fruit

Morale-Boosting Banana Coconut Muffins

by Caroline

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There comes a time in every child’s illness when the child is still too sick to attend school (he’s got to be fever-free for 24 hours) but is too well to lie docilely on the couch watching videos while his mother catches up on her New Yorkers. And that is the time, in this house, when we make muffins. I know this might appall some of the more germ-conscious of you, but I am just not really an art project kind of mom. Plus, we are not making muffins to distribute to our friends; these muffins stay home, in the family, where we’ve all been exposed to the same germs already for quite some time. And of course we wash our hands before we start to cook, which we do whether we’re sick or not.

So here we were, after another feverish night but with the Tylenol finally taking effect. Eli was hungry for a snack, tired of his usual dry crunchy things, but not yet up for a real meal. He noticed some browning bananas in the fruit bowl. For the most part, I try to stick to local fruits, but in the winter, when I do even more baking than usual and the variety of fruits available is slightly more limited, I make an exception for bananas. And of all the various banana breads and banana muffins that I make, this might just be the simplest. I’m linking to the original version on Epicurious (pause here a moment to mourn Gourmet, but to be grateful that Conde Nast is keeping the website alive), but of course I always tinker a little bit, so here’s how Eli and I made the muffins today.

a potato masher makes quick work of soft bananas

a potato masher makes quick work of soft bananas

slicing the butter for melting is a good time to practice knife skills

slicing the butter for melting is a good time to practice knife skills

1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
½ c ground flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (3/4 cup)
5 T unsalted butter, melted
½ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
a splash of vanilla
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line muffin cups with liners.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and flax in a bowl. Whisk together bananas, butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and 1/2 cup coconut in a large bowl until combined well, then fold in flour mixture until flour is just moistened.

Divide batter among lined muffin cups and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup coconut. Bake until muffins are puffed and golden, and a tester comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes; keep an eye on them toward the end, as the flax makes them brown more quickly than usual, and you don’t want the flaked coconut to burn. Transfer muffins to a rack and cool slightly.

Peel Me a Pomegranate

By Lisa

The title of this post is a blatant homage to Nina Finci’s,  as yet unpublished memoir Peel Me a Pomegranate about emigrating from Croatia to America age 15, shortly before the Yugoslav war changed her family life forever.  Check out her blog(s).   As for the pomegranate, in one section of her memoir, she writes a lovely story about how her mother peeled her and her brother pomegranates and sprinkled them with sugar for an afterschool snack.   It’s true that we’d been eating pomegranates in my house long before I read Nina’s story, but there was something about the description of her mother, steadfastly peeling the tough fruit, her hands stained red, and setting out the bowls of ruby seeds for them that was utterly moving, and made me think I had never really had a pomegranate–not like she had.  Nina’s story is about eating something delicious and rare and beautiful and oddly satisfying, of course, but it’s also about bringing the family together, and a home she lost, and a mother who nurtured her children in many ways. The pomegranate is a prism into the rich, complicated family life, what is lost and gained over a lifetime.

So now, everytime we eat pomegranates, I think of Nina & her story and how she is probably peeling pomegranates now for her own daughter, and it makes me feel connected to the world.

Finn, on the other hand, just thinks they’re fun and addictive to eat.   And since I’m not above playing with your food as a morning activity, occasionally, we like to peel a whole bunch of pomegranates all at once and keep a jar of the seeds in the refrigerator for a quick snack or garnish for salads, kidtinis, or cocktails.  On the one hand, it’s not a bad small motor skill activity.  But he’s also helping in the kitchen, learning where the fruit comes from and how it’s eaten, and he gets to see different colors and sample the different flavors of the different varieties.

We peel the fruit in a bowl of water. The edible seeds sink and the membrane and rind float, so you can just scoop them off and discard or compost.

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Finn peeling

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Sifting pomegranate seeds. Just because.

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The activity degenerates as Finn tries to figure out how many seeds he can fit in his mouth.

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The seeds make it to the bowl…

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Finn eats a pomegranate like a human being.

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Pomegranate Kidtini

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Pomegranate Saketini

Pomegranate Kidtini

  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Roses lime juice
  • Bubbly water
  • Ice

Fill a goblet or similar glass with ice and a tablespoon of pomegranate seeds. Top with bubbly water and a splash of Roses Lime Juice, to taste. The bubbly makes the seeds float, and the kids can carefully scoop them out with a spoon.

Pomegranate Saketini

  • Pomegranate seeds
  • 2.5 ounces dry sake
  • 1-ounce vodka
  • Chipped ice
  • 1 Japanese cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch rounds, for garnish

Muddle the pomegranate seeds, then combine with sake and vodka in a cocktail shaker with the chipped ice and shake well. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with more pomegrante seeds.   **In the picture above, we just added the seeds as a garnish to the regular saketine, but they sank. (No bubbly water….)  Later on, I crushed the seeds in my glass to release the juice, which was delicious, thus the suggestion to muddle the seeds first.

Feeding the sick

by Caroline

Despite timely flu shots, good eating habits, and frankly pretty impressive personal hygiene in kids this age, my sons have been passing a cold back and forth for over two weeks now. I can hardly remember what it feels like to send two children to school. And although I’ve managed to stay healthy (knock wood), the broken nights and the days spent tending to one or the other languishing child has worn me down.

