The salad my kids actually eat.

Kale Caesar

This is our go-to salad; it’s a crowd pleaser and kid approved. Oliver has turned into our picky eater (although he’ll eat an entire platter of sushi without blinking). Give him suspicious looking bread or chicken (meaning ANY bread or ANY chicken) and he will act like he’s dissecting a frog for dinner. He won’t eat sandwiches, he’s particular about the cheese he likes, cold cuts are a bipolar decision depending on where the moon is in orbit and if we’re in the year of the Boar or Sheep. Peanut butter and jelly? Insulting. Nutella? The answer is always yes.

So when I find something with kale in it and a dressing I love that both my kids devour and ask for more of … I make the living daylights out of these greens and pound my chest triumphantly when no one is looking.

Kale Caesar

I’ve adapted this recipe to a memorizable combo of whatever I have on hand.

Ingredients

1 Anchovy filet – I’ve resorted to keeping anchovy paste in the house
2 (or more) cloves Garlic
1/2 Lemon, juice of (I often don’t have this so I just omit, I might up the red wine vinegar a bit to balance it out)
2 bunches Tuscan kale … we happen to call it DinosROAR Kale.
1 to 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp Mayonnaise
1 tbsp Sriracha
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp Olive oil, extra virgin
1 tbsp Red wine vinegar
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain (and if I don’t have this, I just up the mayo to accommodate the ratio)

I throw everything, without chopping, into my immersion blender cup and blend. It’s that easy and it keeps in the fridge – one recipe of dressing usually serves us well for 2 salads, or smaller individual salads throughout the week.

You can shred some parm and add croutons. But you don’t have to. Sometimes I add veggies to the salad, my fav is avocado.

Kale Caesar

Last night we had this salad with some grilled pork chops and strawberries. It’s not often that a meal for the 4 of us is equally received as something edible and delicious. I try very hard but some nights I know that Jessica isn’t going to love it, or Oliver will be a fight to the finish line. I need a win once in a while, whether it be in a smoothie or a salad or figuring out the one cut of chicken Oliver will actually eat that isn’t a Costco rotisserie beast.

And this Kale Caesar is my back pocket win. My tricky little side-kick. My hail-Mary, I have to feed them, if I have to see another picked at plate with food shoved in all corners I will literally combust, winner of a salad.

It’s that good.

Thanksgiving wind down

We had a bit of a restless patch in our weekend. The kids had been off school since last week Wednesday and while most of you can understand, there’s always a bit of tension around the Holidays with extended families, we weren’t exempt from that. But everyday we got outside to hike or walk or explore. Either downtown, around the neighborhood, or to some of our favorite dunes and parks.

Adventure: big boots

I ended up finishing THE BOOK that I couldn’t stop writing about (as seen here and here) while we were at the aquatic center with the kids. I took the last couple pages to the bleachers while Aaron and the kids swam around below me. I would get finished with a page and look up to see Aaron racing Oliver through the floating obstacle course, or to see Jessica bravely riding the zip-line into the pool. I would look up to see the reason I was so fired up about this book in the first place. I don’t even know why this specific one unleashed this in me, but it did. And I’m really happy.

And then on Saturday we hiked Mt. Pisgah counting stairs (203), taking every trail we came upon, and releasing the expectations of the weekend.

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

Mt. Pisgah hike: Thanksgiving hike

We ended our long weekend by hosting friends for dinner last night with this menu: Coconut-Ginger-Curry Clams, Roasted Tomatoes with Goat Cheese Polenta, and Banana’s Foster Upside Down Cake. The polenta was a first for me as was the upside down cake and I learned how to flambé but the first time I made clams was last winter during a blizzard over Valentines Day. And I haven’t stopped thinking about them.

The broth has a hint of sweetness from the coconut milk but the salty, zingy flavor of the red curry paste/ginger/garlic and fresh lime juice with delicate clams that open just by steaming: it’s magic. And it’s the best when you dip a pan-toasted baguette into the broth and it runs down your arms.

Eating with my fingers is my favorite way to eat. When you have to lick your fingers and pools of sauces and drippings splatter your plate with each bite. That’s the kind of feast I want to have if given the choice: the one where you’re all in. Where there’s no question as to what you’re doing: you’re eating. You’re submerged in spices and scents and seconds and you just want more.

As we were cleaning up last night and putting the leftovers away Penelope (The Kitchen Beet) suggested I smash the left over polenta into a pan and store it in the fridge overnight: then this morning I should cut wedges and lightly pan-fry them with whatever toppings I wanted for a hearty breakfast.

