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.

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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: 12

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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The Rebel Within

COMMENTS: 6

uncategorized food drink  The Rebel Within

We just got back from a weekend in San Francisco, and I finally got to try a Rebel Within muffin at Craftsman & Wolves, a pâtisserie in the Mission. Every other time I’ve swung by, the soft-cooked-egg filled, sausage, chive, Asiago and Parmesan cheese-speckled muffin has been sold out.

Justifiably famous. That’s my verdict.

uncategorized food drink  The Rebel Within

These guys did an impressive job trying to replicate it.

P.S. A weekend in SF without the kids; Vintage Shopping in SF; and How to ride a Cable Car.

[Photos: top, mine; bottom, Craftsman & Wolves]

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Cutest Cat Cake (and Friday links)

COMMENTS: 12

uncategorized food drink  Cutest Cat Cake (and Friday links)

How cute is this cake?! Molly Yeh (of My Name is Yeh) made it using Betty Crocker cake mix, some coconut shreds, some marzipan, a little food coloring, and a touch of spaghetti. So simple and sweet!

Which reminds me… Hudson’s third birthday is right around the corner. Better get cracking on that. Any favorite ideas for a third birthday?

Have a great weekend!

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Quick Salad Cheat

COMMENTS: 17

uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat
uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat
With the days longer and the evenings warmer, we’ve been more likely to find ourselves surprised by the hour and in need of a last-minute dinner plan—for ourselves and for sharing with friends.

Rotisserie chicken and salad is always my go-to, and I’ve been using the simplest cheat for a spur-of-the-moment, no-brainer (but looks like you thought about it) salad.

uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat

The trick? It’s almost too simple to warrant sharing, but it’s also sort of awesome: mix a fresh bag of greens (or a freshly washed bunch) with a pre-made deli salad. Done.

This all came about because, roughly a month ago, it came to my attention that I was completely failing at eating healthy lunches. Basically, while Hudson was off at preschool for a few hours, and Skyler was sleeping, I would choose working on the computer, checking email, running errands, combing out my bedhead… anything… over putting thought into a real lunch. Then, by 3pm, when they both were back asleep, I’d realize I was starving and would seek out ice cream. Not a good scene.

I can’t say that I’ve completely conquered my bad habits, but the most reliable fix was when I’d fill the fridge with a few boxes of pre-made salad combinations. I know, I know: it’s so easy to do yourself (and I’m going to work on that, too) but somehow a cold salad for lunch was so much more appealing when someone else made it.

uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat

This particular one is from Fresh & Easy—a new take on the neighborhood market, known best perhaps for their Ready-to-Cook line of dinners (also super convenient for busy nights); they’re great about offering lots of options for the time-starved. I learned that they have a nice range of these pre-made salads.

(Side note: Too bad there’s no room in my cart for anything with two kids these days! Is this how everyone else shops with both?)

uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat

uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat

I chose the Greek in this case. Generally, my philosophy on this is: if you’re going to be making ingredients go further, look for the salads with plenty of high-calorie add-ins (like olives, cheese, or nuts). And if it were just for my family, I might sub a bag of spinach for the bag of romaine to up the nutrition.

Then, just add olive oil, salt, and pepper, pouring the oil into the container left from whatever dressing they provided (you can be sure to get every last drop of theirs and doubling this will generally be a good serving size for dressing). You can always opt to add more of one thing, squeeze some fresh lemon or add a dash of vinegar, if you like.

This way you have a range of creative ingredients in your dinner salad, but without having had to do any chopping or planning.

uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat
uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat

Thank you to Fresh & Easy for sponsoring this post and supporting Hither & Thither!

Fresh & Easy thinks that fresh, wholesome food should be accessible and affordable to everyone. They offer a range of their own brand products and freshly prepared meals, in addition to other favorite top name brands in smarter and smaller stores. If it has the Fresh & Easy name on it, it’s guaranteed to be free from artificial colors and flavors, transfats, high-fructose corn syrup or any other hidden nasties that are out there. Find one near you.

P.S. More favorite salads: Simple summer squash, Blood Orange, and a Watermelon Salad.

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Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

COMMENTS: 8

uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine
uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

I’ve been meaning to post about this super-colorful restaurant for a while now (as you can possibly guess by how old Hudson looks in the photo below). Ever since my friend Emarie took me, any time we’re anywhere nearby, I try to justify a detour to eat Puerto Rican food at Sol in San Rafael. Comfort food from the Caribbean might be one way to describe the menu. Tostones and maduros (savory and sweet plantains), pressed bistec and Cubano sandwiches, chicken and pink beans,  and pan-fried pork chops are on offer alongside big glasses of limonada fresca and mango-orange iced tea, and bins of coconut and sweet molasses sodas. All I know is that I want to go in a big group next time so that I can sample more of the menu.

uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

There’s almost always a line at the restaurant (where you order, cafeteria-style, at the counter), so it’s helpful to know you can get everything to-go next door.

Sol Food Puerto Rican Cuisine
San Rafael, CA

P.S. Some posts on visiting Puerto Rico: a true find in Old San Juan, seeing Old San Juan in a day or two, and enjoying San Juan and El Yunque National Forest after a Caribbean cruise.

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Ice Cream in One Minute.

COMMENTS: 0

uncategorized food drink  Ice Cream in One Minute.

Okay, so you still do have to make the ice cream base but this looks so fun!!
It’s called a Chef’n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker—you move the creamy base around like you’re scrambling eggs, only your work surface is frosty.

[Video via Bon Appetit]

P.S. How to make your own Magic Shell topping, Mint Chip Frozen Greek Yogurt, and Frozen Chocolate-dipped Bananas.

