Sunday, November 9, 2014

Shut up. This is a perfect song.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ahem [sheepishly clearing throat].  Yes, I confess to being entirely, unreasonably obsessed with Taylor Swift's new album.  Which, incidentally, is named 1989 BECAUSE SHE WAS BORN IN 1989.  Maybe you won't think I'm unreasonable when you actually listen to it.  Perhaps you'll be charmed.  You might fall into a black hole of Taylor Swift obsession, reading her recent profile in Vanity Fair, revisiting her older albums, and relishing her obvious dislike for Justin Bieber.  

Yes, Taylor Swift is a polarizing figure.  She does, in fact, wear a lot of 1950's bathing suit-type outfits.  Her romantic choices are both questionable (Harry Styles, Taylor Lautner) and gross (JOHN MAYER).  Probably everything that has ever happened to her has ended up as a song lyric.  Either way, I cannot stop listening to this album.  It's like some sort of nostalgic, super pop visit back to high school.  And for the record, it's not "Shake it Off" constantly on repeat over here, where just this morning, I heard my little guy say "No Taylor Swift."   Try "Out of the Woods"!  

P.S.Thanks to my friend J for sending me the SNL video.  She refrains from making fun of me when I share these things with her.  Things like a deep, dark love for Taylor Swift.  

Monday, November 3, 2014


Monday, November 3, 2014

Sarah Koenig on the left, with producers Dana Chivis and IRA GLASS! 

I had to make a record of it on the blog-I have absolutely and completely tumbled down the rabbit hole known as Serial.  Aghhhhhh!!!  A sampling of my thoughts: What to believe about Adnan Syed??  Why is Jay so shady?  The Best Buy parking lot?  Where are Asia and Nisha?  Did Leakin Park come up on The Wire? All the mention of Patapsco Bridge just makes me think about Frank Sobotka.  I love you, Sarah Koenig! 

Friends of mine who stumble upon this blog: PLEASE LISTEN TO SERIAL!  I need to discuss! 

music together

There are a million and one things you can do with your child, from the moment they enter the world, to enrich their little lives.  I'm not talking about the book reading, park walking, or sensory explorations that we can come up with on our own or by devouring board after Pinterest board.  No, this is the day and age of classes, the kind that you can find at the local YMCA, your library, the gym,  community centers....basically everywhere.  You can take your tot to cooking classes, ballet, gymnastics, soccer, art, any hobby your heart desires, ALMOST FROM THE TIME OF THEIR BIRTH!  It gets a little exhausting, honestly, when you think about all of the options.  I never wanted to be the mom who tailored a schedule that would be just right for my son, because I secretly hoped that I would be on top of things enough to craft the most wonderful home life for him, complete with occasional field trip to a children's museum or the beach.  He wouldn't need classes to have a fulfilling toddlerhood, of course!

Unsurprisingly, it hasn't exactly turned out this way.  As it happens, my boy actually does need a bit more structure and activity in his life, more than I can provide even if I were especially great at planning ahead and being productive, which I am most definitely not.  By far the most exciting and rewarding of all of the things we have tried have been our Music Together classes.  

I find myself struggling to write from the heart, even on this most personal of places, my own blog, but it's difficult to truly convey just how much Music Together has meant to our little family.  You can check out their site here to get an idea of the program itself, but a good way to describe it might be to say it's a teacher-facilitated, child-driven, parent participation-based music class.  It's not what you might expect, because there is not a great deal of organization to each class, and it's certainly not an adorable band of children singing in tune.  Instead, each individual class is based around ten or so songs from that particular session.  The whole program is divided into nine instrument-based sessions, as shown in the photo above.  The music collection for each session contains approximately 25 songs, which are given on a CD along with a songbook to each family at the beginning of the session.  This allows for us to listen to the music at home and become more and more familiar with it.   During class, the teacher goes through the chosen songs of the day, leading the group in singing them and supplementing with a variety of mediums to bring out music in the children, from a basket of instruments to wooden sticks to multi-colored egg shaker maracas.  It is adamantly stressed that parents not coerce their children into singing and/or movement, but to allow that part to happen naturally.  Thus, at this particularly young age (2-3), the children are often prancing about the room, sitting quietly in a parent's lap, or even observing from afar, waiting until they are ready to join in.  

My little A was unsure about music in the beginning, but he absolutely loves it now.  We are on our fifth session (including a bonus summer session which consisted of a collection of "hits" from the primary sessions) and it has made such a difference in his life!  He absolutely loves the music, and while he's not a singer yet, his sense of rhythm and movement have greatly improved since we began.  It has provided a way to increase his language skills, given him comfort in the form of night time lullabies, and brought a lot of joy to his little heart.  I have always believed in the power and significance of music to a person's growth and development-even as an adult music can be an incredibly transformative thing.  I am elated at what a wonderful introduction A has had.  

I'm going to end this rather sub-par post with a slightly funny, albeit sobering quote from a book I read this summer.  Side note: I read so. many. good. books and I desperately need to write a good post sharing all of them.  Anyway, despite my deep love and appreciation for Music Together I have to confess two things.  One, we are besotted with our teacher and have only attended her classes, so I can't be certain it's as amazing an experience with just any teacher. I also feel compelled to share that it's quite the expensive endeavor, and one that would be borderline ridiculously costly if one was taking more than one child to class.  I knew that they were a privilege, but it wasn't until the topic came up in a particularly delicious beach read, You Should Have Known, in the conversation between two Upper West Side Manhattan mothers, that I really grasped what I've been enjoying for so long  (for context, in case you couldn't figure it out: Hilda is a nanny).  

"You still take him to his lessons?" said Sally, with the faintest whiff of disapproval.  "God, if I took my kids everywhere myself, I'd never do anything else.  Two of them do gymnastics, and there's piano and ballet and fencing.  Plus Djuna, of course.  She only does Music Together and Gymboree, but you know, the fourth go-round with Gymboree?  I couldn't take it anymore, so Hilda goes.  The moms were like, 'Oh, my baby's so special because she slid down the slide!' I keep wanting to say, 'The is my fourth kid, and I hate to tell you, but gravity makes them all slide down the slide.' And I almost lost it so many times in Music Together, I finally told Hilda she had to do that one, too.  I feel I've been shaking the same egg maraca for a decade." 