That sounded pretty tasty.

But last night was a tough one. I was up every few hours with bottomed-out blood sugars pounding orange juice and chasing my lows back to my normals and trying (but failing) to sleep. By six when my alarm went off I was bottomed out again at 54 and falling. So I drank my juice and laid down again until I felt strong enough to get up (the really low numbers make me weak) but by the time the kids needed to get ready for school I wasn’t functioning any better and now dealing with a headache from all this madness. Point is: by the time breakfast rolled around for me I was already on a roller coaster and wanted nothing to do with delicious pan-friend polenta wedges. So Aaron got the kids to school and made sure I was ok, and I got my strength back, and went for coffee. (Priorities)

By lunchtime I was ready to try food: And here’s what worked:

Pan-fried Polenta Wedges with Runny Eggs and Tomato Jam

In other words, left-overs: remastered.

Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.
Pan-fried Polenta with runny eggs and tomato jam.

Do you have cast iron pans? Might I suggest that be one of the only things on your Christmas list if not. TJMaxx always has some for a good price, Target has some too. You can also find them used at thrift stores. A quick seasoning of the pan and it should be good as new. ANYWAY: Melt a slab of butter in your cast iron pan (or any pan, but I like to be specific). Measurements are suggestions – so just go with it. I would only use coconut oil here if there is no goat cheese in your polenta.

Flip them a few times – when you start to see a browning crust, they’re warm. Transfer to a plate and now crack your eggs. Fry those up, flip em, and toss them over your wedges on your plate when you’ve reached your preference of “runny” egg. I had left over roasted tomatoes/spinach/garlic so I tossed that in the pan to heat up next. When I was satisfied with the heat I poured it over my polenta and eggs and squeezed a lime over it. Then I went in.

And you guys, she was right: it was good.

It was great even, the whole weekend. The dinner, the left overs, the time.

I don’t want to scare you or anything with my new-found drive to write here, but I’ll be back. I have so much to share with you.

Shhhh, just listen. (And happy thanksgiving)

I’m not sure why I want to keep talking about this, I only know that every few pages I’m texting excerpts to Aaron from the other room and there is no emoticon for FIST PUMPING YES MOTHERFUCKER. So I’m typing that a lot also. (Sorry, Grandma … and mom?)

Thanksgiving 2015

I started reading this book yesterday and not really in earnest until after the kids were in bed and instead of retiring to the basement for mindless television we both crawled in bed with a book and spent the next few hours turning pages. I laughed, I cried, but mostly I laugh-cried. Somewhere around midnight I put it down and closed my eyes.

I’ve been having really vivid dreams lately but I didn’t wake up with details of last night’s complexities, instead I woke up slowly to the wafting smell of bacon coming from the kitchen. And like I was hoping would happen, I had those visions of coming home for the Holidays and waking up in your old bedroom while your parents are downstairs starting the coffee and making breakfast. (That’s what Thanksgiving and Christmas are for, you see.) I’m not gonna lie, it was like a movie and I just laid there savoring the moment, even if it was fleeting, of feeling like I was young again.

Thanksgiving 2015

I was giddy and that was a welcome feeling for today.

Thanksgiving 2015

One of the chapters of this book talks about the dark secret of lazy parenting: the ritual. Before this book I started reading Gretchen Rubin’s newest title, Better Than Before. A few chapters into it I had one of those moments where I had to get up and walk around and immediately sit down to write the rules I know about myself.

It was a short list, but on it I chronicled:

I drink coffee every day.
My day is bookmarked by carpool.
I always use chicken bones to make stock.
1st snow means hot chocolate, photos, and lots of anticipation.
I like habits, their boundaries feel wonderfully safe to me.

Plus a few other items – but I love how looking back on it I see this list differently in just a few short weeks. I love the ritual of life and traditions. I love knowing that every time I roast a chicken I know the next two days my house is going to smell like chicken soup with lemons and garlic and bay leaves. I love knowing that the morning of the first snow is always a celebration in this house.

In Dinner: a love story, Jenny says “In other words, when there are so many little things to think about, it’s comforting to know that I have a few of the big things running on autopilot.” (FIST PUMPING YES MOTHERFUCKER.)

