Sunday, October 30, 2011


I did not grow up during the Depression, REALLY, I did not! But if you were to take a peek in my freezer you would think that I did because that’s where I keep all the food I don’t like to throw away. Hold on--I know what you’re thinking and I can explain...I don’t hoard SPOILED food and the like, I just cannot throw anything away when I know that I can repurpose it into something else. And correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s many a restaurant chef out there who is doing the very same thing. 
So, if you opened the door--take heed, containers and bags tumble out at a rapid pace--very often you would find plastic wrapped slabs of red stuff (tomato paste) and yellow stuff (cookie dough), brown ice cubes (coffee), and large Zip-Locs of crumbs (cookies and cake). The day before I leave for a vacation or trip I usually go through my fridge and cabinets looking for food that I know won’t make it safely by the time I get back. Large tablespoons of tomato or olive paste get spooned onto plastic wrap. Bell peppers and onions are chopped and thrown into freezer containers. Fruit is cut up and either cooked down into purees or thrown into freezer containers as is. Cookies, cakes, and any leftovers from my company (here comes a gratuitous plug): are ground up in the food processor and put into large freezer bags. Everything is then plopped into the freezer for later use. I can then go on vacation knowing that my stash in the freezer will be waiting, and that nothing green will meet me when I return.
The idea to repurpose cookie and cake crumbs was given to me by Nancy SIlverton. She has a recipe for Crumb Biscotti in her book, “Pastries From The La Brea Bakery.” I have taken her idea and incorporated it into my standard Mandelbread recipe. I also wanted to give a shoutout to Marilyn Naron  for her recommendation of adding shortening. I find it does make the Mandelbread (she called it “Jewish Biscotti”) lighter. The result is a biscotti-type cookie with a finer, crisper crumb. The final product will always taste a little bit different, depending on the type of cookie crumbs that are mixed in. Regardless, it’s always delicious and it makes a great accompaniment to a glass of tea, a cup of coffee or a bowl of ice cream. These cookies travel well, so if you do all the prep work and make them before your trip, they’ll be a great treat to take with you on the plane.
(makes two large loaves)
3/4c. canola oil
1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening (preferably Spectrum brand)
3/4c. sugar
3 eggs
rind of one orange, finely grated
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup dry cookie crumbs
pinch salt
3c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
for sprinkling:
1/2c. cinnamon
1/2c. granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat and set aside. Using the flat paddle of an electric mixer, cream the oil and shortening together. Stop to scrape the bowl and add the vanilla extract. Continue beating mixture making sure shortening is well incorporated. Add the sugar, grated orange rind, and eggs, one at a time. On low speed, add the crumbs. Mix until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.
Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture, beating on low speed until dough is just combined. Add chopped chocolate and briefly mix, just long enough to evenly distribute.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Divide dough into two equal parts. Using both hands, roll each piece of dough into a log, each about as long as your cookie sheet and approximately 2″ wide.
Transfer dough logs to prepared cookie sheets and space at least 2″ apart. Using the palm of your hand, flatten the logs slightly, working down each length until done.
Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl. Sprinkle half of mixture over each rolled dough log. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until strips are golden and just firmed up. Remove from oven and cool until safe to handle.
Using a thin serrated knife, cut each strip on the diagonal to form approx. 18-20 pieces. Arrange cut pieces on the cookie sheets and sprinkle generously with the cinnamon-sugar mix. Return cookies to oven until golden brown and tops appear dry, about 10-15 minutes. Watch carefully and do not over-brown. Cool on racks.

