Moving toward the light: Braised short ribs

Ignore the grey skies, never mind the cold stream of rain that finds your bare neck, go ahead and order those lettuce seeds—we are definitely leaning toward the light. It’s been a month now since the winter solstice, there are signs of light at 7:00 am and the shades don’t go down until 5:00 pm. 

It’s been our routine to celebrate this inexorable march toward spring with our Seventies friends but the weather is so often horrid with attending ice, snow, and miserable driving conditions that we no longer do that. But around the first of the year, my mind automatically turned toward menus, visiting, and friends, so last Sunday, before you could say “short ribs”, we had some people over for dinner. Ginny and Ron drove down from Vashon, Bill and Glenda walked over from next door, we turned on the fireplace and set six places around the dining table. 

The weather cooperated, the ferries sailed on time, the stars aligned, and we didn’t burn anything—a delightful time was had by all. As Ginny said, “What could be a better way to spend a rainy, cold Sunday than eating good food, drinking good wine, and watching a few football games with friends.”

We missed seeing our old Olympia friends—one pair in Australia, one pair in Palm Desert, and one pair hunkered down on Hood Canal building a new house—but we’ll hear their adventures in May.

The menu was hearty and comforting: braised short ribs, mashed potatoes, roasted butternut squash, Caesar salad, and lemon panna cotta with blueberry sauce. I learned about roasting butternut squash from Lara and may never cook it any other way again. Karen is master of panna cotta and gave me her recipe which I posted a few years ago. The braised short ribs are from Mark Bittman, but the mashed potatoes are all me.

Braised short ribs

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6-8 boneless short ribs 
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced 
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced 
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced
  • 6 mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups beef or chicken stock 
  • 1 cup chocolate stout or other dark beer or red wine


Grind seasonings together, season short ribs on all sides. Wrap each rib in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 


Preheat the oven to 325°. 


In a large enameled cast-iron pan, heat the oil until shimmering. Brown short ribs in two batches, until well browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.


Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and mushrooms and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Add tomato paste, sauté 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Deglaze pan with beer/wine. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Return the ribs to the pan, cover and braise in the oven for about 2-3 hours, until the meat is very tender.


Transfer the ribs to a platter and tent with foil. 


Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a blender. Strain the sauce into a heatproof measuring cup and skim off the fat. Add the sauce to the blender and puree until smooth. Return the sauce to the pan with the short ribs and simmer until reduced to 3 cups, about 8 minutes. 


Season sauce with salt and pepper. 


Return the short ribs to the sauce and simmer 30-45 minutes over low heat. Serve ribs topped with sauce, mashed potatoes, soft polenta, and extra sauce on the side

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Adventures: 2005, 2020

Roberto Griego Arriba, Musica Nuevo Mexico

Fifteen years ago, the Sweetie and I took a long, circular drive from Eugene to San Diego, Tucson, El Paso, San Antonio, New Orleans, Savannah, Myrtle Beach; then turned left and went home through South Carolina, Tennessee, Hot Springs, Arkansas, Albuquerque, Phoenix, and Las Vegas—whew. One of our favorite stops was Albuquerque, New Mexico. This year we’ll be able to visit family there. New decade—new adventure.

We had a great time in 2005, loved the city, and wrote stories along the way. Here’s my remembrance of Albuquerque.  

March 2005, Albuquerque, NM—“Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”

When you’re on the road, the basic responsibilities are the next meal, the next bed, and what’s around the next corner. Bob drove every inch of our trip, cheerful and steady through sun, rain, snow, and the dead of night. I rode shotgun: folding and unfolding maps, providing snacks, and uncapping water bottles—it works for us. The drive through the Arkansas hills to Albuquerque wound up hills, around long S-curves, local highways and small towns—perfect conditions for a small, red sports car or (as it were) a large, green, four-door sedan.  

