RSS Feed

Author Archives: ScrambledMeg


When I was a little kid in Seattle, my family sponsored another family to come over from Vietnam and live with us.  It was the ‘70’s, and my dad heard from my uncle that there were Vietnamese families with kids who had to get out of there NOW.  I’m not quite sure how it all went down, but I woke up one morning to Xich, Neim, Bang & Kim living under our roof.  I already had seven brothers & sisters, a million uncles, aunts, and an army of extended family & friends, so, at the ripe old age of four, the arrival of another family just seemed like more of the same to me.  And, although we didn’t speak the same language, the little girl, Kim, immediately became my best friend, playing Barbie’s and blocks and racing each other up the hill to the Aqua Club for swimming.

Now, Xich and Neim, while beyond grateful, did not like to accept charity and insisted on doing SOMETHING for our family while they settled in.  So, they cooked.  A lot.  My mom would sit down with Neim to make a phonetic shopping list in the morning.  Then she’d pull on her muumuu, wrap a scarf around her curlers and buzz out to the local market in our wood-paneled station wagon to hunt and gather.  Because we lived in Seattle, there were a few Asian items in the grocery store, but, because it was the ‘70’s, those items usually came sealed in tin and labeled “Chung King”  (Ever had a CANNED bean sprout?  Yeah.  Tastes just like Saigon, right?)  My mom did her best, Neim adapted her recipes, and we all ate very well.  My mom still loves to tell the story about when my niece, Rachel, who was born when I was three years old, first learned to walk.  She’d just started trying out that wobbly toddler walk and was practicing in the kitchen.  She tumbled again and again . . . until she caught sight of Neim’s fresh batch of Cha Gio.  Rachel reached for the platter, clutched a tiny spring roll in each of her chubby little hands and set off for her high-chair . . . and she DID NOT FALL DOWN.  The little fried rolls were all she needed to give her the strength and focus to walk.  Ah, Rachel, sweetie, I swear, I feel that way sometimes today.

I’m not sure how much my mom wrote down about Neim’s cooking.  I do remember one tattered recipe for “Fried Bananas” that was measured not in tablespoons or cups, but in numbers of “big spoons”.  My mom kept that old, swirly-handled Corning “big spoon” for decades – in fact, now that I think of it, that woman owns over 2,000 jigsaw puzzles.  She may still have that damn spoon.

When I got pregnant with my daughter, I had the fleeting burrito craving and the occasional mango-obsession, but my go-to for almost ten months was Vietnamese food.  The first craving came like a crazy, rogue wave on the beach – I NEED VIETNAMESE FOOD.  I didn’t even know WHAT I wanted – -I just knew I needed those flavors and that feeling of home with a capital H.  It had been so long since my preschool days in Seattle, I wasn’t even sure of the names of specific dishes anymore.  So I would show up at restaurants, clutch the arm of the server, and use my toddler Vietnamese pronunciation to try to get what my belly wanted.  Even when the result was not exactly what I remembered, the combination of fish sauce, lime, chili & sugar would jolt my soul back to my childhood . . . and I felt comforted.

But there was one dish I could NOT find.  I clutched numerous waiters’ arms and passionately described an egg crepe – a luscious eggie, creamy crepe, filled with bean sprouts and maybe something else I couldn’t remember, with fish sauce and lime . . . maybe a bit of spice.  Nobody knew what I was talking about.  Then, one day, while having my nails done (I KNOW, it’s a cliché, but there ARE a lot of Vietnamese girls doing nails in L.A.) I asked Tiffany if she knew what I was talking about.   “Banh xeo” she said.  “But there’s no egg.  Just turmeric.”


So I learned to make Banh Xeo.  I mixed the rice flour with coconut milk, added tons of turmeric and other spices, and I made that chewy, spicy-sour, unctuous explosion that my baby-body was screaming for.  And, as with most of my insane-o-preg-o cravings, I had three bites and I was finished.  But I was HAPPY.  I knew it was exactly what my body and my soul needed to finish building this beautiful baby.

I cook Vietnamese now from time to time, and I always feel a bit of suspense when I put any of it in front of my little girl.  When she grows up, will she remember?  For me, the taste imprints of those early days are so strong.  After all, they are my first memories of life on this planet.  I wonder what will happen, many (please, God) years down the road . . . what will my sweet girl be craving?  What will her body yearn for as she builds her own child?

** I will now take a five minute pause to sob at the thought . . . **

And I am consumed with the knowledge that I am responsible for so, so much in her life.  None of this parenting business can happen by accident.  The responsibility is too great to not take care.  So I will pay attention.  I will lead by example.  I will show my daughter what my parents showed me – that we give.  We give so that others may have the opportunities we have.  We give for no other reason than that, for that moment, we have what someone else needs.  And it feels so good to share.

