Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly - Raspberry-peanut butter-marshmallow waffles

Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly

One of the activities my two boys (ages 5 and 7) and their 2 year old cousin all love to do together is play with the play kitchen at my parents' house. There's just something about pretending to cook that appeals to kids. For a long time, before we had our own play kitchen set up in our home, it was one of the things my kids were most drawn to at children's museums and friends' houses. Come to think of it, my sister and I are four years apart and rarely played together growing up but my sister's Little Tikes kitchen was one thing that we both enjoyed.

Me and my sister, circa 1986.

Carolyn Parkhurst's Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly (illustrated by Dan Yaccarino) perfectly captures young childrens' fascination with cooking and creating. We are introduced to siblings Henry and Elliebelly via their cooking "show". Henry, the older sibling, has his own vision of how their show should proceed. As Henry tries to instruct his "viewers" in the finer points of making raspberry-peanut butter-marshmallow waffles, the toddler Elliebelly wreaks havoc and frustrates Henry with her very toddlerlike demands. First she insists she be allowed to help. Then she orders Henry to wear a pirate hat. Frustrated but undeterred, Henry gamely works around his dervish of a sister until their play is interrupted by their (offstage) mother's offer of real waffles.

One of the things I love most about this book is that the author clearly gets how kids play, and how easily older siblings become frustrated with their younger siblings. Reading the interactions between Henry and Elliebelly is a lot like listening in on my own kids as they play in one room while I'm in another. It was a nice touch to have their mother's offstage responses to their bickering presented in quote bubbles. Henry and his little sister are a bit younger than my own kids but their personalities are remarkably similar. It's not a stretch to accept that Elliebelly insists Henry wear a pirate hat while they do their "show" because I have a son who likes to wear a Batman cape while doing just about anything.

We decided to make Henry's raspberry-peanut butter-marshmallow waffles, with one caveat: we didn't follow Henry's recipe. His recipe calls for "Seventeen cups of imported flour from Kansas," and duck eggs. And that is before Elliebelly decides to add pizza and "Baby Anne" to the mix. Yeah. I think we'll stick with a more traditional approach. If you can even call raspberry-peanut butter-marshmallow waffles traditional. We whipped these up for an after school snack.

Raspberry-peanut butter-marshmallow waffles


  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1 cup Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (more if you desire a more peanut buttery taste)
  • mini marshmallows
  • raspberry fruit spread 
Additional equipment: waffle iron.

1. Prepare base waffle batter. Mix together eggs, Pamela's mix, water and oil. Stir until combined.

2. Stir 2 tablespoons peanut butter into batter.

3. Fold in 1 or 2 handfuls of marshmallows.

4. Pour batter into heated waffle iron. This was exactly enough for 4 waffles.

Avoid this.

5. When cooked through (1 - 2 minutes) carefully remove waffles from iron. Top with raspberry fruit spread.

These were easy to throw together and made for a sweet snack. They had a light peanut buttery taste and the raspberry spread was a nice complement. Watch, my kids will probably ask me to make these all the time now.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

George and Martha - Split Pea Soup

"Martha was very fond of making split pea soup Sometimes she made it all day long. Pots and pots of split pea soup." - James Marshall, George and Martha

George and Martha

I love soup. During the winter months I make soup a minimum of once a week. I'd make soup every night if I thought I could get away with it but I suspect that would result in my family surreptitiously trying to dispose of their leftovers in their shoes. Like George does in George and Martha, James Marshall's sweet and funny book (the first in a series) about two best friends.

In Marshall's very short chapters (or vignettes, if you will) we are introduced to George and Martha, two best friends who occasionally get on each other's nerves and aren't afraid to put each other in their proper places. They are a bit like Frog and Toad, or Bert and Ernie. Despite misunderstandings, their friendship is what holds them together.

It doesn't hurt that the stories have a lot of kid appeal. In one story, Martha chews George out for being a peeping tom (this comes off as hilarious, not creepy). In another, George breaks his "favorite" tooth and must have it replaced with a gold tooth (I was fascinated by this when I was a kid). And then there is the infamous split pea soup story. In it, Martha repeatedly serves George her homemade split pea soup. George, too polite to tell Martha he hates split pea soup, quietly puts up with it until one day he can stand it no longer and dumps his bowl (his tenth of the day!) in his shoe. Unfortunately Martha has seen the whole thing. Instead of being offended, she gently suggests he tell her the truth next time . . . and confesses that she, too, hates split pea soup. She just likes making it.

