Entries Tagged as 'Uncategorized'

Dinner: The Playbook

March 20th, 2014 · 101 Comments · Dinner: The Playbook, Uncategorized

Yes, that’s the cover of my new book, to be published soon, but before I go into more detail on it I want to know one thing:

Are you with me?

I need to know this because, while this book is going to be a lot of things — an adventure, a game-changer, a how-to manual for the family meal — it is first and foremost going to be a personal challenge, a commitment.

Loyal DALS readers have heard the story of The Great Dinner Rut of 2006 — that period, back when our girls were 3 and 4, when Andy and I were drowning in a sea of plain. Plain pasta, plain burger, plain chicken, plain pizza. Our once-solid dinner rotation had been reduced to what you’d find in your average minimum security prison. On any given night, we’d have a breakthrough — Flounder! Abby ate flounder! — until the next time we’d present it to the Li’l Lady of the Manor and she’d drum her fingers against the table and stare at us with cold, cold eyes, as if to say “For real? You think I’m gonna eat that?” I don’t want to go on too much here — you guys know the deal — but for two working parents who loved to cook and just wanted to end the day with a glass of wine and a meal that wasn’t beige, the situation was far from ideal.

“It’ll get better,” everyone told me. “You just have to wait out the toddler years. You’ll see!” But I didn’t want to wait out any years — years! –I wanted to eat real food again, food that I was excited about cooking and introducing to my kids. So I took control of the situation. One night, I made an announcement: We were going to embark on an adventure. (“Adventure” seemed like a key positioning strategy.) We were going to cook thirty new dinners in the next thirty days, and the only thing I asked was that they had to try a bite of every single one of them. One bite. They didn’t have to like every meal, but they did have to try every meal.

It always surprises me how game kids are in situations where you least expect it.

But not as game as Andy and I were. We got into it — scouring old cookbooks for recipes we’d always wanted to make, texting ideas back and forth on our commute, asking anyone we saw what their go-to dinners were. I’m talking about dedication I hadn’t seen since the days when we were planning our honeymoon. We came up with a  line up and got cooking.

Was a little nuts for two working parents to take this on? Yes. Did we almost give up along the way? Absolutely. Was every meal a hit? Not exactly. Abby puked up the trout (day 19) onto the dinner table and Phoebe moved her chair to the living room when we placed a bowl of gnocchi in front of her (day 16). But did it transform the way the kids (and their parents) thought about dinner?  Well… I hate to sound all gimmicky here, but yes. What we discovered was that Family Dinner is a contract. You buy in, or you don’t. This can mean lots of things to lots of different families, but for us, it meant cooking most nights and constantly looking for ways to keep it fresh. We didn’t know it then, but this project set us on our way, expanded our horizons, established dinner as a priority in our lives, and killed the chicken nugget dead once and for all.

So if my first book, Dinner: A Love Story, was a romantic yarn about the evolution of the family meal through marriage, babies and family, then Dinner: The Playbook is its nuts-and-bolts, down-and-dirty, roll-up-your-sleeves, LET’S-DO-THIS-THING companion. It tells the story of our grand experiment and everything I learned along the way, including:

  • Key shopping and organizing strategies
  • Guerrilla tactics for picky eaters and sauce-o-phobes
  • Tips for scouting new recipes that “keep the spark alive”
  • 80+ easy, kid-vetted recipes
  • Weekly meal plans that show you how to put all those recipes together over the course of 30 days — or even just seven days if that’s more your speed.

In short, it’s got everything you need to help bust you out of your own dinner rut. Even when you are working full time. Even when you would rather crawl into a dark hole than think about dinner.

Over the years, I have received so many emails from readers asking me: I am so busy and overwhelmed, and I want to put dinner on the table. How do I do it? Where do I start?

This book, I hope, provides an answer to that question.

So what do you say? Are you in? Please say yes!

Dinner: The Playbook will be out in late August — just in time for back-to-school bootcamp — but is available for pre-order with all the usual suspects: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebooks, and Ballantine.

The masterful Kristina DiMatteo designed the cover and the interior of Playbook, and it’s filled with the sweetest little details. The dedication page is one of my favorites. As is the Gina Triplett-illustrated spine on the cover. (Remember my recipe door? That’s Gina. I like to keep things in the family.)

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Friday Round-Up

March 14th, 2014 · 6 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Uncategorized

If I can’t get to Tulum anytime soon, at least I can make Hartwood‘s skirt steak with roasted plantains. (You can just tell from the photo that it’s going to be easy, right?)

The Knork reminds me: it’s a fine line between ridiculous and genius.

Rebecca Lee should be more famous than Pharrell. (No offense to Pharrell.) Last week, I heard her read the title story from her short story collection Bobcat (all about a dinner party) and laughed my head off.

Adam Lanza’s father talks to Andrew Solomon.

Food Nerds Unite! Last week, I reviewed a novel for the Times.

