Kids in the Kitchen: I Scream, You Scream…

“Hey mom,” said Scout Son the other day. “What’s that?” He pointed to an appliance next to the toaster that had been used maybe three times in the past 15 years.

Mental groan. “Um, an ice cream machine.”

Stunned silence was followed by, “We have an ice cream maker?”

“I think technically it’s a gelato maker. Your grandfather thought we’d like it.”

More silence as he mulled over this latest parental failure.

“We have an ice cream maker and we don’t use it? That’s not right.”

photo of Gelato Boy separating eggs
Scout Son, aka Gelato Boy, separating eggs for the ice cream.

“Look, we have a gelato machine and we don’t use it. It’s a pain to clean up, you have to cook a custard in order to make ice cream and all three of us have to agree on a flavor. Or, I can go to the grocery store, point at the freezer and you and your sister can each buy a half gallon of whatever, and I can get a pint of Hagen Dazs. It’s easier.”

Now, here’s the problem. Yes, it’s easier. But that kid of mine isn’t stupid. Since coming back from Italy two years ago, we dream about gelato. All rules went out the window while in Italy in July. Gelato for breakfast. Gelato for second breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Dessert. If I could have gotten them to float a scoop of vanilla gelato in my cappuccino every morning, it would have been the perfect meal.

Yes, we take ice cream very seriously. And I knew what would happen if we started using the ice cream maker. I’d have to make ice cream. A lot. Because once you have real ice cream, you don’t want to go back.

Back to the conversation at hand.

“We should make some,” says Scout Son. “Chocolate.”

“No, if we’re going to do this, we’re going to make Salted Caramel from Cooking Light so I can either put the “try it” recipe in the binder of good stuff or in the recycling bin.” So, in the interest of household cleanup, we made ice cream.

I know, that whole ice cream in Cooking Light thing threw you. I keep telling you. They’ve put taste back into food, which means by default, a little fat, but compared to that crap we’d been buying at the store, we’re in good shape. This stuff is so rich you don’t want more than a half a cup. Seriously.

Now we get into why I don’t make ice cream. You need things like candy thermometers. Which I have. But to me, you should just dump all the stuff in the machine, walk away and come back later to ice cream. Which is pretty much what we do… after we cook and cool the custard that becomes ice cream when mixed and frozen. Why this is mentally more difficult than cookie dough is beyond me.

photo of Gelato Boy
After dinner, Gelato Boy prepares to try the final product.

Long story short, Scout Son was fascinated with the whole concept of having to heat the cream and brown sugar to a certain temperature, then add stuff and get that to a higher temperature. Note to self: get the kid some kitchen thermometers. Snarky Daughter wandered in halfway through the process, stared at the saucepan and said, “That’s all that goes into caramel?” Truthfully, I have no idea, but I know it’s the base for pralines, which are basically the same thing.

And finally, the notes on the recipe. It calls for 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. I’d make it a scant teaspoon. The salt gives it a kick and without it I think this would be too sweet, but ours ended up a little salty to my taste (for just caramel ice cream, they suggest dropping the salt to 1/8 teaspoon). We also omitted the flake salt that you can sprinkle over the top.

Caramel isn’t Scout Son’s favorite, so he hasn’t been inhaling this be he does like it. And he was thrilled to see a recipe in the machine’s manual for chocolate gelato. All through Italy I told him there were other flavors, but he still doesn’t believe me.


But it occurs to me, it’s summer, and on the other side of the toaster, there’s a cappuccino maker. I think it’s time to flavor my coffee this afternoon…



Kids in the Kitchen: Chicken Marsala

Snarky Daughter: I just finished reading Bet Me. Can we make Chicken Marsala?

Me: Yes, please. But it’s heavy on the mushrooms. You don’t eat mushrooms.

SD: I’ll pick them out.

Me: They’re the best part.

SD: More for you.

Me: OK, but I’ll have to find some marsala wine and that’s not going to be easy.

Two weeks later, I’d finally had the idea to go to the Total Wine store. Duh. They had four choices. You want sweet marsala. I froze what we didn’t use so I could use it later. No idea what that does to the alcohol content, but it can’t hurt the taste.

Photo of Snarky Daughter Cooking Chicken Marsala
A little wine for the chicken

We got the recipe from Jenny Crusie’s website. This recipe is as fun to read as it is to make, and watching Snarky Daughter pound chicken with a frying pan (as directed) was priceless. In the words of Flynn in Tangled, “Frying Pans. Who knew? Right?”

