North Beach Book Signing

I was invited to do a book signing in North Beach at a great parenting resource and baby boutique called Carmel Blue.  I hadn’t been to North Beach in so long and was happy to participate in the store’s book fair to launch their parenting and children’s book section.  I always go to such events by myself but this time my five year old daughter accompanied me.  We had a great time and I used the event to show her around North Beach – the square, the cathedral, the shops, the cafes.  She was extremely patient, and even helpful, as I signed books and spoke with new and expectant parents.  She loved looking at all the baby things (great selection of unique clothing, toys and gifts) as well as the babies themselves.  She was even the big kid in storytime.  We met a wonderful grandfather of 6 girls visiting from the mid-west who was kind enough to take and email me these photos.  Thanks Joe.

We visited Caffe Roma twice, which I hadn’t been to years.  First, we arrived early for the event, so we went to tea (for me) and hot chocolate (for her).  She enjoyed seeing all the many people coming and going and all the loud banter.  After the book event I thought we’d go to Tony’s Pizza or North Beach Pizza, but she wasn’t interested.  No pizza?  I was shocked.  She wanted to “go back to the cafe from earlier”.  I obliged.  It wasn’t as bustling (which she liked), but she was quite happy with her eggpplant penne and a few italian “kisses”, aka cookies, to take home and share with dad and brother.

I love showing my kids new (to them) neighborhoods and sharing and remembering all the times my husband and I spent in the city as a couple before they were born.  It’s fun to see what’s new and what remains.  My daughter was all walked and questioned out after our North Beach work and adventure, as she fell asleep on the ride home at 2pm.  I’ll have to take my son back next time.  He’ll indulge me with a slice.



Send ‘Em Packing – Easy, Healthy Food/Drink Container

I was going to skip the back to school lunch packing tips. So many blogs talk about it.  And I wrote about packing a healthy and waste free lunch last year.  The surprising and interesting thing is while there are many more product offerings, my favorites remain those I tested (and still use) from last year.  And I realize while this may seem old news to some, it’s brand new for others.  So take a look at what my family has been using and liking.  The added bonus is that some are local Bay Area companies.

My kids will not be getting new lunchboxes this year, as their PlanetBoxes have
held up perfectly. They are easy to pack with appropriate compartments for
everything. The bag can be washed and new magnets can be purchased if your
PlanetBox is needing something fresh.


We also still love and are using our Kids Konserve freezer packs (fits well in
the PlanetBox pocket). I am never without one of their stainless steel
containers for snacks in my purse. They now offer more colors and sizes than
ever. Hurry to their online sale thru August.

As far as drink bottles go, we are not as satisfied with the longevity and
rotate quite a bit. My kids have just discovered the new Thermos/Threadless
stainless bottles with spouts, which are easy to open and close tightly. (I
can’t stand the leaky straw designs of some bottles). We also use EarthLust‘s
nature inspired stainless steel designs. I’m enjoying my Lifefactory 22 oz
large glass bottle and have ordered the new lunchbox ready 9 oz size for my
kids. Note: I only pack water in these. I find it is the easiest to clean, the
bottle lasts longer and healthiest for my kids and self. (If needing help with baby bottle choices for the youngest set, check out this article/review from The Babble Out.)

Finally, our organic cotton napkins by Fabkins are holding up from school
lunches, picnics, camps and home use. They continue to introduce new patterns
to make lunch fun and less messy.

So go forth and pack a healthy lunch with reusable, responsible products that are good for you, your kids and the planet. Yes, that is a lofty statement, but every little bit countsm as your child can create more than their weight in school lunch trash each year.


Camping Cookout 101 – Go Veggie

My family just got back from a camping trip with extended family and friends to Lake Millerton, CA.  We had a great time boating, swimming, visiting, reading and cooking.  I must admit our camping meals were pretty great.  No simple hamburgers and hot dogs at this campsite.  We had everything from sausages, to grilled veggies, to homemade chili (my sister’s prize winning),  to scratch scones (pumpkin and lemon poppyseed, thank you), to grape leaves and hummus wraps, to orzo salad, etc… Did I mention pretty much everything was vegetarian, or vegan?  My sister organized the trip and she and I divided meals and shopping.  Since she is vegan and other family members are vegetarian (my daughter of course) we went with what would be easy and satisfy everyone.

