Inspiration for a New Year

As family and friends frequently remind me, my blog has certainly seen better days.  Which is true, of course, but it's also difficult for me to hear: in my long list of priorities, Pinot and Prose is usually the first thing to get dropped.  Which is sad and frustrating for me.  Certainly in the new year, one of my goals is to make more time for things I love, blog included.  It's usually the things that we love, that fulfill us and energize us, that tend to get shunted to the side in our busy day-to-day lives.  For some reason, they start seeming frivolous and self-indulgent.  Or, in my case, it's easier to sit in front of a 30 Rock episode than to be creative and interesting and challenging.  I hope to end that in 2011.

That said, it's not like my life has become a wasteland of duty to jobs, commuting, and bills.  On the contrary, I am constantly inspired, moved, and wowed by my fellow bloggers.  My Google Reader is chock-full of people (let's face it - mostly women) who make blogging, reading, eating, and living a full life a major priority.  So as this year comes to a close, I want to say thank you to the following people (and this list is by no means exhaustive) who have kept me going in 2010.

  • Bookends: Cindy and Lynn blog at Booklist and - maybe this is one of my favorites because I know them - but I find their blog (and them as people) so fun and joyful.  And incredibly informative.  
  • Bookshelves of Doom: Leila makes me feel like I have my finger on the pulse of really random pop culture news items. And I laugh heartily reading nearly every post.
  • Coconut & Lime: Rachel's photos are gorgeous and her recipes are totally accessible.
  • Color Me Katie: Sheer joy packaged in every post.
  • A Cup of Jo: So stylish and chic. Not to mention that I credit Joanna Goddard with introducing me to Yves Saint Laurent's perfume Parisienne, for which I've received many, many compliments.
  • emilyreads: Book reviews in haiku. Hilarious and brilliant.
  • honey & jam: I just discovered Hannah's blog this year and it was love at first sight. Stunning photography - I'm repeatedly awed.
  • I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?: As far as I can tell, no one in the children's book world is doing what Lee is doing.  And certainly not as well. He's an essential voice.
  • Je ne sais quoi...: Get a true, down-and-dirty view of Parisian life here.
  • La Tartine Gourmande: Eye candy.
  • Lardon My French: After 3 years as an interior designer in the U.S., Katrina dropped it all to live in Paris as a freelancing, blogging expat.  Inspirational for me, for sure.  Her Tartine Tuesdays feature incredibly accessible recipes, especially for weeknight cooking.
  • Lucy's Kitchen Notebook: No "Favorites" list of mine would be complete without Lucy Vanel.  Think her photos are gorgeous?  Wait until you read her prose.  
  • Simmer Till Done: Marilyn has such a sense of fun in everything - her blog posts, her recipes, and her photos.  And she is hands-down one of my favorite Tweeters (@simmertilldone).
  • Unhappy Hipsters: Consistently reminds me not to take myself nor life too seriously.
  • A Year of Reading: Two teachers who definitely "get it".  Their enthusiasm for books and poetry is contagious.
It's a New Year that will see a move for me (Manhattan, here I come!) and a move for the Soul Twin, who it appears may be moving to NYC.  It'll see my daughter, known to all of you as Bug, turning 10 years old (and getting her ears pierced).  Hopefully this is the year when I finally go skydiving.  Maybe this is the year when I'll be able to achieve the cliched and elusive "work-life balance."  

Thanks to my fellow bloggers who inspire, push, and teach me and thanks to the family and friends who keep up with my blog.  

Happy New Year!


Anguilla: A Taste

I was optimistic and enthusiastic, thinking I'd be able to blog more often post-NCTE (or just plain foolish).  I forgot about those tedious things called Work...Christmas...ALA Midwinter.  I still desperately want to tell you all about Anguilla...but I just can't snatch enough time!

So...I'll tease you with this:

Local Anguillan crayfish that is so buttery it's just beyond belief, truly.  I swooned over this meal at the shack-on-a-beach place known as Palm Grove.  I'll tell you all about it but, in the meantime, check out this Washington Post article about Anguilla - it captures the flavor of the island perfectly.

