Entries Tagged as 'Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations'
Sometimes I think the most necessary characteristic a cook should possess is restraint — in other words, the ability to stay out of the way of something delicious. (Think summer corn, a farm-fresh egg, homemade pasta.) In this case, that rule happens to apply to food blogging as well, and the something delicious happens to be the most beautiful book I’ve seen all winter: The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book from Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen, sisters and proprietors of the celebrated Brooklyn pie shop. You might’ve heard about their award-winning signature Salted Caramel Apple Pie? (I was the dummy who suggested to my daughter last weekend “Let’s order one slice and share it.”)
So that you may never find yourself without the perfect pie to bake, the Elsen sisters’ book is organized seasonally — think Strawberry Balsamic or Pistachio Coconut Cream for spring, a Stone Fruit Streusel pie for summer. But naturally the most interesting recipes to me right now are those beauties in the fall and winter category: Salted Caramel Apple, Bourbon Pear Crumble, Brown Butter Pumpkin, Malted Chocolate Pecan, Salty Honey, and a Maple Buttermilk Custard (recipe below) that looks like it would take top honors on any Thanksgiving dessert spread. And I don’t know about you, but that’s what I’m gunning for this year.
I promised to stay out of the way of these beautiful pies and pictures! (So much for that.) Here you go: A little photographic tease… (more…)
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A few weeks ago, we got an email from a local farm saying they were now taking Thanksgiving orders for heritage turkeys. “That is awesome. Let’s do it!” Andy said. For about a millisecond, I was on board, until I remembered that when it comes to the turkey, it’s not my call to make. Andy and I have free rein to go all rogue (within reason) on the sides — adding anchovies to roasted cauliflower or oranges and mint to the cranberry sauce — but my Mom owns the turkey and gravy. If it’s going to be anything other than a 14 1/2 pound Bell & Evans bird, it’s Mom who has to sign off on it. And let’s be honest, if you own the turkey, you own the holiday. My sister hosts, my brother brings snacks and pies, my father is on wine patrol, but my mom is President and CEO.
And also Secretary. I like to think that the reason why Thanksgiving teeters on the happy side of the chaos spectrum in our house is because of my mother’s Post Feast Analysis System. Every year, on the morning after Thanksgiving, she grabs her legal pads (she’s an attorney and I don’t think she ever leaves home without them) and starts taking detailed notes on the holiday: Date, menu, number and names of attendees, temperature, who cooked what, who bought what and where, what she needs more of next year, what she needs less of, what worked, what didn’t. Naturally, I’m not nearly as fascinated by the menu as I am by the details that surround the menu. What makes her system awesome is not just that it reminds us that we ate sweet potato casserole in 2011 and 2012 — it’s the little detail that my then 9-year-old niece requested fewer pecans in the casserole next time around. It’s not just that we auditioned a new cranberry sauce last year — it’s that my then 11-year-old niece was the one in charge of spearheading it with me. (Mom was also sure to note she’s not willing to give up on her old-school sauce just yet.) Of course, I look to the notes to see how I can improve my performance next time. Last year I did a couple things right (I provided “superb” homemade stock for the gravy — which was like getting a gold star) and also a few things wrong (in the mashed potatoes department: a simple “too much”). But at least I didn’t mess up the turkey.
Here’s a sneak peak of my mom’s post-game report. Is there any question who I inherited the recording gene from?
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Last year, we devoted a lot of blog space to Thanksgiving, by Sam Sifton. And since we’re editors and writers, supposedly on the pulse of what the lastest, greatest, trendiest everything is, we should probably be featuring this year’s of-the-moment holiday cookbook. But here’s the thing: “trendy” and “of-the-moment” are not words that should EVER EVER EVER be in the same sentence as “Thanksgiving,” and we stand by our claim that Sam Sifton’s timeless, authoritative, delicious guide to our country’s greatest holiday is The Only Thanksgiving Recipe Collection You Will Ever Need. (Outside of your grandmother’s recipe box, of course — we don’t want to get anyone in trouble here). As such, we launch our “Countdown to Thanksgiving Series” with a bountiful giveaway: In the next 48 hours, five readers are eligible to win a free copy of Sifton’s Thanksgiving, and five more are eligible to have a free copy sent to whoever is cooking/hosting the feast… as a little pre-holiday pump-up and thank-you-in-advance. That’s TEN COPIES WE ARE GIVING AWAY. All you have to do is leave a comment below (we wouldn’t complain if this comment included a Thanksgiving tip) and tell me which one you are: #Host or #Guest.
Update: All winners have been notified. Congrats Josh, Betsy, Candice, Eva, Molly, Susan, Colleen F, L, Divya, Memegirl and to everyone else thanks for playing!
Related: Sam Sifton’s 1o Laws of Thanksgiving.
