Entries from January 2011
I have a good friend named Joel. Joel has a father named Jake. (Joel also has a mother, a sister, and two brothers whose names, I swear, all begin with “J”*. But that’s another story for another day.) Jake lives Upstate. I’ve never actually met Jake, though meeting him, at this point, is a mere technicality. And that’s because Jake gave me — via Joel — a gift whose worth cannot be underestimated: Jake gave me the Manhattan.
Jake, from what I understand, is a man who knows from cocktails. For years, he and his wife ran a small liquor store, now closed, on a forgotten block in downtown Syracuse; for years, under the perma-gray skies and five-foot snow drifts of central New York, he manned the register, stocked the shelves, and dropped countless tall boys and bottles of Popov into countless brown paper bags; and for years, he ended each long day with a Manhattan. (“On the rocks,” says Joel. “Canadian Club. Occasionally Black Velvet. Every night.”) Now, here’s the messed up part: when Joel told me this one day after work, as we sat and bitched about our jobs at a bar across the street from our office — in Manhattan, no less! – I didn’t know what a Manhattan was. I had never tasted one, didn’t even know what was in it. Wasn’t it some kind of variation on the martini? Was there brandy in it? Didn’t it involve the ever-mysterious Drambuie? When I fessed up about my ignorance, Joel thought I was kidding.
He ordered me a Manhattan. (more…)
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Tags:Manhattan cocktail recipe·winter cocktail·winter cocktail recipe
From the Mail Bag! Reader Robin writes:
I don’t know if you get tired of people telling you stories about your site, but I had to share this one with you:
I made the Belgian Beef Stew tonight. As I was finishing it up the girls came in to the kitchen and were grumbling things like, “GROSS…I AM NOT GOING TO EAT THAT! That looks disgusting! Why didn’t you ask me what I wanted for dinner?” etc, etc.
So I said, “I actually made this dinner because the woman that wrote the recipe made it for her 7 & 8 year old daughters. And they loved it. There is a grown-up version and a kid’s version. I showed them the picture of the two plates from your post.
It worked like a charm. We happily all ate dinner without one complaint!
Couple things about this one. For starters, I never ever ever ever get tired of people telling me stories like this! Ever! So please send yours. Next, it reminded me of my friend Sue telling me a while back how much comfort she got from seeing our dinner plates laid out split-screen style, which is to say, laid out truthfully. Lastly, it reminded the old point-and-cook strategy — showing kids what a new meal is going to look like before springing it on them — and how most of the time it really works. So follow Robin’s lead and show them the beef stew — or this one, a super simple pot roasty number that is just right for a winter weekend. (more…)
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Tags:braised beef·pot roast recipe·sunday dinner
I don’t know how to even start an entry like this. This is Liam, 6, who died on Monday. I never met him. I met his mother, the unstoppable Gretchen Holt Witt, when I worked at Real Simple. She worked at Oxo (she still does) and our paths crossed on a bunch of stories there and a few years later at Cookie. When Liam was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma in 2007, she decided to hold a gigantic bake sale to raise money for pediatric cancer research. And by gigantic I mean gigantic: 96,000 cookies, $400,000. Four hundred thousand dollars! And that was only the beginning — that bake sale turned into the astounding Cookies for Kids Cancer organization, which helps parents organize bake sales around the country so we can all do our part to help children like Prince Liam the Brave, as he came to be known. The goal is to hit 10 million dollars this year in his honor. Please, if you have a moment, take a second to donate, or, better yet, organize a bake sale in your neighborhood in Liam’s name.
Local friends: If you have any baking skills (or even if you don’t) and would like to get involved in my bake sale (April 9 at the Farmer’s Market) please get in touch. Non-local friends, if you have a go-to bake sale item that you know for a fact will sell like crazy, please enlighten.
Thank you all for listening.
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One of my biggest pet peeves about a lot of recipes and cookbooks supposedly geared towards families, is the multiple appearances by this sentence: “And your kids will love it, too!” It is usually tacked on to the end of a recipe intro as though the phrase alone will make the scrumptious looking Crab and Kale Cakes (with Rouille!) magically appealing to your children. I always want to ask, How do you know this exactly?? Have you ever met my kid? Have you ever met my neighbor’s son who subsisted solely on oil-cured black-olives for the entire third year of his life? When I started Dinner: A Love Story, I made a vow to myself — having, of course, written this same sentence several times before in my various magazine jobs: I would never presume any other kid likes something that my kid likes or pretend to understand the way kids palates are programmed. I would merely write about the foods that my kids eat and hope that this would inspire parents to experiment at their own dinner tables. I would never ever write “And your kids will love it, too!” I promise!
