Well it IS September


I know you’re eating apples right now. Why wouldn’t you be? I’m curious if you have a favorite kind. This is not one of those questions meant to illicit comments for the sake of having them. I am honestly curious which varieties of apples people prefer and why. They’re all so different! Macintosh are bright, shiny, and slightly tart. Fuji apples are crisp and sweet (my favorite). And the Golden Delicious are oh so mellow, my kids prefer them.

Eating them out of hand is my favorite way in the fall - preferably picked right off a tree from some upstate NY farm when the air has just enough of a chill to wear your new flannel. But it is also hard to top a dessert with apples in it, don’t you think?

The recipe I have in mind is silly easy. It’s almost embarrassing for the overachiever in the kitchen, since it uses a frozen puff pastry crust. If that’s you, then know that this is Ina Garten’s recipe. Feel better?

And if the thought of store-bought frozen puff pastry being embarrassing makes you roll your eyes, then you’ll probably agree with me that Pillsbury is the best brand for those sorts of things.

Apple Tarts

1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

4 small apples

3/4 c sugar

6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced

3/4 c apricot jelly

3 tbsp rum or water

1. Preheat the oven to 400℉. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment.

2. Cut each sheet of pastry into 4 squares, place in the pans, and refrigerate.

3. Peel, core, and slice the apples thinly. Arrange them overlapping diagonally across the pastry. Sprinkle with sugar and dot with butter.

4. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden. Heat the apricot jelly and rum together until bubbly and brush the pastry and apples with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

When it’s effortless


I’m sitting in a small corner coffee shop. I’ve just ordered a deliciously frothy yet strong cortado. But it’s not ready yet. So neither am I. My head is just a little foggy and I do things gingerly, each keystroke ever so gentle lest I misspeak. Like a true caffeine junkie.

Everyone who walks in this place is stylish. It’s funny how you can walk from one neighborhood, one street really, to the next and the people change so drastically. There’s a girl sitting next to me in high-waisted denim shorts and a fitted royal blue sweatshirt. She’s wearing little red ankle socks with her white sneakers. She looks impeccable. I wish you could see her. So polished yet casual.

Another woman ordering her coffee is wearing a loose black jumpsuit and black leather slingbacks. Her hair is long, blond, and still damp from a shower. She is going for effortless and nailing it (not in the ironic sense).

I love how inspired I feel by the people in this city. I myself am wearing the same denim swing dress and long drapey grey sweater cardigan I’ve been wearing for exactly one week, every time I step out of the house. You see I had a very minor surgery that required a few stitches on my tummy, and to be extra cautious I haven't wanted to wear pants. Okay fine, I admit it, I never want to wear pants. Who does? I will add though that I am wearing white ankle socks and white keds, and feel I am striking a delicate balance between mom-ish and girlish, which I find quite feminine and dare I say a little sexy in a demure way?  I, too, did not bother to style my hair before leaving home but I am not sure I am pulling off the look the way the woman who is just ordered her coffee is. I’ve only been in New York for a few years and these things take time.

I did not come here today to talk about surgery (boring/ew) or effortless fashion (hahaha/not my forte). I wanted to talk about some other effortless thing. That thing is the magic that happens, in (for me) not the closet, but the kitchen, when you least expect it.

The other night I walked into the kitchen without a plan, and produced a perfect meal a few minutes later. I used what I found in the kitchen, rather than making a special trip to the grocery store in order to follow a specific recipe. I surprised myself by how easily and skillfully I was able to get garlic and ginger sizzling in a pan and cucumbers quick pickled in a rice vinegar dressing. I enjoyed every minute, all twenty of them, until I had in front of me seared salmon with a soy-mirin glaze, veggie fried rice made from leftover takeout, and a pickled cucumber salad. It tasted delicious and I was proud to serve it to my little ones, who were happy customers.

Contrast that experience with one I had the other night when I made something else that shall not be mentioned. Sure it turned out fine but I was following a recipe too closely and making things more difficult than they needed to be, and felt a sense of obligation to finish it rather than a desire - and I certainly was not in the moment; instead I fretting about the end result needing to be perfect - and the end result was that it was not.

It’s easy to see the lesson here, and to apply it to your life in general. What made my meal work makes other things in life work, too.

  • Be resourceful; often you’ll find the right ingredients right in front of you.

