One kid's adventures in gastronomy


I scream, you scream

Two of Mama’s favorite things to make are angel food cake and challah bread.

Mama made French toast with this yummy challah.

Mama made French toast with this yummy challah.

Luckily, they have a symbiotic relationship (or so Mama tells me), in that angel food cake needs egg whites, while challah calls for egg yolks. But they don’t require equal amounts of divided eggs. You’re going to have about half a dozen leftover yolks, which is just enough to make…


You probably think that I don’t eat a whole lot of this delicacy. And you would be wrong. Well, at least by Mama’s standards, I do eat a lot of ice cream. (I could see eating it a couple more times a week, but that plea tends to fall on deaf ears…) But I was amazed when Mama finally showed me how to make ice cream. She couldn’t have gotten me out of the kitchen had she tried.

This is what you'd call soft serve.

This is what you’d call soft serve.

Making ice cream is like magic. First it’s cold, then it’s hot, then it’s cold again. Some folks might not consider this method very easy. And while it’s certainly true that not all ice creams are cooked first, cooking the base makes such a creamy difference (it’s also what makes it French). Besides, wouldn’t you rather eat cooked egg yolks?

Actually, probably the most difficult thing involved is splitting and scraping the vanilla bean. Mama showed me how to do it. Carefully cut it in half the long way, then hold onto one end with your finger pressed onto it. (If you need the whole pod, don’t cut all the way through so that you separate the whole bean; if you do, just do the next step with each half.) With the other hand, take the blade of your knife (either edge), and run it down the cut you just made, so you’re flattening the bean and scraping the seeds from inside it at the same time.

If you look closely, you can see the edges of the bean where the seeds were scraped out.

If you look closely, you can see the edges of the bean where the seeds were scraped out.

Okay, maybe this ice cream is a bit more complicated than scraping a vanilla bean, but when you taste it, you won’t even care.

Love, Jude

French Vanilla Ice Cream
(that will make you forget all your cares)

2 cups organic heavy cream
1/2 cup organic half and half
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
5-6 organic egg yolks (1/2 cup)

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream, half and half, sugar, and vanilla bean (pod and seeds) just to a boil.

You can see all those lovely vanilla bean seeds, and the pod adds a ton of flavor, too. Just look how thick and creamy it looks already.

You can see all those lovely vanilla bean seeds, and the pod adds a ton of flavor, too. Just look how thick and creamy it looks already.

Meanwhile, set yolks in a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients and whisk gently to break them up. Once the cream is hot, pour a little bit (about 1/2 cup) into the egg yolks while whisking. (Mama says if you’re using a bowl that skids while you’re whisking, put a damp towel or washcloth beneath it.) Then slowly add the remaining cream to the yolks, whisking constantly. Mama calls this tempering and says that without it, the eggs would coagulate. I say the word “coagulate” is almost as bad as the word “moist.”

This is how the yolks look after just a little bit of tempering. See? No scrambled eggs.

This is how the yolks look after just a little bit of tempering. See? No scrambled eggs here.

Now you can do either of two things: You can pour everything back into the saucepan and cook it over low heat, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom of the saucepan), until it reaches 170˚F, which is how hot you want your eggs to be to render them safe. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can tell when it’s ready because it coats the back of a wooden spoon and when you run a finger down the back of the spoon it creates a channel that the cream doesn’t run into. This will take about 10 minutes. If you’re worried that you might scramble your eggs—they get pretty close if your heat is too high or you don’t keep stirring—then keep your cream mixture in the bowl and set it over a pot of simmering water (the water should not touch the bowl).

When the cream doesn't slip back into the channel on the spoon, it's called nappé, and it means your custard is done.

When the cream doesn’t slip back into the channel on the spoon, it’s called nappé, and it means your custard is done.

Et voilà: You have your custard base for ice cream. (Aren’t you even a little excited?) Now strain it into a clean bowl. This will collect all the stray bits of coagulated egg and vanilla bean. (Rinse off that bean and stick it in  jar of sugar for vanilla sugar!) From here, let it cool a bit, then put it in the fridge to cool completely. If you’re in a bit of a rush, have your clean bowl (the one that’s going to receive the strained custard) sitting in a larger bowl filled with ice and a bit of water, and be sure to stir the custard periodically as it cools.

Straining ensures your custard is as silky as you deserve it to be after all that work.

Straining ensures your custard is as silky as you deserve it to be after all that work.

Pour your cold custard into an ice cream maker and process and freeze according to directions. (I’m just a toddler. You can’t expect me to explain everything.) If you want to add flavors, such as nuts or chocolate chips or bits of fruit, wait until the ice cream is nearly done churning before doing so.

Churn, baby, churn, and work your magic.

Churn, baby, churn, and work your magic.

Once it’s churned, stick it in the freezer, and just try not to think about it all the time. This recipe makes about a pint of ice cream, but it can easily be doubled…you know, in case you didn’t make challah bread after your angel food cake.

