Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best Ever Leg of Lamb

Seriously. Best ever. Also the easiest! You gotta know that I'd never choose ease over taste, so really the easiest is more of a bonus than an actual feature.

Here's what I do.

1. Remove leg of lamb (bone in/bone out, whole/half...whatever you've got) from the freezer.

2. Make a paste of crushed garlic, salt (kosher works great, but not necessary), pepper and rosemary (I use dried because that's all I've ever got).

3. Rub the paste on the lamb.

4. Put the lamb in your crock pot.

5. Mix 3 parts water with 1 part balsamic vinegar.

6. Pour this into the crock pot.

7. Turn crock pot on high.

8. Come back 5-6 hours later and eat the delicious lamb!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Child psychology

Tonight Liel and I were listening to the Maccabeats sing Matisyahu's "Miracle".

She noticed that one of the lyrics was "look so down, look so puzzled" and told me that she knew that "puzzled" meant "confused" in the context of the song. We thought about other synonyms for confused and then I asked her if she knew what another one of the lyrics meant: "my strength comes not from man at all". She said she didn't, and I said, "I think he means that his strength comes from G-d". I glanced at her to see how she might react to this.

"Mommy", she said thoughtfully, "I don't think there is an opposite of bush".

"What??", I said. I was, um, puzzled. To say the least.

Liel nodded. "Unless it's NOT bush!"

Isn't that what *you* took away from that conversation?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gluten free, egg free scones

My kids love scones. I used to bake them regularly- in fact, I baked a batch when I was in heavy labor with my daughter, to try to distract myself. I had to pause every 2 min and grip the counter and breath deeply, but after she was born Robert, the midwives and I all enjoyed fresh scones!

Anyway, since we've become mostly gluten free I've stopped making scones. The recipes I've seen (and admittedly I didn't look too deeply) relied heavily on eggs or egg whites, which won't do for us. Every so often the kids would ask me to bake scones and I'd say no. Lately these requests have been more frequent, and I started thinking about recipes in a vague, back of my mind kind of way. Today I decided to try out the one that seemed most promising. So when the kids finished their school work I told them I was going to make scones, and Zion announced that that he was so happy he, "almost cried". Not that that translated into him wanting to help *make* scones. Liel came into the kitchen to help (and nearly broke my liquid measuring cup in the process) and Zion ran around the house playing imaginary football.

Here's what I did.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Mix the following dry ingredients in a bowl:

2 c gluten free flour (I used a blend of brown rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch)
1/4 c sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

blend in 5 T butter (vegan sub: coconut oil. I haven't tested this, but it would be my first try. I don't like that vegan margarine stuff. If you do use it, cut down on the salt). I use my hands for this, but you can use whatever method you prefer. If you're using unsalted butter (which I generally recommend for baking, but I didn't have much around this afternoon) you might up the salt a bit.

Then add raisins, or dried cranberries or whatever you want. About 1/2 a cup. We were out of raisins, forcing me to pick through trail mix Robert had made last weekend. Toss them in the flour to coat them lightly.

Next add 1 1/2 c milk (I used rice milk) mixed with 2T of plain yogurt. If you're vegan you can add another tablespoon of milk and a 1/2 tsp of a mild flavored vinegar. Mix that all in with the dry ingredients. It's a fairly wet dough, but should hold together enough for you to gently scoop it out and place lumps of it on a greased cookie sheet. I got 8 scones of out of this recipe, to give you a sense of the size I was making them. Then sprinkle them with a bit of sugar, and bake about 16 minutes. They'll only be slightly browned on the top, but they should be done. you can open one up to check and bake a little longer if you like.

That's it! Cool them on a rack. Two minutes is sufficient; even children can eat them at that point (if they are careful and very eager for scones).

I have to say, I'm really pleased with this recipe. Really pleased. They're delicious! And nearly identical to the gluten version I used to bake :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gluten free biscuits x2!

Last night we had some friends over, and I wanted to make strawberry shortcake for dessert. I've made a GF shortcake before (as far as I'm concerned biscuit style shortcakes are the only proper shortcakes), and it was pretty good. But not really good, you know? So last night I wanted something different.

Now we have egg allergies in our house, and a lot of GF baking relies on eggs to provide the structure that gluten provides in traditional baking. Sometimes egg substitutes works, sometimes they don't. Hell, sometimes GF works, sometimes it doesn't. The combination of GF-EF = lots of trial and error.

So anyway, yesterday I read about a dozen GF shortbread recipes and finally combined what I'd read into my own thing. And it was good! It was so good that I told the kids I'd make them cheese biscuits for lunch today. Again, I created my own recipe, and again it was good! I think the yogurt might be part of the secret for these helps leaven the dough and provides a bit of structure.

