Easy, Cool Dinner Party Sunday, September 08, 2013

Last night, we hosted THE EASIEST HOT NIGHT DINNER PARTY EVER. I wanted to share the recipes with you in case you wanted to host a party that would look like it came out of Sunset magazine, even if you're still recovering from surgery and maybe should have gone a little easier on yourself. (Do they even sell Sunset anyplace but California? Is this a West Coast reference only? If so, it's a cutural reference for grown-up, interesting nights out on patios that don't look real, nights no one really has. Except for last night.) 

First of all, I'd been planning on making red thai curry but by ten A. M. it was almost ninety degrees out. Lala mentioned maybe I should make something like gazpacho. Or possibly just ice cubes. Lots of ice cubes. The party got more complex as I had to figure out how to keep everyone out of the house, which holds on to heat like pills on cheap cashmere. We have a nice porch, but there's no big table out there, so guests would be balancing food on their knees.

But that made me think. See, I took the plunge a few weeks ago  and bought a Vitamix (right about the time I got the gallbladder problems -- IS THERE A CONNECTION?). Yep. I bought one. I really did. I wrapped all my change that I'd saved for years (this is true) and by the time a good friend got me an amazing deal, it was pretty much paid for. (Best part about a Vitamix? It cleans itself. And how.) 

So yesterday, I thought, cold soup! In the Vitamix! A little bit of Googling took me to this cucumber-dill soup recipe which turned out to be freaking amazing. I served it in lowball glasses, which made lap-balancing a non-issue. 

Copyright Williams-Sonoma

That soup? Completely made ahead and refrigerated. Perfect and chilled. Also, I didn't wear pants in the kitchen while I made it because I didn't have to. People - stay cool, at any cost! Heat is dangerous! Take off your pants! T-shirt and underwear is plenty hygienic for a kitchen! (It is, right? I mean, I'd just be wearing a skirt anyway, which is basically the same thing . . . oh, whatever. Let's just forget about this conversation. Hydrate, people.) 

Main course? We fell back on our favorite chicken recipe. Basically, this really is the best grilled chicken on salad you will ever, ever have. People freak out about this chicken. You brine it early, so that's chilling in the fridge, too. Basically, when people come over, all you have to do is rub on the spice mix (premade, also while standing in front of the fan while not wearing pants), and give it to the Grill Person (Lala) to cook. While she's doing that, put spring mix and (pre)chopped green onions on guests' plates. Add the lemon juice and oil to the OTHER spice mix you (pre)made for the Moroccan Dipping Sauce (same recipe page). Chicken's done? Chop one breast per person, perch on salad, drizzle with dipping sauce, and there! A knee-balance dinner that is gobsmackingly delicious. 

Dessert? No problem. Fire up the grill once more for a few minutes, scrape off that char, and make

Grilled Peaches and Vanilla Ice Cream with Balsamic Vinegar Glaze. 

Confession: we own a chocolate balsamic vinegar (which is to die for) that I use for this. But you can use any good quality balsamic for the same intensely wonderful results. 

Halve (good quality, firm but ripe) peaches, one half per person. Set face down in a plate of balsamic vinegar so that the cut sides absorb the deliciousness. Let rest for ten minutes. Turn over on plate, dust each cut side with a bit of brown sugar. You'll know how much. Grill on low, 2 minutes(ish) on each side. Hope for those lovely grill marks. 

Serve with a little scoop of good vanilla ice cream. At the last minute, have the genius idea of drizzling a little of that brown-sugar vinegar glaze that was still lying sad and abandoned on the original plate over the ice cream -- just a little trickle. Then watch your guests go dreamy and fuzzy around the edges as they eat, melting into their chairs in happiness. 

Let me repeat, I did not overheat having this dinner party. There was very little sweat on my part (a MIRACLE -- I hate hot days). And I spent 95% of my time on the porch in the warm (but not hot) air, with my friends, talking. Not scurrying around the kitchen.

