Game-Day Prep: Beer for Superbowl Sunday

COMMENTS: 4

food drink  Game Day Prep: Beer for Superbowl Sunday

food drink  Game Day Prep: Beer for Superbowl Sunday

Do you like beer? With Superbowl Sunday around the corner, it seems like an appropriate time to talk a bit about it. After all, Americans will consume something like 50 million cases of beer on Sunday (17 times more than average)—you’re likely to be offered one, whether you like it or not.

I felt like it wasn’t until I found myself in a beer garden in Germany with beers served in glasses (and not in plastic red Solo cups) that I started to see the appeal. Like so many things, I find it’s just a matter of trying lots of new things and figuring out what suits you best.

food drink  Game Day Prep: Beer for Superbowl Sunday

food drink  Game Day Prep: Beer for Superbowl Sunday

When we first moved to Davis, Aron’s parents had us over for lunch with UC Davis’s brewmaster, Charlie Bamforth—or as the professor of malting and brewing sciences is sometimes known, “The Pope of Foam.” (Davis’s is the top brewing program in the country.) The completely charming Brit brought over a sampling of beers (and a dry wit) and took us on a far-reaching tour of barley and rye and hops.

(I’ve mentioned before that I’m a complete sucker for taste tests and such, so this was such a pleasure. Recall our pseudo-scientific port-tasting party? And wine school?)

If you’re interested in hearing a bit about the science of brewing—some applicable inspiration to help you appreciate the stuff (or at least some trivia to share) before game day—there’s a wonderful mini-documentary featuring Dr. Bamforth called “The Art and Science of Beer.” The whole thing is only five minutes, but here’s a shorter clip just about foam:

I’ve collected some of my favorite Bamforth wisdom from these clips, and elsewhere:

Go for the Popular One. In a bar with a lot of choices on tap, there are likely a few that have sat for a long time—long enough for oxygen to sneak in and make the beer stale.

Don’t Overlook the Can. Light is the enemy of beer. Brown glass—or better yet, a can—will keep the light out. Green, clear, or blue glass tends to allow too much in.

But Serve Beer in a Glass. All the better for your nose to “dangle” in it, and your nose is what really determines taste.

Pour with vigor! Release the foam! Beside being a “hedonically fantastic vision of beauty,” beers with the better foam are always thought to taste better. Don’t dump the beer to the point you have a volcanic mess, but avoid the slow pour against the side of the glass that give you something akin to “cold tea.”

Beer goes with everything. In fact it can be a better match to cheese than wine, Bamforth has said: It doesn’t overpower it; it complements it. But the selection of foods that pair well is, “almost unlimited.” … “From white sausage and pretzel with hefeweissen for breakfast to chocolate cake and barley wine for dessert after supper … Think Singha with Thai Red Curry. Think Bass Ale with roast beef. Think Bock with hot wings.”

It’s a matter of taste. 1 in 3 people will actually choose the (technically improperly) skunky beer. All that matters is what you like.

But if you’re still hoping for more direct advice, Epicurious has produced a list of five easily sourced beers that pair well with typical game day fare.

P.S. Expecting, driving, or just abstaining? My picks for the best non-alcoholic beers.

[Photos from top: a beer garden in Germany; screenshot of Charlie Bamforth via YouTube; Davis’s annual Bike & Brew Fest, held each August with local breweries like Davis’s Sudwerk and West Sacramento’s Bike Dog in attendance.]

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Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

COMMENTS: 11

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

Pizza really is one of life’s perfect foods. It can be anything you want it to be.

I spent quite a while trying to perfect the at-home version of a Naples-style Margherita Pizza—which is still my absolute favorite. But I have to admit that, while it is incredibly easy to do (and here’s the dough recipe to prove it), I rarely have the advance foresight to make my own dough. More likely I pick up a pre-risen dough at Trader Joe’s or our local grocer. If you’re in the same boat and your store has an in-house baker, ask if they prep pizza dough. Because once you have the dough, you’re really just minutes away from great pizza.

