A Bad-Good Day

by Caroline

When my friend Ursula moved to Portugal for a year and said she had room for us all to come stay, I started looking into airfares. When she started posting pictures of Portuguese pastry on her website, I booked the tickets. She wrote me about her favorite pastry shop in Lisbon, and said we could stop in on our way home from the airport.

Now I happen to think that all food is stories, but the story behind Pasteis de Belem is a particularly good one, involving nuns and a secret recipe over two hundred years old.

There was no way I was missing a trip to this bakery. But our flight arrived too late in the afternoon to go out for what’s really a morning pastry snack, and besides, there was a medieval fair to attend. We kept the pastry shop high on the to-do list and went to bed.

Not many hours later, Ben appeared at the side of my bed. Before I could even think to curse the jet lag which I assumed had woken him, his face startled me wide awake. He was grimacing in pain, sweaty, crying. He clutched his left side and moaned as he crawled in next to me. I thought at first that he’d gotten sick from his candy apple dinner the night before, but he insisted it wasn’t his stomach, but a spot lower down, on the left. I flashed to countless readings of Madeleine and Tony googled “appendicitis,” which confirmed everything we were witnessing. I woke Ursula, and her husband drove us into Lisbon, quiet in the pre-dawn hours, to visit the pediatric ER.

And this is where the story suddenly improves. Not just because the walls of the ER were painted with a space theme that delighted my child, and not because the wonderful doctor addressed herself, in perfect English, directly to Ben as she examined him carefully, but because somehow his symptoms all disappeared. Two hours later, instead of sitting by a hospital bed while Ben recovered from an appendectomy, we were sitting in the just-opened, nearly empty Pasteis de Belem, enjoying a sleepy but amazingly delicious breakfast:

The pastry is like a cross between phyllo and pie crust, incredibly light, buttery and flakey, while the egg custard filling is light and not very sweet; the pasteis are served with shakers of cinnamon and powdered sugar (if you get the pastry to go, you’re given perfect little packets of the toppings). They look a little burned on top from being run under a broiler, which just caramelizes the sugar in the filling and gives the pastry topping an unexpected extra crunch. We ate plates full at the bakery, took more home to the rest of the family, and then resumed our vacation, just so grateful that we could.

after the ER

Farm Morning

by Caroline

Henry James famously wrote that “summer afternoon” were the two most beautiful words in the English language, but to me, the words “farm breakfast” are equally sweet and evocative. They make me remember childhood Saturday mornings spent rereading Farmer Boy‘s descriptions of maple sugar pancake stacks, or my mom’s stories of summer mornings on her uncle’s dairy farm, where breakfast often included leftover peach or strawberry pie with soft whipped cream. “Farm breakfast” means fresh, abundant, filling.

When we were in Illinois last month, friends mentioned that a local farm puts on a regular Saturday breakfast; maybe we would be interested in going? Yes, we would! And so we made our way to Prairie Fruits Farm, where they raise goats and fruit, for a lovely breakfast of goat milk and goat cheese goodies: strata with chard, caramelized onions and goat cheese; walnut spice coffee cake; lemon cake; Mexican hot chocolate made with goat milk.

Somehow I failed to get any pictures of the food (or even the menu), but trust me when I say it was delicious, and afterwards we spent plenty of time outside thanking the goats:

Weekend Waffles

by Lisa


birthday flowers, whipped cream, maple syrup, blueberries…

Generally speaking, I’m not in charge of breakfast, and I prefer pancakes to waffles. This is not so true of my husband, who loves waffles, and who counted a waffle maker among the very few kitchen machines in his bachelor home.  He made waffles pretty regularly (from a mix, yes, but he still made the effort).

However, about a week ago, the kids requested waffles, and I found a Fanny Farmer recipe for Raised Waffles at Epicurious.  It’s an interesting recipe that calls for yeast (which we always have) instead of buttermilk (which we don’t).  Also, the griddle cakes we are devoted to are also a Fanny Farmer recipe, so I figured this one had to be a hit as well. And it is. These are incredibly light, not too sweet, and perfectly tender and crisp when they come off the waffle iron.  Ella asked for her dad’s “special platter”, which the waffles certainly deserve.


They are very, very, very easy to make, and like the English muffins, they have the benefit of being a make-ahead meal.  I don’t really like to make an effort in the morning.  But for these waffle, you make the better the night before, let it rise, then add 2 eggs and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in the morning. And, voila! They’re ready to go.  There’s no mess (unless you overfill the waffle maker), no flour to sweep up, no extra baking tools to wash in the morning.  Apparently the batter will keep in your refrigerator for a few days, but we just make the big batch all at once, and then reheat the waffles in our convection oven for  school days. The only down side is that, like all fresh waffles, you have to make them one at a time, and this can take time. But I sit on a tall stool, and baby sit the waffle maker while my family eats them hot. I’m very happy with my coffee, talking to them (we have an open kitchen), and by the time the last is done, I’m fully caffeinated and ready to eat. As far as I’m concerned, it’s win-win.

