I’ve been seeing this post about a daughter’s questions about her mom’s makeup in my news feed recently, and it’s made me think. Christine Burke describes how her daughter’s simple question made her see herself through a 7 year-old’s eyes and examine why she spent so much time and effort contouring, highlighting, plucking, cleansing, and otherwise enhancing her looks.
“I would NEVER…”
Of all the phrases I wish we parents…heck, people in general…would stop using, this one tops the list.
Back in the day, when I worked for Children’s Aid, I heard this from clients all the time: “You don’t get it because you don’t have kids. You haven’t been in my shoes. You can’t possibly understand. How can you tell me what to do?” SO annoying, amiright?”
I would nod sympathetically and patiently explain yet again that I completely understood their misgivings, but although I might not have children of my own, I had a lot of experience and training, not to mention a university degree in child development and specialized training in child welfare and assessment.
If I had a time machine, I would go back and apologize to all those clients and give the smug little university grad I was a smack upside the head because I Just. Didn’t. Get. It.
Embarrassing confession time: I’m a little obsessed with the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Maybe a lot obsessed. Obsessed enough to know that for the most part they aren’t her writing at all; they were essentially ghostwritten by her daughter Rose, who was a far better and more prolific author, though largely unknown today, and a much more interesting character – an early feminist and globe-trotting journalist who died in her 70’s the night before departing for Vietnam on assignment. Vietnam! On assignment! IN HER 70s!! But I digress.
From a young age, I loved reading stories about “the olden days” and wishing that I too could pick fresh pieplant, whatever that is*, bake vinegar pie for my family, and hand-sew a perfect shirtwaist. Continue reading
Ah, Mother’s Day – the day when mothers around the world (or at least North America) are celebrated with heel of bread sandwiches, fact sheets about themselves, and the opportunity to sleep in as long as they like. (“IS SHE AWAKE YET?” “SHHHHH!!” “I’M JUST GOING TO CHECK IF SHE’S AWAKE YET!” “OKAY BUT BE QUIET!” “MOMMY? MOMMY? ARE YOU AWAKE YET? NO? OKAY!!” *CRASH* “OH NO! QUICK! GET A TOWEL! NO, A TOWEL! A TOWEL! YES, A TOWEL! I DON’T CARE WHICH ONE! JUST BRING ME A…” “SHHHH! YOU’LL WAKE HER UP!”).
All Most joking aside, my Mother’s Day was lovely. Molly’s school’s Mother’s Day Tea was as lovely and entertaining as always.
Ben’s fact sheet was reasonably accurate (“Uh, mommy? Do you read before you go to sleep to relax? Okay, good, because that’s what I wrote.”)
We gave out flowers to all of the ladies at church to celebrate all forms of motherhood – and I had to break the news to the choir that we couldn’t have any because we were RUNNING OUT (which, in a small town United Church is a pretty big deal).
My cherub choir did their best rendition ever of “God Bless Families,” enthusiastically supported by Molly on percussion and interpretive dance.
My gourmet chef hubby created a delicious cinnamon-maple-walnut pancake breakfast which was served to me in bed on only the second try (the first having been drenched with water from a top-heavy vase of flowers).
Molly survived the dishwasher’s attempt to eat her with only a bump on the head, and we learned a valuable lesson about leaving kitchen renovations half-finished. FYI – A heavy slow-cooker as a counterweight (pun not intended, but actually quite clever – go subconscious!!) is not an adequate replacement for an actual built-in dishwasher cabinet. We should probably get on that.
And I got a pretty necklace!
How do you celebrate Mother’s Day? How successful was your day this year?
Pickles Family Meeting Regarding Equitable Distribution of Chocolates
February 1, 2014
Present: Ben, Molly, Mommy, Daddy
Ben Pickles called the meeting to order at 6:00 PM.
Ben Pickles explained that he had called a family meeting to address the issue of Mommy eating more than 11 After Eight chocolates.
