Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Strawberry Thyme Stuffed Cupcakes

Strawberry Thyme Stuffed Cupcakes

Reverberations… The concept has been hovering in my mind. I doodled through high school and college physics but even I remember that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. But in the case of human life, I wonder if actions should be described as having often exponentially larger reactions. One man cheats two friends. Those two friends are without money and they need their children and family to take care of them. Those children and families need to do more work to do so, and the stress affects their life adversely. You get the story.

My work has confoundingly stressful. Work environments are network of people. In general, the actions of small inconsequential people have small reverberations onto their fellow man. And some people have enormous wakes of reverberation; Madoff anyone? So this week at work, we are all standing in the wake of one man’s choice making a guess on how large the waves of change will get.

The pull and push of the ocean on your bare feet can be so comforting and enticing, but the ebb and flows of stress that will be upon me at work are frightening. So, how are we going to make it through? In part, the plan is to find those moments where all the stress exists squarely outside your consciousness—touchy feely as it is. My Belle is a whole cloud of such moments.

She is starting to love to bake. Baking with her takes some amount of concentration. I measure everything out and then bring it to the table for her to dump and stir. Inevitably overzealous actions occur; messes are created. I don’t know how to meditate but baking with Belle seems to me very close. My mind empties of work and life and instead I am focused on the actions at hand.

Strawberry Thyme Stuffed Cupcakes

For these cupcakes we had too many ohio grown strawberries (great problem to have) and I needed to use them up quickly. But, I did want a cake that was dense and a little more complex than straight strawberries. Belle has been growing some herbs and vegetables with her dad (garden might be overstating it.) So, she and her dad grabbed some lemon thyme from the garden. I have been consciously adding various herbs to Belle's dishes recently so that she acquires a taste for lovely fresh food but also so that she can enjoy the tastes of her labor. Thyme might be good in savory dishes, but I think it really works well with the chocolate and strawberries in these cupcakes. Very little is used so it is subtle but I think it adds a wonderful element to the cupcakes.

I am also sending these cupcakes to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Laurie from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska run by Haalo of Cook (anything) Almost Once and started by Kalyn of Kalyns kitchen.

Strawberry Thyme Stuffed Cupcakes
The grape cupcakes at Cupcake Bakeshop gave me the idea for these.

For the cake, I used the recipe at a Dash of Sass but added ½ tsp fresh thyme and a dash of balsamic

For the filling, strawberries macerated with sugar, thyme and balsamic

For the frosting, chocolate/cream cheese/ buttercream (basically my coconut frosting but without coconut or lime and with chocolate) with a bit of balsamic and brown sugar

To stuff them, think jack o lantern. Take off a top, cut a bit of cake from the core. Fill and replace the top.

Strawberry Thyme Stuffed Cupcakes

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Raspberry Clafoutis

Raspberry Clafoutis

Prior to having children, morning was about sleeping, stretching, reflecting. There were quiet mornings of sipping spiced tea and reading the newspaper.

Belle’s idea of morning is action and reaction. By 10:00, we have read many books, eaten breakfast, walked the dog, run to the market, done laundry, taken a shower, cleaned our room… Most mornings we have accomplished what needs to be done.

This morning the rain soothed the whole family into sleeping longer and sounder. Instead of roaring out of our beds and into our chores, we milled in bed. We spoke quietly and giggled. Rather than running out to a quick breakfast dive, we sat around the table and made breakfast.


Yesterday was one of those chore-filled days; we made it to the market early enough to get raspberries. My husband suggested with raspberry sauce. Pancakes are not my favorite. To me, they are messy and labor-intensive at a time when my synapses are at their slowest.

So, this morning it was raspberry clafoutis with Ohio maple syrup for breakfast following the perfectly scaled recipe at Eric Ripert. In keeping with our relaxing morning, the labor of making clafoutis is thankfully incommensurate with delicious decadence of the results.

It is also our entry for One Local Summer with farmer’s market raspberries (didn't get the farm's name because Belle was trying to steal the strawberries from the table), Snowville Creamery half and half, Snake Hill Farm maple syrup, and Maple Valley Sugarbush eggs.

