A “Sardine Skeptic” Converts


As we were growing up my dad would consume foods that, through the eyes of five Icee Pop loving girls under the age of 14, were particularly revolting.  Things like horseradish by the teaspoon, Pepper Pot soup from a can, anchovies, sardines, brown mustard, and liver (the story went – “I was flat broke during college, so quite frequently I’d cook up some liver n’ onions. Cheap and delicious!” Cue exaggerated retches from the mouths of five Sunchip loving girls under the age of 14). These days, though the Pepper Pot soup in the cabinet remains untouched by all except our bald-pated patriarch, we’ve all expanded our tastes to embrace some previously taboo foodstuffs.

I now love mustards of all kinds, and horseradish is tops. But the pungent little tinned fishes in my pantry weren’t in heavy rotation until my mom introduced me to The Longevity Kitchen cookbook.  Among other culinary treats, it has a slam-dunk recipe using sardines in quite the approachable manner, especially if you’re a fan of bright herbs and lemon. I probably wouldn’t have made it if I hadn’t tried it first in mom’s kitchen, even though the cookbook prefaces the recipe with “some culinary wizardry will be required to turn sardine skeptics into wild-eyed fans.” So if you’re trying to get over the sardine hump, please let this be your guide.  The recipe from the cookbook (by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson) is reprinted below, but note that you could include a tablespoon or two of chopped cilantro (as I did) if you sway that way.


Good Mood Sardines (recipe from The Longevity Kitchen by Mat Edelson and Rebecca Katz, which also contains a multitude of other tasty and healthy recipes to offset your bread pudding with hard sauce addition. Wait, I mean, my bread pudding with hard sauce addiction).

4 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp. finely diced red onion
2 tsp. each finely chopped fresh parsley, basil, and mint
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
⅛ tsp. sea salt
1 (4.35-ounce) can sardines, packed in water or olive oil

Put the lemon juice, lemon zest, red onion, parsley, basil, mint, olive oil, mustard, and salt in a bowl, and stir to combine. Add the sardines and flake them into chunky pieces with a fork. Stir gently to combine. Taste; you may want to add a pinch of salt or a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


This post is called “Back…?”, which is the truncated version of “What To Do When On Extended Phone Hold with the Social Security Office.”  Thirty one minutes and counting.  Seeing as how we recently welcomed the little character portrayed in all those pixels of adorableness you see below, dedicating thirty one minutes solely to phone time is lunacy.


But there are some crazy things you have to do during nap time in the name of “saving for your child’s college education” and “cooking something so you don’t have vanilla ice cream for dinner again.”  I’m kidding. We don’t eat vanilla ice cream for dinner.  We eat vanilla ice cream with unsweetened coconut flakes, the Kashi version of Grape Nuts, and mini-chocolate chips smushed in.  Matt calls it “Gravel Path” (a nod to Rocky Road) because he’s more like my dad than he thinks as far as puns go. That’s today’s recipe.

Happy New Year!  I’ve got a few more “recipes” to throw up here along with a post about the best/worst online reviews as sourced from sister Ang.  There will probably be little in the way of new music because we’re listening to Raffi on repeat and you’re probably too busy watching the Beyonce visual album anyway.  Enjoy that, but just know that Blue Ivy better watch her back. She’s got some new baby competition:


Friday Distractions

Friday, finally! Here are a few links to break up the work day…

Portraits of Grandmas and their cuisine from around the world – I’ve always wanted an Italian grandmama, this makes me want an Ethiopian and a Bolivian one too.

Lumosity – Extremely addictive mind exercises and games one can play all under the pretense of improving mental agility.  Brain benefits aside, I could play Word Bubbles ’til the cows come home. There’s even a game for helping improve your skills at remembering peoples’ names.

Cabbage Peanut Salad/Slaw – Eat this all summer long. We’re making a huge batch to bring to a graduation party – it keeps well (toss with dressing just before serving), it’s healthy, and it’s a crowd-pleaser.

7-Minute Workout – It’s already made the news rounds, but here’s a how-to video with bad synth music to get you through it. Pair this with the cabbage slaw and 2-3 RAKs and you’re just about at halo status for the weekend.

Potato Salad with capers and mustard – Also coming to the graduation party, but we’ll throw some hard-cooked eggs in too.

