He Jumps

By Lisa

Finn does not sit still. Not much.  Unless there is a pile of Lego in front of him, or a build-your-own remote control robot arm, or a book of 888 1/2 facts about the Titanic. Then, he is immoveable. But other times? He jumps, he squirms, he dances, he rolls, he hops. He runs, skates, and twirls. He giggles and climbs. He falls. He is all energy, all the time. He is my exuberant one, buoying the spirits of the house.

In his honor: Chicken Saltimbocca. It means jumps in your mouth. It jumped in his mouth.  He sat still. He ate.

Chicken Saltimbocca

  • 4 chicken cutlets, pounded very thin
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • 4 sage leaves
  • Butter for frying
  1. Pound each chicken cutlet until it is very flat and thin.
  2. Cover each cutlet with one slice of prosciutto and one sage leaf. Fasten meat and sage to cutlet with a tootpick.
  3. In a heavy frying pan, melt 2-3 tables spoons of butter.
  4. When foaming subsides, cook chicken, prosciutto side down, until chicken is mostly cooked through and lightly browned. About 3 minutes.
  5. Turn chicken over and finish cooking. 1-2 minutes.
  6. Remove from pan and place on warm platter.
  7. Deglaze pan with wine and reduce by about half. Pour deglazing sauce over chicken & serve immediately.

Fajitas. Fast.

By Lisa

While Caroline is out of town at the annual AWP conference, enjoying drinks and such at Frontera grill, I am home, sampling Rick Bayless’ prepackaged goodness with my family.

That I chose this pack of skillet sauce off the shelf of the market the same day that Caroline was enjoying the real thing is either a) sheer coincidence or b) proof that after years of working together, we’ve achieved mind meld.

Or you could say I bought the sauce because I broke the first cardinal rule of grocery shopping:

1) NEVER shop while hungry.

My lapse led me to purchase, in quick succession:

  • “fajita” meat (precut strip steak. Dumb. I know. )
  • Frontera Fajita sauce

Then I went to the Mexican market for the rice my son loves but which I have never been able to make successfully.  Driven by falling blood sugar mania, I left that market with:

  • Mexican rice
  • Fresh refried Pinto beans
  • Whole Pinto beans
  • Al pastor (but that is another story…)

Which left me with all the fixings for a really fast, festive dinner.

Cabbage salad, fajita meat with peppers and onions, Mexican rice, guacamole, whole pintos, refried pintos, salsa, lime, fresh corn tortillas

My daughter, the ranking carnivore of our family, whose love for hamburgers is surpassed only by her love for carne asada, gobbled up the meat. And then she ate all the leftovers the next night.  And asked for the same thing the night after that.  I had to draw the line somewhere.

Which is to say: my quest to simplify my cooking life continues, and this night was an unqualified success.  I can add to the list of Things I’m Okay With Feeding My Family:  Meals cobbled together with some fresh foods, some premade foods, some packaged products.

Horseradish Cheddar Fondue

By Lisa

If you ask my kids, they will tell you their favorite restaurant is the Melting Pot, a chain of fondue restaurants.  Everything I wrote almost exactly one year ago remains true.  Yet in spite of the price, we have eaten there three times this year.  We didn’t anticipate that our promise to celebrate certain accomplishments would become  such an expensive one.

So, Santa thought it was time to leave a fondue pot for the family, which we used almost immediately to inaugurate a new tradition:  New Years Eve Fondue.

We all helped prep: cutting bread and dipping vegetables and apples and setting them on the table on small bowls. grating cheese in the food processor; chopping and measuring the aromatics and liquid; covering the table in butcher paper and then setting it.

Everything ready to go

We have the Cuisnart electric fondue pot, so when everything was prepped, we brought the ingredients right to the table to cook.  The pot gets up to temperature almost immediately, so if you have your prep under control, this is a very fast dinner, one you could even do on a busy weeknight. The fondue comes together in less than ten minutes, even if you make, like we did, enough fondue to feed a small regiment of Swiss gendarmes.

