Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Broken (Sugar Cookie) Hearts

February 10, 2009
Decorating Valentine Cookies

I took Booh to a late afternoon cooking class for Valentine’s Day to make Valentine Cookies for her Daddy. When we arrived, the tables in the classroom were lined with butcher paper and individual decorating stations were set up for each student. Ramekins of colorful dime store candies were set out, and the temptation to stick little fingers into these bowls had all the kids on the edge of their stools while waiting for the class to begin. Once everyone arrived and settled in, heart shaped sugar cookies, the smooth blank slates for their little love creations, were passed out, and the decorating began.

Decorating Valentine Cookies

With small chef hats and matching aprons the kids set to work with their piping bags and chocolate non-perils. As frosting leaked out of the top of her piping bag and onto her sleeve, Booh made the analogy of the pink and purple frosting being like “glue” and the rainbow sprinkles “glitter.”

At one point I noticed that Booh would suspiciously sit back on her stool and pull her little chef’s hat down over her face. I took a sneak peak out of the corner of my eye and saw that she too was sneaking, only little bits of chocolate jimmies that were sure to ruin her appetite for dinner, which followed. I suggested she put them on the cookies for later, which inspired her to load one of her cookies with an abundant mixture of everything, calling it a “fancy dessert cookie.”

Decorating Valentine Cookies

As the room buzzed with laughter and chatting I watched the children beam over their designs. I thought to myself that creations a professional pastry chef can execute with a frosting filled piping bag couldn’t match what these kids made. Not because a pastry chief lacks any technical skills, but because of the abandon exhibited in their creations that would be very difficult for any adult to match.

Booh beamed too at her squiggly trails of frosting that traveled up and over the rainbow sprinkles with thick squirts, centered off with a jellied heart or bean. In contrast the cookies I had decorated were symmetrical in design, or had been fashioned with letters that spelled “I (heart) U” and “I C U,” laced with little rainbow sprinkles.

Valentine Cookies

As they finished up, each family put their little masterpieces to the side of the room on parchment squares to dry. Booh’s “fancy dessert cookie” spilled candies all over the floor as we moved it to the side table. When viewing the collective of cookies, the ones decorated by adults droned order and fashion amidst the chaos of the children’s wild and asymmetrical creations.

At the end of class, each child received a bag to carry their cookies in. Booh decorated her bag with stickers and gobs of red glitter glue (which does not dry quickly for those of you who aren’t in the know). To everyone’s chagrin, the containers were too big to be set upright into the bags. And because the bags were laced with glitter glue that would take a good week to dry, we had to place the cookies on their sides, smearing frosting and jimmies up against the plastic tops.

Valentine's Day

After class we set out into the cold and windy parking lot to hurry home to share our creations with Booh’s Daddy. Inside the bag (a collection of wild abandon and controlled deliverance) cookies continued to smear frosting on the lid and the backside of one another. I placed the glitter glue ridden bag atop the car as I buckled Booh into her booster seat, the wind pushing the door against my backside. And then I heard it – a great thud at my heels! The wind had knocked the bag off the car’s hood and smashed it down onto the pavement.

When we arrived home, Booh proudly handed the bag over to her Daddy. He pulled out a container filled with bits and pieces of cookies jumbled up with pink and purple frosting, textured with sprinkles. Without inquiry, he removed the container’s lid and selected the only bare broken piece of sugar cookie heart that stood pure among the mangled mess, scooping off the frosting and jimmies that clung to the lid. He smiled and Booh beamed back.

“Happy Valentime’s Day, Dadda,” she said.


Curried Lentils and Potatoes

January 19, 2009

I’ve been wanting to experiment with lentils for dinner.  I don’t cook them often enough, so I found myself thumbing through How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Bittman to get my creative juices flowing.  

While chopping up my ingredients for last nights dinner I was chatting with my good friend and cooking buddy *E* who reminded me of all the different types of lentils available with which to experiment: French lentils, red lentils, and the variety of green and brown lentils.  I got very excited!


