Thursday, October 29, 2009

Passive Aggression: using it for good, not evil

Imaginary voodoo dolls of teachers that gave homework on the weekends, or of boyfriends who forgot my birthday. Tossing toys into the giveaway pile that haven't been put away. Leaving my empty grocery cart near my car instead of in the corral. Classic passive aggressive behavior. I know, I'm working on it.

But not in my kitchen.

Have you seen the cookbook Deceptively Delicious? It's written by Jerry Seinfeld's wife. I didn't know TV stars ate. Maybe they don't, because the recipes in that book are not that great. But the idea behind them is.

You sneak pureed vegetables, fruit, beans, other healthy stuff in foods you already enjoy!

At first I thought, "why would I go through all the trouble of cooking, pureeing, and sneaking foods like broccoli or beans, when my family would just as happily eat a side dish of broccoli or beans?" Except for that I really hate making side dishes. I guess I have main dishes on such a pedestal that they need to serve as the protein AND the vegetable.

Then I came across a recipe for pumpkin pancakes. Same sneaky idea: blend in a bit of pureed pumpkin.

Then my kids wouldn't eat the slices of zucchini in the lasagna. Never to be deterred, I thought, "no problem, next time it's getting pureed," and gave them a sly smile.

(Yes, that's a fire extinguisher in the background. Number One: I have a disorder disorder, and Number Two: you never know what kind of craziness can happen in a kitchen.)

So although I don't use the actual recipes from Deceptively Delicious (who in their right mind would really eat a chocolate chip cookie with garbanzos in it and not realize something was a little off?), I use the idea whenever I can. The only real backfire I had was incorporating pureed spinach into a blueberry crisp. I realized when it was in the oven that I had also thrown some garlic into that spinach! Garlic always goes well with spinach, right? But not with blueberries. I had to eat that crisp myself.

Here are some treats that are neither deceptive, nor, in my opinion, delicious. But look how cute they are!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

'tis the season for doughnuts

I love the scent of fresh apple orchard doughnuts. They are almost as romantic as the apples themselves.

So when my mother passed her Donut Factory to me, I got energized.

This device is truly a blast from the past.

It's really just a waffle iron shaped like two O's, with some holes at the top for drizzling oil during the cooking time.

Using it takes some getting used to (use rubber or plastic baby utensils to get the doughnuts out, or you could scratch the non-stick surface), but the scents, sounds, and tastes are so gratifying.

By the way, when are the techies gonna invent something that allows me to record aroma?

My daughters and I had fun with this last week. Meaning: they played in the other room while I made the doughnuts. We all had fun eating them afterward. These we coated in melted chocolate chips thinned with cream (ganache, I guess, but that just sounds way too fancy for us).

And what's better than a Donut Factory sitting on your counter?

That's right, TWO Donut Factories sitting on your counter!

Don't worry. I haven't gone completely batty. I found the second one last year at a resale shop, snagged it, and am passing it along to another budding cook. But I had to try it out first to make sure it was in proper working order. It's all about quality assurance.

The verdict:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

my escape to Chicago

Husband finishing a master's program, me hosting a party, daughter losing a tooth, same daughter starting school, other daughter deciding be ornery about everything.

I needed an escape.

My darling husband saw this coming and marked on the calendar 'trip to Chicago.' He even lined up babysitting and set aside some virtual cash.

Having lived in Chicago during our college years and a few after that, we knew and loved Chicago in the 1990s. Now, when we manage to get back there, my husband takes 50 8th grade girls and I choose another weekend and take just myself. Let me explain: he is a choir director and I'm a closet introvert. So we have perfectly delightful weekends. Separately.

This time would be different. For one, we would be together, in a little couple-bubble. And I wasn't planning the trip solely around ethnic food. We had just one goal: EXHALE. Together. Anything else we did, any fun food we enjoyed, any much-missed friends we visited would be an extra bonus.

Here's a snapshot of our bonuses.

Holding a college roommate's third-born.

Biking along the lakefront, a great way to get a good look at the city's various sizes, shapes, shades of strange and beautiful people. Despite the 50 degree weather, people were running, biking, dog-walking, rollerblading, even swimming.

Finally getting a decent haircut.

Taking the subway downtown and back.

When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything. (name that movie)

Visiting another family that has two young daughters.

I didn't get a pic of the dinner party that we as-graciously-as-possible crashed, but here are the gourds that the host sent home with us (grown in Indiana by his mother, harvested by him, handled by my daughter).

We came home to children that were sleeping and caregivers that were recouping. All in all, an escape well-executed.