Yikes.  Hopefully I won't grow to resent the egg maracas and the Remo drums.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

meatloaf: it's what you make for someone you love

Friday, October 17, 2014

I have written many times about my love and adoration for Molly Wizenberg, her books, and her blog, Orangette.  My dear sister-in-law (so very dear, by the way) sent me a link to Orangette all the way back in 2008 (!!!!) and I've never looked back.  A Homemade Life, Molly's first book, sits well-worn and loved in a special, sparse shelf where I keep my most cherished books, ensconced between East of Eden and Absalom, Absalom!  I've read it many, many times, and neither the memoir itself nor the recipes have ever disappointed.

You can imagine my excitement when I learned that Molly would be writing a second book, this one centered around the origin and development of the restaurant she began with her husband, Brandon.  Ok, you probably don't have to imagine it.  It has not gone unmentioned on the old blog, even in the dearth of posts over the past two years.  I eagerly anticipated its arrival, and I was crushed to discover that I wouldn't be home when Molly visited the Bay Area for a book tour shortly after Delancey's release (it is, in case you have not guessed, named after the restaurant).

Enter my newest, sweetest friend J.  We happened to be at the same table at our MOPS group and enjoyed forging a new friendship in the early winter and through spring.  J had recently moved from Seattle, home of Molly Wizenberg, and was actually a frequent patron of Delancey!  After I set aside my jealousy, I quickly familiarized her (and probably frightened her) with my obsession.  Not only did she decide to read the book with me, thus making it our first book club choice together (we are now on our fourth book, and our club contains three other members), she also volunteered to attend the book signing, taking both our copies.  What a gem.

Delancey is a bit different from A Homemade Life, specifically because it is focused entirely on the restaurant and how it came about.  It's as much about how Molly and Brandon each dealt with such a huge project as it is a fascinating look at the crazy amount of labor, money, and inspiration that goes into building a successful restaurant.  As such, there aren't as many recipes.  I can attest, however, that the ones Molly chose to include are really, really wonderful.  The fact that she has turned me into the kind of person that would not only make meatloaf, but eat it and ENJOY it, is something I can still hardly believe.

Perhaps the least appetizing food photo in the history of the world. 

I'm fairly certain that I've written about my disdain for baked meat.  Even typing the phrase makes me cringe.  In my mind, any meat, particularly beef, needs the nice, browned crust that comes from being grilled or lightly fried in a pan.  The idea of meatloaf is almost mindblowing in its sheer grossness, in my opinion.  However, most red-blooded Americans find it to be an incredibly comforting, wholesome dish.  It reminds them of their mothers, or grandmothers.  It's the kind of thing people remember eating as they grew up.  My SH certainly likes it, and since my little guy will eat anything that is in the vicinity of ketchup I knew he would like it too.  Since I want to be the kind of mother who makes food he remembers, I figured I should give meatloaf a shot.  What better recipe to trust than one put forth by Molly Wizenberg?

I took one bite of my first completed meatloaf, quietly sizzling with warmth, juicy but not overwhelmed with tomato flavors, and I felt like I knew what the fuss was about.  Molly says the trick to her meatloaf is the fish sauce, which might be true, but all I know is that it is finally something I can enjoy eating too.  I've made it many times since, and I always feel such a satisfaction thinking that I've made something that my family is comforted by, that they love to eat.  I think that is what you're going for when you make a meatloaf.  I should make one for J next.  :)

Molly Wizenberg's Meatloaf, adapted from Delancey

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/3 cups fresh breadcrumbs
About 1/3 cup whole milk, or enough to saturate the breadcrumbs
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 large eggs, beaten well
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
1/3 cup ketchup, plus 1/4 cup for topping the loaf

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.
2. Warm the oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat.  Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and translucent but not brown.  Set aside.
3. Put the breadcrumbs in a small bowl, and drizzle the milk over them, stirring to moisten.  Set aside.
4. Put the beef and pork in a large mixing bowl, breaking up any large hunks.  Add the salt, fish sauce, eggs, mustard, parsley, and 1/3 cup ketchup.  Add the onion and garlic.  Using your hand, squeeze the milk from the breadcrumbs; then add the breadcrumbs to the meat mixture (discard the milk).  Holding one hand in a claw shape, press it down into the ingredients, and briskly stir with your hand to mix evenly.  When the meat and seasonings are uniformly mixed, pick up the mixture and turn in over in the bowl, and briefly mix again (Turning it over helps to ensure that no ingredient settles to the bottom and clumps there.)
5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet, and use your hands to pat and shape it into an approximately 9 by 5-inch loaf.  (If you find that the mixture is sticking to your hands, rinse them well and leave them slightly wet; the moisture will keep the meat from sticking).  Brush the loaf evenly with the remaining 1/4 cup ketchup.  (see photo above of undressed loaf)
6. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reaches 155 F to 160 F.  Cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I'm just a gangster, I suppose.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Any news promoting The Wire is good news, in my opinion.  While the standard quality of the show as originally aired seems particularly appropriate for its gritty content, I would not mind watching it in HD one bit.  Several times.  

*In other Wire-related news, Seth Gilliam, aka Lt. Carver, will be joining the cast of The Walking Dead for it's fifth season, set to begin in October. He will be the third Wire alum to be cast on the show.  Both D'Angelo Barksdale and Cutty are now a part of Rick's crew.  Now, if only they could drag Idris Elba into the fold....

Monday, August 11, 2014

on my mind

Monday, August 11, 2014

Wow.  It has been quite some time since I've allowed an entire month to pass by without a post.  And here I am, on the verge of yet another month slipping by!  June had showed such promise!  Now, there have been the requisite summer activities, beach trips, birthdays, and blissful vacations.  Summer has proved to be the opposite of what it always appears to be: hectic and unpredictable rather than slow and full of days that need to be filled.  The truth is that I find myself utterly consumed by the little guy above.  I spend every waking moment with him, and while it's entirely wonderful, there are plenty of anxieties that tend to plague the mind of this mom, and I confess to occasionally getting lost in the worries of early childhood.  I know I need to work on this, and my prayer is that I lose not a single joyous moment to a nagging worry.  It's not that unusual, I think, for stay-at-home moms to find that their minds are filled only with the concerns of their little ones, often forgetting to take care of themselves or other relationships in their lives.  It's quite the slippery slope, because clearly one's child should be of the utmost priority.  All of this is to say, that managing to squeeze out a few of my own words in this quite little space is a way that I can do something for me, which in turn is good for my little one too.

