Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cooking... For No Reason! - Chicken Molé

I subscribe to a lot of parenting magazines. Parents, Parenting, Woman's Day, Family Circle, Parent & Child, and Family Fun. I dutifully dog-ear all the recipe pages. You know. In case I come down with a permanent case of the Knows-How-To-Cooks. This month's issue (10-17-2010) of Woman's Day has some neat 'fancy' recipes that actually looked easy. And the author/chef J.M. Hirsch says he makes these fancy dishes for his 6-year-old. Hmm. The chicken molé looked interesting, and I had most of the ingredients in my cupboard/freezer. Double Hmm.
As it happens, today we were on our own for dinner, as Unka Seesee has a standing D&D game on Tuesdays. HmmMMMmmm... I called my husband at work to sound out my idea.... what if... I .... cooked? [*gasp!*]
I'd need him to pick up a can of crushed tomatoes, some garlic cloves and an onion before catching his bus (since he doesn't get home until after 6, and a trip to the store then would mean we wouldn't even get started cooking until 7.) He hemmed and hawed and said the stores near him weren't likely able to accommodate. Nuts. But he said the problem would be the canned tomatoes... Well... we had a can of 'tiny diced tomatoes' in the cupboard, and he said we had chicken stock when I asked him directly, since the only ones I knew of on our shelves were long since expired. (I'm talking years here.)
Dinner: PLANNED! (All the other D&D nights, we ordered pizza, or raided the freezer for random frozen boxed foods. Except the one burrito night.)

Chicken Molé (J.M. Hirsch style)
 2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil [I used olive oil]
1 medium yellow onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp cocoa powder [I used Hershey's]
1/2 tsp each ground cinnamon and red pepper flakes [I used 1/4 tsp chili powder.]
1/4 tsp each ground cloves and ground black pepper [I just ground in some pepper from our grinder without measuring and called it good.]
1 c smooth almond butter [I had chunky, and probably closer to only 6 ounces left]
1 c canned crushed tomatoes [I used diced]
2 c chicken broth
1/4 tsp salt
1 slice soft white bread, cut into small pieces [I used wheat]
1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" chunks [I used 2 breasts, so probably closer to 1 lb]

Since I couldn't really start cooking until the produce arrived, Little Z and I started combining the dry ingredients and I thawed the chicken breasts (we buy a huge package and separate them into pairs and use Ziplock freezer bags, so we have nice manageable packages frozen. And I can just dunk a baggie in water and keep refreshing the water to thaw out the chicken more gently than a microwave defrosting (I've accidentally COOKED chicken while trying to defrost it before!) And by 'we' I mostly mean 'Unka Seesee.')

We combined the cinnamon, ground cloves and cocoa powder (from a really ancient can. When I asked about the new fancy gourmet brand my husband had just bought, he told me to use the Hershey's. Punk.) We thought there were red pepper flakes, but we were wrong. So I decided to substitute chili powder, and added only 1/4 tsp, with the logic that since powder is smaller than flakes, I wouldn't need as much. (Plus I fear spiciness.)

 I couldn't find any ground pepper in the spice cupboard, so we used the jobber with peppercorns in it. Little Z was not convinced about the twist-to-sprinkle method, and insisted upon shaking it around over the bowl. I didn't do 1/4 tsp, I'm sure. Probably much less, as again, I fear spice. But in the end, my husband said it was bland, so the pepper flakes and a full 1/4 tsp of pepper would have probably turned it into a party in his mouth.

I had a pot on the stove, ready to fake it as a Dutch oven (I had asked about it when I first read the recipe a few days ago.) I had the olive oil already there, ready to go.
I diced the garlic. My husband had showed me a technique ages ago to help in peeling/dicing garlic. You peel off as much as you easily can, then use the flat side of a large blade and press down hard to crush the clove. It splits apart and the peel all but falls off.
 Mince mince mince.

I diced the onion. Little Z helped to peel the 'wrapper' off.

It was unnervingly green underneath, and for several more layers under that. When asked, DH said to use it, so in it went. Being green must make it extra fume-y, since my eyes hurt much worse than I ever remember onions doing before. My husband showed me a better way to cut it, involving the flat side down, and 'scoring' it most but not all of the way through in little rays, almost like making thin apple slices. But don't cut all the way back, so it stays together and isn't burning your eyes out with all the open edges. Then he cut across the front several times until he reached the ends of his apple slices, and the layers separated, making nice little bits. Sadly (for you,) I was on the other side of the room, not taking pictures. *I* know how to do it now, but I think I did a terrible job of describing it.

