REALLY excited about Uplevel LIVE /w Chr

REALLY excited about Uplevel LIVE /w Christine Kane, Atlanta Dec 5-7! 3 days for those wanting 2 step into our BIGselves!

Posted in Recipes | Leave a comment

The Inspiration of Good Old-Fashioned Oatmeal

I have enjoyed writing my blog and sharing my family with you. Throughout this year of blogging and writing, I have come to love talking to people about meal planning and healthy eating.  People ask me how I manage to cook for my family every night while working full time.  Honestly, I just love grocery shopping, cooking and talking to people about food.  In the past week, I have given multiple people advice on meal planning and grocery shopping.  They like my advice and I love giving it.  Best of all, I received a call from one of my closest friends to tell me about her triumph at breakfast.

She made the commitment to stop serving sugary, processed foods to her kids for breakfast.  This is a big commitment because she has four kids.  Starting this past Monday she decided to serve her kids old-fashioned oatmeal for breakfast and served it everyday.  Her nine-year old daughter was not on board at first.  In fact, the first day she wouldn’t touch the oatmeal.  It didn’t stop my friend, she kept making oatmeal.  She added apples one day and ripe bananas the next.  She even had a ripe persimmon and mixed it right in the oatmeal on Wednesday.  I was impressed, I would not have thought to add persimmon to oatmeal but I will now.  To make a long journey short, she called to tell me that her kids are now asking for oatmeal in the mornings.  She was so excited and she knew I would be just as thrilled as she was.  While the health of her children inspired her to make the change, I influenced her to just do it.  Not only has she committed to serving them a healthy breakfast, she says that now everyone eats breakfast together in the mornings because the oatmeal has to been eaten when it is hot.  They can no longer come down whenever they are ready and toast a Pop-Tart or pour a bowl of cereal.  I am so proud of her for doing making the effort and I am also inspired by her.

I have decided to commit this blog and my time to inspiring people to provide healthy meals for their families.  In the coming year, my blog will include tips on meal planning, grocery shopping, and finding time to eat family meals.  If any of you want to try oatmeal for inspiration, I have included my original recipe.  She told me that the best thing about making oatmeal was that the time it took to make one pot of oatmeal was less than the time it took to open and heat individual oatmeal packets.

Don’t worry, you will still hear about Zoe.  She is my ultimate inspiration after all.

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal
2 cups 1% milk
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar or to taste
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
dash of salt
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 1/2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

Combine all of the ingredients in a pot and place pot on stove over medium-high heat. Adding the oatmeal to the milk before the milk simmers is another tip to add creaminess. Bring to a simmer and lower heat. Cook for 5 minutes or until it reaches a creamy consistency, stirring frequently. Serve immediately. When using flaxseed be careful not to over cook the oatmeal or it will become gummy.

I like to top oatmeal with walnuts, raisins and dried cranberries. I typically serve oatmeal with orange slices on the side because it gives a refreshing bite of acidity to contrast the creaminess of the oatmeal.


Maple Syrup: If you would like to use maple syrup, omit the brown sugar and slowly blend in 2 tablespoons of maple sugar after cooking the oatmeal.

Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal: Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 2 tablespoons brown sugar in the pot. When the butter starts to foam, add 1/2 of a large chopped apple, I use any apple variety I have on hand. Cook until apples are softened and start to caramelize. Slowly add the milk and stir until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients increasing cinnamon to 1/2 teaspoon and cook as directed. You could go crazy and caramelize chopped walnuts with the apples, yummy!

Posted in Breakfast, Recipes, Zoë's Favorites | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Turkey Pot Pie

We had a peaceful and satisfying Thanksgiving. Everyone had at least one favorite at the table and if you have any doubt about the roasted turkey with pancetta, it was fabulous. If you cook turkey on Christmas this is calling out to you. We ate a fair amount of turkey but we still had leftovers. I made cattle beans with turkey and we ate turkey sandwiches. However, my favorite was the turkey pot pie. I finally figured out how to make good pie crust. The secret, make sure everything is cold before mixing and that includes the flour. This pot pie is the best way to use up those last two cups of turkey.

