birthday blues and summer days

Our poor kiddo has been under the weather this week. The worst of it perfectly corresponded with his birthday, and as an added bonus he shared it with me.  Plenty of rest, vitamins and elderberry syrup and we are already on the road to recovery.

To put some sunshine back into our healing bodies, I began looking through photos from the summer and came across this Making-of a Hashtache Breakfast. Sometime last year we began project of creating food faces with hash mustaches and presenting them to Rivers for his Monday breakfast.  Just a once a week creative game. To see more, search #hashtachemonday on Instagram.

The best part of the hashtache breakfast is listening to this guy talk to me about what’s on his plate and then watching him destroy and/or eat it. 

{food face photography} green goop

foodface-freen5 foodface-green1 foodface-green2 foodface-green3 foodface-green4

I’m really enjoying this little series of Food Face Photography with Rivers. He is a bit pickier during mealtime, showing me exactly what he doesn’t want by swatting it to the floor in the most serene, carefree manner. I can’t even get upset, because he looks up at me in such a matter-of-fact way, as if to say, “I’m sorry, was that wrong?”

This is when I cook his absolute favorite, sweet potato, and any additions that usually hit the hardwood. I blend them so that they can’t be separated.

He takes a bite.

From his expression I can tell that he recognizes the flavor of the sweet potato, his reliable friend. But wait, there is something more to it. I haven’t tricked him. I tell him the truth. Though in his eyes, my matter-of-fact blah blah blah must sound something like, “I’m sorry, was that wrong?”

food face photography: first pb & j

PBJ-1 PBJ-2 PBJ-3 PBJ-4 PBJ-5 PBJ-6 PBJ-7PBJ-8

“Hey go.”

He’s so good at sharing food. Should you decline he’ll gobble up the entire piece as quickly as possible to show you what you’re missing, or fling it to the floor without batting an eye. Ah, life with a toddler. There is nothing else like it, except maybe life with a puppy. Because, let’s be real, if I don’t clean up the floor before he gets down, he will. Nom nom.

 

food face photography

foodface-huhfoodface-fork foodface-seriousfoodface-hurrayfoodface-angryfoodface-duckfacefoodface-smile1 foodface-smile3 foodface-smile4Eat and socializing. The dinner table is about the only place I can photograph my little one without being barraged for the camera. I can’t sneak a picture of him doing anything else without distracting him and inciting a fight. All the photos turn out fuzzy anyway, as if I were trying to capture Bigfoot on film. Unlike the mysterious Bigfoot, I can entice this little fuzzy creature with food. He’s like his mama.

Check out the “artwork” in the back.

 

 

valentine’s day treat: apple {rose} tart

apple-rose-pie4

Valentine’s day is one of my favorite holidays. Okay, I love most holidays. Any excuse to decorate the house and make a large feast and plenty of sweets. Valentine’s day is great because it’s such a distraction from the bitter winter weather. Unfortunately it arrives so soon after Rivers’ big day and the lunar new year that it has become a very neglected holiday these past two years. Last year, busy with a newborn, it past completely undetected.

This season I managed a tart, but only by chance. The pear tart from the Tassajara Bread Book was the next on the list of my personal cookbook challenge. I’m trying to complete every recipe in the book by…a undetermined date. I open it whenever we need bread or something new to excite our tastebuds.

The author, Edward Esope Brown, is very laid back about his recipes so I figured subbing apple roses in place of sliced pear layers is not enough of a deviation that I can’t check it off the list. I followed the crust recipe, mostly. It had to be par baked instead of baked with the fruit. Making apple roses requires cooking (or dehydrating in a syrup) prior to rolling. I tossed a handful of white cheddar on the bottom, positioned the roses, brushed them lightly with a simple caramel glaze then baked the whole tart about 15 minutes, until the cheese melted. Rivers insisted on helping me, which realistically resulted in him fixing my hair while he was wrapped on my back. Occasionally he requested  bites of apple between tugs and knot-making or stretched his neck over my shoulder to inspect my work. What a life.

apple-rose-pie1Cored and cut into thin slices. Toss in sugar or syrup and optional spices.
{cinnamon, clove, cardamom, fennel seed etc}
Cook until soft and flexible.

apple-rose-pie2apple-rose-pie3Roll two pieces together then add larger slices until the desired size.

apple-rose-pie5Dig in like a cave woman, or …you know, use a knife a cut out a perfect pie piece.

