Category Archives: Cooking with Kids
ITALIAN HAND GESTURES…
Yesterday when we were at the park I found a four leaf clover. I usually find a few a year but I’ve found a couple in just the last month. I carefully carried my lucky clover home and, as soon as we walked in the door I led Gigi over to my Grandma’s hutch upon which is perched a few special books: an old copy of Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, and Is Paris Burning? both given to me by Kyle’s Nana, and an old copy of Emma. I picked up Emma and opened the rickety pages to chapter 24. Right between pages 232 and 233 is where I keep my four leaf clovers. I showed Gigi how to press it into place with the others and carefully close the book before sliding it back into pace on top of the hutch.
Opening the book and catching a glimpse of of Austen’s words made me immediately want to pour myself a cup of tea and curl up in the corner of the couch with Emma in hand. I love Jane Austen. After all, one of Gigi’s middle names is Bennet. Every fall I feel drawn towards comfort. I want to re-read favorite books like A Prayer for Owen Meany, Animal Dreams, and Anne of Green Gables. But mostly I want to read Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility.
I don’t usually do it. I normally let my logic get in the way. As I reach up to the bookshelf to get an old favorite, I see all the books I haven’t read yet; some of which have been patiently waiting their turn for years. I feel sorry for those poor, patient books and feel obligated to choose from the ranks of the unread. But this fall I’m going to just exactly as I please and I’m join got read my comforting Jane Austen novels.
To make up for my familiar-leaning reading choices to come, I am planning to challenge myself in the kitchen. I’m going to crack open new cookbooks, and check out some new ones from the library. Did you know that you can check out cookbooks from the library? At our little one you can so I imagine you could at your libraries as well! While I’m sure I will cook a fair amount of my favorite comfort food, I’ll also be challenging myself with new foods and new variations of favorite dishes.
One of my favorite dishes is panzanella. A panzanella is a classic italian salad that usually includes cubes of day-old bread, roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, red onion, mozzarella, and basil. I love to make it in the summer with this classic approach, but seeing as it’s already feeling like autumn here I wanted to take a fall approach to this dish. I’m sure my recipe will make some Italian Grandmothers click their tongues and make some wonderfully-Italian hand gestures, but we loved it. We’ve made it quite a few times now; twice for lunch and twice for dinner.
My fall panzanella boasts quite a range of flavors: sweet cherry tomatoes, salty pancetta, robust hard boiled eggs, and fragrant fried sage leaves. The dressing is made with bright champagne vinegar, mustard, garlic and lots and lots of chives. It’s tart and absorbs into the cubes of bread, breaking up the earthy flavors of the main ingredients. The result is a wonderfully hearty, but not too heavy salad that stands as a main course.
No matter what you’re reading, or what you’re cooking, we wish a you a very happy start to fall. Gigi, Lulu and I made this cooking video of this recipe to share with you!
PANZANELLA WITH PANCETTA, HARD BOILED EGGS, CHERRY TOMATOES AND FRIED SAGE
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. rustic white loaf, cut into bite size pieces
10-12 large fresh sage leaves
8 slices pancetta
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut into eighths
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
freshly ground black pepper
Chive Champagne Vinaigrette
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, very finely minced
1 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup very finely sliced chives
freshly ground black pepper
In a small sauté pan, heat 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil until shimmering. Gently place in a few leaves at a time and allow to fry for 10-15 seconds. You don’t want them to brown! Remove using tongs and set on a paper towel to drain. Repeat with the remaining leaves. Set the leaves aside and save the oil. (See the video below on how to fry sage leaves.)
Turn your oven on to broil. Carefully toss the bread with the sage-infused oil on a baking sheet. Broil on the middle rack, tossing once or twice, until some of the bread has started to toast and is lightly brown. The goal is to give the bread a bit of color and texture, not to completely toast it. Remove the bread from the oven and transfer it to a large bowl.
Using the same baking sheet, lay the pancetta slices out in a single layer. Place them in the oven, under the broiler, until they are crisp, flipping once. Remove from the oven and transfer to a paper towel to drain.
In a small bowl whisk together the champagne vinegar, garlic, chives, and dijon until combined. Then drizzle the oil in slowly while whisking. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Break up the pancetta a little bit as you add it to the bowl with bread, then add in the tomatoes, sage leaves, and eggs. Toss together gently. Plate, drizzle with plenty of dressing, taste for salt and pepper, and serve immediately!