I love Sara’s “pseudo mac and cheese situation” here.

On Wednesday, we screened the first two episodes of Eyes on the Prize – do you remember that epic 14-part series on the Civil Rights movement? The girls were as riveted as we were when we watched it back in the 80s. (Best for kids 10 and older — and even then, keep your hand on the remote, there are a few disturbing moments.)

My ten-year-old’s idea of the perfect birthday gift for her dad.

I only found out about this yesterday (thanks Momfilter!) but I’m already obsessed with Artifact Uprising, the app that lets you turn your iphone photos into beautiful little albums in minutes.

Our friends are coming over for dinner tomorrow and one of them, Jim, requested Milk-braised Pork for the main. How much do I love a guest who does the think-work for me?

From Andy:

This, because any new Truckers album is a reason to rejoice.

This, because it’s one of the best, most heartbreaking magazine stories ever written, and because it has extra poignancy this week, given recent events.

This, because we are unrepentant Pixar fans in this house, and Creativity Inc — by the founder of the company, aka hero to our children — takes you inside to tell you how they do what they do.

This, because it sounds absurdly good and, more important, practically fits into your pocket, allowing you to cook or entertain while SHREDDING HEAVILY, no matter where you are.

This, because Abby has decided white cleats are back, and I respect that.

This, because because.

Have a great weekend.

Photo credit: Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times.


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What Kind of Entertainer Are You?

March 6th, 2014 · 21 Comments · Domestic Affairs, Entertaining, Uncategorized

Do you ever wonder what your dinner guests say about you when they walk out your door? Do they marvel at your hosting abilities and wonder when they’ll get invited back? Do they praise the food but slag the company? Do they praise the company but slag the food? Do they judge your glassware? Do they climb into their car, sit for a second in the darkness, and say, Never again? That depends on what kind of entertainer you are. Take this quiz to find out… — Jenny and Andy

Your friends are coming over for dinner and you’ve made a (pretty tasting looking, if you don’t say so yourself) frittata with feta cheese, leeks, and baby asparagus. When your the guests arrive, the husband tells you he doesn’t eat feta. He’s not allergic, he just has a “thing” about it. In response, you:

a) Apologize profusely and, in a show of solidarity, toss the frittata into the garbage and start over using some good cheddar.
b) Wag your finger and say, “I guess Mr. Picky over here won’t be getting any dessert tonight!”
c) Roll your eyes, sigh audibly, and say, “Oh god, let me guess: you’re an only child?”
d) Say, “No problem! Which would you prefer: Honey Nut Cheerios or Peanut Butter and Jelly?”
e) Say: “No problem. I’ll just make you an omelet.” Think: “You are so incredibly dead to me.”

It’s 6:45 and your guests are due to arrive in 15 minutes. You hop on your computer to make a playlist, which consists of:

a) Whatever they play between those segments on that NPR show.
b) “Losing My Religion,” and the exact same thirty-seven songs you put on the mixed tape you made for your girlfriend in college.
c)  Haim, Haim, and more Haim.
d) Whatever comes up when you type “cool dinner party playlists” into the Google machine.
e) I don’t have time to make a playlist – isn’t there a Bland White Guy Pandora station on here somewhere?

You would describe your approach to menu planning as:

a) Buy fresh ingredients, and prepare them simply.
b) Three words: Short Ribs, bros!
c) Ramen. Or whatever rapo4 is hashtagging on his instagram feed.
d) Food’s not as important as the company — and besides, have you tried Trader Joes pot pies? They’re actually pretty good.
e) If it can be grilled, then I shall grill it.

Your default conversation starter when the silence borders on awkward is:

a) Okay. Edward Snowden: good guy or bad guy?
b) So, how’s your kitchen renovation going? Wolf or Viking?
c) What year is your Passat?
d) Who’s watching House of Cards?
e) What’s it all about? Life, I mean.

Your guests are raving about the braised pork, a recipe your friend Cindy made for you a few weeks ago. You: (more…)

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On the Plus Side of Winter

February 24th, 2014 · 24 Comments · Entertaining, Uncategorized

Two Thursdays ago, my friend Sonya emailed me:

Hey! You guys around this weekend? We have the urge to make a big pot of stew and drink wine with someone.  Please say yes!!!

I could not have replied fast enough. Yes! Yes! Yes! Is tomorrow too soon? Or how about now? Can I come over right now? It was another single-digit temperature week up here in New York and most of my day was spent holed up in my (old, drafty) house, dressed like Shaun White, and listening to 1010 WINS for any breaking news on the next storm rolling in.

I know what you’re thinking right now — another winter whinefest from Jenny, right? Right about now, the entire population Minnesota is rolling their eyes at me.

Not so fast. Believe it or not, today I’d like to focus on the upshot to the cold weather snap in New York (though it seems to have tapered off for the time being) namely the dinner invitations coming in left and right from people like Sonya — people who want to make a big pot of stew and drink wine. With us!

