I Left My Heart….

Were you wondering what happened to Valentine’s Day?  Asking yourself, “Why didn’t she do a blog with heart foods?”  Well, I was so hearted out I needed a break.  Yes a heartbreak. (pun intended).  The good thing about hearts is that they work all year long.  In fact I think cutting hearts in cookies or sandwiches away from Feb. 14th is more meaningful, cute and unexpected by your children.

This year I did the treats for both kids’ classes.  So I wasn’t busy blogging about heart shaped goodies, but I was busy making them.  Here are some pics…

These heart sandwiches were for my daughter’s class.  These were super simple and festive to make.  Here’s what I did:

1. Using a small 1 1/2 – 2 inch heart cutter, cut out hearts from slice of sandwich bread. (carefully cutting you’ll get 4 out of each slice).

2. Put bread hearts into pairs for sandwiches.

3. Spread one side of bread hearts with cream cheese

4. Spread another side of bread hearts with strawberry or raspberry fruit spread

5. Put together. Ta dah! 


Heart shaped graham crackers along with lovely organic, Oxnard, CA. grown strawberries for my son’s kindergarten class.  These were pretty and easy to pass out, nestled in recycled paper muffin cups.

Then, as we were hurrying to make and eat dinner before another evening school event (and the cookie cutter was still out) we make some simple heart shaped cheese toast.

The cookie cutters really come in handy for all kinds of things: from tortillas to cookies to sandwiches to cheese, etc. there’s lots of ways to create fun shapes all year long.  It’s also a fun activity that can involve your kids.  For now I’ve left my heart in the basket with the other 100+ cutters I own (yes, it’s a bit of an obsession), but look out you never know what shape will be chosen tomorrow.  St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner.  Then there’s baseball season, Easter, May Day, first day of summer…..


Food Memory Better Than The Food

When I was in college at U.C. Davis it was a real treat to go to a burger diner named Murder Burger.  It certainly wasn’t gourmet but good burgers, amazing onion rings and wonderful shakes.  At least that’s what I remember from the late 80’s.  My husband went there too as a student and had the same memory.  Since living in the Bay Area, we would pass Murder Burger on the way to Tahoe over the years and talk about how we should stop on the way home.  Strangely it just never happened.  One of us would be too tired, or we’d just eaten or just not up for a burger meal.  Later the excuses were our kids – sleeping (no need to wake on a long drive) or cranky.

One time we noticed the name had been changed to Redrum Burger.  Apparently there were some people in a neighboring town who thought the name was too violent, but noting else was changed.  (I thought the change was more about the Jack Nicholson movie.)

However last weekend we did it.  On our way back from skiing in Tahoe, we decided to take our kids to our old college favorite.  It was exactly the same from the looks of it.  And by this I mean they hadn’t done anything to change or improve in almost 20 years.  Reading the menu on the table with a story about the restaurant, we realized they opened in 1986.  My first year of school!  No wonder it looked clean and new then.

We still had high hopes.  Our kids were as patient as possible, but it took over 20 minutes for the food to come.  It food looked pretty much the same.  However I don’t remember so much grease.  When I bit into the onion ring, I was sorry.  The big dark thick, once crunchy rings were all but a skinny onion and all doughy inside.  My daughter even asked “is that a doughnut?”  We were so dissappointed.

I had been saving the thought of the four of us sharing a shake – choco banana, my college favorite.  Afterall the only time we have a shake is if I make them.  The menu still boasted of fresh season fruit in their shakes.  I though maybe this would be the redemption.  However when I went to order one, there was no one behind the counter.  We waited another 5 minutes and gave up.  Finally I decided the memory of the shake could be preserved as the best I’d ever had, if I didn’t have another.  The kids were dissappointed, however they didn’t want to wait all day either.

When I told my friend about my past favorite turning to a present dissappointment she asked “Do you think your standards are higher now?”  She had a good point.  Yes, I’m sure they are.  I wasn’t a food snob back then and certainly didn’t wat as healthy.  But I still like to think it was better back in the 80’s…like many things.


Oh Baby! with Asian Pear Puree

Don't call it baby food

I don’t like the words “baby food”.  It automatically conjures up bland, boring, stinky jarred food.  While commercial baby food has come a long way – there’s still great strides to be made.  I prefer to make food for people and babies just happen to be people who need a smoother creamier texture to begin their eating experience.  Thus purees.

Not having babies of my own, I don’t make purees as often as I used to.  I still do demonstrations for new parents, but lately with being focused on school aged snacks and lunches for my kids, I  forget how much purees come in handy.  Take for instance soup.  All great vegetable soups start with a homemade vegetable purees.  And fruit purees make wonderful butters on toast, and topping over ice cream and swirled into plain yogurt.

A friend of mine had her third child and he’s almost ready for solids.  This of course is exciting for me to hear.  So when we came to their house for the older siblings to play with my kids, my daughter (her taste testing the puree in photo above) and I made and brought a puree for the baby.  He may not be ready to eat this for a few weeks, so I froze the puree into cubes and popped them in a freezer safe container, so mom is ready when the time is right.  I chose asian pear because of a few things:

1. it’s in season

2. it’s mild and sweet

3. you can’t find it in a jar

4. it’s Chinese New Year

Here’s the recipe and steps of photos.

Asian Pear Puree (from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

Asian pears look more like an apple than a pear.  They are round and yellow with a brown speckled skin.  Inside they are sweet and juicy and very refreshing.

Makes 16 – 18, one ounce baby servings.

