Archive for the ‘Food & Drink’ Category

Why so stingy with the writing space?

1. It is entirely possible to overbrine a bone-in turkey breast. Some call it curing. I call it too salty. Try 12 hours next year. 

2. Half a recipe of stuffing will be more than enough for three adults. We’re not THAT much of a carb family.

3. Maybe skip the mimosas, they made you really tired when it was crunch time. 

4. This chocolate pumpkin pie is a keeper. We did half a recipe and used 1/8 t. cayenne. Oh, and just pitch the four ounces of leftover evaporated milk, because nobody is going to touch that nasty stuff. 

5. This apple-sausage stuffing was really bready and bland. Start with Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix next year, and reduce the amount of bread. 

6. The pumpkin cinnamon rolls were tasty and easy (can’t find the recipe online, weird, oh well) but need a bit more punch. Add brown sugar and chopped pecans to the filling, and use orange juice and zest for the glaze base (though using heavy cream was very tasty). And look how pretty:

7. Put your Virgo issues in a drawer and let the kid make a mess when he helps cook. The beams of happiness are well worth a few minutes of cleanup.

8. The holiday tablecloth is in the linen closet, but it might be hidden under a stack of towels. But hey, if you want to spend half an hour looking for it in other places, go right ahead. 

9. Stop, look, feel, absorb. This day is magic. Bottle as much as you can. 

10. Turn off the Macy’s parade after the Rockettes; it’s just a three-hour commercial for Broadway and TV shows. With 8,000 commercials between the segments. Which are… commercials!

11. You were so right to decide against dusting. Nobody noticed, least of all you. Well done, you.

12. Exchanging breakfast pastries with a neighbor was really nice. Do that again.

13. If we settle on that Valpolicella next year, open it an hour before supper — it needs at least that much breathing time. 

14. Lactose intolerance never takes a day off. Pick up some Cool Whip, which you like anyway. Also, research substituting coconut or almond milk for the milks in the pie. Maybe do a practice pie just to be on the safe side. 

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I’ll have one of each, please.

We have had some successes on this week’s Voyage to the Land of Rainbow Foods, but since the Boo started wearing glasses on Thursday (!) I’ve dialed down the food efforts a bit. He’s got a lot on his plate, so to speak.

So I’ve had some time to think about my role in all this. And I’ve realized something: My expectations are getting in the way of our process.

For example. I have this vision in my head: I lovingly prepare a gorgeous pizza from scratch. I take it from the oven, let it cool to the perfect temperature, cut it into kid-size slices, and put one on a bright purple plate. I turn, place the plate in front of him, and he takes a bite. And smiles. And says, “Mama, I love this!” And then he eats it! The whole slice!

And then I snap out of it. Ain’t gonna happen. My fantasy is getting in the way of the reality in front of me, tripping up the food journey before it even starts. How can I help the Boo get anywhere if I’m anchored to something that doesn’t exist? Deep, I know, but sometimes parenting is like that. Things just come up.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about my feelings of failure around his eating habits, and how that affects how I am with him. I feel guilty. I feel like it’s entirely my fault. And to an extent, it is. I’m the one putting the food in front of him. I’ve known he needed some serious guidance, but picture a little kid on the floor kicking and screaming, “I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna!” That kid is me. Or was. 

And the reality is, picky eaters just… are. And it’s no one’s fault, it just… is. But when you feel bad about yourself as you approach the task of getting your kid to open his mind and mouth to new foods, it ain’t great for either of you. I was getting impatient. Angry, even. Why do I have to deal with this? Why won’t my kid just eat pizza and hot dogs like every other kid on the planet? What the hell kind of kid won’t eat cheese?


Time to get over my issues so I can help him with his. 



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  Hello friends! First let me thank you all for your comments and stories of your own picky eaters. Knowing I’m not in this alone makes me feel like less of a failure. Why does it feel like a failure? Is it the weird information-intensive parenting culture we have in this country right now? Maybe I need a post on that…

Anyway. Last week we began a voyage, as I like to think of it, into the Land of Rainbow Foods. I decided to shove off using a bit of guilt as an oar. Specifically, my kid’s promise to his doctor to try new foods.

When we got home from the Boo’s 4-year checkup, it was still early enough for some cartoons. I usually plunk down a bowl of apple slices next to him when he watches TV (partly because I cannot abide crumbs). This time I put a few rainbow baby carrots in the bowl. The Boo brought one to me, protesting, and I reminded him of his promise. He went away, took a minuscule bite, and brought the carrot back to me. Then he did the same with the other two carrots in the bowl. The bites were so comedically small it was hard to tell they were there at all, but they were. And he had fulfilled his end of the deal.

I believe they refer to this as baby steps. It’s also interesting to note that he did exactly what I asked, no more, no less. I believe they call that meeting expectations.

