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.

Have Better Cards

The secret to winning at poker and at anything in life is to have better cards. Since, I’ve been left to my own devises unexpectedly to support my children and myself without warning, I think a great deal about things like increasing my market share, and making my adventure clothing company Ocean SF attractive to investors, while leveraging my assets, and managing my resources.  

The truth is the best way to win at any card game is to have better cards than the other players, this is of course a metaphor for what I am trying to do, and to me it means that I must have a better product than my competitors, and I’ve worked hard to make sure that I do, our technical mid layer jacket, is by far the best on the market.

My mother used to warn me to play my cards right. At the time, I didn’t really understand this, but now I do. 

Here are some tips for life and card games:

  • Come prepared 
  • Stay calm
  • Games are about taking risks, don’t take too many risks, but if you play too conservatively you will lose 
  • Other players can bluff, but the person with the better hand always wins

Love and blessings.

My Charmed Childhood & Chinese Chicken Salad

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Comfort Food

Pasta, Prosciutto and Peas

I’ve saved the best for last.  This is one of my most cherished recipes, and I make it over and over again for my kids and friends.  I had this for the first time at Tre Vigne in St. Helena when I was 24 years old and on my first trip to the Napa Valley.

Michael Chiarello, now a very famous chef, vintner, TV host and sustainable farmer with his own restaurant, Bottega in Yountville, was the chef.  I still love this restaurant and had lunch there on my birthday this year (December, 2015).

Back then this entrée cost only $8, and we had lunch on the beautiful Tra Vigne patio.  I was with my sister, Sandra Sheehan and my Auntie Deborah. It was a hot summer day and there is nowhere on earth more pleasant than the Napa Valley in the heart of the wine country in the summer. What bliss. I returned many times and I always ordered this dish until it was taken off the menu a few years ago, but I highly recommend the Maltagliati Verde (herb infused pasta with slow cooked lamb) which we had on my last visit.

After the kids were born, I couldn’t make it to Tra Vigne as often, so I taught myself how to make Michael’s recipe at home, and my kids love it too. It’s perfect in a pinch when you find yourself with 12 unexpected and very hungry kids for dinner (double the recipe below), add a salad and some crunchy bread.

As for Michael Chiarello, he can still be found at the stove and was gracious enough to join us (on the patio of course) one afternoon at his restaurant Bottega for lunch.  He will forever remain one of my favorite chefs and inspirations.

Thank you Michael Chiarello!

Ingredients

▪ 1 lb of pasta

▪ 2 tablespoons of olive oil

▪ ½ lb chopped prosciutto, pancetta or bacon (shown)

▪ 2 cloves of garlic, chopped

▪ 1 cup of peas, fresh or frozen

▪ ½ stick of unsalted butter

▪ ½ cup of heavy whipping cream

▪ Parmesan cheese, as needed

Preparation

Boil the pasta, as per the package directions, and then begin making the sauce.

Heat a large sauce pan or dutch oven to medium heat.  Once hot, add the olive oil, then the chopped prosciutto and garlic. Brown lightly.  When the pasta is done, drain and add it to the ham and garlic mixture.  Then, add the butter and cream and reduce heat to low. Stir gently until the ingredients are well combined.  Add the cream, fresh grated parmesan cheese, stir well and reduce for 5 minutes.  Serve immediately in a warm bowls with freshly grated Parmesan.

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Kid Friendly Chicken Pad Thai – Gluten Free and Packed with Nutrients

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I’ve made this 12 times over the last six months and both of my daughters still adore it.  I pack it with whatever vegetables are in season, so what’s not to love?

My 16 year old especially asks for this every time I cook.  As I’ve written before, my daughters both love Asian food, and I am much more of an Italian food flavor person.  However, the virtues of this dish are endless.  It is very healthy, low fat, gluten free (if you use gluten free soy sauce), packed with veggies, easy to make, can be eaten hot or cold and reheats beautifully.  This is an all around winner, but you have been warned, if you make it once you will get to make over and over again.

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Ingredients for the Sauce:

2 Teaspoons sesame oil

4 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce – stock

3 Tablespoons lime juice or 2 limes squeezed in pan

3 Tablespoons tangerine juice or 2 tangerines squeezed in pan

2 Tablespoons chopped or grated fresh ginger

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

Pad Thai

Ingredients for the Pad Thai:

8 oz. Pad Thai noodles

½ lb. thin-sliced boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces

½ Tablespoon sesame oil

2 medium carrots purchased grated

1 red pepper chopped

1 head broccoli chopped into bite size pieces

1 zucchini diced Salted/roasted peanuts (optional)

2 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Preparation:

1. In a glass bowl, whisk together sauce ingredients and set aside.

2. You can cook the rice noodles by submerging them in a bowl of warm water until they are tender or let them sit while you do the following steps.

3. Heat a large wok and add sesame oil. When oil is hot add the chicken and ginger and cook until chicken is white.

4. Add vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes so they are still crunchy. Remove the pan from heat and toss in the noodles and sauce. Toss well to combine. Garnish with chopped cilantro and peanuts and serve warm.

