Banana Avocado Baby Puree

The Dos Equis Man is now officially scared of Maurice Gamanho

I don’t always make my own baby food, but when I do…my kid usually spits it out. (Sorry if you have no idea why that silver-haired stallion is pictured above. Try googling “Dos Equis The Most Interesting Man in the World”.)

It’s got to be a texture thing. I mean, freshly steamed peas just have to taste better than “canned” peas, right? But, no matter how long I leave my processor spinning, I just can not achieve that perfectly smooth texture you squeeze out of those nifty little baby food pouches.

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This banana and avocado mash-up in an exception. Lennon will generally hang her mouth open and squeal for more. I love this because avocados and bananas are extremely nutritious and sometimes I have nothing planned for the random ripe avocado sitting on my counter and this is the perfect solution.

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Banana Avocado Baby Puree

1 Ripe avocado, pitted
1 Ripe banana, peeled
juice from 1/2 small lemon (about 1 Tbsp)
2-3 Tbsp runny prepared baby cereal (about 1 dry scoop)

Scoop out avocado flesh into small mixing bowl. Add banana, lemon juice and cereal. With a potato masher or a fork, mash ingredients until smooth. At this stage there will still be random lumps. If your baby is used to eating lumpier foods, you can stop here. If your baby prefers smoother textures like mine, force mixture through a fine mesh sieve.

This will make approximately two 4 ounce servings. I’ve had luck keeping the second serving for the next day in a small 4 ounce airtight container. The lemon juice helps prevent oxidation though you won’t avoid it entirely. If it bothers you, just skim off the brown layer from the top before feeding the leftovers to your baby. I do not recommend heating this puree. Serve it room temperature or cold.

Creamy Avocado Pasta

This is a meal that I would be eager to serve to my family and Jeff’s family without telling them exactly what it is. See, I’d be dead certain they’d love it, but they would be dead set against trying it if they knew what was in it. Both of us come from families with less adventurous palates who would likely be repulsed by the pureeing of an avocado tossed with pasta. I used to be that way not too long ago. Let me tell you, life’s much better on the other side.

This dish is basically just pasta coated with smooth guacamole. It’s crazy healthy, tastes fantastic, and requires only the amount of time it takes to boil pasta.

I licked the bowl and you may just do it, too.

Creamy Avocado Pasta

As Seen On: Total Food Porn (my friend Corrina’s amusing blog. Check it out!)
Originally From: In Good Taste

1 medium sized ripe Avocado, pitted
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, plus much more for garnish (optional for vegan)
1/4 cup fresh basil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 servings of your choice of pasta, about 1/3 lb. (I’ve used both whole wheat and regular, I prefer regular)

Cook spaghetti according to the directions on the package. Drain almost completely, but leave about 1/4 cup pasta water for the noodles to mingle in. Meanwhile, place the garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil into a food processor. and blend until smooth. Next, add the avocado, basil, salt and cheese process until the mixture has a smooth and creamy consistency. Toss pasta with sauce and garnish with extra basil and Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Clementine Cake

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Clementines always sound good to me when I don’t have any in my fridge. The second I buy a bag, I no longer want any.

You can occasionally find a place that sells clementines individually instead of forcing you to commit to 3 or 4 pounds of them like most supermarkets. This is good except you run the risk of choosing all “bad clementines”. You know the kind. They’re dry and taste kind of off. They’re slightly bitter and maybe a little sour. Not the candy-sweet and juicy treat you were expecting. So it’s good to have a bag full of second chances.

It never fails, however, that I have half a bag of clementines racing toward the cusp of rotten and not enough mouths to shove them into. Marlo likes the idea of clementines, but the so-called “stringy things” she meticulously has to remove from each wedge before eating it can be cumbersome for a three year old, rightfully so. As you can imagine, I practically ran into the kitchen to make this cake the second I stumbled across this recipe. It cleaned up a good half dozen of the little citrus boogers for me.

This cake turned out to be one of my favorite little desserts I’ve made for a while. It’s mildly sweet, but satisfying. The crumb is dense, smooth and moist. It’s the perfect thing to serve your friend alongside a cup of afternoon tea.

