Ever since kindergarten began, I have not been able to get Mateo into the kitchen. For most of the summer, he would join me there every Wednesday afternoon and he would help me peel, pick, sort, wash, taste whatever was on its way to our dinner table. I had chosen Wednesdays since it's farmer's market day here in Santa Monica, and I always try and get something new that they've never tasted before like Medjool dates or persimmons or something like that. Cooking together became a little routine the two of us shared since Nico was usually focused on his own play. 

Can't say this is happening right now, which I'm a little bummed about. For the past three Wednesdays I've taunted him with bags of fragrant herbs and colorful vegetables, and when I ask if he wants to help, he's been too…tired, he says. I understand why. Kindergarten is serious work, with new teachers, new routines and new friendships to navigate.  He's doing great, I have to say, but at the end of the day I can tell he just needs to disconnect from everything and lay on the floor and listen to some audiobooks or quietly try to rework his Transformer. 

So I'm backing off for now. Yesterday was a rather busy day in the kitchen for me with chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with sea salt to be made for his school's bake sale, and supper an herbed spinach torte that required a little more work than I'm used to, but was oh so worth it. Mateo was absent for all of it as he ran through the house putting fires out with his fireman's hat on. He would check in from time to time to see how it was progressing, and I suppose he got to savor the best part which was eating it. 

I'm hoping my helper returns soon. I miss watching him begin to understand how a bunch of spinach can transform into something creamy, cheesy and luscious when combined with all the other ingredients. He took much pride in our work once it was done. So now I'm searching for the just the right thing to hook him and his little hands back in, and hoping it won't have a hard candy shell on it. 

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Sea Salt

1 cup unsifted flour
1 egg (room temperature)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. whole milk (room temperature)
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup salted butter (room temperature)
1 3/4 whole rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. With a mixer, beat butter until creamy about 3 minutes. Next add sugars and beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla one at a time until all combined. Add flour mixture and mix well. Stir in oatmeal and chocolate chips. Drop teaspoons of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle the best sea salt you've got (I prefer Maldon Salt) onto the top of each cookie. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until light browned. Makes about little over 2 dozen.

Spinach and Herb Torta in a Potato Crust
{from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Makes 4 to 8 servings

3 large russet potatoes, about 1 1/4 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch scallions, including the greens, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped dil or 2 teaspoons dried

1/2 cup parsley
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 bunches spinach, leaves only, coarsely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup small-curd cottage cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup crumbled feta to taste
Grated zest of 1 lemon

1. Peel the potatoes. Slice two crosswise about 1/8-inch thick. Slice the third potato lengthwise, also 1/8-inch thick. Brush some olive oil in a wide skillet and set over high heat. When the oil is hot, reduce the heat to medium. Make a layer of potatoes and cook, turning them once, until golden on both sides and tender when pierced with a knife. Repeat until all are done. Remove them to a paper towel as they finish cooking.

2. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the scallions, dill, parsley and cilantro and cook over medium heat until the scallions are wilted and bright green, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and remove to a bowl.

3. Add the spinach to the same pan, with the water clinging to the leaves, or add ¼ cup water if the spinach is dry. Cook over high heat until the leaves are wilted and tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a sieve and press out any excess water, then add to the scallions. Add the eggs, cheeses and lemon zest and stir well. Adjust the seasonings.

4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. To assemble the torta, lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan and set it on a sheet pan. Cover the bottom with the potato rounds, overlapping when necessary so there are no empty spaces. Place the long pieces around the sides. Pour in the spinach mixture, then bake immediately until firm and golden in places, about 40 minutes. Gently ease a knife between the edge of the pan and the potatoes. Release the spring and carefully lift off the side. Set the torta on a serving place and serve immediately.









Things have indeed been hectic around here lately. My work schedule as well as Matt's seem to have both been on overdrive, we're still adjusting to kindergarten and a crazy early pick up time (ever cram 8 hours of work into 4?), we've got a new house with architects and contractors, there have been back-to-school nights, parent-association dinners, planning and shopping for dinner to be made every night, and there are always a million little things that can so easily fall through the cracks. Did I make Mateo's 6-month dental cleaning appointment? Check. Did I get to the DMV to replace the license that some tiny little hands decided to take out and bury somewhere in the house, and who now has no idea where he hid it? Check. Do I make an appointment for the boys to get swine flu shots? Not sure about that one yet. 

