Thursday, June 30, 2011

One of my Favorite Summertime Desserts - Cherries!!

Seattle's summer may be coming at a snail's pace, but it's still warm enough to kick your shoes off, go outside, and enjoy the bounty of summer fruits in the warm air.  

A very important part of eating cherries outside, and in my opinion the best part, is spitting the pits.  The learning curve for two two-year-olds on this concept was a bit steep.  They didn't quite grasp the idea of actually eating the fruit before spitting. 

You can give your kiddo a vessel to capture the stones, but...
it's really fun to spit them into the bushes.

Mom's Tip
Stainless steel bowls and wine glasses are ideal for outside adventures.

Happy Summer


Monday, June 27, 2011

A Call to the Table

I've had a couple of conversations in the last week that have made me look closer at how I see American food culture and how we feed our children.  I've been told by a chef friend, whose opinion I respect especially when it comes to food, that my style of parenting in regard to the subject is an anomaly; that most parents would sooner stop at a drive through than cook a simple meal, or dole out fruit cups rather than hand their child an actual piece of fruit.  When I tell other friends about this, they agree with him.

I must admit.  I am BAFFLED.

When we were kids, didn't our parents tell us that we had to sit at the table to eat our dinner? Didn't we have to eat what was served us? Didn't we have to say please and thank you and use our napkins?

I suppose I take the tack from old-fashioned values in that I don't see myself as my child's friend. I am her parent, her guide, her confidant, her support.  It's my job to teach her how to be a good person, how to be a good citizen, and how to take care of herself in every regard.

So, where does our journey of teaching our children start?  What do children learn about first?


Food is the first thing kids have contact with from the time they're born. Their tastes and preferences are guided by what their parents give them. If you feed your baby the same thing every day, they'll be more likely to refuse something new. If you hand an infant something with a wrinkled nose and say, "Try this" they'll take a cue from you and turn away from it. But, if you introduce food to your child as if variety were rote, this will be their norm.

I very rarely feed my daughter the same thing twice. Truthfully this is more a function of the fact that I never really cook anything the same way twice (I'm scattered like that), but it's also because I don't want her to get stuck in a rut. For instance, I never give her the same after school snack two days in a row or give her the same kind of bread for her morning toast week after week.

This weekend was proof positive that what I'm teaching my daughter is taking effect. On our way out of town for a much-needed getaway, we stopped at the store for some essentials. In a rush to get to our little vacation destination, I went to the deli counter where I asked her what she wanted. There were pre-made sandwiches and wraps, but she pointed at the fruit and cheese cup.  (I though to myself, 'Yes! Good Girl!!') Later that night corn on the cob was served with dinner. I've always been indifferent to corn, so I've never cooked it at home, but Lorelei couldn't get enough. She's not afraid to try something new, and I love that!! And I can't help but think that this is due to my efforts in opening up the world of food to her.

Now, I'm not saying that I disagree with my chef friend's opinion. I can see where he's hit the mark. I've recently witnessed parents saying to other parents, "Well, he's young. He'll learn how to behave later." I've read entire blog posts by parents who refuse to take their toddlers to dinner at a restaurant for fear of how the child will behave.


The thing that really gets me, though, is that the HUGE push by our government, our First Lady (Michelle Obama), Jamie Oliver's Food Foundation, even major fast food chains to change the way we see food and feeding our kids has seemingly had no effect. How is this possible?! Are parents so selfish and lazy that they can't change their habits to make a good example for their children?

The sad answer is yes.

Case in point: I wait tables. It's a nice restaurant, but not so fancy that kids can't eat what we serve. I had a mother and father come in the other day asking if we had a children's menu. I said that we didn't but that "everything on our menu is edible, and my kid eats here all the time." Both statements are very true. The parents seemed amenable but the little girl, who couldn't have been more than eight and was already terribly overweight, decided that the family wouldn't be eating in my restaurant. And so they left.

