Archive for ‘what’s cookin’’

October 14, 2012

Turn around and she’s one…

by Decemberbaby

My baby turned one on Friday.

She has four teeth and hair long enough for two tiny pigtails. She has at least five words that we can tell – Mama, Baba (abba – “daddy” in Hebrew,) “Zeh” (Hebrew for “that”,) “Den” (Ken – Hebrew for yes,) and our nanny’s name. She has recently become attached to one of our baby dolls and can spend upwards of twenty minutes sitting in a chair, cuddling her baby.

In my usual fashion, I invited the grandparents over for cake and pizza. Honestly, she has no clue what a birthday is and it seems silly to go all out on a party for her first birthday. My policy is to throw a small cake party with lots of cool decorations, so that I have photographic evidence that we cared enough to have a first birthday party for each kid. So this morning I contemplated what kind of theme I could whip up in a few hours, and came up with dots. Polka dots. Have a look:

The garlands were a lot of fun to make: Cardstock circles (I used my 3 1/2 inch circle punch and some 5-inch precut circles) sewn into a chain. They’re fast, too.

I started to set the table and realized that my white tablecloth is terribly stained. Don’t worry, I totally fixed it:

No, there isn’t a stain under every polka-dot on the table… just some of them. The polka dots on the glasses, by the way, are wall decals that used to be on the wall in K’s room. I put a different colour and size on each glass so that people wouldn’t get confused about whose caffeine-free diet coke was whose. Oh, and see the tiny little bucket on the table? Mr. December thought it was just more junk when I brought it home from Shoppers one day – 99 cents after Easter – but I knew that we’d find a use for it sometime. It really rounded out the theme (pun intended.)

I tried to keep the food thematic. We had brownie cookies with “polka dots” (m&m’s,) cupcakes in polka-dot wrappers with round sprinkles on top, and veggies cut into rounds. There was also pizza and bourekas. Yum.

Sure, the icing is a bit sloppy, but nobody complained. And aren’t the polka dots all over the table cool?

Even R’s outfit – a polka-dot dress – fit in with the theme. And as you can see, she was mesmerized by the candle on her cupcake… and very pleased when we finally gave her one to eat. It was only a couple of minutes before all that remained of her cupcake was a (very large) smear of icing on her face.

After dinner and dessert I pulled out the guitar and sang her favourite songs. Then I changed gears and got everybody singing the Shehecheyanu, the Jewish prayer thanking God for sustaining us and keeping us alive to reach this milestone. Mr. December and I got a bit misty-eyed, especially during the next song – Al Kol Eleh – which is all about being thankful for all of life, both the bitter and the sweet. The bitter was so very bitter… but the sweet is indescribably sweet.

So that’s it… we survived her first year. Sure, we were in “survival mode” more often than not, and we’ve been awfully exhausted, but we made it. And – as my best friend pointed out – I made it to her first birthday without getting knocked up (I was six months pregnant at N’s first birthday.) And that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a Good Thing.

Happy Birthday, little R. It’s been a real trip.

June 11, 2012

Menu Plan Monday – June 11 edition

by Decemberbaby

Remember how I made a tilapia parmesan a few weeks ago? It was good – and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t eat fish. It was so good that I had two helpings at dinner and then ate the leftovers for lunch. Yum! That one is definitely going into the regular rotation, especially during the summer months.

In other dinner-related news, I’ve recently found frozen prepared meats (roast brisket, beef ribs) that taste amazing and are actually cheaper than buying the same meat raw. Weird… how do they do that? Anyhow, it’s nice to have a few of those in the freezer for days when I don’t feel like actually cooking.

I need to do a huge grocery shop this week – in a few minutes I’ll be going upstairs to inventory my pantry and fridge – so the menu planning will be fast and furious, followed by the customary Making of Lists.

Here’s what’s for dinner this week:

Monday – (Mr. December works late, no dinner for him) Picnic in the park! Falafel sandwiches (will probably pack ingredients separately and assemble when we are ready to eat), fresh fruit (watermelon?), homemade lemonade to drink.

