Category Archives: Parenting

Our Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving! Thank you for taking the time to read our posts and click through to see our pictures.

thanksgiving-3

Papa Bird and I were feeling a little unenthusiastic about Thanksgiving this year. Neither of us have family in town, and the traditional “story” about Native Americans welcoming the English immigrants to the first Thanksgiving felt at odds with the current state of our country. But we talked about making new traditions and celebrating what we do value.

rotisserie turkey

We invited our sweet friends with a newborn over for a traditional meal at our house. At twelve pounds, the turkey was small enough to (just barely) fit on the rotisserie attachment of the grill. Thank goodness! However do you cook all the sides if there is a bird in the oven? Our friends made oven-roasted veggies and mashed potatoes with homemade creme fraiche, and even so, our oven was in full use throughout the morning and early afternoon.

thanksgiving-4

Many thanks to Sarah and the girls’ “Tio Lou” for coming over, cooking, and sending us the pictures of us at the table. Papa Bird and I had seen their newbie at the hospital, but the Little Birds were thrilled to meet baby Mateo for the first time.

Sarah and Mateo

And there was pie. And pie crust cookies made by the girls. (Not pictured: chocolate mousse made by the girls, too.) I used my all-butter crust recipe and the “Real Pumpkin Pie” recipe from a few years ago with the following improvements: I used maple syrup instead of honey as the sweetener, which mixes easily without having to be warmed up. I also ended up using mostly cream and only a splash of milk, just because we had more cream than milk on hand.

real pumpkin pie

And the day after Thanksgiving we put up our tree. Christmas and Hannukah, here we come! (Another photo courtesy the Moras, as I was covering a shift at the hospital Friday.)

picking the perfect tree

Our Backyard Party with Apple & Hickory Catering

Our Little Birds are getting so big! They just turned five and three. We recently threw a joint birthday party in our backyard. Since I don’t get to throw many parties these days, I made sure it was a party an adult would want to attend, too. We worked with our friends with a new catering company, Apple & Hickory, and the food was just beautiful.

A fall salad with persimmons, pistachios and pomegranates

Apple & Hickory Catering - Persimmon Pistachio Salad

Our Littlest Bird is enamored of Chef Ryan’s macaroni and cheese. We reached out to him just to see if he would be willing to make a tray of it for us for the girls’ birthday party. He ended up offering to cater the whole party at cost in exchange for photos for their new website.

Mmmmm, cheese…..

Cheese plate by Baby Birds Farm

Even if it was a kids party in theory, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pull out some cheese and wine. This cheese plate included Humbolt Fog, Truffle Tremor, a mild Spanish cheese, an aged gouda, honeycomb, pistachios, grapes and Marcona almonds.

apple-n-hickory-corn

Both Chef Ryan and Chef Leland have been in the catering and restaurant business for years. Both recently left positions as number two in charge of restaurants. We are happy to see them branch out on their own independently.

Chef Ryan was very easy to work with. We told him our theme, “fairies” and party size and he put together a whole menu proposal as a starting point. In addition to mac n’ cheese, we feasted on crispy pork belly, green beans with apples and almonds, aguachile, chips and salsa, corn, fresh fruit, and the beautiful fall salad above.

Fresh Baja Shrimp Aguachile

Fresh Baja Shrimp Aguachile from Apple & Hickory Catering in San Diego

I had fun shopping the day before for ingredients with Chef Ryan. We hit up Catalina Offshore for the fresh Baja shrimp, Restaurant Depot for the meat, cake supplies from Do It With Icing, and Specialty Produce for the rest.

Do you still call it a smash cake when they are 5 and 3?

Edible Flower Decorated Smash Cakes

The two little smash cakes were a total collaboration. I baked the cake layers from an old Southern recipe for Hummingbird Cake. Chef Ryan made extra cream cheese frosting – the same frosting he used as the fillings in his funfetti “cakies.” Since the girls (ok, and me, too) wanted a fairy theme for their party, we decorated the cakes with lots of edible flowers.

"Cakies" - funfetti cookie cakes filled with cream cheese frosting

Similarly, the photos were a group effort. One of Papa Bird’s photographer friends shot most of the images on our camera, though I took a few. We rented a nicer lens for the day. And Papa Bird processed the images. He also ended up starting a website for Apple & Hickory Catering – something he has been doing a lot of lately! As a part of his Burd’s Nerds IT support business, he recently redid my psychotherapy website, too.

