cooking with kids

Melon Soup

By Lisa

Over the weekend I went on a juicing binge brought on by an unexpected CSA delivery, which brought us an extra melon,which brought our household total to 3 ripe melons. Usually its no chore to eat one in a day, but all three of these beauties weren’t going to wait. So I brought out my Breville juicer, which is the only thing in my life I’ve ever won, and which is a pretty great machine. It’s lightning fast and powerful, and we do use it all during citrus season.  But because it takes an awful lot of (often expensive) produce to make juice, and I don’t love cleaning the pulp, I don’t use it regularly.   Most days, I’d much rather hand an apple (or plum or carrot) to the kids and just say, “Eat.”  But when I met my husband, he drank all sorts of juice and smoothies, and this was long before Kris Carr (who, for the record, I think is pretty terrific. I contributed to her site here.)   So in the spirit of economy and nostalgia, I broadened my juicing repertoire.

First, I chopped up the watermelon and passed it to Ella, who had a great time feeding it to the maw of the machine. It happened so fast I didn’t get a picture of the juicing or the juice, but believe me when I say there is nothing more refreshing on a 90 degree day than ice cold watermelon juice.

Then, we went to work on the melon, which I chilled and served after dinner with a spoonful of vanilla yogurt and a strawberry garnish.  Kory and I thought it was great. The kids, not so much.. But I saved their portions and the melon soup made a great, drinkable breakfast for me the next morning as I made the kids pancakes.  I think the soup would work nicely as an appetizer, too, served in  little shot glasses with a  garnish of creme fraiche (or greek yogurt) and some cubed, fried pancetta. I will get back to you on that.

For now, if you have any quickly ripening produce, I suggest the juicer.  I am going to get to work on those tomatoes soon.

Also: I’d love to know: what do you juice?

Honey Ice Cream

by Caroline

I am learning — slowly — that while San Francisco doesn’t offer the summer weather I grew up with (and long for) when school lets out each year, there are ways to compensate for that. Here at home it may be 60 degrees, with fog swirling in the street and a wind so strong it picks up our deck umbrella and tosses it into the neighbor’s yard (we only open the umbrella a couple days in the spring and then again not until our real summer in October, so I hardly know why we bother.) But we can drive half an hour north to the swimming pool or half an hour south for a sunny oceanside hike and that gets me in the mood to make summer in the kitchen, too. So when school let out last week and we faced another foggy day, I summoned my sunniest mood and said to the boys, “It’s summertime! What kind of ice cream should we make?” Ben was first to answer: “Honey ice cream!” And Eli was the one to help. Happy summer.

The recipe is from my go-to ice cream book (everyone should have one): Bruce Weinstein’s The Ultimate Ice Cream Book.

1/2 c mild honey
6 large egg yolks*
1 1/2 c milk
1 c heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the honey with the egg yolks until thickened and pale yellow. Set aside.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a heavy saucepan. Slowly beat the hot milk into the egg and honey mixture. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and heat slowly, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon. Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble. Take off the heat and pour through a strainer into a large bowl. Cool slightly, then stir in the cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until cold, or overnight.

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in your ice cream machine according to its directions.

*Tune in next time for a way to use those 6 egg whites.

Pancakes, Pancakes

by Caroline

Do I really need to give you another pancake recipe? We’ve already given you Lisa’s classic griddlecake recipe, and I’ve contributed recipes for quinoa, pumpkin and lemon pancakes. But I am going to give you one more, because this recipe is so easy you can make it in your sleep, which, frankly, is often my state when pancake-making for my children: vertical and sufficiently responsive, but not entirely awake yet.

The recipe comes from Eric Carle’s picture book, Pancakes, Pancakes!, a book I have been reading to my kids for years about a boy named Jack who asks his mother for pancakes. She tells him she’s busy and will need his help, and then proceeds to direct (but not assist) him in each step, from cutting wheat for the miller to grind into flour all the way to milking the cow for milk (and churning some of it into butter) and gathering the wood for a cooking fire. Jack’s quite happy to do all the chores, and at the end he and his mother flip the pancake together, she spreads it with jam, and he tucks into an enormous, strawberry-jam topped pancake. It’s an excellent story — I revere Jack’s mother — but I have never dreamed of actually making the recipe with which the story concludes:

Until one day recently, as we finished reading, Eli said, “Let’s make these pancakes!” and he caught me at a moment when I was in the mood to say yes. I really didn’t think they’d be very good — no sugar, no baking powder — but I couldn’t sneak in any extra ingredients because Eli was determined to do the cooking himself, plus he can read now. He hardly needs my permission or participation at all:

And I have to say, the pancakes are perfectly good. They don’t hold up very well (no snack pancakes here), so eat them while they’re hot, whether they are stacked with jam:

Or poured and sliced into a homage to Giants’ closer Brian Wilson:

I’ll give you the ingredients, but pick up a copy of Pancakes, Pancakes! to get the whole story, read it with your kids, and then make some pancakes.

