Monthly Archives: March 2011

Banana Orange Snack Cake

Okay, this is a really good one, adapted from The Perfect Thyme’s “Kiss Me Cake.”

It’s not all Decadent Make You Feel Like You’re Indulging, and it has a bit more sugar in it than I would normally feel warm and fuzzy about, but it is otherwise very good. It makes a great addition to school lunches and stuff like that…

Banana Orange Snack Cake

In a bowl, beat together in order:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ripe mashed banana
  • 1 cup sugar (next time I’ll do 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup powdered milk)
  • 1/2 cup milk, buttermilk, or yogurt (I used yogurt)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • optional 1 tbs triple sec

Add, all at once (one should probably mix these together first, but I never do) and mix till just blended

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

If your target audience has no allergies and doesn’t pick little pieces of stuff out of their snacks, this would also be the time to add a cup of raisins or currants or whatever, and maybe half a cup of nuts…

Pour into 9×9 baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or so.


The original recipe now sprinkles sugar and cinnamon and drizzles orange juice over the cake, but I’m going for something healthier and less messy, so I elected not to go that route…but it does look delicious, doesn’t it? I might also be tempted to try this as an “upside down cake” by spreading orange marmelade  all over the bottom of the pan before carefully pouring the batter in.  (Apricot jam could be nice for this too, now that I think of it…)

Give this a try, in either version–it’s really yummy!


Adventures with Couscous (and couscous cake recipe!)

I tend to forget about couscous (or goose goose as my daughter calls it). But it’s a really handy little grain, especially for those nights when you don’t have 40 minutes to sit around waiting for the brown rice to cook.

Last week I remembered that I had a box of whole wheat couscous in the cupboard and thought, hey, let’s try it on the kids. I figured I could play up the funny name and tell them it’s like the teeniest tiniest pasta pieces you could ever imagine. They tried it, were unthrilled, but didn’t hate it, so I’ll try it again later with butter and salt. (That solves a lot of ills.)

But in the meantime I had some leftover couscous, and I thought, hmm, what else could I do with this? And by cobbling together a bunch of other recipes I came up with the following:

Spinach Parmesan Couscous Cakes

In a larger-than-you-think-you-need bowl (don’t ask me how I know this), mix the following, in order:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • sprinkle pepper
  • half an onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped spinach (amount not particularly important!)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 cups couscous

Mix well, with spoon or squishing it around in your hand…form patties and place on greased cookie sheet (parchment paper or foil could also be used), bake about 45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until golden brown. (I got about 6 patties out of this much couscous.) You could also try pan-frying these, but they are a pain to flip over without breaking them, and it uses more oil than baking.

Really easy to make, and once they’re done they are very portable.  This is the kind of thing for which I would chop up whatever veggies I had leftover in the fridge–anything that didn’t get eaten the first go-round could be chopped up and dumped into this, in addition to or in lieu of the spinach.

This same recipe might be just as good in a “sweet” version–instead of veggies and garlic and stuff, use raisins and other dried fruits, cinnamon and other sweet spices, and maybe chopped up apples or something…I’ll try that next.  If anyone gives this a shot, let me know how it went!

Meanwhile, I’ll need to try this recipe for Onion and Garlic Quiche with Couscous Crust…

I think I might be going veg again…

In this TreeHugger article, Mark Bittman asks, “Why don’t farm animals get as much respect (or treatment) as pets?”

He has a point.

I offer a link to this article for everyone…I offer (and recommend) the video at the bottom of the article (shot by undercover industrial ag workers) only for those who are prepared to be completely undone and/or are looking for that last little push needed to stop consuming meat–because it’ll be that push, if you watch it.  Highly graphic, highly brutal, utterly horrifying.

I will continue to buy eggs and milk from producers I know are treating their birds well, but I suspect it’ll be a while before I eat meat again.

