Category Archives: Family

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.

France: First stop, Giverny

We seem to have plunged straight into summer here on the East Coast (mid-90s today? really?), but I’m still longing for spring. We got back from our annual vacation a couple weeks ago; this year we spent a little more than two weeks in France. It was Tuck’s fourth experience with air travel, but his first time overseas, and he did so well.

We visited Giverny for two nights–I had longed to go ever since reading Linnea in Monet’s Garden as a little girl–and while Monet’s grounds were beautiful, I preferred the many other amazing gardens all over the town, simply because the crowds overwhelmed me a bit.

Monet’s gardens:

Monet's Garden

Monet's Garden

Monet's Garden

Monet's Garden







Above, the setting for a dinner al fresco at our wonderful B&B, Le Moulin de Giverny. A lovely evening with guests from all over Europe:

Dinner at the inn in Giverny

Dinner at the inn in Giverny

Dinner at the inn in Giverny

Dinner at the inn in Giverny

The amazing window in our room:


This was my dinner another night. Yes, it’s a big melted cheese. On some bread. It was amazing.


I have lots more to share–we spent a week in the Loire Valley, and six nights in Paris. All my garden pictures are in a set here, and food pictures are here. The whole kit and caboodle (hundreds) are here. Of course, I have to grab my moments on the computer when I can; there’s a lot of this sort of thing happening here at home:

It's official: T is growing up. Lowered crib mattress today. See pic for favorite activity.

Creative reuse

Despite the reduction in major food projects around these parts, we ate pretty well over the holidays. The part I was a bit smug about, actually, was how I used up the many leftovers that were packing the fridge after Tom left.

For Christmas Eve we recreated the dinner from two years ago: steak, celeriac puree, and wilted spinach salad with bacon. I am totally hooked on that purée technique (cube up root vegetables, sauté some garlic in olive oil, add the vegetables and soften a bit, add stock, cover and simmer until soft, purée with a dash of cream and butter if you’re feeling fancy) and have had great success with rutabaga as well as celeriac. Dinner was tasty, though I over-cooked the spinach:


PSA: If you don’t have an immersion blender, do yourself a favor and get one ASAP. Over the last few weeks I used mine to whip cream (whisk attachment), purée things in their pans (blender attachment), and chop up stuff (mini prep). I have this one and it’s the best $40 you can spend on a kitchen gadget.

But somehow we ended up with mountains of the celeriac. I mean, ridiculous leftovers. We ate it with the leftover steak but there was a still a huge bowl sitting around. A few days later I got sick of looking at it, so I popped it all back in a pot with some milk (fine, and a little more cream), heated it up, made grilled cheese, and called it soup. It took a while, because I forgot to turn on the stove. But normally it would have taken about 5 minutes.



Early in Tom’s visit we made potato-leek soup, and we accidentally peeled too many potatoes. Tom diced up the extra and parboiled it, and used some for omelets and things while he was here. We also had two huge bunches of kale from the final winter CSA share, and I cooked it as per usual but we somehow had a ton leftover. Also I had a lot of bacon, since I planned to cook it for Christmas breakfast and we never got around to it thanks to a gift of Zingerman’s cinnamon rolls from Christy. And we’d made a batch of carnitas in the slow cooker, forgotten to uncover it to cook off the liquid, and thus scooped out some of the extra liquid, cooked it down (Tom again, always thinking!) and thrown that in the fridge where it turned into a gorgeous jelly (bone-in pork shoulder). AND Ben made pasta one night and cooked the whole pound, so there was a bunch of cooked rotini in a ziplock.

As you can imagine, all those bits and bobs were rendering the fridge a bit chaotic, and I was pretty much out of storage containers.

Here’s what I did: (This seems so simple, but guys, it was awesome.)

-Cooked some of the bacon as lardons, pulled it out
-Diced up some onion and cooked that along with the potatoes in the bacon fat
-Threw in the pasta to brown up a little bit and get heated up
-Added some of the pork jelly to glaze it all and provide a bit of moisture and sauce
-Mixed in the kale, heated it all up, topped with parmesan.


The potatoes were key here. SO GOOD. In fact, it’s 11 a.m. and if I had any of that in the fridge now I would be eating it. I’m hungry.

Happy New Year!