Great success

As you can see from the girls’ faces, they were pretty happy fairies!

Baby Birds Farm

Give the guys a call if you are planning an event or just want someone to cook dinner for you at home. Check out their website at applenhickory.com – a few of the pictures might look familiar!

Sustainability Highlighted at the Farm to Bay Event

The Living Coast Discovery Center overlooks San Diego Bay and sits on the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. The zoo/aquarium cares for birds, animals and marine life that would not otherwise survive in the wild.

Living Coast Discovery Center

The 2016 Farm to Bay

Once a year San Diego restaurants, breweries, caterers and vineyards come together to support the non-profit Living Coast Discovery Center and highlight sustainability and coastal wildlife. Event goers are treated to samples from over 40 food and beverage venders, including Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub, Urge American Gastropub, True Food Kitchen, Panama 66, Suzie’s Farm, Viva Pops, Big Front Door, Juice Wave, and Duck Foot Brewing Company.

Farm to Bay - Living Coast Discovery Center - Chula Vista Olympic Training Center's Scallop Ceviche

What the US Olympic athletes eat: sustainable scallop ceviche.

One surprising food partner was not a restaurant or a caterer, yet makes 1,000 meals a day. The Chula Vista Olympic Training Center feeds our hungry athletes during training. They offered us samples of a scallop ceviche (above) and a macadamia poke, made with line-caught yellow tail. Dang Brother Pizza (below) cooks Neapolitan-style thin crust pizza in a wood-burning Italian pizza oven built into a vintage fire truck. The pizza is delicious, and with taps built into the side of the truck, they are ready to pull up to your party.

Dang Brother Pizza Fire Truck Pizza Oven at the Farm to Bay - Living Coast Discovery Center

How would you like a fire truck to pull up to your house party and serve pizza?

One of the event’s sponsors, Home Advisor, did not have anyone local to use their tickets. So a “matchmaker” named Candice from ZipSprout found me through the @BabyBirdsFarm Instagram and thought it would be up my alley. Gourmet, sustainable, farm-to-table food and drinks? Helping spread the word for a great non-profit? Spending a gorgeous summer evening on a wildlife refuge with my husband? Yes, please.

Wrangling Top San Diego Farm-to-Table Restaurants

Will Gustwiller of Eclipse Chocolate at the 2016 Farm to Bay - Living Coast Discovery Center

Willy Wonka wrangled!?

Chef Will Gustwiller of Eclipse Chocolate Bar and Bistro was this year’s Culinary Chair, or as he calls it “Chef Wrangler.” He helped curate the partners and coordinate their offerings. (He told us last year half of the restaurants served ceviche — oops.) We chatted a bit about how they were all sourcing sustainable ingredients and the goal of being a zero waste event. In a large brown top hat, it was hard not to draw a connection between the chocolatier and Willy Wonka. Will shared how he hated being called “Willy Wonka” as a kid, but has since learned to embrace it as the best of marketing. We enjoy both brunch and dinner at Eclipse, and picked up 2-for-1 coupons for our next visit.

Finding Dory, Sharks and Sea Turtles

Farm to Bay at the Living Coast Discovery Center

Saving marine and coastal wildlife.

Sapphire, the loggerhead sea turtle, was injured by a boat. Despite rehabilitation her sense of direction is off and she often winds up with her head in the sand. Yes, like the poor Beluga in the fictional Marine Life Institute in “Finding Dory”! She shares a tank with the leopard sharks swimming behind me in the above picture.

Rescued and rehabilitated barn owl - Living Coast Discovery Center

A pretty barn owl socialized at the Farm to Bay – they also visit schools.

Years ago, a coworker of mine was a tour guide at the then named “Chula Vista Nature Center.” I remember discovering and loving the scent of the Cleveland Sage there, and now have it planted throughout our yard. We became reacquainted with the Living Coast Discovery Center after their animal ambassadors visited the Little Birds’ preschool and my husband drove them down to explore.

Sustainable Seafood

Catalina Offshore Products at the 2016 Farm to Bay at the Living Coast Discovery CenterI got to chat with Tommy, the Fishmonger at Catalina Offshore Products. Catalina is truly at the forefront of sustainable seafood in San Diego. Tommy shared a Portuguese Tuna Salad that the fishermen used to bring with them on the boat. I love any tuna salad that is made without mayonnaise, and this one was great. Fresh yellowtail, steamed, and tossed with a red vinegar dressing; Farm to Bay patrons had a lightened up version in endive. I’m guessing the fishermen did not.

