Tag Archives: kids

KID in the KITCHEN: Easy Blueberry Pancakes

17 Dec

It isn’t easy to stand by and watch while your seven-year-old cracks eggs that land on the floor (it only happened once!) or spills too much oil into the batter (we effectively bailed the excess out) or awkwardly flips runny pancake batter on a crappy little electric stove top where not just the heating elements but the whole top gets hot. And I don’t pretend that I don’t have sharp words for lapses of care. I get nervous, you see.

The smaller the better for flipping

The smaller the better for flipping

But my little guy likes cooking with me (“Are you sure? ‘Cause I yell at you sometimes.” “Yes I’m sure. I love it!”) and I love cooking with him. And as he gets handier and can read, I am increasingly letting him do more of the risky stuff. Like reading the recipe himself and measuring out ingredients and –yes — flipping pancakes on a hot stove.

It can be nerve-wracking, but the results are worth it. I am not talking about the culinary results, although his pancakes turned out delicious, as does his French toast. I’m talking about reading and following instructions and measuring and thinking about how baking soda and baking powder work, having responsibilities and having to be focused and careful. I am happy when he takes a step in the direction of independence, but it is nothing compared to his own pleasure at becoming so competent. “I did it! I flipped it!” and “I made delicious pancakes practically all by myself!” are the seasonings that make everything taste better when you are seven. And sometimes when you are a lot older too!

Piled high and DRENCHED in maple syrup....

Piled high and DRENCHED in maple syrup….

These pancakes are slightly modified from Kids Cook by Sarah Williamson & Zachary Williamson, a terrific starter book that he got from his godmother. My important advice in cooking with kids is get all the ingredients and tools organized first. The less turning your back to get something that you do during the proceedings, the better. Click for recipe Continue reading

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Blue Ribbon Yeast Bread (no kneading required!)

18 Oct
Another blue ribbon for my little baker!

Another blue ribbon for my little baker!

Leandro has done it again! My seven-year-old won another blue ribbon at the Long Island Fair for his baking in the Junior Culinary division! What better way of celebrating than sharing it with you on the day of my 550th post and the fourth anniversary of this blog?

Sizing up the competition

Sizing up the competition

Last year it was his Oatmeal Raisin Cranberry Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies. This year it was an extension of his successful Science Fair project on yeast. We’ve been making a lot of the no-knead refrigerator bread we began making for that, so he decided that would be his submission as it is something he can do almost entirely by himself now.

The Exhibition Hall

The Exhibition Hall

This bread, slightly modified from our original to include some whole wheat flour, has terrific sponginess, nice, not-too-crunchy crust, and good yeasty flavor. (My colleagues at LINCC can attest to this, as I brought in some practice loaves)

We get better results with quick-acting yeast than regular AND we include our tips for encouraging the yeast to activate. This is the easiest bread you can imagine and you can keep the extra dough in the fridge for whenever you want warm bread.

Celebratory candy apple. Don't judge....

Celebratory candy apple. Don’t judge….

I’m so proud of him…and in a life where it’s not always clear that I am doing things right, at least I can feel that I am sending him into the world with a love of good food and an ability to feed himself. Yay us!

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

Leandro’s Award-Winning No-Knead Refrigerator Bread

3 Cups warm water (it should feel cozy-comfortable on the hands)

1.5 Tbs salt

1.5 Tbs quick-acting yeast

5.5 Cups unbleached white flour

1 Cup stone ground whole wheat flour

Extra virgin olive oil or other fat for greasing the loaf pan.

Container large enough to hold this much flour and water only doubled in size. You’ll want a cover for it.

Place the water in a large container and dissolve the salt into it.

Stir in the yeast until well mixed. Wait a few minutes for it to begin foaming nicely. We put it on top of a warm toaster oven to encourage yeast activity.

Add the flour, all at once. Stir with a big spoon until well mixed into a sticky dough and there are no big air pockets.

Cover loosely and allow to rise 1-2 hours in a warm place. Again, we put it on top of our toaster oven when it’s on low.

Cover (punching down if necessary) and place in fridge (for up to three weeks).

When you are ready for fresh bread, preheat oven to 450°F. Grease a loaf tin and grab a half to a third of the dough (putting the rest back in the fridge for next time). With greased hands, form a loaf (the cold dough and the fat on your hands — we use olive oil — will keep it from sticking to you), Place in loaf pan and slash across the top with a knife (for a pretty finish) and top with a bit of olive oi if desired. Bake for about 30 minutes or until crust is golden. You can give it a blast at 500°F for the last few minutes to develop the crust more.

Red, White and Blue Shortcake in a (World) Cup

16 Jun

My son’s birthday this year happens to fall on the day of the U.S. National Soccer Team’s opening World Cup match against Ghana. So — being a soccer/fútbol mad family, this is like thematic heaven for us!

