action in the burbs

I didn’t really miss Brooklyn until I went back to Brooklyn. Driving into our old hood felt surreal, as if we had been staying at an airbnb all summer. Like now we were home.

The kids and I went to our regular movie theater and ate chips from the bodega as we walked down the sidewalk, talking to each other, holding hands at the corner. I miss that. Also: friends, bars without televisions and non-white people. (My kids apparently miss trash because they begged to bring home their playground collection for the playroom:



I also miss driving over 25 miles an hour. The slogan of this town is: Slow Down. At stop signs, people stop, wait, make sure it is their turn and that everyone else is okay with that. The town mascot is Rip Van Winkle—the guy who slept too long.

Last week however was action packed. First, on Friday, we woke to a recorded phone call that school was canceled because of “police activity.” Rumors started flying: a robbery. A gunman. A hunter shooting at squirrels. Something about Ardsley country club? On the Facebook discussion, several locals asked if it was safe to walk the dog. Finally, the real news came in. A man, with a paintball gun, was spotted. Thankfully he was successfully captured and the locals could take to the streets again. Do I sound jaded? Maybe. I’m just pissed the kids were home all day.

Anyway, just three days later I woke to a loud sound. The kids were sleeping and Michael was out. I immediately thought someone was in the house (actually, I think this all the time.) But then I saw a car parked outside with its headlights on and a man got out carrying a flashlight. The police?! I crept around to the front of the house. Across the street our neighbor was frantically pacing with his cellphone, while Mr. Flashlight waited.

I felt I had a right to know if my children were in danger so I marched outside, still half asleep, in my black nightgown and white socks (the floors are really cold in this house.)

Our neighbor, Larry, came rushing over. "I’m so sorry," he said still on the phone. "My brother in law backed up onto your lawn.” I looked and it was true. A non-police car was halfway up our front lawn. “And then he got stuck. I’m calling the towing company right now." 

Then he looked at me and said very gently, “So how are you doing?” I thought about my outfit. "Fine," I said. "Well thanks for taking care of this. I’m going back inside. Michael will be home soon.” And then I said, because it was true, “Michael is bowling. In Yonkers.” Larry nodded as if he already knew that and I went back inside and locked all the doors and thought, wait did that just happen?

Despite all this excitement I did manage to make a few good meals this week, including this easy new salad dressing I invented while trying to use up a few things in the fridge, like this giant jar of pesto (which is excellent by the way) that I bought at Costco on the advice of a chef friend.



So I mixed a big spoonful of this pesto with a cup of buttermilk, a little white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and 1 tsp of sugar. It was like instant (healthier) ranch dressing that Mack asked if he could drink from the bottle. It was good. You could also add fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil to give it more zing.

I hate the word “zing.” I never used the word “zing” in Brooklyn.

Save me.

Gringo Tacos

Put this one in the category of articles I wish I’d written it before Sam Sifton did.

Hard-shell Tacos: What’s so wrong with them?

They get a bad rap (wrap?) as Sifton points on in his recent NYT article. The gringo taco, the Tex-Mex appropriation. The middle school cafeteria lunch.

And just back from a trip to Mexico where I spent a whole day learning Mayan and traditional Mexican cooking techniques, then ate tacos for 5 days, I feel sheepish even addressing this. But the nostalgia factor is high. My mom made theis pass-the-toppings meal at least once a week and I remember it fondly. The shredded cheddar and cubed tomato, iceberg lettuce and canned black olives. The beef juice that ran down your arm as your bit into the crunchy shell. As Sifton says, they still have their place at the family table.

Recently we stopped by a friend’s apartment to deliver their 6 pounds of frozen salmon from an Alaskan share that I introduced them to. They are both new to the country—she is from Hungary and he is an ambassador to the Netherlands. They entertain high-profile people all the time, sometimes without warning

Come in, she said, have some wine.

We sat at her counter as she poured wine and retrieved huge chunks of cheese brought back from their last trip abroad. Then he came home like the Dutch do—full of energy and cheer and without even taking off his jacket, joined us for wine. The kids were playing elsewhere and he invited us to join him later at a little-known outdoor bar run by Monks where a local musician from his country was having a show—that started at 11pm.

But first he would have some dinner, and we would join him. Oh no, I said we should get back….it’s late. We are intruding. I already made dinner at home. What are you talking about? He glared at me. Why wouldn’t you stay?

