Dad’s cooking

Pomegranate Clementine Kidtini

By Lisa

We have continued our tradition of kidtinis on these winter weekends, even though MadMen is no longer sustaining us.  The kids love them, and think their dad is famous because if you Google “kidtini drinks” the first hits are the recipes on this site:  The 7Up Kidtini, the Pomegranate Kidtini, and the one that started it all.    One of the latest was also one of the simplest and prettiest, and followed the basic rules of not-too-sweet, seasonal goodness for kids.

Pomegranate Clementine Kidtini

For each drink, pour into a durable martini glass:

  • Pomegranite soda or Seltzer + splash of pomegranite juice
  • A thin slice of clementine, floated on top

It’s true that these drinks are more style than substance, not unlike Esme Squalor’s Aqueous Martini (very, very cold water, served in a fancy glass, with an olive), but at our house, like those self-same villanous drinks, they continue to be very, very in.


Hickory Puffs

all three

My dad and sons added a new cookie to their repertoire this year, one I grew up with thanks to the nut-gathering efforts of my dad: hickory puffs. Now, most Californians don’t know about hickory nuts; the trees grow in New England and Wisconsin, and the nut shells are so hard and the nutmeat so small that they aren’t cultivated. Further, as my dad writes,

“Hickory trees are individualists. Some produce nuts every year, some only when they feel like it. Some produce nuts the size of a small baseball, some produce nuts more the size of a large marble, some are round in shape, some are oblong, some come down from the tree with a thick green husk, some come down after shedding the husk. If you don’t happen to have a hickory tree on your property, keep an eye out as you drive. Often the edge of the road will be littered with husks and nuts and you can stop and scoop them up, keeping a careful eye out for traffic. This is best done on a dirt road or one with a low volume of traffic. You will not find hickory nuts in your local market so you will need strong hunter-gatherer instincts for this step in the process.”

Sometime I’ll get the boys back east in the fall to involve them in the nut gathering, but for now, they are very good at the nut cookie-baking, and I can’t complain about that. If you aren’t lucky enough to have someone gather and shell hundreds of hickory nuts for you, you can use pecans.

Hickory Puffs

Preheat oven to 300º

Beat until soft:
½ cup butter

Add & blend until creamy
2 Tbs sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Measure, then grind in a nut grinder (or pulse in a food processor)
1 cup hickory meats (be sure to sort for stray shells!)

Sift before measuring
1 cup cake flour

Stir the hickory nuts and the flour into the butter mixture. Roll the dough into small balls. Place balls on parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes.

Roll while hot in
Confectioners’ sugar

To glaze, put the sheet back into the oven for a minute. Cool and serve, or store in a tightly covered tin.

Cooking with Granddad


We don’t have quite as many holiday food traditions as Lisa’s family — the meals always vary depending on whether we stay in California or travel east to my parents’ home — but one tradition that reaches back generations is, as in many families, cookie baking. My grandmother and mother kept tallies of the cookie count in the back pages of increasingly-tattered copies of Joy of Cooking, and now I do, too. I don’t produce as many cookies as my mom did in her heyday (when she hosted Christmas open houses for the entire church congregation and choir), but I like the history in the lists: 1998 (childless, newly partnered with Tony, and — most tellingly — in the thick of dissertation writing), I produced 11 different types of cookies; Christmas 2001 (the first year in our house) I made 10. The list for Christmas 2003 reads, “pneumonia, strep throat, bronchitis, and truffles.” Thank goodness for truffles!

A new tradition, and one I very happily encourage, is for my dad to make a couple batches of cookies with the kids. I don’t know quite how this started — probably just my dad wanted bourbon balls one year and realized that, despite the main ingredient, they are a terrifically kid-friendly, craft-project kind of cookie: smash vanilla wafers, mix with flavorings, scoop out balls, done — but the kids love it, of course. It’s fun to smash and mush. It’s fun to cook with Granddad. And it’s exciting to use such a grown-up ingredient as bourbon, and one which is adored by one of their favorite characters — Captain Haddock — in their beloved Tintin books.


