Category Archives: recipes

birthday celebration, the final chapter: dam, svardeah… hag sameach!

I can only start this story with a reference to the ten plagues.

Dam, SvardeahHag Sameach = Blood, Frogs… Happy Birthday

There are no frogs in this story. However Shicheen (Boils) doesn’t rhyme with Sameach.

The alternate title (in my head) also references Passover: Dayenu! = It would have been enough for us.

If we’d only had to alert guests to the risk of being around Jonah less than 24 hours after it broke, Dayenu!

But instead, when I called his preschool teacher at 8 o’clock this morning, as she was on the guest list, to inform her of the broken fever, she informed me that our preschool community had been exposed to Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. (Thus, Boils—or perhaps “Murrain,” since that’s the illness that was sent upon the cattle and sometimes HFM is incorrectly referred to as Hoof-and-Mouth.)

So I restarted the call list from the beginning. And one by one, given the information, the families chose not to attend. I was in tears all morning.

I can’t blame them, exactly. Yesterday’s fever could be a sign of blisters to come.

Dear God. Please, no?

However, three families decided to brave it. One is in our preschool and decided they’d probably already been just as exposed. Another is simply bullet-proof when it comes to sticking up for me as a friend. A third had gotten my call about the fever, but not my forwarded email about the HFM exposure. When she arrived, I gave her the news and offered that she could turn around and leave. She chose to stay.

Again, not that I blame the others for bailing.

Insert more prayers here that the families who came do not come down with… anything. Dear God. Please, no?

I was so anxious that I was sweating through the first half-hour of the party. I kept slipping into the bathroom to check my own temperature. Which was normal.

I. Do. Not. Want. To. Be. Patient. Zero. To. A. New. Outbreak. Of… Anything.

Especially not to these three families who saved Jonah’s birthday.

The chocolate-beet cake was a huge hit. (Inspired by chocolate-beet cake rev. 1: the Martha Stewart version baked last week by Grandma Judy in New Mexico.) Turned out unbelievably delicious as well as stunningly gorgeous, if I may say so. Rocket-ship-shaped cake pan courtesy of Wilton’s. Jupiter was baked in a glass bowl. Buttercream frosting recipe from Alice Waters’ cookbook. Food coloring supposedly natural, from India via Whole Foods. Smarties for decorating, courtesy of Jonah’s extant Halloween stash.

As decorated by myself and the birthday-boy-slash-sous-chef:

Can you see the red Smartie, demarcating Jupiter’s “Big Red Spot“?

In selecting and uploading these photos, I just now realized two things:

1) I forgot to write his name on the star cookies—was going to put one letter on each star.

2) He blew his germs all over the freaking cake. Awesome.

On the plus side, at least by that point in the party I’d forgotten to worry?

Ironically, we’ve always wanted to have a small birthday party for Jonah, but were never able to narrow down from his long list of beloved friends. Nature, today, did it for us.

A happy crowd, delicious cake, lovely gifts.

It would have been enough for us.

However…

At about 4 p.m.-ish, post-party, post-clean-up, we were just about to have some other fearless (foolish?) friends over for a late-afternoon play date, I was just settling down in the bedroom to sneak in a meditation before their arrival, when I hear Scott say, in THAT tone of voice…

“Oh MY GOD?!?!”

Blood.

Pouring.

POURING! Out of Jonah’s nose.

Like a freaking river.

Terror takes over. I scream at Scott to call my friend and tell her not to come while I catch the stream in first tissues then towels against Jonah’s face. I ask him to tip his head back but he starts coughing as the blood runs into the back of his throat and out his mouth.

The friend’s trajectory stopped, I next yell at Scott to call the 24-hour-advice nurse.

Which would be our third call in 24-hours, since I’d already called this morning for additional advice about contagion risk of HFM.

Scott looked at me like I was crazy. Just a little.

F- the phone, let’s just go to the hospital.

At this point I’ve handed Jonah a frozen teething ring because somewhere in my head I have stored the idea that ice between the upper lip and gums is supposed to do something for a bloody nose. It’s probably wrong, but the ring gave him something else to do besides bleed, cough, and cry. It seemed to calm him a little.

I’m also doing the math in my head. What the heck? We’ve already met our $3000 out-of-pocket deductible this year with his pneumonia and the cashew. Let’s go!

He’s not wearing a shirt because the one he was wearing was covered in blood and at some point during the chaos we’d decided to take it off. I grabbed his little backpack with spare clothes. So, to be clear: Half-naked child, smeared from forehead to neckline in blood, smothered in mismatched towels/rags, with a frozen yellow-gel ducky hanging out of his mouth, thusly belted into his carseat and rather pleased to be heading to his favorite place, the hospital.

