Reboot? The Mom Food Project takes some new directions

News and updates from MomFoodLand.

I’m finding that my MomFood efforts have turned a bit of a corner since I got out of school and The Kid became an adult. First of all, I’ve already made most of my personal momfoods for the blog. Just did chopped liver, for instance. It’s one of my favorite foods of childhood, and one I hadn’t gotten right until now. It’s also one of the only things I missed when I was a vegetarian (the other thing was shellfish). I’m running out of my momfoods!

Food dates with the kid

Enter The Kid. She has always appreciated that I cook and serve her own personal Mom Foods, many of which are things I grew up on. Lately, though, she and I have started doing a Sunday cook-together date, and it’s really great. She picks the food she wants us to make, and finds us a recipe to follow. I shop on Friday night or Saturday (with her if she wants to go) and we cook on Sunday. One time, we made okonomiyaki. The kid REALLY likes Japanese food and culture.

I didn’t think to photograph our most recent effort until we were packing up the leftovers, but we made the korokke recipe from JapanCentre (SO delicious) and some cucumber salad. (The dressing for the salad is just rice vinegar, water, and a ton of both sugar and salt — all to taste.)

Japanese korokke

cucumber salad

She wants to start cooking foods from different cultures, and I am 100% down with that. I had recently started a YouTube playlist about that very thing, using the State Department’s list of countries as inspiration. I also found a free e-cookbook of 64 national dishes from around the world. This is going to be FUN.

The MomFood Delivery Service

Sundays are also the day I have started cooking and delivering dinner to my mom’s, so that she and my uncle can skip meal prep for a day or three (depending on how fast they eat it up). This blog started out being about the foods my mom cooked for me, but it’s come full circle, and now I cook my little heart out on Sundays trying to make foods she’ll love and eat, and that my uncle won’t turn his nose up at. He’s a total traditionalist, so dishes so far have been of the meat-and-starch variety: fish and chips, grilled chicken and mashed potatoes, etc.

Again, I’m bad with photos lately, but the crowning glory of this week’s meal was a gorgeous and fiddly (but I like fiddly sometimes) potato dish from Sarah Carey’s Everyday Food YouTube Channel. I got a great deal on a new mandoline and only cut myself once. I call that a win. I also roasted a huge rib-eye roast, which was a big hit. Here’s the video about making the potatoes.

Here’s my version, badly lit — it’s really just a photo I asked the kid to take while she was downstairs and text to me so I could see if it was time for it to come out yet (it wasn’t).

roasted potatoes

Getting out of our food rut

Doing all this cooking has made me want to make my own dinner table a little more exciting. We’re in a rut, food-wise. Part of that is due to my dietary guidelines, but part is just that we’ve been busy and falling back on old standards during my exceptionally busy summer.

In order to combat this, I’ve been setting aside some time every day to read the stash of food magazines that builds up around here; they’re castoffs from my uncle, and while I wouldn’t spend all that money on them, I love love love reading them. I asked James to brainstorm with me about the best way to actually use them as a resource. I could just read them for fun and vague ideas for things, as I have always done, but I wanted to actually make some of the best things in the magazines happen in our house, so we can stop eating the same thing all the time. I thought about scanning in the pages I liked best and making a PDF “cookbook” for myself. I thought about going back to my roots and making a binder like I had in cooking school, full of plastic sheet protectors, keeping pages in there for inspiration, and cooking from that like a cookbook.

But James had a better, funner idea. And don’t tell me “funner” isn’t a word. When I find a recipe that looks great, that looks like we’ll both like it, I’ll tear it out and put it into an envelope. On Fridays, I’ll pull out an envelope at random and add the ingredients to my shopping list, so I can make the dish on Saturday. This way, I don’t add an extra trip, and I don’t try to cook yet another dish on Sunday when I’m doing both the kid thing and the mom thing. Cool, right?

Anyway, I’m cooking a lot and posting almost not at all, and I plan for that to change, but because of server changes, my lack of design skills, and my love of shaking things up, that may mean a reboot of the site. I’m going to consult with my tech team (translation: post to Twitter and ask for advice) and start working on a new look and feel for this site.