Step 1. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, combine oil, onion, garlic, cocoa, cinnamon, red pepper flakes [chili powder,] cloves and black pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes.
I already had the oil in the pot, so tossed in the garlic and onions as they were done, before adding the bowl of dry ingredients we had previously made up. Soon after the onion peeling, Little Z got bored and wandered off to make Play-Doh blobs creations. I already had my almond butter, canned tomatoes and broth out, and had planned to cut up the slice of bread during the sauté... but apparently "sauté" is French for "don't stop stirring or you'll burn everything to the bottom of the pan, dummy!"

I managed to do it anyway. The recipe didn't specify about using the crusts, and since I was using wheat instead of white, I opted to cut them off. Slice. "Oh geez!" Stir stir stir. Slice. "Whaaaat? Again?" Stir stir stir. Slice. "Craaaaaaap." Stir stir stir. Etc.
I rapidly hacked it into pieces and kept it at the ready!

Step 2. Add the almond butter and mix until it melts into the other ingredients.Add the tomatoes, broth, salt and bread, and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken and return to a simmer.
I only had chunky almond butter, and slightly over half of a 12 oz jar, so not quite a cup, probably. I had a hard time getting the bottom bit out of the jar. I had to ditch the spatula and go for a spoon. I didn't bother measuring it, as I have eyeballs and can do basic math. Not enough = not enough, regardless of whether you get a measuring cup dirty or not!

While it was melting, my husband stirred and I opened the can of tomatoes and measured it and the broth in.
While waiting for a simmer, I began to cut the chi... WHAT? IT"S ALREADY SIMMERING?! Crap. So we turned it down to low while I hastily did unspeakable things to those poor, mangled chicken breasts. It looked and felt like cutting slugs. Pasty, pink slugs. Barf. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a vegetarian or anything. I like to eat meat. I just don't like to be reminded that it's slimy and gross, and used to be body parts of some kind.
Okay. Chicken added. Simmering, Check.

Step 3. Cover the pot and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
Ta-DAAAAAH!

The one in the magazine (photo in magazine by Jonny Valiant)
Mine
It was okay. I'd eat it again. Maybe it was bland. It was definitely a bearable spice level. I could have survived a higher level. But I was expecting more chocolate flavor.
Little Z refused to try it, despite having been excited about the choh-koh-LA-tay (Spanish pronunciation) chicken all evening. But it took longer than planned (oh yeah, did I mention that it turned out all our chicken broth WAS expired? He denies ever having confirmed we had any, but went to the store for me anyway. *Smooch.*) so she'd been filling up on some home-made Chex mix I found in Tupperware in the back of the cupboard while rooting around looking for canned tomatoes. (Hopefully Probably from last Christmas, but it tasted okay, so I let her have some.)
And as you can see, I simultaneously made rice! I know, right? It's like I'm good at this or something! Didn't burn the food (although there were suspicious black floaty bits... Didn't taste burnt though.) Didn't explode grease and potstickers all over the kitchen [ask my sister. She hid under the sink so got to see most of the show. I ran to safety. "Mom, how do I know when the oil is 'hot enough'" "Oh, throw some water on it to see how hot it is." I poured a cup of water on. Apparently, she meant 'sprinkle.' I figured it must be hot enough, so started tossing frozen potstickers into the pan from a safe distance. ROCKETstickers, is more like it!]
Luckily the bag of rice has instructions. And really, my husband took over after the measuring part. I was knuckle deep in raw chicken nibblets when the water started boiling. But still. I was awesome. Best. Day. Ever! (Other good stuff, all day long. Well except for Little Miss no-nap Cranky McCrankerson from 3 to 5pm. I managed to distract her with glue, glitter, play-doh and cooking to make the time bearable until the next poor sucker Daddy came home.)
Just as her dinner was cool enough for her to try some, she refused, and about 10 seconds later fell asleep on her little foam couch since she'd skipped nap today.. Awww. Luckily it was almost 8pm, so we let her stay asleep and rolled her into bed after we finished eating.

 [PSSST! Unka Seesee! Leftovers in the fridge!]

What's For Lunch Wednesdays - You Make Me Smile

This is my first intentional What's For Lunch Wednesday. I linked a post last week, since my 2-box lunch was pretty neat, but this was the first bento-style lunch I intentionally made pretty. It's not up to snuff compared to most of the other links I see each week, but I haven't reached that level of awesome yet. I don't have much fun food pre-prepared, like mini muffins, pizza biscuits, hard-boiled eggs, etc.

