All posts by Kate

Status report: 3 weeks of Family Dinner

So here we are, a few weeks in to our new system. Overall, I’d say I’m about 1000% less stressed by feeding Tuck than I was before. I’m much less concerned about buying special foods or worrying what he’ll eat if we go out, and I’ve enjoyed the new rhythm of our evenings, with Tuck’s bedtime meaning we’re done for the night, not just starting our own dinner, cleanup, etc. Ben makes it home most nights, though we’re still working on the timing and order of operations. Tonight I’m going to try bath first and dinner at 7ish, instead of dinner earlier and bath after.

First night of family dinner
First night of Family Dinner! Very focused.

The first meal I cooked was one of the most successful. I made simple chicken cutlets (pounded chicken breast, dunked in beaten egg, dredged in Italian-style bread crumbs, pan-fried) and served pasta with pesto and a salad. After refusing to touch any kind of meat, including chicken strips, for months, Tuck ate the chicken up and demolished the pasta.

Frittata, yum!

The most fun we’ve had has been with fruit, since he is obsessed with it and will eat as much as we’ll give him. We even played with chopsticks last week, inspired by a current favorite book, the adorable Spoon. (Little Spoon is jealous of his friends knife, fork and chopsticks until his mom points out that he gets to do fun things like dive into ice cream and stir hot cups of tea. So cute.)


Ok, so his technique isn’t 100%, but he got them to work!

I’m grateful that we’re heading into summer and berry season, since I don’t love buying a bunch of stuff trucked in from who-knows-where. Still, his joy over a bowl of blackberries is hard to deny!


We were traveling this weekend, for a wedding, and I was thrilled by how he ate. Breakfast was best, just because there were a lot of non-kid’s-menu options. (Other meals ended up involving a lot of chicken fingers and pasta.) One morning he ate pancakes, eggs, bacon, some of Ben’s cereal, several bowls of strawberries, and some pineapple! At home he’s now routinely eating his big bowl of yogurt and an english muffin or piece of toast with peanut butter.

I know there haven’t been any good photos or recipes lately–that’s up next! I’ve been relying heavily on my phone, and Instagram, but pictures I take of dinners end up being pretty unappealing. Here’s my peace offering: Since June is acting like March (and it was 90 degrees in March, so….who knows), I made a slow cooker stew for dinner last night. Tuck rejected it and ate a bit of bread for dinner, but Ben and I were deeeeelighted. I hate sweet potatoes but didn’t mind them here. If you’re the person who sent me this recipe, which I had pasted into a note page on my phone for the last 6 months, please speak up so I can give you credit!

Below is a direct quote from whoever sent me this. I did brown the beef, but thanks to a genius-time-saver-brainwave, I just browned the 2 big sides of the hunk of chuck instead of chopping it up before browning. Then I cut it into pieces, each with two browned sides, and added it to the slow cooker. The addition of tomatoes totally makes this. My usual Guinness stew uses only the beer and last batch it turned out bitter (burned flour, I think, actually). This had great flavor and was, of course, even better today. Super-quick prep, too.

“Also — in other news — easiest beef stew crockpot recipe ever:

1 can of Guinness
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, pressed (or less, if you don’t love garlic as much as I do)
2 bay leaves
1 pound (+) of stew beef (not too lean, or it’ll be tough) [Note from Kate: I used 1.5 lbs of chuck and I wouldn’t have wanted much less meat in the mix]

Sizes and amounts can change, depending on your tastes. Throw it all in the crockpot and cook it for 2 or 3 hours on high, or 5 or 6 on low. Technically, you’re supposed to brown the meat before you stew it, but I didn’t bother with this recipe, and it was delicious anyway.”

First real summer CSA pick-up this week! I signed up for a fruit share and they’re promising strawberries AND rhubarb; such riches. I plan to make this ridiculously appealing cake from Smitten Kitchen, but let’s be honest, I’m awfully lazy about baking. We’ll see.

