Summer Eats: Week 8-10

Our summer farm season is wrapping up.  Two weeks ago we got eggplant, kale, turnips (red and white), carrots, potatoes, a yellow pepper, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and garlic. (Remember how our CSA was hit with terrible hail?  More of the plants than we thought are still producing!)  This week we received cauliflower, broccoli, onions, garlic, peppers, squash, one cucumber, turnips (and lots of them!) and carrots.

In the past I have had trouble with kale.  I’ll eat it, but everyone else (Sam included) found it too bitter.  In fact, after our first CSA, Sam’s comment was “too much kale!” and we found a different one that was a little lighter on the greens.  But greens are good for us, so I was determined to try again.  And I found a winner!

HappyFitMama’s Kale Blueberry Superfood Salad

She says the secrets are cutting out the stem (all the way up the leaf) and working the dressing into the leaves a little bit and letting it sit.  I made it about 1.5 hours before we ate. When Momo got home from dance class, she picked all the kale out of the salad and left behind the raspberries.  (I used raspberries instead of blueberries.)  Can she even be my child? Perhaps not.
At the bookends of the season, I find we have a little bit of lots of different things, but sometimes not large enough quantities to make a main course out of anything.  So I like to serve what we call “Potpourri,” or lots of different things on pretty plates.  Above you see our popcorn, carrots, yellow squash and zucchini (which some of my kids like with Ranch dressing), bread and jam, Sesame Eggplant Obsession, and a variety of cheeses (they are at the top there, served on a gorgeous cheese board my friend made from a walnut tree that came down from his yard- how cool is that?).  My friend Amy says anything tastes better in a margarita glass, and that applies to serving boring supermarket slices cheeses on a handcrafted walnut cheese board, too.

It’s not really a summer food, but I made up a recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Soup, and all my kids will eat it.  So here it is. Sorry I don’t know how to make it easy to print. Feel free to cut and paste and adapt to your taste.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or diced
  • 3 potatoes (Yukon Golds or Reds work well), washed a diced (no need to peel)
  • 6 cups chicken stock

Wash and cut one head of cauliflower into florets. Cut 3 carrots into 1 inch pieces. Toss both with a little olive oil; dust with salt and pepper and roast at 425 degrees until they start to darken (for me it was about 20 minutes, but it will depend on how big your pieces are.) You can do this earlier in the week and store them in the fridge, or do it right before you make the soup.

Chop 2 slices of bacon and dice one medium onion. Brown the bacon for a few minutes till it starts to darken and then bottom of the pan is slick, then add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add 1 clove crushed garlic and sauté until onions and garlic are translucent.

Add 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, 3 diced potatoes, and the roasted cauliflower and carrots. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook 20-30 minutes or until all the vegetables are very soft. Purée with a hand blender. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with crumbled bacon and crusty bread.

Another variation is to add a tart apple (peeled) with the potatoes.

I think that’s it for our Summer Eats Series.   I am baking bread again, and the kids are asking for our favorite fall soups again.  I hope the end of your summer wraps up well!  I’ve added links to my other Summer Eats posts here.

Summer Eats: Week 1

Summer Eats: Week 2

Summer Eats: Week 3

Summer Eats: Weeks 4-6

Summer Eats: Week 7




More London Photos

The girls’ favorite days on our trip were: 1) the day spent at Universal Studios looking at all the rooms, costumes, and paraphernalia from the Harry Potter movies, and 2) the day we spent at Hamley’s toy store and building fairy houses in Hyde Park.



When Sam first saw the sticker price of a day at Universal Studios, he was going to give it a pass. But it was no more than a day at a studio tour here, or a day at Disney.

Phoebe is still hoping she gets a Hogwarts acceptance letter on her 11th birthday.


Is that a Lego photobomber right behind her?

Lego ninja attempting to steal the Lego Crown Jewels

Momo’s fav: Lego Queen with Lego Corgi

We spent several hours at Hamley’ and the girls didn’t buy anything.  When we went there years ago (I was 10, I think?), I felt like there were all sorts of toys I had never seen in the US.  Now, everything there was the same as what we see here: Legos, Playmobile, glitter nail polish, the same franchises of stuffed animals.  (Except for the Lego displays, which were uniquely British.)

Sneaking away in London without my children: Kew Gardens

Halfway through our time in London, we split up for a day.  Sam took the girls to Harry Potter’s world, my parents had already left for the morning, and the boys wanted to stay home to play video games rest. I had my choice of sites to visit without them: the Florence Nightingale museum, the Royal College of Surgeons museum, the National Gallery, or the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Because it was a gorgeous, sunny day, I opted for Kew.


