edamomie

An Exploration of Parenting by the Vowel

Layering it on to Land a Leprechaun March 17, 2014

A (Activities) and E (Eats):

6-Layer Rainbow Cake with Ladder to Access

6-Layer Rainbow Cake with Ladder to Access

Did someone say Pot of Gold? That’s what my 8 year-old son, Calvin, heard. We might not be more than 15% Irish, but for a chance at this said gold carried by a leprechaun, we attempted to make a trap to ensnare one of these little mischievous devils.

 

First, we baked a 6-layer Rainbow Cake. Inspired by Martha Stewart, but short-cutted like crazy thanks to Betty Crocker Vanilla Super Moist Cake Mix and Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy Cream Cheese Frosting. One box mix divided into three equal parts made three 9 inch round cakes. The element of fun here was food coloring. My 10 year-old, Ava, was in charge of the color mixology and first up was purple, blue and green (see the video here (originally on Vine @jengilhoi)). Then we washed the cake pans, mixed again, divided and baked round two for yellow, orange and red layers. I usually spend a decent amount of time frosting the sides, but we had a different vision for this tower of cakes: high and messy. We skipped frosting the sides. To get cakes to layer correctly, I cut off the slightly rounded cake tops.

 

Rainbow Cake Testing

Rainbow Cake Testing

Second, we made white chocolate covered pretzel ladders using pretzel rods for the sides and thin pretzels for the ladder rungs. Super messy, but fun and kid-friendly. With one package of microwave-melted Candiquik white chocolate in a tray, Ava coated the pretzels, assembled them and hung them out to dry on parchment paper. These ladders would be the only way in which a 2-3 inch full-grown Leprechaun could access the cake.

 

Third, we broke into teams to design the traps using our cake bait. Neither kid wanted to be with me, rather they wanted to team with their Dad, the engineer. My feelings weren’t too hurt. He is highly experienced in shenanigans from his college days and has skill in weighted pulley systems and the like. To Ava’s dismay, we were once again a team. The criterion was that the leprechaun had to trigger something that set the course for events that would eventually end in his entrapment.

 

Ava and Mom's trap: Swing into Green Sea

Ava and Mom’s trap: Swing into Green Sea

Calvin and Dad’s trap was indeed elaborate and weighted. One sliding trophy on dental floss nearly took Calvin out in the testing process. I heard him cry out in pain. When their plan was presented, it include a wire trip that pulled a coat rack which then released a trophy that slid down the floss, knocked over a book that fell and slammed the trap shut. Ava was blown away.

 

Leprechaun Outsmarted MonsterHigh Ghouls and Frogger

Leprechaun Outsmarted MonsterHigh Ghouls and Frogger

Then it was our turn. We got points for style. Ours included a welcome sign, enticing Monster High ghouls, all sorts of mischievous items like tacks, granulated sugar, glue and ladders to climb up the multi-level tower. Once the top of the tower was reached, the leprechaun was to dismount the pretzel swing and land in a swampy sea of hot, green bubbles and drown. See the video overview here.

 

Neither trap caught a leprechaun. The leprechaun maneuvered through Ava and Mom’s trap, taking out the MonsterHigh Ghouls with tacks and out swimming Frogger to escape. Fooled again (see: Unlucky Strikes March 2011 blog post)! And now we have a ton of cake to eat too. Maybe next year we’ll get the gold!

For more images, see my Pinterest board (@jengilhoi) here. 

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Mac-n-Cheese Malfunction January 24, 2012

Filed under: Eats — edamomie @ 10:10 pm
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E: Eats

Better to Shred It

Better to Shred It

Might the ultimate comfort food come from a box? If so, can we parents at least make it organic?  Kids answer: No. Don’t even try to touch my Kraft cheesy powdered mac-n-cheese with anything whole wheat, organic or homemade.

