Settling into New Zealand, the near-death by a thousand details.

Feb. 2, 2016
Lake Taupo, NZ, North Island

It’s 10pm and the cicadas outside our tent have finally settled down. But the kids haven’t; I can hear the giggling through the windows of the van. Their muffled laughter mingles with nearby conversation in a language I can’t decipher and Simon and Garfunkel wafting over from a neighboring site. And the very base note of this sonic perfume is the dull roar of nearby rapids. We’re camping on the banks of the Waikato River. Up here, in Taupo, near Tongariro National Park, the volcanic center of the north island, the river has teeth and draws rafters and kayakers from around the world. We’ve crashed their free campsite and, without a doubt, our family is simultaneously far older and younger than anyone else on these grounds tonight. 

This whole area is so incredible for both its environmental and cultural significance. It is the oldest national park in New Zealand, encompassing three volcanoes. The site is so imbued with meaning for the Maori that it has been designated as an UNESCO cultural and natural World Heritage site. 

Lake Taupo is the big lake in the middle of the North Island. It is a crater lake created over 26,000 years ago in the supereruption of Taupo volcano: a blast that was larger than Mt Saint Helens and Krakatoa combined. The ash cloud was recorded around the world. Roman skies glowed red for days when the eruption occurred.

Leaving our sweet Hamilton hosts with a case of sauvignon blanc to hopefully dull the pain of our prolonged visit, we finally left Hamilton and headed for the hills. In the last seven days, we had opened bank accounts, navigated bus routes, left-hand driving and cell phone plans. We had shopped for and bought a used van, scrounged up all our camping gear, we had tricked out the van to be a crash pad for half the family (a tent holds the other half) and paid a visit to both our upcoming Raglan and Hamilton neighborhoods (and snuck in a quick weeknight trip to glorious Piha for boogie boarding and fish and chips). We did it all with two slightly homesick kids in tow, in 90 degree weather. 

And our first night of camping embodied all the awkward growing pains that come with starting a new groove: missing items, forgotten fuel for the stove, tent shenanigans, rain, the game of tetris to pack the van. I’m sweating again just writing these sentences. But it always comes together in it’s own way. We had sandwiches for dinner and marmite-flavored bagel chips. The back hatch of our Nissan Serena is enormous and doubles as a very effective rain shelter.

Tomorrow we'll take a morning to explore some of the the rich volcanic activity around here (again with the volcanoes!). It will be just a taste since we have a six-hour drive ahead of us. We’ll be back to really explore this area once we are settle into Hamilton, just two hours away. But for tomorrow, we will take a short hike to Huka Falls, on the Waikato River. And then we head to Wellington, on the very southern tip of the north island, for Jake’s Fulbright orientation. From there, we’ll launch to the South Island.

Welcome to Auckland. Traditional Maori carvings as you enter the terminal from the tarmac.

One can find wonderful things in the grocery shops!

Our Auckland accommodations were waaaaayyy in the 'burbs. On the plus side, this treacherous zip line in the neighborhood playground provided hours of non-CPSC-approved fun!

Once we figured out that you have to actually wave the bus down even if you're standing expectantly at the stop, we made it to downtown Auckland. Here, we're on K Road, feeling the warm familiarity of coffee served by bearded baristas in vintage t-shirts.

Sweet murals like this all over the Central Business DIstrict.

The coffee in New Zealand is truly a thing of beauty. We have yet to have a disappointing cup. We've spent a lot of energy trying to understand what makes it so good. How are so many people so skilled at making a cappuccino? Deep thoughts.

Sometimes, walking through car yards full of used cars can yield surprising finds. At least they finally found a shady spot to stand in while we undertook the drudgery of car shopping.

After three days, we found our sweet 2004 Nissan Serena with only 110K kilometers on the odometer from a private seller.  This baby is going to be our home for the next month and our wheels for the next six months. It's so big, we can actually lay down a persian rug on the floor back there. And we can't hear them when they bicker!

As a break from all the logistics, we took a drive to the coast to see Raglan, a quite famous beach town about 40 minutes from Hamilton where we will live for the first portion of our North Island life. Milo is having no trouble adapting to the Raglan barefoot culture.

