Halloween and a toddler

Yeah, most kids love dressing up and enjoying the festivities of Halloween. But, our tot? Nope. She’s not into wearing costumes, won’t let us do anything to her hair or face, and doesn’t like hats or crowns or anything.

We thought she might be ready for it this year…

Between potty training and no more naps, our tot is a wreck.

We are too.

So instead of attempting to shove her into a costume she would just tear off, we got out the pumpkin, enjoyed scribbling, and then carved.

We also ate a ton of Halloween candy.

Happy trick-or-treating!

Yeah, I want to be on the Food Network

*scroll down for the actual video…

The other day I stumbled upon this contest and I couldn’t pass it up. I’m not usually big on participating in contests, but part of the winnings includes a visit to the Food Network and a chance for a walk on opportunity.

Sure, you also get a pair of free round trip tickets to New York and some cash. But, really, I just want the chance to stroll around the Food Network.

I love the Food Network.

It all started years ago when the Food Network was comprised of early Emeril Lagasse and translated Iron Chef episodes. It was campy and a bit silly, but I couldn’t turn away. I was hooked. I fell more in love with food and cooking while watching those chefs figure out what to do with octopus and listen to Emeril say “bam” one too many times.

So when I saw this contest I told the hubs to get out his camera and prepare for enduring several takes of me cooking in the kitchen.

Feel free to head over to the site and check out my video for Turkey Tortilla Sushi along with the other’s hoping for a chance to win. Hey, if you’re up to it, put together your own video to share and enter.

But, don’t make it too good. I really want to win.

Here ya go…

Turkey Tortilla Sushi

Jury duty – The Marin Center

So this week I had jury duty. Sure, loads of you cringe when you get that mailer, but my toes curl with excitement. Jury duty is all about potentially countless hours with a book spattered with momentary interruptions of people watching, small chit-chat, and announcements from the jury duty people. I’ve been called about three times since I’ve lived here and each time I spend about four hours in the holding room and then am released to go about my day.

With a tot at home and a full-time-working-hubs, serving on a jury is pretty much not going to happen. But I sure wasn’t a bit enticed with the idea of serving on a one-day trial just to experience the wonders of our judicial system.

I packed my bag with a book, the laptop, some notes for work stuff, and tried to suppress my excitement.

Not only was I heading off to jury duty but to the Marin Center – a building designed by one of my mostest-favoritest architects ever.

Frank Lloyd Wright.


That’s right.

The Marin Center as one of Wright’s last commissioned buildings and controversial from the start. The site was supposed to be a hospital, people weren’t excited about the space being used as a music venue/civic center, and Wright had some baggage – and was really at the end of his career. But, with all that said, this building is one of the biggest landmarks in Marin.

And it’s awesome.

During the hours I was planning on cozying up with a good book (in a filled room while sitting on a crap-tastic folding chair), as soon as the sun streamed through the morning fog, I was off with my camera.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011
© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Brainy foods for your kids

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Kids are not going to come running when you offer them a brown bag lunch filled with brain food. But parents can sneak brain-tastic treats into their kid’s lunch (without too big of a fuss from either parent or child), and aid in boosting a child’s brainpower and learning abilities.

Along with tasting good, food provides important energy for the body – which includes the brain. Filling lunches with brain healthy foods will give your child a jump-start on understanding those tricky math equations and remembering vocabulary words. Brain boosting foods work together to improve memory, encourage energy and brain function, along with keeping the body full of healthy nutrients essential for getting through the school day.

And brain-boosting goodies also do double duty by keeping the body healthy – especially during the cold and flu season.

You can’t beat that.

Get Your Child Involved

When your child helps pack her lunch, she learns about making smart food choices as well as basic cooking skills. It is also an opportunity to spend some quality time together. It’s the perfect chance to bask in some parent-child bonding. Spend a few moments chatting about how things are going in school, exciting activities taking place, and all the new friends being made.

While packing a brown-bag-brain-boosting lunch, explain to kids why certain foods are being included and for what reason. When your child is clued into why specific items are important, she can share her knowledge with others, potentially positively influencing friends to eat healthy, too.

Start Out Right

According to AskDrSears.com, breakfast is an important part of getting school aged children healthfully through the day. Offering scrambled eggs, whole-grain toast with peanut butter, or granola cereal with berries and yogurt will get things started right. But, following up with a healthy lunch is the best way to prevent that afternoon crash, alleviating potentially lowered attention span and general lethargy.

