Monday, November 30, 2009

Momma Like: November 2009: Holiday PJ's

One of my favorite family holiday traditions is that the first gift of the year (in our family on Christmas Eve) is a cozy pair of PJ's.  My mother used to wash them in advance so that we could wear them that very night.  This year, I found a sale that may encourage me to continue the tradition!  Check it out at Hanna Andersson today.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Food November 2009: Leftover Pumpkin

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light 

Turkey, stuffing, cranberry, sweet potato sandwiches are so good that I never seem to have the problem that most people do of wondering what to do with all the leftover turkey.  This year, I made the pumpkin cheesecake with real, roasted pumpkin puree, rather than canned, and it left me with a few extra cups.  This recipe is adapted from a fantastic Cooking Light Recipe - which while completely delicious, uses ingredients that are not whole foods.  My version is much the same, but by using real pumpkin and yogurt rather than processed pudding, is something that you feel better about feeding the kids.  

2 eggs
2 cups of roasted pumpkin puree (or canned)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup 0% greek yogurt (or homemade)
1/2 cup expeller pressed organic canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups, 2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, salt and baking soda and whisk it through.  Beat the eggs and pumpkin puree well (3 minutes on medium-high), add sugar, yogurt, oil, and vanilla and mix on low.  Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir the flour mix into the pumpkin mix just until blended.  Add the chocolate chips and stir.  Place in two buttered and floured bread pans 8x4 and place in oven for roughly 1 hour and ten minutes to one hour and a half, or when the bread is just solid and the tops are starting to lightly brown.  Let cool in pan and remove to serve.  

Friday, November 27, 2009

Buy of the Day: November 2009

Picture of Green Toys Eco-Friendly Recycling Truck

There are lots of "black friday" deals today - including a great deal at JCREW outlets today and at all Gap kids stores on fleece and adorable sleepwear.  My favorite though is Oompa Toys.  Without braving the malls and dealing with obsessed retail moms, you can do what I am doing and get your Santa-on while in your PJs.  Check out their 10% off toys offer today only - expiring at midnight.  My pick?  My son is truck obsessed and this recycling truck, at $24.99 before sale, satisfies my need to introduce ecological concepts will his need to smash things and yell "VRMMMM."  Not only is the truck made of 100% child-safe recycled plastic, but it has actual sorting slots in the back of the truck so that you child can practice the "paper, plastic, aluminum," dance.  Shop quickly, it will be sold out soon!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


If you were crying like me when Domino magazine came to and end, cry not fair maidens.... is here to save the day. My stylish friend Ali sent it to me last month, and I am hooked. Check out Issue #1 online now with another coming in December. My favorites - Chairlooms is a home run with at least three chairs I need to buy another house for and textile designer Carolina Irving's apartment which is a total inspiration. The great thing about Lonny is when you look at the pictures and have envy, no worries, you can source the fabric or furniture piece simply by clicking on the photo. Have fun!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Food November 2009: Thanksgiving

Perfect Roast Turkey
source: Martha

I am thankful for Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is Christmas without the gifts and commercialization to leave the holiday about what it should be - family, a sense of gratitude, and amazing food.  Despite the perfect picture, every family has a little Thanksgiving dysfunction.  That's what really makes it Thanksgiving; and in my family, we always say the goal is to put the fun back in dysfunctional.

Growing up, my family had without a doubt - the best food.  The cost however was a grumpy Dad who wouldn't let us near the kitchen all day (the grump would definitely wear off after the first pre-dinner scotch) and a rather stressed mom who served no less than 10 dishes and 2-3 pies for dessert.  The results were a New England culinary tour de force and two exhausted parents.  When I got married and spent my first Thanksgiving away from the fam and with my in-laws, I witnessed the other side of things.  I was amazed at how relaxed everyone was... and then I tasted the food.  Needless to say, my father-in-law's turkey with the giblets (plastic wrap still on) roasted into the bird topped off with a  store bought gravy was less than savory - thankfully, my husband's cousin makes a mean mashed potato that saved the day.   So where is the balance?  I'm still searching, but here is my take on Thanksgiving - keep it simple.  If you chose a few well cooked dishes then there is no need to serve ten things, as everyone will stuff up on the good stuff.  Besides - creamed onions and french bean casserole are not the necessities when you go to make the leftover sandwich the next day - right?  Moreover, whether everyone will admit it or not, store bought Ocean Spray Cranberry Jelly is always better than Grandma's four hour pain-stakingly technical cranberry mold.  Good luck with your holiday - here is mine.  

