Archive for the 'blogs' Category

To Make: Homesick Texan Dr. Pepper Cake

Dr. Pepper Cake

Let me just tell you: The topping? It's GOOD.

Just out of the oven.

House smells great.

Will I wait for the kids to dig in?

What do you think?

Homesick Texan Dr. Pepper Oatmeal Cake with Coconut-Pecan Topping

Dr. Pepper Cake


Homesick Texan Carnitas

Oh, yeahhh….



Recipe of the Week: Homesick Texan Carnitas

Homesick Texan carnitas

Porky goodness.

So many things in Lisa Fain‘s new cookbook, The Homesick Texan, look good to me — and, of course, remind me of home — that I literally couldn’t decide what to make first. Then I saw Deb over at Smitten Kitchen tried out the carnitas, with great results, and I thought, OK, decision made.

Carnitas are basically tender-crispy bits of pork that you put into a corn tortilla, dress up with your favorite fixings, and eat as tacos. You braise the pork first in liquid — orange and lime juices, water, cumin, crushed garlic — and then sear to brown and crisp up all over once the liquid evaporates. It takes a good three hours start to finish and, I have to say, Chrissy and I thought the meat was absolutely delicious. Flavorful, perfect.

The recipe says to use pork shoulder or butt; we used shoulder. And the three pounds of meat was crowded in our medium-sized to large Le Creuset — so I’d suggest using the biggest damn dutch oven you’re got. Also: I’m not sure if it was in part because of the crowding, but not all of our liquid evaporated — we had to remove the excess ourselves. But it didn’t matter. We took out the remaining juice and let the meat brown nicely in the pot. Crispy, salty, addictive.

We made guac and piled on diced pickled jalapenos and cilantro, too. Yum, yum.

Carnitas, via The Homesick Texan (but as posted on Smitt-Kit — looks like Fain has adapted the recipe from her blog for her cookbook, so that’s what I’m linking to.)

For more Tex-Mex and other faves, scan the blog or buy the book.

Let me know what you think! (P.S. — The kids loved the meat, too, and there were plenty of leftovers.)

August 27 – 28: Weekend Links for Brooklyn Mamas

High Line

High Line / photo by: join the dots

We walked the new section of the High Line this week — dying to go back, do it again, and have lunch at the food trucks parked under the 30th Street entrance. There’s shade and picnic tables — easily manageable with the kids.

But it’s an outdoor activity — wonder what Irene will have to say about that? An earthquake, a hurricane — things are wild around here this week, and I’ve got a twitchy, unpredictable mood to match. Still feeling out of sorts post-sabbatical. Will it ever pass?

Anyway, weekend linkage:

* more on the High Line food trucks. Just say “taco.”

* inspiration: a vintage farmhouse dining room transformation.

* Design Mom’s Work Life Balance Project (love her tips.)

* OpenHouse NY 2011 Preview List.

* culinary fun for the kids at Taste of Brooklyn.

Happy weekend! Hope Irene treats you right!

(photo: join the dots)


Currently Obsessed with…. Dining at Buvette


Despite the fact that I’ve eaten French cheese and duck rillettes, have been wearing Petit Bateau and Bensimons, am buying a baguette daily, and have salted French butter (!) in my fridge, I find myself…. still very much back in Brooklyn and no longer in France. Sigh.

So when I read about downtown French eatery Buvette in the Cheap Eats 2011 issue of New York magazine, I was ready to get my American butt there ASAP. Luckily, I had two willing dining companions on two different days last week to accompany me. Yay! (Bisous, Christina and Chrissy!)

Buvette is where the duck rillettes were consumed, and, oh my, but they were delicious. As were the rest of the charcuterie (terrine de campagne, blue cheese), and other things we sampled — salade d’epinards, ham and melon, and more.

And the space (former longtime home of The Pink Teacup) is adorable! Every detail: The long marble bar, the pretty pastries, the snug tables, the small, sweet water glasses, the blackboard map showing the wine list by region, the bicyclette out front. The combined effect is almost transporting.


They serve all day long during the week, 8am through late supper. Weekend brunch is coming soon. I haven’t tried any of the egg dishes yet, but I can’t wait to! They sound fab.

