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words to eat by

Updated: 2018-03-06T02:56:46.844-05:00


Seven Years


Seven years ago today, I hit “publish” on my very first blog post. Since I imagine that most of you haven’t been reading along with me from Day One, now seemed like a good time for a brief(ish) recap of the highlights of my blogging life. If you've been following for all seven years: Hi, Mom! For everyone else:2004Words to Eat By launches, with no particular goal—my tagline was “Thoughts on Food, Writing, and Everything Else.” It was intended as a place for me to draw verbal doodles, playing in the kitchen and reporting back. Back then the food blogging world was a much smaller community, though it was expanding daily (the very first line of my very first post: “Does the world really need another blog? And one about food [among other things]?”) I remember reading Clotilde regularly in the months before I jumped in—she was the ne plus ultra as far as I was concerned, having become well established in the year since her own launch. And Molly started just a few months before I did, but was already wowing me with her evocative prose and gorgeous photographs. Amazingly (to me, anyway), I created The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Entire World not long after starting, and that post remains the most popular page on the site.2005The year may not have started out well, and to be honest most of it sucked (not because of any food-related stuff—for me, 2005 will forever be The Year of Infertility). Buuuut, though I wouldn’t find out until January, by the end of the year I was pregnant. Yeah, that's right: I got knocked up on the eve of my fortieth birthday, two weeks after surgery.2006 If the previous twelve months were The Year of Infertility, 2006 was The Year of Harry. Between pregnancy exhaustion and new-baby/older mama exhaustion, Words to Eat By threatened to wither away.2007I posted a grand total of three times; caring for a newborn, keeping my burgeoning freelance writing career afloat, and writing a food blog was just too much for me. Much as it pained me, blogging was the only thing I could afford to lose—but two out of those three posts were laying the groundwork for Parents Need to Eat Too.2008One post. That’s it. One single post in 365 days.2009Harry was sixteen months old by the beginning of the year, and I had regained not only my cooking mojo, but my writing energy too. I’d figured out how to cook with a little one clamoring for my attention, and soon I began to share that hard-earned knowledge. Parents Need to Eat Too, the cooking class, was born, and Words to Eat By became more and more focused on food and family issues. I closed out the year with a secret nearly as big as my 2005 pregnancy: I’d sold my cookbook.2010In February the contracts were finally signed, and I announced my big news: Parents Need to Eat Too, the book, was going to be published by HarperCollins. The year was devoted to developing new recipes, testing them with my amazing group of 100+ volunteers—every one of them the mom of an infant, many of them recruited right here on Words to Eat By—and writing the book. Oh, and blogging. Definitely blogging.2011Well. Here we are. Seven years later, I’ve just received the galleys of my first cookbook. I’ve got a deliciously sassy, vocal community of readers on Facebook. And even bigger things are coming. I think. I had hoped to celebrate my blogaversary with a major (gorgeous) redesign of the blog—a true overhaul—but it’s not quite ready. Very, very soon, though, you’ll be seeing a whole new Words to Eat By, renamed Parents Need to Eat Too to better reflect what this blog has become.If you’d asked me in October 2004 where I’d be in October 2011, the future I’d have described would look nothing like this. This bursting, stressful, happy life is beyond prediction, and yet every step I’ve taken has led me to precisely here. I’m about as lucky as lucky gets. Thank you so much for coming along with me.Check back here over the next week or so, and you'll find all kinds of surprises. New look, big honking giveaways, and more!Copyright © Debbie Koenig 2[...]

(Meatless Mostdays) Pam Anderson’s Cook without a Book: Meatless Meals


You know how sometimes, when you finally meet an idol, you totally screw it up? You don’t? Oh. Well then you’ll really get a kick out of this story.Two weeks ago I attended the launch event for Kat Flinn’s new book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School—I wrote about it here. You may recall I mentioned meeting Maggy, Pam Anderson’s daughter, and how I’m a huge fan of Pam’s older cookbooks, one in particular: How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart. While writing Parents Need to Eat Too that book was always nearby—I used it as a touchstone, an encyclopedia of flavors, an inspiration.If you were paying close attention, you noticed that, while I recounted how Maggy rescued me after she saw my tweet-plea for a friendly face, I didn’t mention meeting Pam herself. Instead I watched her from my wallflower station (not like a stalker, I swear), noticing how many people seemed to know her—which they should, since she’s written six previous cookbooks, one of which won the Julia Child Award, with two others nominated for a James Beard Award and yet another nominated for an IACP Award. Oh, and she’s also a New York Times bestselling cookbook author, which is no small feat.So yeah, Pam’s a supahstar.And when she came over to where Maggy and I were gabbing, Maggy introduced me. I started gushing like a deranged fan, explaining in one rambling sentence how I used to work at Doubleday and ohmygod I loved working on her book, it’s one of my top-ten favorite cookbooks of all time, seriously The New Doubleday Cookbook has a place of honor on my shelf, I prefer it to The Joy of Cooking, blah blah blah…She and Maggy smiled and nodded, and Pam thanked me graciously. They left my company soon after.I didn’t realize my mistake until the panel started and Kat Flinn introduced Pam: The New Doubleday Cookbook (which, yes, is amazing, and is in my top ten) was written by JEAN Anderson, not Pam. I'd raved about the wrong book. How to Cook without a Book, the book PAM wrote, was indeed published while I was working at Doubleday, but it was published by Broadway Books, at the time a sister company. I’d just met one of my culinary heroes and made a complete fool of myself. I was beyond embarrassed. As soon as the panel ended, I jumped over to where Maggy sat and asked her to convey my apologies to her mother—I was too flustered to face her myself. Pshaw, Maggy said. She and Pam had been scratching their heads about my comment, but Pam wasn’t offended at all.And wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, Maggy was right. Pam came over soon after, I babbled something about how mortified I was, and she laughed and gave me a huge hug. Not only that, when I emailed the next day to ask if I could write about her new book—a meatless companion to How to Cook without a Book, the very book I’d intended to rave about, my wish was granted.Cook without a Book: Meatless Meals is, like the first book, a collection of formulas more than recipes, though there are quite a few specific recipes included. It’s a reading-cookbook, a jumping-off point for using whatever you’ve got on-hand. So if you feel like making, say, a creamy roasted vegetable soup, Pam gives you a master formula: a couple pounds of roasting vegetables (which you choose from a provided list), olive oil, onion and garlic, the spice blend of your choice (also from a provided list), and so on. Follow the basic instructions, use what you’ve got, and there’s dinner. Perfect for parents, no? Sometimes consulting a recipe again and again is just too challenging, what with the baby crying and the “I can do it myself” preschooler spilling milk all over the table. Using formulas, precision is not an issue.Divided into two parts, one devoted to breakfast-all-day approaches, and the other to more traditional categories like soups and stews, sandwiches, and (my favorite) pie for dinner, it’s intended not just for vegetarians but for all of us who are eating less meat these days. I don’t do a who[...]

Oh, Happy Day



What were you doing at 10:08 this morning? Were you forced to cover your ears due to a sudden, ear-piercing shriek of pure joy? Sorry bout that.

My book's galleys arrived at 10:07, and as soon as I signed and handed back the stylus I ripped open the package, still on my front stoop, and made Wayne (our UPS guy) wait until I pulled out a copy to show him. He was telling me about the extended vacation he’d just taken, and I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t hear a word of it once I saw the return address on the package. Sorry bout that, Wayne.