Thanksgiving Menu (10-12 adults and 4-6 kids)
Roasted Turkey with Cornbread Maple Sausage Stuffing
Martha Stewart Recipe for Perfect Roast Turkey and Figs and Cupcakes Stuffing
Creme Fraice Whipped Mashed Potatoes - Figs and Cupcakes
Roasted Garnet Yams with "souffle" of marshmallow - Figs and Cupcakes
Steamed Green Beans with Butter and Slivered Almonds - Figs and Cupcakes

Dessert: Apple Pie - The Best Recipe Cookbook or Cooks Illustrated Online - free with a 14 day trial membership.
Pumpkin Cheesecake - unknown attribution used by my mother - on Figs and Cupcakes

Thankgiving Timeline: 

Sunday: Make the pie crust and stick in the freezer.

Monday night: grocery shop 

Tuesday: make the cornbread and pre-roast the yams.  

Wednesday morning: before work or your day starts, make the brine and place the turkey in to soak in the fridge.

Wednesday night: Make the pumpkin cheesecake, stick in the oven and start the cornbread stuffing (roughly 40 minutes) and place both in the fridge.  Set the Thanksgiving table and straighten up the house. Take the pie crust out of the freezer and place in the fridge. 

Thursday early morning - take the turkey out of the fridge and brine and let come to room temperature for 2 hours.  While you are waiting for the bird, make the rest of the apple pie and bake.  Then, stuff and prep the bird and place in the oven. 
Thursday day: watch your turkey while finishing the sweet potato souffle (up to two hours in advance) and setting aside to place in the oven when the turkey comes out of the oven.  Peel potatoes, cut and place in a pot of cold water on top of the stovetop.  Toast your slivered almonds and set aside.  Wash your green beans and put in a steamer on the stovetop ready to start when the turkey is done.  
When the turkey is done, you have 40 minutes to mealtime.  Take the turkey out of the oven, keeping it on, take out and cover for 30 minutes.  Immediately turn on your potatoes,  and start to steam your green beans.  After ten minutes, place the sweet potatoes in the oven.  When the turkey is done resting and someone is carving, finish the mashed potatoes in the stand mixer, dress the green beans, take the sweet potatoes out of the oven and serve dinner.  


Turkey and Corn Bread Stuffing 

When I want to make a turkey, I always start with two sources.  The first (contrary to my small farm, organic food beliefs) is Butterball - they have the absolute best calculators for how long to cook a turkey at a variety of temperatures - stuffed and unstuffed.  The second source is Martha Stewart - her website has a number of turkey recipes to inspire you, but for me, the Perfect Roast Turkey Recipe starts and finishes the conversation on the classic roasted turkey.  Her suggestions are based on a kitchen staff that has perfected the bird, so pay attention to the (1) brine, (2) bringing the bird to room temp before you roast, and (3) taking the bird out at 165 degrees and letting it rest for 30 minutes to continue cooking on its own.  My grandfather used to take it out even earlier (like 160) and then covered it with tin foil and a wool blanket for 30 minutes until it finished.  This resting process allows the moisture that has bottomed in the dark meat and cavity to steam up and hydrate the breast of the bird.  

For 12-14 people, I recommend a 20 pound bird.  Before placing it in the oven, you need to stuff it - and here is where our family reaches the line between debate and war - my Dad's italian mushroom white bread walnut stuffing, or my favorite - the cornbread, sausage, apple, maple stuffing.  Since its my blog - here is the recipe. 