*I do not use egg in my Pad Thai because my children do not like it, but if you would like to add it then scramble one egg along with the chicken and ginger in step 4.

Mother’s Little Helper & Other Wisdom

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My Littles

It felt like, one day I was eating caviar toasts and baby lamb chops washed down with a few glasses of Veuve Clicquot Champagne with my P.R. agency, and the next I was a stay at home mom with a 22 month old and a new baby. I sat terrified most days waiting for my husband to come home from work. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I remember envying my husband’s commute to work. I would have done anything to be alone for 35 minutes listening to music and drinking my French Roast winding through the Berkeley hills.

I have moments of nostalgia when I dream of holding one of my babies in my arms again,  but mostly I am just happy to have survived those early years. My mother died when I was young and my dear mother-in-law didn’t sugar coat it when she told me, “I’ve already raised my kids.”  I had a magical nanny when I worked South of Market in San Francisco and I was able to retain her a few hours a week when the girls were very small, but mostly I was very much on my own. One of the more hilarious activities was taking the baby and two year old grocery shopping. The small town where I live has a good number of retirees, so I was constantly approached by these lovely women and told to cherish every moment. I would be so exhausted and both kids would be screaming and all I could think was they must have amnesia!  They were also the generation of Mother’s Little Helper (click for the Rolling Stone’s famous song). The rest of us had to white knuckle our way through it.

I discovered that taking the kids to dinner was not a night off for me, so I started cooking more at home (see my author page on Amazon to read more about my book and easy kid friendly recipes). At about 5 o’clock I would put the littles in front of the T.V. and mix myself one very tall drink and take it outside and water my flowers, and then I would start dinner. With kids under foot and a stiff drink taking the edge off it was important to have some forgiving recipes.  I had wanted to give my book, Real Food, the title Easy Recipes for Drunk Moms, but my editor, Neo Gariby didn’t want my readers to get the wrong impression.  However, I’ve recently stumbled upon Thug Kitchen which I love and now I don’t think Drunk Moms was such a bad title after all.  I especially adore the bad language!  I’ve sworn off swearing to be a better role model for my children, but there is nothing like colorful words when describing cooking and eating good food. Once I perfected my evening routine things got easier. If I’m not nostalgic for the screaming grocery store scenes, I am for those quiet summer evenings with the flower pots spilling over with fragerant flowers and my children fed and bathed. I would read to them  and then tuck myself into bed at 9 p.m.  Those really were the best of times and because I am not the sort of person to ignore good advise I really did cherish every moment.

Chicken, Whiskey and Wild Rice Soup

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Chicken, Whiskey & Wild Rice Soup

 

I apologize for having taken such a long break from my blog, but I have missed it and I am back.  I will be adding lots of recipes  as we all start to cook for the holidays.  I made this delicious soup for MYSELF a few Friday nights ago.  I was craving something and couldn’t quite put my finger on it and I had these ingredients on hand and at about 8 p.m. I just started cooking.  It came together really fast and was a nice late dinner for the kids as they came rolling in with friends later that night. Simmering soups are great for two reasons, they make your home smell wonderful (especially when using this combination of spices) and the soup doesn’t need to be pulled out and reheated as loved ones come home.

Pantry Recipes

This is almost a pantry recipe.  By this I mean most of these ingredients should already be on hand.  In my book Real Food for Real People I provide a list of what is needed for a well stocked pantry and it’s a good idea to have several no fail recipes that you can make without much notice (read hungry teens and friends).  My favorite is Penne Pasta with Pancetta  and Peas (recipe in Real Food for Real People).  I almost always have these ingredients and can make dinner for 10 in about 20 minutes.  For this soup, I already had frozen chicken breast, chicken stock in a box, wild rice in the pantry and a few carrots and some celery in the fridge.    The only thing I typically don’t have is a little fresh cream.   It’s a good idea to always have some fresh cream because it does last a long time and it’s nice if others take cream in their coffee.  I also put bourbon whiskey in this!  Maker’s Mark to be exact.  I love a little alcohol to bring out the flavor in these ingredients.  You can also use white wine or some dry sherry.

Adapting Recipes

Below is the recipe I started with.  It is so important to learn to adapt recipes to your personal tastes.  I like deep complex flavors, so I added some complimentary spices that I personally love.  I don’t like to put flour in my soups because I don’t like them that thick.  I find organic ingredients make a big difference in a soup as opposed to a cookie (e.g. an Oreo tastes great even if not organic).  I also love carrots, but celery not so much.  And I can NEVER make anything without some fresh garlic.  Because of the kids (now teens) I used a wild rice medley.  A pure wild rice would provide an unfamiliar color contrast to the soup that I knew the kids wouldn’t like.  Most kids like white starches making the medley a nice compromise.

Experimenting last winter with flavors I found I loved dried tarragon in most anything.  I also like my onion almost nonexistent.  I know it adds great flavor, but I never want to see it in a soup, so I dice onions very small.  When I read this recipe I thought it might be a little bland for my tastes, but by using just a small amount of dried spices like tarragon paprika and curry I was able to pump up the flavor.  The fresh garlic and whiskey didn’t hurt either.

