Monday, April 12, 2010

my young vegetarian's dilemma

This morning we made these Strawberry Shortcake cookies (Thanks Martha!). They were yummy, great with coffee (for me!) and easy for Zeal to get through the recipe (mostly) on his own. He especially loved using an ice cream scoop as the tool to drop the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet. But before we could get to the cookie creating Zeal first had to double check whether all of our ingredients were corn-free. Corn free? Yes, corn-free. It's all the topic of discussion the last few days.

Recently, Zeal and I started reading the youth versions of adult bestsellers together. We started with the youth version of Three Cups of Tea and we were both hooked (I actually liked it better than the original). We're just loving that these easier, more accessible, more age appropriate versions of popular non-fiction books are appearing on the shelves and in our home. The most current title we've been cracking is The Omnivore's Dilemma for Kids: The Secrets Behind What You Eat by Michael Pollan. It seemed to me that the info in Omnivore's Dilemma was a bit old hat, until I started getting questions from Zeal, and I realized that just because we cook together, garden together, eat organic, etc. there is still a lot neither of us know about where food comes from. We eat very little processed food, but now I have a sneaking suspicion our diets will take on an even more gatherer-gardener approach now that he is armed with some hearty facts. For a boy who loves history AND food, this couldn't have been a better read!

Here's the synopsis from the publisher:
The New York Times bestseller that's changing America's diet is now perfect for younger readers

"What 's for dinner?" seemed like a simple question—until journalist and supermarket detective Michael Pollan delved behind the scenes. From fast food and big organic to small farms and old-fashioned hunting and gathering, this young readers' adaptation of Pollan's famous food-chain exploration encourages kids to consider the personal and global health implications of their food choices. In a smart, compelling format with updated facts, plenty of photos, graphs, and visuals, as well as a new afterword and backmatter, The Omnivore's Dilemma serves up a bold message to the generation that needs it most: It's time to take charge of our national eating habits—and it starts with you.

Funny how what started as an exploration of food for the sake of creative thinking and fun has evolved into a tween who reads labels and is thinking about not only where his food will end up once he's made it, but where it came from and the process by which it arrived in the pantry. Man, I love this kid!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

pancake molds:: kitchen tool of the week!

So, you know how much we love pancakes! And things shaped like hearts.

So we couldn't pass up another Saturday without making it a pancake morning, but this weekend, we dug out our pancake molds. Of course, they're heart shaped. But they also come shaped like dinosaurs, trucks, snowflakes, butterflies, gingerbread men, flowers, airplanes... you get the picture. You can find them in your grocery store.

We added Anjali's handprint cookie cutter to the mix too, but found that it really works better for cookie cutters with tiny spaces to just make the pancake first and then cut the shape out.

But they still taste the same. Yum, yum!

And guess what? Our heart shaped pancake mold? Well, they make wonderful butterflies...

Especially with that amazing blueberry syrup!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

show your support and win a book!

Dear Readers,
As you may have heard, after some urging, I have created a Facebook Page for The Wonder Collection. Please go to the page and "Become a fan" and show your support.
And, to celebrate, this week I am giving away an autographed copy of Child of Wonder. I hope you'll get in on the drawing!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

can you say "heart shaped sushi" ten times fast??

As you may well know, we usually have pizza on Valentine's Day. This year, we had a unanimous coup of sorts that resulted in a chant of "heart shaped sushi! heart shaped sushi! heart shaped sushi!

until it became...

"heart shaped shushi...heart saped shusi... fart saped soupshi!" (it wasn't pretty, but it was fun!) wink, wink

And so Heart Shaped Sushi it was.

It was easy to make. We simply rolled our sushi the way we usually do and when it was cut formed a heart by pinching the end to make a point (the bottom of the heart) and pushing in to make the top of the heart.
It was perfectly heart shaped.
It was delicious.
It was a Happy Valentine's Day.

Here's some quick tips to get you started making sushi with your kids:

Making Sushi with Children
Sushi has an allure that, once familiar with it, kids just love. Sometimes it is considered exotic and can have the reputation for being difficult to make. In all actuality, it is one of the easiest things to put together, and even better, it is easy for kids to put together and enjoy.

Making the rice
Sushi rice is usually a pearled or short grain white rice, but you can make it with short grain brown rice just as well. Make the rice (1 part rice, 2 parts water) ahead of time so that it has enough time to cool. There is nothing more discouraging to a budding junior sushi chef than sticking their little hands into a hot pot of rice. Ouch!

Rolling Sushi
Once you have your rice made and cooled, you can begin putting your sushi rolls together. If you don’t have a bamboo mat commonly used to roll sushi, a tea towel or even a piece of aluminum foil will work. Nori (available in the “ethnic foods” aisle or in Asian markets, is the dehydrated, paper thin, pliable sheet of seaweed wrapped on the outside of a sushi roll, the piece that holds all that rice and goodies together. Depending on how the sushi is rolled, the nori can be on the inside or outside of the roll. When working with new sushi chefs, start with just having the rice on the inside of the nori. Spread the rice evenly across the nori and then you are ready for your insides!

Sushi Insides
Place any one or more of the following items across the middle of your rice covered nori and roll:
Sweet bell pepper
Fried tofu strips
Julienned (sliced very thin) carrots, jicama, or any other root vegetable
Fresh spinach
Sesame seeds

Once you sushi is rolled together, you can either cut it into bite-sized pieces or keep it as a whole roll to just nibble upon.

