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A Long Train Ride—and Lazy Spanish Tortilla

A long time ago, several life times it feels, I spent a semester in Florence. In May, after classes ended, my friend Kate and I took the train to Spain. When we tried to get our tickets in Italy, they told us we couldn’t do it. What they meant, was we shouldn’t.

It was a long, long trip, and despite the Nutella we always traveled with, we were exhausted and starving and parched when we arrived. I set off with my Sesame Street Spanish to get us two waters, while Kate went to get us some sustenance. She came back with Spanish tortilla sandwiches—egg, potato, onion on crusty bread. Like I said, I was delirious and famished, so my judgment may have been clouded, but it was the perfect food.

Kate and I tried to make Spanish tortilla for 10 years before we got it right. This was pre-Internet age. There was no All Recipes or Food Network or Google. We relied on our memory and experimentation. We searched the the rare Spanish cookbook. Finally we found the secret—cooking thin slices of potato in oil, almost simmering them until tender.

It uses a lot of oil, and it’s a great thing to make when you are hanging out with friends in the kitchen with a bottle of red, but sometimes I crave it when I don’t have that kind of time or company.

Here’s my lazy version. It would serve nicely if you had just come off a 20+ hour train ride. It would also be lovely with a salad of bitter greens with a simple vinaigrette for lunch or served as part of a spread of tapas with sangria. I enjoyed my most recent one with dark coffee and toast with olive oil. Eat it hot or room temp. It’s delicious either way.

Lazy Spanish Tortilla

6 medium potatoes, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
olive oil
salt and pepper
5 eggs
5 Tbsp (or glugs) of milk
10-inch skillet

  1. Slice the potatoes and onion (a mandolin slicer works well for this).
  2. Oil a large piece of foil. Layer the potatoes and onions in the foil, sprinkling each layer with salt and pepper. Drizzle heavily with olive oil and fold up foil to form a closed packet.
  3. Cook the potato/onion packet on the grill until potatoes are soft. Eat some for dinner and save the leftovers for your tortilla.
  4. Beat eggs and milk and set aside.
  5. Heat a skillet and coat lightly with oil. Layer the remaining potatoes/onions in the skillet. Cook for a few minutes to reheat.
  6. Pour the egg mixture over it. Cook until egg starts to firm up. Use a spatula to pull the edge of the egg away from the side. Tip the pan to let the uncooked egg slide underneath.
  7. When the egg is mostly cooked, slide a spatula around the edge to loosen. Place a plate over the pan. Hold the plate tight and flip.
  8. Slide the tortilla back into the pan and cook the other side for a minute. Serve.

On snow and slowing down + pancakes

I love a good snow storm.Snowday Pancakes

I love waking to the quiet, sounds muffled by the blanket of white, even the rumble-scrape-clank of the plow quieted.

I love staying in my pjs late into the morning, savoring my coffee, standing at the counter mixing pancakes, listening to sausage sizzle on the stove.

I love too that my kids can get themselves into snowsuits, hats, boots, mittens with maybe just a little help with the zipper and get out the door to make snowmen and snow forts while I sip a little more coffee, read another chapter of my book.

I love getting out for the clearing, the roar of snowblowers up and down the street, talking with neighbors, the way people help others.

I love my girls’ excitement sledding, though bump that they mostly ignore jolts through me.

I love rosy cheeks coming back in for cocoa and snuggling back into pjs in front of the fire.

We had a snow storm yesterday that didn’t live up to the hype, but it slowed us down. Maybe that’s what I like best about a good snow storm, that slow down, winter’s permission to skip our regular routines and hunker in.

Today, we’re back to normal, almost. School starts late for my big girl, which means school is cancelled for the little one. Maybe they’ll sleep in. Maybe we’ll snuggle and read in front of the fire or they’ll practice their magic or work on a project. Maybe they’ll zip themselves up and get out into the snow long before it’s time to look for the bus. In any case, we have a little extra time today, not the full day stretching ahead of us like yesterday, but two hours to play with before we jump back in to school and work and errands.


That extra time on snow days always leads me to a special breakfast—pancakes or waffles, something I wouldn’t do on regular school day. This was our treat from yesterday, using the Fannie Farmer griddlecake recipe as a starting point and using the tiny bit of cider that was hiding in the back of the fridge. Butterfly pancakes would have been a treat too.

Snow Day Spiced Cider Pancakes

1 cup milk
½ cup cider
2 Tbsp butter melted
1 egg
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
dash nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp salt

  1. Melt the butter in a small bowl (I use a four cup liquid measurer). Add the egg, milk, and cider and mix.
  2. In a larger bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
  3. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir just enough to combine.
  4. Heat and grease your griddle. Drop batter by the spoonful on the hot griddle. When the tops begin to dimple, flip them to brown the other side.


So I love a good storm. What do you love?
Tell me in the comments—and sign up for Write What You Love, it’s fun and free and starts February 11.

Winter oranges + cookies for breakfast

Double-chocolate orange cookiesI just had a cookie for breakfast. Second breakfast, and it had orange in it, so that counts right?