The point of this blog post is not to preach. It's more to share my astonishment of people's willingness to fall prey to convenience and their unwillingness to fight The Good Fight. This path that I've chosen is not an easy one. I struggle like anyone with what I should cook for dinner, how the hell I'm going to find time to make that recipe which calls for ingredients that will cost me a fortune and that will spoil in my fridge because it's only sold in giant portions, and how on Earth am I going to use leftovers, so they don't taste like the last three meals we've had.

Maybe Jamie Oliver is right. Start with the kids because the parents are already lost. Teach our children how to eat better so that they can make a difference for their kids.

I'd like to take it one step further; let's learn from our forefathers. Let's look at our current food culture that's descended from the American food culture of the 1950's when frozen dinners and convenient packaging became the craze. Before that, we sat at the dinner table—not in front of the TV—every night, at the same time with our families; when food was cooked by fire and not by microwaves. When things were not easy, but simple.

Let's have a Call To Table.

Let's stop walking and driving while we eat and drink. Let's sit across from one another to share the stories of our days, and tell the stories of our past. Let's laugh, teach, and learn from and with one another

I may be an anomaly. And if I am, I'm happy for it. If you care to follow my lead, I have my pipe, and I'll play it loudly and dance while I'm doing it.

I wish you well in your journey and strongly encourage you to taste something new today.


Mmm. Corn on the Cob

Sometimes there's nothing better than chomping on a fresh ear of corn in the great outdoors.

Lorelei had never eaten corn on the cob before but she plowed through a whole ear in no time.  I had to actually remind her that she had other food on her plate.  Had I not she would have eaten all of the corn on the table. 

Happy Summer everyone.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Sweet & Sour Angels... I mean Angel Food Cake

Yay!!  It's berry season.

Our friends Bonnie and Klaire were over last night for another round of The Two-and-a-Half Year Olds vs. The Moms.  It's always a fun mix of dinner, playing, laughter, tears, wine (for the moms), tears (both babes and moms, rarely at the same time), and battle (mostly the babes).  Last night was no exception, although gladly there were no tears or battles from anyone (We are all growing up I suppose.) 

Our evening came to a sweet end with Shrek and Strawberry Shortcake.  Bonnie had brought over some Angel Food cake and strawberries.  She did something that I had never seen but will be sure to do again, she buttered then toasted the Angel Food cake before topping it with the berries.  I added some blueberries to the mix, but I didn't have any whip cream, so I made a sauce of Sour Cream and Brown Sugar.  (about 1 tbsp. to 1/4 cup of sour cream).  It turned out really good!  Tangy and sweet with the warm, crisped cake.  Very tasty, and quite a hit!!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Exceptions to the Rules

The other day I had a hankering for a hamburger. I'm not one to eat at a drive-though so I found myself at Seattle Burger Company.  I got myself a burger and fries and Lorelei two mini cheese burgers with milk and orange slices.

When we got home I plowed into mine but Lorelei just wrinkled her nose at her plate.  I realized as we were sitting there that she has so rarely had (or even seen) hamburgers that they just looked totally unappealing to her.

If you've been reading my blog or know me personally, you know that my rule at the table once dinner is served that, "This Is Dinner".  No exceptions.  But this night, when my daughter just didn't want to eat the junk food that I had placed in front of her, I didn't force the issue.  I asked her what she wanted for dinner and she got it.

Me: One gross burger with the weird 'house' mayonnaise and fries.
Lorelei: Blueberries and yogurt.

I was proud of my girl for wanting fruit and not a burger.  I also felt a sense of accomplishment.  Yay!

Mom's Tip
Burgers for dinner is a fun thing to do from time to time.  Just remember that it is a meal best kept for maybe once a month (or even less in our case).  Takeaway burger joints are offering 'healthy' options for kids' meals these days.  My advice, take 'em and share a fry or two with your kiddo instead of giving them a whole order.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Words from Mister Rogers - Attempts at Pulling it Together

Through all of this blogging, cooking, and sharing I am still a single mom trying to figure out how to do this thing called parenting.  I struggle with the same things that any parent would I suppose, but the burden of solitude weighs heavy on my psyche.  I have wonderful support from my friends and family, but I still have my own personal struggles that I have to come to terms with.