After breakfast we piled the kids into the car for a Holiday Hike at Riley Trails. I’ve found that walking 30 minutes a day is somewhat of a secret trick to managing my bloodsugars so I do that without lapse. Every day, rain or shine, I walk at least half an hour. If I can manage to get my family to do this with me: I love it. But for the first thirty minutes of any hike or walk – I have a zone and I go there. One step, two. Breathe. Exhale, inhale, look up. Look around, look down. Inhale, listen. The wind in the trees sounds exactly like the lake lapping the shore – it’s the most beautiful thing to listen to in the dead of a forest.

Silence has a song, too.

Thanksgiving 2015
Thanksgiving 2015

And after my half hour is up my mental check list turns off and I can slow down a little. I don’t feel so much pressure to keep walking, just keep walking. I don’t feel like I’m saving myself anymore: now I just feel like I’m serving myself. We go off the path a bit more and explore.

Thanksgiving 2015

And once in a while I can stop altogether to close my eyes with his, heads laid out in wonder while every other sense in our control is on high alert. Smelling the breeze, touching the wind, listening to the rustling of the leaves.

Thanksgiving 2015

Winter is coming, we can smell it.

Winter means soups and stews, pasta and sauces. It means homemade breads and bottles of wine. Cheese boards, exotic fruits, champagne. Winter means time. We have time.

Having people around our table is something we’re trying to do more of. More families, more couples. More meals together. Not out (although we love a good night out) but in. More sharing what we already have with people in our lives that we already love.

Jenny, again, writes about hosting (Phase 3) with kids. She tells a story about another couple, equally as daring as she, who coordinated an evening of pasta making for her family and theirs.

“Making pasta from scratch was the kind of endeavor that I would’ve once called a “someday” project. As in, “Someday, when the kids are older and I have more time I’ll attempt to do that.” That was the best part about having friends like Todd and Anne. When you feel like you’re all in it together, someday suddenly seems a lot less intimidating. Someday suddenly feels … here.”

FIST PUMP YES MOTHERFUCKER.

You see where this is going? I can’t stop. Something happened, I let the dam go. So I stopped everything (after texting that passage to Aaron with my, now well known, sentiments absent of emoticons) and went to the kitchen, giddy all over again. I had a cantaloupe that needed eating so I sliced it up and while I was emptying it’s sunset-colored belly of seeds I just had this feeling … this is simple and extravagant. This is good.

Thanksgiving 2015, snacks

Simple extravagance is important to me because it doesn’t beg for more. Because small voices with big hope are more powerful than large voices with an echo. Gentle conversation where inspiration breeds ambition, these voices matter to me. It allows you to show up, it doesn’t take your coat and replace it with a cloak of titles or achievements. It takes your coat and wraps it’s arms around you.

Thanksgiving 2015, snacks

I’m on page 228 and this is what I know:

Room temperature cantaloupe is sweeter and pairs well with Chardonnay. Having something to say but not knowing how to say it is a reckless way to spin yourself in circles. One step, two. Breathe. Exhale, inhale, look up. Look around, look down. Inhale, listen. Add a pinch more salt, to almost everything. Keep canned tomatoes in your pantry and a good olive oil. Your freezer is a treasure trove of last minute ideas. And it’s ok to begin from nothing: to build something with depth, to wait just a little while longer for the flavor to develop.

Because silence has a song, too. And she’s singing wether you’re ready for the show or not.

thank-full

Last week on Instagram Shauna Niequist mentioned a book in one of her photo descriptions. Something about how if you start with an onion something will come to you when you’re stumped about what to make for dinner. The photo didn’t hurt either, waxing poetic by one of my favorite writers, and she had just suggested a book: and the subject matter was food.

I bought that book based on her recommendation in 200 characters without blinking. It arrived today.

Day before Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving break started today and while I was amped and ready to go this morning, all of a sudden it was 8:30 am and I realized I had a good 12 hours left to go. I was out of ideas. I panicked and started texting friends who have kids the same age as me: were they surviving? Why was this hard?

I made a split decision to go get coffee and detour to the grocery store alone. With my 20 minutes of silence I did some bargaining with God. Like, if He could just please get me through the next few days, I would, you know, say thanks.

It took fresh air and a walk and about 5 more hours but I did get there. After our long walk to the library for some new books and Christmas movies (and more coffee, always more coffee) we drove into the driveway and there it was: the brown package.

All day I’ve been making turkey stock from Thanksgiving bones (one party down and one unfortunate defrosting fiasco with the extra freezer in the garage), I decided earlier today that I’d be making bolognese tonight for dinner. And, because I love the idea of something simmering, I wanted it on the stove all day too. I bought pappardelle noodles last week at Eataly and I’ve been day dreaming about this meal for just as long.

