Fish Fest – And I’m Not Talking About A Big Christian Rock Concert

Something new has been a brewin’ here in my kitchen and I confess that it’s kind of a mind blower.  I have been diving into “clean eating”, and I must say, I am loving it!

I have always been about healthy and real, but the “clean” thing I just didn’t get.  Not being one to follow the crowd, I resisted the whole fad.  I downright dismissed it as something that didn’t / wouldn’t fit with my food philosophy.  I know, right, who in their right mind has a food philosophy?!  For me, it’s really more of a gut take on food and strongly held beliefs about its place in my life from the pure pleasure of taste to the abstract notion of socializing around a good table.  I am also an adamant resister of deprivation; and I perceived the whole “clean eating” trend as all about legalistic deprivation.

So here is where I do the HUGE shout out to Francesca Gadaleta Giessmann and The Nourishing Seed.  I met the lovely Francesca because our small people play water polo together.  She invited me to her Spring Detox and it was at that moment that “clean eating” took on a whole new meaning to me.  I GOT it.  And the greatest thing is that she makes “clean” fun, delicious, and without deprivation.  Let me just repeat that last tidbit – there is no deprivation.

As I have been exploring the great recipes found in Francesca’s Spring Detox Guide, I have also been having a ball assessing some of my own new recipes and determining their “cleanliness”.  Ha – I love that expression; just makes me think like Lysol and Clorox and not kale and halibut.

Rather than my one recipe show that you usually get with each post, I give you a trio of fish recipes that are sure to please any clean eater.  On the docket we have African Adobo Rubbed Tuna Steaks, Slow Baked Salmon with Lemon & Thyme, and Moroccan Halibut.

The African Adobo Rubbed Tuna Steaks have three main elements:  the adobo rubbed tuna, a bed of English hothouse cucumbers, and a topping of avocado salsa.  I started the adobo (a fancy name for spice rub) by mixing together a slew of spices.


I put the rub aside and set to work on the salsa.  I diced 2 avocado, chopped some scallions and minced some garlic.


I then chopped up a couple of roasted red peppers and added them to the avocado mixture.


I whisked together some fresh OJ, fresh lime juices, and some olive oil and seasoned that with salt and pepper.  I poured that over the avocado mixture and set aside in the fridge.

For the cucumbers, I whisked together some champagne vinegar and a tad of sugar (yikes, I know, but it was only a tad).  Then I thinly sliced the cukes and tossed them in the vinaigrette.  I let them stand for at least 15 minutes allowing the flavors to blend.

Back to the tuna, I rubbed the steaks with the adobo very generously.


I heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet until it was smoking and then added the tuna steaks – cooking only about a minute per side for a nice medium rare steak.

I plated it all up by first putting down a bed of cucumbers, the sliced tuna steak to the side and then the avocado salsa to top it all off.


On to our number two contender in the FishFest lineup – Slow Baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme.  This recipe is so easy it’s ridiculous, but you would never guess that from how tasty it is.

I started by lining a cooking sheet with foil and preheating my oven to 275 degrees. I brushed the foil with a little olive oil and placed the salmon filets on top.  Then I mixed a little more olive oil, some chopped fresh thyme, and some freshly grated lemon zest.  I spread the thyme – lemon mixture over the salmon fillets and then seasoned with salt and pepper.


I let that stand for about 10 minutes for the flavors to permeate the salmon and then baked about 17 minutes.

I served this up with some polenta topped with steamed spinach and goat cheese and some roasted carrots.


Last up on our roster is the Moroccan Halibut.  This one, like the salmon, is so easy and yet so flavorful.

I started by just sprinkling both sides of the halibut with salt and pepper.  Then I generously sprinkled the fish with cayenne pepper and cinnamon.


I then heated a tablespoon of coconut oil in a large skillet, added the halibut, and sauteed until golden and opaque in center; about 4 – 5 minutes per side.


I served this one up with swiss chard (a great recipe from The Nourishing Seed) and roasted carrots (yes, we love our roasted carrots ’round here).


So there you have it – – – a trio of super tasty, super easy, and super healthy fish recipes.  Just think, you can serve up some fish for the next three weeks without having to scour through oodles and oodles of recipes.  Oh, and you can casually tell your friends, “Yep, I’m eating clean.” (WINK)

Here are the complete recipes:

Adobo Rubbed Tuna Steaks

Slow Baked Salmon with Lemon & Thyme

Moroccan Halibut

~ all recipes adapted from Epicurious





An Award – and it’s for me, not one of my small people!

liebsterI would like to thank the Academy . . .  Ummm, I mean, Wow, a big thanks to Legend in My Own Lunchbox for nominating me for a Liebster Award.  I’m so thrilled and thankful for the recognition.  If you had caught me on the day I got the news from Lizzie, “giddy” would have been the adjective of choice, but I’ve since calmed down and settled on the ever so distinguished descriptors of “thrilled” and “thankful”.  It has also been a lot of fun seeing the rise in my Aussi audience since Lizzie and her Legend blog are in Australia.

