Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Even when it's stupidly hot..

...you still need to eat. And not only sorbet. Sad, but true.

I had a mad craving for curried chicken salad yesterday and what I came up with was brilliant if I do say so myself: a lovely combo of creamy and cool, zippy, fruity, and crunchy with lots and lots of color.

I could have been deterred by the fact that despite my copious collection of Indian spices (seriously, you should see my freezer which is stuffed with things like curry leaves and mango powder and enough mustard seed to fill a small pillow) I had absolutely no curry powder in the house. But nothing was going to stop me from having my salad and nothing was going to force me out into the heat. I ended up making my own curry powder, and that may be why this salad was so lovely but then again, it would probably be just dandy with a good commercial brand of curry powder.

My other imrov move was using dried mangoes instead of fresh. Fresh woudl be delicious, I'm sure, but again, the heat. I stayed put and rehydrated some dried mangoes from Trader Joe's and they added the perfect bit of sweetness to the salad.

This was a huge hit at my house, enough so that I think I will be making it again very soon. There's really no end to this heat wave in sight, so I'm pretty happy to live on salads, smoothies, and sorbets.

Printable recipe here

Monday, July 27, 2009


Anyone reading this with kids has probably figured out by now that it's kind of a big waiting game. Once we get past the ever adorable baby/toddler stage and our kids begin to assert their own personalities, we realize that it's maybe not all going to be a piece of cake. Our kids argue and test and push and roll their eyes and swear they'll never make the choices their parents made--or is that just my kids?. They develop interests which their parents can't understand and begin speaking in a language almost incomprehensible to those of us who raise them. Sometimes it seems like they're just really far away and they simply cannot hear us. We might try to guide them but often as not, they insist on doing things their way. And we parents just have to sit back and wait to see how it all turns out.

Every once in a while, though, we get a glimpse of who they are becoming and, if we are lucky, we get to see the part we parents played in that transformation. I was blessed with one of those moments today and it brought tears to my eyes.

It happened, as these things so often do, in the car, while I was driving MonkeyBoy to the bank. He had finally saved up enough to buy his own computer and we were going to move his money into my account since I needed to do the ordering. I think I jokingly said something about how mean I was to make him make this purchase with his own money and then pointed out how lucky he was to be a kid. He could spend his money any way he wanted but we parents had so many things to pay for and often not a whole lot left over.

Then out of the blue, he said, "I think you guys totally made the right choice". I wasn't sure what he was referring to, but then he explained that he thought it really was great that one of his parents was always home, that he and his siblings never had to go to day care or school, and that they could be home schooled. He actually said these things were more important than money and he hoped to be able to raise his kids in a similar way.

We parents don't get to hear things like that all that often so you know I was paying attention!

Sometimes I look at my friends who seem to have it all: lovely homes and cars that aren't one breakdown away from the junk yard, money for vacations and beach homes and endless camps and classes for their kids. Oh, and health insurance. The Spouse and I traded those luxuries for time with our kids, more time than most American families ever get . There have been many, many times when we've questioned the wisdom of taking this route. We've explained this choice nearly every time the kids ask us why we can't take "real" vacations or eat out more often or any number of things that would be lovely but aren't really so hard to do without. I always figured that down the road, perhaps when they had kids of their own and were up against the kinds of choices we've had to make over the years, that hopefully then they might understand why we made the choices we did about money and time and work and family. But I was astonished and hugely gratified to find that my 14 year old already had it figured out.
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Heat Wave

You've just got to love the weather forecasters here in Portland. We get a week's hysterical notice for any potentially dramatic weather. They've been carrying on about the coming heat wave for days but as far as I'm concerned, it's already here. I'm having a harder time with the heat this year than usual. All I want to eat is ice cream.

Unfortunately ice cream and I don't really get along. It's pretty hard on my stomach though I have been known to suffer for a good coffee ice cream. Gelato I can handle pretty well and I adore Coconut Bliss, but it's awfully spendy. Sorbet, however, goes down with no trouble at all. When I stand in front of the freezer case, there are so many tasty looking ice cream flavors and then, maybe, there's lemon sorbet. Yawn.

Luckily it's a snap to make my own sorbet. In the last few weeks we've had cherry, blueberry-banana, and nectarine, all based on the recipes in David Lebovitz' most excellent book The Perfect Scoop. Although his recipe for nectarine sorbet was simple enough, I made things even easier by cutting out one step. I opted not to cook the nectarines --I just threw everything in the blender, transferred the mixture to my trusty Donvier, and we had a lovely fresh nectarine sorbet in no time at all.