***Recipe Update – I woke up at 2 am last night an realized that I forgot to add the turkey to his recipe! Here is the complete recipe.***

Turkey Pot Pie

¾ cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 ½ tablespoon flaxseed meal
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter
¼ cup shortening
5 -6 tablespoons ice water
1 egg, lightly beaten with a splash of water

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 potato, diced into ½ inch cubes
2 thyme sprigs
2 cups coooked turkey, shredded or cubed
¼ cup flour
1 ½ cup turkey stock
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

To make the crust: Combine the flour and salt in a food processor, pulsing 2 -3 times. Add ¼ cup butter and shortening and pulse until the butter pieces are no larger than a pea. Slowly drizzle the water into the processor until it just holds together when pinched. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and lightly knead until smooth. Shape into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour. You can also freeze for 20 minutes if you are short on time. Lightly flour a work surface and a rolling-pin. Lightly dust the top of the disk of dough with flour and roll it out to about t 12-inch round. Roll around the rolling-pin and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the filling: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a large saucepan over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil. Add the onion, carrots, celery, potatoes and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook stirring occasionally, until softened about 8 minutes. Add the turkey and cook until heated through, about 2 -3 minutes. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 -3 minutes. Whisk in the turkey stock, milk, salt and pepper, stirring constantly until thickened, 4 -5 minutes. Add the sauce to the vegetables and cook until thick and creamy, about 2 -3 minutes.

Transfer the filling mixture into a casserole or pie dish and cover with the pie crust, trim as necessary. Make a few slits in the dough to allow the steam to escape, the brush the top with the beaten egg. Bake the pot pie until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown, 25 – 30 minutes. Allow pie to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Posted in Poultry, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thanksgiving 2010 – The Clash of the Cultures

We are having Thanksgiving for the first time in our home. We have spent Thanksgiving at my mom’s house or at Andy’s mom house and we have been subject to the culture of our host. Now we are the hosts. I planned the menu and we were going forward with a something old, something new McClanahan Thanksgiving. I moved too fast and now there is a cultural revolt within the ranks. We are revisiting the traditional turkey vs. pancetta roasted turkey. Even more importantly, there is a sudden ground swell of support for pumpkin pie. I felt like I was bridging the cultures by honoring Andy’s request for apple pie. Apple pie is not part of a traditional McClanahan Thanksgiving; I don’t even make good apple pies. Now Zoë is requesting pumpkin pie. I should preface this by saying that Andy and Zoë are descendants of the Mayflower. His great-aunt applied and was approved as a descendant of one of the original members. Something in Zoë’s DNA is calling out for pumpkin pie, granted she has never liked potatoes but I am sure she would love a creamy sweet potato pie. There are only going to be five people at dinner and we don’t need three pies. Sweet potato vs. pumpkin vs. apple…

I think the turkey will be easiest to tackle. The pilgrims in my family want a traditional herb roasted turkey but the lone Indian wants some pancetta. I am going to blend the two. I am going to brine the turkey with traditional herb seasonings and then add the pancetta when roasting. I argue that the pancetta is more Italian than anything so it is a neutral party.

Truth be told, Zoë likes pumpkin pie because of a book with Clifford the Big Red Dog that features a pumpkin pie eating contest. The good news is that Andy’s mom does make a great pumpkin pie so maybe I will give her a call and ask for her recipe. If I do, I will share it with you all if she doesn’t mind. It is our biggest family dinner of the year and I need to figure out how to bridge the cultural gap. I am going to start by modifying the turkey, a little old with a little new. I will let you know what we work out for dessert. I am sharing the undisputed Cranberry Citrus Sauce because we all love it and it is keeping the peace.

