Since St. Patrick's Day is this Saturday, why not celebrate by gathering the kids in the kitchen and whipping up a loaf of traditional Irish brown soda bread? It's so easy to make—and so good—that I bet you'll find yourself making it more than just on March 17.
This dense, moist bread gets its leavening from baking soda and buttermilk, hence the name. I happen to like the brown kind, made with whole wheat flour, the best, but you're welcome to use all white flour if you so choose.
One of the springtime's treats is homemade strawberry rhubarb pie. My four-year-old somehow got the notion that we were going to make a pie, and has been lobbying me to do that for a couple weeks now. So I went out shopping and picked up some strawberries, rhubarb, and some of the frozen pie crusts that Trader Joes sells.
Just so we're perfectly clear: I may be a wannabe house-husband, but I don't make pie crust, since those that I have tried to make end up with the texture of cardboard. The Trader Joes offering is made of pretty decent stuff (i.e. no partially hydrogenated oils) and is really good, so I usually just buy those when I find it necessary to do some pie making. Right now strawberries are fresh, abundant, and cheap (I heard a news story on the radio recently that explained why, but I wasn't really paying attention so I don't remember), so go get a mess of them and make yourself a pie!
Here's my recipe, amalgamated from a variety of sources to make a pretty tasty pie:
We all have to be thankful for something on Thanksgiving, since that's really what it's supposed to be all about. I'm thankful for the Thanksgiving itself, since it's the only holiday where it's mandatory to eat until near bursting. There's no "save room for dessert" on Thanksgiving; instead, you forcibly make room for pumpkin pie and other goodies by stretching your stomach out even more. Hey, it's one day a year (not counting the upcoming Christmas dinner), so it's OK.
I was actually in training for the Thanksgiving meal for most of the day. Went for a bike ride in the morning to get some nominal exercise, and didn't eat much other than some fruit until we hit the in-laws' house and then it was time to chow down. Everything was good and tasty, as a Thanksgiving meal should be. Now, people often make the mistake of assuming that the all-American roasted turkey is the main dish of Thanksgiving. This, I hate to reveal, is in fact incorrect. The carbs are the stars. The turkey exists to provide a counterpoint to things like mashed potatoes and stuffing, and, more importantly, provide the basis for making gravy to anoint said foods. That's the truth.
With Halloween rolling around, it's once again time for the annual tradition wherein parents examine the contents of the children's trick-or-treat bags. Ostensively, this time-honored task is done so Mommy and Daddy can look for dangerous things—like nuclear waste and poisonous snakes—that Bad People may have put in there. The real reason, of course, is to take inventory of all the good candy and separate it from the funky stuff. Here's this year's top- and bottom-five Halloween candies, as ranked by our panel of experts (i.e. me):
The Top Five
All but one of our top five picks are miniature versions of full-size real-life chocolate-based candy bars. Certainly, some are better than others; note that Almond Joy and Mounds don't make the list. If you give out these, you're pretty guaranteed not to get your car egged or your jack-o-lanterns smashed by ungrateful children.
As I guy who cooks, I take special pride when I make something that makes both my children clean their plate. No, I'm not referring to kid-friendly cliches like macaroni and cheese or pasta with some butter and parmesan on it (although, I must admit, I've resorted to that on occasion), but rather something I make that's unusual, tasty, and enjoyed by everyone, adults and kids alike. This is not to say that I'm not often sorely disappointed by my culinary adventures with children. To say that most experiments end badly is an understatement, and for some reason I seem to remain naively hopeful that everything I make will be appreciated by the small people in our house.
It seems that longtime Bay Area institution Mother's Cookies, maker of such childhood delectables as Circus Animal Cookies (pictured), has abruptly announced it's going out of business. A childhood without pink and white frosted animal cookies? Unthinkable! Better go stock up on a bag for my kids, and myself, of course. Seriously, I always considered these a special treat growing up, and it's sad to see another remnant of my childhood disappear.
They're certainly not the best cookies out there, but there's a certain kind of colorful charm and junk food appeal to them. And you can eat an entire bag without even trying. Really! Go try it while you still can, and make sure you have a big cold glass of milk on hand, too.
So yesterday we made the mistake of checking out the new über-mega Safeway that opened up today in Novato (or Ignacio, if you want to get technical and all). It's the anchor tenant for the new Hamilton Plaza shopping center, which seems to be shaping up nicely. Only Safeway is open at this point.
Anyhow, they had a preview on Thursday afternoon and evening, and apparently everyone living within a 50-mile radius of the place decided to show up. Seriously, you had a hard time finding a parking spot, let alone even getting into the store. You'd think people had never seen a Safeway before. It's a Safeway. A SAFEWAY!