So after yesterday's write up you probably all think I never eat any Halloween Candy (which by nature is very cheap and almost tasteless), but unfortunately I always do have at least a few pieces (sometimes a few too many). I am judicious though. I only have Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I bought my Halloween Candy two days ago and today I broke down and had a piece... only to be totally disappointed! What happened?! I have been cheated! (While cheating no less.) My Reese's did not taste like a Reese's... it was so much more... sugary maybe?... and so much less peanut buttery.
That is when I remembered that I had read an article about the price of peanut butter sky rocketing over the last year (important because peanut butter is a staple in our house!) I have no proof, but I am thinking Hershey's cut the peanut butter content in the Reese's this year. Let me know what you think. Maybe it is just me, but I do not think so. Here is a link to some articles about peanut butter pricing...CNN MoneyHuffington Post
The good news... I will not be eating any more Halloween candy. The bad news... I buy multiple jars of peanut butter a week for my family.
A few years ago I was asked an unexpected question, "Do you celebrate Halloween?" As my confused face searched to process the question (much less the answer)... the speaker said, "Since you are not Catholic, I would not think you would celebrate Halloween."
I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that Halloween had roots in Catholisism ("All Hallows Eve"). However, I grew up celebrating Halloween at both home and school and for that matter, so has everyone I have ever known and so I had just never thought of it as something 'religious'. A quick internet search indicates that some people also credit it back to the end of summer Celtic festival of Samhain/Samuin and surely my Irish & Scottish roots include enough Celt for me to claim this holiday as my own!
Growing up there was not a huge production of it. We would pull together costumes out of what was in the house and sometimes with my mother's sewing machine.
We watched Charlie Brown's "Great Pumpkin" TV special, trick or treated in the neighborhood, loved the haunted yard our neighbors put on, and envied the kids who got to keep their candy all year long (my mom had ours out of the house by dawn). I stopped trick or treating when I was 12 (house rule), but then I had fun taking my younger siblings out and going to haunted houses with my friends (that never scared me because they relied too heavily on horror movies that I had never seen). It was not my Mom's favorite holiday... too much focus on "darkness", but it was not that big of a deal.
However, something changed by the time I was a mother both for me and I suspect the nation, or even the world. Blame it on "Hallmark", the Target costume aisle, or the growth of places like Party City. Whatever it is is... it is big business now and we are eating it up. We love it! Furthermore, I, personally, really love it! I love the costumes, the marking of the season change, the sociality, the parties, and so on. However, in one way I am like my mother - I hate the candy! I think a lot of Halloween is helping children to face their fears and to feel braver in a different skin for a few hours, but unfortunately... hours and days of non-stop candy can turn THEM into little MONSTERS!
So here are my tips on
"How to give them their candy, and still love them in the morning..."
1. Go Costume Crazy.
Halloween does not have to be all about candy. Make it about the costume. We start shopping for ours in July (I am not kidding) and inevitably finish the night before (one of the boys is always still figuring it out.) When we cannot find what we want, we make it. I have an entire budget line devoted to Halloween costumes. I figured out about 11 years ago that my kids played with their Halloween costumes for the full 12 months after Halloween (and in some cases... for years afterwards). It was the best spent money in the entire play room! Think of it that way, and now when you see my four year old run through the school playground in a fabulous princess costume in March... you know why - it was her sister's 3 years ago. And when you wonder why we have a giant Tele Tubbie costume... trust me, it is a great story (and was a great year!)
2. Protein. ProTEIN. PROTEIN. Did you hear me? PROTEIN!
On Halloween day all meals should be eggs, sausage, beans, chicken, beef, etc. This is not the time to worry about calories (they are eating buckets of sugar for crying out loud!) I like cheese omelets for breakfast and chili for dinner (without rice or corn bread to go with it). If you can sneak in some fiber and vegetables, that is great too. I always put bowls of nuts and cheese sticks out for snacking. By doing this you are helping to counter the effect of the sugar on their personalities AND you are making them full. A full child will ultimately spend more time sorting their candy than eating it.
3. No EXTRA sugars.
This means no juices, absolutely no full sugar sodas, etc. Do not add to the sugar load their body is already taking in. This is just really not the day for pancakes and syrup! While a pretzel may be a healthy alternative, it is still a simple carbohydrate and beef jerkey would be a better choice. It also helps to make sure your own candy stash is more solid... buy things with chocolate and nuts in them and not just plain sugar. Every little bit helps!