Tip: If you want any easy way to improve your cooking, shop where the chefs get their ingredients.

Sushi on a Roll at the 2016 Farm to Bay at the Living Coast Discovery CenterMy Little Birds love going down to Catalina Offshore to shop for seafood. Parallel in concept to Specialty Produce, Catalina supplies local, fresh and sustainable seafood to San Diego’s top restaurants yet allows regular retail customers to shop too.

Another San Diego favorite, caterers Sushi on a Roll, served up line caught blue fin as sashimi and in a cut roll with seaweed salad.

Sushi on a Roll at the 2016 Farm to Bay at the Living Coast Discovery Center

Guilt-free toro?

I had thought blue fin was solidly on the “avoid” list due to over-fishing. But chef Jeff started telling me about some of the efforts to develop sustainable and environmentally friendly farms.

Sweet Treats

Don’t hate me San Diegans, but I don’t really drink beer… So I really can’t write much other than that there were a TON of local craft beer samples at the Farm to Bay. Papa Bird was happy drinking old favorites including Grapefruit Sculpin and finding new up and coming beers like Duckfoot. Blue Chair Bay Rum - Island GirlI, on the other hand, was very happy tasting the “Island Girl” cocktail from Blue Chair Bay Rum. They also provided the recipe, which is at the end of the post. Perfect for a summer evening, it highlights their coconut rum (which is also delicious served chilled on its own), and is not too sweet.

Shocker: My favorite dish was dessert.

Finally, Corn Sorbet and Tres Leches from Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort completed a three-course corn-centric tasting menu. Following brown-butter-bacon popcorn and a pork belly with corn salsa, the pastry chef turned the vegetable into a surprisingly successful sorbet. The sorbet accompanied a personal-size tres leches and mint-jalapeno syrup. I made my husband go back to get his own. Luckily, Cool Down Coffee was at the next table, where I picked up a caramel cold brew.

Corn Sorbet and Tres Leches from Loews Coronado

Are you hungry yet?

I hope so! It’s not too soon to plan to attend the 2017 Farm to Bay. In the meantime, check out one of the San Diego farm-2-table partners. Or if you want to sip a bit of summer just a while longer, try out Blue Chair Bay’s recipe for the Island Girl.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Island Girl
 
Author:
Recipe type: Easy Cocktail
Serves: 1 drink
Prep time:
Total time:
 
If you like the idea of pina coladas but find them too sweet, this pour and drink cocktail is for you.
Ingredients
  • 1.5 oz. Blue Chair Bay® Coconut Rum
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • 1 oz. pineapple juice
  • 2 oz. lemon-lime soda
Instructions
  1. Pour all of the ingredients into a tall glass, over ice.
  2. "Stir and flirt."
  3. Watch the sunset and chiiiiill.
Notes
Recipe courtesy of Blue Chair Bay Rum.

A Fun Day of Food and Family

Sorry I haven’t written much in a while. Life gets busy! Lately I have been sharing quick Instagram posts. It takes a fraction of time to post a quick picture there, and can be done “in the moment.” Yet instant is fleeting and soon forgotten. And days like this last Sunday are meant to be savored and remembered.

San Diego Food - 1

Ever since Papa Bird and I flew the coop to celebrate the first anniversary of the fun restaurant/night spot Kettner Exchange, we have had a gift card to their side business, Devil’s Dozen Donuts. The donut shop shutters up once they sell out and every time I’ve been by we were too late to get any. I try to feed the kids a balanced breakfast, aka not pure, refined sugar. But I got the tip that on the weekend they make a secret menu item: a breakfast sandwich with eggs and bacon on an unglazed donut. It sounded healthier, right?

Devil's Dozen Donuts

We also selected a salted caramel and a Nutella hazelnut “sweet treat.” My plan was for us all to share everything. But Littlest Bird (age 2.5) said, “No, I don’t want to share! I want the whole thing!” Little Bird (age 4.5) said, “It’s too pretty to eat.”

Devil's Dozen Donuts

If you go, you can park for free in the Kettner Exchange valet spots. Don’t miss the view from the second story balcony. (I guess I didn’t take a picture, but we enjoyed the Jacarandas, planes, and boats.)

