One kid's adventures in gastronomy


Make this for dinner tonight

It’s finally warm(ish) today! Very windy, though. Mama and I had to hunt the neighborhood for our missing decoration from the front of our house. Successful mission, but because of it, we needed dinner fast. Papa and I were hon-gree. And Mama did not keep us waiting long.

Because it feels like spring outside, she figured asparagus and peas were the way to go. She boiled water for pasta, and when it was nearly done, she added the veggies. Meanwhile, in another pan, she cooked bacon, and then made a sauce out of the drippings, veggie stock, and cream cheese. Hear me out: It was creamy with just the right bit of salty, and the veggies were brightly cooked and fun to eat! But as in all things Jude, however, I had to be convinced to try it.


“Awww… I didn’t want THIS dinner.”

One bite was all the convincing I needed. We even sopped up the extra sauce from the pan with bread. How often does that happen?

"I'm a bacon eater!"

“I’m a bacon eater!”

Love, Jude

Pasta with Bacon and Spring Vegetables

8–12 oz pasta of choice, preferably whole wheat
2–4 strips bacon, preferably uncured
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2–1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
2–3 Tbsp cream cheese (Mama used what was left in a whipped cream cheese container, but use whatever you like)
1–2″ tips from 1 pound asparagus (reserve the stalks for roasting)
1/2 cup (or so) peas (add more if you like; frozen peas are okay)

Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook 2 minutes shy of what the package directions suggest.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium or med-high heat and cook the bacon until nearly crispy. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30–60 seconds. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towel; crumble when cool enough to handle. Add the stock to the pan. Allow to bubble, then whisk in the cream cheese until thoroughly combined. (It may want to separate, so keep whisking.)

About 2 minutes before the end of the pasta’s cook time, add the asparagus and peas. When the pasta is cooked and the veggies are bright green, drain everything, then add the pasta and veg to the skillet. Use tongs to coat the pasta with the cream cheese sauce. Serve with bacon crumbled on top.

Note: For added flavor: squeeze a lemon, grind some black pepper, and/or sprinkle freshly chopped herbs over top. Also, you may substitute canola or olive oil for the bacon fat and serve the dish to any carnivores with torn prosciutto instead of crumbled bacon.


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Kiss me, I’m Irish! (Part 2)

Mama and I made Irish soda bread today to go along with the corned beef she was braising. I sifted the flour and cut in the butter and mixed in the buttermilk. (I didn’t knead it, though.) We served it with honey butter.
Even the dinos wanted some:


And here I am enjoying the fruits of our labor:


I hope you have a great St. Patrick’s Day.
Love, Jude

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Marshmallows and Hot Cocoa

Now that I’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to ever be warm while outdoors, Mama decided to bring back a little bit of summer in the form of marshmallows. She’s made these many times before, but not with me. And because it’s so cold outside, they make the perfect accompaniment to hot chocolate or hot cocoa.

And what’s the difference between these two chocolaty libations?

Hot cocoa is made with unsweetened cocoa powder mixed with milk and some sort of sweetener. The beauty of it—and why Mama tends to make it for me—is that you can control the amount of sugar. She brings the milk to a simmer, then whisks in the cocoa powder, brown sugar, and a splash of vanilla. She tastes it and adjusts the flavor to her liking. If you need a formula, however, The Joy of Cooking pairs 1 Tbsp cocoa with 1 tsp sugar and ¾ cup milk.

Hot chocolate, as its name implies, is melted chocolate, mixed with a bit of hot milk. It’s much richer and silkier than hot cocoa. You can add more sugar or other flavorings to it, but that’s basically all there is to it. When Mama makes it, she brings milk to a simmer and tosses in a combination of finely chopped dark and milk chocolates and whisks it until the chocolate melts. Then she adds a splash of vanilla, and she’s done. This is another one of those recipes that you throw together by taste, and if all you have on hand is chocolate chips, by all means, they’ll work, too.

I'm snacking on marshmallows while sipping my "warm cocoa."

I’m snacking on marshmallows while sipping my “warm cocoa.”

As for the marshmallows, they take a little longer than either hot chocolate or hot cocoa to make. There are many recipes for marshmallows, and the one Mama uses starts with gelatin. We’ve used this before in our panna cottas.