Biscuit recipe A (rolled biscuits)

1.5 cups of GF flour blend (I used a combination of brown rice (from Dakota Mills) flour, potato starch and tapioca starch)
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 T sugar
2 tsps Ener-g egg replacer powder
Mix all that stuff up (I used a food processor), then add:
4 T cold, unsalted butter
and blend until the butter is all worked in. Then add:
1/2 c milk (I used soy)
2 T vanilla yogurt (or plain if you don't want a sweet biscuit)

Blend into a dough, then pat out, cut into circles and bake at 350 for about 15 min :)

Biscuit recipe B (dropped biscuits)

1. 75 c GF flour blend (I used same as above)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 tsp xanthan gum
Mix that all together. Then add:
4 T unsalted butter
1/3 c grated parmesan cheese
Blend until the butter is mixed in and then add:
2/3 c milk
1/3 c water
2 T plain yogurt
Blend until it forms a wet sticky dough. Fold in some grated cheese of whatever kind you have/like. I used colby jack. Then drop onto a greased baking sheet (you can make the biscuits whatever size you want! I made mine about 2") and bake at 400 for about 15-17 min. They're fluffy! And delicious.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Zion asked to have Vietnamese food for dinner tonight, so we drove out to Spring Valley to our favorite local Vietnamese place (called "The Vietnam Restaurant". Not exactly confidence inspiring, but it was all we could find when we moved up here, and it turs out it's pretty good!). We've been going there for 5 years, and the waitress even remembers that we don't want peanuts on anything, even when we're sucky parents and forget to say so when we order.

Tonight we ordered pho, 4 spring rolls, noodle salad with chicken, noodle salad with lemongrass grilled beef, and crispy chicken with sticky rice. And then we devoured it all. The children were particularly ravening. Picture a couple of small formica tables pushed together. They're loaded with food, and the kids at the table have plates in front of them piled high, and are reaching across to the furthest parts of the table to shove their spoons into pho, dip sticky rice into sauce, and crunch more chicken skin. We're a bit worried about how much food we'll go through when they're teenagers. They ate like we'd been starving them, and not at all like they'd had huge bowls of full fat yogurt with maple syrup and hour prior.

Liel gobbled up her lemongrass grilled beef and immediately asked me for more "brown chicken". "That's beef, sweetie", I said. "Finish the chicken you have on your plate, and then you can have more of the brown chicken. Er, beef". No wonder the poor kid can't tell which type of animal she's eating. Her own mother can't keep it straight from one sentence to the next!

When we left I put one of Robert's playlists on the iPod, and then accidentally bumped it, causing it skip ahead about 6 songs. As I flipped back trying to get to the right spot Robert wailed, "What are you doing?? You're skipping great songs!...What playlist is this anyway?" Mighty impressed with his own clever, he was. For once hitting red lights on the 30 minute drive home didn't seem to bother him at all.

Friday, August 5, 2011


I bet this post isn't about anything you might've guessed. Just thought I'd get that out of the way up front, so you could stop reading now if you want. No? OK then.

When I was seven years old Billy Joel's "Innocent Man" album came out. My parents must've liked it a lot, because I remember listening to it quite a bit, and neither my brother nor I was quite dexterous enough to use the record player yet. After a while it stopped being in regular rotation however, and eventually the album rarely crossed my mind.

Then about 6 weeks ago my brother called to tell me he'd sold his house, and that one of the offers on it (but not the buyer) was the guy who had designed the album cover for "Innocent Man". This one:

I said something like, "I haven't heard that album in years!" and my brother said he'd been listening to it a lot lately. A couple weeks later we were all in Akumal, and one night Kenny put the album on. We were all- my parents, cousins, brother, future SIL, me, Robert, and the kids- making dinner. Cooking, setting the table, blending margaritas; everyone was involved in the communal effort of delicious food and drink. And within seconds of the music starting, we were all singing, too. It was totally goofy, totally fun, and totally delightsome. If you have the opportunity I strongly suggest a family sing along to "Innocent Man" on the beach in Mexico with plenty of good food and drink. It is so choice.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The journey home

This morning I had breakfast on the patio outside my bedroom door, about 20 feet from the Caribbean Sea. It was lovely-- sunny, clear, a light breeze. Tonight I am sitting 4 feet from my air conditioner in New York. It's 930pm and 92 degrees out. Since we've been away from home for nearly 3 weeks it was in the 90s in the house when we walked in an hour and a half ago. Thanks to the efforts of our big window a/c unit, it's now 87 in the coolest part of the house. Mmmmm.