I start with 2 loaves of cornbread, made a couple of days before Thanksgiving.  You can make it from scratch, but I use the boxed Jiffy bread - 4 packages of them will cook two large loaves (2 packages each in a 9 inch square pan).  If the loaves sit out for a couple of days, wrapped, they will get stale enough for stuffing.  The other option, if you are a last minute type, is to bake it the night before and after baking and cooling, chop into 1 inch squares and let sit out on a baking pan for uncovered overnight to get stale and dry - or if you are really last minute and are baking that morning, you can chop the bread and then place it in a 170 degree oven for 40 minutes to dry out - making sure that your oven stays low so as not to burn. 

2 loaves stale cornbread, chopped into one half inch pieces
4 fresh sweet italian sausages (not precooked) - roughly one pound
cutting each in half lengthwise and then chopping.
4 cloves garlic crushed
3 large Vidalia onions, chopped
8 Granny Smith apples, diced
1/4 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons fresh thyme -leaves only
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
salt - 1/2 teaspoon
pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, place butter and olive oil and allow to reach translucency, waiting until the butter has stopped foaming.  Add chopped onions and half of salt and saute on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove the onions from the pan, keeping the juices and turn up the heat to medium-high, adding the cut sausages.  Cook roughly five minutes or until the sausage begins to brown, reduce heat to medium low and add the onions and garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring frequently, and then add apples, thyme and oregano, maple syrup, the rest of the salt, and cider.  Let cook uncovered on low heat until the apples are starting to soften - roughly 15 minutes but it will depend on how small you have diced the apples.  If for some reason it begins to dry out, add more apple cider if needed.  Place your cornbread pieces in a large bowl and dump the warm sausage mixture onto the bread.  Let sit to room temp and refrigerate overnight to stuff into the bird.  There should be enough stuffing to stuff the bird loosely and still have more.  Take the extra and place in an oven proof casserole dish.  Place in the oven for ten minutes before dinner and pour an extra pan juices - keeping some for the gravy - from the turkey roasting pan into the stuffing and toss and serve.  

Pumpkin Cheesecake 
I have never been a fan of pumpkin pie - its like carrot cake to me.  All I can think is "how dare you put vegetables into my dessert."  This cheesecake is the exception to me - its smooth and sinful and you only have a hint of the pumpkin.  


3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 table sugar
1 oz butter melted

1 lb cream cheese softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar

6 eggs, beat slightly 
3/4 cup heavy cream
11 oz solid pumkin (no spices)
 1 teas cinnamon
1/3 teas cloves
1/3 teas nutmeg

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2/3 cup brown sugar packed
1 oz melted butter

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all the elements of the crust and pack with your fingers in a spring form pan.  Set aside.  Put the cream cheese and sugars in a stand mixer or bowl and mix until creamy.  Add eggs, beating lightly after each addition and then cream, pumpkin and spices.  Mix until blended and add to the pan.  Place spring pan in a larger high sided pan, and surround with hot water from the tea kettle (water bath) place in the oven and bake for 1 hour ( I sometimes find it needs slightly more - wait until the cake is just solidified and slightly browned).

When it looks done, place the topping on, keeping the cake in the oven.  Then turn off the heat and let sit in the warm oven roughly 15 minutes.  Refrigerate for up to two days and take out of the oven 30 minutes before serving to bring to room temp.

Creme Fraiche Whipped Mashed Potatoes
I like this recipe because of its light texture and flavor. While I am a big fan of the garlic mashed potato, on this day - there are too many flavors coming at you to showcase a roasted garlic mash and a whipped potatoes is a little lighter on the plate.

5 lbs. organic russet potatoes (with potatoes organic is important to health and taste), peeled and cut into thirds
3/4 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 and 1/2 sticks butter chopped ( I know what you are saying, but its Thanksgiving and its not the time for an Eating Well or Cooking Light Recipe)
Salt to taste

Place the potatoes in cold water and bring to a boil.  Boil roughly 25 minutes or until the potato is finished - this is the hardest part to learn and practice makes perfect.  If the potato splits when a fork is put into it, it is perfect - but one or two minutes after that will create a much more starchy flavor.  Drain and place in stand mixer or bowl if you are using a hand mxer.  Immediately add butter so that it can melt, salt, creme fraiche and parmesan cheese and mix.  Go light on the salt because of the Parm and taste as you go.  Mix on medium until the potatoes are light and airy.  Serve immediately.  DO NOT make ahead of time and reheat in an oven or crock pot - it will dry them out.  