Raspberry Clafoutis

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Chive Blossom Dahi Bhel Puri


I remember standing in the darkened room of a natural history museum gazing at a sliver of a man encased in plexiglass exposed longitudinally from head to toe. I was about six. There in front of me the way that the blood flows through our body was so obvious; the veins were a red-toned web connecting every element of the organism. There were other pieces-parts in the human body display at that museum. The puzzle of organs that fill our abdomens was shown in a transverse cross-section. These displays made the essential inner workings of man transparent.

In the last couple weeks, interchanges with some of my friends reminded me of these anatomy studies. A long lost friend called me to follow up with work. We spoke for a couple minutes about ourselves, carried on our business and parted ways. Belle was running around and chatting with me, so it was easy to mention that I had a 2 year old, but I didn’t fill her in with anything else that had occurred in the last 6 years. What would I say? I am married; I got another masters; I am happy; I still love food; I picked up new hobbies; I got a job; I got a promotion… Our short friendship was finite, in this case, a grad school snap shot of who I was. She had but a transverse shot of me. And, why change that? There is nothing wrong with those sorts of friendships. They are so in the moment and so low on baggage and context.

The week prior when one of my longtime friends came to town, I asked her over for tea. I have known her for 85% of my life. The longitudinal study that is lifelong friendship is all context. The tea was filled with an ease of rapport, fast memories about who we had been, and enjoyable conversation.

Unlike the easily traceable circulatory system, the path of friendship is impossible to diagram or to show in a museum display. What makes friendship last? What makes it strong?

And onto the food…

When she came over for tea, I made one of my favorite snacks, Bhel Puri. The chive blossoms and cilantro came from our garden.

Chive blossoms are an annual bounty in our garden. When you are ready to eat, just give the plant a nice haircut. I don’t think they keep well, so I just leave them in the yard until I need them. To wash them, I spritz them with water and then pat them very gently with a paper towel. They fall apart; accept it. In this case, instead chopping them, I just pulled them apart for use because I wanted them to not only flavor but liven up the Bhel.

Cilantro can go to flower as well, and actually bolts quickly. So, keep the cilantro in check by pinching back. (Though if it goes to flower, then hold off for the seeds and use those in your cooking.)

This post is also my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging run by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once hosted by Astrid from Paulchen's Foodblog .


Chive Blossom Dahi Bhel Puri

In a cast iron skillet, brown:
½ cup cooked chickpeas
2 T red chile

When the chickpeas are cool, add them to:
½ cup boiled potatoes, diced
¼ cup red onion, diced
¼ cup garlic scapes, sliced
¼ cup sliced almonds
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cumin (or a bit more)
½ tsp chile powder
½ tsp amchur
2 cup puffed rice
1 cup sev
½ cup chopped chive blossoms

Top with yoghurt, tamarind chutney and cilantro/mint chutney

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vinegary Potato Salad


Big Belle’s Potato Salad, sort of

My daughter was named after a woman I never met—my husband’s beloved grandmother. I would have loved to have known her. From pictures, I know that she had high-cheekbones, thick hair and bright eyes. I hear she never said anything that she didn’t mean. No unwarranted compliments from this woman. But, she was also a warm woman, a wonderful cook, and a caring grandmother. She made what I would call All-American food: corn bread, pies, fried chicken. Her bread is something that I almost feel that I have tasted thanks to my husband’s vivid descriptions.

Recently, I asked my husband if there are any of his mothers recipes that he would want to keep. My mother-in-law would be the first to say that she is not a whiz in the kitchen. It’s the kind of thing that might skip a generation. If your mother is an amazing cook, sometimes the shoes are a little too big to fill. One of Belle’s recipes that my mother-in-law did make was her potato salad. It was a recipe crafted in a time before cholesterol, before carbs and before weight watchers. Hearing the recipe, I always picture my husband as a little boy watching his grandmother mix a big bowl of the creamy, vinegary concoction in a large yellow bowl.

When the recipe was told over the phone, there were phrases like bacon grease, egg-y mayonnaise and sweet gherkin pickle juice mentioned. I am all for going all out once in a while. But, since I will be abstaining from the salad due to a recent and serious aversion to vinegar, I think my husband decided not to go whole hog. Instead he went with a vinegary, bacony salad that looked lovely. But, if you think that means he was totally healthy, don’t be fooled. He did use some bacon grease.

