Monday, September 28, 2009

Dear Cheesy Pennies

Dear Cheesy Pennies,
Why is it so hard to leave a comment on your blog?
Frustrated in cyberspace

Dear Frustrated,

Clearly, it is the commenting process that has been holding up the flood of constructive feedback that you guys have been dying to share with me*. I tried to leave myself a comment the other day** and was totally stymied by the intimidating drop down menu asking me for my "typepad profile" or my AIM id. Who has those? Not me***.

So here's the trick. When that drop down menu appears, you choose:


Yep. It's that easy. It lets you just type away. When you're finished, just enter the squiggly letters it wants you to, and click "post". You can even put your name in the body of the message, so you are not really...


Good luck!

Cheesy Pennies

* As opposed to the fact that readership levels are diminumous and probably mostly accidental.
** Just to share my thoughts with myself on the whole big baby issue: "Sharon, you sure were a cute baby. That big baby couldn't hold a candle to you, even if it is an unnatural phenomenon. Plus, you weigh so much more than that baby now, I'm not sure why your mom even brought it up. Keep up the great work!"
*** But I have been fortunate that several of you either do have these things or have fought through the blogger BS to contribute. Thank you!
**** The other option is to choose "Name/URL" from the list. It won't tell you this, but you can enter your name without a URL, and it works like a charm.

Big baby

Riding to the store.

Mom: I thought of you the other day.
Me: (Unsuspectingly) Really?
Mom: Yes! I saw on the news that there was a woman who just had a 19 pound baby.
The first thing I thought was,
"That was three Sharons."
She had a Caesarean.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fill 'er up!

Here are the recipes for the fillings that went into my Vols-au-vent:

Curried Crab Salad*

1 lb. good fresh lump crab meat, rinsed and drained
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
2 Tbs. finely minced chives
1 Tbs. finely chopped cilantro
2 Tbs. capers, drained
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 Tbs. dried curry powder
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together gently so as not to break up the crab too much. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve in puff pastry shell, as a salad on lettuce leaves, as a dip with pita chips, as a sandwich on thin, crisply toasted raisin walnut bread...use your imagination!

Cherry Braised Short Ribs
My version, based on recipes from Boulevard, the Cookbook, and my cooking class, incorporating the secret ingredient, fresh cherry butter from Michigan**

3 lbs. boneless beef short ribs
Kosher salt and pepper
about 1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. finely chopped carrots
1/4 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. diced onion
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 stalks of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 c. red wine (can use 1/2 c. port for part of this)
Enough home made chicken stock to cover the ribs (about 4 cups)
1/4 c. balsamic or red wine vinegar
1/2 c. dried cherries
3 Tbs. butter
1-2 Tbs. of cherry butter or preserves, optional.

Preheat your oven to 350. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven, then sear the ribs about 5 minutes per side, working in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan. As each batch is done, remove the ribs from the pan and set aside. When you are done with all the meat, add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic, and saute for about 3-4 minutes. Add the thyme and bay leaf, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Do not allow veggies to burn, but they should be fragrant and nicely browned. Pour in the wine, the vinegar and the dried cherries, and cook until reduced by 3/4. Put the ribs back in, and add enough stock to pretty much cover the meat. If a little sticks out here and there, don't worry about it. Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove, then cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the meat literally falls apart when you go at it with a fork. Allow to cool to room temperature, then carefully extract the meat (OK if some veggies are in there, too) to a separate container. The meat will absorb the juices as it cools, making it extra yummy. After the meat is out, put several ice cubes into the remaining sauce, and gently stir them around. The fat in the sauce will cling to the ice, and make it easy to remove by just fishing out the greasy ice cubes***. Repeat with additional ice cubes until it seems like you have most of the fat out. Gently reheat the sauce, adding the butter and cherry preserves. Season to taste, then cook until slightly thickened. Serve with the ribs.

This dish is great over mashed potatoes, cheesy grits, polenta or any other pile of rich mushy starchy goodness. It also tastes oddly great wrapped in tortillas with a dab of sour cream and green onions.

