A Farewell Summer Menu

My little sous chef and I rolled up our sleeves this afternoon and whipped up a delicious and most-gratifying Sunday dinner. A farewell menu to summer, making use of some of my favorite late-summer ingredients.

I was so impressed with how familiar Caleb was with the pesto making process, how eager he was to make our paprika-garlic aoli recipe (which we always serve with our artichokes), and how adventurous his palate is…he practically inhaled the roasted tomato on ricotta shmeared crostini. Mainly, I enjoyed being shoulder to shoulder with him in our kitchen (while Sadie blissfully napped away upstairs) at the end of an eventful weekend. The days fly by so quickly. We only have these perfect moments in time.

A Farewell Summer Menu

3-Hour Early Girl Tomatoes Crostini Topped With Fresh Ricotta

Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts Smothered In Organic Basil Pesto

Artichokes Dipped In Homemade Paprika-Garlic Aoli

Sweet Organic Strawberries Enjoyed Whole, Right Out Of the Bowl

Just send me a note if you would like any of these recipes. You’re on your own with the strawberries!

A Feast to be Remembered

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We’re on the “recovery” end of Thanksgiving now and I’m still basking in the warmth and glow of delicious time spent with my family.

On the morning of, Caleb, Mateo, and I set out to make two pies and a cake – our contribution to the family feast hosted by my sister Niki and brother-in-law Michael in Sonoma. Together, we made a classic pumpkin pie, a walnut-chocolate pie, and an apple spice cake with warm fleur de sel caramel sauce topping.

All morning, we milled around the kitchen amidst the warm, spicy baking fragrances of our desserts in the oven. Caleb helped both Mateo and I with the assembly of both pies and the cake, and we enjoyed our cozy time with him in the kitchen. Well, in the spirit of full disclosure, there were a few arguments, outbursts, and moments where patience was lost, but why should we be different from any other family!? We still had a great time together.

We arrived at the “country house” in Sonoma around 3pm with pies and a cake, two kids, and some overnight bags in tow. Soon after, my family was fully assembled and once the turkey had its post-oven-composure-time, we sat down to a truly amazing meal. Every contribution was delicious and I think we were all feeling real gratitude for the colorful, healthy, and flavorful spread in front of us, the love of family, and the longing for those who couldn’t join us around the table.

Come dessert time, we all miraculously found room for the birthday cake, pies, and spice cake, and many “mmmssss” and “ahhhhss” were heard around the house.

I was filled up with much food, but also with heaping amounts of gratitude for having such a beautiful family made up of colorful and creative, outspoken and opinionated, unconventional and righteous, loving and caring souls, and I couldn’t be a luckier person. I am especially grateful that Caleb and Sadie are being raised in a family filled with such crazy, loving, goodness.

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all friends and family. Chanukah is up next!

Our recipes:

Apple Spice Cake (we warmed TJ’s caramel sauce in place of the eggnog sauce)

Chocolate-Walnut Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Treasured Recipes

My mom always kept a binder or journal of hand written, Xeroxed, or clipped magazine recipes in her kitchen while I was growing up. Perhaps your mom did too. Lola’s treasured and food-stained recipe collection included my grandmother’s honey cake for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), her aunt’s meatloaf, her sister’s Danish pork, delicious baked rice pudding (my favorite as a kid), and a host of other recipes worth holding on to. A treasured and tasty food tapestry, collected over a lifetime.

I love the stories, memories, emotions, flavors that get passed along through recipe collections like my mom’s, and I have been pulling together my own collection of beloved recipes for many years into a time worn and food spattered recipe journal that I keep in my cookbook closet. My collection includes my favorite chocolate cake recipe that my sister gave to me two decades ago (see Caleb’s White Trash Chocolate Cake in recipe box), a delicious frittata recipe that I also got from Niki, Mateo’s dad’s pancake recipe that he grew up with, and other carefully clipped recipes that I’ve collected over the past few decades. Every time I pull the journal out of the closet, a recipe or two tumbles out and floats down to the floor. I suppose I could do a better job of securing them, but I love the way my collection is brimming over with recipes that are so eager to be used, they fall at our feet…recipes that I will one day gift to my children.

I’m writing about treasured recipes because Caleb and I were recently gifted with a collection of child-friendly recipes that Sadie’s Montessori teacher, Elizabeth has held on to over the years. She knows how much Caleb and I (and soon Sadie) enjoy cooking together, and wanted us to have her collection. I was so moved by this gift, that I chose to dedicate this post to the subject of beloved, treasured recipes, like the one’s Elizabeth passed along to us.