Clockwise from top left: mini saltines, string cheese nibblets, olives, apples, PBJ with a chocolate chip face, carrot coins. Outside are a fruit leather and Ranch dip.
This lunch was for after preschool on Monday. She has snack at school, but then they play outside ('large muscle time') after, which increases the appetite. Plus I usually stop at McD's on the way home, so this was a way to try and prevent that inclination.
I had only originally planned on including 3 items. Sandwich, cheese and either apples or olives. Then I decided after making the sandwiches (there's another underneath, without a face) that there was plenty of room and I could use a baran (divider) to separate something from the sandwich. I opted for cheese, since it would be more easily contained.
I loaded the one compartment with olives, and tucked a pick in with the sandwiches (you can kind of see a hint of blue between the white and orange muffin cups. That's the pick.)
I could only cram 3 apple slices in, as they were big ones, but she didn't eat them until we got home anyway, so I was able to get the rest from the fridge. We hadn't treated them with juice the night before, so they are a little brown.
Then, because there was soooo much room in with the sandwiches, I decided to cut up a string cheese, and put it in a silicone muffin liner, rather than just using cheese scraps as previously planned. There was still more room, so I thought another muffin liner would look cute, and decided to use some of the new mini-saltines I just got.
I didn't have any veggies (unless olives count?) and I still had more room, and most of a long carrot left over from my Birds & The Bees MTM so I used my mandolin and sliced the rest up and put it into another muffin liner.
We ended up going to Staples on the way home to get some manila envelopes for shipping (and I found some great plastic boxes to store my muffin tin and cookie cutter supplies in - on clearance!) and there was a TJ Maxx in the same strip... So I went looking for more Head Chef stuff, since there's a few tools we don't have yet that I still want. They didn't have any at this location, but we found some Scholastic DVDs (Where the Wild Things Are and other Maurice Sendack stories and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight and other dinosaur stories) for only $6 each, plus a flower ballerina/princess dress for $10 that I'll use for her Halloween costume (she wants to be a butterfly. So I'll do a black shirt and black or green pants, flower ballerina dress thing, wings, headband with chenille stem antennae, and glue or sew some fake flowers onto the pants (with felt 'grass' if the pants are black) and maybe some extra black felt butterfly legs, if I feel like it.) AND.... a set of 12 silicone flower shape muffin liners for $4! TWO sets actually. I bought them both. (I'll save one and stash it away for a blog swap or a giveaway when I reach so many followers or something fun!) Plus a load of My Little Money Sink Pony and Littlest Choking Hazard Pet Shop stuff for 25-40% off original prices. And some sparkly fairy princess underpants from Carter's - 3 pairs for $5, which didn't feel like a steal, but I think they're normally $9 for a set of 3. And she chose it over the $5 sets of 5 pig or monkey ones, and the goal is to get HER to wear them, so whatever it takes!














Needless to say, she polished off the olives and chocolate chips in the car. She nibbled on a sandwich. Said the apples were too yucky (but not too yucky to dip in a leftover Caramel Dip from McD's when we got home!) Maybe ate some cheese and/or crackers. But after we got home and she saw me eat a cheese nibble on a mini cracker, she ate several that way, then finished off the cheese. All the apples (including peels!) were consumed until the caramel dip ran out. She maybe ate a carrot coin. Overall, pretty good. She made up for it at dinner at the Japanese buffet where she ate salmon eggs and little mini roe off the sushi rolls like it was goin' out of style, and even had a squid nigiri (the kind of sushi where it's just a slab of fish on top of a rectangle of rice.) Plus loads of edamame.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - The Birds And The Bees

Alternate title: Manglin' My Mangoes

This week's Muffin Tin Monday is no theme, so we can make up our own, or do whatever. I've been brainstorming ideas in my notebook, and had settled on a Goldilocks and the Three Bears... but last night I had a random, spontaneous idea that kind of blossomed in it's entirety. SHAZAM!

THE BIRDS AND THE BEES
Cheese birds, olive bees w/carrot wings, PB & Nutella bees, Mango hive and carrot flowers
Flowers: I used my new mandolin slicer to coin-up the thickest part of one of our pathetically skinny carrots (just as I get new flower cutters for my carrots, none of them are thick enough for the whole design!) I took the largest ones of those and used one of my flower cutters and made some quickie flowers. I left the rest as coins and tucked them under the flowers in the muffin liner, and swiped them as needed for other parts of the meal.