Come on, you've seen me lick spoons and spatulas before. Why should ice cream custard be any different?

Come on, you’ve seen me lick spoons and spatulas before. Why should ice cream custard be any different?

Note: Mama says you can subtly change the flavor of the custard base by steeping herbs (such as mint or chamomile) in the cream as it heats. One of her favorite blends is steeping lavender flowers in the cream, then adding honey during the final cooking phase or churning phase (depending on desired texture).

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It’s not too late to make popsicles!

I’d wanted to write about popsicles for some time, but Mama kept me pretty busy during the summer. Since I just finished the very last one, I thought better late than never. And you can still get good cantaloupes from your farmers’ market, so why not make a bunch of popsicles to enjoy on those Indian summer days that are still to come?

I’m sure you know how much I love frozen treats, whether they’re gelati or popsicles. I especially liked making these with Mama! She showed me how she cuts the cantaloupe, and then I put the pieces in the blender. Mama added the juice of a fat juicy lime and a bit of sweetened condensed milk (she thought this might make it more like a creamsicle). Then I covered my ears so she could whir it.

Jude on Food: You need a little bit of sugar in your popsicles to keep the melon from freezing solid.

We tasted it to see if it needed more S.C.M. (it did), and she whirred it some more.

Mama gave me a big slice of melon to munch on while I figured out these popsicle molds--they're from when Mama was a kid!

Mama gave me a big slice of melon to munch on while I figured out these popsicle molds. They’re from when Mama was a kid!

I helped pour the popsicle mixture into the molds. Mama had to take a few deep breaths, as I tended to miss the molds, but I did a pretty good job overall, she said.

It's amazing what a little kid can do when you take a deep breath and just let him.

It’s amazing what a little kid can do when you take a deep breath and just let him.

The hardest part was waiting for them to freeze…and then getting them out of the deep freezer, once Mama moved them from our kitchen freezer after I started helping myself.

Love, Jude

Cantaloupe Popsicles

1 lovely ripe cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, and chopped
Juice of 1 lime (or 2, if you prefer)
1/2 small can sweetened condensed milk (more or less, to taste)

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until set.


Dessert on the grill?


Mama went and made that bluecherry pie, and the house has been hot ever since. She brought home some lovely, luscious apricots from a farm stand, and she decided it would be worthwhile to adapt a simple oven recipe to the grill (since she was using it to cook dinner anyway).

Apricots are at their peak right now. In fact, they’re probably on their way out in most places. Mama will be lucky if she can get any more this weekend (but she sure put up a heckofa lot of them). The little ones you get in grocery stores in early June don’t have anything on the sweetness and suppleness of those freshly picked from the tree. And they’re the perfect size for me to hold as I munch around the center stone, which actually comes out fairly easily. (But whether I throw said stone or give it to Mama to throw away is anyone’s guess.)

Mama says you can grill fruit directly on the hot grates. She lightly oils or sprays either the fruit or the grates. Sometimes she mixes a bit of honey with something sour like lemon or lime juice and brushes that on the cut side of the fruit. And that’s it. Grill it until it has grill marks on it and gets somewhat soft. If you want to push it until it’s very soft with deep grill marks, that’s up to you!

For this recipe, however, Mama used foil and closed the lid of the grill to simulate the inside of an oven. The foil caught the fruit juices, as well as the melted butter and brown sugar, so there was no mess to clean up afterward.

A pat of butter, a spoon of brown sugar, and a hot grill are all these little apricots need to become just a little more special.

A pat of butter, a spoon of brown sugar, and a hot grill are all these little apricots need to become just a little more special.

The good news: I got to enjoy these with ice cream!! (The secret news: I would’ve eaten them without it, they were so scrumptious.)

The warm apricots started melting the pecan ice cream. Mmm....

The warm apricots started melting the pecan ice cream. Mmm….

Go ahead an try this with any type of stone fruit–plums, peaches, nectarines. But don’t forget to try it with apricots.

Love, Jude

Grilled Sweet Apricots

3 apricots, halved & pitted
1 tablespoon butter, cut into 6 pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Get your grill going. Ours is gas, and Mama had it on medium-low, but it still got up to about 400°F. Place apricot halves, cut side up, on a sheet of aluminum foil. (You can do this directly on the grill, as Mama did, or prepare them ahead of time and transfer the entire sheet of foil to the grates.) Add 1 piece of butter and ½ teaspoon brown sugar to the center of each apricot. Close the lid of the grill and cook until butter & sugar are melted and apricots are soft and gooey, 10–15 minutes. Perfect as a treat on their own, or even better with ice cream. Be sure you eat all those sugary, buttery juices, too.

Serves 3 people.

