Into the Wild + Quinoa Johnny Cakes

IMG_5213 We returned yesterday from a sweet weekend getaway to the mountain town of Julian, CA. Lucky to have acres to roam and a Quonset hut to nest, these family escapes are more rare now as we are scheduled to the stars with sports and other commitments. The property is not ours per se, but belongs to my family, and we have been adventuring there for nearly 10 years now.

I'll be honest. We're not exactly roughing it. I packed our SUV to the gills with the following... paint, glue, yarn, scissors, markers, paper, leather Motorola radios ("walkie talkies") pink ski vest + Uggs books + magazines my camera big straw hat scooters + helmuts cooler, dry goods, sparkling water, spices Bose sound dock a bottle of pinot plastic eggs + chocolate + goofy glasses

As I closed the back of the truck, I thought it might be possible that I've simply outgrown camping.


I let go of email and running, and turned instead to hiking, cooking, reading, gathering, making. We crafted swords and slingshots, I collected feathers and daffodils. We ate True Food Kitchen's quinoa Johnny Cakes and I baked Spanish chicken with onion, potatoes and spicy sausage. We dyed eggs with beets, red onions and turmeric, and huddled together on a loveseat in front of the tiniest TV screen for a Friday night movie. I was up at daybreak each morning, and heard the call of the turkeys as I hid eggs on Easter Sunday. Later that day we packed up the truck and gave a heavy sigh, with the promise to return soon.


Quinoa Johnny Cakes

My go-to dessert dish when I brunch at True Food Kitchen with my lady gals. Barely adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil's True Food Cookbook


2 cups cooked quinoa

2 cups whole wheat pasty flour

1/4 cup sugar (evaporated cane or white)

2 tbs plus 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of sea salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cups whole milk

4 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

orange zest

1/2 tsp olive oil

pat of butter


ripe banana, apples, or blueberries

Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)

maple syrup


1. Make quinoa. (HOT TIP: If like me, you normally add some savory "better than bouillon" flavor to your quinoa, skip it if you plan to use leftovers for these Johnny Cakes).

2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk well to combine. In another large bowl, combine the milk, eggs, vanilla, orange zest, and oil and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and blend until just combined. Fold in the cooked quinoa taking care not to overmix. Let the batter rest for at least 1 hour.

3. Lightly brush the cooking surface of a nonstick pan or griddle with butter. Ladle about 1/3 cup of the batter onto the hot pan. Drop banana slices, thin apple slices, or 8 to 10 blueberries on top of each pancake. When bubbles form in the batter, flip and cook on the other side until

lightly browned. Continue with the remaining batter and choice of fruit.

Serve topped with a dollop of yogurt and maple syrup on the side.


Forever Young: The Queen Bee Turns 90

Marcy90_0005The MatriarchLovin’ on my gram isn’t always easy. She’s a feisty red head, at heart, in her youth and now via bottle. Still, Marcella is the Matriarch of our tight knit family and we love her Madly. She has a brood of 4, plus 5 grands and 4 greats. Married to the “Chief” for more than 50 years, our family has a strong foundation and sticks together through it all. The in-laws are IN, and they accept our eccentricities. Through marriage and divorce, sickness and health, we all come together. While the Chief left us a few years back, Marcella Jean (or “Maxy”) turned 90 today, and this is how we celebrated.

Home Movie I know there must be some 8mm clips, recorded somewhere. But I don’t have them, so I created a simple scrapbook-style movie of fave family moments and images from Grandma Marcy’s life. While In the Mood by Glenn Miller nearly me drove me out of my gourd (longest 3:26 of my life), I had some fun with Herb Albert’s Tijuana Taxi, the bubble gum popper I’m into Something Good by The Bird and the Bee, and finally, the heartfelt yet peppy version of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young. It came in under 15 minutes, which seemed to be the perfect amount of time for everyone to giggle, sigh, and regret some awesome haircuts (did someone say perm? or um, mullet?).

Storytelling I am big on thought here, short on action. I think it’s fantastic to have recorded stories of our family’s history.  Have I done anything to make this happen? No. StoryCorps does this all over the country, and I love to hear the vignettes on NPR. In the spirit of StoryCorps we had everyone share a memory of the Birthday Girl. I video-recorded each one with my iPhone. It’s a start. My M opened the series with a reading of Invitation, by Shel Silverstein, and B drew her a picture of a bird. Which he promptly left at home. My nieces sang “You Are My Sunshine” with a little help from their Oma. The stories were funny, soulful, and grateful. Meticulously planned and lovingly spontaneous. I saw the origin of (many of) my beliefs and quirks through the eyes of my dad, my aunts, uncles and cousins.


