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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Julia has been really interested in helping me cook lately. She loves to crack eggs, add ingredients to the bowl or pot, and mix everything. It is fun cooking and baking with her!

I have been thinking about these coconut date bars that I have found while browsing the Isa Does It cookbook. The recipe is simple… it requires smooth peanut butter, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, a bit of salt, oats, crisp rice cereal, unsweetened coconut, and dates.

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After looking at the ingredients, I realized that I did not have any crisp rice cereal and brown rice syrup. Purchasing the crisp rice cereal was easy enough. The brown rice syrup on the other hand was not. After visiting the grocery store several times with no luck, I finally asked someone about it. Apparently, Lundberg brown rice syrup, which is the only brown rice syrup that I have ever found around my area, had a factory malfunction, so they have been out of commission.

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The woman at the grocery store mentioned that it was probably going to be out until the summer. So much for my bars! But she also mentioned that a substitute exists… Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Luckily I was able to locate it in the grocery store, so I was now ready to bake the bars.

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I asked Julia if she wanted to help me make them and she agreed.

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We mixed everything together and added the batter to a lined baking pan. I pressed it pretty firmly per the recipe and placed it in the oven.

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The bars were pretty good! I did find them a bit sweet. I wondered if it was due to my brown rice syrup substitute. The recipe required 1/3 cup of brown rice syrup and 1/3 cup of maple syrup. I will have to try them again once I can find the brown rice syrup. Or I wonder if I can cut the sugar a bit… maybe to a 1/4 cup each.

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I also found the bars to be flaky. For some reason I was expecting them to be firmer, similar to a rice crispy bar but maybe not quite as firm. The coconut flakes that I used were not finely shredded… I wonder if that was the culprit. Although, the recipe does not require finely shredded, so maybe not.

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Lastly, I think that next time I will add a bit more peanut butter. I did not taste it too much and I think that it will be a good change.

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Nevertheless, we enjoyed the bars!

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Every March 9, in some regions within Romania, folks celebrate the day by making măcinici. The măcinici are different depending on the region… they vary from a pasta-like dough to a bread-like dough. Growing up, my family always made the pasta-like dough (read more about the tradition in an old post).

Since having Julia, exposing her to my childhood traditions have been important and fun. We have also exposed her to the Jewish traditions, which I also love. Julia is curious and seems to enjoy them all, which makes it even more fun.

March 9 fell on a Friday this year. Making anything on a weeknight is challenging, but my mom and I decided to still make them… we could not break the tradition. My mom made the dough and I took a half a day vacation so we can get an early start. Making măcinici is time consuming.

As soon as we rolled the dough into a sheet, Julia insisted that she wanted to use the punch. The punch is not an easy tool… you really have to press it into the dough, wiggle it a bit to release the dough from the rest, and then lift and press the top to release the cutout. She tried a couple of times and got frustrated. My mom and I told her that it was even hard for us to do, but I am not sure if that made her feel better.

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My mom had an idea… she tasked Julia with moving the măcinici from our working area to the towel so that they can dry. Julia thought that it was the best idea! She was even counting them.

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At one point I looked over and Julia was arranging the măcinici in rows… it looked so pretty so we continued the pattern.

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As with any 5 year old kids, she eventually got tired of moving the măcinici over so she abandoned her post. My mom and I continued for a while. After about 2 hours and a few breaks, we were ready to boil them.

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The măcinici are pretty much considered fresh pasta, so just like fresh pasta, once they come to the surface, they are done. To finish them off, we added finely ground and chopped walnuts, lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla and rum extract, sugar, and a pinch of salt. We boiled it a bit more until the sugar dissolved and then we were done.

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We truly enjoyed our hard work… the măcinici were delicious.

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The time has come… Julia is old enough to eat solid foods! It is amazing to me that she is at this stage already. It has come so fast. I was prepared… my friend Marc gave us the Baby Gourmet (Les Petits Plats Français) cookbook and as a birthday present, Joel’s mom gave me the 201 Organic Baby Purées cookbook. Both books are great! Both contain lots of recipes for first as well as upcoming feeding stages. The 201 Organic Baby Purées book even contains a menu to use as ideas for what you can feed your baby. I was excited to start cooking for her.

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Julia’s first solid food… rice cereal.

As a first feeding, we gave her rice cereal. I was amazed! She knew exactly what do to with the spoon… she opened her mouth wide and took the spoon just like an adult. Crazy! She was very enthusiastic about it and she loved the cereal more and more everyday.

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Oatmeal cereal approved but not as enthusiastic as the rice cereal.

Then last weekend, we started feeding her oatmeal cereal. She was not sure how she felt about it at first. She was not as enthusiastic as she was when we fed her the rice cereal. After a few days though, she has grown to love it.

Since we were done with the cereal options, I decided to move on to vegetables. So last weekend I prepared her newest dish… sweet potatoes! I was so excited to feed it to her.

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Puréeing the sweet potatoes.

Uh… what is that orange stuff?

Julia, on the other hand, was not as excited as I was. Her reaction was priceless!