Or the Raglan ice cream culture

The beach is a powdery black sand surrounded by high cliffs. And waves. Huge ones. This is going to be our neighborhood beach. I am still absorbing the delicious fact that we will have a neighborhood beach.

Our first night of camping. It's raining. And we don't have enough tent pegs to set the fly on our tent. And we forgot to buy propane for the stove so we're eating peanut butter sandwiches. BUT WE REMEMBERED THE WINE THANK GOD SO IT'S ALL OK.

The fine art of packing the "trunk" of the van. I photographed it because we need to replicate this geometry exactly to make it fit.


Dinner for a dozen: Whipping up a magic winter brew

OK, let's dispense with the formalities right away and say that I have been just a little remiss in keeping up the blog. And by a little I mean a whole lot. Hope you had a good fall and winter!

But whatever the reason, I got a hankering to get back on here and share some meals. The winter has been long and it's greedily shoving its way into Spring and we are all trying not to go mad with cabin fever. The small people of this house have opted for desperate measures: donning summer clothes and casting spells to banish the cold and snow.

When they were done casting away winter, they made a potion to banish the other big scourges in their lives: bedtime and vegetable stir-fry.

In fact, the potion-making was so popular in my house that Milo decided to make a magic potion kit for a friend's birthday so he could too could cast spells. His mother, Meg of Elsie Marley, blogged about it here and you should check it out. Also, you should just hang out on that blog a while. It's inspiring and hilarious.

While the small people conjured up warmer weather, I cooked up a little magic of my own, courtesy of a new-to-me cookbook by British-Israeli chef Yotam Otolenghi. Plenty is a feast for the eyes and brings back memories of the best of the Mediterranean cooking I grew up with. I am drawn to this chef because he reveres vegetables and vegetarian cooking, even though he is not a vegetarian (like me).

The first recipe I tried out from this book was a chickpea, tomato and bread soup, a warming Middle Eastern mashup of ribbolita and soupe au pistou. While it is a filling stew-like dish on its own, I still don't think it quite made for enough dinner so I accompanied it with some broccoli parmesan fritters.
The kid report: In our house, they inhaled the soup but avoided the fritters like the plague. Probably did not help that I labelled them broccoli pancakes. I don't recommend that you do either. When I checked in with one other family, they had the opposite experience: kids tried the fritters and left the soup untouched.

Chickpea, Tomato and Bread soup. You can practically dip your bread into it, can't you?
Chickpea, Tomato and Bread Soup
(adapted from this recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty)

Helen's notes: The recipe called for fresh herbs, but I used dried thyme and oregano. Also, reduce or increase the liquids to achieve your preferred consistency. Serves 12.

  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, sliced
  • About 120ml olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, cut along the centre and sliced
  • 6 sticks celery, sliced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2c white wine
  • 28 oz. Italian plum tomatoes (I had diced tomatoes and used those)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 4 tsp sugar (I used white but the recipe calls for caster)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 9 cups vegetable stock
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 4 thick slices stale sourdough bread (crust removed)
  • 5 cups cooked chickpeas (about 3 cans)
  • 8 tbsp basil pesto
  • good olive oil for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Put the onion and fennel in a big pot, add three tablespoons of oil and sauté on medium heat for four minutes. Add the carrot and celery, and cook for four minutes, just to soften the vegetables, stirring occasionally. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add the wine and let it bubble away for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and their juices, herbs, sugar, bay, stock and season. Bring to a boil, then leave to simmer gently for 30 minutes.

3. While you wait, break the bread into rough chunks with your hands, toss with two tablespoons of oil and some salt, scatter in a roasting tray and bake for 10 minutes, until dry. Remove from the oven and set aside.

4. About 10 minutes before you want to serve, put the chickpeas in a bowl and crush them a little with a potato masher or the end of a rolling pin - you want quite a rough texture, with some chickpeas left whole and others completely mashed. Add the chickpeas to the soup and leave to simmer for five minutes. Finally, stir in the toasted bread, and cook for another five minutes.

