Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another Mouth to Feed

Welcome home (sort of) Bode Burns

Okay, so when your husband comes home and says, "Let's get a dog," and he's THIS cute, and so is your husband, AND you have a 2 1/2 year old son, try your very hardest to look past the puppy's droopy eyes, the extra skin, the mammoth paws, and the puppy breath.  The shit is HARD.  There ain't two ways around it.  The feeding is the least of our responsibilities, and frankly, my main squeeze is doing most of the dirty work, but, and there's a HUGE but...when said hubby is employed out of the state, even worse, in HAWAII, that's when the hard work and regret sets in.  Well, work is work, so my man packed up his surf board and headed off for an 8 day job in Oahu, working 2, surfing 6.  Now, I know these are first world problems, but I had family visiting, no preschool for Henry, our nanny on vacation, pink eye on the kid, and a 3 month old puppy.  As my people say, "oy vey."  At one point, on the phone with Jere in Hawaii, in the midst of bathing, chasing, and feeding in the evening, he says to his bartender, "Could I get another chunk of pineapple, please?"  Really?  Needless to say, when my tanned, rested hubby came home and picked up mucho household slack, for a full day at least, I was haggard.  In my kooky stupor, I could have sworn I heard him sigh deeply when having to take Bode for a walk in the rain.  I figured, here's my opening:

Int.  Kitchen.  Day. 
Honey, are you regretting this decision?
What decision?
Oh, I thought you were really frustrated with Bode, and if you are...
What are you talking about?
I don't know, if you think we got a dog too soon...
Well, there are ways to rectify the situation if we maybe jumped the gun, with Henry being so young and all...
(Long pause)  Are you asking me if I could get rid of a member of our family?!
What?  No, no way, I just thought... Never mind.  Me too, ME TOO!  Bode and Henry are totally brothers!

Listen, I'm embarrassed I could have such thoughts.  I consider myself an extreme dog-loving person.  A person who has lived with many dogs, and lost them all eventually, obviously, and I wouldn't trade those relationships for anything.  But in a moment when your house feels like it's swallowing you whole, you're slipping in dog pee every five minutes, and all you want is to be alone with your son, bathing him, all eyes on him, you kind of lose your mind.  At least I did.

Right now Bode is lying on my lap, dreaming of chasing something, and it feels amazing.  I know my son and he will have an incredible relationship for a good, long time, and yes, so will Bode and I.  Like Jere said, a member of our family.
My rain-loving boys

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Whole Latke Love!

I may have a devil child.  "Loving," isn't exactly how the evening started out.  I was busy fryin' up the latkes, (recipe later, oy, they were delish!), when all of a sudden I see my friend, Jill's, face drop as she witnesses Henry raise his plastic bus up high, and strike her son, Jack, on the head with it.  Not a bonk, not a tap, a full-forced blow to the noggin.  There was blood...and a bump, and a whole latke embarrassment on my part.  I felt horrible, who IS this child?!  These boys have been SO loving with one another since they met a year and a half ago, you can imagine my mortification.
Better days between Henry and Jack
Jack was crying, Henry started crying, Jill and I started crying, (thank you, Liv, for not joining in on the tears with us!), and, needless to say, this wasn't how I remembered the first night of Hannukah....  BUT we got through it,  (thanks mostly to the calm Daddy's present), the O'Brien's stayed, no emergency room visit necessary, but I'm pretty sure Jack's afraid of our house now.  (Our new puppy terrorized him last time.)  Remarkably, the night turned around quite nicely, after Henry was allowed out of his room, hugged Jack, and said he was sorry.  Oy, the tsuris.  Had the latkes not been divine, the whole evening might have been a bust.
From the amazing cookbook my friend, Marla, swears by:  Jewish Home Cooking, by Arthur Schwartz.
1 pound of russet (baking) potatoes
2 eggs
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 to 1/3 cup matzo meal
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
Peanut, corn, or canola oil for frying

(I doubled this recipe, so I was at the stove for quite a while, but there were VERY few leftover, thank you very much!)

Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks and place them in a bowl with cold water.  This keeps them from browning, but don't leave them there for longer than 2 hours.
Beat the eggs.  Throw the onions into a food processor fitted with the metal "S" blade, pulse until very finely chopped, almost a puree.  Scrape the onions into the bowl with the eggs and mix.
Drain the potatoes, then set a strainer over a bowl.  In the same processor, (no need to clean it), process the potatoes until very finely chopped, but still with some texture.  Immediately scrape them into the strainer.  With the back of a big, wooden spoon or something, press out the moisture so it drains into the catch bowl.  Immediately stir the potatoes into the egg mixture.  Throw away the lovely juices.  Add matzo meal, salt, pepper and cream of tartar.  Stir well and let stand while the oil is heating.
Heat about 1/8 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until very hot.  But not so hot that it splatters wildly.  Spoon out the batter for each pancake, about a 1/4 cup or less.  The batter should sizzle as soon as it hits, if the edges of the batter separate, the oil it too hot, and if if there are just slight bubbles, the oil is not yet hot enough.
Fry the latkes for about 4 minutes on the first side, watch the edges get nice and brown, and slightly less time on the second side.  They should be pretty darn brown before flipping them, 'cause you only want to flip 'em once.  I set out paper towel to put them on, let them drain some of the oil out after cooking.  I also cover them with a towel to keep them warm, but you'll want to serve them as soon as possible.
You know the drill from there, apple sauce and sour cream, I dare you to eat just one.
Happy Hannukah!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Beets Me!

I always have this delicious salad in my refrigerator, I eat it ALL the time.  It's quite the popular pot-luck dish, if you're in need, and what's our favorite word, people?  E-Z!  Wicked easy, as my Boston-bred hubby would say, (but he doesn't like beets, who IS this man?!)  I made this up, here 'tis:
First, you roast the beets.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  I use large beets, and I generally roast three at a time.  Place them in a baking dish with about an 1/8 inch of water on the bottom, salt, and cover with tin-foil.  Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the beets, they're ready when a fork easily pierces them.  Take them out and let them cool.
At the same time, make two cups of quinoa.  (Read the package, it's 2 to 1, come on, even I know this!)
Once the beets have cooled, the skins will peel off very easily with your fingers, and, just f.y.i., your hands WILL get beet red.  Gotta get dirty!
Dice the beets, dice cucumbers, chop some dill, smash some walnuts, crumble some feta cheese, and add all of this to the quinoa.  I mix in some olive oil and either red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, but any favorite salad dressing will do, salt and pepper, toss it all together and chill.
I eat this with a scoop of tuna, some grilled chicken, a veggie burger or turkey burger, it's really yummy and satisfying, also very enjoyable on it's own, you choose.  I dare you to not keep whipping this up!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hi my name is Leslie, and I'm addicted to...

Our spicy, tomato, veggie morning juice
Is this gorgeous or what?!
Okay fine, GUILTY, I actually follow things that Gwenyth Paltrow likes, uses, and passes along to her followers, but there are SO many chefs that swear by the VitaMix, I just had to indulge, and SWEET BABY JESUS, it's astonishing.  It can do so much, (yes, peanut butter), and WAY more than I know or have experimented with thus far, but there's something I make every morning for my family, juice.  It's awesome, you can sneak in greens and things that a lot of kids won't touch with a ten foot pole, AND it's not a juicer, so it's beyond easy to clean, but it's more than a blender because it purees the hell out of everything.  Whether it be a fruit smoothie or a juice, you can put so much in that's not detectable, even cabbage, blech, and no one's the wiser.
This particular juice consists of:
4-6 Tomatoes
1/2 Carrot
Bunch of Kale
Bunch of Spinach
Couple Slices of Ginger
One Stalk of Celery
2 Splashes of Cholula Hot Sauce
2 Tablespoons of Chia Seeds
Blending in "Lincoln Park After Dark" nail color
The whole family wakes up and enjoys a juice
Obviously, I'm not THAT vain, because this here is me in the morning for all to see.  Oy.
Oh, and cleaning this sucker, all you do is put in some water and a squirt of soap, hit the blender, (don't forget the top!), let it run a minute and rinse her out.  HELLO!  She's not a cheap machine, but I believe it's a great investment, one that'll be around a long time.  It's got a 5-7 year warranty, and I recommend calling Vitamix directly rather than buying it in a store, because they're so helpful, have great deals, and shipped it to me FREE!  (You may be getting the point that I love FREE!) 1-800-848-2649.