Eat, drink, and get away from it all.


Celebrating Winter with Friends

I've missed being here so much and I can't tell you what a huge relief it is to come back here: it's a sign that my life is returning to some amount of normalcy.  I was drowning in all things NCTE and ALAN before Thanksgiving (check out the recaps here and here) and then I was on the loveliest trip ever to Anguilla for the holiday (photos forthcoming).  Christmas and ALA Midwinter are looming larger and larger on the horizon but, for right now, I'm here.  And I'm determined to enjoy this moment and not think about the rest.

Our first weekend back from the sunny beaches of Anguilla we were faced with 40-degree winter days and I thought that there wasn't a better way to brave the weather than to hole up with good friends - Jenn and Phil - and catch up on all our news.  On the menu: Brussel Sprouts with Bacon, Creamy Parmesan Polenta, and Grilled Sausages.

Jenn and Phil are regulars at the Lutz table and we've settled into a nice routine where we cook and they bring dessert. Often, it's petits fours from this wonderful bakery near Jenn and Phil but, last night, it was Salted Maple Walnut Thumbprints, made by Miss J herself.  Fabulous.

Things are always crazy during conference time at work and the holidays compound that.  My blog dropped off...I didn't contribute to the holiday fair at Bug's school like I had intended...I haven't set my fantasy football teams for three weeks.  But there's always time to get together with friends, to catch up over food and drink, and to share laughs and smiles.

Eat, drink, and prioritize.


Speaking of food writing...

...Remember yesterday I talked about exceptional food writing?

Today, I have an example of...to put it kindly...not good food writing:

When stewed in a cauldron, the big, tough-looking leaf becomes wonderful and delicious, tender and emotional. [referring to collard greens]

This appeared in my latest issue of Saveur in the article "Green Goddess."

I don't want to be mean.  I don't.  But this sort of writing brings out the mean in me.  I love Saveur and I certainly won't cancel my subscription over this (because the photography alone is worth the price of admission, for me).  But this writing is so affected and overwrought.  "Emotional" collard greens?!  No.  Just...no.  "Wonderful and delicious"?!  No.  It's one thing for an inexperienced blogger such as myself, but you're Saveur.  For goodness sake.

On the upside, "emotional" has become a catch-phrase in our house.  Adam and I enjoyed a late-night snack of burrata on toast this weekend and we absolutely declared it to be tender and emotional.  It really was so good - with some lemon zest, flake salt, and fresh pepper - that I wanted to cry.

Eat, drink, and emote.

Note: Another upside is that the Collard Greens, Cornmeal, and Sausage Soup looks really amazing. 


Excerpt: BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER by Gabrielle Hamilton

Oh, you guys.  Wow.  I was incredibly lucky recently to score a galley of BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER by Gabrielle Hamilton (Random House, March 2011).  When I heard that Anthony Bourdain had called it "the best food memoir by a chef ever. EVER" and that Mario Batali said that he would "apply for the dishwasher job at Prune to learn from my new queen", I knew I had to read it.  So here's a spoiler:

It really is that good.

I loved it.  I savored every word.  I won't do a full "review", as it's still five months out from publication.  But here is an excerpt of a section that particularly spoke to me:

I want to do the cooking.  It is what grounds me, gives me pleasure, and is the best way for me to communicate with the Italian-speaking family and to make a contribution.  But it can also make me feel like the hired help.  While Michel babysits the kids at the pool for the day, dozing in and out of naps and reading the newspaper and having fluid conversations with people in his native tongue I am nagged by an emptiness while I am neatening and organizing the drawers and shelves in all the cabinets, and it continues as I move up and down each aisle in the grocery store, and interferes still while I am chopping each onion at the newly created cooking island in front of the kitchen stove.  By the time I check out at the grocery store and I've put this grocery bill on my personal card, sauted the onions with the potatoes, and wiped down the counter, I feel precariously poised exactly between totally perfect, as if I am exactly where I should be, and totally fucked-up, as if I were bankrolling my own martyrdom. [quoted from advanced reader's edition]

Oh my god.  Yes.