At that point, the bleeding stops.

At which point, Scott informs me that while choosing not to call the advice nurse, he had Googled nosebleeds and found that while they can be extremely alarming, they are usually harmless.

Score one for Dr. Google!

We decided we would go for a drive anyway. A nice Sunday afternoon drive. Maybe near the direction of the hospital, just in case. But really, we were pretty sure everything was going to be fine after all.

Kein Ayun Hora.

I know by now that his favorite thing about hospitals is the Popsicle at the end. So I went back upstairs to the house to get him one from our freezer, as well as some wipes to clean him up.

We drove around for a while, checked out Christmas decorations in the neighborhood, stopped and got out of the car to look at a view of the entire bay, up the hill from our house.

Jonah knew exactly where he wanted me to stand. Walk a little further, he said. (I was carrying him.) Just past those cars. Here.

He was right, it was the best spot to stand.

And then we went home and he took a VERY LONG warm bath. And played with his new shark playset in the water. And helped me wash his hair.

Now, we watch and pray that the blister-affliction passes over our house.

As well as the hands, feet, and mouths of our dear friends.

Dear God, Please?

Amen.

adventures in low-fat cooking: green chile chicken enchiladas

Words cannot express how much we love green chile chicken enchiladas. Or their holiday incarnation with leftover turkey. It is the cheesiest, creamiest, brown crispy crustiest, warm chile can’t stop eating it -iest food on earth.

Here’s the photo from our Thanksgiving enchilada – meant to blog about that whole week. May still go back and do that. So much happened!

Today is Scott’s birthday. He requested that I come up with a low-fat version for his celebration dinner. Heresy, I know.

I tried. I will call this rev. 1 because I realize now that I could have cut down on the condensed mushroom soup, and added nonfat yogurt instead…

Low-Fat Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas (Rev. 1)

1 lb skinless boneless chicken breast tenders
2 boxes Pacific brand condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup Hatch green chile (roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped)
1 lb grated Cabot brand 50% low-fat cheddar
9 organic corn tortillas
cumin, coriander, Mexican oregano

Preheat oven to 375

Brown tenders in batches in a minimally-oiled fry pan, 2 minutes per side. Place all in medium or large rectangular pyrex and bake 5 minutes. Cut into cubes and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat condensed soup, green chile (even more than 8 oz is good – if you can get frozen chile from New Mexico, that is much better than the canned stuff), liberal amounts of cumin, coriander, and oregano. Simmer for a short while till flavors combine -ish.

Grate cheese. Into the same pyrex you used to bake the chicken, layer tortillas on the bottom, soup mixture next, then cheese and so on, ending with cheese on top.

Note: The cheese that goes into the inner layers gets a bit lost. Use less on those, and more for the top.

Bake 30 minutes or until browned and bubbling. Let sit 15 minutes before serving. Usually tastes even better the next day.

So here’s how the modified version stacks up against the original in terms of calories and fat:

The original version, which uses full-fat cheese (and for the purposes of this comparison we’ll pretend I could restrain myself and only add 1lb), Amy’s condensed cream of mushroom (same calories as Pacific but more than twice as much fat), and light and dark meat chicken, skin on:

Full pan = 3764 calories and 203 grams of fat

Tonight’s low-fat version:

Full pan = 2800 calories and 101 grams of fat

Scott said it was delicious and that he was quite pleased.

I, of course, have plans for future modifications. This version seemed a little too mushroom-y and soup-y to me.

I might try cutting down to 1-1/2 or even 1 box of the soup diluted with water. Or I might use Imagine creamy portabello instead, which I’ve used before in a pinch and I recall it being just fine. The Imagine soup in the same quantities would add 240 calories and 9 grams of fat (vs. 600 calories and 15 or 36 grams in Pacific or Amy’s condensed, respectively). Which then might give some wiggle room for adding a little more fat in the cheese? Because I think that was the area where I missed the fat the most. Reduced-fat cheese has a tendency to get a little stiff and chewy when melted. As opposed to cheeses that are naturally lower in fat, though still surprisingly fatty, like part-skim mozzarella or Heini’s yogurt cheese or queso fresco, both of which are made from low-fat milk.

What surprised me the most is that tortillas have fat. Only 6.75 grams, but still, may investigate other brands. It’s like a puzzle I’m trying to solve. Shave a bit here, add there.

You’ll notice I put the amounts for the whole pan. The truth is, Scott and I can each put away 1/4 of a pan. Sensible people would eat less than that.