Sweet Potato "Souffle" with Marshmallows
If you had the excuse to cook this everyday, your kids would never give up on vegetables.  My sister and I would get in HUGE fights over who got the most marshmallows and while she was screaming at me, I would steal hers off her plate.  This souffle will not explode or rise all that high because of the heavy nature of yams, but it will rise a bit and lighten-up.  

4 cups pre-roasted garnet yams/ sweet potatoes (roughly 4 large) with 4 tablespoons butter
(I roast in oven of 400 degrees by cutting them in half and placing them skin up in a roasting pan with an inch of water for 40 minutes or until soft when poked with a fork.  I then skin them and blend in the food processor with the four tablespoons butter until very smooth but not liquified) - warmed
teaspoon lemon juice
6 egg whites
pinch of salt
2 handfuls of all natural vanilla marshmallows
( I like Elyon Kosher) which they sell at Whole Foods

Whip the egg whites and lemon juice on medium-high speed until they are able to stand on their own - 8-10 minutes.  Fold the whites into the warmed (even use a microwave to take the chill out of them) 4 cups of yams and butter and add salt.  While the eggs are mixing, butter a large souffle pan.  Place the folded egg-white yam mixture in a large souffle dish and top with marshmallows.  Set aside on the counter for up to two hours before cooking.  Cook in a 350 degree preheated oven for 30 minutes and until the marshmallows are a golden brown and the yams have risen just a little. Yum Yum. 

Green Beans with Slivered Almonds
Clean and end cut 6 cups of raw green beans.  
1/4 cup slivered almonds
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 lemon squeezed

In a small pan, melt the butter and toast the slivered almonds on medium heat roughly four minutes or until lightly browned.  Take out the almonds, keeping the butter and mix with lemon juice and set aside.  Steam the 6 cups of green beans in water and drain when they are al-dente (they will continue to cook as they are warming down and if you take out too much after that, they will lose flavor and their beautiful green color.  Toss with the melted butter, lemon juice and sprinkle almonds on top.  

Last but not least, the gravy - well, that is a long story... so maybe next year.  In the meantime, please check out this cider gravy from Bon Appetit - I have tried it before and its a crowd pleaser.  

Momma Like: November 2009: Wrap it Up

Grosgrain Ribbons, Set Of 5An unusual place to look for wrapping, but don't judge a catalog by its cover.  Check out the latest Sundance with great wrapping options including baker's cord ($18 for st of three colors, 54 yards each) that can be paired with used grocery paper bags or recycled brown craft paper for a beautiful present that is eco-friendly and very affordable.  If you are feeling indulgent, pair the craft paper with the grosgrain ribbon ($28 for set of five, 10 yards each) for a preppier look!  While you are on Sundance, check out the wine "attire" (3 or more for $8 each), a cute way to dress up a hostess gift for your holiday parties.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Momma Like: November 2009: Thanksgiving Centerpieces

Want to have a fun craft for the kids on the morning of Thanksgiving to keep them sane as you cook?  Try these pear place cards on Martha Stewart - the goddess of the craft and the centerpiece... but add a twist - have your kids decorate the place card tags with glue and maize colored glitter after you write the names on!  Coming this week -   a simple thanksgiving menu.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Momma Like: Stocking Stuffers 2009

Jumbo JacksIn our family, Christmas music could not be played until the day after Thanksgiving and my sister and I would rush downstairs that morning with almost as much anticipation as Christmas morning itself, to put on our first Mitch Miller or Perry Como record of the season. What was true of Christmas music, however; was not the case with shopping.  The deep and competitive world of who was going to pick out the best presents of the year started early and its something I think about in September.

Mini Etch A SketchAlmost more important than the big gifts were the stocking stuffers... so until Christmas, I will be highlighting a few of my favorites in case you love them too!  First stop, Pottery Barn Kids which has a great collection of classic small toys under $10 - my favorites are the Pocket-Etch-A-Sketch and the set of Jacks.  If you are looking for something a bit more, I am contemplating the mini-walkie talkies - with one for my daughter and one in the stocking of her best neighborhood buddy for hours of bed-time chatter!
Feel free to use the comment section to  share your stocking stuffer ideas this season!