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Tags:sam sifton·sam sifton thanksgiving·thanksgiving·thanksgiving how to cook it well
Along with the block I live on, my memory has been getting a little cobwebby lately. Can it possibly be that I’ve written this blog for three and a half years, aka four Halloweens, and not told you about my all-time favorite tricky treat? Every year I try and fail to come up with something as simple and clever as this graveyard cake, which I first learned about from the lovably loony Clare Crespo way back when I was a magazine editor. Clare used cupcakes, but you can pull it together with any basic storebought or homemade sheet cake (Rosa’s does the trick), a dozen and a half crushed chocolate wafers (or Oreo tops and bottoms), and chocolate sprinkles. (As you can see, this project favors the artless.) Then, for the limbs, if you live in a house like mine, all it takes is one scrounge around the bottom of the toy box to uncover a treasure trove of dismembered Barbies. Happy Halloween!
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Tags:clare crespo·graveyard cake
Under the category of “Better Late than Never,” I thought I’d share our family’s Rosh Hashana menu for the evening. Quickly. So you can go get your shopping done, like, now.
As usual, it’s a group effort — I am on Salad and Side patrol. Here’s how it breaks down:
My parents: A few bottles Pinot, Challah, and Dessert which has yet to be determined, but I am pulling for Helene’s Orange-Almond Cake (which, by the way, is gluten-free)
My brother: Assorted goodies for a Cheese Plate & Chocolate Chip Cookies for the Kids
My sister: Brisket, the main event.
Me: These Fork-Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes*; a simple barley salad (like the one on page 245 of my book, maybe with feta); and the Kale and Apple salad you are looking at above. I’ve eaten this salad exactly twice: Once at my kids’ camp, which is where the recipe comes from, and once with my cousin Sicily, who liked it so much she asked me to send along the how-to soon after she left. Always a good sign.
Now, to figure out who takes care of the dog.
Kale & Apple Salad
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
squeeze of lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 bunches raw kale (preferably Tuscan/lacinato), shredded
1/2 cup celery, sliced thin
2 tart apples, cored and chopped small
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1 shallot, chopped
In a measuring cup or small jar, whisk together (or shake together) all dressing ingredients. Add remaining ingredients to a large salad bowl and toss with dressing.
PS: When I titled this “Happy New Year,” did you think I was talking about the start of the school year, which always feels more like the new year than the real new year? More posts on back-to-school very soon.)
*Update on these potatoes: What a pain to make! I pissed and moaned the whole time — smoking hot oil, fussy fork-tined ridging, etc — but they were a hit. The recipe is not for the faint-of-heart, though, be warned!
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Tags:kale and apple salad·rosh hashana menu
One of the more fun parts of my “job” is that I have an excuse to reach out to people I’ve been secretly stalking for decades. Take last month, for instance, when I met Susan Spungen for breakfast at a Union Square coffee shop. Spungen spearheaded the food section at Martha Stewart Living twenty years ago. We have her to thank for leading the team that put together the Hors D’oeuvres Handbook, which is not only my finger food bible, but the bible of caterers across America. When I heard she was coming out with a book on Entertaining – What’s a Hostess to Do? – I set up a date, and over poached eggs and shaved asparagus, downloaded her hard-won wisdom.
21 Rules for Entertaining
Culled from What’s a Hostess to Do, by Susan Spungen (and so many thousands more where these came from)
1. Less can be more. Focus on a few beautiful well-conceived, well-prepared dishes.
2. Unless it’s the holiday, in which case the key word is “bounty.” (See above.)
3. The language you use for your invitation should focus on who you do want at the party (“Join us for a grown-up dinner”) not who you don’t want (“No kids please.”)
4. For the kids — When in doubt: “Bambini Pasta,” i.e. noodles, spaghetti, penne, whatever you got — with butter and Parm.
5. Some handy math: On average, assume your guests will have 2 drinks per hour (10 guests x 2 drinks x 2 hours = 40 drinks). There are approximately 5 wine glasses per bottle. A 1-liter bottle of liquor contains enough for 32 mixed drinks. One liter of mixer will make 8 drinks.
6. The Paloma is The New Margarita.
7. [OK, disclaimer: Susan didn't exactly say that, but I did, and will continue to all summer. To make: 1/2 cup grapefruit soda (such as Mexican Jarritos or Jamaican Ting), the juice of half a lime, and 2 ounces tequila. Serve over ice with lime wedge.]
8. Centerpieces: DO use short candles, DON’T use tall or overly fragrant flowers or plants; DO decorate with short flowers or potted plants, DON’T crowd the table.
9. Scented candles? Yes, for sure, in the bathroom. On the table? Never.
10. All will be fine if Nutella is on the menu. Nutella Dessert Sandwiches: Toast thinly sliced brioche bread, spread with Nutella and dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm.
11. Three Four-Syllable Laws of Sanity Preservation when entertaining: Make it Ahead, Cook What You Know, Think Mise en Place.
12. A multitude of sins can be easily overlooked when people are basking in a warm glow: Lighting should be soft.
13. Bathroom checklist: Close the shower curtain, empty the trash. If there is no lock, make an “occupied” sign to hang on the knob. Better yet, have the kids do it.
14. Invest in a collapsible metal coatrack and never dive through a mountain of identical black wool overcoats heaped on a bed ever again.
15. Winning Cheese and Fruit Pairs for a Starter Spread: Apples + Cheddar, Quince Paste + Manchego, Figs + Gorgonzola
16. Good salumi needs little accompaniment. But no one will object if it’s next to some good bread, olives, and crisp fennel slices.
