Friday, August 31, 2007

Amish Friendship Bread, Part 2

I completed the first cycle of my Amish Friendship Bread today, separating it into 4 other bags, 3 of which I'll give away.

The resulting two loaves were delicious--moist, flavorful, with a slight crunch because of the sugar topping. Now the weather just needs to get cooler and it will be fall.

So, I'll keep a bag of goo for myself, to make other loaves and give more goo away later.

-=-=-
Which reminds me, I did find a recipe reminiscent of my great grandmother's jar-of-fermenting-fruit bread, actually cake, complete with maraschino cherries and fruit cocktail. Go to armchair.com, which also sells starter.

An Ode to Moms who Cook

Today, I was privileged to see the labor of love of one of my friends. Upon the death of her mother, she took away a 20 gallon tub of recipes, cookbooks, and clippings from her mother's home and began to compile them in notebooks. It was the one thing she had wanted. And today she showed me the first of the binders. In the outside slip cover, there were tattered handwritten recipes for Ricotta Cheese Biscuits and Scotch Oatmeal Shortbread (plus another I can't recall). Just reading them evoked a sense of warmth and comfort . . . and made me hungry. Inside was page after page of magazine clippings, handwritten recipe cards, commercial recipe cards (you know, the ones we all get in the mail), Weight Watchers recipe cards from the 1970s (for the baby-weight, my friend explained), and so much more. Highbrow recipes from Jean Georges Vongritchen and then not so highbrow ads from Campbell's soup, featuring "recipes" for combining their soups into "Pearoom" (pea and mushroom soups combined, and the like). And lots of casseroles. There were old recipes but also new www printouts from the Food Network, attesting to her mother's constant and continuous interest in new foods. Lots of Italian but also a variety of other genres of foods. It must have been a challenge just to sort all the little scraps of paper. But my friend remembers her mother--an amazing cook--making many of the dishes, and so compiling the paper must have been like sitting down to another homecooked meal (which I experienced, in a way--my friend sent me home with a delicious eggplant rollatini that they were having for dinner, straight from her mom's notebooks. YUM!) It's a real treasure she's made, one that no doubt her own daughters will value as well.

My own mom is a great cook too. And I want her recipes and books (as well as my Grandma's Dresden, hint hint). My mom has a great clippings file and books with asterisks and notes. One of her favorites is America Cooks, the Junior League collection, but she also uses the identifiable red and white checkered Better Homes and Gardens binder as a standard. My compilation of her recipes is mainly electronic, though I have several handwritten sheets of paper too as well as a cookbook she made for me on her first computer when I went off to school that includes many family favorites (plus my own edition of BH&G, which I was thrilled to receive one holiday). For years, almost since I first had my own kitchen in grad school, I've been compiling family recipes--I currently have three books of more than 700 pages total of recipes from family, friends, and my own experiments. All with notes and comments on the origins and experiences of the meals. This blog actually derives from those cookbooks, which I've been keeping for 15 years. I've recently been adding recipes from my maternal great grandmother, and paternal grandmother to the books; the one who typed all of her recipes on discreet little cards and the other whose scrawling handwriting fills the pages of a tiny notebook. And recently, when a dear family friend passed away unexpectedly, my mom mailed me photocopies of her recipes for Chicken and Sausage Gumbo and Red Beans and Rice, which I then cooked in her memory. I've also been hounding my partner to gather her mother's recipes, especially as her mother doesn't cook from directions (mine thankfully does, down to the teaspoon, so it's easy to compile, though the dishes are never exactly the same--she knows how she alters recipes but she doesn't always write it down). DP's family is Chinese with Thai influences so just getting the names of ingredients into English can be a challenge. But these collections, like my friend's, will be a great gift to our children.

Who are thankfully sound asleep with no trouble, on this, just their third night in big kid beds.

-=-=-=-=

Red Beans and Rice
This recipe comes from Miss Betty, complete with tips on ingredients—Camellia beans and Tony’s Creole Seasoning. I think this was my first Cajun food, sitting at her kitchen table with a bowl ladled from a simmering pot. DP and I made it at the end of the week of September 11, 2001, in NYC, but with Goya beans and Chicken Apple Sausage. Not exactly authentic but comfort food nonetheless. And it was perfect! Just what we needed. We made it again when she passed away last year (and numerous times in between).