Here’s my recipe for Banh Xeo.  It ain’t perfect, but it’s pretty damn good.



2 c. rice flour (available at Whole Foods and many grocery stores)

½ c. unsweetened coconut milk

2 1/3 c. cold water

2 t. turmeric

1 ½ t. sugar

½ t. kosher salt

¾ t. curry powder

3 green onions, sliced


4 T. oil (I always use olive, but you can use canola or peanut)

½ onion, shaved

8 oz. shrimp, tofu or 1 c. cooked beans

4 c. bean sprouts

2 c. mushrooms, sautéed and drained


1 serrano or jalapeno chile

1 clove garlic, sliced

3 T. sugar

2/3 c. warm water

2 T. fresh lime juice (DON’T substitute lemon – it’s NOT the same)

4 T. fish sauce


2 T. finely shredded carrot

1 c. chopped or torn cilantro

To make the batter:

Mix all ingredients together, set aside.

To make the sauce:

Mix everything together and let sit for about 30 minutes to mellow. (If you’re not a big raw garlic fan, as I am NOT, blanch the whole clove in boiling salted water for 30 seconds, cool and then slice).

To make the filling:

Mix the onion, protein (shrimp, tofu or beans), in a bowl.  Over high heat, saute ¼ of that mixture in 1 T. of the oil in a hot, nonstick pan for a few seconds.  Pour 2/3 c. batter over the sautéing filling and swirl like a crepe to the edges of the pan.  Pile on 1 c. bean sprouts and ½ c. sautéed mushrooms on top and then turn your heat to low to finish cooking – cover for about 5 minutes.  When the sides are crisp and a little brown (maybe 5-7 minutes), fold side over and slip out of pan.   Sprinkle with sauce, garnish and enjoy.

**If you’re pregnant, please feel free to take a nap afterward.  After all, you’re building kidneys and lungs and such – you deserve a snooze.

Some Like It Hot . . . VERY Hot

I have a confession:  I’m in love with my water bottle.  I call him My Baby Blue, and I constantly marvel at his incredible design, beautiful color and, so help me God, STAYING POWER – he stays hot for AT LEAST 5 hours, and that’s longer than any girl truly needs.  I take him everywhere with me – to work, on errands, on cross-country trips on location, to bed, of course.  Ooh, I can’t wait to take him to France with me at the end of the month!  My pre-dawn swim workouts would be absolutely unbearable without knowing this gorgeous hottie is waiting for me in my bag, full of still steaming yerba mate, ready to warm my chest and belly.  I wouldn’t DIE without him, but I’m such a happier woman with him in my life.

The flip side of this cutie is that he knows how to keep a drink cold as well.  I load him up with lemons, cucumbers, fresh water and a few ice cubes, and I’m set for a day at the beach.  Did you read that?  AT THE BEACH.  My baby can sit in the hot sun and stay as cool as . . . well, as the cucumber water that he’s guarding.  My heart flutters at the memory of playing catch with my little girl at the beach for hours, until we were both hot pink and bleary-eyed, and who do you think rescued us from certain heatstroke?  Not daddy – no, he was miles away.  You guessed it —  True Blue.

Now, my husband’s not an idiot.  It’s not like he’s actually JEALOUS of a BOTTLE.  In fact, he usually laughs and makes a total mockery me when I launch into rapturous wonder at the Nasa-esque technology or, more likely, divine intervention that has made this little phenom possible.   However, a man can only take so much.  I swear, the other day, as my nearest and dearest was unloading the dishwasher, I caught him shoving a certain blue bottle to the very back of the cupboard.  I suddenly realized I had a bit of a Sophie’s choice on my hands.  What could I do?  Give up my love for my love?  It made no sense.  There had to be another way.

Ta Da!

* – The beautiful Bottle and Spa Water book are both available at, and, no, this is not my company and they’re not paying me to scream their praises from the rooftops.  I’m just a huge fan!

Born Again

“When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.” The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

When I was a little girl, we used to sing a song in Sunday School called “Popcorn Popping.”  It was all about springtime, and how the blossoms covering an apricot tree look just like big bunches of popcorn.  Growing up in central Oklahoma, I’d never seen an apricot, or any other fruit tree for that matter, in bloom.  We grew horseflies the size of my hand, but fresh fruit came from the grocery store, and it was usually a not-so-delicious Red Delicious.