I’m not sure I can adequately describe what it’s like to hold a book you wrote in your hands for the first time—even in galley form. (A galley is the preliminary version of the book, printed on inexpensive paper and including all the typos from the uncopyedited manuscript. It’s what gets sent to reviewers.) Since childhood, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Except for a brief second-grade flirtation with becoming a teacher, that goal never changed. When you’re young, you think it will be easy—after I won the fiction prize at my college graduation, I thought for sure I’d be in The New Yorker the next year, with my first novel published before I was 30. Yeah, not so much. Instead I worked in book marketing for 15 years, realized my real passion was for combining food and words, and spent the last 9 as a freelance food writer. During that time I married, divorced, waited 7 more years for the right husband to find me, eventually had a kid. All of that, all of it, led me to here. The day when I hold a galley of my own book.(image)

It feels a lot like holding Harry for the first time. The same mix of holy crap, I did this?! and unmitigated, heart-busting euphoria. The only difference? Instead of attempting to nurse and attempting to sleep, immediately after the book arrived I did a little happy dance, raced to the backyard to snap some pictures, and then ate a Ritz Cracker Cookie from Momofuku Milk Bar. Niiice way to celebrate.

Things are going to start ramping up in a big way on the book front. It’s on sale four months from tomorrow! Four months may seem like a long time, but after all these years it’s going to pass in the blink of an eye. Next week marks the beginning of the pre-pub marketing, which also dovetails nicely with Words to Eat By’s seventh blogaversary. Exciting things will be happening here, starting Tuesday, including a whole new look for the site and a chance to win one of the galleys you see pictured here.

Watch this space.


Melissa Clark’s Figgy, Piggy Chicken


My worlds have been colliding lately. Take this (unbelievably delicious) recipe involving chicken, figs, and bacon. It’s by Melissa Clark, from her first cookbook. Y’know, the one I mentioned a week ago today, in my story about Melissa’s new book. The one I wrote the catalog copy for. The one whose manuscript pages I still have tucked away.Well, I made this recipe long before my stroll through the park with Ms. Clark—it was nearly a month ago, soon after my lovely gift of fresh figs arrived. I had no idea what to do with them, you may recall, so I asked for suggestions on Facebook. One smart reader recommended Melissa’s Figgy, Piggy Drumsticks & Thighs. As soon as I saw Melissa’s name I knew it was worth trying—I suppose I never noticed it in the book because I’d never dealt with fresh figs before.Whoooo-baby, this is one mighty fine dish. I swapped in turkey bacon to save a few calories and skinless, boneless breasts to make it cook supah-dupah-fast; the whole thing’s done in just over 30 minutes. And I served it on top of ready-made gnocchi that I pan-fried (in not too much oil, I promise) instead of simmering. The crisp, salty dumplings really play nicely against the sweet and smoky chicken piled on top.Boy, I’m drooling just remembering this meal. Gots to get me some more fresh figs. Or maybe try another of Melissa’s recipes…Figgy, Piggy (Well, Turkey-y) Chicken Over Toasted GnocchiServes 4Adapted from In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark8 strips turkey bacon, halved2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds total)Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper11 or 12 figs, halved or quartered if large6 thyme sprigs1 package vacuum-packed gnocchi (whole wheat if you can find it)2 tablespoons vermouth1 tablespoon fresh lemon juicePreheat the oven to 500°F. In a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel–lined plate to drain, but don’t drain the fat from the skillet. In fact, turkey bacon is so lean that you may need to add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook for about 1 minute, until the slices are pale golden. Transfer them to the plate along with the bacon. When the bacon’s cool enough to handle, crumble it in large chunks.Season the chicken with the salt and pepper. Raise the heat under the skillet to medium-high until the fat begins to smoke, and cook the chicken until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the chicken and brown the other side, about 2 minutes.Scatter the figs and thyme over the chicken and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, make the gnocchi: Over medium heat, put the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet large enough to hold the gnocchi in one layer. When it ripples add the gnocchi. Toss to coat in the oil, then let it cook, undisturbed, until the bottoms begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Give the pan a good shake, then let it cook another 3 to 5 minutes, until it’s heated through and crisp on the outside. Sprinkle with salt, and transfer to a serving platter.Transfer the chicken to the platter and stir the vermouth and lemon juice into the skillet, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom (be careful when touching the skillet handle; it will be hot). Place the skillet over medium heat until the juices thicken, about 3 minutes. Pour the juices over the chicken and gnocchi, garnish with bacon and garlic, and serve.MAKE BABY FOOD: The figs are a lovely, melting consistency by the time they’re done, so they’ll work for early eaters, as will little bits of chicken breast—you can also puree some chicken and figs with a little of the sauce (there’s alcohol in the dish, but it was only 2 tablespoons to begin with so nearly all of it will have cooked off). The crisped-up gnocchi may be a problem, espe[...]

Quick Tip Tuesday: Parmesan Rind



It’s Tuesday, and I’ve got a quick kitchen tip to share with you. Which means I’m hereby christening today Quick Tip Tuesday. Should I happen to have another quick kitchen tip for you, and should it happen to fall on a Monday, well, I guess I’ll have to hold it back for a day. Rules is rules.

So, let’s talk Parmesan rinds. You’re grating your own cheese, right? Parmigiano Reggiano, the aged, crumbly-salty-crunchy cheese that is (literally) the only type I’ll eat out of hand, is a luxury item that’s totally, 100%, unquestionably worth it. I even wrote about it for Weight Watchers! But when you buy a hunk of the good stuff, it always comes with a section of the rind attached, with at least a portion of the words “Parmigiano Reggiano” visible—this proves that it really is Reggiano, since use of the name is strictly regulated by the Italian authorities.

When you’re paying $15 a pound for a hunk of cheese, you sure as heck don’t want to waste any of it. But that hard rind is inedible as-is, so it’s tempting to just toss it. Don’t! Instead, stick it in the freezer, and next time you make soup, sauce, or some other long-simmering recipe that includes ample liquid, toss it in, still frozen. The heat of the cooking food will soften the rind and release umami—an intoxicating, nearly indescribable savoriness—into the dish. Or go whole hog and made Cheese Broth, using nothing more than rinds and cold water, as described in The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual.(image)

The best part: After a long, hot bath, that hard, inedible rind becomes soft enough to spread on bread and eat! Zero waste, and huge taste.

To get you started, here are some recipes from Words to Eat By that use Parm rind:
What's your favorite kitchen tip? And what kind of tips are you looking for?

Roast Your Chicken Bones for Richer Stock


Look how deliciously, deeply brown it is! Chilling your stock makes it easy to remove the excess fat, which congeals on top.

Sometimes I make mistakes. And sometimes that turns out to be a good thing.

The other day, I pulled some chicken parts out of my overstuffed freezer and set them in the fridge to defrost overnight. The next morning they were fully defrosted—highly unusual, since that usually takes a full 24 hours. A closer look revealed the reason: Instead of the plump bone-in chicken breasts I thought I’d plucked from my freezer’s crowded depths, I’d actually taken down some meaty bones meant for making stock. Whoops.

For the life of me, I couldn’t think of a thing to do with those bones. My freezer, which did I mention, is quite full?, already held several quart-sized freezer bags of stock. Making more of the same seemed like a waste of what little space I had available. But other than stock, what the heck does one do with chicken bones?

Feeling somewhat stupid and wholly unimaginative, I asked “likers” of the blog’s Facebook page how they’d use them. Twitter too. The answer came so quickly, I felt even more foolish: Roast the bones and make brown stock. Yeah, it’s more chickeny liquid to fit in my freezer, but the pre-roasting brings out a deeper, richer flavor. Rather than using it for chicken noodle soup, for example, you might use it in risotto or a heartier, thicker soup.

So I did it—I quick-defrosted the chicken breasts in a pot of cold water, and roasted them in a 400°F oven on a bed of neatly chopped carrots, onions, potatoes, and butternut squash. At the same time, I roasted the bones in a cast-iron skillet along with some large chunks of carrots and onions. The breasts were done in about 45 minutes; I left the bones in for another 20 to 30 after that. And I’m so glad I did. Once they were done, I transferred them straight to the slow cooker, along with their roasted vegetables. I added some water to the skillet and gently scraped off the browned bits (so much flavor!), then into the cooker they went. Topped it off with cold water, some parsley sprigs, and about 10 peppercorns, and left it on LOW overnight. (It's a variation on my Overnight Chicken Soup.)