Anyway, you get the idea. This weekend was no exception really. I mean it took me almost all morning yesterday to realize that I had buttoned Nico's PJs wrong the night before.  So while the world seems to be swirling around too fast, we decided to take it on ourselves to do a little purging/reorganizing. The kids said goodbye to 4 large moving boxes worth of toys. Lucky for me there were no tears. Next up is the pantry, because god only knows what state the food is in that back shelf. The stuff that's designated for "earthquakes' that literally doesn't see the light of day, and that you hope you replace before the "Big One" actually comes.

There were a few moments of reprieve: there were golden raspberries, the popcorn and pizza in front of "Night at the Museum," the electric car show, lots of puzzles, a birthday party, and my favorite, a few glimpses of Fall in the trees. Here in our perpetually mild, sun-soaked state, it really is a sight. 









{photo by Nana!}

We made it down to La Quinta for a long weekend to continue the celebration of our newest three year old. There was lots of bouncing, lots of swimming, even more cake eating, present opening, and some very late nights spent hanging out with cousins, grandparents, uncles and aunts. Many thanks to Uncle Kevin and Aunt Dodi for hosting! It was heaven for the boys to be sure. Although it is fast becoming Fall, you would never know it there; as we left to come back to LA, the temperature outside read 117 degrees. It's so extreme, you almost have to love it. I think we all did.








Three-year-old birthday parties are pretty special, I gotta say. At one year, babies are too young to really understand what's going on. At two, I think that they're still pretty clueless. But by three, the world makes sense and they have a full grasp of this special day that's just for them. Nico definitely knew that when he woke up at dawn yesterday and bounded into our bedroom asking where his cake was. Next he rushed to put on a shirt I made with his favorite red sports car on the front. He kept glancing down at the real car in his hand and the one on his shirt and asking, "How did it get here?".  

To celebrate, we met some friends at the local park after school and stomped foam rockets, hit some t-ball, chased some ducks, and got soaking wet in the sprinklers. It was such a pleasure to see Nico be the object of so much attention and affection. So often I feel as though he is constantly trying to keep up with his brother and his friends. That evening was all about him and his little posse. Homemade cupcakes got eaten, presents were opened on the spot, and as the sun went down on a scorching hot day, my three-year-old walked home a very happy little boy.  


My precious little Neek, as we call him, has turned 3. At exactly 3:30 p.m. three years ago today, this little being came into our world. Before he emerged, I knew he was tough. Our time together during the pregnancy was a little hard, mostly due to the fact that I was chasing after his toddler brother most of the time. When I went into labor a week early, I was ready. Nico, as we already knew we would call him, was at that point estimated to weigh almost 10 pounds. I was huge. So after 12 hours of mind-alteringly painful Pitocin contractions, he emerged. But before we could lock eyes on each other, they had to unwrap the umbilical cord which had wrapped itself twice around his neck. He also had a serious knot in his cord, as though he'd spent 39 weeks learning to tie his shoes. I'm downplaying it now, but it could have been very, very bad. No one knows how long that knot had been there. But he endured and soon he was folded into his loving mama's waiting arms. There were audible sighs of relief from everyone in that hospital room. 

Since that day I've known that Nico is pretty extraordinary. Indeed, as I've watched him grow, he is strong in every way I know a little boy can be. He can hang tough with his big brother and his his big friends. He eats tough, he plays tough. But at the same time, he's also very easy and quiet. There's no need to keep Neek entertained. He was lucky enough to find a passion from the earliest months of his life–cars, pretty much anything with wheels–and they continue to transfix him for endless amounts of time it seems. If I see a dozen Matchbox cars lined up, I know he's been there. 

So as his third year begins, I know this little one will continue to amaze, amuse, and beguile me. It's just his way. Each year with him is a gift, that literally fills my heart each day. Happy Birthday, my beautiful boy!




From one of my go-to food blogs 101cookbooks.com. This was crazy good, and the boys devoured it. Seriously. There's no overwhelming sense of broccoli here in terms of taste. The pesto gives it the bulk of its flavor, so you get a nice punch of parmesan and garlic. There wasn't a component of it that was out of place. Paired with some heirloom cherry tomatoes and some flatbread, it was a good time. 

