Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Each year, when New Year's Eve rolls around, I spend some time thinking about what worked and what didn't in the months past. Some things that happen in life...actually, most things that happen in life are outside our control. The only thing we can control is how we respond to what happens. Our emotional response, thoughts and reactions are all something we can choose to change. Our year, like yours I'm sure, had many highs and many lows. We can only hope and pray that the new year brings more good than bad...more joy than sorrow....more peace than war....more love than hate.....more riches than poverty.....let's hope so!

Thank you accompanying me on this wild and wonderful journey here in blogland in 2009! Here's hoping that 2010 will be full of peace, joy and prosperity for us all.

All the best,

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

At Market....Greens

Greens. It's what I crave come January 1st...well, make that December 26th, when I've had my fill of holiday fare. Don't get me wrong, I love the candy, cakes, cookies, roasts, and casseroles (and martinis, and wine...) just as much as any other person, but after awhile, it tends to make me feel heavy, if not in the literal sense, then certainly in my energy level. This year, because of illness, we didn't partake in our usual amount of eating, drinking, and merry making, but still, I'm feeling the need for food that is clean, lean and GREEN. So when I came across this recipe in this wonderful new vegetarian cookbook, Love Soup, I knew I had to try it.

Here in Southern California, greens are abundant most times of the year, but are especially wonderful now, when other produce is absent and the crisp weather keeps their sometimes aggressive flavor in check. Chock full of nutrients, including iron and vitamin C, they are true super food and should be eaten often....yeah right, just tell that to my kids.

Caramelized onions, combined with leeks, ginger, greens and a potato for thickening, make this a truly flavorful and delicious soup. And though it is called a "green" soup, I was truly shocked at just how very green it is. Verdantly green, leaf green, grass green, gloriously green....and way too green for the kids to even want to touch it with a ten-foot pole. But I love it. It tastes fresh, and a bit sharp from the greens and lemon juice, with a pleasant little zing of ginger that sings through too. It's perfect for those "spa days" and I plan on having a batch of this in my fridge all winter long. This soup is vegetarian, vegan if you don't put a dollop of yogurt on it. Even if you don't normally go for recipes like this, I really encourage you to try it. It's an immensely satisfying way to get your greens.

By the way, when I find ginger at our farmers' market I stock up on it in my freezer. Whenever I need fresh ginger, I simply grate the frozen hunk (I don't even bother peeling it), and toss it in a dish. It is never stringy that way, and keeps indefinitely.

Greens and Ginger Soup
Adapted from Love Soup

Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: serves 4-6


1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
4 cups of water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 large leek, white and light green part only, washed well, and sliced
1 pound of mixed greens (I used spinach, turnip, mustard, and collard)
3 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger
1 quart of vegetable stock
20 grinds of fresh pepper
2-3 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
a splash of tamari, if desired
Plain yogurt for dolloping


Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a skillet. Add onions and a large pinch of salt and cook for 30 minutes, or until they are soft and golden in color.

Meanwhile, put water, potato, salt, leek, greens and ginger in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. The greens will be huge at this point, but will boil down quickly. Simmer this mixture for 20-30 minutes, or until the potato and greens are tender.

Add the caramelized onions and vegetable stock and stir well. At this point you can either blend it in batches in your blender, or use an emulsion blender. Puree until completely smooth. Season with pepper, and add lemon juice and taste. If you want to add additional depth of flavor, add a splash of tamari. Serve hot, with a dollop of plain yogurt if desired.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Merry Joy to the World

So despite the fact that my adorable children have declared this the worst Christmas ever (when 4 out of 5 become violently ill on any day, it isn't a good thing....but during the holidays, it's just plain tragic!!), we did manage to find plenty of opportunities to celebrate the good things....

With early gifts from family....

With homemade tamales on the solstice, as well as our Advent Spiral....yes, I will post the recipe.

With some crafty activities....

With our Yule Log tradition....(we cut up last year's tree and burn it on Christmas Eve and morning)

With lots and lots of naps....

With much time spent lounging about.....

With a 12th birthday celebration.....

And with finally finishing our gingerbread cottage....Here's hoping that your holidays were merry and bright. See you soon!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice Day

Here's hoping you can pause for a moment during the busiest of days, to truly enjoy the blessings of this season.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Easy Family Meals

Everyone is rushed right now, and most folks are hard pressed to find any time at all to get dinner on the table. But my newest gallery of Classic Family Meals is going live on Disney's website tonight, and many of them are easy to throw together if you are short on time. I'd love it if you rated them, and shared any comments. Click on the photo below to be taken directly to all my newest recipes!

And as we move ever closer to Christmas, my hope for you is that you do get to slow down for a moment, and share a good, simple and healthful meal with those you love.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


There is absolutely nothing more perfect than a bowl of hot chowdah (you've got to say it that way) for lunch. It warms you from the inside out on those cold, dreary winter days, where thick socks are more of a necessity than a comfort. My kids love chowder, especially the clam variety....never, ever tomato based, of course. We are New Englanders after all (by blood, if not permanent residence--yet) and New York style chowder is decidedly not appropriate for this occasion. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's not appropriate for any occasion....but I am biased, if you haven't figured that out already.