Mini Walkie Talkies, Set of 2

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Momma Like: November 2009: Flight 001

SM COSMETIC BAG AVIARYORLA KIELY LG STEM TOTENow boarding at  96 Greenwich Ave. in the Village, Flight 001... Destination - the stylish you before kids.  Now with stores in Brooklyn, San Francisco, LA, and Chicago, Flight 001, founded in 1998, was introduced to me years ago by a West Village anthropologist, photographer and all around renaissance globetrotter.  
She always had the perfect bag, travel alarm clock, wallet, luggage tag, passport carrier.... you get the idea.  If you are traveling for business, or with the kids over the holiday - you have to stock up here on luggage and the right travel games for your kids.  
Bananagrams is like scrabble without the board and the magnetic Backgammon is a family classic for car rides, trains and flights for years to come.  The Aviary cosmetic bags and Orla Kiely stem totes are my favorite picks for the stylish traveling diaper bag/ changing set.  With this much organization, you are bound to turn a crazy ride into an orderly landing. 

Use the "comments" below and let us know how you are coping with thanksgiving travel with kids and any great travel ideas for them!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Food November 2009: The Brunch Part 3: Fritatta

I don't believe in moral or culinary relativity.   The fritatta is better than the omelette.   In fact, it makes the omelette look dumb.  Really.  And yet the process, time alloted, ingredients used and effort are essentially equivalent - the difference is in the lightness, the air in the eggs, and again, the consistent cooking temperature of a convection oven.  Or, maybe anything food and italian is good - I'm not sure- just a thought.

As for our brunch, once your scones are hot out of the oven and guests have arrived and received a cup of coffee, turn to your fritatta.  Serves 6-8.

12 eggs
1/4 cup half and half or whole milk
2 pinches salt
pepper to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil
handful raw baby spinach, chopped roughly
2 diced shallot cloves or 1 small shallot
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
3 sprigs fresh oregano, chopped
2 heaping tablespoons gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1 large ball fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Break eggs and beat with a standing or electric mixer, adding the half and half, salt and pepper.  Beat on high for five minutes or slightly more until the eggs have beat up in a pile and are light and airy (but not stiff).  This is key.  If you have a standing mixer and can walk away, start your 10-12 inch skillet on med-high now.  Add the oil and when it starts to get translucent, add the diced shallots, stirring quickly for two minutes.  Then add chopped spinach and stir for roughly one minute.  Add well beaten eggs to the pan and reduce heat to medium.  While the bottom is setting (2-3 minutes), add the parm, shredded mozz and gorgonzola.  Just before taking it off and putting it in the oven, place the paper thin slices of fresh mozz on top of fritatta, and place in the oven.  Cook for roughly 7 minutes or until it is puffed up and lightly browned (see photo above).   Make sure all your guests ooh and ahh over it before it sinks and you serve it.... and if they don't ohh and ahh, they get nothing.  

Variations: goat cheese in place of gorgonzola, chopped zucchini or broccoli, thyme for oregano....  

Last but not least, I serve plain or vanilla yogurt with fresh raspberries and "fairy dust," which is merely raw almonds put through the food processor.   GOOD LUCK!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Design: November 2009

You may have already been to their store online or in person, but Sweet William who always thought outside the box, is now out of the box and covered in "T" Magazine in the Sunday Times by Susanna Howe and Sandra Ballentine.  A hip mom, Bronagh Staley opened the store in Brooklyn's hipster hood Williamsburg.   The store was designed by her husband Peter, a children's author and artist.  In addition to large fine art quality stuffed animals and great wooden toy sets, Staley carries some truly unique and adorable kids fashions; inclduing figs and cupcakes favorite, Bambeeno, Ada Ada, Angela Devine and Dagmar Daley.  Happy Shopping at Sweet William.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Momma Like: November 2009: Fashion in the $50's for Minis

Headed South for the holidays?  If so, first let me say how much I dislike you unless you have room for me in your bag.  Second, check out the cute tunic dresses now on sale at Craftsbury Kids from designer Inshi Khanna's line called - you know it - Cupcakes and Pastries.  Her things are not only beautiful - they are made by a mom who gets that kids don't have to wear puppy dog T-shirts to be cute.  Rock it pool side for $51.  

