Entries Tagged as 'Uncategorized'

Neat Trick

July 21st, 2014 · 5 Comments · Picky Eating, Uncategorized

Last week I was driving with my best friend — Leonard Lopate, obviously — whose guests were two parenting podcasters: Dan Pashman, host of “The Sporkful,” and Hillary Frank, host of “The Longest Shortest Time.” They were discussing “Raising Adventurous Eaters,” and had some good advice for parents of picky eaters — I’m happy to report that family dinner and the idea of repeated exposure came up a few times. But my favorite moment in the radio segment occurred at the end, when a listener called in to share how she raised her kids to love vegetables — specifically peppers. It sounds like her children are all grown now, but she still could not mask her delight when she told Lopate and his panel that the way she got her kids to eat bell peppers was by asking them to close their eyes before eating one, then seeing if they could correctly identify the color — red, green, or yellow? As her kids tested, they tasted, as they tasted they got their daily intake. I thought this was pretty hilarious — and I couldn’t help but think of endless options for riffing, especially now that the farmer’s market is exploding with crazy varieties of just about every vegetable. Carrots: Orange, red, or white? Tomatoes: yellow, red, green? Beans: purple or green? Eggplant: Purple or white? Beets: Red, orange, striped, golden? I could go on. I’m sure you could, too.

Anyway, thanks for the tip, Sidney* from New Jersey, whoever you are!

Related: 44 Things We’ve Told Our Kids to Get Them to Eat

Related, Oldie but Goodie: Can you tell the difference between white wine from red wine when blindfolded? Don’t be so sure. (And don’t do this one with the kids.)

*I think that was your name. Forgive me, I didn’t re-listen.

Photo: Edible Cape Cod

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Bringing Vacation Home

July 15th, 2014 · 37 Comments · Travel, Uncategorized

We don’t even know where to start with this one. We have just returned from a two-week vacation in Alaska, and the prospect of adequately capturing the magic of the experience seems about as overwhelming as the state itself. You know that feeling you get when you’re on vacation, the one where you just keep looking around and thinking “How can I get more of this into my life at home?” Well multiply that by a thousand and you’ll get a taste of what we’re dealing with. Even though Alaska is now 4500 miles away and almost a full week behind us, we are still living on (and, in the case of our gravlax and halibut) dining on the memories.

We were lucky enough to be staying with our friends Jenny and Dan in and around Homer, a five-hour drive from Anchorage. (Dan is the man behind The Talent Code blog and book empire, and a big DALS favorite, as longtime readers know.) They have four kids and roughly seventeen thousand friends, so visiting them was like being folded into a giant family reunion, complete with glacier hikes, midnight beach picnics (it never gets dark in a Homer summer), and a weekend at the family camp, which was a long boat ride away, and the scene of, among other things, an epic Fourth of July party worthy of an entire post — no, an entire blog – in its own right. Actually, it would be easy to devote every DALS post for the rest of 2014 to this trip — that’s how much fun we had — but we have somehow managed to whittle it down to 21 rules, recipes, and stories from the Last Frontier. And because we don’t see our post-vacation high waning any time soon, you can be sure there will be some Alaska-inspired recipes coming down the pike later on this week as well. Trust me, you’re all in for a treat. – Jenny & Andy

21 Things We Loved and Learned in Alaska:

1. We don’t know how to do anything. People in Alaska, on the other hand, know how to do everything. And by everything, we don’t mean, like, caulk their bathtubs and install new wiper blades. We mean, like, build their houses and find water sources and install sewage systems and mill their own lumber and navigate stuff without getting lost or dead and clean fish and roast whole pigs and read tidal charts and tell edible plants from ones that will kill you and drive boats and not just fly planes but BUILD planes. (Yes, we met a guy who builds his own freakin’ planes, and he was awesome.)


2. Frosted Cherry Pop-Tarts are the perfect snack for a hike, particularly when eaten on the deserted shore of a glacial lake with bald eagles and sea planes flying overhead, and SUV-sized chunks of blue ice out there, melting slowly in the sun.