Sure, that might be due to an extra-lengthy movie on atoms or animals in the desert, but if your child’s had a nutritious lunch, she just might make it through without nodding off – and maybe glean some of that important information.

Stocking the pantry with healthy food items makes creating brain boosting lunches easy and sets a positive example for kids when selecting healthy snacks after school. Avoiding overly processed foods and opting for fresh items is a great start.

Healthy Lunch Options

Whole Grains

Boosting brainpower is as simple as switching over to whole grain bread or tortillas for making sandwiches or wraps. Using whole-grain pasta for lunch-box pasta salads also adds the extra nutrients needed for positive long-lasting energy. Whole grain food items are high in folate and other B vitamins that help improve memory function and are also full of fiber, keeping your child’s tummy full longer.

Create a healthy sandwich that offers a twist on the basic turkey and cheese by taking a whole-grain tortilla and spreading it with 1 tablespoon flavored cream cheese. Your child can help create her own flavored spread by adding 1 tablespoon of a flavoring of her choice such as some chopped chive, chopped dried cranberries, or even chopped black olives.

Next, place 3 or 4 slices of turkey breast on top of the cream cheese.

Now, your child can add other ingredients such as chopped lettuce, cucumber or tomato and then wrap.

Cut the turkey tortilla wrap into bite sized pieces and hold together with a tooth-pick, which keeps your child’s lunch box mess-free, and makes the bite-sized pieces fun to eat.

For an added brain boosting punch, sprinkle the cream cheese with 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds or slivered almonds. Nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, which encourage a happy brain.


Beans are high in just about everything that your child’s brain needs such as protein, thiamin for energy, vitamin B6 for normal brain function, and folate, which helps to create important red blood cells. Yes, most children are more familiar with the silly rhyme about beans than their health benefits, but packing beans in your child’s lunch can be just as fun.

Start by preheating the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Turn beans into a brain boosting mashed and crisp goodie by creating bean croquettes. Drain 1 15-ounce can of white beans and mix with 1 chopped garlic clove, ¼ teaspoon salt, and dash of pepper (and hot sauce if desired) in a medium bowl. Kids can help by using the measuring spoons and cups to properly measure and add ingredients and then mash the ingredients with a potato masher until chunky, but smooth.

Now, place 1 cup of whole-wheat breadcrumbs on a plate and scoop a large spoon full of the bean mixture (about the size of a golf ball) into the breadcrumbs, evenly coating the outside. Your child can help cover the outsides and then place the coated croquettes on a baking tray coated with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.

Continue rolling and placing the bean croquettes on the baking tray and then lightly press each ball so that it is slightly flattened, which will encourage even baking.

Place the bean croquettes in the oven and cook for 10 minutes on each side, or until evenly browned. Let cool and drain on paper towel before eating.

The bean croquettes can be sent in a bag lunch accompanied with a yogurt dill sauce for dipping by mixing ½ cup thick Greek style yogurt, with 1 tablespoon chopped cucumber, and 1 teaspoon fresh or dried dill. Yogurt is high in calcium, which also helps to build healthy brain cells.

Colorful Fruits and Veggies

Along with providing a high-protein main item for lunch, kids need colorful fruits and veggies to encourage brain development, stay full longer, and provide the body with healthy minerals and vitamins. The darker the color of fruit or vegetable the brain-healthier – making blueberries, red peppers, strawberries, or carrots ideal side items for a complete brown bag lunch.

Have your child help wash, slice, and pack dark-colored fruits and vegetables according to color, encouraging their color-recognition as well as fine motor skills. Pair the fruits and veggies with a tasty dipping sauce made with a favorite salad dressing, hummus, or flavored yogurt.

Pack a couple of toothpicks for your child to spear the fruits and veggies and then dip, which not only makes eating fun, but also boosts fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Get in the kitchen and turn brown-bag lunches into fun and tasty brain-boosting creations!

Pumpkin graham bon bons

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

This time of year is one of my favorites. The weather is starting to mellow out, the days are a touch shorter, and there’s just a bit of crispness in the air. Sure, I live in northern California, which means there’s not much change of the season, but fall brings just enough of a difference that is noticeable. Pumpkins start popping up on the front steps of houses, here and there holiday lights are shining…

And I can’t stop thinking about candy.

We don’t get many trick-or-treaters in our neck of the woods. But I always pick up a few bags of goodies to have on hand.

Just in case.

I also decided to try my hand at making handmade goodies to share with friends and family, with hopes of freezing half for future holiday celebrations. These pumpkin graham bon bons are really simple to make – and the kids can totally make them, too!