Toms River by Dan Fagin – A seriously worthwhile read.

Showcase Superlux – Totally ridiculous luxury theater, but we’re going to splurge for World War Z. Though on second thought, maybe dinner service and zombies don’t really play well together…

And on Sunday, Happy Father’s Day!  My dad raised five girls and, despite extensive hair loss, is still alive to tell the tale.

Yeah, we had matching Pluto sweatshirts. Jealous?

Yeah, we had matching Pluto sweatshirts. Jealous?

Mustard, Finally

mustard seeds & powder

Of all the jars of jams and sauces and condiments that jostle for space in our three refrigerator shelves, Sriracha against walnut oil, soy sauce (now only this kind, purchased in bulk. It’s life-changing!**) vs. hot pepper jelly, Cholula and Frank’s, mustard has the greatest footprint. Currently there are four bottles of mustard with varying levels smoothness, spreadability, and sinus-clearing spiciness, and of these, two are homemade.

A friend recently questioned the wisdom of homemade mustard when it’s so cheap to buy and so hard to finish.  Romantic comedies of a certain ilk tend to show a lonely bachelor or bachelorette squinting into the refrigerator light to find naught but an old, stained Chinese takeout container, a half-empty jar of mustard, and a bottle of light beer.  That just doesn’t happen in our house. First of all, we go through mustard about as quickly as ice cream.  (Not amazing ice cream, but decent ice cream that takes two weeks to polish off).  It goes on our ham, and cheese, and sausages, with just about every cruciferous vegetable, bread, crackers, salad dressing, potatoes, etc.  Secondly, even though it’s inexpensive, it’s still not that inexpensive when you like the type of mustard with the whole seeds, with that pleasing mouthfeel and tiny ‘pop’, and also when you basically eat it by the ladleful.  Third, there are a few food blogs I read whose recipes I trust implicitly, and when one of these posted ideas for a few types of homemade mustard, I was whipping up a batch within the week. Oh and fourth, it takes literally three minutes to make, not counting the waiting time. Literally. You pour everything in one bowl, and then you stir it and let it sit for two days. And maybe give it a whiz with the hand blender, to your preferred consistency. Done.


Here’s one of the three recipes, the brainchild of Good Food Matters, slightly altered and then doubled because we love our mustard so. Definitely visit her site to check out recipes for the other two.

1 cup white wine
6 tablespoons vinegar (I used a mix of white wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar)
6 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
6 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
8 tablespoons powdered mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Stir all ingredients together in a glass or ceramic bowl until thoroughly combined, then cover with plastic wrap. Keep at room temperature (aka unrefrigerated), and allow the liquid to soften the mustard seeds for 48 hours. Uncover and blitz with an immersion blender until it reaches your desired consistency.  Place in a clean jar and refrigerate, then slather on just about anything.



**When the Williams Sonoma outlet had bottles of it on clearance, for some bizarre reason I attribute only to the facts that people like their Kikkoman’s and why shop around for soy sauce, I made my nice mother load up on so much that she nearly herniated another disc. And that’s with me carrying two thirds of it to the car.

Kitchen Sink Oatmeal and Thanksgiving Prep

It’s sweet potato city in here. Escapee cranberries are meeting slow squish-deaths underfoot. All four burners and the oven are blasting, so when Matt gets back from the store with the forgotten ingredients and opens the door, he’s going to have to Kurt Russell that Backdraft.  With two prep and cook windows in my work schedule between now and sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner – right now and Wednesday night after 8 p.m. – it made sense to get started on the dishes we’re contributing immediately. Plus everything I’ve read about bread dough seems to imply that patience is key, so desperation-kneading late on Thanksgiving eve didn’t sound like the best idea.

No time like the present, so this evening is unfolding to a long stretch of cooking in a sweltering kitchen accompanied by good playlists and healthy, energy sustaining snacks:

Shout out to RCocomon for introducing us to Jack Honey at Rath and Aimee’s wedding. Hot sauce in my bag.

In this cooking marathon, I’m running out of counter space, vessels, and Gruyere – Gruyere for snacking, not cooking. One can’t live on Jack and gourmet mallows** alone. Besides the twin benefits of an cheese/sweet consumption and whiskey swilling, if you cook early for Thanksgiving, you might find yourself with a little extra this and that, perhaps enough to cobble a teeny taste-test version of the big dish you’re contributing. Happy early Thanksgiving!

