Moon Pies for Rocket Boys

by Caroline

It’s all about rockets in our house lately. The boys are reading about Apollo 11 and the other moon missions, drawing rocket pictures, building cardboard and foil rockets, and making plans for their future lives as rocket scientists.

I play along as much as I can, but my kids understand two fundamental things about me: I prefer stories to lists of facts (I refuse to read aloud from the encyclopedia at bedtime); and I’m always happier if there’s food involved. So, during this rocket time, we’re all happy reading Tony Di Terlizzi’s fun picture book, Jimmy Zangow’s Out-of-This-World Moon-Pie Adventure, about a boy who flies into outer space and gathers a year’s supply of moon pies.

And then, in one of those fabulous coincidences that occasionally strike, I realized the boys had never had a moon pie, and a magazine arrived with a recipe for them. It was fate. It was a sign. And it was also an excellent way to spend the first full day of summer vacation.

boiling the sugar

pouring the boiling sugar into the gelatin

whipping marshmallow (or, I Can't Believe I Let Eli Put the Camera So Close to the Goo)

one giant, messy marshmallow

melting chocolate

chocolate-coated graham crackers, awaiting their filling

The resulting moon pies really can’t be beat, but I did, at Tony’s suggestion, make one big change from the original recipe: slice through the marshmallows in half, horizontally, and you get 18 manageable moon pies instead of 9 that are so tall they won’t fit in anyone’s mouth. Make sure to keep a big bowl of cold water handy, both while you’re pouring the boiling sugar mixture into the gelatin (in case of accidental burns) and while you’re spreading and later slicing the marshmallow: if you dip your spatula and knife blade in the cold water, it won’t stick. And then, invite some friends over to share the snacks.

mmm, moon pie

Fish & Chips

by Lisa

In keeping with the fast and easy snack theme, here’s quick little recipe I found in last month’s Sunset Magazine, though I can’t seem to find it online.

These are great with drinks for a pre-dinner snack, or a party appetizer, or side dish for a substantial salad, or just because. The kids liked them, but we saved them for ourselves.

Salt & Pepper potato chips, topped with smoked salmon, greek-style yogurt, snipped chives


by Caroline

We joke around here sometimes about how I don’t cook dinner, that I only cook the accessory foods (ie, granola, desserts), and thanks to my dinner-cooking husband there’s more than a kernel of truth in that. I like baking, and also it appeals to my sense of economy (there may be a greater discrepancy between cost of ingredients and cost of final product in baked goods than any other food you can buy at a market).

But this spring, there hasn’t been time for much baking because I’ve been going a little crazy with the vegetables. I signed up for a CSA to pick up at my son’s school (because, vegetables + kid in one stop? I couldn’t resist!), without dropping either our other weekly produce pick-up (which tends to supply more fruit), the bi-weekly mystery box, or even my farmer’s market habit. It’s just hard to resist all this great spring produce, and we’re going to be out of town most of June, so I’m stocking up while I can. And then, trying to find new ways to use all the bounty.

Inspiration came, as it often does, from the farmer’s market, but from a different source than usual: not a produce vendor, but the pickle people! The Pick-a-Peck stand is a regular fixture at our farmer’s market, and the pickles are great: spicy, crispy, delicious. One night before dinner, a friend and I ate an entire jar of the pickled green beans. But I started (sorry, pickle people) to think about how much I was spending on vegetables, vinegar, and spices and decided to cook up some of my own. So far, the pickled cauliflower is my new favorite — it’s fabulously crunchy with great flavor — but the pickled carrots are delicious, too, and the beets are a mainstay for me, summer and winter. I don’t recall any longer where I found the beet recipe, which exists on a scribbled piece of steno paper in my recipe binder; if you recognize it, please let me know so I can give credit:

2 lbs beets
2 c white vinegar
1 c granulated sugar
2 T kosher salt
1 t allspice berries
1/4 t whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick

Simmer the beets in boiling water until tender, 30-60 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool and then peel and slice.

Bring remaining ingredients to a boil, add the sliced beets and cook for one minute. Cool and refrigerate.

