Bon Appétit! the delicious life of Julia Child – Review

comments Comments Off
By , November 12, 2012

bonappetit“People who love to eat are always the best people.”

Let’s have all those picky eaters out there chew on that! This lovely quote is opposite the title page of the new picture book biography,

Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland (Schwartz & Wade Books, a division of Random House, 2012).

Before I read this book, most of what I knew about Julia Child I had learned from watching the 2009 movie Julie & Julia. I knew, at the very least, that Child was a truly original character who had led a very interesting life. Bon Appétit expands on the basic facts with funny anecdotes, peppered with French banter and a few mini cooking lessons, all wrapped up in a lively comic-book style that keeps one’s eye in motion.

Though it’s geared toward 7 to 10 year olds, there is plenty in this book to entertain an adult audience as well. It’s the kind of book that is filled to the brim with things you might not know. What exactly is Welsh Rabbit? What did Julia Child -then McWilliams- have to do with sharks off the coast of Sri Lanka? How do you really pronounce bouillabaisse? I even love the endpages, where we get an illustrated sampling of probable objects from Julia’s everyday life, labeled in English in the front, French in the back. In terms of information per page, this book is dense.

Like Julia Child herself, Hartland’s book has a sense of vivacity and a sense of humor. It is thoroughly enjoyable to read. Halfway through the book, BeanTwo asked me why I was using “that funny voice” when Julia was talking. (I’m sure I do a horrible impersonation.) I explained that Child had a cooking show, in fact the first ever cooking show, and that I was trying to talk like her. Both my Beans have seen cooking shows on PBS and on the Food Network, and they were interested when the biography got to that part of her life. Bon Appétit includes some of the funnier highlights from those shows.

At the end, Hartland gives us her own recipe for French Crêpes, with all the detail Julia herself would include. BeanOne and BeanTwo loved both making them and  eating them. I prefer mine rolled up with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkle of sugar. The kids liked them folded, with bananas and nutella. When I said I was taking a picture for my blog, BeanTwo insisted it had to look like something, so there’s a crêpe butterfly. But really, they didn’t sit on the plate long enough to be much appreciated that way.

As much as I like that opening quote about people who love to eat, I think the my favorite quote of Julia Child comes at the end. “Don’t apologize for your cooking mistakes,” she says. “It is what it is.”

I think smell a philosophy for Life in there.


Secrets of the Garden – Review

comments Comments Off
By , June 29, 2012

secretsofgardenWe’re well into Summer now, and the gardeners among us are already reaping the rewards of vigorously tended vegetable beds. With all the optimism of newly growing seeds, my Beans and I really enjoyed reading

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld (Knopf, 2012).

It’s a non-fiction book about the interconnectedness of living things right in our backyards (literally.) But Zoehler is wise to make the topic completely relatable to young kids by using a first-person viewpoint of a young girl named Alice. She explains all about planting her family’s garden with her brother and their excitement at watching it grow. While BeanTwo likes the colorful illustrations and cute animal friends, I appreciate the concise and clear text and the family’s backyard chickens, Maisy and Daisy, whose banter provides the book’s scientific backbone as well as some comic relief.

Alice and her brother are great vegetable eaters (not that BeanTwo is taking the hint yet.) Zoehfeld pays a lot of attention to the explanation of food chains, which of course always start with plants. BeanOne was interested in the idea that when we eat vegetables, we are consuming the energy of the sun which has been converted through photosynthesis. I had never before thought of it that way, but it was pretty neat to think about the next time we had salad. The notion even motivated BeanTwo to have a few more bites than usual.


Sea Lion on a Sandy Beach

comments Comments Off
By , November 17, 2011

It’s a sea lion, not a seal. I have been mistaken about this my whole life. Apparently sea lions, which we often picture balancing balls on their noses, have front flippers they can use to walk around on land. Seals, on the other hand, tend to wiggle around on their bellies on land, flippers out to the side. Of course there are a way more differences than that – click here for a good rundown. What I really want to talk about right now is chopped liver!

