We See D.C.

Besides Boston, Washington, D.C. has to be my favorite American city.  Its decidedly European feel makes for some pretty picturesque wandering, not to mention the whole “nation’s capital” thing it has going on.  For Netflix junkies like me, I can’t help but imagine Frances Underwood popping up around every corner, on his way to some nefarious dealing.  While perhaps not an obvious choice for a toddler-toting family vacay, it turns out to be a surprisingly perfect choice.  Thankfully, an invitation to attend a wedding in the heart of D.C. gave us the prod we needed to re-acquaint ourselves with the city that we had only previously seen through the eyes of a newlywed couple.

Back then, we had all the time in the world to delight in the cherry-blossoms and explore the museums on our own schedule, according to no one’s whims but our own.  My, how our whims have changed.  Strolling through the beautiful streets of Georgetown? Nope.  Sipping our way through the café-culture of Dupont Circle? Nopenope.  This time, we were all about being responsible parents and tourists.  We were going to take Z to see every last national treasure if it meant the end of us, gosh darn it.

Well, our end was pretty much met.  The trusty pedometer on my iphone confirmed our having completed more than a marathon’s worth of mileage on foot over the span of two days.  That may not sound terribly impressive to you all, but it might, if you account for the fact that we were simultaneously pushing along a be-strollered toddler and I (idiotically) chose to pack a thoroughly chic but unsensible pair of ballet flats as my “walking shoe.”

*smacks head, à la Homer Simpson*

Nonetheless, we accomplished what we set out to do.  No, it wasn’t relaxing in the least, but yes, we got wicked cultured, indeed.  By these standards, it’s fair to say that this particular jaunt qualified as a trip, not a vacation.  We hit every spot on our Responsible-Parent List and chose to reward ourselves for this feat with some serious comestibles.

Top three gastronomic D.C. tips:

1.  Raiding the snack section of the local Whole Foods.  Yes, I know I can snark it up like crazy when I feel inclined to share my truest feelings about “Whole Paycheck”.  That being said, travel might very well be the only scenario in which it is more economical to stock up on provisions from Whole Foods than to hand over $15 for the ubiquitous greasy “french fries and chicken fingers combo” at the zoo snack stand.  We stocked up on bagels, trail mix, and even cheese to stave off our hunger at the super touristy spots where the food tends to be pretty miserable, anyway.

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2.  Astronaut ice cream.  If you are in D.C. and happen to have a child…which, if you’re reading this, you probably do…then you already know that the Air and Space Museum is a must-see.  Now, I’m not gonna lie…this was way more of an experience for Z and my husband.  They flitted about from one exhibit to the next like a couple of science-crazed hummingbirds.  I was left with the empty stroller, lamely attempting to trail my NASA-fied version of Frick and Frack, and marveling at the realization that my 6’5” husband could, indeed, “flit about” with the best of ’em.  So, as incredibly shallow as it might sound, the highlight for me was watching Z experience astronaut ice cream.  At a pretty expensive $6.50, we declared that this would be Z’s souvenir for the D.C. trip, should she agree to it.  Thankfully, she did.  She couldn’t resist the idea of trying the “ice cream in space”.  While the gift shop boasted a surprisingly vast collection of flavors, Z (with some cajoling from my husband) chose the cookies n’ cream ice cream sandwich.

We couldn’t wait to watch her take her first bite, and ended up tearing into the package as soon as we were safely out of sight of the hawk-eyed “no food in museum” monitor.  It was so worth it.  Z giggled as she ate, which of course made my husband and I giggle as we watched her eat.  The darling girl even graciously offered each of us a bite so we could experience ice cream in chalk form for ourselves. Yay.  As we brushed the plentiful crumbs off Z’s shirt, my husband and I exchanged that look that clearly read, “she thinks we’re such cool parents right now.”

As I write this I find myself wondering if this will work when she’s fifteen. Yeah, probably not.

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3.  Keren, an Eritrean restaurant.  When we asked our D.C. native friends about recommendations for anything…not just restaurants, mind you…the very first things out of both of their mouths was “Keren restaurant.”  Upon further research (Googling proximity to hotel), we were thrilled to see that it was a short, four-minute walk from our hotel.  For our trek-weary feet, that seemed just barely manageable, yet we persevered and were rewarded with a truly memorable meal for all of us.

We knew right away that we struck gold upon surveying the restaurat’s entirely full-to-capacity state.  Clearly, it was a popular spot and the smell indicated as to why that was the case.  It was aromatic in a way I couldn’t put my finger on-some sort of Indian subcontinent, Arab hybrid.  Imagine ras-el-hanout meets curry powder*.  Sort of.  Whatever it was, I just remember thinking, “I likey.”

*FYI: that spice blend, as we later found out, is called berbere.

Granted, Eritrean food may not be as familiar as its Ethiopian counterpart, but they are largely similar.  Both are served on a round pillow of Injera, a bread used in the place of utensils to scoop up food.  It was once best described to me as “ace bandage-y” in texture.  While I don’t think that sounds appetizing, you have to believe me when I say it was, and Z was beyond entertained with exploiting the texture of the bread by stretching it out and watching it spring back, in between mouthfuls of food.

I admit I was worried about whether or not Z would like the flavors or be open to the presence of so many different textures, but she did great.  I’m not going to lie and say she gobbled up every last bite, but she ate a lot of the dishes that she liked.  We were totally ok with that, since she happily tried everything at least once.   Z’s favorite, by far, was the shiro, a thick stew made with chickpea flour.  The rest, sadly, we don’t know the names of, as they were simply part of the “vegetarian combo” we ordered.  One was a kind of braised cabbage, another spinach, while the others were different lentil preparations.

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While the food was undeniably scrumptious, the interactive-ness of the meal will probably remain the biggest standout in Z’s memory.  I don’t think she’ll look back and remember that it was Eritrean, or even the name of the bread she loved playing with. I just like to think that maybe one day she’ll smell berbere spices emanating from a kitchen vent somewhere, and find some familiarity in it.  That would make me really happy.

A spoonful of sugar…

This past weekend, my Mom braved one of her major fears of driving on the highway (with trucks), all so that she could spend some quality time with her favorite girl, Z.  I have officially resigned myself to the fact that I am no longer The Reason anyone comes to visit. For the past three years, I have been relegated to the guardian of The Reason.  I’m okay with it.