Ben Pickles stated that he feels it is important that we share treats and one person doesn’t eat all of them.
Mommy asked if this applies to Fortnam&Mason apple & custard hard candies as well because when Molly Pickles was told yesterday that she could only have her apple slices for snack, she sneaked into the cupboard and served herself a bowl of candies and ate them all.
Molly Pickles countered that she did not in fact eat them all because she could not fit the remainder in her mouth when Mommy came to take them away and that was mean.
Daddy giggled helplessly and unhelpfully.
Ben Pickles proposed that we require the sharing of chocolates equally and introduce a rule that chocolates only be eaten one at a time.
Mommy clarified that she had in fact eaten the chocolates one at a time, just in rapid succession.
Daddy asked if this directive would apply solely to chocolate or to other candies and/or treats.
Ben Pickles clarified that he intended the directive to include all candies and/or treats.
Ben Pickles proposed a vote by secret ballot and handed out ballots which, adding insult to injury, he then collected in the empty After Eight box.
Moved by Ben Pickles and seconded by Daddy that all candies and/or treats be shared in a fair and equitable manner and not consumed in disproportionate numbers by one person. Carried.
Mommy offered a formal apology: “I’m very sorry I ate so many.”
Molly Pickles offered no further comment regarding the hard candies.
Meeting adjourned at 6:20 PM.
My family often eats ham on New Year’s Eve. This year we were up at the chalet and I was in charge of groceries so I (deliberately) went a little overboard and got an enormous bone-in, spiral cut, cooked ham.
For the dinner itself, I heated the ham in the oven and served it with two salads, a green salad with diced apple and celery and vinaigrette, and a chopped cherry tomato and avocado salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
For dessert I made Dump Cake, which is a classic kid-chef-friendly recipe. I’ve seen the recipe a few places with a few variations (ie. adding nuts or chocolate chips), but the basic instructions are: Dump into a baking pan, in this order (without stirring, but try to spread the layers evenly), 1 can undrained crushed pineapple, 1 can fruit pie filling (I used strawberry rhubarb), and 1 box yellow cake mix; top with 2 sticks of butter each cut into 12 slices; and bake for 1 hour at 350°F. It comes out as more of a cobbler than a cake and is absolutely delicious, hot or cold.
When I came home, I had about 2/3 of the ham, including the bone, left, and I have made making the most (so to speak) of the leftovers, and let me tell you, they have been tasting souper…heheheh.
I started by cutting the ham off the bone as closely as I could and dicing it. I used about half of that ham to make my first soup, ham, leek, and potato. Sadly, I was engrossed in the process and forgot to take pictures of that one. Please take my word for it – it looked a-FREAKING-mazing.
Ham, Leek and Potato Soup
Ingredients (all amounts are VERY approximate)
- 3 cups diced cooked ham
- 3 cups 1/2″ cubed Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled
- 3 stalks leeks, finely chopped and WELL rinsed
- 1 can evaporated milk
- combination of about 1/3 milk to 2/3 water to just cover ham and vegetables
Cook the leeks and ham in a little bit of oil in large pot until leeks are soft and slightly browned. Dump everything else into the pot. Bring to a boil and then lower to a gentle simmer. Leave it alone for an hour or so. Come back and add some cream and a cornstarch slurry if you like a thick soup. Serve with a really lovely artisanal bread, preferably potato scallion or whole garlic clove or the like.
While that soup was simmering, I used a little bit of the remaining diced ham to make dinner for the kids – “Dora’s Empanadas” from the Dora and Diego Let’s Cook cookbook that Molly got for Christmas from her cousins. Basically, you make a filling out of diced stuff (I used carrots, peas, ham, and grated cheese), cut circles of of refrigerated pre-made pie crust, fill, fold over pastry and seal edges, and bake for 12-14 minutes at 400°F. I put the rest of the diced ham in a large freezer bag and froze it.