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

Here’s my go-to of late…

Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula pizza

Start by preheating your oven to 500 degrees. Make sure that whatever baking sheet or stone (we have a pizza steel) is preheated as well.

Sweat 2 or so cups of mushrooms over the stove: Place all of your mushrooms into a sauté pan with a dash of water and a liberal sprinkling of salt. Also add any thyme or seasonings you like. Leave them on the stove until they release most of their liquid.

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

Gather the rest of your ingredients. Once you start the baking process, things happen quickly.

You’ll also need: At least 3-4 eggs (the exact number is up to you), whole milk ricotta, salt, pepper, arugula, and olive oil.

Stretch your dough until it’s as thin throughout as it can be without getting any holes. I hold it by its edges and let gravity help, quickly moving my hands along the perimeter. If it’s springing back too quickly, let it rest a bit.

Place directly onto the baking sheet or pizza stone and pre-cook until they dough bubbles up and the bottom starts to color.

Pull out your baking rack a bit to help you access the top of the pizza. Carefully reach in and tamp down any bubbles with a fork. Add your drained mushrooms.

Next, crack your eggs directly on top. Bake until the whites are opaque and are beginning to set. This isn’t an exact science (for me), but I’d estimate about five minutes should do it. You have to decide how runny (or not) you like your yolk.

Just before they look done, I open the oven once more to add some dollops of ricotta.

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

Remove and finish with arugula, salt & pepper, and a liberal drizzling of olive oil. Serve immediately!

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

What do you like best on your pizza? 

P.S. Perfect soft-cooked eggs. (Every time.)

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Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither!

COMMENTS: 43

travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither! travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither! travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither! travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither!

travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither!

Funny thing. I wished Hither & Thither a happy sixth birthday last year, but I got ahead of myself somehow—a few years back, in fact! Someone finally corrected me. This year marks six years. The first post was a picture-less entry written by Aron, on January 19, 2009.

What I didn’t get wrong is that every year on here is worth celebrating. And it never ceases to surprise me—even as its demands ebb and flow—how much of a role Hither & Thither plays in my life now. I’m so grateful for all of the readers whom it engages—those who have come along since the start (when Aron and I were writing it together in New York) and those who just recently started reading. For me, it’s so rewarding to have such a supportive space in which to grow as a writer and a photographer, and to build a career of my own vision. But of course it’s often the conversations, the friendships made, the back & forth, that’s best of all.

Thank you, as ever, for reading. With a trademark lack of brevity, I’ve compiled a look back at this year’s highlights. I so enjoyed looking back through some of my favorite posts again; I hope you will enjoy this, too:

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Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

COMMENTS: 12

food drink  Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

food drink  Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

It’s surprisingly easy to make your own marshmallows. I had conjured up images of sugary, sticky fingers that leave their mark for days. But the mess was actually minimal.

We had decided to invite some friends over after dinner one Monday night to roast S’mores and—inspired by the homemade raspberry ones we had in Tahoe last year—wanted to include some fresh peppermint ones. While I think Hudson preferred the standard Jet-Puffed, I definitely thought the homemade ones were the best. Most recipes call for corn syrup, but Aron found us a recipe that uses evaporated milk instead. We then added peppermint extract and swirled in just a touch of red dye (which you could skip—or do more heavily).

Here’s how to make your own…

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Building the perfect cheese board

COMMENTS: 22

food drink  Building the perfect cheese board

food drink  Building the perfect cheese board

food drink  Building the perfect cheese board

Holiday party-season is upon us. And as creative and inventive as one might want to be—eggnog-flavored donuts, let’s say—a good cheese board is always a safe bet.