On Snacks

We don’t, much. Snacks, I’ve found, are a major reason Tuck, at least, didn’t try things at meals. We were always strict about snacks–he had one at 10 and one after nap (usually 3:30); they were limited in size, and he never had a snack cup or anything that allowed him to determine when he’d eat. No eating in the car, or anywhere but at the table when we were at home. Out and about things flexed a bit. Usually the morning snack was in a park, but if we happened to be at Target I might let him munch on his crackers out of his snack bag to keep himself occupied. Still, he was getting pretty demanding, and was never satisfied once he’d finished what I offered. It was a lot of carb-heavy Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies or stoned wheat thins, raisins, etc., since he wouldn’t eat cheese in non-shredded form.
But I was struck by the passages about snacks in “French Kids Eat Everything.” The author is much more reliant on snacks than we ever were–her kids always eat in the car, at stores, and any time she needs them quiet. But her quest to break the habit made me think a lot about the whole “shut them up with food” concept that we are all so used to. After all, don’t most of us snack in the car occasionally? Most Americans probably eat at least one MEAL in the car every day! Is it really so bad?

I honestly think it is. I’m working a lot with Tuck on being patient, and I think the French idea of hunger not being a bad thing (as in, feeling hungry when you sit down for a meal) is one that we as a society need to embrace.

I’m a hypocrite, by the way, because one of the only things that controls various pregnancy symptoms for me is to snack several times a day to keep my blood sugar very level. Ahem.

Since we started the new approach to food, the morning snack has disappeared about half the time. Depending on what we’re doing and whether I think he needs it, he sometimes has a little cheese or shares a cookie with me. In the afternoon, he generally has a decent snack after nap, but if he sleeps later than normal and it’s getting too close to dinner, we skip it. I’ve noticed that even after just a couple weeks the demands for snack (“Sack? Sack? SACK?”) at specific times or in certain places have diminished. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that they are unpredictable now!

Skipping snack at the playground today–he didn’t even freak out when everyone around him whipped out fruit pouches and crackers!

(Another element is that he’s been eating breakfasts that would, in Ben’s words, choke a horse, so I’m not concerned that he’s starving two hours later. One morning this weekend he ate his usual big bowl of plain yogurt with applesauce and fortified infant oatmeal, a huge slice of bread with peanut butter, cereal with banana, blackberries, and half a leftover blueberry pancake (large) from lunch out the day before. He may be five feet tall by July.)

I’m just over 29 weeks along now, and looking down the tunnel at the next couple months. Over the long weekend we made a list of 45 things to get done before Tuck’s early birthday party at the beginning of August, and then we proceeded to check 16 of them off. It was thrilling: Tasks included “scrub front porch,” “swap out board and picture books” and “hang art in guest room,” but man, is it satisfying to get stuff done. I planted things in the pots on our patio, at long last, so it looks less like an abandoned lot:

I planted things!

And we ended with a fun afternoon playing in the driveway with the water table, hose, and, eventually, a long-overdue scrubbing of the car. Tuck was extremely helpful (and figured out how to use the hose nozzle VERY quickly, much to my (damp) surprise).

Early work-training.

Happy summer! More to come soon on what we’ve been eating over the past week.

Feeding a toddler: I refuse to be beaten

Occupation 3: Fireman!
How can this face be such a troublemaker?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I should be doing with this blog. (Obviously more than nothing, which has been the status for far too long.) Honestly, this pregnancy has been much harder than the first–chasing a very active toddler is incredibly draining, and I’ve been much sicker than I was the first time around. Still, right now I am feeling positive and excited about food, namely food for Tuck. Bear with me while I explain:

As I mentioned in my last post (ahem), months ago, I got fed up with catering to Tuck’s increasing pickiness, and started doing a bit of research. I quickly got to Ellyn Satter, whose dense-but-seminal “Child of Mine” is a classic “good sense” approach to feeding children of all ages. She basically says that parents are responsible for what, when, and where children eat, and the child is responsible for how much (or whether) they eat. Full stop. Family meals, one set of options, control of snacks, no catering, bribing, food as an emotional reward or punishment, etc., also play into it, but all of that fits into those zones of responsibility. According to Satter, if a child refuses what you give them (as long as it’s a reasonable selection; ie. things they can physically eat), they’ll be hungry enough to eat the next meal. No jumping up four times to make a new meal or present a quesadilla because the mac and cheese didn’t pass muster. She recommends having bread and milk on the table at every meal, and otherwise letting the child eat whatever the family is eating.