My next post will include some experimenting from Elizabeth’s collection, which has now been added to my home recipe binder. So convenient that they were already three-hole-punched and food-stained…they’ll fit right in! I look forward to testing some of these recipes with Caleb and Sadie at my side. I think we’ll start out with the persimmon cookie recipe – perfect for this time of year!

Special thanks to Elizabeth for the gift of her treasured recipes. I welcome any stories about family recipes collected throughout the years. Please feel free to send some beloved recipes our way. We may even use them as a future Cooking with Caleb project!

Happy (Jewish) New Year and welcome to the fall season.

Someone Call A Press Conference!

Aside from avocados, Sadie pretty much despises vegetables. No kidding. We’ve tried them all and the Sadie veto looks like this…tiny hand picks up the unsuspecting vegetable, arm swings the vegetable away – with a crane-like grace – from the high chair tray, tiny hand drops the vegetable onto the floor. Veto! That is, until tonight!

On my way home with Caleb and Sadie (Mateo had class tonight), I was trying to think of something to do with the dinosaur kale that we had in the fridge. Everyone has been talking about “kale chips” lately, so I thought I’d take them on as a quick project to do with Caleb this evening before dinner.

So easy. I pulled two bunches of dinosaur kale (and what kid wouldn’t love to eat something with the name ‘dinosaur’ in it?) out of the fridge, washed, put in salad spinner, and let Caleb have at it. Once the leaves were dry, I cut them up in small bite size pieces, tossed in a bowl, and had Caleb sprinkle a little olive oil and a pinch of sea salt over the greens. He mixed with wood spoons, then helped me spread the kale over a tinfoil-lined baking sheet. We put the pan in the oven at 350F for about 15-20 minutes. I kept tossing them around with a spatula until they started to look crisp and ever-so-slightly browned.

Once done, I put the oven-baked kale chips onto a plate and served them at dinner, along with pot-stickers (I was tired…it was a long day)! Caleb was sitting to one side of me, just gobbling down his pot-stickers and kale chips as if he had them all the time. I turned to Sadie, feeling very unsure about what was to come. I handed her a small batch of kale chips…fully expecting them to become ‘floor fertilizer’ any minute. She touched them. She picked them up. She put them in her mouth! She was eating them! And the crowd goes wild!!!

What I love about these kale chips is that to the kids, they’re just tasty…salty and crunchy. What they don’t realize is that kale is a powerful antioxidant, packed full of beta carotene, Vitamins C & K, and calcium. Now, that’s a ‘power veggie’! Awesome that I can pull a fast-one on my kiddos and slip in a bunch of important nutrients into their diet, while they’re innocently munching away on their favorite new snack. I especially love that a quick cooking project for Caleb and Mom, at the end of a long day, turned into an important food discovery….Sadie will eat greens! 

Memories of Sachertorte

My family has many rich food traditions, most of which revolve around birthdays and special holidays. Growing up in San Francisco in the 1970s and 80s, we celebrated most birthdays with a home-cooked meal chosen by the celebrant, and a Sachertorte – a delectable chocolate cake filled with apricot preserves, originating from the Sacher Hotel in Vienna.

As a kid, I loved celebrating family birthdays, mainly for the cake (as most children do). My mom would invite me to drive over to Fantasia Bakery in Laurel Village with her to pick up the Sachertorte. She would usually sweeten the deal with a delicious little pettifor – a bite-sized cake that was elaborately decorated. Not that the deal really needed to be sweetened. Sadly, Fantasia is long gone; however, my family’s collective memory of this enchanting cake remains strong to this day, and can easily lead to some lamenting over the missing Sachertorte at birthday celebrations.

I haven’t enjoyed a slice of birthday Sachertorte for almost two decades. Since my family had plans to get together on Sunday night at Juan’s Place in Berkeley, I got it into my head to bake this family favorite (my first time), then bring it to the restaurant where we were all meeting up to celebrate four birthdays.

I woke up early on Sunday with Sadie’s first feeding and decided to get baking. At first, I was a bit intimidated by the recipe, but as I completed each step, I realized that it was not out of my league by any means. After Caleb woke up, he assisted with the final steps: spreading the apricot preserves and glazing the cake with the bittersweet ganache.

Before the family dinner, Mateo and I took the kids to the Berkeley Jewish Community Center where we participated in a wonderful Purim festival. Caleb’s friend Jordan and his family joined us, and we had such fun together in the calamitous, kid strewn carnival.

After the Purim party, the cake drove over with us to Juan’s and was a huge hit with my family. It was delicious, but certainly wasn’t the Sachertorte of my childhood memories. I’d say it was a pretty fair attempt. I mainly enjoyed watching Caleb, Mateo, my sisters, and my father, as they gobbled up their slices. It’s just the best, having homemade cake when everyone gets together.

