Foodie Friday: Cookies, cookies, cookies

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Categories Feeding, Foodie Fridays, Mommy IssuesTags 5 Comments

 As always, if you have a topic you’d like to see discussed in Foodie Friday or a great food suggestion to share with us, post in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you. Otherwise, you’re stuck reading about my food thoughts, and this week, it’s cookies.

Halloween has passed and it’s November, which in my book means it’s almost time for that Thanksgiving/Hannukah/Christmas/New Year’s holiday season. Of course, if you ask Home Depot, the holiday season started three weeks ago when they started carrying Christmas trees, but that’s a bit ridiculously early. Nope, for me, the holiday season starts post Halloween.

Christmas last year
Christmas last year

Now, my kids are only 18 months old, so they do not realize what the next few months have in store for them. They don’t remember last year, their Christmas outfits, the colds we all had for Thanksgiving, their first plane ride—although I do. Already this year, family members are asking me what they want for Christmas and our plane tickets to Maryland were bought weeks ago. Family is descending on us for Thanksgiving and we are descending on them for Christmas. This past weekend, after a nightmare week of a sick toddler on a food strike, we celebrating the end of the strike (she was done in by a pound of grapes at Market Basket), we made a pre-Thanksgiving dinner, my favorite turkey recipe

Mouse cookies
Mouse cookies

, with stuffing from a box (really, not classy, I know, but  by far our favorite kind) with extra craisins, mashed sweet potatoes and apple cider gravy.

But I digress. I started this post talking about cookies. Somehow I got signed up for this MyRecipes Cookie countdown daily email. I’m sure in some “hey, I like cookies” moment I signed up for this, since it seems like the kind of thing I’d do, but for now, evey day, I get an email with a new, delicious looking cookie recipe. Today it was gingerbread cookies (um, yum), earlier in the week it was lemon-coconut snowballs (double yum) and the other day it was death by carmel bars (goodness). These emails pretty much guarantee that I will be thinking about nothing other than how much I want cookies. Hmm, cookies. One of my favorite parts of the holidays. We usually do a cookie-making party sometime in early November and do our favorites—butterballs (do they have a better name than that? They must.), sugar cookies, molasses cookies. At home, we always used to do date bars as they were my dad’s favorite. I think he had some deluded sense that they were healthy since they had fruit in them. They’re not. 

What are your favorite cookie recipes? Post them here! I expect my cookie craving to be out of control by this weekend (who knows what cookie delights will be emailed to me by then!?) and I’m going cookie baking! There’s nothing my kids like more than “helping” cook, so it can be a family project.

  

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Foodie Friday: Happy Halloween!

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I had a couple of ideas for longer food-related post ideas for today, but then I realized that 1) It’s Halloween and

Tigers for Halloween last year
Tigers for Halloween last year

2) I am completely exhausted from our craptacular week this week (someone recently questioned whether this was a real word—believe me! He would not have done this had he lived my week this week). I will summarize by saying that at my house there is a sad little 18 month old girl with an infected split lip that hurts too much for her to eat. And Miss Abigail is really very fond of her food. It makes for sad, crabby times.

And wizards this year
And wizards this year

Anyway, I wanted to invite those of you who are creative in the kitchen to share your fun Halloween recipes with the rest of us. Do you make spiderweb cookies or tombstone cookies? Or pumpkin cupcakes? Or are you looking for a use or two for those leftover candy corn? 

To those little trick or  treaters out there—have fun tonight! I think we’re skipping the festivities tonight and having a early bedtime for tired little ones and a glass of wine, or two, for tired big ones.

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Foodie Friday: Holidays and food allergies

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Food is such an integral part of our lives…..and around the holidays, it seems to take on an even greater importance. Holiday traditions often revolve around food–Christmas cookies, the Yule log (our Christmas Eve dessert), latkes on Hannukah, turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving, pies, sweets, cranberry sauce….the list goes on and on. And if one of your children has a food allergy, well, then these fun holiday traditions are full of potential issues, tantrums or epipen moments.

My babies get wheat for the first time. Yum, gluten.
My babies get wheat for the first time. Yum, gluten.