Our colds were well developed by the time we reached New Mexico—Bob was red-nosed and teary-eyed, I was hoarse and prone to prolonged coughing fits. We blew through each box of hotel Kleenex and begged housekeeping for more. By the second day in Albuquerque, I was ready to submit and stay in bed for the duration—but the sun beckoned, Bob insisted, and we had the best shopping experience. 

The day before, as we were driving through downtown to the hotel, we noticed a small souvenir shop near Albuquerque’s Old Town and returned for a closer look. The Palms Trading Company was a nondescript stucco building with a packed parking lot. A light, dry snow had begun to fall, but it didn’t look like it would stick. Once inside, we saw plenty of possible mementos. We separated—Bob to the jewelry, me to the pottery/rug room. There was a surprising absence of threatening signs. No “If you break it, it’s yours”,  “You’re being watched”, or “Touch it and you’ve bought it”; instead only a mild “Children at loose will be sold into slavery”—perfectly understandable.

We found each other almost immediately. Bob had seen a lovely bangle—$300; I had picked up a small vase—$750.00. We chose $2000 bowls, $800 dishes, $2000 baskets, $3000 bracelets: obviously we were in the wrong place. The Palms Trading Company is a wholesale market for New Mexican Native American potters, jewelers, rug makers, and basket weavers and the shelves were crowded with exquisite examples of their art.

We watched in awe as a trio of art dealers spent at least $100,000 stocking up for their toney Santa Fe gallery. Undaunted, we picked up a $40.00 basket and some “On Sale” placemats. Walking out, we tried to rationalize the purchase of a $600 Hopi Wedding Vase, took one last look at the turquoise, and went to M&J’s for lunch. The dry snow continued, it did stick, and we got stuck. 

M & J’s Sanitary Tortilla Factory: Carne Adovado 

Red Chili Puree:

·         2 cups water 

·         8-10 dried red chile pods

·         Tear tops off of chile pods and use knife or finger to clean out seeds and veins inside of each one. Place pods in large pot and cover with water. Bring to boil and cook several minutes until pods are soft. Place drained pods (save water) in blender container, then pour 1/2 of liquid into blender and blend until smooth, add 1-2 cloves garlic if desired. Add more water as needed. Strain thru a mesh sieve to remove any skins that did not blend up in the blender.

4-6# Pork Butt:

·         Cut pork butt into four sections by slicing once horizontally through the pork loin (with the grain) then once vertically down the middle (across the grain).


·         4 cloves smashed garlic

·         1 T. salt

·         1 T. Mexican oregano 

·         1 cup of the Red Chile Puree

·         1 cup red wine vinegar

Put the pork into a plastic or glass container and cover completely with marinade and let it marinate in the refrigerator at least 24 hours.

Chile Colorado:

·         2 T. shortening 

·         2 T. flour

·         2 C. red chile puree

·         2 C. chicken broth 

·         3/4 t. salt

·         1/2 t. garlic powder

·         Dash oregano

Heat shortening in medium-size saucepan on medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Add red chile puree and cook for about another 5 minutes. Gradually add chicken broth and whisk to remove lumps. Add seasoning to sauce and simmer at low heat for 10-15 minutes. 

After marinating  pork for a minimum of 24 hours, remove the pork from the marinade and cut into cubes approximately 1″ square, put into a shallow pan (about 3″ deep) and cover with all the Chile Colorado. Simmer in 300˚oven for two hours. About 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat, add layer of shredded Mexican cheese over the top and heat until the cheese is fully melted. Serve with warm flour tortillas, pinto beans and Spanish or Mexican rice.    

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2019, the Year of the Baby

On our block, 2019 was the year of the baby. In July, my great granddaughter Jane was born, then came our friends Bill & Glenda’s grand nephew, and in November, Ginny’s daughter Claire had Eleanora. They are all healthy, happy, and adorable.

On another note, I read in the Huff Post that Oxford English added the word “listicle” to its official dictionary. Apparently we love to read lists: they tell us which movies to see, what our new favorite food will be, where and when we should retire, the best ways to find a man, the United States’ worse airports, New York City’s best ramen shops, the grocery stores we love, the top twenty signs that a relationship is doomed, the ten things every child should know before they go away to college, which breed of dog suits us the best, and the worse financial mistakes we are currently making.

