29 March 2011

what's for lunch?

[photo via 101cookbooks]
I'm kind of big on lunch. Maybe it's because it's a welcomed break from working (and maybe that says something), I usually jump right up at noon and either break into my home-packed lunch, or step out for something delicious (SF's FiDi has options, people). I'm definitely not one of those people who works through lunch and then looks up blearily at 1:30, starving. Nope. I like my lunch, and my coffee after. Civilized.

As you know well, starting this Friday, downtown lunches are off my everyday menu. From here on, in addition to the grub-rustling I do for Jacky, I'll be scaring up lunch for myself everyday, and I daresay I need to do a good job with this. On bad days, I have a slice of bread and some olives. With a side of malnutrition and crankiness. On a good day, there's some green stuff involved. Maybe soup with green stuff. Or salad. Happier.

Long time ago, I worked freelance from home for about 5 years. Yes, I was a lot younger, barely knew how to cook... and I ate, for the most part, rather terribly. There was the occasional warming, Italian-mama-ish pasta puttanesca, but mostly it was pretty bleak. Pajamas till noon, working through lunch, forgetting to eat. Bleary.

You know I'm super excited to start a new phase here, but if I'm (very/too?) honest, I'm a little freaked out that I'm going to be once again A) poorly nourished; B) isolated; C) sadly dressed. Well, I'll need to work on A (the task at hand). As for B, there's always the internet (ha! a joke); and for C, since Jacky's nanny will still be paying us visits (while I'm working on The Future, you know), I'll need to be at least presentable from time to time.

Anyway, back to the food. I've been collecting some lunch ideas, but I need your help. What are your go-to home-cooked lunches? Please share! I need veggies, protein and deliciousness. I mostly eat vegetarian till dinner, which suits me nicely. Keeps the energy level up, in my opinion.


So far, my super haphazard list:

:: Heidi's "quesadillas", with the addition of some sauteed greens inside, plus a garden salad. I've eaten this two days in a row and it's AWESOME. And quick. (Jora, this needs a spot on your breakfast list.) Pictured at top.

:: Bryant Terry's Jamaican Veggie Patties, via Heidi again.

:: Soup, soup, soup. I have a nice supply of stock waiting.

:: Salads in jars. A flexible formula.

:: Chopped/slaw-type salads. Like this or this or this.

:: Some grain-type salads? Or lentils?

OK, that's all I've got. Need help, people.

27 March 2011

project 365 | 2011 | Week 12

First off, thanks for your amazing comments, last post -- your sweet words mean so much; I am super excited. Thank you! xoxo


03 19 11
03 19 11 | Hwy 17 in the rain
Treacherous and beautiful.
At the end: family.
And a gin & tonic.

03 20 11
03 20 11 | Learning
Sweet, sweet cousins, 6 weeks apart in age.
Sometimes sharing is HARD.

03 21 11
03 21 11 | Tart n salty
A batch of preserved meyer lemons
(from the in-laws's tree)
in my new pickle crock.

03 22 11
03 22 11 | Wrap it up
A loaf of home-baked bread
for my last work pot-luck
(served with this)

03 23 11
03 23 11 | Suddenly
Rain drops on my cheek,
two blocks from home.

03 24 11
03 24 11 | My Marcs
Purchased so, so long ago,
in Barneys NYC
for tromping through the French countryside.
Oh, how I used to travel.

03 25 11
03 25 11 | The makings of breaky
Water, yogurt, homemade granola,
stud-finder, tiny excavator, triceratops,
bulldozer sand mold. 

23 March 2011


Fancy a little story? I promise, it has a good ending.


When I was 16, buckled down in the task of applying to colleges, doing the usual sort of essay-writing, subject test-taking, who remembers what... something kinda unique came up: one of the schools I was applying to required you to declare your major in advance of enrolling. Not after two years of exploration, maturation and general ed. No, at the age of 16. What do you want to study for the next 4 or 5 years... and, consequently, what do you want to BE? Dun dun dun.

Of course, the way these things always work, this school was the one I fell in love with and attended for the next 5 years. I had, quite randomly, decided I wanted to be an architect. Not just because it was near the top of the alphabetized list (I promise), but I checked that box. Yes, the girl with a knack for English, languages and statistics (not calculus)... I was going to be an architect. Ah, 16 year olds.

By the time I was 17, I was deep into an assigned Summer reading list. Thankfully, it was a list meant to scare non-serious future architects out of an impacted program. Ahem: me. I realized, thankfully, that I adored the art-form and history of architecture but, alas, I didn't want to be an architect. OK, time to move into the dorms! Here we go.