Herb-Roasted Turkey with Pancetta
I adapted this recipe from two different turkey recipes from I love the Herb-Roasted Turkey by Shawn McClain and I got the pancetta idea from a recipe by Tim Love. Since I haven’t roasted a turkey with pancetta before, I am not quite sure what to do with it when carving the turkey. Let’s be real, pancetta is basically bacon so I am not really worried about what to do with it.

2 lemons, halved
2 tablespoons fennel seed
2 tablespoons mustard seed
2 tablespoons coriander seed
4 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1 ½ cup kosher salt
1 cup sugar
8 quarts cold water
1 12-pound turkey
¼ cup softened butter or olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped sage
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound sliced pancetta

In a large saucepan, combine the lemon, fennel, mustard and coriander seeds with the bay leaves, garlic, salt and sugar and 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Transfer the mixture to a very large bowl or pot and add the remaining 7 quarts of cold water. Add the turkey breast side down. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours of overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Drain and rinse the turkey and pat dry. In a small bowl combine the olive oil, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary and pepper. Rub the spice mixture all over the turkey. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan. Arrange about three-quarters of the pancetta over the breast, overlapping the slices. Secure the pancetta with toothpicks. Wrap the legs and thighs with the remaining pancetta, securing with toothpicks.

Roast the turkey for 2 ¾ to 3 ¼ hours or until a thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 165 degrees. After about 1 ½ hours of cooking, cover the turkey loosely with foil as the pancetta browns. When the turkey is done, transfer it to a carving board and let it rest for 30 minutes. Discard the toothpicks. Carve the turkey into slices and serve.

Cranberry Citrus Sauce
This recipe was adapted from a Michael Chiarello show that I saw on the Food Network. I have made this sauce for every Thanksgiving since 2003. It took awhile for my cranberry-sauce-comes-in-a can family to appreciate the goodness of this sauce. Now it is a family favorite and it doesn’t taste like Thanksgiving without it. Oh and it is easy.

3 cups sugar
1 ½ cups water
1 orange, zested and juiced
Salt & pepper
3 12-ounce bags fresh or frozen cranberries
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Dissolve the sugar in the water in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the orange juice, cranberries, a dash of salt and a sprinkle of black pepper. Simmer until the cranberries begin to pop and become tender, about 15 – 20 minutes. If you like, mush the cranberries to make a juicer sauce. Remove from heat and stir in the orange zest, Dijon mustard and Grand Marnier. Chill cranberry sauce until ready to serve.

Can be prepared up to 3 days in advance.

Posted in Family Recipes, Holiday Recipes, Poultry, Recipes, Vegetables & Side Dishes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Thanksgiving 2010 – Sweet Potato Pie

I picked up the latest issue of Southern Living magazine to read on my flight home from Milwaukee. I find it oddly alluring and somehow in sync with my very San Francisco housekeeping lifestyle. This issue had a picture of a sweet potato pie on the front with the headline Thanksgiving Classics. Big Mama, my mom’s mom, made the sweetest and fluffiest potato pies every Thanksgiving. When I was a kid, my family spent every Thanksgiving at my Big Daddy and Big Mama’s house in Bakersfield. My mom has three siblings and all of their families would come as well. After my grandparents died, my mom began hosting her clan at our house. Again, it was always a full house with at least twenty in attendance.

This year I am hosting Thanksgiving at our home. It will be small – Andy, Zoë, my Mom, my cousin Juliet, and me. I am having a hard time cutting down on the amount of food on the menu. There are just some things that tradition calls for like turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. I know it is too much food for five people but I can’t help but make our favorites. It wouldn’t feel like Thanksgiving without them. The big question is do I break with the classic Thanksgiving turkey by making a Pancetta-Wrapped Roasted Turkey. I made a herb roasted turkey last year and it was tasty but I think I am going to go for it and mix the old and the new this year.