Actually, Mock Chopped Liver  – a terrible name for perfectly good food. I prefer to think of it as Vegetarian Paté. It looks very convincing as “brown sugar” beach sand, but much more yummy. It’s great with crunchy bits of wheat toast or wheat-thin type crackers. It’s also really good with cucumber and bell pepper slices. Your kids will never detect the protein from hard-boiled eggs and walnuts hidden in there. Carmelized onions and garlic pack in flavor, and a can of peas holds it all together. Normally, I would not ever eat canned peas, but for me, this recipe justifies their existence.

Vegetarian Paté

  • 2-3 onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ to ⅔ cup walnuts
  • (1) 15oz. can peas -without added sugar, drained
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs
  • ½ to 1 tsp salt
Sauté onions in oil on LOW for a good long time, 30 – 40 minutes or more, until they are deeply carmelized. Add garlic and sauté for a minute or two longer. Then remove from heat and let cool slightly.
In a blender, process walnuts until finely chopped. Add onions, and remaining ingredients. Blend until it makes a smooth paste.

How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. – Review

comments Comments Off
By , July 3, 2011

How to Make a Cherry PieIn the last decade, a lot of people have been talking about teaching kids where food really comes from (i.e. not simply the grocery store), tracing it back to the original sources. I think it’s a fine idea, especially when children can experience it first-hand, like collecting eggs from chickens, or picking blueberries, or milling flour by hand.

But I also think that kids get the idea about where food comes from very quickly, and picture books on the subject need to be pretty inventive to be successful. In 1994, before all the current media hype over nutrition education, author/illustrator Marjorie Priceman wrote a book called How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
in which a young girl takes us around the globe to gather ingredients for a pie because her grocery store is closed.

In her follow-up book How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. Priceman takes idea one step further. The same young girl is back, ready with the ingredient to make a cherry pie, but she doesn’t have a pie tin, or a rolling pin, or any of the tools needed to make that pie. It’s the Fourth of July, and the Cook Shop is closed. So, together we traipse across the country collecting raw materials to make a metal pie pan, plastic measuring spoons, a clay mixing bowl, cotton pot holders, etc.

BeanOne was amazed. “You mean glass is really made out of sand?” BeanTwo had no idea that cotton is a plant and that plastic comes from oil. Priceman gives us a mini geography lesson that races by a dozen cultural landmarks, and we also learn about natural resources that can be found within our beautiful country (handy maps in the endpages).

Sour cherries are in season in Michigan, where I live. I bought two quarts at the Farmer’s Market yesterday with all intentions of making the pie recipe in the front of the book. I started pitting the cherries at about midnight, and by 12:30, I decided to go for Cherry Cobbler instead. At that hour, the prospect of making a pie was too daunting. I’ll serve it with vanilla ice cream and maybe some fresh blueberries for a red white and blue dessert.

Earth Day (Repost)

comments Comments Off
By , April 15, 2011

Here’s something from the Archives in light of Earth Day, just around the corner.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy – Review

comments Comments Off
By , March 3, 2011

bookeatingboyIs it possible to have too much of a good thing? Sweets and treats, maybe. But what if it’s books?

In The Incredible Book Eating Boy artist and writer Oliver Jeffers takes a funny look at what happens when young Henry discovers that books satisfy his stomach as much as his brain.

If you love books as objects, you must get this book. Jeffers’ paintings are fantastic. He uses actual books and pages from books as canvases for his whimsical art. It gives me a really tactile sense of books that underlies the story.

After a literally devouring half a library of books, Henry’s body just can’t take it anymore, and though it saddens him greatly, he gives up books. Then he discovers one day that he can just read them, and that they’re pretty good that way too. Good thing, because he’s moved on to devouring mountains of broccoli.

