Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pizza Lorraine

I had some ham and leeks left over from Quiche Lorraine for Christmas, and also some creme fraiche, and thought I would try it in a pizza-tart type thing. It turned out very nicely. Try it for a quickie dinner or a nice hors d-oeuvre for New Year's.

Pizza Lorraine

Ingredients for two 8-inch pizzas:
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced thinly
1 shallot, sliced
1/2 cup cubed prosciutto or pancetta
1 container of creme fraiche
1/2 lb grated mixed cheeses (provolone, mozzarella, asiago, etc.)

Use your favorite pizza crust recipe, such as this, or use a pre-made crust.  Once again, I used a pre-made Vicolo cornmeal crust.

Preheat the oven to 425, or as directed for your pizza dough.

Saute the shallot and cubed prosciutto in a little olive oil, adding the leeks after 3-4 minutes. Stir occasionally and continue to saute until leeks are softened and just starting to turn golden.

Place your pizza crust(s) on a cookie tray or baking dish. Spread the creme fraiche evenly over the pizzas, and top with half of the leek mixture for each pizza.  Sprinkle abundant grated cheese over the top.

Bake as directed for your pizza crust and then let sit for a minute or two before slicing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best Holiday Ideas

I have seen so many good Christmas ideas, crafts, recipes this year but am feeling, as usual, like there's not enough time in the day to do half of what I'd like to do.

Here is a list of the things I'd like to make for the holidays, and I've still got a good week to get going!

Chai Syrup

Ginger Cookies

Agua de Sevilla

Travel Coasters

Foot Warmers

Corn Side Dish

Eggs for Christmas Breakfast

Sparkling Cranberries

Red Carnation Wreaths

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red seems to be a theme this year. And of course I have to make a Kings Cake. But at least I have until the 6th to make that!

Off to work! Enjoy your holidays!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Boy Who Speaks in Color

Mister Three really likes color. He likes it so much that he distinguishes between levels of color already, like magenta vs. purple, or lemon yellow vs. lime green.

He actually converses with us based on his knowledge of colors. When he doesn't know a noun, he just refers to the object by its color. And since he is only 3, there are a lot of nouns that he doesn't know yet. There must be an official linguistic term for this sort of analogy, but I've yet to come across it.

For example, our Disneyland hotel room was decorated with orange, green, and purple. Since he doesn't know the noun "hotel", he tells me that he wants to go back to the orange, green, and purple place.

He likes yogurt, and his favorite brand is from Trader Joe's, so instead of telling me that he wants the Trader Joe's-brand yogurt instead of the Safeway brand, he says that he wants to eat some yellow, not some red.

His stroller is green, but since he's a big boy he doesn't want to use it so much anymore. Now whenever we park the car he says, "Not green, Papa. Hold my hand."

You can see the potential here. When he becomes a baseball fan, he can say, "Not blue. Black and orange!" And when he needs to choose a university, he can say, "Not red and white, red and gold!" Later, when he goes to a bar with his uncle, he can say, "Black and tan." Or, "Brown, straight up."

This kid is going to go places. I just wish I could figure out what it is he's talking about.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Star is Born

After Rafa was chosen for Jedi training, Louis was singled out from the crowd to dance with the High School Musical kids. My kids are stars!

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Disney Birthday

So a couple of days after Mister Three turned 3, we all headed down to Disneyland for Mister Seven's 7th birthday, and we had the most wonderful time.

Mister Seven was chosen for the Jedi Training Academy, and he fought Darth Vader himself!

What an exciting birthday! We spent the week there -- and there are more photos to come!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mister Three

Today Mister Three is 3 years old.

Three years ago he tried to come out in Auntie Mickey's car.

I can't imagine life without Mister Three. He makes us laugh all the time.

Sometimes he makes us mad, it's true. But mostly we make him mad. That happens a lot, in fact.

He loves his brother like crazy.

He is a very sweet, smart, wonderful boy. Happy Birthday, Mister Three!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


What happens to love that is directed toward someone who can no longer receive it? What if that love comes back to us with the full force with which we sent it? Does it cause pain that way? Is that the pain of grieving?

We are grieving the loss of a dear, dear friend this weekend. He was a figure of generosity and caring, of deep connections and of irreverence, part of the history of who I am and of who my children are. His absence will be remarkable for a very long time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I've Turned Into a Morning Girl

I've never been a morning person. I have always been one to hit snooze ten times, to stay under the warm covers as long as possible, to hold in a sneeze so as not to open my eyes and look for the kleenex.