Day before Thanksgiving 2015

And then I sat down. Cook books, especially the newer versions of them, where the recipes read like conversation – I can’t get enough of them. Food is such a story, the dinner table: It’s the entire reason I started a company solely based on gathering around a table to eat. Every page I read I’d sit up and giggle. There’s just so much packed in one recipe, one chapter.

It made me think about the story of our own dinner table. Of how even though I’m estranged from my birth-dad and we don’t speak, I still remember the venison sausage and eggs he’d make for us for breakfast during hunting season. I still make, and am teaching my daughter how to make my step-mom’s homemade white sauce for ravioli. How she taught me how to make a vinaigrette.

It reminds me of making scones, the gentle rise of the baking soda batter. How easy they are, but how complicated they seem. Breakfast is one of my favorite meals to make, we love eggs and hollendaise sauce (Barefoot Contessa’s cheater version is life changing). Mozzarella and tomato caprese salad is a summer staple, and how different the basil out of my own garden tastes compared to the stuff I can find fresh at my grocery store.

It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow and yesterday I made my first turkey (see above for the garage freezer situation). I guess it was good timing? But I don’t like turkey. Or stuffing, cranberries, or pumpkin pie. I love mashed potatoes and the green bean casserole and I love the way that every Thanksgiving feast I’ve been a part of for the last 10 years the green beans have been my staple dish to bring. Not because I make them any better or even because it’s a crowd favorite – but because the people asking me to show up know that this is the casserole that spells home for me on a day when home is so far away.

I start to think of when my mom was away this summer, in Washington, how much I was hurting because my brother and his family had just moved away. I felt a million miles away from someone who connected me to family, I felt alone and afraid and this new horizon for my future looked really lonely. But I opened the cookbook my mom had hand-written for me before I got married and fingered each recipe until I found the Red Sauce for Salmon, I knew there would be a salmon cook out while my mom was away – it’s the one thing we always know will happen in Washington when we go to visit. Grandpa grills salmon and Grandma makes the red sauce.

So I found the worchestershire sauce, cut the onion, opened the tomato sauce, spooned out the brown sugar and I set to making my home smell like the place I wanted to be the most: with them.

I feel a deep sense of loss in my community: family has scattered to good places but I can't seem to pick the pieces and make them fit. This has been a very hard season, and one of the most beautiful too. My kitchen is torn out but my stove is still plugg

I’ve chronicled my story with food on this site for a long time. Oftentimes I’m fighting my way through making peace with food, when really food is the peacemaker for me. Food is what always brings my family back together. Every night we crowd around something warm on benches by the table and in about 10 minutes all the preparation and time I’ve spent making something to feed us becomes a memory. But these are the memories I get to keep reliving.

When I was in high school my mom tells me I spent a good chunk of one of my relationships baking for a boy. I don’t remember this but I love the idea of it – and maybe that’s why I did it then, too. Because I grew up listening to how my mom was a baker as a young child. How she would bake for her family, later her boyfriend. I loved the idea of showing someone you loved them by using your hands to literally fill them with something good. After my parents divorce was final my sister and I threw my mom a “Divorce Party!” – we invited her girlfriends and made orange jello that didn’t set up and chocolate chip cookies (I think we swapped salt for sugar in that recipe, too) but I remember just knowing that when it was time to celebrate or love someone, you fed them. I was only eleven.

One of my kids’ favorite stories is of when I had just started dating Aaron: I asked him if he wanted me to bring him lunch and he answered, yea, Lobster. Like the smart-ass he was. So I made him Lobster. And now every year on his birthday we have lobster. (He also takes me seriously now.)

Food is tangible memories for me. When I buy salmon I always think of my Grandpa and fishing with him on Silver Lake. I’ve perfected my own chocolate chip cookie staple recipe, we make hot chocolate mix every winter, I know my family loves tacos so I’m never without a white fish or ground beef and recently another mom shared a chicken recipe (frozen to melt in your mouth in 20 minutes … I’m not kidding) that has made it’s way into our “oh shit! whats for dinner!?” rotation of dinners. It’s also a crowd favorite over here.