4. Let them trick-or-treat for a LONG time.
The additional amount of candy they collect is nothing compared to how much more exercise they have gotten and how much more worn out they will be. There is no doubt that fatigue is 50% of the problem on the morning after, but my observation is once they are older than 5... they are not going to bed early and so they might as well be out walking and running down the street!
5. Encourage OTHER traditions.
Pumpkin carving, seed roasting or as in the case of my cousin Joel... the ceremonial torching of the Jack-O-Lantern at the end of the night! My big boys have created from scratch a Haunted House for the church Fall Festival for the past two years. Dry ice caldrons, awesome decorations, etc. Things like this give Halloween "other" value other than the candy which makes Item #6 much easier.
6. Have a CANDY PLAN.
Do you really want them to eat ALL that candy? Do you really want them to be tempted by ALL that candy? Do you really want them hooked up to a sugar drip for weeks on end affecting everything from their personality to their school work to their appetite for real food? You are in charge... not the tiny tike dressed as Darth Vader! And if you think "candy does not affect your kids", then your kids are getting too much corn syrup and sugar on a regular basis and you just cannot see the difference.
"Candy Plan" Examples...
a. Send it to work the next day. My Dad worked in the oil refineries of Texas and they loved getting the candy. That does not work in my house. (Mom, me, is home and Dad is highly condescending to candy, period and so why on earth would he share it?)
b. Buy it from them. My children were thrilled the first time I traded their candy for a $5.00 bill. They also grew wise pretty fast and the price just kept going up. Finally, I realized that while I personally embrace the principles of capitalism this house is a monarchy, I am the Queen, and you can hand over that candy for free! (In other words, this one only worked for a few years.)
c. Just trash it. Period. Better the waste basket than our waists kind of thing. (Yes, I have done this.)
d. Compromise. This is what I do with my kids now. (Most of them are older now and less likely to lay on the floor and cry. Plus, I am older and care less about laying on the floor crying.) The morning after they get to pick out their favorite 20 pieces to keep. I get rid of everything else, and that 20 has to be gone by the end of the week or it gets trashed too. It means I have candied-kids for a little longer than I would like, but they get to enjoy it a little longer too. Ironically, they rarely have 20 pieces they want to save. As one of them pointed out to me... it all tastes the same. It is the same white flour with the same white sugar and it gets old fast... especially if they have been taught to recognize how it makes them feel.
Finally, have fun! "Old People" used to stop me and tell me to "enjoy it because it goes fast." I would smile politely and move right on. I guess I am old now because it is going OH, SO FAST! Halloween is one of those things you can make so many awesome memories and traditions with. It can be so, so, so much fun! Just be sure you do not let the legal drug of SUGAR and cheap American food processors ruin it for you because quite frankly a cute, healthy, happy monster is much more fun than a real one!
My morning was terrific! In my in-box was an email from none other than BETH WEBB HART... the author of "The Wedding Machine"! (See my post
on the book, if you are totally lost right now.)
I, honestly, am not someone who gets star struck... ever. However, I love books. I love books more than food, and so on the rare occasion (this is my 3rd time) that I get to interact with an author I like... well, I usually try to act like it is "no big deal", but the truth is... I am totally star struck!
I was thrilled to hear back from her and even more so that she was so nice and gracious. (I kind of already figured that from exploring her blog, but to be on the receiving end was still so lovely.)What I really want is to learn to speak well enough to actually ask authors the questions I want to know about their work, but I apparently... am at a loss of words when the opportunity strikes, but that is another subject. Back to my inbox.
Her kindness is not all she shared. She shared her cobbler recipe with us! That lovely picture just above where you are reading. See that? That bite? It was mine! Excellent!!!!
She is also sending me her newest book, Sunrise on the Battery
, which officially means we are friends for life. I even have a bag with the quote from Abraham Lincoln saying something to that effect. ("My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.")
.... Soooo, in short, THANK YOU Ms. Beth Webb Hart for The Wedding Machine
, the emails, a copy of Sunrise on the Battery
, and the recipe. Thank you!