* I put it first in this post in an attempt to diffuse tension in the house. The crab salad felt slighted because I didn't take any photos except the ones of it in the puff pastry shell, whereas the short ribs got 25 extra frames. I hate to see this type of resentment, but honestly, those are the breaks on America's Next Top Puff Pastry Filling.
** Huge thanks to my sister, who sent me an amazing care package from a local cider festival that included this cherry butter, a cherry BBQ sauce, apple butter, and cherry jalapeno salsa.

*** Greasy ice cubes. Yuck!

Dare? Ya!

Was there ever really any mystery? Of course I was going to bake again. Boy, am I glad I did, too...these things are so cool!

But before I say another word, I will pause to give you this month's requisite Daring Bakers' intro:

"The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan."

I know what you're thinking. It's probably a tie between "What the hell is a Vols-au-Vent?*" and "Whatever it is must be complicated because apparently it takes three well-known chefs to make it."

That's exactly what I thought, too!

It turns out that Vols-au-vent is a fancy French way of saying "delectable homemade puff pastry cups that you can fill with whatever you want"**. It also turns out that it only takes one mildly ambitious home cook, a hard-working refrigerator, and multiple viewings of the helpful instructional video to make it.

I say unto you, Voila! Les vols-au-vent!

Step 1: Get out 5 ingredients. Ice water counts as one of them!

Step 2: Make a ball of dough.

Step 3: Take a pound of butter and whack the heck out of it with your rolling pin.

Step 4. Roll out the chilled dough. Put the butter in a dough envelope, roll the envelope out, then fold it up again. Turn, repeat, and put it in the fridge for about 1/2 an hour.

Steps 5 and 6. Repeat the "roll, fold, repeat" part of Step 4 two more times. In between, check your e-mail and run a couple of errands.

Step 7: Roll out the dough, but a lot flatter this time. Cut out circles, then make 1/2 the circles into smaller circles and rings.

Step 8: Brush some beaten egg on the circles, top with the rings. Fridge time!

Step 9: Bake, first with a mat on them, then without. Cool.

Step 10: Fill with anything you like (I chose cherry braised short ribs with creme fraiche, and curried crab salad with capers).

Final Step: Wipe that silly grin off your face. You know how easy this was, so don't get too impressed with yourself!***

* Jennie, no fair, you live in France.
** In reality, it translates to "lift by air" or something like that.
*** If you are unable to stop smiling, it is probably because you just took a bite out of one of your creations and realized how unbelievably good it tastes. Again, this is not your doing. It is the pound of butter talking.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade - Episode 6

I feel like Starbucks. One day, there are three, maybe four Foodie Girls in town. A tiny outpost in France. Not a group that would require, say, reservations or anything. It seemed harmless to recruit a friend or two, here and there, that seemed to have real FG potential. Next thing we know, our little tight-knit brigade was in full expansion mode*. All of a sudden there's practically a Foodie Girl on every corner**.

I have to admit, as the "Yes! I'm definitely in!" responses poured back, it was thrilling to contemplate the number of entrees we could order on our next outing. Then the nagging doubts arrived:
  • Can they eat (or at least make a dent in) multiple plates of food and still have room for a bite or two of dessert?
  • What's their view on passing plates around: Mortally offensive or par for the course?
  • Do they know a great burger from run-of-the-mill patty on a bun?
  • Are they willing to drive east of La Cienega?
  • Could we tolerate**** sitting next to them for over an hour in a tacky vinyl booth?
  • And, perhaps most importantly for you all, would their commentary be blog-worthy?
All questions that could only be answered by taking the plunge. We had to invite lunch.

Episode 6- Trial by Tapas

We initiated the newbies earlier this week at Bokado Brasserie, a rather elegant new tapas place in Studio City****. From the very beginning, signs were good*****. We had a wonderful table outside, with attentive and courteous servers. The restaurant is fairly new, so we practically had the place to ourselves, giving this outing a truly festive feeling.