At the end of a long week and a weekend packed with plans, I wonder how I could have any remaining energy to bake a Sachertorte. Am I crazy? Very likely. Am I overextending myself? Uh, yeah, totally. But, after thinking about it for a while, what comes to me is that I get energy from doing the things I love most and I love to cook. Even more, I love to cook with my Caleb.

What I loved most about baking the Sachertorte with Caleb was that I was directly exposing him to a family tradition that holds such fond memories for me, and at the same time teaching him to make it on his own when he gets older. For me, hopefully! Is that wrong?

[Click for Sachertorte recipe]

Guest Post: Mema’s Mandel Bread

In my last post, you met Caleb’s friend, Jordan and his mom, Robyn. I asked Robyn to write a guest post about her grandmother’s mandel bread recipe – known also as mandelbrot. This post kicks off a new tradition of including the stories of other families cooking in their kitchens or sharing stories of family food traditions. If you would like to contribute to a future guest post, please let me know – you could write about cooking with your kids, share memories of cooking with your mom when you were a child, or just some fabulous food memories from childhood. I would love that! I hope you enjoy Robyn’s story as I did. Happy Holidays! Warmly, Anya 

By Robyn Barfield

I’m not a writer or a blogger, and I’m certainly no great chef; however, I do love to eat and talk about food. So, it seems I should have no problem sharing my grandmother’s recipe for mandel bread (a Jewish dessert) and telling you about the memories it conjures up every time I make it.

I think of myself as “semi-Jewish.” Both of my parents come from Jewish families, but my Jewish upbringing consisted of no more than eating at my grandparents’ house for the Jewish holidays. At this point in my life, married and a mother to 2 boys (Jordan-4 and Evan-1), I don’t consider myself religiously or culturally Jewish. But when the Jewish holidays come around and I hear people talking about Jewish dishes and traditions, it is always a happy reminder of my grandparents, especially my maternal grandmother who I called “Mema.”

Robyn’s “Mema”

Anya thought I could tell you about making mandel bread with my Mema. The thing is, I can’t actually remember making it with her. Mema really wasn’t much of a cook. She obviously did cook some – the taste of her mandel bread, turkey tetrazzini and brisket are perfectly clear to me. But my favorite food memory of Mema is something that requires no recipe.

My sister, Dana, and I spent the night at Mema’s house once a month. Mema always slept later than we did in the morning, so she left breakfast waiting for us in the fridge – a bowl of corn flakes covered with saran wrap accompanied by a glass of milk to pour on top. After eating our corn flakes, Dana and I would wait anxiously for Mema to wake up so she could make us breakfast #2, something we thought of as a real treat. What was this very special second breakfast?  Frozen Lender’s bagels toasted to perfection with melted butter spread on top and a mug of hot chocolate!   Frozen or not, when food is delivered with love, nothing tastes better.

When Anya and I discussed getting together to make latkes, I said I’d make Mema’s mandel bread recipe since it’s the only Jewish thing I know how to cook. I love making (and eating) mandel bread, as it brings me back to a time when I was a little girl sitting with Mema in her yellow kitchen. My son, Jordan, helped me make the mandel bread. As we made it, I shared stories with him about Mema. Jordan measured and poured all the ingredients, but when it came time to mix all the ingredients by hand, he let me take over. He has apparently inherited the tidy gene from his Dad.

Jordan helping make the bread

In honor of my sweet, sweet Mema, who died peacefully 3 days after I told her I was going to be a Mom, here is her recipe for mandel bread. It’s biscotti-like, but way better in my opinion!  Mema’s recipe, not surprisingly, says nothing about mixing dry and wet ingredients separately, but you can go ahead and do that if it makes you feel better! 

Mema’s Mandel bread (made with walnuts, not the more traditional almonds)

¾ c oil

3 eggs

¾ c sugar

3c flour

1 ¼ tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

½ small pack of walnut pieces (that’s what her recipe says!  We used ½ c)

1 c golden raisins

More sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling

Mix all the ingredients (except for the extra sugar and cinnamon used for sprinkling) thoroughly.

Shape the dough into 4 oval patties.

Bake at 350o for 30 minutes.

Take the Mandel bread out of the oven and slice it (I slice into 1-1 ½ inch slices).

Sprinkle the sliced Mandel bread with sugar and cinnamon (as little or as much as you want. I tend to sprinkle generously.)

Put the Mandel bread back in the oven for 20 minutes with the oven turned off.

Enjoy!