Tuesday – Beef ribs (prepared freezer food!), mashed potatoes, green peas

Wednesday – Tilapia Parmesan (yum!) over whole-wheat linguine

Thursday – Taco night

Friday – Stuffed schnitzel roll-ups, rice, broccoli, challah, Israeli salad, fruit for dessert

Saturday – Coldcut sandwiches

Sunday – BBQ… hot dogs and burgers on (homemade?) buns

Monday – Picnic in the park!

… and that’s it. But readers, I’m curious. How do you organize your shopping list and meal planning? Tell me, do tell…

Not sure what to make for dinner? Get some ideas over at Menu Plan Monday!

May 24, 2012

Repost: It’s not about the dishwasher unless I make it so.

by Decemberbaby

This is a repost from a very old blog of mine. Ruchi over at Out of the Ortho Box just posted about this issue, so I dug this one up so that current readers can have a look. I believe this was published in 2009. It still applies today.

A friend of mine just wrote a post about how, as an Orthodox Jew, she really regrets that she can’t eat in someone’s house just because they use the same dishwasher for both their meat and dairy utensils. She goes on to talk about how many people accuse the Orthodox of caring more about the dishwasher than about the friendship.
I understand that point of view. But I also think that it’s not about the dishwasher until I decide that it is.(full disclosure: I’m pretty sure that I’m the person my friend is referring to, given that we just had this conversation about her eating in my home. Maybe it comes up a lot, but I’m not betting on it.)

Here’s my point:

I understand why, for an Orthodox Jew, it’s impossible to eat things cooked in my pots and pans, served on my plates. It’s like asking a paraplegic to walk up the steps into my house. Impossible. When that person says no, it’s not a judgment – it’s simply a statement of fact. So I can grouse about how offended I am, about how seriously I take my Judaism and how picky this friend is being. But ultimately, it’s a fruitless exercise. Alternately, I can offer a solution or a compromise: eat in my home, but on paper plates. We’ll order takeout. Or I can cook things in foil pans with single-use utensils.

It’s just as if I invited a person who is wheelchair-dependent to my house with stairs. I could build a ramp. It won’t be pretty, or as elegant a reception as I like to offer my guests. There are some parts of my house a wheelchair-dependent person would never be able to see. But we could still enjoy each other’s company, a bite to eat, and stimulating conversation. It’s not about the stairs, just as it’s not about the dishwasher.

There are some of my much-loved recipes that my Orthodox friends will never taste. That’s unfortunate, but far from a deal-breaker. Where I come from, hachnassat orchim (welcoming guests) is taken very seriously. It’s about accommodating your guests to the best of your ability, and seeing to their needs, not to your own. And so I’m choosing to overlook the small sting to my pride and build the metaphorical ramp. And when we all sit around the table in the succah, breaking bread and celebrating together, the dishwasher won’t even be relevant.

March 27, 2012

Menu Plan Monday – countdown to Passover – March 26 edition

by Decemberbaby

It’s T minus ten days (give or take) and I need to get serious about using up all the non-Passover stuff. This morning I used an entire loaf of bread to make French Toast. Starting tomorrow it’s oatmeal for breakfast every morning and cold cereal for snacks.

Monday – Pasta with meatless sauce (from the freezer)

Tuesday – Baked chicken, rice

Wednesday – Egg-fried rice, edamame, broccoli

Thursday –¬†Tandoori chickpeas (tandoori sauce from the freezer), rice, cucumber salad

Friday – Challah, broccoli-cheddar quiche (from the freezer), Greek salad, rice pudding for dessert

Saturday -going out to friends!

Sunday – Chicken sandwiches on homemade focaccia with sauteed veggie toppings and garlic aioli, bean salad

Wow. I don’t need to buy anything except for tomatoes and fruit. Whee!

Stay tuned for next week, when I reveal my menu plan for the week of Passover.

Not sure what you’re having for dinner this week? Check out Organizing Junkie for the rest of the Menu Plan Monday submissions.

