gargoyle notre dame


8 October 2015

I’m four weeks into a six week no-wheat, no-sugar, no-rice experiment, and I hope to heck it’s good for my health because it’s definitely not so great for my joie de vivre. Or maybe I hope it’s terrible for my health so I when I’m done I can get on with my regularly scheduled life.

In any case, it’s a major bore to talk about how I’m living on fruits and nuts like some cartoon version of a Californian, so I thought I’d take you back to August, when we were in Paris eating everything we wanted and giving our kids an introduction to the delicious living treasure that is Paris.

We Airbnb-ed an apartment on Rue Mouffetard, a market street in the Latin Quarter. Turns out it was a favorite of Julia Child, and part of “Julie and Julia” was filmed on the sloping cobblestone street lined with shops selling cheese, meat, wine, fresh produce, chocolate, and bread (oh the bread!).

Every morning I stopped down at the boulangerie, using my limited French to get by. Often people helped me out with some English, but for simple transactions I squeaked by with polite words (bonjour, s’il vous plait, merci, au revoir), oui/non, some universal sign language and a grateful smile. read on…


pavlova slice


24 September 2015

I think the best way to describe pavlova, beloved dessert of Australia and New Zealand, is part cake, part cloud – a thick layer of whipped cream over a round bed of meringue, crackly sweet on the outside, soft and marshmallowy inside, with fresh fruit scattered over it all. It feels like cake, but it has no flour at all.

Spectacular to present and ethereally delightful to eat, pavlova is a brilliant trick of a dessert for home cooks – easy to make and no problem to make ahead. Don’t let the word meringue put you off – this one is painlessly simple, and the beauty of pavlova is that even a messy meringue gets beautifully blanketed with whipped cream. No pressure for perfection here.

Gluten-free – wheat-free, even – pavlova is an especially great find for celiac patients, or Passover bakers. Through the magic of physics, egg whites and sugar are whipped up into a round base, which cuts and serves like a cake, but without the butter and flour of a regular cake.

You can even bake your meringue a day or two ahead and then, when you’re ready, layer it in a flash with whipped cream and anything else you’d like on top. It works just as well as a cool summertime dessert or a lighter finish to a heavy winter’s meal. Everyone loves it. read on…


There’s no shortage of Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States – self-declared Germans are the highest-ranked ancestry group in the country, at 17% of the US population – and starting next week millions of Americans will be partying like it’s Bavaria, with beer, sausages, sauerkraut, warm potato salad and big soft pretzels.

But we in America are missing a staple of every Bavarian biergarten: a creamy, paprika-bright cheese spread called Obatzda. This summer in Bavaria we ate it almost daily, with fresh pretzels or crisp rye crackers. It goes great with beer, of course. But it’s pretty amazing with just about everything else too.

Oktoberfest has been around for 200 years, and obatzda for less than a hundred, so maybe we’re just a bit behind. But I have a feeling it won’t take much for this spread to catch on here. With just a handful of ingredients – Camembert, cream cheese, butter, paprika and chives – it couldn’t be easier to make, and it is crazy good party food. read on…


honey fried ham

Honey (or maple) fried ham

3 September 2015

My 9-year old discovered ham this summer. He won’t venture out of his safe island of starchy food at home, but lo and behold he came home from his cousins’ house raving about newly discovered exotica…ham sandwiches! Suddenly ham is the best thing ever.

I never used to buy ham – there are a million other things I’d rather eat than a ham sandwich, unless it’s got brie, and honey mustard, and arugula, and really awesome bread – but now that ham has become a regular feature in our house, I’ve remembered something my mom used to make when I was a kid that I absolutely loved…and totally forgot about until ham came back into my life just now.

Honey fried ham is a fantastically easy treat on its own, but it’s also brilliant when you are woefully baconless and too lazy to run to the store. Get out a skillet, fry up ham slices on both sides, drizzle on a bit of honey, or maple syrup, and bang – you have a sizzling hot, chewy, crispy thin slab of sweet-salty meat that is perfect alongside whatever else you have going on. Way faster than bacon, and no grease. read on…


everlasting zucchini carbonara

Zucchini carbonara

22 August 2015

I’m back – whoa. I don’t think I’ve taken a month off from here in five years, and I didn’t intend to now. I don’t ever feel the need to escape from here – this is my escape – but we took the kids to Europe for the first time that they’ll remember, and I turned off everything else so I could focus on seeing two weeks through their wide eyes.