3. “There is always a lucky spot on the boat.” This is what Capt. Dan told us as we headed out to spend the afternoon fishing in the cold blue waters of Kachemak Bay. Capt. Dan is as trustworthy as they come, but we had our doubts: When you’ve got five lines in the water, how could one really be any better than the others? But sure enough, Phoebe and her new pal and fellow 12 year-old, Zoe, proceeded to spend the next two hours hauling in fish after fish — three halibut, between 15 and 20 pounds each (shown above) along with a few black cod – as the rest of us looked on. Later on this week, we’ll show you what everyone made with the day’s catch. (more…)

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Four Summer Starters

June 26th, 2014 · 24 Comments · Entertaining, Uncategorized

We have been entertaining machines lately — I think partly because it’s June (so many things to celebrate), but mostly because we bought some new furniture for the patio, and we are looking for any excuse to sit outside with one of these in hand, and hang with friends. Dinners have been your typical DALS summer standbys (grilled fish, baby back ribs, yogurt-marinated everything) but lately, we’ve gotten kind of creative with the starters. I thought I’d share a few with you.

Deviled Eggs with The Works (above) This one is ripped right from the pages of Canal House Cooks Everyday, a book that should be front and center on your cookbook shelf. (Unless you have something against simple, elegant food.) They’re deviled eggs, topped with various trimmings: roasted red peppers, smoked salmon, pickled onions, snipped chives, and bacon. (Leave a few unadorned for the kids.) You can make them ahead of time and chill in the fridge. Always key.

Potato Chips with Caviar and Creme Fraiche Now, just to be clear, caviar is not something that happens every day in our house. (We had some very special guests and the mandate going in was “We Are Leaving it All On The Field.”) But every time we eat this little starter, I start figuring out ways to justify the expense. We picked up American Caviar at Whole Foods (about $18 for a small tin — I know, ridiculous, but when you think about a hunk of Parm costing upwards of $15…well you see what I mean re: Justifying) and served them on top of plain old Kettle Chips for some high-brow/low-brow action. (more…)

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Cook One New Thing This Week

June 24th, 2014 · 11 Comments · Dinner: The Playbook, Uncategorized

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By now, everyone who officially entered the Dinner: The Playbook Challenge should have been notified about their status. Once again, thank you all for such a wonderful response. And if you weren’t one of the fifty selected, it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t play along. For those of you reading about the challenge for the first time, here is the summary, but the basic idea is to bust out of our collective dinner ruts, and cook at least three brand new meals this week. Brand new to you as a cook, and brand new to the kids as eaters.

Or, hey, just one new recipe is fine, too! Whatever you got in you!

So go ahead and pick something you’ve never tried before from my Recipe Index or my What to Cook Tonight page or just scroll down on this page for some super-summery, super-easy ideas. I’m guessing your kids are out of school (or maybe even away at camp?) so hopefully you have a little more time to get organized. (She says optimistically.) And definitely keep everyone posted with your progress on twitterinstagram and Facebook using the hashtag #DinnerPlaybook. We have quite a community out there sharing ideas already and it’s inspiring to say the least. Thanks everyone.

Dinner: The Playbook will be published in August and is available for pre-order from all the usual suspects: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.

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Picnic Chicken

June 23rd, 2014 · 25 Comments · Uncategorized

I know we are only a day or two into summer, but I can safely say that this chicken Abby is eating is going to be my go-to recipe of the season. In this particular photo, my midfielder is loving it a few hours after a 2-1 loss, but I am pretty sure she would be just as happy to maul it after a victory, or a tie, or for a quick bite before her graduation dance, or in her camp lunchbox, or for a grab-and-go snack out of the fridge after a swim, or with a group of friends for an end-of-the-year party, or in a box or with a fox, or in the dark, or in a tree…

They are so good, so good you see!

As anyone who’s read this blog knows already, we are big fans of Blue Hill Cafe at Stone Barns in Tarrytown. Any time there’s nothing to do on a weekend afternoon (or even when there are a million things to do), you will find us sitting in the courtyard there eating their homemade bologna sandwiches (topped with teeny-tiny pickled vegetables), or chopped egg salad on toast, or farro salad with vegetables, or still-warm scones and lattes and chocolate chip cookies. Everything they serve comes right from the surrounding fields, and is a study in simple, farm-fresh deliciousness. I could eat everything on the menu. And often do.