5. Taste the soup, and add salt and pepper liberally. Pour the hot soup into shallow soup bowls, place a spoonful of pesto in the centre, drizzle with plenty of olive oil (and if it's summer and you have it, add a handful of fresh chopped basil).

This is not a pancake. Do not tell your kids this is a pancake. Trust me, no good will come of it.

Broccoli Parmesan Fritters
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen's recipe)

Helen's notes: I serve these with a garlicky lemon yogurt sauce by mixing to taste plain kefir, lemon juice, minced garlic, chopped dill and a bit of salt. The recipe yielded about 26 fritters.

  • 24 ounces (3 small-to-medium bundles) fresh broccoli 
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 tsp Kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes or several grinds of black pepper
  • Olive or vegetable oil for frying
1. Prepare your broccoli: Separate the florets from the biggest stem(s). Cut the florets into 1-inch chunks. You should have about 9 cups of chopped broccoli total.

2. Steam your broccoli until tender but not mushy (I steamed mine about 5 minutes, but should probably have gone a few minutes longer to avoid the wrestling match that came later). Drain the broccoli, then set it aside to cool slightly.

3. In the bottom of a large bowl, lightly beat your eggs. Add the flour, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper. Then, add the somewhat cooled broccoli and, using a potato masher, mash the broccoli just a bit (I understeamed the broccoli so I briefly pulsed the mix with an immersion blender instead). You’re looking to keep the bits recognizable, but small enough (1/4- to 1/2-inch chunks) that you can press a mound of the batter into a fritter in the pan. Once mashed a bit, stir or fold the ingredients together the rest of the way with a spoon. Adjust seasonings to taste.

4. Heat a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat. Once hot, add a good slick of oil (I used olive oil), about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Once the oil is hot (you can test it by flicking a droplet of water into it; it should hiss and sputter), scoop a two tablespoon-size mound of the batter and drop it into the pan, then flatten it slightly with your spoon or spatula. Repeat with additional batter, leaving a couple inches between each. Once brown underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes, flip each fritter and cook on the other side until equally golden, about another 1 to 2 minutes.

5. Transfer briefly to paper towels to drain, then to a serving plate if you’ll be eating them shortly or a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven if you’d like to keep them warm for a while until needed. Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil as needed. Serve with extra cheese or yogurt sauce, above.
Frittering away the afternoon


DInner for 12: Lamb Patties, Fava and Greek Salad

Kyra's Law: kale is a vegetable only eaten raw. On a hammock. Otherwise it's poison.

In the late spring, we three dinner co-op chefs met recently to check in, make sure everyone was feeling good with the food and to taste-test the fancy artisanal bitters one of them had recently brought home (verdict: mmmmmmmmm...)

It's been three years of cooking together and while we have kept the ground rules loose, we have come to recognize that there are a few secrets to success in terms of cooking for both adults and young kids worth sharing:
  • Dinners where you can build your own dish are always the most popular, like falafel, fish tacos, fajitas, thai lettuce wraps, that sort of thing.
  • When possible, we keep ingredients separate. Kids are weird. But if they will eat the bolognese if it's three inches away from the pasta, then I will deliver sauce and pasta in two different containers. No big deal.
  • It seems like across all our families, kids will be most receptive to veggies when they are raw. That doesn't mean we don't go ahead and cook them into whatever dish is planned, but we tend to get creative with salads and veggie side dishes.
  • We all agreed that while no one likes everything, having this variety put before them is turning our kids (and us) into very flexible, and increasingly adventurous eaters and that's a huge bonus to an already wonderful life-simplifier.

With that, we clinked cocktails and decided to go with a month of themed dinners. Each of us would cook one cuisine. I chose Greek. The others have gone with French and Italian, respectively. This menu is the first of four Greek-themed menus and features lamb and fava, a traditional pureed dish of the Aegean Islands (particularly Santorini) made with split peas and rich with olive oil.