Is this the "best" passage I could have shared?  Perhaps not.  But this section summed up so many of my own conflicted feelings about cooking for my family and friends: I love cooking...but...god, I'm so not the caterer, dudes.  I am not the Alice to your Brady Bunch.  And the best food writing, in my mind, is that which reflects back to us our own experiences, our own passions, our own humanity.  Which BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER accomplishes.  In spades.  I most certainly wasn't doing coke lines and living on my own at 16 years old...but somehow, some way, Gabrielle Hamilton's experiences still end up being my own.  And don't even get me started on her passage about women in restaurants: I'm not a chef in a restaurant but Hamilton still manages to mirror my own feelings about being a woman in a professional environment.  It's brilliant.

To keep myself from going on and on, I just want to end by saying this: buy it.  Mark it, pre-order it, schedule it on your Outlook.  This is the second coming of M.F.K Fisher.  And I do not say this lightly.

Eat, drink, and jump on the Gabrielle Hamilton bandwagon.


Foodie Books for Kids: Dessert

In April 2009, I shared my thoughts on the darling book Dessert First by Hallie Durand, illustrated by Christine Davenier.  It really was a divinely sweet book, and Davenier's illustrations were pitch-perfect with the whimsy and the humor.  And Simon and Schuster's publicity package was attention-grabbing, for sure.

Fast forward more than a year and I'm now in publishing.  I don't get all the ARCs and review copies from other publishers at work anymore, for the most part...though, if there's a book I'm dying to have I send an email to my counterparts in other houses, begging for a copy (Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and Jane by April Lindner being my two recent "book begs").

So imagine my surprise when I recently received a package at my home; it was from Simon and Schuster and addressed to Pinot and Prose.  Strange.  Open it up and this is what was inside:

Just Desserts!  The next book in the series.  Isn't that packaging clever?  Designed to look like a bakery package, twine and all.  Here's what was inside the bakery box:

Hardcovers of Just Desserts and Dessert First, along with a paperback copy of Dessert First.

I haven't had the chance to read it yet - can you believe I'm already reading Fall 2011 books?! - but I'm looking forward to it.  And I want to thank Simon and Schuster.  I'm guessing that the book came to me only because of a glitch in the database somewhere...but I'm glad for it.  What a fun treat to receive.

Eat, drink, and get your Just Desserts.


Foodie Weekend: Eataly

I've missed you guys!  It's been an eventful two weeks: sickness ('tis the season), best friends, seemingly endless food and wine, conferences, and day-to-day living.  I'll be in Minnesota this coming weekend for KidLitCon and can't wait - I've never been to Minneapolis - or anywhere in Minnesota - so it'll be a new adventure.  Not to mention that I'll see folks from last year's conference, like Liz Burns, Jen Robinson, and Maureen Kearney.  On top of which I also found out today that one of our new authors - Anne Ursu - will be there as well!  She has a book with Harper coming out in Fall 2011 so I'm excited to meet her in person.

But all that aside, let me tell you about my weekend.  The Soul Twin (aka my BFF) was visiting - hopefully, hopefully, the last trip she makes before moving here - and so we decided we had to hit up Eataly.  Eataly, for those not in-the-know, is Mario Batali's foodie venture with Joe and Lidia Bastianich.  I won't go into the details of the place.  For that, there's the New York Post, the New York Times, Eater NY, Huffington Post...and a ridonkulous amount of other sources.  But for the layperson, here is a taste (pun, unfortunately, intended) of our inaugural trip to Eataly:

The wait for La Pasta was an hour long so we settled for La Pesce.  I'm being sarcastic, of course.  It was amazing.  The crudo was fresh and interesting; the Soul Twin particularly loved (as did we all, I assure you) the diver scallops with tangerine-pressed olive oil.  I begged everyone to let me order the salt cod, as I've always been too lazy to make anything with salt cod myself.  It was very good but definitely not the highlight of the meal.

