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.

A Rich Full Life

Many people wouldn’t think of me as lucky from the outside looking in, but every single morning before I get out of bed, I count my blessings. And it doesn’t take very long for me to feel grateful for the many good things in my life. 

First of all, I’m in excellent health. On most days, if I’ve not burned the candle at both ends, which I often do, I feel fantastic. Then, I have my wonderful family, and in particular my spectacular daughters. Then, I have the most hilarious golden-doodle, named Polly, and her two side kicks the black and white cats, Dash and Jam. 

Next, I have friends galore. And make more everyday. I have been spending time with my sailing friends this week. Especially, my business partner, and my sailing instructor Tom. There is nothing like a common interest to connect and deepen ties with people.

But, I especially love my neighbors and my beautiful neighborhood. I have so much love and support here that I feel blessed everyday. My neighbor Sandy, who brought Paris’ bedding to her college dorm in LA after we forgot it, my dear friends Craig and Denise who help me with everything I do, including building Ocean SF. My husband’s three best friends, and their families, that are always here for us. And, my neighbor Alecia, who made me the beautiful pearl and rose quartz necklace I’m wearing above. And Barb, who I met when our daughters were two, who took me to the polo tournament where the above photo was taken a few weekends ago. 

Recently, one of my neighbors sent me the following note. It was so generous and kind it brought tears to my eyes. 

“Dear Sydney,

I have been thinking about you a lot over the last few weeks knowing that a year has passed since losing your husband. I have not seen you in years nor spoken, but I do want you to know that I have always admired the woman, and Mother that you are. You have been a true role model from the day I met you. My daughter, has always spoken of you with admiration and your unconditional kindness towards her made her love being in your presence. Both Siena and Paris are so fortunate to have a loving, attentive, involved, active and beautiful Mother who truly loves her children. I believe Paris must be heading off to a College, and that must be an exciting yet difficult transition after your past year. These next two years will be very special for you and Siena. Time is precious as you are aware, and it’s never too late to tell someone how wonderful they are. So before I turn in I wanted to let you know how much I admire you and if you ever need anything I’m here for you.”

People like this, and the precious town I live in, give me deep roots, and a priceless sense of security. 

Love and blessings to all. 

Whittier College 

Sydney & Paris, Whittier College

I am blessed to have my best friend in Newport Beach, so I was able to drop my daughter at college and then come back the next day when it was not so hot. 

We made friends over the summer with another student, Mckenna and her mother Debra, so we met for lunch and walked the beautiful campus together on Monday.

I peered into the bookstore, so many interesting books to read, topics like: social justice, politics, biology and philosophy. Many of them I’ve read, but I can see my daughter perched somewhere on this beautiful tranquil campus obsorbing the knowledge of the ages. 

Whittier is one of those rare places, where the architecture of the future has been perfectly melded with the past. Every nook and cranny is beautiful with graceful arches, red tile roofs, winding paths with white flowers along the logical shaded walkways. The trees are the work of a century of talented arborists, and the new buildings are deeply embedded in the landscape as if they were always planned to be built there, made of flat sandstone and thick green glass. Stunning. 

My daughter, calm and lovely, wearing a pink linen top, with her hair pulled back in a simple knot like a ballerina, sits on a park bench beside me, as if she were always meant to be there as well. 

I know there will come a moment when I have to say goodbye to her, and I’m not sure how I will feel. 

In the end, I hug her and tell her how much I love her, and then I drive away. 

After the year she’s had, there is no way that this is not a happy occasion. I think of all the ways this story could be different. I don’t know if I could lose my father, and be sitting where she is, only a year later. 

She told me she looked forward to the calm of college, and meeting new people, and having time to read. Few people go to college to be calm, but if that’s what she is looking for, then I think she’s found it.

Love and blessings. 

Performing Arts Center
Dorms for upperclassmen
Student lounges and cafeterias
Faculty housing
New Friends

Winding Down

The days are winding down until my daughter leaves for college. I know she’s ready, so I don’t have the normal anxiety of letting go, because I know she will be fine. Still, there is this shadow around her leaving. 

Its difficult to not think of this as an ending to the journey we have been on together. I think about the day she came into the world, and now in a few days, I will be walking away from her, leaving her behind. This seems like an impossibility no matter how much I have prepared for it. 

There have been too many endings this summer, and I see this as true because my sixteen year old has been very close these last days. She is on my heels as I walk around the house, she peers into the rooms I am sitting in as I work. I ask her what she needs, and she tells me nothing, and walks away.

We’ve always thought of our beautiful two story traditional home as our fifth family member.  We are each attached to it and it’s light filled rooms, and the many memories we’ve shared together here.  Soon, it will be just two of us, but I am hoping that the space that is left behind will be filled with something new.

The possibilities are endless of course: a foreign exchange student, a foster child, or maybe more friends and visitors. My life during this past chapter has been lived beyond this house; I’ve spent my time out in the world, or on boats, or in Tahoe. 

I’m now looking forward to being home again, and my life opening up once more, and seeing simply what life will bring to me without my having to look for it. 