I’ll tell you something else about these people: They know their way around a kitchen. To determine this, one need look no further than the cast iron pans and Dutch Ovens sitting atop their stoves. Each one seemed to boast the kind of patina that you just can’t fake, as though it has been handed down by the cook’s great-grandmother. Inside the pot? These days, there’s a 99% chance it’s some kind of stewy beef. Not just something like our back-pocket Belgian Beef Stew that we are used to scaring up in under an hour on a weeknight. I’m talking meat that has spent some quality time in the oven, braising and reducing to deep concentrated deliciousness, making the house smell like the only place you want to be. Check these out…

Braisy Beefy Stewy Dinners Fit for Cold-Weather Entertaining

Carbonnade of Beef with Prunes served with big fat noodles, simple roast carrots, crusty bread. Perfect. Cooked for us by Sonya and Pierre.

Beef Bourguignon (above, photo credit: Food Network) at Todd and Anne’s house. Should also be noted that they served the kids homemade mac and cheese, too, which ended up being decimated by the grown-ups.

Braised Short Ribs with Dijon at our friends Reagan and Scott’s house. The beef literally melted off the bones.

Moroccan Beef Stew (shown way up top, photo by Brian Leatart for Bon Appetit) made with golden raisins and served with couscous by our neighbors Rebecca and David, who have two kids under two. (A better person might have felt more guilty about this. Like maybe I should’ve been the one cooking for them?)

Thai Beef Stew with Lemongrass and Noodles OK fine, no one has actually made this for us yet, but how good does that look? Currently accepting invitations….

Stay warm!

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Friday Round-Up

January 31st, 2014 · 17 Comments · Uncategorized

Hey, look at what book showed up on Food 52′s Provisions in time for Valentine’s Day! (Be warned: Once you click over there, you will be swallowed up in the beautiful things vortex.)

The battery-operated twirling spaghetti fork: So ridiculous. So endlessly entertaining.

It’s been too long, Chicken Kiev! This week, we reunite.

When elite parents dominate volunteering, it’s the children who lose.

Phoebe wrote a new post on her reading blog, Nerd Alert, about the book that sealed a really cool friendship. I think it might be her best post yet. {“Mom! You always say that.”}

Speaking of reading, the James Baldwin quote half-way through this Op-Ed says it all.

A fun way to enlist your kids in the lunch-packing grind.

These chocolate chip cookies look divine (as does the new blog where they live).

Always go to the funeral.

Remember my neighbor who left her job as a high-power corporate attorney to open a gluten-free bakery? She just opened up her second By the Way Bakery on Broadway between 90th and 91st. New Yorkers, please stop by!

Marinara Worth Mastering. Which just reminds me that sometimes the simpler the recipe, the more detail-oriented you need to be.

A Mommy Blogger’s Lament

Oh my goodness, Catherine, those chicken wings! Totally, 100% happening for Super Bowl Sunday.

Know anyone? Dinner: A Love Story is hiring!

Have a good weekend.

Photos by James Ransom for Food52. 

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Pizza Kit Giveaway!

January 27th, 2014 · 407 Comments · Uncategorized

OK so how’s this for awesome: Applegate, maker of high-quality natural and organic meats is offering Dinner: A Love Story readers an exclusive giveaway. And it’s not just because they got wind of the fact that my 10-year-old sausage lover and my 11-year-old roast turkey sandwich addict have, I’m pretty sure, kept them in business for the past decade. Turns out they’ve been doing a little family dinner research that you guys might not find too surprising — 89% of parents they surveyed felt it was important to share a meal together, but nearly half of those same parents cited lack of time, inspiration, and picky eating as major snags. Hence: their Take Back Meal Time mission, and hence a full-on Pizza Making Kit giveaway that dovetails nicely with my mission, aka There is No Dinner Dilemma That Can’t Be Solved By Pizza. The pizza kit includes Appletgate Mini Turkey Pepperoni, Applegate Provolone Cheese, a jar of Jersey-fresh tomato sauce, King Arthur Flour Pizza Crust Mix, a wood-handled pizza cutter, an illustrated pizza tea towel, and a sweet little recipe and information booklet that tells you all you need to know. Not bad, right? One commenter will be chosen at random and must live in the US. Contest ends on Tuesday, January 28 at 8pm ET. Good luck!

Toppings: tomatoes, red onions, peppers, mushrooms, black olives, basil, artichokes and turkey pepperoni.

 I am totally feeling the turkey pepperoni.

Update: The winner is Anne (#386). Thank you to everyone who participated!

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How Do You Know a Recipe’s Gonna Succeed?

January 9th, 2014 · 38 Comments · Uncategorized

Is there anything more annoying than spending time and money on a recipe that falls short, or doesn’t brown right, or takes hours instead of minutes, or doesn’t look anywhere close to the freaking picture? Never again! Herewith eight questions to ask before you decide to make a new recipe for the family.

