Vichy-what?

September 4, 2014   |   19 Comments
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“I want a video,” Beluga pines.  His nascent love affair with Lego and their brilliant online video clips has recently eclipsed his passion for fire trucks.  My reply, “I need to start dinner,” is met with a frown.  We’ve been ordering in dinner a little more frequently on account of my feeling very pregnant.  It’s introduced the possibility that dinner can magically appear.  Hence the frown.  But, delivery misses the point of dinner.  It’s about coming together, creating together, talking and enjoying something in the moment together.

“If you help me get dinner cooking, afterwards we can do a video.”

Within seconds, Beluga is dragging a stool over to the sink.  He reaches out for a leek and asks, “What is this?”  I explain about the many kinds of onion as he scrubs it down, his little fingers deftly poking grit out of all its crevices.

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After cleaning three leeks, he asks, “What next?” I cut off the roots and ask him to give the ends another quick rinse.  Focused as he is on completing his task, he fails to ask the usual question, “What are we making?”

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Instead, wondering how many more steps until video time, he diligently washes the ends of the leeks.  “What next?”

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Somewhere in the middle of scrubbing potatoes, his mind shifts away from the fact that he’s making dinner.  He forgets he’s waiting.

Fttt!  Fttt!  Splat!,” Beluga cries out.

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We load the vegetables into the pot together, fill a tea bag with spices, and turn on the stove.

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A couple hours later, the vegetables are soft, the contents of the pot have cooled.  As we transfer it all into a blender, Beluga spies a carton of cream on the counter.

“Could we turn it into ice cream?”  hmmm….

“We’re making Vichyssoise.”

“Vichy-what?”

“It’s potato leek soup.  We’ll chill it, but not to freezing.”

He’s skeptical.

“Could we make a batch to trap flies?”  hmmm…

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The Vichyssoise is smooth and creamy and cool and… satisfying.  Even more satisfying is realizing at bedtime that we still haven’t gotten around to that video.  The Legomen didn’t have a chance.

Kid-made Vichyssoise
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
 
This recipe isn’t the finest Vichyssoise recipe you’ll find. And that’s the point. It can be made with small hands. We skip chopping and peeling the leeks and potatoes. Instead, everything goes into the pot whole. By the time the vegetables are cooked through, the blender does the rest. Kids can really feel ownership of this recipe, even down to cutting up the chives with a pair of kid-friendly scissors.
Ingredients
  • Roughly 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 3 Leeks, just the white parts
  • 3 Russet Potatoes
  • A Sachet with a couple Cloves, Parsley Stems, a couple Peppercorns, and a Bay Leaf
  • 5 Cups Broth (Vegetable or Chicken, depending on your preference)
  • A Pint of Half and Half
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ground Pepper, to taste
  • A Few Chive Stalks
Instructions
  1. Scrub clean the leeks, cutting away the roots and green parts. Then scrub the potatoes.
  2. Put the vegetables into a large pot. Cover with about five cups of broth, or 5 cups of water and a few good boullion cubes (I like Knorr Vegetarian).
  3. Then, put all your spices into a sachet and knot it up so none of the peppercorns or cloves come out. I use a disposable bag designed for brewing loose tea, but there are cheese cloth sachets at the grocery store if you prefer.
  4. Cook your vegetables for 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool.
  5. Transfer the contents of your pot to a blender, add the cream and mix until smooth. We blend in batches, and that allows us to tweak the right ratio of liquid and solids so that the soup has just the right consistency.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add some chopped chives to garnish:)

 

Chocolate Almond Ice Cream Pops

July 9, 2014   |   24 Comments
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I foolishly set expectations high this morning when I declared there would be “a special treat”.  It is, after all Treat Day.  In my coy attempt to conjure ideas, I asked, “What do you think it will be?”

Beluga: I want it to be chocolate!

Me: You always want chocolate.

There’s been some argument recently about when the treats should actually be.  We have three official treat days: Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.  3pm.  That leaves Monday and Tuesday for the kids’ taste buds to recuperate.  And truly, by Tuesday, they eat more vegetables. (Because isn’t vegetable consumption the gold standard by which we mums judge ourselves?)

Beluga: Mommy, I want a treat!

Me: Is it Treat Day?  (End of conversation.)

Last Thursday, Mingus requested a special compensation – to get a treat for breakfast, at Le Pain Quotidien.  We made a very special plan to walk Daddy to work, across the park, and stop off for gauffres before hitting the playground sprinklers.  It was lovely, though I did note that Mingus woke at 5:45, so eager was he to eat his gauffre.  Less lovely was the bickering come Sunday.  It started before they even took their first bite of lunch:

Beluga: I want a treat!

Me: It’s not treat time.