Love and blessings to all. 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Mad About Furniture 


I have recently had the good fortune of being hired by the founders of a website called Previously Owned by a Gay Man.  It was one of those serendipitous experiences where I wanted to redecorate my house, and the next thing I knew I had a job working with the founders of an e-commerce furniture website.  Yes, sometimes things in life are that easy.

Up until this point, my interest in home decorating had been at maybe a 5 out of 10 on the passion scale.  But, as I looked around at my compromise furniture, thank you for this term from designer and loyal previouslyownedbyagayman.com customer Christina Wells (click here for her LinkedIn profile), I knew it was time to have the outside of my world more clearly reflect the inside, and I needed to make some changes.  They could be minor, but it was time to begin the evolution process.  Luckily, I was able to meet the incredible Michele (read more about Michele in this recent article in Fast Company) and Lindsay (read more about Lindsay in this article, 40 Under 40, people to watch, in Diablo Magazine), founders of this amazing destination home decor website that helps buyers and sellers of quality home furnishings make these changes.  The site is full of antique and vintage pieces, the practical and the sublime.  Becoming a part of this team has begun a major transformation of my home, and I believe in many ways my life, because I really believe we are impacted by our surroundings in so many ways.

All of the things you read are true, decluttering opens up your life, surrounding yourself with things you love actually does make you happy.  Letting go of things that do not serve you does lighten your spirit.  So when Michele asked me in our initial interview if I was interested in furniture, I said, “I’m mad about furniture,” and from that day forward I began to unearth a passion that I didn’t really know existed.  This is the curious thing about life, if we keep exploring, we find new things hidden deep inside ourselves.  So now, not only do I love working with this fantastic team, I am the customer that the website I work on seeks.  I love furniture and am so excited to sell my “compromise” furniture (the things you buy that you don’t love, but don’t hate), and replace them with things I do love from our website.  And although, I have made only minor changes so far, I can already feel a shift as I see an environment that more closely reflects who I am now, and not who I was 10 years ago, when I bought (why?) a brown velvet sofa (oh, yes, I had small children), but you get the picture.   We all make mistakes, but you are not obligated to live with them forever, walking by them day after day, when you can sell them and replace them with something you actually love and that makes you happy.

The fun part to all of the this is that it doesn’t mean going to a big furniture store and buying new furniture, new furniture is not necessarily great furniture.  Buying previously owned furniture is sustainability in motion and creates a unique look and feel to your home, see one of my favorite books by Kishani Perera, Vintage Remix, available on Amazon.  So recover that chair with fabric you love, and go to our website and sell the furniture you don’t like and buy the furniture you adore, yes, all in one place.  It really is that easy.  Life is short and you deserve a beautiful room, a beautiful home, and a beautiful life.

Here’s some inspiration for you:


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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Truckee Truckee Truckee

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Marty’s Egg Sandwich

Marty’s Diner, Truckee, California

On a recent visit to Truckee, California located in the Tahoe basin we decided to take the teens to breakfast.  We had hit all of the obvious places many times since buying our cabin in 2007.  Truckee has more restaurants per capita featured on the Food Network than any other city in the world.  Many of them serving breakfast.  On this occasion we decided to try something new.  A quick query on the Internet brought up Marty’s.  I called to make sure they were still serving Eggs Benedict for my niece Sophie and we packed up the kids and headed over to Marty’s around noon.

This is Marty!
This is Marty!

Marty’s is located on the main street in Truckee near the train station.   We waited a few minutes and were seated in a cozy booth.  Everything on the menu looked scrumptious as did all of the food on the oversized plates being served to nearby diners.  I have a condition in restaurants called Food Envy.  No matter what I order I want the food of the person next to me or across from me or even at the next table.  I suffer from Food Ordering Remorse as well, so being that lunch and breakfast were both being served, I naturally could not decide even between breakfast and lunch.  The waitress inflicted more confusion and ordering chaos by telling me that the burgers and the Eggs Benedict were both over the top amazing.  Luckily, my lovely daughter offered to share the burger and the Eggs Benedict with me.  This is the reason some of us have children.

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Marty’s Burger
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Eggs Benedict

These photos DO NOT do the food justice.  The burger was perfectly done and tasted of every grass fed excellent organic ingredient available today.  The eggs were perfect.  The crusty delicious hash brown and the delicate lettuce which tasted like it was just plucked out of the garden were an exquisite addition to this time honored dish.  The waitress even suggested I sop up some of the lush and lemony hollandaise sauce with the leaves.  Who knew this would be so good?

Our lovely wait staff were attentive and willing to supply lots of extra plates and listen patiently to the special instructions pertaining to what the teens would allow to touch what on the plate and so on.

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Sophie being like the rest of our family decided against the Eggs Benedict we came for, and ordered this amazing Hoagie sandwich and was thrilled with her choice.

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Sophie

Even though I was completely stuffed I couldn’t resist a few bites of the house made potato salad that came with our burger (my teen would not allow it or the avocado to be on the plate with the burger), so they put it in this cute little crock.

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Potato Salad

Truckee is one of those resort towns where the food is unbelievably good because the locals support only the best during the off season.  There are so many wonderful things to do in Tahoe, but a trip to Marty’s should be close to the top of the list.

10115 Donner Pass Rd
Truckee, CA 96161
(530) 550-8208

If you go, please message me or comment to let me know your thoughts.

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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