Kids, Love & Food

I have a bad habit of spoiling the ones I love. I do this in many ways, but in no way is it more obvious then in how I cook for the people I absolutley adore.

No matter how tired I am, or what I am doing, I always find time to drop everything and make something amazing for one or the other of my daughters. All they have to do is look at me and tell me they’re hungry and I go running off to the kitchen like they were four years old (I once did this for my late husband as well).

Today, felt like a Sunday, and we had all eaten a very late lunch, so no one was interested in dinner, my older daughter went out, but as eight o’clock rolled around my younger daughter, who had been studying all day for the SAT gave me that sad look and told me she was hungry.

I’ve made these little pizza’s before and they are a favorite. So, this is what I made for her. I took the picture above and wanted to share this very easy and quick recipe with you.

Mediterranean Pizza

1 pita

1 onze pesto (this was actually a chimichurri sauce, but I’ve used both)

1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup mixed spinach, chard and kale

5 kalamata olives

2 cherry tomatoes halved

Salt and pepper

The first thing you do is pull out a frozen pita (Costco) and put it immediately in the oven on the rack with a cookie sheet under it at 400 degrees. This helps it defrost. Then I put a pan on the stove to preheat turning it on high (my stove is slow to heat up so adjust as needed). I use a nonstick pan. I gather the other ingredients while everything is heating up.

Then, I pull the pita out of the oven and spread the pesto lightly. I always do sauces on the light side, but give the kids some on the side for dipping. I then add the cheese and let the cheese melt. I usually cut up some fruit at this time because it’s a good time to get, said child, to actually eat it.

I know she’s seventeen, but I still care and worry about her. So, tonight she had strawberries and ate them all.

While the cheese in melting, and before the pan gets too hot, I add the eggs and cook them over easy. I make one for the dog (I can’t help it I love the dog as well) and the dog is now eleven so what is the harm at this point in giving her people food?

I keep an eye on the bread and when the cheese has melted (7-10 minutes depending on your oven) I pull it out. At this point I cut it into four triangles for ease in eating. I put the salad mixture on top, add the olives and tomatoes and top with the egg. I always plate with salt and pepper, but not all humans like this I’ve found, so do what works for your loved ones.

This process literally takes so little time and it delights my children beyond what you might expect. I also make it with fig jam, Brie and arugula which with friends over is a very welcome snack.

Love and blessings to all.

img_0098

Easy Recipes for Drunk Moms

A few years ago, I had wanted to write a cookbook for drunk mothers. At that time, I had regular dinner parties at home in the Bay Area, or at our second home in Tahoe. My friends and I would be cooking for a crowd and simultaneously drinking wine. Sometimes mixed drinks, but mostly wine.

These two activities are mostly incompatible as there are many pitfalls to engineering a meal that will likely be served on your second cocktail.

Of course, you don’t have to be a mother to throw a disastrous dinner party. This was evidenced by my hipster co-workers who were mixing cocktails while executing a complicated and expensive recipe for Cioppino, a crab and lobster fish stew, for their girlfriends. Needless to say, the entirety was eventually fed to the garbage can, and Chinese takeout predictably ordered.

I would hear of these escapades on Monday, over lunch, and then another dinner would be planned for the following weekend, again to disastrous results. I finally pulled out a pen and wrote a simple menu on the back of my napkin.

Drunk men should not be making pizza at home for guests. Pizza burns when unattended. Yes, it’s true. If you put a pizza in the oven at 400 degrees it will be black by the time you notice the kitchen filled with smoke.

I was very motivated to solve this paradox as dinner is my favorite meal of the day, and I personally can not drink alcohol unless I’m well nourished. Plus, I wanted to enjoy my friends and not be the distracted cook and dishwasher at these events.

Over the years, I’ve devised many strategic recipes to get dinner on the table with a party in full swing. We entertained so frequently that I became an expert in this area.

In the early years, it was tempting to forget dinner and just serve heavy appetizers, but as the little ones arrived this was not an option.