Big Belle’s Vinegary Potato Salad

Combine in a bowl:
6 medium red potatoes, boiled and cut into large squares, still slightly warm
¼ medium red onion, sliced into rings
½ cup sliced radishes
2 TB grapeseed veganaise (sorry vegans)
2 T olive oil
4 strips bacon crumbled
1 handful green olives with pimentos
2-3 handfuls of dill, chopped
2 T bacon grease (optional)
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
This is also my entry for the blog event--Picnic Online game

I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing...
A-Apple Pie with Dutch Crumb Topping
B-Buttermilk Spice Cake
C-Chocolate Cherry Pie
D-Dilly Potato Salad
E-Election Day Cake
F-Fruit Cocktail Meringue Pie
G-Gluten Free Upside Down Cake
H-Hangar Steak
I-Ice Cream in a Bag
J-Jell-O a la Haute
K-Kue Pukis
L-Lotek Salad
N-Nectarines Grilled & Glazed (image soon)
O-Still shopping...
P-Potato Balls (Cynthia can't "play" but she's here in soul:)
Q-Quesadilla (Elise is "swamped" right now. She sends picnic greetings)
R-Redneck Gazpacho (coming soon)
S-Shook-Bag Chicken (coming soon)
U-Ultimate Cheater Pulled Pork
V-Vinegared Potato Salad
W-Warm Sweet Potato Biscuits
X-XXX Pizza

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Baked Challah French Toast


Never say never

Tall icy lemonade is my greatest pregnancy craving. From her first surreptitious taste, Belle was hooked. I frown on her drinking juice and consuming sugar, but “do as I say and not as I do” is not exactly my style. So, over the months of pregnancy, many evenings I let Belle share my icy lemonade. I sit on the couch head sagging and she stands leaning on the side table stirring the ice with a spoon. In these quiet moments, she spends her time inquiring. Why does the ice spin in the glass? Where is the ice going? What is ice? Her life is all inquiry and desire.

Recently, I was told by a teenager that I really don’t value my Iphone because I am not nearly as tech-savvy as he. Somewhere between age two and age 16 you get to the point that you know everything. The world has become clear, your path is known, your life solved. In that sweet spot of life, I often uttered the phrase—“I would never…” I am thankful that it was a time before cell phone video cameras and social networking so that the arrogance of youth is not captured forever. But, my mind’s eye remembers the tone and the stupid self-assurance. The black and white nature of teenhood seems to fade into grey eventually, either through maturity or complexity of life’s situations.

Strata was a word that I abhorred. Baked egg concoctions seemed like a marker of someone who had given up, of someone who felt the easy way was the right way, of someone without discerning taste. They were the sort of wives who couldn’t be bothered. Casseroles were all laziness and lack of flavor. Any time-saving baked concoction was high on my list of I would nevers.

And, then we had the baby. We still wanted to continue to entertain; we still wanted to join friends together around food. With a child who was basically nocturnal for 5 months, I was fairly confident any cooking that involved dexterity and concentration was out. And, unembarrassed, I started to look again at my pyrex baking dishes. Empathy is a difficult skill to learn; for me it was learned through experience. We haven’t gone all casserole all the time, but in a pinch a baked make ahead meal for guest is not a cop out. Actually, it is an earnest act of entertaining—instead of focusing on the food, the service or the décor, you are focusing on the fact that spending time with the guests is the supreme element in entertaining. And, it turns out many of these baked dishes are quite tasty.

Baked Challah French Toast

(reading the recipe at balance made me think about making baked french toast again.)

Toast 1 sliced loaf of challah

In a bowl combine:
8 oz cream cheese
2-3 T brown sugar
2-3 T maple sugar

Spread the cream mixture on the challah and overlap into a pan

In a large bowl mix:
6 eggs
2 yolks
2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of salt

Pour the eggy mixutre over eggs and then weigh french toast down with another pan. Refrigerate over night.

The next morning, bake with a water bath for 60 minutes at 375 degress.

Serve with strawberries and maple syrup.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spinach Strawberry Pizza


My husband and I always say we have champagne tastes and a beer budget. In this economy, I am starting to think that beer is seriously expensive.