I am certainly not about to tell anyone what to do or to give any advice, but here are a few of my favorite things, my not so favorite things, and the ones we miss.

Here are a few of my favorite things: swimming with music ears, sleeping in a cold room with a warm Sweetie, strong morning coffee, salt in a wooden box, my new warm, wooly bathrobe, quilting like a miner, good neighbors, the NHK network, the New York Yankees, a gas fireplace, the full moon’s light in the middle of the night, morning chats with my sister, Newman’s fish & chips, Claire’s focaccia, our new Bob/Norm trellis, my beautiful Linnae calendar, peanut butter/cherry jam toast and TJ’s buffalo ghee.

Not so favorite: customer service, our current President, robocalls, on-demand water heaters, the Washington Nationals, the red-headed weather girl on Channel 13, Alabama football, gluten-free, driving to Seattle, hard-to-open packages, an appointment with a new dental hygienist, visual field tests, Facebook, neon orange street lights, al dente pasta, selfies of me, and  Gordon Ramsey.

Ones we lost in the 2010s and will always miss: Tommy, Nikki, Tracey, Ted, Rita, Mary, Dinah, Jack, Gracie, Bodie, Sadie, and others.

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: Sugar Cookies

Hal Kemp, A Boy, A Girl, A Lamplight

There must be a lobe of my brain dedicated to song lyrics. I may not remember where I parked the car at Costco, but I know all four verses of Joy to the World. Obscure tunes from the 1940s, like A Boy, A Girl, A Lamplight, roll off my tongue like the Pledge of Allegiance and right
 now, I could belt out the chorus of Ragtime Cowboy Joe (I used to know the verses, but they’re lost in Costco’s parking lot.)

I know Muth had a collection of 45 records she played during the day and that Daddy listened to big band concerts on our RCA Victor console radio at night. As a pre-teen, I sat as close as I could to Nikki’s bedroom, leaning up against her slammed door listening to Elvis, Jerry Vale, and Peggy Lee coming from her transistor radio, until she yelled, “Mom, make her get away from my room!”

This twisted talent comes in handy at Christmas parties. Want to sing Frosty the Snowman, Up on the Housetop, Winter Wonderland? I’m your man. My preference, however, is for wistful, almost sad, holiday tunes about blue snowflakes, merry little Christmases, skating away on a river, gleaming love lights, and little drummer boys par um pa pum pum.

Nostalgia is always present at Christmas. Commercials with Marines returning home, children gazing out the window, and Clydesdales trotting proudly through snowy fields are as likely as jingle bells and ho ho hos. Maybe the yearning is for past Christmases or Christmases that never were, but for every play of Holly Jolly Burl Ives, there’s dewey-eyed Judy Garland and the dreaming crooner, Bing Crosby.

For my money, the most wistful Christmas sound comes from Vince Guaraldi’s music in A Charlie Brown Christmas. I challenge any holiday humbug to sit through this without at least one misty eye episode.

Here’s one for “poor lonely people.” I Wonder As I Wander, The Cambridge Singers


New favorite, Sufjan Stevens Sister Winter

Can’t seem to leave this one out—what’s not to love; this year we’ll listen to Sarah Mclachlan’s version. When I was a kid in Nebraska, the creek behind our house froze solid (we hoped) in the winter. All the neighborhood kids skated up and down the creek until spring, when the ice started to crack. The high school boys built roaring bonfires along the way to keep us all warm. Ah, those were the days. I’m not kidding, those frozen river shots in the video must have been taken along our creek.

River, Sarah Mclachlan

So turn off your device, turn on the Christmas tree, snuggle the baby, gather the near and dears, throw a cashmere wrap or cotton quilt over your collective knees, warm your hands around a mug of cocoa, listen to Christmas songs, and watch the day fade away.

