My desk is covered with printouts about reusing cooking oil, turning old cooking oil into biodiesel, maltrodextrin, MSG, and a recipe for making homemade Funyuns. What began as a challenge by my daughter to make a healthier version, has blossomed into a two-part cooking series with her sixth grade class. The crazy part here is that none of us have even tasted a Funyun. It began as a discussion in class, while reading the ingredients on the package from another student. Isabella chimed in, and said “I bet my mom can make them healthier”. I love her confidence in me, but food can be a tricky issue with families. Not everyone has the same litmus test for what they should, and shouldn’t be eating. Continue reading »
When I got back to New York last week, I had a few hours to get things done in Brooklyn. My trips to the city these days usually don’t take me beyond midtown. The kids stayed with my mom while I was away, and one of my best friends watched Miche, so before collecting the kiddos and the pup, I made sure to hit up Caputo’s. If I had to name one thing I miss most about Brooklyn, it would be mozzarella. I know, I know. It should be my mom, or my dear friends who have seen me through it all.
Alas, a warm, milky, ball of fresh mozzarella, is what I long for most. Honestly, the thought makes me ache, and small sighs stumble from my lips. I challenge anyone to find a better mozzarella in all of New York City (I’ve tasted many). Continue reading »
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 »
Do you ever have those moments where a memory comes flooding back so vividly you feel like you’re in the moment? It happened today as I was driving to pick the girls up from school. Way back when Virginia was a wee one, I made up a bedtime song to the tune of Love Train. It went something like this…
Babies around the world,
Let’s start a sleep train, a sleep train.
Isabella was only six or seven then. We’d place our hands on each other’s hips, and boogie into the bedroom at our old apartment on Henry Street. I can see Virginia with that squinted-eyed smile, newly minted with a tooth, or two. One night Michael came home to witness this silliness, and he wasn’t surprised at my goofball creativity to make bedtime fun. He grabbed a hip, and joined in. Continue reading »
It is said that we’re our own worst critics. I’ve always grappled with that thought. A healthy sense of self can only come with proper introspection. Seeking out our imperfections can be a fine line, though, and for me Mikey was always the one who helped balance the extreme standards to which I held myself. His belief and enthusiasm for my work was the wind my sail needed to keep going on, even when publishers and agents said I didn’t have the numbers needed to sign a book.
And then he died. My numbers soared. I wrote a book.
I learned a lot in that process. A lot. The most important takeaway was reaffirming what I already knew—I can’t put my heart into anything I don’t believe in 110%. I am incredibly proud of the work that went into Homemade with Love. I had a team of people who believed in me beyond the numbers. The book designer, Amanda Richmond, had a personal connection, having been a longtime reader here. She captured my essence so perfectly in the look and layout. The photographs, well, when I look at them, I see more than just food. I see myself in them, and I think that is something only a friend could’ve captured. Penny is my friend; she knew me, knew the importance of the story being told.
And then came the second book. I could tell early on, in fact after handing in the first draft of the first 40 pages, that something didn’t feel right. After a month of hard thinking, and trying to find a resolution that would satisfy both myself and my publisher, it became clear that the relationship had run its course. Better to leave on the high note with a beautiful book in hand.
My scheduled second book, a memoir, was one story that I couldn’t compromise on. I’m still living. My girls may one day read it. It’s about my life, and the only person capable of shaping that story is the person living it.
It left me in a quandry. How do I keep on doing what I love, and on my terms? Is it possible to straddle the line between the world of self-publishing, and traditional publishing, a toe in each one, to satisfy all the desires and needs I have as a writer? Just writing about this seems a bit taboo. What will other publishers think? We shall see. I’ve since signed with an incredible new agent, that makes me feel like Mikey’s in my corner again, cheering me on. Katherine has an energy, and excitement, for my work that is infectious, in the best of ways. Together we’re working on a proposal for a new cookbook that I know is one this world needs.
Before we met, and signed to work with each other, I had thrown all my energies into launching my own magazine-style journal. In a way, I think everything timed out perfectly. By time I met Katherine, my work on Simple Scratch Cooking: a homecook’s journal for making easy, everyday meals was well on its way to fruition. There was no turning back. I had to take this leap of faith on myself. Yesterday was the moment of truth. As I looked at the proofs, I decided to jump. I placed the first printing order, and made a “soft” announcement about it.
What followed has truly humbled me.The orders have been steadily flowing in, and I wonder if I’ll need to do a second printing. Could that really be possible? I felt a little guilty for not sharing it here first, but didn’t want to inundate all of you on my subscription list with too many emails. The first issue is in final production now, and will arrive at my house for packing and shipping around October 15th. Provided there are no delays with shipping, I’ll spend the 16th, the day that would’ve been our 10th wedding anniversary, stuffing, labeling, and sending out the first volume in what will be a quarterly journal filled with recipes, essays, and a peek at the memoir.
Before Michael passed away, I always imagined we’d have a celebration to renew our vows. It’s funny how the journal’s production schedule just so happened to work out like this. I suppose in a way the 16th will be a renewal of vows, a renewal of promises to myself, and a reminder that I need to keep believing in my own worth, and work, as strongly as he did.
Right now the journal is available for sale online only. If you know of a local store that might like to carry it, please feel free to put them in touch me with at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can discuss it further with them. Here’s the link to purchase it for yourself, and if you order before October 15th, I set up a special code to receive a 10% discount. Thank you. Thank you so very much for being the best readers ever.