Now I live in Southern California, surrounded by orange groves, avocado trees, fields of lavender and gorgeous, sweet, fat herbs that grow like weeds.  At the moment, I have an entire hillside filled with flowering arugula, because one year I let my crop go to seed.  I take the garbage out, hop the fence behind my house and pick a salad for dinner.  On my counter, you’ll almost always find giant bowls of lemons, avocados and tangerines in addition to whatever else happens to be in season from my garden.  I am lucky; I am spoiled; and I do not forget it.

We spent our 85 degree Easter Sunday at a party at our friends’ place, perched on a hillside, overlooking the incredible Topa Topa mountains.  We soaked up the sun, swam in the pool, chased the dogs away from the chickens and watched the kids, still in their wet bathing suits, squeal like crazy, collecting little colored eggs.  Last night, I dragged my daughter away from her Cinderella Squinkie’s set, a gift from the Easter Bunny (or “E.B.,” as she calls him), and instructed her to plant herself on our front porch and breathe.  The orange groves that surround our house are in bloom, and I am euphoric.  I can’t bring myself to describe their scent as “perfume,” because I find most perfumes so cloying and artificial.  But when the cool night air hits the dense blossoms . . . my whole world shifts.   I don’t have words for it.  It’s thrilling, awe-inspiring and somehow tranquil, all at the same time.  Yes, it’s fireworks, but it’s also violin music that builds to a crescendo and crashing cymbals and holding your baby for the first time and the overwhelming rush of first love.  I can’t think of any more words, but this is the music that was playing in my head as I filled my lungs with the hypnotic air:

We stayed outside until we started shivering, and as we turned to go inside, my daughter pointed to the sky and said, “Daddy, look!  That’s Venus!  I know, because it isn’t twinkling.”  He said, “Yep.  That’s how you know it’s a planet.  Only stars twinkle, because, just like the sun, they’re on fire.”

When the stress and stuff of my world start to make me nuts, spending time outside and in awe is the quickest, surest way to wake up my tired soul.  I woke up this morning filled with hope and courage and an avalanche of ideas.  I feel like there’s literally nothing I can’t do.  I needed the funk of February and March to push me, kicking and screaming, into the revitalization of Spring.  Today I feel alive, REALLY alive.  And now I am twinkling . . . because I’m on fire.

Me Myself and I

Selfish is such a dirty word.  We are taught, as young girls, that SELFISH is something you should definitely not be.

And then we grow up.

We give ourselves to school.  We give ourselves to our friends.  We give ourselves to our boyfriends.  We give ourselves to our husbands.

OK, occasionally, we get our nails done or we go for a pedicure or a girls’ lunch, but when do we give ourselves to OURSELVES?  When does that EVER happen?

Have you ever spent an hour, sitting quietly, cross-legged, all by yourself, asking “WHO AM I?”  I will tell you, it’s an interesting hour.   I had no idea what I would discover and, frankly, I thought I would discover that it was a waste of precious time.  But, I was wrong.

I discovered that I am peaceful.  I think about all kinds of things that have no relation to making money or to forwarding my career or to any result whatsoever.  I discovered so many things:  I am absurdly curious about the people of the Polynesian Islands.  I would like to be more fluent in French.  I really like to run as fast as I can until I can’t catch my breath.  Sometimes, I worry I should go to South America, just to see the Mayan ruins before something unforeseen happens.  I love pounding Natalie Merchant songs on the piano until I’m sweaty.  I wonder about people who live in apartments in midtown Manhattan for 40 years, and have sitting rooms and drawing rooms and ballrooms . . . and do they throw balls?  I hate long fingernails.  I love soft, silky pajamas and fuzzy, oversized sweaters and I love strawberries at their peak.  I love Joss Stone and anything James Taylor wants to sing.  I get all furry when I listen to a deep, rhythmic bassline.  And I like to drive really fast and take corners on the accelerator.  Hmmm.  That’s who I am.  When I’m not taking care of anyone except myself, that’s who I am.

Most women I know never allow themselves a moment, let alone an hour, to breathe and ask the questions they need to ask.  But, until we find ourselves, we are unable to show our girls how to be whole.  It’s scientifically impossible.  Our girls do what we do.  If we neglect ourselves . . . guess what?  We are their ultimate.  When my four year old and I put on our matching aprons and start making pancakes, she says “Look at me!  I’m just like you, mommy!”   She wants to BE me.  And that’s a beautiful reminder to me to be the kind of woman I’d like her to be.