17. To make after-party cleanup less soul-crushing, always start the evening with an empty dishwasher, dish rack, trash can, and sink.
19. Yes, you can bring wine = The answer when your friends ask What Can I Bring?
20. A good party is much more than the sum of its parts. The gathering takes on a life of its own, and it almost always works out, even when it doesn’t.
21. The no-fail menu for entertaining kids and adults: Ribs, Slaw (lose the brussels in the summer), and make-ahead Ice Cream Sandwiches.
To make: For each sandwich, place a scoop of ice cream on a chocolate chip cookie (try Tate’s brand or another thin crisp cookie). Top with another cookie and press down gently. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and set in the freezer. Wrap individually after they’ve hardened, and freeze until ready to serve. (more…)
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Tags:entertaining·entertaining families·paloma cocktail recipe·susan spungen entertaining·susan spungen what's a hostess to do
I do not want another second to go by without letting you know that after years of major hint-dropping on Andy’s part — much of it public (see #65) — you’ll be happy to hear that the DALShouse is finally home to a brand new 2-speed TurboBlend Vitamix 1782. I’ll let my husband go deep on this in a few days, but I will say that every morning since unwrapping the blender for his birthday last week, Andy has entered the kitchen, assembled his fruit, yogurt, ice, and exotic juices, then flipped the switch while summoning all of us to stop what we are doing. “LISTEN TO THAT!” he’ll shout, as if we would be able to listen to anything BUT the Vitamix whinnying at full tilt. On another afternoon while Andy was at work, I texted him a picture of the apple-papaya-pineapple-ginger juice I made in the Vitamix, noting to my astonishment that it absolutely pulverized a 1-inch knob of ginger beyond recognition. His response? “Tell me more.” The point is: I nailed the birthday present this year. Not even Abby calling from upstairs “Mom! Help me bring down the blender so Daddy can open it!” could have detracted from this long-awaited moment of smoothie-phile euphoria.
Compelling though it may be, the Vitamix was not supposed to be the story here. (How did that just happen?) The story is supposed to be what we had alongside the Vitamix-engineered smoothie that morning: The beautiful sausage-egg-and-cheese biscuit you’re looking at up top. Somewhere along the way, gift opening (which is every bit as exciting for the kids when they’re not even doing the opening) started to take place during breakfast hour in our house. It’s almost like Christmas — as though they just can’t fathom waiting until the afternoon or dinner…or even til their parents are officially caffeinated to tear into the loot. Which is all fine, but it just felt wrong not to connect all this flying giftwrap and screaming to some kind of food ritual. For a weekday birthday that usually means chocolate chips tucked into toaster waffle divets, a candle sticking out of a pancake, a piece of heart-shaped toast – but God help us if the birthday falls on a weekend. The celebration automatically escalates to a bonafide sit-down affair with things like French toast and almond-spiked freshly whipped cream. Or, in last week’s case, these sausage-egg-and-cheese biscuits, which we didn’t mean to make entirely from scratch (including the sausages!) but…well, did we tell you how we feel about birthdays? (Why wouldn’t we go all out?) The best thing about the sandwich, besides how buttery and delicious it is, and besides the fact that it’s one of Andy’s most favorite morning treats? We woke up to Phoebe forming and frying the sausage patties with her own two hands. At 7:00 AM, she was already way ahead of us.
Sausage, Egg, & Cheese Biscuit
I didn’t initially set out to make my own biscuits, but when I opened the freezer and realized those Trader Joe’s frozen heat-n-serve numbers were gone, I had no choice but to search for a quick recipe. Which is tougher than it sounds when you don’t have buttermilk (and when you short-circuit at the sight of the word “knead”). The sausage recipe is adapted from one in Rozanne Gold’s Kids Cook 1-2-3 which remains our favorite children’s cookbook ever. And regarding the cheese: only drippy, fakey American will do.
For Biscuits [OR just pick up some storebought biscuits]
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease a baking sheet or line with a silpat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a fork, combine the butter and flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Slowly add the milk, stirring with a fork, to the desired consistency.
Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and gently knead just to bring the dough together. Roll out the dough about 3/4 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or sturdy glass, cut about 12 biscuits, rerolling any scraps or just smushing a few flat with your hands as I did. Place on the baking sheet. Bake the biscuits for 13 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.
For Sausage Patties:
1/2 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 small garlic clove, pressed or very finely minced
Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and mix using a fork. Using your hands, form 6 flat patties. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook until browned, about 2 minutes. Repeat on the flip side. (If patties are too thick, slice horizontally.) Freeze any leftovers.
Add butter or olive oil to a large skillet set over medium heat. Whisk together 3 eggs with a little salt and black pepper and pour into heated pan like a very large pancake. Heat until underside is cooked, about 1 minute. Try to flip all in one piece (you may need two spatulas for this) and cook the other side for an additional minute. Turn egg pancake onto a clean surface and, using the top of a glass (similar in size to the one you used for your biscuits), cut out three or four “egg discs.”
