Family Ski Meal – Chili and Citrus Cornbread Muffins

We went skiing (finally) last weekend.  As usual I brought my vegetarian chili.  The great thing about this dish is that I make it the day before and freeze it.  Then we bring the frozen chili in the car on the drive to Tahoe.  By the time we get there it may or may not be totally thawed (depending on traffic).  Then we have a sure fire meal for the evening and can go out play without worrying about making dinner.

And while my family likes the chili, they really like what I make on the side even better…Citrus Corn Bread Muffins.   These muffins are a favorite from The Petit Appetit Cookbook, and are a little sweet and a little savory.  They’re made moist by the addition of banana.  Happily this recipe makes 12 – 15 full size or 36 mini muffins so we have lots to share or save.  My kids think it’s the perfect snack for packing for school or on the go – like heading to the snow.  These can be made and stored in a air tight container for about 3 – 4 days.

Citrus Corn Muffins

1 tablespoon grated orange zest (about 2 medium oranges)

2 cups unbleached flour

½ cup cornmeal

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup low-fat buttermilk

2 large, cage free, organic eggs

½ cup organic light brown sugar, packed

½ cup mashed banana (about 1 large banana)


Preheat oven to 400 F.  Lightly grease 12 cup standard muffin tin or 24 cup mini muffin tin with vegetable oil.  Using a small knife or zester, remove 1 tablespoon on zest from oranges.  In a large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, powder and salt and whisk to mix.  In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs, brown sugar, banana and zest.  Mix well.  Using a rubber spatula, fold wet ingredients into dry mixture.  Be careful not to over mix, as muffins will be tough.  Spoon batter into muffin tin cups, ¾ full.  Bake 15 – 20 minutes, or until muffins are brown on top and test pick comes out clean.  Remove from oven and place on wire rack.


Get Picky!  Keep toothpicks or small wooden skewers on hand to check muffins and other baked goods for doneness.  Simply insert pick in center, and when comes out clean, muffins are done.



Arsenic Found in Baby Formula and Brown Rice Syrup Products

Here’s the entire article and Dartmouth study regarding arsenic found in formula and organic foods sweetened with brown rice syrup.  Once again it’s always important to check labels and eat things in moderation.   Check your kids’ snacks bars such as Cliff and Envirokids.  I too sometimes sweeten muffins and cookies with brown rice syrup instead of sugar.

A local Bay Atea pediatrician had this to say to his pediatric regarding the findings:

“We would also like to reassure you. We had a lengthy conversation with the chief toxicologist at the UCSF Pediatric environmental health study unit this afternoon and here are some of his thoughts: All rice takes up natural arsenic from the soil — so it’s not a contaminant during manufacturing.  The exposure is not an acute high level toxicity (such as in large ingestion of poison) but rather a slow and low level exposure, which would take years or even decades to affect the human body. Treatment for this is to simply stop taking the formula. Arsenic has short half-life, and some studies have shown that it clears the body within a week or 2, unlike other heavy metals like lead that can deposit and take years to clear. Overall the risk from this type of exposure is very minimal and no treatment is necessary. As far as testing, most experts recommend against testing for several reasons:

1.      Testing isn’t reliable and can be influenced by organic, non-toxic arsenic which is found in fish and water.

2.      Treatment is the same and that is to stop exposure.



Year of the Dragon 2012

Eventhough my son and I had venture to Chinatown for his field trip earlier in the week, we were all still excited to head back for the Chinese New Parade and usher in the year of the dragon.  We did some of the usual, but got a late start due to soccer games earlier in the day.  No time for market viewing and pet stores.  We headed straight for dinner at, you guessed it Oriental Pearl.  My son and I tried to suggest a new place, but somehow this one seems to be part of the tradition (see last year’s blog entry) and my husband wanted to stick with it.  Maybe next year.

bringing the bird

This year we ordered a few new things which had fun presentations.  The assorted dim sum with shrimp balls, pot stickers, shu mei and egg rolls came with this lovely bird carved from a carrot.  Funny thing is they must now have too many birds as after we admired it and had it on the table a few minutes, they whisked it away.


smells the same
really, they're mushrooms

This year there were more parade goers than in the past.  We walked by a few of the usual shops such as what my kids call, the “stinky dried fish”  store.  We took our annual photo.  Then we looked in another window and saw these enormous mounds.  We giggled because they looked like dung, but are in fact mushrooms.


We found a new place to stand and watch the parade were it was a bit less hectic and away from Portsmouth Square where there’s lots of fireworks and smoke bomb activity.  Although we still had our sparklers.  And of course had egg custards.  This time after the last dragon we hit the Chinatown Bazaar.  You could spend hours looking at all the wares from teapots, to stuffed animals, to tiaras, to magnets and on and on.  My daughter bought a hat and my son chose two tiny ceramic owls to commenmorate the evening.  Gung Hay Fat Choy!



I Left My Heart…

We started Valentine’s Day with something pink as requested by my daughter.  Luckily I had strawberries and blended a few with almond milk in the blender.  Voila!  Quick and tasty pink milk.