I have such warm memories of Kew Gardens from our trips there when I was a child. My mother and our London friend were both avid gardeners, so visiting Kew meant not only wandering acres of beautiful park and gardens, but learning about all the plants and trees. My own children, when invited to come with me, said, “Nah. It’s just a Botanic Garden, right?”  Um, no.


I was better off without them.

The Palm House

I spent the morning wandering paths and reading on a bench under the biggest catalpa tree I’ve ever seen.  A sawed off branch near the base of the trunk had 65 rings.  (I counted.)  I examined a Cyprus of Lebanon.  The grass was sprinkled with mums with prams, picnic blankets, and little children.

The Orangerie

When I got hungry, I went to the café at the Orangerie and had a lunch I never would have approved for my children, or ordered had they been there.

A few years ago, I couldn’t have imagined a vacation when my kids would be big enough to do their own thing while I did mine. Time’s a flying, and this is where we are.  I am grateful for the day.

Planning your London Vacation with Kids

I’m going to share a little series of posts on our recent vacation. Whether you’re visiting here because you googled “London vacation” or “traveling with kids,” welcome!


London is a fantastic city, easy to navigate on public transportation and great for walking.  Here are my tips for planning your trip.

  1. Choose your accommodations based on all your needs, not just the location.  So much of London and the surrounding areas are easily accessible by foot.  Do not rent a car, and do not feel you have to be right in Kensington in order to get around the city.  We rented a flat in Fulham, just outside central London, about three and a half miles from Buckingham Palace. Looking at the London Underground map, you’d think it was further. We picked our flat based on its location within Zone 2, which kept our Tube fare down, and where we could afford a flat with enough space for the 8 of us to be able to sleep in beds.  (Who wants to take a vacation with 8 sleep-deprived, cranky people? Not me!)  We rented through Home Away (like AirBNB) and couldn’t have been happier with our flat or our host.
  2. Buy a pay-as-you-go Oyster card.  There are weekly and monthly Oyster card options, but I recommend the pay-as-you-go option.  It has a daily cap, which we regularly exceeded, and is super easy to use.  Pay as you go Oyster cards are available from a machine at any Tube station. The cards require a 5-pound deposit, are refundable for up to 10 pounds of cash on them, and charge you based on your entry and exit points, and the time of day. For discounted youth Oyster cards for children 11-15, you have to go to one of the Oyster offices, but the discount is worth it. (We bought ours at Heathrow.)  Children younger than 11 ride free with a fare-paying adult.  If you are better organized than I was, you can order them in advance online and have them delivered to your home address outside the UK, but I don’t think that’s necessary.
  3. Be flexible.  It’s easy to make a list of must-see sights, but if you’re traveling with children, the key is going to be flexibility.  To that end, I recommend not buying all your passes online ahead, although many of them can be used once during a 7 day window.  We didn’t make it to three of the sites on my list to visit, and two of my kids wanted to revisit sites, which also didn’t happen.
  4. Look at package deals.  They’re not always the best option, but our family membership to the Royal Historic Palaces saved us fifty pounds, since we used it at two different sites on three days.
  5. For a short trip, consider adjusting bedtime for a week in advance, so your kids will have an easier time adjusting to the time change.  London is 7 hours ahead of Denver during daylight savings, and going to bed an hour earlier each day for 2-3 days would have meant we were halfway onto London time.
  6. Plan to walk a lot.  London is a great city for walking, and we covered 5-7 miles on foot each day.  Often, we were walking on cobblestone streets. Make sure your kids (and you!) have good shoes, and spend some time increasing your daily mileage at home so that you don’t say No to something you really want to see just because your feet are tired.
  7. Carry water.  Whether you bring a water bottle from home or buy one there, know that there are no public drinking fountains. Restaurants won’t bring you a glass of water when you sit down.  Having a bottle of water (plus a snack) may save you from a pediatric meltdown in a palace you paid to visit.

Daybook: mid-September 2016

Out my window: the roses are going crazy again.  The night was cools (in the 50s) and this morning is cool and gray.  We brought the London weather home with us, perhaps.

In the kitchen: Before we left, I froze already-cooked pork for tacos, and we have everything else.  But I need to soak some beans for a crockpot meal tomorrow, and I picked up a bunch of fruit from the store.  Tomorrow we have our CSA delivery, and I’ll plan our meals and more complete grocery shopping from there.
No, these aren’t teabags. They are packets of Icelandic make-up removing cloths.  Something may have been lost in translation, though.

