Picture Books, Farmers Markets, and a Peach and Blueberry Crumble

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Until I became a parent, picture books were definitely not on my list of interesting reads. I think it’s because as a so-called grown-up, I assumed that books that depended largely on pictures to tell their stories were dull and simplistic, appealing solely to the youngest among us.

And then I had children, and like most of my prior assumptions about being a parent, my assumptions about the appeal of picture books flew right out the window. A picture book, I quickly learned, is a magical combination of words and art that can stir the imagination of any age.

One picture book that I especially loved to read to my daughters was Katie and the Sunflowers by James Mayhew. It features Katie, a little girl of about six, who decides to visit the art museum with her grandmother after rain washes out their plans to spend the day gardening. Upon entering the building, Katie is immediately drawn to the warmth and sunniness of paintings by the artists Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gaugin, and Paul Cezanne. In fact, Katie is so captivated by their works that she soon climbs inside several of them. The charm of Katie’s antics as she plays with, and runs from, the characters in the paintings is matched only by the beauty of the book’s illustrations. Its pages glow with the reds, yellows, blues and greens that were so beloved by the artists whose paintings Katie unabashedly explores.

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Marinara Sauce

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A few weeks ago I did a post calculating the astonishing amount of sugar that a five-year-old could consume in a single day by eating typical processed and restaurant food.  As a follow-up I said that I would post some recipes for dishes that could be substituted for the more sugary, processed items that populate grocery store shelves.  Today’s post, marinara sauce, is the third in that series.

Marinara sauce is one of those kitchen staples I try to always have on hand.  It’s the simplest of tomato sauces, consisting of just tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and a few seasonings, simmered together until the sauce has reduced slightly and the flavors have blended.  (Depending on whom you ask, it may or may not have onions – my preference is to leave them out.)  It’s also extremely versatile, serving as a sauce for not only pasta but vegetables and meat as well.

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Lemon Yogurt Quick Bread

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Sunshine on a plate. That’s what I think of when I make this lemon yogurt quick bread. And, boy, is it ever needed right now as large parts of the northeastern part of the United States are being walloped by a huge winter snow storm.

Fortunately, here in the D.C. area, the snow fall was limited to a few inches, just enough to close some schools but certainly not enough to raise the specter of being trapped in my neighborhood for days. I made the loaf I photographed for this post yesterday, and my kids have been munching on it all morning. They think of it as a type of cake. I think of the whole grains and calcium they’re getting being delivered in a less sugary package. Read More


Everyday Vinaigrette

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One of the most deceptively simple things you can make at home is a vinaigrette salad dressing. Not only is it better tasting than what you can find in a store, it’s infinitely healthier and cheaper than its store-bought cousin. The key is understanding how three basic ingredients work together to create the vinaigrette.

In its simplest form, a vinaigrette is a mixture of two substances that under normal circumstances go together like, well, oil and water. The oil is any vegetable (canola), fruit (olive, avocado, or coconut) or nut (walnut, hazelnut, peanut, and sesame) oil. The water is any water-based acidic fluid, such as vinegar (balsamic, red wine, white wine, apple cider) or citrus juice (lemon). Read More


Green Beans with Herb Finishing Salt

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In my last post I shared my foolproof method (courtesy of Sally Schneider on the Splendid Table) for making an herb finishing salt that’s guaranteed to make you everyone’s favorite gift-bearing party guest this holiday season.  In this post, I describe one way that I use that herb finishing salt all through the year.

My favorite use is to sprinkle it on vegetables just before I serve them.  Green beans are a great choice.   I trim and wash the green beans and then steam them for no more than five minutes.  This brings out their full flavor and ensures they stay crisp.  (I find that steaming them for more than five minutes makes them too soft for my taste.) Read More