So, we’ve got a recipe with no measurements on it. Which really fits the book it comes from, because in Bet Me, it’s all about getting the taste right. But that was really part of the fun of making this meal with SD. She pounded chicken, I sliced shallots and made jokes about wine for the chicken and wine for the cook.

Photo of Chicken MarsalaAnd we all loved it. I always assumed Chicken Marsala must be a pain to make, but it’s easier and faster than my macaroni and cheese recipe. The only thing we did to speed up the process slightly is mix about a tablespoon of flour with a shot of cold water (this is how you avoid lumpy gravy) and added it to the sauce to thicken it a bit. Yes, I could have cooked it down more, but it smelled fantastic and I’m an instant gratification kind of girl.

With two cups of wine in the freezer, Chicken Marsala just ceased to be a special occasion sort of meal.



Kids in the Kitchen: Pound Cake by the Pound

I’m not really sure how it happened. I signed up to donate two pound cakes for the annual Boy Scout BBQ Chicken Dinner sale. Two. I distinctly remember signing up for two. But then, while being pressed into service as a delivery organizer and money collector (hey, I like money), it was mentioned that we were low on pound cake.
Why yes, that is the word “sucker” you see there on my forehead. I wasn’t actually asked to do more, but as the emails got a little more frantic, I thought, what the heck? It’s cake. I like to bake. Besides, you put them in the oven and walk away for an hour, giving you plenty of time to do things like…write a book. Or a blog.
So, Wednesday morning I wake up and dive into cake baking. Did I mention I used a new recipe? It’s the High-Ratio Pound Cake from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and it’s really good. Unfortunately, without a hit of caffeine or common sense, I didn’t think to set the timer a little early for that first one to check for doneness. (Is that a word?) Anyway, out came the most beautiful, slightly crispy on the bottom because I should have pulled it out five minutes ago, cake.

Scout Son makes cake #3...or is it #4?
Scout Son makes cake #3…or is it #4?

I am not a fan of pound cake. In my mind, cake should always come with frosting. In fact, in my mind, the cake is optional and only there because apparently it’s uncivilized to just serve a bowl of frosting. Who knew?
I know. You’re wondering when the Kids are entering the Kitchen. Well, Scout Son was drafted for cake number three. Actually, it was cake number four because I was really worried about cake number one being edible. He came home from school and I said, “Drop your stuff, wash your hands, and make a cake.”
Scout Son: Uh…
Tired, Cranky Mom: Dude, I am not going on the trip that this dinner is funding. You are. But you won’t be if you don’t help me with these crazy cakes.
Scout Son, counting cakes on the counter: I thought you were only making two.
TCM: They’re short cakes. So I’m making two extra.
SS, still counting: But there are four…
TCM: Ignore that one.
SS: Does that mean I get to do quality control on it?
TCM: Nobody eats anything until you make the next cake!

Pound CakeAnd this is how Scout Son learned about high-ratio cakes and made a melt-in-your-mouth pound cake. High-ratio cakes have a higher amount of sugar. This one has the additional benefit of not having to cream the butter and sugar first. It’s painfully simple to make and the results are awesome. Because of all the eggs in it, it’s also a great recipe for kids needing egg-breaking practice.
What happened to the not-quite-perfect cake? I altered the glaze from page 51, made it an orange rum glaze, and fed it to the volunteers that night. Best not-quite-perfect cake I’ve ever made! The best perfect pound cake Scout Son made too.


Kids in the Kitchen: Linguine with Aspragus and Pine Nuts

I am blessed. My kids will eat weird stuff. Dim Sum. Curry. Asparagus. No, they weren’t born this way. I’m one of those uptight parents who thinks if you take a kid to an ethnic restaurant, they should eat ethnic food. That does not mean chicken nuggets.

Linguine with Asparagus and Pine Nuts
Linguine with Asparagus and Pine Nuts

So this week I reminded them they liked weird food. Specifically asparagus. Yes, I know it looks like trees. I don’t care. I wanted real food. Tasty food. Cooked by someone else food. I tasked the kids with making Linguine with Asparagus and Pine Nuts from Real Simple Magazine.