One of my biggest worries has always been the question, "What am I going to be when I grow up?"  I still ask myself that and I'm thirty-nine.  I'm closer to having the answer than I've ever been, but I'm not quite there yet.  One of my biggest impediments, and greatest assets, is that I'm a dreamer.  I have always had lofty ideas as to what I want to be and how I want to do it.  But now, as a mom, I need to get my shit together tout de suite so that I can be an example to my daughter as to how to be confident and successful.  How am I supposed to do that for her if I can't do it for myself?

Frequently, I look to friends, books, and other random places for inspiration and direction.  Last night, while I was sitting in the middle of my living room floor desperately trying to keep it together, I looked up and saw a book on the shelf that made perfect sense:

The World According To Mister Rogers: Important Things To Remember 

This is an excerpt from the chapter, "The Challenges of Inner Discipline"

"What makes the difference between wishing and realizing our wishes? Lots of things, of course, but the main one, I think, is whether we link our wishes to our active work. It may take months or years, but it's far more likely to happen when we care so much that we'll work as hard as we can to make it happen. And when we're working toward the relation of our wishes, some of our greatest strengths come from the encouragement of people who care about us."

The good thing is my wishes are clearly defined.  Now I need to figure out how to link them with my active work.  I am happy to say that this blog, this project that I'm assigning myself, has become something more than just random rants and recipes, for me at least.  I am tickled that my friends and readers ask for more recipes and that those that they've attempted were simple and tasty (more to come, I promise!)
So for now, I'll think on Mister Rogers' advice, keep cooking,  and breathe deeply through the TERRIBLE TWOS.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On a Musical Note - Classic Arts Showcase

You may not be able to easily take a toddler to the opera or ballet or to a Broadway show, but that doesn't mean they can't be exposed to the world of art, dance, theater and classical music.  I have found a nice distraction for toddlers on television - Classic Arts Showcase.  This lovely channel is available nationwide and provides culture to my kid and respite to me from SpongeBob.  Here's a link to find the channel for your state/cable system.

Lorelei and I saw this pas de deux a few weeks ago.  She was rapt with attention watching the dancers, but at one point turned to me and said, "Um, mom?  Where shirt?"  The ballerino was topless and Lorelei didn't approve.  Ha!

There's not just ballet and classical music.  Artists like Sinatra and Sting show up from time to time too.

You may be thinking to yourself, "Yeah, that's your kid.  Mine would never watch ballet or the symphony on TV."  Well, I'm here to tell you, I have a lot of kids come to my house and I have yet to see one turn away from it.  Now, they'll get their fill of it, like we all would with anything, but I find that it's a wonderful alternative to Nickelodeon and many other mainstream television channels.  Of course there's always the alternative of turning off the TV, but frankly we don't do that in our house.  I have guilt about it from time to time, but that's just one of those things that I need to set to one side. 

Mom's Tip
I have found the channel especially effective when my kid hits that wall, you know the one, when their head begins to spin and the walls shake with the sound of their screaming.  It totally shuts her up; stops dead cold in her tracks.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Trick 'em into eating it - More Ideas on Dessert

This is a Mom's Tip from my post "Let Them Decide - Ideas About What To Feed Your Kid".  It seems apropos to share this bit just after my last post "Ooey, Gooey, Sticky, and Chewy - Defining Dessert" because it's a yummy dessert and a tricky, but very successful way to introduce something as dessert that may not be in your (or your kid's) realm of norm.

Enjoy, and Santé

Mom's Tip

If you're going to introduce something new and you're not sure how it'll go over, be sneaky!!  Keep your game face on but plot against them.  Here's an example.  I had a friend and her two kids over for dinner a few weeks ago.  The kids wanted dessert, but I had nothing to offer except fruit.  Full disclosure; these kids are children of an adventurous chef, so they're predisposed to having a bit of a broad palate.  However, they are still kids and will refuse water if they think it's looking at 'em funny.