So what exactly is the Leibster? It’s an award for smaller blogs of less than 200 followers, to point people to little-known spots of coolness on the web.  There are a few rules attached to the nomination so here goes…


  • Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you and display the award.
  • Answer 11 questions the blogger gives you.
  • Give 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 11 blogs you think are worthy of the award (but they must have less than 200 followers).
  • Let the bloggers know you nominated them.
  • Give them 11 questions to answer.


  1. What inspired you to start a blog? – I just started blogging on a whim as a way to give creative expression to my cooking adventures.  It was also a little “me space”  that I didn’t have to share with anyone else in my little family.
  2. What is the last book you read? – Sadly, that would be Johnny Tremain which I read along with my girls for their language arts lesson.
  3. Who is your favorite written character? – Madame Bovary.
  4. Chinese or Mexican? – Definitely Mexican.
  5. What is the #1 thing on your bucket list? – Make time to make a bucket list.
  6. Why do you live where you do? – You just can’t beat the California sunshine.  Although I would gladly adopt a lifestyle of wintering in CA,  autumning in Vermont, summering in France, and springing in CO.
  7. What do you want to be when you grow up? – A bed and breakfast owner and author.
  8. Beach or bush (aka surf or turf, country or coastal)? – Coastal.  An ironic answer from the woman who hates sand, but I always have been a person of great paradox.
  9. What is your favorite song of all time? – It Is Well With My Soul
  10. Hot or Cold?  Hot.  I really can not stomach cold soup or lukewarm meals.
  11. Are you left or right handed? Right handed.


1. I am the “baby” of 7 kids.

2. If I could, I would move to India in a heartbeat.

3. I am anal about being on time.

4. My husband’s French accent is cute (unless we’re arguing and then it’s just plain annoying).

5. My kids all have names that “work” in French and in English.  Loosely translated, that means my mother-in-law can pronounce them without too much effort.

6. I don’t sweat.

7. To this day, my Dad will tell people I went to Penn State rather than UPenn . . .ummm, significant difference there, Dad.

8. I don’t hoard, except when it comes to random sweet things created by my offspring.

9. If I could recreate myself, I would live in the 1920s.

10. If I could bottle one thing, it would be the smell of my kids when they climb in bed with me.

11. I am easily annoyed by “over talkers”

THE 11 BLOGS I HAVE NOMINATED (and yes, they are all foodie blogs):

1. Real Fit, Real Food Mom

2. Loving Life Naturally

3. Gather and Graze

4. Elemental Wellness

5. Sprinkled with Health

6. Vegan Martha

7. Peachy Clean Eats

8. Girl Eats Greens

9. Healthy Living Healthy Us

10. Kitchen Bound

11. The Finished Plate


1. What is your favorite place to vacation?

2. Philosophy on technology?

3. Introvert or extrovert?

4. What colors / theme is your home decorated in?

5. What does your ideal Saturday look like?

6. Any favorite charities?

7. Last time you went outside your comfort zone?

8. Meat or veggies?

9. Greatest fear?

10. Greatest frustration with society?

11. Reason you have answered the first 10 questions?


So that’s it on the award front.  Thanks again to Legend in My Own Lunchbox!  No recipe today, but I have a doozey ready for your next visit.



Our Vegetarian (kind of) Shift – Kung Pao Cauliflower

I laugh when I hear my kids telling other people we are vegetarians.  Die hard vegetarians probably wouldn’t find it so amusing.  Why do I get such a chuckle out of this?  Well, let’s see . . .  We eat bacon.  We frequent In&Out Burger  AND The Habit from time to time (for you Californians, you know what that means), and we recently sucked down some corned BEEF & cabbage to celebrate St. Patty’s Day.  So you see where I’m headed with this.

No, my kids aren’t challenged with information processing and they are very aware of what they eat.  But the rub is that we don’t prepare beef, chicken, or pork in our home as a main course.   Bacon really is the only meat cooked within our kitchen and we eat that mainly to accompany breakfast entrees and as a “garnish”  with certain veggies.  But we have no problem consuming meat when invited to other people’s homes or when eating out.