BTW, does anybody have a really good recipe for rice pudding?

March 15, 2012

Just Sweet and Jewy?

by Decemberbaby

First my infertility cred goes down the toilet, and now this… I’ve come to the realization that I’m just not that crunchy. Either that, or I’m somehow hanging out with a very crunchy crowd.

Yes, I’m a fan of cloth diapering, and I have a compost pile in the back. I grow my own vegetables and I replace car trips with bike trips. I feed my kids “real food” (by my standards, that means “not chicken nuggets and no handi-snacks.”) And yet I’m just not crunchy enough, and I’m finally self-aware enough to understand why that bothers me.

The catalyst for all this crunchiness-related navelgazing was, oddly enough, our synagogue. We have a food committee that recently created our new food policy: that food served at synagogue should be (whenever possible) organic, local, sustainable, and healthy. Anyhow, this has drastically changed the food that gets served at our shul’s kiddush luncheon. In my opinion the food is delicious, but kid-friendly it’s not.

So I mentioned this to someone on the committee. I suggested that maybe the caterer could just make a pot of Wacky Mac (the kosher equivalent of Kraft Dinner) for the little kids. She responded flatly that it would never happen and I said, “but it’s what little kids like to eat!” It is, right? Wrong.

And here enters my defensiveness. The response that there are “lots” of children who love tofu, quinoa, and raw bok choy instantly raised my hackles. She said, “lots of kids like this kind of food,” but I heard, “lots of kids, with parents better than you, like this kind of food.”

I feel like I’m hearing that kind of thing a lot these days. “Good parents don’t let their kids drink juice [ever?]”. “Good parents don’t feed their kids white flour and refined sugar.” Really? Since when are juice and cookies the dietary equivalent of rat poison?

(In order to spare myself the inevitable lectures, yes, I understand what sugar does to insulin levels and the pancreas. And yes, I understand that whole grains are much better than refined. And yes, I know that juice, cookies, and white flour are by no means essential to human survival.)

It’s interesting to me that the comments at which I take umbrage are directly relevant to my kids. The ones about foods we don’t eat either pass me by, or I really agree with them… like not serving tuna fish because of overfishing and the entrapment of other animals. Or serving fewer eggs because eggs from truly free-range chickens are more expensive than our shul can afford. I’m fine with those. But today there was an article in our shul e-mail about why refined grains are bad and we’ll only see whole grain products at kiddush, and my first thought was, “why is it the shul’s business to police what we should or shouldn’t be putting in our bodies?”

See? I get defensive. Also a bit belligerent. I mean, I personally think that if there’s ever a time to eat sweets and rare treats like juice, it’s Shabbat. If other parents don’t want to let their kids drink juice, then don’t give them the juice. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on the drink table. Just learn to say no. Parent your child!

(see? the judgment goes both ways.)

I’d like to posit that this overemphasis on feeding kids only the purest food is, for many, a parenting issue, not a health issue. Parenting is tough. Really, really, really tough. You can do your best to teach your kids values and appropriate behaviour, and they still might not demonstrate those when they grow up. But we can absolutely, completely control what we feed our children and their resulting physical health says, “see? these parents did a Good Job!”

Parents, listen up. You ARE doing a Good Job. Whether you feed your kids organic quinoa or flourescent cheese-flavoured rat poison macaroni, you’re feeding your kids. (Look, if you’re starving your kids, you’re not doing a good job. Just so you know.) They’re growing. You’re teaching them some values. You’re raising them to function in your society. You’re Good Parents. Most parents are.

I’m trying, really trying, to remember that this is my baggage, not everyone else’s. I’m trying to remember not to roll my eyes when another parent crows about not serving juice at a birthday party and how none of the kids asked for it (do you remember childhood? Most birthday parties I attended offered pop (soda for you Americans) as a once-in-a-while treat!) I’m trying, but I don’t always succeed. And sometimes I’m not sure I want to.