After breakfast the car company arrived to take us to the airport in Cancun. My parents decided to come along, and asked the driver if he could drop them in Playa del Carmen so they could do some last minute shopping. Halfway there we decided (at my dad's brilliant suggestion) that he should drop them by the grilled chicken stand on the block where the combi's wait so we could get some chicken to take the airport for lunch. My sweet cousin had already warned us that a pizza at the Cancun airport cost him $32 on his trip home. So, for 100 pesos I got a whole grilled chicken, rice, pickled onions, salsa, 2 dozen fresh corn tortillas and some habeneros, and we were back in the road.

Airport security was a bit slow, but we were there super early, so it was no problem. I did succumb after 19 days without chocolate, and bought 1/2 lb of Milka and 4 Kindereggs at the duty free shop (I love buying Kindereggs whenever possible. So silly that they are banned here!). Then we made a lovely picnic on the floor of the airport eating chicken and rice and tortillas. The kids were covered in chicken grease (and orange juice), despite our best efforts there was rice on the floor, and we had but a single napkin between us. Robert pointedly reminded me that *I* was the one who had dismissively thrown away the half dozen wadded up old napkins I'd found in his work bag prior to the trip. And yes, I did wish we had those napkins then!

Upon arriving home (to the very hot house, see above) we found our garden in desperate need of water, but despite being on death's door the Black Brown Boar tomato plant had two ripe tomatoes! And they were delicious! I just hope we were able to save the plant. Anyway, I fed the kids some peas from the garden and a frozen waffle each (Liel's was literally still frozen-- for some unknown reason she claims to like them that way), and put them to bed. Then I ate spoonfuls of almond butter sprinkled with brown sugar, and some cinnamon bears. And yes, I do feel a bit queasy now.

Tomorrow I shall brave the heat and buy groceries!

Monday, July 18, 2011


Today we went down to Playa del Carmen to look for guayaberas for Robert, Zion, my dad, and my parent's friend, Jay. We'd been told that Playa, and specifically a department store called Milano, was the place to get these shirts.

Except that they didn't have a single guayabera at all. One of the guys working there helpfully suggested we try the open air shop across the street, which we did. No dice there either. So we wandered around somewhat aimlessly peering into shops, many of which featured mannequins with porn-star style boobs. They were the most bizarre mannequins I've ever seen, and seeing as how the category of mannequin is already pretty bizarre, that's saying something.

Anyway, we walked on, even stopping a nice local guy out for a walk with his wife and little kids to ask him where he got the guayabera HE was wearing. "Not here", he said, "In the Yucatan". That last bit was odd, since we were all in the Yucatan right then.

Eventually my parents found a shop selling the elusive shirts, and we bought one for all the guys. Zion looks freaking adorable in his! It's a bit big, but he outgrew the last one he had in about two days.

We did a bit more shopping (my dad cleverly suggested we buy some inhalers. We hadn't bought a new one since we'd had grad student insurance, and they were like $10 then. Now they are $50! so the 3 pack for $17 was most welcome), and then split up with my parents so we could get some food in the kids and catch a bus home. We found a great taco cart near a park, and ordered 8 tacos. The woman stared at me as if I'd ordered an entire roast ox for myself, instead of 8 tacos for 4 people. I carried on, and she made us 8 delicious barbacoa and rice tacos, which we sauced up at her homemade salsa bar. We ate them (and almost went back for more), the kids played on the playground equipment and we headed home. Home, where I had a nice pina colada that used up the last of our rum. Good thing we head home soon! And that there's plenty of gin.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Hey look! I haven't published a blog post in over a year. I blame Facebook, mostly. It's like blogging for lazy people. Really, really lazy people, who can't even be bothered to write a sentence or two every day.


Anyway, the only slightly embarrassing truth of the matter is that I'm hella amused every time I happen to read back through my own blog. So I decided that even if I'm the primary person I'm entertaining it might be worth my while to attend to my own amusement from time to time.

So here I am.

Today I spent an unholy amount of time tinking my lace knitting. I made a mistake-- got off by one stitch-- and didn't notice for two rows. Now that might not be a big deal except that I'm knitting this huuuuuuge circular shawl and each row has over 700 stitches. It took me over an hour just to get back to my mistake. Remarkably I did not cry, throw things, or even curse (much). I'm pretty sure this is all attributable to the medicinal properties of the gin I've been drinking at our nightly cocktail hour. The gin, however, bears no responsibility for the knitting mistake. That was all Wall-E's fault.