Note: You don’t have to be exact about the measurements, and clearly, you can increase and decrease the amounts for as many apricots as you like. If you want to make these in the oven, lightly spray your baking pan and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, or until they’re soft and starting to turn golden.


Pie making for beginners

Because Papa just came home from two weeks abroad, Mama decided to treat him to one of his favorite pies—the sour cherry. And because she recently picked blueberries, she figured she’d toss a few of those in there as well. Behold: the “bluecherry” pie.

Pie recipes abound, particularly in the summer months, and they all seem to have their own recipe for what goes on the bottom. Whether you call it pâte brisée, pâte sucrée, pie crust, or pastry dough, Mama suggests finding a pie dough recipe that works for you and sticking with it. That way, you’ll always have it in your back pocket if you’re in the mood to make a pie. (I don’t know why you’d keep a recipe in your back pocket all the time; I’m just telling you what she said.)

A basic recipe is 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, and 1 part cold water by weight. There’s no magic in the fat you use (butter, cream cheese, coconut oil, lard);  it’s really just a personal preference. Mama likes the idea of an all-butter crust for its flavor and flakiness (and its naturalness, of course), but a 50-50 butter-shortening crust is a little easier to work with. Whatever you choose, keep your fat cold. Cube it then put it back in the refrigerator while you assemble the rest of your ingredients. Same with your water. You want that to be cold-cold-cold. Mama says this is because you don’t want your fat to melt before it goes into the oven. If it melts beforehand, it won’t have a chance to release steam as it melts—and the steam is what causes those heavenly layers of flakiness in any good crust. Do you think your croissant would be so light and airy if the baker used warm butter? Think again!

Before making your dough, gather your flour, sugar, salt, and butter--but get that butter back into the fridge as soon as you dice it.

Before making your dough, gather your flour, sugar, salt, and butter–but get that butter back into the fridge as soon as you dice it.

You can make your crust by hand or in a food processor, which is easier, but then you have to clean it. Mama tends to make it by hand because she has better control over it. If you use the food processor, only ever pulse it—don’t run it! Combine your dry ingredients first. At its simplest, this would be just flour (or a combination of flours), but you really ought to add a pinch of salt for flavor, as well as a bit of sugar. If you’re making a savory crust, omit the sugar and experiment with some herbs.

Add the fat (butter in this case) and cut it into the flour. You can use forks, two butter knives, or this handy pastry blender.

I was overzealous in cutting in the butter, and flour landed in my eye.

I was overzealous in cutting in the butter, and flour landed in my eye.

You want to break up the butter into smaller pieces while coating those pieces in flour. Some folks say it should resemble peas, but peas are green, and I just don’t see how this looks like peas.

This is what your dough should look like before you add the water. Do YOU see any peas in there?

This is what your dough should look like before you add the water. Do YOU see any peas in there?

Now you add your water. Drizzle it over the dough (or run it through the feed tube of the food processor while pulsing), then stir with a fork. You can start with about ¼ cup water, then add about 1 tablespoon at a time to get it to the consistency you want. Mama says there’s never a precise measure for this, as a lot of factors are variable: if your kitchen is warm, if your butter is starting to melt, if your water isn’t supercold (I did tell you to put it in the fridge), if you’re using a combination of flours other than all-purpose, etc. What you don’t want is to make a smooth ball of dough. If you end up with this (easy to do in a food processor), you’ve overworked the dough, and it’s going to be tough, rather than flaky. Test it by clumping a bit of the mixture in your hand—if it holds together, it’s wet enough.

See how the dough in the bowl doesn't look like dough at all? But look what's squished in my hand. Perfection.

See how the dough in the bowl doesn’t look like dough at all? But look what’s squished in my hand. Perfection.

Turn it out onto a counter then gather it all together. Again, don’t overwork it. If it’s sort of shaggy at this stage, that’s alright. Don’t manhandle your dough, and you’ll get a tender crust in return. Form it into a disk (or 2, if you’re making a pie with a top crust—but make one disk slightly larger than the other), wrap it well in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for a minimum of 30–60 minutes. This gives the gluten time to relax. Gluten is the protein in flour that holds the crust together and gives bread dough its structure. But like a toddler without a nap, it’s a little temperamental and needs some time to chill out.

You don't need a perfectly smooth ball of dough right now. Remember that you're going to take a rolling pin to it after it chills.

You don’t need a perfectly smooth ball of dough right now. Remember that you’re going to take a rolling pin to it after it chills. (Do you like my shirt? Grrr.)

When you’re ready to assemble your pie, lightly flour your work surface and your rolling pin. Roll the dough in all directions (rotate the dough, not your body), taking care not to roll your rolling pin off the edge of the dough—just go to the edge. Keep rotating, so you know the dough’s not sticking to your counter and so that you roll a relatively even shape.

If you look closely, you can see butter smooshed into the dough--they're the lighter colored splotches. That's what you want!