A few tips for making a good one:

1. Get suggestions. Visit a cheesemonger in a cheese shop or a grocery store that stocks a dedicated cheese counter (Whole Foods, for example) and have some fun sampling. Don’t be shy. Just spell out the plan. For example, you might try:  “I’m hosting a party with twenty friends. It’s a casual, but festive get together with beer and wine. Hoping to get three or four cheeses and keep the cost under $25. Any recommendations?”  Most are eager to help—and will offer tastes. If they’re at all snooty, they’re no good at customer service; it’s not you, it’s them.

2. Mix it up. Whether you get help or make selections from the cold bin at Trader Joe’s (fine, too!), aim for a mix of textures and, possibly, milk sources. Goat’s, sheep’s, or cow’s milk cheeses (or blends) are usually described as hard/aged, soft, firm, or blue. (If you aren’t having a large gathering, less is more: two good cheeses, one hard and one soft, is enough. Three ounces per person is a good rule of thumb.)

3. Take it out. Unwrap your cheese and bring it to room temperature before serving. You can arrange everything on one large, pretty board—or, for a bigger group, you might spread it out to prevent a back-up. I was eager to use this large piece of olive wood we brought home from a trip.

4. Pre-cut or slice it. (At least some.) Bon Appétit magazine cautions again cubing the cheese (too “after-school snack”) or slicing too-thin strips (which can “‘sweat’ and become translucent-looking,” a sign that the cheese is losing flavor). Don’t worry if you don’t have the exact right selection of cheese knives. Cheese planes and wires and spoons (for a wonderfully runny Époisses) are lovely to use, but just be sure to at least offer a distinct knife for each cheese if you don’t have those things.

food drink  Building the perfect cheese board

5. Pair it. Consider some options beyond the baguette (water crackers, crostinis, flatbreads, for example). And set the cheese beside things like jam-style fruit spreads, olives, nuts, cornichons, apples, honey or even chocolate for additional flavor. (But, in general, avoid flavored cheese. Truffles and specially prepared rinds—ash, pine, and like—being the major exception.)

food drink  Building the perfect cheese board

Finally, have some fun.  Disregard everything I said and try the peppermint-rind cheddar or the caramel-like goat cheese, or use your family’s recipe for brie baked in crescent-roll dough from the pop-tin.  Your friends will appreciate that, too.

Pictured cheeses: Drunken Goat, Cinco Lanzas, Saint Agur (bleu), Old Amsterdam (aged Gouda), and Marin French. The bottom two are Gjetost from Norway, and a peppermint-rind BellaVitano by the Sartori Company of Wisconsin.

P.S. Baked vegetable chips, my favorite Blood-Orange salad, and recipes for Kumquats (and new-year prosperity).

Update: Our cheese board is Olive Wood from Tuscany. Here are some similar products

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Happy Thanksgiving!

COMMENTS: 5

food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!
food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!
food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!
Hope your holiday is filled with things that make you happy—perhaps some good friends, good food, and some good downtime. We have so much to be thankful for, and I’m grateful for a holiday to celebrate it. And it’s a pleasure sharing so many of those things with such kind readers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Next week is a full one! Looking forward to sharing some gift guides in the afternoons.

In the meantime, some favorite Thanksgiving posts:
The best cooking resources for making Thanksgiving dinner
5 Ways to keep your food safe this holiday
Thanksgiving for Two
Reimagining Holiday Leftovers

[Photos from an autumn trip to the Catskills]

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How to Have a Food-Safe Thanksgiving (5 Common Kitchen Mistakes)

COMMENTS: 11

food drink  How to Have a Food Safe Thanksgiving (5 Common Kitchen Mistakes)

When it comes to entertaining family and friends for Thanksgiving, there are plenty of things you might worry about: everything from seating and music to feuding family and unruly kids. But the worst thing I could imagine is discovering the food has made a loved one sick. After all, if Aron or I get sick, the punishment is ours, but if the people you invite to Thanksgiving—grandmothers, nephews, parents—get sick, it’s a whole different level of shame.