Mondays at the Booth: Spring Break

Today at the Green Phone Booth I posted about the lovely but exhausting reality that is Public School System Spring Break, and some of the things I hope to do with my kids over the next five days

I’d welcome anyone else’s suggestions too! What do y’all do with your kids when you have them for extended hours/days at a time, to keep them from getting bored and yourself from hitting sensory overload?

Biking=Terrorism? Oh Please.


New York’s bike lanes are ‘homegrown terrorism,’ say red-faced opponents

This is just insane. Bike lanes as “monstrous” and “truly offensive?  It’s crazy.

As is this:

“The New York pedestrian gets good at judging his or her foot speed against the velocity of onrushing vehicles. But the addition of bike lanes, and the bikers they carry, has made jaywalking a more fraught proposition. “You know about the cars. You know about that potential danger when you’re crossing the street. You know you might end up a bag of blood and guts and bones. But that is a finite realm of danger,” says Jack Brown, who used to own a bike shop in the East Village. “When it comes to cyclists, that danger is infinite. Cyclists can be anywhere, at any time: on the sidewalk, riding the wrong way down the street. And you have no peace … The anarchy that has been allowed to prevail is astonishing. According to butterfly theory, according to chaos theory, I am sure that the level of emotional and psychological damage wrought by the bicycle far exceeds the damage done by cars.” And then Brown goes there: “It is homegrown terrorism. The cumulative effect is equivalent to what happened on 9/11.”

Good. God.

A “Solar Farm” in my own city?

This is so cool!

Tallest skyscraper in U.S. to become vertical solar farm

I love everything about this (except the part about the Sears Tower being renamed…)

Is it Sugar? Or Red 40?

Okay, you know that cultural trope (or is it a meme? I get all confused…) about “give the kids a lot of sugar and then they’re hyper”?

I’m starting to wonder.

Look at articles like this one:

When Food Dyes Color Our Child’s Behavior

And this:

FDA will finally look at link between artificial food dyes and children’s behavior

I mean, think about it…when we “sugar kids up,” historically, is it usually homemade cookies or fruit juice? (News flash, fruit juice has a lot of sugar, it may not be added sugar, but at this level sugar is sugar, you know?) No, it’s snacky foods, processed packaged things, Halloween or Easter or Christmas candy, and so forth.

Makes me wonder…okay, so maybe the wig-out-and-bounce-off-the-walls phenomenon is real and demonstrable, hard to say (most of the children with whom I come in contact are like that whether they’ve had sugar or not)–but is it really the sugar that’s causing it? Or could it be at least aided and abetted by these artificial colors that lurk in all kinds of foods?

I’m not a scientist. I don’t even play one on TV. (But I would if someone wanted to give me a job, I’m flexible.) But this just seems sort of…reasonable. Makes me wonder.


Remember paper dolls?

Well, my daughter makes her own. And it took me till now–actually, till reading the Fun Mum’s post on the topic–to realize how cool this is, rather than just getting irritated with the countless oddly-shaped little items of paper all over the house.

Fun Mum even includes a little template for these dolls, though I’m sure most of us could manage to make one of our own, if we wanted to.  This is a great idea, and now that I’m (fairly) sure my daughter won’t cut her own hair if I give her kiddie scissors and don’t supervise like the plague, it’s a wonderful, cheap, green craft.

This discovery led me, of course, to the internet. Where, of course, there are tons of resources for this kind of thing.  Check out, which has patterns for clothes as well as dolls, in sets that all work together. The Making Friends site looks more complicated, but they have good resources too. So does this Wikihow page.  And Marilee’s Paper Dolls Page.

Now that we can get magnet sheets and print those on our printers at home, this whole project can even go into the realm of more permanent projects, stuff not to just make but to play with after they are made…food for thought here!

I remember loving these so much…paper dolls were my obsession for years.  I don’t know why I was surprised that my daughter happened onto the project without any help from me…

Anyone ever tried anything like this?

Bittman is Souper…

Ugh, one of the worst blog post titles of all time.