Stephen had to wake up super-early the next morning to do some pre-work work (oy, don’t ask), and since I’m a fairly light sleeper I woke up too. From 4:30AM until 6:30, when I finally gave up, I lay in bed breathing in the bewitching aroma of an exceptionally rich stock. The downside of a bedroom right next to the kitchen, I suppose. But it was worth it—that stock had a depth unlike any I’ve made before. I’ve since used it for a Chicken Barley Soup (recipe to come, later this week I hope) whose intense flavors left Stephen raving. And yes, I froze a quart or two.

So yeah, I make mistakes. And I hope I always will.

Zen and the Art of Decorating Cookies with Kids


How’s that for a black cat? My secret: King Arthur Flour’s black cocoa. Use the same cocoa (and the recipe below) for homemade Oreos!I love baking cookies with Harry. Love watching him learn to scoop flour into the measuring cup, to stir the dry ingredients gently so that they don’t fly out of the bowl, to roll out dough and place the cutters carefully. And then, after the interminable wait for baking and cooling, the decorating. In the past I’ve always handled the icing and let Harry add the sparkly bits. But now that he’s all of five years old, it’s time for him to do some real work.No, I don't expect him to wield a pastry bag—heck, I can barely handle one myself. Maintaining a steady squeeze while directing the tip requires a steadier hand than I have most days, and it’s out of the question for Harry. His hands are just too small. Instead, I let him loose with this nifty Kuhn Rikon decorating set, provided to us courtesy of the King Arthur Flour people. It’s a set of squeeze bottles, folks! Cute little accordion bottles, the perfect size for kids’ hands. With decorating tips. And an offset spatula, too. Check it out:Harry loved it, and so did I. We baked up a batch of Halloween cookies (also Cars 2 cookies, vehicle cookies, star cookies, and letter-H cookies) and were both able to put icing exactly where we wanted it, with no muss, no fuss.What concentration! I outlined the “H,” and Harry flooded the insides. He also did that very fine-looking cat you see under his left elbow, the one with blood-red whiskers. The rest were eaten before I could photograph them.Look. My skills as a decorator still leave something (OK, a lot) to be desired. But with this nifty little kit, I could almost fool you into thinking that I know what I’m doing.So, what are your best tips for decorating cookies with younguns? Black as Night Chocolate Sugar CookiesAdapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie CompanionMakes several dozen cookies, depending on the size of your cutters1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling6 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa6 tablespoons King Arthur Flour’s black cocoa1/2 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon baking powder3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar1 large egg1 tablespoon water1 teaspoon vanilla extractIn a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoas, salt, and baking powder, then set aside.In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until color lightens. Add the sugar and beat again, until thoroughly combined. Add the egg, water, and vanilla, and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is quite light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture. Do not overmix.Divide the dough into 2 halves, and place each on a large piece of plastic wrap. Form into flat disks, and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to several days—the dough will be too soft to work with otherwise.When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325°F with the racks set in the upper and lower thirds. Grease or line 2 baking sheets.Generously flour your clean work surface. Remove one dough disk from the fridge and roll it out to about 1/8-inch thickness—don’t go too thin or you’ll have trouble moving them. Move the dough frequently to prevent it from sticking to the work surface. Use cutters to form whatever shapes you like. Carefully pull away excess scraps, then transfer to the baking sheets. Brush away any obvious flour.When you’ve filled both trays, bake for 17 to 18 minutes. The dough is so dark you won’t be able to tell they’re done based on visuals. The cookbook says they’re probably done when you can smell them—this proved true for me. If you get even a whiff of scorching, remove them immediately. Let them cool for a minute or two on the sheets, until they’re firm enough to move, then transfer to racks to cool fully.Basic [...]

A Stroll Through the Park with Melissa Clark (Recipe: Figgy Demerara Snacking Cake)


Melissa cradles her nectarines.Melissa Clark is one of those people who talks to strangers. Or more accurately, strangers talk to her. We were discussing okra at the Union Square Greenmarket. Or more accurately, since I have zero experience cooking the little green fellows, Melissa was teaching me about okra. While sifting through a bin overflowing with them, she shared advice gleaned from Sylvia Wood, proprietor of Sylvia’s Soul Food in Harlem (whose cookbook she co-authored).“Sylvia taught me to never buy okra bigger than your thumb,” she said, holding one up to her own hand to demonstrate.“Yes, that’s right,” the man next to us chimed in. He and Melissa dove into a conversation about the vegetable (his secret to minimize the notorious sliminess: put okra in a colander, salt generously, and leave on a windowsill for several days), his travels, and the book he was about to publish. Though she was clearly thrilled to learn this new kitchen tip, Melissa made no mention of her own book, which had gone on sale just the day before.Melissa and I met in a similar way—we’d chatted briefly at BlogHer Food, but when I bumped into her a few months later at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, I mistook her for Olga of Sassy Radish. She looked at me funny, since she and Olga are friends. Just then a New York Times reporter interrupted to ask if either of us was willing to be interviewed about something or other. “Olga” said she couldn’t, because she herself writes for the Times. Holy crap, I thought, this is Melissa Clark! Writer of my favorite Times column, A Good Appetite, and the much-loved cookbook based on it. We had a nice chuckle over my flub, then talked food and parenting while our kids cavorted around us.Though Melissa had no idea (until I told her last week), I was among the earliest readers of that book, In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite: 150 Recipes and Stories About the Food You Love. At the time, I wrote all the copy for her publisher’s catalog. For most of their books, reading the introduction or just a few chapters was enough to tell me what I needed to know. With Good Appetite, though, I read every single page of the manuscript, pulling out and stacking up the recipes I intended to make—which turned out to be a pretty large pile. Melissa’s recipes rock. They’re impeccable, in terms of both flavor and doability.And now, Melissa has a new cookbook. Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make is for farmers’ market devotees, focused on what’s available each month—which is why, as her pub date approached, I invited Melissa to stroll with me through the Greenmarket in Union Square and talk seasonal inspiration. But it’s also for those who are intimidated by the idea of seasonal cooking, of shopping what’s fresh that week, that day, taking it home, and cooking it.“There are no ‘cheffy’ ingredients in the book,” she said. “No artichokes or fava beans, nothing that will be unfamiliar to most home cooks.” It’s her kitchen diary, a record of what she cooked over the course of a year for her husband and their young daughter. After one too many requests for “that chicken dish,” the one everyone loved but Melissa couldn’t replicate since her daily cooking is so improvisational, her husband bought her a notebook to keep by the stove. That notebook became Cook This Now.“I wish there were more pears in the book,” she said as we paused by a booth filled with the fruit. “But it’s what I really cooked, and I just didn’t use pears much last year.”The recipes are presented monthly, with a handful of simple, appealing dishes using of-the-moment ingredients that truly do make you want to Cook This Now. It’s also packed with shopping tips and advice for the farmers’ market novice—if you love apples, buy an heirloom variety and see what happ[...]

Not-Too-Cheesy Apricot Noodle Kugel



If you’re Jewish and at all observant, you’re wondering why I’m posting this now. I know, I know, it’s a little late for a perfect-for-break-fast kugel. But I couldn’t get it together to post this in time, and it’s too good to wait for Shavuot, so I’m giving you a bonus post for today…

This kugel is so lovely, it doesn’t need a holiday. It’s sweet enough to be dessert, but not so sweet it makes your teeth hurt. It’s comforting warm and soft—think of that cozy feeling you get when you curl up with a bowl of just-baked bread pudding—and fantastic cold and sturdy, which is how I ate the last piece for breakfast this morning, straight out of the Tupperware. The only cheese comes from cream cheese, which makes it nicely creamy but not overwhelmingly so (I have issues with most dairy kugels—it always squicks me out to find a pocket of cottage cheese curds hidden inside a curled-up noodle). The cornflake topping is the best I’ve tasted, clumpy like on a good fruit crisp, and there’s a nice thick layer.