And that, really, was the best part. The talking. That was the Sunset moment. White twinkle lights shone through the flowers along the porch rail, and up in the deep blue night sky we could see the flashing lights of passing planes. Chris and Wendy rocked on the swing, threatening to steal our dog, Clementine. Grant and Heather told stories of the viciousness of the PTA. Lala was charming and funny and a great griller. And I got to bask in the fact that this was my life. Those intense in-the-moment feelings of gratitude, those are the moments that mean everything. What a gift. 

And then, there are peaches. Damn, how lucky I am. 


I Love a List Friday, August 09, 2013

1. A Dream I Had (NO! Come back! Please?) 

In the dream, I am walking past a payphone. It rings. I answer. My (deceased) little mama is on the other end. 

"What's it like where you are?" I ask, when I get over my shock.

"It's nice," she says. "It's not anything like you'd imagine, though. I like it." 

"Can you see me all the time?" Thinking, oh, crap.

"Well, I guess I could if I needed to, but I don't." 

Whew. I hand the phone to a passerby. "Hey, can you hear anyone on this line?" 

Guy listens. "Yeah," he says, handing it back. "It's your mom." 

"Mom!" I say. "You're really there! Why don't you ever call me?" 

She answers in exasperation, "Landline, Rachael. We can only call on landlines, and you got rid of yours." 

It was really a sweet dream. And I was happy to know she likes where she is. (And yes, we got rid of our landline. As a 911 dispatcher who preaches that you should always have one, and always call from it for faster and more accurate service, I was pretty unhappy when California shut off the thing that allowed all landlines to call 911, with or without service. Now it's $25/month just to have service to call 911 and nothing else. I'm not paying $300 a year for a service I can call on my cell phone (with, granted, a delay).)

2. What Lala sends me while I'm at work in the middle of the night. I believe this is cruel and unusual. 


Apparently Digit got on the couch and stared at Clementine (who was terrified of him, as usual) for ten minutes before curling up, TOUCHING her. Gah. I can't stand it. The ear! Digit is an old softie now. I barely recognize him. I have not even one healing scar right now. Who is this cat? 

3. Easy Thai Red Curry. 

I'm obsessed with red curry right now. Obsessed. This is a recipe I modified from somewhere (?), and it is SO EASY and SO FAST and SO GOOD. And if you make it with chickpeas instead of chicken, it's vegan! (I made it for a dinner party which needed to be gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian. No small task. Oh! Link came from Mary-Heather, that's right.)


Chop a chicken breast or two, toss in a large heavy skillet over medium heat in olive oil and some salt until it goes white and not scary-looking (but don't overcook it. Whatever that means). Set meat aside. In same pan, heat 1tbs coconut oil. Add 2 chopped leeks, a chopped red pepper, some salt and pepper. Cover and cook on medium heat until veggies have softened, maybe 5 minutes. Add 2 tsp(ish) of minced garlic (or more!) and a tsp of grated ginger (or more!).* Add 1-2 tbs of red curry paste (not powder. For this you want the paste. I like Mae Ploy). Stir to coat, cook another 5 minutes. Add half a cup chopped sugar snap peas (swoon), a 14oz can of full-fat coconut milk, and the cooked chicken. Raise heat to boil, then lower to simmer. At the end, throw in a good handful of chopped cilantro

Serve on cauliflower rice (or normal rice, but dude, cauliflower rice doesn't get soggy and it's so good and easy. You can chop it in your food processor while the curry is cooking, and BAM. 30 minute meal). 

* I use minced garlic and chopped ginger because I'm lazy. Here's the red curry paste I like. I only use 1 tbs in this recipe because I'm sensitive to heat, and this stuff is spicy. 

Summer Favorites Sunday, June 30, 2013

Apologies to those of you who follow me on Twitter and have heard me rhapse waxodic on these candles, but I lurve them sooo much. 

Y'see, the last time I lit a real candle in our house, Digit ran past it, lit his tail on fire, and headed for the living room curtains. I put out his tail-flame with my bare hands and then breathed into a paper bag for a while. I gave up on candles. Not worth it. But I love the way candles look -- the glow the give, the home-ness of them. I missed them. 

Then one night at work, we got a call from a citizen who saw a candle burning in a closed tchotchke shop. We sent out a fire engine. The shop was closed and locked, and there was, indeed, a candle burning inside on a table. 