Hagan Barn Jacket - Boys 2-7 - RalphLauren.comStuck in the cold north instead?  Try this adorably preppy barn coat for your little guy from Ralph Lauren in navy; or if your boy is more of a punk than a prep, try the dark olive coat with a Clockwork Orange T-shirt underneath - either way, the look is munchy.  The best part?  Ralph Lauren is having a "private" fall sale an additional 15% off already reduced prices for a total of almost 40% off many items, with this coat already reduced from $80 to $59.99.  Use the code NOV0509 at checkout... but you didn't hear it from me.  

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Momma Like: November 2009: Mookah

Birdy Num Num Softie

When two sisters, Lulu and Colli combined forces, they made creative magic - Mookah.  Not only are their animals from Australia - ADORABLE - but they make amazing adult floor pillows and kids bean bags that are stylish enough to want in your home.  Their stuffed animals, in the $30 category make great gifts and the custom floor pillows are well priced at $120 considering they take the place of an ottoman or chair.   So snuggle up for family movie night and plunk down on one of these "pods!"  Hand Printed Floor Cushion in Unbleached Cotton/Linen - Sumor Print

Friday, November 6, 2009

Food: November 2009: A Brunch For Eight, Part 2

In Charlotte, Vermont there is an Old Brick Store that serves the kind of scones that would make you check into a twelve-step program. In high school I could down three of them in a sitting. They were warm and moist and had a sweet outside crust - perfection- and never overly-crumbly like the British counterpart can be. The baker there fifteen years ago shared their scone recipe with me but made me swear a vow of silence that I keep to this day.
I was inspired to begin messing with the recipe one day when we were preparing for a brunch where we had invited a family with an egg allergy.  Between the muffins and the fritatta, I realized that we were throwing an egg-fest and it was time to create a "festivus for the rest of us." The result was rather delicious, and approved by allergy and non-allergy eaters alike, but tastes best warm and fresh and should be eaten that day.  These scones are great for kids with some food allergies as they are egg and dairy free, but please check with the parents of these children to ensure that all the ingredients are approved.
So, back to our brunch. Now that the blueberry muffins are in the oven, and I have started to clean up the kitchen, get the kids dressed and myself... well, at least with teeth brushed, I turn to the scones before everyone will arrive.  Remember that most butter based dough require that you keep the ingredients as cold as possible and work with it as quickly as possible, minimizing your hand contact with the dough so that you will not overheat it.

Egg-Free/ Dairy Free Scones
2 cups, 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 heaping teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
sprinkling raw sugar for top of scones
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
5 tablespoon earth or smart balance - chilled in freezer for five minutes
3/4 cup soy milk, original, plus 2 tablespoon for painting top of scones

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place all the dry ingredients (with 2 cups of flour) into a food processor with a steel blade and pulse until blended.  Add the tablespoons of chilled earth balance (spread around the flour mixture) and pulse about 5 times.  Then through the tube of the processor, slowly pour milk as the machine is on and let stay on until a large ball of dough starts to form.  Dump the dough ball onto of a counter sprinkled with the 2 tablespoons of flour.  Work quickly to form a ball and then flatten into a pizza like disc, but thicker - roughly 1/2 inch thick.  Cut the disc into six thick "slices" or 8 smaller slices.  Using a pastry brush, brush tops lightly with soy milk and sprinkle with raw sugar. Place on a greased baking pan and bake for roughly 15-17 minutes or until the dough has risen and started to get golden.

With all the baked good ready, place them out on a counter or table with butter and jams and coffee and your guests can start with these items as they are arriving, and while you make the final pieces of the brunch, frittata and yogurt with "fairy dust" and raspberries.  