The prettiest greens, from our CSA
Greens from our spring CSA

Now. Obviously family meals are a wonderful thing, something we’d all love to do, but modern life dictates that timing can be a bit tricky. So for a couple months I got stricter with sticking to one set of offerings at each meal (he even went to bed without dinner a couple times), but since I was still cooking a meal for Tuck separate from our own dinner, we kept falling back on quesadillas, grilled cheese, or bread with hummus, always with some vegetables offered first but never with much success. He wouldn’t eat pasta. No rice. NO BREAD, except sometimes toast. He stopped eating meat at around 14 months (maybe earlier?), so his protein came from hummus, peanut butter and cheese, and his iron came from the fortified oatmeal we stir into his breakfast yogurt with applesauce.

Occupation 2: Competitive pie-eater (the layered bibs were his idea)
He does like pie.

After a few spurts of obsession with fruit, he wouldn’t even eat that, aside from applesauce or Plum Organics packets. I hated that his diet was comprised of carbs, cheese and snacks like raisins and Annie’s Cheddar bunnies. This was not what I envisioned; I’d always sworn to myself that I wouldn’t fall into the trap and allow my child to live on “kid” food.

Before our recent trip to the West Coast (about which, much more in a minute) I read that “Bringing up Bébé,” and then “French Kids Eat Everything.” I much preferred the latter, which is basically a memoir version of Satter’s wisdom (though she’s only mentioned by name once) with a few variations to fit French society (only an afternoon snack, kids *are* required to taste things, though not to finish them). It reminded me of how much I wanted to beat this thing, and the approach of our trip, combined with the increasingly obvious need to push Tuck’s bedtime a bit later, made me think it might be time to start sitting down together at the table.


We started in San Francisco for four nights, where we rented an apartment and Tuck ate hummus. But he did grab a few mandarin oranges in the grocery store, and try to eat them whole.

SF at sunset #nofilter
View from the roof of our friends’ building. I mean, honestly.

We went on to Carmel for a couple nights. Tuck ate grilled cheese (made with gruyère, on one occasion) and french fries. He refused plain pizza. I knew better than to try buttered pasta.


Enjoying the view. (oh dear.)
Distracted by the view (um) at dinner in Carmel.

Then we landed in Eugene for six nights with my parents. My mom and I had been discussing this for ages, and she was strongly in favor of a shock-therapy approach, letting the sudden influx of new foods and timing be part of being at Nama and Poppa’s house. I mostly cut his morning snack, so he was hungry for lunch. The afternoon snack was small but a real treat, like toast with the all-natural version of nutella. Every night we all sat down at 6:30 and ate appetizers–crudités, cheese and crackers, olives–while Tuck ate dinner. On night two he wanted the goat cheese, and then decimated it.

Goat cheese
Goat cheese is an excellent facial toner, you know. (I don’t know that. I made that up.)

On night three he grabbed for the carrot sticks and gnawed on them a bit before using them to scoop up more goat cheese. He picked out and tried a bell pepper, though he didn’t like it. One night I gave him some pieces of mandarin and he mushed them around for a while; the next night he ate the whole thing so fast I couldn’t get the peel off quickly enough. He wanted apples, and ate them. He ate almost an entire mango over two days. He ate gruyère, manchego and cheddar in slices and chunks (he’d previously refused any cheese that wasn’t grated, of all things).