These new girls were pros** at ordering, effortlessly maximizing dish variety while still ensuring table-wide availability of coveted items. FG9 even ran into the restaurant to chase down the waiter to swap her risotto (already ordered by FG6) for a burger (overlooked by us all, when everyone knows you can only truly judge a restaurant by their burger). Nice move!

The food arrived and it was like some kind of beautifully choreographed ballet, as the plates circulated effortlessly from one end of the table to the other: forks dipped, portions split, conversations riffed. We should have done this weeks ago!

OK, so the Foodies are keepers, what about the food? The biggest winner was the beet salad, gorgeous, brightly dressed and with a generous helping of incredibly luscious Triple Crown soft cheese. Self-confessed beet avoiders were instantly converted. The gazpacho also tasted fabulous, and earned extra points for a truly beautiful presentation. The short rib panini got many thumbs up, and the burger also had fans. The bread was delicious, both in the basket and on the sandwiches, but there also seemed to be a consistent trend toward under seasoning in many dishes. The mussels in particular were bland and boring, as were the flavorless veggie sides. The matchstick fries were delicious, and many FGs enjoyed the Manchego mac & cheese.

Although we didn't save room for dessert, rumor has it that they have a nice chocolate creme brulee. We did take a peek at the selection of cheeses, meats and other goodies for sale inside at their small market, and dubbed it well worth a return trip for picnic takeout.

FG Final Verdict? A keeper
Pricing information: Salads and soups, $5-13, sandwiches $9-16, entrees $16-32
New! FG Value Rating: Fair deal

The above ratings are explained in footnote ******

* Both our waistbands and our numbers have grown substantially. Eight (!) FG's came to lunch at Bokado, and a few more are waiting in the wings.
** Not that kind of girl on a corner. Jeez!
*** Better still, enjoy while making snarky remarks about the idiotic waitstaff.
**** Having tablecloths and bread baskets, it was not necessarily representative of our penchant for cheap eats, but we decided to ease them into it, kind of like how you put lobsters in the nice cool water before you turn on the gas.
***** For example, FG9 and FG8, who had never met before, were sporting remarkably similar silver bracelets.
****** Foodie Girls decide at the end of each outing whether or not we should keep a place on our "list". Bokado is in by one vote. The other FG's could take it or leave it. FG Value Ratings range from "A steal!" to "Fair deal" to "Get real"

Monday, September 21, 2009

From the Log

I had a couple of books with me on our recent weekend away, but I also was pleasantly surprised to find some quality reading material available locally. While awaiting our food* on the patio of From Scratch in Carmel, I took a glance at the September 18th edition of The Carmel Pine Cone.

I could not put it down. Here is a sampling of the headlines:
  • P.G. council picks mayor with a coin toss
  • Poet-in-residence program to accept poets who aren't poor
  • Rescued turtles need expandable homes
  • Mother accused of hitting daughter with broom handle
But wait. There's more. Apparently every issue includes the Police, Fire and Sheriff's Log.

To quote the paper:

"Here's a look at some of the significant calls logged by the Carmel-by-the-Sea Police Department, the Carmel Fire Department and the Monterey County Sheriff's Office last week." My personal favorites...

August 30, 2009

Carmel-by-the-Sea: Contact was made with the owner of a vehicle parked on Santa Fe. Apparently, a pine cone from a privately owned tree fell and impacted with the front windshield of the parked vehicle. The owner of the vehicle parked at approximately 1015 hours. The owner's wife found the damage just before 1300 hours as she walked outside.

Carmel Valley: Suspect was angry and bit his mother and pushed her, causing bruising.

August 31, 2009

Carmel-by-the-Sea: A citizen reported finding a loose puppy in the area of San Antonio Avenue.

Carmel-by-the-Sea: Person reported the loss of a shopping bag containing clothing.

September 1, 2009

Carmel area: Report on Carmel Rancho Boulevard at Carmel Valley Road that an unknown person was using the debit card of a deceased client.