Beluga: What if I eat all my lunch?

Me: Hmmm. (I too am lusting after ice cream bars in the freezer)

Mingus: (looking suspiciously at his plate) What if I eat just the bell peppers?

I put up a good fight.  In the end, it was a weak moment.  And in my defense, I am pregnant (yes, pregnant!) and after three steak tacos, I was still ravenous.  Hagen Dazs 1: Dr. Weiss 0

Monday and Tuesday I held firm (with them).  I won’t forget that time the Mathematician came home after bedtime, and opened the freezer.  The sound of the sliding drawer awoke dear Beluga; he dashed into the kitchen, “It’s not Treat Day! May I have some?”  And so when I sneaked ice cream Monday night, I made extra sure – nudge-them-sure – that both boys were in a deep slumber.

After waiting two whole days, the Wednesday treat is the most important one of the week.  So, back to that question, “What do you think the treat will be?”

Mingus: I definitely want ice cream.

Fast forward a few hours, they come home from romping at Grandma’s and I have a cream base rolling on the stove.

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We mix in a few extra ingredients, pop it in the fridge (build some Lego vehicles, race them) whir a few more ingredients into the cooled cream… and Beluga pours it all into the magic ice cream machine.

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Followed by taste tests, of course.

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And the kid-driven decision to add maple syrup.

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Patience is required to load brand new ice cream into pop forms, place them into the freezer, and then have full knowledge ice cream is sitting in the freezer uneaten for hours.  The joy of pulling the pops out of their forms inspires a happy dance throughout the apartment – leaps, racing, squeals of joy.  Yippppeeeee!  Ice CReeeeaaammmm!!!

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Shake, shake, shunk, phffff.  Sprinkles coat a sheet of parchment paper.

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And then, there is silence.  Many minutes of silent, absorbed, satisfied eating.

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Peacefulness has taken over the kitchen, but I’m thinking ahead, “If only there were night-time housekeepers.”  Mingus tosses his pop stick in the trash, lowers his mouth to the floor and begins hoovering up the spilled sprinkles.  Five second rule… (um, five minute rule…) I let it go and embrace the newly clean floor.  A child’s gift to his mother.

Virgin Sangria

June 28, 2014   |   16 Comments
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For us, summer is about time… having the day and nothing in particular that has to happen.  And so, as berries and peaches come to us in bounty, our only job is to figure out what to do with them.

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Beluga takes an egg-slicer in hand and re-purposes it to strawberries.  I pull a peach and orange out of the fridge, cut off their skins and dice the juicy flesh.

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Beluga sees the mounting pile of fruit and declares, “I want to try this… and this… and this…” pointing at all the tempting morsels.  He nibbles and as his appetite wanes, I tell him, ”You can put everything into the pitcher.”

“Except the stems?”

“That’s right.”

“And the leaves?”

“Oh, yeah.”

He enjoys correcting me.

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At three, Beluga doesn’t trust his hands fully.

I hand him a jar half-full of grape juice and suggest, “Pour it.”

“That’s a little tricky,” he answers, unsure of my request, but happy to give it a try.

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A moment later, he looks at the counter, sees one stray drop and tells me, “Look, I spilled it.”  But, it’s given him the confidence to pick up the much larger bottle of seltzer.

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What he doesn’t anticipate – to his delight – are bubbles upon bubbles gurgling up to the pitcher’s lip.

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Once the thrill subsides, he notices mint on the counter and declares, “We want minty mint!”  He carefully plucks several leaves.

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When I pour a glass, he sneaks the mint inside, and I look back to see him reaching for a taste.  I offer him the whole thing.

Virgin Sangria
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This is a recipe born of a slow summer afternoon. With one child in a chance slumber on the couch, and the other restless, we set to work and the result is delicious.
Ingredients
  • An Orange
  • A Peach
  • A Lime
  • A Lemon
  • A Handful of Strawberries
  • ½ c. Grape Juice
  • 4 c. Seltzer
  • 5 Tbs Sugar
  • A Splash of Water
Instructions
  1. Cut the skins off the peach and orange and dice the fruits.
  2. Juice the Lemon and Lime.
  3. Slice up the strawberries. A small child can use an egg slicer to do the job, just trim off the leaves and stems first, if they’re large or tough.
  4. Pour the sugar in a glass jar, cover with water and microwave for a minute, to melt the sugar. Stir. Of course, you can also use pre-made simple syrup or just pour boiling water over the sugar… or skip the sugar entirely if you prefer a lighter version.
  5. Toss all your fruit into a large pitcher, followed by the sweet syrup you’ve made, then add the grape juice, lemon and lime juice, and seltzer.
  6. I like to cover my pitcher and keep it in the refrigerator for several hours, letting all the flavors stew before drinking. If you’re impatient, add some ice to make sure it’s plenty cold.