But the purpose of the post is to offer a suggestion for how to start your Thanksgiving morning. With a little fiber-filled breakfast, it’ll be easier not to binge on the cheese log (or brie en croute with lingonberry jam, pinky finger UUUP) and other appetizers and wreck your appetite for the big meal. So may I suggest a little kitchen sink oatmeal? It involves a mix of steel cut oats and rolled oats (a solution for random ingredients throwing off the ratios in a ragtag “recipe”), the end-piece of an overripe banana, that last little fourth cup of coconut milk lingering in the fridge, the teensiest knob of butter, the bottom of a few bags of nuts and dried fruit, and honey.

Kitchen Sink Oatmeal
Serves 4

1/2 cup steel cut oats
About a 1/2 cup rolled oats – you’ll use these to sop up whatever extra liquid the steel cut oats don’t absorb
1.5 cups liquid – could be all water, or a mix of water and coconut milk/regular milk/cream (if you use cream in your Thanksgiving morning oatmeal, hats off)
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 overripe banana, mashed
1/3 cup mixed dried fruit – I used dried cherries and these weird Turkish apricots that Matt bought, they are dark brown and frightening
1 teaspoon honey
Dash of cinnamon, cardamom (just a teensy bit!), and vanilla, if desired
Little knob of butter
1/4 cup chopped nuts, lightly toasted – I used pecans

Bring water (and other liquids) to a boil. (Bob’s Mill recipe recommended filter water, so use that if you’ve got it). Add salt and steel cut oats, reduce heat to a simmer, and put a lid on the pot. Cook for 10 minutes, then taste-test for desired amount of chewiness.  (There will be extra liquid in the pot). As soon as the steel cut oats are slightly chewier than your preferred texture, add mashed banana, dried fruit, spices, honey and vanilla, and sprinkle on rolled oats to sop up the extra liquid. Stir, cook for another 5-10 minutes until the liquid is soaked up, then add the butter. Put into bowls, and top with toasted nuts, and random toasted coconut left over from a fried rice experiment, should you have it.  Tada! – (everything but the) kitchen sink oatmeal.

**Laziness means you can’t bear walking another 3/4 miles to the normal grocery store to buy normal marshmallows at normal prices.

Roasted Delicata Squash (and Brain)

Because a recent spice experiment with delicata squash fell a little flat, I’m going to forego an original recipe and just push the vegetable.  It caramelizes beautifully, kicks butternut to the curb in terms digit-retention when chopping and all around flavor, per Apt 8 consensus, and it comes in a neatly portable Wawa shortie hoagie size. There’s very little waste because you eat the skin, and the seeds do extraordinarily well when prepared in pumpkin seed fashion. Matt likes it so much that I roast big pans of it that disappear in about a day and a half.  From the closed fridge. While we’re at work. City mice are crazy delicata aggressive.

(Also, sisters – remember when Dad would take creative license when bellowing out the theme song because he couldn’t remember the words? “They’re laboratory mice! They like soy sauce with rice!”)

Simple roasting instructions are below. The squash lends itself well to experimentation (though not all spice combinations are winners, as in my case), but I trust this culinary professional implicitly and am planning her preparation for next time.

Roasted Delicata Squash (and seeds)

2 delicata squashes
Large-flake kosher salt
Olive oil, depending on the size of your squashes

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Scrub the exterior of the squashes well as you’ll be eating the skins after they are cooked. Cut off both ends, then slice in half vertically. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and reserve to the side. Cut the squash into 3/4 inch slices, put in a large bowl, and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, and then toss to coat.

Arrange on a metal baking sheet, with the flesh of each slice (rather than the skin) touching the baking sheet – this will maximize caramelization. Bake for 15 minutes, flip the slices using a fork, and then bake for another 15 minutes or until the edges are browned and the squash is cooked through.

The seeds can be prepared just like pumpkin seeds – toss in an oil with your seasoning of choice, spread into one layer on a baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes in an oven at 300 degrees until lightly browned. Keep a close eye on them while they cook to avoid burning. Some nice flavor combinations (plus salt) include coconut oil and cinnamon; olive oil and spicy paprika; olive oil, chili powder, and a spritz of lime juice after cooking.