lunch-box friendly

sweet & savory candied walnuts

As my plane touched down at JFK on Friday morning, I wasn’t sure if I’d really just spent 27 hours in Sacramento, or dreamed it. That’s what happens when you get on a plane to the west coast at 11:30am on a Wednesday, and find yourself back at your starting point less than two full days later. Standing under the walnut trees at Norene Ranches, though, I looked at the hundreds of acres before me, and realized it was worth the effort I made to get there. Continue reading »

apple breakfast bars

I want to say it took me a full two weeks to get used to the back to school schedule, but truth is I’m not even close. I simply tolerate it, and consider the juggle associated with the school year to be one of those things in life I can’t avoid (like death and taxes). After a lazy summer of no alarm clocks, the early morning routine has completely thrown off the girls’ eating habits. They’re simply not hungry for breakfast at 7:30am. Even their favorites, like pancakes and waffles, have been met with a lukewarm reception. The pep talks about needing their energy, and how it’s not good to go to school on an empty stomach weren’t cutting it either. Continue reading »

italian fried rice

Isabella has been completely immersed in the world of Harry Potter lately. Her curiosity began just before Mikey passed away. We watched the Sorcer’s Stone as one of our pizza and movie night treats. It whet her appetite, and all she wanted from that point on was to read the books.

Michael had promised to buy her the Sorcerer’s Stone as a reward if she finished her math summer study packet before we left for Cape Cod. They had been working on it together during the weekends when he was off from work. The night Michael died, I walked home to tell Isabella the news. She knew it in her heart, but had held out hope that I would return home to say he was okay. I knew that feeling. I held onto a shred of it as I sat in the ER, wishing desperately that it was all a dream.

After we talked in the hallway, and went back in the house crowded with friends and family, Isabella asked me what would happen with her homework packet. I unapologetically said “screw the homework packet”. It wasn’t the proper thing to say, nor appropriate language for an 8 year old to hear, but that’s exactly how I felt. She worried what her teachers would say, and I assured her they would understand.

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festival of frying {latke recipe}

I know, how much more can a Catholic Italian girl have to say about Hanukkah? Well, in the last two days I've fried close to eight dozen latkes, so I thought it would be unfair to not share some of them with you.

Please hold off on sending me your address. They are so easy to make, you can give them a go in your own kitchen. Until last year, I'd never met a latke that made the frying worth the calories. This seems a virtually impossible feat, living in NYC and all, but remember pasta and meatballs were our staples growing up.

Olga hooked me up with a genius idea from good ol' Martha last year, so it's time to pay it forward and keep spreading the gospel of crispy latkes. The secret here is reserving the potato's natural starch to add back into them. While Martha still includes some flour in her recipe, I've left it out all together, so my adaptation gets bonus points for being naturally gluten-free too. Olga and I both omitted the beer. I'd much rather have a cold pint with my latkes, not in them.

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crepes + a twist on apple pie

After my birthday breakfast at Clinton St. Baking Company, I wandered through the streets of Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho and Chelsea. The Mr. asked if he could take the day off to spend with me. My girlfriends asked what I would be up to, as well.

Thankfully, they all understood the best gift I could give myself was a day untethered, alone with my thoughts. Wandering, somewhat aimlessly, has always been something I enjoy doing in New York City—below 23rd street that is. Anything further uptown is too frenzied for me.

Perhaps it's because my parents spent a lot of time downtown. One side job I forgot to mention was blowing up balloons as a kid for the dart games at the San Gennaro feast. Strolling down Grand Street, those memories came flooding back.

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israeli couscous with squash, dried cherries & pistachios

Mommy guilt is a great motivator. Some spoil with truckloads of toys. For my girls it usually means a batch of cookies. Except children cannot live on chocolate chip cookies alone, even if they are the best in the world—Isabella’s words, and I kind of agree.

When I’m away traveling or have a crazy week of evening events, I leave the next best thing to a hug and kiss goodnight—some homecooked comfort to fill their bellies. Isabella’s new found love is Israeli couscous. The first time she had it was at our friends and it was lightly seasoned with cumin. I was pretty floored when she not only devoured it, but even asked for seconds. She’s a quirky kid when it comes to certain flavors.

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trick or treat trail mix

As I kissed the Mr. goodbye in the wee hours of the morning, he said it felt like I just came home a minute ago. I can't help but feel a pull towards home too.

Kim recently said I talked her off the ledge. Really, we're both just holding hands, our friendship growing stronger each day as we carve our professional path in a world where motherhood really is the job we value most. Our lives are not perfect, but we are fortunate.

The compromises we make seem big in our worlds, yet they pale in comparison to, say, my mother's. She woke up at 6:00am every morning while I was in high school to work as a supermarket cashier. She's endured so much for the sake of her children. Her sacrifices were real ones. I keep that perspective every day.

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radish & cucumber crostini + spicy peanut noodles

Years ago, the Mr. worked with someone whose mother used to send him off with a home-packed lunch. Being an Italian-American guy, I wasn't surprised he still lived with his mother into his mid-to late twenties. Frankly, hearing she prepared his lunch every day wasn't a shocker either—us Italian mamas have trouble letting go.

What did make me raise an eyebrow was when he mentioned mama packed the bread separate from the meat so it didn't get soggy. Honestly, it was a brilliant idea, and I must confess I now use that trick when packing roadtrip lunches for my own family. There are sometimes, though, when you want your bread to soak up some flavors.

Soggy, no.

Drenched in juices, yes.

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concord grape muffins


I felt pangs of guilt during my farmers' market shop last weekend. I mean, I'm supposed to love spring and summer, right? After the long frost of winter subsides, the glimpse of a scarlet hued strawberry sends me giggling with excitement. In fact, there are still some available, an oddity, really, for this time of year.

And the raspberries and blackberries. What are you guys still doing around? Don't get me wrong, it's been a lovely summer, plucking piece after piece to eat as-is or bake in a tart. But you've had your turn. It's time to call it a season and let others have their day in the sun.

Usually my first visit to the market after vacation is filled with regret. If only I'd canned one more jar of peaches, or made fresh tomato bruschetta more often. This year, though, a wave of excitement washed over me. While I've been a firm believer in eating locally and seasonally, this is the first time I'm really okay with saying goodbye to my summer loves.

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hand pies & quiche: a tale of two recipes

I'm in countdown mode. One month from today is the start of our annual summer vacation to Cape Cod. Two weeks of nothing but the waves lulling us to sleep and sun streaming through every window—a treat since we live in a lovely, but dimly lit garden apartment. Years ago, cell phone signals were rare and wi-fi didn't exist. It was so easy to unwind and unplug. Now we have to make an extra effort to ignore the noise of the busy lives we lead 260 miles away.

The minute we pull out of the driveway from our rental house on Route 6A, a sadness washes over at the reality that it will be a full 12 months before we return. I travel a lot for work, but going away as a family only happens once a year. Every year we say we're going to plan more weekend getaways, but then the reality of what it costs to escape the city for just a weekend competes with the mortgage, monthly bills and saving for college.

Sure visiting friends is wonderful, but sometimes I just want to hang with the Mr. and girls uninterrupted. I say this now, feeling all wistful in the wee hours of the morning, but rest assured if we get a long spell of rain at the Cape, I'll be sending smoke signals for help.

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