2010 Thanksgiving Menu
Pancetta-Wrapped Roasted Turkey and gravy
Baked Mashed Potatoes
Big Mama’s Dressing
Cranberry Citrus Sauce
Macaroni and Cheese
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Potatoes and Bacon
Dinner Rolls
Apple Pie ala Mode
Big Mama’s Sweet Potato Pie

Big Mama’s Sweet Potato Pie
My grandmother never measured when she cooked, she just mixed the ingredients together. It was amazing that her pies tasted the same every year. I am going to share her recipe to the best of my memory and with my best guess at the measurements. The one motto my grandmother lived by was if you weren’t sure if it was right, add more sugar. Her pies may have been on the sweet side but they were good.

3 pound sweet potatoes
½ cup butter
1 ½ – 2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1 tbsp lemon flavoring or 3 tbsp lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
One 9-inch pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place sweet potatoes in a large pot and fill with water. Heat pot on high heat until the water comes to a boil. Boil the potatoes for 12 -15 minutes until easily pierced by a fork. Drain potatoes and set aside until cool enough to handle but still warm. Peel the potatoes and place into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and sugar and mix until smooth and creamy. Add eggs, one at time, and mix until well incorporated. Add the milk, lemon flavoring/juice, vanilla and salt, stirring until mixture is well blended.

Place pie crust on a foiled-lined baking sheet. Pour the potato mixture into the pie crust, pie will be full. Bake for 50 – 55 minutes until the pie is set. Remove the pie from the oven and place on a wire rack. Cool completely before serving.

Posted in Desserts, Family Recipes, Holiday Recipes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

How Do You Cook Kale?

I want to quickly share with you my new favorite kale recipe. It is so easy. Back in January, I shared a soup recipe that had white beans and kale; it is quite yummy but takes time to prepare. My new favorite only takes 15 minutes. Now for all of you scrunching your face because you don’t care how I make it you are not going to eat it – you have to try this recipe. It is as good as roasted cauliflower. Also, if you have a CSA you are probably getting kale regularly and last week I saw Kale at Whole Foods for $1.50 a bunch. It is cheap, super healthy and now delicious. Don’t think about, just try it.

Kale with Garlic
The original recipe comes from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I have tried using less oil and greens like spinach and chard. You have to use all the oil and hearty greens like kale or collards, trust me on this. While the garlic mellows as it cooks with the greens, I don’t use as much as the recipe originally called for. If you love garlic use six cloves instead of three and the second addition of garlic, which I omit. You could also substitute the second addition of garlic with ginger if you want to give it an Asian twist.

1 pound kale, collard greens or broccoli rabe with stems under ½ inch thick
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper to taste
½ cup chicken, beef or vegetable stock
Lemon wedges, optional

Coarsely chop the stems and leaves of the kale. Place the oil in a large, deep saucepan. Add the sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper and cook over medium-high heat for about 1 minute. Make sure that the garlic does not brown. Add the kale and the stock. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Uncover the greens and continue to cook, stirring until the liquid has evaporated and the greens are quite tender, 10 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. If using, add the remaining garlic, cook for 1 minute more, and serve with lemon wedges.

I went crazy one night and added and browned ¾ pound of chicken sausage and half of an onion before adding the greens and cooked as directed. Once the greens were softened, I added 1 pound of cooked penne pasta and 1/3 cup parmesan cheese. Both Andy and Zoë had two servings.

Posted in Meatless Mondays, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetables & Side Dishes | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Happy Halloween of 2010 – Caramel Apples

We hosted our first Halloween party the Saturday before Halloween. Andy and I had forgotten how exciting Halloween was for kids. We tried to avoid Halloween when we lived close to the Castro and once we moved to a different part of the city and had Zoë we just stopped thinking about it. Now that Zoë is almost four years old, Halloween is back and we are partying. She had been thinking about Halloween since early September. She declared that she wanted to be Jessie the Cowgirl from Toy Story 3. I loved the idea that she identified with a character that had so much spunk. Even though many of her friends wanted to be Ariel, she never wavered. She stayed true to her cowgirl heart.

