127 articles

for my daughter (holiday gift guide #8)

When the editors at Tadashop.com asked me to come up with some gift ideas in collaboration with my daughter, I jumped at the chance. It was like getting my holiday shopping done before Thanksgiving. (Too bad I’m not anywhere near finished in reality…)

The site’s a great one stop shop for pretty much anything you might want for your kids (or your nephews or godchildren or whomever) culling the best products from huge sites like J Crew and little boutiques like Sweet William in Brooklyn. I probably spent waaaaay too much time on there, but it was so fun to see all of the great products their editors have pulled from the world wide web of children’s merch.

click below for more…

I’m still pretty old school when it comes to shopping– I prefer to actually go to the store, hold the potential gift in my hands, put it in a bag and then hide it in the closet till the big day.

But I’m also a reasonable person and working parent living in 2011 with unlimited access to everything (via the internet), except time. So when I find a good site, I will not hesitate to take advantage. I’m sure we’re all in the same boat.

And who doesn’t want to open a box that arrives at the front door full of sparkly golden princess shoes?

Mushroom bread

On a recent trip to Portland, OR, my aunt treated us with this amazing bread recipe. Called mushroom bread, it’s basically a delicious loaf of bread that is cooked in a one pound coffee can and emerges looking like a mushroom.

The recipe, evidently, comes via my Aunt’s mother, who had a subscription to Sunset Magazine over 40 years ago, and deemed this one worth saving. It’s really easy… after you mix the dough, you stick it in a coffee can, wait for it to rise (and pop the top off!), and then bake.

And let me just say for the record, that I am very glad my aunt has kept so many of her old recipes, because this one rocks.

Click below for details…

Here’s how you will make this bread. Which you will. It’salso fun for kids to watch the dough rise inside the unorthodox pan…

Mushroom Bread – from AJ’s 44 year old recipe file

1 pkg. Yeast
1/2 Cup warm water
1/8 tsp powdered ginger
3 TB sugar, divided

1 tsp salt
1- 12oz can Evaporated Milk
3 TB oil
4 to 4 1/2 Cups flour

Two – 1 pound coffee cans with plastic lids. Butter insides of cans and lids.

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl, then stir in ginger and 1 TB sugar and let stand in warm place until foamy on top (about 15 min.). Stir in remaining sugar, salt, milk and oil. Then gradually add flour with a wooden spoon. Blend well. Dough will be heavy and sticky. Divide in half between the two coffee cans. Put on lids. Let stand in warm place and let dough rise until lids pop off (about 1 hour or more).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cans on lower shelf and bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until deep golden brown.

Remove from oven and brush “mushroom” tops with butter. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then take knife and run around edge of cans to remove bread. Or just try to tap and shake bread out.

Cool on rack if you can stand to wait! Makes excellent toast.

better than barney

This has been the summer of downsizing, or at least, of trying to get rid of clutter. And yet, while we were donating (or trying to donate– a lot of our stuff wasn’t quite up to snuff) to a favorite local thrift shop, the last thing I expected was to leave the place with new treasures in hand.

But when my husband found this 1960 NY Philharmonic recording of Peter and the Wolf, with Leonard Bernstein narrating and conducting, we couldn’t resist and found ourselves listening, rapt, along with our three year old, while Peter and the bird captured the wolf that ate the hapless duck.

It’s a wonderful story in any form, but seriously, can you imagine anyone better to narrate the story than the most brilliant conductor ever? Plus he’s a great storyteller, and doesn’t talk down to his young listeners at all (something that drives me crazy with so many readings of kids books these days.) And he always leads his orchestras to play with such emotion that the entire story is palpable, from the sun shining down on the meadow to the grandfather’s anger at Peter’s waywardness.

So if you don’t already have it, please make this a part of your arsenal of things to do with your kids. If for no other reason than this– how much would you rather have this music running through your head all day than the theme from Blue’s Clues?

Come on, be honest.

sweet and sour chicken

I have been meaning to put this recipe up for ages and am finally getting to it– just when everybody else (of course) is serving up ideas for summertime cooking outdoors…

Whatever. There is always a place for the quick and easy dinner plan. Especially for those of us with tiny hungry picky mouths to feed. And when it stars the lowly and inexpensive chicken thigh (my favorite part of the chicken, with it’s sweet dark meat, is actually far more nutrient laden than the ubiquitous breast) it’s a no brainer.

I discovered this recipe while scanning the magazine racks of Whole Foods in desperation, looking for something, anything, to help pass the time in that endless line. Lo and behold, there it was. The (at the time) new Gourmet Magazine’s Quick Kitchen, a special edition chock full of Gourmet (aka totally delicious) style recipes that can be made in less than the typical Gourmet style (aka lengthy and laborious) time. It was like a gift from the heavens.

