One of the highlights of visiting my kids in Berkeley is pizza at The Cheese Board Collective. This place opened in the Gourmet Ghetto more than 50 years ago and has a line every single day it’s open. It’s incredible. They make one type of pizza per day. Period. You can order one full pie or half a pie. If you want to order ahead — the minimum is eight pies. The staff is cooking as fast as humanly possible, pizza coming in and out of the oven into boxes and out the door. They’re only open for hot-out-of-the-oven pizza from 5 to 8 p.m. Often, they close sooner than 8 p.m. when they run out.
The only issue we had with the visit to Cheese Board this past weekend was my husband. He’s not a stand in line and wait kind of guy. Usually one of my kids will do that and bring the pizza to their apartment, where we’ll devour it. My son’s girlfriend was working, my daughter was also working, so my son suggested we go to the restaurant and eat.
My son called and said, “Dad’s going to freak. Don’t rush over here.” Cheese Board was located between our airbnb and our son’s apartment, an easy half mile walk for us.
When we arrived, our son was halfway through the three- or four-block line, 25 minutes in. My husband said, “Let’s go somewhere else.”
“Don’t you want to stand and talk to your son?” Our son countered.
So we stood, talked and people watched. It’s quite an experience and the end result is sheer deliciousness.
I got a call from my daughter on her way home from work. “There’s no pizza left, right?”
How long would you wait in line at a restaurant? How long would you wait for a slice of pizza? Do you have restaurants in your area that have a following like this?
My mom’s recipe of oxtail soup. This is the batch I made for Christmas 2019.
With all the crazy stuff going on, I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster. We have a divided country and no matter what side you’re on, you’re probably feeling unsettled, angry and distraught.
Add that to months of being locked down due to a global pandemic, this has been a strange time indeed. Then this year we sold our home of 28 years and packed up and left within 30 days to a new state. So much upheaval in my life. So what makes me feel good? Reading beach novels by Elin Hilderbrand in the sunny backyard, watching quail, walking, hiking, having my cat jump into my lap, praying and yes — thinking about cooking comfort food.
Here are two of my all-time favorite comfort foods:
I used to make chicken and dumplings from the recipe on the Bisquick box. My mom cooked it when I was a child and I’m sure besides the warm broth, tender chicken and butter melting off the dumplings, that’s why it’s a favorite. I haven’t made it in years though because my kids got tired of it — and my husband thought the dumplings were gross. But, I think it might be time to give it a whirl.
Photo from the chicken and dumpling recipe at Stay at Home Chef
Click here for the Bisquick chicken and dumplings recipe brought to you by Betty Crocker. Here’s another great recipe for old fashioned chicken and dumplings from scratch with more detail by The Stay at Home Chef.
Another one of my favorite comfort foods is oxtail soup. That’s another thing my mom cooked when I was young. It took me years to not turn up my nose at oxtails. I couldn’t get my mind around them as a kid. My husband told his friends that he married me because of my oxtail soup. “If she can cook something so delicious out of that — I had to marry her.”
Browning the oxtails first is one of the keys. Also, letting the soup cool and removing the fat is essential.
My kids didn’t like oxtail soup when they were young, either. But now that they’re young adults they love it. It’s also become quite trendy in restaurants. Maybe that helped. Christmas 2019, I had to order a mass amount of oxtails at several grocery stores. We were hosting the kids and my son’s girlfriend’s family of seven siblings and mom — many of them are hungry athletes. I cooked several large pots of my oxtail soup so it would be ready when they arrived. It was all gone before the night was through.
My oxtail soup recipe is not written down and takes a feel based on experience. Here’s my attempt:
Season oxtails with salt and pepper. Brown the oxtails in oil and place them on a platter with paper towels to absorb fat. Place them in large pot with lots of garlic and broth. Simmer for several hours, adding water or broth to cover, and take off the heat before they are tender. Put in the fridge and leave overnight. The fat will rise to the top and harden, making it easy to remove with a spoon the next day.
Add vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, or whatever you like and simmer until the oxtails and vegetables are tender.