Fast forward a couple of years: I side-stepped, portfolio in hand, into the Art & Design department and found a niche I quite liked: fine art, technology, and a little art-school hi-jinks. The usual routine... and then, after the requisite backpacking in Europe, I was off into the working world. The world of my newly selected profession: graphic design.

Desks, cubicles, offices, presentations, commuting, annual performance appraisals, endless joke emails, office chit-chat, after work drinks, bagel Tuesdays.

But, the question stuck with me: was I really supposed to pick my life's direction that young? And, more importantly, was "which career" even the right question?

At such a young age, who really has a clue what it's like to work as an architect, a graphic designer, a lawyer, a writer? Heck, how about what it's like to not work as any of those things? You don't see that on the career day agenda.


My youngest brother, ages ago, took a job as a photographer's assistant in a department I managed. It was a busy media company and he did all the usual organizing, running around and rigging. But, he also spent a lot of time in the office, experiencing that particular corporate way of spending 8 hours. Let me say, he hated it. He was miserable. He knew, intuitively, that he did not belong in that environment. I thought I did. He quit after a time, and I continued on, my life getting "crazy" "busy" and more than a little out of balance. For me, it was only becoming responsible for another person (a baby-type person) that finally forced me to think intentionally about what my life, my days, should look like.

I think my revised, correct "right question" for young people envisioning their lives is not "what do you want to be when you grow up" -- it's quite simply "what do you want the moments of your days to be like?" Think about not just what interests you, but also what setting you want to do it in. Do you want to be in an office? Do you want to be outside? Do you want to work alone or with people? How much bullshit do you want? Do you like bullshit? Do you even want to work full-time? Work at all? What options do you actually have? Like, really think about it.

Last Summer, I went back and asked my 16-year-old inner self these questions, and sprinkled on the experiences of the following 20 or so years... and I came to a few new conclusions.


What I used to want: artistic work, recognition, success, joining.

What I want now: freedom, artistic work, choice, flexibility, self-determination.


In a week's time, I'm commuting downtown to an office for the last time. I've quit my job.

I'm making room for other options, other life paths to materialize.

I'm 95% thrilled and 5% nervous. I'm both excited and anxious because I'm not continuing on in my current career. I've done the freelance-from-home thing, but for me, it's almost worse than working corporate in an office. I need a bigger change than that... I'm working on some new ideas, in all-new contexts.

Ideas, not coincidentally, that are more friendly to family and home life.


More on that soon. Right now, in these gray, wet days, I'm meditating on the image below, from last Summer, on the first impossibly gorgeous, warm, hopeful day after all those dreary months of woolen fogginess... I'm walking toward the light and new possibilities which, if given space, can sprout and bloom.

Stay tuned, and I hope you'll cheer me on, friends. xoxo


summer morning in the gah-gah

22 March 2011

letters between ladies

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child & Avis Devoto
Food, Friendship & The Making of a Masterpiece

Thanks to the always wise and helpful Deb, she of all things Smitten, my nightstand stack recently grew an inch higher with a wonderful tome: the collected letters between Julia Child and Avis Devoto. To be honest, I'm just in the first chapter or so (McCarthy era, pre-Mastering), but I have to say, I'm utterly touched. So, what would compel me to write a post about a book I've barely started? Let me try to explain.

Julia Child started her correspondence with Avis Devoto when Mrs Paul Child (as she signed her letters at first) wrote to Avis's husband regarding an article on knives he wrote. Mr Devoto's wife answered the letter for her husband, serving generally as his secretary. Being both deeply interested in French cookery, the two women quickly (and without shyness) struck up a friendship via letters that meandered (so far as I've read) through cookware, ingredients, actual recipes (right in the middle of letters! someone, please write to me like this.), family, and the fervor of 1950s politics. Through the course of the first couple of letters, they went from "Mrs Paul Child" and "Mrs Devoto" to "Julia" and "Avis." Despite having never met, they quickly built up a deep sympathy and emotional attachment, lending each other support, ideas and camaraderie.

Here's the thing. I really like Julia Child. Like, a lot. But that's not the point here. It's these letters: these two women, like many of you that I've "met" online, in comments or behind the scenes in lovely emails, struck up a friendship remotely. A friendship centered in common interests, in encouragement not cattiness, warm regard and intelligence, not insecurity. I think one of things that's struck me most about blogging--at least the nice vein I've happened upon--is all the wonderful women I've "met." Some are moms, some not. Most cook. Many are graphic designers, strangely... guilty here. Some I know in real life, others I hope to someday.