I had never had razor clams before and the flavor of these was as it should be: like tasting the sea.  That said, these were a bit sandy?  Or gritty?  Is that normal?  I'm not sure, being a newbie to razor clams.  Nevertheless, the flavor was outstanding.

I could make Eataly into FIVE blog posts.  So I'll break it down.  Here are a few things you need to know:

  • Get there before noon on a Saturday if you want to avoid waiting on the sidewalk.
  • The vegetable restaurant - La Verdure - seems to have the shortest lines.  And if the rest of the place is any indication, I don't think you can go wrong by going there instead of any of the other places.
  • Want to go food shopping?  Stop by the bar in the middle first.  You can shop while sipping a fabulous rose.  Which we did.
  • Don't expect to buy too much, at least the first time you go.  We walked through like zombies, just staring at everything, unable to act.
  • Have recipes that require obscure pasta shapes you've never heard of?  Write them down before you go to Eataly!  Almost guaranteed that you'll find them here.
  • It's not cheap.  In fact, it's one of the most expensive food shops I have ever visited.
  • Thinking about buying produce at Eataly on a Saturday?  Please remember that Union Square Greenmarket is only about 8 blocks south of Eataly.  Support local produce...and get that amazing fresh pasta from Eataly.
  • They have as much for the wine lover as much as for the beer lover. You know about Adam and his beer: he passed the available Dogfish Head for an Italian beer and loved it. But don't tell Sam Calagione...

So I'll end my post by trying some Italian:

Mangiare, bere, e amano l'Italia!


Wine Labels

I don't usually buy a bottle of wine here, a bottle of wine there.  When I buy wine, I usually go on a shopping spree, if you will - I buy 12 bottles minimum (to get a discount) every 3 months or so.  I either visit my favorite local shop, Wine Room of Forest Hills, or we get a ZipCar and trek out to Jersey for Total Wine*.  The latter of which we did yesterday.

Dragging a nine-year-old child through Total Wine is a feat, to say the least.  Especially since Adam is usually doing his own beer shopping as well - they have an excellent selection.  I mean, it is waaaay boring for Bug and I only thank goodness my mom didn't try to do the same thing to us three kids when I was growing up.  Can you imagine trying to control an 11-year-old (me), a 9-year-old (my brother), and a one-year-old (my sister) through a wine store?!  The sad thing is that my mom probably needed a glass of wine more back then than I do now, dealing with us kids.  Anyway...

So I came up with a way to entertain Bug: she gets to pick one bottle that I buy, based on the "prettiness" of the label.  And as long as it's affordable.  She loves it.  She goes through the store, finding the wines she likes, looking for the "maybe" bottles.  Yesterday, she found this one:

She saw it and exclaimed - okay, she yelled really loud: "IT'S THE WHOMPING WILLOW WINE!!!!"

As mentioned before, our household is obsessed with all things Harry Potter and this label just screamed Whomping Willow to her.  And as luck would have it, I've actually had the Gnarly Head Zin before, as its 1) incredibly affordable, and 2) located in Lodi, CA, very close to where I grew up.  It's big and juicy, of course, but it also has a nice earthiness to it that prevents it from being too jammy.

So, yes, dear readers, I have managed to tie together Harry Potter and Zinfandel.  Not bad, eh?  How's that for tying together children's books and wine?

Eat, drink, and sometimes judge a wine by its label.

* Soooo off-topic but had to share: any time I say "Total Wine" I think of that line from The Breakfast Club.  You know the one?  "If I lose my temper, man, you're totaled."  And Bender replies, "Totally?"  Then Emilio Estevez says, "Totally."  So I say "Total Wines."  Then I expect all of you to reply, "Totally?"  I know.  Weird.  But had to share.


"Spicy" Carbonated Drinks

Up until a couple years ago, Bug hated carbonated drinks, declaring them "spicy" and "hot".  Which I never understood.  I just thought she was messing up her words.

Which is why I found this article at Food & Think so interesting: "The Science of Fizz."  Apparently Bug wasn't entirely off-base.


