Saturday, July 30, 2016

ROUND-UP: Corelli's Mandolin-Inspired Creations for #thebookclubcookbookCC

We're wrapping up our year-long journey for #thebookclubcookbookCC. And what a year it has been. You can visit here to see everything we've done. Phew.

Or click on the titles to see the recipe round-ups, posted by the hosting blogs. We've (read and) cooked from: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri; A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson; A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines; Three Junes by Julia Glass; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling; Peace Like a River by Leif Enger; The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith; Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier; Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; and Chocolat by Joanne Harris.

Here's my invitation for the final event: Corelli's Mandolin.*

I invited bloggers to make spanakopita...or get creative with their favorite Greek recipes. Love the creativity!

Here's what the bloggers shared...

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm posted her recipe for Gluten-Free Spinach Pie. Wendy wrote that it was more of a quiche than your traditional spinach pie.  "We enjoyed a piece right from the oven, piping hot for breakfast and then I cut up the rest of the pie into bite size pieces and served it, room temperature, as part of an appetizer table....  It was nice knowing that there was plenty of tasty treats for everyone to enjoy even those who suffer from gluten intolerances."

Andrea of Adventures in All Things Food went the Galaktoboureko for her selection. Here how she decided: "I was excited to make something I hadn't tried before. I have made Spanakopita before, and it is a dish I love, but I wanted to try something to uniquely tied to the story. A dish and flavors that I didn't have previous memories attached to. I ended up Googling Cephalonia and Greek cuisine and found myself with Galaktoboureko."

Emily from Life on Food also made a Pork Kebabs. She shares that it's been horribly hot and humid around Connecticut and they are without air conditioning, so she needed a recipe that didn't requie the oven. "Finally I saw this recipe for kebabs. Meant to be made under the broiler but we made the pork kebabs or souvlaki on the grill.  Topped with a yogurt mint sauce these were a delicious dinner."

Renee from Tortillas and Honey offered up her Spanakopita Casserole. She tried to make the recipe, as suggested in the cookbook, but reports: "It didn't go as well as I'd hoped. Combine the lack of patience with an unsteady hand, I made a complete mess of the phyllo dough. I made five triangles before giving up completely and deciding to make spanakopita into a casserole. The five triangles that I made actually came out out of the oven delicious and buttery, but my impatience won this battle." I think the casserole solution is genius!

Erin of The Spiffy Cookie went with a Rustic Spanakopita. She was, also, originally was going to make a more classic version of spanakopita; but then she wanted to limit the time she spent in the kitchen. So she cut the recipe in half and swapped puff pastry for phyllo dough. "Because it’s easier. And my laziness paid off because this little rustic spanakopita tart looking thing was magical. Think of it as a flaky-crust spinach and cheese pizza."

Sarah from Things I Make (for Dinner) whipped up some Lemon Chicken and Orzo. Sarah didn't get a chance to read the book. "For whatever reason, there's been a run on the copy at my local library.  I am currently third on the waiting list.  I was fifth when I went to reserve the book.  But I can make Greek inspired food.  We love Greek food." This recipe came from one of her favorite sources for recipes - Budget Bytes - and with lemon and feta, it's reminiscent of all the great flavors of Greek cuisine.

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm couldn't resist making a second recipe for us. I'm so glad she did! Snail Pilaf. "Snails play a very important role in this novel.  They are introduced in the beginning as Pelagia and her family forage for wild snails to help allay their hunger caused by the war, mentioned several more times throughout the span of 50 some years and then show up again at the end of the book in a pilaf." Wendy says that the umami of the dish made her swoon as the nutiness of the quinoa paired with the silkiness of the snails. I can't wait to try it.

And, lastly, I shared a Greek duet of Soutzoukakia and Ellinikos Lemoni PatatasThough I really did want to make the Spanokopita in the cookbook, I have yet to find gluten-free phyllo dough and I didn't want my gluten-free husband to miss out.

Well, that's a wrap. We had a wonderful year. And you still have a day and a half to enter the giveaway to win your own copy of the cookbook that inspired this journey. Enjoy!

This month Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla, this month's host, is giving away two copies of the book.* Enter to win a copy of the cookbook! You have till August 1st.