Anyway, to get to the point…Z’s welcome gift to her “Nonni” was…getting sick.  Not just sniffles-sick, but full-on 102° fever-sick.  I admit that I noticed Z feeling warmer than usual a couple of hours before Nonni’s greatly anticipated arrival. Regrettably, I chose to ignore it, chalking it up to a morning spent at toddler soccer.  Honing skills like a pint-sized Alex Morgan, is bound to get the body temp a little toasty, is it not?  Additionally, it was definitely better to omit any worries over Z’s health status while Nonni was en route.  No one wants a preoccupied Nonni on the road.

Fast-forward to 11:30 pm.  We are all thoroughly asleep after enjoying the delicious meal Nonni had lovingly prepared for us.  Then, from somewhere, deep in dreamland, I hear a cough.  And another.  And then a gag.  My internal Mommy alarm  is now officially going bonkers,  and I wake just in time to witness the first wave of vomit.  Z, who had been cozily nestled in between my unsuspecting husband and myself was now in the throes of a serious bout of tossing her cookies.

Side question:  does anyone else have a child who almost-exclusively saves their vomit-attacks for the middle of the night?

My still bleary-eyed and slightly confused husband somehow manages to transport Z to the sink in a very, very futile effort to corral the sickness to a more appropriate location.  I grab the sheets off the bed in one swift motion as I chase after them….also in a very, very futile attempt to keep the….”tossed cookies” from….you know….sinking into the mattress.  I leave them in a pile on the floor as I race to help by the sink.  My poor baby is hysterically crying and miserable at being covered in such an offensive substance.  One thing was clear: we gotta wake Nonni.

Our only bathtub, you see, is attached to the room that the peacefully-sequestered Nonni was inhabiting.  I can’t imagine what went through her mind when she opened the door and saw the three of us standing there covered…and yes, I mean, head-to-toe covered in….well…puke.  “We need the tub,” I mumble and pass her, trying to spare her by staying as far away as possible.

The rest of the night was spent in a frenzy of laundry loads, sheet and PJ changing, and repeated bathing.  There was also a brief stint of crawling on hands any knees with Lysol wipes in one hand and a spray bottle of Resolve in the other.  This was all concluded by Z sitting in my lap in the living room, nibbling on some crackers and sipping on water while I succumbed to a “My Little Pony” TV marathon to calm my very shaken little Z down in the hope that we could re-approach the idea of sleep.

It is now two days later.  Nonni has long-since gone over the highway and through the woods, back to her germ-free house.  Z is thankfully much better, but still has a funky cough, so I’m not too keen on spreading her germs to other unsuspecting kiddos on the playground.  You’re welcome, Moms of Boston.

So, what do we do when my sweet little girl needs a fun activity after a few days of yuck?  We bake.  If I can use some oh-so-fragrant Meyer lemons to distract from the lingering smell of sickness…well, you bet I will.

And yes, I’m gonna go ahead and say this confection is practically medicine.  Lemons do have the highest vitamin C content of any other citrus, after all.  I’ll go ahead and ignore the fact that some of that vitamin goodness might very well bake off, because…this cake is downright yummy and I’m seriously trying to justify baking cake instead of making chicken soup.  That’s right, cake is just what the doctor ordered.

As usual, Z does the mixing while I oversee the measuring  and oven-ing. Am I worried about her spreading her germs via this delectable, sunshiny, citrus-scented cake?  Not one bit.  For two reasons:

  1. As one of my chefs in culinary school wisely quipped, “if it can live past 350°F, it deserves to live.”
  2. It’s a lost cause.  The amount of times my daughter will put her fingers in my mouth or up my nose in a given day is truly mind-boggling.  What, your child doesn’t put her fingers up your nose? Mine thinks it’s hilarious.  Point is, I’m going to be sick no matter what.  Might as well eat well until then.

I can already feel my throat getting scratchy.

As usual, Z has lots of questions about what we’re making.  She is fascinated by the Meyer lemons and the fact that they’re sort of orange-y.  She’s equally fascinated by the idea that we’re using cheese and corn in a cake.  Something about cornmeal and citrus simply belong together, in my opinion.  Just more opportunities to broaden her gastronomic world.  A “lemon-orange” and baking with cheese and veggies? Toddler mind blown.

The cake turned out to be absolutely sublime.  We all dutifully ate our doses of cake-medicine.  What does Mary Poppins say?  Oh, right, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down/in the most delightful waaaaaay.”  Case. In. Point.

Meyer Lemon Cornmeal Cake

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 15 oz. container part-skim ricotta, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • Zest and juice of 1 large Meyer lemon, (2 Tablespoons of the juice set aside for glaze)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Glazing syrup

  • 2 Tablespoons reserved Meyer lemon juice
  • 5 Tablespoons confectioners sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease bundt pan with baking spray. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar in a mixer until fluffy.
  3. Add ricotta and continue to mix until well-combined, about 2 or 3 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one a time, mixing after each.  Add remaining wet ingredients (zest, juice and vanilla) and mix until combined.  The mixture will look curdled.  Don’t panic, that’s normal.image
  5. Turn off mixer and add in the dry ingredients, folding with a spatula by hand.  Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.
  6. Pour into prepared pan and bake 40 minutes.  Check for doneness by lightly pressing cake with the pad of your finger.  If it springs back it’s done, if it leaves an indent, it needs more time.
  7. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling rack.  While cooling, prepare glaze.
  8. Finish with glaze while still warm and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
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Your toddler will probably enjoy the springy cake texture as it cools by pretending it’s a “trampoline for fingers”. Mine did.
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No complaints.

An Ode to Far-Flung Friends


There are a number of curious phenomena that parents of toddlers have become accustomed to.  True, every kiddo may have their own quirks. However, these truths prove to be self-evident in the great state of Toddlerville.  They include:

  • The ability to appear even more awake and active when extremely sleepy.
  • The ability to wake up…and subsequently wake their parents up exactly 4.3 minutes before the alarm clock goes off.
  • The ability to somehow keep crumbs intact and hidden in between toes, in hair, behind ear, etc., even after a thorough scrub-down in the bath.