So I was recently thinking about our transition from that family who, at every meal, ate a meat protein, a starch and a veggie, to the family that now, at every home meal, eats strictly veggies.  And I remember what a mind shift it was for me to feel as though I was serving up a complete meal when the plate contained no meat protein.  It seemed off kilter to me, unbalanced, not well rounded.  But little by little my lens changed and I began to understand how to take what would be construed as a side and transform it into an entree. I began seeing the plate as more of a palette and striving to balance colors and textures instead of following my old formula of protein, starch, veg.  I practiced putting veggie sides with veggie entrees to create comprehensive meals.  And above all, I didn’t sacrifice the creativity of cooking that I love just because I was only preparing vegetables.  I discovered that you can put as much time and effort into creating a wonderful vegetable entree as you can a hunk o’ meat entree.

This past week is a perfect example of what this transformation can really look like.  I got two glorious heads of cauliflower in my Abundant Harvest CSA box.


In my pre-pseudo-vegetarian state, that would have turned up on the plate either roasted or steamed as an accompaniment to a pork tenderloin or a chicken dish of some sort.  But after deciding that the cauliflower itself would be the main staple of our dinner, I chose to go the Asian route and put together a little Kung Pao Cauliflower.

I started by tossing the cauliflower florets and some thin carrot sticks with some olive oil and roasting at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes.


When things were nicely browned and starting to feel tender to the poke of a fork, I removed them from the oven.  I mixed together a little kung pao sauce consisting of soy sauce, water, apple cider vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, crushed red pepper, peanut oil, wasabi powder and cornstarch.

I transferred the roasted veggies from the cookie sheet to a large skillet and poured the kung pao sauce over.


I also tossed in some sliced shallots that I had lying around.  I let things simmer, while stirring pretty regularly, until the sauce thickened up and was coating the veggies nicely.  Then I served atop a bed of brown rice, garnished with some chopped cashews, and accompanied by some steamed sugar snap peas.  You could add in a lot of other things to get even more color, texture, flavor and nutrition – red peppers, green onions, kale, garlic, etc.


Just like that we went from side dish to entree.  We followed this up with a green salad with an Asian-like dressing and everyone felt as though they had  had a complete meal.


I’m not always assured full family approval when I go off script and start making stuff up.  In fact, a certain member of this little clan is known for asking, “Is this a real recipe, Mom, or just stuff that you made up?”  But this one got thumbs up all around the table.

So I’m curious.  Do any of you opt for full vegetarian meals?  If so, would you share your favorite?  I’m looking forward to hearing about your veggie delights.

Here’s the complete Kung Pao Cauliflower recipe.


Let It Grow! – Tuna Steaks with Ginger Chile Marinade

I think I’m addicted to growing things.  I honestly thought it was a little whim that would pass after a tad of experimentation, but nope, I believe it’s here to stay.  Last year, late Spring-ish or early Summer, we played around with a little gardening.  A few tomatoes here, some beans and carrots there.  “Borrowed” crates that served as planters. (You can read all about the beginning of this adventure here.) The kids got a kick out of it and I enjoyed watching them as they explored and enjoyed the wonder of real food growing right in our own back yard.

Summer turned to Fall and the tomatoes kept right on producing.  In fact, we picked some on Christmas day. The corn and beans turned barren and we replaced them with a few winter harvest items – like cauliflower and lettuce.  Then there was a brief lull and we let things have some unattended “alone time”.

My parents came to visit mid-March.  Even though he is 85 years old, it’s always best to have a few “projects” up my sleeve to keep my dad busy.  So this year’s project entailed the rental of a chain saw and the extraction of a huge, and I do mean huge, palm tree stump.  It had been occupying a good little chuck of my precious postage-stamp backyard, and my mind was racing with the possibilities of what could be planted there if I could only get rid of the palm.  As luck would have it, post-palm stump removal, I passed by a neighbor’s home as they were doing a little remodeling.  I spied on their driveway, a tile crate and just knew it would be a perfect planter.  There’s something about the scrounging / re-purposing / upcycling aspect of my gardening approach that gives me an extra little thrill.  I sent the hubs on a planter recon mission, and he returned with my new “planter” in tow, mumbling something about ” . . . whatever it takes to keep the wife happy, blah, bah, blah.”