PANZANELLA WITH PANCETTA, HARD BOILED EGGS, CHERRY TOMATOES AND FRIED SAGE
30 SECOND INTERVALS…
Lulu has become fascinated with my laptop. Anytime I’m using it, like now, she’s right by my side, laughing hysterically, jabbering nonsensically, and saying, “Dee-doo!” (thank you) over and over, which is how she let’s you know she wants something. It’s pretty darn cute, but also pretty distracting. I attempt to sidetrack her in the way that you might distract a not-so-bright puppy, by tossing toys onto the carpet behind her, hoping to entice her into a game of “fetch” that will allow me to get things done in 30 second intervals. It’s not working very well. We don’t have a big agenda for the day so I’m enjoying her antics quite a bit.
It’s a rainy, grey Friday morning here and I’m kind of happy about it. What I really want to do today is put on jeans and a sweater and get things organized and cleaned up from the week. We had a pretty quiet week, actually, which means that the house is in a state where I might be able to get it properly clean, as opposed to most other busy weeks where I can just manage to get it somewhat picked up at the end of the week. What I really want to do is to fold laundry during nap time while watching You’ve Got Mail and English Breakfast tea; clean our bedroom and spritz lavender oil on our freshly-made bed; organize the laundry room… pretty thrilling stuff.
At some point today we do need to go to the grocery store since at this point in the week we’ve run out of everything. We don’t even have cheese which means that most “random pantry meals” in my repertoire are out of question. Besides that, while I don’t mind a good panty raid, I certainly don’t feel inspired by it. One of the reasons I love to cook is that I am a goal-oriented person and having a meals planned, preferably things that’s exciting or creative or challenging, helps me stay focused and energized throughout the day.
With that, I’m signing off for a quiet, productive day with the girls, followed by a fun, relaxing weekend with the whole family. But I’m leaving you with my new favorite recipe, something we’ve made quite a few times already this season and a new cooking video for the recipe! It may in fact be another tartine! Are you sick of them yet? I hope not because I have more heading your way in the coming weeks.
These Grilled Eggplant Tartines with Arugula, Feta, Green Olives and Honey was inspired by a Spilled Milk Podcast on eggplants I listened to months ago in which the combination of eggplant, feta, green olives, and honey was mentioned. Since I’m tartine obsessed these days, my brain naturally went in that direction. By adding a thyme-spiked aoili and some bright, bitter arugula, I created a delicious sandwich that offers a great marriage of some wonderful Greek flavors. This makes a great vegetarian lunch or dinner, and is perfect paired with a chilled glass of white wine, like a Grüner; or a great Pinot Noir. The ingredients for these sandwiches can be made ahead of time and pulled together, and easily assembled when you’re ready for a meal!
GRILLED EGGPLANT TARTINES WITH ARUGULA, FETA, GREEN OLIVES AND HONEY
loaf of french bread, sliced
two medium eggplants, sliced into 1/4 inch discs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
a pinch of fresh thyme
green olives, thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Lay the eggplant slices out on paper towels or thin dishtowels. Sprinkle the slices of eggplant with a tiny bit of kosher salt, flip and repeat. Lay another layer of towels over the top of the eggplant slices. Place a large roasting pan, with a heavy cookbook on top, to help press out a bit of the moisture for twenty minutes. Paint or drizzle both sides of the eggplant with a bit of olive oil and grill on medium high heat until nicely browned. Set them aside and allow them to cool a little while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise with the thyme and a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a little pepper. Smear a very thin layer of the aioli onto your toasts, and pop them under the broiler until they are slightly bubbly and golden. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool.
Spread the rest of the aioli on the cooled toasts, top them each with a small handful of arugula, a few slices of eggplant, some crumbled feta, and sliced olives. Finally, drizzle each toast with a little slightly warmed honey, olive oil, and a little freshly ground black pepper.
GRILLED EGGPLANT TARTINE WITH ARUGULA, FETA, GREEN OLIVES, AND HONEY
And, now, enjoy our cooking video for Grilled Eggplant Tartines!
GRILLED EGGPLANT TARTINE from withlovekacie on Vimeo.