So I do not say it lightly when I say that this chicken is the main draw for us these days. It’s slightly sweet, slightly smoky, and it is perfect when served cold or room temp, which means it’s perfect for advance summer entertaining or barbecues when you’re not sure the kids are going to go for the grilled whole mackerel or duck with cherry compote that you really really want to serve the grown-ups.

The good news is that the nice folks at Blue Hill have shared the recipe with us and it looks like all that flavor comes from (surprise) a 24-hour marinade. The marinade originated and evolved with two guys from Blue Hill: Adam, the kitchen director, and Pedro, a longtime prep cook. Thanks guys! (more…)

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Friday Round-Up: World Cup Edition

June 13th, 2014 · 63 Comments · Uncategorized

Any soccer fans out there?

Any (American) people who secretly wish they could call it football instead of soccer without sounding like a weenie?

Any weeneies out there who have more than one pair of Sambas in their closet, even though they haven’t played a game of soccer in 25 years?

Any parents who spend more time than they care to admit showing their daughter youtube clips of the “25 Trickiest Goals in History” (which, unfortunately, also means spending more time than they care to admit listening to the terrible Euro dance music that always seems to accompany these highlights) when you are supposed to be helping her study for a vocab test?

Any (other) grown person out there who has watched this video more than 50 times, and still can’t believe it’s real?

Any dads who have a crush on Neymar?

Any moms who don’t have a crush on Ronaldo?

Any mom, dad, son, or daughter who intends to spend an ungodly portion of the few weeks sitting on the couch and watching the World Cup?

If you answered yes to any of the above, (more…)

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Birthday Party Burrito Bar

June 2nd, 2014 · 28 Comments · Uncategorized

Is it just me, or is it impossible to open a newspaper these days without reading about Chipotle? I know they’ve had a few setbacks lately — there was that whole executive excessive salary issue last week; and then last month when they decided to print inspirational quotes from the country’s literary lights on takeout bags and cups and didn’t include any Latino voices in there…well, that was not the best thing ever. But there’s no question they’re shaking things up a bit and challenging the status quo –I mean, think how crazy it is that your adobo-marinated chicken tacos come with a side of Malcolm Gladwell or George Saunders reading? And how about that whole “Farmed and Dangerous” series they did for Hulu earlier this year — the four-part mini series eviscerating industrial agriculture? (“It’s not about product integration it’s about values integration,” said the campaign’s producer.) It’s also no small thing that whenever we finish a soccer game out in Jersey or Long Island, the first thing my kids ask me to do from shotgun is launch my chipotle app and find the closest location, so we can celebrate their victories (or soothe their defeats) with a big-a$$ burrito bowl. In other words, I’m willing to give Chipotle a pass on their most recent troubles. I’m also crossing my fingers that no one posts a link in the comment field telling me they’re hiring two-year-olds in Bangladesh to do their sustainable farming or something like that.

OK now that all the wonky stuff is out of the way — here’s the real point of this post: Have any of you thought about a Chipotle-catered birthday party for your kids? Because until last month, it never occurred to me, even though all I do is whine about never finding any takeout party food that is as big a crowd-pleaser as pizza. (Remember that dark moment in birthday history when I served California rolls at Abby’s Japanese-themed party? And one of the poor little unsuspecting seven-year-olds actually cried?) Anyway, Phoebe went to a 12th birthday party a few weeks ago where all the celebrants got to make their own burritos, courtesy of the local Chipotle. I thought that was such cool idea. There was shredded pork, chicken, and then beans for the vegetarians. And of course, all the toppings and the cilantro-spiked rice that we love so much in our house and replicate often, along with the rest of it. The order comes with sternos, trays, serving utensils, too. It’s totally my new party move.

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A Challenge

May 28th, 2014 · 52 Comments · Uncategorized

You guys know the story about how family dinner got majorly kick-started in our house…way back yonder when the girls had to stand on stools to reach the stove…right? For those of you who don’t, a superquick refresher: To bust out of a pizza-pasta-nugget rut, we challenged ourselves to cook 30 brand new meals over the course of 30 days. It was like dinner bootcamp — we thought it might get the kids to try a few new foods, as well as re-ignite our fast-waning love of cooking. (Which is what happens when you eat pasta with butter sauce five nights a week.) It worked on both fronts, and Dinner: The Playbook out in August, will tell the long version of the story, but for now, I want to issue forth a mini challenge. A dinner bootcamp lite.

