Friday, April 11, 2014

Sometimes a Cookie is Just a Cookie.

Dear Boo,

I have nothing profound to say about these cookies. A fact which has kept me from writing to you about them for some time, despite the fact that they are delicious, a cinch to make, and are both dairy free and flourless, which makes them perfect for those of us on restrictive diets/those of us celebrating the upcoming Jewish holiday. I just couldn't come up with anything poignant, moving, touching, funny, or otherwise worth saying about them, and so they've languished for weeks without a mention.

I thought about using these as a way to discuss why I’ve decided once and for all, that I am against diets of the sacrificial, weight-loss type, the kind that inevitably lend moral weight to inanimate, edible food items, and through their inevitable consumption (because we will, at some point, cave and give in and eat eat eat, feeling horrible and disgusted/disgusting the whole time), give us the false sense of BEING Good or Bad, as if these morsels have the ability to taint or cleanse our very souls. But I mean, really? Do you want to hear more about this? I'm annoying myself here.

Then I thought about something more light hearted, like the fact that when you mix up these ingredients, they somehow turn in an instant, into a thick glue-like consistency that caused my forearm muscles to ripple with the effort of moving the whisk through, despite the fact that I pick up and put down an 18 pound solid (and very cute) weight about a hundred thousand times a day. It reminded me of making ‘ooblech’ as a kid, a potent mix of corn starch, water and food coloring which turned solid when enclosed in a fist, and liquid when you opened your fingers. The best was hurling it at a wall while in the liquid state, a little puddle in your palm, which would then burst forth as spattering droplets which shattered upon impact with the surface.

The 18 lb weight enjoys some avocado
Then I thought I'd talk about how legend has it our grandmother used to bake every. single. day during our mother's childhood, and that homemade dessert would be served at every. single. meal. And that she did this while raising three kids and before the advent of And how I have one tiny person, a one bedroom apartment, and can barely manage to boil a pot of pasta, let alone make a pie crust on a tuesday afternoon. AND my husband does the laundry. But that these cookies are so simple and so fast to make that even I can do a fairly good impersonation of grandma and have a fresh-baked batch ready by dinner time. I was going to go on talking about how I still, six months in to motherhood, can't seem to get much done and how quickly each day seems to go by and how my standards for productivity have been lowered to the point where responding in a semi-timely fashion (read: three days late) to one email and finishing the dishes in the sink deserves a pat on the back. And then of course I remembered raising and growing and keeping alive another human being is pretty freaking productive and then I fell asleep from BOREDOM because complaining about being tired and busy is like the most boring thing in the world and I refuse to do any more of it.

And then I stopped thinking about these cookies and started thinking about how many other things I am not doing because I'm waiting for something outside of myself to happen--inspiration to strike, a sign to be sent my way, someone to swoop in and rescue me from doing it myself, fear to be miraculously removed from my path, indecision to be wiped away once and for all. And the list was loooong, lemme tell you. Its tremendously easy for me, I've found, to think about doing something without actually doing it. To focus on all the reasons not to do it, or not to do it NOW, or why someone else should really be the one to do it, or to get up and eat another pretzel--just ONE more--before I do.

And really, what is all of that nonsense anyway.

So I'm taking a stance, here and now, to stop waiting. Sometimes inspiration comes. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it shows up when you're busy slogging away. Sometimes it arrives at precisely the moment you sit down to do your work, with hours of uninterrupted quiet stretched ahead of you and the chair that's perfectly soft and shaped to your butt with extra lumbar support. But usually not. Sometimes things you (I) write will suck. Sometimes they won't. Sometimes other people will do it better. (And they'll definitely do it better if you don't do it at all.) Sometimes cookies are profound. And sometimes a cookie is just a cookie. And you write about it anyway. Because its better to write than not to write. Because they're yummy and your sister should have the recipe.

You're welcome.


The Mouse

P.S. Speaking of inspiration, I will forever love this interview on the subject.