We enjoy this treat all summer long, when fresh clams are plentiful (and free), but in winter, when we really need to have it, we make do with canned clams. It could be worse, really. I don't find canned clams to be particularly tinny or or overly chewy, but the much romanticized hunting/gathering part of the chowder is lost, to be sure. In the summer all we need for fresh clams is 5 minutes, and the willingness to dig in the muck. But clams from a can are an acceptable alternative and are quicker, cleaner and work in a pinch. Your fishmonger may carry freshly shucked clams too. It doesn't hurt to ask.

I like my chowder to be chock full of chunky potatoes, bacon and with minimal clams. So I only added a paltry 3 cans of clams, which equals approximately 1 1/4 cups of shucked clams. But if you're really in love with them, then by all means add more...but I think there's still plenty of flavor from all that clam juice. Some folks like their chowder thick, some like it thin. I fall somewhere in between and thicken it just a bit with flour, but not too much. I also favor half and half instead of heavy cream because it's not so rich.

Clam Chowder

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Yield: serves 6


4 slices of thick-cut, nitrate free bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
4 cups of peeled, russet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 3 large)
2 (8 ounce) bottles of clam juice
6 cups of half and half
1/4 cup flour
3 (6.5 ounce) cans of chopped clams in juice, drain and reserve juice


Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until it is crisp and fat is rendered. Remove bacon from pot and reserve and turn heat to low. Add celery and onion and cook for 7 minutes or until vegetables are tender and translucent.

Add potatoes to the pot, along with all the clam juice from the bottles and cans (except for 1/2 a cup) and raise heat to high. Bring clam juice to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining clam juice with the flour to make a slurry and set aside.

When the potatoes are tender, whisk in the slurry until thoroughly combined. Simmer for 3 minutes more to thicken soup slightly. Add the half and half and clams and heat for 5 more minutes. Do not boil. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Top with reserved bacon and don't forget the oyster crackers.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Peppermint Fudge

Holy sleigh bells! How on earth is it already December....and December 7th, no less? Our busy days (and nights) have been filled with lots and lots of activities, some more fun than others. We've gotten braces, performed in an African dance and music ensemble, had our final soccer games and practices, soccer parties, awards ceremonies, and dinner with friends....we've decked the halls (almost done), shopped until we dropped (online), and prepared for upcoming birthdays (3 in our immediate family....2 more outside it). We've planted our winter garden, only to have to blanket in burlap due to an unseasonable hard frost that's expected tonight and built a new desk and shelves in the boys' room. And we've gone to the movies to see Fantastic Mr. Fox (fantastic!!) and a Christmas Carol at El Capitan in Hollywood (outstanding...and scary!). We've gone on date nights, and to a club to hear our current favorite musician play....and we've been working hard at school and our day jobs too. Whew!

In short, (or long), we are exhausted...but in a good way, and consequently not a whole lot of things have been coming out of the kitchen lately. The exception being this (most delicious) PEPPERMINT ICE CREAM, and this (most delectable) Peppermint Fudge. The fudge recipe is adapted from Everyday Food Magazine and is super easy because it doesn't require the use of a candy thermometer. Peppermint candies are finely chopped, then melted together with piles of pillowy marshmallows and rich cream and butter. That molten pink confection is whisked with chocolate chips until they melt...and that's it! Fudge!

It's really, really easy. In fact, I made it with my after school cooking class...and if a 7 year old can make it so can you! Make a double batch so you can give it away as a gift...just a suggestion. Of course, you could also just enjoy the whole batch by yourself. Nothing cures holiday stress like chocolate....

Want more Christmas treat ideas? Check out Serena's Cookie Exchange!

Peppermint Fudge

This easy fudge is so rich and delectable…that it is easy to make is a bonus. You can use a food processor to smash up the peppermint candies, but kids love to do the job with a wooden rolling pin. Packaged up in a pretty bowl, these candies would make a wonderful holiday gift if you have any left over to give away. You may want to double the recipe just to make sure.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes, plus chilling time
Yield: 16 squares


2 ¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup round peppermint candies
¾ cup heavy cream
3 ½ cups mini marshmallows
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Peppermint sprinkles (or more crushed candies)


Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray, then line with 2 sheets of waxed paper in both directions, leaving a 2 inch overhang on each side. Spray waxed paper with cooking spray. Set aside.

Place chocolate in a large bowl. Pulse peppermint candies in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade attachment until finely ground, or alternately, place candies in a freezer strength zip-top bag and whack with a wooden rolling pin on a firm surface until smashed. In a medium saucepan, combine candies, cream, marshmallows, butter, sugar and salt over medium-high heat. Whisk until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes.

Pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer over the chocolate chips and whisk until melted and smooth, about 1 minute. Pour into prepared pan, top with peppermint sprinkles, and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours. Cut fudge into squares with a sharp knife. To store, cover and refrigerate up to one week.