All of a sudden his wife started making tacos—hard shell American tacos with the little packet of taco seasoning that my mom used to use. She set up little bowls of lettuce, sour cream, tomatoes, shredded cheese around their too-large dinner table and told us (and the kids) to dig in. It was casual and delicious and revelatory. A piece of cheesy American nostalgia that I’ve secretly cherished for decades reignited by a family who had only been in the States for a year.

Of course, I had to make my own at home and of course, there were mixed reactions from the peanut gallery. Nate liked the shell that was like a chip and ate one with just cheese. Mack tried it but his eyes didn’t open as wide as his head, which is what he does when he loves.

Today on the heels of our trip, I stopped at the store to buy some chile peppers and stumbled on an aisle of hard shells and bottle sauces. Nope, I thought, I’m too good for that. Then I got home and read Sam Sifton’s ode—his recipe is just a slightly glorified adaption of the recipe on the back of the taco seasoning packet. Now I’m craving crunchy gringo tacos that fall apart in your hand and I don’t care if they’re fakes. Sifton eats them and so will I. 

oh joy a holiday potluck

I am usually the mom making the "healthy" snack that walks the fine line between nutritious and yummy and is always the one left over at the end. So this year for the school potlucks, I asked the kids what we should make. Nate, as always, said "pancakes." But it got us thinking along the lines of chocolate chips and breakfast foods. Nothing flax-seedy here but nothing too artificial either. These easy muffins were so good that few were left over which to the kids felt like an accomplishment and maybe, maybe made them want to cook with me again. 



  • 2 & ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk (whole or buttermilk is preferred)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 & ½ cups chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a 12 cup muffin tray with non-stick cooking spray or line with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. Slowly add to the dry ingredients. Gently fold together until JUST combined.
  4. Divide the batter into the 12 muffin cups (or 24 mini cups) and bake at 425°F for 5 minutes, then turn the oven heat down to 375°F and bake for another 13-15 minutes. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes and enjoy warm. (Muffins taste best the day of, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.)

adapted from Lily Ernst of Little Sweet Baker


the everyday and the dutch baby

Most weekends we make pancakes which are our everyday pancakes. I use a healthy-ish dry mix and we add eggs, milk and oil. The kids know the "recipe" by heart and love to help and the pancakes, which I make on our griddle, are pretty good. 

But this was a different kind of weekend. We had three birthday parties lined up, plus dinner with friends and a date night. And of course at birthday party number 1 on Saturday morning, a lovely pool party on a rooftop in Brooklyn, Mack slammed his face into a wooden planter while running from a water gun fight. 

We spent the next few hours in Urgent Care waiting for a doctor to look at his swollen bleeding eye. It turns out he is fine, just beat up, but anyone who knows Mack will probably feel more compassion for the doctor in this scenario. The very nice doctor in training who had never met Mack and didn't realize what he was in for or that the last time this boy had a medical procedure, the hospital security guards were called in to help hold him down. Not kidding.

After the crying, screaming, thrashing, begging and whirling insults, we finally got a drop into his eye. Six lollypops later, we were on our way home with a prescription for more drops (god help us) when Mack realized he wasn't returning to the lovely rooftop birthday party (since it was long over) and that he would not in fact be eating cake. You can imagine the rest. 

Anyway, this was no weekend for everyday healthy pancakes so we made this recipe from 1966 that blew us all away: creamy and buttery, custard-like with crispy edges. All it needs is a little powdered sugar on top. 


1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of nutmeg
4 tablespoons (one half stick) of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine the flour, milk, eggs, and nutmeg in a bowl. Beat lightly. 
Melt the butter on the stove in a cast iron skillet with a heatproof handle. When it is very hot, (be careful not to burn!) pour in the batter. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pancake is golden brown.
Sprinkle with the sugar.

fancy pants

I cook almost every night. I cook so often that my husband and kids are beginning to resent it. Every night, mom? Every night we have to put our tushy fully on the chair and use a fork and wipe with a napkin and eat a vegetable? Really?!

But didn't we do this every night while we were growing up? Why does it seem like such a chore with these guys? 