(Or rather, as Scott says, what fool wouldn’t eat a quarter of the pan???)

low fat and kid-friendly recipes (for joanna)

For my friend who asked, and anyone else curious about the recipes for the dishes mentioned in the previous post…

Wild Rice Dressing with Turkey Sausage, Apples, and Chestnuts

1 cup wild rice blend (such as Lundberg)
1 package (approx 7oz) of roasted peeled whole chestnuts, cut in half
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
12 ounces mild Italian turkey sausage, casings removed, sausage crumbled
1 large onion
2 large Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 cup chicken broth

Olive oil for pan prep and sautéing

Optional soaked rice preparation – from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook:

For details about why soaking rice prior to cooking it improves digestibility, go here: http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/497-be-kind-to-your-grains.html from the Weston A. Price Foundation. To be completely honest, I’m rarely organized enough to remember to do this in advance, but it does yield a milder, seemingly lighter-on-the-belly dish. If you’re not up for following the soaking instructions below, then cook the rice as directed – 1 cup rice blend to 2 cups water, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 45 minutes.

Note: This recipe is double what you need for the dressing/stuffing. The other half can be used later in the week or frozen. Or served to family members who don’t like sausage (Hi Mom!).

2 cups brown rice
4 T lemon juice, kefir, or vinegar
4 cups warm filtered water
1 tsp sea salt
2 T olive oil (original recipe calls for butter or ghee but Scott can’t have that)

Preparation:
Place rice, whey and warm water in a large stainless steel or enameled pot and then leave in a warm place for at least 7 hours or more – I usually go 24 hours. Bring to a boil, skim, reduce heat, stir in salt and oil and cover tightly. Do not remove lid! Cook over lowest possible heat for about 45 minutes.

(DO AHEAD: Rice can be made 1-3 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Rub olive oil or mist nonfat olive oil cooking spray on 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.

Combine cooked rice, halved chestnuts, and chopped parsley in large bowl.

Heat 2 T olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and onion and sauté until meat is cooked through, stirring frequently and breaking up meat with fork (or knife, sledgehammer, etc. – turkey sausage can really stick to itself!), about 7 minutes. Add chopped apples and thyme and sauté 5 more minutes. Stir in chicken broth, scraping up browned bits. Pour sausage mixture over rice mixture in bowl; stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish.

(DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.)

Bake until hot and liquid is almost absorbed, about 15 minutes – or longer, depending on how crispy you like the top.

Variations: I’ve made it without the chestnuts and it’s almost as good. Celery is nice, especially if you don’t have parsley on hand. Sautéed mushrooms are a great addition. Walnuts would be good too but you lose the low fat element at that point.

Thank you to Epicurious.com and The Nourishing Cook for the source materials for this recipe.

***

Hidden Chard Smoothies/Popsicles

1 bag frozen blueberries
1-1/2 cups raw chard, rinsed well and stems removed
1-2 bananas
1-2 cups of yogurt, kefir, milk, or a combination
Agave syrup to taste

Put all ingredients in a blender and go to town. Purple color and intense flavor of blueberries, as well as sweetness from bananas, should totally mask chard flavor. If not, add more fruit. Drink as is or pour into molds and freeze.

***

Almost Nonfat Chicken Salad

This is a guideline, proportions are to your liking. I suspect I used about 8oz of chicken and 1/3 cup of yogurt for three of us, but don’t hold me to that. I do know it was 1/2 pear…

Chop and combine:
Skinless chicken breast
Pear
Celery

Add:
Currants
Nonfat yogurt (Note: Do NOT use greek yogurt as it is too sour and not creamy enough. We like Straus.)
Splash or two of apple cider vinegar
Liberal drizzle of agave

Top with slivered almonds if desired.

***

Chilean Sea Bass with Warm Green Bean Salad and Roasted Potatoes

Again, no recipe here. Just me, winging it.

2 7oz pieces of Chilean Sea Bass (I think we’re only supposed to eat this very rarely because it’s endangered or something but since Whole Foods was selling it, I’m going to assume they’ve vetted the moral risk for me.)
Olive oil
Lemon zest
Salt and pepper

Rub fillets with the other three ingredients and bake skin-side down in a glass pyrex at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes until just barely firm. Serve with lemon wedges.

Green beans
Olive oil
Champagne vinegar
Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

Boil the green beans for 5 minutes or until just bright green. Drain. In meantime, whisk in a bowl: a splash of olive oil, a 1/6th smaller splash of vinegar, a small dot of mustard and the salt and pepper. Toss warm green beans in dressing and serve.

Red potatoes, cut into small pieces (sixths or eighths)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Toss together and spread on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees or so until brown. These may take up to 40 minutes, so do them first (even though I listed them last).