Meanwhile, I’ve been putting new or different foods on his plate, especially at snack time, with limited success. And I’ve eased off on the “you promised Dr. E” thing because frankly it feels weird to say that all the time. I want him to try new foods because he’s curious about what’s out there in the food universe, not because of a directive some middle-aged guy he sees once or twice a year.

Meanwhile, we had something of a breakthrough. The Boo and I were making chocolate snack balls the other day (mostly dates and oats and nuts*), which was a treat for him because a) food processor! and b) he gets to pour stuff in and push buttons. I had asked him to dump in the cashews, and out of the corner of my eye I saw him put one in his mouth. And chew it. And swallow it. I asked how he liked it, and he said, “It was yucky, Mama.”

Apparently I should have left well enough alone. But I learned, or rather remembered, something important about my kid: He doesn’t like an audience. Ask him to sing a song he knows and he’ll say he forgot how. Walk away and you’ll hear him singing it to himself five minutes later.

I reminded my husband of this tendency one night at dinner when we were both cajoling the Boo to try some roasted veggies I’d put on his plate. And as soon as the parental Eye of Sauron was off him, he tried the quinoa-farro salad I’d put on there. And declared it yummy.

I believe they call that “progress.”


*I adapted my recipe from this one at the excellent Minimalist Baker. All amounts approximate: 1 1/2 cups of oats, 12-14 medjool dates (I like the nice gooey ones from the produce section at Trader Joe’s, make sure to remove the pits), 1/2 cup cashews, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, cinnamon to taste, maybe 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut, and 3-4 ounces good quality melted bittersweet chocolate. Whiz until pulverized, form into balls, store in fridge, don’t eat too many or your gut will yell at you. Sometimes it’s not sticky enough and I add some coconut oil, maple syrup, honey or a few more dates.

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As we’ve journeyed through the jungle that is feeding a baby, or at least feeding this baby, we have discovered that Baboo favors the novelty of food that comes out of packets.

That’s right: baby food now comes in squeeze-out packets. I discovered this just before we took the baby on a plane for the first time. I think I fell on my knees in Schnucks.

Anyway. Even a baby knows food from a tube is cooler than food from a tub, so one or two packets a week quickly becomes one or two a day and suddenly you’re all like, how did I spend $50 on one bag of groceries? Oh, easy: a gallon of organic milk and squeeze tubes of baby food.

It’s not that the kid doesn’t like the food I make him. I know this because on several occasions, something I’d offered him from a bowl was rejected, only to be greeted with enthusiasm when squeezed out of a Frankensteined packet. But that approach quickly became tedious, and the bottom closure was always problematic.

So my research-happy hubs hopped online and found several refillable food pouch options. And of course we picked the cutest ones: Squooshies.

And so now even if Baboo rejects something, we can still get him to giggle at whatever animal we’re waving in front of him. Much better.

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the baby has gotten very interested in putting things away and taking things out of bins. He’s also gotten very picky about what he will eat. So when he expressed interest in the grapes I was washing this morning, I sliced a few up for him and put them on his tray.

He picked up a piece and held it out to the side, as if to throw it on the floor. I asked him if he wanted to put it back on the cutting board, and held it out to him.

He put pieces of grape on the cutting board and took them off the cutting board for the next five minutes. He was very deliberate about which pieces he wanted to pick up and put somewhere else, as well as exactly where he wanted to put them. I was unable to discern any outward logic, but to him it was very serious business.

He did not eat any of the fruit, but it sure was fun to watch him wrangle those grape bits with the gravitas of Bobby Fischer.

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Cheater’s Chai


A while back, in another lifetime, I posted a chai recipe. More recently, I came across a $4 packet of chai masala at an Asian grocery (Jay International, to be precise). I suppose I could mix up my own batch of ground black pepper, cardamom, clove and ginger, but why should I bother when experts have already done it for me?

Here’s what to do once you get your mitts on some of this lovely stuff.

1. Put 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of the spice mix in a mug.
2. Add a heaping teaspoon of sugar and a tea bag.
3. Fill 2/3 of the way up with cold water.
4. Microwave for however long you usually zap your tea. Or add boiling water in step 3.
5. Add milk, stir, let sit a bit, remove teabag, and enjoy.

Note: The spice mix will mostly settle to the bottom, but if tiny bits of spice in your beverage irks you, pour your tea through a fine mesh strainer before you drink it.

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Years ago, I found this recipe in some magazine. I can’t remember which one, and I know I’ve modified it, so I’m claiming it as mine. And sharing it with you.

The most awesome thing about this fruity, warmly spiced sauce is that it’s so simple that you can make it while soothing a teething baby. (The only sauce that’s easier is Mama Stamberg’s, which is also excellent in its own way.) The second most awesome thing about it is that it freezes incredibly well.

Happy Holidays a little early!