The Birds: I just got a set of 3 graduated bird cutters from a set at Daiso, so I used those on Colby Jack cheese. On the largest one, I thought it might be fun to cut out a bird using the smallest cutter, and I had plenty of extra cheese if I didn't like it, but I did. 

For the red bird, I got the idea from a Not A Brown Bag's blog and at first, I thought hers was a Babybel cheese, so that's what inspired me to try it. She used a red pepper and other stuff. I just used my knife to score out a triangle shape from the front (and down the side, and a little on the back) of the wax, then went over it again, pushing REALLY hard this time to break through the wax. 
 
I used the wax scraps to make 'feathers' for the head and tail. 
I then hacked off the pull tab from the top (I ended up needing scissors) to make a hole for the head feathers, and hacked a gouge out of the side to make a hole for the tail.
 
I used a carrot coin and cut a shape out with my knife for the beak, and cut an olive in half lengthwise and used a straw to cut out dots for the eyes (I used a paint brush handle to pop them out, since I couldn't find my toothpicks or skewers~! I kept the Skippyjon paintbrush with my food supplies, so I have one special that was never used for paints!)


The Bees: I used carrot coins cut in half to make wings and just jabbed them in to the holes on either side of the medium-sized whole olives. I got the idea from a recipe out of either Parents or Parenting magazine, only they used persimmons and blueberries. They also had the beehive, but out of pineapple. I can't find the link on either site, so they must have taken it down. I'm thinking it's Parenting Magazine though.

I used a bee/fly cutter I got at a kitchen boutique while on vacation when I was pregnant and cut out some bread. I was able to find one online at a great baking supply place called Bake It Pretty. I opted to cut the bread before putting toppings on it because I didn't want to have to wash the cutter the wing joint is a weak point, and I didn't want the wings tearing off while trying to push several layers out at once.
I slathered Peanut Butter on two of the bees, then sandwiched them with the plain ones. I had planned on using olives to make stripes (if Stephanie Plum likes PB/olive sandwiches, they MUST be okay!) but at this point I was feeling lazy and was not going to bother with stripes. As I was putting the PB back into the cupboard, I saw my jar of Nutella. BAM! Inspiration! So I sloppily spread on a Nutella head and stripes and called it good.

Beehive: The idea that inspired me used a pineapple, but I don't have one, I have a mango from an organic farm co-op we just joined. So mango it is! I asked my husband if he knew how to bust into a mango - peel it like a potato? Pull peel off like an orange? Scoop it out like an avocado?
He said to treat it like a pear or apple. I grilled him more, as he wasn't clear on whether I should use a potato peeler or not. He wandered off. So I sliced it in half, lengthwise. Umm... problem! I couldn't slice through it! It felt like it had a pit! A PIT! Apples and pears don't have pits! I sliced around the pit, but couldn't pry it open, like I can with avocados. Argh!
Just then I started hollering for my husband my husband came back in and said he looked it up, and the worst thing to do is slice it lengthwise in the middle. Thanks for nuthin', bub. He took over and sliced it lengthwise at about 1/3rd of the way in on either side. He then proceeded to mangle my mango, making much of it unusable, in his attempts to make thinner slices for me to use my circle cutters on. I couldn't find a piece intact enough for my largest cutter, so we faked it and tucked the jibbly parts under for the pictures. (You can kind of see it hanging down in the back.)
I used our 3 biscuit cutters for the largest ones, then 3 plastic circles I got from various bento cutter sets imported from JList.com.
While I was assembling the hive and taking my photos, Little Z was nomnomming all over the mango scraps. She loved it, and wanted desperately to eat my circles, but by the time I let her have at it, she'd eaten enough mango to satisfy, and ended up not touching the hive.

I had expected her to go for the mango hive first, or maybe the olive bees, since she's an olive fiend, but she started on the Babybel! And she actually ate the carrot beak! She hardly ever eats any of the features I cut out, unless it's olives. And she completely missed the olive eyes this time. They went flying off somewhere (I didn't bother 'gluing' them on.)
She also ate all the bees and wings, which I wasn't expecting. I thought for sure she'd pull off the wings and discard them, since she's only ever had 'plain' olives before (plus any inadvertently left on her pizza cheese.) But she popped the whole thing in her mouth and ate it! There was only 1 set of wings left over. And she ate all the carrot coins, but left the flowers. Bizarre. I don't remember who ate the Colby Jack birds, but I soldiered on and ate the mango hive, even though I had already finished off the scraps and gnawed around the pit, apple-core-style!
Please note her adorable new jammies - Old Navy had an astronaut, Army uniform and pirate set, where the details are printed on, rather than sewn on. (And they're almost sold out, so the link might not be good much longer.) I got her the astronaut and pirate, since she's not into military much, and even though she really doesn't know much about astronauts, I thought it would be a fun way to learn. She loved getting into them last night, and I pointed out all the fun astronaut details (pretend zipper, pretend pockets, pretend belt, flag, badge, etc.) I called her 'Captain' and she 'blasted off' to the sink to brush her teeth. Loooove it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

