Cooking and Gadgets

rub-630x407Sure, you could buy that grilling fanatic on your holiday gift list a new smoker or cutting-edge grill accessory. (For some suggestions, check out our barbecuers’ gift guide.) But sometimes, the most meaningful gifts are the ones you make yourself. Homemade gifts help you stretch your holiday shopping dollars, and in inclement weather, they’re a great way to channel your inner pit master without having to don your parka or fight for a parking spot.

Which brings us to one of my favorite homemade holiday gifts: made-from-scratch barbecue rubs. Simply defined, a rub is a mixture of salt, spices, and herbs used to flavor grilled or smoked meats, seafood, and even vegetables and tofu.

There are two ways to use a barbecue rub. The first is to apply it right before grilling or smoking, in which case it acts as a sort of seasoned salt. The second is to rub it into the meat a few hours or even a day before you plan to cook it, in which case the seasonings partially cure the meat, resulting in a richer, more complex flavor.

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pie-collage-550-final1.jpgI woke up like I do any other morning, except for a nagging dream that came to me in my sleep and wouldn’t disappear until I did something about it.

I needed to learn how to make pie.

Now I have no idea where this came from. But the way the whole thing worked out I’m beginning to see that this yearning for pie came from a higher power, or at least from deep inside my subconscious. And it needed to be addressed.

In my dream I became adept at taking summer fruit, putting it into a pie made with love and then handing them to others to enjoy, to share, to eat. I gave them to friends and strangers at picnics, made a few for our summer outings, and had one on the counter for anyone that stopped by and wanted a piece. I suspect this is exactly why people make pies but me? My pie skills were embarrassing. So embarrassing that I shied away from making them for others. How could I make something for others when clearly there are pie makers with generations of experience, expertise and knowledge?

It turns out my adventure – and my feelings of pie self-worthlessness – had absolutely nothing to do with pie and everything to do with me.

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scale.jpg So there we are, my two children, my ex-husband and his side of the family sitting at the table. All adults ranging in age from 20 to 70.  Dinner is over, I am paying no attention to the conversation at the far end of the table when I see my nephew approaching with a bathroom scale.  I have no idea what instigated this, but it apparently involves a discussion about someone's weight.  (Not mine, I assure you.)

Now that he has our attention, my nephew puts the scale on the floor next to the table, steps on -- and tells the assembled group how much he weighs.  Mind you, this is AFTER dinner, not before, and we have all just consumed excessive amounts of bread, pasta, and other carbohydrates. 

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beachshore.jpg One of the delights of living in the Pacific Palisades is being able to take daily walks along the beach. The walks are great for exercise but also to enjoy the way the beach, ocean, and sky look in the early morning. I have to admit that I would never have discovered the pleasures of walking on the beach had it not been for my wife. For Michelle taking a walk is as necessary as breathing. I think she learned the benefits of walking from her mom, Helen. Whenever we visit her parents in New Jersey, she and her mom head to the boardwalk to take a long walk. This is their way of catching up and clearing their minds before the day begins.

This morning we walked with our friends Janet, Kelly, and Annette. We hadn't seen Kelly for a month because she and her family had been in Europe. She told us that one of the high points of the trip was a crème brûlée she'd eaten in Paris. That dessert was so delicious she couldn't stop thinking about its perfect crust and flavorful custard.

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The TEN THINGS (even if you don’t cook) to keep in your KITCHEN at all times (so you can make yourself something decent to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner) even if you only shop for real food once a month:

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