This recipe must be good, I copied it off the back of a C&H sugar sack. We used to help Muth make Christmas cookies: snowmen, evergreen trees, snowflakes, candy canes. You could always tell the ones we made, they were grayish, with too many sprinkles and too much pink frosting.

Sugar Cookies

  • 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift flour before measuring)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups C&H granulated Sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  • 4 cups C&H Confectioners Sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon extract or flavoring (optional)
  • food coloring (optional)

BTW, hope you didn’t make that peanut butter pie from last week’s episode. I did, and the recipe I wrote is incomplete and frustrating. I must have made that pie a hundred times at Sound Food but did a bad job of remembering the recipe. Not only is the pie steppy, but be ready to use at least four bowls, three pans, and the mixer twice. It makes a darn tasty pie though. Here’s a better recipe.

Sound Food Black Bottom Peanut Butter Pie 

  • 1 1/2 c. chocolate chips 
  • 1⁄4 c. coffee 
  • 1⁄2 # cream cheese (Be sure it’s room temperature)
  • 1⁄2 c. honey  (I used agave)
  • 3⁄4 c. Jif-type creamy peanut butter (Don’t use natural or crunchy)
  • 2 t. gelatin (One envelope is 2 1/4 teaspoons, so measure out two from the envelope.) 
  • 1⁄4 c. milk 
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 

Separate eggs.

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup lukewarm water. Do not dump it out in a pile, as the granules in the middle won’t dissolve. Let stand for 5 minutes. Heat gently, stirring until dissolved. 

Melt chocolate chips and coffee over hot water. Spread chocolate over bottom of baked pie shell.

Using paddle attachment, blend cream cheese, honey, and peanut butter.

Bring milk to a simmer, temper egg yolks with half of the hot milk. Add egg yolk/milk mixture back into remainder of milk. Add final egg/milk mixture to cream cheese/honey/peanut butter mixture. 

Add gelatin/water mixture to cream cheese/honey/peanut butter mixture. Combine until smooth.

Beat egg whites to soft peak.

Stir 1/3 of the soft peak egg whites into the cream cheese/peanut butter mixture. Then fold remainder of  egg whites into mixture just until lumps are gone.

Pour mixture into baked pie shell. If the entire mixture won’t fit, refrigerate for 10-15 minutes then pour remainder on top. 

Refrigerate for at least four hours.

Whip one pint of heavy cream until slightly thickened, add 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 tablespoons sugar. Whip to medium peak. 

Top pie with whipped cream. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings.  

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Elvis: Black bottom peanut butter pie

Elvis Presley, Jailhouse Rock, 1957

Elvis, Run On, 1967

Elvis, Are You Lonesome Tonight, 1977

I’ve been to three concerts in my life: the Avett Brothers in 2019, Lyle Lovett & Bonnie Raitt in 2004, and Elvis Presley in 1956. On May 23, 1956, Elvis Presley and the Jordanaires played one concert at the Sioux City Auditorium. Most of Sioux City’s white, middle class parents saw Elvis as a threat to the moral fiber of the community, so Daddy’s willingness to be an accessory made me a “cool kid”, at least for a night.

I was fourteen in 1956 when Elvis played at the Sioux City Auditorium. The notion of being a “teenager” was new: there was being a kid, there was waiting to be an adult, and there was being an adult. No age definition or marketing segment separated us as a pack. There were no self-help books or columnists to advise parents about the “teenage years.” There were, however, the first glimmers of something different, something special, and something apart. Elvis Presley, more than anyone else, gave the young a belief in themselves as being distinct—the first “teenagers” in America to feel the power of a youth culture.

Our Elvis, the Memphis Elvis, the pre-Las Vegas, before-sequins, thin Elvis, looked dangerous, wore a perpetual sneer, dressed in black leather, sported a greaser’s DA with a forehead lock that refused to stay in place, and invented the pelvic thrust.

Our Elvis set a bad example and, along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly, offered teenagers an alternative to the “more appropriate” teen idols like Fabian, Ricky Nelson and Paul Anka—boys you could take home to Mom and Dad.