As we’ve been reading our Christmas stories, so many times there is an orange in the toe or the top of the stocking, something juicy and sweet and just right this time of year.

My kids often find an orange or a clementine in their stocking, and I remember my older daughter pulling hers out one year, “A real orange!” In the midst of toys and candy, she still noticed that orange.

We’ve been eating oranges lately. I picked up a few at the store to make those chocolate-orange cookies I had for breakfast and had to go back to pick up some more because my girls ate them in smiles for snack at school and dessert before I got to baking. I ate some too, and I wondered why I never buy oranges. It’s time for oranges now, that splash of color, burst of juice, vitamin C, and natural sweetness.

So go get some oranges, and if you don’t eat them all first, make these cookies. (You really only need the zest, so you can still eat that orange as long as you zest it first.)

Double Chocolate-Orange Cookies


1 c. sugar
2/3 c. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. grated orange peel*
1 egg
1 1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. baking cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 c. chocolate chips (bittersweet or semisweet)


1/3 c. sugar (or a little more as needed)
1 tsp. grated orange peel*

* The peel of one orange should work out just about right for both the cookies and the coating.

  1. Preheat oven to350º F.
  2. Mix 1/3 cup sugar and 1 tsp. grated orange peel. Set aside.
  3. Cream 1 cup sugar with the butter and 1 Tbsp. grated orange peel in a large bowl. Beat in the egg until well combined.
  4. Add your dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. (You can mix them together in a separate bowl if you like, but I’m lazy and never do.)
  5. Mix in the chocolate chips. (Go ahead and do this in the mixer. It doesn’t matter if the chips break up a little.)
  6. Shape dough into small balls balls. (Sometimes I do 1 1/2–inch balls, sometimes I go a little smaller if I want to stretch the batch or know the cookies will be out with lots of other cookie types.)
  7. Roll balls in sugar-orange coating mixture. If it looks like you will run out, just add a little more sugar and mix it up with the remaining coating. (If you end up with some extra, it’s yummy sprinkled on top of blueberry muffins.)
  8. Place coated balls on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Flatten to about 1/2-inch thickness with bottom of glass.
  9. Bake 9–11 minutes or until cookies appear set.
  10. Cool slightly before moving from cookie sheet. If you are eating them soon, serve with the pieces of the orange you zested to make the cookies.



Fall favorites—squash mac & cheese

It’s Harvest Feast night at my kids’ school.

Families bring food pot luck, and each class makes a food based on what they grew in the school garden. I’ve helped my girls’ classes make jam and thumbprint cookies and soup.

Our family is bringing this squash mac and cheese to the potluck. It’s one of my favorite fall foods. The squash adds fiber and a little sweetness. I’ve this from adapted from Elie Krieger’s recipe.

Squash Mac & Cheese

1 lb macaroni (I used a slightly smaller box)
1 quart cooked squash* (2 10-oz packages frozen)
2 cups milk
8 oz grated cheddar cheese (or other sharp cheeses)1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. powdered mustard
dash cayenne
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cook the macaroni and drain well. Pour into a buttered 9 x 13 baking dish.
  3. In the meantime, heat the squash and milk together until it starts bubbling. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. If your squash was not pureed previously, you may want to use an immersion blender at this point to smooth out the sauce.
  4. Stir in the salt, mustard, and cayenne.
  5. Add the cheddar cheese and stir until just melted in.
  6. Pour the cheese mixture over the macaroni, stirring to make sure the sauce spreads over all the noodles.
  7. Mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and olive oil together. Sprinkle over the macaroni.
  8. Bake for about 20–25 minutes.

Sometimes I add a meat like ham and/or other veggies like peas, broccoli, or kale to make it a more complete part of dinner.
* I cut my squash in half and place cut side down in a baking dish. I add about an inch of water and bake at 350 degrees F until the squash is soft. After it cools, remove seeds and scrape the squash flesh out of the skin. (You can simmer the seeds and skin to make a mild vegetable broth if you wish).


Back to School Banana Muffins

Seven years ago, I sat on my front porch and watched as my neighbor got on the school bus for the first time. Each September since, I’ve been out at the bus stop on the first day of school, even though my kids haven’t ridden it yet. Somewhere along the line, we added coffee, sausage, and muffins to the morning.

Today, that little girl I watched seven years ago climb tentatively on the bus leaves early for the regional school.

Today my own little-big girl will climb on the bus and leave for her first day of kindergarten.

She’s got her first day of school outfit. Her backpack is packed. And I’ve made the muffins.back to school breakfast

First Day of School Muffins

(good for breakfast or after-school snack)

½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup butter, softened or melted
2 eggs
1 + cup mashed overripe banana
2 cups flour (white or whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter, sugar, and eggs until fluffy.
  3. Add bananas and mix well to combine.
  4. Add flour, baking soda, and salt and stir until just mixed in. Gently stir in chocolate chips. (You can skip the chocolate chips if you want, but they are most definitely not optional at my house.)
  5. Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake 20 minutes or until golden. (Also works well in a square cake pan or loaf pan, but a loaf will bake longer).


What are your first day of school traditions?