A word to the wise mom and dad, though: Leave les enfants at home for Buvette, unless you’re just stopping in to pick up a pain au chocolat and coffee. This is one for the adults.

And a note on pricing: Buvette serves tempting, well-priced small plates, but the small plates, plus wine, etc., add up. Although it was in the Cheap Eats ish, I wouldn’t really call it “cheap.”

Definitely worthwhile, though.

For more pretty pictures of Buvette — and to see some other NYC restaurants and food you may not have encountered before — hop on over to Eric Isaac’s photography blog, Snap Food.

And get yourself and your honey to Buvette. Have being in France fantasies. Enjoy. And tell me what you thought.

Buvette is located at 42 Grove Steet (between Bleecker and Bedford).


photo: Snap Food / Eric Isaac



Other obsessions:

Porch Crawler Cocktail from Frankies Spuntino

Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves

Bloch Ballet Flats

June 25 – 26: Weekend Links for Brooklyn Mamas


The closer we get to saying goodbye to Brooklyn and taking off for the month of July — !!! — the more my brain is all over the map: Jasper‘s last report card ever for first grade comes home today, should we buy a new digital camera?, must marinate the steak for dinner, need to reserve TGV and top-of-the-Eiffel Tower tix, are those new sandals of Magnolia‘s still too big?, I should start taking a yoga class, can’t forget to pay the balance of summer camp before we leave, crap! we’re almost out of wine.

Yeah. Anyway.

Here’s more of what’s on my mind this week:

* gorgeous bedding.

* rainbow cakes.

* pretty peonies.

* the perfect tartine.

* Gwynnie’s fried rice with kale and scallions.

Happy weekend!

Friday Blog Crush: Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom

Design Mom

gabrielle blair

photo via: Gabrielle Blair / Design Mom -- Isn't she cute?

Loving Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom this week and wanted to introduce you to her on the off-chance that you’re not already a reader.

Here’s why I’m crushing:

* Who she is as a blogger is perfectly clear, and I find that inspiring. She says of herself that she is a designer and mother of six, and she posts on “where design and motherhood intersect.” Brilliant.

* She’s a mother of six — !!!!!! (That’s six exclamation points, one for each kid.) Wow. Talk about “I don’t know how she does it.”

* Her site introduces me to new and beautiful things and ideas all the time. Like these tiny, adorable owl-shaped crayons.

* She has an awesome, accessible voice — I feel like we’re having a friendly conversation when I’m reading.

* Last — and this one is a biggie — she and her family have moved to France for a year! I’m experiencing big-time envy. They were featured on House Hunters International (which I love), and we happened to catch the episode this week. Fun! They had three amazing homes to choose from — here’s the fabulous house that they settled on, in Normandy:

La Cressonniere

La Cressonniere, photo via Design Mom

Feeling like you might want to make a move abroad, too? I know I am. Here’s more on the house the Blair family is living in, as well as some great links to sites where you can find furnished, long-term rentals.

And here’s a great post Gabrielle wrote on financing a move abroad.

Check out Design Mom! See the 10 posts to get you started on her home page — including this cute porch makeover that she did on her own home before moving to France. (We have the same, exact red mailbox hanging in front of our house!)


And now, for some unrelated weekend goodness:

Take the kids to the NEW part of the Highline — it’s open! And it features Rainbow City, an inflatable sculpture garden that kids can explore, via Mommy Poppins.

Bought one of Diana Kane’s open circle pendant necklaces for myself this week (thanks, mom!) and am loving it, too. Maybe it’s time for you to drop in and see what catches your eye for the summer?

Last…. Mother’s Day is a bit of a stress and a flail in our house — who takes care of mom? — but the pressure’s off for Father’s Day! Happy Dad’s Day, though, if you’ve got one to fete in your house.

Have fun celebrating family!

A Reality-Check via Babble: Stay-at-Home vs. Working Parents

Be Brave

Parenting: A tough job.

I read a funny Babble post last week on the differences between the daily lives of stay-at-home and working parents — and let’s just say it struck a chord (for others, too, judging by the number of comments). Chrissy and I have had a few, ahem, conversations recently about how different our days are and how, honestly, sometimes it’s difficult to relate to and truly appreciate what the other has had to deal with.

Heather Rigby, who wrote the post, is feeling the same with her husband — so she came up with a list of questions to “help him and other office-bound parents gauge how (cough, cough) similar their days are to ours.”