1 lb. kidney beans (preferrably Camellia)
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons ground bay leaf [or 2-3 whole leaves]
1/3 cup bacon drippings [or 3 pieces of bacon]
2 lb. smoked sausage
garlic salt, salt, pepper [or 1 tablespoon Tony’s]

Wash beans. Fill pot with water (2-3 quarts). Add onion, celery, green pepper, parsley, bay leaf, and bacon drippings. Bring to boil uncovered. Simmer and keep adding water until beans are softened, and gravy and beans are desired consistency (we added 1 quart more), approximately 2 hours. Add sausage, then Tony’s. Simmer uncovered about ½ hour longer. Turn off heat, let rest for 30 minutes. Make rice. Serve.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Children of the Cauliflower

My kids are weird.

Proof #1: We reheated last night's pork for lunch. All they wanted to eat was the onion.

Proof #2: For dinner we had hamburger patties, with a side of steamed broccoli and cauliflower. They ignored the hamburger and ate all the cauliflower, even crying when they ate the whole bag! So then they settled for the rest of the broccoli. And never finished the meat.

Not bad-weird, just weird.

Otherwise, it was a hard day: no nap in the toddler beds due to the removal of a dirty diaper and the subsequent spreading around the room of its contents. Ugh. We then slept two hours in the car, were tired for bed but scared to sleep in the toddler beds. After an hour of crying and comforting, it was finally quiet. I guess we got off easy tonight.

But I realized a beautiful thing: in the last 24 hours, my children have become best friends. They used to tolerate one another, or annoy one another, or play side by side and then fight, with lots of jealousy over who was sitting closer to Mommy at that moment. But starting yesterday when they crawled out of their cribs, it's been the two of them as a team. In that Herculean task of transcending the crib rail, they bonded. And it's been clear since yesterday. They're playing together--building a blanket fort, scaling the couch, chasing each other through the little tent, jumping in their beds--and there has been no fighting. They've exchanged loveys, passed each other toys, swapped playdough colors without my suggesting it, and sat side by side on the couch to watch Dora.

It's been wonderful. Almost as wonderful as . . . cauliflower.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Toddler Mutant Ninja Twins

Today has been quite a day. But I'm not going to talk about how DD and DS both greeted me at the door of their room when I came to check an unusual sound--they had climbed out of their cribs for the first time, pulled out all of their toys, and DD had stripped down to her birthday suit, without making any sound on the monitor until they tried to open the door!

And that was just nap. The afternoon found me trying to keep clothes and diapers on DD, who has suddenly decided she doesn't like diapers, even though we are not nearly potty-trained, as well as mopping up blood from DS's nose after he bonked it on the couch while trying to climb. It was as if my own dear babes had gone down to bed and this perfectly in-sync pair of ninjas woke up and decided I was outnumbered and they could take me. They did.

In fact, until about 10 minutes ago, I wasn't sure we'd ever sleep again. My kiddos have always been great sleepers at night, not so good during the day. Fine. I'll take my 7-7 sleepathon. But for the last two hours they have read books, exchanged beds, and in general done everything but sleep even though we 1). tried to make the converted toddler beds feel warm and inviting with new Dora and Diego sheet sets (probably too exciting!) 2). laid down the rules about staying in bed and 3). cleared everything dangerous or interesting out of their room. After checking with friends and the www, we realized that no one has ever successfully transitioned twins in the same room to toddler beds and gotten them to sleep again.

Sigh.

I did have one success today: dinner. Which reminds me of a new UCLA study suggesting that convenience foods (frozen veggies, sauces, etc.) aren't saving families any time in meal preparation statistically speaking. Just oh 10-12 minutes. These people must not have kids because 10-12 minutes is huge in my book. That can be the difference between actually eating a meal and decorating the floor with it.

And tonight they ate it. And there was a convenience food--chicken broth from a box. Otherwise, I seared the pork myself, chopped the onions (I only just realized you could buy chopped frozen onions--does anyone really do that?), and put it all in the slow cooker. Practically homemade (and not semi, like that woman on the food channel who drives me nuts). And they loved it. Even ate it with applesauce. And asked for more. Success!