Weekday Meals, Part 2: Antipasti and Soft-Boiled Eggs

This is the conclusion to my week as a single parent.  I intentionally left the "easier" meals until last.  So on Wednesday, we had "antipasti."  I call it antipasti, but I do believe it's not the traditional sort.  Anyway, I made myself a little salad with a honey mustard vinaigrette (approximately 1/2 tsp. honey mustard, about 3 tbsp olive oil, approx 1/2 tsp. sherry vinegar**, kosher salt and pepper to taste). 

I cut up a pear for Bug, as well as sliced up some smoked mozzarella (she loves the stuff). 

For me, I included some buffalo mozzarella, which I sprinkled with flake salt, fresh pepper, and lemon zest.  I've also discovered the joys (seriously, it's near-ecstasy) of smoked duck, thanks to my local purveyors Hudson Valley Duck Farm at Fresh Direct

Add some salami, which Bug loves, and some triple cream Brie...you have a meal!  Not just any meal, but a rather - dare I say it? - decadent meal for two young ladies without their knight?  Who needs a man, right?

For Thursday, we made one of Bug's favorites: Soft-Boiled Eggs with Artichoke Bread Fingers*, courtesy of Clotilde Dusoulier's Chocolate and Zucchini cookbook:

Of course, I don't call them "artichoke bread fingers" - she'd never eat them.  So it becomes: "Hey, hon, how about eggs with dippers tonight?"  Enthusiastic choruses of hallelujah and Mom is a hero.

Adam came home around midnight on Friday so I had still had one more night to get through.  Friday night.  You know what I did?  I ordered a pizza to be delivered, like any normal human being.  And called the week a success.

Eat, drink, and don't just survive...THRIVE.

* The site this links to is the recipe...but gives no credit to Chocolate and Zucchini.  So I give it here.  That is where I got the recipe.

Note: This is fun.  All the photos of the antipasti meal posted here?  Taken by Bug (aka my 9yo daughter).  I was rushing around: opening wine, getting the table set...  And she asked if she could take photos.  And this is the result.  Am I proud?  Totally.


Together Again!

Adam got home late last night, about an hour after I fell asleep and looong after Bug had gone down for the night.  I hardly responded when he spoke to me at midnight, even though my mind still registered his arrival.

So when I woke up this morning, I was thrilled he was there.  As I'm sure you guessed, we were awakened by Bug...with a hug!  She climbed on Adam, hugging him, which then woke me up.  Perfect, right?

We got the idea to make Adam breakfast in bed as a welcome home gift:

We made bacon - our favorite kind, from Dickson's Farmstand Meats in Chelsea Market - with scrambled eggs.  And I found some Eckerton tomatoes at Manhattan Fruit Exchange yesterday so I cut those up, and tossed them with salt, pepper, lemon zest, and olive oil.  Bug was in charge of making toast and buttering it.

Breakfast in bed on a sunny Saturday morning.  Really, at that moment, I knew that I didn't need anything else in the world to make me happy.

And, as a treat to myself for making it through a challenging week, I poured a glass (okay, fine, two glasses) of prosecco.
Eat, drink, and enjoy happy reunions.

Weekday Meals, Part 1: Naan pizza

Alas, I had such grand visions of blogging all week.  Now I know that should I, under tragic circumstances, be a single parent, I don't think I could keep up this blog.  Time was so not my friend for the past five days.

Nevertheless, I was able to capture our meals sans Adam.  On Tuesday, it was naan pizza:

This...well, this turned out not great.  Serviceable, at best.  My plan was for potato and ricotta pizza.  I heated the oven to 400 degrees with my pizza stone on the bottom rack.  I drizzled each naan with olive oil, then added salt and pepper to taste.  I spread each naan with Pomi strained tomatoes, followed by fresh ricotta.

I left Bug's as is.  To mine, I added some boiled potato slices and red pepper flakes.  Then both naans went into the oven for about 12 minutes.  Once out, I added fresh thyme to my pizza and shaved Parmesan to both our pizzas.