Get Us Out From Under

My 4 year old daughter is obsessed with Wonder Woman – not the comic book and not the cartoon.  She’s obsessed with Lynda Carter’s 1975, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.   I told her about the bullet-proof bracelets and the spinning-around-bun-morphing-into-cascading-super-hero-mop, and she was IN.  We had talked about it so much that, by the time the envelope arrived from Netflix, we were crazy giddy.  I popped popcorn, made some fresh lemonade, and we settled in for a Mama/Daughter mini-marathon.

Grace was enthralled.  I was astonished.  The look of a television show produced in the 1970’s is really tough for a 21st century, adult television watcher to process.  First of all, it moves SLOWLY.  We’ve all become so accustomed to Tivo and Angry Birds and INSTANT GRATIFICATION that the exposition and actual story-telling that used to happen in scripts seems extraneous and boring.  I found myself wondering, “What’s the point?  Where’s the action?  Where’s the invisible plane that looks like plastic?  Where’s the firestorm of bullets deflected by the wristbands?”  THE MOTHER was bored, but the kid was rapt.  She loved every minute of it.

My daughter’s media-life experience consists of old school Disney animation, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music.  She doesn’t watch insane cartoons, and she certainly doesn’t watch the crazy-pants-tween-a-rific Disney Channel.  She is, dare I say it, a bit media-sheltered.  So judge me.  Fine.  I don’t care.  My child is pure and lovely and open, and I don’t want her little, sweet, 44 inch self saying “Suck it, dude,” just because she heard Bart Simpson mouthing off to his little sister on t.v.

The second thing I noticed was that Lynda Carter, one of the most gorgeous faces I’ve ever seen on screen, with her light eyes and dark hair, would NEVER be cast in 2012.  She had actual thighs.  She had hips.  She looked like a woman.  She was Sophia Loren in a star-studded panty and eagle-emblazoned bustier.  When I was a little girl, she was everything I wanted to be.  I remember tying my hair in a knot, just so I could spin and shake my head and make the knot fall down just like she did.  I’d put on my Wonder Woman underoos, my red boots and tie a towel around my neck for a cape.  I made gold bracelets out of construction paper and pretended to deflect bullets by the chicken house in our backyard.  I wanted to BE that woman.

And now?  That woman would be cast in “plus-size” roles.  We, as a media-consuming public, have so changed the standard of beauty, that Racquel Welch, Jane Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe would all be considered chubby by today’s network standards.  During pilot season, gorgeous Lynda Carter could audition for the funny best friend or the quirky ex-wife who lives right next door!  No network would sign off on those thighs for a leading lady.  It’s gross, and it’s shallow, and, sadly, it’s totally true.  I hate that it’s true, but I accept it.  However, as a wise, old woman once told me – Accepting something does NOT mean you have to LIKE it.  And I don’t.  But it’s my job, and I gotta play the game.

So I work out before other people are waking up in the morning, and I say no to a lot of life’s delicious temptations.  I sacrifice a lot of indulgence for my chosen career, and I try not to complain about it too much, because the reward is that I get paid to do what I absolutely love.  Fans will ask me how I stay slim or how I have time to exercise with my schedule.  Well, I don’t have time, but I do it anyway.  I don’t expect credit for it or a pat on the back, but I think it’s important to note that by not talking about how much work I do to stay in t.v. shape, I make it seem like size 6 just comes naturally, like I’m one of those annoying models who says “Oh, I eat everything in sight!  I just CAN’T seem to gain weight!”  And lemme tell you, this body of mine would probably like to be about a size 12.  I’m of Italian, Welsh & French descent –I’m built much more like a Vargas girl than Kate Moss.   But, I’m not blind.  I see that the parameters of beauty have changed, and I see what the camera does.  To paraphrase the beautiful, insanely funny Ellen Degeneres – “I know, I know,  the camera adds ten pounds.  You’d think after all this time, they’d figure out a camera that SUBTRACTS ten pounds.”  Therefore, I WORK.  I don’t let too many days go by without a serious sweat session, and, yes, I say NO to junk food.  I also say NO to ranch dressing and biscuits & gravy and caramel marshmallows . . . oh, crap.  Now I’m hungry.

Most days, I don’t resent it.  I usually don’t even think about it.  But there are mornings when I drag myself out of bed at 4 a.m. to workout before my 5 a.m. set call, shower as fast as humanly possible, throw my wet hair into a bun and race to sit in bumper to bumper freeway traffic for 45 minutes.  When I finally arrive to work starving, only to find a craft service table full of doughnuts, I have to step away.  I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and give myself a pat on the back for being strong and focused and disciplined.  And then I spin.  I pick up speed, pull my hair down, and spin myself dizzy, and remind myself that, no matter how hard I have to work, at the end of the day, I am proud of myself.  I am Wonder Woman.