***

By the way, a word about “nonfat” olive oil cooking spray. It is only nonfat because of the way it is measured. Under pressure, the amount you can get out of the container when you hold the button down for 1/3 of a second (not kidding – read the label), that amount of fat is so small as to be negligible. Frankly, compared to how much comes out when I press down on that thing, I think I put less olive oil on when I just rub the pan with it or toss a little bit with whatever needs oiling.

***

Today, we went out for Mexican food for lunch. Scott ate tortilla chips (as did I). Oh Mah GAWD! Fried food????

He did fine.

Which is not great for my need for our low-fat regime to be motivated by panic. If he does in fact completely recover his ability to digest EVERYTHING, will WE go back to our old ways? Stay tuned…

i couldn’t stick to a new year’s resolution if my life depended upon it

But make that my husband’s life, and I get a little bit motivated.

Almost two weeks ago, Scott went to the emergency room in severe pain (in the middle of the night, of course). At 3 a.m. he was admitted and put on the wait list for gallbladder removal surgery, which was executed at 3:30 p.m.

And my life turned upside down.

A little.

Why are you being so dramatic? – chant the voices in my head. It’s just a low-fat diet. You can do a low-fat diet.

The doctor looked at me – tearful, two days’ sleep deprived, wobbly, asking her how the heck I am supposed to cook for my husband now – and smirked, “It’s not like anyone here has Cancer!”

Right, check. Fears of husband under sedation, in surgery, the types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that only live in hospitals; these risks had all pretty much passed. So what was I so up in a twist about?

Try Googling “gallbladder removal, post-surgery diet,” and see what I should not have been reading in the middle of the night, or at any time. Horrifying reports of what happens to the body when the wrong foods are consumed. Conflicting accounts of what the right foods are.

The doctor suggested he lay off the half-and-half, and no butter or red meat.

No butter, or beef, lamb, pork? What the hell would we eat?

Cue shame. We are not thin people. (We are thinner now, barely two weeks into this new eating regime). I’ve always known we should eat better. We enjoy our butter-poached salmon, our steak with anchovy butter, our roast pork, gnocchi swimming in cream, cheeseburgers with mayonnaise, tagine of lamb, saaaaauuuuuussaaaggges!

But no more. For the first two weeks in particular, post-gallbladder removal, it is crucial to eat a really low-fat diet while the liver re-calibrates itself to the loss of its bile-storage buddy.

And while I have been guilty of gluttony lo these last six years of my relationship (how fun it has been to experiment culinarily on my ever-willing and carnivorous husband; but to feed him stir fry veggies with skinless chicken breast was to break his heart, just a little; to offer a fully-vegetarian meal, punishment); I am also a person who takes to health-based dietary changes like an orthorexic fish to therapeutically-filtered water.

In other words, as much as I’m a slut for bacon, I’m equally an OCD who loves to research obsessively and create and follow food plans – when properly motivated by severe health disorders. For years I had terrible problems with my gut. I was even hospitalized once while traveling in Russia. That was colorful. And then I discovered I had food allergies. At one point I had a doctor who gave me a new three-page food plan (of red and green X’s next to what I could and couldn’t eat) every three months. That was torture inspired my chef-ly creativity.

And how can I neglect to mention the psychic nutritionist (different from psychic chiropractor) whose health recommendations I still somewhat follow today regarding which foods are more digestible. I once stayed with her for three days at her ranch in New Mexico where we sliced and dehydrated pounds and pounds of organic peaches, drank cold-process coffee, and I helped out at her sprouted-wheat flour mill, putting labels on bags and packing orders.

Orthorexia – a.k.a: obsession with the correct way of eating, ruled my life for many years. But by the time I met Scott, I’d recovered from a lot of my digestive issues and let go of a lot of the obsession in favor of a few extra pounds and a lighter attitude of mind.

The idea of changing what I cook and eat for my family this time around had me in tears for three days.

For me, food is comfort, always has been, even when I was controlling it (or it me). And, as the head of cooking affairs in our house, I had my rhythm; I knew what to buy and when to cook it.

Now I had to start over.

When the self-pity began to wear off, the excitement of the challenge began to kick in.

How to make low-fat food, and make it GOOD?

So, here I am, on New Year’s Day, feeling a little proud.

Last night, for our celebratory meal, we made baked sea bass with lemon zest and pepper, steamed green beans in a light mustard dressing, and whole wheat gnocchi tossed with fresh parsley, plum tomatoes, and a touch of olive oil.

(Last New Year’s, I recall experimenting with sweetbreads for the first time – breaded and pan fried in butter.)