1 bag white chocolate chips

1/2 c pumpkin puree

1 t cinnamon

1/4 t ground ginger

1/4 t ground cloves

Dash of nutmeg

1 c ground graham crackers

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips


Warm the white chocolate chips, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg in a small sauce pan. Stir things gently until the mixture becomes smooth and melty.

Turn off the heat and pulverize the graham crackers either by inviting the kiddies to pound a few in a zip top back or by blending the graham crackers in the blender. About four to five crackers usually end up to be about 1 cup.

Now add the ground graham crackers to the white chocolate and pumpkin mixture and give a good stir. Pop the mixture into the fridge and let cool for a bit.

Line a sheet pan with tinfoil and scoop the pumpkin graham filling by small spoonful (about 1-inch in size) onto the pan. Place the small tasties in the freezer for about two hours.

Slowly melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips in a double boiler or the microwave. Get out a wooden or metal skewer, or even some toothpicks, along with the pumpkin graham balls from the freezer.

Carefully skewer one ball and then swirl in the melted chocolate, covering the entire thing in yummy goodness. Carefully slide the bon bon back onto the tinfoil lined sheet tray and continue skewering and coating until the bon bons are finished. If needed, re-heat the melted chocolate as needed.

Place the bon bons in the fridge to harden up and then enjoy!

My husband, who is not a big sweets person, said they tasted just like pumpkin pie coated in chocolate.

I couldn’t agree more.

(There weren’t any leftovers for saving, either)

Sunday spectacular: Oxbow Market, Napa

This week has been pretty crazy at our house. I had a couple of free days and decided to completely dedicate myself to the tot and potty training. It was time – but she needed me to put the darn computer down and pay attention.

So I did.

And we had a great time going to the potty every 20-minutes.


I also decided I wasn’t going to change our daily routine to work around the whole potty training thing. I just assumed my tot would go on the potty no matter where we were.

I had no idea that public restrooms are the total scariest things ever to a toddler. All those people, so much noise, and that whole being-confined-in-a-small-space thing.

Today the husband was going a bit bonkers hanging around the house and suggested a drive. I gave him a look, and he reminded me we made it out and about for a couple of hours the other day without any accidents…..

We loaded up and headed out to the Oxbow Market in Napa. It’s kind of a mini-mall for foodies. There’s a spice shop, specialty coffee, bakeries, a fish monger, oysters, cheese, ice cream, chocolates, and RESTAURANTS.

While strolling around and waiting for our tasty lunch, we headed to the bathroom – with no success.

I figured a little bribery was in order.

To the delight of any other’s ears in that public restroom I yelled out…

“If you want one of those super yummy cupcakes I better hear some potty right now!”

Let’s just say someone got that cupcake.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011



Crispy chocolate treats

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

We’ve been diligently working on potty training at our house, and some days are definitely better than others. So when we had a pretty good day yesterday I figured the tot and I could toss together a tasty treat as a reward for her hard work. I made some no-bake cookies not so long ago and thought I’d do a little experiment.

Crispy chocolate treats.

Instead of using oats, I wanted some snap-crackle-and pop. With a few simple ingredients and some adjustments on the original no-bake cookie recipe, we made something really yummy to reward us both.

This is a great recipe to make with your kids – it’s so simple!


1/2 c butter

1 c sugar

3/4 c cocoa

1/4 c milk

1 c peanut butter

1/2 t vanilla

3 1/2 c puffed rice cereal

1/2 c powdered sugar

How to make them

Place the butter, peanut butter, milk, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla in a sauce pan and begin melting the ingredients together. While things are warming up, measure the puffed rice cereal and powdered sugar into a big bowl. Give things a good toss ensuring all those itty-bitty cereals are coated with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Give the cocoa mixture a stir and continue to let things get happy over low heat. While you’re waiting for the butter to melt and come together with the rest of the stuff, cover two sheet pans with a couple of lengths of tinfoil for putting your scooped goodies.

Now add a bit of heat to the cocoa coating and stir until things come to a low boil. Let the mixture simmer for about a minute and then take off the heat.

Pour the hot cocoa goo over the puffed rice and stir until everything is coated. This part is best left to the adults because melted stuff is hot! Once things have cooled down for a minute or two, invite the kiddies to help scoop using a melon baller, spoon, or ice cream scoop onto the tin foil covered sheet pans. Keep scooping until there’s none left and then make some major room in the fridge for the treats to firm up.