Lamb Sausage, Fava and Greek Salad

The lamb sausage recipe is definitely greek-inspired but I found it in a Bon Appetit column written by one of my favorite food bloggers, Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. It's delicious, simple and the essence of Greek flavor minus martyring yourself for six hours in the kitchen. Fava is a split pea dish of the Cyclades, nourishing and deeply delicious and for the life of me, I cannot understand why more people don't know about it. I would have been among them if it wasn't for my stepmother who hails from Samos and makes a mean fava. As for the Greek salad, I provide no recipe but just chop tomatoes, cucumbers with sliced sweet peppers and onions, crumble in feta, and drown in olive oil. All of this, of course, begs for a loaf of crusty bread.

Lamb Sausage 
(serves 12, adapted from this February 2008 Bon Appetit recipe)

  • 4 1/2 pounds cup ground lamb shoulder
  • 6 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 3 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Place lamb in large bowl. Sprinkle garlic and salt over. Gently toss lamb to blend. Combine feta and mint in small bowl.
  2. Divide lamb into 36 equal mounds. Using damp hands, shape each into ball. Working with 1 ball at a time, poke thumb into center to make hole. Press 1 teaspoon feta-mint filling into hole. Pinch hole closed, then press ball between palms to flatten into 3/4-inch-thick disk. Repeat with remaining lamb and feta-mint filling. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer to baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate).
  3. Preheat oven to 250°F. Heat olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook lamb sausages until browned on both sides and cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium. Transfer sausages to rimmed baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Serve hot.
(serves 12, recipe adapted from The Olive and the Caper)

The key to this dish is the tastiest  olive oil you can get your hands on. Otherwise, you can customize the toppings to suit your interest but I will encourage the use of a briny topping to balance the earthiness of the split peas. My personal favorite is capers.

6 cups yellow split peas
2 large onions, peeled
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons olive oil
6 quarts water
2 teaspoons salt


  1. Rinse the peas under cold water in a colander, drain and add to a large pot. Add the onion (whole), garlic and water.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer briskly, uncovered, until the peas are almost tender and much of the water is gone, about an hour.
  3. Partially cover the pot, reduce heat to a gentler simmer and continue cooking until the peas stir into almost a puree. The texture should be like think porridge.
  4. Top with a generous drizzle of olive oil and any of the toppings below. You can customize the toppings to suit your tastes but I strongly encourage the use of a briny or pickled topping to balance the earthiness of the split peas. My personal favorite is capers.

Topping ideas:
olive tapenade
chopped capers
pickled red onions
anchovy filets
tomato sauce
marinated mushrooms
steamed greens


Dinner for 12: Chicken with capers, polenta and brussels sprouts

table so dirty, they had to eat on boxes.
(Note: This entry languished for a little bit. I've got recipe catching up to do!)
One of those weeks where we never caught our breath. One of those weeks where every last item stayed exactly where it was dropped while we ran to the next appointment, meeting or event, passing children and to-do lists to one another on the way out. It was the kind of week where I should have taken a pass, or ordered out. But no, instead I chose something "easy" and "quick" that I had never tried. A novice mistake. The polenta? Now that was quick. I love the method I present below, where you just mix the polenta and broth and cook it in the oven, no slaving over the stovetop. It's moist and creamy and e-a-s-y. The chicken was lovely, moist and with a depth of flavor that brine and butter can bring to anything. But pounding into cutlets pounds and pounds of chicken which then needs to be floured and sauteed with lots of room, so they don't feel crowded and get soggy? So not fast, trust me. It is, however, a great way to take out all your buried frustrations with a mallet.  Dinner eventually made it to everyone, just a couple of days late. And, sorry, not even half-assed pictures to share of this meal..

Sauteed Chicken with Capers
(Makes 12 servings. Adapted from Everyday Food)

10-12 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 pounds total)
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup champagne or white-wine vinegar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 tablespoons capers, plus 3 teaspoon brine
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  1. Slice each chicken breast in half horizontally. Place each half between sheets of plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness with a meat mallet or small skillet. Place flour on a plate. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then coat with flour, shaking off excess. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. In batches, cook chicken until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side (add remaining oil to pan, if necessary). Transfer to a platter and tent with foil.
  2. Add vinegar to pan and cook, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon, 1 minute. Add butter and capers and brine; cook, stirring, until butter is melted. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and top with parsley.

