Monday, June 30, 2008

No Bake Cookies, Zeal-style!

Cookies are a terrific way for kids to practice "Thinking Outside the Recipe", getting kids to wonder what goes into the perfect cookie, and then combining to get that perfect consistency. And just because its summer and mom says "no oven, no way", that is not gonna stop this kid from wanting to explore with a new cookie recipe.

So here's today's combination of goodies that happened to be Zeal's newest creation:
(measurements are approximate, but I think I took good enough note of each as he tossed them in)

No Bake Cookies, Zeal-style!
1/2 cup butter (he used Earth Balance - coconut butter/oil would work well too)
2 T. cocoa powder (he actually wanted carob powder, but we were all out)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk (he used soy)
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cups oats
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Melt butter over medium heat. Mix in cocoa, sugar, and milk and bring to boil. Boil for 3 minutes and then immediately remove from heat. Add all of the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Drop spoonfuls of mixture onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

The process was totally precious, but he begged me to wait and just take a picture of the final product. I think I need to install a "security" camera.

Verdict: "Wow! They're really yummy!" Did he just surprise himself?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Toe Tappin' Tapioca!

When Zeal cooks, he often spends a lot of the time singing and tapping his little toes to whatever song he has made up about the food he is making. Late last night (you know those summer nights that just beg to be activity laden because it is late but the sun is still up) he decided he wanted to make some tapioca pudding.

The song went:

And this little jar sure made a great shaker to add to the song and dance:

Here's our tapioca recipe, vegan with a tropical flair:

Coconut Tapioca Pudding
1 can lite coconut milk
1 cup soy milk
½ cup tapioca pearls
½ cup sugar
3 t. egg replacer
1 t. vanilla

Soak tapioca pearls in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes. Add drained tapioca to coconut and soy milks and bring to boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add sugar and egg replacer and whisk until thoroughly blended. Bring to boil again and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add vanilla. Serve warm or cold.

We made a double batch, but this stuff just doesn't last very long.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pie Passion! (and a Kitchen Tool of the Week)

We're in a bit of a pie making frenzy. In years past, when this kind of pie passion takes over, I would bake 10-12 pies at a time and freeze them for winter nights, potlucks, dinner parties, or just an afternoon when we all needed some summer fruit reminders. I have a feeling this will be one of those years, and judging from the fruit coming on our backyard apple tree, it may just have to be an apple pie year.

For now, we eat strawberries. Here's the latest: a strawberry rhubarb pie that had us all licking our lips. For the crust, I usually use coconut oil and whole wheat flour, although this one was part spelt. Zeal and I enjoyed the tapping out the strawberry shaped vent holes. He's still learning the art of the crust pinch, but I say not too bad.

But here's the real fun when it comes to Zeal's pie making forays. He loves these little molds we picked up last year in one our bulk orders to Frontier. These are a great tool to have on hand for anyone wanting to get your kids involved in the kitchen more. They take very little dough (and will even work with a rolled out piece of bread) and are great fun to fill. Zeal usually gets them out when I have some kind of crust or dough in the works, and therefore fills them with whatever pie filling we have going, but he's also been know to use them for sandwich fillings (especially jam), sliced cucumbers and a bit of herb salt, or any number of styles of cooked veggies (the favorite has been Ethiopian style - we're still working on a teff recipe that we like).

Here's the nifty little mold just before being graced with some strawberries and rhubarb:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Snack Trays

When Zeal was just a toddler, starting to really gain a repertoire of solid foods, we began using a "snack tray" in our house to serve a variety of functions:
-introduce him to new foods without a bunch of fanfare,
-monitor what and how much he was eating, and
-give him the opportunity to graze between meals (which incidentally really helps with any unexpected meltdowns that usually have something to do with low blood sugar)

The tradition continues. These days, our snack trays and grazing sites have less bite-sized little chunks of cucumbers and muffins pieces separated out into their own places in a muffin tin and are more elaborate spreads of fresh veggies and dips.