We brought this to my brother’s for break-fast, where Harry proudly announced, “My Mommy made a delicious kugel!” I love that boy. Of course, he didn’t eat anything but the topping. Which, don’t tell him, is exactly what I used to do as a kid.

Not-Too-Cheesy Apricot Noodle Kugel
Adapted from All Recipes

One 12-ounce package broad egg noodles
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups apricot (or peach) nectar
2 cups milk (low-fat is fine)
1 cup golden raisins or diced dried apricots

1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
3 cups cornflake crumbs (from about 6 cups of cornflakes)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish and set aside.

  1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil, covered to speed things up. When it boils, add the noodles and cook until barely tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. While the noodles are cooking, put the butter and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Stir very well, until smooth—I found it easiest to do this with a spatula. Add the eggs, sugar, and vanilla.
  3. Drain the noodles and add to the bowl. Stir in the nectar and milk, then the raisins. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish.
  4. Now make the topping: Stir the butter vigorously, until it’s smooth, then add the remaining ingredients. Don’t be shy—use your clean hands to rub the mixture together. Once it’s thoroughly combined, scatter it on top of the noodles.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the center feels set and the edges are bubbling.

MAKE BABY FOOD: There is added sugar in here, so I’d save it for special occasions (like the High Holy Days). The topping will be a challenge for the under-1 crowd, but the noodle pudding itself is a lovely texture for early eaters. You can puree it with a little milk, too.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School (Recipe: Velvety Chilled Rosemary Carrot Soup)


People magazine gave Kat’s book four stars! I do, too. You’ll find the recipe for the contents of those glasses at the end of this post.As soon as I saw the title of Kathleen Flinn’s new book, I knew it would claim a place of pride on my shelf: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks.I mean, come on. Haven’t I been running my own kitchen counter cooking school for the last few years? In the book, Kat describes how a random bout of snooping in another woman’s shopping cart (a cart filled with boxes and packets of processed “food,” but no actual ingredients) led her to find ten women who, for one reason or another, were intimidated by their own kitchens. They fed themselves and their families convenience foods because they had no idea how to do anything else. All ten allowed Kat inside their homes to catalogue the contents of their cupboards, and then cooked a typical meal for her. From there, she created a mini-cooking school, devoted to filling in the gaps in her students’ knowledge.The book chronicles Kat’s experiment with these women—women who represent so many of us. My own cooking class tends to attract people who are familiar with their kitchens, but need help figuring out how to continue to cook with a baby hanging off their bodies. Every so often, though, a mom signs up (I’ve only had one dad take my class! What is up with that?) who’s a kitchen newbie. It thrills me, teaching her how to gently smash a clove of garlic with the flat side of a knife and slip off the peel, or that “season to taste” simply means she should add salt and pepper until she’s happy with the flavor. So as I read Kat’s book (I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m enjoying it so much I couldn’t wait to tell you about it) I’m nodding along, smiling, laughing. I expect you will, too. Each chapter ends with a handful of incredibly appealing, remarkably simple recipes.Before this book, I knew Kat as the author of another wonderful, wonderful book—one you should read if you’ve ever fantasized about dropping everything and heading to, say, the Cordon Bleu in Paris. It’s called The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears in Paris at the World's Most Famous Cooking School.Go, read it now. I’ll wait.Anyhoosie, Kat and I had crossed paths before at a food writers’ conference or two, but we’d never actually met. The other night, that finally changed. The Institute for Culinary Education, where I’ve taken quite a few classes, hosted a panel discussion devoted to Kat’s new book and the subject of home cooking. Also on the panel: Pam Anderson, who I’ve long worshipped from afar (seriously, her How to Cook Without a Book has been a source of inspiration for the last decade) and Lauren Shockey, a restaurant critic for the Village Voice and author of Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris.I went. I had to.The mingly first 45 minutes were, I’ll admit, torture for me. There was some fabulous food, all prepared from recipes in Kitchen Counter. I met Kat—finally!—and we spoke briefly, but everybody wanted to speak to her. And I didn’t know another soul. Friends, I suck at talking to strangers. I jumped on Twitter, begging somebody, anybody, to come rescue me from myself. Ultimately, someone did: Maggie Anderson, Pam’s daughter and one-third (along with her mom and sister) of the most excellent blog Three Many Cooks. Thank god for her. It’s no wonder she’s one of the driving forces behind the Big Summer Potluck as well as Bloggers without Borders (who received a portion of the event’s proceeds; click the “donate” button near the top of the right-hand column of this page if you’d like to help spread the lo[...]

Fresh Fig Galette with Cinnamon Honey


I have a secret to share with you. Lean in… closer… Are you ready? OK then: I used to be afraid of figs.Not the dried kind, lord no! Those I use with abandon, in recipes like Whole Wheat Fig & Pecan Bread and one of my favorite dishes for this time of year, Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Figs, and Mint. And fig jam is the secret to my Figgy Grilled Cheese on Pumpernickel. Do I even need to say the words Fig Newton? (My friend Casey makes a formidable homemade version.) No, when I say I feared figs, I mean only the fresh kind. The voluptuous, too-often-sexualized kind. They’re squishy. They’re seedy. And worst of all, they’re unfamiliar. I didn’t grow up eating them, and they confused me.But when a very nice woman from the California Fig Advisory Board wrote to ask if I’d be interested in trying out some of their fresh figs, I didn’t hesitate. Heck, she was offering to send me fresh figs! Who could turn down something like that? A few days later they arrived via Fedex, one flat each of black mission and green sierra, cold-packed and well-cushioned to prevent their delicate little bodies from bruising.Before I started cooking, I tasted. The black mission figs, which I gobble down dried, are—no surprise—lighter in flavor than their wrinkly brethren. Musky, mellow, and deeply sweet, they were a pleasant surprise. The sierra figs tasted entirely different, brighter, still sweet but with a hint of acidity. The fig board describes the flavor as “like a riesling,” and I can’t argue with that. Stephen fell in love with these luscious little beauties—I didn’t get to cook with them much, because he ate them all out of hand. (Next week I’ll be posting another fig recipe, from Melissa Clark’s amazing new cookbook Cook This Now. I had to buy more green figs for that!)For my first cooking experience I went simple, with a recipe for Fig Galette (a free-form pie) from Elise’s excellent site Simply Recipes. I’ve adapted it, adding a cinnamon-honey glaze and a sprinkling of flaky salt. This disappeared from my kitchen less than 24 hours after it emerged from the oven, all golden and aromatic. Stephen and I ate it for breakfast the next day, and by the time he came home from work I'd nibbled my way through what remained.As for Harry, he’s decided to stick to dried figs. The fresh ones, even cooked, squicked him out. Let’s hope he doesn't follow in his mother's footsteps, and wait until he’s in his mid-40s to discover the thrill of biting into a fresh one, feeling its juicy flesh explode in his mouth.So, now that I’m all figgy with it, I must know: What’s your favorite way to use fresh figs?Fresh Fig Galette with Cinnamon HoneyAdapted from Simply RecipesFlour, for dusting1 prepared piecrust (I use Pillsbury, but if you don't suck at piecrust, go right ahead and make your own)1/4 cup jam or preserves (I used pear jam, but apricot, peach, or orange marmalade would also be nice)1 1/2 pounds Black Mission figs, tips removed, quartered lengthwise2 tablespoons honey1/2 teaspoon cinnamonFleur de sel, optionalPreheat the oven to 375°F. Grease or line a rimmed baking sheet.On a lightly floured surface, roll out the piecrust until it’s roughly 14 inches in diameter. Droop it over the rolling pin and transfer to the baking sheet.Starting in the center, spread the jam on the crust. Stop about 2 inches from the edge. Arrange the figs on top of the jam, cut side up, again leaving about 2 inches around the outside. Combine the honey and cinnamon in a small bowl, then microwave briefly, just until it thins enough to apply with a brush. In my machine, this took about 15 seconds. Gently dab it on top of the figs. Fold the naked edge of the crust up and over the top of the figs—don’t worry about neatness, since it’s supposed to be[...]