Perhaps my favorite photo ever


Thai food

Here’s my theory (I always have theories):

Around 12-18 months, babies develop “neophobia,” or fear of the new. I think it’s probably a leftover self-preservation instinct from our hunter-gatherer days. They’re old enough to get around by themselves, which means that in the bush they’d have had the opportunity to pick berries or find mushrooms or whatever. The babies most successful at not being poisoned would probably stop eating anything they hadn’t eaten before, until they were old enough to do a bit more research (neophobia is usually gone by age 3, though of course by that point many children have been taught that being “picky” means “being catered to” and stick with the refusal to try). But what if the baby watches a trusted adult eat something? They might wait until they’ve seen it a few times, but then maybe it will seem like a safe idea to give it a little try–at least a poke or prod or lick. And after a few cautious attempts, that food will be added to the no-longer-new list and get into the regular rotation. [Note: I can’t wait to read my friend Stephanie’s book about REAL picky eaters (my brother was the pickiest ever until he was a teen, despite NO catering at all in our house), due out this July. Pre-order Suffering Succotash (hee!) now!]

Satter says it takes up to 20 exposures to a food for a child to accept it. She says to just keep putting it out, not forcing them to try, just letting them see it. As far as I can tell she’s right. We got home on Saturday morning, and he’s been eating everything from peaches to fig-almond cake with stinky cheese on the sample tray at Whole Foods. After never once getting him to eat eggs, he’s now a fan of “pancakes” made from leftover rice or pasta (it’s a frittata, honestly) and beaten egg. We haven’t figured this out completely, but I feel like his mind is open now, and he’s ready to try. It makes me excited to cook and share meals with him, and to have Ben at the table with him as well.

I just can’t believe it could work so quickly! Fingers crossed that we don’t backslide.

Spring treat share from the farm!!

So I hope to start recording our family meals here. Not every meal, but the ones I’m happy with. I already find myself thinking about dinner differently, knowing I need to try to get it on the table at 6:30 instead of after Tuck is in bed. And maybe we will find that it’s not feasible, that Ben can’t be home, that the compromise of vegetables and cheese while he eats is what we can handle right now. That was enough to make him fascinated by radishes while we were in Oregon! It’s fun to go grocery shopping and choose lots of different fruits for him to try for dessert (he fell in love with blackberries last night, but refused to taste raspberries). Our last Spring Treat CSA share is this week, and the weekly shares start the first week of June–I can’t wait to take Tuck to help pick out the vegetables. The new baby is due in early August, and hopefully by the time she comes along to rock the boat, we’ll have a decent routine figured out.

Will you come along for the ride? Do you have any questions? I feel like I poured out a lot there, and I’m not sure if it makes any sense!

Tuck’s food glossary, partial, May 2012:
Apple – Appoo
Pineapple – Appoo
Cheese – Chees
Grilled cheese – Chees
Pancake – Cake
Peach – Peachy
Blueberry – Blueboo
Milk – Mack
Crackers – Crackah
Pizza – Pizzie
Pasta – Pahttie
Yogurt – Yogi
Applesauce – Sauce
Water – Wahttie
Strawberries – Stawboo

By the way, food isn’t the only thing we’re up to! Look who was a cool customer helping assemble our new patio table after we got back this weekend:

Very, very helpful.

Ok, that’s still kind of food-related. More house stuff to come, though. The curtains have been made, the new doors are in, and I just need a curtain rod installed in the dining room!

Decorating: The Dining Room

Tuck’s nursery was the first time I ever decorated a room from the floor up, with nothing existing to go off of. Since we moved, I’ve had another opportunity to give it a try: The dining room. We sold our old table and chairs to the tenants in our apartment, since they fit perfectly there and were way too small for the new room. We also left the bookcases in place, since they were practically customized to fill that wall. The rug ended up in Tuck’s room, Ben’s desk went into our bedroom, and the piano is in the living room. Thus, an empty box when we arrived here.

The dining room is part of the modern section of the apartment, renovated beyond period recognition back in 1978 during the condo conversion. It is blessed with very tall ceilings aside from a soffit at one end (which is still at about 7.5 feet), two large windows on one wall, massive sliding glass doors on another, and the pass-through to the kitchen on a third. The fourth wall has a wide opening leading to the hall and the entryway.