So who’s ready to bust out of a recipe rut? Or who just wants to inject a little sumpin sumpin into dinnertime again?

If that’s you, pay attention! We will be picking 50 readers and bloggers to partake in a challenge. NO! NOT A THIRTY DAY CHALLENGE! All you have to do is cook at least three meals from Dinner: The Playbook over the course of ONE week (June 22 – June 29) and share the results on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Tumblr page. (Or just call up a friend on the phone and tell her about it. I’d like that very much, too.) Whether you think the meals were successes or failures, I want to hear about them all.

Participants will receive an advance copy of Dinner: The Playbook, a coupon for Applegate products, and a $50 Target gift card to help buy groceries for a week of cooking.
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Are you man enough? Woman enough? Cook enough? (If I was, anyone is!) If so, join me!
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Update: The deadline for applying has now passed. Those selected to participate will be notified the week of June 16.

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Trend Alert: The Sneal

May 27th, 2014 · 15 Comments · Uncategorized

Toasts might be all the rage right now in cities across America (in my world it begins and ends with the salted butter and anchovy tartinette at Buvette, thanks for asking) but I can say with confidence that I’m pretty sure the whole trend actually originated in my house last spring. Yes, it’s true! For skeptics out there, I can even pinpoint the month — it was April 2013, a full month into a jam-packed spring sports schedule when practices and games began taking place exactly during the hours when we’d normally be eating dinner. I’ve weighed in with many dinner ideas for dealing with this decidedly happy problem, but after my most recent, two readers asked an excellent question that I have never addressed, namely: “Any ideas on snacks/tie- overs so [the kids] have enough energy to make through sports until the late dinner is ready?” (Thanks Melissa and Cynthia!)

The answer, Things on Toast!

Because they are not quite a snack and not quite a meal, we have lately taken to calling these toasts “sneals.” (You heard it here first!) Sneals tend to be healthy but substantial, usually vegetarian, but not always, and are generally consumed between 5:00 and 6:00. Anything after 6:00 is officially dinner. Anything before 5:00 is officially snack.

A few sneals that you might consider if you don’t think your athlete will be begging for anchovies at 5:00 on a weeknight (or, um, ever):

Avocado on Toast: Smash up a half an avocado with salt and a squeeze of lime. Spread on crusty bread and stud with grape tomatoes; Hummus on Pita: Sometimes we have homemade lying around, but that is beyond the call of duty. Hummus on Trader Joe’s whole wheat naan is Phoebe’s favorite. Add some greens and feta, and that’s my favorite; Minty Peas: Whirl a handful of thawed frozen peas with Parmesan, olive oil, mint, salt and lemon juice (note: also makes a good breakfast, I just ate the one you see on the bottom left, which I made specifically to shoot for this post); Smoked Trout and Pickled Anything: You could go crusty bread for this or you could just take two Finn Crisps, smear with a thin layer of mayo, and top with smoked trout (I get this at TJoes) and pickled cabbage (Note: MVP of my weekday lunch rotation); Peanut Butter: With bananas, with raisins, drizzled with honey, and even, to hear Bon Appetit tell it, with Sriracha. Photo on top left by Danny Kim.)

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Congratulations, By the Way

May 24th, 2014 · 322 Comments · Uncategorized

I know, right? What am I doing posting on a Saturday night – during a holiday weekend no less? Well, the truth is, last night I woke up in a hot sweat thinking that there might be someone out there who has not read Congratulations, By The Way, the book version of George Saunders’ now-famous convocation speech given last June at Syracuse University. And if that is indeed the case, I felt the need to remedy the situation immediately. I know we here at DALS tend to get hyperbolic when the subject is Saunders (author of the award-winning short-story collection Tenth of December and one of the original DALS guest-posters), but diehard readers know why. His writing is big-hearted and generous; his capacity for empathy, seemingly endless. What he regrets most in life, Saunders tells graduating seniors, are failures of kindness.

I believe that by handing Congratulations to a graduate or a friend, you are handing them not just a book, but a message, a philosophy, a worldview.