And my personal fave:

  • The refusal to eat anything once it has crossed the threshold of your home, even if you watched your child devour it thirty seconds ago at a friends’ house.

I admit that I find this last one to be the most puzzling.

Allow me to elaborate.  For the past two and a half years, we were lucky enough to have won the awesome neighbor lottery.  When you live in an apartment building and your neighbor’s home is literally six feet away from yours, this is tantamount to domestic bliss.  Our neighbors, who shall hence forth be called ‘L’, and her two adorable toddler sons…lets call them ‘M²’, were not only great neighbors, but the greatest friends.  Rainy days, originally destined to be filled with iPad-use and Frozen on repeat, never ended up so daunting after all.  A simple knock on the door, and an impromptu playdate was in action.  Whether it was L’s home or mine, or sometimes, even just the hallway, we managed to maintain our sanity through our solidarity.

A mainstay of the playdates at L’s house was the amazing, incredible coffee.  L and her family originally hail from Colombia…and well, as you can imagine, she knows how to make coffee.  I cannot for the life of me replicate it, but I do know dulce de leche played an important role.  As decadent as that coffee was for me, anything in L’s magic snack cabinet was pure ambrosia for Z…and I  don’t take the word “magic” lightly.   It didn’t matter what came out of that snack portal…it was devoured in moments.  Seconds were always demanded.  Plantain chips, dehydrated beet chips, yogurt dots of some sort. They were all hits.

Being the industrious Mama that I (pretend) I am, I dashed off to purchase all this new snack-time ammo, convinced that they would be a great addition to our usual arsenal.  Alas, upon being given the very same snacks in our own home, Z would look at me like I had just presented her with a bowl of forgotten, dried-out Play-doh scraps.  What the heck happened?  To this day I cannot untangle this childhood enigma, but I choose to simply chalk it up to the novelty of eating from a friend’s snack supply.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t get to try out any new theories as I was recently presented with the heartbreaking news that L and her family were moving to Florida.  While I am happy for them to be closer to their families and the fact that L will never again have to navigate an icy sidewalk with her double stroller, I can’t help but feel a little sorry for myself and Z for having such great friends go so, so far away.  Sniffle.

As a final parting gift, L left us with the contents of her spice cabinet that would not be making the trip south with them.  Among the impressive collection was a tiny plastic envelope that made me feel like I had unearthed the holy grail at the bottom of a Lululemon bag, buried beneath canisters of pink Himalayan salt and Ceylon Cinnamon.

Eureka!  Guascas!

Oh, you don’t know what Guascas are? Don’t feel bad, I had no clue, either, until one day when L introduced me to this, the most essential of Colombian herbs.

You see, part of our neighborly arrangement was an unspoken agreement that when either one of us made something extra-delicious for dinner, we would bring a heaping portion of it to share. This at once offered both an unexpected surprise element to dinner, and served to lighten every stay-at-home-Mom’s burden of coming up with something new to serve the hunger-crazed fork-wielders for dinner.

On one particular night, L bestowed upon us a steaming bowl of the Colombian delicacy ajiaco, a chicken, corn and potato soup, which gets its unique flavor from…guascas.  

My little family set to work diligently liberating our bowls of every last drop, all the while speculating as to the source of the defining, delicious, unidentifiable flavor.

Upon consulting with L regarding this quandary, I was promptly educated on the wonder-herb that is guasca. 

 I consequently wrote off any ideas I had of trying to reproduce the soup, as I foolishly assumed I would never get my hands on the exotic secret ingredient.  I don’t know how exactly I managed to forget about about this silly thing called the “internet” or “Amazon”, but I just figured it was out of my reach.  In the words of my husband: “Rookie mistake”.  You can easily find guascas here and here.

Needless to say, when my technologically lazy behind found that packet nestled at the bottom of my culinary goody-bag, I knew my mission was clear.  Gotta make ajiaco.  So, last night, it was made, served and just as thoroughly devoured as the first time.  It didn’t hurt of course, that I fibbed to Z (who has been missing M² a lot lately) that Auntie L left this soup for us before she moved.  I didn’t feel too bad about the white lie.  It really did feel like L had made it for us, and seemed to be a fitting tribute to the best neighbors and friends a girl and her Mama could have asked for.

Ajiaco: serves 6

This is based on the recipe I found on pinterest from My Colombian Recipes.  I made a few substitutions here and there, due to my above-mentioned laziness and lack of other ingredients.  Nonetheless, it turned out to be pretty amazing and very L-esque, even with my changes.

I served it over rice to make it a complete meal, and added some well-paired yummy fancy-pants cheese alongside to nosh on after every few sips.

Buen provecho!

  • 5 chicken drumsticks, skinless
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 ears fresh corn, broken in half
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, left whole
  • 1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 small yellow potatoes, 1″ dice
  • 3 small red potatoes, 1″ dice
  • 1/3 cup guascas
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup crema fresca, for serving
  • capers, for serving
  1. In large stockpot, combine chicken, corn, onion, garlic, adobo seasoning, water and stock.  Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to let simmer for 35 minutes.  Remove chicken to set aside.
  2. Simmer for 30 more minutes.
  3. Discard onion half and add in potatoes and guascas.  Allow to simmer until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
  4. While it simmers, pick meat from chicken bones and add back to soup.
  5. Season with salt, pepper and more adobo to taste.  Serve with crema fresca and capers as garnish.
Ask your eager toddler to help with prep by having them shuck the corn.  Just make sure you have a paper bag handy to minimize the mess from the silks.
Ask your eager toddler to help with prep by having them shuck the corn. Just make sure you have a paper bag handy to minimize the mess from the silks.

Stroller Num Num

The explosion of the food truck movement here in Boston has drastically changed our gastronomic lives…nay our lives, in general…for the better.  Was that intro dramatic enough?

Regardless, it’s true.  There is hardly a single outing made these days that does not conclude with Z’s constant pleading for a “stroller num num.”  Assuming your are not familiar with my toddler’s dialect, “stroller num num” translates directly to “food truck yumminess”, and has been a part of our family’s jargon since Z has been able to verbalize her (very strong) opinions.  We are unaware of the exact origin of the term, but I am assuming it has something to do with the blissful experience of getting transported from truck to truck in a comfy stroller, all the while indulging in a cross-sampling of the city’s mobile culinary offerings.  Yes, Z has a good life…and as her stroller-chauffeusse, so do I.