Occupational Surnames

comments Comments Off
By , February 17, 2011

BeanOne, almost 8 years old, is working his way through the Harry Potter books right now. He’s way ahead of me in Book Four; I’m lagging sorely behind in Book Two. (I’ve always liked the children’s fantasy genre, but I’m finding it strangely difficult to get in to Harry Potter.) Of course, Harry’s a wizard, but his name means that somewhere in his family tree, maybe way back, at least one of his ancestors was a pot maker by trade.

For years I’ve been mentally noting occupational surnames like this, which are quite common in Western culture. I first started paying attention to them reading books about or set in the Middle Ages, which were populated with blacksmiths, and barrel-makers (coopers), and millers, and the like.

goodmastersWith older children, make it a game to see how many of these names you can think up. Here are a few more to get you started:

  • Cook
  • Mason
  • Fletcher
  • Wheeler
  • Baker
  • Tanner

I have a list of at least twenty in front of me now; I’m sure there are many more. Keep in mind other languages or altered spellings. For example, Schmidt is the German equivalent of Smith. Faulkner has is roots in the word falconer, a keeper or trainer of hawks.

If your Bean gets really interested in this stuff, check out Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz (Turtleback, 2008). It’s a collection of monologues. Each character in it is between the ages of 10 and 15, and they all inhabit the same 13th century English village. It’s very well done. (It won a Newberry Medal.)

Maybe it’s my inner geek coming out, but there’s just something I find so interesting about the way language and culture and identity all intersect in these names. These were often family trades as well as family names. I wonder when the names began to stick regardless of a person’s avocation?

Do you have an occupational surname I can add to my list?

PBJ Polar Bear

comments Comments Off
By , February 3, 2011

Yes, that’s white bread. HandsomeBean couldn’t believe I came home from the grocery store with it. I’ve been wanting to do a polar bear tangramwich for a long time, and obviously only white bread will do. Let me rationalize further, to make myself feel better about the whole thing.

Once in a while, it’s okay to have a treat, and white bread is definitely a treat. So soft! So delicious! Think of it as a tantalizing vehicle for peanut butter consumption. Is it any worse than a cookie? Maybe it’s even a little better. It’s not hard to find white bread that is free of transfats and void of high fructose corn syrup these days.

BeanOne and BeanTwo haven’t had any of this bread yet. I plan to treat it like a treat, and we’ll be sticking with our usual whole-grain sandwich bread. It will be interesting to see if my Beans would opt for white bread for dessert over, say, ice cream.

The polar bear shown here, by the way, is peanut butter with orange marmalade. I like the brightness of the citrus, especially on these cold winter days.

Ugly Pie – Review

comments Comments Off
By , January 22, 2011

If you have an young, especially picky-eater, and simply boosting calorie intake is an immediate goal, why not try pie? While the calorie-to-nutient ratio might not be ideal for the long run, there are some pies, like pumpkin pie, that have more to offer than just sugar and fat.

BeanOne and BeanTwo like this book, Ugly Pie by Lisa Wheeler (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010). It’s the story of Ol’ Bear, who has “a hankerin’ for pie. Not just any pie. Ugly Pie.” But his pantry is not well stocked. So he follows his nose and visits his neighbors, who offer Ol’ Bear some of the delicious and beautiful pies they have made. But Ol’Bear stays true his vision and gladly accepts the only ugly things his neighbors can contribute: wrinkled raisins, sour apples, bumpy brown nuts. Pretty soon Bear has the makings of an Ugly Pie!

Wheeler’s text is folksy and fun. And the watercolor illustrations by Heather Solomon are so beautifully rendered: technically tight yet still wonderfully loose. We enjoyed following Ol’ Bear on the winding trails, meeting his friends and neighbors.

Here is our Ugly Pie, made from the recipe at the end of the book. Neither my Beans nor I had ever made a pie before this. I have always been intimidated at the prospect of attempting a beautiful flaky crust. Ugly Pie isn’t supposed to be pretty, so it was liberating in that regard. While it was easy to make and to handle, I was disappointed by the crust’s flavor (needs a bit of sugar, and less salt). You can get organic shortening at health food stores to help you feel better about the fat.

I like the Ugly Pie filling a lot. Apples. Raisins. Walnuts provide a little protein. Molasses has a lot of iron and some B vitamins. I backed off on the sugar a bit, and it was fine since we served it with vanilla ice cream. If I were to serve this pie alone, I’d stick to the print. We also had a lot of fun making Ugly Pie, but be forewarned: several bowls and utensils are involved in the hour-long preparation process.

I try to stay calm after agreeing to the use of “real” knives. Thankfully no injuries to report.

If you can convinced your little Bean that he likes pie, you might be able to pitch the idea of a savory pie next, like a ‘breakfast egg pie’ (a.k.a. quiche), or chicken pot pie. And of course there is pizza pie. Milk the power of pie for all it’s worth.


Tangram Christmas Tree

comments Comments Off
By , December 13, 2010

Jolly! Jolly! Cream cheese on toasted wheat, sprinkled with colored turbinado sugar. The crunch of the turbinado sugar is really satisfying. Just like tinting regular sugar, I added a few drops of food color to a small dish of the turbinado and mixed it until the color was evenly incorporated.

An Orange for Frankie – Review

comments Comments Off
By , December 2, 2010

orangefrankieHas a picture book ever made you cry? Seriously.

If you’re ready to pause and appreciate the spirit of the season now that all the hoopla of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has passed, read An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco (Philomel Books, 2004). BeanOne and BeanTwo, lacking a degree of emotional literacy, wonder what strange malady befalls me every time I read this book. My eyes get watery, my voice breaks. I pause, I need a tissue. Every time. I love reading this book to them.

Like many of Patricia Polacco’s books, this one comes from her own family history. Her grandmother Stella was the oldest of nine children in the Stowell household, and Frankie was her brother. It’s winter and the snow is piled high at their Michigan farmhouse. The story opens as the family is busy preparing breakfast for hobos who will gather at their back door while a steam train stops at the nearby water tower.

The scene is full of sounds and smells. Hot food and hot coffee. Each child has a job to do. Frankie notices that one of the men has only a threadbare coat with no shirt underneath. Without a second thought, Frankie runs up to his room and searches through his drawer to find a sweater big enough for a man. The only one even close is his best sweater, knitted by his sister Stella. Frankie sneaks it out so his mother won’t see him give it away.

Frankie’s father is the sole member of the family not present. He has gone by horse and buggy to Lansing station to get their Christmas oranges -one for each child in the family- from the Florida train. As the days pass, there is a mix of anticipation and anxiety over his return as the snow drifts grow deeper and deeper. Will he get the oranges? Where is he? Will he make it home for Christmas?

This is a family story, lovingly told. Neither fable nor parable. Knowing it’s a true story probably doubles my enjoyment of this book; I don’t ruin it by preaching to my Beans about generosity, sacrifice, and gratitude. These things will sink in with them as they grow older. I hope my children never know hunger like the hobos from the train. Of course, I can’t imagine there being such a thing as a picky-eater in Frankie’s world. Makes me think how lucky we are – with our well-stocked pantries, refrigerators, and freezers – that our children today can exercise the option to be picky-eaters at all.

Vegetarian Turkey

comments Comments Off
By , November 23, 2010

Gobble, gobble, gobble!

Just in time for Thanksgiving, BeanTwo and I made up this turkey with hummus on toasted German Dark Wheat bread from Pepperidge Farm. Bell peppers were just the right colors for a fan of tail feathers.

BeanTwo proudly considers herself an expert on turkey anatomy, having made a 9-page book entitled “Parts of a Turkey” at her Montessori school last week. I love the way she enunciates the t’s in wattle.