I know that Jessica will open up about almost anything over a freshly baked loaf of sourdough. Oliver will linger just a little longer if you offer him tea, or a nutella sandwich, and he makes some mean scrambled eggs. Every Christmas I make cinnamon rolls but the store-bought ones in a can are the simple extravagance my kids love through out the year. I love that as a kid my favorite part of a birthday was that whoever’s birthday it was got to pick out a box of cereal (any one they wanted!) at the store that week and I’ve carried that into my own kitchen. We don’t have store bought cereal very often and it’s not reserved just for birthdays, but the times we let them pick a box – it’s always so funny to watch them shop. Jessica will always pick Cheerios and Oliver is a shoe-in for something with marshmallows.

Right? Why have I been so hard on myself. Not only in the food department but the writing one? I’ve been racking my brain with writers block wondering what the hell I have left to say? Not wanting to tell some of my stories, wanting desperately to tell others. I’ve been frustrated with how to get back into a rhythm of writing. Of practicing.

And when I get to the point of throwing my hands up, I go in the kitchen and turn on the burner under my kettle. I fill it with water and wait for it to steam. I pick my favorite tea and thumb through a cook book for dinner ideas. Then I hunt in my pantry for the staples needed to feed my family and I start chopping onions, browning butter, salting meat.

Why does listening to Gordon Ramsay cook make me want to change the world? I saw a tutorial yesterday and decided I would also massage garlic into red meat. This art of cooking and eating well, it feels spiritual. Like we were created to connect with what

It’s what spans the distance from memories to reality. And because of that, I’m never alone when I’m in my kitchen.

H2oh!

I love Jesus, but I drink a little. – Gladys Hardy

I just want you all to have the best day, please, I give this video clip to you as a gift: Ellen and Gladys on the phone

If you follow me on Instagram you might have noticed all the drink concoctions coming across my feed. Today, I give them to you.

Rosé Water

Strawberry/Mint water is pink! after a 24 hour steep. Who doesn't love a little H2O Rosé?

Fill a pitcher with water
5-8 strawberries, sliced
5 large fresh mint leaves or 10 smaller ones

Let it steep over night in the fridge for Rosé Water the next day (it has a delightful, fresh taste to it with the mint and a lingering faint strawberry)

Cinnamon Ginger Tea with Coconut oil

Cinnamon-Ginger tea. Only it looks like hot chocolate, yes? Because I took the crazy train to town and BLENDED my tea with coconut oil. Frothy little liar. I might need help. #comebacktomeliver #andpancreas #andsanity

Boil one cup water
Steep one cinnamon stick with one inch peeled fresh ginger, add 1 tbsp coconut oil and blend to combine. Sip decadently.

Get it Girl Smoothie

Get It Girl Smoothie: (with adjustments from @thekitchenbeet's original recipe) 1 C water, 1 C each spinach and kale, 1 grapefruit, peeled, 1 C frozen blueberries, 1 TBS chia seeds, 1 heaping TBS hemp powder and coconut oil each and a swirl of agave necta

With adjustments from The Kitchen Beet’s original recipe:
1 C water, 1 C each spinach and kale, 1 grapefruit, peeled, 1 C frozen blueberries, 1 TBS chia seeds, 1 heaping TBS hemp powder and coconut oil each and a swirl of agave nectar and juice of one lime. Blend to combine then girl, go get it.

Chia Seed Refresher

1.5 tsp chia seeds, juice of a lemon or lime (and optional honey to taste) plus water. Stir and let sit for 10 min. Stir before you drink, enjoy the little bubbles of chia. It's so good, you guys. Mini bubble tea-esque.

1 C room temp water
1.5 tsp Chia Seeds
Juice of lime

Stir to combine, let sit for 10 minutes then devour. And giggle. (You’ll want to keep stirring so the chai seeds don’t settle. I use a straw and pretend I’m in a lush garden with a sunhat on.) Pictured with a cucumber garnish: you’re so fancy.

High-Five Grapefruit Gin and Tonic

That's the #highfive for the day. Grapefruit gin and tonic with lime and mint. Because I said so. #yardwork #homesteading #saturday #allthefun

Here’s how I feel about Gin and Tonics: Strongly. So let’s start strong, shall we?

In an 8 oz jar (everything is better in a jar) fill 3/4 with ice
Then fill half with Grapefruit San Pellegrino
Top it off with your choice of gin, I’m partial to the lime gin
Slice up a lime and toss 3 perfect circles into the drink, swirl
Then stab 3 stems of fresh, blooming mint in the top and high-five those petals.

You did it. Well done.

I’ll continue to raise my glass to you: Cheers!