When we were planning on a second child the world was completely different. We had spent the summer eating and cooking lavishly. When we found out I was pregnant, the economy had just started to tank. As the baby approaches, we have started to consider where to cut money. Packed lunches, no more frivolous shopping (oh, I will miss the beautiful shoes), no movies… Looking at out spending, we felt food was not one of the places we wanted to cut. Organic healthy food for our children would reap benefits far outstripping the costs (for the environment of the future, for their bodies, for their souls).

Of course, one challenge remains making the most of every dollar spent. We try to use every vegetable from our CSA or farmer’s market basket. But, there are always extenuating circumstances—the impulse purchases at the market, the purchases made of good intensions rather than concrete plans, the 18 lbs of cabbage that from the CSA. This summer, we are trying to spend less by wasting less. To that end, we decided to use up the spinach purchased from the Sunday market tonight. J—made some pizza dough and baked it. When still warm he topped it with raw spinach, raw strawberries, sautéed scapes, and sauteed pinenuts. (The spinach wilts just the right amount from the heat of the pizza.) It was a seriously healthy and satisfying dinner, especially when paired with a glass of wine and a shard of parmesan. Of course, I am off the sauce these days.

This is also my entry this week for One Local Summer and as promised I even know some of the names of the farms:

Snake Hill Farm scapes
Millgate Farm strawberries
Spinach—from North Union Market (next week will get the name of the farm)
Homemade dough
Pinenuts, American but not local.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Caramelized Coconut Lime and Ginger Cupcakes (Egg-free)


Did you ever think that you were so different than your family that you must be adopted? I look so much like my father that perfect strangers have introduced themselves to me because they know him. So, I never thought that I was adopted, but there was one thing that set me apart from my whole family. As a child, I despised coconut. My distaste of coconut was frankly contrary to generations of taste buds.

My family is from the West Coast of India, a tropical paradise of beaches and coconut palms. Coconut is pervasive—used in hair products, religious practice and, of course, in food. Raw coconut is added to sautéed vegetables, ground coconut to curries, coconut oil for frying. As a child, while I didn’t mind coconut when browned and spiced until almost imperceptible, I would not eat it in the raw form. As an adult, I don’t throw a hissy-fit when I see it at the dinner table, but I definitely don’t go out of my way either. For the rest of my family, coconut is what makes dinner tasty.

Are palettes are genetic? Despite my weird coconut hating nature, my daughter loves it. Coconut water, coconut curry, coconut, coconut, coconut. So, the other day, when I promised Belle that she could make cupcakes, I decided to come up with coconut cupcake recipe. The upcoming change in the family has been stressful for Belle and I am trying to make these last few weeks as an only child really enjoyable. I had just read Tartelette mava cake recipe from the Parsi’s of Bombay. It made me remember muggy monsoon summers and fresh bhelpuri with my family. I thought this would be a perfect start to our cupcakes. We made them egg-free just so that in case she got a little curious about the batter, I wouldn’t worry.

I didn’t taste the results, but Belle and her dad loved them. At least we know they are related.

These cupcakes are also my entry for the Coconut and Lime 5 year anniversary. I thought I would enter because I loved her Rhubarb Cupcake recipe when I veganized it last year. I paired my cupcakes with Coconut spice coffee (add a couple tablespoons extra coconut mava, half and half, and cardamom powder to coffee)

Caramelized Coconut Lime and Ginger Cupcakes (Egg-free)
Makes about 16 mini-cupcakes
This recipe was adapted from the mava cakes recipe from Tartelette which Helen received from her friend Bina.

First prepare, the caramelized coconut that is the basis of the flavor for the cupcakes. In the traditional recipe Helen created, she used milk. I used coconut and condensed milk instead.