This came in part from Scout Son announcing a few weeks ago that he couldn’t make mac and cheese from a box. Sadly, he’s right. What he makes is a congealed, starchy mess. So, pasta training was necessary, but I’m not eating mac and cheese with powdered cheese. Unless I’m exhausted or hormonal and it’s the only thing in the house. But nobody’s judged by what they eat on those days.

Armed with a paring knife, Snarky Daughter began cutting 1-inch pieces of asparagus, and Scout Son and I discussed the proper way to cook pasta. Problem number one: don’t add the pasta until the water is boiling. Somebody likes to add the pasta when the first thought of a bubble appears on the bottom of the pan. Problem number two: add some salt to the water and, problem number three, stir the pasta when you toss it in the pot so it doesn’t stick.

With some awesome al dente pasta (not a congealed mess), garlic, pine nuts and asparagus, we sat down thirty minutes later to a fantastic meal, and the knowledge that I will be sending two kids out into the world with cooking skills. The only question now is who’s going to cook one night a week when they both move out?


Kids in the Kitchen: White Pizza with Tomato and Basil

Kids Making PizzaI’m a big believer in kids being able to cook. In my world that means more than toast. Last year during end of the year exams, Scout Son suggested that he and Snarky Daughter should have eggs for breakfast.

I burst out laughing.

It’s not that I don’t agree, it’s that I wake up at the last possible second to get everything done, and at the time, that second was at 5:45. AM. So, get up even earlier to make breakfast? Not happening.

I pointed to Snarky Daughter, who is like me except that she wakes up about 10 minutes after the last possible second, and said, “Right. You getting up early to make breakfast?”

We all choked on dinner. Then Scout Son offered to make it for them.

OK then.

Being my kids, they know how to make scrambled eggs of a sort. Imagine an omelet that you scrambled because the idea of trying to get it out of the pan without it falling apart was too much to handle and you’ve got eggs at our house.

“Hey, you’re the only one who has time to make them. If you want to, go for it. Just don’t miss the bus.”

So, the next morning, I’m drying my hair, when I start smelling heaven: eggs with Tabasco, oregano, basil, and cheese cooking. Yum! I got to have a Luna Bar for breakfast. Hey, I didn’t have time to eat, and I didn’t have exams.

Scout Son rocks.

So my goal is for both of my kids to go off into their lives being able to read a recipe and make anything. I’m not sure if they share this goal or not. Hence, Kids in the Kitchen, a.k.a. I Don’t Feel Like Cooking Today; Your Turn!

Scout Son and Snarky Daughter dollop cheese onto the pizza
Scout Son and Snarky Daughter dollop cheese onto the pizza

Sometimes the kids get to choose the recipes. Sometimes it’s up to me, and sometimes it’s up to the miscellaneous ingredients in the pantry. This week I grabbed a recipe that had been kicking around the house for a year waiting to be tried: White Pizza with Tomato and Basil from the March 2011 issue of Cooking Light.

This is an awesome recipe for the kids because they could easily make it if I was running late, primarily because you make it on a Boboli crust. We ran into a few problems while we were shopping. 1) It’s early April; no fresh basil. 2) For no reason I can understand (except there was no fresh basil), the grocery store was also out of prepared pesto. Undaunted, we pressed on, forgoing the fresh basil and making our own pesto using olive oil, garlic and chopped basil from a tube. Do not start with me. I seem to want basil this week.

The kids did a great job! I’d cut down on the amount of ricotta a little, maybe 1/3 cup instead of 1/2. Of course, if you had the fresh basil and the premade pesto, the basil flavors would probably balance things out a bit better. The recipe also calls for putting the tomatoes on the pizza after it comes out of the oven. We chose to put them on before we cooked the pizza so they’d be warm and tasty.

The Finished Product
The Finished Product

The kids took the news that they were making dinner really well. Translation: Snarky Daughter only gave me one heartfelt sigh before giving in. Scout Son is usually all about the baking, but I’m adamant that I send him to his future wife with skills. To that end, he can make homemade cookies but can’t make Kraft Mac and Cheese without it becoming a starchy, gloppy mess. I don’t understand, but whatever.


The kids loved this pizza, even without a red sauce base. Snarky Daughter took some to school for lunch the next day. Best part? It took about ten minutes to pull it together (Scout Son does not like dolloping cheese with his finger) and another five under the broiler. The tomatoes were gorgeous and the mozzarella golden brown and gooey.

I think I may give up cooking more often!


A Day of Rest…or Not

New rule: no blogging on Sundays.