Hello there! It’s been a while. Two months, actually, and 4+ since I was around regularly. This whole “having a child” thing? Very time-consuming. Also, distracting. I’ve been blogging weekly over at Fit Pregnancy, and I did a couple work projects this fall, but mostly I’ve been whiling away the days with this extremely charming young man:


To be perfectly honest, for a while there I just wasn’t very inspired to write about food, or to cook, and I have assumed that it would bore you all to tears (if any of you are even around anymore!) if I wrote about….life. Tucker and being a mom and so forth. Especially since I’m covering that at Fit Pregnancy. But then Ben started asking if I ever planned to post here again and I said I wasn’t feeling too sure and he encouraged me to just write about whatever I feel like writing about.

Which may be food (probably mostly food), or the baby, or…well, I don’t know what. Meanwhile, here’s Christmas. It was a relaxing one. My brother tore himself away from his graduate studies and his reign of glory designing gorgeous stuff for Archival Clothing, and joined me and Ben and Tucker for a very laid-back week in Boston. Our kind downstairs neighbors were living it up in Paris and let him crash at their place.

It went like this:



Christmas 2010

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2010

Someone wasn’t quite convinced:

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2010

We (I) drank a LOT of eggnog (I’m incredibly fond of almost any dairy product now that I am in fact a human dairy) and ate a lot of cheese and spent a lot of time just hanging out. And only Tom had to travel in the blizzard afterward, so yay!

We cooked, too. I think I’ll post that separately; I’d hate to make my computer explode in shock by doing too much at once! How are you people? I can’t believe it’s 2011 but I have a good feeling about this year.

CSA Weeks 11-15: Summer to Fall

Wow, newborns are really time-consuming. I think Tucker can sense when I’m thinking of getting back to blogging, because that’s inevitably when the previously-silent monitor lights up with a ravenous scream. He’s a great baby, a solid night-time sleeper, and awfully cute, but during the day he doesn’t take well to naps in his bassinet, preferring me to walk my legs off all over Cambridge trying to get enough hours of sleep in for him. I finally went on Google Maps yesterday and measured how far I’d walked, and it was 4.5 miles for the day. (To the library! To Trader Joe’s! To Harvard Square! Walk walk walk walk walk!)

In the month (!!?!?!!!) since he was born, we’ve moved from summer to fall in the CSA. Here are the shares:

Week 11 (8/17)

CSA Week 11

Week 12 (8/24)

CSA Week 12

Week 13 (8/31)

CSA Week 13

Week 14 (9/7)

CSA Week 14

Week 15 (9/14)

CSA Week 15

The tomatoes were fantastic this year, thanks to the hot, humid weather. A few days before Tucker was born (in fact, the day I started labor!) I made BATs (Bacon, Avocado and Tomato!) to celebrate the bounty.




Ben had spinach on his:



I was lucky to have Ben’s mom here for almost a week after we got home, and my mom (and eventually my dad) came out from Oregon the following week. A joint production between Christy and Ben (who figured out the pork rub himself!), featuring delicious corn salad with the basil butter I made in July:


My mom made me lots of stuff to freeze, including a triple batch of pesto, which will keep us in pasta through the winter (I have a gallon ziplock full of little plastic containers in the freezer!). We ate some of the pesto the first night, along with more tomatoes and some leftover steak:


Now that the weather is cooling off and the CSA shares are heavy with potatoes and squash, it’s time to get back to the kitchen and dust off the oven. Now, to figure out how to cook while Tucker is demanding all my attention!

Coming soon: The epically awesome granola my mom has been making my entire life. (I have 6 bags in the freezer, aren’t you jealous?)

Welcome to the world, Tucker Flaim!

I am thrilled beyond belief to announce the birth of our son on August 20! Seven pounds, 14 ounces, 21 inches long, with pouty lips and lots of hair. His name is Thomas but we’re calling him Tucker.


We’re home from the hospital and getting to know each other at home. He is an escape artist and hates to have his arms swaddled, so we’re working on keeping him asleep! I’ll try to get back here in the relatively near future but I have a feeling I won’t be cooking much for a few weeks…


Thanks for all the well-wishes this weekend and throughout the pregnancy, all.

