interest of science, we made it. The Kids brought home Dryer’s low-fat cookie dough ice cream and regular flour for the project*,  so I added the baking soda and salt myself to make it self-rising. I didn’t have the required 8×4 inch bread pan, so I used a larger 9×5 inch. And it was bread, to be sure, but not a particular interesting or flavorful one. The dog like it, though: So I made it again. The problem had to be the low-fat ice cream, we thought, so the second time around we used Marianne’s 1020 ice cream, a rich, luscious creamy caramel ice cream with fudge swirls and chunks of Oreo cookies that’s made locally in Santa Cruz. Oh, and I bought actual self-rising flour and an 8×4 inch loaf pan, just in case that made a difference. I didn’t, really. It was still a lovely small loaf, dense and moist, perfectly passable but still disappointingly bland. There is something lost in translation, I suppose. We were expecting sweet ice cream flavor and all we got was, well, bread. Bread...

Peaches – nature’s candy in my hand or can or pie

“Peaches come from a can / They were put there by a man / in a factory downtown.” This is one of our family-inside-joke sort of songs, one of those ludicrous and vaguely hilarious things I found before a summer Big Sur road trip. It went on the Big Sur Road Trip playlist, along with Cows With Guns and Bongo Bong and a bunch of other songs that probably go a long way in explaining why we are the way we are, and we listened to it while driving from our Julia Pfeiffer Burns environmental campsite to a civilized dinner at the Big Sur Bakery and back. Enjoy “Peaches” by the Presidents of the United States. embedded by Embedded VideoYouTube Direkt...
Midnight in Juneau

Midnight in Juneau

Downtown Tom and Grandma Juju, and my sister’s family just got home from an Alaskan cruise, what sounds like a fabulous, relaxing time during which they waved at grizzly bears on the beach, watched whale flukes on Glacier Bay, hunted for John Brown’s grave, and saw Victoria in a horse-drawn carriage. The ship off from Seattle – a town they all agreed seemed fabulous and worth it’s own trip. They have wanted to revisit their old homes in Sitka and Juneau for as long as I can remember, and my sister’s college graduation along with a couple of significant birthdays was the catalyst to carpe diem. Sitka is where my sister and I went to kindergarten and first grade way before there was tourism or wifi or even much fresh fruit, where we learned to ride bikes while careening down Mt. Edgecumbe, where we picked blueberries while looking fearfully for bears, and where we screamed with delight as we slid around on glaciers and solidified our love for the out-of-doors. So the trip was bittersweet for my parents – their old government homes had been razed, there were coffee shops and that cruise ship port – their memories flowed but the glacier had ebbed. Their daughters are grown and it was all good but  just . . . different. Except for the sunset. Here’s a photo Grandpa Tom took . . sunset doesn’t last all evening, unless you’re in Alaska in the summer:   To end, George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.”   embedded by Embedded VideoYouTube...
Thomas’ zesty flavored oyster crackers

Thomas’ zesty flavored oyster crackers

Today I am thrilled to share a blog post from my nine and a half-year old nephew, Thomas. Even though we don’t live nearby, Thomas has spent quite a few vacations with us in Santa Cruz, from a fussy babyhood through a giggling Spongebob Squarepants-dom to the Renaissance child he has grown to be. Thomas loves to read, plays the piano, is working toward black belt, and can sing a mean Lady Gaga cover. Recently he’s started a computer recycling business too, so watch out world! He’s been learning to cook and is here to share a recipe with us. Enjoy! Hi, I’m Thomas, Maggie’s favorite nephew. [Ed. note: nice try, Thomas, but I think your brother and cousins would like to be favorites, too!] I’ve been taking cooking classes. I have delicious recipes for you. Now, oyster crackers may not seem appetizing but they are. I got this recipe from my grandma. If you want to make it make sure to read the recipe because it is not just a oyster on a cracker.   Ingredients: ¾ c. salad oil (olive oil) 1 envelope (1.0 oz.)  Hidden valley ranch original ½ t. dill weed ¼ t. lemon pepper ¼ t. garlic powder 12 – 16 oz. plain oyster crackers Instructions: Whisk together first five ingredients. Mix with crackers. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes. The first time I made these my grandma told me to mix the lemon pepper and the garlic power in a separate bowl because the garlic power clumps together. Plus, once you put the garlic powder in the...
Fiction for foodies: Baking Cakes in Kigali