Chocolate Brownie Cookies (Courtesy of Bon Appetit)

3 cups gluten-free powdered sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons cacao nibs preparation

Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 350°F. Whisk powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a large bowl, then whisk in egg whites and egg; fold in chocolate and cacao nibs. Spoon batter by the tablespoonful onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2" apart. Bake, rotating sheets once, until cookies are puffed, cracked, and set just around the edges, 14–16 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool on pan (they'll firm up). DO AHEAD: Cookies can be baked 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Raising (and feeding) A Mother

Dear Boo,

Can you hear me, quietly, sheepishly tiptoeing back to the land of the living? the land of the writing, blog posting, full sentence making? I've been honing my skills creeping around my apartment avoiding the landmines of creaky floorboards in a one bedroom housing a sleeping infant, so perhaps i've snuck in here unnoticed. Which is just fine, since I have to admit I've been a little terrified of sitting down to write anything touching on my past four months (already?!) as a new mother. You see, I understand the fact that I am now, technically, a Mother to a small person who lives in our apartment, despite the Husband and I frequently turning to each other, slightly confused, to ask when her parents are coming to pick her up. I get that she is my child, carries my DNA along with a hint of my smile emerging on a face which so strikingly resembles her handsome father. I get that I carried her for nine months (who could forget), and will absolutely never ever forget the day she announced her arrival ten days early, insistently, quickly, willfully, almost, but thankfully not quite in a taxicab in midtown manhattan traffic. (And I will never forget the ridiculously delicious burger from here that was delivered to my hospital room two hours after I gave birth. Gotta love NYC. And my husband, the best doula anyone could ever ask for.) I will forever remember the sensation of this brand new, tiny person, being placed on my chest and instantly, as if to say, 'man, it was cramped in there!' straightening her spindly long legs to do a full downward dog with a strength no one-minute-old should possess. She has hardly stopped moving since, and at four months old, is determined to prove to us that were it not for gravity, she would be standing already, strong chunky wrinkled thighs planted firmly on my lap. And yet, for all of this, I still can't quite wrap my brain around the fact that I am now, A Mother. I suspect some seasoned vets out there might say this takes a lifetime of readjusting and learning continually as the job description shifts daily without notice.

If I thought pregnancy changed my relationship to food and nourishment, well, these early days of being a mother have taken it to a whole new level. First of all, I was a hungry pregnant lady but I'm a RAVENOUS mom-person. Then there's the fact that I am feeding and growing a person with my own body. It's like living in a science fiction novel. or the zoo. And finally there's the issue of the fact that, for how instinctual it is, breastfeeding is actually way freaking harder than you'd guess. Those first few weeks were a struggle for all of us and suddenly the act of feeding someone I love, a well-documented favorite pasttime of mine, took on epic, identity crisis proportions. My sole 'job' and 'purpose' as a mother, it seemed, was to feed this tiny, mole-like human, and every two hours my ability to do this was tested, my tentative, quavering hold on this new title took another blow, and I ended up, a hormonal, sobbing mess. It was, despite the thrilling, magical presence of this new love affair in our lives, a rough patch. When we'd finally found our groove and returned to the doctor a month or two later to find out our little one was in the 90th percentile for weight (now its up to 96th. stay tuned), I couldn't have felt a surge of pride greater if you'd told me she'd gained early admission to Harvard. So this is how the Jewish mother obsession with feeding one's child begins, I thought. Just last week, I remarked in a moment of tired mom insanity, that perhaps our daughter (96th percentile, remember) wasn't eating enough. The Husband, wisely, declined to engage in this speculation.

She's developed a taste for whale tail.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Very true. But I think, really, it takes a village to raise a mother. It's easy to forget in the blur of sleepless nights and feeding the baby and changing the baby and gazing at the baby and learning the baby's cries and trying to piece one's sore body back together, and marveling at how nothing will ever ever be the same, that one has to also care for oneself. Which occasionally involves eating. I've written before about the particular gift of food and why its sometimes just exactly what our body and soul needs, and its never been more true than as a new parent. There were the meatballs our aunt made and delivered the first night we were home from the hospital which were moist and comforting and stick to your ribs in just the right way. There was the golden crispy roast chicken with velvet gravy our mom made, along with an infinite number of other meals and groceries and pretty much anything we could possibly need, delivered nightly along with the kind of reassuring hugs that only a mother is capable of providing, and a firm and loving banishment to the bathroom for a shower while she held the baby. There were the cookies from the Boo, warm and so delicious, and the middle-of-a-tuesday italian sub you tracked down and delivered when an intense craving struck. There was the email from Chef Josh with a long list of menu items and the request that we pick four things for him to make and deliver to us that first week, and the caveat that there was no use in being polite and telling him not to bother, that he'd just pick them himself and drop them at our doorstep (we had moroccan chicken tagine, kale and sausage stew, vegetable lasagna and an assortment of amazing vegetable sides). There was the casserole made by my oldest childhood friend (a mother herself) portioned into single servings and freezer ready, and delivered without expectation of coherent conversation, followed by near weekly visits with armfuls of baby equipment, endless texts responding to inane and anxious new mom questions, and swooping in to change diapers while we ate. And there were the two rolls of frozen homemade cookie dough, one popped into our freezer for future use, and the other popped into our oven, perfuming our apartment with that cozy and nostalgic scent of butter and chocolate, while the friend who brought them (a mom and midwife, lucky me!), cradled the baby and tirelessly helped show me how to feed her. There's the college cliche of a true friend holding your hair back while you vomit, and then there's the reality of a truer friend holding your boobs and your baby while you sniffle and rub your tired eyes and give it one more try.