Here are some of my favorites….

* When you walked into work this morning and pleasantly greeted your co-worker Jim, was his first reaction to scream “NO! WANT JASON!” followed by an office supply being thrown at you?

* Do you have to lock yourself in the supply closet or bathroom on a regular basis in order to make phone calls?

* Did you finish a complete thought at any time during the day?

* Have you had to come to an associate’s aid because she fell off her desk after trying to climb on top of it using a rolling chair?

* When you reached for the report a co-worker was handing you, did he snatch it away at the last second and scream “MINE!” while shoving you backwards?

* While you are using the restroom, do various co-workers come in the stall and ask you to settle a disagreement or open a packet of fruit snacks?

And to those, I’d add a few questions of my own….

* Did a co-worker or your boss call you a poopy or a baby today when you did something they didn’t like?

* Did the person in the office next door stick his tongue out at you as he walked by?

* Did you have to let a colleague play with your iPhone for a few minutes so you could get something done, but then need to beg him: “Hold it with both hands! Please don’t drop it!”?

* Did you have to remind anyone in a meeting not to stick their fingers up their nose?

* Did you have to break up an argument over the red crayon?

* Did you find yourself finishing the half-eaten bits of a co-worker’s lunch or snack instead of getting your own?

* Were you at any point inadvertently spit on while a co-worker made loud farting noises?

No, I didn’t think so. (P.S., honey — I know you *did* have to deal with a whole long list of stresses that I did not. Endless meetings, crazies on the commute, and more. I’ve been on the other side, too, and being a working parent is also hard — I get that. Bottom line: Being a parent is hard.)

But, seriously…. I do get extra points for wiping butts and snotty noses, right?


8 Surprising Things About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

New York Magazine on Why Parents Hate Parenting

Chipotle-Spiked Hummus & Avocado Sandwich: A Quick & Easy At-Home Lunch

T Is for Travel: 16 Family Travel Tips

Pont du Gard

Jasper kicking back at the Pont du Gard in Southern France.

The Perrin Post, from Conde Nast Traveler’s Wendy Perrin, has been running a super-fab family travel contest that ended last week. Perrin herself posted an A-to-Z list of 26 family travel tips — A is for apartment rental, B is for Bananagrams, etc. — and she invited parents to send in their best tip or tips, too, for a chance to win a $16,000 family vacation at a 5-star resort in the Caribbean.


Needless to say, I and many thousands of other parents, sent in the best of what we’ve got to make family travel easier. Some parents did a full-on 26-tips-long list, others (like me) didn’t force the full alphabet theme, but did send in our faves — many using the A is for… format.

The winner will probably be one of the over-achievers who tackled the entire alphabet, a la Perrin — although what’s the point, really, in stretching to come up with an “x” tip? x is for x-ray machine at the airport, x is for Xanax — eh — but I’ve got my fingers crossed anyway.

We love to travel — just got back from a road trip to Charleston and we leave soon for a month-long stay in France and Italy — and we put these tips for traveling with little kids into action every time we take off.

16 Family Travel Tips from Shiny Brite

(When I submitted my list for entry into the contest, I didn’t use the A is for… format — I thought that only had to be employed if you were doing the full alphabet. Doh! Hope that doesn’t discount me, Wendy! But these are the tips I submitted — they’ve just been re-tooled to fit the alphabet format.)

A is for avoiding the pharmacy in foreign lands. Pack your thermometer + cold/fever meds from home — The second you’re out the door, the likelihood of kid illness or ailment seems to triple for some reason. One of our kids almost always winds up with a cold, cough, or fever at some point on vacation. If we’ve brought our digital-read temporal artery thermometer and some meds from home, we’re ready for it — without having to make a run to the pharmacy in a foreign country.

B is for a bag of tricks, which you should pack for the plane — Bring along a special bag, packed with fun, cool new things the kids have never seen or played with before. Sticker books, Melissa & Doug Jumbo coloring books, a fresh pack of Wikki Stix, etc. Don’t forget to stuff copious amounts of appealing — and not everyday — snacks in the bag, too.