Friday, November 5, 2010

MacBook vs. Marinara

I have the most delicious, easiest roasted tomato sauce for y'all, but first, a story reflecting my profound moronicness:
Henry and I were skyping with my mother, and I was telling her about this amazing tomato sauce I made.  I explained it to her, but she wanted to know what happens to the tomato skins, so I said, "Oh wait, I'll show you, LIVE!"  So I got the tupperware from the fridge, opened the top, and tilted it toward the camera on my very PRICEY MacBook Pro.  Yes, that's right, I poured the sauce all over my computer keypad.  ALL OVER IT!  Henry proceeded to dip his fingers in it and lick it, (because it IS that delicious, even on a Mac), and I ran into the kitchen to get something to lift it into, all the while trying not to pee in my pants I was laughing so hard, (as was Grammy in Michigan).  Thanks GOD she's a thick sauce, so there was no liquid damage, just chunks of thick tomato sauce.  This may very well be the stupidest thing I've ever done, and believe me, there's a lot of competition for that spot...
IN ADDITION, may I just give a shout-out to the lovely and talented, MATT, at the Apple Genius Bar, who replaced the entire keyboard and mousepad on my laptop F.O.C!!!  (Free of charge)  I think my story made his day, but I didn't ask any questions, I just thanked him effusively, validated my parking, and snuck out of there.
Vanessa,with her two boyfriends
And now, the recipe, brought to me by my step-son's amazing girlfriend, Vanessa:
Before the oven

After roasting
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Take about 3 pounds of grape tomatoes, spread them onto a baking dish, about 15 inches wide, add about 12 whole, peeled cloves of garlic.  Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper, some fresh oregano, or whatever spices you so desire, and a little bit of olive oil, maybe 1/3 of a cup or less.  (You don't need very much olive oil because there's already quite a bit of water in the tomatoes.)  Roast for a 1/2 an hour, then pull the dish out and turn the tomatoes and garlic over with a spoon, roast for another 1/2 an hour.  done.  Blend.  FINITO!!!  I'm telling you, this shit is DELISH!  Of course you can put it over pasta, chicken parm, or whatever you like.  She's a thick sauce, so if you like it a little less so, just add water.  Give it a go!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Holy Halibut!

Pete and my pound of halibut
So I was wrong!  There IS still halibut in season.  Saw Pete, the fish guy, (aw, isn't he cute?!), yesterday, and he had some all ready for me to take home.  (Always ask him if he's hiding anything special...)  He told me that which kind of fish he can get is based on quotas, and I guess they hadn't fished the halibut quota yet, so Henry and I luck out tonight.  Such a delicious, easy fish, don't know what I'll do with it yet, but probably something simple, with a little kale, always lemon, and garlic.
We'll also be carving our pumpkins this week, hope to toast up those seeds and nibble on 'em!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mamma Ghanouj