Four months later, we are forging our way as a little trio, and I've slowly returned to the kitchen. I'm learning to take off some training wheels, little by little, tiny victory by tiny victory. I'm learning to mother the way I've learned to feed my baby, slowly, patiently, with faith, and a lot of support from the village. I still love (and often need) deliveries of food and help, whether from (I should own stock) or relatives, but I'm also back to cooking for my family. Baking, even. Which feels particularly impressive since it involves reading, measuring, and math, indicating that I am, finally, getting a bit more sleep.

And so it continues. Each day we wake up far too early, to the sounds of squealing and grunting and kicking from the crib in the corner of our room and a round face that beams fresh each morning when she spots me up above, no matter that my hair is matted to my head and my shirt stained. And each day we do our best, gobbling up each giggle and gurgle like there's an infinite supply, feasting on chubby toes and leftover late night thai, and indulging in cuddles and cake and the occasional anxious, overtired, insecure cry. And each day I try on this new title of Mother, noting how the shape of my body and heart and soul have changed a little here, a little there, so it requires tugging and pulling, adjusting and altering. And the thing I've realized is, our daughter doesn't really care if it fits perfectly. And if that's not reason enough to go on and have another slice of cake, I don't know what is.


The Mouse

**One of the major mom victories I've had thus far was solving the mystery of our two month old's near constant crying, nightly meltdowns, and love/hate relationship to eating, by discovering that she is sensitive to dairy. As in, I can't eat dairy because she can't eat dairy. Which sucks for me, but honestly, the trade-off is worth it. And I'm finding some satisfying substitutes for the things I miss (nothing can replace cheese, sadly), including this cake, a vegan olive oil cake. Meg, from my fiction group, first made this for us, before I was dairy free, and I was amazed that a vegan dessert could be so delicious. Better yet, it's not only vegan, but subs maple syrup for refined sugar, so you can really feel virtuous when you eat half the cake. And best of all, for those of us who have limited time, whether between diaper change and bath time or between rehearsal and sleep, this is pretty much the easiest thing ever, involving two bowls and a whisk.**

Chloe Coscarelli's Lemon Olive Oil Cake (from Chloe's Vegan Desserts)

2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 Cup Maple Syrup
3/4 Cup water
1/4 Cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1 Tablespoon lemon extract
Powdered sugar and/or fresh berries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a bundt pan

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, maple syrup, water, lemon zest and juice, and lemon extract. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not overmix.

Fill the prepared Bundt pan evenly with batter. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the caek comes out dry with a few crumbs clinging to it. Rotate halfway through the baking time. Cool the cake completely before unmolding. 

Garnish with powdered sugar and berries. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Best French Toast I Ever Celia

Dear Mouse,

Happy after Hanukkah and almost Xmas. Oh my god.  Here's where I'd go into a song & dance routine about my Slacking Shame and how long its been since I posted except that I think making everyone read excuses now would just be piling insult upon injury like stevia on wheat germ flakes. You and I have been just far too distracted of late. But instead of apologizing, I am going to make it up to everyone with the BEST and EASIEST SHOWSTOPPING WINTER BREAKFAST RECIPE of all time. Seriously, I can't believe I haven't blogged this yet because it's always a hit, and maybe you should make it right now.

Hey, does anyone want to see a picture of my niece?

Blogosphere, Celia Mar Cordova. Celia, Blogosphere.

Wait that was from a while ago, look at this one:

                     Who's a smiler?? Is there a robot on your onesie? Aw is that funny? It sure is.

What was I saying? Oh, yeah. So. Maybe you have a guest you want to impress. Maybe you have a very busy week, or you have kids, or both, and you have no time but you want something to get out of bed for. Maybe it's Christmas Eve and you have NO will to cook anything outside of the Big Dinner Menu that is looming. Basically, you want to have a Very Special Breakfast without breaking a sweat. Impossible, you say. I say, No. And then I say, Make Overnight French Toast.