Curried Lentils and Potatoes-1.jpg

Saturday night’s recipe was Curry Lentils with Russet Potatoes, served with organic Jasmine rice.  *J* & I loved the dish! But Booh … not so much.  She didn’t like the cilantro sprinkled throughout, plus it was complex with flavors and spices, not her favorite.  But that was okay.  Meant more for me!  Between negotiating half of *J*’s fourth serving onto my plate along with Booh’s picked-apart small serving, I managed to squeak out a second serving for myself.   I ended up serving her an avocado and assortment of fruit instead.

But my favorite part of the meal wasn’t the lentil potato dish … it was the veggie dish: Carrot, Cabbage and Red Onion Salad in a Cilantro Maple Tamari dressing.  Yum!  Let me say that again … YUM!


Preparation: 1 hour. Serving size: 4

  • 1 cup dried organic brown lentils
  • 1 can organic coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cup homemade organic veggie stock
  • 1/2 tablespoon Muchi Curry Powder (turmeric, cumin, black pepper, ginger, coriander, fenugreek, garlic, celery seed, cloves, cayenne pepper, caraway seed, white pepper, mace)
  • 1/2 tablespoon Sambhar Curry Powder (coriander, red chili peppers, fenugreek, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, black pepper, asafoetida)
  • 2 medium organic russet potatoes (cut into large chunks)
  • 2 tablespoon organic virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish
  1. Combined the first four ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turned the heat down to low to simmer gently, and partially cover with lid.  Stir occasionally while allowing the lentils to start absorbing the liquid, @ 15 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes and gently stir in.  Put the lid on and allow to cook for 10 minutes.  
  3. After 10 minutes, check and add vegetable stock if needed.  Don’t let them dry out.  Add olive oil (or butter/ghee) and stir in.
  4. Cover and allow to  continue to cook until lentils are soft and potatoes are tender (not mushy!).  This takes 5-10 minutes.  Add more stock if needed.
  5. Season with black pepper and sea salt to taste.  Lots of black pepper is good, but careful with the salt.  I almost put in too much, so go slow!  
  6. Removed from the heat and let it stand with the lid on while finishing up the salad (recipe to follow).  It allowed the potatoes to cook more (not mushy!) with out drying out the dish.
  7. Garnish with cilantro.  Yogurt too if you have it.  We didn’t.  Used rice as our cooling agent instead.


I had a bunch of cilantro I purchase to garnish the lentil dish with that I decided to use in my vegetable dish.  I found a recipe for a dipping sauce in the mentioned cook book that I modified to go with the veggies I had on hand.  If you can, make the dressing ahead of time and allow to sit:


  • 1 clove organic garlic
  • 2 tablespoon wheat-free tamari
  • 2 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (grade B if you have it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili peppers
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves (finely chopped)

Stir ingredients together and let it sit while cooking the lentils.  


  • 2 cups organic cabbage (shredded into long thin strips)
  • 1 cup organic carrots (shredded)
  • 1 cup organic red onion (cut into thin strips)

The longer and thinner the cabbage, carrots and red onion are cut into the better. I used my Black and Decker Handy Slice ‘ Shred appliance (I picked up at a tag sale new in the box for a buck!) but a sharp knife for the onion and cabbage and a peeler for the carrots would work fine.

Blanch the cabbage for 30 seconds, strain and the into a cool water bath.  Strain again.  

If you can, make a double batch of both recipes for lunch the next day!   The next day I brought leftovers over to *E*’s house to share for lunch, and they were just as good as the night before … if not, better!

Rebounder in the Living Room

January 17, 2009
Picking the Perfect Squash

Picking out squash at the Amherst Farmer's Market this past summer.

Over at Fitness and Wellness in America, fitness professional Chris Arterberry writes about keeping New Year’s nutrition and exercise resolutions during our current economic climate and ponders if folks will stick with them or not.  He concludes, “Overall, even in these tough times, I think one’s success with health-related New Year’s resolutions still comes down to personal behavior and one’s support system, not personal finances.”  

He mentions some shopping alternative people might take to stick with their healthy nutrition resolutions, including shopping at Wal-Mart for health food rather than Whole Foods.  There’s healthy food sold at Wal-Mart?! I had no idea! Not that I want to shop at Wal-Mart … it just feels a bit like an oxymoron. I have seen some healthier foods sold at Costco, like Lara Bars and Organic Olive oil, but never in my life would I have thought Wal-Mart as a source for health food.  I always thought of it as the land of Wonderbread and marshmallow fluff!

I started off my new year with a 10-day cleanse (Master Cleanse), so I feel extra invested in my resolution to health and wellness. Committed to continuing a healthy lifestyle during this recession, my family continues to shop for our “healthy” food at Whole Foods, our local co-op and Trader Joe’s. The trick for us is to buy mostly whole foods from the produce section and bulk food aisles, choosing local when available. Any pre-packaged foods we get are gluten-free. And we look for sales at each store. Being vegan helps a lot too, but my husband isn’t there (yet!). So frozen fish, chicken and cheeses at Trader Joe’s is a good bargain. And I should mention that TJ’s has great prices on their packaged nuts and dried fruits. Some are even organic and sulfur-free!

In the summer time part of our solution will be to grow our own vegetables, frequent the local pick-your-own orchards, farmer’s markets, farm stands, and to participate in our local CSA.  And one of my main objectives for this spring is to get chickens for a steady supply of fresh eggs!

As for exercise, I run on the road. But when it’s minus twelve outside … my husband suggested joining a gym. I could argue that joining a gym to keep us exercising and healthy, in the long run, would save us money … but what about right now? Rebounder in the living room? Maybe so.

The Snow Moon

January 9, 2009

Full moons come,
full moons go,
softening nights
with their silver glow.
They pass in silence,
all untamed,
but as they travel,
they are named.

When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year
by Penny Pollock

In many cultures a folklore name is associated with each full moon of the year. January’s full moon was called the Wolf Moon by some Native Americans, as noted in Penny Pollocks book, When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year.

The Farmer’s Almanac describes Januarys moon lore, “Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January’s full Moon. Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to the next Moon.”

Pollock writes a simple children’s books that offers an elementary look at moon lore. It’s beautifully illustrated with woodcuts that have been hand colored by Mary Azarian, a Caldecott Award winning illustrator. Using lyrical poetry, the author takes the reader through a journey of twelve months by sharing Native American folklore that is associated with each month’s moon.

Pollack’s account of the full moons includes the January full moon as the Wolf Moon, a time when Native Americans observed wolves becoming restless. February is the Snow Moon due to heavy snows that used to happen in our area in years past. The Sap Moon is in March when the Maples come alive, and April is the Frog Moon as our little amphibian friends pop out on the spring scene. The Flower Moon is in May and the Strawberry Moon is in June. July hosts the Buck Moon when deer sprout their antlers, and August is the Green Corn Moon. The Harvest Moon happens in September, and due to the moon’s early rise October is the Hunter’s Moon because of the extra light added to the setting sun. The Beaver Moon is November’s moon and December is known for the Long Night Moon corresponding with the Winter Solstice.

Pollock has a couple of pages in the back of her book with questions and answers about the moon. One question is “Can a full moon have more than one name?” And her answer is yes! Many.

Gluten-Free Gingerbread Men (and dreidels!)

December 21, 2008

I remember as a kid decorating cookies for the holidays with my dad and brother. My mom would buy a roll of Pillsbury sugar cookie dough and cut it into thin medallions for us to decorate with rainbow jimmy’s and red hots.

J and I have followed a similar tradition since we met, only we make and decorate gingerbread men (and women) from scratch. I’ve made a gluten free gingerbread cookie dough two years in a row, and sadly many of our gingerbread men wind up on the Infirmary Cooling Rack. They just don’t hold together as well. I guess my mother had the right idea!

I made a royal frosting this year and piped it onto the batch I decorated with gluten free sprinkles. J and Booh opted to spread frosting on theirs with a butter knife and add currents. Booh found licorice Jelly Belly jelly beans and added those to hers too. That should taste interesting!

One of our neighbors is Jewish and they’ve never decorated Christmas cookies, so we invited them over to help us. They brought their dreidel cookie cutter. The dreidels stayed together much better than the gingerbread men.

Next year I think I’ll go back to a traditional gingerbread cookie recipe … unless someone knows of a good gluten free recipe that holds up after they come out of the oven!

Winter Solstice: How an ancient tradition is celebrated today.

December 7, 2008

Illustration by Jan Davey Ellis

Ellen Jackson’s book, The Winter Solstice, (published by Millbrook Press) takes a look at the many different cultures throughout history who have celebrated the Winter Solstice and developed cutoms for this shortest day of the year.

With a simple storyline and attractive watercolor illustrations by Jan Davey Ellis, Jackson’s book is a nice addition to a social studies curriculum for children ages 4-8 this time of the year. The Scottish, Romans, Scandinavians, Celts, Northern Europeans, Peruvians, Pueblo Indians, and the Kwakiutl Indians are presented with their customs and beliefs; in addition to a scientific look and simple experiment to illustrate the planetary alignment that creates this seasonal change.

Jackson also explains how the winter solstice is celebrated today in modern American and European cultures, and how solstice customs have found their way into the celebrations of Hanukkah and Christmas.

She ends her book with a Cherokee folktale of creation that tells why evergreens stay green because of their faith that the sun would return.

If you have a seasonal title you would like to recommend, enter it in the comment box below. We’d love to hear from you!

A Variation to the “Egg on a Spoon” Race

October 18, 2008
/></a></p> <p><span style=In New England during the fall, it only makes sense to use a small pumpkin or apple in place of an egg for egg spoon races.

At a recent birthday party at an apple orchard, the hostess organized many of childhood games for the kids to play, including the famous egg on a spoon race. Here Booh figures it out … walking slowly and deliberately, not dropping it once! She was a natural! It was like she had been doing it her whole life! Her dad and I were like, “Whose child is this?!”

Now if we can only get this kinetic child to apply this technique at the dinner table!

Ketchup Sandwiches & Hot Dogs

August 5, 2008

Ketchup Sandwiches

Pigs in a Bun at the Berkshire Museum's reception for the Retro Toy Exhibit.

I’m not a fan of hot dogs. Just the thought of eating one makes my throat close-up in preparation to gag. I don’t even like the vegetarian knock-offs, Soy Pups. Didn’t like them as a kid either. I used to remove the Oscar Meyer Weiner and eat the ketchup and pickle relish. Thus, was born the Ketchup Sandwich. I became so fond of Ketchup Sandwiches as a kid my mother would actually pack them in my lunch for school. I’ve since outgrown Ketchup Sandwiches but have tried to introduce them to my daughter (with my own homemade ketchup). She obviously has more culinary class than I did as a kid and refuses both dog and ketchup. But as a group, American’s and their kids love hot dogs. This web review is just for you folks…

Hot Dogs as America

This small presentation highlights some of the hot dogs served in different cities and at baseball stadiums in the U.S., including New York deli and street cart dogs, the “Chicago Red Hot,” “Dodger Dog,” “Fenway Frank,” Texas corn dog, and others. Part of a larger past exhibition about baseball at the American Museum of Natural History. [LII]

National Hot Dog Council

Take a virtual tour of their factory. Find out how they are made. Read facts & trivia on hot dogs. Learn how to say “hot dog” in ten languages. And much more to be found at the NHDC web site for any hot dog freak!

Hot Dogs Risky for Kids?

Here is a CNN news report (video) that covers recent research that supports the claim that processed meats, including hot dogs, increases your risk for colon cancer.  One hot dog a day increases your risk by 21%!  Why?  Sodium nitrates!