Oven Baked Polenta
(adapted from From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide To Cooking Farm Fresh Seasonal Produce)

3 cups polenta
12 cups chicken stock
3 tsp salt.

This is an infinitely easy recipe to replicate. Basically mix together 1 cup of polenta, 4 cups chicken broth and 1 tsp salt. Stir it together and bake in the oven at 350F for around 50 min or until the broth looks completely absorbed. This makes 4 servings. I make one of these for each family in a 1 quart casserole so I've tripled the recipe. You can make it in one big dish or individual dishes for each family as I do. It's all good.

I served this dish with sauteed burssels sprouts. The shredded brussels sprouts are a family staple in our house and if shredded with a food processor, can also be a quick side dish (I used 1.5 lbs of brussels sprouts, sauteed with one leek in olive oil with salt and pepper and a squirt of lemon to finish them off.).


Dinner for 12: Roasted Squash Risotto and a trio of Salads

spinach with roasted asparagus, blood orange and toasted almonds.
If I had the authority to declare salad month, it would be March. Because it's midwinter and all the celebrating is done for a while and spring is nowhere near yet. And if you're in the midwest, you are living in a state of anxiety because winter hasn't yet arrived either. So spring is even farther off than usual. At this time of the year, unless you are heading for warmer climates, the only brightness you will find lies in a bowl.

roasted delicata, fennel, carrot and green apple with bean sprouts on mixed greens

I love many foods, but I crave salads. And the cravings are always dependent on the time of year. In the heart of the grey midwestern winter, what I want are beautiful salads, bright, bejeweled and a little gaudy. The nice thing is that these salads draw in the little ones too. The jewel-colored fruit and little bits and bobbits are irresistible to small hands and before you know it, some green stuff has made its way in too. Luckily, it's citrus season so these jewels are plentiful. And my stash of  cheerful orange winter squash is beckoning. So this week's recipes are all about salads and squash, and squash in salads (if you count the photo above). And some red beets, orange turnips, and purple cabbage. And of course, a creamy risotto to balance out all that roughage.

Winter Squash, Leek and Saffron Risotto
(adapted from From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide To Cooking Farm Fresh Seasonal Produce)

10 cups chicken stock
1 tsp saffron threads
6 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups finely chopped leeks (about three fat ones)
3 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
1 1/3 cup dry white wine
5 cups squash, roasted and pureed
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring stock and saffron to a simmer in a saucepan

2. Heat olive oil in a large heavy saucepan. Add leeks, cook over medium-low heat until softened (but not browned).

3. Raise heat to medium high and stir in the rice. Stir for 1-2 minutes and then add wine. Stir and cook until all the wine has evaporated. (At this point, if you had the time, you could refrigerate the rice for a half hour before continuing to make a killer risotto but it's still really delicious without the added step). Add 2 ladlefuls of hot stock and stir frequently until it is mostly absorbed. Continue to add stock and stir very frequently until the risotto gets creamy but still firm (the refrigeration helps keep the risotto firm). This should take about 25-35 minutes.

4. Pour yourself the remaining wine and channel Julia Child while you stir.

5. Stir in squash during the last 10 minutes. When risotto is done fold in the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Should be served immediately but, honestly, we served it the next day and while it's not award-winning in texture, it's just really stick-to-you-ribs delicious and filling. Good stuff.

Winter Salad with Creamy Tahini Dressing
(adapted from From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide To Cooking Farm Fresh Seasonal Produce)

Seriously, you should just buy this book. It's an unassuming gem and the recipes just really work. The recipe is meant to be utterly adaptable, a clean-out-the-back-of-the-fridge kind of recipe. I used a combination of cabbage, beets, carrots, celeriac, turnips and kohlrabi. Yes, all of that was lurking at the back of the fridge.

5 cups any combination of grated beets, carrots and red cabbage.
5 cups any combination of grated celeriac, turnips, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichokes, green cabbage and winter radish. 

4 cups chopped kale and/or parsley
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 cups sprouts (optional)

4 cups chopped fennel

Toss all ingredients and serve with Creamy Tahini Dressing (below)

Creamy Tahini Dressing

3 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 c tahini
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 c sesame oil
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c soy sauce, tamari or shoyu
1 tsp dried dillweed
1/4 c water

1. Toast the sesame on a dry skillet, tossing often, until fragrant and browning.I put it into a jar and just shake, shake, shake.

