the change-your-life salad.

radicchio-fennel-and-olive-panzanella

Last Saturday I took BART through San Francisco, over the water to the East Bay. My wise and endearing and delightful friend Terry picked me up, and we drove backroads through the trees and sun and space to her house in the Moraga foothills.  The afternoon was hallowed, made by mere presence together; and because the HBH was hanging out with Cancan for the day, we talked when we wanted to talk, and we were quiet when we wanted to be quiet.  We made lunch together, and we sat wrapped in blankets under the northern California sun.  We questioned and we dreamed, we laughed and we felt, we soaked in the short two hours we had together.

And then we ate the most delicious salad of my life.  Perhaps it’s because I haven’t found my pregnancy jam yet – with Baby #1, I constantly kept a rotisserie chicken in fridge, breaking off hunks of meat whenever carnivorous hunger arose.  But as I think naturally happens when and if a second child in utero comes along, even though you’re utterly delighted at mere thought of chunky, beautiful, helpless babe entering this world, you’ve got other things on your mind.  You’re paying attention to your almost-two year old, chasing him around the house, hoping he doesn’t destroy the mini blinds any more than his sticky, pulling fingers have already done.  You’re writing and you’re hanging out with middle school kids; you’re reading and thinking and taking time for yourself.  You’re cooking food and you’re riding your bike in circles around the neighborhood, and you’re laughing and tickling and loving your Love.

So you barely notice when that little stomach-alien kicks you after a couple bites of the salad.  But then the kick-kick-kick grows in complexity and you begin to notice that he wants more radicchio and fennel, more salami and homemade croutons.   Regardless, you give him more.  You shove more salad into your mouth, you groan food-groans and you compliment your Terry-friend again, again.  Eventually you hop on BART again, but before your boys get home, you go by the store and you grab the ingredients for this change-your-life salad for dinner that evening.  And before you realize it, you’ve eaten nothing but “Radicchio, Fennel and Olive Panzanella” for lunch and dinner on Saturday, lunch and dinner on Sunday …and lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday.  In five days’ time, you’ve successfully eaten the same mixture of yumminess for six entire meals.

And you’re pretty sure you need to head to Lunardi’s again for the third head of radicchio bought in a lifetime, this very week.  So while I’m no food blogger, let me enrich your day with the following meal, straight from Bon Appetit magazine:

IMG_3357

*Note: I substituted shaved parmesan for aged sheep’s-milk cheese, simply because I couldn’t find it in the store.

xo, c.

So, what about you?  Do you have a tendency to dive head-first into a salad, a song, a book you love without coming up for air?  Do share and have a great weekend!

mullets and foodies (vlog).

Friendlies:

I’m not sure how it’s happened two weeks’ in a row, but I’ve got two five-star reviews for you, two weeks in a row.  It’s an October miracle!  This food memoir trumps French Women Don’t Get Fat, the first foodie-book vlogged about, by about one million miles.   The book?  A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg – and if it doesn’t make you want to embrace your kitchen like never before, well, then Amazon will surely give you your money back.

Maybe.

Enjoy!

What about you?  Have you read Wizenberg’s book, and are you on the look out for her second book, coming out this spring?  More importantly, how have you embraced your own homemade life?

This post contains a link to Amazon, so if you click on the aforementioned link and buy the book, you inadvertently support my reading habits, and therefore this blog.  Thank you!

cheesy egg rice (secret’s out).

Photo cred: kval.
Photo cred: kval.

There are some foods that scream Keizer, Oregon 97303 to me – the city, state and zip code of which I grew up in.  I picture our little house in the center of town, on Menlo Drive North, and the kitchen that was the center of all activity.  Mom purposefully made it her goal to be home by the time we arrived home from school each day, where magically, fresh-baked cookies and cold glasses of milk sat ready and waiting for us on the crowded, lived-in countertop.  Then – without a moment to rest, I now realize – mere hours later, she’d prepare dinner, and more often than not, we’d then sit down to a home-cooked meal as a family.  We’d gather around the dining room table, MacGruff the Crime Dog (basset hound) hopeful for droppings at the shag carpet’s edge, while Tom Brokaw via the NBC Nightly News, joined in across the room as our ever-present sixth guest.