Because honestly, does the whole “no juice, no sugar, no refined grains” thing seem a bit… preachy… to you? As if we can’t trust parents to provide certain treats in moderation?

Please comment. I want to know what you think.

March 11, 2012

Purim Postmortem 2012

by Decemberbaby

If you have no idea what this “Purim” thing is, read the Wiki page.

Well, that was slightly insane. And fun. And busy and hectic and… boy, am I tired!

Sadly, stupidly, I forgot to take pictures of some things… but don’t worry, our dinner in disguise was at least somewhat documented.

Delicious apple pie? No, spinach quiche with feta.

The stuff in the ice-cream tub is actually mashed potatoes. And what's that on the left? Two-bite vegetable kugels (on my footed crystal cake platter, of course.)

Pizza for dessert! The crusts are made of cookie dough, and they're topped with chocolate, marshmallow, and fruit (on the left,) and jam, shredded coconut, and fruit (on the right.)

We dressed up, of course. N was a veterinarian for his beloved lion…

Am I getting old, or are doctors looking younger these days?

And K was a princess…

I swear, she has a beautiful smile. But whenever we take a picture she puts on this fake one.

We delivered Mishloach Manot to friends and family. I forgot to take a picture of them, but they were once again housed in brown paper bags (I estimate in 10 years I’ll finally have used them all up,) decorated with pretty paper handles and colourful brads.

On the subject of mishloach manot, who on earth needs so many baked goods? Not I. I think the best mishloach manot that we received was the one with melba toast, veggies, and hummus for dipping. Next year I’m going to do a fruit platter, like the one we made for my friends who are more kosher than we are (and hence can’t eat foods cooked in our home):

After all those cookies and cakes, a little fruit with yogurt is downright refreshing.

(As a lengthy aside, has anyone ever done a spoof of Right Said Fred called “I’m too Kosher”? It could go, “I’m too kosher for your kitchen/ too kosher for your kitchen/ so kosher it’s bitchin’!” Seriously, has it been done? Anybody wanna have a go?)

Finally, for a little grownup fun we played Torah Mad Libs. Here’s our Purim take on Jacob’s dream about the ladder:

Jacob left Beer-sheva and set out for Amazon indoor playground. He came upon a certain place and stuffed there for the night, for the sun had helped. Taking one of the lions of that place, he put it under his cheek and lay down there. He had a dream; a face was set on the ground and its top running to the sky, and meerkats of G-d were going up and down on it. And HaShem was standing beside him and He said, “I am the jellybean, the G-d of Abraham and the G-d of Isaac: the hat on which you are bothering I will assign to you and your offspring. Your descendants shall be as the hats of the earth; you shall mother to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All the limousines of the earth shall waddle themselves by you and your pictures. Remember, I am with you: I will jump you wherever you go and will bring you back to this quilt. I will not block you until I have done what I have promised you.

Jacob awoke from his camel and said, “Surely the cellphone is present in this place, and I did not read it!” Shaken, he said, “How pretty is this place! This is none other than the cake of G-d, and that is the gateway to the washroom.”

I personally loved how G-d promised to jump Jacob wherever he goes.

So nu, how was your purim?

January 15, 2012


by Decemberbaby

You know, I was all geared up to be productive this week, and then our nanny called to say that she can’t be here on Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday. My week is starting to fill up with mountains of laundry instead of sewing and scrapbooking. At least I was organized enough to make a few freezer meals last week. I think we can have a hearty dinner every night this week without having to do anything more than boil some pasta. Who’d’a thunk planning would pay off?

I’ve discovered an upside to digital scrapbooking that I hadn’t thought of before: I can do it while breastfeeding. All it takes is one hand to click and drag, so I can work on the kids’ baby books every time R needs to eat, which is often. Did I mention that she’s doing the three-month growth spurt thing right now? She’s feeding every 90 minutes. She’s got the chubby thighs to prove it.

