One kid's adventures in gastronomy


Cuckoo for Kale Chips

A little more than 2 years ago, I wrote about my love for kale chips. I’m happy to report that—unlike, say, pâté, beets, and orange foods—it’s a love I still embrace. Only now, because I’m such a big boy, I get to help make them. And clever Mama has upped the ante by introducing nutritional yeast into the mix.

What I can tell you about nutritional yeast can fit on a kale chip. Suffice it to say that it is different from the yeast we’ve used to make bread and is most definitely not brewer’s yeast (even though the label might tell you otherwise).

One of these is nutritional yeast, and one is not. Psss... its the one on the right.)

One of these is nutritional yeast, and one is not. (Psst… it’s the one on the right.)

Nutritional yeast (often called “nooch” by those in the know) has a cheesy/nutty flavor (think: Parmesan), and what’s not to like about that? In addition to adding oomph to vegetarian dishes, it has a dose of B-vitamins as well as all the amino acids. Mama likes putting it on her eggs, but it’s similarly stellar in a tofu scramble or on popcorn.

But don’t let my 4-year-old limitations hold you back from experimenting with nooch. If you make something yummy with it, let me know!

Love, Jude

Supercheesy Kale Chips

1 bunch kale
Olive oil
Sea or kosher salt
Nutritional yeast flakes

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or just commit to cleaning your baking sheet when you’re done and go without. Rinse kale and rip the leaves from the center stalk. Mama suggested I pull the upward-growing leaves downward, so they tear off more easily, and it works! Try to make them of similar size because remember that the larger pieces won’t crisp up as much as the smaller ones.

Tear the leaves downward away from the stalk.

Tear the leaves downward away from the stalk.

Scatter kale on baking sheet, then toss with about 1 Tbsp oil. You really don’t need a lot—it’s just so the salt and nutritional yeast has something to adhere to.

We used kosher salt on our kale, but feel free to use sea salt, if thats what you like.

We used kosher salt on our kale, but feel free to use sea salt, if that’s what you like.

Sprinkle with salt and as much nutritional yeast as you want—the more, the cheesier. Who am I to tell you how much you like? Experiment by spreading the kale leaves around the baking sheet then sprinkling different sections with different amounts. (After my little experiment here, I think we learned that “avalanche” is a little too much.)

Maybe don’t let your kid pour on the nooch.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until desired crispness. You could toss them once during baking, but you don’t have to. Enjoy immediately!

Thats a big plate of kale chips and a little bowl of soup.

That’s a big plate of kale chips and a little bowl of soup.

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Storing up summer

We’ve been fortunate to have a really long blueberry season this summer… then again, they started pretty late. And our two bushes never produced, so there’s that. Still, we went picking a bunch of times.

After Mama did all her sorting and freezing (and I did all my snacking), she made jam. Now, I like to say “jams and jellies” because that’s what Mr. Gru and Dr. Nefario say, but Mama tells me that they’re very different. Jam is the cooked down, sugared, soft, and jelled version of fruits, whereas jelly is the jelled version of a fruit’s sweetened juices—that’s why it’s clear.

And if you know one thing about us, it’s that we don’t have time to make jelly.

So jam it is.

The first thing to do is mash the berries. I would like to say that Mama let me do this, but the whole jam-making experience was more of an observation. Blueberry mess + boiling sugar syrup = imminent danger in this household.

mashed blueberries/

Once the berries were mashed, they were cooked with some water, local honey (Mama thought she’d change it up a bit), lemon juice, spices—cinnamon and cardamom, to be exact—and a dash of good ol’ pectin, to help it set up. When we’re making a quick on-the-spot jam, Mama skips the pectin, but as blueberries don’t have a lot of it on their own, she opted for the help. Pectin also needs a bit of acid to do its magic, hence the lemon juice (that, and blueberries and lemons are just plain yummy together).

cooked blueberries/

Either way, the simple test to see whether the jam is sufficiently jelled is by putting a dab of it on a plate that’s been in the freezer. Return it to the freezer, and if, when you take it out and run your finger through it, it seems jammy, you’re done! If not, return the jam to a boil and cook it down a little more.

Mama decided to store this jam in the freezer (mainly so she didn’t have to haul out her canning equipment), so she put it in a bunch of pretty little jars instead and called it a day.


Once cooled, she carted the jars to the freezer and found a cozy place for them. And the very next day, I made myself a yummy blueberry jam and peanut butter sandwich.

jam face/

Mama says I look like the Joker, whoever that is. I say this face looks like summer.

Love, Jude

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Vive la quiche!

In honor of Bastille Day (and Papa’s return from Paris), Mama decided to make a quiche. She opted for crustless, as who has time to make and pre-bake a crust on a hot summer’s evening? Because I like broccoli (and because we had a bunch of it), she figured a broccoli and cheese quiche would be just the thing.

She figured wrong.