Before we moved in, we ordered a new table, french farm-style, from Restoration Hardware. I agonized over the cracks that seemed like crumb magnets, but it didn’t occur to me that the dusty grey finish (no wax, varnish, etc.) would be literally impossible to clean with anything but a dry cloth, and would suck up unsightly water marks like a sponge. A patina is terrific, but this was just going to look terrible. I have embarked on a quest to seal up the top a bit, starting with Danish Oil and probably finishing with some sort of wax, per my brother’s instructions. The color and grain are much more pronounced now, but I still really like the look, and I’m relieved to be working towards some protection. We bought simple ladder-back black chairs and felt seat cushions from Ikea to fill in until we find the perfect chairs.

We use the back doors as our main entryway (they will likely be replaced with French doors in the near future, since the existing ones are old, hard to close, and are destroying the wall every time they have to be slammed), so I got a shoe-storage bench to keep the shoe pile under control. Very pleased with it, it’s the Eureka Storage Bench from World Market and is solid wood, came quickly, and was easy to assemble.

On the other side of the doors is a narrow space where I slotted in a skinny bookcase from the clearance section at Ballard Designs (sold out now). Again, solid wood, very easy to assemble, and it was about $10 more than a Billy from Ikea. That holds most of my cookbooks and some of my food books.

Finally, we needed something to hold our china and some serving pieces. We never had a hutch or buffet since the butler’s pantry in the old house held *everything*. After much deliberation and a lot of shopping around, I stumbled across a Curtis Furniture on Etsy, which does custom work in Nebraska. They had a cherry console, very rustic, that appealed to me, and I worked with Jonathan to design the perfect buffet for our one blank wall. I wanted it to be 50″ (standard sizes seem to be 40″ or 60″) so we could slot in an extra chair and Tuck’s Tripp Trapp high chair on either side.

I can’t even, you guys. I first contacted him on February 11, and then we went back and forth until I finally committed and ordered on the 16th. He emailed me progress shots as they worked on it, and the buffet left the workshop March 2. I got it in a GIANT CRATE (see below) on the 7th. It is gorgeous, if hard to photograph–tons of characters, really great knots (two knotholes, which serve to open the doors; they have slow-close hinges so they don’t slam shut), perfect color, beautifully crafted and very sturdy…I couldn’t be happier. It was a bit more than the pressboard junk from Crate and Barrel, but WAY less than the solid wood stuff, and worth every penny.

Anyway, contact Jonathan! Tell him I sent you!

The custom buffet came and I'm in love.

So the final piece (besides hanging art and that clock–I have a Stendig calendar coming for over the buffet!!) is to curtain those huge doors. I got a plain wrought-iron rod, and I’m just trying to figure out the curtains themselves. They will be about 96″ long, and 120″ wide. I got a bunch of fabric swatches:

Exciting! Fabric samples for dining room curtains.

Which I narrowed down to two (I LOVE the multi-colored zigzag but I think it’s better for pillows):

If I get the grey, the texture will actually be the slubby material of the yellow. I love the yellow and I’m obsessed with yellow, always, but I wonder if it will be too much or too limiting? The grey is probably more sophisticated but I just can’t decide. Any opinions?

One other project that we put off for ages but I finally just got done last week: Getting most of the family photos that lined our 18-foot hall in the old place hung in the upstairs hall. We used picture rail before, so all the hanging wires were for that, and the whole thing was a giant pain. But now it’s done and Tuck can say hi to everyone again!

Upstairs hall, before

Upstairs hall, after

And in conclusion, Tuck is hilarious and so cute. He’s chatting constantly with varying degrees of clarity, continues to be obsessed with digging, continues to be very stubborn about food (I’m working very hard on sticking to Ellyn Satter’s PHENOMENAL advice from Child of Mine) and is loving this incredibly lovely weather.

OH! And!

It’s a girl!

News alert!

Hello there! I just wrapped up my blog at Fit Pregnancy, so I need to start posting over here more frequently, if only so I can keep track of what T gets up to (lots of jumping, at the moment). Since last I wrote we’ve just been settling into the new apartment, chasing T, traveling to FL for an annual visit to our friends who live in Sarasota:

Working hard, working solo

and generally humming along.