Guest Post: Julie’s Salted Nutroll Cupcakes


A few weeks ago I introduced you to Amber, a hilarious friend with a hot new parenting blog called Parenting. Illustrated with Crappy Pictures. You may recall, we met years ago on a message board. Today you’re going to meet Julie, a mutual friend Amber and I met in the same place, at the same time. As it happens, Julie’s also a newly-minted parenting blogger, at Freckles & Fickle Take Over the World. And she’s also hilarious. (Quite the hotbed of talent, that board.) She’s here today to share a holiday tale about her younger son, Liam, along with a recipe that knocked my socks off when I tried it. It combines three of my favorite “C” words: cupcakes, candy corn, and caramel. Don’t sweat if it you don’t have cake flour. I was so sure I had some that I neglected to double-check, and when baking time rolled around boy was I surprised! Cue The Food Substitutions Bible. I used 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/4 cup cornstarch, as recommended, and it worked perfectly.My younger son Liam has inherited what my husband lovingly refers to as the “holiday disease.” As the carrier, I will note that the mutated gene responsible for a bizarre obsession with all things seasonal and festive is dominant. Very dominant. It’s lights and sequins and Halloween costuming strategy sessions in late July. It’s decorating (Oh the decorating!) and entire weeks devoted to cut out cookies.We’re learning that Liam's case may be particularly severe, and that the first fall temperatures tend to be his trigger. When I deposited him in his room on Labor Day with construction paper, tape, and a few glue sticks, I returned a half hour later to find three empty glue sticks and this on his bedroom door:Yes, that would be on September 5th. When I took him to a St. Louis Cardinals event at Busch Stadium the weekend after, his first and only comment about the outing was, “Maybe the Cardinals will have Halloween stuff.” For a kid who is also pretty obsessed with baseball, it appears that once fall arrives he is far more Nate Berkus than Lance Berkman. Sorry Lance, heredity is a mighty beast.Because Liam and I live with two other people who are, um, normal and not ready to ring in Halloween on August 31st, we have to adjust. This is far more challenging for him than it is for me. I suspect this is because I just have a lot less energy than he does, but also because he’s five and still measures the days until Halloween in number of “sleeps.” Fifty or sixty more sleeps until Halloween can seem like forever for both of us, so we have to look for ways to get our fall on that won't be too irritating to outsiders.Boo! Did someone say Salted Nut Roll cupcakes? These caramel cupcakes are topped with an easy caramel buttercream, candy, and peanuts for a subtle-ish early nod to Halloween, and they give me an excuse to buy candy corn as soon as it hits the shelves. Talk about a win-win.Like most cupcakes, these are pretty fun to decorate and I like to leave that part for the kids. I generally make the cakes the night before (or even days before and freeze) and let my boys take on the icing and beautifying. I’m sure there are awesome brave people with big kitchens and cleaning staff who sift with children, but I’m not one of them. I’m always looking for sanity-saving tips like that, which is why I cannot WAIT for my pre-ordered copy of Debbie’s book, Parents Need to Eat Too,to get to my door February 21st (that’s a lot of sleeps, so I’m antsy as hell). If you haven’t ordered yours yet, psssst . . . it’s time. Think of it not only as a way to try some amazing new recipes, but also the best way to look like one of those really pulled-together moms who maintains a spotless home and whips up healthy, delicious meals in betwee[...]

Rosh Hashanah Roundup 2011


This is just not possible. Seriously, Rosh Hashanah starts on Wednesday night? How did we get so far into the year? I dealt with the fact that Harry started kindergarten. He’s in big-kid school, eating in the big-kid cafeteria (last year they ate in their Pre-K classroom). He’s learning to read. He’s learning Spanish. I’m dealing with this. Really, I am. But the fact that the Jewish holidays are upon us has thrown me for a loop. This morning I spent a good 45 minutes Googling for inspiration, looking for an apple- and honey-based recipe that went beyond the ordinary. I think I found it. “Honeyed Gingerbread with a 20-Hour Apple Terrine” just sounds too intriguing not to try, don’t you think?That photo above is of my apple terrine, just born. Beneath those layers of apple rings is a simple caramel. It’ll mature over the next day, the apples softening and sinking into the sugary syrup below, and eventually the whole thing will be married to a honeyed gingerbread I’ll bake on Tuesday.What are you planning to make this year?Since I won’t know if this recipe works in time to help you with your own holiday baking, here are some of the other intriguing treats I found:An absolutely gorgeous honey-and-apple challah, courtesy of the LA Times.Here’s a roasted buttercup squash and apple soup and a traditional honey cake, both courtesy of Emily Franklin, who I’ve written about before. In addition to apples, pomegranates are traditional for the New Year. Cookstr's got an intriguing recipe for grilled eggplant with pomegranate vinaigrette.Cheryl Sternman Rule, like me a Jewish food writer married to a nice goyishe boy, calls this a Christmas Salad with Fennel, Celery, and Fruit. But since that fruit includes apples and pomegranates, I'm rechristening it (ha) "Rosh Hashanah Salad."Just look at this fresh, unusual tabbouleh using apples, walnuts, and pomegranates, from the New York Times.It’s no secret: I love kasha. So why haven’t I tried this kasha-stuffed roast chicken yet? You can't have a Jewish holiday linkspalooza without a Joan Nathan recipe. Here's one for "Lick-Your-Fingers" noodle kugel, with brown sugar and pecans. That'll get your new year off to a sweet start!Olga at Sassy Radish tweaked a recipe for Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze created by Merrill at Food 52, subbing in whole wheat pastry flour and olive oil—which always makes me happy.Rebecca at Cooking with My Kid offers what she calls a “Cheater’s Caramel Apple Cake” which calls for boxed cake mix. That’s normally a no-no for me, but her explanation is making me reconsider.If you're not looking for a recipe, but rather a stop-you-in-your-tracks beautiful piece of writing related to the holiday, look no further than Elissa Altman at Poor Man's Feast. Her Rosh post from last year still moves me.And here are a handful of Rosh-appropriate recipes from Words to Eat By’s archives:The traditional challah I used to bake with my mom on Fridays—add a handful of golden raisins to sweeten the new year.Another classic, good old-fashioned matzo balls. Float those babies in some Overnight Chicken Soup. Follow with some Oh-So-Good Brisket. End with this spectacular Chocolate Honey Cake. And of course, Rosh wouldn't be Rosh without what I still believe to be the best apple cake on the planet—which I can say without boasting, since it’s not my recipe. L’shanah tovah, all!Copyright © Debbie Koenig 2010. All Rights Reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced without written consent from the author.[...]

