Sunday, December 11, 2011

Joys of a picky eater and sweets

Did I for some reason say "last post"... well, I was serious, but I just had something to say.  Its not political, its not related to my project, and its only slightly embarrassing that I haven't cleaned out my cookie jar since the last time we had cookies.  I mean, it would only be SLIGHTLY embarrassing if the last time we had cookies was say, two weeks ago.  Well, here's the post:

1.  I gave my little star some chicken soup last night that I made.  I just cut up a lot of vegetables to add to some chicken stock- and little star "helped" by not getting into trouble, stringing celery, and cutting a few potato slices.  For eating the soup, I gave him mostly broth since he's not into chunks of stuff... or trying things, but usually he'll try soup.  I told him the carrots would be soft and sweet, which apparently after four years of refusal had some effect.

Instead of eating broth (oh well) he got into eating carrot and celery chunks.  The fact that I had just put a little soup in the bowl resulting in the impossibility of actually scooping up the chunks with his spoon did not deter him. He used his fingers to get the carrots on the spoon and ate them, for some reason disregarding the messiness of his fingers.  So he did not get frustrated at the difficulty of the task and fully enjoyed the "soft and sweet" carrots.  Today he claimed my soup was better than the one at playcare because that one didn't have carrots... I think it does.  Well I'm awfully pleased as I usually am when he actually likes something new... but I have to remind myself that this is probably temporary.    However, having a picky eater makes it all the more exciting when something as simple as cooked carrots is eaten.

He also decided he needed cherry jam, the kind "daddy" had, even after I explained that it had chunks of cherry.  Chunks had definitely been a no-no until he decided that blueberry jam was OK- but it has pretty small berries in it.  Actually, on the jam side I hadn't encouraged the cherry jam since its my favorite and rarely on sale... but still its nice he wants something new and with chunks.  See, with a picky eater you can even be excited when your kids eats something bad for them, like marshmallows or even weird candy.  I mean, at least they are trying something new!

Today I tried out this new cookie recipe that claimed it was super easy... well not exactly, but the cookies taste just like brownies, so who can complain?  (If you love brownies the way I do)  And the recipe wasn't impossible, it just took a bit longer since I had to substitute cocoa powder for baking chocolate- I think this is usually easier than melting chocolate.  Since I don't have a mixer I decided to mix it by hand rather than food processor since I wasn't sure if that would work correctly.  Any recipe that asks you to chill it for two hours is NOT by my definition easy, but it allowed me to make the batter yesterday and do some cooking today.

You were supposed to role the batter into balls- which were very sticky and roll those into powdered sugar, which wasn't too bad after I figured out that powdered sugar is a bit like flour in keeping things from sticking.  Little star got to help a little and without too much prompting licked off his fingers... which is a good step when you have a four year old who still hasn't learned to LICK things including his hands.  See, I was happy about this- though I did make him wash his hands before any more "helping" occurred.

So of course I offered him a taste of cookie- just before dinner as it was.  He took a little bite, said it was good, and DIDN'T ask for more.  Let me tell you, these things were amazing- just like eating a really great brownie.  After dinner I asked if he wanted a cookie- I mean, after all he "helped" make them, and we already shared a whole peach pie without him last week when he didn't want any.  Well, he said he didn't want a cookie.   More for US :)  I love the way he's not into sweets.  It helps me feel not guilty about eating them without him, usually after he's in bed.

2.  Now you may think we have sweets a lot... and sometimes we do- Most of the time in the fall I cook a lot of chocolate chip zucchini bread or pumpkin bread and we eat it almost all year.  But this year, my pumpkin and zucchini crop did not turn out, and truth is, I STILL have some grated zucchini in the fridge from last year, so I guess if the crop did turn out I still might not have done it.  Last year I brought (or somebody else did) donuts to my husbands department for a friday afternoon treat.  There were usually leftovers that we got to share at home almost every week during the school year.
Sometimes my husband uses baking to de-stress, so sometimes we get home made cinnamon buns, or pistachio nut cookies, or rugelach on a rare occasion.  Lately, however, its just been waffles- which are great.

This year, not much baking happened, until this month.

First there was this pie: I had to make this pie because I decided I was tired of waiting for my man to make pie crust so we could have a quiche.  It had been almost a year.  So I made a crust myself- not sure I've ever done it before.  In my house it was my dad's job- and he' didn't do it very often.  So I guess I followed that model and made it my husband's job since he actually likes to fool around with it and get it "just right"... though really I could care less if its perfect- I just want crust that tastes OK.  I don't care if its not that flakey or whatever.