I have to thank my friend Jess for reminding me about the split pea soup chapter in this book. I thought George and Martha were hilarious when I was growing up so I'm not sure why it took me so long to introduce them to my boys. At five and seven, my boys are just the right ages to find the stories absolutely hilarious. We have George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends (you can get the books individually but trust me, you won't be able to stop at just one so save yourself the time and look for the compilation) out from the library right now and they can't get enough of the short and hilarious vignettes. "Just one more!" they beg. It is especially sweet to hear them giggle together as the seven year old reads them aloud to the five year old.

Anyway, coincidentally or not, I had been going through my Ina Garten cookbooks for soup recipes and the split pea soup recipe was beckoning. . .

Parker's Split Pea Soup (courtesy of Ina Garten and The Food Network; a version of this recipe also appears in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)


  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots (3 to 4 carrots)
  • 1 cup medium-diced red boiling potatoes, unpeeled (3 small)
  • 1 pound dried split green peas
  • 8 cups chicken stock or water
1. In a stock pot, saute onions, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper for about 15 minutes, or until onions are translucent.

2. Add carrots, potatoes, 1/2 pound of split peas and stock/water.

3. Bring to a boil then simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

4. Add remaining peas and simmer for another 40 minutes, or until peas are soft.  Stir often to prevent soup from burning on the bottom of the pot. (Note: I had to simmer mine--on medium heat---well over 40 minutes and add extra liquid.)

Somewhat shockingly, both of my kids actually liked this soup. I thought it had a good flavor too. My husband wasn't a fan but it worked for 3/4 of the household so I consider it a victory. Note that this makes a good meat-free meal, and can be vegetarian if you use water instead of chicken broth.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Cookbook Review - Babycakes

BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery

You would think that after the holiday season--which included baking 50 snowman-shaped sugar cookies for the second grade classes at my son's school (that's 3 batches) and a batch for my own family--I would be all baked out. I admit, it did take me a little while to recover from my Christmas bakeapalooza and now we've got Valentine's Day class parties on the horizon. This past weekend, though, I felt like making bread. Not the sandwich bread I make every week in my bread maker but a nice, sweet quick bread. I pulled out a Christmas gift, Erin McKenna's Babycakesto look for inspiration.

Here's the thing about Babycakes, which features recipes used in McKenna's hugely popular New York City bakery: all of the recipes are vegan and mostly gluten- and (refined) sugar-free. I say 'mostly' because that's what the book's subtitle says. But really, if you have celiac disease or a gluten allergy you will want to read the recipes carefully because some of them do call for spelt flour. Anyway, because the recipes are vegan/gluten-free/sugar-free (and kosher) they call for ingredients like Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose baking flour, coconut oil, dairy-free milks and agave nectar. Most people don't happen to have these sitting around in their kitchens and they can be hard to come by (though they are becoming more mainstream--I've seen them at Target!). However, once you have McKenna's favored ingredients on hand you can use them for almost any recipe in the book.

Back in October, when I had this book from the library, McKenna's pumpkin spice muffins were my first attempt at baking the Babycakes way and I can't say it was my most successful baking attempt. It had nothing to do with the recipe itself and everything to do with the user: I had gotten it into my head that I wanted pumpkin bread, and nothing else would do. The thing never cooked through, even after leaving it in the oven well over the cook time. This time I knew better and the only modification I made to the recipe for banana chocolate chip bread was to use non-fat cow's milk in place of rice milk. All told, I could have baked it a little longer because the very middle was a little undercooked but the top was nicely browned and the toothpick I inserted came out clean. Maybe I have been eating gluten-free for too long, but I wouldn't have known the bread doesn't contain gluten. My kids ate it up and asked me to put slices in their lunch boxes for their snack today.

My five year old, mashing the bananas.

Banana chocolate chip bread, fresh from the oven.

While not specifically a kid cookbook, the recipes in Babycakes appeal to the whole family and offer peace of mind to families who are concerned about food intolerances and/or healthy ingredients. In the section on tools and ingredients McKenna explains why she uses things like evaporated cane juice, agave nectar and coconut oil in place of more common ingredients. My five year old helped me make the banana bread and was most enthusiastic about mashing the bananas.