Finally, I made ham stock: I put the ham-bone in a large pot, added about a handful each of roughly chopped carrot, onion, and celery and a handful of bay leaves and peppercorns, filled the pot with water, turned on the heat and left it all to simmer for hours and hours and hours. After what was probably actually 2-3 hours, I turned off the heat and left it to cool, then strained it and poured it into containers to freeze. It made about 8 cups of stock in all.
Phew! That was the end of my January 2nd.
The next soup I made was a brilliantly purple concoction that couldn’t be beet! (Okay, I’ll be honest – I did that for comic effect. It was in fact mostly beet.) I rooted around in my vegetable drawer for just the right veggies to roast for it. This thick, winter soup would be just the thing to keep you kale and hearty… All right, I’m done. For now. Here’s the recipe:
Roasted Vegetable Soup with Kale
Ingredients (again, all amounts are VERY approximate)
- Various vegetables, emphasis on roots – I used beets, carrots, onions, parsnips, and one sad-looking wrinkly zucchini that I found in the back of the crisper – scrubbed, ends trimmed off, peeled if necessary (I peeled the onions, carrots, and parsnips but not the beets), and chopped into large pieces of 1 1/2 – 2 inches
- mix of ham stock, water, and red wine to cover vegetables (I used about 2 cups ham stock, 1 cup red wine, about 1 cup apple cider and enough water to make up the difference)
- 3/4 of a bunch of kale, stems included, chopped (I had used the rest in a fettucine carbonara as I couldn’t find basil – also not a bad call)
- olive oil, salt and pepper, and bay leaves
Dump vegetables except for kale into a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and fresh-ground pepper. Roast in 450°F oven until soft enough to pierce with a fork, about 45 minutes.
Scoop vegetables into large pot. Deglaze roasting pan with a little bit of water to get every last bit of roasty goodness and dump that liquid into the pot too. Add enough ham stock, red wine, cider, and water to cover vegetables. (This could of course be made vegetarian and/or alcohol-free using vegetable stock and/or more cider or other juice.) My ham stock and red wine were both frozen, so I just dumped in the cubes and let them melt on the stove. NB – I freeze my leftover wine before it goes bad. I have seen it suggested that you freeze it in ice cube trays and then store in freezer bags. I tried that and it leaked EVERYWHERE – wine doesn’t freeze completely and the slushy-liquidness will find the tiniest hold in your bag. Now I freeze it in plastic containers.
Stuff all the kale into the pot on top of the whole mess (Don’t panic – the kale will shrink significantly as it cooks!)
Toss in a few bay leaves, put a lid on it, and leave it to simmer for a couple of hours.
When it looks and smells lovely (assuming you like beets – otherwise, when it looks and smells revolting, but if you don’t like beets I have to question your judgment in making this particular soup as I was pretty up front about the ingredients), puree with a hand blender. It should be really thick and hearty and purple and ready to stain anything it touches. If you don’t have a hand blender,
let it cool, then transfer to a blender and puree, then transfer back to the pot and reheat why don’t you? Go to the store right now and get a freaking hand blender because it’s the greatest small kitchen appliance you will ever own, especially if you like making soup.
Ladle into a bowl, top with something a little sour like sauerkraut, sour cream, plain yoghurt, or blue cheese, and enjoy.
Try not to eat it all in one sitting, though, because there is a curious physiological effect to eating a lot of beets at once. You’ve been warned.
Finally, remembering how when I said, “I have leftover bone-in ham,” my little brother said, “And you’re making split-pea soup, right? WHY AREN’T YOU MAKING SPLIT-PEA SOUP RIGHT NOW?” the final stop on this ham-venture (hmm…weak. Ham-scusion? Ham-Odyssey? No, they’re getting worse. I guess I’d better let sleeping pigs lie) was of course split-pea soup. Especially after Ben saw the last one and said, “Molly, mommy made purple soup! Your favourite colour! Mommy, will you make green soup for me?” I made it on a night that Ian was away because he claims to not like it even though I tell him over and over that all I am saying is give peas a chance…
Anyway, this was the simplest of them all.