I feel like a veritable little country girl planted in the middle of Orange County with a garden which boasts 3 tomato plants, 3 cabbage plants, 1 cucumber plant, 1 zucchini, 1 crook neck squash,1 cauliflower,  2 lettuce, 1 red pepper, basil, thyme, and multiple pumpkins (note to self on pumpkins – – – if you toss whole pumpkins in your compost, there’s a VERY good chance you will experience spontaneous pumpkin generation when using said compost soil!)  My children, in their delusions of grandeur, were talking the other day about how we could run our own farmers market with our harvest.  Easy girls, easy!  Anyway, here’s a little shot of my ridiculously small, but massively enjoyable backyard garden.


And here’s my challenge for you – grow something, anything, even if one small thing, in your own backyard this summer and experience the joy for yourself.

In keeping our food real this past week, I served up these Tuna Steaks with Ginger Chile Marinade.

To start off the marinade, I grated some fresh ginger.


I whisked the ginger with some rice vinegar, sesame oil, peanut oil, soy sauce, and fresh chopped parsley.  Then I added in this little guy for a bit of a kick.


I seasoned the marinade with a little pepper and then set aside about 3 Tablespoons.  The rest I poured over the tuna steaks and let marinate (refrigerated) for about 40 minutes.


After marinating (the tuna, not me), I preheated my grill and sprayed with a little non-stick oil.  I grilled the tuna for only about 4 minutes total to keep them nice and rare.  In fact, these ones were a little too done for my taste.  Next time, I would stay closer to a minute and a half per side if preparing steaks of a similar thickness.


I served them atop a bed a steamed spinach and brown rice, accompanied by some balsamic cherry tomatoes, and spooned the reserved marinade over each steak.


Yummy, easy, and quick!  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Here’s the complete recipe for Tuna Steaks with Ginger Chile Marinade

Want to explore more ahi recipes?  Have a gander at these:

Grilled Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna with Orange Ginger Soy Sauce

Marinated Ahi Tuna Salad

Zip It! – Roasted Beet Salad with Vinaigrette and Crumbled Goat Cheese

So the good news is that I have broken my mother’s cycle.  See, I was rarely allowed in the kitchen as a kid because my mom didn’t like to clean up the mess that she knew would result from my cooking or baking forays.  I let my kids in the kitchen as much and as frequently as they want.  In this little slice of my life, I can proudly proclaim, “I am not my mother.”

The not so good news is that I can’t seem to keep my mouth shut while my kiddos are cooking.  Let them dice a tomato with a steak knife?  Nope.  I CAN NOT do it.  Beat cookie dough with a wire whisk? Makes me crazy.  Remove cookies from the baking sheet with a rubber spatula?  Are they trying to drive me to the brink?  This past week, three of the four have been in the kitchen A LOT.  Let’s just say there have been numerous “discussions”, heated discussions . . .  ok, let’s call a spade a spade -tirades- about certain kitchen practices.

The thing is, I love it that my progeny like to cook.  I am proud of the fact that they are so tuned in to healthy eating practices.  I grin when the 4 year old reminds me not to buy the Asian yogurt because it has Stevia in it instead of real sugar.  I adore the looks on their proud little mugs when they serve their creations around the family table.  So why, oh why, can’t I just zip it and let them navigate the kitchen on their own?

Call it bossiness.  Call it intolerance.  Call it a downright character flaw.  It’s all of that and so much more.  But it’s also like so many of these challenges in parenting.  Seems we mama types are always walking the beam and trying to balance between guiding, directing and instructing and just letting them explore and figure things out on their own.  So on I trudge with the good fight. I try to bite my tongue, zip it, put a sock in it when necessary, and correct without losing it when possible.  I have found that some dishes lend themselves to less correction and conflict than others.  This little Roasted Beet Salad with Vinaigrette and Crumbled Goat Cheese is just one of those.

We start with some nice red beets.  These ones just happen to have come in our box of all organic and local produce which we have delivered every week by Abundant Harvest Organics.


The kiddos trim the leafy stems (which are great for adding into smoothies by the way) and the pointed root ends.  Then they wrap the bulb of each beet with aluminum foil. You see where I’m going here, right, not much room for variation in the execution of this cooking adventure.


They preheat the oven to 425 and place the foil wrapped beets directly onto the oven rack.  It takes 45 minutes to an hour to roast depending on the size of the beets.  When they are soft and easily pierced by a fork, they are done.

After they have cooled a bit, the kiddos remove the skin from the beets.  The skin falls away really easily, but the hands can get pretty stained on this step.  Possibility of kid correction — 70% depending on parental tolerance for messes and staining.

At this point, the beets can be sliced, garnished and served immediately (sometimes I love a warm beet salad and other times I’m looking for something slightly chilled and refreshing), or just sliced, packaged up, and refrigerated and saved for serving later.  In our case we refrigerated about a day and served up for the following night’s dinner.