It was no easy task to execute dinner for twelve with six screaming kids, music playing and my best friend telling me a funny story, all of this with a delicious chilled glass of Chardonnay in hand.

There were also those long summer evenings with the toddlers when my husband worked late, or took friends to a Giants game, or played a round of golf. After a full day with the little ones and the housework, (I’m not complaining I cherish those days) I needed a respite to recharge. It was then that I would pour myself a water glass size margarita and go outside to water the lawn and flowers while the cartoons played on.

As necessity is the mother of invention, I devised very clever ways to get dinner to turn out perfectly with the minimum amount of attention.

More to come on this project, but in the meantime, I’m putting my finishing touches on my book about grief and the year following the sudden death of my husband. It was a transformative time, but I miss my good humor and playfulness. It is this part of my character that I now wish to embrace moving forward.

Love and blessings.

Original White Lasagna 

Original White Lasagna

I created many original recipes when my kids were young. My younger daughter disliked tomato sauce, so I made this gorgeous baked pasta dish with fresh whipping cream. Below is my recipe. 

White Lasagna

Ingredients:

1 package dried no boil Lasagna 

15 oz.  whole milk ricotta cheese 

2 cage free eggs

1 pint organic heavy whipping cream

8 oz. mozzarella balls

1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

Fresh basil leaves

Fresh grated Parmesan 

Salt and pepper 

Steps:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Whip eggs with ricotta by hand or with mixer.
  • Layer ingredients starting with cream on the bottom and ending with layer of cheese on top.
  • Cook until brown on top.
  • Allow to cool before cutting.
  • Sprinkle with Parmigiana cheese.

Sydney’s White Lasagna

Love and blessings to all.

Chicken Soup

Quick Chicken Noodle Soup

Because of the healing properties in chicken soup, I always make a version of one of many recipes when someone is ill.

I even made it for my dog Polly. She cut her paw open on a piece of glass walking through the creek with the kids when she was a puppy, and it refused to heal and became infected. She then had an adverse reaction to the anitibotics, so taking matters into my own hands, I fed her homemade chicken and brown rice soup and vanilla Greek yogurt.

Sometimes, I make my own noodles and you can do this with a simple pasta recipe, a rolling pin and a knife. This was fun for the kids when they were small, as making and handling dough is always high entertainment for children. Then, you simply cook the fresh pasta in the broth and vegetables. Or, I use orzo, or any kind of rice.

For myself, I like rice, tarragon, and lemon when I’m feeling under the weather. If I’m just hungry, I like to add bourbon and cream (see my recipe for Chicken, Whiskey and Wild Rice Soup here). 

My daughter wanted egg noodles and just carrots, so that’s what I made. I usually make my own broth, and this is obviously better, but time was limited, so I used this quick recipe instead.

It’s no secret that you can now buy excellent organic broth and pre-roasted organic chicken in most grocery stores, and although not made with fresh herbs from my own garden, they are not as bad as they once were.

Quick Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients:

2 cups shredded cooked organic chicken from Whole Foods

32 oz. organic chicken broth

1 cup diced carrots

1 package egg noodles

Sprig of thyme

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Salt and white pepper to taste

Steps:

  • Add diced carrots and broth and bring to a rolling boil to cook carrots.
  • Reduce heat, add noodles, and cook per package directions.
  • Remove from heat, add thyme, lemon zest and season to taste.

Love and blessings to all.

Margarita Pizza

Handmade Margarita Pizza
On Friday, I got the big guns out, after my daughter who recently had knee surgery refused to eat anything but, donuts and candy. My chicken noodle soup could not compete, so I had to get creative.

I made her favorite soup (recipe to follow), which she enjoyed for two seconds, and then went back to the pounds of candy delivered by friends. Being desperate to get her to eat something more nutritious I made her favorite pizza.  

Making pizza is fast and easy, but you do have to stay close to the kitchen, and keep an eye on it as it cooks. I had enough dough for two, so while they were baking I made her a white lasagna (recipe to follow).

Note: The oven must be well preheated and very hot. 