Double Broccoli Quinoa

3 cups cooked quinoa* 

5 cups raw broccoli, cut into small florets and stems

3 medium garlic cloves

2/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted 

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

2 big pinches salt

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup heavy cream

Optional toppings: slivered basil, fire oil (optional)**, sliced avocado, crumbled feta or goat cheese

Heat the quinoa and set aside.

Now barely cook the broccoli by pouring 3/4 cup water into a large pot and bringing it to a simmer. Add a big pinch of salt and stir in the broccoli. Cover and cook for a minute, just long enough to take the raw edge off. Transfer the broccoli to a strainer and run under cold water until it stops cooking. Set aside.

To make the broccoli pesto puree two cups of the cooked broccoli, the garlic, 1/2 cup of the almonds, Parmesan, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil and cream and pulse until smooth.

Just before serving, toss the quinoa and remaining broccoli florets with about 1/2 of the broccoli pesto. Taste and adjust if needed, you might want to add more of the pest a bit at a time, or you might want a bit more salt or an added squeeze of lemon juice. Turn out onto a serving platter and top with the remaining almonds, a drizzle of the chile oil, and some sliced avocado or any of the other optional toppings.

Serves 4 – 6.

*To cook quinoa: rinse one cup of quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer. In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa, two cups of water (or broth if you like), and a few big pinches of salt until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 15 minutes. Quinoa is done when you can see the curlique in each grain, and it is tender with a bit of pop to each bite. Drain any extra water and set aside.

**To make the red chile oil: You'll need 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil and 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes. If you can, make the chile oil a day or so ahead of time by heating the olive oil in a small saucepan for a couple minutes – until it is about as hot as you would need it to saute some onions, but not so hot that it smokes or smells acrid or burned. Turn off the heat and stir in the crushed red pepper flakes. Set aside and let cool, then store in refrigerator. Bring to room temp again before using.








Yesterday there was an after school snack at the beach with my babes and some dear friends, sweet wishes from family and friends far and near, a fantastic Daddy-made olive oil cake with cream cheese frosting, some very cool gifts, and a fabulous, delicious dinner out. Year 36 began just the way I like it. Thanks everyone.







The first day of kindergarten. Shopping for school supplies, wearing some new clothes, driving a different route, entering a different door. All the hallmarks that I remember from beginning a new school. Mateo definitely had some anxiety about today, he did not fall asleep until almost 11:30 last night. Although some of that could have been residual jet lag from Kauai, I knew it was school that was really weighing heavy in his mind. So it was a rough morning at first, a hastily eaten breakfast, a skinned knee on the way to the car, having to make our way through a thick crowd of kids and parents gathered in the small classroom. But there was a sweet, excited energy in the air. Once Mateo sat down in his new morning meeting circle, I could already sense that he would be fine. More than fine. He and the boy next to him started talking, and the next thing I knew he was waving me goodbye. A few hours later when I picked him up, we walked to Main Street to Ben & Jerry's for ice cream, apparently a tradition. And there we were walking with a new set of kids, Mateo walking alongside them, smiling and confident already. It was a great first day.











One week. 8 days. That's it. We're done. How could it have gone so fast? This trip to Kauai, one that we've taken every year for the past four years, is not an escape. It is a chance to plug in. Each one of us comes alive here and each day we find ourselves fully engaged in something, from swimming, to hiking, to cooking, to surfing, to exploring, to connecting. It's as though there is a clean slate before us, no stress, no smog, no daily routines, just an abundant green island filled with possibilities. Each time we leave, I feel like we've left no stone unturned. And this year was no exception. Each night we fell into bed, and the night rains lulled all of us into a coma-like sleep. 

As I write this, Matt snores next to me, everyone is asleep. I'm struggling to keep my eyes open. The kids played in the ocean until the sun crept down, and even then they wanted more. My children are always at the beach at home, that is true. But here they absorb the wildness, the raw, rough, exquisite emerald that is this place. Here there is a chance for them to be children in a world where everything moves way too fast.

I'm always trying to find opportunities for them to do the same at home, but it's hard. There's so much to get in the way. So we'll keep returning here, and I'll keep hoping that one day they'll know how lucky they've been.