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.

Ah, bliss. (Pantry Cooking Project, Day 5)

First weekend post-graduation. So nice to just putter around my house and relax!

It’s my first weekend as a college graduate, and it’s off to a wonderful start. Slept in a little bit (until 8am! yay!) and then delighted in a gorgeous breakfast James made us: morel omelettes, potatoes, V-8, and tea. Later, scarfed an entire pint of raspberries all by myself. Life is good.

Today’s food:

The aforementioned breakfast.


Lunch was veggie burgers with homemade mayo (you may recall we ran out of store-bought pretty early) and oven fries. James made lunch, as well. He’s a really useful guy to have around.


(I made the mayo from this recipe from the Frugal Farm Wife, Elise New.)


For dinner, I thought I’d try my hand at making flour tortillas using my friend Koko’s instructions, but I ended up feeling less ambitious than that, so I just made “Spanish rice” instead, and served it with refried beans and a tomato-and-avocado salad.


(I haven’t been mentioning snacks. Today’s snacks were the aforementioned raspberries, some milk and cookies, and a couple of white peaches. Ah, summer!)

Money spent on groceries today: $0 (project total $39.61)
Money spent in restaurants today: $0 (project total $37.76)
Food gifts received today: $0 (project total $17)
Things we’ve run out of: Mayonnaise, ice cream, hamburger patties, pork chops

Easy Spanish rice
Recipe type: Side dish
Cuisine: Pseudo-Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 small bell pepper (any color), finely diced
  • 1½ cups medium- or long-grained white rice
  • 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 2½ cups stock or water (I used a knorr beef tub in hot water)
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce, or diced tomatoes with the liquid)
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for a couple of minutes, until softened. Add pepper and rice and cook and stir 5-8 minutes, until rice starts to turn light brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  2. Add in broth and tomatoes. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Let simmer 20 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and serve.


Mom’s Macaroni & Potato Salads

[Note from Serene: In this guest post, Carin shares some of her Mom Foods with us. I hope you’ll be inspired to do the same. To find out more about contributing to the Mom Food Project, see the Contribute page.  It was really fun to share the cooking and reminiscing with her.  Especially fun was comparing our mothers’ canonical summer salads, which were completely different from each other, but evoked many of the same emotions. Carin’s mom was well-loved by us all, and I wish she were still here to see how much joy this simple dish has brought her family, even now.  Rest in Peace, Trish.]

both salads

When I was growing up, summer meant Mom’s macaroni and potato salads.  One or the other (and sometimes both!) made an appearance at every barbecue, picnic, and potluck.  I am forever spoiled for 90% of store-bought versions, because they all taste of vinegar, which, to my mind, has no place in a proper mac or potato salad.

I mention them together here because they are virtually identical save for the obvious main ingredients:

1 lb. salad or elbow macaroni


2 lbs. russet potatoes

For macaroni salad, cook the macaroni according to package directions, then drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside. For potato salad, boil the potatoes whole in their jackets until soft (a knife should pierce all the way through fairly easily; 20-30 minutes), then drain them and set them aside until they’re cool enough to handle, but not cold.

There’s a trick to peeling cooked potatoes.  With the potato in your off hand, hold a paring knife as if you were going to slice into the potato, but, instead, scrape toward you against the skin until you scrape up a tab of skin.  Carefully use your thumb to hold the tab against the knife blade and pull a strip of skin off.  Repeat until the potato is naked. Cut the potatoes into roughly one-inch cubes.


Toss the macaroni or potatoes with the following, all chopped to about 1/2 inch or so:

5 or 6 hard-boiled eggs
1 bunch green onions (scallions), around 6 individual onions
3 ribs celery
2 medium carrots
3 dill pickle spears
5 or 6 radishes

If memory serves me correctly, Mom’s macaroni salad also had:

1 small can (4 ounces) sliced black olives, drained

but I don’t think they went into her potato salad.