  • Don’t underestimate yourself, you know more than you think and have valuable skills you’ve acquired over the years that will contribute to the success of your endeavors.

  • Stay present and engaged in the process, for worrying too much about the end result before you’re there will only trip you up.

  • Finally, put love into it.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t always happen just the way you want it to. Sometimes it will, and when it does it feels pretty awesome.

Also, I got my cortado, and it’s perfect!

Curry and Country


Last night I made a vegetable chickpea curry. My friend Jazz, British by birth and Indian by heritage, has inspired me to no end in the kitchen. Things I've watched her make, and then wanted to make myself as soon as possible, include traditional shepherds pie, english trifle, and these super-thin chickpea and vegetable pancakes we dipped in yogurt. She shared her chicken curry recipe with me, and I f-ed it all up of course. I left out the chicken and added chickpeas and a bunch of vegetables. So therefore, it is no longer chicken curry. But sometimes you just have to make it the way you’re craving it. Besides, let's face it, even if I'd followed her instructions it wouldn't have tasted as good as if she made it.

While I was cooking, I may have drank white wine while the kids watched Spirit on Netflix.  Sometimes I am inefficient in the kitchen, because when the food is ready the wine goes away and the kids come back.

While I was drinking wine and chopping vegetables, and later sautéing and dumping spices (because when making Indian food I am guessing it is better to dump the spices rather than sprinkle? then again I may be showing my ignorance) I was also listening to country love songs and singing. I'm not a good singer and at some point the little one came in the kitchen and beckoned me down to her level, and put her hand over my mouth and said "hush Mommy."

And on that note, I think I will!

It's that time of year...

Does anyone else remember those infamous words, spoken by Gwyneth Paltrow, back in 2009, in regards to a detox diet she created which mainly consisted of green juice, smoothies, and pureed soups? I do - in fact, I've tried her detox. Several times. I kind of recommend it. There's something about freeing yourself of those dependencies - sugar, caffeine, alcohol - which might help us get through a moment, but that don't actually make us feel that great once their affects have worn off - that frees your mind, as well.

I think now would be a good time to mention that I modified her detox plan. I did not give up my morning espresso nor the occasional vodka soda. I'm not totally insane.

Still, I do find giving up sugar for a week or so always makes a big difference in my energy and clears my head. Which is what we all want in January.

There's something else that's been all the rage lately, that I finally made myself sit down (literally) and try. Meditation. It's hard when you have two kids and hyperactive tendencies to make yourself sit still and do absolutely nothing for one minute, let alone thirty. But I was truly amazed at the transformation in my thinking and my day when I actually made myself do it. I recommend you try it too - even if you consider yourself the busy body type. Trust me. From one busy body to another.

So that's my one and only real New Years Resolution. To meditate for thirty minutes each morning. My feeling is if we start each day with a clear head and a sense of purpose, the rest will follow.

Chocolate chip pumpkin bars

If you're tired of hearing about pumpkin, I get it, and you should stop reading now. But if you're like most of us suckers, and enjoy a good chill in the air, that first scarf or flannel shirt, and a hot coffee paired with something carby and pumpkin-y - then you've come to the right place, the right blog, the right girl, and so on.

These pumpkin chocolate chip bars are velvety, super pumpkin-y, and basically one of my favorite fall treats. I bake them multiple times every fall.

Also pictured - some apples we picked ourselves, and a schnauzer just chilling. Enjoy!

chocolate chip pumpkin bars.jpg



First days, fresh starts


I had a few ideas for things to do during Josephine’s nap today, after I dropped Catherine off for her first full day of Kindergarten. Jo asleep in her stroller, I could take the ferry across the Hudson to IKEA, and browse throw blankets I didn’t plan to buy. I could take a walk along the Hudson Esplanade and do some “thinking.” Or, I could find a coffee shop and sit down and attempt a blog post. The coffee shop was too full to accommodate a stroller, but there were some little tables outside - so here I sit. There’s a chilly breeze, and I don’t know how long Josephine will stay asleep without the rocking motion of me pushing the stroller. But here we go. This morning, the scene outside Catherine's school was mass chaos. Parents smiling and crowding round to take photos of their new little students. The students themselves stood, or rather wiggled, in noisy lines, and let themselves be herded into the building by their new teachers. It would be overwhelming for anyone.