Margarita Pizza

Pizza dough (Whole Foods)

3 tablespoons tomato sauce (any kind)

1/2 oz. extra-virgin olive oil

2-4 ounces fresh mozzarella (small balls)

4 to 5 basil leaves

Instructions:

  • Let dough rest for half an hour in a warm place. In the meantime, preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Rollout dough with extra flour on stone. Place a pizza stone (or cookie sheet, but grease with olive oil) to warm in the oven.
  • Roll dough with a rolling pin into a circle. Spread the sauce using the back of a spoon evenly across the surface, stopping approximately 1/2 inch from the edges.
  • Cut each ball in half and place evenly and gently on the sauce. 
  • Place onto the heated stone or tiles in the oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, approximately 4 to 8 minutes.
  • Add fresh basil. 

Make as many as you have time for, as these disappear magically. They can also be eaten cold, or reheated with excellent results. 

Delayed Reaction 

Yesterday was my late husband’s birthday, I met up with my college friends at the Lafayette Art and Wine Festival, we laughed in the way only old friends can, over nothing, like we were nineteen again. After, I came home and let Siena have friends over since she’s on crutches and I want her close. I made dinner, and watched a movie.

This morning, I woke up feeling a little depressed, so I went to church, then grocery shopping. I had that same lonely feeling I often had as a kid, but rarely feel now. 

I wondered around the grocery store like a ghost, and came home with ingredients for ten different dinners. Comfort food. Right now, I’m making chicken and wild rice soup, with fresh cream, bourbon and thyme from my garden.  I will move onto linguine and prawns in a lemon butter sauce next. After, I’m toasting rosemary focaccia with olive oil and fontina cheese.

Happy Sunday.

Love and blessings to all.

Birthdays & Milestones

It’s my late husband’s birthday today, if things were different, I would be having a party for him tonight and cooking ribs, BBQ chicken and smashed potatoes with bacon and cheddar cheese. He would have a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake with his name on it.

That was the past.

Yesterday, the men’s signature jacket prototype arrived for Ocean SF. Which after a year of development was quite a milestone. 

This is the future. 

I am on the advisory board for a new nonprofit my friend Nick Firestone started in partnership with Tesla. The organization will bring renewable energy to hurricane impacted communities.  So, yesterday I went to the Yacht Club to help with the filming of his video documentary, but on the way, I stopped by the sailing club to give my sailing instructor, Tom Dryja his jacket. 

Because Tom and Nick are also friends, Tom came along, and after filming, we had dinner with the video crew.  This is not the life I thought I would have, but it’s a very good life nonetheless. I’m grateful to have work I love, inspring people to spend my time with, and countless other blessings. 

Later, the girls and I will have a three way call to say a prayer for their father, as we will all be in different places this afternoon. 

Another first. One more milestone. 

Love and blessings. 

Grounded

Manicotti

I’ve finally started to feel grounded again, after a busy few weeks, I thought spending time alone in Tahoe would make me feel better, but it didn’t. 

What has helped me has been to come home, water my pink and white flowers, and pots full of impatience, pansies and daisies, tend to my basil plants, and trim my beloved Meyer Lemon tree and cook for my children. 

I should have known this, because nothing comforts me more than the fog rolling in and cooling off my creekside home in the summertime. I love the wildlife that thrives in our beautiful town, and the way we are so close to the city, but feel so far away. 

There is no better feeling than puttering around barefoot, watering the plants, and making dinner for the kids.

Love and blessings. 

My Charmed Childhood & Chinese Chicken Salad

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 6.52.08 PM
The Sideboard Kitchen, Danville, California

If you read my book, Real Food (Amazon), there are many references to my charmed childhood growing up on a farm in the Willamette Valley, in Oregon, and as with many people, the older I get, the more I appreciate my roots and my life there.

My mother was a complete and total “foodie” twenty years before the term was coined. She was the epitome of fresh, organic and sustainable.  All of our food came from our land.  I had my first Twinkie in fifth grade.

