Sunday, June 25, 2017

Summer 2017: The Beginning (in pictures)



To say my kids were ready for summer would be like saying the Titanic nicked itself on an iceberg. They were crawling through the desert of school on their hands and knees, and summer was the oasis that was maybe just a mirage until it wasn't, and it came, and they drank and drank and are still drinking. They have been sleeping until 10, 11, 12, the poor, exhausted ducks.

They rouse themselves to eat and play Mine Craft. It was a difficult and tiring school year, and it makes me so happy to see them refueling.

Other Mine Craft compatriots come and go. They've only been on vacation for 5 seconds, these kids, so their binging goes unchecked for now.

Birdy takes gaming breaks to read a little bit. Michael and I took her to see the touring company of Fun Home, and I think it was the best thing we ever saw on stage. I got goosebumps no fewer than a dozen times. Birdy is now loving the book. (FYI, my Survivor column about teenagers and reading should go up tomorrow.)

If you're not already, try making cold-brew ice coffee: shake together 1/3 cup of any medium-roast grounds with 1 1/2 cups of water, and leave it at room temperature overnight. In the morning I pour it through my porcelain pour-over cone, but you could totally line a sieve with a basket filter, and use that instead. It makes about 2 cups of coffee, and it is caramel-sweet, with a striking absence of bitterness, burntness, or sourness. Keep extras in the fridge.
My current everyday, anytime meal: Put an egg in a small pot of cold water. Bring it to a boil, shut off the heat, and leave it for 7 minutes. Run under cold water, peel, halve, and top the yolk with a tiny pat of butter, a sprinkle of salt, and a shake of hot sauce. Perfection. 
But a person cannot live on eggs alone. So there are popsicles! These are from a recipe for Sour Cherry, only I used bing cherries and added lemon juice. There is also almond extract. They are possible the best popsicles ever.
I actually wrote the People's Pops people to remind them how wonderful their cookbook is. I mean, I know I've written about it before, but we use it at least twice a week, all summer long, and every recipe is delicious and perfectly crafted. It always makes exactly enough to fill our mold--no more, no less. Amazing. If you know anyone with a summer birthday, the book along with the mold makes a great gift.
Juxtabo is a very good summer game: the tiles are these gorgeous, sherbetty colors, and it's a perfect quickish but interesting on-the-carpet-by-the-fan sort of game. Plus, we can take it camping because the pieces are wonderfully heavy and won't blow away. What is it, though? It's like a cross between Othello and Blokus and Colorku, but not exactly. Sorry.
The kitten is under the impression that under = cooler. 
Maybe he is right!
A couple other things, re SUMMER:
  • Another great summer game is this.
  •  If you are resisiting Kan Jam because you don't want to spend $40 on two pieces of plastic and a shitty frisbee, I hear you. But we actually play every single day
  • They no longer make the old sunscreen I recommended all the time, but we are really liking this one
  • If you've got animal-loving kids, they will love my friend Cammie's latest book.
  • If you want to be harrowed in a good way, read this. If you want to be harrowed in a bad way, read this. If you don't want to be harrowed at all, read this.
  • Speaking of harrowing, the S-town podcast really is great. My whole family loved it, but there are very mature themes in it, just so you know. I would say 14-and-up, but would really depend on the kid. 
  • Maybe pre-order this

Please share your best summer game, book, audiobook, recipe, and whatever else ideas! Please!

Monday, June 05, 2017

Marzipan Blondies (+ links)


I am wild for almondy baked goods. Not so much the kind with real actual almonds, which I can take or leave, but the kind that has marzipan or almond paste, with its intoxicating scent of almonds wafting out. I will choose the almond croissant at the café, the almond macaroon at the Italian bakery, the chocolate-covered marzipan at the candy shop. I love, love, love that flavor, as do my kids, and I love to bake with almond paste. This recipe, for example, which is wonderful (and gf to boot).

You will swear these have almond paste in them! Which is crazy, because you're the one who made them.
But often I don’t have almond paste. (Because I used it already and it is expensive and I am too cheap to buy it again.) So I have been forever looking for a recipe that communicates all the pleasure of almond paste, without the actual almond paste, and this is it. I only found it because a friend’s son baked it, and she posted about it on Facebook, and I could just tell from looking at it that it was going to be exactly perfect: crunchy-edged and with a soft, sticky middle, exactly like an almond macaroon.