C is for cameras — Buy the kids inexpensive digital cameras (most of which come loaded with games they can play, too) before the trip, and let them snap what’s interesting to them while you travel. Depending on the kid, he or she may be *really* into it (Magnolia is), and you may wind up with some fun, surprising shots.

E is for extra batteries — Bring them. For everything. Cameras, DVD players (a travel essential if ever there was one), etc.

F is for flexible. Be flexible — It’s hard to stick to an itinerary when traveling with little kids. Have a long list of things you’d like to see over the entire trip, if it works out, but remember to be OK with just hanging, too. You’ll still be hanging in a locale that isn’t home, which is often reward enough.

G is for go with another family — I’m no joiner, and value my time (and our family time) alone probably to a fault. But we’ve traveled with another family and it’s great on several important fronts: you’ll save money by sharing in the cost of a rental property, you’ll get free babysitting by taking turns staying in with the kids one evening while the other couple goes out, and your kids will have built-in play mates on vacation with kids they already know.

H is for hang out online before you go — Find bloggers who write about things to do with kids in a specific destination, who blog about travel in general, or who just know a place well. You’ll find some great insider info beyond what you’d discover in guidebooks. Not so into blogs? Get into them. (You’re reading this one, aren’t you?) You’ll find it’s worth your while. Start with: Travel Savvy Mom, Ciao Bambino, My Little Nomads, and Pret a Voyager — then see who they link to, and branch out from there.

J is for just say Europe. It’s your friend — Depending on your personality type and priorities, if you can, consider leaving exotic, truly far-flung locales for later, when the kids are older. Europe is…. easy! Different yet not entirely unfamiliar or unlike home. Adventure is fun, yes, but don’t you mostly want to RELAX on vacation? You’re a tired parent. Of course you do.

K is for kid-hand-off, to a paid professional — hire a sitter or be open to camps while away — You want to spend vacation with your kids, of course, but you deserve a little break from them, too. And an adults-only dinner out or an afternoon of uninterrupted shopping will get you re-charged. It’s worth the additional expense if you can swing it. If staying at a resort, inquire about camps or get the name of the nanny service they use. If you’re renting a place from an owner, ask for a list of two or three reputable local services they’d recommend.

L is for let the kids carry their own bags — Once old enough, they will love it. And obviously, it’s less for you to lug. Get personalized bags and backpacks from Pottery Barn Kids. The personalization adds to the fun.

M is for more clothing. Pack extra sets of clothes for the kids in your carry-on bag — Air sickness happens. And I speak from experience — both on, and sometimes just immediately off, the plane. Spills and other accidents — hello, poopy-up-the-back-and-out-the-sides nightmare — happen, too, so be prepared with extra clothing.

R is for rent an apartment, skip hotelsWendy Perrin included this in her list, too, but it is such a great tip for families! My spin on it: You’ll have more space and be more comfortable, you’ll get to settle in and prepare meals at home like a local, and you’ll save money (don’t be afraid to try to negotiate the price, especially for stays of three nights or longer. If you’re renting directly from an owner, you’ll be surprised by how often there’s wiggle room if you ask.) Spend time combing sites like VRBO and if you’re headed to Paris, you’re in luck! We’ve done hours worth of research for you on the best family-friendly apartments to rent in Paris.

S is for steal away for as long as you can — You’ve planned, you’ve spent money, you’re prepared to deal with jet lag — try to make the vacation as long as is humanly possible. Also, it takes a while for everyone to really get into a groove while away — you don’t want to have to head home just as you’re all getting settled in and feeling comfortable. Try for at least two weeks if it’s a possibility for your family.

T is for talk it up before the trip — Get the kids excited about jetting off by discussing how things will be different while you travel before you leave. Prepare a couple of special meals typical of the cuisine you’ll eat while on vacation, have them learn a few words in a foreign language, or sign up for Little Passports, a monthly subscription service that sends your kids cool info (maps, souvenirs, etc.) on Sam & Sofia, globetrotting kids who set off on adventures to foreign countries via a magic scooter. My kids love it.

W is for water fun. Focus on pools + beaches while you’re away — As mentioned above, elaborate itineraries are challenging with little kids — and they’ll be just as happy hanging at a pool or beach anyway. Plus, the sun and water will thoroughly wear them out (bonus for you at the end of the day.)

