Thousand Island Dressing

by Lisa

It’s a snack food, a packable lunch dish, a side dish, an appetizer, an all around helpful thing to have in your kitchen. It’s lightening fast to make. It’s completely addictive.  It’s a way of getting your kids to eat more raw vegetables.  And even you won’t be able to stop eating it with salads, with crudite, for lunch, before dinner, after school. Even if you don’t like the bottled stuff, try this.  There’s no comparison. And there’s nothing like having a big batch of something healthy to pull out and feed the kids when they’re begging for food and dinner isn’t quite ready.

I dug up this recipe a few years ago, and while we don’t always have it the refrigerator, it’s the kind of thing that the kids suddenly remember and beg for. Last week it was Finn’s turn to remember that “pink dipping sauce” and so I made it. I had half a head of iceberg lettuce in the refrigerator, left over from fish tacos the night before, and we whipped up a batch of dressing, and it has lasted us all week.   I served it to them first over wedges of lettuce, which Finn thought was just about the best thing ever.

The recipe makes a lot, but it keeps really well (even gets better as the flavors blend), so we portion it out all week long, mostly with carrots and celery, which I precut and keep in the refrigerator.

The original recipe is here. My only change is to substitute ketchup for chili sauce and add a dash of tabasco (or more or less to your taste).  I usually don’t have pimentos, so I often leave them out, but when I’m short on pickles I’ve thrown in a few pimento  stuffed olives; you can leave out the egg, but it’s much better with it in.

Homemade Thousand Island dressing

  • 1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup chopped drained pimiento
  • 1 large hard-boiled egg, shelled, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped dill pickle
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
  • Tabasco or other Hot pepper sauce

Road Food

by Caroline

There’s nothing like a road trip to create some powerful family food memories. It’s been about forty years, but everyone in my family still remembers our road trip from Tokyo to the mountain village of Nojiri and our stop at a roadside stand for snacks. My oldest brother picked out what he thought was a fudgsicle; he innocently unwrapped the package, eagerly took a bite, and quickly discovered it was, in fact, frozen bean paste. None of us has ever looked at a fudgsicle with quite the same pure anticipation again.

Happily, my family’s recent road trip didn’t create any such searing memories. The place we stay in Yosemite doesn’t have great food, but we know that and know how to deal with it: we pack a lot of snacks. We pack everything we need for 3 days of breakfasts and lunches and we pick our way carefully through the over-priced and mediocre dinner menu, knowing that the experience of sledding and skating and swimming twice a day among some of the world’s most beautiful mountains can almost make up for the lack of a nice dinner (a decent glass of wine helps the adults; coloring pages and more dessert than usual help the kids, who were served, at our low point, an astonishing bowl of spaghetti that was somehow both burned and mushy).

In the past, we made our Yosemite trip with another family. The first year, without any advance food planning, we discovered we’d brought terrifically complimentary groceries: we had crackers, they had cheese; we had dried fruit, they had nuts; we had carrots, they had hummus. Last year, we coordinated to take full advantage of the small hotel fridges; I think they even brought a toaster oven. This year, with our friends now living in India, we went on our own and I had to be more strategic than usual, but you can see how I managed to get the fridge stuffed (that’s a banana bread wrapped in the foil, and a big lentil/Israeli couscous salad in the plastic tub underneath it). I kept the freezer full of powerballs and frozen berries.

When it was time to leave the mountains for the second half of our road trip, we still had plenty of sandwich fixings, salad, dried fruit and crackers to get us through the miles, but still, it’s a road trip! We stopped for fries at In n’ Out and waved hello to the beach.

Classic Oatmeal Cookies

by Caroline

There is nothing remarkable about this cookie recipe except, perhaps, that I have been following it faithfully for over 35 years, and if you read this blog periodically or know me at all, you know that I am always tweaking recipes for baked goods. But why mess with a classic? This is the recipe in the Joy of Cooking, the recipe my mom taught me years ago, and although I don’t buy the same kind of oats anymore or bake cookies with my mom very often (though my dad and the boys bake cookies together now), when I want an oatmeal cookie, this is how I do it.

Preheat the oven to 350 and get the butter and eggs out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature.