Oh, and I’m pregnant. Ahem. 16 weeks, due early August, just before Tuck’s birthday! I think we’re going to have to start holding an August Carnival, since all of our birthdays are within the month of Leo, if not August, plus our anniversary, plus birthdays for half of my family! Flaimfest. Cotton candy machine to be acquired.

I’ve been much, much sicker this time around, and actually am still not back to 100%, though amazing wonderful modern medication has kept me eating. Still, mealtimes are uninspired and I really need to get on track. The only thing I’ve bothered uploading to Flickr recently is our pancake feast from Pancake Tuesday/Mardi Gras:


Oh heavens.

Well, hello!

I thought I’d log in to make sure I still had a blog out there somewhere. Turns out it’s still here! Shocking. I can’t promise thrice-weekly updates but I would like to get back to something more frequent than every three months.

It feels like forever since the holidays–a lot has changed around here, about which more in a moment–but I guess Christmas was only a month ago. Tom joined us again, and cooked basically every meal while he was here. It was bliss. Among our projects:

Carnitas, per The Homesick Texan, as published by Smitten Kitchen:

Carnitas, 3.5 hours in. Browning stage.
After 3.5 hours of braising, during the brown-in-their-own-fat stage

Carnitas results: Last night's dinner
As tacos

The leftovers were a boon for almost a week–we ate lots more tacos as well as a number of quesadillas, and I think Tom scrambled them into eggs a few times. The citrus juice in the recipe made for a brighter flavor than other batches I’ve made. Definitely one to repeat.

For Christmas Eve, Tom made duck confit.

3 duck legs getting ready to be quick-confited for Christmas Eve dinner.

Those three magret legs rendered TWO CUPS of fat. I have so much duck fat, you guys! I need to start roasting potatoes, stat. Unfortunately we were too excited to eat for me to remember to take any decent photos. Oops. This is the feel of the meal (we had roasted potatoes and a sharp salad with the duck):

Christmas dinner

And then we descended into chaos. We moved, you guys. Mid-January. It was a mad scramble, especially because our babysitter suddenly left us two weeks before. My parents were here for a last-minute visit, and then Ben’s mom came up and saved our butts, and his brother/brother’s girlfriend joined for the day of and were also lifesavers. Man, moving is horrible.

Tuck hated seeing his books packed but he was a very, very, very big fan of the crane that moved the piano:

Running the crane

And now that we’re getting settled in, things like this are happening:

One of my favorite moments ever.

It’s going to be great. And the kitchen is 100% white (not as good as our old one, but better light), so it’s a lot easier to take pictures of, say, the only thing I currently want to eat, that asian-inspired butter lettuce/avocado salad:

Ok, that is a scarily large picture of a grapefruit supreme. But still. You know you wish you were eating that right now.

HOLD THE PHONE, I never wrote up that salad dressing? That will come soon. I promise. It’s too good not to share.

Things I’m loving

Don’t you love it when technology actually solves a problem? Two quick examples (with grainy Instagram pictures) from my daily life lately (and no, I’m not being paid to plug these products!):

1. Command picture hanging “nails” from 3M
We have plaster walls. Most rooms in the apartment have picture rail, so we can hang art from hooks without putting nails in the walls, but the bedrooms and kitchen are exceptions. Hanging art has generally required putting a screw into the molding, which looks terrible and is a pain. I have been using 3M’s Command Strips–which are like velcro with a sticky backing that supposedly removes from the wall without leaving a mark–to hang small frames in a couple places around the house, but when the time came to rearrange the art in the nursery I had some bigger frames that I wanted to use, and I really didn’t want to punch a bunch more holes in the molding. As I stood in the hardware aisle at Target trying to decide whether I could use the Command Hooks (no, they’re for hanging up…I don’t know, dog leashes? A single scarf? They stick out too far for pictures but only hold 5 pounds.) I noticed these:

Genius for plaster walls.