We have been lucky, so far, to have kids who are allergy free except for an issue with amoxicillian. However, we have close family members with Celiac’s and a constellation of other allegies, including eggs, nuts, peanuts, peas and chickpeas. Seriously, who knew people were allergic to chickpeas? But I digress. Now, our Thanksgiving dinners have gluten (wheat) free stuffing (not as good, but the sausage is a nice touch). We can’t add chestnuts either due to the nut issue. And pies are out for the Celiac. I once ate a gluten free, egg free, nut free, dairy free cake at a toddler’s birthday. It wasn’t the tastiest cake I’ve ever had (ok, not even on the top ten) but it had a pile of frosting and candles and the birthday boy in question didn’t seem to notice a difference. Meatloaf gets made with rice as a binder, instead of egg & breadcrumbs (not bad at all). And, did you know you can buy dairy free, egg free cookie mixes? Or dairy free margarine?

I’ve learned a lot about allergies in the past six years or so. For those of you dealing with food allergies, what are your tricks to getting through the holidays? What recipe can you not live without? What food substitution works well for you? How do you make tasty holidays meals for everyone in your family?

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Foodie Friday: Food traditions

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Exploring the barns--and how fast she can run
Exploring the barns--and how fast she can run

 

Earlier this week, my mom and I took the kids (aged 18 months) to a local farm run by the Audubon society. It is a great place for little kids—there are all sorts of farm animals, such as cows, pigs, goats and sheep, as well as gardens and pick your own veggies and such. Danny’s favorite animal? The barn cat. Yep. We HAVE two cats. We could have just stayed home. They also loved the frames in the garden that held freshly dug dirt. They came supplied with trowels perfect for little people. Oh, did my kids like to dig! We left with two very dirty little munchkins. But, we had a blast. And even better, we had two adults, so while we were tired after spending and hour or two chasing my guys, we were not exhausted or snippy (always a potential hazard of an overly ambitious outing).

Are you perhaps thinking that this lovely story has nothing to do with food? Well…..on our way home, we stopped at our favorite ice cream place, which just happens to be 5 minutes down the road. (And, consider that my mom lives five states away and this is STILL her favorite ice cream place. We take our soft serve very seriously). We got cones for ourselves, and kiddie sized orange creamsicle cones for the kids. We all had a blast. The kids ate all of theirs and then begged for mine. I didn’t share. Seriously, were they not listening when we said it was our favorite ice cream place? And at least 30 minutes from where we live? We don’t get there very often!

Danny takes ice cream cones very seriously
Danny takes ice cream cones very seriously

This is the second time we have gone farm-ing, then ice cream-ing. It got me thinking about families and traditions involving food. We do ice cream after the farm, and Christmas cookies at Christmas, sandwiches from our favorite place in our old neighborhood on stressful days (including lunch on our way home from the hospital after having the kids), huge Christmas dinners, favorites meals…..the list goes on and on. For the most part, they aren’t conscious traditions, but we would never consider going to the farm with the kids and not stopping for ice cream. Why? Why would we do that? It makes me think that maybe we should be a bit more thoughtful about our traditions. What food traditions do we want to have with the kids? What traditions do we want to skip?

Hmm, orange creamsicle.....
Hmm, orange creamsicle.....

I’m curious about your family—-what are your favorite food related traditions? Which ones do you wish you hadn’t started? Which ones do you love?

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Foodie Friday: Desserts? Kids? What to do?

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Goldfish with friends--does life get any better?
Goldfish with friends--does life get any better?

I have gotten several requests to talk about how to introduce sweets to kids in a way that helps them develop a positive relationship with sweets and avoids the issue of a sweet tooth. Hmmm. I would LOVE to know how to do this?! Oh, I’m the one who’s supposed to write about it? This could be an issue…

Before I talk at all about my kids, I have to disclose the way I was brought up. My mom was a nutty health nut in the 70’s (sorry, Mom). We didn’t have chocolate chip cookies, we used carob chips. There was no soda in my house—I remember trying coke for the first time at age six. We ate Tofutti at home instead of ice cream, or made our own Italian ice out of juice. Several items that were on her NEVER, EVER list include: Oreos, Poptarts, Fruit Loops. To this day, I have never seen her buy any of these things. Poptarts are delicious, however. And yet, when company came over, we did have dessert. (Sometims it was low fat cheesecake, but still….). On Saturday mornings, on the way to the beach, we used to stop at McDonald’s for breakfast. We’d go out for ice crream. We’d bake Christmas cookies at Christmas time, including the Polish deep fried with powdered sugar cookies that were a staple in my Dad’s house when he was growing up. (The mess that made of our kitchen….OMG. I thought my mother was literally going to turn purple when she came home and found us). We never got donuts, but to my mom’s credit, she never got mad when we ate these treats at other people’s house. My best friend often got donuts (and cartoons! Cartoons! We were a tv-free house too) on Saturday mornings. Boy, were those good mornings to spend at her house. But, anyway, the end result for my mom was…..two fairly healthy kids. Although we do not eat carob on a regular basis (does it even really taste like chocolate? I don’t think so), we do have wheat germ in our fridge. Neither my brother nor I are sweet nuts. We sometimes eat those foods, but not often. We eat meat sometimes (although my mother does not) but not often. We aim for a fairly healthy, although not nutty-healthy diet. We don’t have major food issues, thank goodness.