September 2, 2009

Carmel-by-the-Sea: While conducting an area check of Larson Field, graffiti was found in the restroom of the snack shack.

September 3, 2009

Carmel-by-the-Sea: Person called to advise that, while in the post office during a business transaction on Sept. 1 at approximately 1530 hours, he left behind a mammoth book of jokes. When the person returned to get the book, it was gone. Report is being taken in the event that the book is recovered.

Carmel area: Mother reported that son hit her in the ribs. This occurred during an argument about staying up late on the Internet. The mother did not wish to press charges against her son, only that the incident be documented.

Carmel-by-the-Sea: Two citizens residing in separate living quarters on the same property on Carpenter Street, one upstairs and one downstairs, were involved in a dispute over the placement of garden tools. An argument ensued, and one party claimed the other threw a clay pot at her, even though she did not physically see the other party throw the item. The other party claimed the clay pot fell off of a second story stairway when she tripped and fell forward, knocking it over and onto the ground below. The party upstairs claimed the other party was entering her residence without authorization, and the other party denied the allegation. Both parties counseled.

September 4, 2009

Carmel-by-the-Sea: A citizen was silently protesting in the business district with due regard for the law. A citizen approached from behind and swiftly grabbed the protest sign from the hands of the protester. A chase ensued, with the sign taker reaching his vehicle at San Carlos and Seventh. Witnesses observed the sign taker leave the area in a vehicle and provided the information to the protesting citizen. Contact made with the sign taker, who agreed to return the property to the protesting citizen. The protesting citizen only wanted the sign taker to be educated on the rights of citizens and free speech. The sign taker was counseled and released, and returned the sign as agreed.

Luckily for all of us, The Carmel Pine Cone, publishing continuously since 1915, is available online. Check it out for yourself, or just check back here. More from the log in weeks to come.

* I had an open-faced egg white omelet with bacon, sausage, green onions and blue cheese, with perfectly roasted red bliss potatoes. Fresh from the oven cheddar cheese biscuits with homemade raspberry jam on the side. Just sinful, I tell you.

Boondoggle bliss

Here is the official definition of the word "boondoggle":

1. An unnecessary or wasteful project or activity.
a. A braided leather cord or lanyard worn as a decoration especially by Boy Scouts.
b. A cord of braided leather, fabric, or plastic strips made by a child as a project to keep busy.
intr.v. boon·dog·gled, boon·dog·gling, boon·dog·gles
To waste time or money on a boondoggle.

Here is the official definition of the word "bliss":
1. Extreme happiness; ecstasy.
2. The ecstasy of salvation; spiritual joy.

Here is my definition of boondoggle bliss:

n. A weekend getaway with my husband, all expenses* paid.

Wasteful? Maybe**.
Necessary? Can't even tell you how much I needed this.
Boy scout involvement? Non-existent.
Extreme happiness? You bet.

In exchange, I cheerfully sported my overly large and colorful name tag throughout the weekend, even though the red lanyard*** did not match my outfit. I shook hands and made pleasant, appreciative spouse-like conversation with the other invitees' significant others. I made sure the bartenders had something to do at all times. I did not let a buffet go untouched. I sat the hell out of that corporate seat cushion. And of course, I graciously and effusively thanked our hosts****.

Corporate wifedom and me? We're like this.

Now, before you go hurling things at your computer at this insufferable post, I should tell you that nothing like this has ever happened to me before, and it is unlikely to happen again. But it sure was great while it lasted.

* Flights, airport greeters, posh hotel, dinners, drinks, spa treatment (!), all-access passes to a world-class jazz festival. We did spring for the bike rentals though.
** OK, definitely wasteful.
*** Hey! This did involve a lanyard!
**** Purely out of gratitude. It's not my fault if they happen to construe my groveling as sucking up in order to be invited back next year.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Making the most out of naked toast

About a week ago, I was dismayed to find I was down the last drop in the last jar of my homemade blueberry jam. I was staring at two pieces of freshly toasted cracked wheat sourdough bread, butter melting into the crunchy bits, with no hope of berry satisfaction. I nearly cried*.