To serve, we just arranged them on a platter, drizzled with some homemade vinaigrette, and topped with goat cheese and fresh herbs.  Simple, straightforward, and a wonderful first course!


So go forth, Mama friends, spread those arms and walk that balance beam.  Let those kiddos in the kitchen and let them spread their little culinary wings.  But do me a favor, and if you see them trying to separate an egg using a measuring cup,  slap them (humor)  – – – I mean give them a little lesson and direction.



Multiply That By FOUR – Sweet Potato Curry with Brown Rice

Sometimes I feel like having four kids is like holding down FOUR full time jobs.  You know, like those start up companies where one person is juggling a million balls to fill four positions all rolled into one.  Believe me, having helped to launch not one, but two, Internet start-ups “back in the day”, I know of what I speak.  I used to put in 16 hour days in my previous life as a leader in a techie start-up . . . because in that culture, you did whatever it took to get the job done, whether it was technically your job or not.  After all, you had one shot, and one shot only, to get your baby of a business off the ground.

So yesterday, it just kind of hit me, that my current life isn’t that drastically different from my old one.  I put in very loooong days and do whatever it takes.  As I see it, I’ve got one shot, and one shot only, to be with these little people through every age and stage.  But multiply that one start up company by four and  – – –  well, I think you get the picture.

Just this week, there was so much going on that I really thought I was about to lose the plot.  One wants to raise money to fund a well in Africa.  So she was baking cakes, going door-to-door offering samples, and trying to get customers to pre-order her goods.  Of course she had to create an order form, a delivery calendar, and the list goes on and on.  Not to mention that now she has to fulfill the orders over the coming two weeks. Budding entrepreneur basically.  Another one is entering a youth expo and was busy painting and photographing her entries.  Budding artist, you might say.  Number three had CoffeeCanTheater which came home from preschool.  That involved telling stories, acting out the stories with puppets, and then writing the stories down.  Hmmmm, budding writer / comedian / thespian?  The last one  is just a sponge taking it all in.  Of course on top of that there’s the routine sports practices, school work, meetings, and playing.

And you know what?   This isn’t a question of overscheduling.  The majority of this stuff isn’t organized extra-curriculars that often can get such a bad rap.  This stuff is just about letting them identify their interests and passions and run with them.

What’s a mom to do?  It’s not like I can just pick a favorite “start-up” and tell the other three, “Tough luck, we’ve decided to pull your funding”.  Wouldn’t that be rich?!  Pick the kid with the most potential and get 100% behind her while letting the other ones just “go under”.  OK – end fantasy analogy world and resume real life thinking.

So it’s long days and late nights for me.  Not to mention that no matter what else is going on, they all have to be fed.  I often joke and say that if they would just stop eating and wearing clothing that I would end up with an abundance of free time.  They think that’s funny.  I’m. Not. Joking.  Anyway, amidst this past week’s flurry of activity and dinners, I served up a little Sweet Potato Curry with Brown Rice.  It was a clear crowd pleaser and quite simple to pull together.

I started by just cutting the sweet potatoes into wedges and steaming them over some boiling water until they were tender.


While the spuds were steaming, I sauteed up some mushrooms.


I also sauteed up some shallots and chopped up a small bunch of cilantro.


Then I brought some coconut milk and water to a simmer in a skillet.  To that I added some Thai red curry paste and cilantro.  The sweet potatoes got tossed in next, along with the sauteed mushrooms and a drained can of bamboo shoots.  Oh, I also tossed in some sauteed shallots to this mess of goodness.


I let that all just simmer a few so that the flavors could blend, and then spooned it over some brown rice, dished up some roasted bok choy on the side, and garnished with lime wedges.



Nothing particularly fancy, but definitely choc full of nutritious goodness for my  “four little budding businesses”. Because no matter how thin I may be spread at this point in my life, there’s really no other place that I’d rather be investing my heart and my time.

Here’s the complete recipe for Sweet Potato Curry with Brown Rice.

Feeling Lucky – Chocolate Stout Cake

November?!  Yes, November since I have given you any attention, little old food blog.  What a pitiful shame.  I wish I could chalk it up to having too many kids and not enough time.  Or maybe being too busy with real estate.  What if I had simply stopped cooking?  Now there’s a good joke.