My mother-in-law, Dr. Christine Bruhn, who recently retired from the Department of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, is an expert in food safety (and people’s attitudes toward it, more specifically), so I decided to go to her for five ways to keep your family healthy (and free of food-borne illness) at Thanksgiving. It may not be as sexy as how to make a bourbon-maple pecan pie, but neither is wondering if you have the “flu” over the holiday.

Here are five common mistakes people make at Thanksgiving:

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Latte Art at Home (the cheat-sheet)

COMMENTS: 12

food drink  Latte Art at Home (the cheat sheet)
food drink  Latte Art at Home (the cheat sheet)
A couple of years ago, Aron got us a Nespresso machine and Aeroccino milk frother for Christmas—the Citiz model. We’ve loved it so much that last year,* I bought him one (the smaller Pixie) for his office, too. It’s just so simple and convenient—and it makes a really consistent cup. Aron often just has an espresso or an Americano, but I tend to prefer lattes or cappuccinos—so the frother is actually one of my favorite parts.

I used to have a machine with a hand-held steamer, but I never used it. Pressing the single button on the Nespresso one works for me.

food drink  Latte Art at Home (the cheat sheet)

Still, I’ve always wondered if—had I the skill—the crema on the espresso and the frothed milk made by the Nespresso could be joined to look like those fancy, artful cups the barista pours.

Nespresso asked if I’d like to try their newest machine, the Nespresso Vertuoline (which makes both brewed coffee and espresso with the same button), and since I knew already that I love the product, I thought it would be a fun chance to see if I could have a friend who works at a cafe downtown come and show me how to make a fancy latte when I’m entertaining for the holidays. After all, latte art is said to be a marker of quality—espresso paired with properly textured milk at an appropriate temperature.

Some takeaway notes: If you don’t have an automatic frother, you’ll want to steam your milk to within 140-145 degrees. Agitation is key, but you want micro bubbles in both your espresso crema and your milk to be about the same density, so use the smaller wand on the frother and angle the cup when you pour. And then…

Truth? It takes a lot of practice and true skill even with a machine that makes the right quality ingredients. He showed me a slight cheat.

food drink  Latte Art at Home (the cheat sheet)
food drink  Latte Art at Home (the cheat sheet)

We found that the Aeroccino frother’s large wand was perfect for a really thick head of foam (like I get at the European pastry shop in town) and its smaller wand was best for this pursuit. Pour in a single spot and then lift up at the end of the pour to create a single streak, just breaking the surface of the espresso crema. He used the fine tip of his thermometer to make fine lines, moving back and forth, before pulling it back through.

Okay. That, I can do.

*We’ve bought our machines at this time of year because they have really good holiday promotions. Through Monday (11/24) you can get 25% off of all machines (except the Inissia). They also have a year-end promotion that starts 11/28. Read more here. I think the milk frother makes a great gift.

food drink  Latte Art at Home (the cheat sheet)

Thanks to Nespresso USA for sponsoring this post (and my latte art education).

P.S. Delicious, decadent Sticky Buns to eat with your coffee.

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Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

COMMENTS: 13

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home
food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

I am such a sucker for studies about kids’ behaviors. The footage of a little girl trying to avoid eating a marshmallow? Empathy tests involving a room of toddlers? Aw, such charming little subjects. One such study that has stuck with me for years was watching preschoolers choose a sticker-festooned rock over a cupcake. (Say what?!)

What researchers set out to prove was that kids prefer foods bearing the likeness of characters, particularly familiar ones. I didn’t have children at the time, but I remember filing it away: “Stickers on carrots! Stickers on broccoli!”

With Thanksgiving approaching, I was thinking about how to get the visual-appeal-voodoo working on all of us for that post-holiday car ride home. After all, snacking in the back seat is the most sure-fire solution to keeping little ones entertained.

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home
food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

First step: sticker-festooning something. I went with lunchbox lids and got Hudson involved.

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

Next: work with what you have. I think we all love leftovers. (Turkey sandwiches with apples, cranberries, and cheese, anyone? Pumpkin pie for breakfast?) But there comes a time when you want to make some healthier choices—at least until the December holidays hit.