How to Make a Lightning McQueen Cake, Part II: Sculpting and Frosting


When last we met, my chocolate chip cake had just spent 85 minutes baking. I’d lashed together two cooling racks just to fit the darn thing. And just as I was mopping the flop sweat off my brow, I noticed that the center of this very large cake was sinking. Quickly. I cried. There was nothing else to do.But then I glanced at the die-cast McQueen I planned to use as my model, and began to wonder if perhaps I could use this sloping to my advantage. The car’s fenders do curve and roll, including a dip right under the windows…Once the cake was cool enough to handle but still warm, I said a little prayer, placed the doubled cooling rack on top, held on for dear life, and flipped it over. And what do you know: It slipped right out. That dang flower nail sat in the collapsed center like the button in a polka-dotted sofa cushion. I yanked it out and threw it directly into the garbage.While the cake finished cooling I strategized. If I cut off about three inches from each end, I’d have a 6 x 12 shape with upward slopes at either end. I could use the cut-off sections to build the upper part of the car. That seemed like it just might work.Using Harry’s toy as a guide, I trimmed the edges until they kinda-sorta looked like McQueen’s fenders. And then I cut the scraps into a 3D puzzle, until I’d cobbled together a cake that actually resembled its intended subject, complete with space for Oreo wheels. I was shocked. Seriously, I didn’t think this was going to work until about 40 minutes in—mid-afternoon, the day before the party—when I stepped back and saw this:Next up: Gluing the puzzle together using Sara’s Foolproof Frosting, then applying the crumb coat, a thin layer of frosting that would act as a seal, keeping the thousands of itty-bitty crumbs from marring the surface of the finished cake. By then it was late afternoon, time to make dinner (yup, that’s right, I spent the entire day in the kitchen). It was a good point to stop—if you don’t allow your crumb coat to crust over a bit, it won’t do its job properly.After dinner was cleared away, all that was left was what I’d been dreading all along, what I expected to be the hard part (ha! as if what came before was easy): Decorating the cake until it was recognizably McQueen. That’s right, pastry bag time. I mixed up my colors using about a thousand small bowls, in these approximate quantities:1 1/2 cups red 
 1/2 cup black 
 1/4 cup gray 1/4 cup blue 1/4 cup yellow 1/4 cup orangeFirst up, black outlines, using a number 3 tip. Once I’d sketched out all the bits and pieces that make McQueen McQueen (including the Piston Cup on his hood, which Harry was adamant be included—that’s what makes this a Cars 2 McQueen, not just a garden-variety version), I added the little hits of color, using a number 1 tip for the tiniest details and a 2 for the rest: windows, headlights and taillights, eyes, smile, lightning bolts, and on top a giant 5, for Harry’s age. I was starting to feel pretty good about this cake.Not bad, amirite? Things sped up from there, once I piled red frosting into a bag fitted with a number 16 star tip. This is the absolute easiest way to decorate a cake in a manner that might make people think you know what you’re doing. All you do is hold the bag close to the cake, perpendicular to it, and squeeze out a little dollop. Release the squeeze, pull the bag straight up, and you’ll have a pretty little squiggle of frosting. Apply another right next to it, and another, and another, moving in rows across the cake.If you look closely you’ll see that I did quite a sloppy job. It was after 10PM and I was tiiiired, too tired for precision. This is why I could never be a pastry chef. S[...]

How to Make a Lightning McQueen Cake, Part I (Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cake)


Photo courtesy of Sue M.Harry’s 5th birthday party was, oh, a month ago. It’s high time I tell you all about the most important part: the cake. This is the third in an annual series, in which Harry requests a cake that is far beyond my skill set, and I get in way over my head attempting to make him happy. It’s a gripping tale, and so lengthy I'm telling it in two parts, but here’s a spoiler to match the photo: He loved it.Regular readers will recall last year’s red-frosting-is-infuriating 3D fire truck cake, and 2009’s harrowing Handy Manny fondant experience. So when Cars 2 reinvigorated Harry’s obsession with McQueen, Mater, et al, I was planning to keep things simple. A sheet cake, perhaps, with a store-bought cake topper.You know that didn’t happen. No, I decided to go whole-hog and make a 3D McQueen. I thought that by avoiding fondant and using those hard-earned lessons about making red frosting, I could pull it off.While on deadline to approve the copyedited manuscript of my cookbook.What an idjit.That’s right, it was another to-the-wire, can-I-really-do-this, why-did-I-say-I’d-do-this night before the party. Actually, it was the entire day before the party.The cake itself should’ve been easy—I’d scored a 12-inch square cake pan at a stoop sale recently, which meant I could bake one giant cake and cut it up. Harry requested a chocolate-chip cake, so I planned to add chips to a yellow cake recipe. Problem was, I’ve never found one I really like. So I did the smart thing: I asked my friend Sara Schneider of Sara Bakes Cakes, who’d already shared with me her foolproof frosting recipe. She responded with what she calls her “best yellow cake”—and she’s absolutely right. The recipe is killer. My test run (a half-recipe, enough for a single 9-inch pan) came together beautifully. Even the addition of chopped chocolate, tossed with flour to prevent it from sinking to the bottom, went off without a hitch. The trouble came when I tried to bake a double recipe in that big-ass pan.I did my research. I knew I’d need to make some adjustments to ensure even baking—most sites recommend using a heating core. That’s a metal cup you stick in the center of a large cake pan and fill with batter—the idea is, the metal conducts heat to the center of the cake so everything bakes up evenly. Once it’s cool you remove the core, and plug the hole with the little nugget of cake that you’ve baked inside it. Did I do that? No. I kept Googling, and learned that folks who regularly bake these jumbo cakes often prefer a flower nail. It conducts heat, but costs less and doesn’t leave a big divot in the center of the cake. I went with one of those, as well as a set of cake strips to wrap around the outside of the pan. I also planned to bake at a lower temperature, to keep the edges from burning before the center had baked. Together, those adjustments would prevent excessive doming and yield a thoroughly baked cake. See? I knew what I was doing.My friends, I don’t know where I went wrong. Perhaps I got the one flower nail that doesn't actually conduct heat. But my cake took forever to bake. After 70 minutes at 325°, with the top a lovely golden brown but the insides still lava-liquid, I pleaded for help on Facebook. Two pros talked me off the ledge: Sara and Denise Vivaldo, a food stylist friend who happens to have written a book all about DIY weddings.I lowered the temp to 275° and tented the cake with foil—finally, 85 minutes after it went into the oven, it was done.That’s when I realized my cooling racks were too narrow for a 12-inch cake. After a minor freak-out, I MacGuyvered two of them together with twist-ties [...]

Guest Post: Dinner Parties, Before & After Kids


I can't tell you how excited I am to introduce today's guest blogger: Amber Dusick, the genius behind a hilarious new parenting blog called Parenting. Illustrated with Crappy Pictures. Perhaps you've already heard of her (I've plugged Crappy Pictures on WTEB's Facebook page, and her blog's a nominee for Parents magazine's Funniest Mom Blog. Which it totally is.)But Amber's sheer awesomeness isn't the real reason I'm so psyched to have her here. It's because Amber's an honest-to-god friend of mine. We met on a message board oh, sevenish years ago and have watched each other go through marriage, TTC (that's Trying to Conceive, for the uninitiated), fertility problems, and eventually pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. She was even a recipe tester for my cookbook. Having a ringside seat for her impending cultural explosion makes me absolutely giddy. Seriously, if you're a parent and you don't love Crappy Pictures, you must not have a funny bone. Read on, and see if you don't laugh out loud (or at the very least smile broadly in recognition).If you've come to Words to Eat By via Crappy Pictures, welcome! I hope you'll spend some time with me. You'll find loads of parenting-oriented food stuff here. And trust me, you won't want to miss The Best Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Entire World. Maybe even consider subscribing, via RSS or email? OK, enough with the sales pitch. On to Amber...When Debbie asked me to guest blog here I immediately said yes. And then regretted it. She has a FOOD blog. How can I fake being a foodie? Have I cooked anything worth mentioning recently? No.I used to be a foodie though. Can I fake it?At first, I considered using a story from back before my husband and I had kids. We threw elaborate dinner parties. We did. We'd print up menus. We'd discuss wine pairing at length. Back then, we began cooking days in advance.I figure I could even drop in food nerd terms like "making a roux" so it seems like I know what I'm talking about still. But I don't. I don't even remember what that is exactly. I'm sorry, I just can't fake this.Instead, I'll just admit defeat and give you a drawing of what planning for one of our elaborate dinner parties was like before we had kids:And now, what planning for one of our "elaborate" dinner parties is like, after having kids:And it isn't just dinner parties. It is nearly every night for dinner. Who has the time?And well, this is why Debbie wrote her cookbook for me. For ME!Okay, for me and all the other millions of parents who have vague recollections of eating well once upon a time. But mostly for me.If you have ever forgotten to turn on the oven* due to sleep deprivation, you need this cookbook.*To be clear, some of Debbie's recipes involve turning on an oven. Probably several. But you can do it! She will help you!PS - For my readers who are new here: Debbie wrote a cookbook called Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals, and Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents which will be available February, 2012. It will help you eat stuff other than the rejected crusts of your child's sandwiches! What, you don't do that?Copyright © Debbie Koenig 2010. All Rights Reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced without written consent from the author.[...]