Place one sausage patty and one egg disk on a biscuit and drape a slice of American cheese on top. (You might want to trim the slice slightly.) Heat under the broiler for one minute, or until the cheese melts. Top with another biscuit.
OK, here’s a quick shot of the Vitamix in action. (“Now that’s what a smoothie should look like!”) More on this later — you can be sure of it.
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Tags:homemade sausage egg biscuit·sausage egg and cheese biscuit
I know this might sound strange, but there are few things I enjoy more than matzoh with a schmear of butter. Not just any butter. Breakstone’s Whipped Salted Butter, the brand of choice in my childhood kitchen, which may not be the best out there, but, well…that’s not quite what it’s about with this one. My daughters get equally excited about Matzoh season — Abby likes it with a hunk of cheddar, and Phoebe takes her matzoh with cream cheese and smoked trout. (Kvelling!) Anyway, for those of you planning and prepping for your Monday night Seder (or for those who are just showing up and looking for something to bring), I thought you might like a quick hit list of matzoh (and matzoh-meal) desserts for Passover:
Matzoh Almond Croccante (pictured above) an Italian take on brittle, from Bon Appetit (photo by Marcus Nilsson).
Chocolate Caramel Matzoh (aka “Matzoh Crack”) from Smitten Kitchen.
Almond Thumbprint Cookies from Gourmet
Flourless Pistachio Cake from Marcus Samuelsson. If only because it’s not flourless chocolate cake, which I’d happily retire from the Passover table for the rest of my days.
Chocolate Passover Cookies from Martha Stewart, if you want the kids to greet you like Moses.
Lastly, a DALS original: Matzoh Fritters, brought to you by my second cousin a few times removed Ronnie Fein, who is always good for a family recipe and a story. (I might also add that her latest book Hip Kosher would make a lovely host gift.) I’ll let Ronnie give you the background on these delicious fritters herself…
The best family matzo recipe was originally Lily Siegal’s chremslich (or maybe it was my grandma’s or your great grandma’s — it’s all in dispute), which are matzo fritters, made with matzo meal. And because I tinker with recipes and also because my daughter is allergic to walnuts (which were in the original recipe) I have several variations. If there is one constant dish I always make at Passover, it is this one.
Thanks, Ronnie! Happy Holidays everyone.
Ronnie’s Chremslich with Raisins and Nuts (aka Matzoh Fritters)
These can be served right from the saucepan, but they’re better if they stand for several hours or 1 to 2 days and reheated. Makes 10-12 servings.
3 large eggs, separated
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh orange or lemon peel
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup matzo meal
vegetable oil for frying
1 pound honey (approximately 1 1/3 cups)
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup nuts (pignoli or walnuts)
Beat the egg yolks, salt and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil together. Stir in the citrus peel and set aside. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites and sugar until they are glossy and stand in stiff peaks.
Fold into the yolk mixture. Fold in the matzo meal. Let stand for 30 minutes.
With wet hands, shape a walnut size ball of dough into a round about 1/2” thick.
Heat some vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Fry the rounds on both sides for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Place in a saucepan. Pour honey over the cooked rounds (to taste). Add the raisins and nuts. Cook over low heat for 5-6 minutes. Serve warm. (more…)
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Tags:matzoh brittle·passover desserts·seder desserts
There are a few boxes that have to be checked upon my family’s arrival at Andy’s parents’ beach house outside Charleston, South Carolina, and only when those boxes are checked do I feel like vacation has officially begun: I have to dig out my faded, 20-year-old floppy sunhat from the closet; I have to make sure there is vodka in the freezer, and I have to page through The Lee Bros Southern Cookbook to see what south-of-the-Mason-Dixon-Line specialty might grace our table that week. (Hoppin John? Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie? Butter Bean Pate? ) You’ve likely heard of the book which won every award there is to win in this business. It seemed like it would be the only cookbook we’d ever need in our South Carolina kitchen — until now. This month Matt Lee and Ted Lee have published The Lee Bros Charleston Kitchen. In it, the brothers drill down deep on personal and culinary histories the city that is garnering some major ink for its rock star food scene, and the city where Matt and Ted grew up. The book also, of course, contains 100 extremely special recipes. Here, Ted, one half of the team (the half that I happened to go to college with) was nice enough to share one of those recipes with the DALS community: A fresh ham for Easter. –Jenny
There’s so much talk of pork in the South these days, particularly concerning parts long considered “low-on-the-hog” that are now fashionable in restaurants: bellies, ears, trotters. These can be delicious, certainly, but here’s the challenge: you’ve got 14 people coming over for a festive Easter party. There’ll be kids, grandparents, your squeamish sister-in-law. Are you going to rock some pig’s feet? Serve hunks of quivery pork belly? Pig-ear sliders?
Let restaurants mess with the odd bits. For home cooks like us, few cuts of pork yield more deliciousness, more bang for the buck—and frankly more majesty!—than the gargantuan roast fresh ham, with its burnished cape of crisp fat and pork with the variety of doneness you need for a big party—well-done white meat, pink slices for the medium-rare crowd, and darker bits from the shank for those who like to snack.