The feel part comes in to not overcook or undercook the oxtails so they are tender and start to fall off the bone.
Our Christmas crew from 2018 and 2019.
My daughter had a class in college where they were asked to share their comfort foods. I was surprised when she told me her comfort food was take-out machaca from Las Casuelas the Original! Not my home cooking!
What are your favorite comfort foods and do you cook them yourself or order from restaurants? Would you share recipes?
Back in the pool is my New Year’s Resolution. I’ve swam three days a week for two whole weeks and we’re not even into the second week of the year! I noticed, however, that I am not recovering. I feel tired afterwards and the next day, too. My daughter told me, “Make sure you drink some chocolate milk as soon as you get home!” Well, I forgot and after I showered and got dressed, I headed off to the grocery store, feeling weak and famished. “Shoot, I forgot the chocolate milk.” There was a Halloween-sized bag of M&Ms in the car, not quite chocolate milk, but I downed them thinking they’d be better than nothing.
That incident reminded me of a story I wrote about nutrition and recovery a couple years ago:
Nutella stuffed 1/2 cronuts. Food for thought?
I called one of my mentor swim moms, who has advised me all along the way from my son’s first swim meet in 2001 to navigating college recruiting years later. She worked as a dietitian years ago, and I wanted her input for a SwimSwam article about what kids should eat at meets. I asked a half dozen more moms what their kids ate at meets because we happened to be at UCLA and USC swim meets watching our Utah kids compete.
After I wrote that story, that you can read here, I thought, “Yikes! I do not practice what I preach!” I’m finding it harder to recover after a workout and perhaps if I looked at my own diet, I would feel stronger.
I’m swimming consistently three days a week, and after I swim I get so hungry. I have a tendency to believe that because I made it through a tiring swim practice, that I can eat whatever I want. Most often, I make terrible choices including a #1 meal at Taco Bell (taco and burrito supreme) or fried chicken! Seriously, what am I doing to myself?
At USC for a swim meet.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s okay to eat unhealthy now and then. But this has turned into a habit to reward myself after a healthy workout with fattening food that lacks much in nutritional value! It’s totally unproductive.
I discussed this with another mom via text. This mom is crazily fit and works out for hours every day. She had some great tips that I’m incorporating into my daily life that she promised would improve my muscle recovery.
AVOID SUGAR AND CARB LOADING
“I’ve actually been learning to fuel my body with fat. However, I’m not a swimmer so I would not begin to offer advice. But, after doing research I started limiting my carbs to less than 50g/day and saving them until dinner. During the day, I fuel my body with healthy fats. I’ve noticed a huge difference! Swimmers need a lot of energy but they won’t get any energy from sugar.”
“Have a plan. Know what you’re going to snack on after practice. Prepare eggs and a meat before you leave for practice so that it’s ready when you get home and you won’t eat the ‘worst stuff.’ Plus, the protein in the eggs will assist in muscle recovery. Or have peanut butter on a rice cake. But the important thing is to have it prepared so you can grab it right away.”
HOW ARE YOU FUELING YOUR BODY?
“Also, when eating your snacks, look at it and determine how you are fueling your body for recovery and the next day’s workout. That’s what keeps me honest with myself.”
At my first meet a year ago with my good friend and fellow swim mom, Linda.
Yesterday, after practice I had a half banana and a hard boiled egg when I walked through the kitchen door. I was able to make it through until dinner without fast or fried food and I feel less sluggish and tired today. I’m curious to see how this plan works for me and if I’ll feel stronger after a few days. After all, I have my own swim meet coming up this month!I’ll let you know how it goes.
Lincoln’s birthday was my daughter’s birthday and we flew up to Salt Lake City to celebrate her 20th with her, watch her swim, and enjoy Valentine’s Day together. I left perfect 80 degree weather to be in the snow–but loved the change in scenery and cold weather.
One of the more interesting conversations we had was about comfort food. In one of my daughter’s classes they talked about food from childhood, and how certain smells spark memories. I agree that sensory memory is powerful. It’s a valuable tool for a writer’s palette.
My daughter and friend diving in the 500 free.