Anyway, recently even I was bored with cooking the same sorta stuff every night. But restaurants and babysitters are expensive and often not even worth it so we decided to create a restaurant experience at home. Last year, my friend Beverly gave me Ottolenghi's NOPI cookbook, which is all recipes that are more complicated than his usual ones. As he says in the intro

"The recipes here were created from a different frame of mind; that is, in an environment where a team of professional cooks labors for a few hours in preparation for a short pinnacle. It is the complete opposite of the way we cook and eat at home."

It's not the cookbook you turn to on a Wednesday night at 6 but rather a project that consumes the whole weekend, in a good way. 

When Bev gave me the book she said that I had to cook at least one thing from the book in return. So we invited her, Adrian and Remi to our house and with two days advance notice I started planning, prepping and cooking a Nopi meal. 

After weeks of spaghetti with butter, this was a hell of a lot of work. I couldn't believe how much time and energy went into just prepping the watercress puree that was to be hidden in the risotto. But not having done this kind of cooking for some time, I also loved every minute of it. 20 hours of work later we had an exquisite meal, the kind of meal you can't easily forget all while our kids watched a movie on the laptop in another room and music was playing in our darkening apartment. Not only was it a fun and delicious night, it's a good way for me to broaden my repertoire. I am taking reservations for Chez Shana.

Now my bragging rights (which really I owe to Ottolenghi's genius):


I used a side dish as a starter: Whole roasted celery root- that ugly knobby brown sphere that you usually avoid at the farmer's market but tastes really good with lots of cream and butter. This time I roasted the whole thing-skin and all-with a little olive oil and salt for about 3 hours. Then I peeled some of the skin off and cut it up and served it with lemon and a yogurt dip. It's not for everyone and it's not attractive but this group ate it up. 


Then we had a pepper-crusted beef tenderloin (which marinated in hand crushed black pepper and fresh herbs for 24 hours) and was topped by a very thinly sliced (mandolin in use) fennel salad with pecorino and truffle. I served it alongside the pearl barley risotto (mixed with a smooth green watercress puree) and topped with a thinly shaved (again) asparagus and pecorino salad. 


a very bad muffin day

I took Mack to camp today, all psyched up with a giant backpack of towel, bathing suit, water bottle, extra clothes, lunch box and shoes but when we rolled in, the receptionist informed us that camp starts tomorrow. Fuuuuuck. 

A whole day with no plans, I considered taking Mack on some great big adventure but just didn't have it in me (wasn't that what the last 2 weeks were for??). Mack was complaining that he was tired and wanted to watch a movie so I tried to energize him with a muffin but that turned into a crying fit ("I don't want that one!") so we left the cute organic cafe, balling. On the way out, a guy eating a yogurt parfait at a little table gave Mack the thumbs up. "I know how you feel my man," he said.

So we went home. And here we have stayed. We've both had naps, we've seen a movie, we did art projects with popsicle sticks and glue. We are both sporting numerous Star Wars tattoos and we made these very healthy whole-food pumpkin muffins (my constant dilemma for baked goods - make it healthy... or not). They come from a blogger in Australia on and they are super simple. I made a few changes and I think they are really moist and yummy but as today would have it, Mack decided he didn't like them before they even came out of the oven. 

Pumpkin Applesauce Muffins

  • 3/4 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4C-1/2C honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. In a bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking powder, baking soda, spices and a pinch of salt.
  3. Combine your eggs with the pumpkin puree, applesauce, honey and vanilla.
  4. Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on size, until a skewer removes clean.

let the races begin

On Sunday we had double birthday parties. Mack and Michael went to Sadie's girly party and Nate and I went to Remi's at Buzz-a-rama-- an automated race car track in deep Brooklyn which has been around since 1965. The kids triggered little guns that accelerated their assigned car around the track but everything was so old that the cars kept popping off of their tracking.

Then this awesome old guy with a megaphone rallied everyone into the party room in back where only one overhead florescent light was on. The kids scarfed down pizza and cake so they could play the retro video games (Ms PacMan etc.) lining the walls but when megaphone man came in to turn on the games, only half of them even worked. Still, it was a great party.

Afterwards the Moshana's met up at Whole Foods to shop but everyone was tired, Mack was a maniac and Nate pooped his pants so we left in tears and only managed to pick up a few things, including this tilapia which I grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper. It was surprisingly delicious, fresh and simple. Unlike our weekend.

the mommy chef who saved dinner

My Brooklyn Based article about chef Paula Hankin and her ideas for feeding picky eaters.