Fiction for foodies: Baking Cakes in Kigali

Every now and then I read a book that just perfectly illustrates how food as a theme unites all the people of the world. Baking Cakes in Kigali is one of those books. It’s most likely not a novel you’ve heard of; at least I hadn’t, although author Gaile Parkin made Oprah’s poll of favorite contemporary women writers the year after it was published. My newest sister-in-law – the one on our family who ALWAYS  knows what’s going on – gave me this copy on one of my trips back to St. Louis. Once I dove into the story. I was completely enthralled – read it straight through the day and into the night. The protagonist is Angel Tungaraza, a married mother raising her four grandchildren while running a cake-baking business. I love her character; she’s wise, insightful, and empathetic, the type of person to whom others confide their problems. With flour, sugar, eggs, and food coloring, she sets the wheels in motion to solve any tricky situation or problem that arises with a light heart and a perfectly decorated cake. This isn’t magical realism, though. Here’s the deal – the best part of the novel is the contrast of Angel’s baking business against the setting, her middle-class household in post-genocide Rwanda. The only thing I knew about the country was locked in my memories of horrific reports that I honestly tried to block, and Parkin, who lived in Rwanda for a time, created a sweet story of people who live normal lives – working, schooling, traveling, and marrying – against a devastated past. Cake and joy are the ties...
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....
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...
Novelty snacks at the art supply store

Novelty snacks at the art supply store

The other day I wrote about the unexpected natural flavorings in food and my objection that the legal definition of those “natural flavors,” as we seen in an ingredient list, could be any one of a variety of things. Whether from from plant or from animal, the inherent vagueness in that definition prevents us as consumers to actually know what we eat when choosing a processed food products. Then today I was in line at my favorite art supply store and actually laughed out loud when I saw the items pictured below stacked on the impulse purchase shelf next to the register. I don’t know what to call them. Novelty snacks? I love them, though; they’re so wonderfully, blatantly . . .  fake. The kind of thing that can only exist to fuel kids and dares. With completely honest nutrition facts and ingredient information . . . nothing wrong with that. These roast beef gumballs get their flavor from artificial roast beef flavor.   Likewise, artificial dill flavoring gives this its pop:   Artificial cumin flavor:   Artificial corndog flavor: And the stomach-curdling foie gras bubble gum. Sugar, corn syrup, gum base, and artificial liver flavoring. Artificial liver flavoring! Who knew there would be such a thing? But it will certainly come in handy when the foie gras ban goes into effect.   The very fact that these exist at art supply store, as opposed to the grocery or corner liquor stores, says perhaps these are to be enjoyed visually as opposed to digestively. Art that is safe to chew. Either way, check out Accoutrements to see...

Adrienne Rich: Miracle Ice Cream

Words and food and childhood memories – in honor of poet Adrienne Rich, I’d like to share one of my favorite poems of hers . . it makes me happy. Miracle Ice Cream by Adrienne Rich Miracle’s truck comes down the little avenue, Scott Joplin ragtime strewn behind it like pearls, and, yes, you can feel happy with one piece of your heart.   Take what’s still given: in a room’s rich shadow a woman’s breasts swinging lightly as she bends. Early now the pearl of dusk dissolves. Late, you sit weighing the evening news, fast-food miracles, ghostly revolutions, the rest of your heart.   Poetry matters! Click here to read more of Adrienne Rich’s work online, or on the link below to purchase a volume of her work from...