Here’s one of my favorite moments in the speech: (more…)

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Just Do It

May 20th, 2014 · 17 Comments · Uncategorized

Over the past few years, it’s safe to say that the topic of Jenny’s Fantasy Coffee Shop has come up in conversation with my friends and neighbors at least once a day every day. Even as I type this, I can feel a giant collective eye-roll from my small town on the Hudson River where I’ve lived for a decade. Oh no, is Jenny talking about her coffee shop again?

Yes, in fact I am. (Deal with it!!) I know my professional drive might seem to point in the direction of food and book-writing, but sometimes I’ll walk by an old building in town with a “For Rent” side in the window and the vision overtakes me: A Hudson-River-themed Coffee Shop Collective. My friend Todd, the lawyer, would handle all the legal issues; Brian, the architect, would design the space; my friend Liz, the art consultant, would find all the historic Hudson maps for the walls; My media friends would curate readings and book events there every Thursday night; Andy would fetishize over the coffee and the name; my daughters could work the registers after school and weekends; and I would oversee everything, all while writing my next few books from the corner table beneath the exposed brick wall. It would be like one big yuppified Richard Scarry story.

I blame Molly Wizenberg for all this dreaming. Molly, if you don’t already know, writes the blog Orangette — one of the original food blogs, and also one of the best — and wrote the book A Homemade Life about the death of her father, a bon vivant who passed along, among other things, his great enthusiasm for food. Molly’s new book, Delancey, out this month and already a New York Times bestseller, tells the story of how she and her husband, Brandon, a musician studying for his Ph.D. and enthusiast of the highest order, decided to open a pizza place in what was then their not-yet-up-and-coming neighborhood in Seattle. This plan was hatched by Brandon, and it came on the heels of several other hatched-and-abandoned plans, including but not limited to: building a boat, designing violins, opening a Bi-Rite-style ice cream store in Seattle. Recognizing a pattern and not really believing the pizza vision would ever come to pass, Molly went along with the plan, and before long they opened Delancey. It was successful enough that a few years later they opened a place next door, Essex, to handle the queue and the spillover. (more…)

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Family Travel: A Three-Point Plan

May 13th, 2014 · 10 Comments · Travel, Uncategorized

We’re not so good at doing nothing. Take the other morning, for example. There we were, the first Sunday in weeks with not a birthday party, soccer tournament, or home-improvement project in sight. It was the kind of lazy day made for sleeping in and reorganizing the sock drawer. But as soon as the coffeepot had been cleaned, we were already getting antsy.

“Put your shoes on, we’re going out.”

Kids: “Where?”

“Just trust us.”

By now they know the routine. We are not make-it-up-as-we-go kind of people—at least not when there are kids in the mix. It’s not just Sundays at home, though. It’s also on vacation, where we are convinced that the key to successful family travel—like most things involving young children—is to have some structure. Some kind of plan. A three-point plan, to be exact. With summer vacation-planning in the works, we thought we’d share.

STEP ONE: A Culture Hit
We like to start early(ish), while the energy is high, with the kind of activity that a parent might call “culturally enriching” and a kid might call “the most boring thing ever invented by anyone, ever.” The small museum works well here because (1) unlike, say, the Tate in London—and we say this with all respect—you don’t feel as though you’ve been mugged when you’re done, and (2) small museums have awesome gift shops, and kids love a gift shop. (Note: We define “culture” broadly. The Civil War battlefield at Antietam: yes. Hunting for “authentic” Messi jerseys in the Ladies’ Market in Hong Kong: possibly yes. The kids’ section at Book Passage in San Francisco: absofrigginlutely.)

STEP TWO: Something Outdoorsy
One of our friends grew up in a crazily athletic family that vacationed in Maine and would have races every morning—the entire family swimming out to some distant rock and back. We’re not that intense, but we do believe in the value of fresh air, whether it’s a 20-minute walk from our hotel to the farmers’ market or a sweaty hike through the slot canyons at Tent Rocks in New Mexico. It lifts the general mood, we find, giving us a little of the exhilaration that comes from being outside and seeing something beautiful and being reminded that the world is a lot larger than we thought.