Still: soup is one of the absolute best, easiest, cheapest, healthiest things one can ever, ever cook. Check out his New York Times article:

Creamy, Brothy, Earthy, Hearty

In it he gives a base recipe for each of the four above “types” of soup, with a couple of variations on each. And working down the lists, as he suggests, is its own set of soup-cooking lessons, so that by the time one is done you just know how to make soup.

If one likes the “earthy hearty” kinds of soup, which is what we eat mostly at my house, it can be even easier than Bittman suggests–put a can of broth, a can of diced tomatoes, and a can of beans together in a pot and heat them up, and you’ve got a base to which you can add all kinds of things…I call it “ur-soup,” and I blogged about it a couple of years ago, check it out! (That’s the more complex version; it basically comes down to the can-of-broth-can-of-tomatoes-whatever-else-is-in-the-cupboard method…)

One Crockpot, Three Days of Dinner

The thing I love most about my crockpot is the ability, in one swell foop, to make several days worth of adaptable and varied meals. We just did meal two of yesterday’s Crockpot Green Chili…and I’m looking forward to number three.

Here’s how it shakes down:

The Master Meal: Crockpot Green Chili

Into a crockpot, throw the following:

  • 1 bag frozen bell peppers and onions (or 1-2 cut up bell peppers and 1 large onion, or however much you want)
  • 2 cans white beans, drained (0r 3-4 cups cooked beans, if you do it yourself)
  • 2-ish lbs frozen chicken pieces
  • 3-6 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

Over this, pour:

  • 1 large jar green salsa
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth (note that prepared salsa and broth have a lot of salt in them, and your final result could be too salty if you’re not careful)

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve over rice. (If you’d like, make a slurry out of a few tbs. cornstarch or flour and enough water to make a smooth liquid, and dump into the crock, stirring well as you add it, about 10 minutes before stirring; this gives you a more gravy-like consistency.)


Okay, so that’s the basic recipe. You can totally mess around with ingredients, and there’s not really any need to measure anything.  If you like more meat and less veggies, do that. If you want to leave the chicken out all together–hey, why not?


Day Two: Tortilla Soup

Additional Ingredients: veggie broth, crushed tortilla chips, optional grated cheese and sour cream/yogurt cheese

We did this for lunch instead of dinner; easy-peasy!

  • In a saucepan heat about 2 cups leftover chili with 1 cup low sodium veggie or chicken broth, till hot.
  • Place a small handful of crumbled tortilla chips in a bowl. Ladle soup over chips.
  • Garnish with a sprinkle of grated cheese and/or a dollop of sour cream (or yogurt cheese)

It’s a nasty rainy day, and this really hit the spot. How filling it is depends on how thick your soup is and how much chips-and-cheese you add…


Day Three: Chicken Enchiladas

Additional ingredients: corn tortillas, grated cheese, optional sour cream or yogurt cheese

And by now we’re on the last day…this is easier if you sort of ladle out the “solid” leftovers (the chicken, beans, and veggies) from the sauce before you start.

  • Roll a ladleful of beans-and-chicken in each corn tortilla, place in baking dish
  • Over top of rolls, pour the rest of the sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or so, or until cheese is melted and inside of enchiladas is hot. (If you warm the filling before you start, you can cut this to probably 20 minutes in the oven.)

If you don’t feel like doing the enchiladas, you could probably get another batch of soup out of this, and make chicken tacos or burritos out of the leftover solid fillings…


Think of the possibilities here–almost any sauce-and-veggie-and-maybe-meat crockpot offering can get repurposed as soup the second day by adding the appropriate broth type, and then the third by turning into a casserole with some form of starch–noodle or spaghetti casserole, stuffed into pasta shells, rice or barley, even a pot pie kind of thing. This way you don’t get bored eating the same thing for a week…

Bon appetit! Please, if you have any other one-cooking-time-multiple-meals tricks, leave ’em in the comments!