Book Review: The Apple A Day Cookbook

A short while ago a package bearing cookbooks dropped into my life, courtesy of Nimbus Publishing. These cookbooks are shiny and new (unlike most of my own which I picked up in used bookstores), devoid of kid bite marks and smears of another  night’s dinner. I immediately gravitated toward The Apple a Day Cookbook by Janet Reeves. Apples are a staple in our home, as they are in many Maritime homes, I imagine. The kids immediately squirrelled away in the end hall closet, scene of their many adventures, to have a look over this book.

Talking it over, we agreed to make a batch of the Apple-Carrot Muffins (p. 54), the Applesauce Meatballs (p 156) and Mark’s Baked Apples. There are so many more recipes I’m looking forward to, but I had to put a limit otherwise this review would never be written.

The Apple-Carrot Muffins were a hit. Boy and I made them shortly after lunch (a tip, use the Strudel recipe from the Apple Strudel muffins on page 53) and by dinner all but two were gone. The crumb was perfectly tender and the spices were perfect for these muffins. Too many directions and the kids lose interest, so I have an idea author Janet Reeves has experience cooking with children.

The Applesauce Meatballs. I don’t usually repeat recipes, particularly in a short span of time but I have made these meatballs twice within as many weeks. The applesauce adds a lovely sweetness and makes the meatballs downright juicy. Here’s the thing: I had to do some pretty serious modifications so that everyone would enjoy them. The recipe does not call for any herbs or spices beyond the basil in the sauce. Also, there is no sugar in in the sauce and under threat of doing it while my back was turned, Mr demanded sugar be added. I was reluctant to make any modifications as I wanted to stay true to the recipe (for the review process) but truth be told, the meatballs deserve the extra onion and garlic as well as the brown sugar in the sauce. My philosophy when it comes to cookbooks are that they are just a guide, the author doesn’t know how you like your food, you do. Behave accordingly.

I love baked apples, it’s one of the few desserts my mom when I was growing up (save for the awesome pie she makes). Mark’s Baked Apples piqued our interest. Peanut butter and apple slices are among the kids’ favourite afternoon snacks so these baked apples satisfied the whole lot of us.

Each recipe is written very clearly and it is obvious a lot of care has been put into making them very accessible, even to the novice cook. The brief history of the apple in the introduction is quite interesting; perhaps next time you dunk for apples at a Halloween party you’ll find your true love. My only quibble is that despite the gorgeous photo on the front, there are no photos in the book itself. This, in our image obsessed culture seems a little off. Also, as a parent who hands cookbooks to the kids to pick out dinner, pictures make things a lot easier.

Book Review: The Apple A Day Cookbook

A short while ago a package bearing cookbooks dropped into my life, courtesy of Nimbus Publishing. These cookbooks are shiny and new (unlike most of my own which I picked up in used bookstores), devoid of kid bite marks and smears of another  night’s dinner. I immediately gravitated toward The Apple a Day Cookbook by Janet Reeves. Apples are a staple in our home, as they are in many Maritime homes, I imagine. The kids immediately squirrelled away in the end hall closet, scene of their many adventures, to have a look over this book.

Talking it over, we agreed to make a batch of the Apple-Carrot Muffins (p. 54), the Applesauce Meatballs (p 156) and Mark’s Baked Apples. There are so many more recipes I’m looking forward to, but I had to put a limit otherwise this review would never be written.

The Apple-Carrot Muffins were a hit. Boy and I made them shortly after lunch (a tip, use the Strudel recipe from the Apple Strudel muffins on page 53) and by dinner all but two were gone. The crumb was perfectly tender and the spices were perfect for these muffins. Too many directions and the kids lose interest, so I have an idea author Janet Reeves has experience cooking with children.

The Applesauce Meatballs. I don’t usually repeat recipes, particularly in a short span of time but I have made these meatballs twice within as many weeks. The applesauce adds a lovely sweetness and makes the meatballs downright juicy. Here’s the thing: I had to do some pretty serious modifications so that everyone would enjoy them. The recipe does not call for any herbs or spices beyond the basil in the sauce. Also, there is no sugar in in the sauce and under threat of doing it while my back was turned, Mr demanded sugar be added. I was reluctant to make any modifications as I wanted to stay true to the recipe (for the review process) but truth be told, the meatballs deserve the extra onion and garlic as well as the brown sugar in the sauce. My philosophy when it comes to cookbooks are that they are just a guide, the author doesn’t know how you like your food, you do. Behave accordingly.