One Lunch to Rule The Mall

[Title is a play on JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings' One Ring. "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them." Yes. I'm a nerd.]

On Tuesday morning we had GymStarz gym class, and I like to pack a lunch to eat in the waiting area, otherwise I crumble and take us to McD's on the way home. Since my sister had called in the morning and we'd arranged to meet at a local children's museum to play with Gramma Nayra and my nieces while Aunti Kayneen went to the dentist, I packed extra food. I used 2 of my EasyLunchboxes and put the broken bits from my preschool sliced apples, and the rest of the Skippyjon MTM apple stars into a compartment, filled the smaller one with peanut butter, and made PBJ and PB Honey sandwich rolls and used my new bento picks to keep them closed! (I'll post later about my uncontrollable spending spree stocking up on bento and muffin tin meal supplies, and the awesome deals I found at Daiso and TJ Maxx!) 


In my other box, I had carrot coins cut into flowers with the smaller end cut up and shoved underneath (using my new veggie shapers from Daiso!) the last of the puzzle piece cheese from preschool (with scraps shoved underneath,) a silicone muffin liner with whole olives and a long pick (Daiso!) and a Tupperware Smidget with Ranch dip. Not as full as the other box, but I couldn't think of anything else to jam in there that wouldn't be ruined if the olives dripped onto it.


She *LOVED* the olives and the pick. She meticulously placed each olive onto the skewer (rather than just stab it on) and then ate it off! Adorable! She pulled all the picks out of my sandwich rolls (I had had them color coded to know which was which flavor! Pink for PBJ, all others PBH) and kept calling them 'lollipops.' Ate a few bites of carrot flower, and some apple stars in peanut butter, but that was too messy for her, so she dipped the rest of her apples in olive juice. And then more carrots into olive juice. And some cheese into olive juice. Then her long pick into olive juice. Normally, our rules on 'dip' are that it's not food: It goes on food, and you have to take a bite of food and not just lick off the dip. But I'm not sure if olive juice goes in the 'dip' category, or the 'meh, who cares?' category, so I let it slide this time.


We packed up the leftovers, washed hands, and went to meet Gramma Nayra, Auntie Kayneen, Tually and Piwu. I had hoped she'd fall asleep in the car, but no dice. Found some cute clearance clothes at Target while we waited for everyone (a Carter's 4-piece 2 shorts/2shirts summer PJ set for $4! For next year, obviously. Also found a 3-piece newborn set for $3! GREAT for dolls! Can't buy doll clothes for that little! And a few Dr. Seuss T-shirts for $3 each.)
The girls had great fun at the Kids Museum, and Gramma and I managed not to lose or void the warranty in any of the totlings. Gramma had to leave before my sister came back, and I not only managed to wrangle them all on my own, but I wrangled them all at the water area, which is huge and open and pulls them in 3 different directions just to frazzle me. But it's their favorite part. After Tually's first time there, she talked about it for months!
Then Auntie Kayneen and I dragged the kids through Old Navy where we scored 10% off my sister's purchase by using my Old Navy card (and she wrote me a check, so I can pay it off before I get charged interest!) Then she left and I dragged Z to TJ Maxx, since I had heard that they had silicone baking cups.
Boy howdy! They had a set of light pink and blue ones for $5 (retails at $9,) and a set of 4 with CHICKEN FEET!!! for $4 (retails at $8!) I also found a bunch of Head Chef stuff for $4-$6 each (SpatulaWhiskTurner and Ice Cream Scoop, plus a child's spoon and bowl (discontinued? Can't find a picture online.) Regularly $8-10 each!) Wahoo! Now to decide on some recipes to justify my splurge...