2. When cooled, mix sesame seeds with the remaining ingredients


ode to a quiet weekend

"the monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind." - Albert Einstein



Dinner for 12: The Meat Hangover

One of the risks you take in setting few rules in a dinner co-op is the potential for too much of the same thing to be eaten in a given week. Surprisingly, we haven't encountered this problem often. But last week was one of those rare times: three nights of heavy meat-eating (all delicious, mind you, but whoa!). As expected the pendulum swung hard. Call it the meat hangover. This week featured a roster of (almost) fully vegan meals completely different from each other in cuisines and flavors.

This beauty does not deserve the name "Turnip Dip"

We'll call it terrine de navet, oui?

Russian red lentil soup

My meal this week included an apricot-kissed red lentil soup served with a hearty turnip-herb dip. "Dip" doesn't quite do this justice; it's more of a savory rich vegetable terrine or pate that you slice thickly and spread on the crunchiest cracker you can find. I think some people describe it as having umami, whixh means it leaves your mouth really happy. I also say someone should change the name because "turnip dip" sounds like a euphemistic insult. When I lived in Montreal, I loved the veggie pate made by a local vegetarian chain resturant. This recipe is the closest I have ever come to replicating that delicious pate in my kitchen. We added a small platter of pickles, olives, crudites and a wedge of creamy Delice de Bourgogne as accompaniment.

Russian Red Lentil Soup for 12

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
3 cups dried red lentils
12 cups of homemade chicken stock (NOTE: I just used veggie chicken-flavored base here)
1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
2 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried thyme
Yogurt (for topping soup)
fresh mint for garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients except yogurt and fresh mint (if using) in a crock pot. Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer 3-4 hours. NOTE: I actually just simmered overnight and it worked out great. Serve up a bowl with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinking of chopped mint.

Hearty Turnip Herb Dip
(Adapted from the recipe in From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh, Seasonal Produce)

3 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup vegetable oil (I ran out so it was a mix of veg and olive oil)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cups sunflower seeds
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups nutritional yeast
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp nutmeg
2.5 cups boiling water
4 cups shredded turnips
1 1/2 cups shredded onion
2 cups shredded carrot
9 bay leaves


  1. Heat oven to 350F. Grease three 9x9" baking dishes (You can improvise here, I was making servings for three families). 
  2. Combine the first 7 ingredients and stir well.
  3. Stir in spices and boiling water.
  4. Add vegetables and stir until well-combined.
  5. Pour mixture into the baking dishes and press 3 bay leaves into the top of each dish. 
  6. Bake until firm and golden brown, about 1 hour.
  7. Serve on rye crackers (Ryvita or a similar crispy kind).Itgets firmer and more terrine-like on the second day.

You can improvise with any number of root vegetables including potatoes, beets, turnips and carrots or anything you root out of the deep corners of your fridge, really.


girl meets vintage camera app.

Jan at olbrich, originally uploaded by Helen de madison.

sigh. I'm in love.


Dinner for 12: Pasta with Broccoli and Ham with Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce

Catching up on some previous weeks' dishes so I hope to post more often over the next week or two.

I am not one to be drawn in by heavy comfort food often but this dish won me over both because it didn't involve terrifying amounts of cheese and cream and because it did involve terrifying amounts of crucifers. And, well, I am kind of a broken record about how much I love me some crucifer. The ham lent a smoky depth to this otherwise and sweet dish but it's easy to omit the ham and still make it a scrumptious vegetarian meal. If you are looking for a vegan option, this one is on my "to make" list soon.

The dish was fragrant, filling and satisfying. I also felt a teeny bit smug about the fact that even if kids wound up picking around the chunks, they would still be getting a belly full of cauliflower and not just noodles. I served this with a crusty baguette to soak up the sauce and a green salad topped with oranges, grapefruit and radish.