 

In search of the ultimate winter comfort-food for adults and kids alike that is super flexible, I recently landed on a recipe for Mac-n-Cheese that includes multiple cheese variations, breadcrumbs and roasted tomatoes from Martha. In previous attempts, I’ve added mixed veggies, ham and bacon to the dish. As far as the kids are concerned, it wasn’t quite Kraft. I needed to try again.

 

It really frustrates me that they prefer Kraft to mine, which included way too much yellow onion in their opinion. They gave it a thumbs down. I tell them the difference in ingredients. I have my 8-yr-old son, Calvin, heavily involved in the shredding of the four cheeses, tearing and processoring of the bread into breadcrumbs and vigilantly monitoring the whole mix flour mix so that it doesn’t burn and reaches the perfect consistency.

 

Processing of Breadcrumbs: Worth It!

Processing of Breadcrumbs: Worth It!

Maybe had they not had the Kraft version ever, I’d be able to sway them (they’ve been around for 75 years; see their Facebook page) My kids – Calvin and 8-yr-old Ava – have quite a palette for cheese. I thought they would, or rather should, be open to Guyere, Pecorina and sharp cheddar. Some of their reaction could have been due to last minute missed steps and presentation. We made the dish on a Sunday with the idea of popping it in the oven on Monday night for dinner after the workday. Something was lost in translation.

Cheesy Mix

Cheesy Mix

 

Despite a handwritten note to my husband and an email with the link to the recipe, the dish did not get the breadcrumbs added and did not see the likes of the oven. Rather, it went straight from fridge to microwave, losing much of its appeal. I arrived home later than their dinner time and realized the mac malfunction. I made it right for my version in a 350 oven.

 

I thought it worth it with the surprise element: breadcrumbs. I have never been a crouton fan (my Dad did not claim to recognize them on a salad we served him years ago), nor into breadcrumbs. They made the dish. I discovered the importance of multiple textures in a dish years ago, and this was one such example that was more satisfying because of that mix. I would suggest not to skimp on this step if you make a mac dish.  I also knew the roasted tomatoes on top would be a tough sell for the kids. I sauteed them on the side and added a green salad to round out the meal.

 

One kid said straight up, “Mom, you’re not gonna wanna hear this, but I actually hate it.” The other couched it more gently. I made that one most vocal kid try my more perfected version. He admitted a step up, but he was not willing to budge overall. At least we had fun making it – shredding, tearing, processing and thickening.  I also polled other mommies who echoed my frustrations – another factor lessening the blow. But Kraft, just so you know, I’m keeping at it, in search of my kids’ ultimate thumbs up on my homemade mac-n-cheese.

 

An Easter Blow Out April 24, 2011

A: Activities and U: The Unknown

This is the first Easter post kids that I can recall us parents being on our own for Easter activities. I discovered that it’s really a mini-Christmas with decorating, egg-coloring, a visit from the Easter Bunny, brunch and hiding jelly beans for the hunt.

 

We’ve always hard-boiled eggs prior to coloring them, which means you don’t want to make them too close to Easter. By the time my week wound down and we re-grouped on Friday, two days out from Easter, all the crafts that intrigued me suggested blowing out the eggs. Foreign concept to me.  We watched an MS video, which didn’t necessarily convince me it would be easy. Regardless, we forged ahead and made our list.

 

Egg Blowout Technique

Egg Blowout Technique

 

From the millions of Martha crafts we chose the Big-Eared Bunny and the Crepe Paper Bunnies. I don’t know if I’ve ever made a recipe or craft by fully following the instructions – I’m always tweaking a bit.  I call it Martha with modifications. These two crafts were no exceptions.

 

We bought a few dozen eggs on Friday. That’s all the further we got. First thing Saturday we’re up and trying to figure this technique out. I notice our eggs have been branded. They have a “EB” on on end for Eggsland’s Best, or Easter Bunny, as I suggested to the kids. The first two explode before we can get all of the contents out.  We made the mistake of making the top hole so large that the pressure from the tool was too much. As we progress, we make some adjustments – for example, really only a pin hole is needed in the top hole. In all the rest of the bunch, with two random brown eggs added (26 total), we only lose three.  The third one my 5-yr-old, Calvin, held too unsteady while trying to pierce the egg with a safety pin. After we get a routine down, Calvin is fascinated by the egg scrambling and content extraction (among other names) and sticks with it for the full 23.