Is there a recipe buried within your recipe? If a recipe calls for an ingredient that in and of itself requires its own recipe on another page in the book — back away from the cookbook. This drives me crazy. It’s a technique commonly found in restaurant cookbooks — not to be confused with restaurant chef’s cook-at-home cookbooks — where they think nothing of calling for blood orange vinaigrette “(see page 220)” and homemade veal stock “(see page 130)” in the same ingredient list. The only time this is acceptable is if sufficient warning has been given in the recipe note or if there is a substitution option that doesn’t make you feel like some kind of failure for not having homemade parsley pesto on hand.

Did a robot write it or did a real person? Do you know what a recipe headnote is? It’s the industry term for the little introduction that precedes your recipe. You know, the kind that says “I love this dish. It’s a great thing to make ahead for entertaining, because it just tastes better on Day 2.” Now that? That’s a good headnote. It’s helpful, it’s specific. You get the feeling that the recipe writer has done it before and knows what she’s talking about. (That very instruction is in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, preceding her Balsamic-and Beer-Braised Short Rib.) But how about this one: “So delicious that everyone in your family will be begging for seconds.” Barf. Is this a cookbook or is it fiction? The person who wrote that is either a) Siri or b) someone who has never cooked for a kid who, this week, has decided to eat mashed potatoes and nothing but mashed potatoes.

Does it have a cutesy name? Like “Last-Minute Lasagna” or “Quickie Quesadillas?” These kinds of recipes might be perfectly fine, but I find it just too embarrassing to answer “Curry in a Hurry” when a family member asks me what’s for dinner. I don’t have any more scientific explanation than that. (Exception: Lazy Bolognese on page 98 of my book. Why an exception? Because I am a complete hypocrite.)

Does the timing seem right? Somewhere along the line — I’m tawlkin’ to you Rachael Ray — 30 minutes became the barometer for the hallowed “quick and easy meal.” As a result, it seems that everyone wants to deliver recipes that come in under the half-hour wire. And if they don’t? Eh? Let’s just say it anyway! This seems to happen all the time. How to avoid: Read the recipe all the way through — if the writer tells you that a soup which involves chopping a half dozen chopped vegetables takes five minutes prep time, you should think twice about trusting that recipe writer. (And if it happens again, I give you full on permission to un-follow him or her on instagram.)

Is the ingredient list longer than the recipe? That’s not a good sign. Save for the weekend, or when your kids are older — or hand to your butler and private chef to arrange themselves.

Are there too few ingredients? This sounds like a strange question to ask. Is there such a thing as a recipe that’s too easy? Not that often — but when a recipe calls for only two or three ingredients, you should probably make sure each one of those ingredients is pulling its weight if it’s going to turn out well. The other night I found myself explaining how to make polenta to my friend Naria. It’s so easy, you just whisk cornmeal into chicken broth and add some fat at the end like cheese. It’s a three-ingredient side dish (one that is excellent with those short ribs I might add) and it’s perfectly serviceable if you make it with cornmeal, chicken broth, and cheese. But if you take care to use homemade stock, authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano, and cornmeal from your local Italian market, it’s going to be more than serviceable, it’s going to be memorable, which means that most likely it will make it onto your table again. And that’s the mark of a success here.

Is the recipe handwritten? It’s gonna work.

Is the recipe handwritten by a family member? Recipe Gold. No further screening required.

PS: Recipe cards shown in photo are from Andy’s grandmother’s collection, courtesy of our Uncle Doug & Uncle Earl.

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Please Come!

January 3rd, 2014 · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

New Yorkers: Is one of this year’s resolutions “Cook More for Family?” I can help with that. Please come to a talk I’m giving this Tuesday, January 7 (12:00) at Asphalt Green in Battery Park City. It’s called Eight Steps to Better Family Dinners, and I’ll be discussing strategies, recipes, kitchen tricks and all that fun stuff I wrote about it my book, but really it’s just an excuse to meet you all.  Hope to see you there.

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Kids Bored on Vacation?

December 26th, 2013 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Get them into the kitchen! Head over to Bon Appetit for today’s post.

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Friday Round-up

December 20th, 2013 · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

This month’s Providers column for Bon Appetit: It’s Beginning to Taste a Lot Like Christmas (Photo credit above: Columbia/Kobal)

Dear Holderness Family, Please adopt me. Thanks! Love, Jenny.

If I can’t make this Animated World Film Festival (which I first learned about here) I will definitely make a point to put some of these kids’ movies on my 2014 T0-See list.

A book you will be hearing about a lot in 2014. (Gonna get going on my advanced copy over the holidays.)

Do you suffer from Instagram Envy?

To categorize under the rarely deployed title “Unanimously Loved By All at Family Table:” Brown Sugar & Mustard-Glazed Salmon. It took 20 minutes and rocked Abby’s world.