TWO of our lucky readers - US and Canada only! - can enter to win a copy of The Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, courtesy of Tarcher-PenguinGiveaway runs from July 1st till August 1st at 6 o'clock PM, Pacific time. Please see terms and conditions in the rafflecopter widget below. Many thanks to Tarcher Books. You may find Tarcher: on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Pinterest.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
*Disclosure: Camilla received a complimentary copy of The Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp as an opportunity to give two copies away. Opinions are our own. We received no further compensation for our posts.

**This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.


Fulfilling Parental Duties: Creating Adventurous Eaters

To celebrate a new school year and to say farewell to Chef Brad (he's leaving to open his own restaurant), Aunt Jenn took us all to La Balena for dinner last night. It's one of our very favorite restaurants and we adore the owners, Anna and Emanuele. As we were leaving Anna gave them hats. They were thrilled though they both did lament, "We can't wear these to school!" It's against their dress codes to have any hats with writing or logos. And, of course, the big one - yes, I do mean my husband - joked, "Where's mine?!?"

While Jenn is one of my oldest and dearest friends, nothing makes me love her more than watching her kids eating adventurously. If you follow my posts at all, you already know that I feel it's our duty as parents to create kids who eat real food; I believe that we, as parents, are responsible for making kids picky eaters. If your kid doesn't eat vegetables, it's because you didn't offer them vegetables...or you allowed them to eat other things instead of the vegetables.

My rule has always been - and Jenn's obviously is also - they eat what we eat. Now that parenting style has its downsides: we have to share!

For several years the boys didn't care for lamb. Jake and I would grill lamb and they would get chicken, beef, or pork. But I had them try the lamb every time. And in the last few years, they have really started to enjoy lamb. So, now, I have to buy twice as much lamb and cringe because chicken, beef, and pork is less expensive. Oh, well. I really am glad they enjoy lamb now.

Back to my story...we settled into our table on the patio and G, who hadn't been to La Balena since he was 4 years old, exclaimed, "I remember this place! They have really good octopus. We're getting the octopus, right?!?" Of course! Back to the downside of creating adventurous eaters - we probably should have ordered two octopus plates.

What comes with the octopus changes with the seasons. This time, it was served with rustic chunks of watermelon, luscious tomatoes, piquant red onions, and seaweed. We battled over every last piece of octopus. In fact, I don't even think Jenn got to try a piece.

"Mom, you're going to order the tripe, too, right?!" asked R. I caught the eye of the man at the table next to us. He smiled. Yes, I will

"Your kids are good eaters, " he commented. It was my turn to smile. 

In addition to the octopus and tripe, we had their roasted cauliflower, sauteed dragon beans, two different salads, a whole roasted fish, ricotta gnocchi, and pasta made with squid ink. The polpettine are always amazing and, again, we probably should have ordered two plates. But we all shared and waited for the parade of deliciousness to continue.

After we had picked the bones clean from the fish, I caught G playing with the fish skeleton and my heart soared. He asked, "Can I eat the eyeball?" Sure. It's important to me that kids know that fish, the food, is actually an animal. It certainly doesn't come in breaded sticks naturally! I know my kids have never had fish sticks. And I doubt that Jenn's have either.

But balance is important and it's not all about whole animals, stomach lining, and fish eyeballs. Before we went, I emailed Anna and asked if they had D's favorite dessert - spumoni bomba. They did. And, unlike the octopus and meatballs, we actually did order two! Little N pointed at the wedges of spumoni with a chocolate shell and declared, "It's a boat!" He was so happy.

Thank you, Jenn, for treating us to a fabulous meal. We'll have to go back again soon. And when Chef Brad opens his place in the Fall, we'll all go. Our treat!!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Molasses Banana Bread {Gluten-Free}

I recently saw some spotted bananas at the farmstand for half price. My first thought: banana bread! This is quick to make and, because of the whole grains and nuts, it feels a little less like cake and more like bread.


  • 1/2 C plain yogurt
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 C organic turbinado sugar
  • 2 T molasses
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 4 mashed, ripe bananas
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 2 C gluten-free flour (I used a combination of white rice flour, brown rice flour, sorghum flour, and buckwheat flour)
  • 1/4 C sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking dish with parchment paper and butter the papers. Sert aside.