Road Food

Wow.  I was home for what felt like fifteen seconds, and now I’m back out on the road.  All of this traveling for work has taught me a few things.  First, that I’m VERY VERY VERY VERY lucky to get to do the job I love in the city where I live.  Secondly, I much prefer spending my working hours with funny people.  Actors who take themselves too seriously are . . . well, to be honest, they’re funny.  I can’t help but laugh at them.  We literally play make-believe for a living, you idiots, and you can’t find joy in that?  You can’t have gratitude for getting to do what you love, getting paid AND being publicly celebrated for it?  What is wrong with some people?  Alas, I digress.  Thirdly, I have a lot of trouble finding decent, healthy food on sets.  It’s a total cliche, but I suppose it’s a cliche for a reason — it’s generally true.  I will not bore you with my laundry list of craft service complaints – soggy vegetables, petrified bagels, slimy eggs, greasy potatoes.  The truth is, every craft service provider I’ve ever worked with has done a great job for the crowds they’ve gotta feed, under massive budget, time, space and labor constraints.  The problem for me is . . . Newsflash:  I AM PICKY.  I like food that comes from the ground or the trees, preferably from a local farm and definitely sans poison.  And that’s a tall order when you’ve got to feed 100 teamsters and numerous others, all working too many hours with too little sleep and very few food breaks.  The masses are starving on a movie set, and you gotta feed the bellies.  Little Miss Actress wants lentils and organic kale?  I’ll get right on that.

So, here’s my new, on-set, survival-of-the-happiest move — the grocery store.  I spent one hour and $100 to outfit my li’l hotel room.

A few highlights:  baby arugula, alfalfa sprouts (I KNOW, I know, they’re a little like herbal hair, but they’re really good for you), baby carrots, a big bunch of collard greens, freshly-ground peanut butter, avocado, nutritional yeast, sunflower seeds, raw almonds, pluots, apples, balsamic vinegar, good olive oil, local goat cheese, Celtic sea salt (I’m a sucker – it had uber-cool packaging), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, vacuum packed beans, lemons, seltzer & Paul Newman spelt pretzels.  Oh, and I also bought an overpriced, but very snazzy, Tupperware-esque container for the lunches I’ll be taking to work.  So, I have a few “cooking” thoughts for the oncoming two weeks of shooting.  First, I’ll be microwaving (although I HATE microwaves and refuse to use one in my daily life, they are quite useful when trapped in a hotel) the sweet potatoes and topping them with salt, olive oil, sunflower seeds and a bit of nutritional yeast.  (Please refer to my previous, rapturous, October 27, 2011, love-letter post regarding this incredible substance, if you are feeling confused.)

Another day, I’ll make a wrap, with a de-ribbed collard green as the “tortilla,” with fresh peanut butter, sprouts, cucumber, lemon zest, and arugula, drizzled with the balsamic vinegar and oil.  The next day, I’ll do a HUGE salad with all of the veggies, sliced pluot, and a container of beans, dressed with the olive oil and lemon juice, topped with creamy chunks of goat cheese.  The combinations and permutations are certainly numerous enough to carry me through this entire shoot, with nary a greasy potato crossing my unBotoxed lips.

Tonight, my pretend husband for the week asked me if I kept myself healthy with eating well or exercising or what, like it was LABOR.  I said, “I guess it’s boring, but, yeah, I do all of it.”  Here’s the thing – none of the things I do to take care of myself feel like a chore.  I like food, and I like to enjoy what I eat.  I also like my body to feel good, so I try to put good stuff in it.  I like to be able to do triathlons or run races or just chase my 4 year old through the mall without gasping for air.  I don’t resent the work involved in eating healthy and exercising, because the payoff is that I get to enjoy my life so much more than if I were falling apart.  The truth for me, as corny as it may sound, is that every day that I get to run around and be silly and breathe in and out is an absolute gift.  So many people don’t get that gift for very long.  I want to take care of what I have, and it ain’t just for vanity’s sake, because I happen to be in front of a camera a lot.  I work hard to be blessed with good health.  I am happy and loved and I am grateful for all of it, and I will do whatever it takes to keep that as long as I can.   I will even eat alfalfa sprouts.

On the Road Again . . .

Can I pack a paring knife in my checked luggage?  How much does a can of beans weigh?  Does my hotel room have a refrigerator?  How am I going to pack all of this seaweed snack?  Where will I get my protein?  Can I take produce across state lines if I’m on a plane?