Our usual game plan goes something like this:

  1. Determine proximity of truck-hub to current location.  This is an increasingly easy task in our city.  Every neighborhood has its own gathering of food trucks at midday.  These can be further classified by location in relation to toddler hotspots such as Children’s Museum, library, aquarium, playground, carousel, friend’s house, etc.
  2. Upon arriving at said location and after a thorough survey of which vehicle is emitting the most intoxicating aromas, do a quick calculation to ascertain line-length to sticker-supply ratio.  I have found that a standard Mrs. Grossman’s sticker sheet will buy us approximately four minutes-worth of peaceful waiting time.  My daughter, you see takes after her Mama in that when her nose detects something delicious, any amount of waiting before the scent materializes on her tastebuds  is spent in (very) grumpy anticipation.  Stickers help us both maintain sanity in these situations.
  3. When the sticker ratio is not our favor, we can usually find our way to a shorter line for a beverage pit stop.  Among our favorites is the Clover Food Lab‘s daily take on lemonade.

Most recently, it was spiked with peaches and thus provided the perfect summertime sip as we endured our wait for the Tenoch truck’s line to dwindle a little.

IMG_2749I don’t know how to properly extol the simple perfection of Tenoch’s Mexican tortas.  It was love at first bite for both Z and I many months ago, when we first happened upon this Mexican oasis, parked across from South Station.  We have since tracked down the brick-and-mortar location in the North End, thanks to a good Mommy friend and fellow Tenoch-enthusiast, so we can now get our torta fix any time.  Nonetheless, there is something to be said for the camaraderie that a hungry patron experiences at the trucks, rather than simply visiting the storefront.  One feels undeniably cooler, hipper, more “I’m-a-fun-Mom-er” when you’re getting food for your toddler from a truck.

Z’s menu item of choice today is the roasted vegetable torta, served on telera bread with a schmear (apologies for not knowing the exact Spanish translation of ‘schmear’) of an amazing, slightly spicy sauce,  topped with avocado and mozzarella-esque Oaxaca cheese.  We stow the sandwich under Z’s stroller for the ride home, knowing full-well that the ten minute walk home will allow the vegetable juices and sauce to seep into the bread, augmenting the already humbly flawless sandwich.

You may be wondering why we didn’t park ourselves on the lawn and make a picnic of our lemonade and torta.   We often do prefer enjoy our food truck-loot ASAP and al fresco, but on this particular day…after a full morning spent gawking at harbor seals and battling the crowds surrounding the stingray touch tank at the aquarium, I have a firm…possibly selfish…plan in place to benefit from the unavoidable food coma-induced nap that would surely follow lunch.  This is best achieved by minimizing the lunch-to-bed distance….which in this case, is our apartment.

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You see, it all follows a very simple scientific formula.

As Z snoozes on, I tally the veggies she has just ingested and happily sip on the last, forgotten remnants of peach lemonade.

Thank you, food trucks, for making all our lives better.

I know, it’s an equally dramatic conclusion.

Autumn in August

We do love a good scone in our home.  Something in that perfect balance of not-too-sweet and delicious, buttery buttersomeness holds the perfect formula for the perfect snack…or breakfast…or dessert.

They are ideal for experimenting with additions and even tend to be well-behaved when a “I’ve got all this flax meal, now what?” moment strikes.  Want to toss in a vegetable?  Pumpkin is amazing, sweet potato works.  Zucchini probably would, too.

Today, Z and I are going to pretend this dreary, stormy 70° August day is actually a perfectly crisp late-October day.

New England’s foliage season is at its peak.  Z and I stroll lazily down tree-lined Commonwealth Avenue, me sipping a pumpkin spice latte, Z sipping her spiced apple cider.  We discuss Halloween costumes and feel fashionably cozy and obviously adorable in our chunky sweaters, as we aim our boots’ meanderings towards the crunchiest leaves.  Between sips, we laugh about how summer was never really our favorite Boston season…our hearts were always loyal to the fall.

I ask Z what she wants to be for Halloween and she says, “Oh, my beautiful, charming Mama, I would love to be anything except for Queen Elsa or Princess Anna…”

Ok, there’s the proof that this idyllic autumn vignette is really nothing more than a Mommy-concocted fantasy sequence.

It’s August.  It’s raining.  We still need us some pumpkin.  Z reminds me that we need us some chocolate chips, too.

So, scones it shall inevitably be.

They couldn’t be more perfect for sharing a baking experience together.  On a rain-drenched afternoon like this, it’s a valid excuse to have a little (somewhat) controlled messy chaos, so one can walk around for the rest of the day feeling like a “cool” mom who lets their child muck about* with flour for a true sensory extravaganza.

*author’s note: Since we’re talking scones, I’m giving myself the poetic license to indulge in Britishisms with a clear conscience.

Think of it this way: how many of those sensory activities actually result in something edible and utterly delicious, rather than an afternoon spent picking raw rice grains and specks of glitter out of the rug?  Yes, I’ve been there, and unfortunately, done that.  I’ll gladly take a damp dish towel to my daughter’s hands and change her out of flour-decked clothes if we get to share the experience of baking together.  It brings out the mad scientist in both of us.

Aside from brainstorming flavors, we can even get creative with design.  Should we go for wedges or circles?  Try some cookie cutters?  Picasso-style freeform globs of goodness?  All options yield satisfaction and fun.

Today, we chose wedges and talked about fractions as we divided the dough like a pizza.

 Z did the honors of “painting” on the maple syrup for a glaze.

Kudos to you, Mama.  It’s dessert, math, art and superfood all in one crumbly package.

That pretty much makes you Supermama.