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Food is Community: November 2009

Given the role of Thanksgiving in American history and lore, November seems the perfect time to remember that food is about nourishment of the body and soul.  The collective sharing, or breaking of the bread, gives the moment of the feast a transformative power to unite communities.  In this generation, that meaning may be different, but the lesson is the same as it was in the harvest celebration of 1621 - food is life, food is community and food is love.  As the blog highlights these issues periodically in November, I invite and encourage comment when you can - the idea of community on the blogisphere is the sharing of ideas.  

Part 1: The Cider House Rules or The Farm

As it was in the seventeenth century, our source of food is still primarily American agriculture, but its face has changed drastically.  We are the generation that has waged war on the factory farm, though it may take another generation to make it right.  Interested?  Check out "Handpicked", an article that appears in this past Sunday's New York Times Sunday Magazine (October 27, 2009), reports on the modern version of the family farm.  The story chronicles the struggles of the former owners of acclaimed Napa restaurant French Laundry, to buy, run, and recreate a biodynamic apple farm.  The new generation of farmers in New England as well as New York, Pennsylvania and California and many other agriculture states have found a way to survive practicing "value-added" farming and producing a gourmet product or experience for the consumer so that the farm is not saddled to market prices. The results, when successful, are amazing culinary experiences and delicious products.
Blue Hill Farm is the ultimate success story in this regard.  With a farm in Great Barrington, MA, a restaurant in New York and a non-profit educational center on the Hudson, they represent the gold-standard.  Here the farmer and chef work hand in hand to create each menu based on what is being harvested and is fresh at the farm.  But there are many examples on a smaller scale of local Northeastern farms creating fantastic farm stands that serve as market, pie maker and jam confectioner.   Please post your favorite farm stand or farm product and share!
In this difficult economy, we are all having to make value choices about our resources at varying levels.   If possible, practice the power of the purse and buy those foods and products that represent the family farm, open land and sustainable stewardship.  When you don't have the budget to make these choices, consider the co-op.  For a few hundred dollars, you can buy six months worth of organic fruits and vegetables, or for no money, you can get a workshare at a co-op and bring your older children with you once a week.  Not only are you spending a beautiful weekend morning with your children and connecting them to where their food comes from, but you are walking away with free sustainable food that has helped keep a farm alive and the land open.  
If you have more of a budget and room to give, considering seeking out non-profit farms that feed the homeless, or organizations that pair farm surplus with urban hunger needs. If there is one in your area, please post it!
Miami....  Farmshare
Detroit... Earth Works Urban Farm
Seattle...Solid Ground
Boston... Gaining Ground

As Irving invites us - no matter what is posted, we make the rules.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Buy of the Day: November 2009

Board and Bowl Series- Maple Brown

Edible Still Life
Sometimes the best thing to cook for a dinner party requires no cooking - a great cheese plate makes every guest melt.  If you are serving an earthy cheese with simple fruit, what better presentation than a Fire Wood Furniture Shop's cutting board and bowl sets.  Each one is unique - the fantastic thing about wood- but better still, these Western Massachusetts partners are committed to using reclaimed wood where possible and domestic sustainable hardwoods where it is not.  The Shop's trademark is the pairing of wood with clay and this set for $39 includes a nut bowl that was impressed with a Redwood Forest pine cone before being fired for a very funky texture.  This would make a great Christmas present (hint, hint, Santa) but even if you are not looking to buy, check out the site for great presentation ideas when preparing a cheese plate.  As my favorite forestry environmentalist likes to say, "wood is good."
If you buy for yourself and are looking to recreate the above with Anjou pears and walnuts, may I suggest a hunk of Shelburne Farms "cultivating conservation" Cheddar, for a full and not overly sharp finish to this fall plate.  