STEP THREE: The Reward
Whether it’s lunch at a divey Mission taco stand or an absurdly priced macaron at Dalloyau in Paris, we always aim to impart to our kids a cardinal rule of travel: The best way to feel you’re part of a place is to find something delicious, and to eat it. –Jenny & Andy

This is our “Providers” column for the May travel issue of Bon Appetit. Pick up the issue for travel and food inspiration from Chicago to Paris and everywhere in between. Or head over to their site for the entire Providers archive.

Speaking of travel: Check out Joanna’s awesome family vacation round-up over on Cup of Jo.

Photo above: Block Island, ca 2009

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Friday Round-Up

May 9th, 2014 · 24 Comments · Uncategorized

What I’m into this week:

Are we facing the Death of the Mircowave?  (We don’t own one, do you?)

Who is to blame for the obesity epidemic? Fed Up, released in theaters today, goes for the jugular.

I am majorly coveting this happy patio umbrella.

Do you guys know about Mouth? They hunt down the best indie foods (think small-batch gins, artisanal coffees, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate) then group things together in gift boxes. Their selection looks divine.

Five ways to deal with dinner guests who won’t put down their phones. (Can someone please write the companion piece: How to deal with 12-year-olds who won’t put down their phones at a birthday party?)

My friend Tara — whose food photography you have no doubt drooled over many millions of times — is launching a magazine called Wild Apple, dedicated to gluten-free living. Please support her kickstarter campaign.

Local peeps: This new market looks promising! Anyone have intel on it for me?

10 Cakes for Mother’s Day (I’m all over the olive oil.)

A whole new way to think about chicken.

A little too much rang true to me here.

Is it June 6 yet? (Please do yourself a favor and read the book before you see the movie.)

Get ready for the World Cup! (And yes, I shazamed, then bought the song playing in the background.)

What to make for Mother’s Day Brunch: A Slideshow.

Lastly, my friend Marcie might be the most talented person I know. She turns vintage curtains into princess crowns for my daughters; she runs the school garden program at her kids’ elementary school; as a trained biologist, she can tell her plovers from her willers, her zooplankton from her daphnia; and legend has it that on a camping trip once, she caught and gutted a fish with her bare hands.  But all that? Child’s play compared to the projects and adventures she’s assembled for her new book This Book Was a Tree: Ideas, Adventures, and Inspiration for Rediscovering the Natrual WorldEver wonder how to make a pinhole camera out of household objects or a sundial out of a tree stump? Make felt out of a thrift shop sweater? This is your manual. Check it out! (more…)

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What I Want for Mother’s Day

April 28th, 2014 · 11 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Uncategorized

Quick one today. Bon Appetit rounded up a couple Mother’s Day gift ideas from the moms on staff and I wanted to share my pick with you. (And also hope that maybe my children come upon this post??? Hint hint.) Since I always go to the farmer’s market with a crumpled Whole Foods bag or some canvas number with a radio station’s logo on it, I think it’s high time I became properly accessorized with this classic French Market Tote, don’t you? The one shown here is from White Nest, but at the moment it looks like they only have the junior totes in stock. (I guess a lot of people are on the same page.) Here’s another option from Olive & Branch that looks pretty good. What about you guys? What’s on the wish list? Besides Dinner: A Love Story? Hint hint.

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Hurry Up and Fail Already: Lessons in Creativity

April 15th, 2014 · 8 Comments · Posts by Andy, Uncategorized

Jenny and I have written a lot about books on this blog — and more specifically, about the role books have played in our kids’ lives, the highlight reel they will summon when they’re old like us and thinking back on the things, beyond family, that added meaning to their lives. What we’ve never really talked (much) about is another part of the kid experience that would also factor into that discussion pretty prominently: Pixar movies. I can’t tell you how many times Phoebe has watched The Incredibles and Finding Nemo, and Abby has watched Toy Story 3 and Monsters Inc. — and, by extension, how many times Jenny and I have sat on the couch or in the backseat of the car, watching right along with them.