Hamantaschen

©fourwoodthinkingWhat to do when your best friend has a fever and playdate is cancelled? Stay home and bake cookies with mama, that’s what.

©fourwoodthinking ©fourwoodthinking

Jonathan has been out of the house this week on a much-needed trip to visit his parents. Most of his time will be spent in a hospital, which is no place for an antsy baby who considers a floor an all-you-can-eat buffet. Until next Thursday I am a single stay-at-home parent. I would be lying if I said it’s been all sunshine and rainbows thus far. The kid knows senses something is different. Any time I use the word “no” Rivers crawls around the house calling for daddy. The cat is no better, the way he scrambles up and down the stairs and moans uncontrollably at the front door. These two are almost like two peas in a pod.

Instead of a smile, I received a questionable stare the first morning I greeted Rivers. Usually his papa does a morning routine with the potty and diaper change before Rivers is handed off to nurse. On day one he pointed to the empty space in my bed, “Dada?” Since dada hasn’t returned yet Rivers is understandably more protective over me.  Having a bodyguard is wearing me out though. On day two I went to the bedroom for a pair of socks and woke up twenty minutes later to the little guy slapping my face with baby wipes. It troubles me that I have no memory of laying down. I just crashed like a fallen tree.

By day three we were in a rhythm. When he went down for an afternoon nap I decided to forget the chores and do something for myself. Write part of a blog post or start making cookies? I’m nowhere near finished with my Tassajara Bread Book challenge, but this seemed like a good day for familiar comfort sweets.

Hamantuschen are easy to find in NYC. Their triangular shape is basically everywhere, but nothing beats an old family recipe. This is my mom’s recipe, passed down from grandmothers.  Generally hamantaschen (Haman’s Hat) is made for the Jewish holiday of Purim, but we made them for almost every holiday when I was a kid. These require a bit more work than a scoop cookie dough, but I promise the slightly sweet dough is fail-proof. The rest is just fun. The trick to a perfect triangular hat is not to overfill the center and the firmly pinch the corners until they stick.

These are going to be so much fun to make in the future with Mr. Little Hands. Until then he can watch from the sideline and tell me all about the dreams he had while napping.

©fourwoodthinking

Hamantaschen 
Makes about 35, 3-inch cookies

2 eggs
1/2 c. canola oil
1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c. fruit preserve, poppy seed paste or nut filling

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly oil baking sheets or prepare with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla.

In another large bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder.  Stir wet ingredients into the dry, until a stiff dough forms.  Gently knead dough, if needed, to fully incorporate ingredients. If dough is too sticky to roll out, refrigerate 10-15 minutes.

On a clean and lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness.  Cut dough into 3-inch rounds.

Drop 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each round. Shape into a triangle by folding one side at a time or by pinching the three corners.  Bake 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

©fourwoodthinking

If these last two photos look vaguely familiar to some of you, good. My camera battery unexpectedly expired, so I pulled these from my old food blog.

natural teething relief: stage 2

Thirty white horses on a red hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.
— a riddle by Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit

©fourwoodthinking

He may not yet have thirty, but eight teeth have moved in and matured his smile. It’s almost been a month now. And he’s hungrier than ever! Maybe even a little bit of a trouble-maker now as well. He has weapons and he uses them. The phrase of the day, every day, for the past several weeks has been “no bite!”

Previously I posted about his first two toof-ers and combating teething pain with the use of an amber necklace and large frozen carrot slices. Both worked amazingly until the upper teeth appeared. Obviously once the champing began, the necklace had to go. The carrot slices were also held back after an incident in which Rivers shoved an entire slice in his jaw. He peered up at me with an expression of  ‘uh-oh, now what?’ I replied with panic sweats and swiftly swept it from his mouth. Soon I replaced them with something that could melt in case he decided to test the limits again.

On a whim, while racing through the grocery store one day, I purchased ring-pop popsicle molds. They seemed like the perfect size for a little one to practice hand-coordination and enjoy a frozen treat to sooth the gums. Best investment ever! We used them all summer long. Honestly I may have been more excited about them for myself. They are ring pops after all! If and when my friends start having babies, I won’t even bother with the registry. Everyone’s getting a ring-pop popsicle mold. Watching a baby indulge on a tiny popsicle is pure cuteness. There is really nothing else necessary.