Toys for Two, November 2009

Hands down the most used toy in our house right now is the Nuchi Circle train set.  Given to us by a toy savy momma who also appreciates minimalism in the house, it gets use by boy and girl.  You may already have a larger BRIO set, which is fantastic, but it does best when it is out on a train table permanently.  This train set, available at Tadpoles for $24.95 is portable on any car trip and can travel in its box from the bedroom to the breakfast table in minutes, and still hook on to your larger train set when needed - great from ages 2 to 5, its a great sibling play together toy.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Momma Like: November 2009


Seriously?  No really.  That hurts.  Too cute.  The flare jeans on skinny 4 year old legs - painfully cute for $58.  Happy Shopping at babyGap.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Momma Like: November 2009

Cloud Shelf

Head in the Clouds: Do you remember the early-90's phase of painting clouds on your kid's walls?  When we first moved in we had an entire floor of our house painted that way.  Maybe out of nostalgia, or maybe because -what kids doesn't want to feel like they are playing in the clouds in their room?- I love this cloud shelf from Modern Dose.  The hook is perfect for dress-up clothes or the backpack, and the shelf is a great way to display photos or just get color on the walls by adding books.  For $69, its not cheap, but a creative way to get art on the wall that they will appreciate.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Food: November 2009: A Brunch For Eight.

Ugh, if you are nursing the post-candy hangover of the morning after Halloween, you are not alone.  What better way to survive the morning then to have like-exhausted parents and grumpy kids over to join in the misery, run off the sugar, ring in November and eat brunch.  There are so many reasons that brunch is my favorite way to entertain family or friends.  Bacon, enough said.  However, there are other reasons - at this time of year, when the outdoor moments are dwindling, its a great way to bring things inside mid-morning to eat warm treats.  It tends to be a great time of day for kids as it is before nap time and unlike dinner, it's not at melt-down time.  In a world of really picky eaters, there tends to be something for everyone at brunch.  In the month of November, I will be featuring three parts to a brunch menu that will include blueberry muffins for everyone, scones that are great for all but especially for kids with allergies, a frittata for the adults and a yogurt with "fairy dust," for the kids, that I serve with fruit salad.  

When you wake up in the morning, step one is definitely having a cup of coffee and pausing 'till you can see straight.  Step two is making the blueberry muffins, as they take about 45 minutes from soup to nuts and make the biggest mess in the kitchen.  

Part 1: Blueberry Muffins
Every food girl remembers a blueberry muffin.  The one that changed how you feel about muffins, blueberries and life in general.  (Okay, maybe its just me.)  Mine, not surprisingly was in Maine.  We ate breakfast on the porch at the Grey Havens Inn, Georgetown Maine (see below photo).  Since that moment, every blueberry muffin I have made has been with the goal of recreating that cozy carb moment.  I have not reached that goal, but this recipe does make me hear the crash of the rocky surf even for a moment.  My kids love to help on this one so I like to give them the task of buttering and flouring the pan, and tossing the blueberries in flour.  

The Porch
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 containers Stonyfield Farms Yobaby Vanilla Yogurt (12 oz.) 
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup raw/ turbandino sugar - (leaves a carmel flavor)
1 cups fresh blueberries tossed in flour

2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl and whisk together.  Using an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth, slowly add sugars and mix for three minutes on medium.  Add the eggs, one at a time and beat through until the mixture is fluffy - about 3  minutes.  You can do all of this by hand, but double the times of mixing.  
Then add the dry ingredients and yogurt by mixing in each a little at a time, alternating between the flour mix and yogurt. Toss the fresh blueberries in a light dust of flour and add to the muffin mix.  

Taking out a muffin pan (dozen), you should have enough batter to make twelve large muffins.  Using the butter wrappers that you have from the above, spread them all over the top of pan and in the pocket.  Dust the whole pan with flour and move around until coated.  I find the best way to get uniform sized muffins is by using an ice cream scoop - there is exactly enough for one level old fashioned ice cream scoop in each muffin pocket.  

Before placing in the hot oven, I lightly brush each muffin with milk and sprinkle with a pinch of brown sugar.  I helps the muffins brown nicely and have a pretty sweet gloss on the top out of the oven.  Bake for 22-27 minutes and take out of the  oven when the tops are nicely browned and the muffin is still a little soft. (Slightly undercooked.) Keep the muffins in the pan out of the oven to finish slowly cooking the muffins in the pan for another ten minutes.  Take out and serve.  Barefoot Contessa serves her muffins with an orange honey butter which is divine, but I also like Stonewall Kitchen's Bellini Jam.  

Coming: Scones: Egg Free/ Dairy Free Recipe for Kids with Allergies