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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

mmm, Mmm, MESSES!

There's no better place to get messy than in the kitchen (except maybe the bathtub!)

Stay tuned for a messy post next week...

Thanks to all of you who read and send me your oh so yummy comments. Happy Cooking!

Monday, January 25, 2010

cooking tools to help kids get creative

Cooking with a child is another wonderful way to connect: with each other, the world, and our unique creative selves. It allows us to explore natural materials, mimic real scientists, and learn ways to approach future problems. As children play with recipes and ingredients, they ask questions and make discoveries that will lead to a greater understanding of their world. So with an eye towards encouraging our kids to really get cookin', here are a few wonder-filled tools that help can us cook up some good old-fashioned curiosity and creative fun together.

Read the rest of this piece on The Savvy Source

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Juicing fun

Oh the joys of a trip to Central California, where winter means oranges, tangerines, lemons, grapefruit. Yum!
We came home with TONS of them, picked from the grandparents' tree, where we know they were grown with much love!
And here's Zeal's new favorite kitchen gadget - the citrus juicer:

The one we used is a Braun, and was sooooo easy to use. It also strains out a lot of the pulp and all the seeds as it was juicing. A far cry from the old hand citrus juicer that has been a staple at our house for years. With the large quantity of citrus we were processing, we couldn't have done it with that old one. No way.

As for the juice, it didn't last long enough to take a picture of the final product. Mmmmmm. Nothing like fresh squeezed juice.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

our favorite sippies

Cheers to all the companies who are now making sippy cups that are safe for our toddlers to be drinking from!!!!

Here are our favorites:

The Foogo sippy, made by Thermos, (yes, this is how she carries it around).


The Safe Sippy.

The best thing about both of these (as opposed to other stainless sippies out there, is that these don't leak and have that "must suck to get anything out of it" stopper. And oh yeah, they are chemical, plastic, and BPA free. Yippeeeee!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

who gets the leftovers?

Oh my, this girl just LOVES her broccoli. It's like one of those standby foods we can always count on to keep her in her highchair.
But who does she give her leftovers to when she's aw-duh (all-done)????

Can you say "Doggie Bag?"

Sunday, January 17, 2010

tortillas continued...

So our special entree finally got made, even after that (oh so fortunate) snowflake incident.

This is one of Zeal's most favorite meals, and I just realized I haven't ever posted about it.

Tortilla Shells, a.k.a. "Zeal's Zesty Taco Salad"!

We fill our tortilla shells with our favorite guacamole recipe (Thank you dear Ina!). But here's the quick and yummy on how to make your own healthy taco salad bowls:

1. Set 2 empty food cans on a foil lined baking sheet.
2. Drape a foil square (made from a larger piece of foil folded in half two times) over the top of each can.
3. Quickly immerse a tortilla in water/oil mixture as in this recipe, then lift out and let drain.
4. Drape the damp tortilla over the foil on the empty food can and "sculpt" with fingers (if you place it slightly off-center the shell with have a dramatic higher flair to one edge).

5. Bake the taco salad shells in a preheated 450 degree F oven until they're lightly brown and firm enough to hold their shape, which will take about 4 to 5 minutes.
6. Using pot holders, carefully lift the shells off the cans and place them cup-side-up on the pan; the edges on larger tortillas might need support when the shells are inverted so loosely crumple some foil into 4-inch balls and push them against areas that sag.
7. Return the shells to the oven and bake until they're crisp, about 2 to 3 additional minutes.
8. When cooled, fill with whatever, as my grandma says, gets your "sufficiency so fanci-full"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

sidetracked by snowflakes

We've been spending a good deal of time Welcoming Winter here recently. But Zeal was sad that the recent rains had melted all the snow away and his daily treks to the "sled run" were becoming less, well, just "less".
So I dragged him into the kitchen to help make some tortilla bowls to hold our favorite guacamole salad for dinner. Well, it wasn't really dragging since he was quite pleased that that would be our dinner.

Instead, we got inspired to use our tortillas for a sweet afternoon treat, Snowflake Crisps (his name for them).

Here's what we did:
1. Soak 1 flour tortilla in a pan of warm water with 1/2 teaspoon of oil. Remove from water after about 10 seconds and blot dry.

2. Fold tortilla in half and half again, and then in half again one more time (three times).

3. Cut on the folds as you would a paper snowflake.

4. On a cookie sheet with parchment paper, bake for about 5-10 minutes in 400 degree oven, or until slightly crispy.

5. Remove from oven. While still warm, brush with butter...

6. And sprinkle with sifted powder sugar or a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Or both :)

Yummy yummy snowflakes! And Zeal just loved the snowflake pattern left on the parchment.:

We never did get around to our tortilla bowls and ended up warming up leftovers. Something for tomorrow's dinner, I guess.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Can you taste-test this for me? Pretty please....

Okay, so truth be told, Zeal is getting a little (okay, a lot) sick of having oatmeal for breakfast. I just love it. I usually slow cook it (putting it on (with a dash of cinnamon while its cooking) as I wake and letting it sit on low for about an hour until everyone else starts to emerge from slumber). I then add some honey or agave, chop some walnuts and toss in some raisins and apple chunks. Finish with a dash of milk (and a cup of coffee), and to me it is the most perfect start to my day. Zeal? Not so much. I hear, "Oatmeal again!" and "Do I have to eat that for breakfast?" To which I usually respond, if you're still hungry afterwards you can make yourself something else. And being a growing boy, he usually is, and he usually does.

So here it is... I kind of feel bad for serving oatmeal 4-5 days a week (the other days he usually gets pancakes, waffles, or something else super fun so don't feel so bad for him, now). But like I said, the mama-guilt has started to settle in. But I do love my oatmeal. So... I tried to compromise.

Here was the result:

Moroccan Oat Surprise (my own little concoction)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3 cups boiling water
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1 whole clove
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4-1/2 cup raisins
1/4-1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
chopped pecans
sweetener (honey or agave)

Directions: Combine first 7 ingredients and cook on low for 10 minutes, or until water is absorbed and you get the oatmeal texture you desire. Add raisins and apricots and mix. Served with chopped pecans, honey and milk. Make 4 servings.

So here's my dilemma. It actually went over very well with Zeal, but got mixed reviews from others present. So, if you please, would you make this recipe for Moroccan Oats and post a comment or send me an email letting me know what you thought? Pretty, pretty please with honey and pecans on top.

Oh, thank you, thank you!

Friday, January 8, 2010

gingerbread fun

Did you hear? The holidays were here! They came and went as fast as our annual batches of snowball cookies and cinnamon nuts!
I managed to snap a few shots of our never to be missed Gingerbread houses, only this year we had a collective effort with the cousins and made only one house, er, castle. That's right a Gingerbread castle. It was so fun, took three days to plan, bake, and decorate, and was COMPLETELY 100% kid made!

Here it is:

We used this recipe for the gingerbread. So yummy, even if you are using lots of it for walls that aren't being eaten. After all, it also doubles as a recipe that makes good, sturdy walls and such.
And did you hear that Jennifer McCann has a new book out. Check it out!

I swear I will attempt at getting up some of the photos and recipes we have been working on together sometime very soon. A new year's resolution of sorts. Thanks for being here, continuing to visit even in my brief absence.
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!