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I’d thought that things were going well enough that I could pull off running into the store quickly with the kids. They’d been so cute all morning: reading books together, playing in the playhouse in their nightgowns, helping me drop off lunch to their Dad, picking out stamps at the post office. But that’s the error, right? Thinking you can squeeze in that one last errand even though it’s getting close to lunch time.

It started to go downhill the minute we entered the store. Both kids decided that it was boundary testing hour. They really went through the whole repertoire. They whined, they didn’t listen, they cried when I said, “No, we are not buying Minion underwear.”, they ran away when I asked them to come along. I should have just quit. I should have set down my basket and walked straight out of the store, but I persisted because we were almost done shopping by that point and coming back to the store another time would be impossible as I’d sworn in the midst of all of this to never, ever, ever, go to the store again, ever.

That hope vanished on the food storage aisle. It vanished because I got the Ziploc bags from the shelf and shoved them in the basket instead of letting Lulu do it. “I wan’ do it me-self!!!!”, she wailed… and wailed… and wailed. I employed all my patience, knelt down at her level and informed her that she was welcome to do it herself after she calmed down and asked nicely. “NO! I’m throwing a fit!”, she hollered… and hollered… and hollered. Just then a woman walked by me and said, loudly enough to warrant a quick kick to the shins, “That looks like payback from something…”. Payback? Payback!? If I weren’t such a good mom with all my eye contact and efforts being poured into my pissed-off-over-sandwich-bags-two-year-old that woman would have gotten a serious earful.

It took all my unoccupied brain energy to keep from turning around and releasing my mom-rage on her in the form of a speech that would have begun with, “Do you think that’s helpful, lady?!” Instead I scooped up my screaming toddler from the floor of the store, pinned her under my left arm, and marched her and her crying sister out of the store, strapped them into their carseats, and headed home. By the time we got home Gigi had calmed and had apparently decided to be “normal” again, but Lulu was in a rage. I set her in a quiet spot in her room and let her throw her fit.

 Lu’s tantrum lasted for a full hour. 11:00am until 12:00pm. I checked on her from time to time but the moment she could hear my feet padding down the hall she’d add, “NO MAMA! GO ‘WAY!”, to her diatribe of curses she was hurling at me. The tantrum was varied, it was epic, it was actually kind of impressive. She lost her voice! I mean, I have to on some level respect that kind of commitment.

While she wailed and cried and kicked the wall I made meringues. I chose meringues because I’m working on a recipe for a magazine, but also because they employ the use of the mixer at high speed for several minutes… which means I only had to listen to about 43 minutes of Lulu’s tantrum, rather than the full 60. By the time Lu had calmed the meringues were in the oven, well on their way to becoming crisp, fluffly, pillows of sugar and caramel.

I love recipes that require minimal time to whip up, in the case of meringues that is quite literal… and espeically one that also turns down the volume on a tantrum! That one goes right to the top of the list. Of course, it wasn’t until after she calmed down and allowed me to enter her room that I realized that her windows were open. Sorry, neighbors. I’ll make you all some more meringues as an apology.

After I made the meringues, I turned my attention to making another minimal prep dish: Greek Orzo Salad. I’ve made it a handful of times this summer and I keep coming back to it because it’s healthy, simple, and can be made ahead on hot days. It’s exactly the kind of recipe I’d quickly explain to a friend over coffee, and she could zip home and whip it up without a second thought. What I love about it, aside from it’s ease, is the combination of flavors: briny olives, salty feta, sweet and smoky bell peppers, grassy parsley, sweet tomato, and slightly spicy shallot. Come to think of it a little peeled, seeded and diced up cucumber would be nice in this salad as well! All of these flavors are bound together with a bright, acidic Greek-style salad dressing.