The result was nearly crap, actually.  I was entirely too generous with the sauce so, once combined with the already moist ricotta, turned the naan completely soggy - you can't really see it in the photo but there were POOLS of liquid on top of the pizza.  And because there was too much sauce, the pizza was overly sweet, in my opinion.  And it looked bland - I think a spell under the broiler would have done those potatoes good.

The good news?  Bug inhaled it.  Loved it.  So I guess that's good...

Eat, drink, and in all things moderation.



As I mentioned, last night was "grown up dinner" - I made myself gnocchi with mushrooms and sage after Bug had gone to bed.  Then...I broke one of my cardinal rules...and ate it in front of the TV while watching "Absolutely Fabulous".

This dish was inspired by Jamie Oliver's recipe by the same name.  Only he makes his own gnocchi, of course.  But I'm doing the single parent gig while Adam is out of town this week, and there's just no way I'm making my own gnocchi on a weeknight.  I used packaged.  It was a shortcut that I deemed totally worth it, in this case.

Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Sage
Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie

1 package frozen gnocchi (16 oz)
olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
6 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced or torn
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. vegetable stock or water
24 sage leaves
a small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Parmesan cheese, for grating

Heat a large frying pan over med-high heat then add about 4 tbsp. of olive oil.  Add the whole sage leaves and fry until crisp.  Drain on paper towels.  In the same pan over med-high, add another 2-4 tbsp. of olive oil.  Add the mushrooms and toss for 2-3 minutes, then add the pepper flakes, garlic, salt, pepper, and butter.  When the garlic is slightly golden, add stock or water and continue to cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add the frozen gnocchi to the mushroom mixture with the chopped parsley and mix well.  Be gentle and keep on heat only until thawed; otherwise, it'll just turned into mashed potatoes.  Serve with the crispy sage, some grated Parmesan for garnish, and any leftover parsley.  Serves 2-3.

I opened one of my favorite wines with this - a Cotes du Rhone - and it paired pretty well.  Nevertheless, I wonder if a Pinot Noir might have been better?

Slight wine misstep aside, this was a warm, comforting way to unwind after a challenging day.  Pairing it with AbFab's Eddy and Pats reminded me not to take anything, particularly this week, too seriously.

Eat, drink, and relax, sweetie daaaahling!


All by Myself

Bug and I are alone this week - Adam is on a business trip in California.  Emotions always run high when he's gone, as Bug and I are both Cancers.  Those of you who love astrology will understand: there's lots of tears, raised voices, hugs, and love while he's gone.  Adam is a Taurus - heaven knows, Bug and I need his steady ways to temper our passion.

Anyway (can you tell I had a day?), menu planning is always a challenge when he's gone because I don't have him around to run interference with Bug while I cook.  So I want to cook things that are still the same...um...caliber that I'm used to, and yet are still super short on time and effort.

Yesterday doesn't quite count, as it was Sunday and I had a full hour to cook.  I made Ina Garten's Croque Monsieur:

Adapted from
Ina Garten

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup hot milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
6 ounces Gruyere, grated (3 cups)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
6 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
4 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin

Preheat the broiler.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/4 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on a baking sheet and broil for2 minutes. Turn each slice and broil for another 2 minutes. Keep a close eye on the bread to make sure it doesn't burn!

Brush half the toasted breads with mustard (to taste), add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce (some will likely run off the sandwiches, which is fine), sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and broil the sandwiches for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot. (Serves 2-3)

This is one of my standbys, as it doesn't require all that much effort, it's child-friendly, and it's decadent.  For Bug's sandwich, I leave out the mustard and, instead of a green salad, she got a sliced plum.  Voila!

Notice that I made a note in the margin: "Don't cook in summer - stove heats up house too much!"  My kitchen has no A/C and a window that, mysteriously, gets absolutely no air flow.  Luckily, yesterday was a rather cool day in NYC so we were able to make this.

That was last night but, tonight, I did "Kid Dinner", which means I made her a hot dog (all gourmet-y from Dickson's Farmstand Meats, of course), a sliced plum, and leftover mariquitas from Cabana (our dinner on Saturday night).  I could give myself a bad mom award for that dinner...but I won't.  Not this week.  