Pumpkin Spice Scones:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold, unsalted butter, cut in cubes
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup pure pumpkin purée
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup, for glazing
  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, flax, sugar, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin, vanilla and egg until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Use a pastry cutter or your toddler’s hands to cut the butter into the dry ingredients.  You want to stop when the butter is about the size of peas.

    please disregard the Spongebob band-aid.
  4. Add in chocolate chips or whatever else you would like.  Good ideas:  oats, walnuts, cinnamon chips.
  5.  Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and gently knead until it all sticks together.
  6. Turn dough out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Dust hands with flour to gently press dough out into a 1-inch thick circle.
  7. Use a bench-scraper or pizza cutter to divide dough into eight wedges.  Slide an offset spatula under each wedge to very slightly separate them.
  8. Brush tops with maple syrup. 
  9. Place in freezer for 15-20 minutes while the oven preheats to 425°F.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes.  You want the edges to be fully baked-through and no longer doughy.

Best eaten immediately, but you can store the rest airtight or even freeze.   Just make sure to microwave slightly before enjoying them.

It is, of course mandatory to cuddle with your toddler while eating scones, preferably while watching Peppa Pig.  It is also mandatory to feel zero guilt about indulging in a little screen-time.  You did just engage in some very wholesome hands-on activities with your kiddo…and what else are rainy August days for?

Here’s what happens when I wear yoga pants to Whole Foods…

This is a shopper’s lament, of sorts.

I am going to go ahead and divulge a little tidbit about myself in the hopes that, if I am not alone in my confession, I might encourage others to be more secure in their grocery-shopper identity.  I know it can get confusing at times. 

Exhibit A
  
Exhibit B
 

Being a city-dweller, the place you get your groceries from defines a lot about who you are.  It requires serious planning and commitment to complete a good grocery haul in a downtown location.  

More importantly, you throw mommyhood into the mix and things get even more complex.  Aside from the mere logistics of stroller- maneuverability, sometimes one feels as though walking through the sliding doors of a particular store is akin to getting onto your personal soapbox to proclaim your family’s nutritional values.   Are you on a budget?  Gluten free?  All organic?  Non-GMO?  Vegan?  Have allergies?  

Let’s talk Whole Foods. You should know that this extremely expensive grocery chain is most definitely not on our usual weekly rotation of stock-up spots, unlike the truly Heaven-sent Market Basket and Costco. We do throw in a stint here and there at Trader Joe’s for good measure, but only when we are willing to face the masses and I am feeling particularly focused and insusceptible to serious forms of gastronomic distraction.

It’s complicated, I know.  Here’s the Boston breakdown:

Market Basket?  Most probably a student or professor and definitely a New Englander by origin.  You have a budget and a mode of transportation (most likely an old CR-V) to aid you in your weekly pilgrimage to the suburbs. You maintain sanity by constantly reminding yourself that the drive is worth it.  It is 100% mandatory to stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for a pre-shopping caffeine fuel-up on the way. This my family’s zone.  

Trader Joe’s?  You are most likely some kind of good-natured glutton for punishment who doesn’t mind waiting in line for ten minutes to take your turn at the freezer section.  Or forty-five minutes to check out.  

You have a budget but some leeway to veer off-course, because, who in history has ever left Trader Joe’s with just what is on their shopping list?  You know the easily-distracted dog from the movie “Up”?  That’s me in Trader Joe’s.  Replace “squirrel!” with “Speculoos Cookie Butter!” or “Dried Kimchi!”…you get the idea.  I can very keenly recall having broken down into a fit of tears in  a Trader Joe’s aisle in my third trimester of pregnancy, overwhelmed by the sheer selection of things I needed to eat immediately.

Of course, this is Z’s favorite place to shop, as she always leaves with a yummy sample of some sort and a roll of about 457 stickers that the benevolent cashier has bestowed upon her.  I also think she gets a kick out of seeing me in such a frenzy of creative snack hyperstimulation.  I’m pretty sure that’s  a real medical condition.

Now we arrive at the Whole Foods shopper.  You most likely do not have a grocery budget, and, if you do….it’s likely more than I can fathom.  You take a taxi or Uber your groceries back home.  You are an accomplished yogi and probably buy fresh flowers for your home on a weekly basis, too.  Your food is probably paleo (whatever that is), definitely organic. 

Let me be very clear, I do not begrudge any kind of shopper.  My loved ones frequent all of the above options, and I truly see value in what every different store has to offer.

Some options just aren’t viable for what I understand to be the vast majority of consumers.  That is why it’s a rare occasion for me to shop at Whole Foods.  Such excursions almost exclusively happen when a loving family member…who is gravely concerned about by my family’s low level of chia and sea kelp-intake…sends me a very generous gift card.  Oddly, upon opening the card, the first thought that runs through my mind every time is: “what am I going to wear?!”

Feel free to be baffled, but I’m so far from kidding…and I have a distinct feeling that I’m not the only one.  The thought of walking into Whole Foods in whatever sticker-encrusted, coffee-stained t-shirt and jeans I am wearing when said gift card arrives makes me shudder.   So, before venturing out, I will actually change into yoga clothes. Of course, I have no intention whatsoever of actually going within a 100-foot radius of a yoga studio.  That doesn’t matter, though.  What matters is that I darn-well look like I am on my way to or from a Bikram’s sesh and just happened to pop into Whole Foods on my way home.  Of course. 

Call me a poseur, it’s OK.  I can own it.

Lucky Z, she’s so adorable she can get away with her  sticker-encrusted t-shirt.  I will probably put a bow in her her hair for the occasion, though.

As if that’s not enough, I then feel I must shop according to the above-described garments.  You can’t put any old carton of yogurt on that conveyer belt.  What on Earth will the cashier think if they see that I feed my child the regular stuff…not the kind with the organic, grass fed, Guernsey cow variety of dairy wholesomeness? Which was imported via eagle-back? From New Zealand?

Oh the humiliation.  The judgment.  I cringe to think of it.  So, inevitably I fall prey to the hype and leave with things I would never normally consider staples in my home.

I’m all for health, but I really don’t know what to do with all that flaxseed meal when I get home.  My husband sports a bemused look every time I come back from such an expedition and says the same thing every time: “You look nice.  How much did we spend?”  I am always vague in my response.

I usually just say “Namaste, Darling.”

Friday Night a.k.a. Sushi Night

Everyone has their own ritual for heralding in the weekend, do they not? For some homebodies, it might be settling in for a night with Netflix.  For the scene-sters, dressing up for a night out on the town.