The raw ingredients for most Thanksgiving feasts are thankfully quite healthy, (think celery, apples, baked root vegetables, brussels sprouts, nuts… and turkey!), and you’re likely to have some yams left that didn’t get a marshmallow treatment. Hudson isn’t so sure about brussels sprouts, but the celery is a big hit because it’s so loud! (He thinks we can hear it crunching as loudly as he does in his ears, which amounts to lots of laughs when we make a game of pretending we can’t hear the radio.)

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

And finally: Make it pretty! Sure the stickers work on the preschooler in the back, but I’m also about ten times more excited about a snack tray that’s colorful and neatly arranged.

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

What healthy snacks do you like to bring along on road trips? What do you reach for after the Thanksgiving feast?

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

This content was created in partnership with Ford to help make creativity a part of every drive this holiday season.

P.S. Find the entire series of backseat activities created in partnership with Ford.

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Baked Vegetable Chips

COMMENTS: 19

food drink  Baked Vegetable Chips

food drink  Baked Vegetable Chips

Carrots, parsnips, celery root, sweet potatoes, taro, and beets are starting to edge their way into the cold bin. Roasted with herbs, browned in butter with a little brown sugar… slicing into them smells like fall—and like Thanksgiving, really.

And I’ve discovered that baking them into chips is one of the simplest (and prettiest) ways to snack on these root vegetables while they’re in season. They can taste as decadent as a potato chip, but they feel like a much less sinful choice.

Here’s how to make them… 

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Pumpkin Pie Alternative (& Friday Links)

COMMENTS: 9

food drink  Pumpkin Pie Alternative (& Friday Links)

It finally rained here this week, and I wore a sweater for the first time in ages. I may take it as an excuse to start using the oven a bit more. Maybe some pumpkin-pie-alternative pumpkin delight? (Follow link for recipe.)

We have some fun plans this weekend—a birthday party and perhaps a day trip to the city. We’re also gearing up for Halloween, because we are away on another trip the week before. I still need to pull together a family costume

What are you going to be for halloween? I’ve been pinning some inspiration.

Some items for your weekend reading… 

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My Austrian Evening (in Red Hook)

COMMENTS: 19

food drink  My Austrian Evening (in Red Hook)
food drink  My Austrian Evening (in Red Hook)
food drink  My Austrian Evening (in Red Hook)

There was an Op-Ed* recently that bemoaned the bucket list, the “padding [of] one’s experiential résumé” for the sake of “novelty” that turns experiences into boxes one checks off. While I certainly wouldn’t agree with the author’s naming a visit to the Vatican or a trip to Paris (or even Las Vegas) as experiences that are over-hyped as a consequence, I agree that it can be “cloying” to hear one has “done” a city.

Last week, I flew to New York for a really special dinner hosted by the Austrian tourism board. And as we—a handful of other bloggers and myself—were sitting down to dinner, one of our hosts, Director Michael Gigl, referenced the Op-Ed, noting that Austria is perhaps all the more special a destination because it isn’t one of those places people tend to put on such a list.

Austria, he said, is loved for its Gemütlichkeit—a difficult to translate (not to mention pronounce) term that describes easy-going, friendly Austrian hospitality.

food drink  My Austrian Evening (in Red Hook)

That’s not to say there aren’t bucket-list worthy sites in Austria: historians, music lovers, skiers, epicureans, dancers… you get the point… would surely take issue with any such suggestion! When I think of Austria, I think of pastries and wine (they’ve been cultivating wine since the Roman times), of waltzes, of composers like Mozart, Joseph Haydn, Strauss and Schubert, of dirndls and skiing in the Alps. And of course of a long, rich history. Watching an Opera in Vienna would surely be worthy of any such bucket list.

