I grew up in The South, but we didn’t do Southern things. Some of it was a little silly: no grits; no saying “y’all”; no boiled peanuts.  Some things were more profound: no calling middle-aged African-American women by their first names.* Read More


A few weeks before Christmas, we got a letter from Kishmish:

Dear, Mommy, and, Papay,
What, do you like for Chismis? That you think I can make. Think of something easy that I can make out ov paper like a book or a paper ball I think those are easy.
Love, Kishmish xoxo

There are so many things to say about this note! Like: why did the first line get all the punctuation? And: how cute is her spelling?  And most of all: Is this not the sweetest sentiment ever?

The girls are 6, and I guess this is the age when they start to care about celebrating things properly, and they are looking ahead to birthdays and holidays and special occasions in a different way than they did before. It’s sweet and new. . . and of course I tend to interpret it as another level of pressure on myself to do the right thing and not screw it up. Because not only were they enthusiastic about giving gifts to Mommy and Papa, they also wanted to make stuff for teachers, grandparents, friends….. Read More

I remember hearing this interview with Nigella Lawson last December on NPR — they must do it every year, because I heard another similar one this December, a week or so ago — in which she was talking about easy recipes for holiday entertaining, making the whole thing seem so effortless and awesome.  She got to this chocolate orange cake, and explained that chocolate-with-orange is just such a British flavor for the holiday season, and I was like, “Yes! Yes!”  I am not British, but somehow chocolate plus orange totally equals a special treat.

(Incidentally, if you follow the link, you’ll see that in that same interview she extolled the convenient virtues of peanut butter hummus, a snack so horrid-sounding that I had actually completely forgotten about all the other nice ideas she has for holiday food.)

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When small children are involved, there is a very fine line between breakfast and dessert.

Chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast?  With syrup AND whipped cream? Yes! That is obviously ok!

Chocolate cake for breakfast? Of course not — are you nuts?!

We allow hot chocolate barely visible beneath a pile of whipped cream;  things covered in powdered sugar; and “oatmeal” is a bowl containing equal parts brown sugar, oatmeal, and butter.

Nontheless . . . a few days ago, in the middle of the morning rush, when I was slicing some blondies I made for a PTA bake sale (yes, everything in that phrase is true! I really did that!), and Kishmish asked to have one with her oatmeal, I was like, “Are you kidding me?! You can’t have these for breakfast!”  She must be so confused.

So in the interest of blurring the lines between reasonable breakfast and indulgent dessert, here’s a Saturday morning breakfast we’ve been having the past few weekends.  It cooks up pretty quickly, and the girls can pick at it all morning; Ankur and I get to have what’s left for a later-morning breakfast.  I imagine this would make a great weekday morning breakfast, too — particularly since you can put it together ahead of time and pop in the oven in the morning — but I’ve never actually tried that.

We have had this crisp with milk/soy milk, with whipped cream (fast becoming a breakfast staple, much to my shame), and plain. I try to keep the sugar/maple syrup to a minimum and to incorporate some flax meal. . . this is, after all, breakfast.

What are the compromises you have made in the name of getting your family to eat breakfast?

Breakfast Apple Crisp

This makes enough for about 4 people to share at breakfast.

For the fruit:

  • 3-4 medium-large apples
  • juice of 1 lime (or lemon) (or lime/lemon juice from a bottle)
  • 1/2 cup each of walnuts and raisins (both are optional)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (less, if you are using super-sweet apples or raisins)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder (you can also add a litle nutmeg)

For the topping:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup flax meal (optional)
  • 4 Tbsp butter or margarine (more will make it even better!)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or buttermilk

Mix together the apples, juice, nuts/raisins, syrup and cinnamon.  Put it in a small baking dish. (I use this odd-size oval pan from Ikea.)

Mix together the oats, flour, and flax meal. Cut in some butter — I use my hands. The topping is a little dry, so add a little maple syrup or buttermilk, just enough to bring it together a bit. Don’t make it into a drippy dough.


Add the topping and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, until the fruit is soft and bubbling, and the topping is slightly brown.

What in the world just happened?  The last time I posted, it was early fall,
and my impression was that there was a lot of time to cook fall recipes,
prepare for Diwali, write about all my adventures with Diwali sweets and treats,
and then slowly descend into the cold, dark, sleepy, New York City winter we
all know is coming.

Instead, the last 10 days passed in a blur of sparklers, sweets of every type, a few batches of pumpkin waffles. . . .and a snowstorm! Where did that come from!  We barely missed having a white Diwali?! We were hoping the snow would melt for Halloween?!

So, I was too busy fast-forwarding through a season I usually love to take note of all the early fall cooking I thought would figure prominently in this blog.  Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.  Let’s go back and talk about delicata squashes, which may not even be available any more here in New York (particular post-Nor’Easter!).  Just take note for next year, I guess.

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My husband and I are lucky to have jobs that allow us to work from home from time to time. On a few of those work-from-home days we are actually at home together, while the girls are at school.  It’s like we are in college!  Sitting on the couch, tapping on our laptops, taking calls on our little gadgety phones.  Doing office work at home is far from perfect, but it is a welcome break, especially if one of us has had a particularly hectic time of it getting the girls dressed and off to school.

We used to use these occasional work-from-home days to grab a nice lunch in the neighborhood, but we quickly realized that — at least in Jackson Heights — there is an inverse relationship between the quality of the meal and the time spent getting it.  Sure, you can go to Sapori d’Ischia for what might be the best and most reasonable priced lunch anywhere, but then you probably won’t get any more work done for the rest of the day. Which kind of takes you from “working from home” to ‘taking a holiday.”

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Earlier this week Ankur and I sat at the kitchen table watching Kishmish, long past her bedtime, eat the following: 2 hard-boiled eggs, 1 sliced cucumber, 1 cup of yogurt, a few rice cakes, and apple. . .and I think there were some other things. It was after 10 pm, and I was nodding off towards the end of the feeding frenzy.

Later, after the very hungry caterpillar child settled into a food coma and finally gave us some peace, Ankur speculated that maybe, just maybe, she is going through some kind of insane growth spurt. Like maybe all of these stomach troubles and complaints of exhaustion are a result not of an infection or a weird allergy. . . but of insatiable hunger! A growth spurt! We decided it might be better to send more snacky, high-calorie things in the girls’ lunches, to encourage them to eat better and keep their energy up. Ankur suggested Snickers bars.  I started poking around online — graham crackers?  Lara bars? “Look,” my husband said, “Just keep in mind that it should be something they want to eat. . . not you.”

Ouch!  Am I really that bad?

Well. . . there’s this soup. The idea for this soup came from a request the girls had: they wanted to take soup for school lunch — tomato soup!  I got to work making something that was supposed to be more complex and interesting that tomato soup from a box/can. Something that would use real ingredients and that we’d make from scratch with less sugar and salf and more love than those old store-bought soups. Something that, ultimately, the girls didn’t like very much and didn’t really bother to eat at lunch time. Read More