Ohana Family. It’s in the way we lead that children are cultivated and grown. Relationships nurtured. Parenting is not so much about following rules. The rules are inherent in the WAY we are raised and HOW we guide and inspire our own children. Not in a list of do's and don'ts.  I know not everyone is as lucky to have family near by, or willing to travel the distance for these milestone moments. But making the effort means so much--and teaches the next generation that connecting really does MATTER. Family first.

Mahalo Mondays: Grateful for a Holiday

ImageI'm not going to lie and tell you I watched the President's second inauguration this morning. Or that I took time to educate my boys on the historical impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (though the day is not over, and I still have an opportunity during tonight's "Table Topics"). Let me tell you that I spent a portion of this day being totally self indulgent. Yes, today was a FREE DAY as we call it in our house, and Free Days are golden. Now Saturday and Sunday are Free Days, of course, but these bonus weekday holidays are more like platinum. Usually we don't have sports scheduled at this time. No doctor or dentist appointments, no mandatory family gatherings, and in theory, we've already done our chores. In theory. Last night the boys slept over at my parents, giving me a head start on this freebie by going to a movie with my girlfriend (Silver Linings Playbook). This morning, the Mister took off for work, and left me in bed, dozey and crampy. I laid around a bit, made coffee, got a bowl of dried cereal and hopped back into bed with both to promptly watch three episodes of The Mindy Project on my iPad. SIDE NOTE: Do you not LOVE Mindy Kaling? This show is like Sex and the City meets Mary Tyler Moore meets The Office with a hint of Grey's Anatomy. Just enough clever, quirky, smart, sexy, charming. FUNNY.

Got out of bed after 9AM (SHOCK! AWE!) and got my running duds on just in time for the boys to come home. Off to basketball (them) and a run (me). Later we went the thrift store, grocery shopping and treated ourselves to frozen yogurt and coffee (me, not them). I ignored a bunch of could do, should do, need to do chores, and sat down to write this up. Me blogging, them iTouching.

Indulgent yes, irresponsible, not really. The joy of being lazy is so rich, and so worth it.

Mahalo Mondays: Kauai

I missed the boat on the whole daily gratitude phenomenon that often happens in the month of November. It's a great idea, sure. But I'm not that disciplined. That's why I'm launching Mahalo Mondays-- a weekly post to chronicle my thankfulness. Mahalo means more than just 'thank you'. At its core Mahalo is a divine blessing of gratitude and thanksgiving. When used, it calls for authenticity and thoughtfulness. I'm grateful to have experienced Mahalo, thanks to a family member who provides us a place to stay on the island of Kauai.

This tropical isle has given us sunwashed salty memories--fresh fish, warm sand, easyrelaxation. After our first trip we adopted a simple "Mahalo" as our family dinner blessing. It's heartfelt simplicity suits us, and even if we've hollered our way to the table, serves as a gentle reminder of our best times together.

This Thanksgiving we'll add our island toast to the family blessing, and maybe sneak in Somewhere Over the Rainbow, by IZ.

Motherhood Manifesto

For tomorrow night's Collective meeting I'm facilitating the topic of Motherhood, with my lovely co-host Sierra. One of the exercises we came up with was to create our own motherhood manifesto...or mantra, or vision statement. My content is original and personal, but in no way can I claim the design--I'm unabashedly inspired by the work of Aardvark on Sea, found via this blog post from Alphamom. I look forward to creating a family manifesto as well, with the help of Max, Beck and the Mister.

Meatless Monday: Gary's T-Night Tacos

We did it again! Continuing on the New Year track we vowed to stay meatless on Mondays--even the Mister, who planned his lunch around Fresh-n-Easy offerings, and snuck in a chicken thigh at 11-something last night.

Tonight's recipe was awesome, and direct from Laurie David's Family Dinner cookbook. We are a taco-lovin, bean eating bunch so Gary's T-Night Tacos seemed a perfect match. Using two onions (Shhh!), black beans and the secret ingredients of maple syrup and tamari, this hearty filling made fantastic tacos (and burritos for the boys).

For toppings we used thinly sliced cabbage, fresh avocado, chopped tomato and cucumber, Greek yogurt and shredded cheese. Instead of the dressing suggested for cucumber salsa, I used a lime cilantro dressing I had already made for another recipe. The boys ate theirs without the dressing, but with most of the other toppings.

Max ate about 2/3 of his, Beck finished his off, and, well, the pan is now empty. I consider it a success!