Adding the roasted brussel sprouts for shrubbery was my idea. BeanTwo won’t even try them, but BeanOne and I love them. If you’re haunted by memories of nasty boiled or steamed brussel sprouts from your childhood, this recipe might redeem them for you. I’ve become a huge fan of roasting in the last few years and brussel sprouts are prime candidates for that treatment.

Dressing Up Oatmeal

comments Comments Off
By , November 20, 2010

BeanOne’s oatmeal today has raisins and frozen mangoes mixed in, and brown sugar, diced apples, granola, and cashews on top.

Oatmeal needs an image makeover. For too many unenlightened breakfast-eaters, oatmeal conjures up thoughts of bland, lumpy goo.

Once you’ve made a good pot of oatmeal – a blank canvas really – a few extras will go a long way toward boosting it’s appeal, especially for kids. Extras fall into these general categories:

Sweeteners: Brown sugar is classic. I love the way it melts into warm brown puddles on the surface of the oatmeal. Other possibilities include maple or other syrup, honey, and chocolate chips.

Fresh Fruit: Cut into bite-sized pieces. I like diced apples, berries, peaches, bananas.

Frozen Fruit: This goes right into the oatmeal without thawing first. It’s great for cooling down hot oatmeal in a hurry appease hungry kids. Top choices at our house are things that, again, are in bite-sized pieces. Mango chunks and various berries are typical at our house. Note: Frozen blueberries will turn your oatmeal purple.

Dried Fruit: Added during cooking, or after, depending on your preference. Raisins, cranberries, pineapple, papaya, apricot, etc. If dried fruits need to be chopped, a spoonful of wheat germ piled on the fruit as you chop will prevent the bits from sticking to each other and to your knife.

Nuts, Granolas, and Trail-Mixes: Use whatever you have. The idea is to add textural interest and flavor burst. In grad school, my standard breakfast was oatmeal with brown sugar, Honey Gone Nuts from Breadshop’s Granola, and  Cranberry Jubilee from Sunridge Farms. (This breakfast came entirely from the bulk food section of the Berkeley Bowl, which I dearly miss.)

BeanTwo finishes her bowl, wishing I would stop photographing them eating. I suppose it is a bit rude of me. I finished my oatmeal 10 minutes ago.

Now you could just throw everything into your bowl, mix, and eat. It will be delicious. After many years of oatmeal eating and experimenting, I have determined that I like some things to be mixed in, like raisins and frozen fruits, while other things, like my puddles of melted brown sugar and my crunchy nuts and granola, I prefer to sit on top. Picky? Perhaps. I just know what I like.

BeanTwo’s usual oatmeal has just frozen mangoes (from Trader Joes, thawed slightly, then chopped a bit) mixed in with brown sugar and more brown sugar on top. BeanOne goes for anything and everything. He’s my boy all right.

I love oatmeal. Sometimes I imagine opening a little cafe where I’d have an oatmeal bar with an impressive selection of mix-ins. Clearly I want to share my love of oatmeal with the world. But since that cafe is not likely to ever happen, I’ll settle for sharing my love in this blog.

Quick and Slow: Oatmeal Two Ways

By , November 15, 2010

The prospect of oatmeal for breakfast always draws cheers at our house. As much as BeanOne and BeanTwo like The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster, they passionately disagree with the premise that all kids dislike oatmeal. As BeanTwo says every time we read the book, “They just don’t make it the way that we do.”

However you may feel about pre-flavored instant oatmeal packets, you’ll find that upgrade in texture and flavor of regular rolled oats or steel-cut oats is entirely worth the small amount of effort required to make it.