Sushi Toppings
Many children are turned off by the spiciness of wasabi, the green horseradish paste usually served with sushi. While offering wasabi might not be your child’s forte, try just giving them a small serving of plain soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos to dip their sushi in. Sushi aficionados in training!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

for the love of peas!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Here's a reminder that today is the day to plant your peas, a great little veggie for kids to plant, raise, and harvest all by themselves. Plant them in rows, scattered clumps (in a tomato cage), or as a tipi for a bit of summer shade and a nice little get away when the weather gets hot.

We've tried all those ways, so next on our agenda is planting mini tipis for the fairies in our life!

Do you need a little more guidance? Check out any of Sharon Lovejoy's books on gardening with kids, Sunflower Houses is a favorite, as well as Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots (our first book by Sharon that we bought in 2003. It's high time we replace it given that it is losing its pages from being so well Loved!) Thanks Sharon!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

for the love of football, hearts, and chocolate!

Oh, it has been rather busy around these parts.
We've been doing lots of writing, playing, working, And oh yeah, cooking and eating, And then the Super Bowl decided to happen, and even though we have been tv free for all of Zeal's life, and this is the first year he has seen any of the frenzy that is football, he has recently become of a football fan thanks be to his grandpa, a lifetime 49er junkie!

So Zeal decided we were going to have a Super Bowl party! We talked about where the game was happening, who was playing, learned about some of the players. After all that, he decided we were going to have a 49er party anyway, the good, loyal fan that he has become.

On the menu? Red Velvet cupcakes, with gold frosting and chocolate footballs. Take that Saints! You too Colts!

Here's a little peek at the process...

We started by melting some dark chocolate in a double boiler and putting it in a pastry bag which we used to draw our decorations. Zeal got really into this process and came up with all types of decorations. This is really the highlight of the post, because these little chocolate treats are really where it is at! They were quick, easy, and fun to make! They would make GREAT valentine treats!

Yes, that's little Anjali's hand, made by tracing this cookie cutter.

And since the cake recipe wasn't really worth repeating, I'll spare you those details. But here's the scene and story of the day:
when the kicker missed the ball and fell on his back! (poor guy)

But I will recommend these little tools and ingredients:

here's a great little tool for little bakers - the silicon baking cup. We have them in moons, stars, flowers, and now little cupcakes molds:

They're worth giving a try!

And don't forget to stock up on that Natural food coloring for moments like this when your kids ask to make RED cake! Yuck!

But, I sure am thankful for all that chocolate. I am going to need it! Did I tell you, the editing process has begun on my next book, which is none other than Thinking Outside the Recipe: Cooking Activities to Nurture and Nourish the Creative Child!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Discovering Our Souls in a Messy Kitchen

I uncovered this piece in the dusty files as I was cleaning off my hard drive, and realized I'd never posted it here. So, in one sense, this is a walk down memory lane for me, but in another it could have very easily been written yesterday. Enjoy!

Flour Experiments

“I’m gonna n eed my chef’s hat for this, Mama!” my son excitedly claims as he sees me pile our ingredients on the counter. Our mission: to make twenty individual sized pizza crusts and an equal amount of balls of playdough, enough for all our party guests

We indeed did start out preparing for the pizza party we were going to have the next evening. Yet, standing on his stool, now waist high to the counter, my son became entranced by the yeast popping and dancing. I could see the wheels turning and he got ‘that look’ in his eyes when he asked, “Can you please get down a big bowl for me? I have some work to do.” So down came another large mixing bowl and the mission took a turn.

He stood on that stool for another four straight hours. From that very spot he mixed, and poured, and measured, and stirred, and truly explored. He went through an entire extra bag of flour and a fair amount of water as I allowed myself to take a deep breath, step back and just … watch! Smiling at that took an extra bit of courage from me, who normally takes very seriously the need not to waste our resources and has succumbed to the pressures of needing to keep a clean house.

With the way our lives go, it isn’t always that we have an extra four hours for this kind of exploration to happen.

Inquiry comes natural to babies; at that time in their lives, they are true scientists. Not so typical of older children. As children get older they begin to stop mimicking what scientists do. Their testing out of ideas begins to fade as they discover that many adults believe there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’, and As Dr. Mark Hertle, senior Program Officer for the Science Education Program at Howard Hughes Medical Institute says, “Inquiry can keep curiosity alive!”

Watered down flour spilled on the floor, dripped down the sides of the bowl and sputtered along the counter. Still, I held back the need to guide the mess or sponge it up and instead we broke out our air trombones and sang loud vibratos of “Sammy the Dog has learned to play trombone!” This was very serious work, you know.

As I scrubbed the counter, the nooks and crannies, the grout lines, the cupboard doors and the smirking drawer faces, my thoughts wandered. I thought of the day my neighbor stopped in unexpectedly and I apologized for the less than spotless house. She let me off the hook with, “Honey, if you have a clean house, you’re not spending enough time with your kids.” I reveled in the memory of her kind voice, but couldn’t really get the voice of my father out of my head.

Surely months from now I will come across bits of dried flour-water-love mixture, perhaps even with an extra bit of mold growing on them.

I’ve finally finished the counters and take a look at the floors. Grabbing the mop and then setting it aside, I decide to save that for tomorrow, because that is another party in and of itself and I know he will want to be invited! Besides our floor needs a good mopping. It is, after all that time of year.
Welcome! Here you will find simple recipes, inspiring ideas, personal stories, inspiration, and tools to experiment and explore the kitchen together.  So enter the family kitchen with absolute abandon, and begin your journey towards thinking outside the recipe!