So click below for the chicken recipe. I know it by heart at this point, ’cause I make it almost once a week. And if you go to Gourmet’s site (which is all that is left of that venerable mag) you can order the Quick Kitchen special issue and get loads more ideas for ways to serve up deliciousness without breaking a sweat.


yield: Makes 4 to 6 main-course servings

active time: 30 min

total time: 1 1/4 hr



  • 8 small chicken thighs with skin and bone (2 1/2 to 2 3/4 lb total), trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into1/4-inch-wide strips
  • 1 lb carrots (6 medium), cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons mild honey
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro


Pat chicken dry. Stir together 1 1/2 teaspoons salt with paprika, cinnamon, and pepper and rub onto chicken.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken in 2 batches, turning over once, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken as browned to a plate.

Discard all but 3 tablespoons fat from skillet, then add onion and carrots. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute.

Return chicken, skin sides up, to skillet, nestling it into vegetables. Stir together water, lemon juice, and honey until blended and add to skillet, then cook over moderately low heat, covered, until chicken is cooked through and carrots are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. If necessary, skim fat from sauce, then add salt to taste. Sprinkle with herbs just before serving.

(photo by: Romulo Yanes)

Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Sweet-and-Sour-Chicken-Thighs-with-Carrots-231790#ixzz1Ql6Smt4n

no more tears

Well, almost. Hair combing is never a 100% pleasant activity around my house. To get through my own tresses, I have to soak my head in conditioner and then go at it piece by piece– the entire process takes the better part of 45 minutes. My daughter, unbeknownst to her, has it easier. We just get her hair wet during the bath (easier said than done) and then spray some of this fantastic Black Vanilla leave in conditioner/detangling spray by Carol’s Daughter on her head and voila, the comb slides through without too much of a struggle.

And believe me, I know from struggle. I’ve used nothing (impossible!) California Baby’s detangler (next to impossible!) Once I even slathered her noggin with some Bumble and Bumble stuff I got in a gift bag. Which worked but she smelled like a beauty salon for a week. I am as dedicated as a sane parent can be to using all-natural products but was reching the end of my rope when some kind soul recommended that I check out Carol’s Daughter. And I have been singing the praises of this miracle elixer ever since. They also make a kid-specific detangler that I am sure is as superb as the black vanilla, but I prefer the scent and, yes, the subtler packaging of the grown up product. We do share a bathroom, after all.

more info if you click below:

If you aren’t lucky enough to live in Ft Greene or Harlem, you can find this life saver online by clicking here. I’m telling you, your life will be changed for the better, I promise. And you can spend less time struggling and more time doing fun stuff like blowing bubbles and reading extra bedtime stories… Which is the whole point, right?

Don’t eat it!

So I have now joined the ranks of not-enough-to-do-with-our-time parents who make their own play dough at home with their kids. But I have to admit, it was really fun and took no more than 15 minutes from the time I thought it might be a good idea to seeing those 4 balls of color on the counter. Plus I know what I put in there, which makes me less nervous when the inevitable fistfulls go hurdling towards those litle mouths!

There are tons of recipes on line, but I picked this particular one because the blog entry started with the words “Finally I’ve found a playdough recipe that works!” I figured, why not just piggyback on her success, right?

Recipe is below. And in the interest of full disclosure, the above photograph was shot not by me, but by our junior chef!

Play Dough Recipe:

1 cup white flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar (find it in the spice section)
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water
food coloring

Mix first 4 ingredients in a pan. Add water and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes. Dough will become difficult to stir and form a “clump”.  Remove from stove and knead for 5 minutes–add food coloring during kneading process. Play dough will keep for a long time stored in a covered plastic container or plastic sandwich bag.

It comes from mommyfootprint.com, which I have yet to really explore, though it must have something going on– the play dough is fantastic!

an awesome book!

My friends Howard Goldkrand and Beth Coleman (of soundlab|cultural alchemy fame) have some of the best taste I ever ever encountered. Seriously. They make great art (see my first blog post) produce amazing events, have a super cool kid and give the best gifts ever.

Like this book they gave to my daughter, by artist Dallas Clayton, aptly titled An Awesome Book. All about the importance of dreaming, it is filled with whimsical and hilarious drawings of candy cane machines and rocket powered unicorns all meant to encourage little people to dream BIG. To be honest, I think I love it more than my kid does, which is great since I’m going to have to read it to her about a million times between now and when she is really reading on her own.

more below

And because this book is also about spreading the word and making the world a more positive place to inhabit, there is a foundation set up (called the Awesome World Foundation, of course) which is working to promote child literacy by donating one copy of the book to a school, hospital or child in need for every copy sold.

So everybody wins. How’s that for dreaming large?