 

Parmesan Cheddar Souffle

June 8, 2014   |   44 Comments
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Early pangs of hunger set in long before dinner, so amid requests for ice cream and a fifth slice of dried mango, we settle on Parmesan.

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A few nibbles delay my son’s appetite, but distraction is more effective.  And so, I task him with grating the Parmesan for [drum roll....] a Souffle.

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“A what?

I explain: a souffle is somewhere between a popover and a quiche.  His look tells me he isn’t sold on the idea, so I present the cheese that will be going into the dish.  He raises his eyebrows and asks, “How do we start?”

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It’s a collaborative project.  While he grates the cheese, I separate the eggs, measure out ingredients and cook the roux.

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We’ve been eating cheesy dishes after a conversation last week with my youngest son.

“I love cheese.”

“Me too.”

“What could be better?”

“Nothing… except fire trucks.”

Manchego, Parmesan, Tomme de Crayeuse… I  have something to prove, some necessary understanding to pass on to my progeny.  So, here I am trying to one-up fire trucks.  Possibly an impossible task in the life a three year old boy.

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Mingus is my accomplice. “Is this really going to be good?”

“Yes.”

“What if it tastes like dirt?”

“It won’t.  Good ingredients went in, right?”

Kerplunk! Kerplop! Kerploosh!  Mingus drops chunks of cheddar into our pot and reassures himself, “Good ingredients went in, so it’s supposed to be good.”

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We ever so gently fold together a milky roux and a bowl full of egg whites.  Mingus helps me scoop this frothy confection into a baking dish.  He’s still skeptical.

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Embracing the elegance inherent in a souffle, I call “Polite Night”.  We light a candle at the table and amid the requisite napkins, silverware, please-and-thank-yous, dinner achieves a rare level of success.

Turning to Beluga I query, “What do you think of the Parmesan Souffle?  Pretty good, huh?”

Mouth full.  Mmmmghghmm.  He locks eyes and explains, “Not like fire trucks.”

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Parmesan Cheddar Souffle
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
A souffle sounds fancy, but it has a wonderful texture and gentle palette for young eaters. I’ve tweaked this recipe from one on the food network by Alton Brown, making it even further family friendly.
Ingredients
  • A Pat of Butter for greasing your baking dish
  • Approximately 2 Tbs grated Parmesan
  • 3 Tbs Flour
  • ½ tsp Dried Garlic Powder
  • A Dash of Salt
  • 1⅓ Cups Milk
  • 4 Large Egg Yolks
  • Approximately 6 ounces Cheddar Cheese (I prefer a sharp and flavorful Cheddar)
  • 5 Egg Whites
  • 1 Tbs Water
Instructions
  1. This recipe begins with a favorite kid activity – smudge a pat of butter around your baking dish to fully grease the inside. I remind my children not to eat all the butter out of hand. Then they sprinkle the grated Parmesan over the buttered dish and it all shake around. The bits of cheese jump about for a few shakes, then settle, stuck to the butter.
  2. Against your instinct, place the baking dish in the freezer.
  3. Set your oven to 350 degrees.
  4. You can bring out the Cheddar cheese and set a child up to break it into smaller bits. A table knife will do.
  5. Now comes the adult part: in a pot, heat the butter for several minutes, cooking out all the water. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, garlic powder, and salt. Add these ingredients to the melted butter and cook for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Pour in the milk and turn the heat to high, stirring constantly. When the mixture boils, take it off the burner.
  6. Now it’s time to separate the eggs. If my kids want part of it, I use three bowls: a bowl for the egg white we’re cracking, a bowl for the accumulated successful egg whites, and a bowl for the yolks. There’s nothing more frustrating than separating 3 eggs, only to have yolk run into a bowl full of whites.
  7. In a fresh medium bowl, beat the egg yolks until creamy. Continuing to stir the yolks, add a cup of the milky combination. Tempering the yolks will keep them from solidifying and then you can safely add the mixture to the pot.
  8. My son likes to be the one, then, to add his Cheddar chunks to the pot.
  9. Then, take your bowl of egg whites, add the water, and whip it into stiff peaks with an electric hand mixer.
  10. Add ¼ of the egg whites at a time to your milky mixture, folding the two gently together.
  11. Pour it all into your cold baking dish and bake for 35 minutes:)

 

Unsweetened Chocolate Chia Pudding

May 21, 2014   |   10 Comments
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Blub. blub, glug.  Mingus pours the Unsweetened chocolate soymilk, himself.

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“What are those?”  Despite all the times I’ve given him Chia pudding, he doesn’t recognize raw Chia seeds

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Fffft.  They slide into the jar.