Later in the day I was stunned by what’s become school Valentine’s.  My kids and I sat down to go thru the Valentine’s one by one.  Many kids made cards and stuck a piece of candy on there.  But no apparently candy companies are trying to say the piece of candy is the actual Valentine – printing a “to” and “from” on the wrapper itself.  What?  I remember when Valentine’s day at school was about creating a beautitful “mailbox” (doilies, lace, pant, felt, show box) as well as the Valentine’s to go inside.  The only candy associated with Valentine’s was chocolates and candy hearts.  OK I know there are lots of preprinted Valentine’s with movie characters etc.  But at least there’s a bit of fun as the child picks his favorite and chooses which for each pal – writing a message and name.  But a piece of crappy candy?  No message, no creativity – but lots of chemicals.  My kids knew they weren’t eating any of this, especially when my son read the ingredients and realized he couldn’t pronounce anything.

My husband had offered to make Valentine’s dinner.  Which was so nice since it was a usual Tuesday with school and late evening Tae Kwon Do for my son.  We pleasantly came home to a grilled lamb dinner (my favorite) with roasted potatoes and salad.  He had champagne for us and sparkling cider for the kids – complete with a strawberry in each glass.  For dessert he got creative with grilled apples over vanilla bean ice cream and drizzled with honey and sea salt.  We were all impressed and full.

Instead of the school candy, I came home with a box of assorted chocolates from Chocolatier Blue.  My husband was on the same wavelength as he brought me my own stash of beautiful Socola chocolates.  These are delicious and real works of art and make me forget about the school candy.


Chinatown Field Trip

Meet Miss. Lee

My son’s second grade class went on a field trip yesterday to San Francsco’s Chinatown.  I was lucky enough to go along as a chaperone.  My family is no stranger to Chinatown and in fact we’re looking forward to celebrating in the streets on Saturday for the Chinese New Year Parade.  However there is always something to learn about a place – whether you’re a local or tourist.  Our tour guide was Linda Lee, the owner of the 29 year old All About Chinatown Walking Tours.  She was hysterical.  Very dry and quick witted and had the kids’ and adults’ total attention as she told us about Chinese culture, immigration, medicine and food.  She warned she would walk quickly and she sure did.  A group of 30 of us could’ve gotten lost in the crowded streets were it not for the students running to keep up with the tour.


Filling a prescription


I found the medicine discussion fascinating.  I had always wanted to go into one of the herbal pharmacies but didn’t want to just gawk.  This time I had an excuse to go in and gawk with the kids, as we saw prescriptions being filled of herbs and fungus (no idea what that cures) as well as ingredients for teas such as dried geckos, deer leg and various roots.  Linda had warned us ahead of time of some of the ingredients and differences of east and west medicine practices.  She told the children not to say “ew” or “yuck” to anything on the tour, but to say “That’s interesting!”

Next we went on to the Stockton Street food markets.  This is always a treat to see so much brightly colored, unique produce and fresh, even live, fish (and other animals) all in one place.  Some of the kids (and parents) were a little taken a back.  My son is always sad to see the live frogs.  I suggested maybe we could buy them all and set them free.  I shouldn’t have said that because he really wanted to.  Then I had to explain I didn’t know how we could get them to a safe place (there were probably over 100) and even if we did take them to a local frog creek they’d likely eat all the resident frogs because these were so large.  Luckily he was sidetracked when the kids started asking about the large prickly fruit.   I was happy for the distraction and glad that I knew it was a Durian.


Hand folding fortunes

Next it was to the Fortune Cookie Factory.  It is always fun to see these being folded by hand.  It’s been in business 49 years.  I learned that fortune cookies are enjoyed at chinese restaurants in all countries except for…you guessed it…China!


Buddhist Temple


Later we went to a buddhist temple, where we saw offerings of tangerines, flowers and candy as people lit insence and prayed to various gold and jeweled statues for health, strength and prosperity.  This was a non-descript 3 story walk up.  While across the street was an old traditional building which now houses a bank.  We learned about the various colors in chinese culture (red for luck, yellow for royalty) and signifigance of traditional curved roofs (evil spirits slide right off).


Four Seas

Finally we all had lunch at Four Seas on Grant Ave, a lovely banquet and traditional Cantonese style restaurant.  The kids loved the ornate decor.  Some of the children and adults chose to bring a lunch from home rather than eat chinese food.  Most of what I saw was cold, soggy take-out pizza.  What a shame to miss out on such traditional fare as fried rice, pot stickers, chicken chow mein and broccoli beef.  Most everyone tried and enjoyed the tea.  The egg rolls dissappeared quickly.  Three girl students at our table enjoyed the chow mein so much they were arguing over the left-overs (there was plenty for all).  My son and I were a bit dissappointed we didn’t have any buns or egg custards, but thankfully we’ll be back in a few days.


Brad Pitt …No Oscar for Health and Nutrition

This is crazy!  I think Jamie Oliver should visit the Pitt-Jolie household.

“In a recent interview with CBS This Morning, the Oscar nominated actor Brad Pitt (“Moneyball”), revealed that he sometimes has to rely on a certain carbonated beverage to get his kids moving in the morning.”

“Listen, I admit there’s times like, ‘We gotta get up. Get up! Here’s your shoes. Here’s your shoes. Drink this Coke. Drink this Coca-Cola. Drink it all. Right now! Drink it! Drink it! Drink it!’ Just so we could get ’em up and going,” Pitt confessed.”