GREEK ORZO PASTA SALADPINGREEK ORZO PASTA SALADPINGREEK ORZO PASTA SALADPINGREEK ORZO PASTA SALADPINGREEK ORZO PASTA SALADPINIt’s the type of recipe I gravitate towards; the type that requires that you pay attention here and there but doesn’t call on all your time and energy. I love roasting peppers at home, they crackle and sizzle as the skin blackens, leaving the flesh bright and transformed, but you could also purchase pre-roasted bell peppers if you prefer. The whole salad takes about half an hour of semi-involved cooking time, and the result is a light, satisfying main or side course. We’ve had the salad on it’s own, served alongside grilled chicken, and also with grilled sausages. Next time Lu exerts her two-ness in the above described manor, maybe I’ll lean towards something savory like this salad to get me through it.

GREEK ORZO PASTA SALADPINGREEK ORZO PASTA SALADPINGREEK ORZO PASTA SALADPINGREEK ORZO PASTA SALADPINGREEK ORZO PASTA SALADPINGREEK ORZO PASTA SALADPINGREEK ORZO PASTA SALADPIN

GREEK ORZO PASTA SALAD

Ingredients.
16oz box Orzo pasta
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow or orange bell pepper
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
6oz feta, crumbled
1 cup roughly chopped flat leaf italian parsley
12 kalamata olive, pitted and roughly diced
1 tablespoon preserved lemon peel, very finely diced (optional)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
several turns freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions.
Roast the bell peppers over open flame (I do this on my gas stovetop), rotating occasionally, until the peppers are completely black. This should take about 15 minutes. Once blackened and charred, transfer the bell peppers to a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let them cool to room temperature. Once cooled, run them under cool water, rubbing them to slip off the blackened skin. Core the peppers and dice the flesh. Set aside.

Soak the sliced shallot in a small bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes to mellow the sharpness a bit. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and oregano. Slowly, while continuously whisking, drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing has emulsified.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the Orzo and cook until al dente. Strain and rinse with cold water to cool the pasta.

Transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Add in the peppers, shallot, tomatoes, feta, parsley, olives, and preserved lemon to the bowl with the pasta, pour in the dressing and toss everything together until coated well with the dressing. Enjoy immediately or cover and set in the fridge for up to three hours.

Serves 8, or 4 with leftovers.

PRINTABLE RECIPE.
GREEK ORZO PASTA SALAD

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It’s 3:00pm on Monday and I’m sitting here on our new-to-us couch, sipping a nice cold Rainier beer which, in the Pacific Northwest, is often referred to as a Vitamin R. This has become part of my summer routine: sit down on the couch during nap time, catch up on reading my three favorite blogs (1,2,3), or read my current book club book, or continue to organize my “papers”. Since I’ve decided that magazines count as “papers” I’ve been going through old issues of Bon Appétit and Food and Wine and tearing out recipes that I love and properly archiving them in a way that makes them usable for me. I love little projects like that.

I generally use the first half of the girls’ nap time to do a quick tidy and prep dinner. But since our dinners lately have been relatively simple, quickly grilled affairs (and I’ve been mostly ignoring the tidying tasks) I’ve had more time to relax while the kids snooze. It helps that the girls are worn out from too much heat and summer fun and have been taking extra long naps. The other day they slept from 1:00-4:00 in the afternoon.

Throwing something together like this Grilled Tofu and Veggie Salad with Creamy Cilantro Dressing takes hardly any prep time at all which leaves lots of time for me to put my feet up, sip a cold beer, and relax. The firm, silky tofu went into a sweet-tart marinade in the morning, and the veggies were grilled quickly with just a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt. This simple grilled salad is flavorful and varied. The rich, blistered tomatoes burst in your mouth, the raw corn provides a sweet crunch, and the wilted radicchio adds just the right element of bitterness. All of the veggies become cloaked in a creamy, slightly spicy, cilantro-packed dressing that pulls all of the flavors together.

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You could easily sub parsley in for the cilantro, if cilantro isn’t not your thing… and you could of course add other veggies. I imagine grilled kale would be a great addition, as would wilted chard, grilled onion rings… you get the idea. A little sprinkle of feta would be great too! You could even use the same marinade for a thin chicken breast in place of the tofu! You can even make this salad just grilling the tofu and leaving the rest of the veggies raw, as we have done before.

