One kid's adventures in gastronomy

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Lemonade’s not just for heat waves

Well, the heat wave finally broke, but it’s still awfully hot. Mama decided it was time for some lemonade. You won’t believe how easy it is to make.

Get together your lemons, juicer or reamer, knife, and cutting board.

Get together your lemons, juicer or reamer, knife, and cutting board.

Since these were large lemons, Mama used a regular hand juicer rather than her electric one. She took out 6 lemons, as that’s about what it takes to get 1 cup of lemon juice. She ended up needing only 4 of them, though.

I tried juicing a lemon, but  I could either press or twist, not both at the same time.

I tried juicing a lemon, but I could either press or twist, not both at the same time.

Juicing the lemons is probably the toughest part. After that, it’s a matter of combining everything, and choosing how you want to serve it. I like lemonade very much, especially the way it makes my face pucker. Mama likes making it herself because she can control the sweetness. And really, it’s not an expensive drink to make, even if you get a hankering for the stuff once the heat wave passes.

Love, Jude


Juice of 4 to 6 lemons (1 cup)
1 cup sugar (or more or less, to taste)
6 cups cold water

In a pitcher, combine the lemon juice and sugar. Stir to start dissolving the sugar. Add the water, then stir until the sugar dissolves. Serve straight, over ice, or with a pick of frozen fruit for garnish.

These frozen grapes make a terrific and refreshing complement to the lemonade.

These frozen grapes make a terrific and refreshing complement to the lemonade.

Makes about 7 cups.

Variations: Instead of a pick of frozen fruit, toss a handful of strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries into the lemonade as it sits in the fridge. Or add a few sprigs of mint, thyme, basil, or lemon verbena. Instead of mixing the sugar with the lemon juice, pulse it in a food processor or coffee grinder with 2 Tbsp lavender flowers until powdery, then add that to the lemon juice and water. (Alternatively, make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and 1 cup of the water in a saucepan over medium heat, until the sugar is melted. Add the lavender flowers and steep until the mixture cools. Discard the flowers, chill the syrup, then proceed with the rest of the recipe.) Or try two of Mama’s favorite ways to have this lemonade: as an Arnold Palmer (50/50 with unsweetened iced tea) or mixed with limoncello (she says it’s lemonade for adults).

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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

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Let Them Eat Cookies

Grandma was visiting for Christmas, and Mama thought we would have fun making cookies, so she made a couple batches of dough one afternoon while I napped. Normally, Mama doesn’t like making cutter cookies because, she says, they stick and become distorted when you pick them up, or they roll unevenly and then bake unevenly. But she declared this dough, from The Joy of Cooking, a winner.

Mama cut the dough in half with my new favorite tool, a bench scraper, and she showed me how to lightly flour the table. Then together we rolled the dough with a rolling pin. What a funny tool that is! Mama finished rolling it to the thinness she wanted, saying it was important to move the dough (so that it doesn’t stick to the table) and not roll off the edges (so that you don’t smoosh it). Then we pressed our cookie cutters—a tree, a snowman, and a star—into it. I had to put my whole hand on the cutter and press really hard, then Mama showed me how to give it a little jiggle to be sure it came free when we lifted the cutter. And it worked! I gently poked the dough out of the cutter and onto a parchment paper–lined baking sheet, and we started all over again (when I wasn’t eating the dough, that is).

Waiting for the first batch to bake was easy because we kept making more cookies. But waiting for that last batch to cool before we could decorate them was really difficult! Mama let me play with the leftover dough, so I could practice rolling and patting and cutting. She said we couldn’t use the little bit of dough for cookies anymore because it had been rolled and stretched and floured too many times, and the cookies would be tough. (I don’t really think I would mind. Would you?)

Mama had made a basic icing with powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and lemon zest and juice. She took care of frosting the cookies, but I decorated them with sprinkles and other tiny candies. Mama taped over some of the holes on top of the bottles, but I still managed to get the sprinkles all over—and then I ate them! I figured out that if I pressed my hot little fingers into the errant sprinkles, they’d stick to my hands and I could just eat them right up. You might remember that I don’t often get unbridled access to sugar, but Mama had no control over me, and it was awesome!

The cookies were, of course, yummy. They were crisp on the bottom and softish on top, which Mama and I both like, and the lemony icing cut the sweetness a little bit. My friends certainly liked them, and I didn’t mind sharing.

Love, Jude


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!


Code name: “Kale Puff”

That’s what my cousins call me. When Mama and I visited them last summer (my first time on an airplane!), they thought it was both funny and sad that mama doesn’t give me much sugar to eat. Instead of fishy-shaped crackers and animal-shaped cookies, I get organic puffs. Sometimes Mama buys the banana ones, but when we were in Wisconsin, she happened to buy the kale kind. And we haven’t heard the end of it since.

