Ten Easy Steps to Get to Mexico

I was getting ready to tell you more about how spring is right around the corner, but then it started snowing again. I don’t know why it was doing that, because then it was sunny again like 20 minutes later.

Sometimes the weather in Seattle is just plain dumb.

Because of this we will eat tacos for dinner many times between now and forever. Here’s how we do it at Casa Goldberg.

Step 1). Boil up some black beans.  A lot of black beans.

Step 2.) Get out some sweet potatoes and cut them into bite sized chunks.

Step 3). Remark on how much you love sweet potatoes because they are so freaking delicious and go with almost every food in existence.

Step 4). Step outside into the muck and pick the remainder of the winter chard/kale/whatever from the garden. Failing that, open up the crisper and pull out any leafy green things that need to be used up. Rinse it all up and give it a good hacking with a big knife.

Step 5). Add a lot of garlic to a pan.

Step 6). Cook everything together.

Step 7). Heat up some sort of taco delivery device. Tortillas and crispy taco shells are the go-to in our house.

Step 8). Add a gazillion delicious toppings. Sour cream, avocados, cilantro, thinly shredded cabbage, any salsas you have hanging out in the fridge, cheese in varying degrees of saltiness. And hot sauce.

Step 9). Squeeze some lime over the whole thing.

Step 10). Devour.

See how easy that was? Now you can pretend you are in Mexico and it’s not 40ºF outside.

These tacos are so simple you can practically make them in your sleep. Some days in the middle of winter, that is how I feel, and yet they still manage to be 100% delicious every time. They are endlessly variable, as long as you know what you like. Eat them in warm flour tortillas as a burrito, in little corn tortillas or crispy corn shells for a true taco, or just heap it all on a plate and call it a salad. The toppings are endless. A rainbow of salsas, crunchy pickles carrots, salty cotija cheese and spicy peppers are all probably more traditional that what we usually eat, but this is NW style Mexican at it’s best.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos
feeds one hungry family of 5, plus leftovers

3 cups cooked (or canned) black beans
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2″-3/4″ cubes
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
4-5 heaping cups chopped leafy greens, like chard
3/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
salt to taste
juice of about 1/3 lime
olive or vegetable oil

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add enough oil to just coat the bottom of the pan. Toss in the sweet potato cubes and the garlic and add a big pinch of salt. Stir it all around to coat it in the oil. Let it sit for a minute until it starts to brown, and then stir. Repeat this step until most of the pieces have at least a couple of brown sides, then add a splash of water to the pan and cover. Let steam for 5 minutes or so, checking to make sure the water doesn’t completely evaporate or you will burn the heck out of your potatoes.

Once the potatoes have started to soften, add the black beans and the spices. Add another splash of water, give it a good stir and then let steam for a few more minutes. Again, repeat this step until the beans and potatoes start to meld together and the potatoes have softened to the point that they are edible. Taste for seasoning. Now add in the greens. Add one more splash of water and cover, letting it steam just until the greens have started to soften and cook down, and most of the water has evaporated

If you want it a bit more saucy, add more water, a tiny bit at a time, until it’s a consistency you like. Check again for seasoning, then add the lime juice.

Serve it up nice and hot with plenty of toppings and an ice cold beer. A little mariachi music might help set the mood, if you are that type of person.

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Little Things

On Wednesday I woke up to a gorgeous sunrise.

OK, well to fair I woke up about an hour before the sun even did and then after lying in bed with a cuddly kid and a cuddly cat and a cuddly husband for a while I got out of bed to see that there was a gorgeous sunrise afoot.

So while Joe showered I got Lilli and I up and dressed lickety-split and out we headed into the freezing morning to greet the day as a day should be greeted…with a lot of mirth and a tiny bit of cursing about how damn cold it is.

Since we were already out there, we let the chickens out in the beautiful pre-dawn light, which was probably the highlight of Lilli’s day because she loves to be outside and she loves those chickens. Then we came in and made some breakfast and went about out business, which included a trip down to Cash and Carry to buy a humongous bag of sesame seeds for $5 because I had a plan.