We set about trying to find the responsible contact for the premise, going through PD and the alarm company -- all the normal venues. In the meantime, the fire crew had been on scene about a half-hour. And one of the guys started thinking, Maybe it's not a real candle. No, the others said. It flickers! Look, it's wavering. It's real. They stared. They studied. They weren't more than eight feet away through glass, and they could not tell. 

Finally, we got hold of the owner who verified that no, they didn't light real candles in the store, but that it was a special battery-operated candle that utilized the technology Disney uses in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

We had a good laugh. The crew cleared. And I started Googling, because if those candles were good enough to fool the firefighters, then they'd be good enough for me. 

I found them! I bought them! Even though they were exceedingly expensive! And I'm blogging this now because I just found them for hella cheap on Amazon, less than half-price, and if you want to try them, this would be the time. They look a little frumpy in their Amazon photos, so I took a little video of them in the house. (Some come with a remote -- one remote will control them all, in case you're curious.) 


I don't actually ever use the remote -- you can put them on a timer, and they'll "burn" for 5 hours every night before flicking off. So now when we come home at night? They're on! They run on D batteries, and we use rechargeables, so we're golden. This will absolutely be our go-to wedding/housewarming present from here on out. They look so real

Sorry! That was such a hard sell! But they make me happy, daily. 

Your reward? A Summer Plum Salad, adapted from that amazing 101 Simple Salads list the New York Times compiled four years ago. 

Brine two chicken breasts for an hour-ish or more (place in a large ziplock bag, add about 4tbs salt and some peppercorns). Grill them (the chicken breasts, not the plastic bag). Slice 4-6 plums (in season now!). (I honestly didn't even know how to do this cleanly, but god bless the Internet -- I learned how here.) Place sliced plums in large bowl, add balsamic vinegar, enough to coat and then some more. While that sits, chop some celery, toss some salted roasted almonds in food processor, chop some oregano (he says marjoram also works, but I found that too perfumy), chop a little red onion, and throw all that in the bowl. Add olive oil and salt on top, mix it up. Chop the cooked chicken, add. Serve on top of favorite greens. AMAZING. You're welcome. 

Also? Happy Pride, y'all. So happy with the Prop 8/DOMA decisions. (We went and danced in the Oakland streets that night. It was wonderful.) 


Sickee Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hooo. What with all that clean living and healthy eating, I've gone and fallen really sick (bronchitis, knocking at pneumonia's door, says the doc). I've been sick 8 days now and still can't walk across a room without breaking into a coughing fit that scares the neighbor's dogs. I'm mightily over this, but it's over me yet, so I'm just dropping in to say a couple of things: 

1. I'm knitting legwarmers. I would have bet all the quarters in my change jar (there are a LOT of them) that I would never say this, but I'd have lost the bet. I want a sock-like thing to tuck into the tops of my boots and go up over my knees on top of my tights, so it looks like thigh-high knitted socks, without the work. Legwarmers, scooted up, right? Is there a term for this? Thigh-warmers just doesn't sound right. (You should search on Ravelry for legwarmers, I'm just saying. There are some doozies. And before anyone gets prickled by my mocking poor, misunderstood, useful legwarmers, please understand that in California we do not wear such things unless we are in Southern California and Making a Fashion Point. And everyone has to be allowed to mock something. Crocheters are a protected group now, so what else do we have?)

*falls over in a coughing fit that looks suspiciously like laughter

Please forgive. I'm a crocheter, too. And being sick makes me an asshole. Ask Lala. 

2. Finished Lady Marple. This is seriously exactly the sweater I've been wanting, and it was a joy to knit. She just needs buttons and for me to feel well enough to model it. 


3. On Wednesday, I felt better for approximately forty seconds, during which I made soup. This was bottom of the barrel, kids, and it turned out SO WELL I have to share it with you. We had no stock. We had no nothing, and this still worked. You probably have every ingredient to make this right now, and it's easy and fast. The roasting is the secret here--if you throw squash into a soup, it cooks, all right, but it remains rather flavorless. Roast the veggies and chicken first? Magical soup. The total is WAY more than the sum of its parts. (Also, if I call for something you don't have, don't worry! Use a different spice! Time to play!) 