After I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to her for bed, I'll be making Jamie Oliver's Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Sage for myself (hint: I certainly didn't make the gnocchi myself).  Photos tomorrow!

Eat, drink, and fumble your way through.



We are a house obsessed with all things Harry Potter.  It has just connected with Bug in ways I couldn't have anticipated.  As an example, I had a talk with her a few weeks ago in which she told me that she was going to emulate Hermione in the upcoming school year.  She was going to be smart and study and be brave.  She was going to take charge and be a know-it-all.  Then...about a week after this proclamation, this was the conversation we had right before school started:

BUG: You know, I decided that I'm not going to be Hermione this school year.
ME (a bit disappointed): Oh?  Why not?
BUG: Because, Mom.  It's really, really hard to change who you really are inside.

In that moment, I fell in love just a little bit more with my mini-teenager.  Sure, I was disappointed that I wasn't going to have a Hermione clone...but wasn't her observation a tad Hermione-esque?  Loved it.

So it won't surprise any of you when I tell you that we recently made BUTTERBEER!  I'll be in Orlando in November for the NCTE/ALAN conference and we're thinking about going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Luckily, I found out that ABCs of Art (aka my friend Debbie) went recently and she mentions the butterbeer.  Check out her post, for certain, for a discussion about what butterbeer really is (and our own expectations of what it should be).  She also links to a recipe on Mugglenet and I've adapted it to a stovetop recipe (since we don't have a microwave):

1 c. (8 oz) club soda or cream soda
1/2 c. (4 oz) butterscotch syrup (ice cream topping)
1/2 tbsp butter

Melt butterscotch syrup and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until syrup is bubbly and butter is completely incorporated.  Stir and cool for 30 seconds and then slowly mix in soda.  Mixture will fizz quite a bit so make sure your saucepan is large enough.  Makes 2-3 servings.

This recipe was soooooo sweet and sugary.  Consider yourself forewarned.  Adam and I both drank about half and then we were out.  As you can imagine, Bug drank all of hers and wanted more.  We used cream soda but I might try club soda next time to cut down on some of the sweetness.

Debbie also links to some other variations, including an adult version with butterscotch schnapps.  I'm hesitant to buy a whole bottle of butterscotch schnapps for this recipe, but we're also still fighting off summer. Come January, a warm cup of butterscotch schnapps and cream soda could be an awesome warming dessert drink after Bug has gone to bed.

Next, we need to seek out pumpkin juice recipes.  And pray to a higher power that it's not as gross as my failed experiments with the pumpkintini

We finished our evening with a cutthroat game of Harry Potter Uno.  

Eat, drink, and make drinks from your favorite books.


Football Food with My Family

Like last year, we did a big celebration for the opening day of football season this year.

It's become not only about football...even though I have three fantasy football teams...but it's also become one of the few days a year that Adam and I give ourselves permission to stay in our pajamas all day. We usually drag our queen-sized mattress into the living room and, literally, stay in bed all day. And it's one of the rare times when we actually let Bug jump on our bed. It's a true Family Day.

This year, just like last, I made Cooking Light's Roasted Red Pepper and Cannellini Bean Dip for lunch.

But for dinner I decided to change it up and, at Bug's request, we made "Cheesy Fun-due" from Rachael Ray's kids' cookbook: Cooking Rocks!

Cheesy Fun-due
Adapted from Rachael Ray
6 servings

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 + 1/4 c. whole milk
1 lb. Swiss cheese, grated
1 lb. sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
Juice of 1 lemon
2 c. cauliflower
Chunks of sturdy, dense bread
Apples slices (we used Gala)
Cherry tomatoes (1 pint)
Salami, cut into chunks (we used mild for Bug, but spicy could be awesome)

Put the flour and 1/4 c. of the milk into a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth. Add the rest of the milk to the saucepan and whisk until smooth and thickened. Add cheeses gradually, stirring until combined, then add lemon juice.

Transfer the fondue to a fondue pot or a smaller bowl. Or keep in the saucepan, which is what I did. Place a pot holder on the table and put the saucepan on top. Use forks or skewers to dip.