It goes like this. The NIGHT BEFORE you wish to knock some socks off (yours or anyone else's), cut 12 one-inch thick slices of soft supermarket Italian bread (or french bread, or challah) and arrange tightly in a buttered baking dish (9x13). Butter each slice.

I call this one "A Baby Prepares".

        Ah, theatre family jokes.  Oh, speaking of...

                          Never too early for this one.  I think there might be rock n roll in her future though:

Look at the hand!

In a bowl, whisk 2 eggs with 1 2/3 C whole milk and 1/4 tsp salt, and pour evenly over the bread slices. Cover with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge. Go to bed.

We said go to bed, Celia!

Come on!

That's better.
 (No Aunts gave any babies wine during the making of this)

    Mama says Naptime. 

In the morning, roll out of bed and say breezily, "What about some french toast? It'll take me two seconds." (Note: do this even if no one else is there.) Prance into kitchen. (Same.) Preheat the oven to 425. Remove the plastic wrap from the baking dish. The bread will have absorbed all the custard during the night. Awesome! Sprinkle the slices with sugar and put the whole thing in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until puffed and golden. BOOM. Pass the maple syrup. Brown n crispy outside, hot n custardy inside. Mind Bendingly Delicious, Stupidly Easy, and Sexily Impressive. You may never make french toast in a pan ever again.

My point- which I hope you have figured out by now -is that this breakfast is very special because it is SO good but also because it is so simple it can be made while COMPLETELY distracted by something else. Like , say, this.


"Narcoleptic Baby", shot on location at the Mouse House. 

Happy Winter!


The (Aunt) Boo
(who will never be known as 'Aunt Boo', ever)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Eating While Pregnant

Dear Boo,

Though you'd never know it from my presence here (or lack thereof), the last few (lets say six) months have been an absolute bear, full of activity, stress, excitement, deadlines, to-do lists, and lots of growth (in more ways than one). All of a sudden, I turn around and here I am, sitting on an inflatable "birth ball" at my desk, nine whole months pregnant, unemployed, with a quiet internal clock tick tocking away at all times in the back of my head counting down the time until life changes forever.

It's been quite a ride.

Six months. And I thought I was big THEN.
One of the very first things you hear upon visiting the doctor and finding out that yes, indeed, you do have a little passenger along for this ride and no, you're not the one in a million who took not one but two defective pregnancy tests from different brands that you made your husband go out in the middle of the night to Duane Reade to get where he ran into your mother, naturally, and had to pretend he was there on an urgent mission for tin foil, is that there are certain things you must not eat for the next 10 months. These include but are not limited to: alcohol, raw fish, cured meats, deli meat, pate, some fish, most soft cheeses, anything unpasteurized, runny egg yolks, and organ meats. I leapt with joy (as much as I was able, being as exhausted and in caffeine withdrawal as I was) when my doctor actually suggested caffeine as a way to treat headaches while I couldn't have painkillers. Turns out a cup a day is no big thing, thank the lord.

Almost all of these "don'ts" have mixed evidence to support their ban (this woman just wrote a whole book about debunking some of this conventional wisdom), and my doctor has been reassuringly relaxed about the whole thing: "If it didn't make you sick before, it probably won't make you sick now. Just be smart and don't get cold cuts from some disgusting deli on the corner." She even permitted a glass of wine a week after the sensitive first trimester. Which is great, because all of this fear-mongering, worst case scenario-ing, tsk-tsking, it's not about you anymore, right when you're trying to come to terms with what this all means for YOU and your LIFE and your PARTNER, especially for someone who takes comfort and pleasure and finds community and even identity through food, is a real bummer. I remember early on, reading a blog post by someone bemoaning this whole restrictive, shaming approach to pregnancy eating and claiming that the amount of stress it induced in her was likely more harmful to her baby than just having a damn sip of wine or a piece of salmon sushi. I remember scoffing at it, thinking I would never be that wound up pregnant lady and that I could hold off on a few of life's pleasures for a few months, no problem. Cut to me, six months pregnant, in Spain on our babymoon, wiping tears away as I talked to my doctor on the phone, convinced after getting violently but temporarily ill that I had contracted Listeriosis and threatened the life of our baby from the cured ham I ate at the bar the night before. (This, mind you, after asking my doctor explicitly about this before our trip and being told by her, "I ate proscuitto all through my pregnancy. Have some ham, you're going to Spain.") Turns out it was more likely the churros for breakfast, cod fritters for lunch, and cream-filled pastry for dessert that did it than some rogue bacteria. Overeating is overeating, pregnant or no.

oh, but those churros were worth it.
The point is, I've been thinking about my experience eating during pregnancy a lot lately, mostly because a) thinking about eating is what I do, pregnant or not, and b) because pretty much the second most popular question I'm asked after, "how do you feel?" is "have you had any weird cravings?" and I've realized a few things.