There she is (to your left).
Here is what she said in email #1:What a beautiful post, Sarah! I love your revelation about your own cyber Wedding Machine community. Fantastic! Here is a recipe I love and here is the link to my blog where we do feature recipes from time to time and we also blog about all things southern http://southernbelleview.blogspot.com/2011/01/beth-webb-hart-talks-about-peach.html
All the best to you and your community,
Beth Webb Hart
Here is an excerpt from Email #2:
As for the cobbler, strawberries, blackberries or blueberries are also great if you can’t find any good peaches. Also, apples (and a little cinnamon). I’m so glad you enjoyed The Wedding Machine, and I hope you like Sunrise on the Battery. (Food always features heavily in my titles… I do love to eat. My husband says I’m a food savant. I can remember – in detail - every nice meal we’ve ever eaten. Kind of a weird trait, but I can’t help it!)
Easy Fresh Peach Cobbler
- 2 cups peaches, peeled and sliced
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup milk
- - 1 cup sifted plain flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- Pinch of salt
Mix peaches with ½ cup sugar. Let stand for 30 minutes or until juice forms. Melt butter in a 2-quart baking dish. (I always melt the butter in the microwave on medium heat). Make the batter from the remaining ingredients. Pour the batter over the butter, then pour the fruit and juice over the batter. DO NOT STIR.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes or until it begins to brown. Serves 6-8. Top with vanilla ice cream! (Blackberries make a great substitute as do strawberries.)
So you probably noticed that these pictures are not of "peach cobbler". There were NO peaches to be found in the fresh or frozen sections of the grocery store tonight. I even asked the produce employee for help! In fact, there were none of the choices she listed above except for apples (and I did not remember that being a choice while I was standing in the store.) We had to resort to frozen organic blackberries. (And me listening to my ten year old turn his nose up at "frozen". Yes, the same one who roasted me for my picky ways. Something says he will change his mind when he gets a bite!) It tastes divine and so I can only imagine it with in season fresh fruit. I also now know why I loved cobbler so much growing up - the butter!
This recipe is the real deal! :)
p.s. Ms. Hart - If you ever email me again, I promise not to cut and paste your emails for the world to see, but today just had to be an exception... it isn't every day a fan gets fan mail! :)
I am not a fan of goodie bags. You spend way more money than you want to for a load of super cheap, pointless plastic that all ends up in the garbage A.S.A.P. Or... your kid brings home a bag full of super cheap, pointless plastic that you throw away A.S.A.P. (I pretty much toss it the first time I have to pick it up off the floor.) I love it when my children come home with "something else" (or better yet, nothing!) ... except fish, sending fish home with other people's kids is NOT a good idea - why do people think that is a good idea? I digress, in addition to all the plastic there is the cheap candy and let's face it, this is October - there is hardly a shortage of super cheap candy! Thus, I was determined to do something a little more natural and a whole lot less 'garbage'... and that is when the idea to give away caramel apples came about. Who does not love those? Sugary, but not candy. Cute, but not plastic. We would tie them up with cute bows and call it good. Well, it turns out our Halloween bins had plastic aliens and bubbles from some previous Halloween adventure and thus the plastic was not to be 100% avoided... but at least now it would be in someone else's house and not mine!
Step #1 - purchase ingredients
I knew that to make the apples, I was going to have to break one of my rules ("no corn syrup"). Caramel pretty much is corn syrup. What I did not expect to find is "organic corn syrup". I am not even sure what my commentary is on this except that it just might very well be one of the funnier food moments ever. This is like organic fried chicken. Sure, you avoided all the pesticides (and so did the earth), but you still have all that fried. Either way... I still picked it over the non-organic. I cannot help myself.
Step #2 - wash the apples
This is more time consuming than I realized. I guess I do not normally have to wash 24 apples at the same time. This is also the point when I should have done some reading, some research, some education. I am not good at reading instructions. That also means I am not good at following instructions. I guess this explains why I am not a baker. I guess this is also why I would wish several times over the following hour that we were doing these at Martha's
house. She would have done her homework.
Step #3 - stab the apples
This was kind of fun.
Step # 4 - melt the caramel
I love the microwave.
Step #5 - feel incompetent
I have no idea what I am doing. This is not as easy as it sounds. It is midnight (or getting close). What have I gotten myself into?
