Kids Want Food and Photo Credit Too

O.K. so for all the complaining my kids do about waiting for me to take food photos before we can eat, not their getting into the act too.  My kids are making me wait to eat so they can take pictures of their creations.  Can’t fault them for that right?  Here are a couple from a snack they made themselves and them photographed.

Here’s a “fancy” flatbread wrap with carrots on the side.  “It’s fancy because of the umbrella” said my daughter.
Here’s a raspberry tower my son skillfully created.
This was fun and cute and easy.  We put pretzels in a tic-tac-toe shape and added cheese x’s and a rounded ball of sunflower butter for an O.  My kids may be creating the next cookbook in my house.

Remembering Memorial Day…Forgetting the Carnival Food

This memorial day weekend was filled with activity…some related to remembering those who fought for our country (parade and discussion with our kids), but mostly gatherings of friends and community (parade again, carnival, San Francisco Bridge celebration, sleepover, BBQ and some I’m sure I can’t remember).


With all the events there was a wide variety of food, of course.  We enjoyed everything from a mexican fiesta at friends (complete with margarita machine), to BBQ (chicken and tofu), the freshest fish in Marin (Fish Restaurant) and too many pancake breakfasts.


Thankfully one event we did not try food was the carnival.  First of all the dizzying rides were hard enough for me, if my kids would’ve asked for a corn dog or cotton candy I would’ve died.  I think both the rides and concessions looked like the same ones I had as a kid.  No updating here.  Actually when we got home from the carnival my daughter asked “How come all the people working at the carnival had brown and yucky teeth?”  This was quite an observation.  My husband and I were thinking the carnival workers seemed more tidy than those we remembered from carnivals when we were a kids.  Anyways my answer to her was “Maybe it’s because they work all day and have to eat the carnival food all the time”.  O.K. I’m not sure that’s true, but it stands to reason right? (I was too tired and nauseous to tackle the possibility of smoking too).


Unfortunately the weekend ended on a personal memorial as my son’s hermit crab, “Hermit” died tonight.  I told my son I’d post a photo of happier days with Hermit to share of his beloved pet.


Mother’s Day Wrap-Up

I hope you enjoyed your Mother’s Day.  Whether it was celebrating with your kids or your own mom, or both.  I’m looking forward to a visit with my own mom and we’ll be celebrating then.  However I had a lovely day with my husband and kids.  We all stayed up too late the night before.  The kids had so much fun with their cousins and babysitters, they were up when we got home from a fundraiser at 11 pm!  The good thing was that it meant sleeping in on Mom’s Day.  However we all slept in so late, we barely made it to our brunch.

My husband made reservations at Left Bank in Larkspur.  The restaurant is a french bistro with great food and wine.  On Mother’s Day they even set up a special table for kids to make cards for their mom and choose a small bouquet of flowers to bring to the table and then take home.  This was so sweet.  My daughter is a crafty one, so she would’ve been happy there all day.


Whenever I go to Left Bank I order escargot.  My son ends up eating half of them.  It’s one of the few places that serves them and they are a wonderful, garlicky, buttery treat.  My kids ordered pan perdue, aka french toast on brioche.  This was yummy but so rich they couldn’t finish it.  My son still wanted to show you a before and after.  My husband and I both ordered a salmon and leek tart which was very yummy but also rich.  I realized we haven’t had such rich food in a while and maybe didn’t feel so energized after.  I explained that this was the reason I always eat oatmeal every morning.  I feel better.  It was a nice day with family.  After brunch we did some shopping, then playing, then napping, then playing some more.  What more could a mom ask for?


Talking with My Mouth Full by Gail Simmons

Last month I went to a book signing for Top Chef judge, Gail Simmons.  She really seems like a lovely person.  In person she’s quite warm and friendly.  And now after reading her book “Talking With My Mouth Full” I feel like she’s a friend.  This is not an expose about restaurant life, ala Anthony Bourdain (though I like those too).  But it is full of cute stories and Gail’s positive attitude to create a job for herself that hadn’t yet been invented.  Remember when chefs were just the people that cooked your food?  Food didn’t become exciting (or certainly didn’t have it’s own network) until chefs became celebrities and food was elevated to art form.  Gail’s done everything in food:  cooked on the line, recipe tested, graduated from culinary school, organized major food events, journalism, and now certainly, judge and host on Top Chef.  It’s a quick and easy read that jumps around to her experiences growing up in a foodie household, to working with some of the best chefs and cooking mentors, to 2 a.m. discussions at judges table.   There’s even a few of her favorite recipes included.  Now that I read the book, I’m moving it from my bedside table to the kitchen and I’ll report back when I’ve made something…


Get Your Gluten Free Baked Goods!

My kids’ school hold a big fundraiser each year for the school garden.  This year was no exception.  We all had a great time enjoying old fashioned games (bobbing for apples, scavenger hunts), arts and crafts (sewing potpourri sachets, creating art from recycled materials), a pie eating contest, raffle and bake off.   In addition there’s a large bake sale.  This alone raises over $1,000.  I was asked this year to make gluten free desserts for the sale.  I took the challenge especially since I had recently done some gluten free baking while reviewing the book, Quinoa Cuisine (see review) and I had just received another helpful cookbook entitled 150 Best Gluten Free Muffin Recipes by Camilla Saulsbury.