 Read here


A new restaurant named Semilla recently opened in Williamsburg. Michael and I went so I could review it for Brooklyn Based.  While we were eating, a NYT photographer was taking pictures for Pete Wells' review in the Times.  (see us on the right?)

class breakfast

I signed up to make muffins for Family Breakfast Potluck in Nate's class and my first thought was: how can I make something that requires almost no effort but isn't store bought (I am class mom after all!) .

But then I started reading food blogs for my new column in Brooklyn Based and I came across many exciting muffin recipes by mom-bloggers who are way more energetic and patient than me. Adding fiber cereal and chia seeds and all the amazing ingredients that I"m sure the other kids in Nate's class would eat but Nate won't. And they were all far more complicated recipes that I would spend hours making and then be disappointed that Nate rejected-we've done this routine too many times.

So I basically made our usual add eggs, milk, oil to whole wheat pancake mix then poured the batter into small muffin tins, threw in a couple blueberries and a drop of Nutella and baked for 10 minutes. They were pretty yummy (though toppings tended to settle at the bottom during cooking.) I served them in an empty egg container because they were the exact size of the holes.

Lemme say they were not a hit. I think they looked too healthy next to the frozen mini waffles, cookies, doughnuts and bagels (lame!).  The best dish was eggs baked in muffin cups sprinkled with bacon pieces. Next year I'm making that!

smart moms

My first column for The Pickiest Eaters on Brooklyn Based inspired some great ideas from local moms:

  1. Christy:  I mix in an egg yolk (not the whole egg because he notices the white part) into the shredded cheese for extra protein in cheese quesadillas.  
  2. Every once in a while for a special treat, I’ll mix a box of devil’s food cake mix with a can of pureed pumpkin and bake at 400 for 20 minutes (cake or muffins).  
  3.  I make and store these purees in the freezer (, orange puree ( and purple puree ( and add them when I think I can get away with it.  
  4.  I add Superfood Kidz (chocolate) to Max’s oatmeal.  He calls it Chocolate Oatmeal and thinks it is a treat.
  5. Pureed tofu in anything I can get away with...
  6. we have "green mac & cheese" and "pink mac & cheese". The green one is spinach and cream, and the pink one is yam and cream. The point is to make sure it has a smooth solid, zero small pieces, texture. It's really reallyyummy! We also cook only the brown rice pasta. they have it in all different shapes. 
  7. From The Science of Picky Eaters "Biologists have discovered that, out of the thousands of genes in our D.N.A., there's one that determines if we like the taste of some healthy greens or if we can't stand them. BUT.....  It turns out, over time, that our sense of smell changes, and that affects our sense of taste, no matter what kind of genes we have. .....So next time you get frustrated with your picky eater, take a moment to relax and remember, their genes may be influencing their food choices just as much as you are."

a gift from trader joe's that no one has to know about

I bought this sauce at Trader Joe's, along with a package of chicken thighs and two zucchinis. Here's the recipe: Cut up four chicken thighs and 2 large zucchini into chunks and sautée them in a bit of olive oil until chicken is not pink. Then dump in the sauce. Stir. Cook for 5 minutes. Hide the sauce container. Serve.

a new kind of pasta sunday

Yesterday when we awoke at 5:45am, we learned that our pasta sunday date with the Gessers was cancelled and thus there were 18 hours left in the day to spend alone with the kids. We quickly rescheduled pasta sunday -- with the Remis. Pasta Sunday actually made a lot more sense with these guys since 1. they can cook and 2. Bev was our inspiration for our new pasta attachment maker which I've just started to practice with--more on that later. And she is a Pasta Master so she demoed her technique for me.


For my part I made a sauce using what was in the fridge (leftover from the fish I made last week) and also highly influenced from that dish.

Ma Pa Broccoli Rabe

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup wine
  • 1/2 lb firm silken tofu cut into 1/4 inch squares
  • 2 cups broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lemon squeezed
  • 1 tbsp cream
  • 1 cup parm cheese
  1. Blanch broccoli in salted boiling water for 5 minutes then shock in ice bath.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil over low heat and cook garlic for 3 minutes. Add pork and cook over med-high until cooked. Add wine to deglaze.
  3. Add tofu and mash until creamy.
  4. Add tomatoes, broth, lemon juice, salt and pepper
  5. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring. Then add cream and cheese.

sexy robot


Last summer my parents farm in Easton Maryland produced about 60 tons (or something) of purple and green basil. Michael suggested we make pesto even though he's the only one in the family who really likes it. But hating to turn down a food challenge, I proceeded to make about 60 tons (or something) of pesto that we decided to give as gifts.