Now that weather is frigid there is no use letting the boy cover himself in frozen fruit puree. I reluctantly packed up the popsicles and replaced them with homemade frozen bagels. I’m a fan of the edible teething toys. They disappear, which is perfect for a small apartment. Plus they serve two purposes, function and filler. Belly filler. It’s been quite some time now since my little man has looked up at me to rescue him from a bite bigger than he can chew. I may think his bites are too big, but he’s proving to me more and more each day what he’s capable of. I made bagels as teething toys. I didn’t actually expect he would eat them entirely!

bagels

homemade essentials: basic vegetable stock

©fourwoodthinking

If bread is the heart of our homemade essentials, then stock is the soul.

When I first begin learning how to cook I thought I would never be able to make stock from scratch on a regular basis. It seemed expensive and time-consuming compared to the bouillon cubes of my childhood. It’s neither, just a practice like everything else. And with the help of a slow-cooker, stock only takes as long as the chopping.

It kicks bouillon cubes to the moon. The flavors are fresh and open for variety. Unlike the cubes, salt is added  by personal discretion in it’s final destination.

Flavors change depending on mood and the ingredients used, such as substituting carrots for parsnips, adding fresh herbs,  mushrooms or poultry bones. Heck, making stock is a great way to clean the fridge of all the leftover bits we haven’t used for other meals.

Now that I have a little one at my feet, the slow-cooker is my best friend. If the little tike is grumpy, I wrap him on my back and get to work without the worry of being too close to the stove.

Chop chop.

©fourwoodthinking

(The Most) Basic Vegetable Stock 
1/2 part onions and shallots
1/4 part carrots
1/4 part celery
fresh herbs, optional
chicken bones, optional
water (amount depends on desired flavor concentration)

Makes 3 Quarts
4 medium onions
4 large shallots
3 medium carrots
5 stalks celery
12 cups water

Chop all vegetables to about 1-inch pieces. Combine together with water in a large slow cooker and cook 8 hours or overnight. (For stove-top, use about 14 cups of water. Bring stock to a boil in a large pot, then drop the heat slightly and allow it to simmer, uncovered, for several hours.)

Place a strainer in a large bowl and carefully strain all of the contents. Use right away, refrigerate or freeze stock liquid.

{Use less water for a robust, concentrated stock and freeze in ice cube trays. Availability and thaw time is no time at all.}

Vegetables may be composted.

©fourwoodthinking

I recently started making Rivers’ rice cereal with stock instead of water, adding the slightest pinch of salt. What a hit! Now I’m wondering why I didn’t think to do it sooner.

©fourwoodthinking

beet-ginger juice

beetjuice

A little over a year ago, when I thought I was coming down with a cold, a friend gave me a glass of a new juice he was testing for a bar. Despite the fact that I’ve gone my entire life detesting beets, I drained my glass to  boost my immune system and avoid being impolite. As it turned out, I did not have a cold. I was just newly pregnant, but the juice was the perfect antidote for a queazy stomach. I actually craved it throughout my pregnancy! The juice for the bar evolved into a pineapple-ginger-beet concoction, but the original glass is still my favorite. Very simple, fiery yet sweet.

Juicing is all about personal taste, so following a recipe seems funny to me. Also, so much depends on the ripeness and size of the produce. I usually juice everything in individual containers and mix according to taste, always leaving extra ginger for my glasses since Jonathan prefers a sweeter drink. Whatever is leftover, I’ll freeze for another recipe. Since the juicer is a chore to clean and I’m a busy mama, I don’t make this fresh for every cup. I juice an entire pitcher-full that will last for the week.

Ginger is amazing for settling stomachs and relieving headaches, while beets detox the bloodstream.  It’s easy to over-do it with beet juice. A little bit goes a long way, but too much can cause dizziness. A half glass by itself or diluted with water is perfect.

Beet-Ginger Juice
Makes about 7 cups

4 cups apple juice, about 2-3 large mutsu apples or 3-4 large granny smith
3 cups beet juice, about 4-5 medium beets
2-4 Tablespoons ginger juice, about 2-4 inches ginger root

Quarter apples and beets then put through a juicer. Feel free to use beet greens as well. Set aside.

Peel ginger with a spoon or knife, then grate. Squeeze pulp through a cheese cloth or tea strainer to separate liquid. (Ginger is very dense and fibrous, which can significantly reduce the life of a juice machine. Sometimes with a crying baby and little time I take my chances, but that’s my warning.)

Strain apple juice and beet juice, unless you prefer the foam that accumulates at the top. Blend juices to taste.

ginger

beetjuice-dip

{Mama’s makin’ beet juice, while baby makes his own beat on a homemade drum.}

©fourwoodthinking