Cranberries a la Dean

1 bag cranberries, washed and picked through (discard the mushy ones)
1 ripe pear, washed and cut into 1″ dice (doesn’t need to be pretty)
1 sweet apple, washed and cut into 1″ dice (again, no need to be picky with the dicing)
Zest and juice of one orange
1 cup sugar
1/2 t. each ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg (if you hate nutmeg, maybe throw some allspice in instead)

Combine all ingredients and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cranberries are all popped and smushy and sauce has thickened (about 30-49 minutes). Taste and add sugar if needed. Cool and enjoy with turkey, beef, potatoes, or soy-based meatlike products. Or heat and enjoy over ice cream or vanilla cake.

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Mmm, the white stuff.

Back when the baby was starting to eat solids, I was thrilled to discover that he loved yogurt. It seemed he would eat his weight in YoBaby if I let him. Awesome, I thought — probiotics, whole milk, and it’s organic — what’s not to love about this?

And then I read the side of the container and was far less thrilled. There are 11 grams of sugar in four ounces of the stuff. No wonder. I may as well have been putting two sugar cubes in front of him, or filling his sippy cup with Kool-Aid.

Just to see what would happen, I mixed some mashed banana with whole-milk Fage. He took a taste. He stared into the middle distance, seemingly considering whether he liked what he just opened his mouth for. And then he opened his mouth baby bird style, asking for more, over and over.

I admit I may be splitting hairs here — he’s been on formula pretty much since day one, and the first ingredient in that is corn syrup solids. I’ve never felt great about that, but I’ve made my peace with it. And there are plenty of websites and people who would have you believe that the body can’t tell the difference between honey, sugar, corn syrup and agave nectar. But I’m not in that camp.

But I still feel smug: No refined sugar, much cheaper, I know exactly what’s in it, it’s still good for him, it’s calorically dense, and he’s learning to love food that’s not crammed full of sugar. Victory on all fronts!

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If the Cheerios appeared in a manga, they would look like this. Thanks, Manga Camera!

A few weeks ago, there was a development just as exciting as the clapping, but in a different way: The baby learned how to feed himself Cheerios.

Similarly to the clapping, it happened pretty fast. First, I’d put them in his mouth so he knew they were food. Then I encouraged him when he picked them up and dropped them, or got them stuck on his face, or lost one inside his wee chubby fist. (This only ever happened with his right hand. Seems we might have another Southpaw in the house!)

At first, he’d hang on to them and suck them into goo instead of releasing them into his drooly maw. Very funny, and probably a necessary step in understanding the mechanics of self-feeding, so I let him be. Over the space of a few days, his pincer grasp became more precise and he mastered the art of delivering the little oaty Os to his mouth.

Within a few days, he became fully capable of eating them on his own, unless he’s really tired. And then, it’s both amusing and sad to watch him try, and I end up taking what my mom calls the Holy Communion approach. This is very high on the CS (Cute Scale) because he does the baby bird thing.

Anyway. This is all very exciting not only because he’s perfecting his pincer grasp (Big! Developmental! Milestone!), but because he will happily occupy himself with tiny edible rings while I prepare the rest of his food, or prepare our food, or do my nails.

Kidding about the last one, but there may come a day when I’m not. Is it possible for a baby to OD on Cheerios? Oh right, it’s called constipation.

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Black Bean Brownies

In my ongoing quest to chip away at my lingering baby weight without feeling deprived, I recalled that I had a recipe for black bean brownies. The beans replace the flour, which ups the protein and fiber content and makes you feel virtuous about eating beans. Miraculously, I located the recipe, but was shocked at the amount of sugar it called for: three cups. Jeepers, I thought, that just doesn’t seem right.

After a brief internet search I found this recipe, which was very similar but only called for 3/4 cup of sugar. And so I happily set up my mise en place whilst the baby slept.


Because I am an inveterate and incurable recipe messer, I upped the cocoa and vanilla content, and added the baking powder a few people talked about in the comments.

Here’s what I ended up with:


I do not agree with the commenters who claim these are indistinguishable from regular brownies. They are not chewy so much as very, very dense, presumably because the eggs have no wheat protein to play with. Fans of Asian sweets will recognize the particular texture of red bean paste, which almost has a snap to it when you bite through.

However. These are a reasonable enough facsimile for my purposes, and perhaps for yours, if you are looking to feel more virtuous about your brownie consumption or are on the hunt for a decent gluten-free brownie recipe. (At least, I think they’re gluten-free. I’m not an expert, so celiacs please proceed with caution.)

Here’s my recipe for those who would like to try it:

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 pan. Blend first two ingredients in food processor or blender until very smooth (1-2 minutes). Add all other ingredients and process until combined. Stir in nuts and/or chips (optional) and bake for 30-40 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting, freeze cut brownies if desired — they hold up well.

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 eggs
3 T. vegetable oil
1/2 c. cocoa
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. instant coffee (optional)
1/2 c. chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 c. chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)


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I'm over 50. I'm raising a fifth grader. Sometimes he posts too.


My journey to becoming a dietitian and other cool stuff

Bideshi Biya

Living The Road Less Travelled