Finally, dress the salad with:

1 1/4 cups mayo
5 teaspoons prepared (yellow) mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together well, so that all the bits are coated with the dressing, which gets a very pale yellow hue from the mustard and egg yolks.

bowl of macaroni salad

The first small dish of salad, yet unchilled, right from the mixing bowl, was always a special treat.  Each bite brought a different flavor; the sweet crunch of carrot, the tang of pickle, the spicy bite of radish.  By the time the salad was served up with the burgers and corn on the cob, the flavors had melded into a cool/sweet/rich/savoriness to which the grocery store delis have never even come close.

Mmmmm, macaroni salad and potato salad.  It must be summer!

the salads

About the guest blogger: Carin is the Mad Craftwoman, the craftiest person I know, and a member of my family.  She is always an enthusiastic contributor to my projects, and I’m grateful for that.

Follow Friday: Bayless enchiladas & tomato-peach salad

The kid is a persuasive human being. She knows how to make me do things.


“Aunt San?” she says. (That’s what she calls me.) “Can we have that awesome chicken like the other night?”

How do you say no to that?  And then James was kind of hoping for enchiladas, so the awesome chicken morphs into an enchilada filling, and everyone’s happy. Never mind that making enchiladas involves standing over a hot stove and frying tortillas, and heating up the house by using the oven. Never mind all that.  My kid wants yummy chicken enchiladas, so that’s what she’ll get.  And Rick Bayless will get an enthusiastic Follow Friday mention from me, because he’s been sort of omnipresent on our menus lately. The man can write a really tasty recipe, I’ll tell you that.  Go check out his blog or his Twitter feed (@Rick_Bayless); if you like Mexican food at all, you’ll thank me.


As I’ve often said, when people don’t like the food I make, I don’t mind at all. I have managed to break myself of the old messages that rejecting food is equivalent to rejecting the cook.  Still, when someone does like the food I make, it makes me happy.  So I make it again.

pan of enchiladas

That’s one crafty kid.


“Bayless” Enchiladas

We call these the “Bayless” enchiladas because the filling is based on Rick Bayless‘s recipe for Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion. That chicken’s the kid’s current favorite thing to eat.

2 poblano chiles
1 tbsp. olive oil
1.5 lbs. boneless chicken leg meat (or about 3 boneless breasts)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 ounces fresh spinach (I use pre-washed baby spinach; otherwise, clean and chop)
1 cup whipping cream (or Mexican crema or crème fraiche)
10-12 corn tortillas
oil for frying
1/2 lb. cheese (Mexican queso or Monterey Jack, or whatever you prefer), crumbled or grated

Roast chiles under broiler or over open flame until blackened fully, turning as necessary. Put chiles into a small paper bag and set aside until cool enough to handle and turn the oven down to 350F.  Meanwhile, salt the chicken meat.  Heat the skillet on medium-high, then add olive oil and sear meat for a few minutes on each side.

When chicken is seared but not cooked through, remove to a plate to cool, then add the onions to the same pan and lower the heat to medium.  Cook the onions until browned but not burnt, about 8 minutes.  Then add the garlic and cook a minute or two more.

Add the spinach to the onions and garlic and continue cooking on medium, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is gone.

While the spinach is cooking down, chop the chicken into cubes, around 1 inch or so.  Also, peel the blackened skin off the poblanos, remove the stem and seeds (rinsing if necessary), and chop the peppers.  Add them to the vegetable mixture along with 1 cup of whipping cream. Stir and let cook another 10 minutes or so, until thickened.  Add the chicken and cook another couple of minutes, until everything is heated through. Set chicken mixture aside. If you want to use the same pan to fry the tortillas in, remove the mixture and give the pan a quick wash and dry.

One at a time, fry the tortillas lightly in a little oil (maybe 1/4 inch), just to soften them.  Fill each tortilla with a generous scoop of filling and place, seam side down, into a 13″ by 9″ baking dish.  When all the enchiladas are in the pan (there’s enough filling for 10 or 12 of them), sprinkle all the cheese on top and bake for 30 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbly.

Tomato-peach Salad

6 large roma tomatoes, sliced
1 large firm-ripe peach, chopped
3 scallions, sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all in a bowl and serve at room temperature or chilled.