Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rethinking My Full Disclosure Policy

I’ve always been a full disclosure kind of girl. That is, when it comes to feeding my kids. I’ve been a Mom for almost 7 ½ years. And, during that time, I can count on one hand the number of times I attempted to hide a vegetable or something I wanted my kids to eat in the food I prepare for them. Needless to say, I’ve never been a fan of Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious cookbook, which is filled with secrets ways of getting kids to eat good food. Why hide a carrot by pureeing it beyond recognition and then spoon-feed it to your kids? They’re unknowingly chomping it down in a sauce and never getting the opportunity to learn how to experience the different flavors and textures of foods. Sooner or later, you’ll want to stop hiding the food, and you’ll be left to fight the carrot (or whatever food) battle with them. My mantra is to let the kids know what they’re eating. Let the kids crunch on a carrot, not one hidden in a sauce. Put food on their plates, meal after meal. They may not eat it the first time, the second time, or even the tenth. But most likely, they eventually will.

However . .  today my full disclosure policy left me with half-eaten muffins scattered throughout the house (see photo at left). You see, I made Sweet Potato Muffins. To me, they were delicious. But when I answered the “What’s for snack?” question at school pick-up with full disclosure: “I just made sweet potato muffins,” I realized the kids thought differently. Their silence let me know that perhaps I was a bit too honest. My hopes were further dashed at home when I saw their faces as they grabbed the muffin and brought it cautiously to their mouths.

I do have to say, Addison gobbled them up without a complaint. Keely started to eat one, but like the other two, she quickly realized that this just wasn’t the muffin she had hoped for. They were moist, they were almost creamy in the center, just like the kids like. The problem was that those sweet potatoes weren’t in the only form my kids will eat sweet potatoes – fries.

I now sit here wondering if I hadn’t fully disclosed the muffins as ‘sweet potato’ muffins things would have been different. If I had stretched the truth and said something along the lines of “Halloween spice-flavored muffins,” would they have gobbled them ALL up. I may never know the answer to this question because my kids have a very strong food memory. If I tried to slip these muffins past them within a 2-year period, they would see through my ruse.

It’s now the morning after, and the same pile of half-eaten muffins sit on the counter, yet I’m not ready to trade in my Full Disclosure Policy for the Deceptively Delicious Policy. I will, however, be sure to add an addendum to my approach*

 * if required, use the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy.

Don’t let my kids dissuade you from trying these. I like them, Greg likes them, and Addison likes them . . . and that’s 50% of my household.

Happy baking!


Sweet Potato Muffins

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
¼ cup light olive oil or canola oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup low-fat yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup shredded carrot
½  cup mashed roasted Beauregard, Garnet or Jewel yams
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees G. Place paper liners in the cups of a 6-cup muffin pan.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt. In another bowl, combine the oil, sugar and egg. Mix in the yogurt and vanilla. Stir in the carrot and sweet potato. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients, and mix just until blended. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling them to the top. Sprinkle 1 tsp sesame seeds and a few pumpkin seeds over the top of each muffin.

Bake 22 to 27 minutes, until the muffins are lightly colored and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then un-mold, and cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 6 muffins

Source: 12 Best Foods Cookbook, by Dana Jacobi, 2005 Rodale

Monday, October 18, 2010

aka peanut butter and chocolate treats

As a native Ohioan, I can declare, “I’ve from the buckeye state.” Usually, I get blank stares when I say that, followed up with, “What the heck is a buckeye?”
It doesn’t really matter, but in short, the buckeye is a nut from a deciduous tree (of the same name) from the Horse chestnut family. That’s all you need to know.

Now, on to more important things . . . the buckeye treat.
Anyone who hails from Ohio, knows what I mean. Buckeye Balls are little chocolate and peanut butter balls that are addictive homemade versions of peanut butter cups.

They’re easy to make, and even easier to plop in your mouth.

Just be warned: They’re addictive.

Buckeye Balls, aka peanut butter and chocolate treats.

Source: a tattered recipe dug up from who-knows-where, inspired by a college friend from Columbus, home of the Ohio State Buckeyes.


1 stick butter (softened)

1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract

3⁄4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 lb powdered (confectioners) sugar

12 oz. package of semi-sweat chocolate chips

1 tbsp. butter, margarine, or vegetable shortening (vegetable shortening is preferable)

1. Combine 1 stick butter, vanilla, and peanut butter in mixing bowl. 
Continue mixing as you slowly add in the sugar 
(amount may vary  - more or less – until the mixture can be easily formed into balls without being sticky)

2. Form 1” to 2” balls with the dough and place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Chill the peanut butter balls for at least 2 hours.

3. After balls have chilled, combine the shortening and semi-sheet chips into a double boiler.

4. Using a toothpick (or small skewer) pick up the peanut butter balls and dip them in the chocolate. Leave a portion of the balls un-submerged because the candy should resemble the buckeye nut (refer to pictures)

5. Place onto a greased cookie sheet, and chill until chocolate coating has hardened.

Enjoy! And, as always, join me at Family Eats, where we reconnect with the food we eat and the family we love. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Hot Potato Post
(as in, Dropped Like a, How to Play, and How to Make)

I entered, I played, I played hard, I played by the rules, I got cut. That’s the story I hear again and again from my FoodBuzz friends who participated in the 2010 Project Food Blog competition.
After I got dropped I vented, I posted. Now I find myself drawn to all those other ‘venting’ posts appearing in my inbox. A common thread within each is the feeling that we’d all been dropped like a hot potato. The email of rejection is short, curt, to the point - something along the lines of “your participation is no longer required in this contest.”
I like how Zomppa explains the feeling of participating and then being dropped like a hot potato. Here is a snippet from a recent Zomppa entry entitled,  “Dear Foodbuzz: French Apple Tart”

“And for what?  For a letter of rejection?  During this 3-week period, you did NOTHING but tell us how much you wanted us and then, BAM!?  All of the sudden, we aren’t good enough?  You get a little taste of us and then you decide we don’t suffice?  Somehow, we just don’t do it for you anymore?”

Yeah, I’m with you Zomppa.
In the moments after the arrival of the email, I felt like I had just been dumped by a boyfriend . . . given no explanation as to why we were no longer compatible, why we were no longer together, why we couldn’t continue in this relationship. After all, I did exactly as you asked. I gave back to you with all my energy and focus (I planned, I wrote, I snapped pictures, I pushed aside life-as-usual for you, I voted).

Actually, I’m  over this breakup. Yes, I have minor pangs of jealously when I see you courting someone else, but it is clear, you want to play the field. I’m happy to have my freedom back. I’m happy to blog about what I feel like blogging about. I’m happy to make it through a meal without taking a photograph of it.
But,  I’m still drawn to you. I’m not totally over you. And maybe, just maybe, if you’re good enough, and you make some changes, I'll take you back next year.
In the meantime . . . today, I was inspired to create by Zomppa’s post.  In the spirit of the current PFB challenge: Picture Perfect (step-by-step photo tutorials), I dedicate the following two Hot Potato tutorials to all of those PFB contestants who have been dropped like a hot potato.

Version One - Hot Potato Game

Yes, I know, this isn’t food related – but perhaps it will serve as a great dinner party game.

2 or more players
1 potato
music to taste (make sure it can be easily paused and restarted)

1. Gather players in a circle – standing or sitting.

2. Hand one person the potato and start the music.

3. Players pass the potato to their neighbor. Play continues until the music is stopped.

4. Person holding the potato when the music stops is holding the ‘hot’ potato and is now out of the game.

Note: Some are good sports - Addie says "Darn!"

Warning: Some people get upset.

5. Continue game until one person is left. Winner is the player who has never been left holding the potato when the music stops.

Have Fun!

Version Two - How to Make a Hot Potato


Toppings – such as butter, sour cream, cheese, salt, pepper, chives, bacon . . . your choice.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

2. Scrub potato; then pat dry.

3. Pierce skin of potato with something – knife, fork, skewer, kitchen shears, drill bit  . . . your choice. (notice, we reuse our skewers!)

4. Place potato on baking sheet and put in preheated oven. Bake for an hour or more until aforementioned piercing implement can be easily inserted into the potato.

5. Remove from oven and slice lengthwise down the center. Be careful, it’s a Hot Potato! Top with toppings of your choice. I choose butter, salt and chives. However, I don't have any chives today, so to add a bit of color, I chopped up some leeks.

Hey, potato lovers remember to celebrate potatoes on the following days:
* September is National Potato Month
* March 14th is National Potato Chip Day
* July 13th is National French Fry Day
* February is Potato Lovers Month
* August 19th is Potato Day.