If you look closely, you can see butter smooshed into the dough–they’re the lighter colored splotches. That’s what you want!

Transfer the dough into the pie plate (wrap it over your rolling pin to keep it from stretching).

Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin, bring it to the pie plate, then unroll the dough.

Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin, bring it to the pie plate, then unroll the dough.

Some folks put the bottom dough back into the fridge for 15 minutes. If you have yet to prepare your filling, then go ahead and put the crust in the fridge in the meantime. If you’re blind-baking your crust (that is, baking it without any filling), it can go right in the oven. Either way, when you’re ready, fill your pie and top it with the other disk of rolled-out dough, if using. And don’t forget to save your dough scraps. Wrap them well and store them in the freezer, as they make for a very easy last-minute dinner or even a lazy-day pie.

Mama does this very simply—some might call her work “rustic.” Have fun with various types of topping. You can roll it out, tear it into pieces, then lay a patchwork of dough on top. (You could also just tear small chunks of dough off the dough ball and flatten them with your hands and skip the rolling altogether.) You can roll it out smaller than the size of the pie and lay it on top, without touching the edge of the bottom crust, making a “floating” crust. You can lay it on top and flute the edges or press them together with the tines of a fork. Or, you can make a lattice.

Like everything else, there are a couple ways to make a lattice crust, but here’s one that’s just as easy as…pie. (Come on, you knew that was coming.)

Roll out your top crust, then use a pastry wheel, pizza cutter, or sharp knife to cut strips. Try to keep them as uniform as you can (but you can always call it rustic!). You should have 3 or 4 that are about 10” long, if you’re making a 9” pie. The rest can be shorter. You’ll need 8 strips total. Lightly moisten the edges of your pie crust that’s already in the pie plate; this will help the top crust adhere.

Your strips don't have to have crinkly edges...but their flaw are hidden a bit better.

Your strips don’t have to have crinkly edges…but their flaws are hidden a bit better.

Lay 5 strips vertically across your pie, evenly spaced apart.

You can see the blueberries and cherries and cubes of butter peeking out like they're behind the bars of a crib.

You can see the blueberries and cherries and cubes of butter peeking out like they’re behind the bars of a crib.

Fold down vertical strips 2 & 4, about halfway down. Then lay 1 horizontal strip across the middle, over vertical strips 1, 3, & 5. Then unfold 2 & 4.

lattice step 2/

Then fold down strips 1, 3, & 5. Lay 1 horizontal strip above the first horizontal strip, over vertical strips 2 & 4. Then unfold 1, 3, & 5.

lattice step 3/

Either turn your pie 180° so the bottom is now the top, and repeat the previous step. Or fold up (from the bottom) vertical strips 1, 3, & 5. Lay 1 horizontal strip, over vertical strips 2 & 4, beneath the middle strip. Then unfold 1, 3, & 5.

lattice step 4/

Now crimp the edges of the 2 crusts together. Brush with milk or egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 Tbsp milk or water) and sprinkle with sugar, if desired.

finished lattice/

When you make fruit pies, it’s always a good idea to put a foil-lined baking sheet on a rack beneath the pie to catch the inevitable spillover when the fruit juices start bubbling. About halfway through baking, you should rotate your pie too, for even browning.

You can see that the crust is started to get good and golden, but the edges are getting a bit dark.

You can see that the crust is starting to get good and golden, but the edges are turning a bit dark.

It’s also a good time to put pie crust shields or foil around the edge if it’s starting to brown too quickly.

You can use silicone pie crust shields like these, or create your own by tenting foil around the edges.

You can use silicone pie crust shields like these, or create your own by tenting foil around the edges.

As always, allow for the pie to cool, overnight if you can stand it, before cutting into it. This will give the juices time to set, so you’re not eating berry soup over a soggy crust.

Flaky crust of deliciousness...I'm guessing.

Flaky crust of deliciousness…I’m guessing.

I wish I could tell you what bluecherry pie tastes like, but I didn’t eat my dinner (grilled skirt steak with chimichurri), so I didn’t get any. Maybe tonight. Wish me luck.

Love, Jude


The Sours Are Here!

Mama sure loves her some sour cherries. She waits all year for them, and it’s often hit or miss because we’re usually traveling during the 1 or 2 weeks they’re available (around July 4th where we live). One year, she was so desperate for them, she bought them from a farm stand off the turnpike as we went on vacation. Last year, it was so hot that the farmer she usually buys them from told her they practically melted off the trees. Needless to say, they were both very sad about this, as was Papa, who counts Mama’s sour cherry pie among his favorites.

As usual, Mama was in a panic this year. We would once again be traveling, headed to a place with a growing season that’s at least a couple weeks behind ours. (I don’t know what that means, but it seemed to matter to Mama.) Then, Mama spied a sign that read “sour cherries.” It put her into hyperdrive. She saw the sign while taking Papa to the airport in the morning, then she went to work, drove all the way back home to pick me up from daycare and let out the dog, took us back to the orchard to pick the cherries before a thunderstorm hit, washed and froze a few quarts, then packed us up for our trip to visit my grandparents. Apparently sours are that important to her. And they should be to you too!