By the time party day rolled around I couldn’t say who was more excited, me or Zoë. We were both breathlessly anticipating the arrival of our guests. I would say it was a success as we managed to entertain six three-year olds, two two-year olds and almost a dozen adults. The party started with cookie decorating and transitioned to jumping on Zoë’s bed, the kids jumped not the adults. I corralled the kids to play my creative and inspired version of pin the bone on the skeleton. The inspiration was lost on the three-year olds as they were more interested in running from room to room. The group activities were a success. We had a make-your-own-grilled-cheese-sandwich bar and everyone-chops-something tomato soup. The thing that charmed the adults and kids the most were the old-fashioned mini caramel apples. They were gooey and crunchy while perfectly balancing sweet and tart. I can’t believe people don’t make them anymore. If any of you are still making caramel apples, let me know because we need to start a movement.

The success of the party revved up Zoë for some real trick-or-treating. Jessie was back the next day and we went trick-or-treating down at 24th Street in mid-morning and then around our block that evening. I was so happy to get mileage out of that $50 costume.

It was such a great weekend that I am amped up for the holidays. Thanksgiving is around the corner and I am starting to plan the menu. This is such a big family meal that I may have to share the menu and recipes in installments. Keep reading my blog and let me know about the Thanksgiving traditions in your family. If you are inspired, share a recipe.

Caramel Apples
This recipe came from Food & Wine and was created by Peggy Cullen. I didn’t change it much and I swear to you it was easy. I made the caramel and dipped the apples while entertaining guests. The recipe calls for Lady Apples but I bought a small variety from the farmers’ market that morning, just make sure they are not too sweet. They ranged from 1 – 2 inches in diameter. I even found wooden popsicle sticks at the craft store. Making this recipe was so much fun; if you like to bake you have to try it. One big tip, I cooled the apples on a Silpat (silicone) mat and they did not stick at all. If you don’t have one you can use parchment or wax paper.

24 small unwaxed apples
24 wooden popsicle sticks
1 cup heavy cream
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¾ cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 teaspoon vanilla

Line a large baking sheet with a silicon mat. Insert popsicle sticks into the tops of the apples and set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil and them remove from heat. In a large saucepan, combine ½ cup of the sugar with the water and lemon juice. Using a wet pastry brush or towel, wash down the sides of the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over moderate heat without stirring and cook until the syrup begins to color around the edges, about 4 minutes. Swirl the pan carefully, and then simmer until the caramel turns a light amber color, 2 – 3 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Using a long-handled wooden spoon, carefully stir in the hot heavy cream.

Return the caramel to the heat and stir in the remaining ¾ cup of sugar, corn syrup and salt. Add the butter and bring the caramel to a boil over medium-high heat. Wash down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush or towel. This will prevent the mixture from boiling over. Insert a candy thermometer in the caramel and cook until the caramel reaches 242 degrees, 6 -7 minutes. Remove from heat and set the saucepan on a wire rack and stir in the vanilla. Let the caramel stand for 10 – 15 minutes to cool. You can test the readiness by dipping in a spoon to make sure the caramel doesn’t run off of it.

You will now have to work quickly. Dip the apples into the caramel, letting any excess drip back into the pan. Set the apples on the prepared baking sheet. If the caramel becomes too thick, gently rewarm it over low heat. Let the caramel apples cool 1 hour before serving.

If you would like to dip the caramel-coated apples in additional toppings, have individual dishes set out before you dip the apples in the caramel. Once you dip the apples in the caramel, immediately dip them in the topping of your choice. Some topping ideas are: chopped nuts, granola, chocolate chips, raisins, mini M&Ms or toffee bits.

Posted in Desserts, Recipes, Zoë's Favorites | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments