Saturday, April 19, 2014

Food Friday*: A Week of Cooking Jewishly

Passover started on Monday night (with a lovely Seder led by my dad), and as always, I've decided it's a good opportunity to diversify my diet and eat more fruits and veggies. Not-as-always, I've also decided to try new KFP (Kosher for Passover) recipes, as is my wont nowadays.

So, this week, our house has seen:

Matzah going from drab to fab with Matzah mean...candy. (From this recipe on The Kitchn.) I topped some of ours with chopped walnuts, some with sea salt, and some with my latest obsession crystallized ginger. It went fast.)

Macaroons. (From this recipe, also on The Kitchn.) I dipped a few of them in melted chocolate after I took this picture, and they're the best. Even Jake likes them, and he's not the world's biggest fan of coconut. I'm pretty sure we'll be eating them well after Passover ends, since I have 25 of them, and the holiday is over on Tuesday.

And for actual meals...

A breakfast of Matzah Brei, and

a dinner of cod "en papillote" with veggies. (That's much, much easier than it sounds. To prove it, both recipes are after the jump! Both recipes serve three. They're also both easily adjustable if your family is bigger or smaller.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Food Friday: Blueberry Surprise

Here's the thing. I knew The Kid was going to want to have a hand in the cupcakes we were going to bring to school for his birthday. Which was awesome! And I was all set to use one of my favorite recipes for the cupcakes I thought he was going to want to make.

"Hey, buddy," I asked, "what kind of cupcakes do you want to make for your birthday?

I fully expected him to say "Chocolate!" He has this way of saying it in a deep voice, where it takes a full thirty seconds to get every consonant out, as though he were already licking the beater from the KitchenAid. Nope. The Kid looked me in the eye, beamed, and said,



I'd never had a blueberry cupcake. I'd never seen a recipe for a blueberry cupcake! Blueberry muffins, sure. Jake made a huge batch with the last of our berries this summer--we had so many, we had to put some in the freezer, and we enjoyed them for a long time. Blueberry cupcakes threw me for a loop.

But Mr. Google is a wonderful helper, and soon I had my choice of recipes. I went, of course, with Martha--has she ever steered anyone wrong recipe-wise? Martha's recipe was for 12 full-sized cupcakes, and I wanted to take mini-cupcakes to The Kid's school. I finally had an excuse to buy the mini-muffin tin I've been wanting! And I figured, batter for 12 full-sized cupcakes had to equal, what, 24 mini-cupcakes? I could handle that; it's exactly what the mini-pan holds. Perfect.

Nope. Forty-eight. Forty-eight tiny cupcakes, and only ten kids in his class. My colleagues really benefitted from this one! And we had plenty left over to share with my family after dinner. I'm not confident in halving a baking recipe yet--cooking recipes, sure, but baking ratios are such science, it makes me nervous that I'll mess something up. I'm setting my mind to learn, but in the meanwhile, it's not so bad to have 48 mini-cupcakes to share.

Recipe for blueberry cupcakes with cream cheese frosting after the jump.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Two Jews in a Room Crafting*

There are certain things a little Jewish girl doesn't get to do growing up. Okay, yes, I did have goyish experiences at my friend Emily's dad's house, or in the neighborhood at the Bardziks' or the Chicos'. (As the names would suggest, those families had different traditions from mine.) I grew up super-assimilated liberal Reform, but we didn't have a Hanukkah bush or anything, so it was up to my friends to invite me over to their houses. My manners were too good to beg for invitations, but someone usually pulled through.

As I grew up, the desire to hang lights on a tree and dye eggs passed. I don't celebrate Christmas or Easter; why should I want to decorate as though I did?

But among the many wonderful things that come from being married to a person who comes from a non-Jewish family--we don't have to fight over where to spend Christmas (his family!) or who hosts Seder (my family!)--one of them is being able to bring traditions I always coveted into my own home. We're raising The Kid Jewish, but it's fun to expose him to the things Jake grew up with. The Kid helped us trim our tree in December, and this week, for the first time, we dyed eggs in our apartment.

I took a half-day at work yesterday because our babysitter had an appointment, and I thought The Kid and I could do some kind of fun Spring craft. I had no idea what, but I figured it would come to me. I took him out to Strosniders to buy supplies for a project I'm probably going to post about sometime in the near future, but there was nothing else inspiring there. We stopped at Whole Foods to pick up a couple of things, and there, on the impulse-buy-end-of-aisle display, were spring crafts galore. Including the Glob Easter Egg Coloring Kit. I'd never done it before, but I thought...hey, let's boil up some eggs and make them pretty colors!