 

Bunnies Outweigh Carrots in the Garden

Bunnies Outweigh Carrots in the Garden

 

We take a break a head to the MIA for Titian. When we proceed with the dyeing process, it’s 3:30. Because the eggs are hollow, they are nearly impossible to submerge in the dye. Martha recommended doing it in this order: blow out then dye. So this is a source of frustration. We finally rig it up with coffee mugs and a medium weight spoon face up to hold down the buoyant, fragile egg shells. Only once does a mug and it’s content spill. Final count are 7 pink and 4 orange for the Big-Eared Bunny craft and 12 miscellaneous colors (including one black sheep (bunny) of the family that comes from an original brown egg in midnight blue dye).

 

It’s like 5:00 on Saturday.  We leave them out to dry. I just use cookie drying racks whereas Martha has a foamcore and straight pin grid for drying. I test out the glue’s strength (weak) to adhere straightened felt ears (heavy). It’s obvious that is not going to work. We improvise with some plaid paper for ears and I get out my narrow scrapbooking tape which works wonders. The pompon noses go on with glue, I dot the eyes and stick them back in the egg carton container. I also improvise with green construction paper for the carrot tops.  The 11 eggs end up in the carton which is now the garden, due to a few failed passes at the felt-bunny feet. Time for bed.

 

Bunnies in their Baskets

Bunnies in their Baskets

 

Easter morning. We finish up the bunnies (close-up) in their cupcake homes pretty quickly. Again altering Martha because we couldn’t find crepe paper. Mind you, the crepe paper streamers at home are too flimsy, not the same thing as the pressed crepe paper. We settled on colored cardstock paper. I traced the 22 ears and my 7-yr-old daughter, Ava,  cut them out and creased them. And as we didn’t have crepe paper for the grass in their baskets, they got the Easter basket cellophane filling. We glued on the small nose pompon and the larger tail ponpom, made the eyes and attached the ears. Now it’s 7:30a.m. I’m calling it done.

 

Next up church, brunch and the hunt. While we’re away at church, the EB takes care of the jellybean hunt and pops in the quiche. Post ceremony, the kids run wildly around the house – only to collect like 20 jellybeans each. They did get a boomerang and a balloon machine to make fancy balloon shapes too. I am pleased we kept the giant chocolate bunnies out – no major feat. And the Easter baskets, courtesy of their Grandma, had Goldfish (crackers) and plants – great ideas.  We set the table with our decor, light a few Easter candles and enjoy brunch.  It’s 11:30a.m. I’m hoppy it’s all over and time for this bunny to take a nap.

 

The Incredible Inedible Egg April 11, 2011

Filed under: Eats — edamomie @ 10:09 pm
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E: Eats

Chef Incredible, Adding Some Muscle in the Kitchen

Chef Incredible, Adding Some Muscle in the Kitchen

I had the pleasure of cooking with Chef Incredible for Easter treat-making this year. Together we made some incredible inedible eggs. As it turns out this recipe, while wildly whimsical and scientific, is not one we’d recommend.  If you insist, have at it though. Just swap out the (decorative colored) sand with just about anything else.

 

This Martha Stewart recipe for Marshmallow Easter Critters is unforgiving if your m.o. in the kitchen is relaxation and checking back in with the recipe after each step. We learned how critical timing was the first go around with what MS termed Marshmallow Magic. The gelatin sat about a minute too long and the syrup portion went only 3-4 degrees higher than the perfect 238. The boiling syrup (obviously no kids near while this was going on…) when added to the mixing bowl, definitely sparked a reaction with the gelatin. Just not the one I envisioned.

 

We all agreed that it was not looking promising, but we just had to optimistically turn on the mixer. The beaters didn’t budge. I’m convinced I nearly broke the mixer. The hard “candy” confection we had created in 9 seconds would not let go of any surface. I actually sliced my finger trying to get it off of the spatula.

 

Sugared Sand or Sanding Sugar?

Sugared Sand or Sanding Sugar?

I could not let the Easter attempt go down in this fashion. After a little first aid, we prepped again. The ingredients are cheap and simple really. Sugar, water, gelatin, sugar, vanilla extract and sand.  Both kids seemed in disbelief that we’d try it again after failing so miserably. On the second attempt, we got the timing and temps right (always use a candy thermometer). Success! The syrup reached the right temp at the right time, along with a little monitoring of the temp control on the burner.  The mixer spent 10 whole minutes transforming the clear liquid to white fluffy peaks – just like Martha said it would. Scientific exploration at its best.

 

The King Declares Marshmallows to be Dangerously High in Sugar Content

The King Declares Marshmallows to be Dangerously High in Sugar Content

We spread it out in our pan and sprinkled with that sugar in three even sections and let it set for an hour. Chef Incredible, my son, poked it quite a bit – testing…. Finally the kids were ready to take the sugar cookie cut-outs to the pan of spongy marshmallows.  The critters separated nicely. Regrettably, we rolled the edges in more of that sand.  The result: over-sugared bunnies, eggs, butterflies and tulips. In hindsight, the marshmallows alone would have tasted yummy.

 

I’m sure Martha hosted several kids’ focus groups for all the treats in April 2011 issue. I would have to think the sugar in these hyped them up a bit? Maybe the parents settled on this observation:  If you want eye-appealing decor to last until Easter and you don’t actually want to be tempted to eat your Easter treats, make these.

 

Cherry Crush: Valentine’s Day (Part 1) February 10, 2011

Filed under: Eats — edamomie @ 6:40 pm
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E: Eats

Ours (left) v Martha's (right)

Ours (left) v Martha's (right)

I was first introduced to cherry flavoring via Hubba Bubba Bubble Gum. You could say I had a cherry crush (not like Orange Crush the soda, just a love of cherry). I couldn’t make a 5-pack of Wild Cherry last more than a day. Then there was a long intermission. In my late twenties, out of boredom from other Ben & Jerry flavors and an attempt to make a healthier selection, I made my first pintly purchase of Cherry Garcia ice cream (bing cherries and dark chocolate). Years later Cherry Coke followed suit.  And now, in another winning cherry and chocolate combination, my kids and I uncovered Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cherry Cookies courtesy of Martha’s February issue, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

 

Cookie Dough Folder and Alice (a glimpse)

Cookie Dough Folder and Alice (a glimpse)

It’s a really simple recipe really. The sweetness of the cherries balances out the chocolate and the cherries keep the cookies moist. It’s a different twist on your traditional chocolate chip cookie to show those on your Valentine list you put a little thought and effort into the treat. I brought in my son to help  measure and mix  – including the fold-in technique (very important so as not to crush the cherries and chocolate) and my daughter to roll the dough and place on the baking sheet.

 

Tea Party Cookie Tasting

Tea Party Cookie Tasting

They both had the job of attentively watching them bake in real-time and tasting at our tea party. Present at the party was Ava in her sundress and wide-brimmed hat, Calvin with a smirk that said tea parties are not my thing and a t-shirt that would have read “I’m only here for the cookies,” and me in my Alice in Wonderland costume from three Halloweens ago. I mention this because I can’t say that I have ever worked in the kitchen in heels or a costume. It did get an eyebrow raise from my husband.

 

At half-past four, it was time to end the party and Part 1 of Valentine’s Day prep. We all agreed that the combo in the cookies was a good one and that cherry, indeed, is a flavor to savor. Now, would we want to share?

 

Part 2 will include the valentine care and card packages we’re scheming up. Family and adults will get the full-on cookie package and kids, through their valentine exchanges at their schools, will give non or low-in-sweet-treats valentines (if I can at all have a say it in) with homemade cards (if I can hold over over the super convenient store bought options).

 

 
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