Oprah Winfrey may eat this coffee cake. Right now, she might be at her Santa Barbara home, sitting on her shaded patio with a big mug of hot coffee and a square of this coffee cake, dotted with sweet pops of blueberry and scented with Meyer lemon just picked from her yard.

How great to have a private chef, Oprah muses as she looks out over her sunny yard and the vast Pacific Ocean beyond, so I can have reliably great coffee cake, moist and springy, topped with that sweet crumb topping I like so much. Yes, she thinks, forking another bite of warm cake. It’s good to be me.

Has Oprah really had this coffee cake? I can’t say for sure. What I do know is that my great friend Kathleen gave me this recipe, which came from her friend, who through some connection got the recipe from Oprah’s private chef.

I just like thinking about Oprah and I both eating this coffee cake. And I can tell you for sure that it’s Oprah-worthy.

Coffee cake is a funny concept in America. Apparently coffee cake in sensible Britain is a sponge cake with coffee icing. Here there’s nothing coffee about coffee cake, except it’s served in the morning when you are likely to be drinking it. read on…

{ 10 comments }

I love the luxury of brunch. Brunch implies a late wake-up and leisurely morning, the kind of carefree day that allows for booze before noon. None of this actually applies to my life as a parent of four kids. But when there’s a holiday, guests in the house, or a rare weekend morning with friends coming over, I like the excuse to make a big late-morning meal and pretend I have a life that allows for the indulgence of brunch.

The standard-bearer of brunch in our family is my mother-in-law’s egg, sausage and cheese strata, a gorgeous make-ahead casserole that provides a savory centerpiece for big family gatherings. Every Christmas Eve we quickly assemble a quadruple batch, stash it in the fridge overnight and bake it Christmas morning as family members casually roll in.

Last Christmas, my mother-in-law was skeptical when I suggested we try a vegetarian version with spinach and feta. But everyone loved it, traditionalists and meat-avoiders alike, so I thought I’d share it with you all for Easter. When you’re having a mixed crowd of eaters, it’s nice to have a built-in vegetarian option, and you can always supplement with bacon or sausage on the side.

Making strata is super easy. Theres no crust, like quiche, or whipping of eggs, like souffle. It’s a lazy cook’s egg dish for a crowd. read on…

{ 2 comments }

I’m crushing especially hard on two casually brilliant Los Angeles eateries – Gjusta in Venice and Sqirl in Silver Lake. Both have attracted a lot of media and social media love in recent years, so I thought it would be fun to take you on a virtual visit. We ate at Gjusta four times in 48 hours during my last girls getaway in LA. And then I topped that off with a bonus trip to Sqirl, out of my usual LA orbit but absolutely worth the drive. Drool warning ahead.

Fresh and innovative, but still comforting and accessible, Gjusta and Sqirl both make food you would eat daily if you could. Both restaurants feel like the future of American food, made by people who fuse flavors like chefs, are connected to the earth like farmers and actually care about your health like a loving grandma.

Gjusta

I’m stalker-obsessed with Gjusta, industrial-hip bakery/deli in Venice by artist, surfer and self-taught chef Travis Lett that manages to synthesize the California ideals of health, creativity, laid-back cool and sunny gorgeousness. read on…

{ 2 comments }

I’m coming clean with the fact that I, a native northern Californian, have become a total LA fangirl.

Sibling rivalry is strong in California. I’m from the north, land of geeks, tree huggers, fog and earnestness. Southern California is home to sun, surfers, avocados and cosmetic enhancements. We’re all family, but like many close geographic rivals – northern and southern Italy, Yankees and Southerners, Ohio and Michigan – each side is a wee smug about being the better of the two.

The truth is, I only see LA in short, euphoric visits. I’ve been to LA maybe eight times over a decade for annual-ish girls weekends with three of my closest friends, mostly for less than 48 hours at a time. No doubt we’d have a blast anywhere, since those are the only times we all get together. And maybe it doesn’t take much to stay entertained for 48 hours.

But every trip is better than the last. The City of Angels is full of treasures – miles of powdery beach, breathtaking art, kitschy architecture, outrageously fresh and creative food. True to reputation, the city is also a sprawling congested mess, so it pays to navigate it wisely. We have a formula that works for us, but we also always work in something new. There’s never a shortage of choices in LA.

My friend Celeste, a native New Yorker who lived in Los Angeles before settling in San Francisco, got the LA party started when we planned our first weekend 10 years ago. She missed the sun of southern California, and the warmth. She missed the creative energy of LA. She missed the sushi. People, she said, were just happier in LA.