My choice of oat depends on the amount of advanced planning I have done. If I wake up in the morning and decide to make oatmeal, it will be rolled oats cooked in the microwave, and made entirely with milk, rather than water. Here’s the method:

  • With a milk/oat ratio of 2:1, measure out the necessary amount of milk into a large microwave safe dish or large pyrex measuring bowl and then add the oats. (For my two Beans, I use 2 cups milk and 1 cup rolled oats. For one adult, try 1½ cups milk and ¾ cups oats.)
  • Toss in raisins, if desired.
  • Microwave on High for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the power of your model and the amount of oatmeal you want to make.
  • Stir and return to microwave. At this point it should be very hot, but not much changed in consistency.
  • Microwave again for 1 to 3 minutes, keeping your eye on the dish. Let the oatmeal bubble up, but not enough to spill out. Stop and stir as needed and continue microwaving until the oatmeal starts to thicken.
  • Let the oatmeal rest for a minute or two to finish cooking. Then serve with mix-ins and toppings.

After a couple of times, you’ll figure out the exact times you’ll need for microwaving and it won’t require so much oversight. Just be sure to have enough room in your dish to let the oatmeal bubble up. You can experiment with quick oats vs. old-fashioned oats; texture will determine your preference. Quick oats are more processed, less flavorful, and cook up smoother than old-fashioned oats.

If you have a slow-cooker and a bit of foresight, go for steel-cut oats, which are superior in taste and nutrition – and start it the night before you want to eat them. You can cook steel-cut oats on your stovetop in the morning, but it will require 35 to 40 minutes and constant stirring to prevent burning. On the other hand, if you put the oats and water in a slow-cooker and let it go for 9 hours while you sleep, your oatmeal will be perfectly cooked and waiting for you in the morning, needing only a few easy finishing touches. The method:

  • Find a large glass dish that will fit inside your slow-cooker.
  • Put water and steel-cut oats in the glass dish at a ratio of 4:1. (I typically cook 1 cup oats in 4 cups water.)
  • Fill the slow cooker with about an inch of water and place the glass dish carefully inside. Add more water to the slow-cooker as needed to approximately match the water level in the glass dish.
  • Add a some drops of vegetable oil to the glass dish. Do not mix; let it float on top. This will make cleaning the dish easier later.
  • Cover the slow-cooker and cook on LOW for 9 hours.
  • In the morning, stir in salt (1/4 tsp of salt for my typical batch).
  • Optional: For a protein boost, I beat two eggs, temper it by mixing in some hot oatmeal, then add the warmed egg mixture back into the dish and stir thoroughly. Other options for adding protein include substituting half the water with milk, or adding protein powders at the beginning of cooking.

If you like to add raisins or other dried fruit, you can soften them as needed by soaking them for a few minutes in a small dish with some of the hot “bath water” from the slow cooker. The oatmeal can stay warm in it’s bath all morning until it’s ready to be served. Leftover oatmeal can be refrigerated and reheated in a microwave with a splash of milk.

In my next post I’ll talk about the many permutations and combinations of interesting toppings and add-ins that make oatmeal really great.

The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster – Review

comments Comments Off
By , November 7, 2010

lochnessNormally, I might not choose to review and recommend a book that champions the habit of picky eating. But stick with me. Luck of the Loch Ness Monster: A Tale of Picky Eating by A. W. Flaherty (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) is a fun little story, which has sparked conversations at our house on topics as diverse as folklore, the science of taste, geography, modes of trans-Atlantic transportation today compared to 100 years ago, and the strangeness of certain traditional Scottish foods.

In the book, Katerina-Elizabeth is a young girl in the early 1900’s who has been shipped off to Scotland for the summer to visit her grandmother. Her parents have planned every aspect of her voyage down to the oatmeal she is served every morning. Being picky, she throws it overboard where it is discovered and devoured by a small thumbnail-sized sea worm. The worm decides to follow the ship, and grows at a monstrous rate on the daily oatmeal that Katerina-Elizabeth is happy to provide.

Though she herself proudly admits to being a picky eater, the author Flaherty maintains room for open-mindedness. I often feel that this excerpt bears repeating when I get to this part with to BeanTwo:

The worm surprised Katerina-Elizabeth the first time she saw it. She did not especially like snaky things. She began to change her mind, however, when she realized how quickly the worm learned new tricks.