As for all current and past  PFB contestants (except one luck winner), celebrate your own personal Dropped Like a Hot Potato Day – mine was October 1st.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Reacquainting Myself with the Oreo Cookie

Oreo cookies are an American favorite that have remained virtually unchanged since they were introduced to us in 1912. Today, the original cookie has become an icon of our childhood days, and has provided Nabisco with an opportunity to build upon that Oreo cookie empire. Now we have more than 60 Oreo SKUs to choose from, including things like Double Stuf, Golden Oreos, White Fudge Covered with Chocolate Creme, Minis, low-carb Oreos, Halloween with orange crème, and limited edition football-shaped Oreos for tailgate parties. There is an Oreo for every occasion.
And, if you are looking to enjoy the flavor of Oreos outside of the cookie experience, there is a world of recipes that allow you to do so – from piecrusts, to mixing them Cool Whip, or deep-fried Oreos. If that isn’t enough, you can also find the Oreo ‘flavor’ in a host of packaged goods including Oreo-flavored cereal, Oreo cookie ice cream, and even a Japanese Oreo Matcha candy bar.
With all that Oreo cookie goodness surrounding me, I have to admit that I can’t remember the last time I ate an Oreo cookie. Am I un-American? Or just turned off by what can be found on the ingredient list?

Sugar, Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine
Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Cococ (Processed with Alkali), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Whey (from Milk), Cornstarch, Baking Soda, Salt, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Vanillin - an Artificial Flavor, Chocolate.

Yep, that’s what an Oreo is made of, and that list of undesirable ingredients just doesn’t sit well with me.
Actually, I don’t think it sat well with my brother either. I can still vividly remember the day nearly 35 years ago when he downed a whole row of Oreos. That night, he got sick . . . all over me ;-(
Needless to say, I haven’t been a big fan of Oreos since . . . until the other day.

A care package arrived from Mom. Among the craft supplies for the kids, Halloween decorations, and pictures from their latest European trip, was a small container of homemade Oreos.

They didn’t last long. The homemade version tasted just as I had remembered, only better. And, while they probably aren’t the healthiest treat to keep around, the recipe offered me a version of the store-bought variety that I could live with.

This weekend, I am once again becoming an Oreo fan, except this time around, it’s the homemade version. And, I may even make an extra batch and send them to my brother. (This time, I will keep my distance).


Makes about 30.

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ cups sugar, plus more for flattening cookies
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature

Vanilla Cream Filling

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Into a medium-size bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes.  Add egg; beat to combine.  With mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture; continue beating until dough is well combined.

3. Using a 1 ¼ inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets about two inches apart.  Dip bottom of a glass in sugar; press to flatten cookies to about 1/8 inch thick. (You may need to carefully remove dough from glass with a thin metal spatula.)

4. Transfer to oven, and bake until cookies are firm, about 10 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through.  Transfer baking sheets to wire racks to cool completely.

5. Place cream filling in a pastry bag fitted with a piping tip, and pipe about 1 tablespoon filling onto the flat side of half the cookies.  Place remaining cookies on top, and gently press on each to squeeze filling to edges.  Filled cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to two days.


Makes about 1 cup.

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup solid vegetable shortening
3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and shortening until well combined.  With mixer on low speed, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until light and fluffy, about two minutes.  Add the vanilla, and beat to combine.  Set aside at room temperature until ready to use.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Our Luxury Dinner Party
(AKA The Would-Have-Been PFB #3 Post: Had I Made the Cut)

  This past Friday, as 12 o-clock rolled around, I stopped changing the kids’ beds and ran to my computer. I logged on to see if that coveted trophy would be attached to my Project Food Blog profile. But alas, it wasn’t. I was bummed, wondering how I missed the mark. I was confident (in a non-conceited way) of my efforts and my post, and had felt pretty sure that I would at least make it past this round.
  But I didn’t have time to wonder why and cry over not making the cut . . . I had to jump into action. That’s because I had followed the advice of the Food Buzz editors, who suggested that it would be a good idea to start planning for the next challenge, the Luxury Dinner Party, in the event that I’d make it to the next round.
  I obliged and now I had a fridge full of food, seven friends coming at 4:30, and a little girl sitting in her kindergarten class making place cards for our dinner table. I wiped away my tears, got a hug from my husband, and promptly headed back into the kitchen. There were sweet potato fries to be made, apple bunuelos to get in the fridge, and chimichurri sauce to be whipped up.
  Tonight it would be a South American inspired ‘luxury’ dinner. Notice that I place luxury in quotation marks. That’s because I need to clarify just what luxury means to me.