But then, I remembered the message of the week from class: Think positive, act positive. You can go through life expecting the worst, finding fault, and making excuses. Or you can get up in the morning and decide to make the most of your day. Either way, you get out what you put in, so if you want results (and don't want to embarrass yourself by bawling in front of the open toaster oven), choose wisely**.

So I chose to rinse out that empty jar of jam and make some more***. It was positively delicious.

* I was already distraught about the appalling state of incivility in our nation's capital. My sister and niece had left town. My son lost his lunch box on the very first day of school. So you can see that this was pretty much the last straw.
** An important corollary is that these attitudes are extremely contagious:
  • Protect yourself - Stay away from whiners and grumpy people.
  • Spread the wealth - Share your jam, or failing that, be grateful out loud to someone today.
*** I made mixed berry jam using the same recipe as the blueberry jam, substituting a combo of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries this time.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Triple word score

The game is close. The tiles are in clumpy clusters, as each player has been cleverly using their knowledge of 2 letter combos to maximum effect.* Then, suddenly, an opening. The coveted red square is within reach. You pounce. And you even get to use that J. Is there anything sweeter to a Scrabble junkie like me?

No. But these bars are a close second. Not only are they decadently good, they are shamefully easy. They are from a M-I-X**.

Scrabble Night Oatmeal Butterscotch Cherry Bars with Lemon Icing

For bars:

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. water
1 package Betty Crocker Oatmeal Cookie Mix (the kind in a pouch)
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 c. butterscotch chips
3/4 c. dried cherries

For icing:

1 c. powdered sugar
1-2 Tbs. fresh squeezed lemon juice

Pre-heat oven to 350. Using cooking spray or butter, grease bottom and sides of a 9 inch square baking pan.

Blend butter, egg, vanilla and water together. Stir in cookie mix and lemon zest. Batter will be stiff. Add butterscotch chips and cherries, and mix until combined. Spread dough into prepared pan, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until top is light golden brown.

Meanwhile, combine lemon juice and powdered sugar by hand in a small bowl to make the icing. You can add more sugar or lemon juice as needed. It should be opaque, but thin enough that you can pour or spread it easily. When the bars come out of the oven, immediately cover with the glaze. Allow bars to cool before cutting and serving.***

* For example, you can get a boatload of points just by putting the word AHA on top another word, or dropping the Z onto a triple letter score near a couple of As. And did you know that Qi is a real word? Don't ask me what it means, but it's worth a bundle.
** 12 points, even before you put it down on any special squares. Well played, this little fella is a real game changer.
*** Or before presenting the cookies to your Scrabble hostess in eternal gratitude for inviting you to play with her because your husband won't even think about playing with you anymore since you kick his butt every time he does even though you're really nice about complimenting the words he uses while you do it and the kids are too young to be much of a challenge and it's pretty lonely just playing the computer and eating all the oatmeal bars by yourself.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Not-so-endless summer

People think LA doesn't have seasons. They picture the palm trees endlessly waving, the balmy sunny skies, the marked absence of any form of precipitation, and legions of tanned, tow-headed people in swimming pools who don't know the meaning of the words "deciduous" or "galoshes". And maybe we don't exactly have spectacular foliage or snowmen or crocuses. But our summers come to an end, just like everyone else's. I submit these clear cut examples for your consideration:

1. An autumnal swarm of traffic instantaneously migrates onto city streets and highways as soon as the sun sets on labor day
2. The temperature drops like a stone into the mid 80s; people begin wearing longer shorts in the evenings
3. The insufferable crimson and gold egomania of USC football fans begins to appear everywhere
4. I bake my last peach crisp

End of Summer Peach Crisp

For topping:

2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, cut into smaller pieces
Dash of almond extract

For peach filling:

About 12 peaches, peeled* and sliced
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
2 Tbs. flour

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a large (9x13) ceramic or glass baking dish.