As the worm grows, I like Flaherty’s use of simile to convey it’s size. After it’s first bowl of oatmeal, it was “as thick as yarn and as long as your hand.” By mid-summer, it is “as thick as an elephant and as long as the main hall of an elementary school.” And in the illustrations, the worm is shown at ‘actual size’ in the beginning; then it outgrows the page and needs to be emphatically noted as ‘not actual size.’ We paid particular attention to the relative scale of subjects in the illustrations and how scale figures help us understand the growing size of the worm.

Most interesting to me as a parent, however, is the author’s note in the back of the book. Flaherty -a neurologist by profession- explains a bit about the physiology of taste, making a good-natured case for letting picky eaters be picky eaters. She finishes with a ‘Super Taster Test,’ an experiment to see if you have a high density of taste buds that might cause one to be more sensitive to certain taste flavors like bitterness. BeanOne was willing to do the experiment, so we swabbed food coloring on his tongue and counted the tastebuds within the circle of a reinforcing dot. Apparently he is not a Super Taster.

BeanTwo didn’t like the face her brother made at the taste of the cotton swab, so we have no data on her. Clearly the stuff about being open-minded is not sinking in just yet.

PB/Carrot Jack-o-Lantern

comments Comments Off
By , October 14, 2010

Ah, October! Arguably the best time of year to push orange foods in front of your Beans.

I made this jack-o-lantern with wheat toast topped with nutella and then creamy peanut butter mixed with finely grated carrots.

I love the orange color of the PB/carrot mix. Nutella adds just the right amount of sweetness and the crunchy toast helps moderate the carrot texture.

Happy Halloweening!

Snakes! Beads! Bread!

comments Comments Off
By , October 8, 2010

I picked up a loaf of some beautiful pumpernickel rye swirl bread last week thinking I might figure out a zebra tangram. It wasn’t working so well, so I switched to snakes after I saw BeanOne and BeanTwo playing with this great bead-lacing set that I found years ago at Goodwill.

Making bead snakes provides so many opportunities for play and discovery. There are design decisions to be made: selecting beads of different colors and shapes, making patterns, and deciding how and when to end the pattern. At some point, be sure to make hissing “sssss” sounds and lay the snake in an S shape on the floor.

Tying knots and lacing the beads onto the string are simple fine motor skills to practice. And when the snake is complete, it’s ready for pretend play: Pet Snake, Jungle Danger, or (my favorite) Outback Snake Hunt culminating with snake soup in the play kitchen.

I’ve looked around online for snake bead lacing sets similar to ours and only found this one, called Easy Make Snake. It has a cute head piece, and a wooden “needle.” But the beads included don’t allow for much pattern work.

It seems it wouldn’t be too difficult to make your own set, if you can find some nice chunky beads and a larger oval one for the head. Draw or paint on some eyes and upcycle some old shoelaces. Voila!

Speaking of things easy to make, the sandwich is a simple stack of cheddar cheese and thinly-sliced cucumbers on the swirl bread with a little mayo.