This blog has always been a labor of love, and continues to be, though I’ve been neglecting it. It’s also always been ad-free, and will continue to be. I may put up a store in the future, but will never accept ads.

Anyway, that’s all the update I have for you this week. Hope to be coming at you a lot more often from now on.

And if you want to make me super-happy? Tell me in comments what awesome things you’ve been cooking for your family, or wanting to try.

Sloppy Joes

Sloppy joes you can make with meat or without, with equal success.

When I first started this blog, I was telling my co-worker and friend Haydee about it, and the first thing she asked me after I described it was something like, “Oh, and then you’ll give the healthier versions of the foods, right?”

I looked at her like she had two heads.

If my mom’s food were made healthier, it wouldn’t be mom food.  I mean, make clam chowder with low-fat milk and less butter and you just change the whole nature of the thing.

But sometimes. SOMEtimes, it really doesn’t matter.

One example is food that’s already very good when it’s unadorned. The glory of a tomato salad made with tomatoes at peak season shines, whether you use a lot of olive oil or just a little. If it’s an exceptionally good tomato, olive oil is gilding the lily. Not that I don’t like a good gilded lily from time to time.

Another example is a certain class of food that I tend to call “trashy,” but I should probably find another term. Help me out here — casual? I don’t know. Fast food, I guess.

Anyway, sloppy joes fall into this category for me. Their essence is in the textures, the sweet-and-sour-and-a-little-smoky sauce, and the fun of trying to eat it without getting it everywhere. I found out when I was a vegetarian that sloppy joes can be made with anything from tofu to lentils to commercial veggie crumbles, and the experience is roughly the same.

Growing up, I had NO idea you could make sloppy joes yourself. It was a can of Manwich in our house, and never anything else. When I was a kid, that sauce had lots of chunks of green pepper and onion in it. Those are smaller and less plentiful, but the sauce is still passable, if sweeter than I like. As it turns out, though, you don’t need the can, because you probably have most or all of the ingredients you need at home, and when you make it yourself, you get to tweak it to be just how you like it.

What you need:

Something tomatoey: Ketchup, barbecue sauce, tomato paste/sauce/puree, whatever — I’ve even used V8 juice.

Something smokey: I’ve used smoked paprika, liquid smoke, chipotle peppers, and smoky barbecue sauce.

Something sweet/sour: Ketchup is already sweet/sour, and so is barbecue sauce, but if you use another tomato product, you’ll want to add some kind of sweet thing (sugar, honey, apple juice concentrate, etc.) and some kind of sour thing (usually vinegar, but lemon juice, citric acid, and tamarind paste all work). Also, if you like things tangy rather than sweet, you can cut down or eliminate the sugar, and you can add some mustard (powder and/or prepared).

Something crumbly: browned ground beef, veggie crumbles, crumbled extra-firm (drained/pressed) tofu, ground turkey, firm cooked lentils, smoked mushrooms, crumbled tempeh, even brown rice. When I could eat soy, tempeh was probably my favorite of these. Nowadays, I mostly use Quorn crumbles.

Onions and bell peppers, any color.

Below is a recipe of sorts, or click on the thumbnails in the gallery for step-by-step photos. The slaw you see is James’s adaptation of Bakesale Betty’s — we were customers at her shop on its first day, and we continued to go there a lot until we left Oakland. If you have a chance to go, you really should. The line is always long, but it moves fast, and you should get there early, because when she sells out of chicken, it’s all over. Our location was on the corner of 51st and Telegraph in Temescal, but there are other locations, or there were last time I checked.

Eventually, I’ll make a post about the slaw, because we eat it all the time.