Um. This is genius. There are double-stick strips of the removable sticky stuff, and you use that to attach a metal plate with, essentially, a nailhead sticking out of it. The large one holds up to 8 pounds, the small one up to 5; I weighed my frames on the kitchen scale (…I know) and the heaviest was 4.5 pounds because I have plexiglass in the bigger ones instead of glass. They were super-easy to use. (You do need to put them in place and then let them sit for an hour before you hang the art.) And Ta-Da! Perfect for gallery walls.

Art hung without nails

2. Nail Effects from Sally Hansen
I am terrible at painting my own nails. It’s always a mess. And I hate getting a manicure, because it takes ages and then I ruin it immediately. Anna at DoorSixteen wrote about the nail polish strips a couple times last month and I was intrigued: Strips of actual nail polish (thus, removable at home, unlike a shellack manicure) that are already dry once you put them on (thus, no smudging)? Fascinating. The downside is that there aren’t really any “normal” colors. It’s all crazy patterns or really bright neons or glitter, I guess because they’re about $9/box and who would pay that much to just get nude nails at home? I would. But I’m guessing that’s the reasoning. I got the most muted option, a dull gold, and OMG MY NAILS LOOK GREAT:

Gilded nails: Those Sally Hansen polish strips actually work! Thx to @doorsixteen for the tip.

There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it was fairly easy to put them on once I figured out how to remove the correct backings in the correct order. Also, I didn’t press the edges down firmly enough on my thumbs. But I was able to use half the package and do both hands, since my nails are short, so I’ll try again once they chip. For $4.50 it’s completely worth it and very fun. I want to try the gold glitter, like Anna did, for the holidays.

Aarti’s Kheema

Among my guilty pleasures is “The Next Food Network Star,” which I have found to be a fairly interesting look at what makes someone a good TV host (not simply a good cook, like on Top Chef). I like the judges and find their discussions of the business of TV fascinating. And last season I loved one contestant from the very first episode on: Aarti Sequira, who went on to win the whole shebang with her combination of warm TV persona and delicious-looking Indian twists on familiar foods.

We watch her show, Aarti Party, regularly, and it’s the only cooking show aside from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home that has ever inspired me to actually look up the recipes online and try them. A few weeks ago Aarti made Kheema, a beef dish that she described as ultimate childhood comfort food. (She was raised Catholic, so beef isn’t an issue in her cooking; my friend Kabir is from a similar background and came over shortly after I’d made this; he apparently loved kheema as a kid and was more than willing to eat up the leftovers.)

This recipe is VERY easy. I’m enjoying my new forays into Indian cooking; the technique is very different from what I’m used to: recipes (from Aarti and elsewhere) tend to start with slowly browning onions and then combining them with spices to make almost a sticky paste to which you add liquids and additional ingredients.

Go here for the actual recipe.

Pretty spices at the ready (coriander, paprika, garam masala, cumin, cayenne):


Onions get going:


Lots of garlic and ginger–by far the slowest part of the recipe is prepping them; easily avoided by having Aarti’s ginger-garlic paste (“recipe” at the end here) on hand in the fridge–join the browned onions:


Cook in the spices:


Add a pound of ground beef:


Cook it through, then add water, salt and pepper, tomato (and peas):


Simmer briefly, add some cider vinegar for kick and cilantro if you’re more organized than I am (also I hate cilantro) and you’re done.


We ate it rapidly, with naan.


I know that doesn’t look like much but it really was a very comforting, warm dish. I need to make it again, this time with something green added at the end–maybe parsley in place of the cilantro?

By the way, I think I’ve nailed down another reason I haven’t been blogging. We got recessed lights put into our kitchen last spring, and while the light is now much, much better for cooking, it’s horrible for photos–shadows no matter where I go, harsh light that makes everything look greasy and gross. Blah. I wonder what the solution is for kitchen lighting that works for cooking AND for photos: So much everywhere that the shadows aren’t a problem?