These all keep for about two weeks in the fridge, though they never last that long in my house.

Snacks, On Foraging

by Lisa

Basically, I find snacks overrated.  When Ella, especially, was really young, I rarely gave her those mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, mostly because then she wouldn’t eat her meals.   Over the years, I’ve found that the best way to ensure my kids eat a healthy lunch (or dinner) is to minimize what I feed them in between meals.  Of course, since I rarely say “never”, they have certainly eaten snacks at playgroup, and on those few mornings they attended preschool, and I did bring fruit and small things like rice crackers to parks, etc., but “snack time” was not a regular part of our routine.   Now, they rarely snack on  a regular basis, although we did have the cake + milk routine for a while,  Sometimes, when Ella has a early soccer or softball practice, we make a small, quick smoothie before she heads out the door.  But just as often, we don’t snack after school.

This, of course, doesn’t keep Finn from asking for food when he’s home with me, and I still don’t want to feed him things that will kill his appetite for lunch. Nor does it keep him from foraging for whatever he can find to satisfy his sweet tooth.  But I want to teach him to eat in moderation, and to eat (mostly) healthy things. So I keep some crackers in the house, but on shelf that the kids can’t reach  without climbing, and most of the time, our cookie selection is embarrassingly poor. I often hide the my chocolate bar, so the husband doesn’t eat it all at once–and for the most part, we eat everything, slowly, in small amounts. For instance, the kids’ chocolate Easter Bunnies?  Still sitting in a bowl on our hutch. The Halloween candy rarely gets eaten in total, & the same goes for the Valentine’s day candy.  Certainly, I have found both of them, high on the shelves in our pantry, pulling down the peanut butter crackers. And I have found a mysterious hole in the marshmallow bag and 1/2 the contents missing.  (For which they also must scale the pantry shelves, which was entirely Finn’s doing.) And I did discover both of them, huddled behind the pantry door a year ago, eating raw oats.  (Really, I do feed them. ) But mostly, they’re good about asking. I think.

All of this is to say that my philosophy is to keep a good range of  mostly healthy stuff within reach of the kids, so when Finn (or Ella) goes foraging, they have a range of things to choose from, but none of them are really going to ruin the next meal.  We always have:  cheeses, nuts, dried & frozen fruit, lots and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables (carrots and ranch or thousand island dressing is really popular when we have it). Whatever’s in season stays out on the table.  (I am waiting impatiently for those cherries….)  They take oranges off our tree in the winter, and tomatoes off the plants in the summer.  Sometimes we have yogurt.  The upshot is that they get the power to make decisions, & I can give them some freedom. So, yesterday, when Finn came out of the pantry with a bag of peanuts and another of almonds, I was happy to supply the remainder of the bag of raisins and dried cranberries and the rest of the pistachios:

I let him mix away.

And he munched happily.

Then we played marbles.  And ate more peanuts.

Tomato Surprise

By Lisa

This side dish/appetizer is so easy that it would be dumb–if it weren’t so cute. It came about one day last spring, when I was looking for a really fast, mess-free, new way to serve the fresh tomatoes the kids eat every day when they’re in season. Marginally decent tomatoes are just beginning to make their way into our market, so the Tomato Surprise has made it’s way back to our dinner table.

The idea is simple:  sprinkle a  little salt in a small, shallow dish, pour in about a tablespoon of olive oil and splash or two of  balsamic vinegar.  Cut a tomato in half, then in quarters, then put one half the tomato in the dish (you can see how this is a snap for 2 kids). Tuck a basil leaf (or mint, or cilantro, something fresh and spare-looking) and serve. The “surprise” is that the dressing is under the tomato. For some reason, my kids think this is one of the best things ever. They eat it nearly every day as a quick appetizer, or sometimes even for snack or lunch.  I like it because it’s neat and, obviously, healthy. The food looks like what it is, but with a little flair.  As I’ve suggested before, when it comes to food, looks matter.   If you like, you can experiment and make an inverted caprese by putting a thin, quartered layer of mozzarella under the tomato.