But now, I’m afraid, I’m going to have to break this promise. Because, really, I have yet to meet a kid that doesn’t at least tolerate these French fries, or as they’re known in our house, these “Mega Fries.” I realize this is not such a giant risk to take — even if they are a somewhat healthy version of French fries, they are, after all, still French fries. But then again, my daughter does not like pasta, which is every bit as universally loved as a fry. And my nephew doesn’t like pizza. And last weekend, Phoebe’s friend, who won’t drink a glass of orange juice, took a big spoonful of fermented beans at the Korean restaurant — I think that’s what they were — even though she didn’t have any idea what they were.
Ok, forget it. I give up. I have no idea if your kid will love these. But it’s certainly worth a shot. (more…)
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Tags:healthy french fries·homemade french fries
Spoiler alert: If you come over to our house for dinner any time between now and the first day of spring, there’s about a 90% chance we’re going to cook this for you. The pork shoulder ragu you see above is our new obsession. It’s the ideal dish for Sunday dinner, or even better, an informal winter dinner party: It’s warm, it’s hearty, it smells insanely good, it goes well with red wine, and my God, is it tasty. But none of those are the main reason we’re so obsessed with this right now — no, the best part of this one is that, once the guests arrive, your work is already done. All the prep — what little of it there was — is four hours ago, a distant memory. Which is increasingly the way we like it. It seems like the older we get, and the more cooking we do, the simpler we want our entertaining to be. For sure, there was a day when we would have spent the afternoon, Martha-style, frantically scooping out little cucumber cups with a mellon-baller and filling them with creme fraiche and topping them with smoked salmon and dainty sprigs of dill, when we would have been stirring (and stirring) risotto and mandolining three different kinds of potatoes and being distracted, instead of hanging out with our guests. But then kids happened, and our tastes changed, and those days are gone. These days, I love nothing more than a one-pot meal — I am a braising machine! — and this really basic pork ragu over pasta is where our heads are at right now. It’s an instant party: you just take it out of the oven, shred the pork, boil some pasta, and you’re done. If the kids don’t like pork, they can eat the pasta; if they do like pork, then I love them, and there’s still plenty for everybody. Though I should add that, as good as this is on a cold winter night, it’s even better for lunch the next day. If it weren’t for a little thing known as coronary heart disease, I would eat this every day for the rest of my life. –Andy (more…)
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Tags:entertaining families·family entertaining ideas·one dish dinner·pasta for family dinner·pork shoulder ragu
But before we get to that news, a little wind-up.
About five or six years ago, when Andy and I were still in the toddler trenches — hovering, floor-timing, being awake a full four hours before “starting” our workdays in the office — I asked my coworker Tom, a father of two middle-school aged kids, if I was going to be this tired for the rest of my life. No, he told me. It all turns around at about age 6, when they can make their own breakfast. When you don’t have to wake up with them to pour the juice and toast their bagels. When they can scroll through the DVR offerings and select Sponge Bob for themselves. This was an unimaginable concept to me and one I wasn’t entirely sure was in the cards for us. I had the same thought that I had a few years earlier, when Phoebe hadn’t hit her “pincer grasp” milestone: Am I going to be the one parent in the history of child-rearing that doesn’t figure all this stuff out? (It’s a fine line between exhaustion and paranoia.)
Not long after this conversation I hit a more memorable milestone than the one Tom described. It was one of my Fridays off and I was playing with the girls (who were just about 3 and 4) in Abby’s room. The two of them had locked into a pretend game with their new pirate ship and I had a radical thought: What if I left the room, went (more…)
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Tags:dinner a love story blog·dinner a love story book·jenny rosenstrach·jenny rosenstrach book
Phoebe proclaimed last Sunday her best day ever. It began with knocking around some tennis balls, segued into an indoor soccer clinic, then ended with lamb chops for dinner. And other than the moment of punch-in-the-gut sticker shock at the butcher (almost $40 for eight double-cut chops!!), Mom would have to agree. This is about as simple as it gets.