She told her class that her comfort food was Mexican food. I felt sad that none of my dishes made her list. I consider myself a pretty good cook, and I made dinner and lunches for my family daily!
I remember when she was little she called all my dinners “chicken.” When I made pan-fried sole she proclaimed, “This is the best chicken ever! This is the chicken I like!”
Chips and Salsa at El Gallito.
I get it about Mexican food. When my husband and I were newlyweds, we frequented El Gallito in Cathedral Cityfor huevos rancheros every weekend. We’d sit together, without a care in the world, reading the Sunday Los Angeles Times from cover to cover. Bill’s former roommate saw us there and asked, “Is this what married life is like? You sit there reading the paper and don’t talk?”
We’re back to reading the paper without interruptions. It’s kind of nice not to be busy with daily chores of kids, as much as I miss them.
Inside our favorite Mexican restaurant.
El Gallito is closing soon after more than 40 years of being open. It’s a family owned business, and in my opinion, it’s the best Mexican restaurant in the Coachella Valley. The flavor of their salsa will be locked in my sensory memory forever. I wish someone would take it over and continue on with their recipes.
So sad that all things must come to an end–whether it’s our days of a houseful of kids or our favorite Mexican restaurant.
I was looking forward to Thanksgiving weekend so much! I couldn’t wait to have both my kids home, together. I cleaned their rooms, washed their sheets, polished their furniture.
I shopped for turkey, stuffing, potatoes and all the trimmings. I baked a pumpkin pie. I was so excited and the days dragged until the day before Thanksgiving finally arrived. First, my son came in at ten at night. He looked great! I fell asleep before the midnight flight that carried my daughter.
Thanksgiving day was a blast. I cooked a delicious dinner. We had grandpa over and after we ate, we laughed and talked as we walked around the neighborhood. My kids were in a great mood, and I loved being with them.
But, by Friday, I found myself constantly picking and cleaning up after them. I carried dishes and glasses from the kids’ bedrooms into the kitchen. The sink always had dishes stacked in it, no matter how often I loaded the dishwasher. My once lonely washing machine had a constant load.
I got tired. Wow! This taking care of family is a lot harder than I had remembered.
My kids were busy. Not with me. My son had tons of reading and a paper to write. My daughter had homework to do also, but she was off every minute to visit friends.
My husband and I sat together, alone in the house.
I kind of felt like the cat. Olive is my daughter’s kitty. Olive was so excited to have her person home, she went on a wild spree of hunting, bringing in birds to my daughter’s bedroom. She even left her a bird in her suitcase. When Olive wasn’t hunting she was glued to my daughter’s side — when my daughter was home.
The weekend ended, the kids left. I sighed. My first Thanksgiving after three months of an empty nest was not what I expected. I am thankful for my family. But, I learned that it’s also nice to not have the day-to-day responsibility of cleaning and caring for kids.
And once again, Olive is content to hang out with me.
I started a diet a few weeks ago and wrote about it here. I said I’d follow up to let you know how I’m doing.
I dropped about five pounds the first week. I marveled at the ease of sticking to a high-protein, low-carb diet. After all, how hard can a diet be if you can eat bacon?
The second week was harder. I was craving pasta. I had to force myself out of the drive-thru at Taco Bell. What I wouldn’t give for a Burrito Supreme.
I started to feel a little off kilter. I was dizzy, hungry, and going insane. I called my husband and demanded that he stop by In-N-Out on the way home.
“Make it protein style,” I said thinking that a single burger patty wrapped in lettuce would keep me on track, but add a little flavor and spice in my life.
Little did I know that he was going to bring home a Double Double protein style–and fries! I wolfed it down and it felt like a brick hit my stomach.
I weighed myself the next day. I had gained all the weight back. With one Double Double.
So much for dieting. I’m watching what I’m eating, following the guidelines of the diet, but not going overboard. It seems to be working for me. I was weighed at the doctor’s office today and I was five pounds lighter than my last exam.
Getting exercise seems to be key for me. I’m walking, stretching, doing sit-ups and weights.
What are you doing to stay fit and trim for middle-age?