Our Elvis also loved his Mom, grew up singing gospel music, favored peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and served in the Army for two years. 

A week before the concert, our principal called a mandatory school assembly to warn us of the dangers to be found in attending the upcoming Elvis concert. Letters were sent home to uneasy parents advising them to keep their ”children” at home. My parents were born, educated, and married in South Dakota but didn’t seem locked within the limitations defined by their Midwestern upbringing. Muth read books, smoked cigarettes, and played her records too loud. Daddy was a Mason, smoked a pipe, and played Donkey Baseball in the summer.

Those traces of being out of place came to my aid when Elvis surfaced in Iowa. Most of my girlfriends were forbidden to go see him, but my Dad bought two $1.75 balcony tickets, dropped me and my girlfriend off in front of the Auditorium, and said, “Now you girls have fun.” And fun we had—there was screaming, there was moaning, there was bawling. When Elvis began to play A Whole Lot of Shakin, the roof blew right off.

Our cheap seats—top row in the nosebleed section—were miles away from the stage but the power of his personality brought us right down into the action. Two hours later, or it may have been two minutes or two days, he was gone. He came back for three encores and wouldn’t come out again. I’m not kidding—the next thing we heard was, “Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.”

Sound Food Black Bottom Peanut Butter Pie 

  • 1 c. chocolate chips 
  • 1⁄4 c. coffee 
  • 1⁄2 # cream cheese 
  • 1⁄2 c. honey 
  • 3⁄4 c. creamy peanut butter 
  • 2 t. gelatin 
  • 1⁄4 c. milk 
  • 3 eggs 

Separate eggs.

Sprinkle gelatin over room temperature water. 

Melt chocolate chips and coffee over hot water. Spread chocolate over bottom of baked pie shell.

Using paddle attachment, blend cream cheese, honey, and peanut butter.

Bring milk to a simmer, temper egg yolks with half of the hot milk. Add egg yolk/milk mixture back into remainder of milk. Add final egg/milk mixture to cream cheese/honey/peanut butter mixture. 

Add gelatin/water mixture. Combine until smooth.

Beat egg whites to soft peak.

Fold egg/peanut butter/gelatin mixture into egg whites. 


Posted in Family and friends, Recipes | 3 Comments

This chicken came home to roast: Mark Bittman’s roast chicken

Little Feat, Dixie Chicken

When I was growing up, Sunday dinner meant a 1:00, after-church, elbows-off-the-table, no-TV, meal of roast beef, roast pork, or roast chicken, with an occasional ham. Now before you wax all nostalgic, may I add that all roasted options were predictably dry and over-cooked. Muth accepted her role as food provider—dinner only, please—but didn’t seem to embrace it. Somehow, eating (and cooking) didn’t have the cachet then as it does today. There were no Kalamata olives, fresh mushrooms, artisan home-made pizza, avocado toast, coffee beans, Greek yogurt, Yukon gold potatoes, Trader Joe’s focaccia, or, for that matter, expectations of steppy, delectable “gourmet” meals. 

Anyways, I assumed that a large glass of water was a mandatory accompaniment to any roast chicken until the 1980s when Judy Rogers became famous for her version at the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. Thomas Keller and Jacques Pépin weren’t far behind to jump on the restaurant-version roast chicken bandwagon and food critics are now quick to say that the quality of a world-class restaurant’s roast chicken is the acid test.

Since 2009, Costco has provided home cooks with a readily available, inexpensive—still $4.99!—solution for that I-just-spent-$200.00-at Costco-and-don’t-have-anything-for-dinner dilemma. Now there are those out there who do not enjoy the taste of a Costco, Safeway, or Whole Foods rotisserie chicken (the Sweetie among them) and who can spot the culprit whether hidden under a sea of gravy, tucked inside an enchilada, or nestled in the leaves of a faux Caesar salad but there are occasions when a home cook has to seize that rotisserie chicken by the wings and serve it anyway—every day can’t be a banquet.