Clementine Cake
Adapted from Mache Magazine

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground cloves (I made this a generous 1/8, as I love cloves with orange)
1 cup plain yogurt (I used plain whole milk, the recipe called for 2% Greek – use what you have)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp. clemtine zest (from about 2 large clementines)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup flavorless oil (I used grape seed oil)

Glaze
1/3 cup clementine juice (I needed about 6 or 7 clementines)
1/3 cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 10X5 loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cloves and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl whisk together sugar, yogurt, eggs, zest, and vanilla. Slowly add oil to wet mixture.
3. Using a spatula, carefully fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients. The batter will be a little lumpy.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle top with sliced almonds. Gently press the almonds into the batter a little. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center and removed is clean.
5. Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove the cake while it’s still warm and place on a wire cooling rack over a sheet of wax paper.
6. While cake is cooling in the pan, warm juice in a small saucepan. Stir in sugar until completely dissolved. Remove from heat.
7. With a long skewer, poke deep holes into the cake from the top all over the place. Then slowly pour the glaze over the cake while the cake is still warm. (The glaze will seep into the holes you poked adding moisture and flavor to the inside as well as the outside.)
8. Allow to cool before serving.

A Letter to the Grammar Police

Dear Grammar Police,

You know who you are. You are probably quite proud of your ability to spot a minor punctuation infraction and proceed to freak out about it. You’re the type of person who posts things like this on Facebook along with some sort of comment like “EXACTLY! Thank you! “

You know the rules, all the rules, and you can smell the stench of those not following them properly. You think because these people didn’t follow the rules in their Facebook status update, they must not know them. They must not be smart. They must not have paid attention in fifth grade (or whatever grade it is you cling to as being the source of all things sacred in life). But you paid attention! You’re smart! You didn’t forget! Thanks for not letting us forget that you are occupying an entire section of your brain to retain every single grammar rule.

Now, I know you mean well. In fact, you are probably my friend. I probably like you a lot when you aren’t reading something, scanning for mistakes. And I’ll even be fair, here. Maybe you aren’t even looking for grammar mistakes. Maybe you’re just a grammar mistake magnet and run-on sentences just jump off the page and fuse to your brain and the only way you can reach any sort of relief is if you whip out your red pen or make some kind of patronizing comment. (Phew!) But as someone with a modest education and teeny bit of insight about language, I’d love for you to let me talk to you about your obsession today.

I don’t want you to think I’m against any and all grammar guidelines. I believe there is a time and a place for perfect grammar. Perfect grammar belongs in grammar class for people who have never learned the rules (some children but mostly second language learners), and at least a certain level of adherence to grammar rules belongs in school papers and published materials. When I say a certain level of adherence, I mean the message and meaning shouldn’t get lost in your lack of or overuse of punctuation and capitalization. Because let’s get real here, the purpose of writing something is to share information or convey an idea, not to exercise your knowledge of grammar rules. The rules are tools we use to keep the message clear and avoid ambiguity. The most important thing is the information. The content. The idea. (WHOA, incomplete sentences for emphasis!) If you understood the message the way the writer intended, let’s discuss the idea not whether or not the writer should have used a comma.

You might actually be surprised at how much you understand when reading something riddled with mistakes. Studies in literacy have found our brains have the incredible ability to fill in missing information to make sense out of incomplete or jumbled junk. For example:

If my previous employer were to read this letter to you, she’d probably freak. I spent a year at a university writing lab during my graduate studies tutoring struggling students with their language and writing skills. I also taught English writing skills to second language learners at the same university. Being in those positions meant I spent a lot of time discussing and pondering the application of grammar rules. This fact along with being a native speaker means I have practically mastered all of the points large and small having to do with English grammar. But I don’t care much about it and in my leisurely correspondence, I often flagrantly goof. When I goof, Grammar Police, surely you judge me. I don’t care about that, either.

I don’t care because you judging my grammar misdemeanors, I argue, reflects more poorly on you than it does me. If you were to research the history of English prescriptivism and standard form (which of course you should, as this is your specialty and a good, accesible place to start would be The Lexicographer’s Dilemma by Jack Lynch, though there are many other books on the topic) you would arrive at the fact that your grand cause which you use to define who you are and who I am is based quite heavily on nothing. There is nothing sacred about grammar rules. Some self-appointed Grand Master of the English language (a rich dude with a big ego and nothing to do) in the 17th century sat down and made up a bunch of rules that he thought made sense and preserved the “purity” of the English language. But they didn’t make sense, and the English language has never been “pure”, nor has any other language. These rules were a way to arbitrarily create a standard that automatically made the way one group used language correct and everybody else incorrect. Because of the rule makers’ influence, these grammar guidelines wormed their way into modern pedagogy and then into your brain.

By worshipping these rules you are in a loose sense worshipping class dividing propaganda. You’re proliferating the idea that the way some rich white guy in England spoke and wrote 350 years ago is smarter and better than the way a poor black kid in urban America speaks and writes today, because that rich white guy said so and he had the means to promote his ideas. This kind of small and obedient thought leads to inequality and discrimination.  Now of course you don’t mean to do this. Of course not. So why is it, then, that you do?