We had our family favorites: sticky spareribs with creamy, buttery mashed potatoes, and tacos with all the fixins’ on the Lazy Susan in the center of the table.  We’d close our eyes and let the steam from bowls of soup – clam chowder and taco soup and split pea soup, to name a few – naturally hydrate our faces, and we kids would vie for the “alone” seat, the one that didn’t involve bumping elbows with a sibling, that came with an extra foot and a half of room on our right and on our left.

Oh, to have the alone seat now.  

And while Mom’s recipes – the ones she knows by heart, the ones we ask for on visits home – are enough to give The Pioneer Woman a run for her money, today I was reminded of Sunday mornings.  Because, you see, breakfast was Dad’s speciality, and although we kids didn’t partake of his early morning kitchen excursions on the weekdays, he’d forfeit his tummy rumblings for a couple of hours on those 6th and 7th days so that we could join in the feast.  With Muppet Babies dominating the television screen, our noses would catch wafts of deliciously rich breakfast food: Swedish pancakes and eggs Benedict, buttermilk waffles and biscuits and gravy, cheesy egg rice and, lest we forget, omelets.

Photo cred: Jersey Mike's.
Photo cred: Jersey Mike’s.

See, here’s what you need to know about my father: the man takes pride in his breakfast repertoire, so much so, that at an all-church campout, circa the early 90’s, he was not above making individually tailored omelets for 25, 30 people.  Two eggs or three?  Not a problem.  Bacon or ham?  Done.  And [pause] …would you like Secret Sauce on your omelet?  There is nothing his breakfast skills can’t handle.

I too have inherited a love of all things Breakfast.  And whether it’s because I found myself enthralled and delighted by Molly Wizenberg‘s A Homemade Life this past weekend, or because Auntie just happened to have leftover Chinese rice from last night’s dinner ready and waiting for me in the fridge this morning, I tasted my childhood again.  His omelets might be considered life-changing, I’ll hand that to him, but cheesy egg rice?  That was his, for it represents roots of our family tree, tracing back to his childhood and the way Grandpa Mac used to make it, and how this simple, substantial meal gives us just enough, for our tummies and our hearts and our souls.

So friends, the secret’s out: cheesy egg rice is a game-changer.  I’m so glad a saved a piece for this afternoon’s snack.  Enjoy.  

Cheesy Egg Rice

Ingredients:

*1 cup cooked white/brown rice (cold and/or refrigerated is best)

*4 eggs

*1/2 cup grated cheese

*salt & pepper

Pour a tablespoon of canola oil into a pan on medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, dump leftover rice into the pan, and fry until the rice is nice and crispy (8-10 minutes, or until desired level of crispiness).  Believe you me, the crispier the rice, the better the end result!  Meanwhile, crack four eggs into a medium-sized bowl, whisk until blended, and stir in cheese.  Then, when your rise is crisp, pour the egg-cheese mixture over the top, spreading evenly, and then sprinkle salt and pepper over it all.  Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the eggs are cooked to your liking.  Serve with salsa and sour cream (or whatever topping you like best).  Enjoy!

[You might find that you like more cheese, or less egg or brown rice – do whatever you’d like.  It’s not rocket science, it’s just yummy.]

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go rescue that lone piece of cheesy egg rice out of the fridge.  But what about you?  Do you have a favorite family meal that you just can’t get enough of?  Do share!  

i am from.

Photo cred: SheLoves Magazine.
Photo cred: SheLoves Magazine.

I am from loud.  