Step #6 - get rescued by my kids
I can pretend that they just wanted to hang out with me, but it was probably more the attraction of not being sent to bed or access to all that corn syrup. Whatever their reason, two of my children took on the challenge of trying to get all that corn syrup to stick on all those apples and it made the night so much more fun!
Step #7 - caramalizing
We dipped, we rolled, and finally... we painted, or rather my son painted. It worked better for him so he took on the job of painting the apples with caramel. I find most things done with your kids at midnight are a lot of fun. (Except the stomach flu.) We listened to music, visited, and worked our little apple assembly line...
Step # 8 -
My daughter took on the job of sprinkling the caramel. (There went my 'all organic' caramel apple!) She sprinkled well.
But there was on thing she did even better...
... taste ...
Fortunately... she also got some on the apples!
Goodie bags are ready to go for the party!
For the past week I have had a book on my mind... “The Wedding Machine” by Beth Webb Hart
. It is one of those books you enjoy, but do not think much of at first, but then as it sits with you, it grows on you, and after a while you realize it is a story that matters. On the surface it is about a group of Southern women preserving traditions of hospitality and entertaining, but in reality it is about so much more… aging, love, secrets, food, recipes, traditions, but most importantly friendship. I am a Southern girl. If I were a character in "The Wedding Machine" I would be one of their daughters. Like them, the matriarchs of my life sent me away to college and never dreamed that I would never return. I have, you see, in effect, disrupted the legacies that were mine to carry on. As I age I am more conscious of this reality, and at no time is that loss more poignant to me than during the holidays and before parties. It is then that I find myself missing something I have never even had. I miss those women (probably my sisters, sister in-laws, aunts, cousins, childhood friends) who would have been ‘my team’ (or my
"wedding machine"). That group of people in my kitchen and theirs, each helping one another work the room, and making a large event easy; mostly because we would know each other so well and just what had to be done and who best for doing it. However, this past weekend, I was reminded that maybe I am not so without that sisterhood and have probably never been without one, no matter where I have lived…
The name of this blogsite, “The Communal Pantry,” is intended to make you think of a community, albeit a global one, coming around a kitchen table to make something beautiful happen.
I think in part it is because the food gives us a focal point that allows us to be more comfortable and open with those beside us. That is probably why I tell more stories than share recipes here. I can eat bad food with good company. Good food rarely makes up for bad company. I am not really sure which comes first, the community or the table, but I do know that bonds are forged at “the table” and that it is the relationships that are the beautiful part. (We just pretend that it is the food.) In spite of all the above, last Saturday, it was barely even 10 AM before I was chanting to myself, “this is my last party, I am done, this is too much work” etc, etc. The problem is this: my life has gotten more complicated over the years. I never seem to be prepared or on time anymore. I always feel like I am winging it and am completely out of breath once I cross the finish line… swearing I am never, ever going to throw another party again!
Then, some angel will swoop in to hold me up, rescue me, or just make me feel better about whatever point of disarray I am in. Usually that angel is my husband or one of my cousins (who I am lucky enough to live near by right now). As they grow, it is even increasingly my older children, but sometimes... it is someone I did not even realize was that close (maybe they were not, but in the end they were). I have lived six different lives – Southeast Texas, South Texas, Central Texas, Dallas, Texas, Houston, Texas, New York City, New Jersey, Northern California, and now New Jersey again (but a very different one than the first time), but always, always… there is someone on the door step… usually bearing something for my table and in time someone helping me to share something from my table, and there we have forged the friendships that have made each move so painful and each place so beautiful.
Last Saturday (for the birthday party) it was Lisa with the free bounce house, Crystal with the beans, Sariah with brownies, and Kate. Kate showed up hours before the party was due to start, spreading calm like a soothing balm, making up my boxed macaroni and cheese, passing out Australian chocolates like medicine, wowing everyone with those pavlova things and not to mention the huge basket of Monkey Pops to be served to the guests later that night. Not 72 hours later on Tuesday (this time for a book club) it was Linda with cupcakes and chocolate cake (recipe for the delicious cupcakes to come), and Julieta’s darling Halloween cupcakes. They seemed to know I was worn out and needed someone in "my kitchen"... in the end all I had to do was break out some of my favorite sparkling water.