After a few hours of chilling, pop half of those treats into a zip top plastic bag and keep happy in the freezer. The other half can stay in the fridge, also in a zip top plastic bag, in easy reach for treat time.

*Good luck eating only one.


Herb-tastic wreath

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

It’s that time of year. The holidays are right around the corner, and before you know it, you’ll be hustling about trying to figure out what to get, or make, for who-and-who. We have a ton of herbs that are going crazy in this early fall weather that won’t last much longer, so I headed out and harvested as much as I could. While trying to decide what to do with the mounds of amazing smelling stuff, I got a great idea.

Mini herb wreaths…

wrapped with a small section of cheese cloth…

perfect for tossing in your seasonal soups or stews! And perfect for gift giving this holiday season!

The spiffy name for this creation is a bouquet garni – a collection of herbs collected together and used to flavor anything from a savory sauce to a pot of mulled wine. You can use any types of herbs you like, but traditionally basil, oregano, rosemary, bay leaf, and thyme are included. And I had a big pile of them all.

To create your own mini herb-tastic wreaths, gather up your favorite herbs. If harvesting your own, try to cut as long of lengths as possible, which makes the bending and forming easier. If you purchase the herbs, select the longest twigs from the packages.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Start with a woody herb, such as rosemary, to create the base of the wreath. Gently bend together the rosemary and then secure with a length of cotton cooking twine. You’ll end up with a circle about three to four inches in diameter.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Now wrap and weave the rest of the herbs into the rosemary. Lengths of thyme can be secured into the twine and then wrapped around the rosemary. Basil and bay leaves can be tucked in, and oregano lengths threaded in with the mess, too.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Cut a section of cheesecloth (Don’t have cheesecloth? A piece of fresh, clean cotton, such as a man’s handkerchief, works wonderfully) that is big enough for the wreath to be placed in and secured with the length of twine. Fold it into a long section that can be used to tie at the top of the herby wreath.

For fun, a round of lemon or orange rind can be added as extra decoration.  As the wreath dries, it offers a lovely scent and something cute to admire. If giving as a gift, simply tie on a hand written name card or greeting and gently wrap in tissue paper.

And, when the time comes to use the herbs, simply untie the cheesecloth and the twine, pop in the wreath, wrap up in the cheesecloth, and re-tie the twine.

Toss in your bouquet garni and enjoy!

© Sarah Lipoff 2011



Sunday spectacular: The Pine Cone Diner

Last night we had an overnight guest and, after staying up a bit later than normal, decided going out for breakfast would be quite nice. We headed to one of our favorite restaurants in the area, The Pine Cone Diner, and enjoyed the drive there and back. The food is really good (just a bit pricey) and service comes with a bit of snark. The inside is warm and cozy with tons of fun stuff to check out while waiting for your food.

And they’ve got a couple of buckets of goodies to occupy the kids.


© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Homemade ricotta cheese

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The other day I didn’t really feel like leaving the house. The tot was sick and we needed something for lunch. I had a few lame-o things hanging out in the fridge – but I wanted to make something fun. My daughter is in love with making pizza and we had a few toppings but they were pretty boring, cheese, sauce, spinach…

Then remembered a recipe I had found for homemade ricotta.

I came across this recipe the other day from Smitten Kitchen and had fallen desperately in love. I just hadn’t found the perfect reason to make it – and this was it. Supposedly I could make the tasty stuff in 15 minutes, so I thought I’d put it to the test. I made a few adjustments to the original recipe with awesome results.

Super yum.


2 1/2 c whole milk

1/2 c cream

1/2 t salt

1 Tbsp plus 1 t white vinegar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

How to make it

Pour the milk and cream into a sauce pan along with the salt and bring to an almost simmer – around 180 F. If you don’t have any cream hanging around, you can use 3 c whole milk and it will still be good.

Turn off the heat and add the vinegar and lemon juice. Let the mixture hang for a minute or so.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth – but if you don’t have any (I didn’t) use a couple of sheets of heavy-duty paper towel. Place the strainer over a bowl and then gently pour the milk into the strainer.

Set the timer for 15 minutes and let your ricotta strain. Sure, it doesn’t look like much right now, but, patience pays off.

Now gently fold over your cheesecloth (or paper towels) and press on the ricotta, releasing a bit more liquid. Use a spoon to scoop the ricotta into a container or use right away.

I dolloped some on top of our pizza and the tot and I enjoyed our special lunch.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011