I am from laughter and snorts and shouts and yells; I am from Saturday morning cartoons, loud, and Paul Harvey on weekday mornings, louder, and the clanging of pots and pans in the kitchen, loudest.  I am from impassioned conversation.

I am from faith.  

I am from the little Baptist church, and I am from The Old Rugged Cross and I am from It Is Well.  I am from baptism and holy candles, and I am from Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings.  I am from the uttering of thankfulness before each night’s dinner.

I am from music.  

I am from pianos and trombones and trumpets and flutes.  I am from the harmony and melody of each song, and I am from evoked heart palpitations felt all the way down to my toes.

I am from food.  

I am from crab and butter and bread for Christmas Eve dinner, and I am from oatmeal cookies, steamy and gooey and golden.  I am from glasses of milk and I am from sticky spareribs and I am from recipes remembered rote.

I am from rain.  

I am from gray skies and drizzle, from raincoats without umbrellas.  I am from huddling beside the fire with a book and I am from staying indoors, because we have to, because we can.  I am from gratefulness of the peeping slice of sun.  

I am from heart.  

I am from enveloping hugs and holy kisses.  I am from snuggles on the couch and I am from goodnight blankets: snug as a bug in a rug.  I am from being loved, always, always, and I am from loving in return.

I am from determinism.  

I am from achievement, I am from goals.  I am from setting the stakes high, and I am from provision.  I am from you can do anything you set your mind to, but mostly I am from I believe in you.  I am from empowerment.

This I am from.  

These things I am.  

What about you?  If you were to answer the question, “I am from,” where would you say you are from?  Linking up with SheLoves Magazine today – alas, I didn’t use the template, as instructed, simply because I didn’t click on the template until after writing today’s post.  Oops!  What does that say about me?  Don’t answer that question.

Celebrating summer (& want to write?)

Photo cred: HD Wallpaper Pics.
Photo cred: HD Wallpaper Pics.

That big, bright yellow ball in the sky has begun to show face here in San Francisco lately, which is a rarity in itself, given the normal June Gloom – so how else am I to respond than to quickly slam the laptop shut and embrace summer in all its glory?

As one should.

Road trips and visits to family and hotel overnights are on the calendar, and the fridge is stocked with ample fruits and veggies, more than the normal bounty; the TV is off (but for Real Housewives of Orange County, what can I say?), and the stack of books to my right seems to be growing, not depleting.

My old roommate Amanda thrived on the fullness of fall – she loved the oranges and yellows, the crisp bite in the air that beckoned for sweaters and scarves and a cup of hot chocolate in hand, and with giddy excitement she welcomed her favorite viewing pastime, football.  She was one of those bonafide, I-truly-love-the-pigskin type of girls, which perhaps is why she married one of Frosty’s boys turned coach himself. (But maybe also because Jess is kind of the bee’s knees, and really, really loves her in return).

But me?

Give me sunshine and perfect, 80 degree weather that beckons me to don the sunblock every hour on the hour.

Give me squishy sand to crumble beneath my toes, and a book that forever smells like campfire because that’s where you read it last, and that’s where you’ll remember it, always.

Give me sweat and camping and long, long walks with blisters that take two weeks to heal; give me mosquito bites and backyard BBQ’s and heirloom tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, daily.

Give me floppy sun hats and tank tops and brightly painted toes; give me a cold glass of Chardonnay and another Madeleine L’Engle book (because it is, after all, The Summer of Madeleine).

So, here on the blog, we’re going to celebrate summer in the best way we know how: with stories and memories of past and present, soaking in the fullness of this perfect, favorite season.

List a memory or two in the comments, or better yet, answer this question: what’s your favorite childhood summer memory?  E-mail your response (between 500-700 words, preferably) to caramac54@gmail.com by Friday, July 12th, and I’ll publish my favorites on the blog through August.  

And I’ll throw in a few of my favorite summertime memories as well …because I can.

Summertime, we welcome you!

when in rome…

And when the parentals are in town, do as the parents would do.