Turns out Sundays are the days that I get everything done. If Saturdays are the days I play (and clearly they are), then Sundays are the days I grocery shop, clean the house, do 52 loads of laundry, pay bills, contemplate the taxes, ask about homework…

I finally sat down with the intent of blogging at 10:00 last night, which is when I’m supposed to be going to bed. After Boy Scout paperwork, I was fried. That great idea I had while doing planks on the living room floor? Toast. The one I had while making coffee cake? Deserted me.

The thing is, I write these the day I post them. Yes, I should have a whole litany of these things saved up so I can preset them to post automatically. But if I do that, I won’t write every day and part of the deal here is that I’m supposed to be writing every day and dealing with whatever comes out of it.

Because, the one thing I have figured out is that keeping all my emotions bottled up until I have time to deal with them (two years later) is probably not the healthiest way to live. There are good days and bad days and going have mad days (thank you Jimmy Buffett), but apparently giving myself some distance was good because I’m not overwhelmed by emotions. I’m even enjoying the not so fun ones because now I’m feeling something.

Maybe it’s because the kids are older now and I don’t have to worry so much about them. Oh yeah, don’t get me wrong, I have to worry about the big things now, drinking, stupid friends and cars, boys. But I don’t have to worry so much about getting them to school on time, is everybody’s lunch made and the daily stuff that eats up your time.

You’d think not worrying would have given me time for my first Linux lesson with my father yesterday. Sorry, Dad. Let’s try for Tuesday night. This generally makes me ill, (the Linux not my dad), but if I’m going to update this site, I need to know some of the basics. Besides, with this knowledge I can pick up computer geeks. See, it’s a win-win!


The Recipe Challenge

Scout Son once said there could never be too much chocolate. Today, he recanted.

I love to cook. My ex-husband would question that, and to be fair, there was a 10 year period when I hated to cook. But really, when every meal is met with “Eeeewwwww! Nnnnnoooooo!” by the short people in my house, who would want to cook?

But those years of child torture paid off, and now I can cook again. Which is good since during those years I collected a lot of recipes. Like, inches of magazine recipes. Here’s the thing. I never make those recipes.

I’m like most of you. I have maybe 10 go to recipes. You know the ones I mean. You’re on your way home from work and you need to make something for dinner and you decide on spaghetti because you know everything that goes into the sauce because you lived off of it for those 10 years when you weren’t allowed to cook anything challenging.

The problem is that half of my go to recipes are desserts. What can I say? Come to my house, I can whip up a cake from scratch. Dinner? Um…

So last week I challenged the kids. I dumped all the recipes on the table and said, “Pick two each, one real meal, one dessert. I’ll make them this week.” And going forward, we’re picking a couple of recipes every other week to try, until we work through the pile. Keepers actually get hole-punched and put into the recipe binder.

Linguine with Four Cheese Sauce
Linguine with Four Cheese Sauce

Scout Son immediately picks up Rotini and Cheese (Cooking Light, November 2010). And I think, really? Glorified mac and cheese? That wasn’t even the recipe I had wanted to try on that page! But as I was lamenting the lack of challenge, Scout Son and Snarky Daughter came through. Linguine with Two-Cheese Sauce (Cooking Light, July 2011). Brown Sugar Soufflé with Crème Anglaise (Cooking Light, June 2011).

Yeah, if you think Cooking Light is non-fat, non-taste food, go back. They’ve changed. Now it’s healthy, low-fat awesome stuff. Recipes with bacon, butter and sugar. In moderation.


Anyway, Scout Son still had a dessert to pick. And he didn’t

Too much chocolate? They are a bit rich.
Too much chocolate? They are a bit rich.

disappoint, although once again, not what I had pulled the page for: Double-Chocolate Profiteroles (Real Simple, December 2010). Puff pastry with chocolate ice cream and dark chocolate sauce.

These are what have my son decided might have too much chocolate. They don’t really, but quantity is key here. Three is too many because these suckers are rich. But if you’re having a bad day, or need something to go with a big red wine, buongiorno profiteroles!

I made three out of four. The soufflés will have to wait, mostly because I don’t have the right pans.

No awesome new recipes this week. Tomorrow, in honor of fall, it’s Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream ( It’s not one of the 10 recipes yet – I forgot the leeks and will be headed back to the grocery store tomorrow – but it’s a family favorite.

And sometimes, favorites are more important than trying new things.