Last week, I reviewed a few books for the Times.

Our soon-to-be-annual holiday ritual: A glass of this with Andy in one of our more favorite bars in NYC.

There are two new posts on Nerd Alert, my daughter’s book blog: The Giver and, hot off the presses, George O’Connor’s Aphrodite. (By the way, O’Connor is half way through his Olympian series and a stack of those first six would probably make the right kid extremely happy on Christmas morning.)

My friends Sue and Alan are having their annual holiday open house this weekend and while I’m excited to hang out with them, I’m really excited to hang out with Sue’s Mocha Butter Balls.

A one-size-fits-all present for any family. (Forgive me.)

Have a good weekend!

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Other Mother’s Recipes

December 5th, 2013 · 29 Comments · Cameos, Picky Eating, Uncategorized

It makes me so happy to introduce today’s guest-poster, Dahlia Lithwick. When she’s not cooking for her two boys, or writing about picky eaters for desperate food bloggers, she’s reporting on the law and the courts for Slate. You know, just that. Welcome! -JR

There is well-documented parental shame in having children who are known for being “picky eaters.” The implication is that had their grown-ups just introduced them to kimchee and pemmican as toddlers, they would be more adventurous today. But I have come to discover a deeper, more searing mortification than the having of a child who only eats food the color of his own inner wrist (pasta, white bread, and chicken).  And that is the shame of the picky eater who has come to believe that the fault lies chiefly with his mother.

But allow me to start at the beginning:  A few years ago, my then-six year old son came home from an overnight at my cousin’s house, raving about her couscous “recipe.”

“But I make couscous!” I yelped. “You won’t eat my couscous.”

“But Evelyn’s is better.” He explained, patiently.

So I dutifully called Evelyn to get her magical couscous recipe. And she said: “I add water.”

Mmmmm.  Water.

And thus began my longstanding fantasy of someday launching a major cookbook/website/cooking show empire entitled “Other Mommies Recipes.”  The result would be a collection, nay, a curated and glossily illustrated array, of recipes, made exclusively by people whose main qualification is that they are not me. It would feature foods made precisely as they have always been made at home, frequently requiring two or fewer ingredients, that my kids eat willingly at Other Mommies houses, as they heap scorn upon me for not being a really good cook.

In addition to Elisha’s Mom’s Couscous (couscous, water) Other Mommies Recipes would feature Boaz’s Mom’s Mashed Potatoes (potatoes, butter) and also her roasted potatoes (also, potatoes, butter) and Roi’s Dad’s[1] Famous Jam Sandwiches (jam, bread). It would have a section devoted to Auntie Carolyn’s scrambled eggs (eggs, butter) and Auntie Edwina’s hard boiled eggs (eggs, water) – a dish about which my younger son has waxed so rhapsodic, it would put Elizabeth Bartlett to shame. There could be a whole Chapter on Other Mommies Grilled Cheese (bread, cheese), but I probably couldn’t author it myself without having to be heavily medicated.

I don’t even attempt to make Other Mommies Recipes anymore because after a brief stint of pretending to call the other mommies, laboriously copy down their “recipes” and replicating them at home, I have reconciled myself to the fact that I will never ever be able to make pasta the way Tanner’s Mom makes it (pasta, pesto) or the way Grandma makes it (penne, shredded parmesan) or the way my own mom makes it (pasta). And the truly insightful among you have doubtless noticed by now that Other Mommies Recipes have one other unifying feature in common: In addition to featuring two or fewer un-screw-up-able ingredients they also produce food that is somewhere between white and light beige. Because Other Mommies Vegetables is never going to happen.

[1] The fact that this was produced by a Daddy complicates the naming of my “Other Mommies” cooking empire but I thought in the interest of full disclosure and the Absence of the End of Men, I should explain that Other Daddies have recipes too.

Thanks Dahlia! 

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Friday Round-up: Thanksgiving Edition!

November 22nd, 2013 · 15 Comments · Uncategorized

How to make your pies prettier, circa 1959. (Finding this story is so Victoria Granof. And so awesome.)

If I get wind of any of you bolting from your family’s Thanksgiving table to go shopping, you are hereby firewalled from DALS.

A Thanksgivukkah take on the Leftover Sandwich.

Roast Cauliflower (or any Thanksgiving vegetable) would look so pretty on this stunning serving platter.

{Related: I finally upgraded my pie dishes from Pyrex to Emile Henry.}

Not that I’ll ever do this with my Thanksgiving leftovers, but all you ambitious arty types probably will.

A sweet tablecloth I’m bringing for my sister the host (Lynn: Don’t look!), one of Bon App‘s 27 Best.

I’ll also be bringing a few copies of The Thing About Luck (Grades 5-9) for my nieces and nephews, which just won a National Book Award in the Young People’s Literature category. (Owen, Nathan, Alison and Amanda: Don’t look!)