Music Pairing: Roar by Katy Perry
***UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered the journal. The demand was so incredible that the first printing has SOLD OUT. A second printing has been ordered. All magazine orders placed after 10/5/14 will be sent out the first week of November. Thank you for patience, support, and enthusiasm for this new venture.***
I’m sure a few of you saw this coming. I haven’t started making gourmet meals for my new little lady, and must confess, I don’t see myself doing that (never say never, though, right?). Frankly, I don’t know enough about dogs’ nutritional needs to start cooking for Miche full-time, but I do know that onions and garlic are on the ‘No” list, and since I cook with those regularly, it would mean making two meals. Honestly, that’s not happening. I’ve never catered to my girls in that way. Besides, there are so many high-quality foods to choose from that I can feel good about feeding her.
Treats are a different story, though. As I started looking at labels, I followed the same rule of thumb for feeding my family. If I can’t pronounce it, then I don’t feel comfortable giving it to Miche. I did come across The Honest Kitchen brand, and loved the ingredient list: barley flour, chicken, molasses, water, eggs, coconut oil, cranberries, and parmesan cheese. It came with a steep price tag, though, and I knew I could make something of the same quality at home for a lot less money. Continue reading »
Yes, I know, it’s been a while. I knew time was passing faster than I could keep up. My silence here inspired a few of you to send notes or leave comments wondering if everything is okay. The truth is that I decided to pull back a little at the end of August, just so the girls and I could enjoy our Cape vacation. I needed to disconnect a little, though I stayed tethered a bit to Instagram. Perhaps tethered is the wrong word; that sounds burdensome. I love seeing other people’s lives, and sharing my own, through photos, so you can always check in there if you don’t hear from me over here for a while.
Well, we came back from North Truro on August 30th, and then school started a few days later. After a relatively leisurely summer of waking when we wanted, eating when we were hungry, and going to bed at no particular time at all, well, it’s an understatement to say adjusting to school was a shock (more so for me, than the kids, I think). The girls seemed to settle in as well as could be expected, considering we moved just a few months, their friends are all back in Brooklyn, and they’re now in a new school up here. I’m sure as time passes, we’ll settle into new routines, find new friends, and feel more like we belong, and less like we’re outsiders. If only time was an ingredient we could buy, preferably a “just add water” item. We’d miss the journey, though, and experience has taught me that even the tougher parts of the path make it worthwhile. Continue reading »
There’s so much I’ve been wanting to share since last week. I got through another anniversary—a big one. Last Thursday, just a week ago, I celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary. I feel like I should get a coin or chip to commemorate the milestone. I don’t mean to be glib, or gloss over it. On the contrary, it was a surreal day, especially with views like this one down the road from my house. I’m just having a bit of an off week at the moment. Pretty much every other person tells me it’s Mercury in Retrograde. I’m still not 100% clear on what that means, even though a few people have tried to explain it.
The girls and I went to see Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (did I really get that right without Googling the title?). I loved the movie, and wasn’t at all familiar with the books, though Isabella knew about them. I woke up Monday, and it seems since then my waking moments have been very Alexander-like. It started with Virginia’s backpack getting lost IN OUR HOUSE. How does that even happen? Then I left the house on a 35F day, drove 25 minutes to school only to realize Virginia didn’t wear a coat. Little insults to injury quickly piled up, and by 11:45am, I wanted to hide under my covers from fear of what else could possibly go wrong (Dear Gods: I am in no way tempting you. Really.)
Anyway, I’d been thinking of doing an apple recipe roundup since it’s ’tis the season. Mode Media, one of the ad networks I work with, gave its publishers a wide berth in choosing a theme this month—low and behold, apples were on the list! I was able to put them into a nice little slideshow for you all, and if you want more apple-centric ideas go visit Foodie.com.
I’ve got a few recipes I hope to share soon. Anyone in the mood for homemade bagels? Writing, recipe testing, and photography for the Winter Issue of Simple Scratch Cooking has been occupying much of my time, as well as a lot of volunteering at the girls’ school (I can’t say enough how much I LOVE this school). If you missed out on the print copies of Simple Scratch Cooking, I’m releasing a digital edition on 11/5, and you can pre-order it now by clicking here.
Disclosure: This slideshow has been sponsored by Mode Media. As always, the words and thoughts are my own.
Check out Favorite Apple Recipes
As I walked up the stairs from the basement today, I decided to do something I haven’t done the last three summers. I piled beach towels on the bed, found our raincoats in the attic, and began gathering my kitchen essentials to start packing for our Cape trip. We leave in three days. This was my routine for many a summer. I would start preparing for our annual trip to North Truro a week in advance. We waited all year for those two coveted weeks to escape from it all. Back when we first started going, cellphones were just coming into popularity, and we didn’t yet feel the need for them. A few summers later, when we finally had them, reception was very intermittent all the way out there. It was easy to unplug. As time went on, it became more challenging, but we were determined to preserve that old Cape magic. Continue reading »
I’m not even going to pretend I have a long love affair with s’mores. It wasn’t until last summer that I even developed a taste for them, as Gina can attest. In fact, before she introduced me to swapping white chocolate for milk or dark, and adding fresh raspberries, I often passed on this summertime ritual. My daughters on the hand are the complete opposite. They would gladly eat them for breakfast if I let them, and really it would be any worse, calorically speaking, than my current pie for breakfast habit. Continue reading »