The truth is that Thanksgiving happened and I said to myself, “The world is overrun with pumpkin pie and stuffing posts, and I am simply overrun, so I am going to opt out of my blogging life for a bit.”  Then Christmas happened, and, well . . . Christmas happened.  We all know what that entails, so no need to expound there.”  Any normal person would have been able to jump right back into the fray of things post haste, post Christmas, right?  Maybe not so much.  Or maybe I’m not as normal as I would like to delude myself into thinking I am.  Because the truth is that since January I have slipped deeper and deeper into a total state of inertia.  The kind of inertia that first pulls you down by your toes and you think, “Oh, I just need to take it easy and recharge for a day or two.”  Then it seeps up to your waist and you think, ” This is ridiculous and I really need to shake it off – – – and delete Candy Crush Saga from my phone.”  Finally, as it creeps up to your shoulders and you feel it reaching for your neck, you panic and start to think that maybe you will never snap out of it, that you are officially done being productive / creative / efficient / proficient, and any other “-ent” or “-ive” that you may use to describe your person.  “Blah” no longer describes your state of being.  “In a funk”  seems like just a cheap excuse.  Some people might label it “depressed”.  Personally, I prefer to call it empty.  I have just been battling emptiness for the past three months.

Believe me, it is not easy to type that.  It’s even scary, if you must know.  Does confessing emptiness indict my mental stability?  Does it undermine my love of my husband and family? Does it undermine my faith and gratefulness?  I choose to believe that it simply affirms my humanity, that it marks a not so glorious season, that it is through being stuck in my own crud that I can grow more compassionate toward others who are mucking their way through their crud.

So that is where I have been, dear blog.  And little by little, I have regained perspective.  Little by little, I have dug my way out of my little hole.  Little by little, I have told myself that by being reduced to less that I can become more.  And no, the cooking hasn’t stopped through this slump.  After all, cooking is therapy to me.  Keeping things real, seasonal and local, I have served my little brood more, potato, rutabaga, turnip, radish, and other root vegetable concoctions than I should probably admit.  Those aren’t real sexy in their culinary appeal though, and I wanted to re-emerge on the blog with a little more pizazz. Plus, if you are like me, then maybe you find solace to your sadness in chocolate.  Not to mention, that it’s St. Paddy’s tomorrow and any good recipe with Guiness is a sure winner this time of year.  So with no further explanation, apologies, excuses, or ramblings, I give you THE BEST chocolate cake recipe of all time – Three Layer Chocolate Stout Cake.

First let me make the disclaimer that this makes a HUGE cake.  I have found that cutting it in half (not the frosting, just the cake) still makes an ample three layer beauty.  I have also made the whole recipe and been able to make a three layer cake AND about a dozen cupcakes which I have frozen and kept on hand for “emergencies”.  And then there have been times when I have just gone for it, made the full recipe and had three large, luxurious layers of chocolate bliss.  Whatever route you choose, start by buttering three 8″ round cake pans, then lining with parchment, and then buttering the parchment.  Then heat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a saucepan, I then bring 2 cups of stout (I have only used Guiness) and 2 cups of butter to a simmer.  To that, I whisk in the dutch process cocoa powder and then let that cool.


In a separate large bowl, I whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  In yet another bowl, I beat together eggs and sour cream with an electric mixer.


I then add the stout/butter mixture to the egg/sour cream mixture and beat just until it is combined.


The flour mixture gets added in next.  I beat it only briefly and then continue to fold in with a rubber spatula so as to not over mix.


All of this yumminess gets poured into my three prepared cake pans and baked for about 35 minutes.  When they are done, I cool them in the pans for about 10 minutes and then turn them out onto racks and cool completely.

For the frosting, I recommend buying the best chocolate your budget allows for.  Simply bring the whipping cream and chopped chocolate to a simmer in a saucepan, whisking constantly until it is melted.  Then transfer to the fridge and allow to cool.  Here is where you need to really keep an eye on the frosting and stir about every 10 minutes until it reaches frosting consistency.  I have botched this part and had it turn to “fudge” on me.  If that should happen to you, don’t panic.  Just put the pan back over very low heat and stir constantly until it melts back down and start the whole refrigeration and stirring process over again.  Once you have your frosting at the perfect consistency, frost between layers and over top and sides and . . .  voila!


So this St. Paddy’s maybe forgo the Irish Soda Bread and whip up this treat instead.  And if, like me, you are struggling with your own version of “emptiness”, I hope you remember that this is only a season and it too shall pass.  In the meantime, a little chocolate cake never hurt anyone!

Here’s the complete recipe for Three Layer Chocolate Stout Cake,

~ adapted from

Mind over Mollusk – Scallops in Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce

While tempting to tell you all about our journey into Colonial food for the kiddos’ Colonial festival, I’ll spare you all the gory details of onion pies and transparent puddings!  Suffice it to say that pilgrim-esque cooking is not my gig and so I’m glad I wasn’t drafted for the Mayflower.