 

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Original Recipe

 

Sydney’s Chicken, Whiskey & Wild Rice Soup

Ingredients

4 tbsp unsalted butter

2 celery stocks rinsed and chopped into small pieces

4 carrots cut into small pieces

2 cloves of finely chopped fresh garlic

1 small onion diced fine

2 lbs. chicken breast cut into bite size pieces

1 1/2 teaspoons of chopped fresh thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon each salt and white pepper

1/4 Whiskey

2 quarts organic chicken broth

2 cups water

1 cup wild rice medley (combination of brown and wild rice)

1 cup fresh whipping cream

Preparation

Melt the butter in a large soup pot or deep dutch oven and add celery, carrots, garlic and onion.  Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes and then add the raw chicken, fresh thyme, tarragon, paprika, curry and salt and pepper.  Stir well and cook until chicken turns white and then add the whiskey and cook for anther 2 minutes.   Ingredients should be well incorporated.  Add the broth and water and bring to a soft boil then add the rice.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer as long as you can stand it (1-2 hours).   Add the cup of fresh cream and allow to heat through before serving.

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Summer Entertaining – Father’s Day Family Dinner – Gluten Free

Pork Chops with Oven Roasted Potatoes & Sauteed Zucchini

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As promised this is the first of my summer entertaining posts.

Deciding what to make when throwing a party or even just cooking for family is aways the first hurdle to entertaining.   This very simple, but elegant menu will get you started.  It is extremely easy to shop for and cook.  I’ve included lots of photos which my friends all say they need, so I am trying to take them as I go along.

This dinner was super easy to execute and it is a menu my husband loves (meat and potatoes).  It’s kind of old school and reminiscent of what my mother cooked when I was a kid, but with a goat cheese and fresh herb salad and delicious seasonings and the use of olive oil to brown the meat instead of a flour and oil dredged combination, it actually tastes quite modern.

This meal took me about 10 minutes to shop for at my local grocery store and then it took about a half hour to cook.  The potatoes took a little bit longer, so I started them first and put them on the platter last.

 

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When having friends to dinner I often stress over how to serve the food.  I usually serve it family style at the bar in my kitchen or in individual serving dishes at the table, but I liked having it all on this large platter.  It was easy to clean up too and I think it looks really fresh and appetizing this way.

 

Pork Chops

 

2 lb. pork chops

2 tablespoons olive oil

Seasonings below

 

I do rubs on all my meat and for the pork I sprinkled both sides with the following:

  1. Salt
  2. Pepper
  3. Garlic Salt
  4. Paprika
  5. Cumin
  6. Tarragon

Heat a large skillet until hot and add olive oil.  Brown pork chops on both sides, this takes about 2 minutes per side, then reduce heat until cooked through.

 

Oven Baked Red Potatoes

 

2 lb. red potatoes (choose potatoes on the smaller size)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

Fresh herbs (rosemary and thyme)

Blue Cheese salad dressing for dipping

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Quarter potatoes and then place them on a baking sheet, add olive oil, salt and pepper and herbs.  Toss well with your hands to coat all sides of the potatoes.  Allow to cook for 20 minutes or until they no longer stick to the baking sheet then turn them with tongs to brown all sides for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.

 

Zucchini

 

2 medium sized zucchini

2 teaspoons butter (if you are dairy-free use olive oil)

Salt and pepper.

 

Heat a small skilled until hot and add butter.  Once the butter is melted add the zucchini and sauté until soft and slightly browned.  Add salt and pepper and serve.

 

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Fresh Herb Salad

 

4 cups Fresh Herb Salad mix

Handful of Croutons (see my recipe in Real Food For Real People)

1/2 cup candied pecans

2 teaspoons herbed goat cheese

1/4 cup or more White Balsamic Salad Dressing (see my recipe in Real Food For Real People) or use vinaigrette of your choice

 

In a salad bowl place 4 cups of salad, goat cheese, croutons and pecans and toss with salad dressing.  Add dressing slowly and then toss with tongs to coat each piece of lettuce.

 

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Real Food for Real People

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Sydney Chaney Thomas –
Real Food For Real People
Coming to Amazon March 2014 (photo by Christina Shook)

Several years ago, I found the time in tiny intervals to write a little cookbook.  I self published it and give it to friends.  A few months later, I was invited to present it at the State of California Food Conference, where it was very well received.  I was encouraged to expand it and get it published, but life intervened and I let it go.  Over the summer of 2013 it kept whispering to me, “Sydney, you need to finish the cookbook”.  Now finally, it’s done, or as done as any creative endeavor can ever be, and will be available on Amazon (Kindle) in the Spring of 2014.  It truly has been a labor of love.  My dearest wish and greatest hope is that it will help other people.

I’m proud of the fact that my food is very simple to execute and as a result of that I had a number of different titles that conveyed that, but my editor (Neo Garaby) recommended that I not call the book,  Easy Food for Lazy Moms, or the even more controversial, Easy Meals for Drunk Moms, but all joking aside, the book is created for people who may be distracted and/or drinking a little wine while cooking.

In these pages you will find not just my recipes, but other topics that I hold most dear.

Blessings to the kind souls who have encouraged me every step of the way.   I love you all.