Split Pea and Ham Soup
- split peas
Fine, I’ll give you more than that:
- 3 cups dried quick-cooking split peas (I used a mix of green and yellow)
- 2 cups diced ham (remember that bag of ham I froze?)
- 8 cups ham stock
Rinse and drain split peas and add to ham stock in large pot.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Leave it alone for an hour. Puree a little (leave it lumpy) with your hand blender while whispering lovingly to said blender, “How could I ever have lived without you, my precious?” and then add the ham.
Simmer a little longer to let all the flavours combine, then serve. It will thicken up quite a lot as it cools and be gorgeous and murky and pea-soupy and delicious.
My notoriously picky eater, Ben (who has actually come A LONG WAY in the last few months) said, “Mommy, what are you making for dinner? It smells really yummy,” when he got home from school, and on tasting it, pronounced, “Mmm! This is really good! I LOVE this soup! Did you hear what I said? I don’t just like it, I love it!!” Molly said decidedly, “I DON’T like it,” and then proceeded to scrape her bowl clean before Ben was halfway through his.
I call that a win all around!
Sadly, I am now out of ham stock until I invest in another basketball-sized lump of pink goodness.
Have you made it through your holiday leftovers? What did you do with them?
I think our Christmas season this year was the busiest EVER. There was lots of fun, family and friends, but I think I’m definitely ready for the holidays to be over so I can relax!
Ben and Molly’s school Christmas pageant was a hoot – Ben was dapper as always in his tuxedo and delivered his “Narrator 2” lines in his inimitable fashion. Molly, who had been re-cast as “a star” after (repeatedly) deliberately breaking her fairy wand, demonstrated her displeasure by flinging her bells on the stage and turning her back on the audience for the singing of Jingle Bells.
On the Saturday before Christmas we went to our extended family Christmas party with yummy food by The Gravy Train Gourmet Dippery (shameless plug, but seriously, check them out!) and a puppet show by the beautiful and talented Claudia Hurtubise (with special guest puppeteers Ben and Molly).
On the way to the party, Ian suddenly said, “You know, we have all of their bedtime stuff with us…what do you think the chances are that Nana and Grandad would be convinced to keep them for the night?” I said, “Hmm…if we play our cards right, I’d say at least 50-50.” In the end it did indeed come down to 50-50: My dad hid both car keys and told me to pick a hand – with a hint from my Aunt Bonny, I chose right and Ian and I went to see The Hobbit. Of course, since it was only part 1 of 3 it looks like we’re going to have to make a hobbit of it…
The next morning we were back to the city again for Nana’s office Christmas brunch where we partook of delicious food and an impressive sequence of dirty jokes by and at the expense of friends and family members at our end of the table.
The Christmas Eve family service at St. Paul’s United Church included my cherub choir “singing” The Little Drummer Boy. There was some premature congratulation when the congregation mistook the piano interlude while the kids were given their drums for the end of the song, but we persevered (Translation: I kept desperately waving my arms and and Ben kept singing away loudly a bar ahead of the accompaniment) and brought down the house in the end.
On Christmas Day we spent the morning at home opening presents and Skyping with the overseas Pickleseses and the afternoon at Nana and Grandad’s. Santa, family, and friends were as always very generous to all of us and we enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner as well as the grand opening of Chris’ Epic Present. One of my favourite presents was my mug from my brother- and sister-in-law in Wales!
Finally, on Boxing Day we hosted my family at our house for the afternoon and dinner. I decided on a departure from turkey (for the most part) and served lasagna – one gluten-full and one gluten-free. I made Chef Michael Smith’s lasagna with speedy tomato sauce, which is my go-to lasagna recipe and used Italian turkey sausage instead of pork. For the gluten-free version I shaved thin strips of zucchini with a cheese slicer to use in place of noodles. Both versions were delicious!