Where was I? Oh, right. Scrapbooking. I managed a few pages this weekend – nine pages, to be precise. I’ve abandoned N’s book for the time being because Mr. December (rightly) pointed out that I should make a sample book first to make sure that the pages turn out the way I want them and that the print quality is good. Hence my new project: a photo book for my grandmother. It will have a two-page spread for each year of each child’s life, followed by a section of photos of all of us. Here’s the cover of K’s section (which, incidentally, is finished):

And yes, there is a red watermark that reads “trial version”. I paid for the software license on Thursday night, and I’ve yet to receive the email with my license key number. That hasn’t stopped the company from sending me two emails confirming that I’m on their mailing list, though. I guess that’s something else to follow up on this week.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s menu plan post – I’ll reveal exactly which frozen meal I’ll be defrosting each night.

December 27, 2011

Haikus from our home, on Hannukah.

by Decemberbaby

Despite popular

culture, kids don’t beg for gifts.

A Hannukah win!


Deep fried, laced with crack,

the perfect Hannukah treat:

Krispy Kreme doughnuts.


Beeswax candles spark

a toddler’s wonder. “How can I

touch that flaming thing?”


Cholesterol: up

fifty percent. Admit it,

latkes are worth it.


Dreidel, dreidel, spin.

Maybe if I lose it will

end this boring game.


Say, what happened there?

A great miracle: some oil

burned a long, long time.


The miracle of

oil is just the most correct,



Eight crazy nights? Done.

Now we can reinstate our

usual bedtime.


December 20, 2011

“Mummy, where do latkes come from?”

by Decemberbaby

Well, when a potato and an onion that we harvest from the garden love each other very much…

They want to be as close together as possible. So they jump through the food processor and into the bowl, where we mix them up up until they can’t be separated:

Then they usually like to take a bath together in some hot olive oil…

And then they’re together for always.

Now let’s eat!

Happy Chanuka from all of us at Sweet & Crunchy with a Jewy Centre!

October 10, 2011

Family breakfast

by Decemberbaby

I’ve read, as I’m sure you all have, about how important it is for families to sit down to dinner together every day. In my house that almost never happens. The kids need to eat before 6, and getting home by then is pretty hard for Mr. December. What’s a mom to do?

Well, we all wake up at the same time, and we all need to eat before we leave the house. Hence… we all sit down and eat breakfast together every day. Here’s how it works:

We don’t do anything fancy. Generally we’ll alternate having oatmeal or cold cereal on the menu. I set out bowls, spoons and mugs the night before, and if it’s a cold cereal day then I’ll put that out too. I cut up some kind of fresh fruit and put it in the fridge. For oatmeal days, I start the steel-cut oats the night before, then leave them to soak overnight. I prepare a tray of toppings and a small jug of milk and put those in the fridge where K can reach them.

In the morning, I just have to turn on the oatmeal for 10 minutes (I do it right when I get up, and by the time we’re all dressed the oatmeal is done). K’s job is to take the tray of toppings out of the fridge and bring it to the table. When N sees this happening, he goes to the play kitchen (also where we keep the kids’ dishes and cutlery), gets himself a spoon, and then stands patiently by his chair until we help him in. Both K and N seem to take pride in doing their parts to get ready for breakfast. And of course, everybody loves their oatmeal.

The topping tray is a very lightweight tray from the dollar store, with dollar store ramekins to hold each item. I also put the serving spoons and tongs on it in advance, and there’s a little cloth mat that absorbs the stray nuts and crumbs. Here’s what tomorrow’s tray looks like:

We have different toppings every day. The tray above is what I call “apple pie” – apples, raisins, walnuts, and cinnamon sugar. We also do “banana nut” – brown sugar, pecans, and bananas. “Cranberry almond” is pretty much what it sounds like – dried cranberries, slivered almonds, brown sugar.

And, in the spirit of montessori-ing my home, I put the tray of toppings and the jug of milk on the lowest shelf in our fridge so that K can reach:

To give you a sense of size, that’s a 500 mL (2 cup) jug. It’s maybe 5 inches tall.

Mmm… oatmeal and toppings. This post has made me want to go to sleep so that I can wake up and eat breakfast. Yum.