Magic Soup

Heat oven to 425. Peel and cube that butternut squash that's been languishing on the table since Thanksgiving. Rough-chop one onion (or shallot, or garlic, or all three!). Place these on a foil-lined cookie sheet along with the kinda freezer-burned chicken breast (or thigh, bone-in, bone-out, whatever) or two that you just defrosted in the microwave. Roast at 425 for about 30-45 minutes, till you like the way it looks. Bring about 8 cups water to a boil. Remove the chicken to a plate, add the veggies in to the boiling water. Lower to a nice happy simmer, and use a potato masher, big fork, or immersion blender to mash some of the squash/onion up. Add a tsp of cumin, a tsp of ground coriander, some powdered garlic if you didn't feel like adding fresh, a little rosemary perhaps, another chili powder that you like, whatever you love. SALT is necessary--perhaps a Tbs? Also necessary: an acid of some sort. I used the juice of a lemon, but vinegar would work, too. That makes it happy and bright. Shred or cube the chicken, add it to the pot, simmer till you get so hungry you can't stand it and EAT. 

Now. I can't stop coughing, so I'm going to push the computer aside and lie back down and pretend I feel well and that I'm having a glorious lie-in (which won't work--it never works--why can't we ENJOY being in bed when we have to be there? Grrr). I hope you're well. xo

Recipe and Giveaway! Wednesday, November 07, 2012

It's recipe day! What else is a blog for but to store the recipes you've cobbled together over the years to serve as an aid to your rapidly failing memory?

And this is a two-fer! At the end, I'm going to ask for your favorite way to cook either vegetables or meat, and if you comment, you get a chance to win Vickie Howell's new book: STEP IT UP KNITS, a cute look at accessories with an eye to gaining new knitting skillz. 


When I was a teenager, we lived on a teeny-tiny island called Saipan. Floating in the space between the Philippine Sea and the Pacific at the edge of the Marianas Trench, it had many Filipino residents, and my family fell in love with the food. Every Sunday, we'd go to church which had no walls and was open to the ocean breeze. We could see the waves breaking from our pews.


Saipan Community Church, Susupe

After holiday services, we'd step outside from the end of the pew and take our place at the groaning tables full of of glistening pancit, crunchy lumpia, and my favorite, chicken adobo. Our Ates would load our plates, and we'd eat sitting cross-legged on the sand. 

Lately, I'm all about easy meals. And lord, this one is easy. It's the perfect way to try cauliflower rice if you haven't yet (you do need a food processor for this). Now, I couldn't quite imagine adobo without rice. I'm not eating grains at the moment, and I didn't believe that cauliflower (a vegetable I've always hated) could substitute in ANY way for it. Guess what? It does. I actually like the cauliflower rice more than the real stuff. 

Bonus: This is anti-inflammation diet and Paleo diet friendly. (Psst - I started eating well to feel better, but I'm sitting here in a size 10 pair of Dickies for the first time in, um, memory? I don't think I've been this weight since I was twenty-one. So that's something.) 

Chicken Adobo

This recipe reminds me of my mother's, so I'm fond of it. There are approximately one thousand variations of this. Of course, I think mine is the best.

4-5 lbs chicken thighs, bone-in

1 c white vinegar

1 c soy sauce

A head (or more!) of garlic, peeled and crushed. 

1 tsp black peppercorns

Marinate the above for at least an hour. (The more time the better. I like about five hours if possible, but often only do an hour.) Then bring to boil, cover, reduce to simmer for about thirty minutes. Uncover and raise the heat a touch, cook for another twenty minutes or so, until chicken is done. (The meat should be almost falling off the bone at this point.) 

Cauliflower Rice

So easy! And fast! Make it at the very last minute. 

Two heads cauliflower

2 tbs olive oil

1 tsp red chile flakes (or more to taste)

1 tsp ginger powder

Salt to taste

Cut the cauliflower into florets, add to food processor. In approximately 10-15 one-second bursts, chop the cauliflower into pieces that resemble rice (no more, you don't want this going mushy). I usually have to stop the food processor, carefully pull out the bigger pieces that refuse to chop, dump out the rice bits, and toss the big pieces back in. Repeat till all the cauliflower is done. Over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Once it's hot, add the red chile flakes, ginger powder (or fresh! but that's not as quick), and salt. Add the cauliflower and fry it up for about four or five minutes.