First, the pregnant stomach is a decisive stomach. At least in my experience. While normally, my plague of indecisiveness hits hard at dinner time, when ordering in versus eating what we have in our fridge, pad thai versus arepas versus a turkey burger takes on epic proportions, since housing a demanding and frequently hungry guest with her own set of taste buds, things have become much simpler. I wake up from a nap and want lasagna. Nothing but lasagna. One trip to the store and a short time later, I am waddling out of the kitchen barefoot with a casserole dish, an image you and the Husband got a lot of mileage out of. A group of friends is debating where to go for dinner, and wisely and sensitively, ask the pregnant lady what she would like. Instantly, the milling about on the sidewalk ends as I declare we will be eating burgers and take off down the block. In a sea of, is this okay? is this normal? is the baby okay? am I okay? how will I know what to do? I'm never going to know what to do. I have to resolve all of my issues in the next six months before I am fit to parent, the clarity with which my body has approached eating is a relief. It's as if my stomach is reminding me, we know what to do. Don't waste your precious time. Trust your instincts. From what I've heard, pregnancy is a great precursor to the endless stream of advice and opinions and judgment one gets from every possible source as a parent. Strangers, grandparents, newspaper articles, doctors, celebrities, everyone will have an absolute truth about the right and wrong way to do things, and from what I can tell, it is a parent's job to sift through this, say thank you, and check in with one's own gut, one's own child, and one's own values and intelligence to decide what is right for each of us. For me, this process has started with eating during pregnancy. This welcome decisiveness of my body with regards to what it wants and needs has been a necessary antidote to the noise.

Eating during pregnancy has also been the first experience I've had in balancing my needs with my baby's needs, an essential lesson for parenting, I can only assume. Sometimes I want a second piece of chocolate cake. Does my baby NEED this cake? Is a ton of refined sugar the best thing I could give her? Probably not. But is it dangerous? Nope. And sometimes a happy mother is what's best for her and sometimes that's what we go with. And then there are times when I'm not hungry, but the kick in my ribs tells me someone else probably is, and while I could happily get a milkshake and be done with it, I have a bowl of kale and an organic egg because she needs her greens and she needs her protein and that's important to both of us. As I obsess about my fears about losing my identity, how one can possibly balance being an artist and being a mother, and how the course of my future will be shaped by bringing this person into the world, I am already practicing how to maintain balance. How to take care of myself and of her. How to honor not only my needs but my desires, all while recognizing, meeting and protecting hers. All in a day's lunch.

And finally, that sweet tooth I thought I lost for good back about a decade ago? Turns out it was just lying dormant. No wild cravings to speak of, but my love for all things baked and sweet has returned with a vengeance. It feels like a throwback to my college days when a cookie the size of a dinner plate just wasn't big enough. Even sweet breakfasts, which I normally abhor--cold honey-dipped cereal, pancakes with syrup, muffins--have caught my eye again. What does it all mean? Who knows. Will it disappear again once this little one is on the outside, or were the past ten years just a salty blip? Who is to say. Chalk it all up to the great big mystery that is motherhood and life. I'm just along for the ride, trying to savor the uncertainty rather than spit it out.

In honor of my newly rediscovered taste for dessert and the special sweetness of this time, despite the panic, anxiety, and never-ending to-do list, I give you these brownies, which I have made about three times since getting pregnant and always to rave reviews. I love them because intensely sweet though they are, for the potato chip lover in me, they've also got a punch of salt. A sweet and salty balancing act, just like pregnancy. Also, while I absolutely adore Ina's Outrageous Brownies, I swear I end up spending like $50 on the ingredients each time I make them. This has all of the outrageousness at a more economical and manageable price, another welcome bonus for those of us rapidly hemorrhaging money and likely to continue doing so for the next 20 or so years.

36 weeks and counting! Tick, tock...


The Mouse

Photo courtesy of the Food Network. Each time I have made these, I've neglected to take a picture. Chalk it up to pregnancy brain and the fact that no one wants to stop eating them long enough to snap a shot. 