For the record, I like kale puffs. I like all puffs. They were nice to eat before I had any teeth because they dissolved in my mouth, and they helped me hone my pincer grasp—something every baby needs to learn how to do. I didn’t really eat them as a snack, though. Instead, Mama would put a few puffs in a snacking cup for me when I started getting antsy about my car seat. “If you want puffs, you have to get in your car seat,” she still says. And because she worries that I might choke while she’s driving, she still gives me puffs, even though I now have four molars.

But back to my cousins. Mama says we come from a long line of good bakers, where you couldn’t visit someone without having several sweet options to nosh on. It’s something everyone comes to expect. Grandma always—always—has a pie or cookies or quick breads in the oven. It was she who taught Mama to take cookies out of the oven a bit early and let them finish baking on the cookie sheet to make them crisp on the edges while soft in the middle. (Apparently, this is a good thing, though I wouldn’t know, since I’ve never had a cookie.)

So everyone was a little surprised that Mama doesn’t feed me sugar—and more than a little repulsed by the idea of kale puffs. The cousins kept patting my head, saying things like, “Aww, poor baby…” Grandma always made fancy cakes for everyone’s birthdays (except for Uncle Scotty, who gets a coconut cream pie and a lemon meringue pie). Even though it was a few weeks before my birthday, Grandma wanted to make me a cake. She had a challenge ahead of her, as I still wasn’t up to whole eggs yet, and there was the whole sugar thing to contend with.

Well, Grandma took the challenge by storm. She made a banana cake using applesauce instead of eggs and brown sugar instead of white—and Mama convinced her that she didn’t even need all of what was called for in the recipe. She made plain whipped cream for the “icing,” which I dutifully smashed. But nobody wanted to try the cake… not right away, anyway. The cousins wouldn’t touch it, but my GeeGee and Aunt Karen liked it. And I thought it was pretty good too.

I made a pretty good mess of my birthday cake.

Mama would want me to point out that she hasn’t banned all sugar. I do get some, sometimes. She baked gingerbread biscotti at Christmas, which turned out to be the perfect teething biscuits—they’re hard, they dissolve when wet, and they’re minimally sweetened. She also makes various kinds of scones, which have hardly any sugar in them to begin with, and she sets aside a few for me that she doesn’t dust with sugar before baking. And she makes a variety of fruit-filled muffins with lower-than-called-for amounts of sugar, and usually she substitutes brown sugar (but not always whole-wheat flour). I eat lots of sweet potatoes. I don’t drink juice, even watered down, but I eat a lot of fruit. We skip pre-made yogurt, and instead make fruit smoothies with the plain stuff. But don’t think I’m immune to sugar. I can totally tell the difference when Mama tries to substitute something like puffed kamut in my snacking cup. She muses that if she had started with the kamut, rather than with the puffs, I might not have minded the difference, but they’re just too bland for me.

This is the first time I tried a marshmallow--Mama made it. It was squishy-soft and very sweet. I had just a couple baby bites.

So why have sugar at all? Why does Mama bother baking all these goodies if she has to alter recipes for me (or give me just a nibble, if she makes it full-fledged)? She can’t help herself, for one thing. She feels kids should experience the joy of stirring flour and eggs and oil—and yes, sugar—in a bowl, putting it in the oven, and as if by magic, taking out something completely transformed and delicious. I have to say, I like when she lets me help her. (That flour really flies far and gets all over the place!) Mama’s also careful of when she gives me any sort of sweet treat—not when I’m being fussy, and usually when I’ve already eaten something sensible. And she would also say it’s a “control thing.” She likes to be in control of the amount of sugar I put into my body, so she doesn’t accept the lollipop from the bank teller or the cookie from the nice lady at the bakery. She feels I have plenty of time to eat all the sugar I’ll ever want, so why rush it? She believes in real, whole food–which includes the occasional homemade treat. And one mini zucchini muffin is so much better than that box of Girl Scout cookies she has hiding in the cupboard, wouldn’t you agree?

Love, Jude

For Mama's chocolate cheesecake, she let me taste the batter before she added the eggs. Boy, was that good! I don't think I've ever had chocolate before (or since).

Pumpkin Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp cloves
2 cups cooked pumpkin (from a pumpkin that was roasted; may also use a 15-oz can of pumpkin puree)
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
½ cup canola oil (use ¾ cup if you use solid pack pumpkin, rather than pureed)
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners or spray liberally with cooking spray.

Whisk together the flours, soda, and spices in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, and oil. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine. Add the raisins or cranberries, if using. Scoop the batter into the prepared tins.

Bake mini-muffins for about 15 minutes, regular muffins about 18 minutes. (They should feel firm, yet spongy, to the touch; or a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.) Cool in the pan a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. These also freeze well.

Yield: 1 dozen regular muffins + 1 dozen minis

Note: Mama says if you use an ice-cream scoop to put the batter into the tins, it’s not only faster, but your muffins will turn out to be the same size. Mama also says roasting a pumpkin is almost as easy as roasting a squash—just cut it, scoop out the seeds, and bake it in a pan with a little water until it’s soft. Just don’t use “face” pumpkins (the kind you’d use for jack-o-lanterns).