Life is like a ....

Life is like a ….

I had never been cherry picking before (though I have picked other things), and it just so happened that the particular tree we picked from had split and some of its boughs hung all the way to the ground. They were perfect Jude-height for me to pick from! Mama bit a cherry for me so she could take out the pit, and she warned me that it would be sour like a lemon. And it was! I was expecting it to be sweet like the cherries I just started to enjoy, and even though I like lemons, I wasn’t too crazy about these bright red little gems.

These cherries are just the right height for me to pick.

These cherries are just the right height for me to pick.

But Mama showed me how yummy they can be with a few simple additions. Because we’re looking for easy here, she made a crumble. She explained that if she didn’t use any oats in the topping, we could call it a crisp instead. Are you confused yet? Both a crisp and a crumble are a jumble of fruit that is topped with a loose mixture (called a streusel) of brown sugar, butter, spices, maybe a bit of flour, and sometimes nuts or oats, then baked. A cobbler is the same idea, except with biscuits dropped on top of the fruit in place of the streusel.

Mama likes crisps and crumbles because they’re easy—you really can’t screw them up, she says. And I like them because I can use my hands to make the topping! You can use any kind of fruit and bake it in any size pan—a pie plate, an 8 x 8” dish, or even individual ramekins. And because they’re not neat like a slice of pie, you don’t have to bother with getting the fruit to gel and hold together. The beauty of these desserts is that the fruit is meant to mix with the topping.

Jude on Food: Freeze your cherries before pitting them. Mama found that they splatter a lot less, and the stones pop out much easier!

Mmm, mmm. We made this at my friend Walter’s house. His Mama had some recently picked raspberries that she added to it. Mama didn’t put too much sugar in with the cherries because the streusel was quite sweet, so I was still able to get that bit of pucker mouth when I ate it. And the topping was crispy yet buttery. All in all, it was worth it to turn the oven on on such a hot day!

Love, Jude

Sour Cherry Crumble

About a quart or so of sour cherries, pitted (add a handful of raspberries or blueberries, if you want)
1/3 to 1/2 cup brown sugar (or more, if you really want to sweeten it up)
About 1 cup old-fashioned oats
Whole-wheat or all-purpose flour (optional)
1/2 to 1 tsp spices such as cinnamon or cardamom, if desired
1/2 cup chopped or sliced nuts, if desired (Since cherries and almonds like each other, Mama added a handful of sliced almonds.)
4 to 5 Tbsp butter (you can be like Mama and put in a whole stick if you really want to)

Preheat the oven 375°F. Put the cherries in a bowl and toss with a a couple tablespoons of the brown sugar. (You have to cut some of that sourness!) Toss in a tablespoon or so of flour, if you like, to thicken up your filling, but you certainly don’t have to. Pour the cherries into a pie plate or other baking dish.

Mama says the worst part is pitting the cherries. But once that's done, the rest is easy-peasy.

Mama says the worst part is pitting the cherries. But once that’s done, the rest is easy-peasy.

In a separate bowl, combine the oats, remaining brown sugar, spices (if using), and nuts (if using). Cut the butter into chunks and toss it into the bowl of dry ingredients. Use your fingers to mash it all together, so you get some glops of buttery oatmeal. Evenly sprinkle the mixture on top of the cherries, then bake in the center of the oven for 35 to 45 minutes. The topping should start to brown, and you’ll see the cherries bubbling.

I think the worst part is waiting for it to cool.

I think the worst part is waiting for it to cool.

If you’re allowed, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream when the crumble has had a chance to cool from the oven but is still warm.

I'm crying because I can't get my ice cream to stay on the spoon.

I’m crying because I can’t get my ice cream to stay on the spoon.

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What is it about a grandma’s house? I’ve been to my Grandma Rita’s house only four times, but I can tell you I’m never hungry there. We just eat and eat. (And my GeeGee likes to sneak me food I’m not “supposed” to eat.)

Mama and I just got back from a week with my Grandma and GeeGee. But why didn’t I write about all that good food? Because I can’t type, and Mama is limited in her technological capabilities. (You saw how long it took her to register this domain, didn’t you?) And because our refrigerator at home is still sort of bare, I’ll use the next couple days to share some of Grandma and GeeGee’s goodies.

Like brownies. Can you believe I made brownies?! Grandma makes them a lot quicker than Mama does since most of her ingredients come out of a box. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t get to stir the oil and egg into it. Grandma held the bowl for me, and she told me to stir it really well.

Grandma doesn't like having her picture taken. I hope she doesn't mind her hand in this photo.