I was baking and testing recipe for weeks.  Not only did I test the recipes as written usuing my own mix of flours, but I also decided to try Bob’s Red Mill gluten free all pupose baking flour.  They make a great variety of gf offerings for baking.  Herein lies all the expense and trouble when people think about gluten free baking.  If you don’t have to eat gluten free it is more expensive to properly stock your pantry.  For instance the Bob’s Red Mill was $8 for a 2 pound bag.  However it was even costlier for me to buy the quinoa, teff and rice flours and mix them myself.  Plus there is the worry if you’re buying the flours bulk that can may be contaiminated by a gluten product.

I narrowed down my two favorites and baked multiple batches for the big day.

From the 150 Best Gluten Free Muffin Recipes cookbook I made Double Chocolate Banana Muffins and Cinnamon Sugar Muffins.  The double chocolate were a huge hit.  The banana gave them the right amount of moisture and the chocolate, well there was both whole and cocoa (what’s not to like?).  My son liked the Cinnamon Sugar however my daughter and her friend did not.  I think it was a texture issue, as gluten free baked goods are denser and the flour is a bit heartier tasting.  This book has helpful information about gluten and alternative ingredients.  Each recipe also has tips to make it casein-free (which can be a connection for some with other health issues).

My other choice was the Lemon Glazed Pound Cake from Quinoa Cuisine.  I made the pound cake as directed with the quinoa flour, but made it again with the Bob’s Red  Mill GF Flour and everyone preferred that one.  I would make this any occassion – for gluten free needs or not.  It was very tangy and had a good dense pound cake consistency.  We enjoyed it at home with a bit of vanilla bean ice cream on top during our taste testing.

Once I made all the muffins and pound cake for the bake sale, I decided to wrap each individually so someone who needed to stay away from wheat wouldn’t have to worry about cross contamination from the rest of the baked goods at the sale.  My daughter and I cut and wrapped each piece of pound cake and individual muffin and then tucked them in baskets with ingredient cards on top.  They looked great.  However when I went over the baked goods table during the event I realized the gluten free items weren’t selling.  The moms said not as many were requesting gluten free items, plus maybe it was too hard to see the items in the wrappers.  I quickly unwrapped them and luckily they sold.  That was an error on my part.  A child who’s checking out the baked good options needs to see it and want it, for mom to buy it.  Most don’t care if it’s gluten free or not.  I went a little overboard with my food safety.  Next time unwrap most and wrap only a few for those with celieac and gluten issues.

I took those items that didn’t sell home with me.  Yes, I could’ve given them away but not with all the time and money that went into them.  (Selfish mommy, I know).  I froze them and served them to my son’s baseball team a few days later.  It saved me some time and they loved them.



What Color is Your Smoothie? – Book Review and Recipe

The weather is warming up and now is a good time to get out the blender.  I make a variety of different smoothie combinations.  At least I thought I knew a lot, until I received “What Color is Your Smoothie: From Red Berry Round-up to Super Smart Purple Tart” by Britt Allen Brandon.  This book makes smoothies out of a huge variety of ingredients and flavors.  There are over 300 smoothies in this book to take advantage of every vegetable, fruit, herb and spice in all the colors in the rainbow.


I made a few of the fruit combinations of smoothies (especially liked the Blueberry Blast), which tasted great.  However I much prefer to add frozen ingrdients instead of ice to make them cold, for a creamier texture (without potential cold lumps).  It is fun to choose the smoothie based upon the color.  Besides fun, the book also explains the benefits of each color and what vitamins and nutients are at work in each smoothie combination.


I eat oatmeal everyday for brekfast so we had to try the oatmeal shake before school one morning.  It was tasty but interesting, as the texture was a bit gritty.  Perhaps pulverizing the oatmeal first would’ve yielded a smoother texture.  For me I like oatmeal hot and soothing.  However my son thought it was good and would like it for breakfast on a hot day.  Good thinking!  Check it out below…



Pros: lots of variety and combinations. Great inspirational ideas and recipes.  Easy arrangement by color: yellow, orange, red, violet, etc.  Good produce information.

Cons: I was expecting a book that has “color” in the title to have some colorful photos inside. Would like to see less use of ice and more of frozen fruits for creamier texture.  Some combinations while I’m sure healthy don;t always sound appealing (Mushroom Cauliflower?)

Maple-Cinnamon Oatmeal (page 88)

When a steaming hot bowl of oatmeal doesn’t do the trick, maybe the exact opposite is exactly wat you need.  Cool, creamy, and sweet this smoothie takes the deliscious flavors of rolled oats, aromatic cinnamon and sweet maple syrup and combines them in an out of the world oatmeal concoction that will take the place of hot oatmeal in anyone’s heart!

Yields 2 cups

1 banana peeled

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon organic pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup vanilla almond milk

1 cup ice

In a blender combine the banana, oats, syrup, cinnamon and almond milk with 1/2 cup ice and blend until thoroughly blended.

While blending add remaining ice until desired consistency is achieved.