Entries Tagged as 'Uncategorized'

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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Dinner: The Playbook

March 20th, 2014 · 102 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.
Jenny

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!

Jenny

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

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