My mother grew up in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada (below Iceland).  It’s tundra, so very little grows there.   My father had grown up on a cash crop farm in Illinois, so they were from very different backgrounds and he was 14 years her senior.  They met when he was working with the Strategic Air Command (SAC) for the Department of Defense during the cold war.  This is how my sister and I got our names as we both have the SAC initials.  They were married when she was 23 and he was 37.  They moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked for the Pentagon, and then to Nurnberg, Germany where he worked undercover for the CIA (and where I was a born), then he went to Vietnam, after the war they bought our farm and restored the 100 year old farmhouse where we lived.

They raised  race horses and my father taught history at the local college and coached the high school football and basketball teams.  My mother wore black silk cigarette pants with jeweled velvet slippers and invited the locals over for cocktail hour.   It was not unlike the T.V. show Green Acres.

When she wasn’t socializing with the neighboring farmers, my mother gardened, cooked, canned, baked and made jam.  She had a massive three acre garden full of tomatoes, lettuces, watermelon, strawberries and everything inbetween.  The black angus and lamb that roamed our fields eventually landed in a giant freezer, the size of a coffin, in our kitchen.  My father made wine.  There were orchards of peaches, apples, cherries and pears, and walnut and hazelnut trees, raspberry bushes and a blanket of mint around our pond.  Wisteria and hydrangeas, lilacs and honeysuckle graced the parameters of the historic house we lived in.  Our backyard was so big the grass was cut with a tractor.  White sheets blew in the breeze on the clothes line.  It was all wonderful.

As I watch the food scene evolve it reminds me of skipping through my mother’s garden on the farm and waiting for dinner to be ready.  This usually included a large garden salad dressed with just oil and vinegar, a T-bone steak the size of a dinner plate, and little else.

If you are in the area stop by the Sideboard Kitchen in Danville, owned by a local couple, their food is fresh and organic and very reminiscent of life on the farm.  They will be opening a second location in Lafayette where Squirrels used to be.  If not, here is my favorite recipe for Chinese Chicken Salad by the master, Bobby Flay, of the Food Network.  I substitute half of the romaine for kale and add cilantro like Sideboard, as pictured above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking for Teen Athletes – Gluten free Spaghetti and Meatballs

Although I’ve been very busy with my entrepreneurial ventures and teaching at Berkeley, I’m still required to cook for my athletic teenage daughters.  Cooking for athletes is different than cooking for a normal family as there are serious time constraints and, “food as fuel” is more of a practice than a concept, although I think it should be an extremely high priority for anyone feeding growing children, athletic or otherwise.

My daughter will often swim for an hour and a half.  She does this after school, so she has already had a full day and has eaten next to nothing.  She’s also prone to anemia, so I am always trying to pack her meals with nutrients, and they need to be iron dense.  My other daughter plays soccer and has practices in the evening, so between soccer and swimming there is a tiny slice of time for dinner, and it’s around 5 p.m.

As many mothers know, teenage girls don’t eat much at lunch, which makes them very hungry when they get home from school.  This is when the bad snacking is often done.  I’ve tried many strategies over the years, but have recently decided to serve a quick dinner at this time when possible.  I know how lucky I am to be able to have the flexibility to cook early in the day, but if you don’t, try making a double batch of this to freeze in single serving glass containers, or to serve the next day.

When the kids were little, and I was for the most part a stay-at-home mom, I could spend two hours cooking dinner, but that is no longer possible.  Someday, I hope to have time to make homemade ravioli again, but for now this will have to do, and it checks the boxes of the top criteria for me.  Fast, easy, hot and nutritious. Plus, they love it, which might be the most important criteria.

IMG_5584

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Ingredients:

1 package gluten free spaghetti cooked

1 jar of marina sauce or make your own

1 package of meatballs from Whole Foods Market or make your own

Parmesan cheese (I like these large shavings)

Instructions:

Begin cooking gluten free pasta as per package instructions.  Then, in a large sauce pan heat the meatballs and sauce until they come to a slight boil, reduce heat and let simmer while the pasta is cooking.  Once pasta is done, add to the pan and gently toss while hot.  Reheats and freezes well.