Other experiments that have yielded great excitement:

  • Chicken salad made with nonfat yogurt, agave syrup, and a touch of apple cider vinegar
  • Wild rice stuffing made with turkey sausage instead of pork
  • Spraying bread with non-fat olive-oil cooking spray and toasting
  • Blueberry/banana/yogurt/agave smoothies with 2 cups of raw chard as the hidden ingredient (originally just for popsicles for Jonah as I am now reduced to hiding vegetables in food to get him to eat them – hello 3! – but we all enjoyed the mix as a beverage also, and blueberries are apparently excellent post-surgery food, according to a nutritionist I consulted – did I mention that I am obsessive thorough?)

So, yes, I’m becoming a convert. And we’ve both dropped a few pounds. And we both feel better.

It’s so embarrassing.

Time will tell whether, as Scott recovers, we bring back the fat and in what forms. I’m hoping he will be able to eat some of his/our favorite foods again, and also hoping that if it takes two weeks to ingrain a new habit (isn’t that the statistic?) – maybe we can hang on to this new lifestyle. Perhaps we can just have high-fat Fridays twice a month?

Some of the research I’ve come across on Dr. Google says that nut fats are better than animal fats for the body, and the liver, which could be a potential pitfall for us weight-wise (and the reason why not all vegetarians are skinny).

Still, I am looking forward to trying African Chicken Peanut Stew.

cake

Leila’s younger son’s birthday party was today. He’s 9. She’s not here to bake him a cake, so I offered to do it. I’ve only ever made three cakes in my life – two for Jonah’s first birthday parties (yes I had two birthday parties for him when he turned 1) and one for his second. So not only was I honoring my friend whom I miss very much, but I was also getting practice, which I think she would have appreciated.

I was instructed that the preferred cake was yellow with chocolate frosting. I debated between two recipes. This one from Smitten Kitchen, and this one from Chow.com.

The Chow one seemed less intimidating because it didn’t involve “cake flour” which sounded more intimidating.

I realized, after I’d baked the layers and they were cooling on my counter, that the SK recipe would have been better because it might have made a BIGGER cake (just guessing since it was 4 cups-ish vs 2-ish on the flours). Suffice it to say, I worried a bit between last night and today about whether we’d have enough. I bought ice cream, in order to stretch the dessert-value of the thing. I almost baked a second cake, or at least another layer, later that night, but that would have involved dividing the recipe in half and with the eggs in multiples of threes, not to mention that I’d already cleaned the kitchen…

In any case, I arrived at the party today with the cake – just barely. Did you know that if you put a cake on parchment paper and then put it in a cake saver, it slides ALL OVER THE PLACE, even on the slightest of hills, or when you are accelerating slowly from a complete stop? And you thought people talking on cell phones while driving were distracted. Lord.

But we made it, me and the cake. I’d brought along flower shaped confetti sprinkles – I wanted to make sure they were approved by the birthday boy before applying. They were. I’m sorry to say I don’t have a photo of the fully-bedecked cake, but I am glad to report that despite the fact that the party was attended by fully 1/3 more guests than I’d been told about, there was enough for everyone. There was even a piece left for the two folks who came after the party had already ended. Well, there were two pieces – the couple ate one, and then the birthday boy swung by the table and swooped up the other.

All gone.

And so, my friends, I present to you: Cake.

Dear Leila, I wish you could have tasted this one. Love, Julie.

guest post: in which leanne is tricked into making kringle

Okay, so a few weeks back, I posted a meme from Mayberry Mom about the holidays. LEANNE, a longtime reader and internet friend, posted her responses to the meme in the comments, specifically mentioning a holiday dessert her mom used to make but she’d never made — and that I’d never heard of but sounded yummy: KRINGLE.

Cavalierly, I emailed Leanne and suggested that if she would send me the recipe, we could make it “together” each in our own kitchen thousands of miles apart, and document the experience. Then I read the recipe which involved intimidating things like yeasted dough, and steps that had to be taken over more than one day, and I chickened out; but she followed through — and sent me pictures! I believe that technically, this is Leanne’s first blog post. Perhaps we are witnessing a food blogga in the making? Leanne, what say you?

And now, for your salivatory pleasure, I present The Amazing Kringle Adventure Featuring the Fabulous Leanne

I’m a mom of 2 (a boy and a girl) who lives in Wisconsin, enjoys baking, and loves to read and write but seems to spend more time reading and writing for others (the children and work, respectively). Also I’m addicted to chocolate. Like the kringle recipe, I got that from my mom :)

I’ve been wanting to make kringle for a long time, but I was always put off by the recipe. Even my mom would note that it (along with other recipes that she would make and we kids loved) was “putzy.” Over time I’ve decided to embrace “putzy.” I’d like to share these baking traditions with my kids. I’m guessing my mom felt the same way.