So many of our dinner conversations, over the past ten years, have centered around the question: What is your favorite Pixar movie, and why? I love these conversations because, while we’re talking about the movies themselves, we also end up talking about stuff that gets us fired up in a more cosmic way: Originality, artistic ambition, the difference between mediocre product and stuff that lasts, the fact that nobody speaks for the first 30 minutes of Wall-E, the importance of a strong central idea in any creative project, etc. The question of how people make great things — or, how art happens — is an endlessly chewy one, and it’s one that I had the good fortune to explore recently, while working on Creativity, Inc., by Pixar Co-Founder and President Ed Catmull, and Amy Wallace. In the book, Catmull mines his legendary staff for lessons about creativity — the inherent difficulty of it, the need for perseverance, the upside of fear and failure. I thought it would be fun to share a few excerpts we found inspiring, helpful reminders that anything worthwhile is hard. – Andy

Lesson 1: Fail As Fast As You Can
From: Andrew Stanton, Director, A Bug’s LifeFinding Nemo, and Wall-E

Andrew likes to say that we would all be a lot happier and more productive if we just hurried up and failed already. For him, moving quickly is a plus because it prevents him from getting stuck worrying about whether his chosen course of action is the wrong one. Instead, he favors being decisive, then forgiving yourself if your initial decision proves misguided. He likens the director’s job to that of a ship captain, out in the middle of the ocean, with a crew that’s depending on him to make land. The director’s job is to say, “Land is that way.” Maybe land actually is that way and maybe it isn’t, but if you don’t have somebody choosing a course—pointing their finger toward that spot there, on the horizon— then the ship goes nowhere. It’s not a tragedy if the leader changes her mind later and says, “Okay, it’s actually not that way, it’s this way. I was wrong. As long as you commit to a destination and drive toward it with all your might, people will accept when you correct course. People want decisiveness, but they also want honesty about when you’ve effed up. It’s a huge lesson: Include people in your problems, not just your solutions.” Other people are your allies, in other words, but that alliance takes sustained effort to build. And you should be prepared for that, not irritated by it. As Andrew says, continuing his nautical metaphor, “If you’re sailing across the ocean and your goal is to avoid weather and waves, then why the hell are you sailing? You have to embrace that sailing means that you can’t control the elements and that there will be good days and bad days and that, whatever comes, you will deal with it because your goal is to eventually get to the other side. You will not be able to control exactly how you get across. That’s the game you’ve decided to be in. If your goal is to make it easier and simpler, then don’t get in the boat.”

Lesson 2: Embrace Fear
From: Brad Bird, Director, The Incredibles and Ratatouille

There are moments, in any creative endeavor, where there is so much work to do and so little time to do it that you can’t help but feel fear. Brad knows that if he lingers too long in that frightened place, he will freak out. (more…)

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Breakfasts of State Test Champions

April 1st, 2014 · 9 Comments · Uncategorized

Not much we can do about Common Core at the moment, except make sure our State Test warriors are sent off this week with bellies full of healthy breakfasts. A few ideas for those of you in the same boat this spring:

Yogurt Parfaits – Lately we’ve been switching out the granola for Kashi 7-Whole Grain Nuggets (Kashi’s answer to Grape Nuts). Abby appreciates a good crunch.

Breakfast Cookies – Make a batch of these ahead of time and withdraw from the cookie bank all week long. {PS: Don’t tell them there’s quinoa in there.}

Fruit Smoothies – The classic. Definitely add some protein powder (or peanut butter or avocado) to give it some staying power.

Smashed Avocado on Toast - See yesterday’s post way at the bottom. I’m beginning to think there is no snack or meal problem that this does not solve  – it’s pulled its weight as a healthy afterschool snack, pre-soccer-practice not-quite-a-snack-not-quite-a-meal, quick weekend lunch, and now, as pre-State Test brain booster.

Andy’s Oatmeal with Fruit - It takes a little while to make, but the upside is enormous here. No chance anyone’s getting hungry halfway through reading comp with this in the gut.

Good luck everyone!

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The Dolly Awards

March 31st, 2014 · 22 Comments · Uncategorized

Tis the season for waterlogged soccer fields, hoops madness, the dreaded state tests… and, let’s not forget, awards! Yes, there are the James Beard Awards, the National Magazine Awards, the Saveur Food Blog Awards (love those nominees!) but anyone who’s anyone knows that the most coveted prize of all is right here on Dinner: A Love Story. Presenting the Fourth Annual Dolly Awards, brought to you by the highly subjective, way-to0-excitable, two-person panel of DALS.

