Happy 2019

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So while the rest of the world is observing a Dry/Vegan/Meatless/Paelo/Whole 360/Gluten-free January, I seem to be eating more sugar and drinking more alcohol. It could have something to do with the fact that our heat is broken – that means OFF—for a week now while they find a new part for the motor. Happy 2019!  

I now know how those southern people feel when they move to New York. I’m writing this in a winter coat and dreading taking a shower because the second floor feels like Canada. So I’m blaming the cold on my inability to give up the satisfying things in life. I need those things. I’m cold.

Michael and I did resolve to give up meat this week which was going well until I made a pork shoulder. This is the recipe for Momofuku’s Bo Ssam that I made for a dinner party of 6, and it’s amazing and surprisingly easy. We also ate it for three days after the dinner party because the leftovers were so good.

Picture (obviously) from the New York Times

Picture (obviously) from the New York Times

So aside from that….we’re practically vegan. It is a good challenge though and has inspired some new dinners: fish tacos, Instant Pot Shakshuka (from Melissa Clark’s book Instant Dinner), shrimp with cauliflower puree. In other words, we’re not just eating pasta with the kids.

I also made my chocolate peanut-butter balls which aren’t particularly healthy but aren’t particularly unhealthy either (and this version included hemp seeds which are nutty and camouflage nicely). It’s a good snack for the ravenous 6-year-old that gets off the bus every day. I suspect that instead of eating lunch, he just says “poopy” and “fart” until recess. When he gets home he needs a snack the size of a meal. These balls are a good filler-upper for him and unlike the store-bought stuff, they are from real ingredients.

 Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup coconut flakes
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
1/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup peanut butter (or other nut/non-nut butter)
1/3 cup honey or agave

DIRECTIONS
1. Grind oats, coconut, hemp seeds and chocolate chips in mini food processor.
2. Mix peanut butter and honey, then stir in oat mixture.
3. Roll into balls (add a few drops of water if too dry). Sprinkle with powdered sugar (for effect) and refrigerate.

 

the never ending winter

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Winter in the suburbs, just as everyone said, is intense. Wool hats have become sleepwear and slippers are no longer optional. Sometimes my fingers are so cold as I’m typing that I have to sit on them. And no I’m not writing outside. This house just only gets so warm. Then there are snow days—seven this year so far. The one thing home-bound cold weather is good for however is cooking. I’ve even roped the kids in to the kitchen a few times-- mostly with the help of this Hanukah-gift Cooking Class: 57 fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat).

**Quick story: The problem with Hanukah (okay, I know I said I was trying to be more positive but hear me out) is that small gifts like say, a mini lego set, the night after they got a large lego set, tend to be a disappointment—which makes us get angry at the kids’ spoiled brat-ness and Hanukah turns into a sulking fest. This year we did the dessert plan: Every night we lit the menorah but Instead of a gift, we ate a fabulous dessert. On two of the eight nights, we gave gifts (a worthy stash that made the Israelites journey worthwhile.)

The cookbook gift was a surprising success --  all the recipes are simple and yummy enough to hold their attention and make them want to do it again. Which at this point, is really the point.

We started with granola bars, crepes and pancakes. Then Mack and I made the popcorn chicken. I also got them this plastic knife set, which I highly recommend. The boys use them all the time to cut their own food without me needing sedatives. The book has some fun tips and labels in the back which we used to package the granola bars for their lunchboxes.

Last night we had a fabulous 7 course “Dinner with Dave” (see below) who admitted that most of his culinary prowess came from cooking with his mom, who wasn’t even a great cook. Maybe someday these boys will catch the bug.

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kids picks

Ever since their older cousin Mae showed them how to mix dirt, leaves, worms and orange juice in a bowl, the boys have been asking to do "science experiments." They've seen their uncle perform the black pepper in soapy water trick to show how molecules separate (or something like that). He blew their little minds. And their grandmother makes slime and other messy substances that take minutes to make and hours to clean up.

I"m always a little skeptical of the mess vs. value of the product. But then I remembered referring to my pickle-making attempts as science experiments. So I found a new recipe in the Jerusalem cookbook (no vinegar or sugar but lots of interesting spices, plus dill) and made it with the boys. They liked smelling cloves and learning about mustard seeds, and what happens when salt dissolves in water. Nate's persistent question throughout was "will they be sour?" To which I had to admit, I don't know. We'll see in 5 days. 

"Aw man," Mack said. "Can we play now?"