For some particularly motivated individuals (like my husband…most emphatically not me), it might mean heading to the gym to start the weekend off with a good boost of endorphins.  Once the remnants of this grueling workout have been washed off, though, Friday night means Sushi Night in the world of my little family.

Once upon a time, before the likes of “Top Chef”, “Hell’s Kitchen” and Bobby Flay opened up the world of gastronomy for even the most tentative of eaters, sushi seemed the epitome of adventurous eating.  I can still remember sniffing speculatively at my first California roll when I was nine or ten years old.   Seaweed?! Ewwwww!!!!!

Nowadays, though, thanks to the rise in popularity of all things food-related, sushi seems to have become just as mainstream and approachable as Tex-Mex.  Of course, when I say sushi, I am not referring to kaiseki or other such form of Japanese haute-cuisine, but rather to the maki rolls that we have lovingly adopted and devoured as part of the average American’s sushi experience.

You know what I mean, pretty much any sushi named after a state or some kind of adjective, i.e.,  California Roll, Philly roll, spicy tuna roll, the infamous ‘crazy’ roll.  We can all agree that whether authentic or not, these tasty creations have earned a place in our hearts and tummies.

Since my husband and I so often crave for it, we knew that Z would have to become accustomed to the sushi bar experience as soon as possible. Before Z turned one, we were dead set on resuming our sushi-night ritual.  But how best to tackle this seemingly daunting task?  I envisioned the floor of our quiet, neighborhood sushi bar littered with rejected shreds of seaweed and rice grains. Chopsticks impaling bits of spit-out crabstick and, quite possibly, the innocent customers seated next to us.

It was my husband who, as always, was the voice of reason that broke me out of my messy imaginings.  The gameplan he proposed?  If we’re chill, she’ll be chill.  Maybe he didn’t use the word “chill”, but something to that effect.  In any case, I decided to go with it because I really, really needed a spicy salmon roll.

We made the two block walk to Irashai with as much faux confident swagger as one could possibly manage while wearing an Ergobaby.  Apparently, said swagger worked.  Z was content to be perched in a highchair, looking out the huge window over the busy street.  After perusing the menu, my husband and I mutually agreed on the same lead-in.

It was to be the steamed shrimp shumai.  While presumably not as “safe” as a bowl of steamed white rice,  it was about as unthreatening an option as one can find, while still aiding our mission in showing our little culinary explorer that this “kind of food is yummy”.  Let’s think about this from the discerning perspective of a baby: fairly neutral color, with no threatening “odd bits” visible.  Baby scholars (I mean scholars in the field of babydom, not very tiny scholars) say that it may take up to ten tries for a baby or toddler to develop a taste for a new food.  Not the case with this shumai.  Z was hooked from bite number one.  I cannot tell you the relief we both felt as we set to work splitting open the steaming dumplings, so we could cool them down fast enough for her hungry little hands to grab them.

Fast forward almost three years later and here is what Z’s sushi night “usual” looks like:IMG_2565

Notice the addition of seaweed salad (!) and miso soup.  The shumai is a mainstay.  Occasionally, we’ll order an avocado cucumber roll for her too, if she’s particularly ravenous.

Are you scratching your head over the seaweed salad?  To be honest, my husband and I still are too.  I’m not sure entirely how we pulled that one off, but if my husband gets credit for the “be chill” mantra, I will gladly take credit for the marketing genius (if I do say so myself) of coining the term “mermaid food.”  The word ‘seaweed’ was not mentioned until after she had eagerly tried her first mouthful of mythical creature manna and determined it to be delicious and crunchy.

FYI weary parents of broccoli-rejectors: The marketing tip works here, too.  Try presenting said green offender instead as “tiny trees” and making a big fuss over how funny it is to be a like a giant eating trees.  It worked for us.

It wasn’t long before we noticed Z eyeing our miso soup as we enthusiastically slurped away.  This, proving to be another major benefit of forgoing the almost-always proffered kids menu. It instantly creates this division of “food you won’t like” vs. “food we, adults like”.  It’s sort of akin to telling a child they aren’t going to like school before they even step foot on the school bus for the first time.  Z’s curiosity regarding the soup arose as she saw how much my husband and I were enjoying it.  It makes sense, then, ordering food for your child from the regular menu.  There is something to be said for the exploiting the common toddler desire to be more like a big girl/boy.  It is a “big girl” thing to eat the same things Mommy and Daddy are eating!

As for my chopstick-impalement fears, those proved to be totally unwarranted.  Z’s attitude towards chopsticks was that she immediately wanted to use them like we used them.  It was admittedly nearly impossible to teach her how to use them as it was not our utensil-of-choice in our own home.  IMG_2560However, when we spotted these adorable trainer chopsticks in a museum gift shop, we knew they were destined to have a place in our home and be a permanent accompaniment on our sushi-night outings.  I am not even going to get started about all the fine motor skills she’s working on when she uses them, but the waitstaff at our sushi bar get a kick out of it, which gives Z a sense of pride and big-girl-ness.  In the words of the wise snowman, Olaf,  “…all good things, all good things.”

Those Baby Scholars say it’s safest to avoid raw fish until about five years of age, so we are keeping that off-limits for the time being.  However, I hope a couple of years from now, when Z boards that school bus on a Friday afternoon after a long, grueling, stressful day of kindergarten and playground hijinx, she will be looking forward to chowing down on some nigiri with her folks.  TGIF, right?

IMG_2563

Miso Italiano

Oh, Italian food.  The one standby that never lets a distressed Mama down when the hordes (i.e., adorable child and charming husband) come clamoring for nourishment.

 As long as there is a box of pasta and olive oil in the pantry and some Parmesan in the fridge, there will always be toddler-approved, truly delizioso food on the table.  Cacio e Pepe, pomodoro, aglio e olio…all so fun to say and so fun to eat…for a while…

Don’t get me wrong, the Italian classics are truly scrumptious. That being said, at the end of the month when the grocery budget has been depleted and the always-affordable pasta option seems to be the only option, one can only rely on the old reliables for so long before realizing you’ve hit a bit of a pasta rut. 

This is usually when it’s time to consult the great and powerful Pinterest.  Have pasta; need pinspiration. 