Salted Caramel Brownies
from The Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof

1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter
8 oz plus 6oz Hershey's semisweet chocolate chips
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
3 extra-large eggs
1.5 tablespoons instant coffee granules, such as Nescafe
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 to 6 oz good caramel sauce (not dulce de leche, which has added milk or cream)
2 to 3 teaspoons flaked sea salt 

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 9x12x1.5 in baking pan.

Melt the butter, 8 oz of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature. Make sure not to skip this step or the chips will melt and ruin everything. :)

In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt and add to the choocolate mixture. Toss the remaining 6 oz of chocolate chips and the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour in a medium bowl and add them to the chocolate mixture. Spread evenly in the prepared pan. 

Bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. As soon as the brownies are out of the oven, drizzle the caramel over the top of the brownies. If you need to, microwave the jar until its pourable and stir until smooth. Sprinkle the brownies with the sea salt. Cool completely before cutting. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Making History (and Lunch)

Dear Boo,

What does making history look like?

Well, when it comes to us, it looks a little something like this:*

And then, this:
A rehearsal with the Hart Sisters always features snacks. This cornucopia brought to the table by our fearless director and honorary sibling, JMK, who arrived bearing an overly large CSA delivery.
(The cherries may or may not have made it into the play.) 

Okay, so maybe it's not the kind of history-making on the scale of say, Napoleon or Rosa Parks (what does this say about me that those were the first two names that came to mind?), and it likely won't make it to the pages of any newspaper or textbook, but for us, it's kind of significant.

Our first time together on stage.

Is that true? Can it be? Aside from the loosely scripted theatrical events you and our neighbor Jessie used to stage in our livingroom around age 10 which featured me, confused and usually forcibly costumed by you in a tutu contraption of some sort, I think this really may be the first time that on an actual stage, in front of an actual audience, we will be acting together.


In the narrative of my own personal history, its also fairly significant in that I'll be acting on stage, with my sister, while featuring a sizable bump stand-in for the next generation of Hart ladies. Whether she will take her own turn on the stage down the road, who knows. But I have a gut feeling (hee hee) she'll appreciate a good snack. This may also be my last theatrical foray before I officially enter Parenthood and a whole new phase of learning to be a Mom/Actor/Writer/Social Worker/Balanced Human Being. Woah. Maybe let's not go there yet....

Anyway, as you know, this historical moment will take the form of a reading of the play, Kate and Anne Marie, by Deron Bos, at the Culture Project's Women Center Stage festival. In another bit of narrative/history/significance, this will bring me back to the place where I spent three years in my first real job out of school, the place where I learned what 'New York Theater' really looks like, where I planted some seeds of my future social work life, and where manys a lunch were consumed.

Which brings me to the play: structured around a series of lunches between Kate and Anne Marie, it could not be more apropos for two sisters who know a little something about friendship, about talking to one another, about examining one's life and then having a good laugh at it, and of course, about snacks.

I hope people come.

Where should we eat afterwards? Let's discuss. Over lunch, perhaps?


The Mouse

*Actually, it looks way better than this, trust us. We looked cute that day. The Mouse may be a little extra puffy these days but the images you see may appear puffier than they are.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Summertime Steak and Secrets (Revealed)

Dear Mouse,

It's SUMMER in the city! And my farmer's market basket runneth over with delightful discoveries I can't wait to share in this post. I'm sure it will make up for the fact that our last post was in the SPRING.

Ahem. And now, a song.
 (Sung to the tune of "Summertime")

                                                       "  Summertiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime..."

   "  And the roses are blooooomin'...."
             (NY Marble Cemetery, East Village. So tiny and pretty! 
Did you know it was there! I didn't til yesterday)

                                           "   I'm in American Theatre ... Mah-ha-ga-ziiiine..."
(Special thanks to The Mayor for informing me of this just as I'd been rejected for a job for the fourth time that week.)

                                                            "   I also learned recently
                                                           You can free-eeze bananas"

                                             " They will look like this .... But be perfectly fine."
(Pry the peel away with a knife and cut into chunks while still frozen (for smoothies)
 or wait til they thaw and scoop out the mush (for banana bread). 

(I'm starting the verse again, two three four:)

                                                           "And Summertime..."

                                                "Means an amazing Photo Opportunity..."
Let's zoom in.

"For announcing the biggest... MouseBouche News of All."

Mouse and MINI MOUSE!!!!! aka MY NIECE.
 That's right.