Coming up with a name was important and Nate, to my surprise and slight horror, suggested "sexy robot." A pesto was born. I found these cute jars at Target and froze the pesto in them for months. Then I made my own labels here. Now I have about 30 of these (with ribbons and cards) to give out to friends and family.

farmer's market pasta

This picture is misleading.

The tomatoes don't figure prominently in this dish. But they are what I am most proud of about this recipe because they were entirely my invention.

This is how I usually decide what to make: 1. Have a general idea in my head 2. Do a lot of research on sites/books I trust. Like a lot. Probably too much. 3.Think about it for awhile. 4. Look in my fridge. 5. Put all materials away and make my version.

So for this one, I read several recipes about broccoli rabe sausage pasta and then made this one up based on what I bought at the farmer’s market (turkey sausage, mustard greens, kale) and the fact that Mack somehow put two boxes of cherry tomatoes in our grocery cart without me seeing them. (He obviously thought they were balls. He loves balls so much! It's almost weird. )

Anyway, since tomatoes aren’t even in season I knew I had to do something to concentrate their flavor which is why I crushed the hell out of them, reducing them to a sticky, quite tasty, pulp.

Farmers Market Pasta

  • I pint cherry tomatos
  • ! tbsp oliveoOil
  • ¾ lb sweet turkey sausage
  • 1 head mustard greens
  • 1 small head kale
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 lb Rigatoni
  • 1 c parmesan
  • ¼ c cream
  1. Heat olive oil in pan over med-high heat. Add tomatoes, cook for 10-15 minutes to soften. If they start to burn, turn down head. Use a wooden spoon to squash them down and release their juices. Turn to low and let them for another 10 minutes. Mash and scrape them some more until you have a loose paste.
  2. Blanch greens for 4 minutes then shock them in ice water.
  3. Cook sausage (out of casing) until almost brown (5-10 minutes). Add onion, cook for 5 minutes, and then add garlic. Cook for 10 minutes adding some water if dry. Add greens. Cook for a while adding water if needed.
  4. Cook pasta reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Add pasta to sausage mixture along with water (1/4 cup at a time) to make it saucy. Add ¼ cup cream and one cup cheese. Serve.

the closest I'll get to farming

Last weekend on the way home from my parent’s house in Easton MD, we stopped at a wholesome family farm that was hosting an awesome kids festival with games, rides and a pumpkin patch. So much cooler than anything we could have hoped for in, say, New Jersey where every city family I know heads to show the kids “fall.” Nate was completely not interested in the idea of a farm until we mentioned “a bouncy thing” and he was off running. 

Ten minutes in, Mack had lost his shoes and started looking like the poor dirty homeless barefoot child he seems destined to be. We feared marching the shivering kids through the mud to a distant pumpkin patch so we called it a day with a basket of apples, a mini pumpkin, a bunch of beautiful ($2 a head!) broccoli. 

The best part for me was – nope, not the bouncy thing (though that was surprisingly fun) -- but the squash sale.

I really wanted a snake squash but it seemed a bit excessive so I bought this guy.

I brought it home expecting to turn it into something delicious but I couldn't cut into it without ruining my knives. I thought about cooking it whole to soften it (like a spaghetti squash) but it seemed so hollow, more like a gourd so I decided just to put it on the balcony where it has a lovely view of New York City and can reflect on it's life in the city vs. the farm. 

But I was determined to cook the broccoli we bought. I often just oven roasted broccoli with olive oil and salt/pepper but I wanted to do something more "fall." Soup! The vitamix! My first few attempts at Brocolli soup resembled a thick puree:\.

Although Michael deemed it delicious, we both admitted it wasn't really soup. After a couple more tries, I found a delicious keeper of a soup recipe.

Super Simple Broccoli Soup

  • 1 head broccoli chopped
  • 1 lg clove garlic
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp parmesean cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheese
  • salt/pepper
  • greek yogurt to garnish

    In a large pot cook broccoli and garlic with chicken broth. Let cool slightly and pour into vitamix or blender. Add remaining ingredients (not the yogurt) and blend on high one minute, or until uniform. Top w. a tsp of yogurt.