The Recipe: Danish Kringle

Day One

Filling
12 oz. dates, pitted and chopped into pieces
2-3 tsp sugar

Place dates into a pot. Add just enough water to cover the dates. Add the sugar. Cook the dates until the water is nearly gone (about 30-45 minutes). Refrigerate the cooked dates overnight.

Dough
4 c. flour
2/3 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. shortening

Combine flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in the shortening. Set aside.

Scald 1 c. of milk and cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, prepare a yeast mixture. In a measuring cup, measure 1 inch of hot water; add 2 packages of dry yeast and 1 tsp. sugar. Add the yeast mixture to the lukewarm milk.

Taking 4 eggs, separate the egg yolks and egg whites (save the egg whites in the fridge for the next day – my mom likes to divide the egg whites into 2 containers as she finds it easier to prep 2 kringle at a time, rather than 4 all at once). Add the egg yolks one at a time to the milk-yeast mixture.

Finally, add the milk-yeast-egg mixture to the flour-salt-sugar-shortening mixture. Chill the dough overnight.

Day Two

The next day divide the dough into 4 parts. Roll out the dough into a rectangle, about 9 inches by 15 inches.

Whip the egg whites til you get nice white peaks that are fairly stiff. Dab the eggs whites onto the dough, leaving room around the edges. Top with the cooked dates. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar.

Fold the dough into thirds, making the first fold smaller than the second fold. Seal the edges.

Let the dough rise for 2 hours.

Bake for 20-30 minutes at 375.

When the kringle has cooled, frost it. (my mom combines powdered sugar and milk to make her frosting – about that much powdered sugar and easy on the milk so that you don’t add too much and then need to add more powdered sugar. Been there, done that.)

The Execution:

Day One

What was I thinking?

Just start assembling the ingredients, Leanne. That’s not so hard. You can do this.

This will be like making cinnamon rolls.

But cinnamon rolls don’t take TWO DAYS.

This is crazy. Also, I’m hungry. I need a snack. Yes, I need a snack before I get started. Oh, and I’m supposed to be taking pictures to document this experiment

    

I’m not procrastinating. I’m documenting. And snacking.

So making the filling (at least the date part) wasn’t so bad. Dates, water, sugar. Cook. I can do that.

   

And even making the dough wasn’t so hard. Except for the glitch. The recipe calls for 1 cup of shortening. I had half a cup (why, oh, why didn’t I check before I started? It’s a nasty habit of mine – I have ingredient “X” so surely there is enough). So I substituted some butter. Please let that be okay.

    

I put everything into the fridge to wait for Day Two.

Day Two

Today is the day when I find out if this really was a crazy idea. Though I’m pretty sure I know the answer. Yes.

I pull out the dough and it’s quite sticky. Maybe too sticky. I work in some flour as I prepare to roll it out. I manage to roll out the 4 rectangles, but all the while thinking something isn’t quite right with the dough.

But it’s time to whip the egg whites. I have never whipped egg whites in my life. Ever. I just start giggling nervously as I turn on the mixer. I whip and whip and pretty soon they look good enough to me. They seem stiff.

I’m supposed to “dot” the egg whites on to the dough, but smearing seems like so much more fun. So I smear. And giggle some more. I do “dot” the date mixture – smearing the dates only further smears the egg whites and not in a good way. More giggles. It looks a bit goofy on the dough, but I just keep going.

     

Now I must fold the dough.

The dough is stuck. Too sticky stuck.

I try to massage the dough up with some flour. It sort of works, but by now I’m laughing hysterically. The dough is tearing. It doesn’t look pretty. I somehow manage to fold the dough into kringle-like form. But I must still get the forms onto the cookie sheet. The forms that are still pretty well stuck onto the table. I am so glad that no one is home to see what I have done.

After much more flour and laughing, the forms get transferred to the sheet where they will rest and then bake. I think I should have used two sheets instead as they are awfully cozy on the one sheet.

After two hours of resting and rising, they are beginning to become one kringle.

I bake the 4-in-1 kringle.

It smells heavenly, reminding me of when my mom used to make kringle.

Once the kringle is out of the oven and has cooled some, I frost it while my 5 year-old son, who is now home from school, hovers. He can’t wait to have a piece for snack. Though I do warn him that I will try it first to see if it tastes okay.

And it tastes pretty good. Not quite like mom’s (it’s the dough that seems most off), but not bad for my first attempt. Though I learn it tastes even better when it’s completely cooled. My son asks for more and I feel pleased.

The first kringle is nearly gone, and three more wait in the freezer. When they are gone, I’ll try again.

traveling with toddler kauai day 3: chickens, eggs, potatoes

If you are traveling in Kauai with a toddler, definitely pick a resort that has CHICKENS! and ROOSTERS! on the property. Serious delight-makers. Every day so far has involved much CHASING. Our vacation sound scape is a combination of crashing waves and cockadoodledoos.