Originally, I had no idea how I could make this lovely news relate to the flank steak made for me last week by my wonderful, witty, and generous writer/foodie friend GlitterBoy (I asked him to name himself for this post, and he did not disappoint). But then I thought about some other news that has made this month - this week!! - special. Wendy Davis in her pink sneakers standing up (literally!) for women and families everywhere. DOMA No More and Marriage Equality on the horizon. Love Triumphing over Fear. Good taste triumphing over Paula Deen. 

I'm sitting here writing this post on Pride Weekend, and it might be the second day of Juice Cleanse talking, but I think that Glitterboy's Flank Steak for Two is the perfect recipe for this moment. He cooked this for me last weekend at his Brooklyn apartment, hovering intently over a cast-iron skillet and wearing a fetching pair of shorts. It was meant to thank me for accompanying him on guitar at his solo show the night before, but I have to say I got the better end of the deal, because I know I'm going to make this over and over.  It is intensely flavorful and luscious. It is great for hot weather since it only requires about 8 minutes at the stove. And it can be easily doubled  - tripled, whatever! - to feed your family - whatever form, shape, or size that happens to be.   

                               Now I just need a cast iron skillet. Oh yeah, my birthday's next week. :)

And babies eat steak, right? 


The Boo

Glitterboy's Flank Steak for Two, in His Own Words

I marinate the steaks two hours before cooking, using a sauce made of olive oil (1/3 cup), Soy Sauce (two teaspoons), Honey (1/3 cup), pepper, two cloves of minced garlic, and some rice vinegar.  Plastic freezer bag, and in the fridge (you can also do this overnight).  Use a cast iron skillet, very hot, with some oil and some onion.  Throw both steaks on the skillet and flip after 4 minutes.  The onions will carmelize in the sauce quite nicely as well.  Cook on the other side for about the same duration, plate, and serve with everything green. (The Boo: we had a pile of arugula and some roasted asparagus.) If your guest is feeling a little adventurous (The Boo: I was!) add a dollop of fresh garlic pesto on top.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Deconstructed Pesto

Dear Mouse,

Yes I am alive. It has been so long since I blogged. Sorry.

So, it's spring! And, let me get this out of the way, I made these.

                                                     Fiddlesticks - sorry, fiddlehead- ferns.

Mouse, I'm aware that no one likes a hater. So I hasten to assure you there will be no actual Hating on anything fern-related or otherwise in this paragraph. But  - and I hate to be This Girl again - I don't really have much to report. These curly green cuties, if you haven't heard of them, are second only to the almighty Ramp as a coveted herald-of-spring, short-season delicacy. I had somehow never had them before. I was at Whole Paycheck when I saw them, mounded on a bed of ice, and began scooping them into a plastic bag with a manic Food Blogger's Gleam in my eye. Surely, the Spring Blog post to end all Spring Blog Posts!

They were fine.

Bright and coquettishly furled like vegetable escargot, kind of an asparagus-meets-butter-lettuce or something I'm boring myself. They are delightful blanched and then briefly swirled in a pan with a little butter and lemon and salt and maybe garlic. Do not eat them raw because apparently only deer (?!) have the stomach for that.  Were they tasty? Yes. Transcendent? Proustian? Blogworthy? No. Everybody calm down about the fiddlehead ferns.

Oh look, I blogged about them.

Ok I know what you're thinking: "Man, the Boo came back from Kentucky in a really cranky mood!" And you'd be half right --- I'm never good with the Down Time and uncertainty between gigs, as I may have mentioned.  But it's nice to be back in my kitchen, and having produced not so much as a slab of almond-flour banana bread for my hungry cast mates (for shame!!) the entire time I was gone, I feel I owe us all a little spring cheer - or at least advice on how to create some.

I love pesto -raw, bright,  herb-drenched, parmesan-laced, oily goodness - on just about anything  except vanilla ice cream (Anything's possible, of course.)  But -  maybe because I didn't own a blender of any kind until recently? - I make a version more akin to the Splendid Table's  "Chopping Board Pesto", where you just pile the various ingredients on the board and have at it with a big knife, then pour oil all over it til it sticks together. The result is more like a wet salad than a smooth sauce but I think it gives a kind of leaves-and-flowers visual and a fun texture to the pasta or whatever it is holding it up.  Recommendation: If, like me, you are in one of the shall we say Low Carb Professions, you may want to try spooning it onto strands of baked spaghetti squash, comme ca:

Spaghetti squash (R) with Cauliflower Pesto (L), a la the Smitten Kitchen recipe. 
  (Full disclosure: There is also a purchased, chopped meatball hiding underneath the veggies. 
 Don't judge me.)