Y is for yummy food. Food, food, food! — Museums and other adult-oriented sights may be tricky, but food is a great way to explore a country’s culture, and eating is a democratic activity — everyone can enjoy it. Visit farmers’ markets, sample street food if you’re in a place where that seems safe, have picnics, seek out kid-pleasing ice cream, gelato, and other native treats.

More on travel:

Ciao Bambino on Paris with Kids

A Mom Amok on Rome with Kids

Travel Savvy Mom’s Tips & Tricks on Visiting Disneyland

More Tips from the A-to-Z Contest

Southern France

Learning to walk -- in France!

Gwyneth Paltrow: I Love Her, I Love Her Hair, I Don’t Care What You Think

Gwyneth Paltrow

Oh, the Gwyneth Paltrow hatred. It burns bright. So many moms — it’s always the moms — seem to relish taking her down for everything she does. It’s a real sideline hobby, hating on Gwyneth.

The ad hoc MOMs — ladies I love — think she’s delusional and pompous (although Carrie seems potentially on the fence, maybe I can bring her over to my side?). The Suniverse has serious GP issues. And The Stir thinks Gwyneth is a “non-self-aware freak of nature” who makes it impossible for anyone to like her.

Not true! I like her.

I’m not offended that she lives a life of privilege and can afford $800 Jimmy Choo UGGs — and believes, for some, they may even be a winter wardrobe essential. I’m not at all disturbed by the fact that her working mom tips are a tad unrelateable — um, I’m not a movie star, and my friends aren’t high-powered working moms like Stella McCartney or venture capitalist Juliet de Baubigny. I’m not looking for them to be “real life.”

I’m losing no sleep over her quotes in the press on parenting and family life.

I think she puts herself out there in a personal way with Goop and in the media — despite the disdain — and I kind of like that. More important, I think she has excellent hair. I think she’s married to an adorable Brit. I thought she was fabulous — and funny — on “Glee.” I think she has a kick-ass sense of personal style. I think her recipe for Rotisserie-Style Chicken from the new cookbook sounds pretty good.

I can’t say I really love her kids’ names — Apple and Moses not my thing — but that’s about the worst I’ve got for Gwynnie.

I read the May cover story on her in Self, where I learned that — shocker — yes, she does maintain that amazing body by exercising a lot with personal trainer Tracy Anderson. And I still like her.

I didn’t see Country Strong, but I’d totally watch it on DVR if we didn’t have any “The Good Wife,” “Property Virgins,” or “Selling New York” episodes recorded. And I really liked Sliding Doors — more great hair! — even if it was ages ago.

There. Public love, in print. So sue me.

Recipe of the Week: Pork Shoulder Ragu from Dinner: A Love Story

DALS pork shoulder ragu

We still haven’t rounded the corner with spring yet — is more snow coming? please, God, no — which means we’ll definitely be making this Pork Ragu with Pappardelle from Dinner: A Love Story at least one more time before temps turn warmer. It’s easy (hello, braising), delicious, and was a hit with everyone.

A few notes from our making of the dish:

* We’d never cooked pork shoulder before and were perplexed by the not at all unattractive but rather large layer of fat present on one side of the meat. You might be able to buy the pork roast trimmed, or trim it yourself, but I’m sure the fat added flavor. We left it on and then removed the excess fat once the meat was cooked and it was time to pull it apart with two forks, per the recipe — that was simple, as it’s falling-apart tender.

* Since M. is not a fan of tomato sauce, I set aside some meat for her at that stage, before adding it back to the pot with all of the saucy goodness. She was a satisfied customer and ate happily — her buttered pasta in one bowl and meat in the other — without complaint. J., who loves tomato sauce and asked for extra with his meat, was a happy camper, too.

* DALS recommends serving this with a salad with some sweetness to it to balance the pork. We did — greens with pear and blue cheese — and it did make for a great pairing.

* The fact that you braise the meat for 3 – 4 hours, with little effort required on the part of the cook, makes this recipe highly appealing for busy parents. Great for entertaining, too, as DALS notes. Also, it made the house smell really good — that, plus advance sampling of the meat by the kids before we sat down to eat, meant they were nicely primed to go after the food with gusto (definitely not always the case.)

What recipes are getting your family through the last weeks of winter? We’re all ears!


Last Week’s Recipe: Spicy Veggie Burritos

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