In a large sauce pan, cook on simmer the following for 45-50 minutes stirring every 5-10 minutes:

1 cans (14oz each) coconut milk
1/3 cup condensed milk
2 T whole milk

It will splatter. Accept that. Put a lid on it halfway to keep the mess to a minimum. When it is a deep brown thick consistency, remove from heat and cool. (I did this in the morning and let it cool until the afternoon.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer beat until smooth:

1/4 cup (100gr) mava, at room temperature
3 tablespoons (85gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Add and then mix again:
Ener-G for 1 egg
3 tablespoons whole milk

Add and mix:
1/2 cup sugar
3 T jaggery, pulverized
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated (use any juice too)
1 tsp dried coconut

In a large bowl, sift together:
1/ 2 cup plus 1 T flour
1/4 teaspoon (2gr) baking powder
¼ tsp lime zest (grated finely)
Sprinkle of dried galangal
pinch of salt

Put the dry ingredients into the wet in two batches. Mix thoroughly. The batter will be very thick. Spoon into buttered cupcake tins.

Coconut and Lime Buttercream IcingAdapted from a recipe from Hostess Blog

Combine in a stand mixer until fluffy
8 Tbsp butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 T coconut milk (super chilled)
2 T lime juice
1 tsp lime zest, sliced into super thin strips

Add 5. 5 cups powdered sugar in ½ cup intervals beating in between

After the frosting comes together:

2 T grated coconut

Top with more lemon zest


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Red Veined Dandelion Salad with Roasted Chicken, Dried Cherries and Almonds


My parents always wonder why I would be interested in recreating any of the foodways of their native India. They left India for work and found a life filled with convenience stores, cable and clean streets. Some things were so ingrained they didn’t even think to relinquish them. I couldn’t pass the foyer with shoes. Forgot something in the kitchen having laced yourself into your tennis? One step onto linoleum and I would hear, “no shoes in the house” from the furthest reaches of the second floor. Now I find myself reminding Belle that she is half Indian and we do not wear shoes in the house.

But, in their assimilation, they made certain concessions even if only unconsciously. Indian food always remained our mainstay, but certain special vegetables that were expensive or time-consuming to prepare just disappeared from their lives. Now, I scour the internet for recipes and ingredients for items that they just let go of.

My father in law was born to Italian immigrants. Born in the mountains of Abruzzo in place where stone farming was the only career option, J—‘s grandmother came to find that Ohio might have been the land of milk and honey. Like so many Italian immigrants, Nonna began to include more meat in her diet. But, other cultural mainstays were hard to give up. She would send my father in law out to the park to pick dandelion greens; as expected this was a chore that he didn’t enjoy. The greens were just fine, but the experience made him different that his American friends.


So the other day, when we bought red veined dandelion greens from the market and called to see how they were prepared in his childhood, he was truly surprised. It might have been the fact that we purchased dandelion greens or that we even thought to eat them. After all, they ate them not because they were chic, but because they were cheap.

From our weeds, we made a large dinner salad with them using ripped Ohio roasted chicken, dried Ohio cherries, olive oil, balsamic, local spring onions. (We did include California almonds.) This is our entry for One Local Summer for this week. Tomorrow at the Farmers Market, I will actually write down the farmers names and locations when we go to the market (if Belle allows me) so I can give mileages for food at the upcoming week.

This is also my entry for BSI: Greens this week hosted by the Girlichef.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pasta with Roasted Chickpeas, Eggplant, Raisins and Cherry Tomatoes

quick sicilian pasta

I think of myself as a cross between affable and exacting. As a mom, I am tough about some things and others I let slide. Belle takes her shoes off in the car; I don’t bat an eyelash. Drawing on the furniture repeated even after time-outs; I throw those crayons out. My mother on the other hand was a softie with me and continues in the same vein with Belle.

For example, I have a no lip-gloss rule with my two year old. Her sitter had wizened her up to the world of make-up and Belle loved what she saw. She began waking up in the morning begging for lip-gloss as if she had slumbered Sephora dreams. At family events, she cried that we allowed her to go out without make up. Seriously. Two weeks ago, I am standing in the apse of a church at a funeral with all of my inlaws. (I mean cousins, aunts, great aunts, second cousins—picture ½ of the Italians in Cincinnati.) I am seriously nauseous; we are singing the first hymn; my two year old is begging me as loudly as she can about lipgloss. So, you say, where does a two year old get lip gloss? Thanks to the fact that Belle is really into showing off her new verbal skills, I learned from her that her source was her dear sweet grandmother. Darn softie.