When my parents took me to Europe as a very lucky (but certainly not adequately grateful) teenager, we drove from Italy into Austria. My priorities were mostly about following in the footsteps of Maria Von Trapp (The Sound of Music was filmed primarily in Salzburg and there’s a photo of me in front of the church that served as the façade for Maria’s wedding), but what I remember now was seeing wild swans floating atop a glassy, misty lake in Hallstatt; donning colorful jumpsuits to slide down into salt mines; and laughing at my mom’s heavy use of the brake after my dad and I sped downhill on a summer luge.

food drink  My Austrian Evening (in Red Hook)
food drink  My Austrian Evening (in Red Hook)

Back to that evening in New York. It was full of Gemütlichkeit. And this time I knew enough to appreciate it: First of all, Kurt Gutenbrunner (of Wallsé and a few other wonderful NY restaurants) made us an amazing dinner in a private home in Red Hook (one of those artist’s lofts beside Fairway market that looks out at over the Harbor with its water taxis and ferries and, of course, Lady Liberty). You may have seen some photos on Instagram or Twitter from me with the hashtag #MyAustrianEvening.

food drink  My Austrian Evening (in Red Hook)
food drink  My Austrian Evening (in Red Hook)
food drink  My Austrian Evening (in Red Hook)

There were canapés of wiener schnitzel, liptauer, and foie gras; smoked trout crepes with salmon caviar; spätzle with corn and chanterelles with braised rabbit; roasted venison; about three different desserts; and a lot of wonderful wine. And the members of the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra came and played classical music by Austrian composers and… well, it was just lovely.

food drink  My Austrian Evening (in Red Hook)

So, of course, the takeaway here is that we would all be lucky to take a trip to Austria. (And, bucket-list or not, you should start planning one, here. Now.) But in the meantime, if you’d like an evening like this, they’re offering a chance to win an Austrian Evening in your home (for you and nine of your friends)—go to the Austrian travel page to learn how to enter to win.

food drink  My Austrian Evening (in Red Hook)
What do you think of “bucket-list” travel? Have you been to Austria? If so, what was most memorable about your visit?

Thank you to everyone at the Austrian Tourism Office for making all the arrangements for me to make the trip out to New York and to attend #MyAustrianEvening!

Photos my own with exception of guests toasting (at top), which is courtesy of Austria Travel.

*The Op-Ed referenced is “What Is the Right Way to Travel?” by Anna Altman (New York Times), in response to Rebecca Mead’s “Kicking the Bucket List” (New Yorker).

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Salads to Try

COMMENTS: 6

food drink  Salads to Try

food drink  Salads to Try

The goal: Eat more salads. (Why is this so hard to do? It shouldn’t be: they’re the most beautiful food.)

Some recent inspiration…

[Above: Grilled Peaches & Burrata (we still have some stone fruit at our markets) / Roasted Beets with Sweet Orange, Chévre, and Pumpkin Seeds]

food drink  Salads to Try
food drink  Salads to Try

[Cauliflower and Roasted Garbanzo “Rice & Peas” / Ginger, Citrus, & Black Sesame Carrots with Edamame (love using edamame for added protein)]

food drink  Salads to Try

food drink  Salads to Try

[Grilled Kale Caesar / and a perfect duo for fall: Persimmon Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette / Pomegranate, Kale, Wild Rice, Walnuts, and Feta]

Here’s one of my favorite salads, made with Blood Oranges.

food drink  Salads to Try

Maybe the answer to making them part of one’s routine is prepping on Sunday nights and making Salad-in-a-Jar.

All image sources linked by recipe.

P.S. Classic Marinara sauce to master.

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Sant’Eustachio il Caffe, Rome: Best Espresso?

COMMENTS: 20

travel food drink  SantEustachio il Caffe, Rome: Best Espresso?

travel food drink  SantEustachio il Caffe, Rome: Best Espresso?