These were the questions burning in my mind as I packed for ten days of work out of town.  I’m aware it’s nuts, but I was actually more concerned about where and how I was going to eat the way I like to eat on the road and in the hotel and on the new set than I was about being away from my family or deadly plane crashes or —  hello? — doing MY NEW JOB.  What can I say?  I get antsy when I’m not in control of my food fate.  Plus, when I’m shooting, I like to eat CLEAN.  Since I was traveling to the South – as in buttered buttermilk biscuits/buttered cheese grits/buttered butter everything, THE SOUTH – I doubted I’d find much in the way of naked, healthy food.

I was quietly worrying that I’d crossed the line into serious, bizarre food obsession as I boarded my plane in Los Angeles.  I’d been fretting and talking and researching and acting like a semi-lunatic.  Then, I met my seatmate.  Sweet Mary, Mother of God, before I met the man sitting beside me, I met his naked armpit.  Yep.  Naked armpit.  Short shorts, tank top, no shoes and NAKED ARMPIT.  He immediately informed me that he was a “Fruitarian,” and that the Larabar I was about to eat was a “candy bar” and full of “low-quality peanuts that would FOR SURE make you fart.”  Well, hello.  Nice to meet you, sir.

Mr. Fruit then proceeded to lecture me on the error of the world’s ways, and that he’d moved to Hawaii, because he had to get away from the toxic rays coming out of all the cell phones and computers, and that, once again, massive farts were on their way if I continued to eat the Larabar (a delicious, preservative-free, non-processed, FOOD BAR, containing the following ingredients ONLY: dates, peanuts and sea salt).  Oh, also that Oprah had visited his island in Hawaii, and he was certain that (A) she was there because he’d sent her his book about . . . yes, fruitarianism and that (B) she was “a heifer.”  Charming.  I informed him I had several very dear friends who work for Ms. Winfrey, and that she’s a lovely person and an incredibly generous woman, who helps thousands upon thousands of human beings and that I did not like his derogatory name for her nor his discriminating tone.  He said, “Well, they airbrush her in magazines, but she’s a real heifer.”  Mr. Fruit was a very good listener.

As I began to thankfully doze off, I was treated to the sound of gunshots next to me.  No, Mr. F had not smuggled an AK-47 onto the plane, but he had smuggled this (by the way, the sound of this sucker in the video is not even 1% as loud as it was in person):

Wondering what you’re lookin’ at?  It’s a macadamia nut cracker.  “Oh, this old thing?  Golly, I didn’t MEAN to call ATTENTION to myself!  But I’m a FRUITARIAN!  And I live in HAWAII!  Gotta have my macadamias RIGHT NOW ON A CROSS COUNTRY FLIGHT!”  How the hell does TSA take away my 2-inch long travel tweezers, but let this literal nut-job on the plane?

So, I counted 24 nut cracks before I fell asleep.  (I’d stayed up the night before, packing, crying and writing out 10 cards and wrapping 10 little trinkets for my little girl each day while her mama was away, and I didn’t get any sleep.)  I awoke, 30 minutes later to what I’m sure was nut number 472.

All was not pure hell, however.  The flight crew was lovely.  Katherine and Twin (his birth name . . . and, yes, he was a twin) were THRILLED to have Nutty McNutterson on their flight — bananas passengers must be their social bread and butter.  I’m pretty sure the businesswoman sitting a few seats away got the hiccups from her non-stop, doubled-over laughs.  All in all, it was good, clean fun for everyone on the plane . . . except me.  When my vegan meal arrived, Mr. F said,  condescendingly, “That’s a good start.”  When I checked my email on my iPhone, he raised his eyebrows, “That’s toxic and it’s going to kill you.”  When I reached for my carrot sticks in my carry-on, he quietly said, “Those carrots had to DIE for you to eat them.”  Thanks.  I didn’t ask.  Put on some pants.

I’m currently sitting in my hotel room, dead-tired, halfway through my trip.  I miss my kiddo.  I miss my husband.  I miss my bed.  I miss my kitchen.  But most of all, I miss the delusion that I am insane – it was sorta fun to feel edgy for a minute.  No, no.  I’ve seen real insanity, my friends, and it only eats fruit.  And macadamia nuts.  And is also quite averse to proper clothing and personal space and social norms . . . and deodorant.  I’ll take my own kinda crazy any day.