Surprisingly, the most beneficial part of the vegetarian cook outs was no bees.  There are so many times I dread eating outdoors because I think the bees are going to come eventually.  Do you eat fast?  Or buy something to keep them away?  I’ve heard everything from citronella candles to dryer sheets (not what I want to breathe when I’m eating).  Now we know, just don’t cook meat.  Ah ha!My extended family sat quietly enjoying our camp dinners, while our friends at neighboring tables were running and screaming from yellow jackets.  Not fun.  Especially with little ones.

There is a great spread about camping, cookouts and favorite chef recipes in this month’s Sunset Magazine.  Ironically, I read it while camping.  I plan to make this fire-roasted veggie salad at home on the grill for Labor Day and keep the pests away.

Fire-Roasted Vegetable Salad

(by Russell Moore of Camino in Oakland, CA)

1 garlic clove

  • 2 tablespoons high-quality red wine vinegar
  • 4 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/2 in. thick
  • 3 ears corn, husks and silks removed
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cored
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • About 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • About 1/2 tsp. pepper, divided
  • 2 whole onions, unpeeled
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1. Build a wood fire* in a camp grill or fire ring, using about 4 logs and some kindling; let burn to medium (you can hold your hand 5 in. above cooking grate only 5 to 7 seconds), about 1 hour. Adjust fire so there’s a thick area of embers and smaller logs in the middle and larger logs to the sides.

    2. Smash garlic, put in a small bowl with vinegar, and set aside. In a large bowl, toss zucchini, corn, and tomatoes with 2 tbsp. oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.

    3. Place onions in embers between some smaller logs and cook, turning every 10 minutes or so, until completely black and soft when squeezed with tongs, 25 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, set peppers on embers and cook, turning every few minutes, until completely charred, about 20 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a board and let cool.

    4. Set cooking grate in place, if using a portable one. Grill zucchini, corn, and tomatoes (in batches, if needed), turning occasionally, until grill marks appear, 5 to 35 minutes, depending on distance from fire.

    5. Pull off blackened outsides from onions and peppers. Cut corn kernels from cobs into large bowl. Cut remaining vegetables into slices or strips, discarding seeds; add to bowl.

    6. Stir remaining 6 tbsp. oil into vinegar with remaining 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Toss gently with vegetables, add mint, and more salt and pepper if you like.

    *Or cook all the vegetables over (but not in) a medium (350° to 450°) charcoal fire, adding 8 briquets every 30 minutes.


    Pass the Peanut Butter

    Summer means a break from the nut butter bans at my house.  We can’t pack it for school or camp, but we can for summer picnics, camping and at home playdate lunches.  Of course we check before serving, but luckily my kids’ usual friends don’t have issues.  We even got crazy and I made peanut butter cookies (recipe below).  I can’t remember the last time I did that.


    Allery News

    There have been a few articles recently about the rise in nut allergies and some pretty angry parents who are just getting into school with nut free policies.  Your child will survive at school without peanut butter, while another may not survive because of it.  Think of it that way, before you get mad at policies, schools and parents who deal with an allergic child.  Enjoy it at home and use the bans to discover something new with your kids for lunch.


    Taste Test

    We like to do taste tests at my house.  My daughter wasn’t to be fooled when we did various milks at a (see blog about our milk test for a cookie party).  She still doesn’t drink cow’s milk.  So about about finding an alternative for peanut butter when school starts?  Soy nut butter and sunflower butter are big at my house.  Or try an entirely diffrent tasting type of spread such as hummus, black bean or cream cheese.  Try it on tortiallas, bread, flatbread, bagels, crumpets, crackers, etc.  I bet you’re family will find a new favorite you can safely pack, come back to school day.


    Enjoy these cookies before school starts, on the weekend or as an after school treat.


    Peanut Butter Cookies

    (adapted from the Ski Lodge Cookbook by Tina Andersen)

    Makes 24 cookies

    1 cup peanut butter

    1 cup sugar

    1 large egg, slightly beaten

    2 tablespoons all purpose flour

    1 teaspoon baking soda

    Preheat oven to 350F.  Layer baking sheets with parchment paper.


    Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

    Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets.  Flatten dough balls with fork tines to make a crisscross.

    Bake until puffed and light golden brown, 8 – 19 minutes.  Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes.  Transfer to baking rack to cool completely.