But I have learned, at the late age of 39, that no one else is around in the mornings. It's really quiet. Everybody is hibernating in their snuggly beds. It's cold. And it's really quiet. Did I say quiet? Mornings are quiet. I don't get to do quiet much anymore. Quiet. Quiet and lovely. We've been having such pretty skies in the early mornings of this fall.

The oatmeal is warm, the coffee is milky, and the light is rose-lavender-periwinkle. Sometimes I can see the fishing boats coming in from the night's work.

And it's quiet. Did I mention that part?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Where Does Patience Come From?

I think it comes from moments like this.

This has been a week of short-tempers on the part of everyone, big and small. It helps to be able to have happy, relaxed moments like this one for the well of patience to refill. We're lucky to have these times, and I have to remind myself of that.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Take a Little Rest, Mama

It being Friday evening, the end of a busy work-filled week, I was feeling a little tired around 6 pm. I'm sure this never happens to anyone else. Dinner was ready and the boys sitting at the table eating nicely, so I said I was going to sit on the sofa while they finished their dinner.

But when I got to the sofa, the two pillows were already propped up against the arm inviting me to lie down for a minute.

I gave in to the temptation. For 7 seconds. Then somebody asked for a second glass of milk.

Up I got, back to the kitchen, fixed 2 more glasses of milk, 1 requested and 1 preventative, and went back to the sofa. It was 11 seconds this time, before somebody needed another napkin but the napkin holder was empty so would I reach up to the high cabinet and get down some more napkins. "Okay, hold on," I said.

Up I got again, refilled the napkin holder, placed a clean napkin next to each person's place, again preventative measure, and went back to the sofa.

It took a minute and a half for the next necessity. "Mama, booger." This was from the little one. He still skips over the verbs in his sentences most of the time. "Come here," I said. "Give it to me." I put out my hand without opening my eyes and he hands me the booger. I don't even know if it really was a booger. It wasn't very big or sticky if it was.

"Night-night, mama," he says and goes back to the dinner table.

Up next: pit stop. "Mama, I have to go to the bathroom." This from the big one again. "Okay, honey," I say, eyes still closed going on 4 minutes at this point. "Don't forget to wash your hands before you come back to the table." Up he gets, stopping by to look at me lying on the sofa before he goes down the hall. "Are you having a nice rest, mama?"

"Yes, love, I am having a nice little rest."

While he is away from the table, the little one calls over to me, "Mama, on a floor. Dirty, mama." "Okay, honey, bring it to me," I say, putting out the booger hand again to get whatever offering he is bringing now. It turns out to be a little piece of mushroom that had fallen off of his plate onto the floor. "Night-night, mama." He says it again as he goes back to the table.

But as soon as he gets back there he says, "Oh no, mama. Here, mama." Not even bothering to tell me that the next thing has fallen to the floor and waiting for my instruction to bring it to me, he comes. "Here, mama," he says again. Out I reach the booger-mushroom hand, and in he plops a whole, wet, cold, oily tomato slice.

"Aaah!" I jump up to see what the hell he put in my hand. "Floor, mama," he says, smiling softly at me.

"No more night-night, mama?"

And that was the extent of my nap. I poured myself a glass of wine instead. Right, preventative measure.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Best Cake

Since there are so many peaches lying around (and by the way, they come from my cousin's garden, not mine), I needed to something quick to cut up and use the ripe ones. I started a bowl full of sugar and peaches for jam last night, and I also made this cake. It was delicious. I used the base from a recipe that I've made many times which came from The Wednesday Chef last year some time, but I added pureed peaches to it. Since it has relatively little butter and sugar, plus whole wheat flour, I don't mind letting the boys eat it for breakfast.

5 peaches, peeled, roughly chopped, and pureed in blender
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the baking dish. I used a 9 inch Pyrex dish.

Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, yogurt, egg and vanilla together.

Scrape down the sides of the butter bowl and alternately add the dry and wet ingredients; do not overmix. Gently fold in the pureed peaches.

Pour/spread into the baking dish and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Peaches in October

We had such a cold summer in these parts that the peaches didn't ripen until October. Can you imagine picking peaches and making peach pie in October! It's almost Halloween!

Believe it or not, Sunday was peach pickin' day.

What should we make? We've thought about peach pie, peach jam, peach chutney, peach cobbler, peach bread, peach ice cream, peach bellinis, peach cordial, peach vinegar, and good old peaches'n'cream. Any other suggestions?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Coq au Riesling

I made a few changes to this dish from Nigella Lawson's column in the New York Times, adding potatoes and shallots, and using prosciutto instead of bacon.