Now I actually wrote a research paper about that very question. What I concluded is that you’re using your mastering (though even that is up for debate, because more often than not you are wrong sometimes, too) of these meaningless rules to place yourself in a higher social rung than the so-called language abusers. This is an easy, cheap and accessible way to confidently say “I’m smarter than you because I never use your when you’re should be used.” It’s a quick way to stroke your ego. Aren’t you clever. Aren’t you witty. That’s lame. You should stop it.

But it’s hard to stop, isn’t it? The world communicates today with the written word more and more. Texts and emails have trumped phone calls and face-to-face meetings. The internet and social media has allowed everyone access to one another’s written self-expressions, and everyone but you is just screwing up left and right providing you with a seemingly endless stream of material to critique. You don’t let us know gently and empathetically when we’ve violate the rules, either. You call us out right then and there and then post a collection of your best and most humorous responses for everyone to marvel at how nothing gets past you and what a quick wit you have.

Electronic and social media is the source of other grating annoyances for you, too. You have a really hard time embracing any new words, acronyms, spellings or expressions that deviate from anything you might find in a 1995 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine or that fifth grade grammar textbook bible of yours. The English language is changing rapidly and you have a hard time with this change. If you don’t understand a new construction that makes it harder for you to be the master, therefore it most definitely is bad. No good. A bastardization of “the best language in the world”. I urge you to gain some perspective (again, read about this topic) and realize that  your perfect standard form was once considered a bastardization as well.

This new world of communication dependent upon literacy has demanded more efficiencies from the language, and there are millions of people out there experimenting and developing these efficiencies through deviations from the standard form every day. These “mistakes” are progressive. Evolutionary. Revolutionary. You are old and stuffy and irrelevant. There is no amount of rules or constraints or social pressures that can truly succeed in stagnating a living language. Your cause is a self fulfilling one. It has nothing to do with the English language.

That’s all there is. There isn’t any more. (name that book!)

The end.

Love, Emily

Chocolate Drizzled Coconut-Almond Macaroons

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These cookies do not require any of the following:

  • Butter
  • A stand mixer
  • Even a sliver of baking expertise

Yet they  look fancy, taste great and only appear like you slaved in the kitchen.

I made these for the first time when I was 14 years old and fell in love with them. I really don’t even remember where the recipe came from, but I’d like to give a probable shout out to Cooking Light magazine. If you’re not familiar with coconut macaroons, they really aren’t a typical cookie. You have to really like coconut and the flavor of almond extract. They’re meaty and chewy in texture, and the almonds in this recipe give them a much needed sporadic crunch. If any of that sounds good to you (why wouldn’t it?), give them a shot.

Have a nice weekend!

Chocolate Drizzled Coconut-Almond Macaroons

2 2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 large egg whites
1 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
8 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup sliced almonds pulverized for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients except for the chocolate in a bowl. Form balls from rounded tablespoonfuls and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake 20-25 minutes, rotating half-way if you have uneven heat in your oven like I do, until edges of cookies are a light golden brown. Remove from pans while hot and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, make your own by nestling a heat safe bowl (glass or metal work great) over a sauce pot simmering with water. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat and allow to cool just slightly. You can dip half of your macaroons in the chocolate, or to drizzle, fill a plastic sandwich bag with chocolate and snip off the tip of one of the bottom corners (be ready to drizzle immediately, as the chocolate will be-a-flowin’) and quickly zig zag over the baked and cooled macaroons. Finish by sprinkling with crushed almonds.

Review (and a Rant): Bringing Up Bebe

Behold Pamela Druckerman’s new book Bringing Up Bebe! Heard of it? If you’re a mother, surely you have. While some have interpreted the book is nothing but unfair America bashing, I argue the content is neither unfair nor is it bashing. What Druckerman has organized is very important and deserves your time.

The book is laid out in a rather objective manner. Druckerman is an American journalist living in France with her British journalist husband and three children. As a new mother in a foreign land, she noticed a pattern of different behaviors surrounding the upbringing of French children that was different from what she was used to in the United States. Like any good journalist, she decided to find out why. Through various interviews with French parents and doctors and American parents as well as an abundance of circumstantial and anecdotal evidence with some actual research thrown in, she comes up with a few ideas as to what the answer may be. Through her appealing, occasionally self-deprecating, and never condescending style, Druckerman tells her own personal story of learning to parent her children while presenting her conclusions to simple questions like “Why do French kids have such an adventurous palate?” “Why do most all French babies sleep through the night at 3 months?” and “Why do they play so well and independently on the playground?” While she often reinforces that her observations are indeed generalizations and that not every French kid is an angel and not every American kid is a brat, she couldn’t ignore a handful of consistent and distinctive cultural differences between the French and Americans when it came to family life and parenting.

Here’s a breakdown of a few of Druckerman’s main ideas.

  1. Observation: French kids are conditioned to wait almost immediately after they enter the world.  Conclusion: The skill of patience and self-distraction and delayed gratification makes it easier for them to cope in situations that would normally cause a kid to melt-down like a long restaurant meal, or wanting something while mom is busy talking on the phone.
  2. Observation: Kids everywhere prefer chicken nuggets and pizza, but the French culture prioritizes the cultivation of a varied palate. They don’t offer kids chicken nuggets and don’t assume they won’t like foie gras or escargot. Conclusion: Kid led menu planning leads to kids eating nothing but white food. Parent led menu planning leads to kids eating spinach, pate and Brie.
  3. Observation: French parents refuse to be martyrs. Mothers often make parenting decisions based off what is best for her and the family not just what the kid wants. Couples almost immediately revert to previous romantic and social activities after a child is born. The happiness and leisure of the adults is of high importance. Conclusion: There is less guilt and less resentment. Also, kids are taught right away that they aren’t the center of the universe and the family does not revolve around the kids’ desires.
  4. Observation: French parents are stingy with the praise. Conclusion: The idea behind resisting exaggerated positive reinforcement is that French children won’t become heavily dependent upon and addicted to their parents’ approval. They learn to be self-motivated and to develop their self-esteem on their own, independent from their parents’ attention.

Druckerman also discussed the French’s focus on a child’s need to develop autonomy and respect for the family and the community.  None of these ideas are particularly profound, but I can completely understand how Druckerman found these concepts refreshing enough to write a book for Americans about them, as they are practically unheard of in our culture.

I’ve been a mom for just a little over 3 years now. I know what kind of children I want to end up with, but I few ideas how to get there. Generally, I feel confused and tread through my days meekly and with little confidence or conviction in my parenting decisions. The one thing I am confident of is that I’m uncomfortable with the parenting trends that dominate the current generation of mothers and I’m also uncomfortable with the way I’m made to feel when I deviate from what is seen as the only loving and supportive way.

Why are we so nasty?

Americans have the habit of being nosy and judgmental. Ever visit a mommy online message board? American mothers can be ruthless, patronizing, and quick to tout their moral superiority and utter disgust that some people are even allowed to reproduce. There is very small thinking and little encouragement, just constant tearing down. Not to mention we don’t have much of a cultural legacy of parental framework to draw from. Our kids are being raised differently than we were, we were raised differently than our parents, and our parents were raised differently than theirs. It’s like we’re always trying to reinvent the wheel. From scratch. With each generation. We have no collective goals as a society, because well that wouldn’t be very American. America is all about the individual. The individual’s desires and their upward mobility and there is little value in the state of the community. Druckerman found that all of these parenting ideals seemed to be an intrinsic part of French societal thought. Every French parent agrees what’s important when it comes to raising a child without explicitly having to discuss it. The only thing parents have agreed upon in America is to disagree. There is no united front in raising our children.

What’s the result?

What is the natural result of this lack of unity? Competition. Unhealthy competition. Competition between mothers who create more between their kids. Parents end up considering their child as a special project. Filling their childhoods with tutor sessions, tennis lessons and horseback riding camp, instead of empty alone time for self-motivated discovery, or to, I don’t know, read a book. We push them to practice the piano every day so they’re the best. So we’re the best parents. Raising kids becomes a direct extension of the parents’ abilities to manage, to inspire, to push. American parents give it all towards this challenge. Mother’s give up their figure, their education, their jobs, their social life, their hobbies, their sleep “for the sake of the children”.  The problem, reported by Druckerman, is this actually makes no one happy. Not the children, not the parents. So why do we do it? So we can say, “well I gave everything I had! It can’t be my fault my kid’s not happy!”? Or is it to be free of the guilt? The guilt mongering from the disdainful looks we shoot at each other when the kids melt down at the grocery store, from the nastiness spewed all over the internet? Either way, we can’t seem to break free of it, and all the while Druckerman is pointing out is how effortless these alternative and basic child-rearing strategies are to the French.

Really when it comes down to it, I woefully concede that the French way would never work here in the United States. I don’t think the main ideas Druckerman presented in the book are unique to the French and I don’t think the French are better parents, per se, they’re just better at raising French kids and Americans are better raising American kids. That is, we’re exceptional at  producing coddled, uncompromising, self-centered, entitled consumers. We value those qualities. We must. We don’t teach our kids to wait, we give it to them now. We don’t expect our kids to understand how to and find value in eating good food, so of course they won’t. We cultivate egocentric personalities by placing the child’s needs before those of everyone that comes into contact with him. We want our kids to like us, we don’t consider whether they respect us. We give up our very last sliver of leisure time as a parent so we can drive our kid to, and then sit through a junior football game where we jump up and down and cheer emphatically when he oh so heroically catches.a.ball. That’s the American way.

“By sacrificing long-term happiness for short-term pleasure, we have cheated ourselves and our children, and have endangered their legacy.” – Hoyt Hilsman

I Heart Warby Parker

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Hi. I’m blind. Okay, I’m almost blind.

I have no vision insurance.

Being almost blind with no insurance is no walk in the park. It just plain sucks.

I rarely have my vision examined to see if my prescription is correct. When you wear both glasses and contacts, such an exam can cost almost $200 uninsured. Care to know how much contacts cost uninsured? Mine, because I have astigmatism, cost $180 for a six month supply. I make this six month supply last more than a year. I can’t afford not to. I also can’t afford to purchase a new pair of lenses or frames from my local optician’s office or Lens Crafters or the like.

Up until this winter, I had been wearing the same frames I purchased in Berlin when I was 17 years old.

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That’s over 10 years sporting the same look. I splurged 5 years ago and got the prescription updated with new lenses, which cost only $20 less than what I paid originally for the whole set. But by last summer is was clear that even those lenses had served their time. They were scratched, blistered and barely hanging on to my Euro semi-rimless frames. I needed new lenses. I needed new glasses. Now.

While, fretting over and weeping about the cash we’d have to drop on a fresh pair of glasses, I desperately searched the internet hoping to find some sort of coupon or deal in which I could still keep my style without spending upwards of $600. Then I fell upon the holy grail of shops for almost blind people with no vision insurance. Warby Parker.

Warby Parker was made for people like me. People with no magic address in the sky to send claims. People who have an affinity for fashionable frames. People with limited cash but an abundance of stylish desires. People who are lazy.

They make it easy for you to love them, because they make everything about the whole shopping experience effortless and all they need from you is $95. Not $95 per eye or per eyelash, $95 total for high quality lenses and stylish, sturdy frames.

Having concerns about ordering a new pair of glasses sight unseen without trying them on? Of course you are. I certainly had my reservations until I realized they were willing to express ship me five frames free of charge and let me try them on in my home for a few days before I shipped them back using a label they provide, also free of charge. This sounds fantastic, but then you browse their vast selection of über stylish frames and wonder how on Earth you’re going to narrow it down to just five. The website’s virtual try-on tool, where you upload a photo of yourself  and try on not only the various styles but the different color choices within the styles right there on your face, helps weed out frames that probably aren’t the most flattering fit.

I wanted a pair that was stylish and would be for a while (ahem remember how long I kept my last pair), but not frames that would make me feel like I had to be at the top of my hip game every day just to wear them. Also, I didn’t want you to notice my glasses at first glance, maybe not until you were having a conversation with me. I found that subtle coolness in the Japhy frames.

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Once I decided on Japhy, ordering was simple enough. I just provided  the contact information of the last optometrist who examined my eyes and they obtained my prescription for me. I also had to somehow determine the distance between my pupils for the most accurate prescription. I was able to obtain this measurement in less than 30 seconds while grocery shopping at Target Optometry for free. However, if you aren’t lucky enough to find a place to give you this information for free, Warby Parker will refund you any fee you are charged. After all my information was submitted I had my new glasses shipped to me for free and on my face in about a week.

In general, my experience buying new glasses from Warby Parker was extremely positive. My few interactions with customer service (one email exchange and one phone call) were comforting and really boosted my confidence in the pending transaction. The service reps seemed cool and laid back yet eager to assist me. I will admit, however, after receiving my new frames, I had trouble adjusting the frame’s ear pieces to my head. It took me a good week of experimenting and constant (annoying) fiddling to get my glasses to set comfortably against my face and stay put when leaning over (like when picking up a baby 1 thousand times a day). Having your frames adjusted to fit your head is something that is done at the optometrist’s office when you arrive to pick up your new frames. This is the one service Warby Parker just cannot provide being an online retailer. Though somehow saving upwards of $300 makes that little inconvenience much easier to forget.

Three months later of daily wear I have no complaints. My lenses are still perfectly crystal clear with no scrapes or scratches, and they’ve stayed in place after enduring several accidental toddler punches to the face and infant head-butts. I’m impressed, and can’t wait to buy my next pair.

**I have zero affiliation with Warby Parker. I just love them and thought you might, too!**



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