Monday, October 24, 2011


I live in Cambridge, MA, but my home is Calabasas, CA. (Well, my REAL home is NYC, but one can never have too many homes.) Calabasas, at the very tip of the San Fernando Valley, is often in the news for being the home of people like the Kardashians, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and a host of other celebrities. And yes, the magnitude of how much of a celebrity Kim Kardashian really is, is questionable, but there are many other people living in Calabasas who have never seen the other side of a TV screen, and they consider themselves celebrities too. So, just to give you an idea of who my “neighbors” are, and because they have been on TV and in print, we will consider the K family to be “celebrities.” Those of us who are “ordinary folks,” not the celebs or the pseudo-celebs, often take the others in stride. We see them in the market, at the gym, and the car wash. We sit next to them at the baseball fields and at team parties. And in my case, we help them buy their cookware at Williams-Sonoma. 
It took me a long while to get used to living in Calabasas. The glitter and pretense were not what I was looking for when I was choosing a place in which to raise my boys. The city was often the butt of my jokes, and I thumbed my nose at the stereotypes. Eventually I discovered if you live there long enough and make it your business to dig deep enough you find that underneath the glitz, a small town does exist. And most of the small-town things people generally want-- the tight-knit community, the civic-mindedness, and the beautiful surroundings--they’re all there. (Okay, they’re on a grander scale, but they’re still there.) One can often see red-tailed hawks soaring above and hear the coyotes yipping and hollering late at night. It is illegal to smoke in public here and the supermarkets demand you bring your own bags. I never thought I would live to say it, but Calabasas really is a little slice of heaven.  
After being away for almost eight weeks, I went back to visit this home and it welcomed me with open arms. My friends who through the years have become family were all there. And they made me feel special and missed. I took the time during the year before I moved to really solidify my friendships--to focus on the true relationships I had developed through the years. I knew I would soon be leaving and I wanted my bonds with these people to be even stronger than they had been. I think my friends felt the same. We’ve celebrated births and mourned together at funerals. We’ve been through marriages and divorces. School plays, carnivals, and book fairs, graduations and birthday milestones. Facelifts and eyelifts, breast reductions and breast implants. (Hey, it is Calabasas after all!) Visited the sick, the aged, the poor--all together, all of us from Calabasas. I guess you do have to leave a place and then return to really assess it objectively. 
I know that I’ve been away only a short time, and I know that Cambridge will prove to be a great place to live. But the friends I’ve made in Calabasas are an incredible bunch, and wherever they are is home. So Cambridge, I will give you a chance, and make it my business to discover all you have to offer, but in spite of what I’ve heard, I can go home again.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Traveling on an airplane with children can often be trying. My boys were seasoned travelers at very young ages and if plied with enough snacks and toys, they did rather well. Traveling with a dog, our dog Dashiell, was well...a different animal. 
Dash is a German Short-haired Pointer/Brittany Spaniel mix. Until our move to Boston, he’d never been on an airplane. He had never been in a crate before that either, and I must say that neither one of those things found favor in his eyes. As traumatic as the physical moving was for me, physically moving Dashiell was worse and then some.
Airlines have many rules and regulations for traveling with a pet, the majority of which are based on their weight and size. The weight of the animal plus the crate must not exceed a certain amount, the size of the crate must be large enough so that the animal can stand up and turn around in it, and so on. Dashiell weighs almost sixty pounds, and he is pretty tall. We purchased the crate, which I liked to call “mini castle," about a week before our flight and we strategically placed it in the family room so that Dashiell would get used to seeing it, and become attached to it.  Unfortunately the only thing that became attached to the darn thing was the drink dispensing device we also had to buy. As regal as we thought the thing looked,Dashiell would have none of it.  His blanket and some toys went in it, as did some treats. Nothing doing...he quickly snuck in to get the treats and just as quickly snuck out once he had them. The first time he really spent any time inside was on our trip to the airport.
I won’t bore you with the gory details of that trip, but suffice it to say that the ride in the car we hired that was big enough to fit us, our luggage, the dog, and the crate was not pleasant. Seeing the airline personnel take Dashiell in the "mini castle" away to the bowels of the airplane was also not pleasant. (To their defense I must say that American Airlines was very organized and very professional.) The plane ride to Boston where every half hour I swore I heard a dog whining and crying from far below my seat was even less pleasant.  And, the sight of Dashiell when we were finally able to get him out of his crate at Logan Airport was the least pleasant of all--he had been sick during the flight and he and the crate smelled like something you would encounter, but not go near, at the zoo.
Once the ordeal of getting Dashiell to our new home was over, I assumed all our concerns about him and his adjustment were over as well. In a perfect world.... But I’ll save those stories for another day. In the meantime, a great website to turn to for information regarding traveling with a pet is

Sunday, October 2, 2011


And away we go...I have been toying with the idea of writing a blog for some time, but I never seemed to have the courage to put pen to paper--or finger to keyboard. Until now.  Write what you know, they say, and right now what I know about is relocating, so lots of what I am going to pontificate about here will be about just that. I’ve recently moved 3,000 miles (will have to verify that exact distance at a later date)--from Calabasas, California to Cambridge, Massachusetts. This move, and all the, excuse the expression, “baggage” that comes with it, has been consuming my life for over a year. That was when the hubbie decided he was going to move to Boston to run a company. The arrangement would be that I would follow roughly one year later. Fast forward thirteen months and here I am--with some furniture, millions (slight exaggeration, but not really) of cartons, clothing wardrobes, jars of various sauces, oils, pastas, grains, baking supplies, cookware, and one severely traumatized dog.
As I muddle through my new life, anyone who wants to muddle with me can follow my path. Along the way I plan on including my observations of New England, some book and restaurant reviews, baking tips, recipes, and whatever else pops into my head.
Welcome to my world, and hang on’s going to be a bumpy ride.