Baked Spirals and Broccoli with Ham and Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce (adapted from Martha Stewart Living, February 2012)

Serves 12
9 cups cauliflower (2 large heads or 3 small), cored and chopped
1 head of garlic (yes, head!), roughly chopped
12 shallots, roughly chopped
Salt n' Peppa
1/4 cup flour
12 cups skim milk
3/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
18 oz pecorino cheese, grated (about 6 cups)
1 1/2 lbs whole grain pasta spirals (I used 2 bags of noodles which seemed to be more than enough)
3/4 lb sliced smoked ham (I am a fan of Willow Creek Farm's sliced ham and it was perfect in this dish)
2 heads broccoli (roughly 15 cups), trimmed and cut into florets
1 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs (recipe called for panko, but I have homemade breadcrumbs that I used)

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cauliflower, garlic, shallots, and 1 1/2 tsp salt. cook until softened but not brown, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour, stir to coat well.

2. Gradually stir in milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; gently simmer until cauliflower is very soft, about 15 min. Let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree with nutmeg and half the pecorino until smooth, about 2 minutes (I did this in four batches since it's a large amount of sauce).

3. Preheat oven to 400F. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta until slightly tender but not fully cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. Drain well, return to pot. Add ham, broccoli and cauliflower sauce and toss to combine. Transfer to 3 3 1/2 quart baking dishes. Sprinkle with remaining pecorino and bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Heat the broiler and broil until golden on top, 1-2 minutes. Divide among dishes, top with toasted breadcrumbs and enjoy.

Quick and Healthy: Green Sushi Salad

January has been our month of regrouping around these parts. I've purged years of files out of the office, We've pared down the books at home (high school Cliff's Notes to Macbeth? Really, Helen?). I've even been reorganizing the kids' art supplies. Good times. This cleansing has even extended to the cooking we do. I've promised myself to incorporate a little more vegan cooking into my repertoire, a raw dish here or there. We've enjoyed a delicous raw carrot, cabbage and beet salad recently.

Last night, I tried a recipe for a kind of suhi-as-a-salad dish I've been drooling over at Green Kitchen Stories. Actually, I drool over pretty much everything on this blog, but this was one recipe that didn't take hours to make. And that it can be made as a composed salad and involves toasted seaweed pretty much guarantees a family hit. Bright, crunchy, gingery and just the thing for a light dinner that's heavy on superfoods.

And beautiful, yes?
photo: 2010, Green Kitchen Stories

Green Sushi Salad (adapted from Green Kitchen Stories here)

This serves 4 but is easily doubled or tripled for a crowd.

Marinated tofu (marinade recipe below).
Steamed brown rice (I used 1.5 cups of uncooked rice and had plenty left over)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil

1 large broccoli, chopped into bite size pieces
2 avocados, cubed
12 mushrooms, quartered (shiitake would be awesome; I only had button and still yummy), cut in quarters
1 handful sugarsnap peas
1/2 cucumber, cut into sticks
8 sheets nori seaweed
1 handful roasted sesame seeds
1 handful cilantro

Tofu Marinade
300 g tofu
5 tbsp sesame oil
5 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 clove garlic
1/2 red chili
2-inch (6 cm) fresh ginger, peeled and minced


1. Begin by marinading the tofu and let it sit while you prepare the rest of the salad. Drain and dry the tofu and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Mix the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and add the tofu. Make sure the marinade covers all of the tofu. Put in the fridge for 1-2 hours (HS - I did not have time t do this but the tofu was still delicious!).

2. Steam the brown rice. When cooked, stir in the rice vinegar and sesame oil.

3. Steam the broccoli, peas and mushrooms to crisp-tender (I did each veggie separately).

4. Toast the nori sheets briefly over an open flame (I use the burner on my gas stove). Alternately, you can use the nori sold as seaweed snacks which is toasted and lightly flavored and skip this step. Cut or tear the nori into bite-sized pieces.

5. Divide the rice into 4 large bowls and top it with all the vegetables and tofu. Drizzle the rest of the tofu marinade over the salad, top it with sesame seeds and cilantro and serve it with soy sauce and chilis on the side.

 Note: for the kids, I left it as a composed salad, i.e. I kept everything separate which seems to make them like it more. Whatever, they ate it with gusto!