We made this one the other day with what we had on hand: olives, radishes, carrots, a bit of leftover fennel bulb, a few pieces of romaine and basil from the night before, and some pita bread we picked up on the way home. Zeal is a big fan of tomato chunks, so we also always have those lying around for him to snack on. He usually prefers his favorite Annie's Sesame and Shitake salad dressing as a dip, but this time the dip is a blended mixture of good olive oil and feta cheese and I highly recommend the combination.

What do you put out for your kids to graze on?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chasing blueberries!

To make room for the new fresh ones about to come on, we're working on clearing out our freezer of last season's berries. And we've finally reached the last bag of blueberries! Zeal is forever wanting to make "pie", which often means cobbler, especially when we don't get it together to make pie crust. Ever since he was a toddler, I've set him up with his own pie making stations. They usually consist of the fruit-of-the-day, a personal sized pie pan or other baking container of his choosing, and a few other essentials such as flour, cinnamon (or other spices), brown sugar or agave, and sometimes some oats and other items of his choosing.

This is a fantastic way to get kids experimenting with ingredients, and usually a real treat! Just put out the ingredients and let them go. Pop it in the oven, and see what happens. The more they do it, the more confidence they will have in the experience of putting ingredients together. It's lovely to see what uniquely emerges from the oven each time.

Unfortunately, I wasn't quite fast enough with the camera this time around, and the result got eaten before I got to it.

That must mean it was yummy!

And here's our favorite little read about blueberries, for anyone getting ready and excited for the coming of blueberry season!

"Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk go the blueberries into the pail of a little girl named Sal who--try as she might--just can't seem to pick as fast as she eats. Robert McCloskey's classic is a magical tale of the irrepressible curiosity--not to mention appetite--of youth. Sal and her mother set off in search of blueberries for the winter at the same time as a mother bear and her cub. A quiet comedy of errors ensues when the young ones wander off and absentmindedly trail the wrong mothers."

Okay, blueberries, we're officially ready for you. Until then, we'll try and do our part to help get those strawberry fields cleared out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Welcome Summer! (arrival time: 5PM today!)

What better way to celebrate the first moments of summer than a picnic in the park? Here's our quick and easy picnic dinner that seemed to satisfy everyone involved.

On the menu:
-artichoke skewers, breaded with a flax, bread crumb and herb crust, lightly fried, and served with lemon aioli sauce
-easy broccoli salad (broccoli, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and a bit of italian dressing)
-just picked strawberries!

I literally had all of 15 minutes to get this picnic dinner together and it turned out, well, rather gourmet. It was truly...a walk in the park. So easy, in fact, that Zeal did almost every step along side me. He especially loved rolling the artichoke hearts in the breading.

And I apologize for the brief absence, and lack of cooking that has been going on here. I do have a good excuse. Please meet the newest member of our family, exhibiting him or herself with my swelling belly as I lay against papa (those are his gentle, loving hands) on this beautiful first evening of summer. Now in the second trimester, I'm finally in the mood to cook (and eat) again!

And the sun is out so long and so glorious now, that we even had time (after biking around, playing basketball, and a fair bit of swinging) to gather the supplies and return for some good old-fashioned root beer floats. Hello summer! We're glad you're back.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Gross is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose

So I walked into the kitchen this weekend to find this little scene:

Ginger: What are you working on? (she says eyeing the contents of the table and trying not to sound disgusted)
Zeal: I'm making a snack.
Ginger: Oh. What's your snack?
Zeal: It's a sandwich. I couldn't find any cucumbers, so it's just bread, bananas, jam, and cheese.
Ginger: Have you had a sandwich like that before somewhere?
Zeal: Nope.
Ginger: How did you get the idea for it?
Zeal: It just popped into my head.
Ginger: Now you're going to pop it into your mouth?
Zeal: Exactly!

He ate the whole thing!

And then came back to me:
Zeal: Can you make sure you get me some cucumbers for next time?
Ginger: Put it on the list.

Oh the sometimes surprising joy of letting kids "think outside" - the things they come up with.
Someday this kid is gonna stumble upon a combination that will truly wow us all.
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!