Of course she tried calling it an “egg pie” and a “broccoli pie,” which only made matters worse. After much cajoling, I finally tried a tentative bite. You can imagine what followed.

I knew from first sight that I wouldn't like this.

I knew from first sight that I wouldn’t like this.

Mama asked if I could tell her what I didn’t like about the quiche. I said, “I didn’t like the broccoli, and I didn’t like the egg.”

Well, there you have it. (Truth is, I might have liked it better had there been a crust, as who doesn’t love a flaky, buttery crust?)

Love, Jude


Broccoli & Cheese Quiche

A crown of broccoli, cut into small florets (our crowns were small, so Mama used 2)
6 organic eggs
½ cup cream or half-and-half
1/3 to ½ cup shredded cheese of choice (we used Gruyère, but you could use Cheddar, Asiago, Fontina…really, anything you have a hankering for)
Salt & pepper
Pinch of nutmeg (to make this a classic quiche)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9” pie plate. (We used butter, as it’s a French dish, after all.) Boil or steam the broccoli until bright green and crisp tender, about 1 minute. Drain and set aside.

Jude on Food: All ingredients that go into a quiche should be cooked.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until broken up and well combined. Add the cream or half-and-half and whisk to combine. Stir in the blanched broccoli and cheese. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Gently pour into prepared pie plate and bake until set & puffy, about 30 minutes.

Allow to cool about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.


Strawberries and Cream

This year, our favorite organic berry-picking patch was overrun by hungry deer, so we couldn’t pick our usual lovely collection. Mama found another patch, though it was much less unkempt. Witness the weeds:

I didn't like picking these strawberries because it was too much work. I kept asking Mama to add her berries into my basket.

I didn’t like picking these strawberries because it was too much work hunting for them. I kept asking Mama to add her berries into my basket.

But the berries were warmed by the sun, and they positively burst when I bit into them.

At home, Mama ended up doing all the cleaning, but I helped her by eating a lot of those strawberries so that there were fewer of them for her to clean.

With them, we made a lot of freezer jam. We’ve made it before, but this time Mama tried a new recipe, based loosely on this one. Voilà:

Though all the jars ended up sealing, we're going to store them in the fridge & freezer.

Though all the jars ended up sealing, we’re going to store them in the fridge & freezer.

But the real show stopper, the easiest and most delicious part, was the fresh berries with whipped cream we ate for dessert. Mama says anyone with a whisk can whip cream, but not everyone does it correctly. She showed me how to do it right.

First, we kept everything cold, including the bowl and the beaters. Mama said this isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s been pretty hot out lately, so better to be safe—you’ll get a better whip with cold equipment. (She also wanted to save her arms by not whipping it by hand, though she suggests everyone ought to give that a try sometime.)

Mama explained that the only cream that’s going to whip is heavy cream, or whipping cream (either one will work). If you try to whip light cream or half-and-half, you’ll be whipping until I turn 4. This is because of the fat content (the fat is what holds it together). She also explained that plain whipped cream tastes about as bland as… well, plain whipping cream. Bleck.

Jude on Food: Flavor everything!

To remedy this, Mama showed me how to make chantilly cream. If you’re feeling fancy, you can pronounce it “shahn-tee-ee,” but I’m really good at making “L” sounds, so I’m going to stick with that. Chantilly is basically sweetened whipped cream with added vanilla.

You can find all sorts of recipes for basic chantilly cream, but Mama’s advice is to taste it once it’s beginning to whip up. If it needs more vanilla (or other flavoring, such as orange, lemon, or almond), add it. If it could be sweeter, sprinkle in more sugar. As for the type of sweetener you use, regular sugar works fine, but Mama likes to use confectioners’ sugar—that’s the soft powdery kind we sometimes put on crepes. She told me she’s never tried other sweeteners, but she supposes they would work just as well. (If you try one, let us know!)

Two other things Mama noted about making whipped cream: 1) go slowly—if you rush it by turning your mixer on high speed, you’ll not only splatter cream everywhere (as I found out), but you’ll heat up the cream, and it’ll take longer. 2) Don’t overwhip it.

whipping cream/

Whip it–whip it real good!

The problem with overwhipping cream isn’t the taste. It’s the texture. Even I don’t want my whipped cream to look like cottage cheese. Ewww, right? You can whip it to soft peaks or stiff peaks, but if you go beyond that, you can’t do much with it…except, maybe stuff it into something.

Because it’s just Mama and me right now (Papa’s out of town), she showed me what would happen if we pushed the cream too far:

Who am I kidding? I'd still eat that.

Who am I kidding? I’d still eat that.

Mama let me beat the cream at first (note the splatters), but then took over to finish the job. I took this picture (and about 18 more like it):

Do you see the trails that are created by the beaters? They're loosely holding their shape, but they're still very soft.

See the trails that are created by the beaters? They’re loosely holding their shape, but they’re still very soft.