In Charleston, where we grew up, pork of any kind was relatively scarce on dinner tables until late in the 20th century. A cured country ham might be brought back from the mountains of North Carolina (where pork was more common) on a rare occasion, but according to many Charlestonians we’ve interviewed over the years, the love for pork chops is a post-Vietnam-era thing.
The “fresh” in fresh ham simply means it’s uncured, and we’re fortunate to be able to find fresh hams in meat markets of quality (If you shop at a supermarket, you’ll be able to get fresh hams, but usually only by special order). They’ve been crucial to our eating lives in lean years (in the banker’s not the butcher’s sense of the word), and they’re so easy to make. You just cut off the skin, preserving the layer of fat, which you then score and which will render and baste the meat as the ham roasts (Your butcher can skin and score the ham for you to save time). Then you pat the ham all over with a simple seasoning blend—use your favorite; ours is a mix of thyme, rosemary, salt and black pepper. Then you roast, basting every hour, for about 3 1/2 hours (depending on the size of the ham). You’ll need to calculate resting time into your serving plans, but take care to watch over the ham as it rests—it is nigh impossible for anyone in the kitchen to resist picking off bits of crispy fat. (more…)
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Tags:charleston cookbook lee bros·charleston kitchen·easter ham·easter menu·Lee Bros Charleston Kitchen·matt lee and ted lee·Southern cookbook
A few Octobers ago, I signed up to bring two treats to the annual Halloween bake sale at school instead of one. My ambition was fueled by irrational optimism (three weeks from now will somehow be the first stretch in history that is calm and orderly) and guilt. (Usually I volunteer to bring something and to work behind the table, but the soccer schedule was not going to let that happen.) Of course, in the days leading up to the bake sale, I hadn’t given too much thought to what I was going to make, nor to where I was going to find the time to make two separate items. I knew I had ingredients for chocolate chip cookies, but what about the other item? I happened to be walking by a bakery at the time of my head-scratching, and five minutes, six dollars, and a dozen cupcakes later, I had my solution all boxed up and tied with baker’s twine.
Andy was incredulous when I got home. “You bought something for the bake sale?” he asked, not because he was some kind of from-scratch baked good Nazi, but because he couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t have just bought both of my items and called it a day. Or why I didn’t just skip the storebought and only make one item. Who would care? (more…)
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This might come as a surprise to you, but even though I am fully ensconced in my digital domain, and can, under pressure, define various website-wonky terms like “widgets” and “bounce rates” — I really know close to nothing about this world. Beyond following the #1 Law of Food Pictures (shoot in natural light), I really know nothing about photography either. I often click on the FAQ section of my favorite bloggers and tell myself This time I’m really going to pay attention to which lens they use in which scenario. I’m going to remember if my Automatic White Balance should be ON or OFF. But I never do. I’m telling you, I think I have been able to jerry-rig together a decent enough experience for readers, but in relative terms, I am a total technological cretin. Until last week, I didn’t even know how to overlay text on top of a photograph. Seriously, I had NO idea!
But a month or two ago, after someone on facebook linked to a free Photo Editing site called picmonkey, my life has totally changed. (The way I just wrote that entire set-up sounds like I am shilling for them, doesn’t it? I swear I’m not!) All those things that normal people know how to do — make photo collages, design fun invitations for birthday parties, add graphics and borders and thought bubbles — I figured out in about 30 seconds. Me. The Cretin. And pretty soon the kids were all over it, too dreaming up any excuse to upload a picture of our dog Iris and make her talk. So naturally, when it came time to think about Valentines, we spent way too much time exploring the hearts and doilies and filters you can use to make what I believe to be the world’s easiest customized cards. Especially on a day when you are SNOWED-IN and there’s not much else to do while the short ribs are bubbling down.
There are a coupla directions you could go with this. You could overlay your Valentine message on the photo like we did way up top (others in the running: “They Call it Puppy Love,” “I drool over you,” “Will someone be my Valentine? Anyone? Anyone?”), print up as many as you need, and be done with it. Or you could print a blank thought bubble and have the kids fill in personalized messages to each friend. (To print, I inserted the image in a Word Doc, copied it four times, printed, then had the kids cut them out.) You could also just download the blank-message PDFs featuring Iris that I uploaded here. It’s time Iris had her day anyway.
Click here to download a PDF of this four-Valentine template. (If people have suggestions for what Iris should be saying or thinking, feel free to enlighten. My daughter can’t get enough of them.) Warning about this Valentine you see above — the thought bubble is small so it works better for short messages. If you have a longer message, click here for the 2-Valentine PDF. To download the Valentine with the “rolled up sock” message, way up top, click here.
P.S: Last year, a bunch of you asked for a PDF of the Mad Lib Love Letters Andy and I used in our post last year. Last year, when I was still a cretin. Here you go.