Well, mostly.  Kind of.  Sorta.

So far we’ve been cheering on the graduate (uh, that’s me):

Thanks, cheering squad!  Love the Master of Theology herself.
Thanks, cheering squad! Love the Master of Theology herself.

And celebrating fathers, via rib eye on the grill and Auntie’s famous lemon meringue and kind words to boot…

The HBH just gained a new holiday!
The HBH just gained a new holiday!

And we’ve done those things you’re supposed to do when Papa and Grammie are in town, like pay an exorbitant amount of money to see caged animals in their semi-natural environment: we’ve gone to the zoo.

Cancan's favorite part: his own free tractor ride in the children's petting zoo area.  Score!
Cancan’s favorite part: his own free tractor ride in the children’s petting zoo area. Score!

So as we get ready to celebrate one last night of life together, with gorgonzola burgers and roasted beets and cold, clinking glasses of Chardonnay to boot, I’m going to go practice being.  

With them.

xo, c.

Bread & Wine, Part II

I used to have two clutch questions I’d ask kids after we got back from a week at Young Life camp. Sitting over an iced white chocolate americano with room, I’d first ask them this: think back about our week – describe to me your perfect snapshot moment of a memory. [I know, total former English teacher move; quick, the five senses!]. And what a perfect picture their mind would paint! Then I’d look them in the eyes and ask them this: how are you different now than when you stepped on the bus two weeks ago? I’m asking those same “camp” questions with Shauna Niequist’s new book, Bread & Wine.

Buy it.  Savor it.  Capture your own moment in it.
Buy it. Savor it. Capture your own moment in it.

A good book changes you. It makes you think differently and act accordingly; you question your own norms – why you do what you’ve always done – and you make a small change here, you tap into a different belief there. Like Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet before it, Shauna’s easy, conversational writing style is also one of truth-telling power; and beckoning the reader in, we too are invited into action. So, how did this book change me?

It’s prompted me to…

1. Pick up a cookbook and read it like a good novel. [Up next for me: Giada’s Family Dinners.]

2. Be comfortable in my own skin.

3. Tell stories. Tell lots and lots of stories.

4. Let others in, even on a weeknight.

5. Have that go-to drop-off meal; for Shauna, it’s enchiladas. For me, it’s a brown rice-crust “everything but the kitchen sink” quiche.

6. Experiment. Substitute. Make it my own.

7. (And God said…), Let there be spit-up on the floor.

8. Keep on eating the leftovers. And I thought I was the only one.

9. Plant a garden. [Shauna doesn’t really plant a garden in her book, but as my auntie said the other day, “Honey, you’ve got Farmer in your blood.” I’m starting small, but beets, carrots and strawberries, here we come!]

10. Be a brave truth-teller.

11. Slurp up metaphors and similes like they’re going out of style.

12. Find weekly go-to meals.

13. Live a life of passion and daring.

14. Remember that real life is found and remembered in the little moments, and not when I’m all fancied up in cocktail attire. (Don’t get me wrong: that, too, is good, but this goes back to #4 above).

15. Celebrate big. Celebrate well. And always, always make sure the bacon-wrapped dates are plentiful.

16. Be a thoughtful consumer.

17. Believe this: “Food is a reminder of our humanity, our fragility, our createdness” (236). YES.

18. Keep a pantry list of go-to items, unique to our family’s needs.

I could go on, but you’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty good list already! Thank you, Shauna, for a book that prompts change!

So, are you ready? Want to win a copy? I’ll mail it directly to you from Amazon – contest open from 9 am – 9 pm tonite (Friday).

Update: congrats JEANNIE for being today’s book drawing winner! Check your mailbox soon for the book!

Simply leave a comment below: What book prompted change in you? How? (DO start following be, mama. be on Facebook and/or even better, by getting posts mailed directly to you and subscribing directly – thank you! This matters!)