Around the house: We cleaned before we left, but you’d never know it.  The house is an explosion of laundry and travel-y odds and ends that haven’t found their homes again.


Playing in Iceland.

On the school schedule: Jonah had his online classes from yesterday to make up. Everyone else has a little co-op homework to do, and we have music lessons, dance, and swim team tonight.  So while it’s a lighter day, it’s still plenty full.

Grateful for: a really good trip to London.  Our plane from Denver to Iceland had a mechanical malfunction, and they had to bring in a later plane, which caused us to miss our connection to Heathrow… but it meant the airline put us up in a hotel in Reykjavik overnight.  We ate lots of fish and walked the harbor… it was a lovely treat that seemed great to me.  The kids kept pointing out that it wasn’t an extra mini-vacation (as I kept calling it) but rather a day stolen from our plans.  However, it was a no-brainer to me to be grateful for a day in Iceland instead of a scary mid-flight diversion, or worse… maybe 9/11 is still in my heart and mind in a way it will never be for them.  Anyway, I was grateful.  I am grateful.


From the window of our hotel in Reykjavik.

Praying for:  Mandy, Gerri and Jim (and all their families). Renee and her family as they mourn.  Marriages. Our friends serving overseas- for their encouragement, endurance, safety and connection.  Families still mourning the losses of 9/11.  Refugees.


Summer Eats: Week 7

One of our favorite ways to cook vegetables is grilled in packets.  So versatile- anything goes, as long as what you put in the packet cooks in approximately the same amount of time- and easy.  This week we had Japanese eggplants, red banana peppers, garlic, potatoes, and summer squash, and I chopped it all up, tossed it with olive oil and folded it into packets to grill.
Japanese eggplants. You can leave the skin on. Here you can see that I changed my mind in the middle to switch from rounds to chunks.

Toss it all with evoo, salt & pepper.

Here you can see I added the garlic cloves (peeled) whole, and whatever herbs we got from the farm this week. (I think it was basil and oregano.)

Here is a finished packet, waiting to go on the grill. Note: I spray the inside of the foil with oil just to make sure the food doesn’t stick to it. And I folded down the corner of this packet to distinguish it from the nearly identical packets of potatoes. The potatoes always take the longest to cook.

I will make packets like these with whatever vegetables we have on hand.  Onions make everything taste better.  And then I grill whatever meat/protein accompaniment I pulled from the freezer or was on sale that week.  Tonight it was burgers.

Can I just say that the whole reason I wanted burgers was to eat one with these gorgeous tomatoes on top?
And then, because I am to only tomato-lover around here, I ate the rest of the tomatoes and left the grilled potatoes to them.

Happy eating, friends!

P.S. You can find Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Weeks 4-6 of the Summer Eats series here.

Summer Eats: Weeks 4-6

So I’m rocking the summer series here.  Our vacation (on which I did NOT cook) threw me off, and the farm’s getting hit with a terrible hail storm threw me off further. Miraculously, we are still receiving food from the farm, so here are some more of our summer meals (though no longer neatly organized by day.)  Click here for week 1week 2 and week 3.

Martha Stewart’s Eggplant Parmesan.  My husband LOVES eggplant parm and swears that this recipe (neatly printed and left on the counter for all to see) wasn’t the world’s biggest hint.  We had some gorgeous eggplants* from the farm, and I used two of them for this.

Lest you think my children are into my cooking, here’s what my daughter texted to my husband as I was making it:


No photo of the actual meal, though it was good (and pretty healthy, since it was baked instead of fried and I went light on the cheese.)

Pork* Carnitas Tacos with pickled onions* and cojita cheese.  These are always a hit, and sometimes (if I pack some of the meat away for the freezer) we have leftovers for a second meal later.  Nothing like freezer meals for making the afternoon go better around here!

Whole Roast Chicken with Lemony Broccoli (I used zucchini* and patty pan squash* because that’s what we had, but I’m sure broccoli would be delicious.)

And then with the leftover chicken, I made a pasta salad with chicken, grape tomatoes*, green beans and a mustard-basil vinaigrette.  (For the vinaigrette, I mix 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 tsp honey, half a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, 1 tsp fresh basil, chopped finely, 1/4 cup evoo and 3 tbsp red wine vinegar.)

Smitten Kitchen just posted a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan Melts– I haven’t made them yet, but I do have one more eggplant* waiting to be used.  (Don’t tell my daughter!)