600 Posts

February 6, 2012

Is there a point where you pass being proud of having written so many posts and move into “Am I really still doing this?”  No?  OK good because I’m still happy writing and still enjoying my blog.  I hope you are too.  I decided for this milestone to share my 5 Tips to Greatly Improve the Taste of Your Food and 9 Thrilling Facts About Me.

But first!  I have received requests and I have listened.  Now, at the end of each post, you have the option to email the recipe.  You can send it to yourself, your friend, your mom.  Hopefully someone who appreciates being emailed recipes.  Thanks, as always, to my amazing designer Kaytlyn who was able to figure this out and implement the change in less than 24 hours.   Also, this is the third non-food related post I’ve written in a row.  Yes, I remember this is a food blog.  So to thank you for your patience and endurance, I promise to talk about food – with emailable recipes! -  Monday through Friday of this upcoming week.  Deal?  Hope you enjoy.

5 Tips to Greatly Improve the Taste of Your Food

1)  Always make your own salad dressing.  I know store-bought is easy and it keeps forever.  It is also expensive and contains ingredients that I can’t pronounce.  Making your own, once you get in the habit of doing it, is super quick and easy and you most likely always have the ingredients on hand.  You can make it to your taste (I like mine with a lot of bite), it will keep for a week or more, it tastes much better, and is much less expensive.

2)  Whenever you can, use fresh herbs.  And a lot of them.  There is a time and place for dried herbs.  Something that is simmering for a long time on the stove (like a sauce or a stew) is a great place to use dried.  The subtlety of fresh would be lost in that case.  Same goes with roasting in the oven.  But other than that, the flavor is fresh herbs is so lovely and adds so much to your food.  Fresh rosemary and fresh oregano are strong, so you might want to use a light hand with those two, but otherwise you can be generous with your fresh herbs.

3)  Throw out your spices.  I touched on this when I wrote about my favorite gingerbread cookies.  Spices have a shelf life.  Most people agree it’s about a year.  They don’t spoil, they just lose their oomph.  As we were packing up from the year we spent in London, I found out that we were not allowed to bring any food stuffs back into the U.S.  Not even canned goods.  So I had to give away everything in my little kitchen, including my considerable spice collection.  I saved all my jars and, once back home, I restocked everything.  I was blown away by how much better my food, savory and sweet, tasted with new spices.

4)  Always use fresh citrus.  Those little plastic lemon shaped bottles of lemon juice?  Don’t buy them.  Or do and then taste that juice next to the juice of a fresh lemon.  No comparison.  Fresh lemons (and limes and oranges) keep very well in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator and they also have the added benefit of possessing zest which is super flavorful.  I don’t think a Microplane would work on a plastic bottle.

5)  Never buy bagged cheese or cheese in a tub.  I know, again, the convenience is tempting.  Grating cheese is one of the kitchen tasks I like the least.  But grated cheese has been mixed with things like flour or cornstarch so that it doesn’t stick together and who knows how long that cheese has been sitting in a bag.  Buy a hunk of cheese and grate or slice it yourself.  It is one extra step for a lot more flavor.  Do the same with feta or blue cheese and the increase in taste will be more than worth the work.

And now, 9 Thrilling Facts About Me.  I did this once before for my 300 Posts post.

1)  In my life I have owned six cars and they have all been different colors.  Red, dark gray, green, silver, blue, and black.  It looks like yellow is next, huh?

2)  My favorite color is purple.  My least favorite is yellow.  (See above.)

3)  My name and my husband’s name are both unisexual (is that a word?)  Meaning that a guy or girl can be named Dana or Randy.  In fact, before I met him, the only other Randy I ever knew was a girl in my grade school whose sister, coincidentally, was named Dana.  The only other Dana that Randy ever knew was a giant African American man.

4)  I have been practicing yoga for 14 years, taking a couple years off while I was having my kids, nursing, dealing with infants, etc.  You might think that means I can put both my feet behind my head but I am very very far from that.  I started off doing Bikram yoga for a year and it almost destroyed my back.  Fortunately, I found my way to the Yoga Tree, a wonderful studio in Seattle, where they teach Iyengar based yoga.  Iyengar is the yoga of alignment so I really learned how to do the poses correctly.  I now try and practice 3 times a week and it is truly what my body likes best.  If you are tempted to try yoga and are scared off because you are “not flexible”, know that strength is equally important to flexibility.  Being tight allows you to learn to use your body’s own strength to open up, rather than just flopping into poses.