Mix yogurt, olive oil, eggs, sugar, molasses, vanilla, and bananas in a large mixing bowl until well-blended. Gently fold in the flour and baking soda until just moistened. Stir in the sunflower seeds.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake until the top is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, approximately 60 minutes. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert and complete cooling on a wire rack.

Serve with a strong cup of coffee for a quick breakfast.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Elusive, Enjoyable Gluten-Free Pizza

Not all pizza is created equal. And, I'll be honest: I'm a pizza snob. Having lived in Italy for over a year after I graduated from college, I have had a lot of pizza. A lot.

Pizza was my go-to snack with the kids for whom I was an au pair. And, after my work contract ended and I rented an apartment in Trastevere for my final two months in Italy, there was a rosticceria just around the corner that became a favorite spot to grab dinner when it was too hot to cook in my house which was remarkably often in the middle of the summer. 

The (literal) hole-in-the-wall only did takeaway pizza al taglio sold by weight, roasted chicken and potatoes, and supplì. It was fabulous. Additionally, there was an enoteca just next door to it. So, I could grab pizza and wine, sit in the piazza, and read a book or watch people go by.

Roman pizza is thin crust and shaped in a rectangle. You buy it by the weight and they fold it in half - like a sandwich - and wrap it in parchment for you. On any given day, they would have half a dozen different kinds of pizza. My favorites were porcini mushroom, pizza bianca, zucchini, and potato.

When Jake went gluten-free last year, I struggled with the loss of our pizza nights. I tried cornmeal crusts. I made cauliflower crusts. They were okay. Passable. But they weren't great. 

Then I delved into blending my own gluten-free flours and tried one version after another after another that claimed to be "the best gluten-free pizza dough" or "the perfect gluten-free pizza dough." Blech. Again, most were edible though few were enjoyable.

Now, after many months of experimentation, all three of my boys - my gluten-free husband and my gluten-loving kitchen elves - like my gluten-free dough. I still think it needs work. It's thicker than I would like, but it'll do. And, I dare say, if you didn't mention it was gluten-free, they might not know. That's something, right?!?

Something to note: this gluten-free dough does not look or act like regular dough. It's not elastic. It's more like a really, thick batter. But, when baked, it is remarkably like regular pizza.

One thing I've found a necessity when making gluten-free pizza: pre-bake the crust, then top, then bake again. It prevents the finished pizza from being gummy. The only time I don't pre-bake is when I make a potato pizza. But that recipe is for another post.

makes 1 large rectangular pizza approximately 10" x 13"
  • 3/4 C white rice flour (you can use brown rice flour instead)
  • 1/2 C tapioca flour 
  • 1/3 C sorghum flour 
  • 1/3 C buckwheat flour
  • 1 t xanthan gum
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1/2 C whole milk
  • 1/4 C water
  • 2-1/4 t active dry yeast (or 1 packet)
  • 2 t organic brown sugar
  • 1 - 2 eggs (2nd egg if the dough is too dry)
  • 3 T olive oil + more for baking the crust
  • Also needed: parchment paper
Toppings (use your favorite - for this version we went simple)
  • fresh tomato sauce
  • shredded cheese (we like mozzarella)
  • olive oil
  • fresh basil, chiffonaded

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together tapioca flour, white rice flour, buckwheat flour, sorghum flour, xanthan gum, and sea salt.

Pour milk and water into a saucepan and heat until warm to the touch, approximately one minute. Stir in the yeast and brown sugar and let bloom for 5 minutes.

Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and beat with a wooden spoon. Stir in one egg and olive oil. Beat till smooth. If the dough looks too dry, add another egg. This dough should be smooth and thick. Cover and let stand for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F while the dough rests. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.

After the dough has rested, scrape the dough onto the parchment-lined pan. Drizzle the ball with olive oil, then press and stretch into a rectangle that's about 1/4" thick. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Bake until the top is puffed and firm and the underside is crisped, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and raise the temperature to 450°F.

Spread sauce over the crust, leaving a slight border around the edge. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Drizzle olive oil over the whole thing and place it back in the oven. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and browned in places. The crust should be golden brown after approximately 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from oven, drizzle with olive oil, and scatter with fresh basil. Slice and serve immediately.