The recipe is straight out of Joy of Cooking, with my comments:

Bourbon Balls
Sift (or not, depending on how much mess you can tolerate):
1 c confectioner’s sugar
2 T cocoa

In another bowl, whisk together
1/4 c bourbon
2 T light corn syrup

Smash, using either the food processor or in a resealable bag, with a rolling pin
2 1/2 cups vanilla wafers

Stir in
1 c coarsely chopped nuts (we use hickory nuts; more on those in another post)

Combine all the ingredients and roll into small balls. Roll in confectioner’s sugar and store at room temperature. They improve as they age.

Thanksgiving Favorites, Old and New: Kale Salad and Lemon-Parsley Stuffing

by Caroline

Like Lisa, I had a Thanksgiving without cooking, but my younger son and I were both too sick for me to be thankful for it. Instead, I was thankful for my sister’s oven repairman, and her own ability to produce several dozen of my mom’s wheat germ rolls, two pies, a pumpkin-ginger cheesecake, roasted vegetables, sweet potato casserole, sweet potatoes Anna, apple-chestnut stuffing, two kinds of cranberry sauce (including one with grapes, almonds and whipped cream that is surprisingly delicious), brussels sprouts with maple-glazed hickory nuts (nuts gathered and shelled by my dad) and, of course, a turkey. My husband made his family’s stuffing (recipe below) and all I did was ask for a couple bunches of fresh kale, which my husband chopped for me to turn into kale salad. It turned out to be a nice foil for the rich sweetness of the rest of the delicious meal, and I think it’ll become a regular part of the ever-expanding Thanksgiving menu.

The stuffing, a recipe from Tony’s grandmother, couldn’t be simpler, so I offer it as Tony dictated it to me:

Of course, it is an entirely eyeballed “recipe” …

several cups breadcrumbs
2-3 bunches, Italian Parsley, washed and chopped coarsely
zest of 2-3 lemons

Mix thoroughly while dry.

Add boiling hot vegetable stock to moisten thoroughly. Cover or serve immediately.

The kale salad is based on this recipe, but I tinker with it (reducing the number of ingredients and the steps involved), so here’s my version:

Combine in a large salad bowl:
2 bunches Tuscan kale (about a pound), center ribs and stems removed, leaves sliced thinly crosswise
2 handfuls dried cranberries
2 handfuls toasted sliced almonds

Mix together dressing ingredients:
2 T balsamic, red wine, or raspberry vinegar
1 T unseasoned rice vinegar
1 T honey
1 T olive oil
salt to taste

Toss the salad with the dressing, and let marinate for 20 minutes or so before serving.


by Lisa


The boy loved the chocolate card his sister made him, and his shiny new red bike, but most of all he craves one thing and one thing only:  LEGO.

I tell, you, the boy’s passion for the bricks surpasseth all else; the glory of a new kit transcends every earthly joy he has known thus far. In his fifth year, Finn has dedicated himself to the difficult discipline of interlocking  geometry and re-made himself into something of patient zen master. His room has become a shrine, the place he repairs to for the “quiet” he craves in which to build, and when he emerges, sometimes 4 hours later, it is with crazed but beatific look of a saint: utterly otherworldly and fanatically contented.


And so, we had no choice but to make the boy a LEGO cake for the LEGO birthday party he had with another friend.

He emerged from his domain long enough to help make the cake with his sister, which we did in a floury mess two days before.  We used the Devil Dog Cake from Smitten Kitchen,
which is a moist, chocolate cake with marshmallow filling and which, like all the Smitten Kitchen cakes, was terrific.


And Kory worked his magic the night before the party.


He did have a few WWDD moments (What Would Duff Do?), as squares are remarkably less forgiving than volcano shapes, and a less-moist cake would also have helped, but the end result was, well, you can see for yourself:


It was, as you can imagine, a huge hit with the 5 & under set. And at pick-up, their parents didn’t mind a small slice either.

The only problem is that between this and the Volcano Cake, the bar has been set.  There will be no rest for Kory until the kids can roll fondant on their own.