Thus, I have spent the better part of this week thinking of the angels in my life. You know who you are. You have shown up to serve or inspire. You have washed a dish or one hundred, absorbed and diffused stress, distributed much needed compliments, or brought a favorite dish or two. You showed up with chocolate chip cookies our first week in a new state, you taught me how to make new things, you mailed me your homemade bread when I needed a piece of home, you spent hours buttering phyllo paper for me, you acted like it was perfectly normal for me to bring three different pumpkin cheesecakes to Thanksgiving dinner, you invited me to fly 2000 miles to throw a bridal shower (we rocked), you picked me to lose two years of my life preparing to serve 60,000 people cookies, you made homemade chicken soup when I needed it most, you came with hamburgers on New Year's morning (after I had entertained both of our children all night long), you came to babysit in the dead middle of the night and left the best banana bread ever, you arranged three months of meals after a new baby (we will never forget that), you stayed up late into the night preparing food for a big party, you showed up with a beautiful bowl of orzo salad (that I could not keep my spoon out of), you taught me how to make your country's food (and now that you have passed, I treasure those recipes more than any gift you ever gave), and I could go on and on.
In short, you have all been my “wedding machine” gathered around our tables...
serving what really matters…
Tonight's dinner... quinoa made in the rice cooker with Mexican Chicken Broth. The Mexican Chicken Broths is one of the only broths I can find without celery in it. We have a severe celery allergy in our house. (Bizarre - I know. More on that later.) ALL vegetable broths have celery in them. I put the broth in the rice cooker instead of water and it imparted a really nice, but not too strong flavor and hint of spicy to the quinoa. Quinoa (by ounce) has only a few grams of protein less than a chicken breast plus it is a complex carbohydrate and that is just the beginning. Quinoa truly is a SUPER food and amazing. (More on that later too.) In short, with quinoa... we did not really need anything else with that meal. (Which was good because we had had bean stew for lunch and I really was too tired to do eggs or more beans.) I also really was not in the mood for a complicated salad and so I just topped baby spinach with truffle oil and fig balsalmic reduction. Yum! A few of the kids had a few complaints about the truffle oil (it was the first time to have truffle oil), but I thought it was all a really diverse and flavorful combination. So simple. So perfect. (Well, a mango or something like that to follow if up would have been perfect, but that was not meant to be tonight.) Enjoy!
So my teenager is up whining (fortunately he left the whiney voice behind about 7 years ago, but it is still basically the same idea) because he is hungry. I think 6 foot plus people are always hungry. Anyway, he was not too enthusiastic about the dinner we had and so my sympathy is low. I offer several things. He rejects them all. I say he must not really be hungry. He then clarifies that he wants fruit. I tell him he can have the pineapple. He likes that idea. I continue what I am doing.
He has a problem. I turn around. Now that he has carved them, he does not want to eat them.
I think it is the apple with the problem, but...
What do you think the caption for this picture should be? Post your wittiest below!
(Incidentally, the "experts" say you should let your kids play with their food and that will help them be better eaters. I suspect the "experts" were not talking about 14 year olds.)
Granted, I do have 5 sisters, but I was finally able to bully ONE of them into writing a "Guest Blog" for us. She is a riot! Hilarious! I laughed out loud so many times that none of my children were still doing their homework by time I was done reading it! So be sure to click here and enjoy... "This Will Make You Cry (a redemption story) by Em"
... And... those rolls... they are to die for, but unless you go knock on the door... you will never have them. They are kind of like artisan cheese. They have to be made by Mom and in HER house. She makes good ones outside of her house, but the ones she makes in her own kitchen... there is no comparison. Mmmm. My childhood. Blessed.
I grew up watching my Dad have grits for breakfast. I had them on occasion, but my affection for grits is more sentimental for my Dad than it is for actual grits. Grits.... well, let's just say there is not a ton of flavor there. Then again, my Dad was also known to put syrup on his eggs and I am thinking some of that probably leaked over to his grits. I preferred Cream of Wheat... with a lot of sugar and butter. I guess it was more like sugar and butter with
cream of wheat. It must run in the family... I have a child who used to ask for bread to go with her butter and another one who still eats oatmeal with
his peanut butter. It turns out we are not alone...