Whether or not it’s the best, the espresso at Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè is perhaps one of the most famous to be pulled in Rome. The classic experience involves standing at the bar, quickly sipping an espresso or caffé with a pastry. We opted for the fairly pricey table service, so that we could better enjoy the relative calm in the small piazza and better savor the rich, wonderful Nutella Aragosta (lobster-tail pastries) that Aron and I so fondly recalled from our last visit. The coffee is amazing, but these are honestly some of the best pastries we had on the trip (or ever). 

travel food drink  SantEustachio il Caffe, Rome: Best Espresso?

We’re just back from what was a wonderful three weeks in Italy. And though we’re still paying some of the price in jet lag, I’m already feeling nostalgic as I look at these photos. Alas, it’s probably best to put some distance between us and the permission we gave ourselves to schmear Nutella on anything bread-like.

I hope to share travelogues—I’m thinking it might make sense to break the trip into three parts—later in the month.

In the meantime, I couldn’t help but share these photos from one particularly pleasant morning in Rome:

travel food drink  SantEustachio il Caffe, Rome: Best Espresso?
travel food drink  SantEustachio il Caffe, Rome: Best Espresso?

Aron and I alternated sips of caffé latte and Gran caffé (slightly larger and frothier than an espresso); Hudson had a cup of chocolate, which was thick and slightly bitter and which Aron spooned for him as if he were a baby bird until the temperature was just right. Oh, the life of a (lucky) three year old.

The whole situation reminded me of this very decadent breakfast in Paris.

travel food drink  SantEustachio il Caffe, Rome: Best Espresso?

With most meals consisting of some combination of tomato sauce and Nutella or gelato, we realized we would be doing laundry every day unless we started having Hudson share Skyler’s bibs. (Eventually, he took to donning his “cape” and running very fast.)

travel food drink  SantEustachio il Caffe, Rome: Best Espresso?
travel food drink  SantEustachio il Caffe, Rome: Best Espresso?

Back when William Grimes of the New York Times found the espresso in New York to be lacking (many years ago), he famously wrote: “When the need for a real espresso becomes overpowering, buy a ticket to Rome, tell the taxi driver to head straight for the Sant’Eustachio cafe. The espresso will be perfect. A little expensive, but surely worth the trouble.” You could do worse than to follow that advice. Just be sure to try the Aragosta, too. 

Okay… back to bed.

P.S. Our pick for best croissants in New York.

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Indian Street Food

COMMENTS: 15

food drink  Indian Street Food
food drink  Indian Street Food

I think one of the things I miss most about living in New York is Indian Food. My friend Teryn and I would walk around the corner from our offices on Park Avenue to the row of (mostly) South Indian restaurants in the 30s along 3rd Avenue. Incredible Dosas at Saravanaa Bhavan, Roti Wraps at Roomali, and—probably our favorite—Bhel Puri and other renditions of Indian Street Food at Bhojan. I’d have some kind of Indian food for lunch at least once a week if not two or three times. There’s nothing like it here, really.

I was thrilled when Sunset Magazine, last April, had an article on Indian Street Food with a list of restaurants in the West where someone like me can indulge her craving. (There are lots of options in the Bay Area… the East Bay in particular.) They also furnished a list of resources for buying ingredients.

One day, we’re going to back to India and take a culinary tour consisting entirely of street snacks.

food drink  Indian Street Food

Do you like Indian Food? Do you have a good recipe for Bhel Puri to share?

P.S. Aron and I have taken a couple of South Indian cooking classes on date nights in Davis. If you’re local and looking for some instruction, check out the Co-Op!

[First image of & middle image from Sunset Magazine April 2014; bottom was taken in Delhi on our trip to India]

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Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

COMMENTS: 18

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

I’m often guilty of underestimating what Hudson can do to help. Sometimes it just doesn’t cross my mind to ask.

At three, he’s ready to do more tasks on his own every day. Or, occasionally, as a team. (“We’re a team! Right, Mommy?”) I’m excited to spend more time in the kitchen together.

Studies have shown that children are much less likely to reject foods they help prepare themselves—and so cooking can be a wonderful way to expose them to new flavors, new skills, and new responsibilities (like cleaning up). We didn’t really broaden his flavor horizon this time around—dessert!—but I’d been eager to try Gâteau au Yaourt (French Yogurt Cake) with him.