Grilled Lamb Chops
Bring chops to room temperature and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Heat a stovetop grill or a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Cook turning fairly frequently, for a total of 10-12 minutes. (Note: Andy prefers single-cut because they take 6-8 minutes max and are more tender.) (more…)
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Tags:grilled lamb chops·lamb chops·quinoa recipe ideas·quinoa salad
A few months ago, I got this email from reader Rebecca:
“I have no idea what to give to new parents or the bereaved–you know, those occasions in life when a casserole is all but mandatory. I want so badly to show that I care by offering simple nourishment, and all I have in my repertoire are a tired lasagna or straight-out-of-the-1950′s tuna-noodle casserole, which I’m almost embarrassed to offer to friends with even a moderately discriminating palate. Do you have any recipes that can be thrown in the oven for an easy dinner during life’s transitions, but are fresh, modern and tasty enough that I can feel proud to offer them to friends?”
I get this question all the time, and it’s taken me this long to respond because I have been stuck in the lasagna rut, too. Until the other night, when I was flipping through my second favorite quick meal cookbook*, Great Food Fast. I was looking for something to bring over to my friend and mother-of-three Teresa, who is recovering from back surgery, and came upon a recipe for Tortilla Pie. By merely plating it in a beautiful pie dish (and not my grease-streaked Pyrex baking dish) it was transformed into a modern, tasty upgrade from the more tired Mexican lasagna. I made it for my own family last weekend (the “A” is for “Abby,” since her wedge of the pie was not to include black beans. Another option: “A for Are you kidding me?”) and man oh man was it spirit-lifting, aka delicious.
Another thought: Time for Dinner owners might want to try the “personal pan” lasagna recipes on page 166 in this situation. (Easy to customize for kids, since they are crafted out of ravioli, so can be made with half cheese, half…pumpkin?)
Please comment below or on the DALS facebook page if you have a go-to Show-You-Care Casserole. I think we can all use these.
*You didn’t really just wonder which one was my first favorite, did you? (more…)
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Tags:chicken tortilla pie·consolation casserole·family casserole ideas·what to cook for bereaved·what to cook for new baby
I can’t remember ever making this Official Family Policy, but Jenny and I are completely powerless against a kid — our kid — who asks us to buy her a book. (Full disclosure: We love books and are happy to encourage as much reading as possible in our house, but if we’re honest, there’s also an element of self-preservation at work here. I’m in the book business as an editor, and Jenny is in the book business as a writer, and I guess we see this as doing our part to keep the ol’ boat afloat.) I’m not about to revoke this policy, but I can’t pretend it doesn’t have its drawbacks, either: It isn’t cheap with Phoebe around. Her graphic novel and comic book obsession continues apace, and now seems to be infecting her little sister, Abby. We’ve spent many dinners lately — and many car trips, including one to Virginia over the holidays where Abby was so deeply immersed that she ended up actually puking on the book — talking about Raina Telgemeir’s latest book, Smile. The girls seem to connect to this one on some primal level –in no small part because they’ve both racked up crushing dental bills in the past month, and this seems to offer some measure of comfort. We’ll be ordering Raina’s other books within the week, I’m sure. (You’re welcome, Amazon. I could have paid for a semester at Bennington with all the one-clicking I’ve done in the past few years.)
We couldn’t vet all of the following books on our own — I haven’t read a word of some of them, as Phoebe is impossible to keep up with and I have, you know, a life — so it only seems fair to cede the floor to the third grader herself (with some help from her second grade sister, Abby), and let them tell you why they like them. Rankings are from 1 (not good) to 10 (the best ever). I suspect there’s some grade inflation at work here, as always, but these kids are enthusiasts. What can we say?
Smile by Raina Telgemeir ”This is a true story about a girl named Raina who has an overbite and a little bit of gum damage and she knocks her permanent two front teeth out. She goes through a lot of trouble at the dentist and her friends make fun of her. It takes place a long time ago, when the author was little. In the book, she’s in sixth grade. Boys might like this, but it depends on their style.”
Phoebe rating: 10.
Abby rating: 11 (And, yes, that’s out of 10. As Abby says, “I love it because I’m lucky not to have that tooth accident.” This coming from someone who had two molars yanked yesterday.)