Aunt Kay’s Sugar and Spice cookies

This is a special one, guys. Two years ago Ben and I went to visit my wonderful great-aunt Kay, my maternal grandmother’s sister. She was 91 or so, and I was there to talk genealogy and take on the role of family historian. We spent a few hours going through photos and family trees, and when we first arrived she dashed into the kitchen and emerged bearing an enormous tray with a complete tea service and a platter of fresh cookies. I’ve never seen Ben move so fast in his life; he was over there and carrying the tray in about a second and a half. But I’ll never forget the image of her, so tiny, coming out of the kitchen with that huge heavy tray as if she weren’t rapidly approaching the century mark.

She had baked the cookies that morning, and with one whiff I knew they were the same sugar & spice cookies I grew up eating. I had recently asked my mom for the recipe but she couldn’t find it, so I asked Aunt Kay to let me copy it down.

Me with Aunt Kay (one of the many Katherines to precede me in the family tree) at that last visit:
kate kay 08_08

Though she’d been in wonderful health, Aunt Kay died unexpectedly last year at 92, and her husband of 65+ years, George, died this winter. A month or so ago I got two big boxes in the mail from one of my mom’s sisters, with my name written on the side in pencil, in Aunt Kay’s writing. She had put aside all the miscellaneous family history stuff for me—piles of photos and a crazy assortment of documents, including the bill of sale from my great-grandfather’s purchase of his shoe store. Sorting everything out is one of my urgent to-do items before the baby arrives.

After all this time, I still hadn’t made the cookies. And for some reason I’d mentioned them to Ben, who, as we’ve established, is the baker in these parts, and while I was making dinner the other night he whipped up the batter.

Recipe first:

Sugar & Spice Cookies

My Mom says this was a recipe her mother made all the time. She emailed me: “One time a neighbor who raised eggs asked Mom for a recipe for customers and they used that one, so it’s kind of famous.” My aunt says it’s a Deerfield (Old Deerfield, MA, where they grew up) recipe, in general. Either way, it’s easy and delicious; you will not believe how good these smell.

3/4 cup shortening (we used butter)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine wet ingredients (cream the butter and sugar together, then add egg and molasses).


Combine the dry ingredients and then mix into the wet batter.


This is a very sticky, stiff dough.

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

According to Aunt Kay: “Drop by teaspoons on a cookie sheet. Flatten with a fork.” I took over from Ben at this point, and followed what I thought I remembered of my mom’s method, rolling the cookies into balls and dipping them in sugar before pressing down with the fork, or not.

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

Basically, I knew my mom’s didn’t have fork ridges. Once I asked her about it, I learned that she pressed them down with a buttered, sugared glass. Ah-ha! Ridges are for peanut butter cookies in my family. I tried a few ways, and used both granulated and sparkling sugar to see which was better.

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

Bake 10-12 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK, says Aunt Kay. The cookies are very soft when they first come out, but they firm up, and you want crisp edges and chewy insides.

Granulated sugar, pressed down with fork:

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

Sparkling sugar, no pressing down:

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

Side by side:

Aunt Kay's Sugar & Spice cookies

I preferred the pressed-down ones; the thicker ones got a little overcooked on the edges before the middles set. Ben likes those better, though! So compatible.

One more photo, for the road. This is my grandparents’ wartime wedding. My mom’s parents, Tom (who I never met) and Meg, are on the left. Aunt Kay is second from the right, with my grandfather’s brother.

tom meg wedding

In the boxes I got in the mail were two letters written by my grandmother to Aunt Kay right before she got married. My grandfather wrote snotty comments in the margin in pencil. They’re a hoot; I need to transcribe (and scan) them some day.

Late dinner tonight. Time for a cookie or two…

The basics: Split pea soup

I was going to post a pasta recipe today, but the view from my window (grey skies, something between snow and rain) is one that requires soup. This is one of those recipes that I just have to post in case you don’t have a favorite already. Split pea soup is the easiest thing in the universe to cook, and cheap as anything, but so comforting and filling that it always feels like a treat to me.

When I was a kid split pea was my favorite—maybe because it was one of the rare times we ate bacon, which my mom cooked and cooled tantalizingly on the counter, and then crumbled onto each bowl. If you’ve ever lived in the Pacific Northwest you know that there is a certain kind of squelching rain that comes every so often in the winter and lasts for days on end, different from the usual misty stuff and much colder. The exact right thing on those days is to come home and smell the house full of peas and ham and bacon. Sometimes we’d have grilled cheese (rough country bread and good cheese) to dip in it, sometimes toast with butter. I always sang “Pease porridge hot” in my head and thought of “Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old” and how we never, ever let it go that long. Leftovers were always gobbled up quickly. I think Laura says the same thing about bean soup in one of the Little House books, as a matter of fact.