Best Jarred Sauce: Marcella Hazan’s
Given how simple it is to make, no house should ever be without a jar of Marcella Hazan’s famous three-ingredient tomato sauce (butter + tomatoes + whole onion) in the fridge. Especially my house, considering that Abby, connoisseur of all pasta with tomato sauce, would award it the hands-down Grand Prize Winner, if not a Nobel Peace Prize. The sauce is silky, luxurious, and clings to the pasta the way sauce should cling to pasta, which is I guess what happens when one of the three main ingredients is an enormous chunk of butter. Best of all, the entire recipe is basically one step: Dump everything in a pot and simmer. -Jenny

Best Kids’ Cookbook of the Moment: Fanny at Chez Panisse
It was a long winter. I’ve made a vow not to complain about it anymore. (See?) What I am going to do, though, is mention how many cold mornings I have woken up these past few weeks to the smell of something baking or frying, thanks to Phoebe’s discovery of Fanny at Chez Panisse. We’ve had this book on the shelves forever, but Phoebe has only recently discovered how simple and perfect each recipe is — not surprising given that it was written by Alice Waters’ daughter Fanny back in 1992. Among the many things Phoebe (and Fanny) have treated us to: Pooris with cucumber raita, corn bread, the buttery biscuits that you see above. Next up: 1-2-3-4 cake, so named because people used to remember the first few ingredients without writing it down (1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, etc.). Note: It makes a great birthday gift for a six-, seven-, eight-year-old junior chef.

Best Host Gift: Jacques Torres Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies
When our friends John and Shiv came to visit us over the holidays last year, they brought their two kids, a lot of luggage, and a cooler filled with road trip snacks, wine, and — much to my curiosity — a foil-wrapped log of…what? “Dessert,” John said. He proceeded to unwrap the foil to reveal pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough from a Jacques Torres recipe that he claimed was the best out there. I wasn’t going to argue with him. During dinner, John excused himself, sliced up the dough, baked the cookies, and we all finished the meal with a warm, gooey, perfect-cakey-to-crispy-ratioed chocolate chip cookie and milk. They will be invited back. (Photo: Crepes of Wrath.-Jenny

Best Leftover Trick: Put an Egg on It
Last year, I heard Amanda Hesser speak on a panel with Deb Perelman and Luisa Weiss (#dreamteam) and when someone in the audience asked each for their go-to dinner, Hesser’s answer was “Whatever’s leftover with an egg on it.” Sadly, I can’t fall back on this move for dinner (egg-haters, etc etc), but it’s my go-to move on for lunch at least a few times a week. Above is some leftover farro with steamed asparagus, Sriracha, and a poached egg. -Jenny (more…)

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Abby’s Famous Swiss Chard (with a Side of Steak)

March 24th, 2014 · 22 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized

Guest-post from 10-year-old Abby:

I am so sick of kale. Good thing I taught my family to like chard with this world famous dish. Well not world famous, but famous in my house.

I love chard. The second I saw the rainbow-colored stems at farm camp growing in a garden with beautiful fluffy green leaves I knew that they would taste good. One morning I bought then at the farmers market. Later though, when we brought it home, I had no idea how to cook it. My dad started cooking the chard in a pan and putting red pepper on it. I took a taste, but it was a bit spicy, so I added some soy sauce to make it salty and to balance the spicy-ness. Then I tried it again, and it tasted really good, but it needed some sweetness. Finally I thought of the perfect solution: Rice Wine vinegar! (Mom’s note: seasoned rice wine vinegar!) I drizzled it on and sampled the chard. It was delicious! I put the whole thing into a bowl and honestly could not stop eating it. By the time it was dinnertime there was only half the amount I had cooked left in the bowl. Since that dinner, I make the recipe very often and every time it tastes even better.

And my mother (now typing) would like to add that it’s very delicious with a quick broiled (or grilled) marinated skirt steak. Here are both recipes:

Quick Broiled Skirt Steak with Abby’s Chard
Her mother would also like to let you know that this entire dinner can be made in 2o minutes, 15 if you have a 10-year-old sous chef taking over the chard. (more…)

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