Anyway, he's just not had any time lately, so I did it myself trying to follow the recipe to the letter since its my first time and all.  Of course I ended up using the plastic mixing blade on our food processor when I was supposed to use the cutting blade, but I wasn't sure, and I figured I couldn't really screw it up.  So as I tried to follow said recipe it sure took about forever to mix the butter and flour using the wrong blade, and it took about forever to role out the very cold dough as well.  And then there was the fact that I used a pyrex dish, and it said to get it VERY cold before putting it in the oven.  The internet claims that's OK-Phew.  And then there were all these cool it off steps.  No wonder I never make pie crust- it takes forever.  The quiche, by the way, was EXCELLENT and so was the crust.

Anyway, quiche only uses one crust, and by the recipe, the dough is only supposed to sit for two days at most in the fridge.  My husband MONOPOLIZED the kitchen that weekend preparing a chicken.  You see, it had to be done JUST right- every single part of the thing.  You can't just massage it a bit, put it in the roasting pan, and cook it.  No, you have to unfreeze it carefully, debone it, separate the different parts into different dishes, prepare each one, and cook them all in different ways including breading some of the pieces.  And then, you are not done, no, you have to cook what's left down in the pressure cooker for stock.

Do I sound like I'm complaining...well, lets say that the chicken was EXCELLENT, we ate it all week so all I had to do was prepare starch and veggies, and the stock made great soup.   On the other hand I think it was too much work, my husband got behind, got annoyed, stayed up late every night to catch up, and I believe is now sick.  So perhaps this is all my fault because I asked if he'd cook the chicken last weekend, and perhaps I should have waited several weeks, not bought the chicken, or done a less perfect chicken myself.

Anyway, fact was, I had to use up that extra crust.  So I looked up a recipe for how to use frozen fruit in pie.  I've never made the inside of a pie before either.... just quiche.  The only fresh fruit we had was honey crisp apples, and I think its a shame to cook such expensive delicious eating apples (though they would probably be good in a pie).  We did however have some peaches that were over a year old and blueberries in the freezer.  So I followed the instructions that did not mention if I should drain the extra liquid from the fruit (so I didn't), and I made a "streusal" top crust that the recipe said to do.   It did kind of bubble over- as I knew it would since it barely fit in the crust, but WOW, it was a great pie.  I was not sad that I didn't have to share it with little star.

My husband's godmother sends us this wonderful fudge every year around Christmas.  Now we told her more than a year ago that we liked the chocolate fudge without nuts the best, but every year, including last year we get half chocolate with walnuts and half this white chocolate fudge that neither of us like much though my husband tolerates it- we often give it away.  But who's to complain- the dark chocolate, even with nuts is amazing.  This year, however, she sent us a whole container with dark chocolate fudge and no nuts!  Oh, its heavenly.   Usually my husband, kind man that he is, knowing how much I love the stuff, lets me eat more than my fair share.  This year, he's all stressed out, and I am happy to make sure he's getting his share... or more.  He deserves it and there's twice as much to share in any case!

So, why was I making cookies?... well last year I participated in this cookie exchange with my mom's2moms group, and we got all these cookies that I exchanged for pumpkin/zucchini bread.. which we scarfed down rather quickly.  I wasn't sure I exactly had time for that this year given little star's birthday party is on the same day, I'm not sure if I have Jury duty this week, and I'm planning something for my project.... but I asked my husband if he'd like me to participate assuming he wouldn't care or would think it was too much work (even if it was my work, it would certainly impact him).  He said it would be nice to have the cookies... or something like that.  What?
OK, so sure, I like cookies too, and I can try this new recipe.  So thats why I baked cookies. They are really good.

I knew the cookie jar probably hadn't been cleaned..well because every time we have cookies I seem to have to clean it before putting any into it.  We rarely have cookies... probably last year after the cookie exchange was the last time.  But we have this great cookie jar.  Its from my grandfather's shop.  My grandfather, who died when I was around four years old used to run some sort of used furniture store... that burned down... but anyway, my grandma's house used to have all sorts of stuff that I don't think people on their income could necessarily have afforded.  The cookie jar was always there.  Its a ceramic cylinder painted as a round thatched house with a little chimney and has the look of Italy where it claims its from.  When you take the lid (the roof) off, it has a characteristic sound that lets you know for sure somebody is stealing a cookie.  Cookies seem to hold a very nice texture when kept in it.  I'm not quite sure how it influences humidity, but somehow it does it right.

I took off the lid. Sure enough it needed cleaning.  And it had ONE COOKIE in it.  And that cookie wasn't even obviously moldy.  It seemed to look just like one I remembered from the cookie exchange.  I couldn't believe it.  A year old cookie?  I was still a bit afraid of the thing and put it into the compost.  There were lots of crumbs and sugar in the jar, and nothing looked moldy or strange.  Weird.  Cookies must really be bad for you if the microbes won't eat them and no bugs even got into the jar. Its not sealed.  Its just a ceramic lid on top of ceramic.

Moral?  None.  Food is good. Food is fun.  Food is interesting.  Hearing about what other people do with food is interesting.

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