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ZZtt, Zzzt, Zttt.  The cap goes on.

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A moment of wild shaking… and the precious concoction is revealed.

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His appetite won’t wait.  Slurp, Slurp.  

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In the time it takes Mingus to drink down half of the jar, the pudding begins to congeal.

He chirps, “It was like chocolate milk, but now it has the same texture as ketchup!”

Hearing “ketchup”, Beluga comes running to claim his share.  I stand aside and make another set of puddings to put in the fridge for tomorrow.

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Unsweetended Chocolate Chia Pudding
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
There are so many variations of chia pudding and sometimes it’s worth remembering how simple it can be. Personally, I love using almond milk and a dash of cinnamon, but the kids love chocolate, so chocolate it is!
Ingredients
  • 1 Cup Unsweetened Chocolate Soymilk
  • 3 Tbs Chia Seeds
Instructions
  1. Exact measurements aren’t necessary. Just pour the unsweetened chocolate soymilk into a jar.
  2. Add a little pile of chia seeds, any color will do.
  3. Then screw the cap of the jar on tight and give it a very big shake.
  4. Store the jar in the refrigerator overnight. The following morning, afternoon or evening, take it out and eat it right out of the jar.

 

 

Banana Cumin Ice Cream

April 25, 2014   |   20 Comments
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Beluga loves banana ice cream.  It’s been that way since we read about grinding frozen bananas in a blender.  It’s very healthy.  Just bananas, nothing else.  And so, I actually feel a bit like I’ve cheated him out of the real thing.

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to set things right.  He’s three years old and it’s time he knows everything that banana ice cream can be.  Creamy!  Complex!

Thump!  I drop a banana down in front of Beluga.  He gets right to work peeling the sticker.  Then, he tears it in half, monkey-style.

Chomp, Chomp.

He takes two big bites before looking up at me to ask what we’re making.

“Real banana ice cream!”

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“What’s that for?” Beluga asks, pointing at a jar of maple syrup.

“It’s going into the ice cream.”  His eyes light up, as if to say, “Oh, this is going to be good!”

Beluga pours a couple spoonfuls over top of the bananas and watches the syrup ooze.  ”There some drops are going!  They’re collecting!”

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I add a little lemon juice and cream to our concoction.  When Beluga sees me poised to power the mixer, he cries out, “Stop!  I want to do it!”

“Can you ask nicely?”

Pedantically, he stares at me, “Mommy, may I pease mix it?”

I put on my best Cheshire Cat grin. “Of course!”

Beluga watches the vortex of cream swirl around - VRRRrrrrrr! - when suddenly the blade catches a banana and splashes the mixture up.  Thrilling, I tell you.

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Umphh.  I heave the ice cream maker onto the counter.  The mixer is forgotten.  Beluga examines the machine – inside, around, pokes the motor vents and focuses on the controls.  Without batting an eye, he demands,  ”Pease! Can I press this button?”

“Yes, help me first pour in the mixture.”  With great deliberation, he wraps his thumb around his middle, ring and pinky fingers, exposing the pointer.  Then he jabs it into the power switch.

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Beluga watches the blade spin around.

“Let’s eat it now.  I think it’s done,” he tells me after two minutes.

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Thirteen minutes later, the ice cream has mostly thickened.  I stop the motor and spoon out a little dish for him.  The rest whirls a little longer, while Beluga devours his portion.

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We all sit for another round after dinner.

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Beluga announces, “This might be the good-est ice cream in the whole wide world.”

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Banana Cumin Ice Cream
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
With a little prep, little hands can do this project by themselves. Getting started, I pull the ingredients, then pre-measure the maple syrup and heavy cream. Cut the lemon, but even a pretty small tyke can juice it with a reamer. Knowing it’s more difficult for a child, let them juice the whole lemon, then later you can squeeze out any remnants for another use. This recipe is for small servings, knowing that home-made ice cream never keeps as well as the store bought kind. Most ice cream makers could take a third banana and an extra splash of cream, if you want a larger batch.
Ingredients
  • 2 Bananas
  • 2 Tbs Maple Syrup
  • Juice of Half a Lemon
  • ½ C. Heavy Cream
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
Instructions
  1. Peel the bananas, cutting away any dark spots. Riper bananas are sweeter and more delicious.
  2. Place those bananas into a blender or food processor, pouring over top the maple syrup and the juice of the lemon. Mix until smooth.
  3. Now, add the heavy cream and blend until the whole mixture is frothy.
  4. Pour into your ice cream maker and follow their instructions.
  5. Before placing in the freezer, shake the cumin over top. When you scoop, it goes into a nice swirl.