THE SUREST WAY…
Yesterday was just what we needed. I woke up ready to make it a better day. I had a feeling that what I needed was a day off, not just a day off from emails, errands, etc. but a day off from being “mom”. Yet, I didn’t want to be away from my family at all. I thought about it and what I decided was that G and I could both use a day off from the rules, the learning, the growth. We are figuring this whole mom-daughter-toddler thing out together and it’s not always easy. Some days, even some weeks, I feel like I’m constantly saying, no, that’s not okay, please don’t, hold on, wait just a second, you need to be quiet/gentle/polite/use your manners… especially during the times when G is challenging me. But we are just doing our jobs to the best of our abilities. After all, it is her job right now to grow, test, challenge, and question. It is my job to mindfully parent her.
I was so happy that it was Friday. TGIF. It’s the weekend! A break from the work, a change in the routine. What’s to say that G wasn’t just as grateful when the end of the week rolled around? We both needed Saturday off, so that’s what we did. I didn’t press her about rules, we played whatever she wanted right when she wanted. If she said, “Let’s dance!”, we danced. It was fantastic. In fact, from now on we are taking Fridays off. Let the week bring what it may, but from now on Fridays are for me and my girls.
So no rules, coffee in bed, a seriously silly dance party, several readings of Pirate Girl, and excessive snuggling rounded out our morning. As soon as Lulu rose from her morning nap we headed out for a little morning hike, my hiking abilities are a bit limited as my foot is still healing, but that was just fine because it was very cold. A short hike with lattes in hand, a picnic that consisted of a couple of kiwis and some pretzels, and lots of make believe was just the thing. Never underestimate the power of fresh air. When we got home the girls had naps and Kyle and I had lunch and talked about some big goals… then Kyle got to work on his studies and I got to work making cookies.
I’d bought some plump Meyer lemons at the store last week with the intention to make my Meyer Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies. As soon as I see Meyer lemons pop up in the produce section, like little beacons of sunshine sent North from California, I pounce on them. I love shortbread, it’s sweet and a little salty, flaky… and you know I love anything that can be equally enjoyed for dessert and for breakfast. The moment the microplane hit those lemons and the fragrant, tangerine-y smell filled the air, I felt better about everything. I doubled my recipe and ended up with 128 little heart shaped cookies. Gigi woke from her nap just in time to help me make the glaze and drizzle it all over our cookies. We let the glaze set, wrapped up 108 of the cookies into neat little parchment packages of six each, and set out with a basket full of cookies.
As we pulled on our warm coats, smiles on our faces, I remembered something that is easy to forget but important to learn, and to relearn… the surest way to feel more positive, happier, and to put a smile back on your face, is to do something nice for someone else. So that’s what we did. We were cookie fairies, first on our street, then in our neighborhood, then we hopped in the car for a few extra special deliveries. It was the one on one time Gigi and I needed, she listened without being chided and I parented without trying. We talked about how great it felt to make surprise our friends and make them smile… we are most certainly going to make it a regular thing.
MEYER LEMON AND ROSEMARY SHORTBREAD COOKIES
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus more for topping)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon rosemary, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoons Meyer lemon zest
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
2-2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
In a stand mixer, whip the butter for a few minutes until it’s glossy and light. Add in the granulated sugar and mix on medium-high for 3-4 minutes, until it has creamed into a frosting like consistency. Add in the cup of confectioner’s sugar and mix until combined. Add in the rosemary, lemon zest, vanilla, and egg yolk and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt, then add it, one cup at a time, to the wet ingredients, mixing until blended.
Transfer the dough to a large piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a log and seal it up. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes… the cooler the dough, the easier it is to work with.
Preheat your oven to 350˚F. Flour your work surface and working with half of the dough at a time, use a rolling pin to spread the dough out into a sheet that’s about 1/4 inch thick. Pick out your cookie cutter and cut the dough into shapes. Simple shapes work best for these cookies. You can also cut the cookie dough into squares if you prefer. Continue until all the dough has been cut out. I found it easiest bake one batch (two sheets) while I kept cutting out cookies for the next round. I laid the cut out cookies on parchment paper and then transferred them to the baking sheet.
Lay the cut cookies 1 inch apart on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of granulated sugar.
Bake two sheets of cookies at a time on the upper and lower middle racks of the oven for 20 minutes, or just until the cookies begin to very slightly brown on the sides. Rotate them halfway through baking. It’s important to note that if you have a little dough leftover and only have one rack in the oven, the cookies will bake a bit faster, so keep an eye on them!