Update: They were not sour enough for Nate's taste but they were tasty. Next time I'll play around with the spice mix. A different kind of playing than Mack had in mind, I guess. Stay tuned. 

magic mac

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For anyone who has followed my multi-year search for the perfect mac and cheese recipe, I'm sorry. It's not exactly the cause I thought I'd champion when I finished grad school. The good news is that I finally found it: an easy, no-powder mac and cheese (slightly tweaked from Dad Cooks Dinner) that both boys loved on two separate occasions. I can make in the Instantpot—it's even easier than a stovetop version, And I can pack it in thermoses for their lunch boxes. And here it is:

MAGIC MAC

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt 
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 16 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

    Directions
  1. Stir the macaroni, butter, mustard, hot pepper sauce, salt, and 4 cups water in the pressure cooker pot. Lock the lid and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Quick release the pressure and remove the lid.
  2. Stir in the evaporated milk and the cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly.

    ***This makes a ton so feel free to half it or store it in the fridge for a week or two and scoop out as needed. Heat up with a splash of milk or water.

 

 

annie's ruined us

After years of eating Annie's boxed Macaroni and Cheese, my kids won't touch the homemade stuff.

So last week I set out to find a mac and cheese recipe that would rival Annie's—that my kids would eat. My first attempt was a stovetop cheese sauce with this easy (no roux) method. The sauce was tasty but too clumpy, a dead giveaway. Let's face it, much of feeding kids is tricking their senses into familiarity. 

Next I reached out to an Alton Brown recipe which called for evaporated milk (that stuff in a can), egg yolks and cornstarch which I thought made an excellent cheese sauce that held up well to pasta but the boys found it "too cheesy." I know. And it's ok to wonder at times like these: why did I have children?

Finally I went all out. I ordered some sodium citrate from Amazon which according to the molecular gastronomy world can make cheese sauce out of water and it's true. It's magic! You take the tiniest bit of water and add a pinch of the powder, bring to a boil and then start adding shredded cheese and you get cheese sauce. We played it like a science experiment (again) which got Mack's attention just long enough to take this iphone shot.

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The result was superb., A thick gooey cheese sauce that actually tastes like cheese. I was most proud of this one but before I got the chance to use it for mac and cheese, the Superbowl came along so I used it for some kick ass nachos. Check these out:

Unfortunately, the cheese ended up kind of hard, dry and almost invisible as it cooled. I'm going to try this magic sauce with the macaroni because it's just so cool and easy, why wouldn't I? But you can probably predict the dinner table results. 

Anyway, Annie's is now banned from my house. Too bad for my kids they will never enjoy mac and cheese for dinner again. 

the great grape wars

The GRAPE WARS, (whoever shows the bigger grape wins), brilliantly created by Michael this morning, led to both kids eating many many grapes. And so the wars will continue. (After I clean everyone's fingernails.)

the closest I'll get to farming

Last weekend on the way home from my parent’s house in Easton MD, we stopped at a wholesome family farm that was hosting an awesome kids festival with games, rides and a pumpkin patch. So much cooler than anything we could have hoped for in, say, New Jersey where every city family I know heads to show the kids “fall.” Nate was completely not interested in the idea of a farm until we mentioned “a bouncy thing” and he was off running. 

Ten minutes in, Mack had lost his shoes and started looking like the poor dirty homeless barefoot child he seems destined to be. We feared marching the shivering kids through the mud to a distant pumpkin patch so we called it a day with a basket of apples, a mini pumpkin, a bunch of beautiful ($2 a head!) broccoli. 

The best part for me was – nope, not the bouncy thing (though that was surprisingly fun) -- but the squash sale.

I really wanted a snake squash but it seemed a bit excessive so I bought this guy.

I brought it home expecting to turn it into something delicious but I couldn't cut into it without ruining my knives. I thought about cooking it whole to soften it (like a spaghetti squash) but it seemed so hollow, more like a gourd so I decided just to put it on the balcony where it has a lovely view of New York City and can reflect on it's life in the city vs. the farm. 

But I was determined to cook the broccoli we bought. I often just oven roasted broccoli with olive oil and salt/pepper but I wanted to do something more "fall." Soup! The vitamix! My first few attempts at Brocolli soup resembled a thick puree:\.

Although Michael deemed it delicious, we both admitted it wasn't really soup. After a couple more tries, I found a delicious keeper of a soup recipe.

Super Simple Broccoli Soup

  • 1 head broccoli chopped
  • 1 lg clove garlic
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp parmesean cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheese
  • salt/pepper
  • greek yogurt to garnish

    In a large pot cook broccoli and garlic with chicken broth. Let cool slightly and pour into vitamix or blender. Add remaining ingredients (not the yogurt) and blend on high one minute, or until uniform. Top w. a tsp of yogurt.