I was also very happy with the centrepiece I made using one of the leftover giant vases from Chris and Caitie’s wedding.
And of course, with so many engineers in the house, I had to make π for dessert.
After dinner on Boxing Day, Ben’s big Christmas holiday adventure began as he left with my parents to go up to the chalet for a few days – more on that later!
How were your holidays? Did you follow family traditions, or do something new?
I have invited a guest blogger to write this post, since he is the one who introduced us to the idea of Ice Cream Pizza. I’ll let him introduce himself:
I am Benjamin Pickles and I’m 5 1/2 years old and Ben is the short form for my name.
I got the idea for ice cream pizza from Team Umizoomi.
On one episode they had to pump up an ice cream truck because the ice cream truck had a flat tire and they also had to make another ice cream pizza because there were 4 kids that were waiting for ice cream pizzas and there were only 3 ice cream pizzas. That’s how I found out how to make an ice cream pizza.
Recipe For Ice Cream Pizza
First step: A cookie
Second step: You need to put ice cream on the cookie.
Third step: Put gummy candies on top of the ice cream on the cookie and you can put chocolate on it too.
And after that it’s all done! After you’ve made it, you can eat it!
If you try out the recipe you might like it or if you have kids they might like it too. Ice cream pizza is one of my favourite things to eat for dessert and I hope that you will like it too!
What do you think? Are you going to try it? Did you like it?
One of the most successful strategies for dealing with picky eaters is the one around which Missy Chase Lapine, also known as “The Sneaky Chef” has built an empire – hiding “healthy” foods in foods with more picky kid appeal. Her first book includes recipes for a number of make-ahead purees in colours that will hide easily in various foods. For example, her Purple Puree becomes an invisible part of her Brainy Brownies. It’s a brilliant idea, and I sure wish I’d thought of and cashed in on it first!!
The basic idea is just that – basic – though, so you don’t really need to buy her books in order to mix less “desirable” ingredients into recipes that will spark a more positive reaction (or at least less screeching) than those ingredients on their own. (One I’m really intrigued to try is a recipe I have for brownies with pureed black beans. Don’t tell Ian.)
This week’s success story was a ham and cheese pasta bake, one of Ian’s family’s favourites growing up. It’s a delicious casserole dish full of cheesy yumminess, but incorporates no fruits or veggies, so usually they would have to be served on the side.
For some reason, even though it is made entirely of stuff Ben LIKES (individually) pasta bake is guaranteed to provoke a dinnertime meltdown before he eats that crucial first bite…and a Ben dinnertime meltdown is guaranteed to provoke similar complaints from Molly even though she doesn’t actually mean them (“Yeah! I don’t like this too! *nom nom nom* It’s yucky! *nom nom nom*).
Ham and Cheese Pasta Bake
1lb cooked short pasta (ie. fusili, penne, rigatoni)
1/2L half&half or table cream
200g shaved ham, chopped
2 cups (at least) cheese (ie. cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella, gruyere – don’t use all orange cheddar or you’ll get that icky orange grease, and don’t use all mozzarella or it won’t have enough cheesy flavour)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix eggs and cream together. Mix in cheese (reserving ½ cup for top) and ham. Pour over pasta in a large casserole dish (or 2 smaller ones) and mix well. Top with remaining cheese. Bake in oven for 45-60 minutes or more if necessary to set filling. (The deeper the dish, the longer it will take.) Broil for a minute or so to brown top if desired. Top with fresh ground pepper for serving.