We never did make it to the swanky organic market. 45 minute drive seemed just too much trouble. So we opted to stock up at the Big Save in nearby Koloa. Given my usual shopping digs, this was pretty serious culture shock. Still, I managed to find locally farmed eggs, a dozen in all different colors (white, brown, blue!) and sizes for seven bucks (about what the ones from the chi-chi farm can cost at the fancy grocery at home). Also picked up some locally-made goat cheeses and a package of organic cheddar. I couldn’t bring myself to purchase any of the options in the processed sliced meats department for our lunches (shudder) so I ended up with a package of raw local pork shoulder chops (Scott said, if it’s from the island, how much can it be factory farmed?) plus canned salmon despite my fear of Bisphenol-A exposure — the most expensive option at that since it was the wild caught, sustainable, coho rather than the light stuff (it’s an illness, I can’t control it, I swear) and a couple of tins of sardines packed in mustard and dill (smaller fish tend to be safer).

My parents and sister think I’m completely nuts, natch. But how nuts am I, when…

So last night, we cooked-in. My dad marinated chicken (not local, not free-range, despite the local overpopulation, because we’re not grab-a-bird-from-the-roadside-and-snap-its-neck kind of people) all day and then cooked it or rather flaming-on-fire-other-people-were-terribly-concerned-barbecued it at the public grills in the courtyard. With baked Molokai sweet potatoes which are a rich deep jewel purple color inside, and iceberg lettuce salad with the most awesome bottled dressing in creation, the locally-distributed Hawaiian Hula brand papaya seed dressing.

It was my job to bake the potatoes and make the salad. I put them in the oven, set it for 400, and washed and tore the lettuce. We put the boy to bed, cleaned up, meditated, etc. My parents and sister showed up at 7:30. The potatoes hadn’t baked AT ALL. Hello electric range in vacation condo that I had no idea how to operate. So then we microwaved them. It’s a testament to the native deliciousness of these deep purple wonders that we all tried as hard as we did to eat as much as we could of them — the soft parts. But there was a lot leftover.

Which brings me back to the canned salmon. Almost.

Scott and I watch cooking shows. My mother hates them because she doesn’t get how you can enjoy watching when you can’t taste what they make. I use them as my ad hoc culinary school. We were fans (in the way that one is a fan of watching train wrecks) of the Next Food Network Star, so I had not-so-long-ago TiVo’d and tried to watch the show made by the winner of last season. Ten-Dollar Dinners with Melissa d’Arabian. She was making, yep, salmon cakes with canned wild salmon and potato.

Sadly, I only watched half the episode, so I had to improvise. Fortunately, I’m a pretty good improviser. Of course, now that I’m sitting here writing about it, I realize I could have looked the recipe up online, which I will do now, so that my mistakes don’t have to be your mistakes.

My version:

1 large (14 ounce) can wild-caught salmon, drained and large bones removed
2 free range eggs (one extra large, one small)
1 T low-fat lemonaise (cost about the same as best foods/kraft at the Big Save so I went for it instead)
1 molokai sweet potato, microwaved then steamed till soft and mashed, then cooled
dash of half-and-half
salt and pepper
2 slices wheat toast, toasted and torn into tiny pieces to emulate bread-crumbs, for coating

extra virgin olive oil for frying

Mix all ingredients except wheat toast in a bowl. Shape into four large patties. Coat with bread crumbs.

Heat about 1/2 to 1 inch deep amount of oil in a large skillet. You would be wise to choose an oil other than organic extra virgin but since we only bought one kind at the big save, and amazingly the price difference between organic and regular was only a few pennies, you get my drift.

Fry the patties a few minutes on each side, till crisp and brown. Serve with green salad and a nice slathering of lemonaise on top. The sweet potatoes probably didn’t really add or take away vs. regular potatoes. Maybe the sweet flavor was a little odd in the overall, but we all enjoyed the cakes, Jonah especially; and the purple color was just too fabulous.

Upon reviewing her version today, I realize I could have done a bit more to emulate the original. My parents do have bacon in their fridge, though Oscar Meyer is not my first choice brand. And I could have sauteed garlic, since I don’t currently have any onions around. Oh well.

Here is Melissa d’Arabian’s version, from the Food Network website:

Salmon Cakes

2 strips bacon, cooked until crispy, crumbled, bacon fat reserved
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 egg
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lemon, zested
1 (14-ounce) can wild salmon, checked for large bones
1 baked or boiled russet potato, peeled, and fluffed with a fork
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat in a small saute pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Cool the onions for a bit.