I altered the heck out of it, especially since we don't have a microwave and Rachael's entire recipe depends on using one (realllly?!). I tried finding the original recipe online for you guys but, dang it, it appears that no one has posted it and Rachael Ray sure ain't giving it up for free. So give my stovetop version a shot and see what you think.

But the point is that this was the perfect end to the perfect day. Or, to borrow a line from one of my favorite movies, "I'm not, like, putting a period at the end of this. I'm putting like... an ellipsis on it." Because that's what the best days feel like with my family and friends. No periods, just ellipses.

Eat, drink, and find comfort in family and friends.


...for my absence of late. Between lice...

...and tornadoes in NYC...

...it has been an eventful September.

Or as Adam has dubbed it: Shitember.

Eat, drink, and laugh it off.



I feel weird admitting this but I have ambivalent feelings about Gwyneth Paltrow. I saw her in Sliding Doors first, then Shakespeare in Love (with a small detour at Moonlight and Valentino - LOVED the scene where she's playing air drums!)...and decided that if I were to look like anyone else but me, I'd want to look like her. And there's a little of the WWGD feeling in me: What Would Gwyneth Do? She's impeccably groomed, well-spoken, engaging, glamorous, fashionable...so how would I react to a situation if I were as seemingly pulled-together and self-possessed as Gwyn?

Then I saw Spain...On the Road Again with Gwyneth, Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, and Claudia Bassols and only adored her more. I mean, BFFs with Michael Stipe?! Those big sunglasses and pashminas?! Yes, please.

Then GOOP happened. And I got pissed off. Why? Because I have real issues with celebrities who try to claim "I'm just an ordinary person." That attempt to make us believe that they're just like us little people. Um, no, you're not. I could go on a rampage here, but I'm certain I don't need to - you know what I'm getting at. Long rant short: no, you're not like me. And until you're in my shoes, stop proclaiming to be. I totally felt like Gwyneth went there.

So I cook recipes from Spain...A Culinary Road Trip with ambivalence these days. Like tonight. I was desperate for something to cook tonight and ultimately turned to Spain. And I found it: Pan Con Tomate and Catalan-Style Spinach. With a side of jamon Serrano? Yes, please. This is what happened:

It was heaven. Exactly what I asked for. Simple and easy to make, but the flavors were gorgeous and refreshing. Unbeknownst to me when I planned the meal, it also straddled the changing seasons perfectly: it was comforting and warm, but still seasonal and fresh.

You'll notice that I changed up the Pan Con Tomate recipe a bit. I had plum tomatoes on hand. I split one in half and rubbed it all over the bread, like the recipe said. All kinds of pulpy juiciness all over that charred bread. But I still had two tomatoes left over. So I chopped them up and tossed them with salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Spread them over the bread. Finished with flaky salt and lots of pepper.

Also, I didn't have the dried currants that were called for in the spinach recipe so I used dried cranberries to great effect. Definitely feel free to substitute.

So, dammit, GP still wins. The score? Gwyneth: 4, Laura: 0 (reference the migas, as well as the empanadas and tortilla espanola). She and Mario make a killer cookbook and travel memoir - perhaps I should forgive her GOOP and just channel her fabulousness.

Eat, drink, and be okay with who you are...even if it's not Gwyneth.


Manhattan Clam Chowder

This is another one of those lovely times when my passions and my job coincide: I'm cooking up Manhattan Clam Chowder over at the pageturn today, inspired by Leslie Connor's middle-grade novel CRUNCH.

Eat, drink, and say hi to me over there!


Playlists: the Comfort Food edition

As I mentioned in my last post, all I really needed this weekend was to feel grounded and sane. That included stirring risotto while belting out some of my favorite "heartswelling" songs. Yes, I have a playlist on my iPod labeled "heartswelling." I would normally feel slightly goofy admitting that...but I'm guessing that most people who read this blog won't be surprised by my unabashed corniess. So here is a sample of what I was listening to last night while stirring and reading:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Eat, drink, and always have a soundtrack for it.