Always Say Cheese And Thank You

This week has been busy so far! Monday morning was our second day of co-op preschool (we go every Monday) and since the Snack Coordinator (the parent who makes up the schedule of who brings snack each week) is a friend of mine, she assigned me first. Yay. (It was her week in Parent Ed, and Snack Parent is supposed to be a parent from in the classroom that day, and I foolishly showed up to orientation, so she assigned me.)
I decided to make shaped cheese of some kind, since it was such a hit at the end-of-year potluck last year, and Veggie Chips in the fry shapes, but wavered on fruit. Make apples into shapes? Just slices? Strawberries? Shapes? Strawberries and Kiwi shapes? Half-bananas? A moot point, as it turns out, since I completely flaked on going to the grocery store, and we were headed to bed Sunday night when I remembered. Apples it is! Only... 1 slice of cheese left to make shapes with. Fine. String cheese. *sigh* But then I saw that we only had 2 apples! 10-12 kids plus 6ish adults.... 2.... apples.... Ugh. So hubby went to the store [My hero!] and got Monterey jack cheese and some Gala apples. (I chose Jack because one of the kids can only eat white cheese. And no soy, and only recently is she able to eat limited amounts of gluten. Her grandma is going to bring her snack each week, but I wanted to be sure that mine would be okay, in case she wanted some.)
I stayed up late slicing cheese. I couldn't decide what cutters to use, since I wanted as few scraps as possible so I wouldn't have to cut more slices to make enough shapes for everyone. I opted for my Lunch Punch Match N Munch and used half of the small rounded-corner one. It didn't fit my cheese slices perfectly (I had a 2" thick slab of cheese and was slicing that end, rather than one of the long or wide sides.) And my slicer was malfunctioning (or else the cheese was super soft) and I kept getting big hunks tearing off at the bottom. I just powered through and made 40 puzzle pieces and called it good. I was pleased to do it all waste-free! I used a resealable container to put my shapes in, and another for the scraps.
Since it was late and I was tired, I opted out of apple shapes and just used my slicer, then cut each slice into thirds (to make it easier for the little ones to eat.) Sloshed them around in a resealable container with apple juice to prevent browning [note: I left the juice in all night, which made them super moist and kind of slimy. Not moldy or yucky... just creepy to touch. Next time I'll drain it.] I found a bag of Whole Grain Goldfish crackers and tossed that into my reusable grocery bag I was planning to carry everything in, and my Veggie Chips fries in the individual sized baggies from Costco (that will expire in a week! I bought them for her birthday party in June!) and went to bed.
Got up on time. She didn't want breakfast until I told her it was time to get dressed, then she sucked down all the Froot Loops off the top of her Cheerios. We arrived on time (for once!) I warned her in advance that I would be in the kitchen, and that she could come stand by me or play in the classroom (the kitchen is attached to the classroom and the Parent Ed room, so the kids can easily access their parents.) Last year she spent almost the whole time in the kitchen with me. Especially after I started feeding her scraps to get her to leave me alone. This time I refused to feed her, and she went into the classroom and played! Now, this might not seem like a big deal to any of you, but to me, it's like Invasion of the Body Snatchers! MY child keens and wails if another adult talks to her, or sometimes even looks at her. MY child freaks out and stands at the gate in the doorway to the hall, crying because she can't see me, even though I'm standing right behind her. MY child, for some reason, assumes that I'm going to ditch her and run for the hills the first chance I get, even though I never ever have. Seriously. I would wake her up if I had to leave during a nap. I always say goodbye, and that I'll be back.
Now, we've gotten a little better. We've practiced where I go on little forays out to the car to offload something and come right back, or go get the mail and come right back. Or even I go to another room and come right back. So she's learned to trust me there, if she's well rested. This summer I was even able to get her to understand that if my arms are full I can't carry her, so she can choose to walk, or wait for me to drop off the stuff n the house/car/park picnic table and come back for her. HUGE step for us. HUGE. But I never expected her to pick up where we left off last May at school. We have a different teacher this year, and a lot of different parents. And most of the parents we DO know are in the group I'm not in, so they weren't in the room with her this week!
I was able to get my prep done in record time. (Although apparently we aren't supposed to cut food at home first, but no one told me until after, so I'll have to double check for next time.) I had an extra 15 minutes to be in the class with Z, and she couldn't have cared less. I was so happy I could have cried!
The kids loved the veggie chip fries and puzzle cheese and goldfish, and almost everyone ate their apples. Huzzah! Naturally, I forgot to take any pictures. So you'll have to take my word for it how awesome my snack was!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - Shape Up!