It turned out to be a Marion Cunningham recipe, called simply “Almond Butter Cake,” and it has more almond extract in it than seems wholesome, and I wouldn’t do it any other way. I’m calling it blondies and baking it in a square pan because I think it lends itself better to bars—and to the idea that it’s texturally way more like brownies than like cake. Sticky, chewy, and like brownies, leavened only with eggs.


Wake us when it's not cake.
The original recipe calls for a topping made of sugar and sliced almonds, but I’m a weird purist about my almond-flavored things, and find it more distracting than enhancing. Feel free to add it back in: after the batter is in the pan, sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of sugar and then ¾ cup sliced almonds. If I were eating this all by myself, I might sprinkle the batter with pignolis, à la my favorite Italian almond macaroons. But that is not a popular idea around here.


p.s. I have written some things! This, over at Full Grown People (with my favorite tags ever: "anger, Catherine Newman, men, misogyny, rage, sexism, woman's anger, work"), and this over at Motherwell. Also, my (and Ben and Birdy's) parenting-teens column continues over at SheKnows. Please send me questions if you think to! 

p.p.s. This book, The Bright Hour? It will wreck you, and you'll be so glad you read it. It changed me.

Marzipan Blondies, baked as a cake, makes a perfectly acceptable Yay, It's Wednesday Cake! cake.
Marzipan Blondies
This is the kind of cake where the batter is ready to bake long before your oven is preheated. So, so easy.

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter (I use salted)
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour

Heat the oven to 350. Butter and flour or cooking-spray a baking pan that is either an 8-inch square or a 9-inch circle. (I used geometry *and* algebra to figure out the equivalent! [pats self on back])

Melt the butter in a small pot and then transfer it to a large bowl. Or, because you’re lazy and don’t want to wash the pot, melt it right in the large bowl either in the microwave (not a metal bowl) or over a pot of simmering water (a metal bowl).

Stir in the sugar until smooth (I use a sturdy rubber spatula for the whole recipe), then add the eggs and stir until the batter is blended—kinda creamy, kinda gritty. Add the extracts and the flour and stir “briskly” (that’s Marion Cunningham right there) until smooth.

Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and bake until just set, and toothpick emerges with sticky crumbs on it, 30-35 minutes.

Cool in the pan at least 30 minutes, then cut into bars. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Smoky, Spicy Restaurant-Style Mussels (+ a winner!)


Sarah Dunlap, you won Lou's book! Please email me your address and I will pop it right in the mail! And thank you all for playing. And for hating bananas in a smoothie. And for being your game and marvelous selves.

I bought, like, a 1-dollar bottle of wine for the mussels, because I don't go by the "only cook with what you'd drink" rule. Except that I drank the rest of the 1-dollar bottle, so I guess I do go by that rule after all!
So. Mussels. What I love about mussels, besides that they're incredible cheap and incredibly easy, is that they completely satisfy my (near-constant) desire to eat out. Which is a good thing for many rea$on$, if you know what I'm $aying. A loaf of fresh bread and a salad, plus 5 or 6 bucks worth of mussels, and Michael, Ben, and I eat like kings.
Some people prefer not to eat anything that could technically be called an animal, even if it's just an eyeball-less bivalve. Those people, and there was only one of them, got a cheese board with honey and marmalade, and were very happy.
Those same people were so beautiful at Pride that they I might have cried a little bit.
If there's a down-side to mussels, it's that every once in a while you get one and it's bad. It's not just bad. It's a shell full of death and mayhem, and you swear you will never eat another mussel again so long as you live. But eventually the memory fades, the horror wears off, and you creep back in towards the eating of the mussels. Honestly, though, if you buy the farmed ones from Whole Foods, they're almost always perfect.

Other people have grown up and turned into mussel eaters.

These are the same people who were so beautiful at their prom that I might have cried a little bit.
 So, aside from the issue of the potential forensic specimen that will taste like it was severed from a rotten corpse, this is a fool-proof recipe. It's garlicky, shallot-y, a little bit smoky and spicy, and the luscious broth must be sopped up with bread or simply drunk from the bowl. You will be so happy.


Kind of Classic Mussels
You don’t really need to scrub mussels anymore, since they're farmed. If there’s a little grit at the bottom of the pot while you’re pouring the juice, just leave it there. I cook mussels longer than some people do, because I like them more rather than less cooked (the opposite of how I am about salmon).