Honesty and fresh starts

I had a rocky time of it over the last few months. I don’t really know why, but I spent much of the summer down, having trouble motivating to care much about things, or to be creative (with anything from cooking to clothes). I was (am?) snappish and impatient and generally not a great person, I’m afraid. Do you ever have blue periods that are hard to kick yourself out of? Part of my problem has definitely been this awkward transition age, as T spent July and August becoming a toddler (all that mobility, all that willpower, all the times each day that I have to tell him “no”). For a while I became obsessed with finding somewhere to move to (clearly it’s the three flights of stairs that are making me miserable), but the hunt was even more depressing and made me a little crazy, to boot. One of my best mom-friends moved away at the very beginning of the summer and I found days (weeks) going by where all my play-time with T was just the two of us, and I got really lonely.

I’ve generally been a pretty content person, or at least not a depressive one, so it was really hard for me to figure out how to react to a general sensation of unhappiness that followed me around for a sustained period. Of course there were plenty of individual moments/hours/days that were great, but it was a switch for my baseline to be achingly blue, instead of bumbling along relatively happy. Whatever has caused it, I need to move on now.

The last few weeks brought a lot of joy: T’s first birthday, the birth of a most beloved friend’s gorgeous little girl, a great vacation in New Hampshire with good friends, periods of weather, new boots. Fall is coming–my favorite time for fresh starts–and I’m looking hard at how I move through life and how I can be better and do more. I’m trying to declutter, get organized, etc.

New Hampshire:
I missed waking up to this view, this morning. #vacationsover

After years in boots w actual holes in them, finally committed to a new pair. Now I need it to not be 82 out. #readyforfall

On the organization front here’s a gross grey cloud with a shiny silver lining: We suffered a horrifying infestation of pantry moths in late August, and while repulsive, the experience forced a very thorough deep-cleaning, organizing, and purging of the pantry. It’s now mostly devoid of food, so as we head into fall I’m going to try to be more thoughtful in what I bring in and how I use it to avoid waste. (Ugh, we threw out so much food. Blargh.)


Oh look, summer

Maybe if I take the pressure off and post Instagram pictures from my phone I’ll update more often? Worth a try. Last night we ate a delicious (and deliciously-local) simple summer dinner.

Beautiful baby new potatoes from the farm:

I brought them to a boil with a couple halved cloves of garlic, then simmered until they were done. Drained, put back in pot (covered) to dry out, and tossed while hot with a vinegary dressing of cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, a little mustard, the mashed up garlic cloves, and a tiny bit of sugar. They were creamy and delicious and I can’t wait to dive into the leftovers for lunch today.

Aside from some hydroponic tomatoes from Maine that I got at Whole Foods (blah), the rest of the meal came from the little Harvard Sq. farmer’s market, which I frequent most Tuesdays. (Mariposa Bakery pretzel rolls!) Yesterday I got local pork sausage and a couple ears of corn; I managed to hold back from the local mozzarella or burrata that I end up splurging on most weeks.

I steamed the corn for about 2 minutes. It was crazy tender and sweet like candy. It reminded me of how my mom used to lecture about proper corn technique: Bring the water to a boil. Go next door to Williams’ Farm (this is in her hometown in Western Mass). Pick the corn and leave your quarters in the can on the doorstep. Shuck the corn, boil briefly, eat. I cooked it once everything else was ready to go, and man was it good.

To drink:

I muddled slices of ginger with gin and let it sit for a few minutes (longer would be better), then shook with ice, limeade, and fresh lime juice.

The corn was a great clue, but the other way I know it’s really summer (aside from the sweltering, repulsive heat) is my iced coffee obsession. Two summers ago, when I had time and energy, I was brewing stovetop espresso, sweetening and chilling it according to my dad’s recipe. I considered it “quick and easy” at the time; now the mere thought of cleaning the Moka makes me cringe. We had breakfast at Clover Harvard Square last week, and I was surprised by how delicious the iced coffee was, since the woman was drip brewing it straight over ice, then adding more ice once it was done. I expected a weak or bitter cup, but it was terrific. I asked what the trick was, and she said espresso-ground beans slow it down enough to make strong coffee that survives the ice. I’ve been doing it at home and it works!

Iced coffee method win! Hot-brew espresso grind in drip cone over ice. Add more ice + milk. #yaysummer