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Bah! I don’t know about this orange stuff!

The funniest part about it was that she was willing to eat it and was excited, but at the same time she was not sure how she felt about it.

I survived sweet potatoes! :)

We fed her the sweet potatoes for a few days and she liked them more and more everyday. Next up are avocados and carrots. (!!) I look forward to her reactions to the tastes and textures as we cycle through the many varieties of vegetables and fruits.

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Julia and I cooked together on Friday night. Jill and Todd (my sister- and brother-in law) were arriving around dinner time. Joel went to pick them up from the airport, so Julia and I were home alone. And we needed something for dinner.

We decided to make the Peanut Sesame Noodles recipe. The dish is pretty simple. You make the peanut sauce, which you pour over some noodles and veggies. For the sauce, you simply add all the ingredients and whisk them in the bowl. I don’t bother to use a food processor or blender to make it as the recipe indicates. The sauce is smooth enough by just whisking it. I did use peppers and cucumbers for the veggies, but I would think that you can add whatever veggies you like and it would be just as tasty. I also usually serve it with sauteed shrimp instead of tofu, which the recipe requires. Again, I would think that you can serve it with meat, fish, seafood, or whatever else you like.

When I first started cooking, I placed Julia in her Moses basket but that did not last long. So I decided to place her in the Baby Bjorn. That worked great! I walked her through the recipe, telling her each step. As I was whisking the sauce and chopping the veggies, the whisking and chopping motion swayed her back and forth calming her even more. I guess I never paid much attention to how much movement whisking and chopping causes. The most challenging part was draining the noodles. I did not want to risk hot water splashing on her legs. I used a large wire spatula to remove the noodles from the water and it worked fine.

The dinner was a success! I look forward to cooking many more dinners with her!

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I have been very uninspired to cook lately. This tends to happen to me every summer since I started cycling. I do ride a fair amount and the rides during the week end around 8:00 pm, so who wants to go home and cook. Having a simple dish is key. I have been grilling a lot, which is always easy. We recently purchased a new grill and I really like using it. I have not messed anything up yet! :)

My sister mentioned a new cookbook that she recently purchased called Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life. She made several dishes from it and was very happy with them. I decided to go to the store and check it out. After flipping through it, I was sold. Everything sounded so delicious. And the photos of the dishes were really beautiful! I could not wait to go home and make some of the dishes. What I love most about this cookbook is that the recipes are categorized by seasons and they require minimal ingredients.

I purchased the cookbook on Friday and I’ve already made three dishes from it. I am super inspired!! :) I have made a Cucumber and Pomegranate Salad, an Egg and New Potatoes with Green Olive Pesto salad, and a Chilled Cucumber Soup with Avocado, Cumin, and Mint. All three dishes were delicious!

I really loved the Egg and New Potatoes with Green Olive Pesto. It is one of the best potato salads I have ever had. The salad included hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, celery, and scallions, which were tossed with this amazing pesto made from parsley, anchovy filets, green olives, walnuts, lemon juice, and olive oil. YUM!! I am making it again this weekend for a friend’s dinner party.

I tend to ride every Wednesday evening, but today has been storming all day, so I could not ride. I decided to cook and bake. I know… can you believe it!! :) I made the Chilled Cucumber Soup with Avocado, Cumin, and Mint dish and served it with some pressed sandwiches. The recipe mentioned to cut the cucumbers in chunks and then blend them in the blender. I quickly realized that you perhaps have to use an industrial grade blender, since my blender did not even make a dent in my mound of cucumber chunks. I switched to my food processor and I was set. The soup required cucumbers, avocado, almonds, lime juice, cumin, jalapeño, scallions, mint leaves, water, and salt. You just put everything in the blender (I mean the food processor) and voilà… you have some pretty tasty soup.

As I mentioned, I made some pressed sandwiched to go along with the soup. I love making them! I don’t have a fancy press. I simply make them in a frying pan and press them with one of those meat presses. I actually used to use a pot, but then upgraded to the meat press. It works great!! I love making sandwiches up. Today I used store bought basil pesto and roasted red pepper hummus, sliced tomatoes, prosciutto, and goat cheese. The combination was delicious.

On Sunday, my mom called me to tell me that she and my dad picked a bunch of fruit, and that I should stop by and take some. They really did pick fruit… a lot of it. She gave me two large containers of blueberries and raspberries, as well as a few apricots and peaches. While I was there, I asked my mom to give me her recipe for a cake that will allow me to use some of this fruit. The cake is called Prăjitură cu Fructe, which translates as Cake with Fruit. I know… very original. :)

The recipe is of course one of those recipes that requires her trusted spoon and cup. As I was getting ready to bake it, I called her to convert the ingredients. We kind of accomplished that task. I had a feeling that it was going to be one of those experimental cakes. I was right! The cake tasted good, but as usual, it did not really look like my mom’s cake. I’ll have to try it again to see if I can perfect it.

I am amazed how a new cookbook awakened my cooking inspiration. I cannot wait to make the rest of the dishes from it. If you are ever uninspired to cook, try flipping through a new cookbook.

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