A few weeks ago we were shopping in Pike Place Market and we stopped in to browse at Cost Plus (World Market) where they always have things I didn’t know I needed. This time was no exception, as waiting for me at the checkout counter–the land of impulse buys–was a barrel with little packages of Loucks Sesame Snaps,  one of my all time favorite impulse buys. (Which I have since found out that almost nobody I know has ever even heard of them. What?)

These were different though. These ones had chocolate striped delicately across the top. Yum. Why did I not know about this before?!

I restrained myself and only bought one package because sesame candy is something I’ve been meaning to try my hand at making for a while. I knew they would be easy enough to replicate at home should the combination be what I expected it to be. In other words, perfect. Which they totally were.

I made them with a dark chocolate like the ones I bought, and they are probably not going to last very long here in our house. Joe even said that they were quote “Good for a sesame candy, if you don’t like sesame.” Which he doesn’t. (Then we went on a date!)

Those little things made my Wednesday, just like getting to see the sun in it’s full cycle with Lilli did. They made it even sunnier and brighter and more productive and fun that it would have been on it’s own. And more tasty. Which was so good because Tuesday was a one way ticket to Lame-Town. Anyway these little candies will get you on the tracks to Awesome-Town if you decide to make them, especially if you follow up your snappy snack with another trip to the park, this time to view the sunset.

Toasted Sesame Snaps with Chocolate Drizzle

2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz dark, milk or white chocolate, your choice. Either chip form or in small pieces

Toast the sesame seeds by baking on a clean baking sheet in a 350ºF oven for 20 minutes, stirring every 7 minutes or so.

In heavy saucepan, stir together sugar, water, honey and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook without stirring. Brush down the sides of pan with pastry brush dipped in cold water, about every 5 minutes. The mixture will cook until medium amber in color and a candy thermometer reaches 310ºF, about 15 to 20 minutes. But just in case you need to know, I accidentally cooked mine to like almost 350ºF and it still turned out pretty good. Of course, I happen to like almost burnt stuff, so you know, just a warning.

Stir in the sesame seeds and salt. Immediately pour onto greased baking sheet, spreading with greased spatula. Mine didn’t quite fill my standard 1/2 sheet size pan. Using greased knife, score into 3″ squares, and then score each square diagonally in half.

While the snaps cool, melt about 4 oz of chocolate–either over a double boiler or in the microwave in 30 second intervals (Stir between each 30 seconds. It’s the lazy way to go…which is why I did it that way.) When it’s melted all the way use a fork to drizzle lines over the whole sheet of snaps. It’s OK if they’re not completely cool when you do the chocolate.

Let cool completely, and making sure the chocolate is completely set (pop it in the freezer for a bit if it’s not and you’re impatient like me), break along the score lines into triangles.

Like other hard candies, these will get sticky in very humid weather, but in a super air tight container they should keep for at least a week.

Something Fresh

Thursday was a hard day in computer land if you live in my house and your name is Venessa. My computer completely wacked out and had to be restored from a back-up that wasn’t quite complete.  Joe had to retrieve about 200 pictures from my camera card from over the last 3 weeks. I’m really really glad he knows a thing or two about computers. More than this guy at least.

I also had a lot of trouble getting somethings right in a post I was doing. It took me all afternoon to get it written and put pictures in, and when it finally came time to check the final draft I realized thatmuch of the formatting was way way off. This has been happening more and more over at blogspot and while I have been happy there, I decided it was just time for a change. There’s been too much frustration in my life lately, and that was one area I had some control over. Hopefully the transition goes smoothly.

That post was a recipe for a hearty muffin full of fiber and protein, and since I’m getting a fresh start in this fresh year and I already have been posting a little bit about eating light, I thought I would post this quick soup. It’s bright and rich at the same time. It’s incredibly flavorful and also incredibly easy on the waistline. Maybe your waist will look like this bulb of fennel’s if you eat it a lot.

Fennel (one of my favorite foods for like the past, oh, 2 or 3 years) and bright green apples go in, alongside a hit of fresh thyme and some other minor players. I didn’t really have a recipe but I imagine it would be good with pretty much whatever proportions you like, as long as you remember to balance it out in the end with the lemon juice to brighten it up. At least as bright as this friend’s plumage

I took it on a picnic to the zoo on Friday, in some borrowed thermoses. It was so nice to have a little cup of warmth after tromping around and making all the animal sounds out in the cold of an early January day. Topped with a little dollop of greek yogurt and a few more thyme leaves, it really hit the spot.