I brought back a holiday souvenir for you guys: a recipe for those of you overrun by late summer’s giant zucchini plants, like my friend Jojo outside Munich. We cooked zucchini for days, but this veggie-enriched pasta carbonara, enjoyed by zucchini-weary adults and kids both, was the ultimate effort that most successfully cleared out Jojo’s neverending stockpile.

A delicious week in Paris was just a prelude to our main event: six days in Bavaria with the greatest of friends. My husband and I did the same trip – Paris, followed by Munich – once before in 1999 for the wedding of this couple, close friends from New York City. And now there are 12 of us instead of 4, our kids matching theirs in tidy pairs: teen boys, preteen girls, young boys and younger girls.

I wondered if things would be different this time. In the two years since we last gathered, our eldest have morphed from big kids to full-blown teens who shave, use hair products and sleep through breakfast.

The kids don’t communicate in between our rare visits – the 9-hour time difference on top of too many schedules – but when we get together we squeeze all the time lost into a few days of intensive togetherness. And that, it turns out, is enough. All eight connected easily with the comfort of cousins. read on…

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I’m celebrating today – five years here at chinese grandma. 5! A full handful of years.

We’ve had good eats together, made discoveries, wondered and laughed. I’ve had exiting moments in this blogging adventure – the Kitchn!, Saveur! – and it’s been a joy share with you here and have you share back with me.

But in this half-decade, life also got real. You guys were with me when I turned 40; when I lost my dad and my dad-in-law; when I had a shoot-me-now health year with raging eczema followed by shingles; when I’ve had pangs of midlife angst.

Your quiet listening has helped me through. I started this blog as a restless at-home mom of four, desperate to construct a virtual room of my own. Staking out this space to create, to think and to learn has given me calm. Writing here is like a meditation – an opportunity for me to step back, analyze, digest and breathe.

I had four little people when this all started – aged 1 to 8 – and now they are 6 to 13, half-grown to grinning down at me. I no longer fantasize about my phantom life, my independent pre-parenthood existence. Instead I am incredulous that I am on the flip side, nearing again a house without the boisterous activity of kids.

I wish I could say five years of blogging has made me a smooth pro, but I can’t. Sometimes I’m bursting to share something fresh and cool with you. More often I go through a comical cycle of despair, rejected attempts and insecurity until I slowly, finally get to something I think might be worth reading.

Some posts connect with you more than others, and I can never predict which – I just launch my little word vessels, built to the best of my ability, and enjoy the brief satisfaction of completion before getting to work on the next.

Five years here and 43 years of living have taught me one thing for certain about this earthly life: it’s about getting up, trying our best, learning with honesty and humility, and getting up again. This is how the game is played. If we don’t make the effort, we atrophy. If we ignore lessons, we get stuck on repeat.

So I keep at it, for better and worse, and I love it. When something connects with you, or when you love a recipe I’ve shared, I am grateful to my toes.

I am thrilled to celebrate five years at chinese grandma with you all, and I am sending you squeezy hugs and high fives and fist bumps.

Oh, and cake! Buttery, blueberry-y blogiversary cake. read on…


Jalapeño greek yogurt dip

16 July 2015 Food
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I’m not an overachiever in the kitchen at any time of year, but in the summer when appetite is down and laziness up, I just want to assemble a good meal rather than cook it. The season’s fresh produce makes it easy to have a picnic at home – great cheese, juicy ripe fruit, well-dressed […]

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Hula pie

1 July 2015 Food
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I don’t know if its the 19 straight days of rain we’ve had since we arrived in Ohio, or the fact that an unusual number of midwest friends have gone to the islands this June, but I have sunny Hawaii on the brain. Last weekend Cynthia married her Hawaiian sweetheart on the beach, and in […]

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Sweet vinegar slaw

17 June 2015 Food
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Mealtimes with my gregarious Ohio family are much more about socializing than cooking. Impromptu family gatherings call for pizza – round pies cut in snacky squares, as is the norm here – but planned family events, like all four of my kids’ baptisms, are accompanied by takeout from our favorite local barbecue joint. The smoked […]

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Mom’s (even better) barbecue chicken

3 June 2015 Asian
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My mom always drew the raves for her barbecue chicken – tangy and sweet, salty and sticky, equal parts American and Asian – and indeed she spent years gradually perfecting the recipe. But it was my dad who worked the old brick fire pit in our backyard, tending to the coals like incubating eggs, now […]

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