Friday, June 6, 2014

jesse pinkman and daryl dixon

Friday, June 6, 2014

source: The Daily Mail

I am finding it much more preferable to enjoy my backyard right now than post on the ol' blog, so I decided to share this picture, which makes me unreasonably happy.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

you need to listen to this: the soundtrack to The Fault in our Stars

Thursday, June 5, 2014

In honor of the movie coming out tomorrow, I thought I might start this first of my "listening recommendations" posts by singing the praises of this A-MAZING soundtrack.  I literally can't get enough, and I won't be seeing the movie for at least a week.  A standout is Birdy, a British musician (of course British-anyone I love is, usually!), who has been prominently featured on The Vampire Diaries and a few other prime tv/movie spots, but the whole thing is really, really great.

I'm including Grouplove's "Let Me In" here, partially because I love it but also because it's a lighter tune on an album that is relatively somber.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

raspberry buttermilk cake

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Apparently, raspberries are an incredibly invasive plant.  We started with one big plant in our backyard, in a lovely little corner spot of the flower bed, and it's been happy and productive the past two years.  However, in the early days of spring, it began to increase, sprouting up little suckers and winding its way down the bed.  My SH repeatedly asked me to pull up the new sprouts, but I couldn't bear it.  How could I stand to eliminate any little new possibilities for precious, delicate raspberries?  Surely we could leave the new plants alone!  Despite his ardent warnings that a raspberry plant left unchecked could even wind its way into the yard, I opted to take our chances.  

It's hard not to gloat, but I can proudly say this has been our best year every for raspberries.  We've picked a bowlful almost every day since we saw the first beautiful single red berry, hanging like perfect gem from one of the new branches.  I have a bowl in the fridge as I write, just waiting for us to enjoy with breakfast.  

Considering that I've been on a bit of a baking rash lately, I decided that my bounty of raspberries deserved more than just serving as snack food.  I scoured my cookbooks and fave food blogs, and while I came across lots of promising raspberry-centric recipes, it wasn't until I looked through Smitten Kitchen's archive that I found just what I needed: a raspberry buttermilk cake. 

It was the perfect treatment for my raspberries, and had the added bonus of being incredibly easy and quick.  After whipping up a simple cake batter, the raspberries are scattered across the top, sinking into it like they are resting in a creamy, warm bath.  The end product is a light, almost buoyant cake, with the tangy flavor of buttermilk, and just mildly sweet.  I didn't even feel guilty giving a big wedge to A as a snack.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

worlds are colliding!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A bit of a lazy post today, even more so because I also posted it to my FB page, but it's too good not to immortalize on my blog.  I'm not sure why this song doesn't get more play time over here, as it's a great one-even happens to be my ring tone.  I love how CM seems to be enjoying himself so much-is this something he would have done pre-conscious uncoupling? It's also funny to see his enthusiasm next to Caleb, who is not exactly the most dynamic front man around.  Love it all.

Monday, June 2, 2014

grilled salmon with orzo, feta, and red wine vinaigrette

Monday, June 2, 2014

Let it be known that I am not enamored of cookbooks emblazoned with portraits of their respective authors.  In fact, I have an automatic prejudice against them, the one exception being Jamie Oliver.  There is something endearing and charming about his face, and he's usually laughing or puttering in a garden or something on the covers of his cookbooks, so it's somehow not as offensive as a cheesy pose.  For me, the cover of a cookbook should showcase the FOOD.  Isn't that what it's all about?  I have certainly never purchased a cookbook because the broad, smiling gaze of a cook convinced me of the quality therein.

All of this being said, I've given a pass to Curtis Stone.  I heard about his cookbook on my favorite family food blog, Dinner: A Love Story, and the simple, yet delicious recipe that inspired Jenny's post  (Grilled Shrimp and Asparagus with Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette, in case you're wondering) caught my attention.  I'm in a stage of life right now where simple is better, where it's infinitely easier if I can stuff healthy items from all the food groups into one bowl, and where I will reject a recipe out of hand if there are more than 8 or 10 steps.  The subtitle of Curtis Stone's first cookbook, What's for Dinner? is Delicious Recipes for a Busy Life, and when I read its blurb on Amazon I decided it was perfect for me, despite the fact that Curtis's Hollywood face cheerfully, glamorously graced its cover.  

Yikes! I'm pretty sure Curtis is rocking a spray tan here, along with his turquoise shirt.

I've made quite a few recipes from the book, and I've been wholly satisfied with all of them, but as this particular dish was made most recently, I thought it was a good place to start.  Of course, it's hard to turn a good piece of salmon into anything that's not utterly delicious, but I particularly loved this treatment, which is a lightly grilled piece of fish atop an orzo salad dressed with a summery vinaigrette.  Feta and toasted pine nuts give the perfect amount of creaminess and texture to the salad, which would make a wonderful lunch on its own.  Considering that my little guy would prefer to dine on salmon each and every meal, it was an excellent dinner choice.

Grilled Salmon with Orzo, Feta, and Red Wine Vinaigrette, adapted from What's for Dinner? by Curtis Stone

1 1/2 cups orzo
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces fresh baby spinach (about 3 cups not packed)
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (Side note: this did take a bit of extra time, but was definitely worth it)
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, for garnish (I skipped the chives because I didn't want to buy them for just one dish)

Four 5-ounce skinless salmon fillets
Olive oil, for coating the fish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare an outdoor grill for medium-high cooking over direct heat.
2. Meanwhile, make the orzo salad.  Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the orzo and cook, stirring often, for about 8 minutes, or until just tender.  Drain the orzo in a sieve and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the vinegar, shallots, and garlic together.  Gradually whisk in the olive oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.   (I used a small Mason jar for the dressing instead of a bowl-I used a small whisk for the ingredients and then shook it up as well to emulsify).
4. In a large bowl, toss the warm orzo, spinach, tomatoes, pine nuts, and basil with the vinaigrette.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside at room temperature.
5. To cook the salmon: Coat the salmon with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Oil the cooking grate.  Place the salmon the grill with the top right corner of each fillet facing the 2'o-clock position and cook for 4 minutes without removing the salmon (This will help give the salmon a good sear of nice grill marks and help it release from the grate).  Using a thin metal spatula, starting at the corner of each fillet nearest you, flip the fillets over.  Grill for about 2 minutes, or until the fish is opaque with a slightly rosy center when flaked in the thicket part with the tip of a small knife.  Remove from the grill.  (These are very precise instructions, but the angle did make lovely grill marks)
6. Mound the salad in the center of a large serving platter or our dinner plates.  Sprinkle with the feta cheese.  Top with the salmon, sprinkle with the chives, and serve.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

you need to read this: special topics in calamity physics AND night film

Sunday, June 1, 2014

There is no doubt that you have seen many mentions of Lainey Gossip here, the gossip blog penned by Elaine Lui.  I affectionately refer to Lui as "my Lainey" in casual conversation, and it's my first web stop every day.  I check the site multiple times a day and thoroughly enjoy every minute of my perusing.  Now, before you inevitably cast judgment on the idea of "celebrity gossip", which does bear a certain negative connotation, I must tell you that Lainey Lui is no Perez Hilton.  She is nothing akin to a reporter for Us Weekly or even People.  She is a legitimate entertainment reporter for a Canadian news show, and began her career in nonprofit fundraising, working for the Covenant House.  Celebrity gossip for Lainey was at first a hobby, but her wit and savvy have purveyed it into a real job.  She writes both scathing commentary and witty, intelligent analyses of the behavior of television and film stars as well as their work.  She loathes the Kardashians (who are never mentioned on the blog), eschews reality television, and has two great weaknesses: Gwyneth Paltrow and Prince Harry.

In addition to being equal parts insightful and entertaining when it comes to celebs, Lainey is also a big reader.  She loves everything related to Harry Potter (all books, the author herself, all stars of the films, particularly the big three) and was early on the Hunger Games bandwagon, but her taste is certainly more nuanced and interesting than simply YA or fantasy fiction.  There is a tab on the main blog devoted to articles about her book recommendations and news of film adaptations, which I  never gave much attention until Lainey happened to mention Divergent in one of her daily posts. Granted, Divergent falls squarely in the Young Adult category, but it was reading Lainey's original thoughts on it that sent me to her other book recommendations, and I have been more than pleased with everything I have found.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics is Marisha Pessl's first book.  Though I read it after finishing STCP, I can say with confidence that it was unquestionably influenced by Donna Tartt's The Secret History.  I might have enjoyed it more, however.  Both are stories of a group of young students who play at being highly intellectual but are rather a mess when it comes right down to it.  Each novel focuses on a scandal involving one of the more enigmatic characters, the background and unfolding of which make up the story.

I have discovered that no matter how much I might have to say about a book or film, I have a hard time actually writing deep and meaningful thoughts or analyses about them.  I blame the huge block of brain space that is taken over by my precious toddler :)  Thus, I've included a few gems from the text itself, just to give you a glimpse of Pessl's talents.

--I was aware too how strange adults were, how their lives were vaster than they wanted anyone to realize, that they actually stretched on and on like deserts, dry and desolate, with an unpredictable, shifting sea of dunes.
--Dad said it was imperative to avoid people's fervent confidences and confessions. "Tell the person you must leave the room," he instructed, "that you ate something, that you're ill, that your father has scarlet fever, that you feel the end of the world is imminent and you must rush to the grocery store to stock up on bottled water and gas masks. Or simply fake a seizure. Anything, sweet, anything at all to rid yourself of that intimacy they plan to lay on you like a slab of cement."

Night Film is quite a bit different from Special Topics. For one, it's darker, scarier, and an entirely new kind of novel than I've read in some time.  It is centered around the disappearance of a young woman that happens to be the daughter of a reclusive, world-renowned director of horror films.  I can't even begin to provide a plot summary that would sufficiently explain the book, but I will tell you that the thrills aren't cheap and that the story, which is massive and chock-full of eccentric and fascinating characters, is meticulously crafted and organized.

description of Nora Halliday, sidekick to Scott McGrath, Night Film's protagonist:

On one side of her were two giant Duane Reade shopping bags, on the other a brown paper Whole Foods bag and a large grey leather purse, unzipped and sagging open like a gutted reef shark, inside of which you could see all it had ingested that morning: Vogue, a green sweater still attached to knitting needles, a sneaker, a pair of white Apple earphones wrapped around not an iPod but a Discman.  It might as well have been a gramophone.

She didn't notice us walking toward her because her eyes were closed and she was whispering to herself-apparently trying to memorize the block of highlighted text from the play in her hands.  On the table in front of her was a plate of half-finished French toast floating like a houseboat on the Mississippi in a pool of syrup.  

Neither of these books are prize-winning material or examples of fine literature, but both are thoroughly enjoyable, riveting, well-written, and worthy of your time.  Lainey's taste in books is as excellent as in gossip.   

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

queen bey

Tuesday, May 20, 2014
This is has been quite the week for Beyonce.  Much bigger, and not for the reasons she would like, I'm sure, than the 100% out-of-the-blue album drop of 2013.  As is my wont, I am going to opt out of commenting about the actual story and instead relish the delightful mockery that inevitably came out of it.

Ironically, this video debuted the same weekend of the elevator scandal, but before its details were made known.  It's the best.

And here we have an inspired SNL cold open.  Jay Pharoah's Jay is near perfect, but it's Maya Rudolph's cameo that takes the skit over the top.

If only my favorite of all the takes on Beyonce and pop culture were available...Justin Timberlake takes on Single Ladies with Paul Rudd as a director.  Now that's a gem.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

you need to read this: Eleanor and Park

Saturday, May 10, 2014

My generally poor efforts at blogging as of late aren't exactly a result of a lack of time.  It is true that the vast majority of my day is spent tending to the needs and desires of a handsome toddler, but he has not yet gone the way of his comrades towards that dreadfully anticipated day, "the dropping of the nap."  Like many many other mothers before me, I have vowed that even when that day shall come, there will still be "quiet time," which I envision (naively I'm sure) as a peaceful hour of solitude. He will "read" quietly in his room and I'll be the queen bee of productivity, making all my calls and washing all the dishes and cleaning all the things....this is a fantasy that I shall choose to perpetuate.

Thankfully, I have not had to put "quiet time" in action, as my little guy still needs and benefits tremendously from his daily nap.  When I'm not tiptoeing about the kitchen planning for dinner or putting toys away in the play room, I often sit down with a cup of coffee (reheated from the morning, of course) and spend a few minutes reading.  

While I haven't read as voraciously as I did before children, I am increasingly finding it to be such a comfort, a more useful and productive thing to do instead of wallowing in the onslaught of social media and the Internet.  Even if I'm reading for pleasure, I don't feel the least bit of guilt that I am wasting my time, which is a lot more than I can say about the half hour I spent looking at swimsuits I won't buy at  

Recently, after FINALLY FINISHING The Luminaries, a great book that is perhaps just a bit too old-fashioned for my current stage in life (when my mind is dominated almost completely by thoughts about my child), I decided to take Lainey's (Elaine Lui, of, of course we are on a first-name basis) recommendation to heart and read Eleanor and Park.  Lainey's recommendations have been 100% solid so far (or at least the ones I have read), but at first glance I didn't expect to love Eleanor and Park.  I'm all about YA fiction, but somehow thought I might be immune to a story that had neither a dystopian future or tragic background to bolster it.  

First of all, I could not have been more wrong.  Eleanor and Park is wonderful.  It's unconventional in a few ways, but that only lends it charm.  There is plenty of emotional heft on its pages, and the eponymous protagonists are both refreshingly unique and infinitely relatable.  I read the whole book on a flight back to San Francisco from Texas, and I've since been admonishing most of the people I know to read it.  While I wouldn't necessarily call it deep and insightful (though it's not without depth and meaning), there is something so warm and familiar about the story that it lingers in your mind long after you've put it down.

A few teases:

--There was something about the music on that tape.  It felt different.  Like, it set her lungs and her stomach on edge.  There was something exciting about it, and something nervous.  It made Eleanor feel like everything, like the world, wasn't what she thought it was.  And that was a good thing.  That was the greatest thing.  

--"And you look like a protagonist."  She was talking as fast as she could think.  "You look like the person who wins in the end.  You're so pretty, and so good." 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

daily wisdom

Thursday, May 1, 2014

That which befits us, embosomed in beauty and wonder as we are, is cheerfulness, and courage, and the endeavor to realize our aspirations.  Shall not the heart which has received so much, trust the Power by which it lives?  May it not quit other leadings, and listen to the Soul that has guided it so gently, and taught it so much, secure that the future will be worthy of the past?
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Just one of the many treasures that abound in Daily Strength for Daily Needs.  I highly, highly recommend it.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

starting over yet again

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Does anyone remember that episode of SATC, when Charlotte was attempting to get through a rough patch in her life with a mèlange of self-help books? I always thought the completely obvious titles were funny, and the one I used as a header for this post was particularly memorable.  My BFF Rose and I have often referenced it over the years, and I have decided to employ it here as I attempt, yet again, to get back to this little space.

It will not surprise you to know that the main reason behind my lack of blogging stamina is pictured above, my staggeringly handsome and sweet little partner of every day.  Though he still naps (gloriously) every day, he often ends up snuggled up on our bed, under his favorite Thomas blanket, and while there are always things that need doing, I crave these cozy moments together.  They won't last forever.  

I'm trying to be a better planner with my blogging-writing a couple of posts at a time and saving up, so hopefully it won't be so quiet here.  I've said before how nice and satisfying it is to be able to post something-there are days when it might be the only non-domestic thing I accomplish.  I was researching ideas for A's third birthday party (HOW CAN IT BE?!) and all it took to get me fired up about writing again was checking out a few fun blogs.  I'll never be known by more than my loyal few of course, but blogging can really be such a nice hobby.  

In sum, there will be more here soon!  Our favorite books as of late.  Report from my latest Kings of Leon concert.  Multiple salmon recipes.  Deep and meaningful thoughts about Divergent.  Basically, what you have come to expect from me.  

See you soon!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

chocolate-coconut pound cake

Thursday, March 13, 2014
Though the lack of posts suggests otherwise, I have actually been making quite a few things that are blog-worthy. I have a back-log of "bloggable" recipes that probably extends to August, so when I eventually get around to posting about wonderful summery things like quinoa salad with nectarines and feta, it should not come as a surprise.  

In addition to multiple batches of both this olive oil and apricot granola and Megan Gordon's divine hazelnut-cacao nib variation, there has been oven-roasted salmon with cauliflower.  Lemon-rosemary scones.  Multiple batches of my dear, dear sister-in-law's banana curry.  Deep dish apple pie.  Steak cobbler with gruyere biscuits.  And not one, but three loaves of grapefruit olive oil cake.  Clearly, I have been depriving everyone of much deliciousness.

Instead of sharing one of the myriad of successes coming out of my humble kitchen, however, I'm going to tell you about a cake.  Spontaneous cooking or baking is not something that I do often.  I tend to need lots of planning time.  It's not unusual for me to reject a dish out of hand if I don't have every last ingredient at the ready.  Pretty much the only things I make that are totally spur of the moment are scrambled eggs and bowls of cereal.  And clearly that last one doesn't count.

However, when I saw a recipe for a buttermilk-based coconut and chocolate pound cake in my latest Bon Appetit, I decided that I needed it right then.  As it happened, I had a fresh carton of buttermilk in the fridge-I've been trying to keep it stocked so that I can make waffles and pancakes on the weekend-and as I continue to be totally captivated with any recipe that features coconut flakes, I have a surplus of them in my pantry.

Totally going against my normal routine, I decided to whip up the cake while A and I were eating our lunch.  I am forever getting up getting him things anyway, so it seemed like a decent use of my time.  It came together quickly, and I had a wonderful treat to look forward to as an afternoon snack.  I emerged into the kitchen after our nap time routine to the heavenly scent of deep, dark chocolate and slowly roasting coconut.

The final product was just as wonderful as it looks.  Not too sweet, with a subtle, pleasing hint of coconut from the coconut oil and the perfect, slightly bitter taste of dark chocolate.  It was very sturdy, and kept well for a week four days.  I can't wait to make it again. 

Chocolate-Coconut Pound Cake, adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2014

1/4 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil, room temperature
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp. sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1. Preheat oven to 325.  Butter an 8 x 4 loaf pan; line with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on long sides.  
2. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.  
3. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat oil, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 cups sugar until pale and fluffy, 5-7 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions; beat until mixture is very light and doubled in volume, 5-8 minutes.  Add vanilla. 
4. Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients (do not over mix; it will cause cake to buckle and split).  Scrape batter into prepared pan and run a spatula through the center, creating a canal.  Sprinkle with coconut and remaining 1 tbsp. sugar.  
5. Bake cake, tenting with foil if coconut browns too much before cake is done (it should be very dark and toasted), until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 70-80 minutes.  Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cake cook in pan 20 minutes before turning out. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

academy awards review 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Ah!  Where does the time go?  How do I have literally dozens of ideas for blog posts in my brain (which, by the way, is apparently significantly smaller than it was prior to having a baby) and yet here I type, almost one MONTH since my last post?!  It's a good thing I don't have an actual blogging niche-no way would I make it in the "mommy-blogging" or "food-blogging" or "entertainment-blogging" world.

The annual Academy Awards, that favorite evening of mine, took place last Sunday (well, technically, last Sunday plus a few days), and I can think of no better way to hopefully end yet another blogging drought.  You should know that I first typed "draught" and had to change it.  Either I'm thinking too much about adult beverages or my "mommy" brain has struck again.

While the planning and execution of Academy Awards celebrations has become significantly more challenging since the birth of my little sweetheart, and the actual time I spend watching the awards is pitifully short, I still eagerly anticipate them.  This year was no different than the four years preceding-I devised an Academy Awards menu and put together costumes for our little family.  My extended family here is incredibly decent and supportive of my awards show love, and they all take part as well.  Perhaps some day, long into the future, I might actually be on top of things enough to have a proper party, where friends are invited too, but for now I am content with our more intimate family gatherings.

Without further adieu, I am going to include a little list here of the things I enjoyed about this year's party and show.  As I and many other bloggers before me have ruminated, a blog is something of a scrapbook-it will be fun to look back and remember the highlights.

best Oscar fashion: Guys, I can sum up the fashion of the year in two words: boring and safe.  The red carpet was a bummer.  These were my three favorite looks of the night, and while Lupita truly looked spectacular, the gowns on both Julia Roberts and Cate Blanchett, while beautiful, were not what I wanted to see.

best Oscar moments: 

Pharrell Williams' performance of "Happy"-Of course I watched this and had to download the song and play it approximately 1 million times.  

the acceptance speeches of both supporting actors, Lupita Nyong'o and Jared Leto-I was pleasantly surprised by Jared Leto's speech, because I had expected it to be either patronizing or weird.  And of course Lupita was touching and charming all at once.  


and of course, the most popular selfie of all time (at the time of this posting): 


I was able to watch the full show during the week after it aired (my toddler, still recovering from an ear infection, wasn't too keen on the Oscars), so I can attest to it being a good one.  Ellen is a great choice for a host, not too controversial or vain and definitely funny.  

Oscar films-inspired party menu: 

pizza (Her)
moon-shaped rosemary and gruyere crackers (Gravity)
Irish soda bread (Philomena)
Texas sheet cake (Dallas Buyers Club)
blackberry cobbler with drop cream biscuits (12 Years a Slave)
beer (Nebraska)
champagne (Wolf of Wall Street)

Sadly, we didn't get in a good representative dish for American Hustle or Captain Phillips. The crackers were a Smitten Kitchen recipe and were unsurprisingly delicious.  Both desserts were wonderful, and I will be making them again (Homesick Texan and Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen, respectively).  If I had had all the time in the world and perhaps a baby-sitter on the eve of the show, I would definitely have found out a way to incorporate lobster in the menu (inspired by Wolf of Wall Street).  


me: Philomena.  Literally.
SH: Theodore (Her). Complete with a mustache. 
A: outfitted in a long-sleeved t-shirt emblazoned with a Maersk logo (Captain Phillips).  
mother and father-in-law: completely decked out in American Hustle-inspired costumes.  As usual, they looked the best.  
sister-in-law: Magdalene girl, inspired by Philomena.  And so appropriate, since she will be giving birth any day now.
brother-in-law: Jordan Belfort (Wolf of Wall Street).  Striped suit, striped shirt. He looked the part.
BFF Rose: Kate Grant (June Squibb's character in Nebraska).  

personal favorite of all the movies this year: I should say Philomena, and I DID love it.  But I'm embarrassed to admit that it was The Wolf of Wall Street.  Don't judge me!  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

browsing history: first post of 2014!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
It's been a considerable amount of time since I compiled a group of particularly interesting gems.  I don't know what my loyal few have done without me.  How HAVE you gone on? 

I admit that there is really no good excuse to bring Jack Bauer back.  We had closure.  Yet I am still completely excited about this mini-season.  I'm intrigued by the London setting, but why has Chloe become Lisbeth Salander?

Fashion inspired by Franny and Zooey.  I think I might have to start checking out this feature, despite my sad lack of style.

Michael Pollan provides thoughtful info on the paleo diet

Excerpt from a talk by my favorite, Molly Wizenberg.  Love her so, so much.

Some uses for my massive quantities of Meyer lemons that do not involve making Molly's French lemon yogurt cake over and over.

I never thought I would enjoy Matt Damon as much as I do.  He continues to be great.

The final (?) trailer for Divergent has arrived.  Considering that it arrived just before the first trailer for The Fault in our Stars, I am still struggling a bit with the fact that Ansel Elgort, who plays Gus in TFIOS, is Caleb Prior in Divergent.  So brother in one, lover in another.  A bit weird.  On a positive note, both look like solid adaptations.  John Green, the author of The Fault in our Stars, has actively expressed support for the film's production and this first trailer, which is always encouraging for those of us who need the film adaptations to be faithful to the books.

The Fault in our Stars first trailer:

A nice way to review Phillip Seymour Hoffman's best scenes.  I'm especially partial to Along Came Polly.  The most light-hearted fare of the bunch to be sure.  He was a fine talent.


I could have included this in my latest "browsing history" post, which, I PROMISE, is forthcoming. However, Molly's book trailer truly deserves its own post.  I am ridiculously excited about Delancey.  A Homemade Life is one of my favorite books in general (outside of the cookbook category, even!)-I've read it over and over, and I feel about it the same way one might feel about a warm, familiar blanket.  There is something intimate and welcoming about Molly's writing-she is funny and wry to be sure, but also emotional.  You feel as if you know her personally once you've read even a chapter or two.  Sometimes I will stop in the midst of a page (or blog post) and wish that I could just talk to her.  As though she is my old friend.

Needless to say, Delancey was long ago pre-ordered for me. I'm pretty sure I placed my order on the day that it became an option.  There wasn't even any cover art at the time.  I know, I might have a problem.

If you haven't read A Homemade Life, I highly recommend it (obviously).  It happens to be a Kindle Monthly 100 Pick for February, which means that it's only $1.99.  Far more exciting than the price is the fact that if you do order it as an ebook now, you'll receive a bonus chapter of Delancey.  I'm jealous (it should not surprise you that I own the book in both print and ebook formats).

Friday, February 7, 2014

lessons from the snowy day

Friday, February 7, 2014
Ezra Jack Keats pictured with Madeline L'Engle-they won the Newbery and Caldecott awards in 1963.  What an auspicious year! 

I'll be the first one to tell you that the joys and pleasures obtained from reading a good book are not exclusive to that age of adulthood when you can truly comprehend its value.  I've written before on my mother's tendency to hold back certain books from me until I was deemed "ready" to read them.  Most of the time, this had little or nothing to do with the book's more mature content, but rather my mother's desire that I be at a point in my life when I could really appreciate it.  Of course, she was right, 100% of the time.  I am quite sure that I would not have given Lonesome Dove the proper respect had I devoured it when I first heard about it, for example, and I'm certainly glad that I never met Pat Conroy's novels until I was an actual adult.

Though books and literature hold great significance in my life, and I happily tout the importance of exposing children to good books at a young age, I never dwelled much on the idea of being "ready" for a children's book.  I am well-versed on the classics, and I can probably list at least forty Caldecott and/or Newbery winners from the last century.  There is no elementary classroom library in which I wouldn't feel completely comfortable.  Yet, I have neglected to consider some of these wonderful books as instructive and meaningful to me now, in my current state of life as a youngish mom of a boisterous toddler.  It took, of all things, a special anniversary edition of The Snowy Day to inspire me to pay a bit more attention when I am reading to my little one.

Granted, the story itself, with its beguiling, simple watercolor illustrations was not in and of itself what inspired this post.  It was this quote, which appeared in the special section at the end of the book, that really captured my attention.

I realize now that we have so many levels of experience that even when we are despairing and we feel cut off and alone, other, life-saving forces are working through the sadness.  Like strata of water in hard rock.  Where do they come from?  Sometimes I would feel that life was one vast desert, relentless, remorseless, and I could pick up a stone and water would spurt out.  Hidden fountains of feeling we carry inside us, and we don't know it.  I wonder what ripples of laughter and joy and love are buried-to surface one day just as the meaning of Peter's pictures had finally emerged for me.
Isn't that beautiful?  I loved the notion of "hidden fountains of feeling" and the idea that hope and joy and wonder are present even in the midst of the harder times of our lives that will inevitably come.  I suppose it's that idea of wonder that comes across so eloquently in The Snowy Day, which  depicts Peter's day in a slow, quiet fashion, yet never strays from giving the reader the strong sensation of how each little moment of his day, even something as simple as tapping a snow-covered tree with a stick, filled him with awe.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

mood lifter

Thursday, January 30, 2014

I have yet to meet anyone who didn't get caught up in the blissfully satisfying experience of watching Pitch Perfect.  Even my husband succumbed to its charms.  I have the soundtrack, but sometimes I prefer to relive that last scene.  It's guaranteed to make even the staunchest enemy of acapella smile.  

P.S. This might be a good time to mention that I was something of an "aca groupie" in college.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

character love

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Well hello there, exorbitantly priced "Talking" Percy.  

I've heard it said before that the "best" parents are the ones who don't yet have children.  They are the ones who swear there will never be a minute of television watched in their homes.  Nary a crumb of processed food will cross their child's lips.  Sugar in all its forms will be utterly foreign concepts.    These children will be disciplined kindly and effectively, such that they will never, ever throw fits in restaurants and grocery stores.  All of their toys will be composed of wood, and a polyester thread will never touch their skin.

All of this is to say that we have a lot of aspirations, goals, and ideas for how things will be for our children, ESPECIALLY before they are born.  Most of us eventually do a pretty good job of reaching some of them, but inevitably we give in to some of the temptations of the world surrounding us.  A little television doesn't seem like such a bad thing if it means you get a few minutes of extra sleep in the morning.  There is a considerable joy in watching your toddler's face when you've given him his first doughnut.  And even if you've sworn your child will never, ever wear a "character" t-shirt, it can be incredibly satisfying to witness their happy recognition when they see a face they love.

I was definitely on the "no characters" team, but, like so many other kids, A is not immune to the charms of Thomas the Train.  He loves Thomas and all his friends (the theme song is already popping  up in my mind as I type!), and spends at least part of every day pushing them around on the ridiculously expensive train track set we purchased at Christmas (before we used a humble figure-8 track from Ikea).  Despite my initial and let's be honest, rather superior, hesitation, I am now fully supporting the Thomas habit.  We own a plate, water bottle, 2 t-shirts, and a pair of pajamas in addition to a modest number of trains and accessories.

One of the reasons I decided to post about this specific topic is that I have found myself to be a much more inflexible mother than I ever imagined.  My personality is the opposite, ironically-I like to think of myself as laid-back and spontaneous, and while these traits do apply to me individually, I have struggled to translate them over to my role as a mother.  I feel pangs of guilt long after I've allowed A a half hour on the iPad.  I cringed the first time he slurped down an undiluted juice box (for the record, that was probably one of the best moments of his life!).  I'm relentlessly anal about A's schedule, to the frustration of many.  If it interferes with nap time,  you can bet we're not going.

Giving in to the Thomas craze has been good for me.  It's such a small, insignificant thing, really-fostering one of my son's legitimate, completely appropriate interests.  Does it really matter that the character of Thomas didn't originate in a Caldecott-winning children's classic? Or that there is a massive industry devoted to churning out all kinds of matching merchandise?  In the grand scheme of things, not at all.  What is important is letting go of my unreasonable expectations and taking the time to relax, enjoying the things that genuinely make my little boy happy.

Side note: Discovering that Thomas had British origins was an unexpected boon. The knowledge warmed this Anglophile's heart.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

olive oil granola with dried apricots and pistachios

Thursday, January 16, 2014

You guys, I made granola.  I have been raving about its success over and over the past few days to my sister and my husband, neither of whom are displaying adequate enthusiasm.  I suppose it's not a particularly complicated endeavor, but somehow I have a notion that making something from scratch that is so widely available, in a multitude of different forms and flavors, is worthy of praise and accolades.  It would have been easy to purchase my own granola, is what I'm saying.  Instead, I made something far more satisfying and delicious, to say nothing of the fact that the massive quantity produced from the recipe means it was particularly cost-effective.