Move the cookies immediately to a cooling rack, keeping them on the parchment paper.
While the cookies are cooling, make the glaze. Put the 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice in a small bowl. Add in the confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 cup at a time until you have a slightly thick but still drizzle-able glaze. Once the cookies are cooled drizzle each one with a little bit of the glaze. Allow to set for about 30 minutes, or until the glaze is firm to the touch. Enjoy immediately!
The cookies will store well for a few days in an airtight container. This recipe makes about 40 small heart shaped cookies, be sure to share with friends.
MEYER LEMON AND ROSEMARY SHORTBREAD COOKIES
Sometimes, fortunately not too often, we have a day that just defeats me and wipes me out. But the last two weeks have felt like a string of these defeating days. I am trying, trying, trying to stay positive to get up and keep going. Preparing healthy meals and getting enough to eat has been helping a lot. We’ve been keeping the house clean and tidy, the laundry put away, etc. which, let me tell you, has required a huge upheaval of my “old ways”. I wish I was a really tidy person but somehow I seem to leave debris wherever I go. I’m working really hard to NOT do that which is great because the house is clean and cozy, but is hard because it means that the times when I normally might have sat down to catch my breath, I’m spending tidying, folding or putting away laundry, doing dishes, prepping food for dinner…
It seems ridiculous to be complaining about such mundane things, things that when broken down I’m actually grateful for. I really am grateful that I have kids (and :ahem: myself) to tidy up after, a family’s laundry to fold, food to prepare and dishes to wash. I think that in some ways I’m just feeling a little lost and pretty tired. I’m trying to take care of myself, and take time for myself because I think that’s what I need right now. Time, quiet, space, rest… these are not things that are particularly easy to come by at the moment but I’m doing my best to find them whenever I can. I’m trying to keep my head on my shoulders and not compare my life or home or space or work to anyone else’s because I know that that will only make me feel worse, and I know that I am doing my very best (almost) all the time.
Gigi is also having a hard time this week. I feel like she’s going through one of those mental growth spurts that toddlers seem to have and everything overwhelms or frustrates her. We were eating dinner last night and she said, “What’s happening to meeeeee?” Poor gal. It’s like little glimpses of who she’ll be, or who I, was at thirteen. Being an empathetic person I just want to hug her and cuddle her through it. Although I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said, “Can you please use your big girl voice?”, I find it hard to parent firmly when all I want to do is give her a hug, and get a hug myself. She’s been begging for hugs, and saying, “Mama, I need you.” a lot and I just want to give myself to her completely.
I wish I could’ve just dropped everything (literally and figuratively), to comfort her when we went out of our way to walk to visit Daddy at work only to find that he wasn’t there, and she had a meltdown on the sidewalk as we walked back to the car, because I was disappointed too. Her big tears practically froze on her cheeks in the cold wind as she sat on the dirty sidewalk and I felt helpless and overwhelmed. I wish I could convey to her, while disciplining her for screaming
“NOOOOO!” at me, how much I understand what she’s feeling, and how much I love her.
With both kids napping and G’s shrill “NOOOOOO!” still ringing in my ears, I sat down to think, and I realized something. I am a big believer in saying no. I say it all the time. I don’t make excuses, I just say no. In fact, before I sat down to write this, I sent three “no” emails to people who are asking for me to do work for them. I just can’t do everything and for the sake of my mental and physical health I have to say no a lot… even when I wish I could say yes. But today I realized that I also need to say no for G. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m not taking her out to do enough: swimming, story time, coffee shop dates, play dates, activities, time at the park. But the last couple of weeks we’ve been out and about constantly and I wonder if that has something to do with her (and my) meltdowns. Perhaps she’s screaming “NO” at me when we’re out somewhere because what she really needs is space and quiet and and time and rest too?
We are going to do “nothing” for a couple of days. We are not going to plan play dates, run errands, or make lists of any kind. We are going to be cozy. We are going to read books. We are going to watch Winnie the Pooh. We are going to bake cookies. We are going to color. We are going to take long baths. We are going to cuddle, and we are definitely going to have French Toast at “inappropriate” times…
This Roasted Ratatouille is something we make all year round. It’s easy, delicious, and healthy. Enjoy this little cooking video Gigi and I made. You can read about and print the recipe here.
Roasted Ratatouille from withlovekacie on Vimeo.