I hope it's not the only success today . . . but they're still quiet.

-=-=-=

Smothered Pork Chops and Gravy

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
6-6 oz. bone in center-cut pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick), trimmed
1-14 oz can fat free, less sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
freshly ground black pepper
(we added one onion, sliced)

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 chops; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Place chops in a 4-1/2 quart electric slow cooker. Repeat procedure with remaining oil and chops.
Combine broth, mustard, salt, and garlic powder. Pour broth mixture over chops in slow cooker. Add onion, if desired. Cover with lid, cook on high-heat setting 1 hour. Reduce to low-heat setting; cook 4 hours or until chops are tender. Remove chops from slow cooker, reserving cooking liquid. Increase to high-heat setting.
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, level with a knife. Combine flour and 1 cup cooking liquid, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Stir flour mixture into cooking liquid in slow cooker. Cook 10 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally (or make gravy the usual way). Serve gravy over chops and mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with pepper, if desired.

(Note: we skipped the flour part, of course)

Cooking Light Slow Cooker Recipes

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dessert First

I've had two exceptional ice cream experiences this week. At Outback, I had Blue Bell. Now, I'm originally from Texas, and Blue Bell is "the best ice cream in the country." Except it's not regularly available outside of Texas and surrounding states. But Outback serves Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla with their desserts. I could just go there for the ice cream. Not too sweet, super creamy, good vanilla flavor. It almost makes me want to move back to the Lone Star State.

And then today, at the zoo, I had Dippin' Dots, those little freeze-dried ice cream novelties. I first had these a few months ago at the Bronx Zoo, having never seen them before. It's so bizarre, so fake, so intriguing. Today was banana split--little pellets of chocolate, banana, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream. So strange.

The kids love their Rice Dream "ice cream"--DS won't eat the GF sugar cones but DD will, but only after an ice cream refill. And they love the ice cream in bowls as sundaes with any fresh fruit. DP suggested maple syrup, which we'll try sometime. They also love their own Tropical Slushies, because DD loves mango and DS loves pineapple--two great tastes that taste great together.

We made our own ice cream, before kids, and I include our two favorites here--Chocolate Sorbet has this incredible deep-chocolate flavor and Earl Grey gently flavors vanilla with the taste of my favorite tea.

-=-=-=-=

Tropical Slushie
1 cup mango nectar
20 oz Canned Pineapple Chunks in Juice

Freeze pineapple chunks overnight. Defrost 10 minutes before blending with mango nectar. Serve.

Parent and Child Magazine


Chocolate Sorbet

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsweetened (or Dutch process) cocoa powder

Combine the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the cocoa and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat and pour through a fine strainer into a bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Stir the cool mixture, then freeze in your ice cream maker. When finished, the sorbet will be soft but ready to eat. For firmer sorbet, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

Bruce Weinstein, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book


Earl Grey Ice Cream

1 cup milk
3 heaping tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea or 5-6 Earl Grey tea bags
¾ cup sugar
6 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream

Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan. Remove from the heat. Stir in the tea leaves or bags, cover, and set aside to steep for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the egg yolks until thickened and pale yellow. Beat in the flour and salt. Set aside.
Strain the milk to remove the tea leaves, or simply remove the tea bags. Add the half-and-half and return to a simmer over low heat. Slowly beat the hot milk and half-and-half into the egg yolks and sugar. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly. Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble. Remove from the heat and pour the hot tea custard through a strainer into a larger, clean bowl. Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the cream. Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.
Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in 1 or 2 batches in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat. For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours (it’s better the next day, when frozen solid).

Bruce Weinstein, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book

Monday, August 27, 2007

What's in a Name?

I can't think of anything entertaining to write about dinner. Oh, except for the name--meatball loaf? meatloaf balls? mini meatloaf? I made meatloaf in my muffin tin, which confused DD and DS who are used to 1) helping with whatever goes into the muffin tin (but since they like eating the batter best, there is no way they get to make meatloaf) and 2) there being raisins or blueberries in the muffins. But there was ketchup and that makes everything good. It's based on my mom's own meatloaf recipe, which has onions and a few other things, and is not baked in a muffin tin. The little individual meat muffins, though, were a hit. And they even ate the greens.