July was National Hot Dog Month. We skipped the weenie roast. But we do have plans on making fresh ketchup from this years local tomatoes. And our refrigerator pickles turned out fabulous! – If you too don’t care for hot dogs, the How to Calculate Pi by Throwing Frozen Hot Dogs might be the site for you!

No Farms No Food

July 31, 2008
Potatoes at the Florence Farmers Market

Three Varieties of Potatoes at the Farmer's Market.

The folks over at American Farmland Trust are offering a Free No Farms No Food Bumper Sticker. Put it on your car or bulletin board at work. Or distribute them at your local farmers market or county fair. When you display your No Farms No Food bumper sticker, you’re helping raise awareness about the importance of our farms and ranches and the delicious, fresh foods they produce. Click HERE to request your free sticker, while learning about AMT’s pledge to local food and farms.

Charlie Goes to Candy Mountain

July 29, 2008

Featured Video: Charlie the Unicorn

An animated cautionary tale for kids seeking Candy Mountain that (some) parents will appreciate.  I found it pretty funny, but then I have been known to have a twisted sense of humor from time to time.  

Take an adventure with Charlie the Crabby Non-Believer Unicorn to visit the magical Leopluredon who discloses the way to Candy Mountain, just over the magical bridge of hope and wonder. [3:49 minutes] (Rated PG)

Featured Video: Food Fight

July 27, 2008

I love discovering the history of food and nutritional anthropolgy. I think it’s a great way to explore history and other cultures, especially with kids. I recently came across the video, Food Fight, a short film by Stefan Nadelman. I found myself completly engrossed (not to mention grossed-out). The film is an “abridged history of American-centric war, from World War II to present day, told through the foods of the countries in conflict … as traditional comestibles slug it out for world domination [through] chronologically re-enacted smorgasbord of aggression. (1)”

“Smorgagsbord of aggression” is a great way to describe the cinematography of the film. As I mentioned, I found myself engrossed as Nadelman recounted different American military conflicts, and at the same time I was taken aback by the hostilities, as represented by the decimation of food. Signs of a good film maker!

I don’t feel the film is appropriate for my 6-year old, but older students exploring World and American History might benefit from watching this short film (parents should screen first before allowing their children to watch to determine if age appropriate). Conflicts represented include World War II, the Arab-Israeli War, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Viet Nam, the Cold War, the Intifada, the Gulf War, 9/11, Afghanistan, and Gulf War II.

Can you guess which countries the following foods in the film represent?:

  • pretzel & bratwurst
  • matzah (matzoh, matzo)
  • croissant
  • fish ‘n’ chips
  • burger ‘n’ fries
  • sushi
  • beef stroganoff
  • kebabs (kebobs)
  • bagel (w/cream cheese & lox)
  • kimchi (kimchee)
  • dumpling & egg roll
  • Cuban sandwich
  • spring roll
  • falafel
  • chicken nuggets
  • fried chicken sandwich

I first watched the film without knowing which conflicts were being played out nor which countries each food group represented. Families might find it more useful from a home-study stand point to first review which country the food represents before viewing. A cheat sheet can be found HERE.


July 26, 2008

Most folks with serious concerns over emergency malnutrition of children in developing countries have probably heard of Plumpy’nut. Plumpy’nut is a “peanut-based food for use in famine relief which was formulated in 1999 by André Briend, a French scientist (1),” produced by the French company Nutriset.

A recent report by 60-minutes examines this “miracle food”:

Every year, 5 million children die worldwide from malnutrition. That’s one child every six seconds. Now, the relief group Doctors Without Borders says it has something that can save millions of these children. It’s called “Plumpy’nut” – a ready to eat and cheap to produce food that might be the most important advance ever in the fight against malnutrition. Anderson Cooper saw the benefits of plumpy’nut firsthand in the African nation of Niger.

I applaud the immediate success of this product, and if in the same situation I would seek out and feed my daughter Plumpynut without hesitation. But I of course have my concerns. It seems like a similar product for developing countries could have been produced years ago. So why this product, now? I’m certain organic is cost-prohibitive, but why is it so cheap to produce this product? Are genetically modified ingredients, BGH’s and pesticide residue also packaged along with the vitamins and minerals? And if so, what sort of health consequences might be seen down the road for these children and future generations?