This week's Muffin Tin Monday theme was SHAPES. I had a few ideas I was tossing around, like focusing on one shape, but in the end, I chose her current favorite book: Skippyjon Jones Shape Up!

Skippyjon Runs in a circle
Salsas on a square
Teeters on a triangle
Orbits an oval
Reaches for the stars
Rocks the crescent
Tugs at your heart
Pumps two rectangles
Balances a diamond
Stops at an octagon
and Follows the arrows to his mirror.


My ideas/plans sheet

Running in Circles: I had originally planned on using a dried pineapple, but decided to use that for the oval instead. Then I thought to use a Mini Babybel cheese as the circle, when I saw them at the grocery store yesterday. But I forgot and was looking in the fridge for something to make into a circle and had already sliced up carrot coins before I remembered!

Salsa on a Square: My plan had been to put some salsa on a triscuit, but not only did I completely forget the salsa until she was already eating, but we didn't have any left anyway when I went to go cheat and take a picture of the cracker with salsa on it as a close-up. Ah well. We put cheese on it. It was still delicious.

Teetering on Triangles: When we bought the Babybel cheese, my husband also chose a Laughing Cow garlic & herb cheese wedges pack, and we had some Crisp Bread triangles from Ikea, so this one was a no-brainer.

Orbiting an Oval: I put the dried pineapple into a large Easter egg cookie cutter overnight to try and bend it into more of an oval, but the cutter was almost too big and made very little difference. But I liked the pineapple, since it looked more space-like, to go along with the 'orbit' factor.

Reaches for the Stars: I had been toying with the idea of various fruits, but just went with an apple, since I'm more familiar with them. I used 2 sizes from my super-mini-cutter set. They were adorable! I stored them in a sealable bowl and sloshed them around in some apple juice to prevent browning.



Rocking the Crescent: More apples. I had planned on using one of my new Halloween moon cutters, but they all have faces on them! My husband had suggested doing a 'crescent' slice of apricot or something, and since I was doing apple stars anyway, I just made some really bad crescent slices first. (I read her the story and she pointed to the food and would name the shapes along with the story, and when we got to the crescent, she said "Rocks the.... that's a crescent?" HA!) I totally forgot to treat these with the apple juice, and you can see they're already yellower and browner than the stars in the first picture, after only 30 minutes later!

Tugs at your Heart: On Friday I got my shaped silicone muffin liners imported from China that I'd ordered a while ago from eBay. Perrrrrrfect timing! That gave me the freedom to start using more 'wet' ingredients, like pudding and yogurt. I opted for instant pudding, since it was fast and she prefers her yogurt in tubes! Instead of the 3 tbsp milk 1 tbsp powdered mix ratio I've been using for a personal serving, I did 2 tbsp milk and 2 tsp powder to make sure it wasn't too full for the liner, and would still have room for mixing. For fun, I added some orange food coloring to match the liner! (I used a chopstick. Both to dip into the dye and transfer it into the pudding, and then to mix the whole thing.) I had planned on using some toffee string (like licorice) that we had just bought at Ikea, to be more like the balloon and go along with the tugging part, but I forgot, and then she was upstairs and hungry and eager to get started. I've been telling her we were going to have a Skippyjon lunch this week, and she's been very patient.

Pumping Rectangles: In the book, he has a barbell with rectangles on the ends. I had wanted to use a toothpick between 2 rectangles of something, but we don't have toothpicks. The only other thing I could think of was a bit of pipe cleaner. Bleah. I made cheese rectangles and the pipe cleaner easily slid in. But then I thought of a pretzel stick! Of course! I took out the pipe cleaner, and it had left big clumps of hair in the cheese! Ewwww! I scraped the hairs off, and jammed a pretzel stick end into one of the rectangles. It split the cheese. Doh! I didn't want to get the cheese back out of the fridge, so I carved little gouges out where the stick would be going in and pressed the split back together and hid it at the back and called it good.

Balancing a Diamond: Since I hadn't used the Babybel cheese for the circle, I thought that it would be fun to cut a shape out of the wax. The only shape unplanned-for at this point was the diamond, so it got the part! I don't really have a diamond shaped cutter, so I used a mini triangle twice. But this triangle is a stick plastic, and I'm not really sure how it's supposed to cut. So I just pressed it in to make an imprint and used my knife to hack out the diamond shape.

