It's 5:30-Do you know what you're having for dinner?

I’m wondering how long does it take frozen shrimp to thaw? What am I going to do with the shrimp after they thaw? Will Es and the boy from next door eat them with curry?

I’m guessing 30 min. in cold water, grill on skewers, no way!



School is coming up on me, and I just got that letter home telling us we can’t send any nut products for lunch or snack. The Girl was just about doing a happy dance when she heard the news. Last year I gave her PB&J sandwiches for about a month, and I finally got sick of making them and then throwing them away every day. She has refused them ever since.

Still I was hoping that I could get away with a month of slathering bread with spreads with I waited for the coffee to kick in. No such luck.

So here’s an attempt to come up with a list of possible lunches that can survive without refrigeration but may require a hot thermos.

1. Some kind of pasta

2. Edamame

3. Sliced apples

4. Cheese and Apples

5. Fruit – all kinds

6. Red pepper strips (or orange, yellow, green)

7. Carrot sticks

8. Hummus and carrot sticks (or celery) or pita

9. Did I mention pasta?

10. Crackers and Cheese

11. Dried Fruit (esp. cherries because she’ll eat them)

I just asked Es what she sees other kids eating that she likes to eat. She said “pasta.”

12. Beans (esp. black beans)

13. Ravioli – oh right, that’s pasta

14. Tea Sandwiches: cucumber? Smoked turkey? Apple and cheese? [For mornings when I’ve already had a lot of coffee.]

15. Soup

Okay, so that’s my starting list. I’m going to keep adding to it…and suggestions are always welcome. What I don’t want to hear is how horrible dried fruit is or how bad anything else is on this list. I already left yoghurt off because of SFMom. And I’m telling you right now, chocolate milk is going to qualify as a snack in this house and that’s it!

And I'm also laying down the gauntlet to any folks from the nabe who scoff at Pizza Friday. They can start making lunch for my kid every Friday if they vote that little weekly reprieve down—and that goes for the little Anti-Pizza Friday contingent in my own house too!


The Amazing Woman Juggler

The summer is winding down, and I’m getting kind of jittery. The big question that every working Mom (and some working dads? …maybe) asks herself: How am I supposed to fit everything in to my schedule?

Even as I’m writing this, The Husband is informing me that The Girl wants a play date with a friend and that she told him that I “forgot.” I’m home more, so it makes sense that I be the one to schedule it. Okay, that’s true. But still…

What is it about trying to fit everything into place, like a jigsaw puzzle that has too many pieces, that makes me want to run from the room pulling my hair?

And on top of The Girl’s dance lessons and piano lessons, my seeing friends when I can, going to therapy, doing laundry, shopping for groceries, keeping up with regular doctor appointments, sewing for fun, keeping the garden watered, scheduling repairmen when necessary, getting the car tuned up, going to work…I have to fix dinner. How is this supposed to work?


And the Livin' is Easy

Maybe it’s practice. Maybe it’s a new mindset. I don’t know. I put together a lunch party and didn’t even break a sweat.

Jim and Vika were coming over at 2:00 pm, and here it was 9:00 and I hadn’t even thought up a menu. So rather than panic (regular mode), I sat at the table with a cup of coffee and some cook books and went through the possibilities (new and improved). I opted for:

Poached Salmon with Yoghurt Dill Sauce
Black Bean and Orzo Salad
Grilled Asparagus
Peach and Blueberry Crisp

I did the grocery shopping and preparation in 4 hours! It was as if my brain went on autopilot and I just knew what to do and when to do it.

First off: poach the salmon (in water, white wine, peppercorns, lemon, salt and dill. Cover the salmon with the liquid. Cover and bring to a boil. When it boils turn off the heat and let it sit for 30 minutes or so in the hot bath.