5)  I am a big reader.  I subscribe to the New Yorker and I always have a book going.  I like modern fiction, the good stuff, and have read some really terrific things in the last year.  Lord of Misrule, A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Land of Marvels.  I’m currently reading The Marriage Plot.

6)  I sometimes suffer from crushing self-doubt when it comes to this blog and this food-related job that I have created for myself.  I start to feel some of the same insecurities that rocked me in middle and high school – not pretty enough, not smart enough, not working hard enough, not getting invited to the right parties.  Sometimes I just want to back away from it all – blog, Facebook, Twitter.  It is during those moments that I honestly ask myself why I am writing this blog – why I have been writing it for all these years.  And the truth is that it is for me.  I love that people read and share, I love that I have met some amazing people and have made some lifelong friends.  I love that I have been able to start teaching classes and that a big driver for those classes is my blog.  But ultimately, I am keeping a record of my life through food so that someday, we as a family can look back and see what our life was in these years.  I don’t say this as a cry for sympathy or a request for praise.  I just want to put it out there that, at times, I feel very inadequate in this space.

7)  My 20th college reunion is this year in June.  I’m alternating between excitement and horror.  Randy and I went for my 10th.  We were about to be married, we stayed in the same dorm where I lived my freshman year, and I had a blast.   I remember looking at the tables of 20th year people thinking that would probably be the next reunion I would attend.  Early 40′s, married and kids seemed far away.  And here I am.

8)  People ask me, at least several times a week, if my hair is naturally curly.  Yes, my hair is naturally curly.  Then they say that they always wanted naturally curly hair.  I’m confused by this.  Why do straight irons, Brazillian blow-outs, and places whose sole point of business is to blow out curly hair exist if curly hair is so desirable?  I, in keeping with the tradition that the grass is always greener, have always wanted straight hair, but at the ripe old age of 41, I have made peace with my curls.

9)  In March, Randy and I are going on a trip to the country that is about as far away from Seattle as you can get.  Guesses?  Book recommendations?


  1. Awesome suggestions, thanks!

    Comment by Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar — February 6, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

  2. I love your blog Dana! I have yet to comment, but have been reading for over a year. Your honesty makes the posts so enjoyable to read and keeps me coming back! The kind of food you make is right up my alley and always looks so delicious!

    Comment by Hollis — February 6, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

  3. Love this, Dana. Keep it up!

    Comment by Jess — February 6, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

  4. Congratulations on 600! I love the 5 tips :) But I really love your honesty and sincerity. Not just here on your blog, but in your life and the way you live it. You’re wonderful, Dana. I will always be your fan. xo [p.s. I had straight hair and always wanted curly hair. When my hair grew back after chemo, it came in CURLY! I desperately wanted it to be straight... Now, I like it somewhere in between ;)]

    Comment by Jen Yu — February 6, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

  5. I love number 6. The self doubt is plaguing for me too, especially when this world of cooking and food blogging is saturated with so much talent. I believe that same thing, that doing this needs to make ME happy first, and that is motivation to keep doing it. I love your space and am glad you share life with us.

    Comment by sara — February 6, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

  6. Love your tips! I have a question though and I want to know what your thoughts are. I’m an avid maker of homemade dressing too and when reading a recipe, I’m always curious, to know why it says to place leftover dressing in the fridge, when its got oil in it. I once did this to a simple vinaigrette and the oil got all thick because of the cold temp. Ever since then I just try to make enough for whatever I’m using it on, but it’d be nice to make enough to last a week. Do you just leave it out all together or do you pull it out early so it has a chance to liquify again?

    Comment by Jacqui — February 6, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

  7. This is a great question Jacqui. Yes, oil does solidify in the fridge. I think you are safe leaving it out if the dressing has no produce in it – i.e. no shallots, garlic or herbs. If it is strict oil and vinegar with maybe a bit of mustard, it probably does not need to be refrigerated. I almost always put shallots in mine, so I do refrigerate it. I am just sure to take it out about half an hour before I want to use it and it always liquifies again. I use a high vinegar to oil ratio which seems to help with keeping things liquid-y.