I guess I just want to say: this book about a friendship between two upper middle-class ladies in the 1950s has struck an interesting chord with me. I have a warm fuzzy feeling about you ladies and our daily "correspondence," and I'm glad to have made your acquaintance.


PS -- I know there are a couple of guys out there, too. Love you too, in a different way ;)

20 March 2011

project 365 | 2011 | Week 11

03 12 11
03 12 11 | Materials inspector
Picking pretty, pretty wood for an exciting new project.

03 13 11
03 13 11 | Spring pizza
Stinging nettles, cream and jamón serrano

03 14 11
03 14 11 | I'm weak
Lovely Sunday with Kristen: a pilgrimage to Baker Creek Seeds in Petaluma.
Yeah, I have all the seeds I need for 2011, but seem to be mising will power
when it comes to those tempting packets. Blue-podded garden peas??
Cream-colored radicchio?? Sorry, those are must-haves.
Oh, we also had delicious lunch at Della Fattoria. Highly recommend.

03 15 11
03 15 11 | My reading room
On work days, I get 3 cherished snippets of reading per day:
12 minutes on the morning train, the same on the way home
+ however much I can cram in before nodding off in bed.
Never enough.

03 16 11
03 16 11 | Happiness is...
An aioli-making husband.

03 17 11
03 17 11 | If it's Thursday...
It's very often carbonara.

03 18 11
03 18 11 | After the storm
Lemme out, lemme out.
Bang, bang.

16 March 2011

frugal & green | homemade body butter

homemade body butter

OK, truth be told, the term "body butter" kinda gives me the hee-bee-jee-bees. I don't know... it just sounds... tacky or kinky or something. Right?

But, to be fair, it's not my name for the stuff, and this body cream (ah, better) is so thick and rich that the name might be warranted. But, let me tell you: it's all natural, and it works. It conquers The Winter, as I said before. Dry winter skin--body or face--be gone. Good for Mama, Dada and baby.

So. Want to make some? It's my riff on a recipe from a book that's been hanging around my nightstand lately: Organic Body Care Recipes, by Stephanie Tourles.

First thing: make some lavender- and chamomile-infused olive oil. Let me tell you, this alone is truly wonderful stuff.

How to: Stuff a pint or quart (go big if you can) mason jar totally full with 2/3 dried chamomile flowers + 1/3 dried lavender flowers. Slowly drizzle extra virgin olive oil into the jar, soaking all the flowers (they will mat down quite a bit) and filling jar to the top with oil. Cover open jar top with plastic wrap, then tightly screw on the lid. Set it in a sunny window for a month (yep), giving it a shake once a day. Sounds a little involved, but totally worth it.

lavender + chamomile olive oil

lavender & chamomile olive oil

After a month of sitting, soaking and shaking, it's time to strain. Take good care to get all the schmutz out. I used a clean, tightly-woven dish towel (which is the same thing I use for straining chicken stock. really works). You could also use coffee filters.

Once strained, pour oil into a storage vessel and add the essential oils, to really heighten the scent: 25 drops lavender and 25 drops Roman chamomile. Stir to combine.

lavender & chamomile olive oil

Once your oil is all purified and beautiful, it's ready for anything: Stephanie Tourles recommends adding it to baths, massaging sore muscles, rubbing it on the chest of an anxious child, soothe diaper rash and other skin irritations. Me, I like all the above, but especially like to rub it on my arms, chest and face before bed. It's the scent of happy sleep.

If you make the larger quantity of oil, you'll have quite a bit of leftovers for all this soothing and smoothing. A good thing in my book.

For the body cream, if you've ever made mayonnaise (or vinaigrette) from scratch, this will be super familiar. Basically, lotions, creams and butters are fats plus water/other liquid, mixed together vigorously (i.e., in a blender) to form an emulsion.


Chamomile & Olive Oil Body Butter
Adapted from All Natural Face and Body Care Recipes | Stephanie Tourles

My only nit: I think for my next batch, I'm going to try reducing the lanolin quantity, to cut down on the wool-ish scent, to smell the scented oil more. One of the purposes of the lanolin is to help make a strong emulsion, so the texture might loosen up a little, which I think I'm OK with. This is serious, frosting-like stuff.

For ingredients, I love Mountain Rose Herbs. It's like a wonderland of herbs, oils and supplies.