Oh, and after dinner we got all cuddly and weepy watching this awesome cover (from some locals) of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros "Home". Then, this great studio clip of the real deal...

The Moustache Bash

Signage & Decor
I tried to keep the costs in check, so I made all the signage from old cardboard and splurged on cool ribbon from Michaels. I painted moustaches and 'sevens' on some old canvas I had lying around, and popped them into quilter's hoops that we bought at the thrift stores.
Mad Props
Upon entering the party, each guest was treated to a "Stylish Mustache". I bought these through Amazon. Unfortunately, the sweaty youngsters wore out the adhesive, so we resorted to an impromptu moustache painting station. It actually worked out even better (Salvador Dali!), though the fuzzy ones did look pretty awesome for a bit (Tom Selleck at age 7! Doesn't get much better.). To create the Moustaches on Sticks we bought brown and black felt and dowels (Michaels) and cut out cool 'staches for props...displayed in a cylinder of black beans. I also made but forgot to photograph some chocolate moustaches with  candy molds I bought online. I'd say less than half survived my candy making (wrong type of chocolate? Uggh!) but those that did, went out the door as party favors. They were each on a lolli stick and wrapped in cellophane with black and white ribbon.
Next up, was the Photo Booth! Great for memory making, and fun to do. I took the boys thrift shopping a week or two before to pick out some special props to add to our own dress up stash. We found awesome finds in the early Halloween displays--top hats, bowlers, supersize sunglasses, vintage tennis racquets, and more. Super fun for all, and just wish I could have hung out here the whole time taking pics. I'm still in the process of printing some keepers, and sending out with thank you notes. Another easy activity was the Graffiti Wall--I had the boys help comb through magazines and find pictures of faces (big, full ad type) so that we could add our own moustaches, and whatever else...set out a Jar-o-Sharpies and they had a gas deconstructing the glossy images.
I took images of the boys (used for the invitations) to Costco and blew them up for a little game of "Stick the Moustache on Max & Beck". My cousin Morgan cut out some pretty rad 'staches (note the fumanchu!) to use for this game.  Next we played "Hot Potato Sac" which is a game I found online. It's essentially a pillow case stuffed with dress up clothes, and while kids sit in a big circle, music plays, the sac is fired off from kid to kid. The music stops, and wherever it lands, the kid sticks a hand in and pulls out something to wear. At the end, the kids vote on the silliest dressed player. They had so much fun, they asked to play again. Easy answer? Just let them rock the dress up stuff the rest of the party. For a little more free play we left out a pile of pipe cleaners, a bowl of bubble solution, and some bold chalk for the patio. This was a nice option for some of the younger party peeps. And the girls.
The Party Favor bags featured our moustache potato prints. Each guest got the boys' favorite Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, some type of quirky alien or monster or reptile item (boys), or bubbles or a notebook (girls).

Unfortunately I was so rushed for the party beginning, that this is the only shot I have of the giant chocolate chip cookie. The kids devoured the single cookies from moment one, and frankly there were just crumbs remaining of the giant confection after the last of our neighbors headed out later that night. The most awesome recipe for this? The one with loads of real butter that I followed by heart and did not substitute wheat flour or applesauce, or add flax or yogurt to? A New York Times feature recipe adapted from Jacques Torres. Secret to this? Make the dough. Refrigerate. Let the ingredients soak each other up. Holy Cuss. Delicious. Crazy good. Happy Birthday Boys!


The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Jacques Torres Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar 
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
 Sea salt.
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes.
Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

It Takes a Village

I woke up this morning to a little handwritten note in orange marker on a scrap of recycled paper, set on top of my iPhone..."Love your Buney. To. From Beck" a few feet away (tripping distance) was a silver cash box with the word"open" written on it (I think I can get it clean). Inside another handwritten message: "I love you so much." with a little butterfly drawing. Yes. These are my riches, my treasures, my currency. Gobs and gobs of love. XOXO.

Legoland & Guinness Ganache Cupcakes

For the boys’ 6th birthday celebration I skipped throwing a party for their friends and we went directly to Legoland for a raucous day of fun. {Photos Here} Beck & Max had their first REAL grown up rollercoaster ride! Immediately after the ride, they were like “I WANT TO GO AGAIN!!!!” We ended the day at Pizza Port, “the best pizza in the world,” according to Beck.

The boys requested chocolate I made this recipe via SmittenKitchen:

Chocolate Stout Cake
Adapted from the Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington, MA via Bon Appetit

This recipe was originally intended to make a layer cake of 3 8-inch rounds. Upon many reviewers’ suggestions, I halved it and it fit perfectly in a bundt pan. The halved amount is below, and the icing replaced with a simple ganache.