So, this is where I come from. Where you come from colors what you think it best. And, just because my mom did this and it turned out ok doesn’t mean it always will. Or never will. It’s just how I was raised. And, mostly, how I will raise my kids. Although we eat both meat and chocolate in my house, we don’t have a lot of sweets. Sometimes we will make treats for special occasions, and the kids certainly had cupcakes on their birthday, but it’s not a daily thing. We try to have lots of veggies and fruits available, and as of now, my 18 month olds’ favorite foods are blueberries, strawberries and cheese. Hard to go wrong with that! A muchkin from the nice lady at Dunkin’ Donuts who snuck us a few? Sure. I’m not going to say no. (And, in fact, I helped myself to two of the glazed chocolate ones). Cake at a birthday party? Of course. Poptarts for breakfast?! You better believe that’s a no.

I asked the moms of HDYDI and a few themes came through:
1. Moderation.
2. Thoughtfulness around these issues.
3. Not making treats a forbidden food.
4. Not having dessert every night, so that it is expected.

So, these are my rambling thoughts on sweets and little kids. What are other people’s? Things you’ve seen that you’d never do? Things you’ve seen people do that work really well? Shar e with the rest of us….

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Gastronomy 2.0 : Eating with Twins on the Grow

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For that first few weeks — even months — with newborn twins, it felt as though we were forever going to the pediatrician’s office for near-daily weight checks. My second guessing and self-flagellation about my children’s intake began on Day One. Literally, Day One. Check-in nurses would ask, “How much do they take at each feeding?” I had no idea. My breasts might have had a stretchmark or two, but calibrations, they didn’t. Both babies still had their shar-pei unfilled-with-baby-fat loose skin; was I making a bad decision by attempting to breastfeed? What about those recommended first week formula supplements? Were they inferior somehow? The first time I drank juice post-partum, following that nursing both babes screamed for an hour. On more than one occasion I was convinced that my daughter spit up not only her whole “meal,” but the one preceding it as well. In retrospect, all that coupled consumption-focused chaos did serve a purpose. Even with how little I knew and how ill-equipped I felt, my babies survived…and so did I. Word of “learned the hard way” wisdom: If your pediatrician is not alarmed about your twosome’s positions on the infamous percentile “curves,” you should not be either. Now kindergarteners, our he-child is in the 97% for height. Our she-child? Well, at her 6 year appointment she at long last departed the 3% weight curve.

Suppose our experience illustrates pretty effectively, that despite their dual arrival, twins are different children. Identical or fraternal, they’ll grow differently, they’ll eat differently…and trust me, if you don’t mind your P’s and Q’s, you’ll find yourself feeding them differently….or different meals at the very least. As the kids grow, and can — and will — voice their pleasure or lack thereof with a meal presented, try to keep your food-related parental frustration in check. Right along with how and when they sleep, how and when they “output,” what they actually eat is largely in your twins’ control. The good news is, what you offer them, or don’t, is in yours.

Here are some meal-based mantras and mama of multiples discoveries that have made eating with our growing sweeties more palatable:
 

If it ain’t broke…
An affection for a wide variety of vittles is an adult phenomena. Don’t project what you perceive is a menu “rut” onto your twins. If your dual diners are satisfied with a predictable plate that seems to never change — but is fairly balanced nutritionally — learn to love it, not lament it. It will pass.

Make Appetizing via Accessorizing

Oyster forks. Frilly toothpicks. ZooPals plastic flatware. Hinged kiddie chopsticks, or more fun yet, paper-sleeved real ones from a restaurant. If you are apprehensive about introducing a new food item, or if you are seeking to invigorate dining enthusiasm, a little bit of playtime with the process can be very effective. Nurture their nature to your mutual benefit. Serving mini-portions of berries, raisins, nuts, edamame in a variety of Ikea egg cups has worked wonders in our house. Think outside the divided melamine plate; have fun on the high chair trays.