To make topping, put all dry ingredients (flour through spices) into a food processor and mix until combined. Add butter, a piece at a time, pulsing as you go until the stuff begins to come together. Pulse in the almond extract. It should resemble a crumbly shortbread dough.

For the crisp, combine the peaches, lemon juice, and almond extract. In a small bowl, combine the flour and sugar, and then stir into the peaches. Allow to sit for a few minutes, then spread in the prepared baking dish. Take your topping mix, and using your hands to break up any large clumps, cover the peaches completely. As it bakes, the juices will bubble through and the whole thing will look and smell incredible. Bake for 45 minutes, until topping is golden brown and the bubbling juices appear thickened. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes.

Serve in bowls with vanilla ice cream, and start counting the days until summer comes again.

* Here is a cool trick for peeling peaches: Put on a big pot of water to boil, and get a large bowl of ice water going, too. With a sharp knife, cut an X in the bottom of the peach. When the water is hot, place several peaches in there and let them bob around for 2-3 minutes, or until you can kind of see the skin where you cut the X loosening up. Remove from the hot water with a slotted spoon, and put into the ice water to stop the cooking. When they've cooled a bit, you can literally just peel back the skin from the X and save yourself and your paring knife a ton of work!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Some people say it with flowers

To kick off an early morning expedition to Disneyland.
To fortify a nervous kid on the first day of school.
To tempt a man who just ran ten miles.
To say good-bye to a little girl who is about to cry all the way to Michigan.

Roses? Bah. We're all about the donuts*.
Nothing says "I love you" like a cinnamon roll from K's.

* Even if you are saying "I love you" to one specific person, always get a dozen. There will probably be a whole houseful of people left behind who are crying, too. On the plus side, a dozen donuts is a heck of a lot cheaper than a dozen roses.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The party she didn't want

My mom turned 70 last week, a major milestone anyone's life, but somehow especially so for her. At least we thought so. My sister was in town, and we both agreed that a suitable celebration was not only in order, it was downright mandatory.

Apparently, we were wrong. But not really.

Confused? I will translate.

Mom: You know, I saw all the trouble you and your sister went through for your father*. I just wanted to tell you that I don't expect anything like that.

Translation: The bar has been set pretty high. I might not have been invited to the party, but I don't miss much. I did notice that you were a massive ball of stress for weeks before and after, so I'll cut you a little slack. A little.

Mom: I had this thought that maybe we could just stay in and relax for my birthday. Everyone loves that. The kids could hang out on the couch. We could heat up some frozen dinners, get out the paper plates, and just watch TV. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Translation: Don't mind me. I'll just sit here in the dark. Honestly, who am I to be important enough to use the real plates?

Mom: I had such a lovely party for my 65th. Remember when you had everyone come? That was so nice. I loved that. I'll always cherish that memory. I still look at the pictures from that day and it means so much to me. It really was a once in a lifetime thing. No reason to try to improve on perfection, I always say.

Translation: Don't invite people. I mean it.

Mom: OK, so we'll go out. How about we go to Popeye's and then get Menchie's for dessert?

Translation**: You spend money like there's no tomorrow. I think you might be going broke at any moment. I'll happily sacrifice my birthday dinner if even the suggestion of Popeye's
makes you fiscally responsible for five minutes***. But I know it won't, so my job here is done.

Mom: Tea? Really? Are you sure? Well, if you insist.

We did.

Our experience The Scarlet Tea Room needed no translation. It was a flat out great place that shows how much fun it is to dress up, get festive and truly celebrate. The kids were all wearing outfits that mom had bought just for them, and they greeted each aspect of "high tea" with wide eyed enthusiasm. (We can put in as many of these sugar lumps as we want? I love this place! Pass the tongs!) Our waitress got right into the spirit of the party, and the owner came by with birthday wishes and a hug for my mom. As a bonus, the food was beyond delicious. In addition to flaky chocolate chip, cinnamon, and cranberry scones (with decadent cream and homemade lemon curd) and a long list of inventive tea sandwiches (per my daughter, the egg salad one rocked), they won major points with an incredible strawberry sorbet (my son had six and a half helpings, I think) and an absolutely sinful version of Strawberries Romanoff. Yum. Yum. Yum!!