8 ounces lardons or cubed prosciutto
white parts only of 2 large leeks, thinly sliced
1 large shallot, peeled and chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, roughly chopped
10 mini Yukon potatoes, washed but not peeled (the little tiny ones)
10 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 bottle riesling wine
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

Saute bacon, leeks, shallots, and mushrooms in 2 T olive oil until softened, about 10 minutes. Add chicken pieces and potatoes to pan along with the wine, and bring to a boil. Partially cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour.

For best results, cool, and refrigerate overnight. Reheat gently over low heat, sprinkle with parsley before serving.

This was really delicious and hit the spot on a cold autumn night. Plus it was a great make-ahead dish. I love that Nigella Lawson's recipes are so practical for family life!

Oh, and we did have the caipirinhas, for Mama Goose!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Please Help Choose the Menu.....

Okay, so I need a little advice on menu-planning for the weekend. Which sounds like the better option to you on a fall evening when I get home from work and have 30 minutes to pull together dinner for 8 people?

Menu #1
Caesar Salad
Seafood Cioppinno
Garlic Bread
It's It bars
wine: Zinfandel
cocktail: cosmopolitans

Menu #2
Endive and Roquefort Salad
Coq au Vin
Apple tart
wine: Cabernet Sauvignon
cocktail: champagne

Menu #3
Garlic Soup
Seared Tuna sandwiches on Rosemary Bread
Green Beans
wine: Pinot Noir
cocktail: caipirinhas

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Eggplant and Manchego Pizza

Did you know that eggplants were introduced to the Mediterranean from North Africa during the Middle Ages?  That there is no Latin or Greek word for eggplant, only the Romance albergínia, aubergine, berenjena, and beringela, from the Arabic al-badnijan?  (So why do the Italians call it melenzana?) 

(I lost the photos of the eggplant and manchego pizza, and can find only a nice photo of some mozarabic pottery and glass, so I'm trying to tie this all together. We didn't really have a linguistic discussion over this pizza, we just ate it all up and washed it down with some nice Ribera del Duero.)

Eggplant and Manchego Pizza

Ingredients for two 8-inch pizzas:
One eggplant, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup tomato sauce (plain, no added italian seasonings, or basil and onion combo, etc.)
1/4 lb Manchego cheese
1/4 lb Mozzarella cheese
3-4 basil leaves, julienned
Use your favorite pizza crust recipe, like this or this, or use a pre-made crust.  I used a pre-made Vicolo cornmeal crust.

Lay the eggplant slices on a large plate and sprinkle both sides with coarse salt.  Let sit for 30 minutes or so.

After 30 minutes, wipe the salt off the eggplant slices and dredge them lightly in flour.  Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet and fry the eggplant for approximately 5 minutes each side, depending on thickness.  Add additional oil as necessary, but there is no need to submerge the eggplant slices.  Drain the cooked slices on paper towels as you remove them from the skillet.  This can be done an hour or so ahead.

Preheat the oven to 425, or as directed for your pizza dough.

Place your pizza crust(s) on a cookie tray or baking dish, and spread tomato sauce on top.  Sprinkle the Manchego cheese evenly over the pizza, and place as many eggplant slices as fit without overlapping on top.  Sprinkle the mozzarella over the eggplant.

Bake as directed for your pizza crust.  When the pizza smells good and looks lovely, remove from the oven.  Let sit for a minute or two before slicing, seasoning with salt, and sprinkling with basil.  

There are words for basil in Greek (basileus) and Latin (basilicum), by the way.


Friday, October 2, 2009

I Miss My Boys

I am away on a work trip, and I really miss my boys.  No one kisses me good night.  No one calls me to get up in the morning.  I have no Coco to hug.  I can't wait to get home tomorrow!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Standing in Line

One of the things that gave me culture shock in my first months in living in Seville is that no one waits in line. Ever.

You don't wait in line to order coffee in the morning, you don't wait in line in the bank. At the market, you don't wait in line, you simply ask the group when you arrive who is the last person there, and then you become the last person until someone arrives after you. When they ask who the last person is, you tell them it was you, and then everyone knows that you are ahead of them, and the conversations about tomatoes, or strawberries, or ham continue.

There is one place, however, where you absolutely must wait in line. If you step out of line, or stand to the side of the person in front of you, or in any other way hint at moving faster than anyone else in the line, someone will yell at you. Tell you to be careful about respecting the line. Put you in your place.

This is when you are waiting for the citybus.

This custom sure was a surprise to me, coming from a city that is very civilized in most aspects, except for riding the bus. In San Francisco, riding the bus can sometimes be a blood sport.

Friday, September 25, 2009

California Girl

I wanted to start a blog about our experiences in Spain, but it seems like I always end up writing about California. I guess I really am just a California girl.

This is San Juan Bautista, one of the Franciscan missions in California. Those padres really knew how to choose a beautiful location!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Once Again, it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

What's YOUR Pirate name?