Delicious! Delicious hot from the oven, delicious reheated for lunch, delicious with a side salad…
Anyway, the other day I was inspired to try to make it a bit healthier, Sneaky Chef-style, as well as remove the need for the vegetable side, so I suggested that Ian (who was in charge of the cooking that day) replace part of the eggs and cream with a can of pure pumpkin puree. The result was:
The kids literally ate it up (and in this case, use of the word ‘literally’ will not make me figuratively insane!). I think I may have to bring it to market: Picky Pickles-Pleasing Pumpkin Puree Pasta – It’s so delicious I guarantee that the only thing melting down will be the cheese!
One thing that I do find important about the “sneaky” method is not actually being sneaky. Once the kids have tried and like it, I do the big reveal: “Do you know what the secret ingredient is that makes it so yummy? PUMPKIN!!”
I was hoping that the pumpkin would be neutral and not overpower the cheese, but it came out a touch sweetly pumpkinny for the grown-up palate. I think it might have been better with a stronger-flavoured cheese, like a Gruyere or goat cheese. As well the ham got a bit lost, so I would be tempted to replace it with either a mild Italian sausage to complement the pumpkin or a salami or Chorizo sausage to spice it up a bit.
What do you think? Appealing or yucky? How do you deal with dinnertime meldowns?
A committee that I am on at my church (okay, full disclosure: The committee to prepare for a congregational vote regarding the marriage policy, as described in a previous post) is hosting a lunch and discussion session this coming Sunday. Racked with guilt because I cannot be there for the actual discussion, I volunteered to make chili for the lunch. We have no idea how many people will actually attend, but we optimistically decided to be prepared for 40-50, so this afternoon I found myself making giant vats of chili, which actually went much more smoothly than I ever could have imagined, even with Ben’s “help”!
I had an idea for my chili, based on my dad’s recipe on which I grew up, but in order to get an idea for how many people it would feed, I asked my friend Google to find me a “fast chili recipe with beef” and then chose the one closest to my dad’s, which gave me this:
|CHILI — THE FAST AND EASY WAY|
2 lbs. ground beef
1 lg. onion, chopped
2 (16 oz.) cans red kidney beans
2 (16 oz.) cans stewed tomatoes (preferably Mexican style)
2 (16 oz.) cans tomato sauce
2 tbsp. chili powder
Brown ground beef and onions together in skillet. Transfer to large kettle. Add the remaining ingredients and cook over medium low heat. Cook until heated well and most of the liquid is cooked down. This can be adjusted easily according to your own taste for thicker or thinner chili.
I quadrupled the amounts and planned some modifications, adding tomato paste, corn, garlic, and red and green bell peppers and substituting ground pork for some of the beef, and reducing the amount of meat while increasing the amount of beans slightly. I also used a variety of beans instead of just red kidney beans. That left my shopping list looking like this:
5 lbs. ground beef
2 lbs. ground pork
6 bell peppers (red and green)
4 large onions
20 cloves garlic
10 cans beans (red kidney beans, white kidney beans, black beans)
4 cans whole stewed tomatoes
4 cans diced tomatoes
8 cans tomato sauce
3 cans tomato paste
1 bag frozen corn
1 packet chili powder
I got it home and started chopping, making good use of my trusty Cusinart Mini-Prep food processor (fantastic for making family meals into baby food as well as for finely chopping onions and garlic!).
Once the chopping was done, I started cooking the ground beef and pork
and put Ian and Ben to work opening cans.
Ben next job was to find and crush the whole tomatoes, which he did with relish.*
Once all the meat was cooked, I cooked the onions, garlic, and peppers in batches, mixed them with the meat, and assembled my vats o’ ingredients.
Finally, I mixed it all together in my three biggest pots, trying to keep the ratio of ingredients as even as possible, and added liberal amounts of chili powder to each.
It looked pretty good mixed together, and smells pretty fabulous simmering on the stove. I plan to add the frozen corn when it’s finished to help cool it down.
Stay tuned until next week when I will hopefully hear how the congregation liked it – Same BAT-TIME, same BAT-CHANNEL!
*Please note that the relish was figurative. Real relish would have been gross.