My little mind is also flirting with the idea of pumpkin pie (we made one fresh from the adorable little pie pumpkins they have at Trader Joe’s these days), but there are a bazillion other blogs out there this time of year talking turkey and pie.

I could also go all persimmon on you since we have been inundated with those little gems these past few weeks, but the truth is, as hard as we have tried, none of us really likes them.  I want to like them, I really do.  But sadly they just don’t do it for me.

So I’ll hang on that little segue and get to the point of scallops.  Like the persimmon, I have never truly enjoyed scallops.  Shrimp – no problem.  Lobster – ok, twist my arm.  Clams – yep, especially if they are fried.  But the scallop, ummm, pass.  There’s just something about the texture, the concept, the appearance that creates a mental barrier for me.  The stomach wants to, but the brain isn’t cooperating.  Then last week I had this weird out of body experience while strolling through Costco (yes, we’re back on speaking terms again) and a strange voice in my head said, “Hey, don’t those scallops look good?”  I looked around to see who was commenting on the crustacean only to realize it was my very own inner voice.  I looked to the kids and threw out the crazy idea that we try some, half expecting full veto.  Nope, they were all on board.  Maybe had I said, “How about we cook up some bi-valve mollusks for dinner tonight?” I could have swayed the vote a bit more.  But by the time I had retraced my steps and thought of that approach, the exoskeleton-bearing aquatic invertebrates were already in my cart.

Wouldn’t you know, that evening, the Hubs had a last minute meeting come up.  Great . . .there I was cooking scallops -which I don’t even like – for a 10 year old, an 8 year old, a 4 year old, and a 2 year old!  Why didn’t I just roll an extra math lesson into dinner and call it a real party?!  After sifting through a few recipes, I decided that simple was best for this little seafood saga.  Scallops in Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce it was, and off we went.

We started by generously salting and peppering the little guys.


Then, we heated a bit of olive oil in a large skillet and added the scallops.  We let them cook until golden brown on one side (about 4 minutes), and then flipped them and added some butter and a few sprigs of fresh tarragon.  The tarragon had come in our weekly produce box and was just lovely.



We let the second side cook for another 4 minutes or so, just until the butter was browned and started to small kind of nutty  Finally we mixed in a little fresh lemon juice.  We served everything up with some mashed sweet potatoes, sauteed summer squash & French bread (for dipping in the brown butter sauce, of course).


Overall not a bad reception – loved by the 10 year old, luke warm reception by the 8 year old, eaten by the 2 year old, and the 4 year old?  Let’s just say lots of sweet potatoes and squash were consumed by a certain someone at the table.  As for me . . .  well, my inner-voice was leading me in the right direction (and for once it wasn’t toward chocolate).  I enjoyed the little mollusks after all!

Here’s the complete recipe for Scallops with Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce.

And for your browsing pleasure, here are a few more scallop recipes:

A Definite First – Collard Greens Burritos

I love a challenge.  Last week that challenge came in the form of COLLARD GREENS which appeared in my weekly produce box. What?!  I admit I had to take a step back on that one.

Googling efforts produced a good chuckle anyway.  My favorite entry was titled “Do white people eat collard greens?”  Though racist and not the kind of question I would think of popping off with, I have to admit that it made me think.  This white person had never eaten collard greens.  I started to wonder why.  Well first off, my culinary exposure sprouts from two distinct geographic locations: Ohio and France.  Enough said – I don’t think I need to go into any deeper explanation on that one.  Secondly, collard greens just aren’t jumping up and down in the produce aisles I frequent squeaking out “pick me, pick me!”  And finally, my usual online haunts, like Epicurious, aren’t regularly featuring collard greens as the latest, hippest food in town.  So there you have it.  As a result of these three little factors, this white person had never eaten collard greens.  Bummer for me.

So after deciding that I wouldn’t be fixing up any chitlins, hog jowl, ham hocks or pigs feet to accompany my collard greens, I set out to find a recipe that that would allow me to use my beautiful greens AND keep the cooking style in line with what we usually eat.  After all, the collard green is considered one of the world’s healthiest veggies and I didn’t want to pass up its health benefits just because I wasn’t going to be frying them up in pork fat.

I came up with a lovely idea of burritos using the collard greens in place of the tortilla and off we went.

I started by removing the stems from the collard greens.  Each green will make two separate wraps.  After the stems were removed. I placed the greens in boiling water for about 4 minutes.   Then I pulled them out and transferred to ice water.

