Fall may be here, but October is still a pretty great month for grilling. It’s cooler out, so the heat of the grill actually feels nice, and for now we can enjoy a few more weeks of evening light before we turn the clocks back.

For me the best cooking is when a few uncomplicated ingredients come together to make something really special. This flank steak marinade seems so basic – soy sauce, oil and honey, with a bit of vinegar, garlic and black pepper – but a little bath in it makes a richly flavorful steak that is honestly better than most you have in restaurants.

Flank steak is a long, lean cut that marinates beautifully and is intensely flavorful if you treat it right. Don’t cook it past medium, and slice it thinly across the grain of the meat, and you’ll be rewarded with juicy, tender slices of steak. It’s great on the grill – one big cut – and a platter of slices makes for easy, gorgeous serving.

My brother Vic turned me on to this recipe from the reliably fantastic Elise at Simply Recipes, and he’s declared it the only marinade he needs. I wholeheartedly agree. Easy enough for every day, impressive enough for company. What could be better? read on…


I’ve always wanted to like pancakes. As a kid obsessed with Little House on the Prairie, every time I read Laura Ingalls Wilder describe Farmer Boy‘s lavishly buttered stacks of golden pancakes, I could smell the hot griddle, see the bubbling pancakes, hear the soft squish of Almanzo’s fork as it cut into the tall stack, dripping with melted butter and maple sugar.

But I grew up in a Bisquick household, and my pancake reality – salty and artificial-tasting – was never very appetizing. In cafeterias, I politely bypassed the steam trays of floppy brown discs and, in diners, never ordered the staggeringly large rounds that looked as if a brown frisbee had landed on a dinner plate.

I love a thick challah french toast or a delicate, eggy crepe, and about a decade ago my friend Venus turned me on to some amazing flaxseed pancakes (that we usually make in banana chocolate chip form).

But this summer I started making straight-up classic American buttermilk pancakes – thick, fluffy, golden brown – and (shocker, I know) they are so good. Super basic. Super wholesome. Super easy.

Turns out I am a pancake fan. I just didn’t have good ones before.

And pancakes are really so much fun on a weekend morning. Because pancakes aren’t grab-and-go, see-ya-I-gotta-jam food. You need a plate, a fork. You sit down. You pass the syrup.

And these pancakes are everything I always imagined – light, crisp-edged and utterly delicious on their own. We pour on maple syrup and pile the pancakes with fruit – berries, peaches, bananas – because this is modern-day California, not the wild West.

And here’s a secret: You don’t really need to go buy buttermilk. Plain yogurt (or sour cream) mixed with milk works just as well, maybe even better. read on…


For the last five years, the brightest week of our year is the week we spend with our friends from Germany. They live outside Munich with their four kids; we live outside San Francisco with our four matching kids. They’ve come to visit us in Ohio and in California, and once we met them in Niagara Falls. We’ve been to Munich twice – once two years ago, and then again this June, for our friend Florian’s 50th birthday celebration.

The four of us have been friends since our single days in New York City, and with our annual visits, our kids are close like cousins now. Once a year isn’t much. But it’s enough. In five years we’ve gone from having eight little kids to having half teens. The memories are everything.

We hesitated to stay with them this trip – they were having close to 130 family and friends for the birthday party, and their kids were still finishing up their school year. But they insisted, and we tried to be as helpful as six people who don’t speak the language in a foreign country can be.

My friend Jojo is a superstar, so she had it all supremely under control. I helped prep and clean in the kitchen. But mostly we ate and ate Jojo’s fantastic food.

I wish I could bring it all back home – the sausages, vinegary potato salad, yogurt, cheeses, fresh-baked pretzels. But I did bring back this lemony potato salad – so fresh, loaded with chopped herbs – which is the perfect partner for any summer cookout. Jojo made it our first night in Munich to accompany simple grilled chicken, salad and roasted vegetables, and the potatoes were so good they became my main course.

It’s quick to put together with just a few ingredients – potatoes, lemon, herbs, olive oil, honey and salt. Make a big batch and eat it for days. It’s just as good or better left over, for lazy summer snacking. read on…


grilled pineapple

Grilled pineapple

25 May 2017

At its best, pineapple is a euphorically transporting fruit, flooding one’s senses with sweet tropical juice and seductive fantasies of blindingly bright sand beaches and sparkling blue seas. But unless you live in Hawaii or other tropics, a more typical pineapple impression is tart and stringy, pale and dry. On the mainland, buying a whole pineapple can feel like a buying a lottery ticket – you might get lucky, but chances are it’s a loser.

Fortunately there’s an easy trick to transforming mediocre pineapple into great pineapple: just grill it. Grilling is almost like inducing ripening of the pineapple – the heat concentrates the fruit’s sugars and brings out its juiciness, coaxing even a bland specimen into something worth savoring.