It’s true. We are ridiculously elated as soon as we get off the plane and shed our coats. We gorge on sushi, walk the beach, catch up on life. Sometimes there’s art, sometimes exercise, always some shopping and plenty of food, coffee and cocktails. It’s perfect for us. read on…

{ 0 comments }

Feeding a lot of people is something we do often here, so I’m always excited about recipes that make entertaining easy. My friend Brooke sent me this truly outstanding carnitas recipe last fall, and it’s quickly become a favorite for family gatherings or potlucks.

In wintertime especially, it’s hard to go wrong with a big pot of tender shredded meat. Even if you’re not cooking for a crowd, pulled pork can be used all week for the best tacos ever, followed by pulled pork sandwiches, followed by a pork-and-bean soup. Or even just piled on top of some salad or roasted vegetables.

And if you’re having people over for Super Bowl Sunday, this is a really easy way to do it. Cook the meat all day in a slow cooker, and put it out with warm tortillas and taco fixings. Your guests will love it, and you’ll be free to watch the game (or visit with friends).

This recipe makes a lot, but don’t worry about having too much – you can always freeze leftovers in small ziploc bags as a gift to your hungry self in the future. read on…

{ 6 comments }

soy glazed fish

Simplest soy-glazed fish

23 January 2018

My favorite easy fish preparation is also a perfect January recipe. It ticks all the new years resolution boxes: Cook at home! Be healthier! Eat more fish! Lose weight! My husband swears he always loses weight after we have fish for dinner, even if he’s stuffed after the meal.

We all know fish is great for us – omega-3 fatty acids are excellent for brain and heart health. But it can be intimidating to think of making fish at home. What to buy? How to prepare it?

Here’s the thing: if you want to eat fish at home, start by buying fish. For me, cooking doesn’t start with a trip to the store, it starts with whatever I can put together at home. If I have vegetables, I make vegetables. If I have fish, I’ll make fish. If I’ve already spent money on good ingredients, I won’t waste it.

And then all you need is a go-to recipe that makes cooking fish at home a no-brainer. This brilliantly minimal one is my go-to.

I get a pound of fish a week from a local community sponsored fishery, but the easiest way to have fish on hand is to be like my mom, who keeps a bag of her favorite black cod from Costco in her freezer and defrosts one at a time as needed.

My mom came up with this genius preparation, even easier than Mark Bittman’s wonderful soy sauce poached fish that I featured here a couple years ago. Bittman’s Asian-inspired recipe is a dream over rice, with plenty of poaching liquid to spoon over the flaky fish.

But this soy-glazed fish is even simpler. It can be Asian, but it doesn’t have to be.

Soy sauce and a just touch of sugar makes a light, intensely flavored glaze that coats the fish, with a bit left for sopping up. The glazed fish is perfectly at home over rice. But it’s just as good – and maybe better – over mashed potatoes, with veggies or a salad on the side.

The mom in me loves the brain food nutrition of fish; the cook in me loves that it cooks in no time at all. And this recipe takes hardly any prep. read on…

{ 5 comments }

Holiday gift ideas 2017 – adult edition

13 December 2017
Thumbnail image for Holiday gift ideas 2017 – adult edition

When it comes to gifting, adults are often a weary afterthought tacked on after the kids on the list. It’s okay – adults more often than not have much of what they need already. But Santa Claus doesn’t come for grown-ups, so we have to look out for one another. I really love giving gifts, […]

Full article →

Holiday gift guide 2017 – kids edition

6 December 2017
Thumbnail image for Holiday gift guide 2017 – kids edition

My annual gift guide is in two parts this year. Kids first! Hope you find it useful. Note that my kids are growing up – I’m now in the 3rd to 10th grade window – so if you’re looking for littler ones, please check out my gift ideas from previous years, which have tons of […]

Full article →

Maple glazed sweet potatoes

16 November 2017
Thumbnail image for Maple glazed sweet potatoes

In the Thanksgiving show, turkey is the golden, handsome, boring star. The character actors have my heart: sturdy stuffing, comforting mashed potatoes, snappy green beans, sweet-tart cranberries. And the candy of the stage: perfectly soft wedges of sweet potato with a buttery, caramelized glaze of sweetness. Sweet potatoes for purists; compelling enough to convert skeptics. […]

Full article →

Better peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

25 October 2017
Thumbnail image for Better peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich almost every morning of my school years, packing it up with a squat blue juice box of Hawaiian Punch and the little bundle of carrot sticks my mom would cut for me, rolled into a wax paper bundle with ends twisted. Now I make sandwiches for my […]

Full article →