Grandma doesn’t like having her picture taken. I hope she doesn’t mind her hand in this photo.

Then she let me help spread the brownie batter into the pan, AND I got to lick the spoon!

I'm a much neater baker at Grandma's house.

I’m a much neater baker at Grandma’s house.

And the bowl.

Yes, that would be chocolate on my nose.

Yes, that would be chocolate on my nose.

Now, I don’t have a photo of me eating the finished product, but I will say that I enjoyed the brownies very much…what little of them Mama allowed me to have. They might not have been as gooey as a from-scratch brownie, but you can’t beat the time it took to make them, or the clean up. (Not that I possess any concept of either.) And it made for a perfect rainy-day activity with my grandma.

Love, Jude

Jude on Food: Who cares if you make something out of box from time to time? As long as you have fun making it, and it tastes good.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ok, so I’m a little late, but I went to a Valentine’s playdate today, so I think this post still counts. I had a BIG PARTY at daycare this week, too, so I’ve been really busy making valentines. And Mama and I made a special kind of cookie. They were red because they were made out of beets! We’ve never made cookies like this before, so I was just as eager as Mama to try them. Six ingredients, vegan, and very low in sugar–they were suitable right from the start. The only thing Mama would change about the recipe was the amount of oil (she needed more to bring the dough together), but otherwise, they were easy-peasy.

I have to say, I really like these cookies. I especially like that when I ask for them, Mama actually gives me one. They taste slightly of beets, but honestly, if you use fresh beets, you’ll taste nothing but their sweet earthiness. It’s when you keep beets in your fridge for too long that they start getting “beety.” Still, because it was Valentine’s day, Mama made up a small batch of red velvet cupcakes. Guess who found them?

When Papa found me with this cupcake in my mouth, I didn't think twice. I said, "Greta did it!" (That's my dog.)

When Papa found me with this cupcake in my mouth, I didn’t think twice. I said, “Greta did it!” (That’s my dog.)

Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day.

Love, Jude


It’s my birthday!!

Last year, when I turned 1, Mama made me banana muffins. She made them again this year, but she also made some of her zucchini muffins with all the fresh zucchini we picked up at the farm stand. And she added our bluebies to them!

9 dozen muffins later….

Look at all the blueberries! They burst in my mouth. So yummy.

I like the mini-muffins because I can shove just about the whole thing in my mouth (even though Mama and Papa say, “Don’t stuff!”). I opened my presents and got to blow out candles, all before breakfast.

My new birthday trucks didn’t get in the way of my blowing out the candles on the first try.

Some may speculate now whether I should change the name of my blog, as I’m technically no longer a baby. “Toddler Jude” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. What do you think?

Love, Jude (who’s 2!)

Blueberry-Zucchini Muffins (Dairy-Free)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 large farm-fresh eggs
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups freshly grated zucchini, drained
2/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 cup frozen organic blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tins with paper liners or spray/butter the tins.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla. Stir in the zucchini. Add the oil, soda, and salt, and stir to combine.

Add to the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until just combined, and all the flour is moistened. Gently stir in the blueberries.

Scoop the batter into prepared muffin tins and bake for 15-20 minutes (about 19 for regular muffins, 15 for minis). The muffins should be firm to the touch, and a pick inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 1 dozen regular muffins & 1 dozen minis, or 18 regular muffins

Note: Mama advises grating your zucchini first and putting it in a collander set over a bowl while you gather the rest of your ingredients. And she says these muffins freeze really well!


It’s all about the bluebies

The other day, Mama took me blueberry picking. By now you realize that she keeps a pretty close eye on what I eat, and I think you know she tries to purchase foods that are local and organic—when they make sense. Blueberries are consistently among the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen” of fruits and veggies with the most pesticides, but because Mama doesn’t always want to pay $6 for a pint of organic berries, we often skip them. For this reason, she was overjoyed to find the organic fruit farm just a short drive from our house. And it turned out to be a fun afternoon activity with yours truly.

I enjoyed picking the bluebies…

I couldn’t believe how little the bushes were! I walked right up to them, bucket in hand, and just started picking (and eating). It was like when we picked the wild raspberries: from the bush and into my mouth.

…almost as much as I enjoyed eating them.

The berries were warm from the sun. Mama reminded me, often, to pick just the blue ones—not the purple ones, and not the green ones. We saw all kinds of big caterpillars on the leaves. The farmer, when he came over to snack from a bush, told us they sure love blueberries. Much like Sal in that famed story, I did wander off from time to time, and Mama had to chase me up and down the rows. But we managed to fill her bucket (for some reason, mine remained empty), and I played with the two farm dogs roaming the property. We picked nearly 5 pounds (but they didn’t weigh me!), all for $12.

Er, this is my bucket. That’s Mama’s in the background.