Mommy's Mini-Meatloafballs

1 lb ground beef
3/4 lb ground turkey
1 can Sylvia's Mixed Greens, drained
1/2 cup ketchup, plus more for topping
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine ground beef and turkey, greens, and 1/2 cup ketchup, plus salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Grease muffin tin. Divide mixture into muffin tin. Add dollop of ketchup to top of each meatloafball. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until thoroughly cooked.

_An_ Apple a Day

Is it wrong to tell a child to stay away from apples? The one way I can tell that DS has grown taller is that his reach has improved. The fruit basket on the side table used to be safe. Not anymore. Earlier this week, I found a trail of red, limp skins leading from the kitchen to the couch--by the way, there is a strict eat-only-in-the-kitchen rule here--and two pluots with chunks missing. His sister kindly handed me another piece of wet skin. And I knew then that the fruit basket was no longer safe. And so now, he likes to reach in and grab for apples. He loves apples. And green grapes. And blueberries. Blueberries are big right now, especially because there is a Dora the Explorer episode with blueberries and a bear. And an icy cold lake. Ayudame. Sometimes, however, he doesn't get an apple. He's gotten a lime. And today he got a huge bite of underripe nectarine. It hasn't put him off his attempts though, so I found myself refusing him fruit. No, DS, no apples. You just ate three, and bit two more. In the last twenty minutes. Did I mention my kids can eat? Playgroup moms wonder at my food bill (which I will only say has doubled, makes sense, with twins, right? Especially because it's mostly organic and specialty stuff). They wonder where the food goes, as my children are some of the smaller ones for their age (you should see the diapers. Ayudame.) So, um, why haven't I moved the fruit basket? Mainly because it has a banana attachment hanging from the top and doesn't fit under the cabinets. There's not any counter space anyway. Until I figure out what to do with the fruit basket, I'm in the ironic? enviable? position of denying my child apples. Ayudame.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mother's Day Out

After a huge lunch at Outback with my playgroup moms (who all agreed to receive a bag of goo from me! see yesterday's post) and then a long grocery shopping trip during which I was so stuffed I almost couldn't fathom buying more food, dinner was a small affair.

DP made fish, with sweet potoates (we had a family cooking session of washing and preparing them for baking this morning) and veggies, for the babes and herself. I watched. But I know from dinners past that it was good.

(A big hello to my one reader who is drinking her tea right about now--I hope your afternoon was good. See you later this week! Sorry this is short, after being gone all day, the house needs some attention, as does DP)


DP's Tapenade Fish

3-4 sole or flounder filets
½ teaspoon minced garlic
Lemon juice
Capers
Tapenade
Olive oil

Heat equal parts olive oil and lemon juice plus minced garlic in skillet on medium. Saute fish on relatively low heat. Toss in a few capers along the sides. When fish is done, put dollops of tapenade on each fillet; warm through. Serve with a splash of lemon juice.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Friendship

Amish Friendship Bread

Please note the following:
*Do NOT use any type of metal spoon or bowl for mixing.
*Do NOT refrigerate.
*If air gets into the bag, let it out.
*It is normal for the batter to rise and ferment.

Day 1: Do nothing (This is the day you receive the batter. The bag is dated.)
Day 2: Mash the bag.
Day 3: Mash the bag.
Day 4: Mash the bag.
Day 5: Mash the bag.
Day 6: Add to the bag--1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk. Mash the bag.
Day 7: Mash the bag.
Day 8: Mash the bag.
Day 9: Mash the bag.
Day 10: Follow the directions:
1. Pour entire contents of the bag into a non-metal bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and 1 1/2 cups milk.
2. Measure out 4 separate batters of 1 cup each into 1 gallon zipper bags. Keep a starter bag for yourself and give 3 to friends with a copy of this recipe (note: if you keep a starter bag, you will be baking every 10 days). The bread makes a great gift. Should this recipe not be passed on to a friend on the first day, be certain to tell the friend which day the bag is in the cycle when presented to them.