Parents note: We realized before it was too late (Abby had already devoured the book 3 times) that there was a page or two of teen talk (body changes, boy crazy girls, etc) that might have been confusing and maybe a tad inappropriate for a seven-year-old. So just be warned.
Lunch Lady by Jarrett J. Krosoczka: “I totally grew out of this last year. But I liked this series. It’s about a lunch lady who is really a superhero but she pretends to be a lunch lady. She has all kinds of cool gadgets and an assistant who makes the gadgets and will go in disguise so she can distract the person they’re fighting. Is it funny? No, not very. But you always want to know what’s happening next. Boys might like it. It’s probably good for seven year olds. On the back of each book, it says, ‘Serving Justice and Serving Lunch.’”
Phoebe rating: 7. (more…)
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Tags:best comic books for kids·comic books·graphic novels for kids
How did we celebrate our re-entry into the meat world? With a classic roast chicken dinner. (Oh, and there also might have been a bite or two or five of roasted pork at Roberta’s the other day.) We ate the chicken last night, which was Thursday, which is also known in our house as “Big Fat Nothing Day.” No activities, no mom going to work. No scheduled plans. So I could take my time in the kitchen, and in the end, our dinner felt more like one we’d eat on Sunday. Which was a really nice way to head into the long weekend. (more…)
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Tags:roast chicken·roast chicken dinner·sunday family dinner
Is it bad that crazy mom du jour Amy Chua‘s children are playing at Carnegie Hall, but my heart swelled with pride watching my daughter reach across the cafe table to try a bite of my husband’s smoked salmon breakfast sandwich? And then proceeded to swoon? And then proceeded to ask for it in her lunch, which means occasionally we can send her to school with — get this! — something that is not a turkey sandwich. No reason this sandwich (a whole wheat English muffin topped with dill cream cheese, cucumbers, smoked salmon) can’t join the ranks of Sandwiches for Dinner either.
Note to Rivertowners: The sandwich was inspired by the far superior version on artisanal rye, made by Avi at the Hastings Station Cafe.
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In case you missed it earlier this week, I was working on my newsletter (which I promise is starting up soon) and asked DALS facebook friends for some feedback. I wanted to know which DALS recipes make regular appearances at their dinner tables. I was not surprised that the Six Kid Crowd-Pleaser and Tony’s Steak took the lead, but was delighted to read about a few dark horses, like pork chops with kale, and chicken with brussels sprouts and bacon, and…even the storied Dark & Stormy. Anyway, just wanted to make sure you all saw the list as you craft your shopping lists for next week.
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As promised, DALS soon-to-be world-famous “Make Dinner Not War” bumper stickers are officially on sale today! Buy them for your friends, buy them for your fundraisers, buy them for your families. But most important — buy into the message! Make Dinner!
What people are saying about the official Dinner: A Love Story bumper sticker:
“Everywhere I drive, people stop me in the middle of the street to ask me where I bought mine!” — Elena, San Francisco
“It’s on my refrigerator and always provides a great conversation starter for dinner guests!” — Caroline, Brooklyn
“Does this make me gay?” – Dick C., Wyoming
Bumper stickers cost $4 (which includes shipping). Allow 2-4 weeks for delivery.
Get your stickers right here:
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Tags:make dinner not war·make dinner not war bumper sticker
Have you guys found the recipe for sushi rice on page 165 of the cookbook yet? And have you found the recipe for the salmon teriyaki in the “restaurant replication” section (p. 112)? I have! And that’s what was for dinner last night — a combo of the two: Rice bowl with Salmon, and crumbled on top: those Trader Joe’s dried seaweed chips which have inexplicably become Abby’s new fairy dust. Put it on anything and dinner goes down the hatch. (Ketchup? So 2010!) I served with Andy’s favorite side dish from when he was a kid– a halved avocado filled with ginger dressing. Only at his childhood dinner table, I believe the dressing of choice was Wishbone Italian.
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Tags:salmon recipe for kids·salmon recipes·Time for Dinner cookbook
I have two fall-back meals that I can always count on when my imagination fails me: There are my tacos (quick shrimp, or shredded pork) and there’s my risotto. Risotto, sadly, has gotten a bad rap because it requires you to hover and be attentive for the entire time you are cooking. (Sound like someone else you know? Who is possibly hanging on your apron as you read this?) In my opinion, though, this flaw is cancelled out by the fact that risotto falls in the hard-to-screw-up category (along with that braised pork loin I wrote about last month) and can be open to interpretation as soon as you nail the fundamentals of its preparation. Not to mention the fact that having a stash of leftovers in the fridge is money in the bank for dinner the next night, too, in the form of golden, crispy, melty-cheesy risotto cakes. My suggestion: Save your apron-hanger’s dedicated screen time til dinner prep hour then turn on one episode of The Backyardigans while you stir the rice and get Zen.