I watched Catherine, and clearly remembered being her age and how big the world seemed. She wore a Trolls backpack, clutched her pink lunchbox in one hand, and held tightly to Miss Camille’s hand with her other hand. Her face was so worried! She squinted against the sun and surveyed her surroundings as best she could. I knew she was searching for her friend Nina, who wasn’t there. I saw her look up at the sky and notice an airplane, but she was now being pulled along and tall grownups soon blocked her view. She then spotted a brightly colored hair tie on the ground and leaned towards it as if to grab it, then looked to her teacher a little urgently as if wanting to notify her, but still she was pulled right along and there was no time to stop and no one listening.

I tried to make eye contact to give her one more encouraging wave or blown kiss but she disappeared into the school without seeing me. I know she will be just fine. More than fine. She’s lucky, she isn’t very shy at all, unlike me as a child.

I know I haven’t been around these parts lately. When Catherine was born, suddenly nothing could compete with being mom.

And life, and all it’s surprises - most welcome, a few not - has a way of taking over if you let it.

Years ago, on my first blog, I wrote a post about what I’d do if I knew I could do anything. At the time all I wanted was to be a contributor to NPR and write about food. Soon after writing that blog post, my wish unexpectedly came true in the craziest way. I got a call from NPR because they’d seen my food blog, and were looking for contributors. Isn’t that crazy? I thought it was pretty awesome.

Which brings me back to that same question. If you knew anything was possible, what would you choose to do? Something for us all to think about.

I’ll end on that note! Miraculously, Josephine is still sleeping, so we’re going to walk to the grocery store and get the ingredients for chili. I’m feeling fall-y. Goodbye for now.

She's here!


Our beautiful Josephine Violet Cobb is here. We've spent the past nearly four weeks snuggling her, learning to navigate New York and basically life with two girls, and enjoying visiting family. I've been dying to share the news of her birth on my blogs. And now she's down for a nap, and everyone else is out braving the rain to see the Museum of Natural History, and so I find myself with some time - how much, I never know, could be two minutes or two hours - before Josephine wakes up, in which to write.

Let me start by sharing her birth. She arrived in nearly the exact same fashion as her big sister! My mom and sister Mary came up two days before her due date. We spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday hanging out and enjoying the waterfront and walking around New York.


Each night, we watched a little TV or a movie and then went to bed, wondering if that would be the night it happened. Mary took this picture of dad, mom, and big sister on March 7, the evening of my due date.


That night we went to bed. Just like we did when I was pregnant the first time, with Catherine. And that morning, in the wee hours, at 2:00am - just like with Catherine - I was dreaming that it was time, and that we were rushing around looking for my doctor to deliver the baby, when I woke up and knew.  I woke Catherine and moved her into my bed just because somehow I felt she was closer to me that way. I told her what was happening, and kissed her and told her how much I loved her and that I'd see her at the hospital soon. She had a bag of goodies and presents for the waiting room, and most importantly, my wonderful mom and sister, so I knew she would be beyond fine!

We caught a quick uber to the hospital, and at 4:44am, just 2 hours and 45 minutes after I first woke, on May 8 - Mother's Day - I had my dark-haired baby girl in my arms.

WOW. She was stunning. I was madly, utterly, head over heels in love with this perfect, pretty little peanut. I was floored by how pretty she was! I was so proud of her. I put our new baby to my breast and she knew what to do right away. There she remained for the next hour and a half, and I was quite happy to have her. She weighed 7 pounds and 1 ounce, and was 20 inches long. And she delighted us all from the start and continues to do so!


Grandmama Newberry’s Vegetable Beef Soup

Growing up, we went to my Grandmama Newberry’s house about once a month for the weekend. We’d leave right after school and drive the two and a half hours up to Gray, Georgia, where we’d spend the weekend playing with cousins (some of the most amazing fun I had as a kid) and spending time with my mom’s side of the family – which always meant eating delicious food. When we’d arrive Friday evening, there was almost always a pot of vegetable beef soup and cornbread waiting. Grandmama called it “vegetable soup” but I’m going to call it “vegetable beef soup” because there’s always stew beef in it – just wanna be clear.

The soup is very rich in flavor and good for the soul. You have to cook it the way she did, or it won’t taste the same. And that familiar taste is what makes it so great for me.

please forgive the soup sloshed over the rim.