So, tonight, with J—working late, Belle decided she wanted to move into her big girl room. I made up her new bed with all her animals (8) and blankets (5) from the old room. We read stories, we talked about all of the family members that love her, I tucked her in, and then I reached for the light and the door. This is a routine that works without a hitch in her old room. But, in the new surroundings, I first heard a scream then “No, mommy, no.” Generally, I would have been tough. In the end, I waddled her mattress back to her crib, made it up, and started the nighttime routine again. To which my mother said, you should have just closed the door and let her cry. Go figure?

But, Belle's protestations were different. As I looked into her face, as she stood arms outstretched as she stood sobbing on her new bed, I saw a realization dawning on her face--life is about to change for my little bug. After all the screaming and trauma, I sat down in the kitchen. Life is sure about to be different. I feel like yesterday I was just young and fairly carefree and now I am a suburban mother of two (God-willing.) The banality, repetition and immediacy of existence often prevent self-assessment.

So there I sat in the kitchen, munching on ice to keep down the nausea, pondering what life would be like with two little ones. Dinner was fairly far from my mind.

But, J—would be ravenous after working late (and since he has been doing most of the cooking for 8 months), I decided to make him something. I decided to create a bastardized Sicillian pasta dish that involved little to no work. The result was surprisingly good. I tossed eggplant cut in ½ inch cross sections, whole small button mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, 1/3 head of garlic, and ½ can of chickpeas with olive oil, sea salt and paprika and roasted it at 400 for about 20 minutes (or until brown.) When out of the oven, I turned the garlic into a paste with more salt, olive oil, and balsamic. Tore the eggplant, and then tossed veggies, garlic paste, cooked macaroni, yellow raisins, crushed red pepper and fresh oregano together. Totally delicious. At least my parenting woes did give us something good.

And since this was a presto meal, this is also my entry for Presto Pasta blog event this week hosted by Katie of Thyme For Cooking and started by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast .


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pimenton Potatoes, Spicy Kidney Beans and a Runny Egg for One Local Summer

Hormones might ravage your body and mind during pregnancy, but I feel I must give credit where credit is due. They can also serve to inspire some yummy food combinations. When I was pregnant with Belle, I started to experiment with fruit in savory dishes. Sure those of you who grew up with pork chops and apple sauce were way ahead of me. But, I didn’t grow up with that. It started with plum and duck brochettes a few years ago, made during my pregnancy, and continued all the way to strawberry pizza last year.

So this morning when I woke up with the chorizo runny egg combo from We are Never Full in my mind’s eye, I obediently went down to the kitchen and began to toil away. Chorizo sadly would set my tender stomach on a bender, so I decided to substitute spicy kidney beans. My husband, J--, was not only unconvinced, he was openly mocking (brave, stupid man, huh?). Well, I got the last laugh. He begged me for the last bite of my breakfast.

This breakfast is my first entry about One Local Summer. In Cleveland, we are very lucky to have many many sources for local meat, dairy and vegetables (at least in the summer.) The kidney beans and onions were from the North Union farmer’s market. I tossed them with diced pickled tomatoes from last year’s garden and cilantro leaves from the garden this year. (I did also use cumin, salt and pepper from the pantry.) The runny egg was also local. The potatoes and pimenton, I am afraid, were not local. As a carbophillic, I couldn’t do without, but I found it hard to find a carb that is in season and local. Here’s to an even more local week next week.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Orange and Corn Salsa


Do animals have the terrible twos?

Belle loves birds. Duck was one of her first words. For her first Christmas, we bought her an Audubon bird guide and she was excited. So, this spring, she enjoyed seeing the baby ducklings at the park. In my delicate condition, I felt a strange empathy and connection to the ducky mom. I might have been projecting, but I swear I could see the ambivalence in her eyes. But a few months ago, she was a one-woman show and now all of sudden she had an army following her.

Sure those little duckies were cute, but that adorableness comes at a price. Each little one had its own mind. Two or three babies were the easy going sort; they were amiably picking at the water plants. And, in every family, there are one or two who don’t follow the rules. One was tipping back and forth in a way that would worry me; though of course the ducklings were born to swim. And, another little one kept trying to swim away.