I scroll and scroll, desperately searching for something I can do to stretch our pasta tolerance just a biiiiit further.  

The usual suspects are all there: Primavera, carbonara, marinara, pesto, miso, alfredo….

My mental record player needle screeches to a halt.

Miso?  Huh. This requires further investigation.  

It’s a Martha Stewart recipe.  One hopes that means it can’t be entirely vile.  A quick perusal of the ingredients list and preparation instructions confirms that I may very well have found the culinary equivalent of the unicorn.  Only six ingredients (three of which are pasta, butter and black pepper)?! Only one step in the instructions?!  

Mental record player “screech” now replaced with mental Las Vegas slot machine “jackpot” bells.  

And angels singing. 

Relief washes over me when I realize that I have the remaining three ingredients at hand.  Basil is a constant in my fridge during he summer months, and the shallots and miso are always there because I have a serious thing for that ginger-miso dressing that you get on house salads in Japanese restaurants. Consequently, I always make sure to have ingredients for it at my disposal. 

I pause a moment to ponder how serious Martha is when she writes “preferably awase” miso.  Then realize having the non-Stewart approved variety of miso (I only had shiro) was not going to keep me from attempting this recipe.  

In a last-minute stroke of creative confidence, I decided to add in a handful or so of sweet peas as I vaguely recalled a show on PBS where David Chang (of the Momofuku fame) made a dish with miso and peas.  

Worst case, I figured it would add some more nutrition.  In the best case scenario, the sweetness of the peas would provide the perfect balance to the saltiness of the miso.  

Who knows how this would have turned out if I had followed Martha,  making it pea-less and with the recommended awase miso?  Delicious, I’m sure.  

However, I can confidently say the shiro miso did more than just fine as a substitute and the peas added a perfect pop of sweetness.  as a result, this pasta dish was actually insane…and I mean that in the totally positive, hipster kind of way.  

So. Insanely. Delicious.  

My husband and I practically shoveled it in and Z cleaned her bowl, although, she went for the two-handed technique, fork in one hand and fingers with the other.  

I got to tell her that the reason it was so yummy was because of the special “miso”.  I strategically chose not to further define the secret ingredient as “fermented soybean”, but did make sure to remind her that in the future of someone asks if she eats miso, she can now say “yes.”  

What better way to present something so new and so…fermented…than by serving it over the familiar and trustworthy vehicle of pasta?  Notice a pattern here? 

Not to mention I got to teach Z a word that might be even more fun to say than “aglio e olio”.  Umami.

Buon appetito and domo arigato, Martha Stewart and David Chang.

Note:  Miso can be easily found in the Asian section of any grocery store these days.  Make sure you are getting Miso paste and not the powdered stuff.  There are three varieties you may see and range in strength of flavor with shiro being mildest, aka being the strongest and darkest, and awase being somewhere in the middle.  The recipe will work with any of these, but you may want to pull back a Tablespoon or add one depending on the strength of your miso.  

  
Miso-Butter Pasta:

  • 12 oz. dried pasta (I used whole wheat linguine)
  • 1 cup sliced shallots
  • 3/4 cup sweet peas, thawed, if frozen
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon miso (I used shiro)
  • 1/4 cup torn basil
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  1. Cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions for al dente, making sure to reserve a ladle of pasta water before draining. 
  2. While pasta cooks, heat butter in a pan over medium heat and add shallots to sauté.  When transparent, add miso and pasta water, stirring to make a creamy sauce.  Add in black pepper, peas and drained pasta.  Toss  to combine and top with basil.  

  

    Ravioli, Afghan-style

    Before we dive straight into the adventures of aushak preparation, I feel compelled to address something.

    Let’s start off with a bit of a tangent, and discuss the whole idea of “ethnic food” for a second.

    I don’t know why exactly, but the term really bothers me.  Having grown up in what I am pretty sure is the epicenter of homogeneity (yeah, Martha Stewart was my town’s claim-to-fame), “ethnic food” was a catch-all for anything that wasn’t considered American food…or, interestingly, Western European food. You may be as puzzled as I am when I try to come up with a definition of American food, but I always assumed mac n’ cheese, cheeseburgers, cornbread…corn anything, really, etc., fell into this category.  The one thing these all had in common was lack of spices aside from the ubiquitous salt, black pepper and maybe a dash of worcestershire.  Dinners at restaurants with names like “Tai-Pan” or “Bombay Club” were considered the places people frequented for a taste of  the different and the usually spicy…hence, ethnic.

    Now, let us consider the Google definition of “ethnic”, because like it or not, when someone wants to define a word these days, a Google search has replaced the trusty Oxford volume.   This is the result of my query:

    “adjective

    1. of or relating to a population subgroup (within a larger or dominant national or cultural group) with a common national or cultural tradition.”

    Isn’t that just a round-about  way of saying “minority”?  Whether or not this is, indeed, the most accurate classical definition of the word “ethnic” is up for argument.  However, in this day and age we can trust that google is the most accurate representation for what our collective minds are searching for.

    That being said, I just don’t dig the term “ethnic food”.

    This is especially true when I consider its use in talking about food with my daughter.  If I am attempting to expose her to all varieties of tastes in order to allow her to develop her own palate, it won’t help my cause to start qualifying something as “different from what we usually eat”.  That just seems like shooting yourself in the foot from the get-go when tackling a new experience with a toddler.

    Not to mention the fact that “American” is also its own rapidly and beautifully evolving ethnicity.  My darling Z is a reflection of this and, as such, I don’t think I would ever appreciate her being categorized as “half-ethnic”.  Yuck.

    So food is just food in our family.  Some is spicy, some isn’t.  Some is crunchy and some might be gooey.  Some might come from a country called Japan or Ethiopia.  Some might be an Afghani verion of ravioli….or is ravioli an Italian version of aushak?

    This recipe is a variation of one I found on Pinterest from Food52 and the original can be found here.  As soon as I found the recipe, I knew we had to try it.  Surprisingly, most of the ingredients were ones I already had at home. As for those I lacked, I am always averse to a last-minute trip to the grocery store, so I see no harm in a few, innocent swaps.  My family demolished it exactly as I made it, although, Z did ask for extra yogurt on top to cut the spiciness.  You can adjust the amount of chili flake to suit your family’s taste.  