4 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
A pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes (or something else spicy, if you like spicy things)
½ cup white wine
2 - 3 pounds mussels
Good, crusty bread

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat, then sauté the shallot and garlic until the shallot is translucent but not browning, around 5 minutes. Add the spices and sauté for just a few seconds—until they’re very fragrant, which will be almost immediately. Add the wine and the mussels, cover the pot, turn the heat to high, and set a timer for 10 minutes. Shake the pot every few minutes, if you think to.

They’re done! Throw out any that don’t open. Garnish with something green, if you want to: a sprinkle of parsley or chives. I added a handful of baby arugula to my bowl last night, and it was delicious. Be sure to mop up the sauce with lots of crusty bread.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Healthy Chocolate-Mint Milkshake (and a give-away!)


I'm going to get to the milkshake in one second, I swear. But first! I have to gush about another book. And yes, suspiciously as always, this is the memoir of a friend of mine, a person whom I love who also happens to drive my kids to school three times a week. Also, I went to college with his editor at Flatiron. And you're like, "Why do I want to read Catherine's carpool-friend Lou's book?" And I'll tell you: because it is incredible. I knew it would be because the story is so good--it's about the year Lou was thirteen, and his parents' Playgirl-centerfold best friend came to live with them in Salem, MA, while everyone was (spoiler alert) swinging and also (spoiler) splitting up and (yes) smoking pot and cigarettes and feeling each other up out on the roof. I knew it would be zany and hilarious and brilliant, like Lou. But I hadn't realize that the writing was going to break my heart and blow me away. Which it did. I read it in one night.

Whose Rime-on-the-Ancient-Mariner reading glasses are those? Is it the same guy with the grizzled beard? It is.
And now Michael is reading it and loving it, and Michael is not so much a, how shall I put this, reading kind of person. He keeps reading passages out loud to me, and even though I just read the book myself, I'm still happy, because it is so good to hear it again. Anyhoo, buy this book immediately. Or comment below by Friday noon if you want to win it, because I've got one copy to give away!


Speaking of books given away, Roost Books sent me a copy of a new cookbook called Feeding a Family by Sarah Waldman, and it's just lovely. I haven't actually made anything from it except this one bastardized recipe I'm about to put down here, but I have a really good feeling about the book because it's kind of mostly vegetarian, which is how we eat, and everything is seasonal and appealing and tasty looking. Anyhoo, the Chocolate-Mint Milkshakes recipe spoke to me because our backyard is turning into a giant mint patch, and it's so lovely and fresh in the spring, before it gets all dried-out and hairy and worm-eaten.
No actual ice cream!
Plus, I'm kind of on one of my periodic no-refined-sugar kicks, because I'm tired of having headaches and acne and nonspecific crankiness and also my jeans are tight. 



"Mama said, No, Snapper! and put me on the floor, where I am sad and lonely for a milk shake."
This is the kind of recipe that hits all the right notes for me: it is frosty and thick and super-creamy (please use whole milk) and the chocolate flavor is deep and the mint flavor is fresh, and the shake is sweet from the dates but also bitter-edged from the cocoa. I've adapted it from 4 servings to 1, and also I don't use the banana that original recipe calls for because banana is such a fucking alpha-dog of a smoothie ingredient, pardon my French. But I bet it's sweeter and creamier with the banana, so feel free to add back half a frozen banana here.

Sorry, did you need an actual +food+ recipe? I made this recently, and it was divine. I used pinto beans and a mix of collards and kale, and swapped in some chipotle puree and liquid smoke so I could skip the bacon and keep it vegetarian. Truly extraordinarily simple and good. 
Healthy Chocolate-Mint Milkshake
Serves 1

Adapted from Feeding a Family by Sarah Waldman. If your blender is not very powerful and you're worried that the mint leaves are going to be more leafy than aromatic, swap in a few drops of mint extract or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.

3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup ice cubes
2 pitted dates
1 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder (or cacao pwodre)
The leaves from 2 healthy sprigs of mint

Blend everything in a blender until it's thick and frothy and has stopped making the ice-and-dates-banging-around noises that signal that there are still chunks. Serve right away.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Simple Rhubarb Cake (and winners, which we all are)


So, yes, I am busy designing a "My pussy is a pre-existing condition" shirt. And yes, I am busy ruing the future moment when the lilacs tip away from this heady pinnacle of perfection towards the gloomy inevitability of their own browning deadness. And yes, also, I am busy making boutonnieres (thank you, internet tutorial!) for Ben and his friends, who seem all to taking each other to the prom tonight, after which I will just be waving to the back of his shirt as he leaves, leaves, leaves us incrementally and then all at once. Melancholy alert! (Oh, I guess that should have come first.)