Bee-bim Bop! – Review

By , October 1, 2010
When I get stuck in a meal-planning rut, I seek out ideas by asking my family what they’re craving and if they have any dinner requests. Lately BeanOne has been campaigning for one of his favorite meals, bee bim bop, a Korean dish with vegetables, beef, rice and a fried egg for each person.
Looks healthy! Right? I mean look at all those colorful vegetables! Two forms of protein! You can’t see it, but there is brown rice under there! While BeanTwo isn’t quite as enamored of this dinner as her brother, she still knows which parts she likes (not spinach, of course!) but a bit of everything goes down when it all gets mixed up. (Incidentally, this is another good dish for playing SET.)
Since we all love this dish, we were excited to find Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park (Clarion Books, 2005). The name, she explains, translates loosely to mix-mix rice. The components of bee-bim bop are prepared separately, and arranged in one’s bowl over a base of rice. When you’re ready to eat, you mix it all up: “Mix it – mix like crazy, time for BEE-BIM BOP!”
In Park’s book, we get caught up in a young girl’s excitement as her mother shops for and prepares the ingredients for bee-bim bop. The text canters along, always returning to an infectious chant:
Mama’s knife is shiny
Slicing fast and neat
Garlic and green onions
Skinny strips of meat.
Hurry, Mama, hurry
Gotta chop, chop, chop.
Hungry – very hungry
for some BEE-BIM BOP!
bee-bimPark shares her own family recipe for bee-bim bop in the back of the book. She also encourages children to help in the prep, suggesting jobs kids can do for each part of the recipe. There are a lot of parts, and it may seem a bit daunting. If you’re a bee-bim bop virgin, just find a Korean restaurant and try it for lunch sometime. The vegetables may change; everyone seems to have a different version. But there is always a fried egg in some form. I like mine over-easy, and for my Beans, I usually scramble them. I typically see eggs sunny-side up on the bee-bim bop at Korean restaurants, which is how HandsomeBean prefers it. Park’s version calls for thin omelets sliced into strips. Most places will be happy to cook your egg to order, so don’t hesitate to ask.
Also, don’t forget the hot sauce. It’s usually on the mild side, so some people apply it liberally. BeanOne and BeanTwo are not fans of spicy foods, but they do like a drop or two of hot sauce on their bee-bim bop. I think it adds to the excitement, and that’s all part of the experience.

SET (at) the Table

comments Comments Off
By , September 25, 2010

Sometimes at dinner we coax BeanTwo to eat by playing a game inspired by Set The Family Game of visual perception
a fun family card game which has earned dozens of awards since it’s inception in 1990.

In the card game, players look for sets of three cards from a common pool in which each of four different attributes – shape, color, number, and shading – are either all the same or all different.

Huh? you say.

Okay, that doesn’t sound so simple, but there really is genius in the making of this game. The NY Times has a good puzzle version of this game if you want to try it out and see what I mean.

The dinner version of this game that we play capitalizes on kids’ love of classifying and sorting. It works best with meals that have a lot of distinct components, like minestrone soup or a very colorful stir-fry or pasta salad. Thanksgiving dinner is also provides a great spread for playing this game.

Just like the card game, we find sets in the food, usually based on just one attribute. Zucchini, corn, and carrot would be a set of all vegetables. Chicken, rice, and broccoli makes a set in which each element is a different type: protein, grain, vegetable. Likewise: bean, noodle, celery. It’s often just as simple as each element being a different color.

If someone invents a set, we all put it together on our forks and try it out. Now if BeanTwo comes up with chicken, carrot, orange pepper – which is not technically a Set – we’ll still try it and compliment her combo nonetheless, keeping in mind that the real goal is eating. It’s a bonus that we’re thinking and talking about the types foods, their textures, etc. As adults, we can even get sophisticated and make up a set based on just about anything: the cooking method, or where the ingredients are stored in the kitchen, or where they came from (think: grocery store, farmer’s market, vegetable garden).

It’s all about flexible thinking. And playing SET at the table couldn’t be more in the spirit of good brain/food.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Spinach

comments Comments Off
By , September 18, 2010

Pure stealth snack, that’s what it is. I mixed a bit of purple puree (spinach and blueberries) from Missy Chase Lapine’s Sneaky Chef cookbook with an equal amount of Nutella. I told BeanOne and BeanTwo it was “blueberry nutella.” They loved it. The mixture gets darker and more sauce-y when combined, but it still spreads well. I put it on cinnamon raisin bread with some peanut butter.

As expected, my reference to Ang Lee’s movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) was appreciated by myself only. The celery jungle reminded me of the Bamboo Forest fight scene between Chow Yun Fat and Zhang Ziyi. Oblivious to the artistic interpretation (and vegetables) before them, BeanOne and Two quickly deforested the jungle and requested ants for their logs. That, and extra blueberry nutella.

Panorama Theme by Themocracy