1 c flour
1 egg
1 c milk

Stir into a batter while your frying pan is heating, melt a bit of butter in the pan, then proceed, one ladleful of batter at a time, to cook your pancakes.

Maple Easter Candy

by Caroline

Every year, I hope that maybe our Easter trip to my parents’ home in Connecticut will line up with sugar season, that window every New England spring when the temperatures sink below freezing at night but rise into the 40s during the day, with enough sun to warm the trees and encourage the maple sap to flow. Even though I don’t really like that kind of weather, I want my boys to experience what I did as a kid, tramping along in the mud and snow in my grandfather’s booted footsteps as he gathered maple sap and boiled it down into syrup. It takes 40 gallons to make a single gallon of syrup, so a couple energetic helpers would be useful, I know, but so far we’ve missed all the work, instead always getting to enjoy the sweet results of my dad’s labors.

At Christmas time, we make sugar on snow; now that the snow is gone, we made maple candy inside, with nothing but syrup, some simple kitchen equipment, and — because after a visit to Old Sturbridge Village we were feeling old-fashioned — a great deal of arm strength. You can make this, too, with any maple syrup and even an electric mixer.

Pour 2 cups maple syrup into a large pot and bring to a boil. Let it boil gently until it comes to 240 degrees on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage: test it by letting some of the boiled syrup drop off the end of a spoon into a glass of water; if it forms a ball, it’s done). Pour it out into a large mixing bowl (or two) and start stirring:

Here’s a close-up action shot of the stirring:

Stir the syrup until it lightens and thickens to the consistency of peanut butter, about five minutes. You can use a hand mixer if your arm gets tired (or your children refuse to stir anymore). If you want to add some toasted walnuts or pecans (a fine idea) stir them in now.

If you have candy molds, by all means use them. We just spread some waxed paper on the counter and experimented with different dollops. Let the candy set at room temperature for about ten minutes. For long-term storage, you’d want to keep it in the refrigerator, but it likely won’t last that long.

Foraged Salad

by Caroline

For a while when I was a kid, my dad kept a couple burlap bags in the trunk of the car. He never knew when he might drive past a nice-looking patch of dandelions, or day lilies, or elderberries, and he wanted to be ready to gather them. It was the 70s, he had read Euell Gibbons, and although he cultivated an enormous garden in our front yard, he also liked to make food out of what he found growing locally. Initially, this foraging delighted me, but of course as I got older I would shrink down in the front seat when Dad pulled over, wishing I were invisible, praying that none of my friends would see me as they went by. Now, I’m back to admiring his foraging impulses, grateful that he still gathers hickory nuts for our cookies and pies every winter.

Apparently, the foraging instinct skips a generation. Last week, Ben spent his school’s Day of Service with his teachers and classmates in Golden Gate Park, the latest in a series of terrific 3rd grade field trips. They learned about the resident birds from local ornithologist Josiah Clark, they learned about the park’s plants from a couple Park & Rec employees, and then they did some weeding to help restore a bird habitat. At dinner that night, Ben told us all about the weeds they’d pulled and the plants they’d tried to protect — one of which, miner’s lettuce, I’ve seen (and purchased) from the farmer’s market for over $5 a pound. The following day at Eli’s baseball game, he spotted a patch of miner’s lettuce, and picked a few leaves to nibble. A couple days later, at Eli’s baseball practice, he found a great big patch of miner’s lettuce:

I didn’t have anything to collect our harvest in but my purse, but we filled it up:

And then made a delicious foraged salad to accompany our dinner that night:

Foraged Salad:
miner’s lettuce or other salad greens
a handful of dried cherries
a handful of toasted, slivered almonds
a sprinkling of ricotta salata
balsamic vinaigrette

Toss all the ingredients in a salad bowl and serve.