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Beautiful Heirloom Beans

If you have been following my blog for even a little bit, you know that I gravitate towards the unexpected...and I really tend to be attracted to odd-ball foods such as black garlic, black tahini (here's my Black Tahini Chocolate Bundt), and more. 

So, when I went to the farmers' market last night and saw these - beautiful, midnight-hued heirloom beans - at Serendipity Farms' stand, I had to have them. I am not sure exactly what they are. They look similar to the Royal Burgundy Bush Bean (thank you, internet), but they were just identified as heirloom beans. 

Whatever they are, they are gorgeous! They are almost black on the outside, but bright green on the inside.

Unfortunately, they lost that beautiful coloration when they were blanched. But they were so tasty. With beans as fresh as these, they need little more than a quick blanch, some sea salt, a squeeze of lemon, and a drizzle of olive oil. Not much of a recipe but here's what I did...

  • 1 to 2 lbs heirloom beans
  • water
  • freshly ground sea salt
  • organic lemon
  • olive oil

Trim the ends from the beans. Place beans in a large pot and cover them with water. Place over medium to high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, drain the beans and shock them with cold water.

Place the beans on a serving platter. Sprinkle with salt, squeeze fresh lemon juice over them, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Honey Tasting with Carmel Honey Company

When we went to the Carmel Honey Company presentation at Earthbound Farm this weekend, they hosted a honey tasting. That's always my favorite part! Beekeeper Jake's mom made some waffles and we tasted them with four different kinds of honey.

Clockwise from the top left: meadowfoam, sage, wildflower, and orange blossom. I love how different they look...and taste!

We went back multiple times to taste the different honeys.

While R declared his favorite is still orange blossom (it's been that was for years no matter how many different kinds I present to him), D and I thought that the meadowfoamn honey was the most unique. I found it muted and sweet with hints of caramelized custard and a hint of burnt sugar. Kinda like a crème brûlée. My favorite! D said it was more like a toasted marshmallow.

So we bought a jar and spooned it over vanilla ice cream for dessert. Delish!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Carmel Honey Company at Earthbound Farm

Yesterday morning there was another great event at Earthbound Farm: Jake, the 13-year-old beekeeper and owner of Carmel Honey Company, was talking about bees, honey, and beekeeping. Since my Precise Kitchen Elf is interested in having bees here at our new house, I figured it was a great way to keep him interested. 

I had met Jake when I interviewed him a couple of years ago. It's wonderful to see how much his business has progressed! He's quite impressive and a font of knowledge about bees.

He spoke about the plight of bees, explained the politics of the hive, extolled the benefits of honey, and - the best part - let us taste his honeys. So awesome.

After the talk, we wandered through the garden and looked for bees. They were everwhere, but there were tons buzzing around the flowering oregano.

I'm not sure I was completely successful. While R was excited about the bees, he was actually more intimidated about beekeeping after hearing Jake speak. Darn it.

I need to rethink my strategy to get a beekeeper in the house!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Idaho Dogs for #SundaySupper

Every summer when the grill comes out so do the hamburgers and hotdogs! Since July is National Hotdog month Christie of A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures invited the Sunday Supper tastemakers to bring their best dogs to the table. And hamburgers just seemed to be a natural pairing with hotdogs, so we're sharing those, too.

The Sunday Supper Hamburger and Hot Dog Stand...
All American Burgers & Dogs
Cluck Burgers
Worldly Burgers & Dogs
Where's the Beef Burgers
Where's the Bun Burger
Dessert Burger
How to
Idaho Dogs

I had initially planned to make Puka Dogs because I love the story of their name and we love Kauai though we never did have Puka Dogs when we were in Poipu. However, after testing the recipe, we decided it was just too sweet - sweet rolls, sweet relish, and even sweet mustard. It was too much sweet for my crew. So, I changed directions and went with an Idaho Dog. Full disclosure, I saw a photo of an "Idaho Dog" on pinterest and decided to go for it; I did not, however, check with my family in Idaho to actually verify that they have these there. Whoops.

Ingredients serves 4

  • 4 large potatoes - as long as you can find them!
  • 4 hot dogs (I found some locally made, uncured and fully-cooked hot dogs)
  • butter
  • organic sour cream
  • organic chives
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wash and dry your potatoes. Pierce them with a fork or toothpick at least six times so that the moisture can escape during cooking. Wrap them in tinfoil.