My family's main concern is gluten-free recipes but I appreciate this book's focus on vegan and sugar-free ingredients as well. I have been known to bake for my sons' class parties and there are other kids who have dairy and/or sugar intolerances. I like that, in many cases, one recipe can meet all three dietary needs. My only criticism of the book is that there is no way to tell, without reading the entire ingredient list, which needs each recipe targets. A simple key at the top of each indicating whether it meets vegan, gluten-free and/or sugar free standards would be helpful for at-a-glance browsing.

Babycakes is published by Clarkson Potter, the same group that publishes Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, and like Garten's books it is printed on thick, glossy paper and features stunning full color photography. These are among my favorite cookbooks in my collection because they are well-designed and fun to look at (and they look good on my bookshelf). Good cookbook design makes the recipes look all the more appetizing. In an age where home cooks are turning to the Internet for recipes (I'll admit, I've got the Epicurious app on my iPad and I use it all the time) it's nice that publishers are still producing gorgeous cookbooks that appeal to all the senses.

Get this book: if you are gluten- or dairy-intolerant, vegan, or want to cut back on refined sugar but still enjoy baked goods from time to time.

Disclosure: As an affiliate I earn a small commission on products purchased via links featured on this site. Thank you for supporting Eat Their Words!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cookbook Review- Tiana's Cookbook

The Princess and the Frog: Tiana's Cookbook: Recipes for Kids (Disney Princess: the Princess and the Frog)

Sometimes I am left scratching my head at movie tie-in books. Sometimes publishers get it right. I love the way Disney/Pixar and Little Golden Books have collaborated to produce faithful and cooly illustrated adaptations of popular Disney/Pixar films. Other times I just wonder, what was the point? I've seen a few cookbooks based on random licensed properties but the recent ones based on Disney and Disney/Pixar films The Princess and the Frog (Tiana's Cookbook: Recipes for Kidsand Ratatouille (What's Cooking?: A Cookbook for Kids--which appears to be out of print but was available at my local library) get it right. Primarily because the central characters in these films have culinary aspirations. What better way to get kids involved in the kitchen than with a cookbook that features favorite characters and meals they might eat? Even better is when the recipes are for things you'd actually want to eat.

I wasn't particularly impressed with the Ratatouille cookbook. The recipes looked good and I think my older son would have enjoyed preparing some of them. However, most of the recipes relied on gluten-containing ingredients and just were not practical for the unique dietary needs of two of the four members of our household. It's not much of a kid-friendly cookbook if I have to take the additional step of adapting the recipes. However, the New Orleans-inspired recipes in Tiana's Cookbook were more celiac-friendly so it gets my wholehearted approval.

Full of New Orleans-inspired fare, Tiana's Cookbook is divided into sections for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, breads/sides/drinks and--most kids' favorite--desserts. I love that the New Orleans/cajun theme is carried throughout. How many kids' cookbooks have recipes for beignets or po' boy sandwiches? Obviously, the beignets don't work for us (without significant tweaking) but the sandwiches are doable if we use our gluten-free bread. The most useful section is the dinner section. Recipes for jambalaya and red beans and rice are easy for my seven year old to follow. Some steps (sauteing veggies in oil, chopping veggies) require my supervision but it's a step beyond assembling sandwiches. Each recipe includes a brief description (in the form of a "note" from Tiana) and photo. Illustrations of characters from the movie appear every few pages. I particularly like that there is a lot of healthier fare here: fruit salad, oven-baked fish, green beans, smoothies, oven-baled potato wedges . . . the healthier recipes provide a nice counter balance for things like mud pie and macaroni and cheese.

As far as the princess theme of the book goes . . . well, I have two boys. They will only grudgingly watch Disney princess movies with me (I am still waiting for them to acknowledge the artistic genius of Sleeping Beauty, my favorite animated Disney movie. I don't see it happening.) They saw The Princess and the Frog when it was in the theater and they enjoyed it but not enough to see it again. That's okay; my seven year old is still enthusiastic about taking responsibility for making some of our meals and to him, a recipe is a recipe, even if it's illustrated with flowers and princesses. Though I'm sure my boys would prefer a Batman cookbook.

Get this book: if you want a childrens' cookbook that offers something more than typical "kid" food or you have a princess-obsessed child. How fun would it be to create a Princess and the Frog themed dinner to be followed by a viewing of the movie?