Peach and Blueberry Crisp – Peel and quarter 2.5 pounds of peaches. Combine peaches with 1 C of blueberries,1/4C white sugar, 1T instant tapioca, 1/2t lemon zest, 1-1/2T lemon juice. Grind up the topping in a Cuisinart until coarse: 5T chilled butter, 1/4C brown sugar, 1/4C white sugar, 1/4t nutmeg, 1/4t cinnamon, 3/4
c nuts (I chose pecans). Put the fruit in the bottom of a glass square-ish baking dish (so you can see how it’s cooking inside), and coat with topping. Bake for 30 minutes at 375, then pump the heat up to 400 and bake for about 10 more (not letting it burn). This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated.

We sat out on the deck talking about vacations and work, and even a pesky, determined yellow jacket couldn’t get us out of our summer mood.

The Peach Blueberry Crisp was by far the highlight of the meal. The peaches were soft, sweet, and melted in your mouth. The topping gave a gratifying crunch that made you want to scrape the sides of the pan for the crispiest bit, something I indulged in after our guests had left. The Husband was much less cunning. He unapologetically plopped the remaining helping into a bowl all for himself.


the basic cause, source, or origin of something

My Uncle Harold was my grandma's oldest child. She adored him. That and the fact that he was more of an intellectual than anyone else in the family put him out of step with his twin sisters (my mother and my aunt). He could be incredibly sarcastic and spoke with a kind of nasal whine that would have made him very hip in New York. He liked astronomy, philosophy, and chess, and he had a little 24 hour restaurant called Cherryland Cafe in Hayward, California.

Uncle Harold worked the graveyard shift, which catered to the workers at the Hunts ketchup factory across the street. My grandma and I would walk there on summer nights, cut in through the parking lot to the backdoor, and Harold would whisk us up something. He always had a pot of chili going, made a decent burger, and sometimes I would get those flattened out crispy prawns.

He was a multi-tasker in that in addition to his short-order duties, he also had a game of chess going at the counter. It turns out that Cherryland was an East Bay institution for late night chess. He had a whole crew of regulars who would spar with him and each other over the board. One article that I found about the cafe on the web says that "when Harold triumphs, the defeat can be very embarrassing for his opponent, since he usually is cooking and serving customers as he moves."

I missed all that because at first I was too young and later began a quest to find things more remarkable than my family. Uncle Harold taught me how to play chess when I was about 6, but I never got into the game. I still have the set he gave me: big, clunky weighted pieces that mean business. So I have that, a fondness for diners of all kinds, and a feeling that I missed out on something way cooler than I ever suspected.


Too Darn Hot

Once, in a boring meeting, I started to list my most memorable meals of all time. They were easily catagorized: meals where the people and circumstances were unforgettable and meals where the food itself seemed to awaken me from a sleep.

A lunch in Helsinki many, many years ago is an example of the latter. I was visiting some friends in Finland and their father invited me to lunch at a restaurant that specialized in all things Finnish. The glassware was by iittala, the tableware by arabia, table linens by Marimekko, in a room looking out on the Baltic and Helsinki itself. Still all of this paled next to a meal which couldn't have been more straightforward: smoked salmon, dilled potatoes, and a glass of white wine. The simplicity and elegance of that lunch along with the eye-opening zing of dill and salmon together made me feel as if I lived in a beautiful world.

Smoked salmon and dilled potatoes have become a menu favorite for the past 20 years: great for my own birthday meal when I don't want to cook, wonderful for New Year's Eve because it goes so well with champange. I have tried and occasionaly succeeded in recreating the sublime, but firsts are hard to beat.

Last night the old favorite became my ace in the hole because it was just too hot to do much about dinner. I boiled some of the smallest red bliss potatoes I could find, made up a quick sauce of dill and mustard, and put the smoked salmon on a platter. That was it.

We were all too broiled by the summer heat to eat too much or linger at the table. The Girl and the little boy next door wanted to get back to the sprinkler as soon as they could, so it was a short and functional meal. Not overly exhausted from "cooking," I even helped with the clean-up.