But that doesn't mean I don't have time to announce the winners of the Catastrophic Happiness give-away: Laura with the six-month-old, Malia, and Raquelita, please email me your address! (And thank you all so much for playing, and for your ongoing love and encouragement.)



Or that I don't have time to share this wonderful cake recipe, below, which is my brand-new citrus-scented rhubarby springtime version of the famous plum cake. Oh, man. It is so good.




Simple Rhubarb Cake

This is a variation on Plum Cake, which is itself a variation on the NYT's very famous Plum Torte, which has been a favorite of everybody’s for forever. The spelt addition is mine (you’re welcome!) as is, here, the substitution of rhubarb for plums. Because it is May! I don’t have plums! But I do have rhubarb, and you don’t even need much of it for this. The rhubarb dimples the cake and turns into silky sweet-tart nuggets of red and green. It’s delicious, and I do love the flavor of the orange zest with it, although this is not a crucial ingredient. Feel free to leave it out.

1 ½ cups rhubarb (about 3 stalks), cut into ¾-inch pieces
¼ + ¾ cup sugar
1 stick butter (I use salted), softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
The finely grated zest of 1 scrubbed orange or tangerine (around 1 teaspoon)
2/3 cup white flour
1/3 cup spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

Heat the oven to 350.

Stir together the rhubarb and ¼ cup of sugar and set aside.

Use an electric mixer (if you have one) to cream together the butter and ¾ cup sugar—or do this all by hand, which is fine. Now add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, and add the extract and orange zest. Beat in the flours, which you’ve either sifted or whisked together with the baking powder and salt, and mix just until the batter is well combined.

Now scrape the very stiff batter into your pan: I use a spring form pan that seems to be 9 ½ inches across, but you could butter and flour a regular cake pan and use that, need be. Use a rubber spatula to even it out; it will make a shallow layer, and that’s fine.

Arrange the rhubarb evenly over the top of the cake, along with any of the sugar left in the bowl, and press it all down lightly with your hand. Now pop the cake into the oven to bake until it looks nice and brown and doesn’t jiggle anywhere when you, uh, jiggle it—the recipe says an hour, but mine is always done after 40 or 45 minutes; if your pan is smaller (and your batter therefore deeper) it may take a bit longer.

Cool on a rack 5 minutes, then remove the ring and cool further before serving.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Me me me! (And another give-away.)

Me me me! (Plus redbud.)
Sorry. This is another of those "Will you please help me?" posts! Will you please? (I know you will. Thank you, my loves.)


Catastrophic Happiness comes out in paperback tomorrow! Did you want a copy? Comment below! I'll pick a winner or two or three on Friday. Would you please spread the word? It would make a good Mother's Day present, no? I mean, the fact of the word "catastrophic" makes it mind of a natural fit for any of your most festive occasions! Also, if you'd be willing to add even a very brief Amazon review, I'd be so grateful. Those matter to people (people = book$ellers).


My middle-grade novel, One Mixed-Up Night, doesn't come out until September, but if you wanted to pre-order and/or help me spread the word in any other way, I'd be so grateful. Maybe you're a librarian or a book reviewer--or maybe you know one! Full disclosure: I just reread the final manuscript, and cried. About a story I made up myself. I mean, seriously. (Fuller disclosure: the realest things about this book are taken from real life. Like, everything but the main thing, which is spending the night at IKEA.)


Stitch Camp, the book I wrote with my friend Nicole, comes out in October. This is a book that teaches kids the basics of each of the major fiber crafts--sewing, embroidery, felting, knitting, crochet, and weaving--and then offers lots of fun, cool projects to practice them on. Thanks to our brilliant friend Carolyn at Storey, the design of the book is gorgeous in an almost otherworldly way. Working on it involved lots of late-night wine-drinking and the stitching of bean bags and the cracking ourselves up over our inability to learn how to crochet. Also, lots of living rooms full of kids testing stuff for us and spilling their hot chocolate on the carpet. Bonus: tons of photographs of Birdy throughout the book! (And that's our dear friend Sahar, right there on the cover.) Please pre-order and spread the word! And also, same as above, re. librarians and book reviewers! Also craft bloggers and other craft types! Exclamation points!