I was so happy when Trader Joe’s started selling organic string cheese. We always have a stash of them in the fridge, which came in handy on risotto cake night. (more…)
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Tags:risotto cakes·risotto recipe·vegetarian family dinner·vegetarian recipes for kids
We took our tree down on New Year’s Day. It was a Saturday and my brother was visiting, so we chatted with him the whole time we were dismantling the spray-painted macaroni ornaments and star garlands, and maybe for a minute or two might have fooled ourselves into thinking we weren’t doing what we were doing. What is it that is so depressing about taking down the tree? Is it because all you can think of while you are doing it is the seemingly short time ago that you were erecting it, hot chocolates on the table, Frank Sinatra crooning carols on the iPod, a whole glorious week of vacation ahead of you? But arguably, I think what can be more depressing than dismantling the tree is not dismantling it. In my mind, a tree up past January 1 is like having ice pops for dessert on a ski trip: sad and wrong.
We are a bit less ruthless in our disposal of holiday cards — mostly because it is hard for me to come to terms with the fact that the discarded photographs of my friends’ children are sitting in the recycling bin with a broken down box of Trader Joe’s Multigrain Pancake Mix. So the cards get a stay of execution for a little while and take on a new life in the form of these “skewer puppets.” The girls and I cut out silhouettes of a few kids (and pets if we’re lucky) then tape a wooden skewer (popsicle sticks work, too) to the back so the sharp point is covered with tape. Then the girls get to put on a puppet show with some old and new friends — like the children of our college pals who they’ve never met and who may be shocked by the sight of their butchered up cards. Sorry Brian and Beth!
(P.S. Remember Christina’s cool annual ritual? She turned cut-up holiday cards into placemats.)
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This could not be easier. Well, that’s not true. It could not be easier for most families. But since I still have a 47-inch pasta-hater in my house, this under-30-minute, 2-pot dinner is….OK, hold on. Can I just vent here for a second? How it is even physically possible to dislike pasta? Especially when you regularly enjoy things like raw oysters on the half shell and duck curry that is so spicy even mom can’t eat it. How does this happen? Will someone please enlighten? (more…)
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Tags:easy pasta dinners·healthy pasta recipes·pasta recipes for kids·vegetarian recipes for kids
Careful readers may have picked up in yesterday’s post that we have decided to cut back on meat for at least the first two weeks of January in our house. (I say “at least” because secretly I really want to do it for the whole month, but to the girls, that’s like saying to them that they won’t eat a burger for 100 years.) It wasn’t that this holiday season was so much more indulgent than any others — though there was that party with the giant pig’s leg that might as well still have had the hoof on it — it’s just that limiting meat is sometimes the easiest way for me to feel healthy and inspired about cooking again. I know this sounds strange, but when I leave meat out of the equation, it forces me flex other culinary muscles a bit more. I have to work a little harder to make things taste good and usually I end up discovering some random ingredient like, say, tamarind paste that I can’t believe I’ve lived almost four decades without. (Also, invariably, I end up eating too much coconut and avocado.)
As always, there are exceptions to our rules. We will eat fish. And if we are served meat at someone’s house, we would never for one second breathe word of our challenge to a single soul present. Oh, and there’s the lunch packing. As we all know, this endeavor is brutal enough already without worrying about restrictions, so we’re green-lighting the turkey sandwiches. So far, so good. As mentioned yesterday, we launched the year with Bon App’s cover recipe (replacing the chicken with shrimp); then Night Two we went with this basic mushroom and onion pizza. I experimented a bit with the whole wheat flour in our trusty Jim Lahey crust, and we couldn’t believe how good it was. As usual, the girls drew a line down the center of the dough with a knife and chose to adorn their side with marinara and mozz. Which was just fine with us. (more…)
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Tags:mushroom onion pizza·mushroom pizza·pizza recipes for kids·vegetarian pizza·whole wheat pizza crust