Henry and sister Gillian feed the monkey.  Success!
This is a real crowd-pleaser, and believe me, I've NEVER made a crowd-pleaser before.  Yes, it's true, the bar is set wicked low when I bring a dish somewhere, but my husband is brutally honest, so I know this one is good.  (And I like to think the bar is getting higher and higher.)
I bought some eggplant from the farmers market, just 'cause they were so purdy, not knowing what the hell I was going to make with them, so I went looking around on the internet. had a nice, easy Baba Ghanouj recipe, but I modified it to my liking.  Generally, the first time I make something, I'm a little stressed, never completely confident that I won't end up with an overly seasoned pile of crap, or worse, a tasteless pile of crap, but this was a very pleasant surprise, a recipe I've repeated many times since.
I get two eggplants about the same size, (the bigger ones), so they roast in the same amount of time.  Preheat oven at 375 degrees, generously oil a baking sheet, cut the eggplants into halves, and place them cut side down on the sheet.  I salt them, though I'm not sure why, I think someone told me to and I do what I'm told in the kitchen!  Roast them until they're soft to the touch, the big ones for about an hour, but I check on them at 45 minutes, because I'm paranoid, a common theme you'll recognize in my cooking...  Take them out and let them cool, depending on my schedule I leave them out from 15 minutes to an hour, I don't think it really matters.  Then you scoop out the eggplant, or pull off the skins, and place the pulp in a strainer over a bowl for 30 minutes, letting some of the liquid drain out.  This all may seem a bit time-consuming, but the workload is actually minimal, as you can walk away from most of these steps--have a nap, read a book, watch Real Housewives of Botox.
Before the oven
Ready to eat!
Irma Thomas
Transfer the pulp into a blender or food processor, I use a blender because I like it smooth.  You heard me, I like it smoooooooth, like Irma Thomas smooth, (download her!)  Add a 1/4 cup of olive oil, a 1/4 cup of sesame seed paste or tahini, a peeled clove or two of garlic, (depending on your taste for garlic.  One clove is surprisingly strong, so I usually taste it after one clove, then add another one; note aforementioned paranoia.)  I squeeze about five small, organic lemons into the mix.  I LOVE lemon, I think the recipe calls for 3 tablespoons, which I think is waaaaaay too little and just plain stupid.  Add salt, pepper, paprika if you like, and I'm sure other spices, like cumin are great, then blend it all up.  You can blend it a little so you have some chunks, or until it's smooth.  The feedback I've gotten is that people can be a little skeeved out by the texture of chunky eggplant, but gobble it up once it's pureed smoothly.  Cover it and chill, this can certainly be made a day earlier.  I keep this on hand in the fridge a lot, it's always nice to have when people stop by, serve with some chips, pita wedges, carrots or other veggies.  OH, and when you serve it, drizzle a little olive oil on top, with a sprinkle of paprika, looks nice, makes it look fancy.  Let me know how it goes!

Monday, October 18, 2010


I'm a pretty new mom, Henry's 2 years old, and I'm also VERY new to the kitchen.  (I mean NEW, new, like I didn't know how to boil an egg five years ago, and I'm not being hyperbolic.)  I had no idea I would love cooking this much, although I'm rather "challenged" when it comes to all-things-cooking, I've discovered a hobby that I really love practicing.
Also, May 1, 2010, I decided to STOP SHOPPING.  I proclaimed that for one whole year I wouldn't buy any clothes, shoes, or accessories for myself, (I couldn't stop buying things for my son, who do you think I am?!), and in place of my shopping escape, I've taken even more to the kitchen.  A great diversion.
Here's a dish I make regularly, and please excuse my terminology, I'm certainly NO expert here!
I get this Halibut from the Plummer Park Farmers Market in Hollywood (Mondays, 9am-1pm), from Pete, the fish guy, such a sweetheart, very knowledgeable, and quite a character.  (He accepts cash, checks and credit cards!)  Although Pete sadly informed me that Halibut is now out of season, you can still get it at your local market, and he'll gladly recommend which fish to buy on the day you're there.  Trust him!
I wrap the Halibut in tinfoil, surround it with grape tomatoes, pour a couple of glugs of olive oil on it, salt and pepper, and squeeze a lemon.
I throw it on the BBQ, (but it can also go in the oven), for about 30 minutes, depending on the thickness.  You want the fish to turn opaque white, but don't overcook it, keep an eye on it.  If you're like me, "challenged," you'll have to take a peek or two before removing it.  Once it's ready, the tomatoes are also nice and steamed and flavorful, then just add some quinoa, rice, harvest grains, what have you, and a nice green veggie, I like sauteed kale with sesame seeds and garlic, and voila, you're done.
I like Halibut because there are so few bones and I don't have to worry about my toddler eating it, which he does, and loves it!  My hubby, on the other hand, finds cooked fish rather vile, so he's on his own when it's fish night!