 

  

Pressure Cooker
Admittedly, last Christmas morning, when I opened the present tagged “To: The Family/From: Daddy” and discovered a pressure cooker – a pressure cooker – I was a bit baffled. It’s big. It’s heavy. It doesn’t look like you can wash the lid in the dishwasher (and you can’t). My unspoken question: I know you love us, and try to make things easy for us, but why a pressure cooker? Oh, the wisdom that is twin-daddy. Pasta. Piles and piles of pasta. Cooked expeditiously with a softly moist “whistle” when done. No watching the clock. No setting the oven timer (which happens to be the same timer I use for time-outs, so another surprising added plus). Rotini, spaghetti, macaroni…no matter the shape, no matter the density, perfectly done, everytime. Apparently, you can do veggies in it as well with equally satisfying “non-mush” results. Embarrassingly, I’ve yet to try that yet…the triumph of consistently al dente noodles has yet to lose its novelty.

Parental Example
True Mommy Confessions: this is where I tend to fall short. Yes, I’ve eaten pre-fab frosting from the container and swilled sugar-free RedBull clandestinely in the kitchen while extolling my twins to eat their carrots and bananas. But that said, do make a point to sit down with them not only at mealtimes but at snacks as well, and role-model healthy intake and the manners you’d like them to mimic. Napkins in lap, case in point. Do it with a flourish, and they might just do the same. Don’t bemoan a food item before they’ve even tried it – or even worse, don’t “not offer” a food because you don’t care for it. [Asparagus never passed my lips until I was in college for that very reason. However, I dare not cast too many aspersions; my kids have had a generous portion of some highly unhealthy items that I am overly fond of…it works both ways!]

Ease Access to the Desired Diet
Cookie Monster sings so eloquently (with a musically appropriate undercurrent of the blues), “A cookie is a sometime food.” So conversely, fruits and veggies are for the most part “anytime foods.” By that, for those “I’m hungry” declarations between sanctioned meals and designated snack times, Ho-Ho’s and Twinkies aren’t an option. If they’re genuinely hungry, they will eat the offered options.

Presentation, Presentation, Presentation
Meals in monochrome. Faces constructed from foodstuffs. Structures from saltines (for the rotovirus recuperating). You needn’t make every meal a masterpiece, but occasionally, delight your diners with a little bit of creativity. (It’s fun for you, too!)

 

 

  

 

Suffice it to say, this all looks impressive looking at it written…but let me assure you, our “real-life” implementation occasionally – even often — strays from the ideal. And now, at long last, I think I’m okay with that. As my pediatrician (also a twin mama) has reassured me for nearly seven years now, they will not starve. No they won’t.

At a recent church chili and wings cook-off, our twosome demonstrated how when offered the same assortment of foods, they’ll each invariably eat according to their own developing tastes. Darren had two enormous bowls of chili (of different types) and four wings (each from a different “contestant”). Sarah wanted no chili. She did eat two wings (both the same kind, the only kind available that had breading) and five – count ‘em, five — stalks of celery.

Gotta run…off to pack two lunchboxes (with differing items) and get breakfast for two (same meal, but admittedly, some sugared cereal will be involved) on the table for our twins.

Wishing you all a sweet smorgasbord of dining fun with your twins!
  
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Ringing the Dinner Bell

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So at our house, as I think I’ve only mentioned about a million times, dinner is a bit of a struggle. As the mom, I feel the pressure to provide a “meal plan” each week that covers everyone’s nutritional needs while providing fast prep and maximizing our grocery dollars. Add to that active children with evening activities, hubby and I both working full-time and each of us having other activities as well, and the task of making a family dinner seems nearly impossible.

I have developed some shortcuts. One night a week, we generally have frozen pizza or take-and-bake pizza from Costco or Papa Murphy’s. I try to cook a “real” meal on Sunday when I tend to have some time. But it’s the consistency that I find challenging. I feel like each week is so very different in the activities our family is doing that any plan I develop goes out the window by next week.

I’m hoping that I’m not alone in this struggle. So I’m asking for your help and advice – what do you eat for dinner? How do you handle planning meals over the course of a month? Let’s all share ideas here, whether it’s utilizing your slow cooker, planning for full-blown-sit-down meals, or foraging in the cupboards for whatever you can find on hand. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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