Makes 2-3 cups

3/4 c. infused chamomile & lavender olive oil (from method above)
1/3 c. extra virgin, unrefined coconut base oil
4 T. beeswax
2 t. anhydrous lanolin
1 c. lavender hydrosol
30 drops Roman chamomile essential oil
30 drops lavender essential oil

To make:
1. In a heavy saucepan, warm base oils, beeswax and lanolin until just melted (don't overdo this, go slow). In another saucepan, heat the lavender hydrosol. Remove both pans from the heat and allow to cool to body temperature (~5-10 minutes; the fats will start to go opaque). You want them to be roughly the same temperature, so they combine nicely.
2. Immediately pour the fats mixture into a blender, scraping it all in with a spatula. Attach the lid, but remove the center plastic piece. Turn the blender on (medium or so) and then immediately drizzle in the warm hydrosol. The emulsion should immediately thicken and lighten in color. If it's not combining thoroughly, turn off the machine, give it a few stirs with a spatula and blend some more.
3. When the mixture is evenly combined, turn off the machine and add the essential oils. Gently stir with a spatula, then blend again for a few seconds.
4. Spoon finished body butter into storage vessels. Lightly cover each container with a paper towel for 30 minutes, until cool. Then, cap and store for 30 days without refrigeration. If chilled, you can keep for 3-6 months.

When you use the butter, just scoop out a little a time and work it into the skin. You don't need too much! And, it works best when applied right after showers or baths.

If you make a batch, let me know how it goes!


homemade body butter

13 March 2011

project 365 | 2011 | Week 10

03 05 11
03 05 11 | Dough-mixing day
Tomorrow, we bake

03 06 11
03 06 11 | All the buddies
In da hay-yowse

03 07 11
03 07 11 | Monday, mending day
Knee patches? I love.

03 08 11
03 08 11 | Kitchen view, downtown
Little boxes everywhere, people at their desks.
Always makes me a little melancholy.

(The glass atrium, however, always reminds me
of the conclusion of "The Game" -- right?)

03 09 11
03 09 11 | Walk towards the light
Heading home

03 10 11
03 10 11 | Stinging nettles
Tongs, not hands!

03 11 11
03 11 11 | HELLO??
Mimi? Darth Vader?? Big Bird? Hello??? It's Tacky.

10 March 2011

the can plan, 2011

Sometimes I get a little ahead of myself. I'm a big planner, with big aspirations... that sometimes I follow through on, and... sometimes I reserve the right to change my mind. Or, move on to my next obsession. (My husband is nodding right now.) Anyway, my own personal philosophy re: planning versus not is pretty simple: if you want shit (ahem) to happen in your life, make a plan. Better yet, make a list. Am I right?

So, for today's list: I like canning. I haven't done much of it, but what I've done was fun. And delicious. I also like the idea of it, the industriousness of it, and the sturdy, steady, sensibility of a shelf or, hey, a pantry full of edibles. My problem is (probably because our survival doesn't necessarily depend on it) that I sometimes, well, forget to do some canning when that special something is in season.

Well. Time to get organized. How about we make a list. This list is derived mostly from my two current favorite canning books:

:: Canning for a New Generation, Bold Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry / Liana Krissoff -- I love this book for its seasonal organization, sheer volume of recipes (tons), the charming southern perspective on the recipes, and how cool and fun the author--an Athens, GA-based mom, writer and cook--seems. She blogs, too.

:: Well-Preserved, Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods / Eugenia Bone -- This book comes at canning from a distinct Italian perspective, which I love, love, love. There is so much good here, and it's not just canning recipes: it's frozen soup bases, oil-preserved bits of yum, and lots of dishes to make with your stash. Oh, she blogs, too.


The (Ambitious?) Can Plan, 2011

Preserved lemons (hopefully in-law's Meyer lemons)
Meyer lemon & rose marmalade
Grapefruit segments in mint syrup

Pickled asparagus
Strawberry & lavender jam
Spicy carrot pickles
Radish pickles
Marinated baby artichokes

Tomatoes: Whole
Tomatoes: Passata (put through a food mill)
Tomatoes: Salsa
Tomatoes: Ketchup
Raspberry preserves
Blackberry [something] -- jam? syrup? suggestions? we'll have BBs for miles again.
Spicy pickled beans
Zucchini pickles
Apricot-vanilla preserves

Hot chile jelly
Pickled greens
Spiced apple butter
Honey fig jam w/sesame
Tuna or salmon -- really.


OK, that was a little embarrassing. I do get a bit ambitious...

So, let's be like old-timey neighbors swapping canning tips: do you do it? what do you like to put up?

08 March 2011

blood orange-soy glazed salmon

blood orange-soy glazed salmon

From the department of candied meat... I give you one of the most delicious things you can do to some oranges and some fish. Hoo boy.