 3 Asian pears, washed, quartered and cored just before cooking

 Steamer Method:

Place prepared pears in steamer basket set in a pot filled with a small amount (about 1 – 2 inches, but not to touch fruit) of lightly boiling water.  Cover tightly for best nutrient retention and steam for 10 – 12 minutes or until pears are tender.  Pears should pierce easily with a toothpick.  Set pears and cooking liquid aside to cool.  Scrape pears for skin and puree in a food processor with a steel blade.  Add tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid to puree to make smoother and adjust consistency.

Freeze puree in ice cuber tray or individual molds.  Pop out cubes and store in freezer safe container for up to 3 months.

Cut asian pears, ready for steaming
Steamed and peeled pears ready for pureeing
Pureed asian pears
Ready for freezing

Teens Turning Green

I went to an amazing summit this weekend called Teens Turning Green.  These teenages started a cause and are educating other teenagers as well as parents, communities, stores, and activists about the hazards in everyday products that effect them (and everyone).  They’re getting notice and are even changing public policy.  They’re investigating everything from the lipstick they wear, to the snacks they eat, to the janitorial supplies used in their schools.  They’re questioning it all, demanding change, and coming up with greener alternatives.  If they can’t find these alternatives in the marketplace – they’ve actually created them under they’re own label.  They have a list of Dirty 30 (harmful chemicals in everyday products: some already banned in Europe) and Green Alternatives (list of companies with products not using these chemicals).

It was so inspiring.  The event had panels of experts in the area of making your life more green – both for the good of your health and the good of the environment.  Of course of particular note to me was the panel regarding food and especially locally grown organics.  The panel included the producer of Food Inc. as well as representatives from Epicurian Foods (fresh, organic foods for schools), Marin Organic (association of organic producers) and Marin Agricultural Institute (promotes a viable food system, manages farmer’s markets in Bay Area).   They spoke about the injustices of factory farming, labor violations in food manufacturing (organic and commercial) and the rise in health issues related to the industrialization of our food.   More than ever your local farmers need your support, and we need their local, sustainable, organic foods.

And while organic fresh food is a passion of mine, I realize through the other discussions and panels that I need to focus more on the other areas of my family’s lifestyle and that is what we put on our bodies.  I came home to find many of our household body products (lotion, “natural” body washes and make-up) have some potentially hazardous chemicals in them.  I’m on a mission to make that change, as I research sites like EcoStilletto, a blog about being fashionable in a healthy and environmentally responsible way.  In case you’re interested here’s the link to The Big List of Things That Suck, which includes animal testing, bisphenol A, Diethanolamine (DEA) and high fructose corn syrup, among other things.


So Sorry…With Sugar on Top

I find myself sometime wrestling with my parental guidelines.  You know those things you tell yourself you’ll never do with your kids.  These seem to be set before you even have children (and don’t know what you’re in for).  It could be something you don’t want to repeat your parents did with you (licking your finger and wiping child’s face) or something you see your friends doing (giving in to tantrums) or even a situation you witness at a park (ignoring crying child while on cell call).  There’s always something we tell ourselves will never happen at our house and then it does.  At that moment, three things could happen…1. You look around and wonder “did anyone else notice I did that?”  2. You tell yourself “O.K. just this once”.  3. You realize the parental guideline needs to be revisited or ammended on a case by case basis.

So here’s one of my guidelines… do not reward, discipline or comfort with food.  Sounds good enough.  We reward at our house with priviledges (child gets to pick an activity or outing, such as miniature golf) when things go well.  We disclipline by taking away priviledges or discussing why we won’t be getting more freedoms, choices and priviledges.  However I am finding times where the priviledge (choice, freedom) is tied to food.  Child picks favorite restaurant when given the choice of where the family should eat.  Child wants to go for ice cream as a “treat” for doing a good deed (helping in the yard, etc).  Child (and mom) want to make hot chocolate together, after hiking in the rain.  Here the experience and choice of priviledge is related to food and that’s o.k. with me.

Here’s last week’s example.  I took my son to a great (everyone said) day camp at a place where kids build (using real tools) in a woodworking studio or create a craft (beading, jewelry etc).  Trouble is, for my son it was not so great.  After being there 1 1/2 hours I picked him up expecting smiles and got sadness.  For him it was a bit overwhelming (too many kids and not enough structure).  We decided to have lunch just the two of us, at a favorite lunch spot (La Boulange – that’s another story) before picking up my daughter so we could talk about the camp.

Feeling sorry for my son, I told him he could have whatever he wanted.  I figured he’d have a sandwich and want a cookie or croissant after.  However taking full advantage of my guilt he ordered the most decadent (and delicious) sandwich ever… banana and Nutella with cream on toasted brioche.  Really, they make that?  That’s what you’d like for lunch?  There was no going back.  It came with a side of fruit, which made me feel a bit better.  But this was quite a sandwich, even if it had come on a bed of spinach – this was quite a sandwich (yes, he shared a bite with me).  My son thoroughly enjoyed every messy bite and couldn’t wait to tell his sister and dad about “the sandwich” when he got the chance.  He also confided in me about the camp (for him it was a bit overwhelming with too many kids and not enough structure/assistance).  

By the time his dad got home my son was more relaxed and even left room for the possibility of trying the woodshop again.  My guilt was lessened and the lunch experience was fun.

I guess I covered the pain in Nutella.  Will it happen again?  I’ll go with #3 above – it will be on a case by case basis (but the cases need to be spread out).