{PS: Phoebe felt that Boxers & Saints, another nominee, wuz robbed.}

A dying woman’s cooking instructions to her husband: “Knives sharp. Ingredients out. Read the damn recipe.” (But so much more.)

I’m a purist when it comes to mashed potatoes (milk, butter, maybe Parm) but if I wasn’t, I might go in the casserole direction.

Big road trip? Little kids? Music that will keep everyone sane.

The five most delicious food moments in children’s literature.

Polenta-Sausage Wedges – for next Thursday and every Thursday following it.

This spicy, comfort-y Khao Soi soup is very much my speed. (Another story: Is it my childrens’ speed?) As is this Spicy Chicken weeknight number. Both look like they’d be great vehicles for leftover turkey.

Most likely I’ll be chronicling everything — from the make-ahead cornbread through the turkey to the leftovers — on instagram. Have a great holiday!


PS: Need a speaker for your next school/holiday/community event? I’m officially here for you. Let’s talk!

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21 Questions for…Matt Hranek

November 4th, 2013 · 14 Comments · Uncategorized

When I heard Matt Hranek — acclaimed photographer, William Brown Project blogger, Barbour-jacketed man-about-town — got his own TV show, my first thought was OK, so someone was smart enough to make that official. Because as long as I’ve known Matt (and his wife Yolanda), the guy has been a one man show, regaling us with tales of what he’s seen and tasted in his travels across the country on assignment. Just following him on instagram is enough to inspire (and exhaust) me — on any given day you’ll find him catching salmon in Alaska, scoring vintage military jackets at an upstate flea market, foraging chanterelles in Oregon, or concoting a mad-scientist rabbit rillette at home for Yolanda and their daughter, Clara. (Please watch the Alternate Route trailer to get a taste for what I’m talking about.) Matt stopped moving long enough to answer this month’s edition of 21 Questions. Thanks Matt!

21 Questions for Matthew Hranek
Host of Alternate Route, premiering November 20, 10:30 ET, on the Esquire Network. 

My life in three bullet points…Live. Laugh. Love. Just kidding. More like Drink. Eat. Sleep.

The kitchen I grew up eating in was…one of many first-generation immigrants — aunts and uncles and grandparents. My Mother’s Family is from Italy (Puglia) My father’s family is Czech. There were gallons of red sauce and meatballs were eaten with the Italians in a kitchen that always smelled of garlic. Then, with the Slovaks, there were piles of Perogies and Kielbasa, in a kitchen that always smelled of pan fried onions, butter, and dill.

When I was a child I wanted to be….a vet. But after one summer internship at the local vets office watching castration after castration and being bitten by way to many drugged up cats, I thought photography might be a better choice. It was.

If I was stuck on a desert island, the food I’d have with me is…the smoked Gaspe, white fish salad and French trout caviar from Russ & Daughters.

A great American is…Ben Franklin. He wanted the national bird to be the wild turkey. Enough said.

When I’m in the South I always…drink the cheapest canned beer (or draft) of the region, buy boiled peanuts from the side of the road and eat everything fried.

I never leave home for a trip without...a cooler. A Coleman cooler or a Trader Joe soft cooler bag is always in the back of our Rover. You never know when you will need to keep something fresh (greens on a hot day or cheese) or cold ( a bottle of wine or beer).

Secret weapon in the kitchen is… a sharp knife, good salt, and one nonstick pan

Turning point in my life was…meeting my wife Yolanda. (This is no bullshit.) She is my best friend, advisor, confidant, editor, navigator, partner, and critic. And a beauty.

I stay healthy by running a few miles almost everyday. I have also in my middle age cut out crappy no-good bread and bagels, and try to not polish off a whole six-pack and bag of chips in one sitting.

Favorite magazine: I read magazines the most when I am flying. The mags in my bag as I board the plane are most often Vanity Fair, The Economist (to look smart), Esquire, GQ, Field and Stream, and some food mag that I dig the monthly feature in like Bon App or Saveur.

Chefs doing something exciting right now… are the guys who are doing the Pubbelly restaurants in Miami (Pubbelly, Pubbelly Sushi, Pub steak, Barcenoleta). Honest, clever, and great flavors touching on all the stuff and ethnicity I love to eat.

Without…my  family, I’m…nothing.

You wouldn’t know it but I… have mad laundry skills! I can get pretty much get any stain out of any fabric and my whites are crazy white. Pretty handy with an iron and steamer too. Italian mother. Duh.

My weekend uniform….Denim, Oxford, wool of some form in the cold weather, wax cotton, loafers, wingtips, the occasional Vans.

My workday uniform…see above plus blazer and knit tie.

I drive a…Land Rover LR4, unapologetically. On the weekends a 1987 Porsche 911 Targa/Carrera. Again, unapologetically.

I wish I drove a...1962 Land Rover defender.

Gluten-free eating…is off when in Italy!