I meant to buy a rotisserie chicken on our trip to Costco last week, but when faced with the ordeal of walking all the way to the back of the store, fending off the snack-seekers along the way, I thought, “I’ll just buy a raw one when we stop at Trader Joes.” Now here comes the sticker-shock aspect of my story: $14.69 cents for an raw, organic, (Who cares if it’s organic? At my age, it may as well be a caged chicken that gets me.) 3 1/2 pound bird. I had the sniffles (an inadequate word for my misery), so chicken noodle soup sounded like bliss.

I recently forked over the price of a New York Times Cooking subscription and have come to trust their recipes, so it was my first stop. The ease and simplicity of this recipe made it a sure choice. I’ve made that roast chicken three times since and may never go back to the Costco alternative. There is a turkey version, so that will be on the table, so to speak, for the next turkey holiday. After the bird rests for a half an hour, I save a breast for dinner, strip the bird, make a strong stock out of the bones, and have at least four dinners. Even at $14.69 a bird, that pencils out to be a bargain.

So without further ado, here is Mark Bittman’s recipe for roast chicken, thanks to New York Times Cooking.

Mark Bittman’s roast chicken 

1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper 


Put a cast-iron skillet on a low rack in the oven and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Rub the chicken all over with the oil and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.


When the oven and skillet are hot, carefully put the chicken in the skillet, breast side up. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees. Continue to roast until the bird is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh reads 155 to 165 degrees—30-35 minutes.


Tip the pan to let the juices flow from the chicken’s cavity into the pan. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Carve and serve.

Posted in Family and friends, Recipes | 5 Comments

The joys of adult children: Carrot cake

The Avett Brothers, February Seven

The Avett Brothers, No Hard Feelings

I wish they lived down the block, but I’ll take what I have: two wonderful adult kids, an extraordinary daughter and son-in-law, five granddaughters, one grandson, one grand daughter-in-law, and, dun da da dun, one great granddaughter—all on the Eastcoast.

I just returned from a whirlwind family visit—drives through the Tennessee and South Carolina hills (they call them mountains), delicious meals that someone else made, cozy, comfortable guest rooms, shopping in vintage stores, thrift stores, fancy stuff stores, lunches in tiny Berea, Kentucky and Greer, South Carolina, night walks in downtown Knoxville, Mexican food at Babaloo, morning coffee with my favorite people, Syd’s famous cinnamon rolls, soft doggie ear rubs with Louie, Lucy, and Layla, football games, and…thanks to Ronnie, a rousing surprise: an evening Avett Brothers concert for the whole family.

The concert goers gather at the UT campus before the event.

Noodle Nirvana, Berea, Kentucky

Aunt Katie with Jane

Grandpa Ronnie with Jane

Downtown Knoxville

My dears also threw me an official, present-opening, carrot cake-eating, candle-blowing birthday party. All in all, it was a best-ever week with the ones I love. They gave up their time, let me have their too-cool, kookaburra drink bottle, drove to see me, told me their best adventures, showed me their latest kitchen improvements, fluffed my pillow, made my morning coffee, gave me a portable white-noise machine and a warm quilted shirt, took me on a guided tour of their new factory, dropped me off at my departure gate, introduced me to their boss, made me cinnamon rolls, cooked dinner for me, and made me miss them even more. 

Bob got sprung from his Sacramento project, so a week after I returned from the East Coast, here we are at the airport, ready to go home. I’ll miss the sunny weather and our 11th floor view, but will be so glad to be home again.

Sound Food Carrot Cake 

  • 4 eggs 
  • 1 c. oil 
  • 1 c. brown sugar 
  • 1 c. white sugar 
  • 2 c. flour 
  • 2 tsp. baking soda 
  • 2 tsp. baking powder 
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon 
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp. nutmeg 
  • 3 c. grated carrots 
  • 1 c. walnuts 

Beat eggs until lemon colored in large bowl. Add oil, brown sugar, white sugar.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices together in separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in large bowl. Mix in carrots and walnuts.