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That’s one of the great things about these types of salads, they’re so versatile and variable.Two attributes I could use a bit of more of in my life.

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GRILLED TOFU SALAD WITH CREAMY CILANTRO DRESSING

Tofu Ingredients.
1 package (14oz) firm tofu
1/2 cup tamari (or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon agave (or honey)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon mirin

Cilantro Dressing Ingredients.
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 gently packed cup of cilantro leaves
1 seeded jalapeño
1 green onion, trimmed
2/3 cup mayonnaise or Vegenaise
1/8 cup sour cream
1/2 tablespoon honey
a pinch of kosher salt

Salad Ingredients.
1 small head of butterhead lettuce, leaves separated
1 head radicchio, leaves separated
1 bunch green onions
1 1/2 cup raw corn kernels
1 pint cherry tomatoes
vegetable oil
kosher salt

Directions.
Drain the tofu and wrap it in paper towels and place something moderately heavy, like a plate, on top of it to press out some of the moisture. Leave it draining for about 20 minutes. Then slice the tofu into 1/2” slabs.

In a small bowl whisk together the tamari, agave, fish sauce, and mirin. Pour the marinade into a 8 x 8” baking dish. Add the slices of tofu in a single layer and let them marinade for at least 1 hour, and up to 8 hours, flipping occasionally.

Remove the tofu from the marinade and place it on a large baking sheet along with the bunch of green onions, the cherry tomatoes, and the radicchio leaves. Drizzle everything on the sheet with a little vegetable oil and sprinkle the veggies with a tiny pinch of salt.

Heat your grill to medium-high. Grill the tofu for about three minutes per side, until the tofu is heated through and it has nice grill marks. Grill the veggies until the they are slightly charred and wilted.

Place the lime juice, cilantro, jalapeño, single green onion, mayonnaise, sour cream, and honey in a powerful blender or food processor and blitz until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

Assemble the salads by starting with a nice foundation of butterhead lettuce, then layering in the radicchio, tofu, corn, tomatoes, and green onions. Add a good drizzle of the cilantro dressing just before serving.

Serves 4.


PRINTABLE RECIPE.
GRILLED TOFU SALAD WITH CILANTRO DRESSING

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I wanted to share a few photos from our California vacation. We had a truly great family trip and it was just what we needed after the past few unpredictable and difficult months. There’s nothing like long hours on the road, especially if that road is the Pacific Coast Highway, to reset your spirit. The girls did amazingly well in the car, and adapted pretty well to all the various settings and towns we stopped in; we were pretty much on the move the entire time. This trip made me want to get out the map (and our passports) the moment we got home and start planning our next adventure.

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We arrived home to full on summer. The girls and I have kept the adventures going. We’ve been cherry and blueberry picking several days in a row with friends…

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We spent a long day up at Lost Lake…

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…and a few nights camping on the coast with my friend Kate and her son. It’s felt great to keep on the move, planning adventures, getting out of the house as much as possible. Adventuring with kids isn’t alway perfect or easy but it is so much fun, and it’s great for me to get out of my comfort zone and attempt to embrace chaos a bit; something I am working on these days.

We also somewhat randomly ended up cooking a huge Thanksgiving dinner for our best friends/next door neighbors. Long story short I pulled a frozen turkey from the chest freezer while looking for something to grill and forgot about it on a 90 degree day for 2 hours. By the time I remembered I couldn’t put it back in the freezer so we decided to embrace it and do it all out. I made a Brined and Roasted Turkey, Sourdough Stuffing, twice-baked roasted garlic mashed potatoes, a big salad, gravy, and Cherry Cobbler (following my Apple Cobbler recipe).