A cookbook that changed me is… (more…)

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Friday Round-up

November 1st, 2013 · 13 Comments · Uncategorized

These 30-minute fish sticks are going on next week’s dinner line-up. Only dilemma to be reconciled: Yogurt-Dill or Pickle Juice dipping sauce?

I may be biased, but the guy interviewed for this week’s Longform podcast sounded particularly smart and handsome.

If someone had handed me  GO: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design when I was 10 years old, I can’t help but think my life would’ve gone in a different direction. It’s written and designed by the legendary Chip Kidd and it has the power to make a kid (and a grown-up) see the world with completely new eyes. (For starters, you will never look at a FedEx truck the same way again. Who out there knows what I’m referring to??) Too many gem-like moments to touch on here, but how about this sentence: “You should definitely recognize the alphabet as a miraculous thing, and not take it for granted.”

Perfect Pasta for a Crowd from Catherine Newman.

Writers: Here’s this month’s must-read.

Did you read Unbroken? Or Tears in the Darkness? Or any other WWII-related book by a writer with chops? Well, if so, you will probably love Wil S. Hylton’s Vanished, published next month, which tells the story of a special unit in the military charged with recovering lost bodies of American soldiers from various wars — and the WWII pilot they return to his family, 70 years later.

Print this out and take some time with it: David Sedaris on his sister’s suicide.

Is family dinner one of the hidden costs of suburban commuting? (Doesn’t have to be, says one commuting, suburban family dinner blogger.)

RIP Lou.

Astute readers will remember a plug for Cricket Magazines a year or two ago, but as my daughters have graduated from Ladybug and Click to the more science- and literary-minded Ask, Muse, and Odyssey — and as I watch my 11-year-old literally sprint to the mail-slot when she sees that her magazines have been delivered — I feel the need to endorse the whole publishing operation again. Cricket has a magazine for any kid of any age with any interest — and a one-year subscription makes a supercool birthday gift.

If I was getting married again, I’d register for this.

If I was feeding toddlers again, I’d hit up John Derian for these.

Attention Philadelphia Metr0 Types: My cousin started an interior design company. Check out her just-launched website…then call her for a consultation!

I know, love, and trust half the staff who put together this special holiday issue. Look for it on the newsstand today!

Speaking of which, now that Halloween is over, we can get down to the business of my favorite holiday on earth: Thanksgiving. Starting next week, look for a “Countdown to Thanksgiving Series” on DALS — everything from sides to pies to a genius trick for staying organized from my very own Thanksgiving matriarch, aka my mom.

Have a great weekend.

Photo credit: Hirsheimer/Hamilton for Bon Appetit.

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Did You Know….?

October 25th, 2013 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

The other day my mom was telling me how much she loved the Balaboosta cauliflower story I posted last week. “I’m going to make that recipe,” she said, determined. “But I hate printing from the blog. It always prints out so many pages and I don’t know how to stop it.” It occurred to me that if my mother (aka, my biggest fan) did not know that there was an easy way to print out a DALS recipe, then probably a lot of you guys don’t either. In fact, there are probably a lot of things I assume you know, but don’t. So here’s a quick review.
Did you know….
…There’s a Print Function at the bottom left of each post, under the facebook “Like” icon. If you click it, the post turns into a pdf that you can print without the huge ink-depeleting photos. There are some thumbnail photos at the bottom, but they are small and will be gone soon. (Working on it!)
…There’s a Book Club Discussion Guide for those of you who have been nice enough to select Dinner: A Love Story as your book club selection? Click that yellow box in the right margin or just click here.
There’s a Huge Archive of every single recipe published on this blog since March 2010. Scroll to the tippy tippy top of the home page and you’ll see a “Recipe Index” link in the chalkboard.
You Can Be Eligible for Giveaways if you subscribe to my newsletter by clicking the “subscribe to my newsletter” box in the right margin, or just click here.
That There’s a whole Dinner: A Love Story community you can tap into on facebook? If you ever find yourself in a quandry (cooking, parenting, or otherwise), send me an email and if it’s relevant enough, I can post immediately on the page. (This week, I posted for reader Andrea who was on the hunt for good pre-school potluck ideas.)
that “Roar” might be the best pre-game pump-up song for 10-year-old girls ever in the history of pre-game pump-up songs for 10-year-old girls?
Thanks to Linda for sending in the above photo of beautiful little Addie. “Thought you’d get a kick out of this picture,” she wrote over the summer. “As you can see I travel with your book everywhere!”
Have a good weekend!

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15 Recipes Every Parent Should Know

October 15th, 2013 · 27 Comments · Favorites, Uncategorized

This is probably not the smartest business move for a cookbook author who writes books with 100+ recipes…or for a food blogger who wants readers to, you know, come back tomorrow — but I am going to say it anyway:  In spite of everything you’ve read (on this blog and elsewhere), you really only need a handful of culinary moves in your back pocket to survive as a parent. Here’s the indisputably comprehensive, 100% definitive, not-at-all-subjective repertoire Andy and I came up with for your reading and cooking pleasure.