While I know that this is not the time to slack off on the meals, know that they need a varied diet of fresh fruits and vegetables all the more now to get them healthy, I’m honestly relieved that when my kids are sick, probably like most kids, they shut down and eat like birds. This worried me somewhat when my first was a toddler, but now I recognize this as an inheritance from their father. I am the only one in the house who feeds a cold (or fever, or strep throat, or whatever other illness has hit me). The boys in my family subsist, as near as I can tell, on water and something crunchy until they’re back to themselves. They eat dry cereal, pretzels, rice crackers, and plain toast. Again, as someone who rarely misses a meal, who generally starts thinking about lunch even as I’m taking bites of breakfast, this continually surprises me. I might not want enchiladas or mushroom stroganoff when I’m sick, but as I’ve written before, I still usually want a couple flavors on the plate.

I’m lucky, I know, that I’m not talking about serious illness here. A friend’s son is recuperating from brain surgery and, while he’s recovering, has been vomiting daily for weeks. One of Ben’s classmates was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a couple years ago, and continues to have a caregiver attend school with him daily to monitor his blood sugar and his meals. My kids don’t have allergies or any chronic illness that we have to factor into their diets. They’re picky eaters to start, and now with stuffy noses and taste buds dulled by fever, there’s not much they are interested in eating. For days, their meals have looked like this:

bunny plate with rice & edamame

bunny plate with rice & edamame

(note the attempt to add appeal by serving the food in a cute plate, one that belonged to Tony when he was a boy.)

Today was the first day in a while that Eli could hold his head up long enough to come to the table, but I was feeling pretty droopy myself so was grateful to discover that our favorite local bakery, Arizmendi, was making a family-favorite pizza: pesto and roasted potato. Arizmendi makes a different pizza every day, and while we all love to make pizza from scratch, this was not the day for that. Instead, we let our bakery friends do the cooking, and saved our energy to make a nice salad and slice some crudites:

pizza

Everyone ate a great dinner, and when there was interest in fresh Bolinas apples for dessert, I went to some trouble for my congested children and served them up in slices with sugar and cinnamon for dipping:

apples

Dessert was followed, of course, by their nightly doses of sudafed, tylenol, and a fervent wish for a good night’s sleep.

A Gift of Apples

by Caroline

I did a favor for a writer friend recently, reading her manuscript and writing a blurb for her publisher. It was an easy favor to do– I’d enjoyed her earlier book, a collection of essays called Because I Love Her, and expected I’d like the new one, which I really did. So when we met up for a movie sometime after I’d finished, I was completely surprised and delighted to receive a shopping bag full of apples from her tree.

This is how our supply looked after a week:

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In the meantime, I baked many apple-y things:

apple galette

apple galette

apple walnut bundt cake

apple walnut bundt cake

A couple batches of my mom’s apple crisp and my new favorite, apple streusel coffeecake, a recipe I adapted from good old Joy of Cooking:

Preheat the oven to 350 and butter a 13×9 baking pan.

Stir together and set aside the streusel topping:
2/3 c flour
2/3 c finely chopped toasted walnuts or pecans
2/3 c brown sugar
5 T melted butter
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t salt

Whisk together:
2 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Combine in another bowl and set aside:
1 1/4 c sour cream or yogurt
1 t vanilla

In a large bowl, beat well until lightened in color and texture:
4 T unsalted butter
1 c sugar

Beat in, one at a time:
2 eggs

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the yogurt mixture, stirring until smooth. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Top the batter with 2 1/2 cups diced, peeled apples, and then the streusel topping.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

apple streusel coffee cake

apple streusel coffee cake

One Flat of Apricots. No Jam.

by Caroline

apricots
I know I should make jam. Every summer the local paper runs an article about jam making, with lots of delicious-looking recipes and helpful instructions. Every summer my good friend invites me over to her kitchen to make jam with her. I know it’s not hard, and the fact that I don’t have good tongs for lifting jars out of a hot water bath shouldn’t stop me. My grandparents all made preserves of various sorts (jams, pickles, jellies), and now my parents do, too.

But somehow the insistent chorus of “It’s easy!” is not having the intended effect on me, and I continue to stick with the oven, not the stove.

Occasionally, the farmer who sells our biweekly mystery box offers little extras, produced by her friends and other farmers, for sale. A pound of homemade lard for instance (pass), or a dozen farm eggs (yes, please). Sometimes it’s cheese or honey (sign us up), and this past week it was flats of apricots.

I thought about it. A whole flat is an awful lot of apricots. On the other hand, apricots don’t need to be peeled; they don’t even need a knife to slice them — you can just crack them open at the stem end with your thumbs. Apricots can be frozen easily, or pureed, baked into things and of course, eaten fresh by the handful.

I signed up for a flat. We probably ate a dozen the first day, and continued to eat lots of the apricots fresh out of the box over the next few days. And here’s what I did with the rest of them:

apricots on granola

apricots on granola

apricot smoothie

apricot smoothie

apricot galette

apricot galette

apricot crisp

apricot crisp

apricot sorbet

apricot sorbet

And then I froze a tray in order to capture some of this summer gold for the rainy winter to come.

frozen