Picky Eaters and Thanksgiving

I’m auditioning at Wayfair again! This time I am writing about the healthiest, sanest way to approach Thanksgiving with picky eaters. It’s a philosophy I learned over the summer, and I’ve found it makes meal times far more enjoyable. Mikey and Nicholas aren’t finicky, thank goodness, but they do go through picky stages. Nico happens to be in one right now.

I would be ever so grateful for your support over there. (See what I did there?)

I will most likely take next week off. We’re hosting Thanksgiving, so I need to start cracking on the cooking. Hey, quick question. I’ve never made nor tried an oyster dressing, but the idea intrigues me! I’ll still make a regular stuffing, but if you have a recipe for oyster dressing you are willing to share, I’d be grateful for that, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Snacks for Kids

The next two weeks are going to go by at a blinding speed, and by September I will be by myself regularly during the day for the first time in eight years. I’m excited to see how I manage my time. I know I will be volunteering for a month or two at the school library. They don’t have the funds for a librarian and the stacks reflect a year of student-lead library hours. Organizing the stacks and creating a system should take me a few weeks.

After that, I hope to spend more time in the kitchen. I have been a passionate and capable cook and baker since I was a child, but have pulled away from that over the last few years because of my issues with food. I took the advice of several people I trusted and stopped cooking and baking what wasn’t necessary. The idea was to be around food as infrequently as possible, and only when absolutely necessary. The advice was given from a place of love, but it was poor advice nonetheless. If anything, I think that attitude only made food something to be feared instead of dealt with rationally.

Onward and upward. I’m no longer dieting, and I’m consulting a team of professionals to help me remove a pebble from an otherwise super-cute pair of shoes. God must agree with my plan. Shortly after putting things in motion, I received an email for Wayfair asking me to write a post about snacks for kids. I jumped in with both feet and put together a post sharing five after school snacks for kids and caretakers alike. These are snacks Mikey and Nico love and eat regularly, and have done so since they were in preschool. The Mister and I love them, too.

That’s right: snacks kids and adults can enjoy. That means the absence of cheese shaped to look like daisies with celery stalk stems. No puree of sweet potato hidden in grilled cheese sandwiches. No gimmicks, no special equipment, no fuss. Except for the peanut butter. I stand by the peanut butter.

Please do stop by and read the post. (Nervous!) As always, I appreciate your support.



Meeting Tarragon

I would like to experiment with seasoning in my cooking. For years I clung to basil. More recently, oregano. I’m on a fast track to parsley at this rate. There was once an episode of Chopped where one of the contestants used herbs and spices the way most people use salt. His meals came out layered like onions. Every bite was a new, but complementary, experience. He won. No surprise there.

I joked on Facebook that if this week got any worse I would have to make up events for Friday’s Happy, Happy post. I’ll say one thing about Tuesday, it’s the day I discovered tarragon tastes fantastic on shiitake mushrooms sautéed in butter and a few tablespoons of zinfandel.

The above is an Instagram photo of the lunch where I found tarragon. You can find this and many more exciting images by following me at @pancakesfries. I hear droid users can now use it now, too. Try it out! I really have fun over there. The kind of fun where you take pictures of your lunch or shoes or pets, so, keep your expectations in check.

Gardening, Food

Mikey had a swim party at the YMCA over the weekend. As we were walking out, I noticed a missed call from my neighbor across the street. She’s retired and in her 60s, and while we are friendly and talk whenever we cross paths, we aren’t in the habit of calling each other Sunday evenings.

I envisioned all sorts of tragedy, but decided to focus on fires, burglaries, and something with the dogs. I shored up my spine, ready to accept whatever she had to tell me and listened to her preliminary greetings with baited breath until she got down to it.

“Jules, would you like some red leaf lettuce and spinach? My crop just came in and I thought I’d share the bounty with you.”

I said yes, of course, but forgot to ask her is she was also growing chamomile in that garden of hers. I could use some.

There was a large bag of greens on our doorstep when we got home. I had a bowl for lunch the next day, and I will have another today. This, along with all the gardening magazines on the newsstands, reminded me that one of my life list goals was to start a garden. I don’t even know where to begin.

I saw my neighbor the next day and went over to thank her for the greens and ask for gardening help. She claims to be an amateur, but agreed to help me get started. I’m really excited. I can’t wait to be outside, under the sun, doing whatever it is people who garden do.

The greens I ate for lunch inspired me to cook dinner, something I feel like I haven’t done in far too long. With the boys sick so often, and then me sick last week, lately all we eat are cobbled together meals without flavor or nutrition. I made white bean chicken chili and scratch cornbread. It tasted great and everyone had seconds, except me. I saved myself for dessert, which came in the form of esophageal flambé. Delicious!

I haven’t been abstaining from flour and sugar for months, and I have the heartburn to prove it. I fell off the wagon December 26th and haven’t been able to get my groove back due to resistance and petulance. I see so many wonderful recipes, eating philosophies, and life experiences surrounded and celebrated by food that I find it difficult to commit to one way of eating for the long haul. Every good diet faction is headed by an even better spokesperson. They are convincing, every last one of them.

To eat differently is to single yourself out from the crowd. I know many people who thrive on the attention and live to tell the world they are raw vegan fruitarians allergic to coconuts, but that’s not me. I’m the introvert in the corner who can’t eat a spoonful of oatmeal without my chest turning into a smithy, but will lick the bowl clean if you tell me you made a double batch of Quaker Oats just for me. Hurting your feelings bothers me more than heartburn? I am weird.

One day everything will fall into place for me. I know it, and I’m not worried about it. Until then, I’ll keep eating my neighbor’s organic lettuce.

p.s. As a reader already observed, the second to last paragraph of this post has a lot in common with this post. It’s all interconnected, and I actually wrote a great deal more last night but edited it out. It sounded gloomy and morose, the opposite of what I wanted.


Una Picada

I didn’t have it in me to cook dinner on Saturday, so I made una picada instead. Every time we eat like this for dinner we  mumble in between bites of cheese and prosciutto and crackers that we should do this more often. I don’t know why we don’t.

A picada (pee-káh-dah) is something to nibble on before dinner or a main meal. More often than not, the picada becomes the meal and the meal becomes what distends your stomach and gives you indigestion. For my mom, the picada is as important as the meal. She passed that neurosis on to me, so it’s not unusual for me to have 5 or 6 plates of finger foods–not including nuts or cheese–set out before a celebratory dinner.

A typical picada for us will have salami, ham, prosciutto, a plate of cheeses, my mom’s blue cheese spread, hearts of palm with dressing, chips, empanadas, sandwiches de miga, and one or two bowls of nuts because even gluttons need omega-3s, antioxidants, protein, and fiber.

As you can see, Saturday night wasn’t so extravagant. I didn’t even bother to remove the meats, cheeses, and dips from their store packaging and onto my extensive picada serving plates, something I will hear about on my mother’s deathbed if fate is cruel and she sees this picture.  I admit, this is hardly fair representation for Argentina’s version of tapas. I’ll have to redeem myself by hosting, and then posting, a true picada. This was a pale, pathetic excuse for a picada. It was more of a pic…, or as my mother would say, “A tiny little drop in my ocean.”

Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.