Anyhow, back to dessert.  I decided to serve them strawberries with creme fraiche.  I sliced the berries and put them on one side of a bowl, placed a dollop of creme fraiche on the other side, sprinkled some brown sugar over all of it, then (here's my stroke of evil culinary genius) I stabbed a piece of berry with a cocktail fork (which kids love) and put the sucker smack in the middle of the cream.  Now they had little choice but to try the potential offender if they wanted to get to the rest of the dish.  I served all three of those kids two helpings of that dessert and plates were licked!  Ha Ha!! Success!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ooey, Gooey, Sticky, and Chewy - Defining Dessert

There has been a magnet on my mom's fridge for as long as I can remember that says:

Of course I eat all 
four food groups: 
Ooey, Gooey, 
Sticky, and 

If we were to have dessert it was homemade Apple or Lemon Meringue pie, a big bowl of ice cream, or cookies.  Mmm, cookies.  But as an adult, and as someone who doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, I don't tend to have those things in the house... that and if I were to I might just blow up like a balloon.  So I've come to appreciate other things as my sweet fix.  I'm happy with a slice of toasted baguette with neufchatel cheese (basically light cream cheese) and jam, or a cheese plate with apple, berries and yogurt.  You get the picture.  Now that I've got a kiddo, though, I'm trying to find tasty things that are sweet and yummy, but don't set a precedent that Ooey, Gooey, Sticky and Chewy are her only options for dessert. 

Last week, we were visiting with neighbors and their collective brood.  When it was time to go, I told them that we were headed home for something sweet; yogurt with honey, raspberries, and a ginger snap cookie.  When I told my neighbor what it was that we were going to have, she said, "WOW Fancy!"

I thought to myself, "Huh?!"

I'm certain that I benefit from my many years in the restaurant industry and from my travels abroad because I don't define dessert as being just one of the aforementioned Über Four.  Here are some things that I like to lean towards for my little one:

- Tasty yogurt
- Sorbet and one shortbread cookie
- Fresh fruit, especially during berry season
- Peaches and cream (yes whole, real cream.  One tablespoon is all you need to make it really good!)

Of course I don't shy away from Flan or Chocolate Chip Cookies, so I'm not saying you should either.  Just maybe think outside the fridge magnet from time to time.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Attempts at Staying Organized

I have a lot of ideas going through my head for this blog.  It's been a really fun challenge, but from time to time I seem to work against myself.

Case in point:

If you can read what this says and decipher what I was hoping to accomplish, please leave a comment below.  Your help and perspective is much appreciated.

Mom's Tip (to myself)
Try, try, try to write down a complete thought, no matter how many kids are hanging from your ankles.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Banana Bread with Chestnut Jam

I always, always buy too many bananas.  At any given time I have a pile of spotted yellow fruit looking sad and forgotten on my counter.  Since I haven't figured out how to not buy so many I've gotten really good at making Banana Bread.

This time, much to my surprise and chagrin, I only had two rotting bananas and not the three that were needed.  I often substitute apple sauce or apple butter to make up for any lack in banana, but I had neither.  I did have, however, some Chestnut Jam.

Confession - I'm a Bonne Maman groupie.  I LOVE their jellies and jams, so when I saw this little lovely in the Italian market, I had to have it (Even though it cost $7, OUCH!)

The recipe I follow (kind of) is in my old New Betty Crocker Cookbook.  This page, as you can see, has been a go-to page for may moons.

So as to not publish their recipe, I'll just tell you my little tweaks that have worked for me all this time.

- If I'm short on the 1 1/2 cups of banana that is called for, I make up the difference with Apple Butter, and not quite so much with Apple Sauce (because it's more wet.  You don't want to add too much water to the mix).  In this case, I added 3/4 of what was the remaining mashed ripe bananas that was needed with the Chestnut Jam.

-  I line my loaf pans with parchment paper instead of buttering them.  I find it to me easier to remove the loaves when they are done.  It's like a giant cupcake cup.

- I cook the bread for 40 minutes at 350º, NOT the 1 hour that the recipe calls for.  If you do that you may as well pull out your hockey stick.

Mom's Tip
Banana bread makes for good breakfast as well as dessert.  I toast a slice for me and top it with (surprise) Bonne Maman peach jelly, or Neutella for Lorelei.