USA shortcakeBetween last night and this morning, I banged together class treats that were all red, white and blue, homemade and — while they include cake and whipped cream — also include generous portions of summer fruit.

Very tender and moist cake....

Very tender and moist cake….

I like to think it strikes the right balance between healthy and sweet and it certainly reflects what is important to the little man today.

Pretty decent crumb!

Pretty decent crumb!

And the fact that I put this much time and thought into it reflects 1) my semester finished and I have some extra time on my hands 2) I am indeed the food DIY maniac everyone thinks I am 3) I love this little man so much I want him to be proud of the treats he brought in!

Piled it up nice (and casually no...LOW FUSS!)

Piled it up nice (and casually no…LOW FUSS!)

He went to school in his U.S. kit (with the non-playing Landon Donovan jersey, but never mind…I have to assume Klinsmann knows what he is doing) and seemed very pleased with the whole thing. He was down with a virus last week that has left him with painful bumps in his mouth….so I don’t know whether he’ll actually eat one, but he somehow managed to lick the whipping cream bowl clean all right this morning.

All tarted up for the big game

All tarted up for the big game

I include a link for the recipe for homemade whipped cream. I URGE you to try it…so much more fun and much more velvety and subtle…the kids around here love making it with the hand beater and eating it up! You can also make your own white cake (recipe for a very fluffy and tender one below) or substitute storebought poundcake. If you are going to make your own cake, I suggest you have a look at Paula Deen’s excellent Creaming 101 tutorial. Continue reading

Cheese: Fail. Pasta: Fail. Dishes: Broken. Thank goodness for Adriana’s Pesto

18 Feb

Adriana and I love cooking together. Our kids are very close in age and have known each other since the very beginning, so we get together for sleepovers that involve kid activities by day and then massive food in the evening. Then the kids go to bed and we stay up talking all night.

Usually I walk away with excellent bloggable dishes that I can post for days. So I went into this one thinking I had it made.

Fail.

Fail.

Then, whether it was the wobbliness of an afternoon spent trudging the Arctic tundra for a sledding excursion, or the fact that the moon was 98.4 percent full (we checked), or that we should have waited until after we’d gotten a lot more things out of the way before having that first glass of wine, or just over-the-top plans that were far too ambitious…everything seemed to go wrong.

Fail.

Fail.

We tried to make cheese from a cool kids’ kit that Adriana got (the kids were not at  all interested, funnily enough). I ate the 1/4 tablet of rennet thinking it was crumbs from my crackers, but even with a new 1/4 tablet, the milk just wouldn’t curdle. We dumped it.

Fail.

Fail.

We followed the instructions to make home-made pasta (another fun-for-the-kids activity that they completely ignored) — we really did — but ended up with a solid hard ball of dough that resisted all attacks with the rolling pin. And I had forgotten to bring my pasta cutting machine anyhow (which annoys the bejeezus out of me because it was a wedding gift for a marriage so disastrous that we were divorced before it ever got used and it still hasn’t been used because well, shit happens and pasta, apparently, doesn’t).

Continue reading

Tales from the Lunchroom: The Story Continues

12 Jan

So a couple of days ago I posted a note I had sent in to my son’s first grade teacher.

Guess how this turned out?

Guess how this turned out?

The story goes that he started complaining that his friends wouldn’t sit with him in the lunchroom because they said his food smelled bad. Regular readers know the lengths I go to to make sure he has good home-cooked food every day, which is mostly rice and beans, pasta with vegetables, quesadillas (yes, with beans sometimes). I would very much like to be able to send him in with lunch money, but what I have seen from the cafeteria menus looked pretty, well, not-what-we-eat-dear (mind you, the new January menu looks like someone has made some changes: baked chicken fingers, homemade macaroni and cheese…so I am giving it another look this month since I need a break!).

So I sent in the note, a bit skeptical of the story and thinking that perhaps this was actually a play for lunch money and tater tots for lunch. Then at dismissal the teacher asked to speak to me. Continue reading

Lunchtime Blues: Today’s letter to the teacher

10 Jan

A sad irony of American life: loads of food, not all of it nutritious.

I can’t honestly say that I love making lunches for my son. It takes an extra half hour in mornings that are already too short.  I get him up around 6:30, since I start teaching at 8 a.m. and have to leave him at before-care. Since breakfast at before-care is a choice of not-really-food cereals or more-like-dessert cereal bars, I give him juice, toast and fruit at home. I make (or heat up) and pack lunch — usually leftover rice and beans or pasta with vegetables or quesadillas — and then after school there is snack and of course dinner. It’s a lot to think about, plan, shop for and do!