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
6 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Cake prep:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a bundt pan well; make sure you get in all of the nooks and crannies. (Some people even go so far as to brush the inside of their bundt pans with melted butter–you cannot be too careful!). Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cake to rack; cool completely in the pan, then turn cake out onto rack for drizzling ganache.*

For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of cooled cake.

Ode to the Motherlode

I'm a relatively new subscriber to Lisa Belkin's Blog at The New York Times. It's called Motherlode, Adventures in Parenting. I dig this blog because Lisa just seems to nail the issues that I'm already thinking about, or want to be thinking about. Tonight I saw her recent post regarding the boy with cancer from Minnesota, the strip search of a 13 year old girl in Arizona, and Jon and Kate Plus 8, which I do not watch but have fair knowledge of (who doesn't these days?). I enjoyed this so I clicked through her links to an earlier post...and landed here: "What's Harder, Marriage or Parenting?".

Hmmmm. Lisa addressed this topic in the context of other "momversations" that were happening online (January 2009). SHOCKINGLY not all moms were experiencing the same challenges. Many moms are overwhelmed by today's parenting pressures. Others are struggling to manage their marriage. I know where I fall on this issue, as I said out loud tonight (with my watermelon margarita) "It can't get any harder than this." OY. Where are you?

Take a deep breath. One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish. Smell the marine layer, listen to Michael Jackson and eat a homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich.

True Love

[Scene: A family room in suburban California, 8:09 PM. The Daily Show plays in the background, a married couple sits next to each other on the couch, cruising Facebook on their respective laptops. The FB IM pop-up follows...]

hey babe, do you want to do it? [ding!]

are you there? [ding!]

hey you? [ding!]


Love you. LOL!


but i still want to do it


Yeah but I'm triple multi tasing [sic]

The Case of the Missing Waffle Fry

I took the day off today. I was going to workout, clean my office, create, hang out with my mom on her last day in San Diego, drink coffee and surprise my children with an early pick up after their big field trip to SeaWorld. Today was going to be a glorious day. I did get to hang with my mom and I drank coffee. However, at pick up, I learned that B was {again} not well behaved at school. Uggh. Gone were my dreams of special treats and Superfriends. I spent the afternoon saying no, giving time outs, and being whacked and popped by {one of} my 5 year olds. More Uggh. That was my LOW.

My HIGH follows:

Scene: Our Dining Room
Menu: Pulled pork sandwiches/tacos, apples & clementines, waffle fries, red cabbage & carrot slaw.

6:33 PM
Max: I'm going to take 3 waffle fries. That's enough for me. Papa, you can have more because you're the biggest.

6:45 PM
Jarrod: Max--What is that outside? [Jarrod reaches over and nabs one of three untouched waffle fries.]

Max: I don't see anything. What is it?

Jarrod: Hmm, I don't know, must have been my own reflection.

7:00 PM
Max: I have to go potty. I mean, excuse me, I'll be right back. [Max leaves the table.]

7:15 PM [Max returns to the table, all are STILL seated]
Max: Hey! Where is my waffle fry that I haven't even eaten yet? I had three. There are only two here!

[Silence from all at table, while Max frantically looks on the floor, under his plate...]
Max: Have you seen it? It looks like a pick axe.

[At this point in time, I completely lose it and bust out laughing, shaking with tears. "It looks like a pick axe?" This only angers Max further, and inspires me to say...]

Me: Well what was it wearing?

7:20 PM
[After 5 minutes of speculation on real magic, invisible dogs, and potato eating tulips, Beck comes clean...]

Beck: I think Papa sneaked it, ate it and is really just lying. He's lying and he ate it.

Max believes that The Case of the Missing Waffle Fry remains unsolved...

What I Didn't Buy Today

I don't believe I've mentioned Simply Lovely, a gem of a site that I discovered in some of my blog wandering. Again, on the theme of consumption, author/hostess Joslyn has this little thing going called "The Spending Hiatus." I've joined the support group, so now I can post things like "What I Didn't Buy" which will still serve my consumption drive (in a virtual sense) and inspire me to spend some time reflecting on all the things I'm doing, instead of buying. Like experiencing the WiiFit while my whole family sits there and watches me...doing a tree pose...getting soccer balls and shoes thrown at me...crashing on a ski slope. Yeah, that's quality family time baby. Welcome to unprecedented times.

But dammit, Paper Voodoo would have come in really handy today...