Malaysian Meat Jerky
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Easy Squash Salad for Summer

COMMENTS: 9

food drink  Easy Squash Salad for Summer

Before you know it, market stands and CSA boxes will be filling up with summer squash, and you’ll be looking for another way to grill zucchini. Here’s my favorite simple, no-cook, summer squash salad.

Gather:
Yellow squash and zucchini. Figure you’ll need one small squash per person sharing.
Baby arugula. Roughly 1/2-cup for each small squash—or however much you like, really.
Lemon. Lots. Figure one for every two people.
Olive oil for dressing.
Pecorino (or Parmesan)
Salt and pepper

Make:
Zest and juice your lemons.
Combine equal parts olive oil and fresh lemon juice with zest.
Slice your squash into delicate, thin strips. Use a vegetable peeler (or a mandoline, if you have one).
Gently toss your arugula and squash in lemon dressing. Arrange with squash visible on top.
Season generously with salt, pepper, and shaved cheese.

(Adapted from Home Cooking with Jean-Georgesfood drink  Easy Squash Salad for Summer )

P.S. A shaved asparagus salad. And my favorite way to eat an egg.

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Napa: Lunch at Redd, Yountville

COMMENTS: 8

travel food drink california  Napa: Lunch at Redd, Yountville
travel food drink california  Napa: Lunch at Redd, Yountville

Earlier this month, over the mother’s day weekend, Aron and I drove into Yountville (a little town in Napa that you may have heard of thanks to some fella named Thomas Keller) and had an anniversary lunch at Redd.

Redd won me over with the best mocktail (and a delicious meal) when I was pregnant with Hudson. This was the first time we’d been back, and I still loved it. The menu is a bit eclectic—many dishes have a bit of an Asian-fusion aspect whereas others are steadfastly European—but everything we’ve had has been great. I was especially excited about indulging in things like hamachi sashimi and tuna tartare (their take is amazing), oysters and (real) cocktails—the sorts of things that had been off limits last time (and throughout most of the past year).

But I was also reminded what a pleasure it is to indulge in a special midday meal.

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How to make Disney’s Dole Whips (and Friday links)

COMMENTS: 7

food drink  How to make Disneys Dole Whips (and Friday links)

In all my years of visiting Disneyland (and those few summer trips to DisneyWorld), I’d never had that most-raved-about treat, the Dole Whip until now. I was surprised to find that the pineapple soft serve concoction lived up to the hype!

We’re headed back from our week in Florida, where our time was divided between the Magic Kingdom and the American Urologic Association’s annual meeting (or at least Aron’s was). And I may just have to try this copycat recipe for Disney’s Dole Whip sometime when we get back.

I also had fun reading the commentary about kids on flights while we were away. I wished I’d had more time to join the conversation, and hope to do so more later. Thank you for chiming in!

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Picking Blackberries

COMMENTS: 12

food drink  Picking Blackberries

food drink  Picking Blackberries

food drink  Picking Blackberries

Aron grew up picking blackberries from his mother’s garden. He remembers learning how to tell when a blackberry is truly ripe (black, with a brownish top at the stem, that comes off the vine without requiring much effort); he remembers not being able to keep many berries in his basket; he remembers making blackberry jam. He didn’t used to like the seeds, so his mother would use a food processor to separate them. He’d watch and wait for the temperature to rise to the point that they would pour parafin over the top to seal the jam and then find the cupboards filled with jars of jam.

The best, he recounts, is when she would make blackberry ice cream. It was the only ice cream he liked.

So it’s pretty awesome that our kids will get to pick blackberries in her garden now, too.

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Celebrate! (and Friday links)

COMMENTS: 3

food drink  Celebrate! (and Friday links)

There’s a lot to celebrate lately. Perhaps most notably, one of our dear friends came home from a 6-1/2-month deployment in Afghanistan on Monday and we are all welcoming him back tonight with a picnic in the park. He served as a surgeon and his Instagram account was often so inspiring (and eye-opening). He wrote letters to each of his two daughters every day he was away, and I think all of his family’s friends who saw photos of him being welcomed by them and by his lovely, 8-month-pregnant wife, at the airport couldn’t help but be misty-eyed. It’s a relief to have him back.

And, on a lighter note, it’s nearly Cinco de Mayo! Time for fish tacos, guacamole, grilled corn with lime and cotija cheese, spicy Micheladas, and these delicious-looking grapefruit margaritas!

Erin and her team at Apartment 34 shared this take on the classic Mexican drink and it looks incredible! Whereas most margaritas follow a 3/2/1 recipe (3 parts tequila, 2 parts triple sec or cointreau, 1 part lime), this one reduces the alcohol a bit and ups the citrus—with more lime and the addition of grapefruit. See the recipe.

Will you be doing anything to celebrate?

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Simple Olive Garland centerpiece

COMMENTS: 20

food drink  Simple Olive Garland centerpiece

food drink  Simple Olive Garland centerpiece

The Sunday evening before last, a few of us hosted a dinner for a girlfriend who is expecting. She and her husband already have two adorable daughters (whom Hudson is wild about) and so she specifically asked for an un-shower-like celebration. I thought it might help to keep the centerpiece green, as opposed to setting out flowers. Pretty, but not precious.

The thing is, I’m kind of terrible when it comes to arranging flowers, so it was really just an excuse to go out and buy a garland! I went to the local florist and showed them some pictures. They could do something nice using green filler, but the cost was going to be pretty high owing to labor. Luckily, the young woman I talked to assured me I could do it myself and gave me a quick tutorial and sold me some some paddle wire. Here’s what I learned:

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