Serve the chicken adobo over the rice, and add some of the marinade over the top. Then let your eyes roll back in your head in pleasure.  

Servings: Lots. (6-8ish, feel free to halve the recipe)


Now! Leave me your fave way to fix veggies or meat--you know, that easy recipe that you don't have to look up, the one that always tastes good. Simple is best here, since I'm avoiding sugar, dairy, grains,processed ingredients, potatoes, beans, and tomatoes. I know, a challenge, right? It's not as hard as I thought it would be.

(Example: I've recently discovered making sweet potato fries in the toaster oven! Slice fry-shaped, toss with olive oil and salt, bake for 50 minutes or so, till they start to blacken. Serve with mayo/chipotle powder/garlic dip.)

One lucky commenter will win a copy of Vickie Howell's new book! I'll draw on Monday. 

Nothing in The House Spicy Cabbage Soup Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I just made the best soup, and as is my wont, I'm jotting it down here, because I guarantee if I don't, I'll never remember this. 

I'm still sick--this flu has beaten me to a sweaty, gibbering pulp (seriously, some people throw up every time they get the flu? I cry. I'm a crier. The more I cry, the more feverish I know I am, and the more pathetic I know I am. Luckily, I rarely get sick because no one wants to see me sitting in the bed WAILING over the fact that I'm out of Kleenex). 

Lala's out tonight and I could have had the chicken she made, but I wanted something garlicky to burn away my sore throat. And we have practically zero in the cupboards. But I pulled this together (almost magically!), and it is DELICIOUS. Seriously. Cabbage is rather a new thing to me--I thought it was stinky and bad. But it's not stinky, cooked like this: it's delectable, sweet and delicate. Mmmmm. 


Nothing in the House Spicy Cabbage Soup (to Cure What Ails You)

Heat 3tbs olive oil in a pot good for soup. Chop half an onion or a shallot and 3-6 cloves of garlic (I used the shallot and 6 cloves), cook and stir until the garlic starts to darken. Add 4 cups of water (or stock! I had none), a teaspon or so of salt, red chili flakes to taste, and pepper. Bring to boil. Add two handsful of chopped cabbage (I had the prechopped bag from TJ's), bring back to boil. Cook ten minutes at simmer. Add 1 tbs+ tomato paste and whatever else you like (I added a can of sweet peas which turned out to be a stunning addition), cook fifteen more minutes or so, till it tastes delicious. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream. 

Okay, now I'm exhausted from working so hard and rather than overdo it, I'm going to sit on the couch and maybe eat a little more of this stuff. Enjoy. 

Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at to make arrangements.

PACK UP THE MOON by Rachael Herron
On sale March 4, 2014 from Penguin NAL


Three years after a horrible tragedy took her son and tore her family apart, artist Kate Monroe is beginning to pick up the pieces of her life and move on. At a gala showcasing her triumphant return to the art world, Kate's world is rocked again when the daughter she gave up for adoption twenty-two years ago introduces herself. 

Pree is the child Kate never knew and never forgot. But Pree has questions that Kate isn't sure she's ready to answer. For one thing, she never told Pree's father, her high school sweetheart and ex-husband, Nolan, that they had a daughter. For another, Kate hasn't spoken to Nolan for three years, not since the accident which took their nine-year-old son from them. But to keep Pree from leaving forever, Kate will have to confront the secrets that have haunted her since her son died and discover if the love of her family is strong enough to survive even the most heartbreaking of betrayals.

Conversation Guide Included

"A celebration of the power of love to heal even the most broken of hearts."
- NYT Bestselling Author Susan Wiggs

"A superlative architect of story, Herron never steers away from wrenching events, and yet even moments of deepest despair are laced with threads of hope."
- Sophie Littlefield, author of A Bad Day for Sorry

"Herron’s beautifully rendered novel boldly shows us people at their lowest and then makes us fall in love with them.”
–Cari Luna, author of The Revolution of Every Day

Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at to make arrangements.


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