17 November, 2015  |   1 Comment

Make Paper Bag Popcorn – with me, Nora Lea


This weekend Nora Lea worked on a project with me. She wanted to show kids how to make popcorn in the microwave. She organized the steps, set up the script and the different shots and didn’t even need any second takes!

Back when I was a kid, I could never comprehend that this was a thing I could do — much less with my daughter. I’m a-goggle at the many forms of communication and connection our kids will intuitively know how to use.

On with the show!

15 November, 2015  |   Comment

Meal plan, this week

This week, we’re prepping fixins galore. I missed the heck out California cuisine after 8 days in the delicious Midwest.

This week, we're bringing the fixins with our meal plan

Did you know that we end up sticking to the meal plan about 60% on average?
(That’s right, only about 60%)


4 November, 2015  |   1 Comment

See you at BlogHer Food

Speaking at SXSW with MJ

This week, I’ll be speaking on a panel at BlogHer Food. I’m going to be up there with Danielle Wiley from Sway Group and Beth Lee from OMG Yummy.  We’re talking about making a business plan, JUST LIKE A REAL BUSINESS PLAN. Except for your blog.
(Like a real business.)

After the conference, we’re headed back to the motherland, Wisconsin, to spend some time with my parents in their assisted living facility. We’re renting one of the rooms for a week. We’ll be renting a room in a nursing home with my whole family.

It’s going to be an adventure, that’s for sure.

Is that too much information for the robbers? Don’t fret, we have a team of pointy-toothed housesitters with giant biceps at the house. And Pinot.

I’ve missed you lovelies.


30 October, 2015  |   Comment

Helen Jane’s Apple Crisp Sipper

My first apartment.
Winter in Wisconsin.

(This is me back in the mid-nineties, all film camera and apple crisp.)
Helen Jane, mid nineties

During a particularly brutal winter, in those early grown-up years, I learned to bake apple crisp.

The ingredients?
Inexpensive staples.
The outcome?
Warm and loving.

Now that I’m in sunny Napa Valley, November temperatures can reach the nineties. So when I’m craving something cold and cozy, spiced and sweet, fresh yet comforting, I make this Apple Crisp Sipper.

Turns out, this autumn-inspired cocktail is the perfect pre-Thanksgiving cocktail. Pair with gently spiced nuts to keep guests cheerful when the turkey roasts.

Helen Jane's Apple Crisp Sipper recipe

2 ounces apple juice
2 ounces cranberry juice
1 ounce amaretto
2 ounces rum
2 ounces hard apple cider

Add the first four ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake and strain into an pre-iced old-fashioned glass. Fill the rest of the glass with hard apple cider. Garnish with a cinnamon-sugar crusted apple slices if you’re feeling ambitious or a cinnamon stick if you’re not.

Helen Jane's Apple Crisp Sipper recipe

Three cheers for cozy, icy drinks!

27 October, 2015  |   Comment

Halloween week snack recipe: Puffy Apple Pancake


After we eat this snack, our fingers are sticky. Sometimes we use a knife and fork, but that’s just when Pops is watching. This is our late night, Halloween week, under the covers snack.

We sip our hot tea or hot apple cider or bourbon and we watch Charlie Brown Halloweenand call each other “Blockhead”

“Hey! We don’t talk to each other like that.”
“Blockhead,” someone whispers under the blanket and we giggle some more.

We lick our fingers and (don’t tell Pops) wipe them on the blanket.
Then we cuddle under that blanket some more.


This snack that we make, it’s delicious and a little decadent and you probably have all the ingredients in your house right now. I found it in the The New Best Recipe cookbook that is really the only one I need these days.

To serve, cut it into slender old-lady slices or fat, sticky kid-fingered slices. I’m not going to judge.


2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
2 apples, peeled and sliced thin
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
Maple syrup for drizzling

Preheat oven to 500°.
Take your blender out and put it on the counter.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in an oven-proof, non-stick skillet that’s about 10 inches wide.

Add the apples to the pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the apples like you’re the gosh darned Halloween snack fairy you are. Cook and stir for 8 minutes, or until apples are slightly browned.

Since you’re a multi-tasker, you’re ALSO going to make the batter while the apples cook.

While the apples are sizzling, put eggs, half and half, vanilla, salt and sugar in your blender. Give it a whirl, for about 15 seconds or until it’s all mixed. Add the flour and blitz for another 30 seconds or so. Then just stop.

In between blender blitzing, check in on and stir your apples. Make sure they’re not burning. Take out a big cutting board so you don’t have to do it when you’re holding a hot skillet.

When the apples are done a’sizzling, pour the batter around the periphery of the pan, finishing the batter in the middle of the pan.

Turn the oven down to 425°.

Put the pan in the preheated oven for about 15-18 minutes, or until the batter puffs up around the apples all golden and warm.


With mitts and welding gloves, remove pan carefully from oven. Then, with a heatproof spatula, loosen the pancake from the pan. Flip the pancake onto a large cutting board.


We slice it in pizza triangles, and then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
(But you could get crazy with little squares, or rectangles even.)
Pour maple syrup on it if you’re feeling extra-decadent.

Sleepytime tea makes a good pairing. Or hot apple cider. Or hot apple cider and bourbon. It’s Halloween week, after all.


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