  When posed with throwing a luxury dinner party, it was the word luxury that made me cringe. You see, when I think of luxury, two words come to mind – time and money; neither of which I have much of at the moment.
  For those who don’t know, I’m a mom of four young children ages 7, 5, and a pair of 3 ½ year old twins. To me, luxury is the opportunity to go to the bathroom without having someone burst through the door asking for something (cat included). Luxury is getting the kids to bed early enough so I can spend a few moments alone with my husband before I plop into bed totally exhausted. Luxury is finding the time to remove the final bit of toenail polish that I had applied during my self-pedicure three months back. Luxury is  splurging on ice cream for the kids on a warm Saturday afternoon. Now, that is what I call luxury.

  But, my trusty Webster’s New World Dictionary revealed something else.
Luxury is:

1. the use and enjoyment of the best and most costly things that offer the most physical comfort and satisfaction.
2. anything contributing to such enjoyment, usually something considered unnecessary to life and health.

  My response to definition No. 1: I don’t have the luxury to consider enjoying the ‘most costly things.’ Without going into much detail, the economy has wreaked havoc on us, and I’m on a strict budget. I have set my weekly food budget so there would be no caviar, high-priced wines, or expensive cuts of meats. I couldn’t blow my weekly food budget on Friday night’s meal – I had a family of six to feed the rest of the week.
  And, as for the ‘physical comfort and satisfaction' that Webster’s notes, well the best I could even ask for is the quiet I seem to get when I drag the pile of laundry into the living room to be folded – the kids immediately find something else to do, far away from the laundry.

  When planning this Luxury Dinner Party, I had to keep the following in mind: I didn’t have the luxury of toiling away in the kitchen for hours, preparing a multi-course meal for friends. I had school drop-off and pick-up, soccer practice, religious education, playdates, weekly meal-making, lunch making, etc. etc. etc.
And, while I dream of the luxury of an adult-only meal, let’s face it, at $20 an hour for a nanny, I wasn’t going to pay someone to come watch the kids while I sat with adults in the other room. Heck, my guests have kids too. And, when it comes right down to it, we didn't want to exclude them.

  Now on to definition No. 2: I had a problem with “usually something considered unnecessary to life and health.” I see nothing unnecessary about a meal enjoyed together. In fact,  a meal together is a luxury we enjoy each and every day at breakfast and in the  evening as we face each other around the dinner table and discuss the day’s events.

  To find a definition I could relate to, I had to read the third definition listed in the dictionary's luxury entry:
3. the unusual or emotional pleasure of comfort derived from some specific thing.

  My response to #3 – I agree. Eating a delicious home-cooked meal with family and friends definitely provides me with an emotional pleasure.

  So, I guess the results of my Luxury Dinner Party would be representative of how I defined luxury.

  I set to planning the meal – inspired by the warm late September nights, I opted for something outside – where the 8 kids could roam free, and the adults could keep an eye on them from a safe, quiet and relaxing spot on the patio.
  My menu would be South American in theme and would include empanadas, sweet potato chips and chili lime tortilla triangles for appetizers followed by a grilled skirt steak topped with chimichurri sauce, roasted corn with chili lime butter, and mashed sweet plantains. For dessert, it would be apple buneulos, using the apples from our backyard.

My menu consisted of foods I could prepare a few days ahead of time – such as the empanadas, and easy to prepare dishes when the guests were on hand – such as the grilled steak and corn or the roasted plantains. I assured myself that I would have the luxury of sitting down with my guests and enjoying the meal.