Grandmama Newberry’s Vegetable Beef Soup

Trim a pound of lean stew beef, chop into bite-sized pieces, season generously with salt and pepper, and brown in a little oil in a big soup pot. Add a diced onion, a 14.5-oz can whole peeled tomatoes chopped by you, a beef bullion cube or two, and water to cover well. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer on low for an hour or until the meat is very tender.

Now you can begin adding vegetables gradually, in order of cooking time. Add about three quarters of a cup (eyeball it) of frozen baby butterbeans first. They’ll need about twenty minutes. Then add two medium diced carrots. Add about half a cup (eyeball it) of frozen corn and four small peeled and diced red potatoes last, after everything is about done. You may need to add a little more water or bullion along the way. Once the potatoes are tender, stir in a tablespoon of butter and the soup is ready.

Serve with cornbread or corn muffins. I prefer slightly sweet, buttery cornbread because that’s how my grandmother and mom usually made it growing up. In fact, I’ve made cornbread from scratch many times but I really prefer this mix. Please don’t tell my husband I said that. He is very loyal to the original Southern way of making cornbread – without sugar!

UPDATE: Grandmama sometimes added okra and a little thinly sliced cabbage, too, I think along with the carrots.

If I had to pick just one.

We’ve been in New York now for a year and a half. And to say we love it seems pointless - I’ve definitely never lived in a better place, and I don’t think I ever will. Different one day, yes, equally great though in vastly different ways, yes – but no better. Maybe we’ll end up on that rocky cliff overlooking the sea somewhere, someday, and I really hope we do. But for now, here we are and happy.

Since I haven’t consistently documented or shared our life here in New York, I wanted to at least briefly share something that takes up a good deal of our time and sort of encapsulates what we love about the city. I mean, I am pretty sure it’s my very favorite thing to do here. And I think it’s what I’d take with me if we were to leave today.

It’s actually really simple. Every morning, Catherine and I and sometimes Chris, depending on how early we go, walk a few blocks, past the ice-cream booth and the balloon store, to the corner of Duane and Greenwich and get an espresso and a cherry pistachio biscotti from Laughing Man Coffee.

We sometimes sit on the tiny stoop outside the hole-in-the-wall shop and watch what I perceive to be very glamorous or at least fashionable or at the very least interesting people and their kids or dogs go in and out of the shop or loiter around it like we’re doing. Other times, we head straight over to the playground across the little street and Catherine digs in the sandbox and plays with other children who have names like Teddy, Lucie, and Wolfie, while I sip my coffee and watch.

This whole ritual makes me very, very happy. It's the combo of the caffeine, beautiful surroundings, and, hello, company of this perfect little person.

There is also that while I imagine everyone around us to be so glamorous, the neighborhood itself is intimate enough that even though we’re probably only here temporarily, I can almost believe it belongs to us…and that it assumes we belong to it.

As for Catherine – who races down the sidewalks on her purple scooter and skids expertly, for a 3-year-old, to a stop using the toe of her shoe in front of the shop and walks in to order a biscotti, sometimes while I’m still parking her scooter in a more out-of-the-way spot – she totally belongs here. It’s the only home she remembers, and I enjoy watching her eat her biscotti with the confidence of someone who deserves every delicious bite.

Simple Summer Strawberry Pie

Years ago, a friend - ahem, Jennifer - gave me a recipe called "Simple Blueberry Pie." It's been my go-to summer berry pie ever since. But at the farmers market on Saturday, Catherine and I were more inspired by the tiny baby strawberries. So, using the blueberry pie recipe as a base, we made a strawberry one.   Here's the original recipe. I think with a few tweaks it works with any berry. Just be sure to reduce the sugar by a fourth cup if using strawberries, as they're sweeter. You'll love this for summer because it combines cooked fruit with fresh and it's a bit lighter than a traditional baked pie.

  Simple Berry Pie

1 cup mashed berries, 3/4 cup sugar (1/2 for strawberries), 1/2 cup water, 2 Tbps cornstarch, 3 cups whole berries...and a baked pie crust.

Saucepan: cook 1st 4 over high heat until bubbling and thickened (a few minutes, stirring. I undercooked this last pie and it didn't set as quite firmly). Remove, mix in whole berries. Pour in baked pie shell. Refridgerate a few hours until firm. Serve with whipped cream.

Oh, and don't forget to make your kid super happy with a big piece of pie for lunch the next day!