This is not a recipe really, just an idea - the basic structure can be adapted to really any kind of green herb or veg/nut mixture you like. I've made mint-almond, cauliflower-walnut, sage-pistachio - or was it walnut? - and of course your basic basil-pine-nut type. I felt really guilty about working this way, like I was too lazy to make a sauce or something, but then I noticed the sly liner note in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook: "Or just make like an italian grandmother and do it all by hand."


To get you started, see below. Improvise! Write and tell me about it in the COMMENTS. If you quail at the thought of going without a recipe, follow the Splendid Table one for starters (but I like to put the cheese in with everything else). 

Happy chopping!


The Boo

1. The Boo's Deconstructed Basil Pesto
via  Splendid Table  

Handful or two? of basil leaves, chopped
garlic clove, chopped
one handful? pine nuts, mashed/chopped
grated parmesan, good amount, to taste

Chop everything up together in a big pile and transfer to bowl. Slowly pour olive oil over in a thin stream while stirring it up with a fork, just enough for it to stick together and clump. Taste and adjust. When you like it, spoon it over hot pasta or spaghetti squash strands or whatever you like, and toss to combine. 

2. The Boo's Deconstructed Cauliflower Pesto
(basically Smitten Kitchen's but with what I had in the pantry)

most of a small head of cauliflower, chopped into crumbles
maybe 8 sun-dried tomatoes -the dry kind - chopped (more if you like more)
one clove garlic (def. not more with this), minced
1/2 C walnuts
grated parmesan, i dont know, 1/2 C to a C?
olive oil

Same dealyo as above, though it won't really clump as much or perform as sauce-like. The 3 tbsp of oil she calls for should actually do it . But again, up to you!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A cake for Spring (and Breakfast)

Dear Boo,

I'm not much of a baker anymore, a fact that the Husband often laments. I first came to cooking through baking, as I think many people do, and I used to enjoy the methodical, detailed instructions and found it comforting to know that one must really follow the exact steps to come up with a successful product. No scary riffing or improvisation expected. And I've always been a very good rule follower. But over the years as I've gained some confidence in the kitchen, I've come to enjoy the freedom of trusting my taste and tweaking recipes as I go and to be increasingly frustrated by the precision, patience, and multiple dirty dishes required of baking. Coinciding with this was the mysterious disappearance of my sweet tooth, which miraculously and somewhat controversially reappeared recently without so much as a Hey, how ya been. 

Which is how I found myself making this cake. It seemed a perfect compromise for me: practically a one-bowl wonder, nicely unfussy but pretty in presentation, not too sweet as balanced by the sour lemon, and not too healthy (despite the yogurt) as balanced by the copious amounts of cream dolloped and cascading down the slice. And a very welcome taste of a very welcome new season. (There are bursting buds on the tree outside my window! They make the discarded plastic bags hanging off the branches look so whimsical!)

We ate it as dessert with Easter dinner, but it is equally appropriate with a cup of afternoon tea, or for that matter with morning coffee. I realized the next day when I brought the leftovers to work, that it suspiciously resembles the top of a muffin. And I'm just fine with that. 


The Mouse

Lemon-Blueberry Yogurt Cake with Lemon Cream 

Adapted by The Kitchn from Gourmet, Serves 8 

For the cake: 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
2/3 cup granulated sugar 
Zest of one lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons) 
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1 large egg 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (whole or 2%) 
1/4 cup milk 
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (no need to thaw) 
1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar 

For the lemon cream: 

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream 
2 tablespoons store-bought lemon curd 

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in the middle. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Flour the sides. 

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Place the granulated sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until it is the texture of damp sand and smells like lemon candy. Add the butter and beat in a stand mixer or with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and the egg. Add the yogurt and beat well. 

At low speed, beat in half the flour mixture until just combined. Then beat in the milk and remaining flour mixture. 

Spread batter evenly in the pan. Scatter berries over top and sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar. Bake until cake is golden-brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack and cool for 10-15 more minutes. Remove parchment and invert onto a plate. 

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer or immersion blender with a whisk attachment, beat cream and lemon curd on high speed until creamy, smooth and thick. It should be about the consistency of regular yogurt. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve cake warm or at room temperature, dolloped with lemon cream.