Baking Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. To the remaining batter in the bowl add:
3 eggs
1 cup oil (or 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 box instant vanilla or chocolate pudding
raisins or nuts to taste
3. Grease two large loaf pans. Mix an additional 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust the pans with half of the mixture.
4. Pour the batter evenly into the two pans. Sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture over the top.
5. Bake for 1 hour. Cool until bread loosens evenly from the sides of the pan (about 10 minutes).
6. Turn onto a serving dish. Serve to friends and loved ones.

*My friend notes that various internet sites indicate you can refrigerate or freeze the starter to delay using it. There are also other recipes that use the starter.

-=-=-=-=

Perhaps you have seen the above recipe before. It is the ultimate chain letter--better than the book swap, sock exchange, or recipe go-round--because the sender actually hands you a bag of oozy goo. This morning, my friend, who is quite a baker and craftswoman was visiting with her partner from out of state, generously presented me with said goo.

I was so excited.

I received my first bag of goo--it looks like a zipper bag of glue--when I coordinated the docent program of a large midwestern museum--a very kind docent was begging people to take these bags of goo from her and I agreed. At that point, I had vague memories of my great grandmother keeping a similar jar of goo on her counter. I think she added fruit cocktail to it on baking day. But that's all I can recall (and my mom doesn't really remember). I dutifully kept up my starter, cheerfully made the bread, and prepared three more bags of goo to give away. I'm not sure I ever found anyone who would take those bags. And I think, feeling guilty and overwhelmed by too much goo, I had DP dispose of the bags because I just couldn't.

And so now, years later, I'm going to try again. It's day 4 for us, so I mashed the bag. I'll probably spend the rest of the evening searching for alternate recipes and information--I mean, I'm not sure the Amish use instant pudding. Or zipper bags. How in the world did this get started?

But I have a few ideas for people to give those bags of goo too. And so at least that part of the title is right. It's all about friendship.

-=-=-=-=
Note: If you want to start your own friendship bread bag of goo, my original recipe included the following information:

Starter:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
Mix in a large zipper bag or other non-metallic container. Metal makes it taste funny. Begin 10 day cycle.

[Alternative: 1 package Active dry yeast, 2 ½ cup warm water, 2 cups sifted flour, 1 tablespoon sugar. Dissolve yeast in ½ cup of warm water in a glass or plastic container. Stir in remaining warm water, flour, and sugar. Beat until smooth. Begin 10 day cycle.]

Friday, August 24, 2007

Strike Two

Alas, we made another treat today--for our church playgroup this afternoon. Blondies, with raisins instead of chocolate chips. Again the dough was well-received by DS and DD. And then I watched the bars bake. Well, fry might be more like it. The recipe called for a cup of oil. Sounded like a lot but then this gluten-free, vegan, soy-free baking is never exactly what I'm used to so I measured the cup. And later watched the whole dish of blondies bubble in oil. By the time they cooled, they were rock solid, like candy, not like cookie bars. I managed to scrape a few chewable pieces out for DD, who had been eagerly awaiting the bars' completion. And she loved them! Even with oil dripping down her chin and soaking through her napkin. DS, however, wouldn't even touch his bar o'oil and chose green grapes instead. Next time, I'll use applesauce instead.

I guess tomorrow is another day. I'd like to at least draw a walk. Even if it means I get hit in the head with the ball.

(**Thanks to DP for the baseball analogy; I'm more of a football girl myself.)

A Decade

Last night was our 10th anniversary. We had actually celebrated in grand style last week, doing something we were both desperate to do--we got a babysitter and went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (yes, we've read HP7 and loved it; no I won't post any details). Add to that dinner at the theater--we're both devotees of junk food at times--and some Ben and Jerry's ice cream, and it was an amazing night.

But last night was the real date. 10 years. Wow. Amazing what can change in a decade. Then, she was working at her first job in Chicago and I was a grad student in NYC. We'd met three years earlier, shelving books at a summer library job in NYC, and pretty much dated since then, though we didn't realize it until later.