The first time we made them, we had leftover whipped cream and frozen blueberries, so they went on the table. This was a very. big. hit.  Kids + waffles + blueberries + whipped cream=fruity, creamy waffles sandwiches for breakfast.  We’ve made them twice now, so I can safely say that the waffle maker Kory insisted on registering for when we married will have a more regular place in our slow-food breakfast rotation.

Hop on over to Epicurious for the recipe.  You won’t need another one. And as long as you can dust off, or buy, a waffle maker, you definitely don’t need frozen.


Homemade English Muffins

by Lisa


I don’t bake nearly as frequently nor with as much passion as Caroline or finesse as my husband, but I do go on baking sprees, and this holiday vacation was no exception.  Inspired by discovering my family’s love of English Muffins, and a few great blog posts, I decided to bake my own.
For one thing, I buy English muffins about once a year. I think they’re delicious but expensive, and it just doesn’t make sense to me to keep them in the house with any regularity.  But the kids decided they loved them a week ago, so….

I rounded up several recipes, made two batches, by which process I landed on the one below.  Don’t be fooled. It is very, very, very simple. And fast.  And, to my very great surprise, forgiving. I had neither bread flour, nor a kitchen scale with which to weigh the dry ingredients, and the results were amazing.   I basically eyeballed the flour, and ended up adding enough to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Other than that rather egregious digression, I followed the recipe from Winos and Foodies exactly (which I found linked on Becks & Posh).

You can mix the dough on a Friday or Saturday evening, let it rise on the counter overnight, and finish it in the morning.  It takes a short second rise (don’t leave out the part where you cover the muffins with another tray; it keeps them from overrising) and a slow cooking on a low griddle, so it’s probably not ideal for a weekday. But it’s very amenable to weekend morning and much less mess than pancakes or waffles….

The recipe produces a very soft, but dense, nook-and-cranny filled delight.   You can make a double batche on the weekend, fork split them, and keep them in your freezer (if they last that long).

english muffin

English Muffins

from Winos and Foodies

  • 2 teaspoons dried yeast granules (I used a full packet)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 250ml warm water
  • 125ml warm milk
  • 350g high grade flour (or bread flour)
  • 100g standard flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fine cornmeal
  1. Put the yeast and sugar in a small bowl with half the warm water. Stir and set aside for a few minutes, then add the remaining water and the milk.
  2. Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and use your hand to mix in the yeast, water and milk mixture. Knead the mixture which will be sticky, thoroughly in the bowl (or use the dough hook of an electric mixer).
  3. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise until more than doubled in bulk. Although this may take only a couple of hours, the dough can be allowed to rise overnight.
  4. Deflate the dough by pulling it away from the sides of the bowl. Lift it out of the bowl and divide into 8 pieces.
  5. Drop each piece on to a tray liberally dusted with rice flour or fine cornmeal and roll them over until well coated.
  6. Form each piece into a thick disc.
  7. Place the disks on a baking tray and place another tray on top.
  8. Leave to rest and rise 20 minutes, then remove top tray.
  9. Place a  cast iron griddle or large frying pan over low heat.
  10. When only moderately hot place four of the muffins on it and cook for about ten minutes until light beige on the bottom.
  11. Turn the muffins over and cook the second side for a similar length of time.
  12. Wrap the cooked muffins in a dry tea towel while you cook the remaining four.
  13. Pull apart or fork split and eat while still warm.
  14. For toasting pull the muffins apart and toast on both sides.

Breakfast Alone

By Lisa

In the rush to write all about how I haven’t been cooking, I forgot one very important meal:  Breakfast.

It’s not unheard of that the kids, these days, will serve themselves breakfast alone. They do a good job of selecting cereal, bagels, milk, juice, fruit–whatever they can find that strikes their fancy. Sometimes, they actually get fancy and set the breakfast trays up in the living room and have a TV picnic breakfast while we sleep in.  There’s generally not too much mess.

But there are times, too, when I’ve set out a special breakfast, and on Thanksgiving, I decided to combine the two (special breakfast + breakfast alone) and pronounce it a new tradition.

I made a fresh batch of apple cider from granny smith apples in our extremely efficient juicer (which I won in a giveway on Foodbuzz.  See the sidebar on our blog). It was bright green and crisply tart and delicious at first, when it was freshly squeezed/pressed/frothed, but then it mellowed to that familiar amber color and was still delicious.


I made cornbread (from a really good box mix at Trader Joes, and lest you protest, remember this was the weekend of not cooking), boiled eggs (which both children would both live on if they could) and set out a bowl of pineapple guavas, a small cup of strawberries, and a plate of fuyu persimmons.  I set the table, and in the morning, they ate like little hungry pilgrims, and we slept in.


It’s easy enough to do something like this every once in a while. It gives the kids a feeling of autonomy, of being treated specially, of choice.  We don’t have to talk about what it gives the grown-ups.