The book The Help
by Kathryn Stockett is sitting on my shelf (still unread), but when I saw this Facebook post from my sister this morning... I had to share!
"In the kitchen, I fix some grits without no seasoning, and put them baby marshmallows on top. I toast the whole thing to make it a little crunchy. Then I garnish it with a cut up strawberry. That's all a grit is, a vehicle. For whatever it is you rather be eating."
- Aibileen, The Help
"She has put into words exactly why I eat oat bran for breakfast."
- Emily (my sister)Items my sister puts in her oat bran:
All I have to say is that I was relieved to see no sugar, butter, or catsup/ketchup. I could do a whole post on catsup/ketchup. Is that just a Southern thing? I know too many people for whom the whole meal is just a vehicle for catsup/ketchup. Like I said, we will do a whole post on this later. Anyway, I will see if my Louisiana Dad will teach me how to make grits when I am home in a few weeks. I think some cut up strawberries on top sounds just about perfect!
My favorite foodie destination is... Pure Food and Wine
54 Irving Place, New York, New York.
It is all raw, vegan, and organic! It is an absolute treat!
We moved back to the New York area shortly before our wedding anniversary & my hubs birthday; two events we normally celebrate with a nice dinner out. This particular year also happened to be the time I decided to stop giving my hubby a hard time about being a vegetarian. That decision is actually a cool story and eventually... I will get it written. It is a love story after all - and who does not love one of those?
Interior © Ryu Kodama
Anyway, as part of my quest to honor his vegetarian lifestyle, I spent what felt like hours researching eateries in New York and New Jersey looking for a venue to celebrate these two events with. I found a small handful. I think the number has grown since then; in New York anyway. (New Jersey is seriously lacking in choices!) Pure Food and Wine
just kept jumping off the list at me. In California I had started stumbling across this "raw foods movement" and was (and still am) very intrigued. I think some (or a lot of) the science is off, but I think their results are accurate (they just cannot correctly explain it scientifically yet.) I had tried going "raw" a few times, but honestly had not done enough homework to do it well and they were short lived experiments. None the less, I had noticed that I indeed felt better when on a "raw diet."
Squash Blossoms stuffed with Pimenton Cashew “Cheese” © Tara Donne
So back to our celebratory dinners... I figured that I had to eat the dinner too and as I was very curious about "raw" and all he really wanted was a meat free meal done well, surely this was a good choice for us both. Plus, I hoped that the oddity of it all would also add some charm too!
I met him in the city and we were quickly settled into a clearly popular establishment, but not too loud or cramped. In fact, the atmosphere and the wait staff were both excellent. I found myself wishing I lived close enough to be a regular.
Red Beet Ravioli© Charles Schiller
I cannot remember for the life of me what we ate that night... except I think we had a "carrot cake thing" for dessert. What I do remember is that we loved it! We were both blown away by how delicious everything was, how interesting everything was, and how unweighed down we felt by the meal. A lot of meals can taste amazing, but leave you FEELING not so amazing. This one left both our palates and our bodies very satisfied. The crazy thing is that if I did not tell you ahead of time that everything was RAW... I am not sure you would even notice. It is just totally fascinating! And delicious!
Sarma Melngailis © Erica Michelsen
One of the founders is Sarma Melngailis. She also runs the www.oneluckyduck.com
website. (I happen to think that name is totally BRILLIANT!) I left that night with an autographed copy of her cookbook, "Raw Food Real World
." I read it cover to cover, but have never attempted a single recipe. It is a bit overwhelming and involved. For me the raw food movement is something I peek over the fence and envy. If I were my ideal self I would be an ultra strict vegan who was mostly raw. Alas, I am yet a long way away. I can aspire though can't I?
Milk-Chocolate Mousse Layer Cake © Ryu Kodama
So if you cannot tell, it is our "favorite" place. We have yet to find a single place in New York or New Jersey that even remotely compares. My only hang up is why would you go through so much trouble to go the extra mile with healthy eating and then promote a beverage which is a known liver toxin and carcinogen? Seems like a little bit of a disconnect in the raw philosophy there, but that is none of my business. I love the food!
Let me know if you go! Better yet, let me know if you want to go together!
Double date night? Girl's night? I am in!