Pour batter into one 9×11 or three 9” greased and floured cake pans. Bake 40 minutes in preheated 325° oven. Cool before frosting.

 Cream Cheese Frosting 

  • 1⁄2 c. butter, softened 
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened 
  • 1 # box powdered sugar 
  • 1 Tb. vanilla 

Beat butter and cream cheese together. Add vanilla.

Posted in Family and friends, Travel | 6 Comments

Out and about in Sacto: South Carolina Barbecue Sauce

Louie Armstrong, What a Wonderful World

Routines are comforting and evolve without effort. Mornings: out the hotel door, walk to the bus stop, nod to the leaf blower wearing a neon green vest, say hi to the blue-haired school girl waiting for my bus, show my pass to the same grumpy bus driver, get off close to the YMCA pool, ask to share lane with white-haired noodle rider, back to the hotel.

Afternoons I run bread and grocery errands, take a bus trip to a farmers market, or just wander.  

Today I took a walk through Bishop Gallegos Square, a lovely retail/restaurant courtyard area near the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, whose steeple we see from our window.

This stunning statue installation, “Wings of the City,” by Jorge Marin brought me back to the square three times.

Quick stop at the Cesar Chavez Plaza for a falafel, back on the Grumpy Bus. This time the #38 whizzes on by twice; obviously I am invisible, which I will use to my advantage when I board and don’t pay.

The building murals in Downtown Sacramento are spectacular. They are put on dilapidated hotels, crisp red brick apartments, stone warehouses, and hotel exteriors.

City-savvy sign in front of mural.

I’m flying to South Carolina this morning to see my kids and their kids. Will miss my Sweetie but will love spending time with Bridget, Jon, families, and dogs. I’ll bring you back some South Carolina barbecue sauce.

South Carolina Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon salad oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ground black pepper

Combine vinegar, mustards, brown sugar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cook over medium heat, whisking, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, stir in butter and oil, season with salt and pepper.

Posted in Recipes, Travel | 4 Comments

There is there here: Peanuts and candy corn

Aretha Franklin, Respect

Gertrude Stein’s remark, “There is no there there,” about her Oakland, California hometown, has been borrowed by the Justice Department to throw out bribery charges, used by political candidates to discount their opponents, and rewritten by Madison Avenue campaigns to disparage rival hamburgers. The City of Berkeley went so far as to commission a large outdoor sculpture, “HERETHERE,” to let people know that they were “here” in Berkeley and not “there” in Oakland. 

Other cities suffer from the same lack of respect: Seattle is cool, Tacoma is not; Portland is cool, Vancouver WA is not; Olympia is cool, Lacey is not; San Francisco and Berkeley are cool; Sacramento and Oakland are not—you get the drift. 

But the not-so-cool kids are rising up: Tacoma’s real estate prices are steadily increasing; Sacramento recently showed up on a “Best Cities To” list; Vancouver is being touted this year as a “foodie” city; Lacey—no movement yet. Sacramento doesn’t get the same respect and favor shown to San Francisco, but the downtown has character and a defiant sense of pride. 

Definitely a cool kid.

Our Midtown neighborhood has that character plus a high walkability score, so I do just fine without a car—take today, for example. Given the size of our refrigerator, a daily stroll to the Grocery Outlet is routine. On the way to the store I stopped by the Goodwill to see if there was a grater for sale, not so much; but you would not believe the rack of wedding dresses!

Oh, for a bride.

Next stop: Old Soul, the neighborhood coffee roasterie, buderie, brewery, and bakery. Cool to the max with prices to match: $3.25 for a pour of coffee, $8.00 for a loaf of whole wheat bread!


So my $8.00 bread and I continued our errands, walked through the neighborhood to the Grocery Outlet, where we picked up an onion, a few carrots, a bag of candy corn, and strolled on home through the rose garden.