I love baked apples, it’s one of the few desserts my mom when I was growing up (save for the awesome pie she makes). Mark’s Baked Apples piqued our interest. Peanut butter and apple slices are among the kids’ favourite afternoon snacks so these baked apples satisfied the whole lot of us.

Each recipe is written very clearly and it is obvious a lot of care has been put into making them very accessible, even to the novice cook. The brief history of the apple in the introduction is quite interesting; perhaps next time you dunk for apples at a Halloween party you’ll find your true love. My only quibble is that despite the gorgeous photo on the front, there are no photos in the book itself. This, in our image obsessed culture seems a little off. Also, as a parent who hands cookbooks to the kids to pick out dinner, pictures make things a lot easier.

 

the santa talk

This morning, on our walk to school in the chill mist Miss N and I did our usual of jumping on the curb and scurrying down the hill when the mist carried the phantom sounds of the bus. A casual comment about pirate weather and Miss N’s ever curious mind was piqued. Christopher Columbus, pirates and the possibility we saw a real pirate ship in the harbour this summer were all  part of our morning walk. She’s an interesting child, able to make connections and she remembers just about everything. We make this trek every day. We don’t always talk about the huge things (Canada is cool to live in because we make good food, she can climb the entire length of the monkey bars), but sometimes we do.

For a six year old, she is one rational kid. She works at the words she uses, teasing them out and playing with the feel of each letter. Miss N is an observer and an inquisitive one at that. Early last week we did our usual scramble to get out the door and then we fell into step in mist similar to this morning’s offering. Miss N had just hopped onto the curb and was tugging gently at a wayward tree branch that reaches out to us each morning. It doesn’t feel like Christmas yet, the brief snow we had has melted away into groggy puddles and any colourful lights just seem to be trying oh so very hard at this point. A brief moment to listen for the bus. She was probably moulding her question together, carefully cobbling together the separate thoughts. Or she wasn’t.

“Mommy, how does Santa get all the toys to all the children in the world? One night doesn’t seem like enough. Who would make all that stuff?”

This was it. That rational mind of hers had already gone to work on the Santa conundrum. She was never much of a Santa kid. She didn’t trust the folks at the mall so she has never sat on Santa’s lap. Last year, I gave her a gift labelled “love, Santa”; she rolled her eyes and thanked me. Pulling anything over on this kid is an exercise to be performed only by a professional.

“Well baby, I think with magical creatures who live in magic land, anything is possible.”

She harumphed at me like an 80 year old woman.

Creativity lives in magic land and it comes out to greet us and sway our selves. All those magical creatures, from fairy tales to religions to anything that doesn’t exist here no matter how we wish it so, it all lives in Magic Land. Because there it is safe and they can live the life of a magic creature without impunity. Magic Land is really just imagination, but it needs to somewhere to go so that we can call upon it when needed.

“May I tell you a story? It takes place a long time ago, before children asked for Hello Kitty stereos and even before Mommy or Daddy were born. It’s about a man, one single man who made the decision to be kind, because baby, sometimes it takes a lot to be kind rather than mean. This man’s name was Nicholas and he lived in a country we now call Turkey, I’ll show you on the globe when you get home. Nicholas was a priest, that means he was like a leader for the people who believed the same things he did, those people are called Catholic, he may have been Orthodox. Sometimes, when a long time passes the details get fuzzy.

Anyway, Nicholas would secretly give gifts to people who didn’t have as much as other people. He would stick gold coins into people’s shoes when they were left outside the door and he gave toys and food to children. The thing is, he always did it secretly so no one would know it was him. This kindness and giving followed him everywhere and when he died, he became known as Saint Nicholas and his story made its way all across Europe and soon people started giving gifts to one another, pretending to be Saint Nicholas.”

Miss N quietly listened and when I finished she had only one question: Is Santa this Saint Nicholas?