I devoured the entire huge portion of granola in one week, a feat that I probably shouldn't brag about because, truth be told, granola is one of those things that likes to pretend it's a "healthy snack" when really it's a bunch of wholesome nuts delicately crusted in sweets and spices.  I do not mean to denounce it entirely-it's certainly a better choice than a handful of cookies, for example, but I probably should not have taken it upon myself to eat it all.  I felt certain that little A would be a big fan, and I was looking forward to spicing up our boring breakfast routines with bowls of granola and yogurt, but he is very distrustful of new things these days, and mostly pushed around what he called "nuts" entirely, eating only his yogurt. I plan to keep making granola until I've converted him.

Though I used a recipe from my Melissa Clark cookbook, which I adore and should cook from and write about more, I became intrigued about making granola after reading about Megan Gordon on Orangette.  Megan "became famous" essentially because of her granola, Marge Granola, which she now sells from her bakery in Seattle.  Her cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings, was just released, and I am so excited about it-an entire cookbook devoted specifically to breakfasts that focus on whole grains and don't skimp on things like cream and butter!  She is a girl after my own heart! One of her recipes is incredibly similar to this one, with just a few insignificant differences, but I think I prefer Melissa's recipe.  I plan on trying Megan's version of hazelnut granola with cacao nibs next!

Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios, adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, by Melissa Clark

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats*
1 1/2 cups raw pistachios, hulled
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup coconut chips**
3/4 cup pure maple syrup (you can use 2/3 cup, but the granola will be drier-I used 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or ground ginger (I used ginger)
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, coconut chips, maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, cardamom or ginger.  Spread the mixture on a large rimmed baking sheet (about 11x17 inches) in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.
3.  Transfer the granola to a large bowl and add the apricots, tossing to combine.  Megan's granola recipe suggested adding the fruit after the granola has cooled completely, which made mixing the fruit in thoroughly a much easier task.

*Megan's book gives a lot of great advice about cooking and baking with oats, and it's important to note that for a tasty granola, you need to use rolled oats, definitely not instant.
**I have it on good authority that coconut "chips" are actually large coconut flakes.  I use them frequently for the kale and coconut farro bowl that I continue to be obsessed with, and I pick them up at Whole Foods.  They are well worth the effort to find, big shards of unsweetened coconut that add a great texture to a variety of dishes.  I might even have to start buying in bulk, which is apparently an option on Amazon.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

fish fingers with lime-ginger dipping sauce OR adventures in fried food

Thursday, January 9, 2014
No one ever said that fried food photographed well.  

One might expect that for my first food-related post for the new year (my first post of 2014, actually), I would compose a nice, virtuous paragraph or two about a particularly healthy recipe perfectly suitable for a new year and its accompanying resolutions.  While I certainly do intend to join the leagues of those who desire to cook from a more health-conscious perspective this year, I whole-heartedly confess to you that the meal that I'm going to be sharing with you today is not of the that variety.  That would be because the main component of the dish is fried.

I have another confession for you: while I am like any other red-blooded individual that loves the deliciously bad-for-you crunch and texture of fried food, I have a serious aversion to frying anything in my own kitchen.  It's silly, really.  My general attitude towards food is that it should be thoroughly enjoyed and occasional forays involving funnel cakes or French fries are absolutely acceptable as long as they are, indeed, occasional.  I simply cannot, for whatever reason, bring myself to pour inches of oil with wild abandon into my pan.  It seems....reckless.

Considering that my little guy has an aversion to chicken and meat and consumes only fish as his chosen protein (the little prince!), I decided that I might have to relax and give in to my frying fears in order to try a time-honored family dinner: the fish stick. (Let's face it-one can only afford salmon so many times in a month!) Both my husband and I can recall eating fish sticks in childhood, and our memories are rather fond, even considering that they undoubtedly came from a box.  When I saw a recipe for fish fingers crusted with panko in one of my newer, family-friendly cookbooks, I decided they might be worth a shot.  Truth be told, I was initially swayed by the dipping sauce, which is good enough to eat alone.

I couldn't completely relinquish my anti-frying principles, even though the recipe calls for a reasonably small amount of oil (1/3 inch in the pain).  I spread it around just enough for there to be a thin layer of oil in the pain (probably  more like 1/8 inch), but it certainly did the trick.  Thick wedges of halibut dredged in a soy-flavored egg wash and flakes of panko became something like the fish fingers of memory, with a lovely golden crust that absorbed the addictive dipping sauce and provided a perfect bite.  Funnily enough, my first reaction upon tasting them was that they were really just like what I might expect for a fish stick, only with the satisfying knowledge that they were composed of fresh, wild fish with no added processed ingredients.  It was difficult not to consume the whole bowl of sauce, and in fact, little A did indeed scoop quite a bit of it up in his spoon.  We had to beg and plead to get him to actually eat the fish, despite how much he loves it.

Fish Fingers with Lime-Ginger Dipping Sauce, adapted from Keepers, by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion
-The jury is still out on this book-it was recommended on one of my favorite blogs, and as I'm trying to make a real effort to create meals for my family that aren't especially complicated and will also appeal to the tastes of kids and adults alike, it seemed like a good fit.  This was certainly a good place to start.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 pounds thick white, flaky fish fillets, such as halibut, cod, or mahimahi, cut into 4x1-inch strips and patted dry
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil for pan-frying

1. Put the flour on a large plate.  In a shallow bowl, whisk together the egg whites and soy sauce until frothy.  Put the panko in a deep dish.
2. Season the fish with salt and pepper.  Working with a few pieces at a time, dredge the fish strips in the flour, coating completely, then shake off any excess.  Dip them in the egg mixture, letting any excess drip off, then coat them with the panko, gently pressing them into the breadcrumbs so they stick.  Put the pieces on a platter large enough to fit all of them without crowding and repeat until all of the fish is breaded.  If you have room in your refrigerator, chill the fish while the oil heats; it will help firm up the breading.
3. In a large skillet, heat about 1/3 inch of oil over medium heat.  Working in batches, add the fish and cook until golden brown and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Transfer the fish to a paper-towel lined platter and tent with foil to keep warm.  Repeat with remaining fish.  Serve with the Lime-Ginger Dipping Sauce if you like.

Lime-Ginger Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 jalepeno, seeded and finely chopped (optional)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, lime juice, ginger, and jalepeno (if using).  Check the seasonings.  The sauce will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.