    This dish was truly delicious.  It is tangy, meaty, spicy, hot and cool all at the same time. 

    Aushak: serves 4

    Meat Sauce:

    • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 lb. ground meat (I used beef because that’s what I had, lamb would be more traditional)
    • 1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander powder
    • pinch of red pepper flakes
    • pinch of ground nutmeg
    • kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

    Dumplings:

    • 1 package wonton wrappers
    • 2 bunches scallions (approximately 1 lb.)
    • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
    • pinch of red pepper flakes
    • small pinch salt and pepper
    • cider vinegar

    Yogurt Sauce:

    • 1 cup plain yogurt
    • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
    • 1 Tablespoon dried mint
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • salt and pepper to taste
    1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add onions to saute until they just start to turn golden brown. Add garlic and cook one more minute.
    2. Add ground meat, breaking it up with a spoon to make crumbles.  Add in diced tomato and all of the meat-sauce spices.  Allow to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally for 25 minutes.
    3. While sauce cooks, trim the roots off of scallions and very finely chop in a food processer.
    4. Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium low heat and add in chili flakes, chopped scallion, salt and pepper.  Saute 10 minutes, until scallions have softened.
    5. Set a large pot of salted water to come to a low boil.  Add in a splash of cider vinegar once you have reached a gentle boil.
    6. While water boils, begin dumpling assembly.  Set a wonton wrapper on a plate and fill with 1 teaspoon of scallion mixture.  Dip your finger in water to dampen the edges of the wonton.  Fold in half to make a triangle, making sure to press the seam together to seal the dumpling.  Dampen the tips of the two longer points of the triangle and press together.        
    7. When water is ready, add dumplings into the water and cook according to wonton package instructions, anywhere from 2-4 minutes.
    8.  Combine all the yogurt sauce ingredients in a separate bowl.
    9. Serve by plating dumplings first and then pouring a few spoons of yogurt sauce on top.  Finish with a layer of meat sauce over the dumplings and yogurt.

      

        More from Mint-Fest…

        Remember waaaaay back, two posts ago…all that mint?  Let’s revisit.

        As I portion out some mint for what would soon become delicious, nutritious, mint-icious tabbouleh that my toddler thoroughly devoured, I am simultaneously running through my mental Pinterest inventory for what to do with the rest of the bounty.  There’s still quite a lot left, you see, and one can only drink so much mint-spiked lemonade.  Such a dilemma.

        Then, as I often do when faced with any kind of culinary query, I say, “What would Groodle do?” What is a Groodle, you ask?

        “Groodle” is my Grandma and she is pretty much beyond amazing.  She has a myriad of skills, among which my favorites are obviously kitchen-based.  As a retired home economics teacher, I grew up knowing that as far as food was concerned, her word was as good as gold.  In fact, I am pretty certain that it is was Groodle who initially provoked my obsession with food in me.  Her subtle method?  Use all the senses.  It got me hooked from the very beginning.

        I remember standing on a chair at the counter while she baked, and her asking me to smell the vanilla extract as I sloshed it sort of near the mixing bowl  it was destined for.  On sunny days, sitting on the path in front of our home while Groodle tended the lavender ad rosemary she had planted.  I loved the feel of the velvety leaves of sage and the smell they left on my hands.  When a breeze came we would get caught up in a swirl of heavenly herbal scent. Only later would I learn to link that scent to the Herbes de Provence jar in our cabinet. It took me years after that to realize the secret that made Groodle’s chicken soup THE chicken soup…it was dill.  These are the smells and memories that made me love food.  If it worked on me, it could work on Z, too.

        Granted, I have nothing even close to resembling a beautiful herb garden.  I’ve tried the whole urban gardening thing…and that was an embarrassment.  Is a black thumb the antithesis of a green thumb?  If so, that’s what I have.  I did not inherit Groodle’s ability to make plants grow.  Thankfully, though, even us botanically-challenged ones can buy a pack of perfectly decent herbs at any grocery store.  I agree that some of the romance of it all is lost, but it’s still enough to spark Z’s interest.

        Trying to recreate the suburban experience with a very urban twist just called for some creativity and a few strategic switcheroos.  The key was to involve all the senses, just as Groodle had unconsciously done, so I decided to take a page from the trusty Montessori handbook…provide an invitation to explore.

        I laid all the washed and thoroughly dried mint sprigs on the table and gave Z a parchment-lined baking sheet.  I explained that this was mint and we were going to do a science experiment with it and turn the leaves into minty powder.  Apparently, the phrasing worked, because she was totally in.  She eagerly watched how I demonstrated separating the leaves from the stems. The leaves went on to the baking sheet, the stems went into the trash.  As she worked, I noticed her smelling her hands and the leaves and stems.  I asked if she would like to taste one and she put a whole leaf into her mouth and announced it tasted like ice cream.  After telling her that this is, indeed, where mint ice cream comes from, she carried on with her task, enraptured at the responsibility she was given and excited to see where her work would lead.

        imageBy the time the oven was preheated to 170°F (the lowest setting my oven would allow) Z had completed her project.  I asked her to take one last glance at what the mint looked like before it slid into the oven, then told her we would keep checking on it to see if it changed.  When we peeked in about ten minutes later it was clear that the vibrant green color would sadly be lost in the process. However, it was a small sacrifice for the incredible aroma emanating from the oven.  I poked my hand in to stir the leaves around a bit after another ten minutes, and then a few more times over another hour.  At this point, the leaves made a rustling sound and had drastically shrunk in size, proof of their moisture loss.  This of course became a mini science lesson for Z, with me trying to explain how heat makes water dry up.  That’s about as science-y as I get, so I was pretty proud of myself.image

        I slid the leaves into a big bowl and invited Z to crunch them up with her hands.  This was heaven for her.  She had a blast crunching and grinding it all into a deliciously scented mint dust.  After we were both confident that the leaves were “all smashed up”, the magic powder was transferred to an old, empty spice jar.  Upon my declaring that the experiment was now over, Z asked “how do we cook it?”.

        Mission accomplished.  Toddler entranced.  Dinner on the way.

        image

        *Two large bunches of fresh mint will end up yielding about 1/4 cup of dried mint powder.