They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.   Kahlil Gibran

Ahhhhhh, I love this quote from The Prophet.  I have echoed this sentiment, almost daily, since the birth of my favorite human on the planet — my girl, Grace.  She came to this world with A LOT.  I thought she was a blank slate, but, SURPRISE, she’s been marching to her own beat from the get-go.  She concocts her own outfits (as evidenced by the above photo), invents elaborate “plays” for her 14,000 stuffed animals, composes rhyming songs (“Granny Fanny Panty” is my current fave), and manages to find something hilarious and silly about every experience in her life . . . except food.  There is nothing go-with-the-flow or childlike about her eating preferences.  One morning, we left her with her favorite babysitter of all time, Katie, to go play tennis.  When we returned home, Grace ran, top-speed, to open the door for us.  We chirped, “Hi, babe!  How was your morning?”  She looked up at us, betrayed,  angry and bewildered, “Katie overcooked the eggs.”  Here’s the snack primer we give babysitters:

*No flavored yogurt, only plain with NO toppings

*NO pizza, hot dogs, mac ‘n’ cheese, hamburgers, or any other Kid Food

*Scrambled eggs with truffle salt

*No white bread – only dense, chewy, whole grain (preferably with buckwheat)

*Lima beans, Fava beans, kiwi, lentil soup, brown rice, avocado

*No “regular” cheese, only super sour goat cheese

*No meat, only beans with olive oil, fresh lemon juice and salt

*Whole wheat pasta – no tomato sauce – with olive oil & salt

***Just put olive oil and salt on everything, and she might eat it

Yep.  Looks like a list for a spoiled, aristocratic brat, huh?  Only here’s the rub – I didn’t impose ANY of this on her.    She has told US that she hates yogurt with “too sweet stuff” in it.  She has told US that she will NOT eat meat (since she was 6 months old, when I used to puree it).  She has told US that “white bread is gross – too chewy and too sweet – YUCK.”  Yuck is a new favorite word of hers, and she’s not afraid to use it . . . liberally.

So, when Grace piped up, as we read this book:

“Hey, Mama!  Let’s have a pizza party and make cheese pizza with tomato sauce!” I leapt into action – DEFCON 5 IN THE KITCHEN!!!  THE KID WANTS TO EAT PIZZA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  My husband ran to the grocery store in his pajamas.  I tried to act cool, as my heart raced like a jackrabbit.  We assembled the dough and left it on the counter to rise while we made the sauce and grated the cheese.  We were so excited, we broke into spontaneous dance party mode – WHEE!  SHE WANTS PIZZA!!!  TURN UP THE MUSIC!!!  Our girl’s eyes lit up as she tossed the dough into the air, and they didn’t dim a bit when one of the dough rounds splatted smack on top of the dog. “We’ve got three more!” we cheered.  We pulled the hot pizza out of the oven as Grace set the table.  Suddenly, we got very quiet.  The ceremonial first bite was upon us.  Grace took a big, chewy chomp and looked at me with those huge, brown eyes, and said . . . “Well, just as I thought, Mama.  Tomato sauce and cheese is YUCK!”

In the end, we made a special pizza just for her with goat cheese, olive oil and salt.  And she loved it.

Here’s our recipe for the dough.  Feel free to top it with whatever your child will actually eat:

Homemade Pizza Dough

2 t. Rapid Rise yeast

1 t. sugar

1 c. warm water

2 c. + 1/3 c. bread flour

2 t. kosher salt

2 T. olive oil

Put all ingredients, except extra 1/3 c. bread flour, in bowl of electric mixer, fitted with dough hook.  Mix until dough starts to come together.  Sprinkle as much of the 1/3 c. flour over the dough until it pulls away from sides.  The dough should be a little wet, but not particularly sticky or stiff.  You should be able to handle it easily.  Put dough in an oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let rise about an hour, until it’s doubled.

Divide dough into 2 – 4 pieces, depending on the size of pizzas you’d like to make.  Shape each piece into a ball, set on a floured cookie sheet and cover with your oiled plastic wrap from the previous step.  Let rise about another 45 min.

Roll out a ball on a floured surface and then toss into the air, like a cartoon pizza chef.  Place on a cookie sheet, dusted with semolina flour or regular flour, top with your favorite toppings and bake at 400• until done as you like it.  Enjoy!

A Stranger in Paradise

A week ago, I spent the day in Santa Barbara, gluttonously seeing four movies in a row.  I went primarily for the Santa Barbara Film Festival, but, thanks to magical timing, I got the added bonus of the incredible Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market.  In the middle of a downtown parking lot, I met a stranger, sitting alone on a table under a tent.  While I chatted with a man from McGrath Farms about fava beans, fresh vs. dried, this gorgeous guy caught my eye.  He had a mysterious, exotic air about him, like a belly dancer with veiled eyes and swirling hips, and I just HAD to know him.  I took a deep breath, smoothed my crazy Butterfly Beach hair and approached slowly.  His name was Kuri —  Kuri Squash, to be exact — and he was lovely.