The dye is natural, extracted from cabbage (the blue dye), radish (the pink dye), and annatto (the orange dye), which is apparently what gives cheddar cheese its color. Not having ever had dyed eggs in my house, I wasn't sure if you could eat eggs colored with regular dye, and I didn't want to waste a carton of hardboiled eggs, so this sounded like a great idea.

And it was!

OK, I had to look up instructions for boiling eggs. (Jake is the master egg-cooker in our house.) But when that was done, we went for it with gusto! The Kid's favorite color is orange, and he had a lot of fun dunking eggs and swirling them around until the tint was exactly what they wanted. I got slightly artsier with techniques I'd read about in fancy-schmancy magazines, but the white crayon absorbed the dye almost as much as the uncovered eggshell, and the dye got underneath some of the rubberbands. The stripey eggs turned out pretty well though, and more importantly, we had an awesome time.

The Kid couldn't wait to eat one of his pretty eggs: he had pancakes for dinner at the diner around the corner, and he kept shouting, "When we get home, I'm gonna have an egg for dessert!" So he did.

Yes, both of our hands are still stained orange, but it was a small price to pay. Super-fun time. Multicultural house. Getting to help my son do the stuff I wanted to do as a kid. (Damn, that last one makes me sound like a proto-stage mom. I'm not going there, I promise.)

Breakfast for the next week!

* Anyone else have William Finn in their heads? I hope so. You're welcome.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Food Friday: Baking With the Kid

Almost exactly a year ago, my life changed when Jake bought me the America's Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook for my birthday. Before then, I kinda-sorta-liked-to-be-in-the-kitchen-I-guess-I-mean-I'll-cook-if-it's-my-night-but-don't-expect-anything-fancy. I liked to cook, I did, but it was never something I would have volunteered to do, not when I had an awesome cook right in my house with me. (I mourned the fact that "Honey, you love to cook so much and I just don't want to take that time away from you" only lasted me about three years in our relationship.)

But then, I got The Book. And all of a sudden, the world opened up to me. Wait a minute, I realized, I can make butter? Ricotta cheese? Peanut butter? Graham crackers? Jam?!?! That last one in particular kept me busy quite a bit, and since The Kid came berry-picking with us several times last summer, it only seemed natural to teach him a little bit about where his food came from.


I'm completely learning along with him. I did pick berries once or twice when I was a kid, but I grew up in the idyllic suburban 1980s, believing (but not really really) that my chicken came from styrofoam packages, that my carrots came pre-peeled. My mom is a good cook, but she was scarred at a young age when her cousin took her to see chickens to be food. And so it was never something that I was really exposed to at all.

While I'm disclaiming, I'd like to point out that my search for vintage pictures of moms with their sons in the kitchen turned up practically nothing. Plenty of drawings of women teaching their daughters to cook, and serving their sons food, but nothing with moms teaching their sons to cook. Pouring milk while at child height was the best I could get. Gender roles! (OK, I'm done.)


And so, since Jake is in the kitchen a lot, I was starting to spend a lot of time there, and he was picking some of his own food, The Kid started asking toddler-type questions about what he was eating and how it was made.

And we started involving him in the cooking. By now, he makes up his own recipes in his play kitchen (the other day, he taught me how to make "Rice Cheese," which involves more flour than I would have imagined), consistently wears his chef costume which we originally got for Halloween, and is a fantastic egg-cracker, with help, of course. Two-years-ago-me would never have believed you if you told her, but one of my Very Favorite Things to Do is to cook with my boy. And we do it nearly every weekend.

My goal is to branch out from sweets, but man sweets are fun to make! I've been reading a bit about the benefits--beyond having fun and bonding--to cooking with your kid, and I especially like the article here. The Kids Cook Monday has some great resources too, and I'm excited to look into more of them.

For now, we're relying on the devils we know, and churning out cookies like fiends. And since Jake bought an insane amount of carrots this week, we made Carrot Cake Cookies, adapted from the recipe in one of our favorite books, Sesame Street's Yummy Cookies: Baking with Kids. Those Sesame Street folks know a thing or two about childhood education. They're soft, cake-like, totally delicious, and you can pretend they're healthy. (They're not totally unhealthy...) The recipe is after the jump!