 With the adult menu set, I began to think about what I could serve the kids that would fit in with the so-called South American theme. I thought a roasted chicken with the mashed plantains and corn would do. But, as we were discussing the party plans early in the week, Nicole wrinkled her nose at my suggestions.
  It was that cute little nose wrinkle that got me thinking.
  With 8 kids to be at the party, they surely outnumbered the adults, so why shouldn’t they have a say in what they eat? With an age range from 3 to 7, there was a good possibility of a mutiny when it came to dinner. I could just see it now, just as the adults were sitting down to dinner, the kids would scream, “Yuck, I don’t like the mashed plantains,” or “I only like chicken that is crispy.” I would then be obliged to find something to settle the kids down and fill their bellies. (Actually the $20 an hour nanny is sounding pretty good right now!)
  Since the goal was to allow the adults to enjoy a sit-down meal with each other. So, why not let the kids decide on their menu? As long as it wasn’t hamburgers, pizza, spaghetti or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I was OK with what they chose.
  My kids started to run down their favorites: lasagna, Tigaroni (AKA rigatoni with cauliflower and baked breadcrumbs on top), and Sloppy Joe’s.
  Then, Nicole screamed, “Black meat!” (FYI: Black meat is what they call the meat for tacos).
  “Yes,’ the other three chimed in.
  So black meat it would be. Grayson then inquired, “What about appetizers? We can have empanadas, but how about fruit on sticks, too?”
  Then, Addison reminded us about dessert. “I want candy cherries for dessert.”
  "Yes,” said Keely, “Candy cherries on ice cream!”

  And, so it was. The kids menu was decided upon. Now, they moved into action.Nicole had seen me playing around with the menu template to be used in Challenge, #2 so she wanted to make a menu. She pulled out the easel and began to write down the kid’s menu. (Notice the Buick Lacrosse logo on it.)

  Then on Wednesday evening as as I made my way into the kitchen to make the empanadas, the kids arrived one by one to help Recently I had made 200 lamb empanadas for the San Francisco Lamb takedown contest, so they were well-versed in the process of making an empanada. As I rolled out the dough, Grayson pulled up a chair and began to place teaspoons of filling on the dough then folding it over and crimping the ends. Nicole arrived, followed by Addie and Keely.   Everyone had the chance to make a few before heading off to sleep.

  As Friday neared, the excitement did as well. My kids love parties. They love being involved in the planning and preparations so on Friday afternoon, after school pick-up, they jumped into action. Grayson helped set up the kids tables, then set both the adult and kids tables.

  “Mom, are we eating alfresco?” asked three-year-old Addison, who knew the word ‘alfresco’ from one of her Fancy Nancy books. Nicole was in her room carefully planning what she would wear, and the Keely continued to ask again and again whether I had purchased the candy cherries for dessert.

  The guest arrived, the drinks were poured and the kids ran off together while the adults sat back and relaxed . . . we had captured our luxury. As darkness fell and the kids ran around out back playing flashlight tag, the big kids reveled in our last few moments of luxury – a glass of wine and good conversation  . . . with other adults.

  As I see it, I serve up a luxury dinner party every night – we plan the meals, make them from scratch and sit together at the table discussing the day’s events. And this past Friday evening was no exception.
  In the end, I may not have advanced to compete in the Luxury Dinner Party challenge, but I am comforted in the fact that my family – and friends – consider me a winner.
I successfully completed the PFB Challenge #3, the Luxury Dinner Party – even if I’m no longer an official contestant.
Now on to planning our next party, the Annual Everage Pumpkin Carving Party! Bring your pumpkins, carving knives and your appetite!

Thanks to all who voted for me during the past two Challenges, in particular to those who posted encouraging words on my Royal Asian Meal post. Good luck to all those who are still in the race!
I hope you  keep reading Edible Tidbits, and take the time to visit the Everage 6 at, where we connect with the food we eat and the family we love!

Apple Bunuelos
Source: Nuevo Latino, Douglas Rodriguez 

2 cups butter
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 stick cinnamon
½ tbsp unflavored gelatin
1 ½ tbsp cold water
¼ cup boiling water
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the apples and the cinnamon stick and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the cod water. Stir inn the boiling water to dissolve thoroughly. In a separate mixing bowl, gently beat the egg yolks and the sour cream together. Stir in the gelatin mixture.

When the apples are tender, fold into the gelatin mixture. Transfer to a clean bowl, let cool, and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the apple mixture from the refrigerator and make 35 to 40 small balls using a melon baller or mini ice cream scoop. Place the flour in a bowl, roll the balls in the flour, and refrigerate again for 10 to 15 minutes.

When ready to serve, heat the vegetable oil to 350 degrees F in a large pan or skillet. Roll the balls once more in the flour, then in the beaten egg. Roll in the flour a final time and fry in the hot oil until golden brown, about 3 minutes, turning to fry on all sides.

Drain the paper towels, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, and serve immediately with whipped cream.

Yields 6- 8 servings