We took turns with the cooking: I sauteed the garlic, kids added the beer, then we all  added handfuls of cheese, the aromatics, and stirred until the fondue came together.

Then we ate.

It was one of the most pleasant, easy meals we’ve had this season. I reckon we’ll save about $600 a year in restaurant bills. There’s something about cooking together over a single pot, then eating out of a communal bowl that brings our family together in the way no other meal can. (True, the sticks help.)  I think the next time an ugly conflict rears it’s head, or I need a good bribe reward, I might suggest fondue for dinner and all will be well.  Really, it’s like family therapy.

Horseradish Cheddar Fondue

Makes enough for at least 8 hungry people, so adjust accordingly. Follow the directions on your fondue pot for cooking and warming.

  • 1 1/2 lbs mild cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups beer (we like Stella Artois)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 minced clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish mustard
  • 1-2 dashes tabasco

Ideas for dipping:

  • bread cubes
  • carrots
  • broccoli (lightly steamed if you prefer)
  • mild pre-cooked sausage
  • fennel and/or celery
  • apple wedges, cut in half
  1. Toss shredded cheese with corn starch and set aside.
  2. Saute garlic quickly in melted butter.
  3. Add beer and bring to a gentle simmer.
  4. Slowly add in cheese, stirring to melt evenly.
  5. Add mustard and tabasco.
  6. Serve immediately.

Igloo Meatloaf

By Lisa

Last week, when I made this chive meatloaf, I made double.  I rolled and froze the second batch, and took it out last night for a quick dinner. I baked it in our convection oven on the self-timer early in the day, around 3 pm.

But I also had mashed potatoes left over, and so when the meatloaf had cooked and cooled, I molded the potatoe into a little igloo over the loaf. I used my hands. Then, I suddenly remembered something from my childhood. Cheese in mashed potatoes ? Cheese on twice-baked potatoes?  I quickly dumped some grated cheddar and monterey jack all over the potatoes, then baked everything at 350 degrees for 2-25 minutes.

The cheese crust turned golden and slightly crispy, and the kids were a little baffled, but then they tasted it and thought it was one of the best things ever.  Finn ate two helpings and Ella just kept saying, “These potatoes are so good.” And she’s not much of a potato eater. Really, it’s the definition of comfort food, and it made for a very happy, easy dinner.  In fact, the only thing more fun for the kids than this, which they thought was a totally new meal, was playing Finn’s new game, “Who Am I?” while they ate.

In this case, he is most definitely not what he is eating.


By Lisa

One of the contributors to our book, which is just a few weeks away from being sent to the publisher (!), is Jeff Gordinier. He’s written for a lot of places, but these days he makes his home at the Dining Section of the New York Times. He recently sent me a link about harvesting walnuts in France.

It’s a beautiful post, and as I read it, it made me happy to know that we, too, so far from France and big, sustainable gardens, also had a big bowl of walnuts, a bowl for shells, and a cracker out on our counter.  Of course, we don’t harvest the nuts ourselves, but we do get them fresh from an orchard that’s about an hour away from where we live, and every year we say the same thing: We can’t believe how good they are. Fresh, flavorful, tender, sweet.  Our whole family eats them all day long.  A nut here, a nut there, they’re like little nuggets of fall. Ella will crack a few while she’s waiting for breakfast. Finn will ask if he can some after lunch.  (I always say yes.) I’ll have some before dinner.  The shells are thin and easy to crack. The nuts are so solid and compact, and they make little musical clicks as we sort them.  Really, everything about them sings.  They’re a fast, healthy snack that you have work a little for, which isn’t a bad thing. And for me, because we only have them this time of year, they’re just one more thing that reminds us of the present moment. That, and the nefarious way a certain medley of carols keeps being sung over, and over, and over….