Know what else? It's super fast and easy. Clean up is a little intense (see white pan below), but it's worth it.

Bet this glaze would be fab on some seared tofu too, non-fish peeps.

Oh, this is also really good with regular oranges. Not as gorgeous, but good.


Blood Orange-Soy Glazed Salmon
Serves 2 (definitely scalable)

2 portions wild salmon, cleaned of pinbones, skin left on
--> our cuts were on the smaller size: maybe 4oz each? The glaze makes enough for slightly larger portions, too.

Flour for dredging
Salt & pepper
2 T. vegetable oil

For glaze:
2/3 c. blood orange juice (from about 5 small/medium oranges?)
1 T. soy sauce
2 t. rice vinegar
1 t. honey
1 piece of fresh ginger (thumb sized), sliced 1/4" thick. (I don't bother to skin it.)

For garnish:
black sesame seeds
scallions, middle part, sliced thinly on the bias

blood orange-soy glazed salmon

1. Preheat broiler*.
2. Make the glaze: combine glaze ingredients in a thick-bottom saucepan and boil to reduce down to a syrup that will cling to the fish. Keep in a warm spot.
3. While glaze is reducing, heat vegetable oil over high heat in a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pan.
4. Dredge the salmon: cover the bottom of a shallow tray with flour and season with salt and pepper. Place salmon flesh-side down in flour to lightly coat. You don't need to dredge the skin side.
5. Carefully place the salmon, flesh-side down, in the hot oil (make sure it's very hot). Sear until the salmon is about 1/3 opaque, when viewed from the side.
6. Remove salmon to a plate, turn off burner, and carefully wipe excess oil from hot pan.
7. Return salmon to pan, skin-side down, and paint top surface liberally with glaze.
8. Place in oven, under broiler and cook until done (opaque throughout, but not dry), painting with more glaze every minute or two, so a thick layer gets built up and caramelizes a bit. The overall cooking time will, of course, vary based on the thickness of your fish.
9. Remove fish from oven, plate and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.

*Since our fish wasn't thick at all (<1"), we just broiled them to finish the cooking. In the past, with thicker cuts, we've baked them until almost done in a 350˚ oven, finishing up under the broiler for nice color. You be the judge.


blood orange-soy glazed salmon

07 March 2011

we plan, we cook, we eat

[photo credit]

Mealplanning for the week


Monday | Taco Nite, with leftover steak, taqueria-style rice, black beans (Kristina's method) + beer w/lime

Tuesday | Blood Orange shellacked wild salmon (recipe coming--just need a photo!), + rainbow chard

Wednesday | Asparagus risotto w/baked prosciutto chips

Thursday | Jamie Oliver's Lamb Kebabs

Friday | Skirt steak, smashed potatoes, greens


Lunches | Greek salad in jars, using Monday's black beans. Picnic style cuteness. Had this today with Jacky (sans glass), and we both loved it. Dude, I've been craving Greek flavors sooo bad lately.


What's on your menu this week?

06 March 2011

project 365 | 2011 | Week 9

02 26 11
02 26 11 | The obsession continues...
Blood Orange Upside-down Cake

02 27 11
02 27 11 | Fancy a spot of tea?
Master Jackson at your service.

02 28 11
02 28 11 | Stone Bridge
Stow Lake, Golden Gate Park

03 01 11
03 01 11 | Naked run-around
Post-bath rascally antics

03 02 11
03 02 11 | Evidence of Spring
Blooming branches on my walk home

03 03 11
03 03 11 | Two words
Bacon. Brownies.
(Thanks to J's nanny!)

03 04 11
03 04 11 | First harvest of 2011
Spinach for Jacky's lunchtime quesadilla.
He likes to munch it raw in the garden too.
Why? Because "Daddy likes spinach." Works for me.

01 March 2011

art therapy

Little Jacky's been having a hard time lately. His mama had the audacity to go on a trip to NYC, which we're still simmering down from. (No more trips, no more trips, I promise.)

...Then he got a cold bug (and passed it along to me, sniff).

...And, of course, most of all, he's TWO. And feelin' it.

Lately, he's been taking the art cure for what ails him. Helps him work out his toddler ennui.

(I just think it's cute. Shhh, don't tell him.)

painting with jacky
dip, dip

painting with jacky
getting the right mix

painting with jacky
like this!

painting with jacky
my favorite shot: just look at that sweet, precious face.
now look at this fingertips: he's dabbing blue paint in his hair. because he's TWO!

painting with jacky
oh so sweet

painting with jacky
i *heart* art!

Related Posts with Thumbnails