'mallow 'stache

‘mallow ‘stache

While the gelatin is blooming in the bowl of the stand mixer, Mama heats up a mixture of water, sugar, and something called invert sugar, which she says is similar to light corn syrup. It takes a long time for that mixture to get to 240°F, or “soft ball” stage, which Mama says is a candy-making term for when a bit of melted sugar turns into a soft gel-like ball when dropped into water.

The red line of the thermometer is really close to "soft ball." It takes a while to get there, but once it's close, you have to be ready for it!

The red line of the thermometer is really close to “soft ball.” It takes a while to get there, but once it’s close, you have to be ready for it!

What’s left is mixing the hot syrup into the gelatin. It takes about 15 minutes, which is 15 minutes too many!

Once the mallow is properly whipped, all that’s left to do is spread it in a pan to set.

Marshmallow is really sticky. I had to work hard to get it off this spatula.

Marshmallow is really sticky. I had to work hard to get it off this spatula.

We of course had marshmallows in our hot cocoa, but even better: Mama made graham crackers over the weekend, so we had s’mores after all. Toasted marshmallows are the best!

You can't see it, but there's melted chocolate on that graham cracker.

You can’t see it, but there’s melted chocolate on that graham cracker.

Love, Jude

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Happy Pi Day!

I’m told this post is supposed to be punny, but as I don’t know what that word means, I can’t comment on it. I’ll just tell you that today, March 14, or 3/14, or 3.14 (depending on how you write your dates) is “pi” day. And because my mathematical zenith  rests at double-digit counting and basic addition, my thoughts naturally turn to pie. Pie, pie, pie.

Mama intended on showing me a new kind of pie today, something called a quiche. Let’s just say I’m still waiting. In the meantime, I’m taking a look back at a few of the pies we have done: cherry pie, blueberry pie, mixed berry pieapple pie, and even tomato pie and pot pies. (I won’t mention the absurd thing she called a pie earlier in the week.)

If you make a pie today in celebration of Pi Day, let us know! What’s your favorite?

Love, Jude

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Chilly? Make Chili!

From what I can tell, I am too young to become embroiled in chili-making madness. Meaty or vegetarian, spicy or tame, saucy or dry? Any way you serve it, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to eat it. I was all about participating in the cooking of it—can openers are fascinating! But have you seen what chili looks like when it comes together? No thank you. I ate 1 bean so I could be excused from the table, and that’s the last I want to think about it.

Love, Jude

Mama’s Vegetarian Chili

Olive oil
½ sweet onion, chopped (if your onion is smallish, use the whole thing)
1 or 2 colorful bell peppers, chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ pounds sliced mushrooms (variety of choice)
1 quart home-canned tomatoes or 1 can (28 oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, both with juice (regular diced tomatoes work too)*
2 cans (15 oz) chili beans or red kidney beans, rinsed and drained*
1 can (15 oz) lentils, rinsed and drained
Chili powder
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, pour a generous swirl of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers, if you have them (Mama forgot them.), and cook another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for another minute or so. Add the mushrooms and allow to cook until very soft and the moisture they let off is nearly evaporated, say 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Once it starts bubbling, reduce the heat a smidge and allow to simmer. Stir in the beans and lentils, then add the spices to taste.

You don’t need the oregano if you don’t like it, and you can certainly use fresh, if you have it. Toss in a bay leaf if you’ve got it, or chili pepper flakes or thyme. Chili powder and cumin are pretty sure bets, though, as are s&p. Simmer until you’re ready to eat it. If you’re looking for a long simmer, then hold off on adding the lentils until you’re almost ready to eat. They just need to be warmed through.

Serve with pasta, mac-n-cheese, or rice; sour cream; chives; shredded Cheddar, cornbread… you get the idea. You can also serve with meat, as Mama did for Papa and me. She used a grill pan and cooked up some country ribs while the chili simmered. (Now those were good.)

Makes about 3 quarts, which freeze well

Note: If using home-canned tomatoes that are whole, chop them, reserving their juice, or simply reach into the pot once you add them and gently squish them. Be prepared for some splatter, though. Look for beans in BPA-free cans (or cook your own from scratch).