Surviving summer camp cuisine

or, how I spent my summer vacation, part 1 Sail camp sounded like the best thing in the world for Kid Two. He discovered a love and affinity for sailing last year and, as as happens when you get involved in a new activity, found there are clubs and camps and organizations that spring up to support said activity. Camping next to the warm waters of the San Joaquin River Delta, sleeping under twinkling stars on the lush grass of a yacht club. Sailing during the day and playing cards all night – what could be better? Kid One, who also enjoys the water, secured a gig as a sail camp counselor – a motherly micromanaging coup that gave me the comfort Kid Two would have at least one familiar face all week – his brother’s. Even better, sail camp dates coincided with LL’s spending a week at a convention in Las Vegas, so if I worked this right, I could go keep him company in Sin City. It was lovely, but I was stressed out about the logistics of getting the five of us ready to go away for a week. Someone had to house-sit the garden and the fish. The puppy was going to my in-laws and needed treats, kibble, toys, and his favorite bed. LL needed silk shirts and business cards. Kid Two needed a chartered boat, tent, and things to amuse himself in the evenings, Kid One, now 19, could more or less pack himself, but if I was going to Vegas I needed a pair of dress shoes and a bling-y swimsuit; my beach-mom garb of...
Dreaming of chickens

Dreaming of chickens

Last night I dreamed of chickens. There may have been a rooster in the bunch, but that level of detail in my dream is hazy. I remember they were enormously feathered in varying shades of rust and gold, and they were enormous, for chickens, almost four feet tall. I could pretty accurately gauge their height because, in my dream, they were tightrope-walking on the utility lines in front of the house. One carried a polka-dot umbrella. Here where I live, chickens are the new black. That may not be what you’d expect of a beach town, but it’s more and more common to walk through a residential neighborhood and see a chicken coop tucked into a side yard, or next to a driveway. The weekly paper carries notices of coop-building workshops, and both feed shops and nurseries alike offer up fowl advice along with organic feed and baby chicks. Growing up in the ’70’s in an urbanized suburbia, the only chicken I was exposed to, if it wasn’t deep-fried, was the tiny white plastic one from the Fisher Price Farm Set. This made sense to me, since eggs were white, too. I knew from visits to the Herpetarium at the St. Louis Zoo of the great multi-colored variety of snakes and lizards out there in the world, but that information didn’t translate to the chicken world. I was an adult before I visited the poultry exhibit at the county fair and learned that – just like snakes, and people, too – chickens come in all colors and shapes. As do their eggs. I started thinking about a coop of...
Man on wheel

Man on wheel

Have you ever seen the movie Man on Wire? We did, a few months back. It’s a very nicely done 2008 documentary that probably fell under your radar, about Philipe Petit’s 1974 illegal walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Oddly, though, a few weeks later, a friend gave me the book Let The Great World Spin. It’s novelist Colum McCann’s fictionalized account of that same tightrope act. So balancing acts have evidently been working overtime in my brain, Last Saturday, then, when our local paper reported the King of the High Wire Nik Wallenda was slated to perform a stunt at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, I knew I had to go. Who’d want to miss the chance to see a man taking a stroll around a 52-foot Ferris Wheel? Definitely not me! The early morning fog was giving way to blue skies as I gathered Kid Two, his Buddy, and a pocketful of quarters. We set out for a bit of morning adventure, and the boys took in a few rides while we waited for The King of the High Wire to begin. When the time came, a crowd of two hundred or so gathered under the Ferris wheel, jostling for position. The wheel s-l-o-w-l-y started to move. Parents and teens brandished smartphones in anticipation. Roller coaster oriented children complained loudly at the interruption. Finally Nik Wallenda appeared, riding s-l-o-w-l-y to the top of the wheel. He summoned his balance pole from the ground, straddled the top of the ride, stepped out to the top, and strolled s-l-o-w-l-y around the wheel as it made a rotation....
Sunday Supper, a poem

Sunday Supper, a poem

This poem is much like my children in that I’m occasionally astonished such a thing came out of me. I scribbled this down – an intact stream of images – while at the hairdresser’s, sitting under a fan of hot lamps, individual chunks of hair wrapped in foil. I remember I was giggling at the time. Perhaps I should try and write more under the influence of aluminum. Enjoy your Sunday Supper.