Bake for an hour or until the potato feels soft when you squeeze it. During the last 15 minutes of baking, grill your hot dogs until warmed through.

To serve, remove the potatoes from the foil and slice them down the middle, lengthwise. Gently squeeze the ends of the potato towards the each other; the potato should crack open.

Mash some of the potato away from the sides toward the bottom and place a pat of butter in the potato. 

Place the cooked hot dog inside the potato.

Top with sour cream, snipped chives, salt, and pepper. Enjoy!

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

{Gluten-Free} Garden Cake with Matcha Whipped Cream, Berries, and Blossoms

Probably influenced by his hours at Earthbound Farm for their Afternoon Tea Party and wandering through their Edible Gardens, to celebrate the Nonni's safe return home from their trip, the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf wanted to make them a garden cake. He wanted it to have strawberries and flowers; I happened to have both on hand. Sweet!

I suggested a matcha cake. He vetoed that in favor of a regular cake with matcha whipped cream. What can I say? The kid has vision. 

I'm not sure Nonno knew what to think of the cake, but he ate it.

Note: I baked this as two separate 8" rounds that were fairly flat as I was trying to speed up the baking time. I think next time, I'll bake it as one 8" round and slice it in half. Or bake it for less time. The cake layers were slightly overbaked.


  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 6 T butter, room temperature
  • zest from 1 organic lemon
  • 1 C white rice flour*
  • 2 T tapioca flour
  • 6 T potato starch*
  • 1 t xanthan gum*
  • 2  eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 3/4 C organic plain yogurt
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract

Matcha Whipped Cream

  • 2 C organic heavy whipping cream
  • 2 T organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T culinary matcha*

To Serve

  • 2 C organic strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • organic flowers (we used roses, snapdragons, and marigolds)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two 8" round pans with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the pan. Set aside.

Using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until lightened and fluffy. Mix in the eggs on low speed. Stir in the lemon zest.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flours, potato starch, xanthan gum, and baking powder.

In the butter bowl, beat in the yogurt and vanilla extract. Fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the top flat.

Bake the cake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on rack. While the cake cools, make the matcha whipped cream.

Matcha Whipped Cream
Place all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat with a hand mixer until nice peaks form. Set aside until read to assemble.

To Serve
Place your bottom layer on serving platter. Heap 1/2 of the matcha whipped cream in the center and gently spread it to within 1/2" of the edge. Lay 1/2 of the strawberries on top of the whipped cream. Place the second cake layer on top of the strawberries. Heap the remaining matcha whipped cream on top of the cake, keeping 2 T aside. Gently spread whipped cream to within 1/2" of the edge. Lay the remaining strawberries on top of the cream. Use the last 2 T of whipped cream as a dollop on top. Garnish with flowers. Serve immediately.

Our gluten-free Sugar Pig was so happy!

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Inspiring Garden of Edibles at Earthbound Farm

Following the Afternoon Tea Party at Earthbound Farm, the boys and I decided to wander through the gardens on the grounds of the farmstand. And while anyone who knows me knows that I have a black thumb, it was inspiring nonetheless. To see what they are growing here locally - successfully - well, it gave me garden-goals.

I love this shot of busy bees. I can watch bees all afternoon; they're mesmerizing!

I had never seen quinoa growing. This plant was in the Children's Garden, in the 'Q' planter box. D yelled, "Mommy, we can grow quinoa." You can grow quinoa! But, I would love that. We eat quinoa quite a bit. I need to read up on how it goes from plant to plate. Do I have to dry it? Can I use it straight off the bush?

"Mom, look at the wheat!" D hollered when he reached the 'W' planter. "Too bad Dad is gluten-free. We could grow wheat."

This odd red flower puzzled me. Without hesitation, R declared, "It's a pomegranate, Mom. It looks exactly like a pomegranate. It's just that all of the parts aren't yet full-grown." Okay, I wouldn't say it looks exactly like a pomegranate. But I see what you mean.

And, just to confirm, I asked one of the gals if they had pomegranates out there. She said yes.

What an inspiring stroll. There are so many things I want to plant at our new house. While I love supporting local organic farmers that I know, it'd be nice to be able to eat more things from our own yard. 

Okay, who's willing to give me gardening tips?