When we got home, Mama spent a lot of time washing the berries and fending me off from eating them by the handfuls. They had a lot of grass clippings—and bugs!—on them. I helped her de-stem them, too. (That’s a very good task to give someone my age…until said someone starts snacking on them, stems and all.) Because most of our haul was intended for the freezer, Mama spread the berries on a towel-lined cookie sheet so they could dry. (This is why you can buy frozen berries that are separate and perfect, rather than in clumps—they’re individually quick frozen.) You spread them out on a sheet, make sure they’re relatively dry, then pop the sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, you can put them in storage bags or containers. We got 3 sheets of bluebies.

This is how you dry the washed bluebies before freezing them.

As they were drying, Mama asked what we should make, and I agreed that muffins sounded good. I’ve never made a recipe quite like this one before. Mama melted the butter in a saucepan and added the other wet ingredients to it before adding them to the dry. Weird, huh? Usually, you’d use oil in a two-stage recipe, she told me, but we like butter! It’s been a while since I’ve baked anything, and Mama was impressed with how far I’ve come. I poured all the dry ingredients into the bowl without spilling—the mess came later when I whisked it like a dervish.

You can’t see it here, but my belly is COVERED in flour!

Once everything was combined, I added the bluebies to the batter, then helped Mama fold them in. She explained that if we stirred them too vigorously, they would crush and stain the batter blue. Not that it would affect the taste any, but we wouldn’t have those lovely whole berries to sink our teeth into later on.

This was my last chance to eat bluebies before they were mixed in.

She showed me how quickly you can make a crumb topping, and I helped sprinkle it on top of each muffin. Into the oven they went, and off I went to play. I was experiencing some sort of natural berry high and had a lot of energy.

Check me out!

But not too much to keep Mama from giving me half a muffin once it cooled a bit. (She thinks I didn’t notice she ate the other half.)

YOU try eating just half of one.

Regardless, there were so many bluebies in it! The muffin itself wasn’t very sweet, but the bluebies made up for that. And they were good and crumbly in my hand.

After a long day of picking the bluebies and washing the bluebies and making the bluebie muffins, I finally get to eat one!

Mama said she wants to go picking again next weekend to stock up for the winter. I hope we do!

Love, Jude

Bursting Bluebie Muffins with Crumb Topping

6 Tbsp unsalted butter (or canola oil, then skip the saucepan direction)
1/3 cup buttermilk (or milk)
2 eggs (or 4–5 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or 1 1/2 cups all-purpose total)
1/2 cup sugar (or brown)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup blueberries

For topping:

handful of whole-wheat flour
spoonful of brown sugar
spoonful of finely chopped walnuts (optional)
a few pats of butter

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter or spray 12 muffin cups (or use paper liners, if that’s your thing). Melt the butter over low heat, then whisk in the milk, eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (minus the blueberries), whisking to incorporate. Add the wet to the dry, stir until just combined, then gently fold in the blueberries. Top with the topping ingredients, mashed to combine. Bake for 17-20 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center of one muffin comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then, if you didn’t use papers, run a knife around the edges to loosen. Transfer to a rack to cool or eat!


J’adore soufflés

By now, it’s no secret that I love eggs. I’ll take them any way I can get them. But Mama says people are a little afraid of soufflés because they have a reputation for being temperamental [insert joke about soufflés being like Mama here]. Kidding aside, Mama showed me that there’s nothing to fear about this puffy little delicacy whose name comes from the French word for  “blow.” I blow on my food when it’s hot, and just yesterday I blew my first bubbles outside, so I’m excited to learn how to make these.

First, Mama said we have to make a “roo.” We’ve made this before by melting butter in a saucepan, then whisking in flour until it’s all cooked and bubbly. Then we add milk. Mama says some people say to use cold milk, while others say to use hot milk. She “splits the difference” by using milk that’s been taken out of the fridge for a little while, “just to take the chill off.” Once the milk’s added to the saucepan, we stir and stir until it thickens. (Well, Mama took care of the stirring because it was very hot.) She said this is what’s called a béchamel, but it looked like a white sauce to me.

When butter's all foamy, add the flour all at once and start whisking.

When butter’s all foamy, add the flour all at once and start whisking.

This is how the white sauce will look once all the floury clumps are worked in to the milk.

This is how the white sauce will look once all the floury clumps are worked in to the milk.

This next part is where it starts to get a little scary. You have to separate your eggs. I don’t quite understand how sometimes I can crack the eggs and roll them around and the shell comes off, and other times, Mama cracks the egg and out comes a runny gloppy mess. But this is one of those times when Mama has to crack the eggs. She notes that the whites must be meticulously free of yolk, and because she doesn’t take her own advice to separate the eggs one at a time over a small bowl (and then dumping each white into a larger bowl), she creates an opportunity to show me how to remove errant yolk from the white: use the shell to scoop it out!