I might try this again and cook the nectarines just to see what happens, but I really love the way my raw version burts with super fresh nectarine flavor. I'm sure you'll want to have some of this tucked away in your freezer when the heat wave hits.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009


Sixteen years ago today, Simon came into the world and I became a mother. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? But what a day--what a wild ride. I learned so much during my 24 hour labor: that birth plans mean nothing in a hospital (the nurses laughed at mine), that doctors mean nothing in a hospital (mine wasn't to be called until the nurses decided I was ready, which meant that my doctor very nearly missed the birth), that nothing really prepares you for labor (apart from pushing out a baby), that I was so much stronger than I ever imagined, and that time stops when a new baby arrives.

I'm still learning, every day, what it is to be a mother to this boy who's so nearly a man. His siblings will surely benefit from my trials and errors as I try to figure out how best to support him on his journey. I love the person he's always been and the one he's become: bright, observant, witty, and creative.

He's a typical teen full of sass and attitude, but every now and again he breaks out in unstoppable laughter and it's a sound that makes everyone smile. My wish for him is that he has countless opportunities for that delighted laugh to ring out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Colleen's Poison Jam

Ok, folks, you are in for a real treat today. I'm going to share a recipe for, quite simply, the best jam in the whole world. This summer I've already made strawberry jam, sour cherry jam, and lots of blueberry marmalade. They are all very, very good. But nothing touches Colleen's Poison Jam which I am sharing here with her permission.

The first thing you should know it that it isn't actually poison, but it's so good that you'd willingly eat it even if it were. Back in March we took a trip down south to visit Colleen and her lovely family in California. We had a wonderful week and when our departure day arrived, I was quite sad about leaving. Colleen had thoughtfully gotten up early, thrown together some fabulous scones, and served them with an array of tasty homemade jams. The apricot was absolutely divine and I was delighted when she pulled a couple of jars out of the freezer and gave them to me to take home.

It was a long drive and I thought about the jam tucked away under the seat quite a few times. After many hours, we got home and unpacked and went about the business of switching from vacation mode to real life mode and it was quite a few days before I thought about the jam again. When I went looking for it, it wasn't in the refrigerator where it belonged. Both jars were right where I left them under the seat in the van.

In my defense, I will say that the weather was very cool and rainy all week. It never could have heated up in the van. And jam is full of sugar, a natural preservative. When I brought the jars in, I told the kids in no uncertain terms not to touch the jam as it was surely spoiled. And then I proceeded to eat an entire jar myself in the pre-Passover rush to get all the bread out of the house. My kids eventually realized that I wasn't dying from the jam and they took care of the rest of it. And thus the (terribly unfair) name was born.

I'm sure many of you are shrieking in horror by now. But here's the thing. I would risk my life for this jam. It's that good. And there wasn't a thing in the world wrong with it despite all my husband's grim doomsday warnings.

I thought it must be terribly complicated to make such a lovely treat but in fact it's a snap. Really. Couldn't be easier. Apricots, sugar, lemon juice, a pat of butter, and a vanilla bean which is crucial to the heavenly flavor. The only thing I changed was the method of preservation. Instead of freezing, my jars have been water bath canned so they're safe for long car rides and forgetful gift recipients. It takes about half an hour to make a couple of pints of the loveliest apricot jam ever. Apricots are in all the farmers markets these days (at least in our area) so don't miss your chance!

Printable recipe here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Disjointed Catchall Post

So, yeah, I'm still alive, still cooking and knitting and HATING MY JOB, and pretty much the usual summer stuff really. Nothing terribly exciting, no great thoughts. I tried to write this long, tortured post about (of all things) getting older and dancing and Michael Jackson's death but guess what? It really didn't go anywhere for which you all can breathe a big, deep sigh of relief.

In and around stressing about my job, there's been a lot of canning and jam making and fruit picking and freezing--all good things we'll appreciate in mid winter when there's nothing but bland, mealy apples. Today alone I canned 12 jars of blueberry marmalade which is good stuff. And then there are the cherries. The cherries!

I've managed to make two sundresses for The Princess, one of which you see here.

I even sewed on some vintage rickrack (in a straight line!) from my bottomless collection of other people's discarded craft items. I'm pretty pleased with the outcome and hoping sundress weather returns soon.

What else? I just glanced at my computer clock and noticed that--eek!--I am officially 44 which is pretty much cronehood, isn't it? That must be why I snapped up the high heeled dancing shoes and lime green sweater at the thrift shop today. There's only so much doomsday reading a girl can take before rebelling. Maybe I will grow up next year.

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

I woke up the other morning with blueberry breakfast cake on my mind. It probably had something to do with the more than 20 pounds of blueberries the kids and I picked at a lovely farm out in Canby. However, much as I liked the sound of it, I've never actually had blueberry breakfast cake so I had to come up with something that would live up to the name.

This cake has all kinds of things to get your day off to a good start. Yes, it's filled with those super healthy fruits, but there are also lots of whole grains and nuts to fuel your day. Lemon zest and cinnamon accent the berries beautifully.

I hope you'll give this one a try. I think it's the new summer breakfast of choice around here.

Printable recipe

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