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Tags:homemade valentines·valentines day kids
I realize I’m not going to win any awards from the American Heart Association with this statement, but you pretty much can’t go wrong when you make a pizza from a leftover charcuterie plate. You know — the cured meat and cheese platter you put together for your holiday party that you kept buying more for because you were positive you hadn’t ordered enough? That’s me every year for every party and last time it happened I kept picking at the leftovers whenever I opened the refrigerator (willpower in the face of charcuterie: not my strong suit), which left me feeling like the glutton of the century. This time, I wised up and made use of the treasure in one fell swoop: I chopped all my meat and cheese, dumped it on a pizza crust and served it for dinner with massive tangle of greens, which, naturally, canceled out any residual guilt.
What to do with Other Holiday-ish Leftovers:
Making a Ham for Christmas? Turn leftovers into World’s Best Pea Soup.
Making Andy’s World Famous Pork Ragu? If there’s any meat leftover, make 10-Minute Tortellini. (Could also do this with Short Ribs.)
Making a spaghetti dinner ? Be sure to make extra pasta, leave it unsauced, then go for the Spaghetti Omelet.
Leftover chicken of any kind? Shred it and add to Creamy Lemony Avgolemeno. OhBoyOhBoyOhBoy.
Leftover filet of beef? (Yeah right.) Steak Sandwiches with Gruyere, Caramelized Onions and Pickles.
There are surely some combinations of cheese and meat that work better than others, but chances are if the cheese is firm and you have some bocconcini (little mozzarella balls) in the mix, you’ll be good to go.
Olive oil, for greasing
1 16-ounce ball homemade pizza dough (or your favorite storebought) I replaced a cup of all-purpose flour with whole wheat for the one you see above.
1 1/2 cups homemade pizza sauce (or your favorite storebought)
Leftover cured meats, such as salami or prosciutto, chopped
Leftover firm cheese such as Manchego, Parmesan (grated) and or Bocconcini balls (halved)
Preheat oven to 500°F. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, grease a 17-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet with the oil. Drop your pizza dough into the center of the baking sheet, and using your fingers, press out and flatten the dough so it spreads as close as possible to all four corners. This might seem difficult, but persist — the thin crust will be worth it.
Add the sauce to dough, spreading with a spoon. Sprinkle meat on top and cover with cheese. Sprinkle meat only on one half if you want to keep part of it vegetarian-friendly. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is bubbly. If the crust is browning faster than the toppings are cooking, cover with foil and continue to bake.
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I don’t know about you, but this is the time when I suddenly look at the calendar, and then at the list of things I’ve bought for family and friends so far, and then at the list of things I still have to buy, and think, “Rut-roh.” How’s it all gonna get done? And how did I let this happen? In an effort to help make things a little easier, I thought I’d offer up a few suggestions for last-minute gifts here. Satisfaction guaranteed! – Andy
For the teacher who is dedicating him/herself, day in and day out, to the betterment of your child: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the patient cello teacher who — in just three months — has already made your life, and your ear drums, so much happier: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the soccer coach who not only volunteers her time three times a week to guru your kid, but also — true miracle — teaches her what off-sides means: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the mother-in-law who you love dearly but who could also use a little help in the expansion of repertoire department: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the 23-year-old niece, who was weaned on The Food Network and can tell her rutabaga from her kohlrabi: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the 23-year-old nephew, who still claims to hate tomatoes, prompting you to remind him — a 23 year old, grown-ass man — that pizza sauce CONTAINS TOMATOES: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the newlyweds, who want to learn how to make breaded pork chops together: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the lover of long walks, double rainbows, and three-alarm chili: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the guy who doesn’t know what else to get his girlfriend: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the wife, who is an amazing, loving mother and who works full-time and has recently begun talking about starting her own food blog: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the husband, who’s man enough to own a book called Dinner: A Love Story and who would appreciate knowing how to make a proper Manhattan: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the clueless bachelor guy, who should know better by now: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the new mom, who will relate to the chapter on new motherhood and then feel empowered and then just go off and make the Lazy Bolognese, only to be empowered further: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the desperate parents of picky eaters, who are secretly googling “can you survive on pasta alone” after the kids go to bed: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the holiday party host, who would appreciate how much cooler a present this book is when compared to another bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz in a velvet bag: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the dog lovers, who whose faces will melt upon seeing the picture on page 51: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the person who has twenty bucks positively burning a hole in her pocket: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the Powerball winner who is looking to fill some shelf space in the new, 53-room mansion she just bought: 20 copies of Dinner: A Love Story.
For the committed Buddhist who, while not needing much in the way of material possessions, could still use a copy of this book, for real: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the new homeowner who’s definitely not a Buddhist and is looking for an excuse to fire up her huge, practically virgin, seventeen burner Viking: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the lover of fine food photography: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the cookbook collector: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the principled supporter of the book industry, who holds a special place in our hearts: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the outdoorsman: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the indoorsman: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the ombudsman: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the person who has resolved to stop stuffing face with jalapeno poppers when drunk: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the amateur sleuth: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the tool-and-die man, whatever that is: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the person who, as our 9-year-old just said, “draws pictures of turtles eating tomatoes”: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the person who reads the following sentence — “This book is for anyone interested in learning how to execute a meal to be shared with someone they love and discovering how so many good, happy things can trickle down from doing so” — and thinks, Dang, dogg, that hits me right where I live: Dinner: A Love Story.