So last night we reminisced--3 moves, 3 cats, 5 jobs, 2 children, several trips, thousands of meals. And we're still in love. It's all very amazing, especially since the year we got together, two couples we knew broke it off in the 10th year. We always joked that we'd skip 10. But we made it through the 10th year and are starting 11.

And so, knowing me so well, DP went to Penzey's Spices and Balducci's and brought home two things I'm addicted to--dark chocolate (the darker the better) and cooking magazines. We savored one of the chocolates, not a pure dark chocolate, but marzipan coated in dark chocolate. Delicious, reminds me of a candy a Danish co-worker once gave me. Anton's, Antoine's, something, with plum filling and marzipan. The cooking magazines--Penzey's One--will be perfect for the selection of spices she brought home. A treat for us both.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Playgroups are Brutal

But not in the ways you might think. Ours, for instance, is a wonderful group of supportive, friendly, usually relaxed moms without a lot of drama, intrigue, or competition. We've been meeting since the babes were all a few months old, about two years. Each week we meet at someone's house and talk while the kids trash the place. Then we leave.

Oh, and in between, everyone eats. The hostess serves breakfast or lunch or snacks--we used to be very ambitious. I made chili twice and ordered out pizza and had sundaes. There have been wonderful salads, wraps, and huge spreads of pastries and nibbles. AND the guests bring things--there's the obligatory box of Munchkins (I used to always bring Pepperidge Farm Cookies), and we have a couple of incredible bakers (everyone gets excited when they RSVP!). It's becoming less fancy, more functional, as the children have become toddlers (and many of the moms are now pregnant with #2). But I love it. I mean, what else does a SAHM need--good friends, adult conversation (and it's not always about kids!), and food, plus no clean-up (we're pretty shameless about leaving places a mess, but we each take our turn and it's ok--it's impossible to clean up with a toddler experiencing the "I need a nap" collapse).

But food is becoming a real problem. We used to just breast and bottle feed the babes; then it was the jar food phase. And we all did Cheerios (well, we did an organic oat variety) and Gerber Graduates. But now everyone else's kids can (though won't always) eat everything. Except mine. And so playgroup is becoming difficult, right up there with birthday parties for sheer trauma (I'll tell you sometime about crying in the bathroom over cake at a birthday party). Mainly to me. Mind you, everyone knows and is great about the allergies and helping me police their intake. But I want the kiddos to be able to eat chocolate chip cookies and mini-hot dogs in crescent rolls and macaroni and cheese. Especially after they've asked for the umpteenth time, watching their friends inhale these things.

I do take a treat everytime--I had been taking fruit salad but now that DS can't have pineapple or mandarin oranges, he just doesn't get excited about a bowl of apples and grapes as a treat. Today's goodie was a failure. We cheerfully made gluten-free cornbread (from a mix, with applesauce for buttermilk and oil for melted butter and egg replacer) this morning and even licked the bowl clean (DS had eaten all my blueberries so we couldn't make muffins). However, when the time came to actually eat the cornbread at playgroup, no go. They also didn't want the cereal, special pretzels, "smooshed fruit," "wizard cookies" (a GF cookie with little wizard imprints), or raisins I had brought along and presented with great enthusiasm. They wanted the chocolate chip cookies and the mini hot dogs.

And so, after trying all the tricks in my huge purple backpack diaper bag, I gave in and unwrapped numerous mini hot dogs from their buttery crescent shells (and hoped that they weren't chock full of peanuts or something; luckily, the kids' allergies manifest as skin rashes and only if they have a significant amount of a food. Still . . . )

And they loved them.

Sigh.

I won't even bother posting that cornbread recipe.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

You Have to Have a Thick Skin to Cook for Toddlers

Oh, it is a thankless task to cook for toddlers at times. Today was one of those days. I made pasta with lentils (see below), which I thought they would like--there's pasta, tomatoes, and salt. With those ingredients, who could be bothered by some lentils? Well, I found out. DD didn't want the tomatoes or the lentils and only tolerated the pasta (which is rice pasta because of allergies)--she even learned to say "don't like it." Yippee. Then she asked for "smooshed fruit" (aka Fruitabu). DS liked the pasta with the flavor of the sauce but not any of the actual ingredients of the sauce, which he then smeared on the top, edge, and underside of our thick, butcher-block table (which was better than his sister's technique, which was to try to feed the circling kittens--black cats look funny with lentils on their heads. Oh, the hilarity.). He did have two bowls, though, joining DP when she ate. Ah, the power of persuasion. Then he wanted a fruit snack too.