And take it from me, split pea soup actually is still pretty delicious cold.

This is the recipe my mom used when I was a kid, and which I still prefer. She has moved on to a Jacques Pepin recipe with herbes de provence and a bit rougher texture, but this will always be split pea soup to me:

Split Pea Soup
from James Beard

2 cups dried split peas
2 quarts water
1 meaty ham hock
2 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
1 medium yellow onion, peeled, left whole
2 cloves (stick in onion)
2 stalks celery, cut in half, cross-wise
2 carrots, peeled & cut length-wise
1 bay leaf

Spread out one cup of the split peas at a time on a cookie sheet and pick over for tiny stones or sticks. Rinse with cold water & drain.

* Put all ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer.
* Cook a couple of hours until peas are soft.
* Remove ham hock and cut off meat; set aside.
* Throw away onion with cloves, garlic, celery & bay leaf.
* Puree peas & carrots (or not if you don’t want carrots)
* Return soup to pot, add ham bits, salt & pepper to taste.
* Serve hot with cornbread.

I was low on onions, didn’t have celery and couldn’t find a bay leaf on the day I made this batch. Sure, it would be even better with the right stuff, but it was still delicious. Prepping this soup takes all of five minutes.

I was also using half yellow and half green split peas. (It was gross out and I was not making a trip to the store.) Rereading the recipe just now, I realized I never rinse the peas! Oops.


Despite its healthy appearance, this was a sadly disappointing ham hock. In fact, I have had enough trouble getting ham hocks (Whole Foods has to special order them. Honestly!) that when I found them at the normally-wonderful Savenor’s I bought four, two for the double batch I was making at the ski house, two to freeze for later. I’ve now used three of them and they have been horrible, with virtually no meat. Normally I get about a half cup of ham off the hock at the end, to chop up and put back in; these have given me just a few splinters. So weird!


(Note the tiny halved onions because all I had were little sprouting ones. Leave the onion whole, normally, which makes fishing it out far easier.)


Cooked, with ham hock and most of the carrots removed. Pre-blending. I use my immersion blender right in the pot and it gives me lovely silky soup.


Like so:


By the way, this requires quite a bit of salt and pepper at the end, especially if you don’t have a ton of ham to add back in. Keep tasting and stirring and adjusting. Hmm, it’s been a couple weeks since I made this… Time for another batch soon.

P.S. I joined Formspring, so head on over and ask me a question!

Big news: Why I wasn’t cooking

Ok, I finally feel like I can put this out there: I actually had a legitimate reason for completely flaking out, food- and blog-wise, for a couple months there. The Girl Reporter household is adding a new member this summer; we’re expecting a Flaimlet! I’m due in August, and I cannot express how repulsive food seemed for most of December-January. Also I was napping a lot.

As a matter of fact, we found out on the DAY OF our holiday party (which explains our dazed/delirious looks in the photos, despite my consumption of sparkling cider only), and that was my last real cooking effort for quite a while. Over Christmas in Oregon I indulged in such lavish delicacies as half a cup of yogurt with a bit of granola while everyone else ate beef bourguignon. And then laid still for a while. Party on! (Note to pregnant ladies: Eat, even if you aren’t hungry. Saltines did nothing for me; I needed protein. Once I added raw almonds, greek yogurt, etc. to my mid-afternoon routine life became muuuuch easier.)

Now that my appetite has come back (with a vengeance, sigh) and we’re back from a few trips, hopefully I’ll be cooking regularly again. Poor Ben had a meager diet for a while there. Meanwhile, I thought these photos were fun, juxtaposed against their summer counterparts. We were out at Crane Beach and around a pond further inland a couple weekends ago, and later I realized I had similar photos from a trip to those exact spots when everything was significantly warmer.

Crane Beach, January 31:

Crane beach, winter

Crane Beach, July 5:

Summer on the North Shore

Salt marches near Crane Beach, January 31:

Crane beach, winter

Crane beach, winter

Crane beach, winter

Looking down at the marshes, July 5:

Summer on the North Shore

Pond with the best swimming hole, January 31 (Someone kept biking around, but we couldn’t get a clear shot):


Swimming hole, July 5:

Summer on the North Shore