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Other than Thanksgiving leftovers, we have mostly been making simple salads. Lulu loves to help me cook lately. She’s actually very patient and a good listener in the kitchen. Her favorite job is to shake up the salad dressing in a small jar. I also made a simple, delicious quinoa salad that I took with us up to Lost Lake that I’ll share with you really soon. Aside from small things like Garlic Bread and simple quiches (which can be made early in the day and eaten cool for dinner with a salad), we have been avoiding the oven… especially since our AC broke. I’ll also share my quiche recipe with you soon!

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I hope you all are having a wonderful start to your summers!

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  • anja_cieri - Lovely! Beautiful pictures and family time.ReplyCancel

Our road trip to California was wonderful. We are holding tight to the vacation energy that we trailed home with us. It helps that our best friends who live next door are school teachers who are actually off work for the next few months, and it also helps that it’s been the kind of weather that invites mornings at the beach and long afternoons in the backyard.

On the tail end of our trip we stayed with good friends in Northern California and they introduced me to a simple, ice cold, Campari cocktail that is helping us hang onto that fleeting feeling of vacation. I often drink Negroni cocktails in the cooler months but it hadn’t occurred to use similar ingredients in the summer! I have a few fun photos from our trip that I’ll share soon, in the meantime mix yourself up one of these bitter, tart, refreshing cocktails and enjoy the start to summer wherever you are.

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GIN, CAMPARI AND GRAPEFRUIT COCKTAIL

Ingredients.
1 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1 oz Campari
3 oz gin
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 oz club soda

Directions.
Mix all of the ingredients together and pour over plenty of ice! Garnish with a lemon twist and enjoy.

Serves 2.

PRINTABLE RECIPE.
GIN, CAMPARI AND GRAPEFRUIT COCKTAIL

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I can’t believe it’s already Friday! We have been running here and there all week long as we prepare to hand our house and cat over to our family while we head out on a road trip. It’s been a long time since we had a proper family vacation and the timing couldn’t be better. All four of us need a break!

In between running errands we have been spending a lot of time in our backyard. The garden is starting to burst with veggies: lettuces, radishes, chard, herbs, and spinach. It’s a bit sad to leave when everything is almost ready to harvest but I have no doubt that our visiting family will take full advantage of the back yard bounty. The girls have been spending the evening hours blowing bubbles, attempting to hula hoop, over-watering their strawberries, “helping” Kyle mow the lawn, and throwing paper airplanes around.

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We’ve been eating healthy and juicing a lot the past couple of weeks, cutting back on coffee, and, thanks to the garden, eating tons of wonderful salads. It’s still cool enough that Kyle’s been baking his sourdough on the weekends, too. Since it’s Friday we whittled our way down to the ends of the bread and the last of the harvested veggies. This afternoon I threw together the simplest salad. I shredded up some bitter, bold radicchio, whisked up my favorite Ceasar salad dressing, and sautéed the cut up remains of Kyle’s bread in some olive oil that I spiked with sweet paprika. Tossed all together while the croutons were still warm with lots of salty Parmesan cheese and a palmful of kale microgreens, this salad was the perfect afternoon lunch. A couple of soft-boiled eggs or a handful of shredded chicken breast would be a welcome addition if you were wanting to add some protein.

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SHREDDED RADICCHIO SALAD WITH PAPRIKA CROUTONS, MICROGREENS, AND PARMESAN
Ingredients.
3 cups radicchio, thinly sliced into ribbons
palmful microgreens
two slices sourdough bread, cubed
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Dressing.
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, very finely minced or grated with a microplane
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions.
In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon, anchovy paste, garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat 1/2 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the paprika and the cubed bread, toss often until the bread is bright from the paprika and golden from the heat. Transfer the croutons to a paper towel lined plate using tongs. Season with a pinch of salt.

In a large bowl toss the radicchio together with the warm croutons, microgreens, and Parmesan. Plate, drizzle with dressing, and finish with a bit of fresh pepper.

Serves 2.

PRINTABLE RECIPE.
SHREDDED RADICCHIO SALAD WITH PAPRIKA CROUTONS, MICROGREENS, AND PARMESAN

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