My pirate name is:

Iron Mary Rackham

A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you a tough person. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Monday, September 14, 2009

Life is Like a Handful of Rocks

Life is like a handful of rocks. It's so cool: putting together a collection, moving from one place to the next, grasping as tightly as you can so as not to lose any! Even if you get a little sand under your fingernails, the journey under the sun alongside the waves completes you.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I'm Still Here

Life has gotten a little out of hand these past couple of weeks, but I'm still here. Schools are starting up, routines have changed, people constantly need stuff. I will blog again as soon as I can, most likely about Manchego and Eggplant Pizza. Meanwhile, please watch the documentary short about Erica, a sweet friend. And sign up on the Registry if you can. Too many friends need donors.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Boy Convinces Grandmother to Feed Him Peanut Butter From a Spoon

We live with a boy who loves peanut butter. He would eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if I let him.

Here he is talking his grandmother into skipping the bread and feeding it to him directly with the spoon. Look how excited he is.

Boy = very happy.

Mama = not so happy!

(photos by Dudley Poston, Jr.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Secondary Injuries and Oatmeal Cherry Walnut Cookies

Have you ever counted how many times in the course of a day you can be mildly injured by little boys? If it isn't someone banging his head into the corner of your glasses or dropping a train on your kneecap, it's someone else stepping on your little toe with a sneaker or running up the back of your heel with a big wheels. Sometimes it's stepping on a lego in the middle of the hall or sitting on a tow truck under a blanket on the sofa. Little raggedy fingernails scratch your face in the middle of a hug, and little teeth bite your finger because they're so excited about oatmeal cookies.

Oatmeal Cherry Walnut Cookies

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups uncooked oats (quick or old fashioned)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup dried cherries

Heat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, beat brown sugar, shortening and granulated sugar until creamy. Add egg, water and vanilla and beat well. Combine oats, flour, salt and baking soda. Add to rest of ingredients and mix well. Stir in cherries and walnuts.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Move to wire rack to cool.

If you feel like you've been run over by a truck at the end of the day, these will probably help!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fence-post French Fries

Pa has been laying fence-posts all week so I made him some french fries for lunch.

I mentioned a while back that we were redoing our backyard. Because we live with two people who love to run and run and run and run, we needed to build a fence near the stairwell in order to relax when we're out in the backyard with said two people.

Pa is doing this this work, so I started peeling potatoes.

I used nice big russets, and sliced them into long strips. Then I put them in a bowl of water to soak. Soaking them in water for 10 minutes before frying gets them nice and crispy.

So does Evil Chef Mom's method, which I tried today. ECM recommends frying the fries twice--and you know what, ECM is right! This is a really great way to make french fries. (Of course, ECM is always right!)

Here they are frying happily the second time around.

Don't they look yummy? Nothing better than potatoes, oil, and salt...

Saturday, August 8, 2009


It is so cold and drippy and grey here that we are all feeling the weight of a sunless summer.

This is what it looks like. ALL THE BLINKING TIME!!

It's so depressing that I've been playing lots of irish music, and I added lavender to my oatmeal this morning. It was so delicious. Along with a little bit of honey, it was almost as good as Lavender Shortbread.

Bet you didn't know I was an irish dancer many years ago. Trophy and everything. I'll have to try and find some photos.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

On a Lavender Kick

Do you like lavender? Try it in your tea: Earl Grey with Lavender, or Chamomile with Lavender. They are the perfect accompaniment to what my family says are the best cookies I have ever made in their whole lives.

Lavender Shortbread

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon from the backyard tree
3 cups of flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of dried lavender buds

Preheat oven to 325.

Cream together butter, sugar, and lemon juice.

In another bowl, sift flour and mix in salt and lavender.

Slowly add dry mixture to butter, in three additions, scraping the sides of the bowl carefully. Do not over mix. Batter will be lumpy because it is buttery. That's the good part.

Press batter into a 9-inch pie plate or cake tin or a 9-inch square baking dish. Prick top of cookies with a fork, marking where you will cut them when they're done.

Bake at 325 for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Let cool for a few minutes before cutting. Let cool a few more minutes before eating!

I've been reading about lavender a lot lately. Check here for some lovely photos, and here for an exposé.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Coco is back!

With some interesting and artful adventures under his belt, Coco is home with his boy.

Come in and tell us about it, Coco.

"Everyone was very nice to me," Coco said.

"When they found me on the floor in the crayon department they said, 'Look at this guy -- he has lost most of his fur! His must be very well-loved and sorely missed. We'd better take care of him for a few days.'"

"They were nice to me, but I missed having someone kiss my nose."

What a happy reunion!