Archive for August, 2009

Thank You Cheeseballs

August 9, 2009


I would like to thank each and every one of you who read my (somewhat long) account of what is going on with my son Graham. I would really like to thank those of you who left lovely and thoughtful comments. I am blown away by your kindness. So, am I thanking you all by calling you cheeseballs? No, I’m thanking you by making cheeseballs.

Now, banish the thoughts of those processed, artificially colored, pre-rolled in stale nuts cheese balls you probably have seen in the cheese section of your local grocery store. This recipe comes to you by way of Martha Stewart, so you know there is nothing processed, artificial, or stale here. This is actually an ingenious recipe.

First, you make a base of cream cheese and butter with some seasonings and then you take that base and make it into three different flavored balls. One has cheddar cheese and chutney and is rolled in dried cranberries, one has blue cheese and brandy and is rolled in chopped walnuts, and one has goat cheese and scallions and is rolled in chopped parsley. It is a bit of work and you make a huge mess (or, at least I did) but you get a lot for your effort.

The first time I made this appetizer I was stunned by how gi-normous each cheese ball was. So, I divided each one in half to make two balls of each flavor, six balls in all. I served one of each and froze the rest for another time. It was great to be able to pull out something so special for impromptu dinners and one of the smaller balls will still easily feed 8 people or more. That method is how I have done it every time since and is how I recommend you do it, unless you are planning a party for 100. I love having things like this in the freezer.

Again friends, thank you. It is a less lonely journey with friends to accompany you.

One Year Ago: Pasta with Cauliflower, Peppers, and Walnut Pesto


Cheese Balls Three Ways
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s The New Classics
Makes three – 4 inch balls (or six – 2 inch balls if you split each in half as I describe above)

You may not know this, and you may not care, but Worcestershire sauce is not vegetarian. It contains anchovies. You can find a vegan version at Whole Foods and it comes in handy when making Caesar Salad.

Base Recipe
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 packages cream cheese (8 ounces each), softened
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
5 dashes hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Cheddar and Cranberry
8 ounces sharp orange Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
2 tbsp. store-bought chutney
3/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

Roquefort and Walnut
6 ounces Roquefort cheese
1 shallot, minced
2 tsp. brandy (optional)
1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

Goat Cheese and Scallions
8 ounces goat cheese
2 tbsp. finely chopped scallions
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1. Put the butter, cream cheese, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until combined. Divide equally among 3 medium bowls.

2. Stir the Cheddar and chutney with the base mixture in the first bowl. Form into a ball. If not using immediately, refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Roll the cheese ball in the cranberries to coat before serving.

3. Stir the Roquefort and shallot with the base mixture in the second bowl; add brandy, if desired. Form into a ball. If not using immediately, refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Roll in the walnuts to coat before serving.

4. Stir the goat cheese and scallions with the base in the remaining bowl. Form into a ball. If not using immediately, refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Roll in the parsley before serving.

Time to Talk About Graham

August 5, 2009


This is my sweet boy.  I have referred to him here endlessly as “my older son”.  When I started this blog, it felt weird to me to share too much about things other than food.  I didn’t think I would post pictures of my boys and I certainly didn’t think I would put their names out there.  But over the year plus that I have been faithfully writing here, this blog has become so much more than food.  My blog is more of a journal than any of my handwritten journals have been.  And so, his name is Graham, and it’s time for me to talk about him.

There are many many wonderful things about this child.  He has an incredibly gentle and sweet disposition and he is one of the happiest people I have ever met.  Joy is everywhere in his life.  He is enthusiastic about almost everything.  He loves people and people love him (this is the kid who hugged Dave Matthews, let’s not forget.)  He has been a very easy kid.  Good eater, good sleeper, rarely gets sick, at the age of 4 1/2 has still never had a temper tantrum, is nice to his brother, transitions easily…I could go on and on.  He is, in short, a gift.


For the past few years, we have also known that something is not quite right with Graham.  He didn’t say a single word until he was over two years old (in keeping with his personality, that word was “hi”) and ever since then, he has been extremely slow to talk.  At first, we listened to endless stories from friends and acquaintances who told us of children who were late talkers and who finally just bloomed.  I can’t tell you how many times someone told me, “Einstein didn’t talk until he was 5!”.  I took comfort in all of this, insisting to myself and others that my child was perfect and that he would find his way in his own time.

Eventually, it became clear that he wasn’t just not speaking words, he was not understanding them either.  Not as well as he should have been.  This realization is what finally got me off my butt and got him into some testing.  I won’t bore you with the steps and missteps that that entailed.  Eventually, we ended up at a truly incredible place called The Boyer Children’s Clinic, a birth-3 years program for children with special needs.  Graham blossomed in his own way there and when he turned 3, we sent him to a preschool for typical children on the advice of the Seattle school system.  He has been at this wonderful school and in private speech therapy ever since.


So why now?  Why talk about Graham now?  July was a big month for us.  He had testing done through the Seattle school system and also did a broad scope test through an agency called the Center for Human Development and Disability (CHDD).  We wanted to know whether there is officially something wrong.  Something we can attach a name to, something we could research endlessly online, something that we might be able to “treat”.  After being shown incredible kindness, respect, and compassion by those lovely people, we learned that Graham has what we have essentially known all along – a speech and cognitive delay.  No syndrome or disorder, just an unexplained delay.  We don’t know why.  We don’t know if it’s something he will outgrow.  We don’t know how much help he is going to need in the years ahead.  We don’t know how to “treat” him or if there is any possible “treatment”.

The timing here was a little tricky and I won’t bore you with what happened when.  The short version is that we got the results from the school system first.  According to their tests, Graham only qualified for speech therapy, meaning that he should stay at his preschool and the public school system would provide therapy for him.  I was relieved but also surprised.  I can see how far Graham is behind his peers.  I was not sure the itinerant speech therapist assigned to him was going to help him catch up enough to be ready for kindergarten in just one short year.