The next day:

Mom: How much do I love my TV? Thank you for my birthday.

Translation: The TV was exactly what I wanted.
And the tea was nice, too. But what I really loved was seeing my girls and my grandchildren so happy, and that all of us were together. We could have done it on the couch, with paper plates, with a chicken special, or with those fancy strawberries and porcelain tea cups. That's what I've been trying to tell you. It's the people that make the occasion matter. And this was a wonderful occasion. You made me feel special yesterday, and I will cherish it always.

Well said, Mom. Happy, happy birthday to you.

* At the instigation of my stepmother, a gathering of nearly 100 family and friends at my house for his 70th, catered by In N Out.
** Just in case she was being literal, we did round up the kids for an outing to Popeye's and Menchie's the day before.
*** Hopefully you already bought the TV (we had) and it better have been on sale (it was).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I see the glass as 1/4 full

I asked my son how his first day of 8th grade was. He shrugged and said, "Not bad. I like three-quarters of my classes." Then he slammed the door and stopped talking to me.

Cool, I thought. He's finally using fractions.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I'm glad I live in Encino because...

The exit to my house from

lands me smack dab at

where you can buy


but most of all


I love my freeway exit.

The Simplest Way to Cook Corn
My go-to corn recipe comes from the chorus of The Corn Song, by Hollow Log*.
It only works when you have perfectly sweet, freshly picked corn.


Bring some water to a boil, put the corn in the pot.
Turn it off! Turn it off!
Leave it in the pot for a minute or two-oo. Oo-oo-oo-hoo!
Corn is good for you!

[Instrumental section with mouth harp and harmonica]

Here comes that recipe again!


* Street musicians that we met at the Hollywood Farmer's Market when my son was really little.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade – Episode 5

Quick! What is the last thing you think you want to eat when the town is burning down around you and it's 104 in the shade? Go ahead. Just shout it out.

Fried Chicken.

Episode 5- Sizzling Hot Kettle

So it was not surprising to see FG2 and FG3 surreptitiously googling "cool crisp salad Culver City" using the "FG1 is insane and tardy" iPhone app when I arrived late to our most recent rendezvous. Nevertheless, they gamely followed me into Honey's Kettle Fried Chicken, prepared to take one for the team. The iced tea and a tall cold lemonade took the edge off, and resistance completely broke down when the food arrived. Little red plastic baskets topped with a piping hot, butter-laced biscuit, seasoned fries, and two pieces of gloriously juicy bird nestled in the parchment paper lining. And what chicken it is. I can only say the batter is beyond delicious...crackling, crispy, a rich deep golden brown, and light as a feather going down. Seasoned to perfection with enough salt to keep you happy, but not so much as to take away from the flavor of the meat itself. This is great, great stuff.

FG2: (Practically purring) I could eat about six more of these biscuits.
FG3: (coming back from getting a refill from the sauce bar) I didn't realize the honey was warm! Oh my!
FG2: This hot sauce is fantastic.
FG1: I know. I know! Man, this fish is good.

Although it is almost beside the point, they make an excellent pecan pie and tasty blueberry pancakes as well. The fries are good, not great, and from prior experience I can tell you to skip all of the traditional side salads. But we ate every scrap of chicken on our plates, loved the fish fillet, and sopped up loads of honey with those remarkable biscuits. We decide there is a reason that fried chicken is a very popular item for picnics, even when it is 104 degrees in the shade: it's the perfect summer food. At least this version is.

Foodie Girls' final verdict: We loved it! FG2 even took a family pack home for dinner.

NEW! Cost info: 2 piece chicken lunch, with fries & a biscuit, $8.95. Sampler lunch with fish fillet, piece of chicken, side, fries, and a biscuit: $10.95. Drinks around $2. Specials available.