For the thoughtful gift-giver who wants to buy a book and then have the author — like, I don’t know, Jenny Rosenstrach — sign a bookplate for said book and then give it to a good friend or relative and say, “Look, I got you a signed book for Christmas!”: Dinner: A Love Story. (Email her TODAY jenny AT dinneralovestory DOT com with subject line “Bookplate Request”; after 12/20, she can’t guarantee they’ll be sent in time for Christmas.)
For our slightly less ridiculous Gift Guide, click here.
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Tags:jenny rosenstrach·jenny rosenstrach book
When you edit the essay section of a parenting magazine like I did for four years, you get used to reading a lot of stories that start with what I liked to call the “breathless” paragraph. They usually go something like this:
It’s 7:00 am and I just realized I forgot to pick up the juice boxes for my son’s classroom party, which is a problem because I need to get to work in an hour because there are 176 unanswered emails on my Blackberry, 30 of which are probably from my boss, and I haven’t even showered yet which wouldn’t be such a big deal but I haven’t washed my hair in four days because I’ve been so preoccupied with the presentation I have to give next week, and don’t even get me started on my daughter’s birthday party on Saturday which I’m pretending isn’t happening even though every single one of the 22 kindergarteners we invited is coming and…why is my cell phone in my six-year-old’s lunchbox?
You get the point, right? I understand the impulse. It’s resonant and relatable and I have written some version of that paragraph dozens of times — on this blog and elsewhere. In fact, when I logged on this morning to write this post, that’s how I wanted to frame the fact that it’s the holidays and yet somehow have not sat down for a family dinner once in six nights. (And the next few nights don’t look so promising either.) I was going to talk all about my 36-hour whirlwind business trip to Austin; about the panel discussion I needed to prepare for which translated to dinner-from-the-freezer two nights in a row; about how I promised the girls I’d make them gingerbread cookies, so made the dough on Saturday, placed it in the freezer to chill for an hour, and, yet seven days later, there it sits, still chilling. You promised! One of my daughters shouted into the phone on Wednesday night, as I worked through my missed train home. “I’m sorry. We’ll do it later this week, I promise.” When I get home, the vintage gingerbread man cookie cutter I picked up in Austin in a fit of optimism sits on the counter taunting me. My life! So messy and chaotic! So incredibly rich with mess and chaos.
The news from Newtown redefines breathless. If I learn anything from it, I hope it’s to remember what matters.
Half-Finished Gingerbread Men
adapted from Martha Stewart
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup dark-brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup molasses
Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, blend butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour. (If you are a better person than me, you will not interpret this to mean “Refrigerate until cold, about seven days later, after national news event puts things in perspective.”)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into gingerbread men with gingerbread-shaped cookie cutter. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
Bake cookies 12 to 14 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn.
Photo credit: Ali Libfeld
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Once I was half way through Alex Witchel’s All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia. With Refreshments I stopped underlining passages and moments that I wanted to remember. There were just too many. Witchel’s mother, a college professor and one of the few working moms in their 1960s suburban New Jersey neighborhood, cooked more out of obligation than joy (“Del Montes was her farmer’s market. Everything was in season, and syrup, all the time.”) but it didn’t matter. The aromas of her mom’s cooking signaled a “safe harbor” for Witchel and once she began losing her bright, spirited mother to dementia, she looked to the kitchen to reclaim her. As Witchel asks, “Is there any contract tighter than a family recipe?” We are lucky to have Witchel, a longtime repoter at The New York Times, guest-post for us today about Hanukkah memories with her mother. – Jenny
When I was growing up, I realized early that Hanukkah was a raw deal. No tree, no stocking, no cookies, no carols – and school was open, at least every weekday. Eight nights of presents were little consolation. The first and last nights were for the good ones like Candyland, or the plush, cuddly stuffed animal I had spent weeks coveting. The nights in between fizzled with unloved items like Pez dispensers or calendars for the coming year emblazoned with the name of my parents’ bank. The Hanukkah gelt, those gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins were okay, though they never lasted long enough to make much of an impression. Certainly not as long as that spinning dreydl which was such a bore it made jacks seem like an Olympic sport.
Yes, we always had latkes and they were always great. It’s hard to fry potatoes and lose.
Dinner on the first festive night was built around them; my mom usually made her brisket, which for me was the side dish to the latkes.
By the last night of Hanukkah, after a full week surveying our long faces, she rallied. Now there was sufficient distance from Thanksgiving, so she (more…)
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Welcome to Our Second Annual Family Holiday Gift Guide. And by that, we of course mean gifts for New Moms, New Dads, Seasoned Moms, Seasoned Dads, Little Ones, Big Ones, Babysitters, Carpool Helpers, School Teachers, Cello Teachers, Art Teachers, the Nice Guy Who Brews You a Badass Cup of Coffee Every Morning…and even YOU! Read carefully and you’ll see what we mean.