Stops at an Octagon: I had hoped to make a stop sign, but couldn't make the letters until my mini alphabet cutters arrived from Japan [it looks like they are no longer available!] and who knew when that was going to happen? Luckily, they arrived Thursday! I'm loving how my hopes and plans come to fruition by the timely arrival of an online order! My first octagon bread was a failure, as I cut the angles too steep, making the left and right edges too short. I set it aside and tried again, this time making sure that my base shape was more of a square. The bottom was still a little short, but good enough! I did PB first, then strawberry jelly. The jelly doesn't spread well, and I was kind of disappointed. I tried adding red sprinkles to fill it out, but there wasn't a noticeable difference. I used my failed octagon bread to push out little letters, and placed them atop the jelly. Voila! (oh. The letters don't have any way to cut out the bits within the letters, like O, P, A, R, etc. I did have a tiny circle cutter that I used on the 'O.' A straw probably would have been better, but I was no longer in thinking mode. Just a GIT 'ER DONE! mode!)

Following the Arrows to his mirror: I got a mini arrow cutter as filler in the U-Z set of the alphabet cutters. Perfect! I made little cheese arrows, but my finger wouldn't fit in to pop them out! So I used another chopstick. I cut a little rectangle of aluminum foil as the mirror. Done!

Skippyjon Jones: I actually did the hardest part first, so that I wouldn't be feeling rushed and stressed while trying to make him at the end. I had originally planned to make a Skippyjon sandwich, but I decided I didn't want to have to hack through 2 pieces of bread for each part. I started off making his oval head. But I don't have a large oval cutter. So I pressed the wider half of my large Easter egg cutter in, and then rotated it around and did it for the other half of the face too. Then I used my knife to cut out the imprint that the egg halves had made.



I used another slice of bread for the ears. I sliced off the crusts to make it easier to work with (the crusts give it stability and cause more 'cracking' on the bread surface when you try and cut out shapes.) I then sliced it diagonally to make triangles. I laid them out under the face and used the book illustration to eyeball how and if I should shave off some from the sides to make the triangles fit/look better. (I cut off a little.) Then I used the large end of the egg cutter to make them fit against the face. I used some cream cheese to get them to stick.




I'd been thinking of using cinnamon to make the brown shading on his face, until I thought of cocoa! I got a bowl with some water, and another with Ovaltine, and got a brand-new paintbrush from Z's art stash. I started painting on the Ovaltine, but it was very slow going. Dip in water, dip in powder, paint 1/4". Repeat. Until I thought to just pour the powder directly onto the bread THEN get it wet! I also put the whole thing onto another slice of bread to give it some stability, and just left it on. I should have jazzed up the bottom slice, but eh.

I did both ears that way, then did the dip 'n paint method for the mouth and nose area, since they were lighter, and a smaller area.

I buttered the approximate eye areas, and used a little dome-shaped mini cutter from my new stash as a guide and poured in some blue sugar sprinkles.

I used some nori (dried seaweed) I've had in the pantry forever and scissors to cut out a passable nose and mouth. I did it in 2 parts. I wet the tip of my finger and applied it to the nori before placing it on the face.

I buttered the white parts of the ears and used my butter knife as a guide to prevent the pink sugar sprinkles from getting all over the cocoa.

I snipped up a raisin and balled the bits up and used them as pupils. Hooray! Much better than anticipated.

Little Z instantly recognized Skippito, but in fairness, I had been talking up my plans for the week, and the book was out in the kitchen.


She immediately refused the Babybel cheese, until we told her it was cheese and unwrapped it for her. She took a few bites and was excited to be eating Skippyjon's circle! (Even though it was supposed to be the diamond!) She ate the pretzel out of the rectangle barbell, and the pudding (of course.) I spread the triangle cheese onto the triangle and square crackers, and she licked off some of the cheese and let me eat the Triscuits. I ate one of the barbell rectangles and she's still complaining about it! "Mommy ate my cheese! I needed it to feed my bay-beeeees!" (I'm thinking she gets that from an episode of Dora where Mommy Buggabugga has a cookie she needs to get home to feed her babies. It was one of the first ones she saw, and she saw it a bunch. Now she uses that as a reason to get us to give her stuff. "I need that toy/food/whatever to give/feed my bay-beeeees!" She tried the pineapple, and gnawed on it for a while. I was excited, since the Babybell, spreadable cheese, triangle cracker and pineapple were completely new foods to her (she's always picked the pineapple off any Hawaiian pizza.)
She didn't eat much, and didn't really try anything else, but apparently she and Daddy had been downstairs eating "squeaky cheese" [cheese curds. They squeak against your teeth as you bite into them.]


Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth