Saturday, June 28, 2008


The lovely young family is here to stay! They showed up Tuesday night, then swept the Bug away for a wonderful trip to Monterey, arriving back very late Thursday night. The kids were all so exhausted they fell to bed fully dressed, teeth unbrushed. And were up again at the crack of dawn--and will be up again that early tomorrow, so I must type fast.

I'd forgotten what little littles were like. Those who can voice what they want but are still all over the place with knowing what they like and want. An average conversation in our kitchen is now:

"Want Teddy Grahams!"
"There's none left. Would you like Nilla Wafers?"
"Want Teddy Grahams!"
"I'm sorry, they're all gone. Would you like Nilla Wafers?"
"Want yogurt!"
"Okay, Strawberry or Blueberry?"
"Yes Blueberry?
--new child: "I WANT YOGURT!"
"Okay, hold on. Dardar, strawberry or blueberry?"
"I'm thirsty."

And so forth.

So I wondered how dinner would go and if I should bother making something. We've been eating more croissants and danish than anyone should. And one of the children has a never-ending bowl of spaghetti leftovers from some restaurant.

I made hamburgers, cooked them on the barbeque, and was very excited that they didn't turn out like hard hockey pucks. Us adults had tomatoes and avocado and red onion on our burgers and boy, were they yummy. And on the side we had a nice fennel salad with orange and red onion. Have I posted that yet? It's very nice. Suddenly very tired. Late night. Much red wine.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Lemon Suckers

I love having house guests too. And tonight I had the pleasure of a sneak preview of a lovely young family who'll be spending four glorious nights--Saturday through Wednesday. My old friend from college and her two little ones: Nana and Dardar. Nana is four and a half, Dardar is two. They are so adorable and loving and energetic and funny and elastic and fudgety and persnickety and precocious and's wonderful.

We have a lemon tree. And they, being from Virginia, do not have a lemon tree. So everyone, from grandmother down to baby, was wowed by the load of fresh lemons. Nana proceeded to pick a dozen lemons off the tree and line them up on the counter, wanting to know when we'd make lemonade.

Since they'd just arrived and everyone was buzzing in different directions and all the children wanted attention and us two who brought this group together just wanted to SIT and NATTER...I really didn't want to make lemonade.

Enter the eleven-year old. Wow. When is a Bug not a bug? When he's eleven and standing about 87-feet taller than the littles around him. He cut lemons, showed how to press them, added sugar and water, and filled sippy cups. Call him the lemon king.

So what one thing *didn't* he do? Clean up, of course.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fires and Ice Cream

There's a large wild fire burning out of control near my house. The Bug and I saw the smoke right after it started yesterday. We were out at the local produce shack and the Bug said, look--it looks like a volcano! And it did. I realized as we were driving home that it was on the ridge line about five miles from our house. Right now the region is in voluntary evacuations, so we're packing up the stuff we need and love so we can be ready at a moment's notice.

Since it's so smoky, we can't enjoy the nice weather outside. I think we'll watch movies and I'm going to make vanilla bean ice cream. We had steak and eggs and grilled vegetables for brunch--something I *never* do. I figured if we had to evacuate, at least we'd have a hearty meal under our belts.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Buying Too Much and Carrot Soup

I've been wondering lately how people without much money are handling the rise in...everything. The rising price of gas, of milk, of bread, of cereal, of rice, of bell peppers, of onions even. It seems my food costs have gone up about 20% in the past six months. I've been crabbing and kvetching...but no more.

Last night I threw away a produce drawer full of food. A know the one I mean, the one at the bottom of my fridge. I'd gone to the Farmers' Market two Fridays in a row. And bought way too much stuff. Even I knew that at the time. And then I went to Whole Foods. And then I went to WinCo. And after that I did my necessity trips to Safeway for milk and baby food and red wine (which are much cheaper than at other stores...).

In the end, produce never got eaten. It was as though everyone was overwhelmed by the bounty, and when they opened the fridge just thought, Oh. There's nothing in here to eat because I just see a forest of food.

Too bad there aren't any trees.

And so, when the trees began to smell, I finally tossed them.

I made a new rule yesterday. The cupboards and fridge can only be 1/3 full at any given time. I'll do the disaster stash someplace else. I think we don't force ourselves to eat what we have. From now on, I only replenish when we're absolutely empty.