(I didn’t have anything witty to say about soup in cups. Sorry.)

Fennel and Apple Soup with Thyme

  • 2 bulbs fennel, fronds removed
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 large sprig fresh thyme or about 1 tsp dried, plus more for garnish
  • 2-3 cups veggie stock
  • 1 small winter squash, flesh only (I used a Delicata)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • plain greek yogurt to garnish, optional

Roughly chop the fennel, celery, carrots, apple and squash. I didn’t peel anything except the squash, just chop it. Put it all in a pot and cover with stock. Add the thyme and a dash of salt, cover and let simmer. Once everything is pretty soft, after about 15-20 minutes, turn off the heat and puree completely either in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender. If it’s too thick you can add a little more stock, or if you like a thicker soup bring it back to a boil and then simmer on low for a little bit until it’s a consistency you like. Add about half the lemon juice and then taste, adding more salt or more lemon juice if you like.

Ladle into bowls and garnish each with about 1 Tbsp greek yogurt or so, and a sprinkling of thyme.

Finally, Fall

Fall has arrived in Seattle, and I have been throwing it a welcome party for the past couple of weeks. Party games included freezing tomatoes, clearing out patches of garden to make room for winter crops, making corn salsa and taking a trip to our local state fair. 

The party also has had lots of good food served at it, including the macaroni and cheese I made tonight (with a few revisions because I very seldom follow a recipe by the letter unless it’s for cookbook club), lots of different soups, and our perennial favorite, tacos with the above mentioned corn salsa. But so far the gem has been what I made last night: Pumpkin soup. 


It’s been busy as usual around here. The boys started school, as well as Hebrew lessons with a new amazing tutor. It was Joe and my 2nd anniversary earlier this month, and now we are planning and prepping for Lilli’s 1st birthday next week. 

Sneak peek.



In addition to this, last week Lilli came down with some sort of nasty virus. When I say nasty, I mean it. One minute she was fine, and literally the next minute she was crying inconsolably and I had no idea what to do. We’ve been very lucky in that she’s been pretty much 100% healthy her whole first year. 


After some of her symptoms set off alarms bells in my head, I decided to take her to the Dr. that afternoon, and they performed some tests, all of which were very stressful and all of which came back totally inconclusive. It was terrifying. I was worried she was having an asthma attack, which is something I occasionally suffer from, so I’m glad I took her, but it’s frustrating to be able to do so little.

She’s fine now, but after doing another triathlon this past Sunday I came down with what is presumably the same virus. Now I know how she felt, and it feels awful. 


This is where the soup comes in. 



Thankfully, my appetite is intact, but Joe isn’t much of a cook so I have still been in charge of meals. And, I wanted comfort food, which to me is soup. I can’t find the kosher version of my favorite chicken soup anymore, and I didn’t really want something out of a can. So I came up with this soup. It was super quick and easy, and I even got a little bit of inspiration from another non-cook friend who happened to mention over the phone that she had a delicious pumpkin curry recently. (Yes, people still talk on the phone.)


It won’t take you long to prepare and you could make any number of substitutions. Any squash would work, as well as any sort of milk or cream. Coconut would have been excellent but I was out. You could add any vegetables you want, perhaps some kale or chard. Just be sure and eat it with warm, crusty, buttered bread.



Easy Peasy Pumpkin Soup
makes about 3 servings


1 Tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, very thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
2 tsp turmeric powder
2-3 Cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper and fresh grated nutmeg to taste
Cream or half and half to finish


Heat a medium sized pot, and add the olive oil. Toss in the carrots and garlic and let soften for a minute or two. Add turmeric and stir to coat all the carrots. Continue stirring until the turmeric is fragrant, then add just enough vegetable stock to cover the carrots. Cover the pot just until the stock comes to a boil, then stir in the pumpkin puree. Add stock until it is a touch thinner than a consistency that you like, then taste for salt and pepper. Add some nutmeg and bring to a boil. Let boil with the lid off for a couple of minutes, to allow the flavors to concentrate and for the soup to thicken up that extra little bit. Turn off the heat and taste again for seasoning. Serve with the cream on the side so that each person can decide how much to add.