I think  she enjoys holding this kernel of knowledge in her little hand, held tight with sparkly hot pink nails. She confirmed with her Daddy a few days later but now she is in on the conspiracy of adults and has already decreed that Boy will be none the wiser because he’s so little.

the belly of the beast: self doubt

Tonight I discovered a mug we have been missing for a few days. It’s a lovely mug, blue with a cheerful snowman on it. This missing mug had somehow landed on a speaker behind the couch and there it sat with about 3 inches of tea in the bottom. For the first day, I’m sure the tea was fine and remained largely unchanged. It wasn’t long before the sugar in the soy milk started to eat itself, growing something a little fuzzy and bubbly. This goo formerly known as tea clung to the sides, leaving them unchanged until I wiped them away with hot soapy water and a determined dishcloth.

Self-doubt is like that bit of tea in the bottom. It can start with something innocuous and take over. And it’s gross. So gross that when I googled the phrase “self doubt and” the autocorrect drop down menu came back with “self doubt and syphilis” as the second result. This doesn’t mean self doubt causes syphilis but take into consideration that your brain is mushing under your own negative thoughts.

We all feel this way. As parents, spouses and quite possibly every single role we fit into is met with some sort of nagging fear that we just cannot let loose of. Putting on your big girl pants comes with the knowledge that we bear the responsibility of doing our best. Sometimes it doesn’t happen or we need courage (or chocolate or plain ol’ sleep) to do better.

But we don’t suck. I don’t, though I say it a lot. And that is the problem. Those kernels of self doubt fester within and become part of the refrain. It’s easy to delve into the “I am an ass” list because that way you get cookies or whatever sinful delight you reward yourself with to simply feel better.

And then your mad about your thighs. The brain works a lot like that children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, it goes on and on until you take your brain to the beach to find its long lost relatives so it will just be happy.

I see this with the kids all the time. They will be fine one moment and suddenly in the throes of a volcanic meltdown. At the root of it is that they were feeling slighted in some way, feeling hurt and they need a hug. It is scientifically proven that hugs work to keep humans happy.

Self doubt fizzles under brain hugs. It’s not enough that other people think you’re awesome (or me), we have to start thinking the same.

As an aside, not a clue how to do the brain hugs.

 

delusions of homeschooling

Organized, I am not. I try really hard to be one of those moms who has her playroom compartmentalized with colourful bins and stickers but I have neither a playroom nor the will to subject myself to doing that, no matter how neurotic I am in other ways. Boy is not currently in daycare, mostly because we simply cannot afford it (thanks Harper, you asshole and your child care “benefit”). This means that he could drive me mental leaving his Thomas train tracks everywhere, watching t.v., playing on the computer and trying to climb me while I rummage for chocolate to soothe my nerves. Instead, I have decided it would be prudent to set up the bundle of cute with some rather educational activities (possibly of questionable educational merit) and work on structuring our day.

Our major stumbling block right now is my ignorance. I scramble to fill our morning with activities we haven’t done before, or at least something he wants to do. I found one blog that recommended activity “boxes”, similar to stations they child can choose from, basically the activity they will be doing for the next 20 minutes. Because that’s how long a 3 year old will plays with anything, ever. 20 minutes.

The process of finding activities, or lessons if you will, has been a little difficult. There are a plethora of homeschool sites and many have small sections dedicated to kids Boy’s age. Another major issue, at least for us, is the overwhelming aura of religion surrounding much of the homeschooling community. It is not just the religious who care about their kids’ smarts. Hard to believe, but heathens give a damn too.

This is not my usual eloquent post (or, maybe it is and I have a number of delusions). Each day is an active day with Boy and I don’t want him to get bored hanging out with me. Or miss out because he’s not in daycare. This is mom guilt. I have some aims that if I were smart, I would not air them on the internet for all to see and point at when they don’t turn out exactly as planned. The major thing that we are focusing on, besides early literacy, is American Sign Language. This applies to the whole family and we’ve just about mastered the alphabet and we’re moving on to phrases.

Boy is obsessed with “b”. Like, we say “sign language” and he the boy stands up, one hand on his hip and the other with his fingers pointed in the air, little thumb tucked against his palm. He’s quite proud that the four of us have the beginning of a secret language and quite honestly, so am I.