    Comment by dana — February 6, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

  8. Thanks for all the tips and insights. I would love for you to keep us informed on what you are reading. I just re-read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Many years have passed since I first read it. It’s a timeless classic.

    Comment by linda — February 6, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

  9. you’re one of my favorite bloggers–you do a fabulous job and i really respect you as both a foodie and a mother! keep it up!

    as for books, I have to agree with the above–A Tree Grows in Brooklyn! I also just read Cutting for Stone and highly recommend it!

    Comment by natalie (the sweets life) — February 6, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

  10. Congrats on 600 posts! I don’t often comment, but this is my favorite food blog around–your recipes have never steered me wrong, your photos are simple and elegant, and it’s always nice to hear about your beautiful family!

    Here’s to another 600!

    Comment by Pasket — February 6, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

  11. I am just one reader, but I wanted to share with you the fact that I follow lots of blogs, but yours is the only one where I actually read every post and your blog is the only one I cook from. Thanks so much for battling the self-doubt and continuing to nourish your readers.
    Fond regards-

    Comment by Suzanne — February 6, 2012 @ 8:59 pm

  12. I love your lists, Dana – and of course, your blog is one of my favorites. I may have to do something similar for my 7 yr blog anniversary coming up later this year! And oh my goodness, a big crushing yes to no. six on your list.

    Comment by kickpleat — February 6, 2012 @ 9:29 pm

  13. Oh Dana, I adore you to no end. And I really hope you keep blogging ever and anon because I find that it’s such a pleasure to come here…a nice respite in my day.

    I definitely have those moments of bloggers self-doubt where I question my recipes, my photos, how much I’m tweeting…and then I ask myself what I’m doing this for. It’s not a competition. There is no finish line. It’s just supposed to be fun.

    Comment by Joanne — February 7, 2012 @ 2:20 am

  14. 600! Wow. that’s impressive. I’m up to 100 next week and kicking around ideas for the topic. I know what you mean when you say the blog is for you. I love the 2 hours I spend each week in my little space. It’s a true room of one’s own.

    Comment by Sarah — February 7, 2012 @ 3:55 am

  15. Dana – I simply love your blog. It is such a “treat” to read because you are a great writer and great food blogger, but most important to me is that you seem very real. You share things about yourself and your life that I can relate to – as a parent, as a wife, and as a woman. Thank you for keeping it real. And for sharing amazing recipes and tips! It’s funny that I always buy cheese in plastic – I have never thought twice about it – but thanks to you, I am a changed cheese shopper (and grater). :)

    Comment by angie — February 7, 2012 @ 4:18 am

  16. Are you coming down under to New Zealand?

    Comment by Alison — February 7, 2012 @ 5:40 am

  17. Thanks Dana!

    Comment by Jacqui — February 7, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

  18. Not New Zealand – although that is nearly as far as this place. NZ is certainly on my bucket list though Alison!

    Comment by dana — February 7, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

  19. I have a question– can you do a post on homemade dressings? Different kinds. I know how to do a simple vinegar/oil one– but what about other combinations. Thanks.

    Comment by Arik — February 7, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

  20. Reading these comments made me realize I’ve been following your blog for a little over 2 years now! I grew up in Washington and it’s always nice to hear about Lopez Island or see a few pictures of my rainy home even when I’m halfway across the world. I love your recipes (and I was a meat eater until 2 months ago) and your stories! Keep up the blogging and happy 600 posts!

    Comment by Jessie — February 7, 2012 @ 9:03 pm

  21. I read this post and thought, wait! I read the 300 mark post, too! I checked back and realize I’ve been reading you blog well before that and ever since, and I’m so glad. You’re one of my favorite reads and while I can completely relate to point #6, you should know I think you’re doing an amazing job. I think your balance between work and motherhood is so inspiring- something I hope to emulate one day. In this blogging world it can be so difficult to focus on your own blog and work and not look at what everyone else is doing, but I loved your point about during it for yourself. That truly is the best motivation. And I think in the long run, even though blogging is more common, we’ll all be better off for doing it- spending solid time each week writing and creating.

    Comment by Clara — February 8, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

  22. South Africa? I just did the “globe test” and that’s what I came up with.

    Comment by Hilary — February 8, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

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