The Elixir
Chicken Orzo Soup (page 290, Dinner: A Love Story)
Why: Because there’s no problem that can’t be hashed out over a bowl of this stuff.
Best When: It’s soccer or football season; you want to make a deposit in the freezer bank; your best friend and her kids are coming for a weekend lunch; your son is under the weather; your daughter is stressed about the algebra test.

The Stalwart
Homemade Pizza
Why: Because it’s easier than you think.
Best When: You want to go under-the-radar meatless with the kids; you’re trying to clear out an end-of-the-week refrigerator; lots of people with lots of kids and lots of different tastes are coming for dinner; you add up how much you spent on take-out last month and have a sad, empty feeling deep down inside.

The New Staple
Kale Salad
Why: Why not? Seriously, though. Because kale has so much more earthy flavor, more nutritional punch, more oomph and body than regular lettuce (no offense, regular lettuce), and because even the smallest portion feels like it has the magical power of canceling out that cider donut you ate this morning.
Best When: Your kids are too young to understand that people might make fun of them (and their parents) for eating kale. If you can hook ‘em young, you’re golden. And if you don’t wan’t to call it kale, lie and call it “salad.” How’s that for ethical parenting?

The Ol’ Reliable
Why: Because I guarantee you have all the ingredients in your house at all times.
Best When: You forgot to make something for the bake sale and the bake sale is tomorrow; you are charged with bring the classroom peanut-free treat; you are in the mood to blow big and small minds alike.

The Template
Chicken and Rice
Why: Because it’s not just learning a recipe, it’s learning a technique.
Best When: You are transitioning the baby to real food; you are learning how to cook; the kids are on a Sendak bender.

The Holiday Hallmark
Homemade Franks & Beans
Why: Because it’s important to get kids associating certain holidays with certain dishes (and because, forreal, when else can you justify it?)
Best When: A fire is blazing in the hearth; you have the whole day to do nothing but bake beans and carve pumpkins; you’ve invited every witch, ghost, princess, and Ironman (and their parents) for a trick-or-treat launch party. (more…)

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Friday Round-up

October 11th, 2013 · 65 Comments · Uncategorized

The Case For Intensive Youth Athletics vs. The Case Against A debate about the state of sports in our kids’ lives right now. (For the moment, we are just trying to figure out how to curb the Nike habit.)

Ten Ways to Clean Your Kitchen Less. Confession: I don’t actually care about the tips. For me, it’s all about the color of the cabinets.

Cooking: Anti-Feminist Trap or Ultimate Expression of a Mother’s Love? The daughter of a feminist, who has lived both sides, weighs in.

Serena Williams, LeBron James, and Peyton Manning aren’t just leading the pack in their respective sports, they’re leading the pack in endorsement deals with junk food products.  (I mean, really, how hard would it be to just endorse the National Orange Growers Association?)

Oh my goodness, this might just be my Super Bowl.

Does ethical parenting exist? Even if this is the quintessential New York story, it’s still an irresistible read. (And as a soccer mom, the annotation all the way to the right of the opening image made me laugh out loud.)

Jimmy Kimmel’s genius solution to the iOS 7 “nausea” problem.

My ten-year-old is loving this.

My eleven-year-old is loving this.

I am pre-ordering this.

Best Parenting Tip Ever. My facebook followers will have seen this already, but it’s so good I need to make sure as many people as possible get the message.

The Weekly Conundrum: What movie do I show to a bunch of 10-year-old girls that they haven’t already seen ten thousand times? Suggestions welcome! (Old-school choices encouraged.)

I am delighted to be part of this healthy lifestyle panel next month. New Yorkers: Get your tickets and come say hello!

From Andy:

This song, which I just now discovered, and which immediately became my Fall Anthem.

Donna Tartt’s new book which I ordered and which, if the reviews can be trusted, is gonna make the next few weeks worth living.

This interview for publishing nerds out there.

What I’m going to drink tonight, courtesy of our pals in Portland, Maine. If you like gin, this stuff is off the hook.

Last night, Jenny agreed to watch The Wire, breaking a five-year stalemate, which is both thrilling (like sharing the best book ever with someone) and also scary (what if she hates it?). I’m gonna do the whole series again, right along with her. Join us!

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Master Chef Junior

September 27th, 2013 · 286 Comments · Uncategorized

I don’t know about you but the DALS house is pumped for this premiere. (“The contestants may be small, but the challenges are huuuuge….”) Add some homemade Stromboli and we’ve got ourselves a Friday night.

PS: For no good reason, I’m giving away a copy of Dinner: A Love Story todayLeave a comment before tonight (Friday, September 27) at 8:00 ET, and you are eligible to win. Update: Keely (#9) is our winner. Thanks for playing everyone!

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