Final note, as DD was finishing her fruit snack, she noted it was "sticky, like raisins." And then she began to sing . . . . Laurie Berkner's "I'm a Mess."


Pasta e Lenticchie
A recipe from “Molto Mario,” this is a cross between a soup and a pasta. It was one of our favorite dishes before children, but we hadn't had it in awhile. It’s too big a recipe to double effectively, though it freezes well, without the pasta, which can be cooked and added when you want to reheat. Tonight I made it sans red pepper flakes and with rice pasta, serving it more like a sauce with the pasta cooked separately.

5 cups water
3/4 cups lentils
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil1 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, with some juice
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 pound vermicelli, or small tubular pasta, or pasta mista
2 rounded tablespoons finely cut or snipped parsley
Optional: extra-virgin olive oil and hot red pepper flakes or hot pepper oil, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a rolling boil, add the lentils, and cook, covered over medium-high heat, until nearly but not entirely tender, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic, the olive oil, the tomatoes, the salt and the pepper. Reduce the heat, cover and continue to simmer briskly for another 10 minutes, stirring a few times, or until the lentils are fully tender.
If using capellini, break it into 2 to 4-inch pieces and add them to the lentils. Cook, covered, at a steady simmer, stirring several times and scraping the bottom of the pot when you do. Cook until the pasta is just done, stirring more frequently as it gets closer to the point of being cooked. If using a small tubular pasta or pasta mista, cook the pasta at least halfway in plenty of salted boiling water. Drain the pasta, add it to the lentils and simmer to finish cooking the pasta.
When pasta is cooked to taste, remove the pot from the heat, stir in the parsley cover the pot, and let stand about 5 minutes before serving. Serve hot, passing hot pepper oil or the best-quality extra virgin olive oil for drizzling on top.

“Molto Mario” Batali, on the Food Network

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Playdough

Well, there wasn't any real food of note today. The kids ate leftovers; we had last minute spaghetti and jar sauce. Good but not noteworthy.

We did cook something fantastic though: homemade playdough. It lasts a long time if stored in plastic zipper bags. And you can customize the color, add scent with extracts, and even glitter (though, we haven't tried that). Today we made lemon yellow and orange.

Play Dough

1 cup flour
½ cup salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon powdered alum (optional)
A few drops of food coloring
A few drops of extract (peppermint works well)

Combine ingredients—ADDING COLORING TO WATER BEFORE ADDING FLOUR! Heat and stir until mixture forms a soft ball. Put mixture onto wax paper until cool. Knead slightly to eliminate grainy texture. Store in tightly covered container. The recipe can be doubled (which is the easiest way to make more than one color).

Parents as Teachers handout

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mommy, hungry!

As a SAHM of two-year old b/g twins, I hear "Mommy, hungry!" about a dozen times a day. This blog is going to be my record of feeding hungry toddlers, my partner, and myself, both body and soul.

Some things to know: my toddlers have multiple food allergies. No soy, dairy, eggs, wheat, nuts, honey, or a variety of citrus fruits and berries. So, cooking is sometimes a challenge because, well, I like those things and almost all my recipes include one or more of those ingredients. But we're trying. And sometimes it works; sometimes it's just messy.

And I'm doing Weight Watchers--the Core plan, for now--I've lost about 18 lbs, with more to go. So, though I love baking, I'm trying to avoid that for now.

Tonight, it's pot roast, except without the actual roast which they find hard to chew. So, we're using stew meat cut into really small pieces and a variety of veggies. The kiddos love veggies and will probably skip the meat altogether, though DD did have a thing for brisket when we were visiting the grandparents in Texas. The crockpot should be done in about half an hour.

-=-=-
I was wrong. DD ate the meat and none of the veggies; DS did just the opposite. DP (let's just use this for "dear partner") and I are about to sit down. I think we'll eat both.

And she brought fudge home.

Now, that's not Weight Watchers's Core plan at all!