Then we got our results from the CHDD test.  They told us that they, without hesitation, recommended he attend a special school.  He had some strong areas, some average areas, and some areas where he was barely in the 10th percentile.  But basically we were told – in no uncertain terms – that our child needs help.  I have to say, my heart broke a little bit at that moment.  And in the next moment, real relief flooded me.  “Yes,” I thought.  “Yes, they are right – he does need the help.  And they will help us get it for him.”  Now we are in a full court press to get him what he needs in time for the school year to start.  This is when having a husband who is incredibly tenacious is a huge blessing.  He will keep after these people until we get the answers we want.

Now, I don’t for a minute lose sight of who I have in my life.  First of all, I have a child – two children actually – and we know people who have tried unsuccessfully to have any.  I have a healthy child and we know two children his age who have battled cancer and one who died of SIDS at the age of 8 weeks.  I have friends who share with me the difficulties and struggles of having typical children.  Being a parent is not easy, they tell me, no matter how “normal” your child is.  I know.  I know.  I know.  I do really and truly know how lucky I am.

This is a child who, when I was apologizing to him for waking him up early from a nap said to me, “It’s ok, Mommy.  Take a deep breath.”  This is a child who offers snacks from his snack drawer to any child who comes over to play, even if he has never seen them before.  This is a child who tells me, “I so excited” several times a day – when we are going to the park, visiting his best friend Kendall, going to get ice cream, waiting for Daddy to come home.  This is a child who, every time he sees the “Hope” poster yells out, “Barack Obama!”  Special does not begin to describe him.  This is a child who endured hours and hours of testing, most of which required him to sit still and concentrate, with a smile on his face and enthusiasm.  Every single therapist who came into contact with him called him charming, delightful, lovely – it’s written all over the reports.  This is a child who has an absolutely incredible memory, sense of direction, and mind for puzzles.  But I worry for him.  I worry that kids will make fun of him.  I worry that he will struggle and that things will not be easy for him.  I also know probably every parent has these same worries, regardless of who their child is.

I know that things seem easy and breezy here at Dana Treat.  And usually, they are.  I have a wonderful life.  I love writing about food and sharing recipes with all of you.  But I have been sad about all of this lately and just continuing to be easy and breezy was not feeling authentic.  Not to worry.  With the next post I will return you to your regularly scheduled programming.  Thanks for listening, er, reading.

Sour Salty Punch

August 3, 2009


Growing up in Seattle, we made frequent trips to Victoria, B.C.  I went with my family, I went with friends, and I went on school trips.  Victoria is a magical small city on Vancouver Island (just to be confusing, the city of Vancouver is not on Vancouver Island).  If you look at a map, Victoria is very close to Seattle.  Because of geography however, it can take a very long time to get there.  These days you can take a hydrofoil that leaves from the piers in downtown Seattle, and deposits you in Victoria’s harbor in about 2 hours.  But it has taken me as long as 7 hours to get there.

In true food lover fashion, trips to Victoria first and foremost meant MacIntoshes Toffee.  This incredibly buttery and almost impossibly sticky confection was best eaten after throwing it to the ground (while still in it’s box) repeatedly until it broke into small enough shards that wouldn’t pull the fillings out of your teeth.  I would buy several boxes each trip and then mourn when I had finished them off.  I would also always use up the last of my Canadian money on all the Cadbury candies that we don’t carry in this country.  And I would buy lots and lots of salt and vinegar chips.

These days, salt and vinegar chips are easy to find but back then, you had to head north to Canada or way East to England.  It took me a while to warm up to these puckery treats but once I did, they became my favorite chip (and that is saying something because I love me some chips.)

When I saw this recipe, it sounded like heaven on a plate.  A cross between a salt and vinegar chip, a french fry, and a grilled potato – who wouldn’t want that?  Here is the question though: would you think less of me if I told you I stole this recipe?  I was in a waiting room recently.  A waiting room that had practically current issues of Martha Stewart Living.  If you frequent waiting rooms, and I hope you don’t, you know that having magazines you actually want to read that are from the year in which we are currently living…it’s almost unheard of.  And how do I repay these people for their read-able and almost current magazines?  I steal a page.  But these are potatoes I had to have.

After eating a huge portion of them last night, I can tell you a couple of things.  They are really vinegar-y.  I think the next time I make them I will boil them in 3/4 parts vinegar and 1/4 part water instead of all vinegar as the recipe tells you to do.  Also, they need a lot of salt to balance the flavors.  I tossed the cooked slices with a healthy dose of salt and then sprinkled a bit, and then a bit more, and even more still on the end product.  I used a fancy finishing salt someone got me as a gift, but sea salt would have been just fine.

Usually the recipes I put up here are things I think would appeal to just about anybody.  These may be more of an acquired taste.  But if you love that sour-salty thing, give them a try.  Oh, and because I was shooting the photos of these outside with my boys, they insisted I take photos of their “treat” as well.  My youngest calls them “pocco pocco pocco”.


Grilled Potato Slices with Salt and Vinegar
Martha Stewart Living
Serves 4

1 pound potatoes, preferably fingerling, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 cups white vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1.  Bring potatoes and vinegar to a boil in a medium saucepan (vinegar should cover potatoes).  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer potatoes until just fork tender, about 5 minutes.  Let potatoes cool in vinegar for 40 minutes.  Drain well, and gently toss with oil, salt, and pepper.

2.  Preheat grill to medium-high heat.  Grill potatoes in a single layer until browned on both sides and cook through, about 5 minutes per side.  Sprinkle with salt before serving.

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