My baby boy has just turned one, and I have no clue how that happened. Just last week he was a tiny little warm bundle, whose floppy body fit – just exactly – into mine. His head smelled like powder and was covered with just the whisper of soft peach fuzz. He slept (and woke!) every two hours, and I was his sun.
I blinked and suddenly he’s walking around the house like a bear on his hind legs. Often with something dangerous – a fork, a length of jump rope, a permanent marker – clutched tight in one grubby little paw. He has the most delightful sly little smile, which is slower to come than it used to be, unless there is something TRULY exciting, which must also be shouted at and banged upon – like a drum, or a dog. He likes to tell jokes, and he wants to know what everything in the world is called, pointed and gesturing, and always saying, “que?” “que?” The peach fuzz is still strawberry blond, but has lengthened into curls – CURLS, which hurt my heart to look at, because WHAT is more darling than a little boy toddling around with blond curls? When he wakes up in the morning, he goes hunting for his sister, who is the MOST fun person in his world. He’s not a baby any more.
As if to squelch any doubt remaining in my mind about the end of his babyhood, the cruel calendar came round to May, and his babyhood year (why only one year?) was officially over. Toddlerhood is officially here, with all the joys that entails (stairs! And talking!)
So we made cake. And because I’m busy chasing the little blond monster all over creation, I didn’t fool around with layers and creaming, and baking and frosting. I made icebox cake.
Continue reading Lemon Blueberry Icebox Cake
I must have missed out on the “party planning gene” that every other person in the world seems to have, or at least other moms. I look at Pinterest, with the decorations and the tablescapes and the elaborate menus – and break out into a cold sweat. The theme for my kids’ birthday parties is “birthday party.” Or really, “Come to our house and eat some cake.”
But I LOVE to have people over. My idea of the perfect summer evening is sitting on our back deck with some good friends while our kids run wild in the back yard, chatting over a glass of wine or a margarita and eating yummy food. The key is relaxing and having fun, not throwing a fit over a menu. So I’m always looking for low-key, low-stress recipes to feed a crowd. Things that I can make that don’t require a lot of last minute preparation (to allow for appropriate amounts of yapping and wine-drinking) but that are delicious enough that people want to come back and hang out some more.
Continue reading Crockpot Mexican Pork Carnitas
I may seem like a hoity toity food person (has anyone seen my baker’s twine?) but deep in my heart I really love a good cheeseburger. And the cheeseburger I really love best is a Double-Double, animal style, from In-N-Out.
If you’re not from around here, or you’ve been hiding under a rock, In-n-Out makes the best fast food burgers in the world. And I, like many Southern Californians (and frankly non-Southern Californians) am borderline obsessed with them.
Los Angeles is a burger town, in the way that New York is a pizza (or hot dog) town, and Chicago is a hot dog (or pizza) town (and San Francisco is a ? town? Odd ice cream flavors? Fresh figs? Mesclun?) Angelenos take their burgers seriously. As I craved cheeseburgers during my entire pregnancy with Boo (who is turning out to be a meat and potatoes man, no surprise), I’ve sampled many of the fine burgers that LA has to offer — Umami Burger, Father’s Office, Pie and Burger, Big Jo’s … but in the end, I’m a burger purist, because none really measure up to In-N-Out. It’s the ur-burger. It’s not that the ingredients are stellar (good quality, I would say, for fast food, but not stellar) or that the burger is everything you can imagine a burger to be – but I don’t think you can do much better, food-wise – for your $3 than to spend it on an In-N-Out Double-Double Animal Style.
Animal Style, off the In-N-Out Not-So-Secret Menu, means the burger patty has been grilled with mustard, the raw onions (never my favorite) have been replaced with the addictive little flavor bombs of fried onions, pickles have been added (!) and there’s extra “spread” – really Thousand Island Dressing (!!). The combination of all the elements is a salty flavor explosion that makes you want to go back again, and again, and again.
Continue reading In-N-Out Double Double Animal Style Burger Dip
The Super Bowl, oddly enough, seems to be one of the biggest food holidays of the year. I don’t know why it’s more food-centric than the Fourth of July, or Easter, or Cinco de Mayo, but there you have it. I myself am not a huge fan of professional football (LA hasn’t had an NFL team since I was in elementary school, which lessens the thrill somewhat) but I can always get behind a party. Especially a party that involves those semi-junky foods that you always want to eat but usually don’t because they are not good for you. Foods like buffalo wings, potato chips with onion dip, and jalapeno poppers.
This year, however, I am trying to eat more vegetables, and last time I checked, buffalo wings are not vegetables. In the past, I have scoffed at “healthy” Superbowl recipes. The whole point of Superbowl food is that it’s unhealthy. Nobody wants to eat kale chips while watching men pummel each other in freezing cold weather. This year, though, I saw my vegetable challenge as a Super bowl challenge too – could I come up with a healthi-ER recipe that doesn’t feel like a compromise? Something that’s so delicious you want to eat it MORE than the meaty alternative?
I don’t mean to brag, but I think I’ve accomplished just that. Little sliders (fun to eat!, finger food that one can eat on the couch while watching the TV), made from mushroom caps (We’ll ignore the fact that for purposes of the challenge, mushrooms aren’t exactly Vegetables. They are like vegetables.) oozing with garlic butter and melted cheese. Forget the Super Bowl. I want to eat these EVERY day. (And I could, too- they do contain butter and cheese, but it’s not excessive.) They’re so good that nobody will notice they’re eating healthi(er) food because they’ll be too busy licking their fingers and asking for more.
Continue reading Garlic Butter Mushroom Sliders
Mother’s Day is coming up soon, and shortly afterwards, my own role in motherhood is going to be expanding (hopefully, in an inverse ratio to my waistline, which has already expanded plenty), so you could say I have mothers on the brain. All of this makes me appreciate my own mother more and more. Which is not surprising, because my mom is awesome sauce.
My mother is the most shockingly competent person I have ever met in my life. Sure, there are really smart people. And sure, there are kickass homemakers. And sure, there are independent women. But my mom manages to combine all of those and make it seem easy. She’s worked full time since before I was born, is a distinguished professor at her academic institution, and has written at least six books (I’ve lost count) and dozens of scholarly articles, all of which make her an expert in her field. Does that mean we ate takeout Chinese food every night through my childhood? Of course not. She’s a terrific cook. My mother makes the world’s best fried chicken, the world’s best Caesar salad, and the world’s best cabbage rolls. She sews (she made both my prom dress and my wedding dress), does projects around the house (paints, wallpapers, rebuilds decks), and travels around the world (this summer will be spent in Oxford, touring wool churches and doing research). She also spends a ton of time with the Nuni, and does my dishes every time she visits my house (which is fairly often, as I was smart enough to buy a house two minutes away from hers.)
So yeah, my mom? She’s pretty much the bomb.
Continue reading Roasted Garlic, Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Canapes, or Why My Mom is Awesome Sauce