My dad has always been a stickler for family dinners at the table. When I was little, the routine was comforting. Dinner (always served with a big green salad and homemade vinaigrette) was part of what marked our nights at Dad’s house. By high school though, I would sit and glare at the crystal clock on the mantle, imagining all the fun my friends were having without me as they ate Intermezzo salads on Telegraph avenue or met up early to dine on poppyseed cake at Cafe Roma before heading to a party. In my heart of hearts, I still liked the comfort of routine – but on Friday nights I would bribe Dan to switch chores with me, rushing through my meal in my eagerness to be out the door.

Despite this steadfast dinner routine, my dad is a wildly inconsistent cook. This is not to say he is a bad cook – quite the opposite. He is such a good cook that he almost never makes the same exact meal twice. He starts in a very predictable way – meat and onions, sometimes garlic. But he spices things by instinct, rarely measuring and often experimenting. You never know quite what you’ll get – just that it will probably be good.

So it was really not until my stepmom came into our lives that we had the experience of a nightly dinner that actually tasted the same, week after week.

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Thank you

I know most all of you have already heard the news, but I wanted to post a quick “thank you” (from beautiful, green Oregon, where the Gabe celebration is well underway!). Thank you to the DALS readers, whose comments have been so warm and real and kind. Thank you to Jenny and Andy at Dinner A Love Story – I know I am not the only one who relies on them for their humor, insight, honesty, recipes … oh and their amazing children’s book recommendations. They are really a catch-all of awesomeness, and they are also the nicest people you could ever hope to email with. I am a little bit in love with them.

As much as I love DALS writers and readers (and their site is one of my favorites), it is the caliber of the other submissions that are making me feel, still at this moment, like I am on cloud nine. I can’t believe that I get to count myself in the company of these “real” writers and recipe creators! I am going to share Andy’s list of highlights with you, and then you can click over to their sites and see for yourselves. There is also a link at the end to the mini-cookbook that DALS put out from the entries. So many great looking recipes!

 So many good recipes, so many personal stories and careful turns of phrase. I want to list of a few of my favorites. Janet: “Also, I am all about quinoa.” Kathryn: “Margaret’s new skirt is missing a button, and if you give them hem the gentlest tug, it is likely to slip right down off her hips.” Lisa: “So far, my son has proved to be a man of diverse tastes.” Marcus: “You can’t throw around a term like ‘Texas Chili’ lightly.” Sarah: “My mother had an unexplainable penchant for pickled beets.” Tara: “The son of an Irish longshoreman, Dad grew up on simple, inexpensive fare. He made beef stew with a thick, flavorful broth and big wedges of floury-textured potato that I’m still trying to recreate.” Courtney: “I knew this was something I had to try, and hopefully my confidence in the kitchen would outshine any hesitation I have when it comes to my writing. But I have planned and made dinner for my family every night of the week for eight years and there is something to be said for that. So, let’s do this.”

You all did this, and we can’t thank you enough. Jenny compiled all the entries in a downloadable pdf — a mini-cookbook from the readers of DALS. And Molly, I can’t wait to try the sweet potato-and-chard gratin.

I’m working on my next recipe post – in the meantime, please don’t forget to tell us about your favorite breakfast sometime before Sunday midnight, so that you can be entered to win Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book! Molly’s comment about a cheese croissant has me totally distracted — and there are lots of other delicious-sounding replies there to help you plan your holiday-weekend breakfasts.

More soon!

Our daily bread

(Tangential? Perhaps. Important? Yes. So here is a heartfelt goodbye to MCA – and some Beastie tracks that Brian assures us are not on YouTube … )

Our first CSA box is coming tomorrow. My guys have both had fevers of 104 + this week. I’m pretty sure I saw an albino deer fawn. Fully half of the parents in my three year old’s class referenced Eddie Vedder in their comments about him for his year-end portfolio. Point being – there is lots I could have chosen to write about tonight. But over and above all, there is this. I am on my way to Oregon this weekend – because my brother Gabe is graduating!  Continue reading

Where to begin

Breakfast has remained pure amid all the food trends. The honest simplicity of breakfast is so captivating. The most delicious breakfasts usually derive from the humblest ingredients (money alone does not buy good food).
~ Marion Cunningham

I have some news. There is a wonderful recipe down below – yes, yes – actually, there are two! But there is also something else. It is a book. It might even be a book for you.

Let’s back up a minute. For the next six weeks, I’m going to start each week with a recipe  from one of my favorite and most-used kitchen books – and then, one lucky reader each week will win their very own, brand spanking new copy! I’m super excited. I think we’ve picked some great books – ones that inspire, ones that intrigue, ones that introduce new ideas and ones that instill confidence in old techniques. Ones that you can dream over, but ones that I hope you will also turn to time and again, to actually cook from.

I have been so excited about this selection process that I have actually had a hard time sleeping. Really! Insomnia has plagued me these past weeks as we debated which books to include, which most-loved volumes would make the cut.

I couldn’t decide where to begin – and then suddenly as I sat looking at my list, it was obvious. We should begin with breakfast, of course.   Continue reading

Every day

To say that Heidi Swanson is a cookery hero of mine is sort of like saying Yosemite has some beautiful waterfalls or Annie Leibovitz has taken some cool photos or Eddie Vedder has a freakin’ dead sexy voice (and Mark Seymour is not bad either) – it’s true, but it is such an understatement. By which I mean, if I could, I would probably cook from Super Natural Every Day, every day.

Unfortunately, beyond the obvious lack of meat/Kyle issue, there are two huge challenges to getting a Super Natural dinner together for my little family. The first is that I have to make dinner, every day. The second is the timing of making dinner. Every day. Dinner-making just keeps coming, and it comes at the worst time – everyone is a little bit tired, a little bit cranky, a little bit bored, a little bit at the end of their freaking ropes with that gosh darn “train-conductor-voice” Jacob is experimenting with that sounds rather like a drunken adolescent moose careening around the woods of Alaska Sweden, bellowing at the top of his lungs.

Point being, sometimes five o’clock arrives and even the best laid dinner plans can’t save me from a sense of overwhelming panic. How am I going to occupy my kids for thirty minutes and get something healthy, nutritious, and God help me Super Natural prepared for all of us?  Continue reading

Kids and greens – occupy {3}

Mustard greens, dandelion greens, spinach, arugula, even plain old romaine – Jacob picks through his vegetable soup looking for the chard, and Lucas jams kale into his mouth by the fistful. Although some people are surprised by how much my kids like to eat green leafy things, I see lots of kids eat and know that mine are not alone in this veggie-love.

I also know that the older they get, the harder it will be to keep those greens front and center in their hearts and on their plates, as they spend more and more time outside of my immediate vicinity, eating on their own and with their friends.

The last few weeks have seen a proliferation of cookie recipes here (and all of them really are delicious!) along with a slew of pastries, pies and treats – so much so that my friend Liz actually suggested renaming the blog “Inherit the Butter.” But we didn’t stop purchasing processed and packaged foods just to replace them all with sugary, floury, and yes buttery homemade snacks. Although we definitely have our fair share of what Lucas (rather frantically) calls “MMMMMMMS!” most of what we eat at home falls squarely on the vegetable part of the spectrum.  Continue reading