Now Mama sets aside the bowl of whites and sets the bowl of yolks on a damp dishcloth—she explains that it’s to keep the bowl from sliding when she “tempers” the yolks.  (I thought this must be why soufflés are considered temperamental, but Mama says it’s how you bring hot and cold liquids together without ruining them.) She whisks the yolks to break them up, and then she pours a little of the hot white sauce into them, whisking the whole time. She adds a bit more sauce, still whisking, and keeps at this until all the sauce is in the yolks. Now you have your soufflé base. Mama says this is the time to add any flavors—crumbled cooked bacon, puréed or small-dice cooked veggies, cheese, fruit, finely ground nuts, chocolate—but we’re keeping it plain today.

Mama notes that here’s a good place to stop, if you have to. If you’re making soufflés for breakfast the next day or for dessert later on, this is where you should stop, put everything in the fridge, then take it out about a half an hour before you want to resume cooking—to “take the chill off.” That’s when you should turn on your oven, too. But before finishing the recipe, there’s one more thing to be done: prepare the ramekins. I didn’t know these could be used in the oven or for food other than mine. Mama always used to feed me from these…until I discovered that they break into so many pieces when they hit the floor. (I’m just learning about gravity, you know.) Brush melted butter all around the inside of each ramekin (or other small ovenproof dish), then dust each with either parmesan cheese (if savory) or sugar (if sweet). (Mama thinks finely chopped nuts might work, too.) This step, Mama says, gives the soufflé something to grab onto as it climbs up the ramekin. Mama set the prepared ramekins on a baking sheet.

These are sugared.

These are sugared.

Next, Mama turned her attention to the egg whites. She plugged in the mixer and began to beat them until they formed soft peaks.

See how the "peak" flops over?

See how the “peak” flops over?

Then she folded the whites into the yolk mixture, being careful to not overmix—she explained that if she stirred too vigorously, she could deflate the whites, which would not bode well for the soufflés. Mama says that as soon as the whites are folded in, it’s time to pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins. Fill them nearly to the top (most ramekins have an inner rim that’s a good marking spot). She sprinkled a bit more parmesan on top and popped them in the oven.

Then we waited. Mama said we may not open the oven to check on them, otherwise they’ll deflat like a balloon. So when the time was up, we turned on the oven light to take a peek. Those soufflés had puffed up like my grandma’s hairdo and were golden brown. Mama called them gorgeous. The real test was taking them out of the oven… and they held! They stayed puffy until we dug in. They were eggy, and they tasted as soft and fluffy as they looked. I could eat these all day.

Love, Jude

Basic Soufflés

2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
4 eggs, separated
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
Melted butter (about 2 Tbsp)
Grated parmesan cheese (or sugar, if making a dessert soufflé) (about 2 Tbsp)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush six 6-ounce ramekins with melted butter, then dust with parmesan cheese (or sugar). Set aside on a baking sheet. Over medium heat, melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan, then add the flour, and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour is incorporated and the mixture begins to bubble, 1–2 minutes. Slowly add the milk and continue to whisk, working out any clumps. Then whisk occasionally until the mixture is hot and begins to thicken, 5–10 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from heat and add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Whisking constantly, pour a small amount of the milk mixture into the yolks. Add a bit more milk, continuing to whisk. Then add the remaining milk mixture to the bowl and whisk thoroughly. If adding flavors or cheese, do so now.

Beat the egg whites with a hand mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Then immediately and carefully fold in to the yolk mixture in three additions. Immediately pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins, up until the inner line. Wipe the rims of any errant mixture. Sprinkle with additional parmesan, if desired.

Bake for 17–18 minutes in the center of the oven, until puffed and golden. The centers should look set and firm. Resist the urge to open the oven to check on them, but when you do take them out, a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 soufflés

Note: Mama says it’s not a bad idea to add an additional yolk to the base if you’re going to be adding a lot of stuff to the soufflé; the extra yolk will make the base stronger. Try adding up to ½ cup shredded cheese and either ½ cup vegetable puree or 1/3 cup small-diced cooked vegetables or crumbled cooked bacon to the base (before folding in the egg whites). Some ideas: butternut squash-gruyere-paprika; onion-roasted pepper-rosemary-spinach; artichoke-red pepper-gruyere-thyme; red pepper-fennel-onion; or try blue cheese-walnuts by substituting finely ground walnuts for the parmesan cheese.

Variation: To make a chocolaty soufflé, whisk in 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1/2 cup sugar to the finished white sauce. After the mixture is tempered into the egg yolks, add 1 tsp vanilla extract. Add 1/4 cup sugar to the egg whites as they’re being whipped to soft peaks. Proceed with the rest of the recipe, but be sure to sugar your ramekins.

Soufflés will fall a little bit (cracking the tops) once they're taken out of the oven, but they really should remain fairly puffy.

Soufflés will fall a little bit (cracking the tops) once they’re taken out of the oven, but they really should remain fairly puffy.