Whisk together in a bowl:
1 3/4 c flour
3/4 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon

In another bowl, beat until well blended:
1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 t vanilla

Stir flour mixture into butter mixture until smooth.
Add 3 1/2 c old fashioned rolled oats
Add 1 c mini chocolate chips (ever since making those flourless peanut butter cookies, I’m using mini chocolate chips in all my cookies — a bit more chocolate in every bite!)

Scoop tablespoons-full of cookies onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, space them 2 inches apart, and bake for 6-9 minutes, rotating the pan for even browning.

Pear Bread

by Caroline

The other day I saw a bus ad quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson’s line, “There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.” I was so surprised to see Emerson’s words on the side of a bus that it took a while before I stopped to think how rarely, now, I hit on those ten minutes for myself. Eli is the pear guy in our house, and I watch our pears carefully to spot when they are just the right balance of crisp-ripe for him (a perfect Eli pear is ripe half a day or more before it is perfect for me). Inevitably, he can’t keep up with the ripe pears, I miss my moment, and the overripe pears go into bread that everybody can enjoy for days. This easy Joy of Cooking recipe is the best way I’ve found to extend the brief life of pears.

preheat the oven to 350
butter & flour an 8-cup loaf pan (9×5″)

Whisk together in a large bowl:
1 1/2 c flour
1 c sugar
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
3-6 T ground flax (optional; reduce the oil by 1 T for every 3 T of flax you use)

In another bowl, whisk together
1 egg
1/2 c vegetable oil (remember to reduce this if you’re using ground flax),
1 t vanilla
the zest and juice of one lemon
1 1/2 c peeled, grated ripe (or overripe) pears, with juice

1 c toasted chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

Add the flour mixture to the pear mixture and fold until dry ingredients are moistened. Add nuts, if using. Scrape into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool on a rack before removing from pan.

Christmas Candy: Salted Chocolate Pecan Toffee

by Caroline

In his recent New Yorker piece about cookbooks, Adam Gopnik writes, “…cookbooks have two overt passions right now: one is simplicity, the other is salt.” This recipe, originally published in Sunset magazine, offers both. The boiling sugar makes it a poor choice to make with the kids’ assistance; just let them stand back and watch in awe as you put more sticks of butter into one pot than they have ever seen you do before.

2 cups pecan halves
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 teaspoons fleur de sel or coarse sea salt

Have all the ingredients prepped and ready before you begin, because once the sugar reaches candy temperature, you need to move quickly. Also, keep a bowl of ice water near the stove just in case of accidents; sugar burns badly.

Preheat oven to 350°. Put pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted, about 8 minutes. When cool enough to handle, chop roughly. Divide into 2 batches; chop 1 batch finely. Set both batches aside.

chopped nuts

Put sugar, butter, salt, and 3/4 cup water in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. If you have any doubt about the size of your pan, go with a bigger one; you want to let the sugar bubble up quite a bit without having to worry about it boiling over.

bubbling butter

When butter and sugar are melted, increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is deep golden brown and measures 310° on a candy thermometer, about 20 minutes.
cooked sugar

Remove from heat and carefully stir in vanilla (mixture will bubble up, so stand back as you pour, and/or wear oven mitts, just in case) and finely chopped pecans. Pour into a 10- by 15-in. rimmed baking sheet.

cooling toffee

Let toffee cool until set, at least 30 minutes. (For even pieces, you can score the toffee by cutting it with a sharp knife after it has set for about 10 minutes, scoring into 5 strips lengthwise and 8 strips crosswise to yield 40 pieces. Wipe knife clean with warm water after each slice for easier cutting.)

Chop chocolate and melt gently in a double boiler (this is where I break out my late mother-in-law’s beautiful copper and ceramic double boiler), but a metal bowl set over a saucepan of water, or the microwave, both work just fine, too.

melting chocolate

Pour melted chocolate over toffee; spread evenly with a knife or offset spatula. Sprinkle the chocolate with roughly chopped pecans. Let sit 20 minutes, or until chocolate is cool but still a bit soft. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Chill until set, about 1 hour.


Gently twist the pan to release toffee, then chop or break into chunks. Store in the fridge, if it lasts that long.