And if you don’t like that prickly feeling you get in your mouth after eating pineapple? Grilling solves that problem too. Those protein-digesting enzymes in pineapple are what make it an excellent meat tenderizer (pineapple juice is often used in Korean BBQ marinades, for example), but they’re not so awesome when they’re breaking down the tissue in your mouth. The heat of grilling deactivates those enzymes so you can eat without fear.

This is the perfect time of year to grill pineapple – it’s prime pineapple season in Hawaii, so price and supply should be good, and it’s finally grilling weather out. read on…

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Instead of birthday cake, my boys love a giant chocolate chip cookie cake. Their friends always love it too, but I’m never satisfied with the recipe. Like the oversized cookie that it is, its edges are golden and crispy all around, while the center is soft and gooey. In a regular cookie, you get all in one. But with squares cut from a mutant cookie cake, each piece is more edge or more center.

As with pizza, more middle is never a problem. But no one wants a slice that is all crust. Chocolate chip cookies aren’t brownies.

I never hung onto the recipe, because I always meant to find a better one. Every time the kids asked for the cookie cake, I went online for it again. But my friend Cathy asked for the recipe recently for her son Ryan’s upcoming birthday, and it had disappeared from my usual Google search.

Oh, the fickle internet. When digital armageddon comes, I’m going to be lost. I’ve outsourced my memory to the cloud, and if the electronic world does dark I’ll be huddling confused in my Paleolithic cave. At the very least, I’ll have a backup of my blog to count on.

So I’m finally adding a chocolate chip cookie cake recipe to my online brain archive here. The recipe I’d used before, similar to Toll House original, was never The One. But I did a bake-off and found the keeper. read on…




21 April 2017

Life dimmed for me and my kids when my friend Katie moved two years ago, she and her husband Rick trading their Silicon Valley home for a ranch in Oregon and taking with them three of our favorite little people – two of my kids’ soulmates and my angelic 18-month-old boyfriend. Between school and kids’ sporting events, we saw them almost daily, and they were rays of sunshine in our lives.

But in relationships there is proximity, and then there is closeness. Faraway friends are still some of my closest pals, because our periodic texts/emails and rare visits add up to more contact than I have with local friends with whom I keep up less simply because I could, anytime – but seldom do.

And if Katie and Rick had never moved, we never would have had the grand adventure in Oregon we just had together, one of the most hilarious weekends of my life and one we surely never would have ventured if we’d all remained regular school friends at a polite distance.

Invading Katie and Rick’s ranch with my husband and four kids would have been chaos enough. But our ranch-raised friend Abby, with four kids close to mine in age plus a bonus kindergartener, jumped at the chance to visit too. I tried to convince Katie of the sanity of four adults and nine kids staying in a local motel instead of crashing on every surface of her home, but she wasn’t having it.

So the 13 of us, two minivans stuffed with people, sleeping bags, pillows, towels and food, descended on the five of them in southern Oregon. It was like family camp for two crazy days and nights.

We plowed through a couple dozen hot dogs and boxes of mac and cheese. I made three big loaves of french toast. Three 8-year-old prep cooks cheerfully did the chopping when Katie made veggie chili. We boiled a dozen fresh eggs from Katie’s prolific chickens to make a big bowl of the richest, brightest, most golden egg salad ever. And we easily demolished 14 pounds of strawberries, a large watermelon, a dozen bananas and pounds of grapes.

Abby has gluten issues, so I brought up a 12-pack of my favorite yogurt with a jar of a homemade trail mix I like these days in place of granola. Everyone enjoyed it so much, both with yogurt and for easy snacking, I thought I’d share the recipe with them and you all at once. read on…



29 March 2017
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A close college friend texted me the other night, telling me she’s hitting a midlife crisis and taking a sabbatical from work. In our social 20s we would have had the luxury of a heartfelt conversation about Life. But in our hectic 40s, we cut to the point. I texted back: “Dude, I feel you. […]

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Everything muffins

1 March 2017
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Eating well on a road trip is a whole lot easier than it was before iPhones. When my husband and I drove across the country from New York City to Silicon Valley in 2001, I mapped out our route every night using our fold-out paper maps and diligently cross-referenced them with my dog-eared copy of […]

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Slow-cooked Italian beef

26 January 2017
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Coming from a family of seven siblings, with 21 kids between them, my Ohio sister-in-law Michelle can feed a crowd like a boss. For New Year’s Eve in Columbus, we had 40 family and friends over to watch Ohio State play Clemson in the (disastrous for us) Fiesta Bowl playoff game. After Christmas, all I […]

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Holiday gift guide 2016

7 December 2016
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For all the online fun kids have these days – musical.ly videos, Snapchat filters, YouTube channels, online gaming – it’s amusing to note that the hottest toy this year was the half-empty disposable water bottle. Water bottle flipping, a YouTube-inspired sensation, became such an obsessive craze it was covered in the New York Times. For […]

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