Do you make your own versions of fast foods you had as a child? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Sloppy Joes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
This recipe is just a rough guide. Use what you have. Be flexible. These are sloppy, after all.
  • 1 lb of meat or veggie substitute (see post for ideas)
  • ½ onion, chopped finely
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped finely
  • 1 clove garlic, minced, or to taste
  • 1 to 1.5 cups ketchup or other tomato product (see post for ideas)
  • Something smoky (see post for ideas)
  • Something sweet/sour (see post for ideas)
  • Something spicy (optional -- I use either sriracha, chipotle, chili powder, hot sauce, or hot peppers)
  • 4 sandwich rolls
  1. Saute onion, pepper, and garlic in about ½ cup water on medium-high heat until translucent, around 5-8 minutes.
  2. Add remaining ingredients except for rolls, along with about a cup of water.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened.
  4. Spoon ¼ of the meat onto each roll and serve.


Mom’s kind of burger

Classic American burger.

Just a quick post today. The burgers I made would make my mom’s mouth water. Rare, lean beef. Toasted buns. Lots of veggies. (Cheese on James’s, but not on mine. I don’t usually do cheese on burgers.)

SO delicious. The kind of food I grew up on. Just a quarter pound of lean ground beef for each burger, sprinkled with salt/pepper/garlic and seared in a hot pan. Served with oven fries (from fresh russets, tossed in oil and roasted in a single layer in a 400°F oven) and plenty of ketchup to dip the fries in.

cheeseburger, oven fries, ketchup


Dad’s Easy Nacho Night

Comfort food from Kombucha’s dad

[Note from Serene: Please welcome our new contributor, Kombucha! She has graciously agreed to tell us about her own Dad Food, and I’m happily anticipating hearing more from her.]

Our family ate dinner every night together while I was growing up, and my mom cooked 99.9 percent of those meals. This percentage is probably not entirely mathematically accurate. I can count on my fingers the number of times my dad cooked for us as kids. He had one meal that he could make, and we had to help him out lest he forget one of the ingredients.

dad's nachos as tostadas

My mom worked full time in addition to raising my brother and me, and what was so comforting to me about those few instances that my dad cooked was not just the meal that he made — an easy layered nacho recipe that can also be turned into a great burrito filling and be adapted for vegetarians (just leave out the meat) — but knowing that she was going to be able to relax a little when she got home. My parents worked extremely hard to provide a good life for us, and eating fresh healthy good food was always part of that. I always felt guilty that my mom had to cook a meal after working a full day at her demanding retail job.

This is not a healthful recipe, but it is easy, quick, and a crowd-pleaser. I’ve made it for many friends over the years who have raved about it. I always think of my dad when I do.

sauteed pecans and onions

In the photos, you can see this version I made with spinach and pecans cooked with onions and green chiles. I am a vegetarian now, so I try to find creative ways to recreate the recipes I used to like with meat!
layering beans with veggies and cheese

Easy Layered Nachos (or baked burritos)
Recipe type: Main dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • ½ pound ground turkey or ground beef
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 small can diced green chiles
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, cheddar, pepper Jack, or Mexican blend, or any combination totaling 1 cup)
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole, optional
  • Tortilla chips, taco shells, or flour tortillas
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Sauté meat and onion with salt and pepper until the meat is completely cooked.
  3. In an 8"-by-8" square baking dish, layer the beans, meat, chiles, and cheese.
  4. Bake 25 minutes.
  5. Serve with tortillas for dipping, or use taco shells or flour tortillas to create warm tacos or burritos. Serve with salsa and sour cream. Add guacamole if you have fresh avocados.
  6. Side dishes: Rice or salad.

layered casserole after baking

Kombucha is a contributing writer for RENTCafe,  where she writes about home design, entertaining, and other lifestyle topics on the RENTCafe blog.

Korean-style braised beef

Korean braised beef stew. So good!

The starting point was Maangchi‘s recipe for Doejibulgogi, or spicy stir-fried pork.

I used a pound of chuck, and since chuck prefers a slow braise, I put the ingredients (minus the green peppers, which I didn’t have handy) into a cast-iron Dutch oven instead. I browned the beef first, then added the remaining ingredients and about a half cup of water, then cooked on low heat for about an hour and a half.

It’s not too spicy, but it’s got a little zing to it. It’s very very rich and delicious.

Korean beef braise

Two bad photos equal a good one, right? This stuff was far more tasty than it looks here.

Korean braised beef stew