Next the girls and I rolled over to our favorite place to shop, Specialty Produce. The last time we were there, Littlest Bird thought it was hilarious to run away from me. Keeping kids close is a big rule there as it is a busy industrial warehouse, with forklifts, carts, and lots of people. She even ran past an “employee only” sign into the truck loading area. So this time I asked her if she would like to “go uppies.” We haven’t worn Miss Independent in any wraps or the Ergo in ages, but she thought it was a blast to go for a ride. Problem solved!

Specialty Produce - San Diego

Along with groceries for the week, we picked up a baker’s dozen of local corn from the Farmers’ Market cooler. We were headed to a potluck that night. Alright, I didn’t think I’d be sharing a recipe today, but here is one:

  • Soak corn in the husk in water for 10-30 minutes.
  • Grill for 20 minutes or so at 375*-400*.

Simple food, peak of season… the best way to eat.

soaking fresh corn for the grill

We also brought summer berries and stone fruit (all from local farms and found in the Farmers’ Market cooler) to share with our friends. Clockwise from the top in the picture below, Carmen Miranda nectarines, blackberries, Saturn peaches, Persian mulberries, and elderberries. The elderberries were quite tart. I later looked them up in the Specialty Produce App and learned elderberries are meant to be cooked. Technically they are considered poisonous raw (oops) but the toxicity level is pretty low.

summer berries and stone fruit from Specialty Produce

All of the pictures in this post were taken with an iPhone, with the exception of the following. I received a new camera for my birthday and have been trying it out. This is a preview for an upcoming post for a nectarine pie. Please hold me to it so I finish the new recipe before summer is over!

Carmen Miranda nectarines

And if that weren’t enough yumminess for one day, we sampled nearly half the menu at the soft opening of a new restaurant. Urban Plates is a smallish chain with nine locations throughout California. They focus on “from scratch” salads, braises, pastries and more, and highlight quality organic and natural ingredients. If you have been reading my posts, you know that’s how we like to cook and eat! See the current menu here.

Urban Plates La Jolla

From left to right: the urban kid plate with grilled free range chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts with turkey bacon, and chargrilled focaccia, served with organic apple juice. Seasonal replenisher (a watermelon and mint agua fresca.) The grilled steak salad with pineapple-mango salsa, jicama, mint, coconut roasted cashews, and a mild jalapeno lime dressing. Corn and poblano soup. Moroccan chicken braise (free range chicken slow cooked with squash, onions, preserved lemon, olives, turmeric, paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, parsley, cilantro) with brown rice. Seasonal green drink. And finished with a chocolate dipped macaroon and a slice of famous mango tart. It was all delicious!

Urban Plates Mango Tart

Ah the famous mango tart! This dessert is what started it all… My co-worker was raving about the tart one night and then brought one in for us to share. The fresh mango is perfectly ripe and painstakingly shaped into flower petals. The cookie crust is crisp and not too sweet and the rum cream filling subtle. Perfection! My dad would’ve loved this dessert. I snapped the above pic and posted it on Instagram. I then started following @urbanplates and learned they are in the process of opening a new restaurant location in San Diego. Their community manager invited us to the soft opening. That’s the best of social media, right there! I almost forgot to add, all of the money collected at the opening went to St. Vincent de Paul’s. I used to work at the shelter for four years and was happy to have our money go towards the homeless and hungry after such feasting.

Melissa D'Arabian at Urban Plates La Jolla

As we enjoyed our lunch, I noticed that the woman next to us, eating with her daughters, looked awfully familiar. Turns out it was cooking show host Melissa D’Arabian. She comes across on TV as genuine and friendly, and she is even nicer in person. We met three of her four daughters, and learned her daughter Charlotte loves cooking with her. Little Bird, who has been cooking since before she could walk. See this post of her first recipe here. For more cuteness, see this short video of Little Bird at age 3. She also LOVES watching other kids cooking. We have already seen some of Charlotte’s videos, like this one.

Urban Plates La Jolla

We will be back to Urban Plates, and I will order the refreshing steak salad again. As for last Sunday, our feasting did not stop there. We ate very well at our potluck with good friends. I left my phone/camera in the backpack and enjoyed the company. You’ll have to take my word that the food was all delicious, homemade with love and authentic. Arroz con pollo from a Cuban, homemade tabouli, Caprese, Asian grilled drumsticks, cornbread and potato salad, various tequilas, wine, cheese, cake….  Never stop, my friends! Keep eating and enjoying life.