City Girl Visits Farm



That’s me in late June, notebook in hand, looking out over a lush, thriving field of wheat at The Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. I was there to witness in person the experiment cooked up by Dave Poorbaugh of Daisy Flour, to reintroduce to the market the same varieties of wheat that were grown in the mid-Atlantic in Colonial times. I wrote about it for the Washington Post, and I promised you pictures. It took me a while (oy, Photoshop troubles!), but here they are.


That’s Dave on the left and Jeff Moyer, the Institute’s farm director, on the right. I loved both these guys—Dave you just want to hug, he’s so gosh-darn nice, and Jeff is exactly what I think of when I imagine an organic farmer. He looks all down-home, but beneath that cap is a brain stuffed with science and instinct.


At the Institute, the chickens really are free-range.


Dave and Jeff were working on seven varieties of wheat, each planted on five acres of pristine farmland. This blown-over field of Lancaster Red was the only one that showed any sign of weather damage.


Before any wheat can be milled, it must be tested for various molds and toxins. At each field, Dave waded out into the wheat to snip some samples for early testing.


Lancaster Red, nearly ready for harvest.


See how green the Red Fife looks in contrast? It was planted several weeks later than the rest.


A handful of wheat kernels—this is what will be milled. (Dig the calluses on farmer Jeff's hand!)


These goats don’t have anything to do with the story. I was just feeling swept away by the rural grandeur.

I've got loads more to share with you, from the Lightning McQueen cake I made for Harry's birthday party to a food tour of midcoast Maine. (If you're a Facebook fan, you've already seen what I'm talking about.) Now that I've got my Photoshop up and running, expect regular updates!

Daisy Flour in the Washington Post


A few months ago, I was invited to tour a gorgeous, historic flouring mill in Pennsylvania owned by McGeary Organics, who use the mill to grind wheat into Daisy Flour, a heritage brand available mostly in the mid-Atlantic. Today a story I wrote about Daisy, and their efforts to ensure the mills' next several hundred years by re-introducing wheat flours lost to history, appears in the Washington Post.

I have loads of pictures to share, of the mill and of the wheat, but as luck would have it I'm on vacation right now. The photos are on a hard drive at home, infuriatingly inaccessible from afar, so once I get back I'll write up a proper blog post. Please promise you'll come back!

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Pudding Pie



For Mikey. And Jennie. And their little girls.

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder with Smoky Apricot Salsa


I like fish. Stephen doesn’t. Harry likes fish but only in stick form, and only sometimes, and he keeps things interesting by occasionally insisting he only likes Dr. Praeger’s Fishies. Y'know, the ones that are shaped like actual fish. The ones I haven’t served him in a good two years.But friends, do I let this stop me from serving my family fish? Well, yes, mostly. In the nearly seven years (!!!) that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve only given you three fish recipes. There’s that fancy-sounding but actually super-easy Mediterranean Fish en Papillote, Spicy Sauteed Tilapia with Olives & Grape Tomatoes, and Pan-Roasted Cod. Three recipes in almost seven years works out to… Oy, we ate fish approximately twice a year.You may have noticed I used the past tense there: “ate.”That’s because I’ve decided I’m no longer willing to accommodate this piscatorial pettiness. I like fish, goshdarnit, so why shouldn’t I be able to enjoy it? For years I relegated my fish-eating to restaurants, but finances have kept us from hitting up the places that do fish well. Instead, I’m making it my mission to figure out ways to cook fish that will be accepted by the family. And by that I mean accepted by Stephen, since mostly I just assume that if I make it Harry hates it.Cornmeal Crusted Flounder has been my greatest success to date. I pick up three or four fillets at the farmers’ market on Saturday, and that evening I give them a quick bath in egg and milk followed by a simple dredge in cornmeal. Into the cast-iron pan they go for a few minutes on each side, then a pit stop to drain on paper towels before they hit the plate. That cornmeal coating cooks up so crunchy the fish practically crackles when you bite into it, and flounder is so mild (and so thin) you barely even realize you’re eating fish.The whole thing takes considerably less than half an hour—paired with barely-steamed corn, this makes for one lightning-fast meal. It’s not necessarily Weight Watchers-friendly since the fish is fried, but right now I’ll trade WW for expedience. It’s part of my evil plot: I’m hooking the men with fried fish, before I move on to oven-fried and then to not-breaded-at-all.After serving the unadorned fish to acclaim (from Stephen) and acceptance (from Harry!), I decided to top it with a little sumthin-sumthin, in this case a small pile of sweet-but-not-sugary CSA apricots tossed with shallot, herbs, and just a smidge of adobo sauce for a smoky, spicy kick. Because it needs to sit for a little while to let the flavors meld, toss it together before you start preparing the rest of your meal. This little salsa, by the way, needn’t be reserved for fish—try it with almost any protein. I’m picturing a nicely grilled steak, sliced and salsaed inside soft tortillas…The first time I made Cornmeal Crusted Flounder, Harry not only tried it, he actually ate it—nearly half a fillet. This past weekend, he pulled one of these. I’m such a sucker—what kind of fool expects her offspring to eat the same thing more than once?Smoky Apricot SalsaServes 44-6 fresh apricots, pitted and chopped into small dice1/2 shallot, minced1 tablespoon olive oil1 tablespoon minced parsley or cilantroJuice of 1/2 lemon1/2 teaspoon of adobo sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo (use more if you like spice)Mix everything together and let it sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.Cornmeal Crusted FlounderServes 43/4 cup cornmealA generous pinch of cayenne1 large egg, lightly beaten1 cup milk1/2 teaspoon saltOil for pan[...]

Food for Thought: 5 Ways Hurried Moms Can Make Math Easy


Laura Laing is a writer friend whose new book, Math for Grownups: Re-Learn the Arithmetic You Forgot from School, is perfect for people like me, who sorta remember how to figure out percentages by hand but never actually trust that the final number is correct... Who know that there are 16 tablespoons in a cup, but can't figure out what fraction of a cup is equal to five tablespoons... Who understand the concept of multiplying recipes, but somehow always ends up adding too much salt... That's right, this book is for you, too. I asked Laura to write a guest post about using math in the kitchen with your kids, and I love love love what she sent me. I'm doing some of this with Harry already, unintentionally, and I can't wait to implement the rest. Read on...Boy, do I remember those early days of parenting my daughter. I was working full time, coddling a strong-willed toddler, trying to serve balanced meals, selecting great books to read to her and trying to keep my house and yard clean enough that my neighbors wouldn’t call Child Protective Services on me.Adding one more thing to the list would have made my head blow off of my shoulders.And yet, today, we are being asked to do that one more thing: introduce numeracy to our little Janes and Johns. In other words, math. Like laying the groundwork for early reading skills through reading to our children, we’re told that adding a little bit of math to our everyday lives will help our children understand what the heck is going on when they finally start adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing in elementary school.Worried yet? Don’t be. Looking back, I realize was already doing it, and I had no idea.Sure, I’m a former math teacher, but I’m no math geek. I just happen to be a little bit more comfortable with math concepts than others may be. But trust me. You can pick up some simple ways to infuse math in your daily routine – without losing any much-needed brain cells. And all of these ideas can be integrated into cooking and shopping duties.Here’s how:Count everything. Count the number of apples you’re putting one-by-one in your grocery or farmer’s market basket. If your child is old enough to carry out tasks without help, have him or her count out 5 limes or 7 baking potatoes.Make math connections. When it’s time to set the table for dinner, put your little one to work. Ask simple questions: “How many napkins do we need?” “Where do they go on the table?” While it sounds silly to us grownups, the concept of matching items (napkins) to other items (place settings) is a big one. Develop math concepts. So you’ve got your kid setting the table. This exercise is even more powerful, if you help your youngster count the napkins as he places them on the table. At that point, you’re talking about one-to-one correspondence, a concept that relates to basic and advanced mathematics. Count up. Let’s say you need five eggs, but you only have two in a bowl. Don’t do the math for your little chef. Instead ask him to add eggs to the number you have, until you get to five eggs. What you’re doing here is asking him to count up to five eggs. This little exercise will help develop addition—and even subtraction—skills.Start factoring. Your child won’t learn her multiplication or division facts until third or fourth grade, but you can start the process now, with simple factoring. While you’re preparing lunch, give your child a pile of baby carrots and ask her to divide them evenly onto the plate[...]