Mix the bacon, onion, egg, mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, and lemon zest in a bowl. Add the salmon and potato, mixing gently after each addition. Form the mixture into 12 small patties. In a shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and pepper, to taste. Coat the patties in the bread crumb topping. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat, and cook the salmon cakes in batches until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add more oil, as necessary. Arrange on a serving platter and serve.

* * *

Notably enough, this recipe, either version, is not unlike the beloved Salmon Quiche of my childhood.

its madness, i tell you (with recipes)

The day started out well. FINALLY the two week break from music class ended and off we went this morning, too early, so we stopped at a park. We played on the fiberglass horses in the old west area, dug in sand for a bit, found a really cool rock that we decided to keep.

Music class was great as usual, and Jonah spent the whole time clinging tightly to me as usual. He always gets SO SHY in class, and then as soon as we get home and for the rest of the week he’s singing the songs. One new development: he actually put away the instruments each time it was time to, rather than clinging tightly to them and crying or screaming. NO! DRUMMMM! NO!

And then it started to rain, which I was totally unprepared for. And then my back started hurting more than it has been. And Jonah seemed tired. Or maybe that was wishful thinking. Poor guy. I put him down for a nap at noon, which he didn’t agree to, though he didn’t complain about being left to play in the crib with a bottle and a book for half an hour. I gave up, took him out, played with him for another hour, my energy completely sapped by the pain in my back, so really just lay on the floor next to him while he played. Fed him lunch without a bib. Yogurt and spinach everywhere, especially in the buckles of the straps of the high chair. Fabu.

Stripped down and put nearly naked boy back in crib at 1:30 for the second nap attempt, which also failed. He was in there for an hour anyway while I lay in bed and tried to nap myself. He may have been quietly playing or actually napping for a portion of that time, hard to say.

Then I gave up again, got him out. Handed him a Pokiboh (popsicle: coconut and milk — yummy) and sat him down on the kitchen floor. And called my friend Emily to cry because how was I going to make it through the next three hours with my back and my tiredness and this rain and our 36 stairs altogether daunting me from leaving the house for any external stimulation.

From the kitchen I could hear Jonah saying “Like it!”

So that was good. I kept talking to Emily and following Jonah around the house. Sitting/ lying down wherever he landed.

And then he started a game, sneaking up behind me (as much as he can really sneak) and popping around my shoulder and saying “Boo!”

Too cute. I figured I could make it after all. Got off phone. Played BOO for a while.

Then I wanted to do dishes. And he wanted to play with the big bin of cat food. So I let him. The closest thing we have to an indoor sandbox. “Scoop!”

Madness.

Then he got hungry again. So I fed him per his demands: Bowlies! Pinash! Beanz! Sauce! Hummos! Bagel! — most all of which ended up coating is playsuit in a thick layer of paste from neck to ankles –which led him to being nearly naked again. And then he asked for something to put on his gums (as indicated by his effort to put his entire boo boo bunny in his mouth). He’s got more teeth coming in, though not in the usual order. There’s that one, seventh tooth on the bottom, and one more on the same side, further back. So I gave him frozen mango pieces to teethe on.

…and while all that was going on, I prepped chicken to marinate for dinner.

Which leads me to the recipes.

I took the following three recipes and made up my own based on an improvisational combination.

The main recipe in this escapade is from my brilliant friend Leila.

I didn’t have any paprika left in the jar though, so I used chili ancho instead (smelled both, considered it a reasonable match though I also gave the smoked paprika a momentary thought). I cut the recipe by 1/3 because I only had two pounds of boneless chicken breasts. And I didn’t have cumin seeds so I subbed powdered.

And then I tasted the marinade and it was too savory and chili-y for me.

So, based on inspiration from the sweetness of this recipe, I decided to add a big teaspoon of honey and a goodly dash of ground ginger.

I cut the chicken breasts into strips and coated them in the spice mixture, per this recipe which I saw prepared on TV yesterday and was the inspiration to begin with — the only problems being I don’t have preserved lemons or artichoke hearts, and not enough time to order the featured guest chefs’ special spice mixture online although I’m sure it’s fabulous as it incorporated all sorts of unusual things like lavender. They didn’t marinate but cooked straight away. Took leila’s cue with letting the chicken sit in the fridge, covered.

And then Jonah requested Meyougick! So I loaded up the latest Spare the Rock podcast (I love love love this kids’ radio show) and set Jonah in front of his drum and started blogging.

So now Scott is home, the boy is getting ready for his bath.

I’ll be browning and baking the chicken per the Paula Deen guests and then serving with… something.

Update: The chicken was delicious with a little yogurt; paprika would be better than chili powder.