English Premier League Christmas Ornaments ($10 for 3-pack). You could never accuse this family of rooting for the underdog. Last year, after Chelsea won the UEFA championship — establishing it as the best club team in Europe — our resident diehard Manchester United fans began to… waver. Phoebe started wearing her Wayne Rooney jersey a little less proudly, Abby started asking to watch Drogba highlights on YouTube, and six months later, I guess you could say we’re a full-on Chelsea household now. (Like the weather, this will change again soon.) We’re making the most of it while it lasts, though, and even bought a set of these for our pals Mike and Sara up in Portland, Maine, whose three kids are true blue Chelsea fans, through-and-through. Hang these with pride, my friends. — Andy
French Press (Le Creuset, $60). When I showed this to Jenny the other day, she said, “Do you want one?” And the answer was, “Yes and no.” Yes, I want one because it’s so cool looking and I love Le Creuset and am an inveterate coffee addict; and no, I don’t want one, because we have a French press already and I can’t really justify spending money for another one. But I am going to buy it for a friend or relative who loves coffee and I am going to secretly look forward to the day when our current, perfectly functional — functional: therein lies the problem — french press, I don’t know, maybe falls off the counter and shatters or is gravely wounded in the dishwasher. At which point: Yes. I want one. In cherry (pictured above). – Andy
Animal Stacking Game (Haba, $20). When the girls were little, playing board games with them was always one of those milestones I was excited to hit. Until we hit it…and I found myself spending long swaths of winter afternoons wandering through Gumdrop Mountains and Peppermint Forest, dying the slow painful death that is CandyLand. (Let’s not even discuss Pretty Pretty Princess.) But when this stacking game came into my life, things changed. Though still simple enough for 3-year-olds (you take turns stacking animals until it tumbles over), I found it to be actually calming, plus it didn’t take up an entire shelf in the toy “closet” (read: floor), it exercised my kids’ (and my) as-yet-developed patience muscles, and was the game that promised brighter skies of Monopoly, Mancala, and Apples to Apples ahead. (PS: And this was a major hit with my puzzle-minded 5-year-old nephew.) –Jenny
McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil ($24 for 375 ml — about 12 ounces) When I strike it rich with this blog that I write for free, no Porsches for me. Just garages filled with cases and cases of this olive oil, made in Petaluma, California and renowned for its bright, peppery finish. There is olive oil for browning your chicken breasts and tossing with your potatoes before roasting; there is olive oil that you use sparingly, to whisk into vinaigrettes or drizzle atop soups and pastas. And then there is McEvoy Ranch. Which is not only all that, but also the perfect gift for your party host or daughter’s piano teacher or friend or person you like very much, who knows a little something about the finer things. I’ve only ever used the traditional blend, but I can’t imagine you could go wrong with their Olio Nuovo, made from just-harvested olives, or anything else they sell for that matter. –Jenny
Pure Komachi Chef’s Knife ($10). We own a fleet of Wusthof knives that have served us well since we registered for them fifteen years ago. We have some wood-handled Forschners that our Uncle Mike gave us which, in a matter of seconds, can render a head of cabbage helpless. Last year, for Christmas I bought Andy a New West Knifeworks Fusionwood 8-incher, and when he first removed the thing from its red leather sheath, he looked like a Samurai warrior. In other words, we are pretty well-endowed in the blade department. Which is why it’s all the more strange that when I’m about to embark on chop-heavy meal prep, I get thoroughly depressed if my six-and-a-half-inch Pure Komachi carbon stainless steel chef’s knife, which we picked up a year ago as an impulse buy for TEN BUCKS, is in the dishwasher — or, more likely, has been co-opted by Andy. The Komachi — light, sharp, and seemingly molded to the exact specifications of my right hand — came in fun colors like pink, (more…)
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Tags:dinner a love story holiday gift guide·family gift guide·gift guide for kids·holiday gift guide 2012
You guys have been very good to us this year. You’ve read my book, you’ve written the most thoughtful letters, you’ve spread the DALS word to your friends, you’ve trusted me with your own treasured family recipes. As a token of our gratitude, and in honor of the holidays, we are happy to re-offer a free copy of 121 Books to the DALS community. For those of you who weren’t able to download this back in the spring, 121 Books is a stunningly designed* collection of special children’s books that have seen us through the first decade of bedtime-storying, road-tripping, read-to-the-class-ing, and beyond. It features book recommendations from Daniel Handler, David Sedaris, John J. Sullivan, Pseudonymous Bosch, and George Saunders among many other literary lights, and all you have to do to own it is click on the link below. Please, for full glorious effect, try to print it out in color. And also, please please spread joy! Send this link to anyone you know who might need some help picking good books for holiday gifts this year. The offer is good for all of December.
Fine print? There is none! Though, OK, we do have to admit that this is a naked attempt to convince you to buy books for your kids and friends and, in general, to support the book industry, which is, of course, the industry that supports us. And hey! As long as you are browsing the shelves? I have a book you might like to grab on your way out. But no pressure. Or at least very little pressure.
Click here to download your free copy of “121 Books”
*Cover and interior design by Chelsea Cardinal.
Happy Holidays from the DALS team.
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Wherever you are, however you celebrate, be safe, give thanks, and don’t forget the leftover sandwich.
Happy Thanksgiving from Team DALS!
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