These are concerns I have, but at the same time I am glad to see that families and children are having immediate health benefits.

Are you interested in the ingredients and nutrient content found in Plumpy’nut? (more…)

Ice Cream & Pretzels

July 25, 2008


Ice Cream in a Can & Pretzel Rods (c) Sienna Wildfield (click to see more photos)

Ice Cream in a Can and Pretzel Rods (click to see more photos)

Why ice cream and pretzels?  I’ve started to notice pretzel ice cream cones showing up in different ice cream parlors and thought it odd … until my daughter and her friend turned me on recently to the idea of this culinary pairing.  We had made homemade raspberry ice cream in a can and took it along with us for an evening picnic on the lawn at the Florence Civic Center while listening to live music.  I had also pack some UTZ pretzel rods, along with various picnic salads and fruit.  What I forgot to pack were spoons!  But no worries … pretzel rods to the rescue.  Leave it up to a child to devise a way to eat ice cream out of a can without a spoon.  This must have been the origins of how pretzel ice cream cones were first discovered, a resourceful Pennsylvania Dutch child nevertheless; sort of like how the original waffle ice cream cone was “discovered” at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair.  – Speaking of which, check out this video the History Channel produced about the origin of the ice cream cone:

If the video is no longer active, here are some links to peruse:

What to do with garlic scapes?

July 23, 2008

Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scapes at the Florence Farmers Market. (c) Sienna Wildfield

Garlic Scapes at the Florence Farmers Market.

My daughter and I spotted these garlic scapes at the farmer’s market in Florence, MA last Wednesday.  Curly and twisty and oh so fun to play with, she urged me to buy some.  But honestly, other than using them as a funky accessory, I wasn’t sure what to do with them.  Then later I received my July newsletter from Kitchen Gardeners International and to my delight they have a recipe for garlic scapes pesto!  The recipe calls for garlic scapes, walnuts, olive oil and parmigiano cheese. How can you go wrong?  I’ve since discovered that pesto is one of the most popular recipes for garlic scapes.  I never knew!

In addition to a pesto recipe, I’ve also discovered the following recipes for garlic scapes that sound delicious:

And if wearing garlic scapes as an accessory, or using as the celebrated ingredient in tonight’s dinner isn’t enough to peek my interest,  they look like they would be fun to add to contemporary floral arrangements, as shown over at Petalena.


Has anyone had any luck with freezing garlic scapes?  Freezing garlic makes it bitter, but does the same happen to garlic scapes?  Post a comment below and let us know.


November 5, 2006

Friends of ours who live had a Martinmas festival at their home. Martinmas is a celebration that has celebrator elements found in both American Halloween and Thanksgiving traditions. It was a perfect night with a full moon and clear skies.

When we arrived fresh apple cider was being pressed from fresh picked apples. Booh and I gathered with other children in our friend’s barn to make lanterns out of glass jars for the lantern parade. Booh painted her jar and said the design was a snake cloud from her imagination. She described it as snakes in a ball. I took strips of colored tissue paper and glued them to the outside of my jar.

Guests placed candles in their lanterns and paraded into the darkness along a path that snaked through their fields, lit with candelabras. We sang “Lantern Songs” and other familiar tunes. After the parade we gathered for a feast of food guests had brought. Traditional goose would have been served, but we brought a rotisserie chicken instead.

After eating we went for a full moon hayride and then gathered around a beautiful bonfire with hay bale seats. We sang more songs and roasted marshmallows. The fire let off burning cinders into the air that Booh calls Fire Fairies.

Booh’s daddy couldn’t come with us, so when we got home she explained what was Martinmas. She said that is was for Martin from Zoobomafoo. Actually, Martinmas is name after St. Martin, the patron saint of beggars, drunkards and outcasts. He was known for his gentleness and hospitality, and his ability to bring warmth and light to those who were previously in darkness.