Of the scene, the duck mom vacillated between giving her young some knowing looks and munching away on lunch. I couldn't help but wonder if some of those little duckies were more ornery than others. Dogs have distinct personalities. Why not birds? I wondered if she was tired at quacking at the ones who strayed. Then again, the consequences of disobedience for a baby duck are life-threatening.

baby ducks

At our house, the consequences of disobedience are so much smaller. If she doesn't listen to me, there is but the chance of a spoiled brat. For fear that I would only encourage pickiness, I have tried to turn a blind eye to her caprices. Until she turned 2, she was not picky at all.

Then, she learned the power of no. Oh, I never really knew how much I would hear that word. Now, even when we make food she likes, it is a 50/50 proposition that she will consume anything.

We try to make a mix of new foods and givens. Grilled cheese is one such given; we did quesadillas. Oddly enough, beans are a perenial favorite; we made black beans. And, then as she is half-Asian, rice is a staple; we did tomato rice. For the grownups, we made a quick orange, charred corn, red onion, lime juice, cilantro salsa/ salad. Of course, we offered this salsa to Belle, but she is really not a fan of oranges.

So other than the salsa, it should have been a home-run dinner, but the little missy didn't touch it. I don't know about birds, but humans sure experience the terrible twos.

Orange Corn Salsa

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mango Oatmeal Cookies


The act of defining oneself is an obsession of youth. When I was in high school, I wouldn't be caught dead in brown shoes. Mind you, they were a requirement of our uniform. Everyone morning, we would line up for assembly in our too short navy blue tartan skirts. Down the line, spindly legs ended in penny loafers and brown saddle shoes. Somewhere in all that order and propriety, I stood with my friends with my steel-toed Doc Martens. We all need to learn to take a stand and that was mine, inconsequential as it was. (Adulthood it seems to me is about shedding the need to assume xyz are the only things that make you cool.)

Recently, Belle has become increasingly verbal. She has explained many things about her life that I did not know: at school when they watch a movie, there is always popcorn; her sitter lets her do whatever she wants; and her grandfather's car is messy. She has also started telling me who she is. She is someone who wears pretty shoes, who wears pink dresses to birthday parties, and who does not like potatoes. Most importantly, she eats cookies. I don't actually mean Belle eats cookies; I mean she defines herself as a cookie eater. When introduced to strangers (donors at my work, her second-cousins, her doctor), she tells them, "Hello, I eat cookies." It is who she is, apparently. Of course, like all good mothers, I impede her abilities of self-definition. I have never actually given her a cookie. Graham crackers, cupcakes, sure. But cookies? I don't really like cookies and never even thought to give her one.

Children, of course, have plenty of influences. In my daughter's case, many of them, like my father, are bad ones. Clearly she has tasted and liked cookies somewhere. I wonder what that first taste was like. It must have really made an impact. Because, now, I have a little cookie monster on my hands.

Belle has been unsettled in the last few weeks as I have been fairly incapacitated. My mother thought making cookies with the two year old would lift her spirits. While the process was messy; it was fun. There were some tears when Belle realized the cookie batter needed to be baked before consumption. (Usually when I bake with her, I make vegan so she can taste the batter.) The result once baked was delicious (though I can't really consume lots of cookies right now.) My husband had two after dinner--apparently, he too eats cookies.

mango oatmeal cookies

Mango Oatmeal Cookies

1 stick butter
1 cup sugar

Mix in:
1 egg
2 T light brown sugar
1.5 cups flour
1/2 t salt
1 T baking powder
2 t cardamom powder
1 cup overripe mango, diced
2 t rose water
1/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
2 T yogurt (I used Mango Lime flavored but vanilla would be okay)

Fold in
1 1/2 cup rolled oats

Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes. Makes about 36 cookies.

mango oatmeal cookies

This is also my entry for Mango Mela held by Srivalli of Cooking 4 All Seasons.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Going to the Movies?

I usually don't make these sorts of plugs, but this is for a friend...

For those of you in Cleveland, you should consider going to the Art Museum to see the movie Food Fight at 6:45 on June 3. And, if learning about organic food culture is not enough enticement, how about the fact that our very own Michael Ruhlman will be gracing everyone with his presence. (It is only $8, CMA members $6)

Can't make it but want to watch other great movies? Here is full listing of movies at the museum.