Another way to tell when the cream is getting close is to stop beating it and check how it looks on the beater.

The whipped cream is just clinging to the beaters, and there's a soft little peak down in the bowl.

The whipped cream is just clinging to the beaters, and there’s a soft little peak down in the bowl.

From here to ruin is a short path, so beat carefully from now on. If you’re planning to pipe the cream, you’ll want stiffer peaks, as they’ll hold their shape. If you’re looking for just a bit of billowy adornment, as we want for our berries, then stop when they’re soft.

Stiff cream will hold in the fridge, covered, for a day or so. Soft cream should be used pretty soon after it’s made. If it starts to weep, give it a light whipping with a whisk before using.

berries and cream/

And what’s not to like about having a little whipped cream on hand?

Love, Jude

Chantilly Cream

1 cup cold heavy cream or whipping cream*
1 Tbsp powdered sugar (or, to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or, to taste)

Place cream, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl and beat at low speed with an electric mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer with whip attachment); alternatively, use a whisk. When the cream begins to take shape, you may increase your speed a little bit more, but not more than medium. Move the beaters around the bowl and rotate the bowl to ensure you reach all the edges. Beat until desired stiffness, then serve or store until ready to use.

This dessert is Mama approved AND Jude approved.

This dessert is Mama approved AND Jude approved.

Note: For an extra-special treat, try whipping crème fraiche. As sour cream’s sophisticated (and more pricey) cousin, it’s tangy and makes for a great complement to lemon curd and supersweet berries.

For a vegan alternative, put a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. Without shaking it, take it out of the fridge, remove the lid, and scoop out the solid white part. (Reserve the watery portion for smoothies.) Whip & flavor the white solids like you would cream.

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A Use for Easter Candy

A.K.A., candy Mama doesn’t want me to know about. The Easter Bunny, apparently, left a partial bag of jelly beans in a cupboard. Mama decided the quickest way to get them out of the house was to make a treat for my teachers. We’re calling it Bunny Bark. Isn’t that funny? Bunnies don’t bark!

It’s super simple to make. Mama melted white chocolate chips in something she called a double boiler then spread it out in a baking sheet.

I got to lick the spatula.

I got to lick the spatula.

After a minute or two, we scattered jelly beans over it. (I even retrieved my personal stash of Easter beans to help fill in some gaps.)

Isn’t that pretty? I had fun pointing out the matching ones.

Isn’t that pretty? I had fun pointing out the matching ones.

Once it cooled and hardened, we broke it apart…

I tried to get at least 1 jelly bean per piece of bark.

I tried to get at least 1 jelly bean per piece of bark. (Use more candy if you like.)

…and bagged it. (No need to store in the fridge.)

I looked for

I counted the number of pieces in each bag so they were all the same.

Not only is this a pretty gift, but it was fun to make (and yummy to eat).

Easy peasy, Easter breezy.

Easy peasy, Easter breezy.

Love, Jude

Bunny Bark

2 12-oz bags white chocolate chips (may also chop white baker’s chocolate)
½–1 cup jelly beans

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler (or in smaller batches in the microwave in 20-second intervals). To set up a double boiler, simmer water in a medium saucepan and set a bowl over it (not touching the water). Be careful when you stir the chocolate and remove the bowl, as steam can escape from the saucepan, and it’s hot! When the chips are nearly melted, remove the bowl of chocolate and continue stirring until fully melted.

Pour the melted chocolate onto a jelly roll pan or baking sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment paper; our sheet is about 16” x 13”. Spread out the chocolate and then give the baking sheet a little shimmy or a tap to encourage the chocolate to smooth out. Allow to cool a couple minutes, then sprinkle jelly beans on top—in however dense a manner as desired.

Note: This recipe may be halved. You can use milk or dark chocolate—or swirl white and brown chocolates together. You may also substitute malted chocolate eggs in place of the jelly beans.

Bonus recipe! We made birds’ nests with other leftover candy. For a tutorial, see how this lovely lady does it. Mama melted a bag of mini marshmallows with ¾ stick of butter, then mixed in 2 bags of chow mein noodles. She rubbed a bit of butter on parchment paper so the nests wouldn’t stick and greased up her hands really well before diving in to the gooey mess. (I did all the measuring; she did all the forming.) Have someone else (like a little kid!) place the candied eggs in the nests while the marshmallow is still sticky, so that they stay put. If you miss your chance, then microwave a small cup of marshmallows for 10–15 seconds until they’re melty, then use that as glue to hold them in place. We made 2 dozen nests, and I still had Easter candy left over. (The Easter bunny was very generous with candy this year, as opposed to years past.)


We used peanut butter M&Ms and malted eggs, but jelly beans would’ve worked too…if we had any left.

We used peanut butter M&Ms and malted eggs, but jelly beans would’ve worked too…if we had any left.


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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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).