Finally: I have been writing an advice column for parents of teenagers over at SheKnows. Will you please check it out and let me know what you think? Or send me a question!

Thank you for your patient indulgence of my personal kazoo-blowing.

p.s. Someone asked for this recipe for oven-roasted chickpeas! I posted it for you!

p.p.s. I said I'd post two winners of Emily's book, and then didn't! luluvision, you're the other winner. Please email me your address!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Journal Sparks Winner!

Is HAS. Please email me with your address, won't you?

You guys are the best! I love how excited you are by a good craft book. As you know, I'm the same.

More soon, about Stitch Camp, college visiting (!), and other things.

TGIF. Have a wonderful weekend.

xo

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Journal Sparks Review and Give-Away!


Was it really 2012 when I reviewed Emily's first book? It honestly feels like some time last week. But no. Almost 5 years ago. Which means that Birdy was, what, 2 years old then? Sigh. The math is not soothing my heart. She was 9? Because now she is 14, holding Emily's new book. But some things never change. Emily's inspirational brilliance, for one. 

Or Birdy's zeal with the Post-It notes, for another, marking project after project that she can't wait to try. Also, there are pages of gorgeous stickers at the end of this book--created from Emily's lovely little illustrations of such wonderful things as cacti and potion ingredients--and Birdy was beside herself about them because they were not in the original advance review copy we got. But I am getting ahead of myself. 


I wrote a blurb for this book, and although they edited it for sanity, this is it in its entirety: "Journal Sparks is our family’s favorite kind of any-age book—filled with friendly, fabulous imaginative prompts that you can use for journaling, of course, but also as approachably small, stand-alone creative projects. Plus, the artwork is just so crazily appealing. So, yes, you will want to climb into Emily’s inspiring world of pebbles and mice and cheese sandwiches, but, then, you’ll be too busy charting your own world of favorite things and places and words and dreams. You won’t even be able not to." 

You should follow Emily on instagram because then you can think to yourself: I should pick up a paint brush every day. And you won't pick one up every day, but you will pick one up sometimes, which is more than never. Buy yourself or your children this set of watercolors. They are the best.
Birdy's notebook, pre-hacking.
That is entirely true. As is the email I wrote to accompany the blurb: "This is such an incredible book. We are in love with it. Congratulations! Birdy's home sick, and we read it cover to cover, dying over all the projects we wanted to tackle--which is, like, all of them. Drawing a day's food! Making potions! The worst sandwich truck! And then just a million things that struck us: that magnified corn-cob tip, the page of clocks, Emily's lovely sensibility. Beautiful."


Birdy marked out VERY MANY projects, but she started with a pragmatic one from the "Journal Hacks" chapter, and this was making a pocket for her journal. And It turned into kind of a self-referential house of mirrors.


Because, well, the kitten got involved. 


And stayed involved. 

And then Birdy couldn't resist using the pocket she had made to comment on the circumstances of its making.


I'm about to get to the give-away, I am. But let me just show you a few more of the lovely things you'll find in this book. Also, while you look at them, you should picture Emily gorgeously across the street from me, visiting her wonderful parents who live there, and trailing after her the three most exquisite children. You can also picture her feeding our cats while we were college visiting last week. (Thank you, Emily!)


I love these two projects because they're identically simple and wonderful, but kind of opposites: in one, you use a marker to draw simple circular designs and then paint them. In another you paint simple shapes and then use a marker to draw into them--the way you might interpret a cloud. All of Emily's projects are approachable like this--totally undauntingly creative and just super-appealing.

"The stars we are given. The constellations we make." Rebecca Solnit
Okay, the give-away. Storey, the publisher, has generously offered to mail out a copy of the book! (The only requirement, sadly is that you have to live in the United States of Heinousness.) Just comment here to enter, and I will pick a winner on Friday at noon. If there are lots of entries, I might pick another winner too because life is so short, amiright? Also, because we love Storey! Did I mention the book Ava's mom Nicole and I wrote for them? Ha ha, I am being coy. More soon. In the mean time, please enter to win Journal Sparks. You will love it as much as we do.