Today for lunch I made carrot soup with all the carrots that made it out of the forest. They were still needing to be eaten, and I had bags and bags of them in baby version, sliced, and shredded (remember, the Bug has two false front teeth and can't bite into his favorite veggie). So I browned some red onion, two cloves of garlic, and a whole mess of carrots with salt, pepper, and a little curry powder. Then I threw in a box of generic chicken broth, a little extra water, and simmered till they were soft. I blended it with an immersion blender (a fantastic baby present!), added about two cups of shredded carrots, let it reduce another 15 minutes, and gave a quick whir again.

After adjusting seasonings, we enjoyed it topped with some plain yogurt left over from our Greek dinner. The Bug, the Baby and I all quite liked it (the Bug and I added more curry powder and I added some red pepper flakes), and then I fed it to my mother-in-law when she arrived mid-afternoon. She wasn't sure about the yogurt, until she had it. I'm pretty sure she enjoyed it, too.

I wouldn't have made it today...had I not seen the carrots waiting patiently. I probably would have just opted for a quick canned soup. I'm glad I saw them!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Perfect Moment

This afternoon I had the perfect moment. It was about 5:00pm and I was sitting in my backyard, reading a book. The Bug, who at eleven is nearly too old to be called a Bug any more, was splashing around in the pool, today being the first real pool day of the summer. The baby was in bed for the night, and Juiceboy was readying supplies for an upcoming camping trip.

I'd just put some lamb chops on the grill. Delicious, fatty smoke was pouring out of the vents, billowing first, then carried away in great wafts by breeze. The sun was beginning its evening slide behind the hills, and I scooted my chair into the shade of the tall evergreen. I had a glass of cool red (nothing nicer than a slightly cooled Cabernet on a hot summer day) and my new Lee Child. Yogurt and grated cucumber were draining in the kitchen for tzatziki; pencil thin, organic asparagus was ready to be quickly cooked in a drizzle of hot olive oil. And we had leftover sourdough baguette to sop up some lovely balsamic vinegar floating in olive oil--which the Bug calls "special sauce."

Birds were trilling. Everything was bright and alive and in bloom. The lemon tree was fragrant. I was cool and tired from an earlier swim, and anticipating a good dinner. My family was happy. I was perfectly relaxed and wishing it could last for hours.

Here's a lovely, garlicky tzatziki recipe for you to share with those you love a lot. It goes great with lamb, gyro meat (WinCo sells great pre-sliced, packaged gyro meat for veritable PENNIES!), as a dip, etc.


Cheesecloth--this is a mesh fabric sold with cooking supplies. My Safeway carries it with the pots and pans.
2 cups lowfat or full-fat (but NOT non-fat) plain yogurt
Half-to-a-whole large cucumber, seeded
One clove garlic
Fresh lemon juice, to taste

You'll need a wire mesh strainer--one with a lip on one end and a long handle on the other works wonderfully. Line this with about a foot of doubled cheesecloth. Place the strainer in a bowl deep enough so the strainer doesn't touch the bottom. Add the yogurt and let stand at least 1.5 hours. If you have more time, up to 24 hours, place plastic wrap over the bowls and refrigerate.

After 1.5 hours a fair amount of liquid should strain out of your yogurt. Put the yogurt in a small bowl; mash garlic with a press into the yogurt and stir. With the big holes of a grater, grate one half to a whole cucumber; place in the strainer (minus the cheesecloth). Salt generously and leave for 20-30 minutes to drain.

Add cucumber to yogurt. Add salt and lemon juice as needed. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Where has it gone...time?

Sigh. Where has the time gone? Here it is, June already. Here it is, almost summer. I had planned to grown many herbs this summer, rather than spending too much at farmer's markets only to have the herbs shrivel and die in my kitchen.

However, I didn't grow any from seeds and so must rely on nurseries. And right now I'm relying on Home Depot (don't all of you throw rotten tomatoes at me) because my nursery is closed before I can ever get to it.

Today the Bug and I recycled baby formula cans, spray painted them sun yellow, and left them to dry in the driveway. Tomorrow we'll punch holes in the bottoms, fill them with dirt, and plant cilantro and basil in them. We also planted pepper plants in big planters in the backyard--poblanos and anaheims. 70 days to maturity! I'm hoping that we haven't over crowded these plants. They seem fine now, but I think they might want more space as they grow, if memory serves me right.

I haven't mentioned the lovely herb stall at the Oakland farmer's market, with the most enthusiastic man selling not just mint but spearmint (yum!), and lovely Thai basil and perfect tarragon and some really interesting cumin leaves. I stuck them in water and wrapped them in a damp tea towel all week. The Bug kept snagging mint leaves (both types) all week long. I realized they'd gone round the bend when I smelled basil on his breath instead last night.

Here it is, almost midnight, and I should be in bed, snoozing. I'll be crabby in the morning.