Maple-Cinnamon Butter (for the best biscuits I ever made)



I have lost my writing mojo. It may have something to do with the insomnia that’s been raging for the last week or two—most nights I wake up sometime between 3 and 4, and don’t fall back asleep until dawn. At the moment I half-wish I were Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange; that third glass of iced coffee may as well have been warm milk. The very thought of composing a solid sentence, for the blog or for paid work, makes my bones ache. But you don’t want to hear about that…

Here’s the thing: This maple-cinnamon butter is perfect. Seriously, it’s perfect, and you know I don’t throw that word around lightly. Not too sweet, still with plenty of buttery flavor, and you don’t need a lot to make your mouth happy. I created it specifically to go with Sam Sifton’s biscuits, a recipe I tried this weekend for the very first time and nearly wept with pleasure, the results were so good. (Granted, I’m a northerner, so I’m the farthest thing from an expert. Heck, the only other biscuit recipe on this site is for a low-fat version with chives & pepper! All I’m saying is that the three of us polished off almost an entire batch of Sifton’s in under fifteen minutes.) That recipe calls for 5 tablespoons of butter, a little more than half a stick. Use the remaining for this maple-cinnamon spread and you’ve got yourself a mighty fine little weekend breakfast.

And now, please excuse me. I’ve got to take a brief nap, or splash some cold water on my face, or maybe score some coke.


Maple-Cinnamon Butter
Serves 4

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt

  1. Mash it all up with a fork until it begins to come together, then stir with a spoon or spatula until smooth & creamy.

MAKE BABY FOOD: It’s safe for babies, but maple syrup is, y’know, sugar. Try to limit this to a teeny tiny taste, if baby eats any at all.

It’s Real. It’s Really Really Real.



Yesterday I went into Manhattan (a rare occurrence these days) to return the copyedited manuscript of Parents Need to Eat Too: Naptime Cooking, One-Handed Meals & Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents to Amy, my editor. The next time I see it, the pages will be laid out like, y’know, an actual book, which is exciting enough all by itself. But even more exciting was the little gift Amy gave me: a high-quality printout of the book’s cover, mounted on black board. Suitable for framing, my friends.

Isn’t it just gorgeous? It’s not 100% perfect yet—we’re still discussing what food should be on the plate—but conceptually and looks-wise it’s spot-on. I LOVE IT. I hope you do, too. (And before you ask, no that’s not me on the cover. I’m a bit, um, older than that lovely young woman. And, um, less genetically blessed. This is me, on a very good day.)

The other huge, huge, huge news is that the book’s already available for pre-order! Click here to reserve your copy on Amazon,(image) here for Barnes and Noble. I’m told it’ll also be up on Indiebound soon, but it’s not there just yet. As of now the retail price is $16.99, but since it’s turning out to be a bit of a doorstopper (which is a good thing! It’s bursting with recipes and information!) that may change.

I’d be honored and thrilled and just beside myself with joy if you’d click through and place an order. I’m sure this is only the first time I’ll be asking for your support—it’ll happen more frequently as we get closer to publication, early next year—but I’ll try to keep the shilling to a minimum.

Thank you so much, dear readers. This cookbook wouldn’t exist without you.

Summery Swiss Chard, Corn, Peach, and Quinoa Salad


I’ll make this brief, since I’m due to return the copyedited manuscript for Parents Need to Eat Too* to my editor, um, last week. All 651 pages of it. There is so.much packed into this cookbook! It overflows with recipes, ideas, kitchen hacks, and information—from other moms, from nutrition and lactation experts, and from, well, me. I can’t wait to share it with you.In the meantime, though, I’ll share this recipe, a summertime version of Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas, Walnuts & Dried Fruit. It’s perfect for this ridonkulous heat wave, when the very thought of cooking with fire makes you sweat—the chard takes only a quick bath in boiling water, and you can do it hours ahead of time (like, in the morning, before it gets really hot). The quinoa uses a summer-friendly technique I noticed on the box—you boil it for a mere five minutes, then turn it off and set aside. It finishes cooking on its own. And the corn gets just a minute or two in the microwave, if that. Given all these little bursts of cooking, this is an ideal recipe for Naptime Cooking.The result is light yet hearty, sweet, tart, crunchy, and a primo candidate for the summer-in-a-bowl club. It's not at all Harry-pleasing. But Stephen and I were pleased. Oh yes we were.*BTW, it appears that we’re keeping the title! I'm beyond relieved. There’s a new subtitle: Naptime Cooking, One-Handed Meals & Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents. If you hate it please don’t tell me.Summery Swiss Chard, Corn, Peach, and Quinoa SaladServes 41 bunch Swiss chard, leaves removed and thinly sliced, stems chopped (rainbow is especially pretty here)1 cup quinoa, rinsed1 ear corn1 large, ripe peach, peeled, pitted, and chopped (mine was so ripe I used a paring knife to peel, or you can blanch and plunge)1 scallion, white and some green parts, thinly sliced1/2 cup chopped herbs (I used basil & parsley)1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard3 tablespoons flavorful extra-virgin olive oil (a nut oil would be nice here, too)2 tablespoons fruity vinegar, such as Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat VinegarBring a large pot of salted water to a boil, covered to speed things up. Add the chard stems and cook for 3 minutes, then add the leaves and cook another 3 minutes. Drain into a colander and rinse well with cold water, to stop the cooking, then drain again. If you’ll be using right away, squeeze the chard to remove any excess water (otherwise refrigerate it in the colander to drain more fully).Bring the quinoa and 2 cups of lightly salted water to a boil in a small saucepan. Let it boil for 5 minutes—watch it to ensure it doesn’t bubble over—then cover and set aside for at least 15 minutes. Once all the water’s been absorbed, allow quinoa to cool.If your corn is super-fresh (as in, picked today), use a large knife to strip the kernels into a salad bowl. Picked yesterday or earlier? Cook it lightly. I microwave it for 2 1/2 minutes. Once it’s cool enough to handle, strip the kernels into the bowl.Transfer chard and quinoa to the bowl, and add the peach, scallion, herbs, and almonds. Put the mustard, oil, and vinegar into a small air-tight container with some freshly ground pepper. Shake well, until combined, then pour over the salad and toss well. MAKE BABY FOOD: Put this in the blender with a splash of oil or water and it’s a lovely puree for the earliest eaters—skip the almonds if you have a family history of n[...]

Local Roots CSA Is Hosting a Supper Club



My CSA, the one I've raved about before, is hosting a little dinner party-cum-supper club using ingredients from the various farms and vendors who supply the group. The menu's above; I can't decide which sounds more exciting, that fresh fettucine with basil & chive pesto, or the red wine braised short ribs. But we all know I have a thing for red wine braised short ribs.

Here are the deets:

Where: 61 Local - 61 Bergen Street, Brooklyn
When: Sunday, July 31st from 7 -9pm
Cost: $40, 5 course meal
For tickets, click here.