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

Gâteau au Yaourt is a popular goûter (or afternoon snack) in France, rumored to be one of the first things children there bake. The idea is that (almost) the entire recipe can be made off the measure of a 1/2-cup yogurt container.

I drew the outline of the recipe on our chalkboard for Hudson:

  • 1 serving yogurt (1 serving is one  4.75-oz yogurt cup in this case)
  • 1 serving oil
  • 2 servings sugar
  • 3 servings flour
  • 3 small eggs (we used two extra-large)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla (my yogurt was vanilla flavored, so I skipped this)

Here are two, kid-friendly printable versions of the recipe: First, Ingredients only.  Second, with quantities. (You can laminate them for your kids!)

You just combine all of the ingredients. Mix until smooth, and pour into a well-buttered 9″ baking dish. Ours took just shy of 30 minutes at 350 degrees to be done, but I’d suggest checking it with the clean-fork-test as soon as you smell it.

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

I set out all of the ingredients (like a proper sous-chef) and then showed him the recipe on the chalkboard. Each time we started a step, I asked him to count how many servings we needed based on the illustration.

We washed our hands and got started…

I had to help a bit a few times (scraping the last of the ingredients out of the jar after each dump; pouring into the jar from heavy bags or boxes—though he could have spooned things in himself; and cracking eggs), and I did all of the oven-related steps.

But he even did a fantastic job cracking the eggs. Tip: I had him use a separate bowl in case some shell made it’s way in (it did) and told him to open the egg like a book.

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

Of course, after handling eggs we washed our hands again. I like this foaming hand wash from Method because he likes all of the bubbles and can easily use it himself (and he’s less likely to over-pump).

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

Don’t you love those squishy little toddler wrists? (I do!)

He poured all of the batter into the pan. (Raw eggs means no licking the bowl, but he was so engaged he forgot to ask!) And while we waited for the cake to bake, we practiced our clean-up skills.

We didn’t make too much of a mess, so a little dish soap and water was all we needed to tackle the counter clean-up.

You’ll recall that we’ve committed ourselves to exclusively using products from the newly curated Made to Matter, Handpicked by TargetTM  (which is convenient since I’m already there all the time), so I’ve been especially happy to let Hudson help me clean-up knowing that he’s using non-toxic household goods throughout the kitchen.

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

The hardest part of all was waiting. We tried the cake by itself, first. Delicious! It was dense but not heavy at all. It’s a little bit sweet, but not saccharine—just right. It reminded me so much of an olive oil cake that I might try using olive oil in place of canola oil next time. Really, there’s heaps of potential here: you could frost it, bake fruit into it, top it with lemon curd or whipped cream and lemon zest…

Keeping with the jar of yogurt theme, we let Hudson top his with more of the vanilla yogurt and some berries. I thought the whole affair was wonderful—and so did he! I could tell he was proud of the cake (which he really did make almost all by himself), especially when he saw how badly Skyler wanted to try it, too.

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen This post is sponsored by TargetThe Made To Matter line has been handpicked by Target to bring you brands that make things better for your you, your family, and the place we all call home.

We’re excited to continue using these Method and Seventh Generation products in our home. Thank you for following along with this series of Living Clean posts. And thank you to Target for supporting Hither & Thither!

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Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms (& Friday Links)

COMMENTS: 10

food drink  Ricotta Stuffed Squash Blossoms (& Friday Links)

Our farmer’s market is filled with Squash Blossoms (or Zucchini Flowers) right now. They look incredible—and so tempting—but I find I often let them languish after I bring them home. So here’s a recipe from Donna Hay, to get us all inspired.

You’ll need Squash Blossoms (courgette), ricotta, lemon, salt, basil, and pecorino (and some optional chili flakes). You’ll also need  some vegetable oil, cornstarch, and flour for frying.

Of course, there’s also Squash-blossom pizza!

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