I could hardly wait to bring him home with me.  I asked where this little guy came from and how one might cook him, etc., but the only answer I got was “I just picked them this morning.”  SOLD.

I brought the little man into my kitchen and just did what any self-respecting, demure, blonde-headed girl would do — I grabbed my cleaver.  I cut the squash into six triangle-ish chunks, scooped out the seeds and did literally NOTHING else to prep them.  I put them, cut sides down on a sheet of foil on a cookie sheet (why set yourself up for a major clean-up, huh?) and threw them into a 375• oven.  I turned on Project Runway All Stars and waited . . . and waited . . . and was rewarded, after about 20 minutes, with the roasty-toasty smell of nuts and honey and childhood wafting out of the oven.  When I pulled them out, they looked like this:

Nothing spectacular to look at, I know.  I scooped the warm, caramel-colored flesh out of the shell, and SHAZAM — best squash ever.  The texture was similar to freshly roasted chestnuts, and the flavor was nutty and rich with a little bit of sweetness.  There’s also a meaty quality about this squash, which gave me the idea to include it in a veggie burger.  It gives great body, density and a just a hint of creaminess to any bean-based burger.  It would also be fantastic inside homemade ravioli or smashed into mashed potatoes or pureed with a bit of broth and sauteed aromatics and ginger into soup, maybe finished with a touch of cream.  I suppose when I cook for other people, I’ll go all jazzy with my Kuri.  But today, when it’s just li’l ole me, I’ll enjoy this guy au natural — perfectly roasted with a little sprinkle of fancy salt.  In my experience, the really good guys are fantastic without all the fuss.

Sometimes It Ain’t Purty

Well, I’m sick, sick as a dog.  I hate that stupid expression, because, right now, I’m sicker than any dog ever even THOUGHT of being.  After the last 24 hours of fever, chills, coughing, congestion and general malaise, I’m pretty sure I have the flu.  In addition to my actual illness, I also have this mental illness wherein I fully believe, with every fiber of my being, that I will ALWAYS be this sick.  This is it.  This is how I’m going to my grave.  Of course, I realize I’m being dramatic and that I’m a big baby, but that doesn’t stop my torrent of self-pity.  When I’m sick, I mope around, feel sorry for myself and wonder why the whole world doesn’t show up at my bedside with mint-chip ice cream and bouquets of flowers.  I’M SICK, DAMMIT!  Why is everyone just living their lives as if nothing’s happened???

The first step to my recovery is a delightful combination of DayQuil, NyQuil, Advil & Tylenol.  BUT — the next step is soup and lots of it.  Chicken soup is traditional, but, last time I checked, it contains the little feathery friends I have in my front yard, so it’s not an option.  Instead, I go for my Very Green Soup — lots and lots of it.  It’s a pretty simple recipe — in fact, I had to work to even come up with an actual, legit recipe — because you basically cook all the greens you can find in a big pot and puree them.  Kale, spinach, collard greens, swiss chard — whatever you’ve got, throw them in!  Greens give you boatloads of Vitamin A, C, fiber, and are a natural anti-inflammatory, which is awfully helpful when every tissue of your body feels inflamed.  I’ve sketched out a recipe below, but don’t be scared to experiment with whatever greens and herbs you can find.

** You may notice that I’ve not included a photo of this soup.  Well, that wasn’t an accident.  It’s literally the ugliest thing you’ll ever cook, but, I promise, it will make your body oh-so-happy.


1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 T. olive oil, divided

1 T. chopped ginger

¼ c. rice, white, basmati or Arborio (If you want to use brown, use cooked rice, and add it toward the end of cooking)

1 bunch collard greens, roughly chopped

1 bunch kale, roughly chopped

1 bunch spinach, roughly chopped

Chopped, fresh, soft herbs — cilantro, parsley, thyme, tarragon, basil (whatever you like)

Pinch of cayenne

Salt & Pepper

Tofu, cubed (optional)

Lots of fresh lemon juice

Start by caramelizing onions and carrots.  In a small pan, heat olive oil over high heat and add onions & carrots and a pinch of salt.  When the veggies start to brown,  add a splash of water, turn the heat down, cover and let them caramelize (about 20 minutes).

In a soup pot, heat 3 c. water and a teaspoon of salt and add rice.  After 15 minutes, stir in the collards and the kale and bring back to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Add spinach, along with caramelized onions, carrot and ginger to pot and season with cayenne & salt & pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes, until spinach is just cooked through.  Toss in fresh herbs.

Puree soup either in blender (in batches) or with an immersion blender until it’s the consistency you like.  Season again with salt & pepper to taste, add tofu (if using) and squeeze lots of fresh lemon juice to serve.