In a large skillet, I sautéed up some onion and bell pepper.  I think I may have tossed a small chili in there too for some extra heat.


Once those were nice and golden, I added in some brown rice and 3/4 of a can of diced tomatoes.  I also tossed in some chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a smidge of cayenne.


I mixed that up well, and started to spread about 1/2 c. of the mixture into each collard green half.


I rolled each leaf up and then lined them in a 9×13″ baking pan.  I scattered some Mexican cheese blend over the top and then the remaining diced tomatoes.  Into the oven it went at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes – just long enough to make sure everything was piping hot.


So there you go . . . who knew incorporating collard greens into a weeknight staple could be so easy!


Here is the complete recipe for Collard Greens Burritos.

Want to explore more collard greens recipes?  Take a peek.

Paralysis by Nutritional Analysis – Potato Veggie Latkes

What a rat hole eating well can be if you don’t use common sense!  Seriously, I just spent thirty minutes reading about butter.  Yes, I said butter!  One ingredient.

I was just curious about whether or not butter was considered a “clean” food.  Don’t get me wrong, I have never proclaimed to eat clean.  I try to prepare healthy meals for my family and use real food while doing it.  Real butter, by the way, containing only cream, counts as real in my book.

Lately I have just been browsing around the world  of food theory and terms and it’s no wonder some people can get backed into a corner of absolute inertia when it comes to trying to change or improve eating habits.  There’s so much information out there and so much of it absolutely contradictory.  There’s a whole segment of the nutrition and dietary world that seems so police-like and legalistic to me.  Personally, I think such absolute approaches to food do more to hinder positive change rather than help it.  Loads of people have been duped into thinking that they need to be able to follow a very narrow set of prescribed rules in order to eat well.  Just the worry of how you “would” or “could” navigate certain obstacles that “might” come up (for example, a lunch out with a friend) can keep a person sitting on the sidelines of eating well, or at least better, than they are currently eating. I say, jump into the game!  If you get a foul, you get a foul.  Don’t we usually learn from our mistakes, blunders, slip ups, and flat out failures?

Back to my friend, the butter . . . If you eat a dish containing all vegetables, herbs, and a little butter instead of a casserole of meat, condensed soup, an artificial cheese product and prepackaged crescent rolls, aren’t you really improving your game?  I think the answer is an unquestionable “YES”.

We don’t do anything else in our lives perfectly, so why should we think we can eat perfectly?  Sure, you can spend another week or two trying to decide whether or not coconut oil is really better for you than olive oil, all the while eating your Kraft mac-n-cheese and Marie Callender’s chicken pot pies, and then you’ll just be another casualty to paralysis by analysis ( I have always loved that little gem of a saying). Not to mention that once you figure out the coconut oil dilemma, there will be another new and trendy food item on the shelves for you to figure out. In my book, what really counts is to start now and take baby steps.  Don’t worry too much about the technicalities of the game; those are kinks you can always iron out as you go.  For now just get the basics down in your playbook and build from there.

There are a million blogs out there that will give you their version of the basics.  My basics are really basic – fruits, veggies, whole grains.  I just have a fun little suggestion that could help you in your game.  Go hit your local farmer’s market or produce store.  Grab a veggie you have never had . . .  or just haven’t spent quality time with lately.  Buy enough of it to feed your family.  Once you are home, type the name of what you bought into the Food Blog Search. Epicurious can work just as well – it’s my personal fav.  In seconds I guarantee you’ll find some fabulous recipes to encourage you in your cooking and eating well journey.  And in my book an ounce of encouragement and confidence easily outweighs a pound of rules!

I recently did this, not with unfamiliar ingredients, but just with what I had on hand, and ended up making these great Potato Veggie Latkes.

I started by grating up some peeled carrots, peeled potatoes, and zucchini.


To that, I added some lightly beaten eggs, salt and pepper, and panko.


I heated some olive oil in a skillet and then dropped scoops of my mixture in and fried for about 3 minutes per side.


I pulled them out when they were just golden on both sides and holding together well.


I served them up with some homemade (yes, crockpot) applesauce and a bit of sour cream, and then finished the meal off with a green salad.  Simple yumminess!


Here’s the complete recipe for Potato Veggie Latkes, adapted the Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen.

Want to explore more latke options?  Have a gander . . .

Zesty Sweet Potato-Zucchini Latkes with Cilantro Lime Dip (
Vegetable Latkes (
Meatless Monday: Baked Sweet Potato Latkes (

By the way, this year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah converge on Thursday, November 28th. This is an event that won’t take place for another 79,000 years. You may want to pass a few latkes alongside your turkey to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event!