It’s that time of year, so buy some candy corn, some salted peanuts and get ready for a quick, easy, pre-Halloween snack.

Peanuts and candy corn

The taste of the finished dish will reflect the provenance of the ingredients and the ratio of candy corn to peanuts. My friend RA (expert on all things candy corn), recommends using this year’s corn crop; my daughter Bridget, who gave me this recipe, uses Costco’s tinned salted peanuts; and I would never buy candy corn packaged in a cellophane bag, sealed with a twist tie. (Look for those telling broken white kernel tips at the bottom of the sack.) The quality of candy corn bought from a bulk bin is inconsistent and should be used with reservations.

1 part local, farm-to-table, sustainably-grown candy corn
1 part Costco tinned, salted peanuts (jarred Planters can be used in an emergency)

Shake candy corn gently into an upturned palm, shake equal amount of peanuts into the same palm. Consume in one shot or pair individual pieces, as desired.

For large groups, pour 1 part candy corn into bowl, add equal amount of peanuts, stir to mix, and serve.

TJ update—just read that there is candy-corn flavored popcorn!

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Farmers markets: Stir-fried eggplant and peppers

In 1986, I loved going to work on Wednesdays. At 6:00 am, Dennis, City Restaurant’s night chef, would meet me at the fish counter at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Open since 1981, the market had a reputation among Los Angeles chefs as the place to go for the best local seafood and seasonal produce. Dennis decided what seafood to serve that night, we ate a steamed pork bun, picked out fruit for the “Tart of the Day,” then we would swing by Guss Meats for a box of French poussin and be unloading at the restaurant’s alley door by 7:30.

A few hears ago, the Sweetie and I went back to the Santa Monica market and it was unrecognizable—crowds of strollers (both mechanical and human), no pork buns, lots of food trucks, and artisan everything—still enjoyable but lacking the urgent quest for products both affordable and sellable. Maybe the urgency happens at dawn, not in the afternoon.

When I was eating pork buns at the Santa Monica Market in 1986, the Eugene Saturday Market, my next favorite, had already been in business for fifteen years. A product of the rambunctious 1970s, the Saturday Market has something for everyone. You can buy tie-died underwear, precious gemstone jewelry, artwork, basketry, healing-arts products, toys, Christmas ornaments, and, oh yes, blocks of locally grown vegetables. 


Now, for my latest excursion into farmers markets, Sacramento’s Sunday Asian Market: no-frills, no artisan, no fish, no music, no snacks—an opportunity to buy, not only green beans, zucchini and tomatoes, but heaps of strange looking produce in colorful mounds. This is combat shopping for sure. Not a place for toddlers, pets, or looky-loos. No lollygagging please, just march ahead, eyes forward, feet moving, cash at the ready. Watch out for sharp, metal carts pushed by older women who are reaching for the same eggplant you have your eye on.


Stir fried eggplant and peppers, Martha Rose Shulman for the New York Times

  • 1 pound Asian eggplant
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil, rice bran oil or canola oil
  • ½ pound firm tofu, cut in 1/2-inch squares and drained on paper towels
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 bell peppers of varying colors
  • 1 Anaheim pepper
  • Salt to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score down to but not through the skin. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil, lightly oil the foil and place the eggplant on it, cut side down. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin begins to shrivel. Remove from the oven, allow to cool until you can handle it, and cut in half along the score down the middle of each half, then into 1/2-inch slices
  2. Combine the rice wine or sherry, the hoisin sauce and soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside
  3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch steel skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil and add the tofu. Let it sit in the pan for about 30 seconds, until it begins to sear, then stir-fry for about 2 minutes, until lightly colored. Transfer to a plate
  4. Swirl in the remaining oil, then add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and stir-fry for no more than 10 seconds. Add the peppers and eggplant, sprinkle with salt to taste and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Return the tofu to the wok, add the hoisin sauce mixture and stir-fry for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the eggplant is tender and infused with the sauce and the peppers are crisp-tender. Remove from the heat and serve with rice, grains or noodles
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