Please enjoy, too!

Devil’s Dozen Donut Shop

2001 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
619-780-0914
www.devils-dozen.com

Urban Plates La Jolla

(Opened yesterday)

8707 Villa La Jolla Dr
San Diego, CA 92037
858-263-0818
urbanplates.com/la-jolla/

Specialty Produce

1929 Hancock St., Suite 150
San Diego, CA 92110
800-221-9730
www.specialtyproduce.com

Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana’s Passover Cake)

This chocolate, apple and walnut torte is the Passover cake my mother and grandmother have made for decades. I have been asked to share the recipe several times — and here it is! Like my great-grandmother’s recipe for Matzo Ball Soup, it is published in an old synagogue cookbook that I still use for traditional Jewish recipes, including many from my family. (By the way, Mower’s matzo ball soup is still surprisingly popular on Pinterest.)

chocolate, apple, walnut passover torte

My grandmother “Nana” had a serious stroke 12 years ago. She doesn’t remember much that has happened since her childhood, and pretty much thinks of herself as a girl. She doesn’t remember me when I visit her memory-focused assisted living, but gets that I am there for her and is as sweet and as pleasant as ever. She even forgets what she said a minute before, and when she finds a good joke, she repeats it. We were only recently a family of four on our last visit to New York and she kept asking how many kids we planned. She would then advise, “Two or three is okay, but more than four is too many.” So of course my husband would tell her we wanted fourteen and she would crack up. This happened about twenty times in the space of an hour.

But memory is a funny thing. She can identify the names of every single plant on the grounds. And she remembers recipes! On my last trip, my uncle gave me her recipe box to bring to the visit. Nana remembered them all and shared stories. I recognized the Passover cake recipe as identical to the one I had made a month before (and every Passover before it since I was a teenager.) I am calling it “Nana’s Passover Cake” but as she reminded me, it was originally the recipe of her friend Bea Glück. “Well, since it was Bea’s recipe, naturally it’s a winner. Natch!”

Nana's Passover Cake

As you may see in the index card, there isn’t a ton of detail to the technique, nor in the version my mom wrote for the cookbook. But I’ve added some tips and my own system for sailing through the prep. You could make it all by hand, but a food processor and mixer will help. Tip: no need to wash the processor between ingredients. I even go ahead and make charoset right afterwards.

A friend in the midst of a Whole 30 challenge, gave me a Paleo-friendly apple and nut muffin that had such a similar taste and texture. Although this a “torte” in the sense that it uses no flour, rather ground nuts and a handful of matzo meal (similar in baking to breadcrumbs), I bet it could be adapted to gluten-free pretty easily. Try using almond meal in place of the matzo and/or more apple. There is no added fat, other than the eggs and nuts, and this Passover torte is not too sweet. My grandmother noted “Red Delicious” apples, but I have often used Fujis with good results.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana's Passover Cake)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish (Passover)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Passed down from my grandmother, this traditional passover cake could easily be confused with a contemporary paleo-ish torte, featuring chocolate, chopped walnuts and apple in a light sponge. It's not too sweet, and everyone loves it!
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
  • 2 apples, cored and grated
  • 1 cup of walnuts, chopped
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ½ cup matzo meal
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 350*F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
  2. Using a grater, or grating attachment on a food processor, grate the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a medium sized mixing bowl. Without washing or rinsing the food processor, grate the apples. (The apples should be cored but don't peel them.) Add to the mixing bowl. Without washing, take out the grating plate and put the chopping blade into the food processor. Chop the walnuts and then add to the mixing bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick (at least 2 minutes on high/fast.) Gently stir into the chocolate, apples, and walnuts and add the matzo meal. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the batter.
  4. Bake in the greased springform pan for 1 hour. Cool in pan.
Notes
The instructions include equipment (such as a food processor and stand mixer or hand mixer) that make the cake a snap. But the cake can also be made by grating, chopping, and beating by hand.

Serving options: I like the cake with whipped cream (or non-dairy whip for Kosher friends) and strawberries. (Strawberries are usually in season for Passover/Spring Equinox/Easter.) My mom's transcription from the 80's suggests sprinkling with powdered sugar just before serving.

The cake is best the first day, but can be baked the morning of a big dinner.

If you like this recipe, please like the Baby Birds Farm page on Facebook, or follow my Jewish Recipes board on Pinterest.