There are lunches to buy at school, but they are either stuff he doesn’t like or things I don’t trust. And he is not a sandwich guy. I don’t have time to fight the system, so I make hot lunch every day. I am glad to do it (because the alternative is unacceptable) and he is glad to eat it. But….I’ll let today’s letter to the teacher explain the rest, then await your comments. Continue reading

Help! Are Candy Houses Meant to Be Eaten?

18 Dec

Soooo, my little guy made a candy house at school this week (mostly on his own, as I was at work, but fortunately 1) he likes to work independently and 2) the other parents who were there kindly kept an eye on him and sent me pictures of the proceedings (Big thanks to Kerry, Kerri, Melissa, and Janice! Also to Fairy Godmother Mimma who picked up supplies for us).

Flat roof

Flat roof

My question is…once it is home, can you eat it? And are you supposed to refrigerate it? (The frosting is from a tin and the sides are made of graham crackers). Thanks to all who comment with some advice….architectural dessert projects of this nature are not my forte….

Happy Holidays!

Natalia

Baby, You’re a Firework!

6 Dec

Lucia channels Katy Perry…

Come on show 'em what your worth....

Come on show ’em what your worth….

Lucia: Our Elf on the Shelf Is Very Entertaining this Year!

5 Dec

Elf on the Shelf looks on the surface like yet another agent of torment for parents desperately trying to make it to Christmas in one gift-wrapped piece.Wrong, wrong, wrong. The Elf is proof positive that surveillance can be an effective deterrent (and that some of us really need to get a life — or a job that celebrates all this pent-up creative energy).

Rainbow looms are all the range with the kids. Lucia borrowed his and made him a ring!

Rainbow looms are all the range with the kids. Lucia borrowed his and made him a ring on her first day back!

The elf appears each morning of December somewhere in the house. At night he/she heads back up to the North Pole to report back to Santa on the behavior of the children in the house.

Different elves manifest different odd behaviors. Many appear in different places in the house each day, which clearly indicates to the kids that that little spy has been traveling to see the Big Guy with the Beard. Other elves get up to mischief — I have heard of elves who toiletpaper the kitchen, gift wrap the toilet, paint the faces of sleeping children and other pranks (Lucia would be heading to elf heaven in tiny little elf pieces if she tried that in my house).

Lucia took the stage like the star that she is.

Day 2 Lucia took the stage like the star that she is.

Last year our elf, Lucia, did very little except turn up in different parts of the house, usually legs on either side of something, like a pole dancer in need of some professional development.

Future's so bright....I gotta wear shades!

Day 3 Future’s so bright….I gotta wear shades!

This year, perhaps pressured by those other more interesting elves, Lucia has been playing dress-up. Each morning, my little man comes racing out of his bedroom to see what that crazy elf has been up to. And my darling son knows he’s being watched…he says sorry, excuse me, and please and thank you for EVERYTHING! I love that elf.

T-Rex takes a shine to our elf!

Day 4 T-Rex takes a shine to our elf!

So in a spate of non-food-related posts, I will be keeping you up to date on Lucia the Elf and her more entertaining costume changes.

(P.S. I have heard that now Hanukkah has Mensch on the Bench (who does he report to?). If you know about this, PLEASE share with us! And find out if he’s available. I have always wanted one of those!)

Chocolate Mini-Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

16 Jun

I caved. Yes, I did.

Driven by the fear of being “that mom” who rains on every party and won’t let kids enjoy their sugar fix and makes others feel guilty or annoyed by my holier-than-thou eating habits…and because my son asked very nicely to have a special treat…for Leandro’s birthday celebration at school, we made cupcakes. Chocolate Cupcakes. With Buttercream Frosting. Go big, or go home.

Mini-muffin before frosting

Mini-muffin before frosting

In my feeble defense, I also made fruit kebabs (which went over as well as, if not better than, the cupcakes) and we actually went little, making mini-cupcakes so that they were  a tiny treat rather than an exercise in excess, but BE IT KNOWN: I am not immune to peer pressure and I am not a complete whole food Nazi.

Mind you, making it all homemade is also a form of penitence for sins of sugar and spice. I put a lot of time and effort into it and was not always thinking gracious thoughts. Particularly about the moms who just pick up a box of Dunkin’ Munchkins for class celebrations and call it a day and don’t give that much thought to what children consume or what maniacs like myself choose to do with our precious time, but who are not going to waste their precious time making desserts for five-and-six year olds, when kids are just as happy with a Dunkin’ drive-by.

That buttercream frosting is NAUGHTY! and nice....

That buttercream frosting is NAUGHTY! and nice….

It’s that same grim satisfaction some of us get from pointedly and conscientiously using our directional when driving, as if anyone would care to learn from our example, or as if there was some direct HOV lane to heaven for courteous and law-abiding drivers. Underneath it all, I know no one gives a rat’s posterior. But the girl can’t help it. Continue reading

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