    Kids’ Menus – A Few Good, Most Not So

    I am usually dissappointed by kids’ menus at restaurants.  Why is it that the restaurant can serve fresh, organic, delicious food on the adult menu, but the the kids’ is an afterthought with a choice of who’s who from the freezer section?  Why offer a kids menu at all if you’re stooping to offer a steamed hot dog and boxed macaroni and cheese?  When did people get the idea that kids will only eat hot dogs, hamburgers, pasta with butter and chicken strips?  And even if the kids’ menu is decent, why does everything have to come with fries?  If your restaurant makes pasta for adults, make pasta for kids (just not such an overwhelming size).  If my family is going to a mexican restaurant we’ve decided we want mexican food, not a burger and fries.  If you have salads for adults, why not a small salad or some fresh, raw veggies for the younger set?  And what about milk?  Some kids are only offered soda, juice and chocolate milk.


    Seems easier to use same ingredients and cooking techniques too.   I rarely offer my kids what’s on these menus other than the games and pictures to draw (although harder to edit now that my son reads).  We prefer to order a smaller or shared portion from the main or appetizer menu.  Or we pay for two adult size portions and take food home.


    OK…Enough of my ranting.


    I was impressed on two recent occassions when dining out with my family.  First, we went to  San Luis Obispo where we had a lovely breakfast at Big Sky Cafe.  The kids’ menu did have a drawing to color but the offerings were actually made from the same fresh organic ingredients as the regular menu, just smaller portions.  A stack of blueberry pancakes just wasn’t stacked so high.  A make your own omelet only came with 2 eggs and the steel cut oatmeal was appealing for every age with a selection of dried fruit and fresh berries.  I wish we were staying for lunch and dinner too.  Anyone for a petit filet with potato croquettes?   Mind you this was not a high end restaurant, as everything was under $18 for dinner on the main menu, under $10 on the kids’ menu.


    Another great local find with a good kids’ menu is Piatti Ristorante.  There are 9 locations in all – most in California, but also in Colorado, Washington and  Texas.  This is a good italian trattoria for family and friends to gather as well as a date night spot when the kids are at home with a sitter.  Each location’s menu reflects the local taste and season.  Their bambini menu is the largest I’ve ever seen with a selection of antipasti, pizza, primi (pasta), secondi (salmon, chicken, steak), verdure (broccoli, mixed veggies) and dolce (gelato, panna cotta).  They started with an antipasti of salami, mozzarella, veggies and olives (so much we brought some home). My daughter loved her spinach and cheese ravioli as did my son appreciate his tomato gnocci.  This was higher end for the main menu but everything on the bambini  menu was a bargain at  less than $10.


    So, yes.  It can be done.  Any place you care to share with a good children’s menu?


    Turkey Warning…

    There are a few new food recalls concerning dairy, papayas, cat food and 36 million pounds of ground turkey.  There’s been one death and 77 illness of salmonella in 26 states due to the contamination.  The FDA is cautioning people not to eat ground turkey and products made with ground turkey.  Here’s the whole story…

    Here’s a chart of the Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures from
    Use this chart and a food thermometer to ensure that meat, poultry, seafood,
    and other cooked foods reach a safe minimum internal temperature.


    Remember, you can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it. Any
    cooked, uncured red meats – including pork – can be pink, even when the meat has
    reached a safe internal temperature.

    Why the Rest Time is Important

    After you remove meat from a grill, oven, or other heat source, allow it to
    rest for the specified amount of time. During the rest time, its temperature
    remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful germs.

    category Food Temperature
    Rest Time
    Ground Meat
    & Meat Mixtures
    Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb 160 None
    Turkey, Chicken 165 None
    Fresh Beef, Veal,
    Steaks, roasts, chops 145 3 minutes
    Poultry Chicken & Turkey, whole 165 None
    Poultry breasts, roasts 165 None
    Poultry thighs, legs, wings 165 None
    Duck & Goose 165 None
    Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird) 165 None
    Pork and
    Fresh pork 145 3 minutes
    Fresh ham (raw) 145 3 minutes
    Precooked ham (to reheat) 140 None
    & Egg Dishes
    Eggs Cook until yolk
    and white are firm
    Egg dishes 160 None
    Leftovers & Casseroles Leftovers 165 None
    Casseroles 165 None
    Seafood Fin Fish 145 or cook until
    flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.
    Shrimp, lobster, and crabs Cook until flesh is
    pearly and opaque.
    Clams, oysters, and mussels Cook until shells
    open during cooking.
    Scallops Cook until flesh
    is milky white or opaque and firm.