(Relatively) Quick Posole

Child the younger remains a very particular, if quirky, eater. One of his New Year’s resolutions was to try more things, which we’re doing our best to support. Wish us luck.

In the meantime, one of the things he’ll eat is Posole, if it’s Posole from the Nellie’s Oyster stand at one of the Santa Rosa Farmers’ Markets. Since we live in Massachusetts most of the time, this preference is a teeny bit limiting, so I decided to attempt it myself.

I knew the preferred version was chicken-based, not fancy, and not too terribly spicy*. After reading through a number of online recipes, I ended up with the following, which was deemed acceptable once he added lemon juice.** It’s basically chicken soup, with Mexican influenced spicing and no vegetables. Perhaps it’s not so surprising he likes this after all.

Makes 6 to 8 servings
  • ~1 tablespoon olive oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried ground ancho chili
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tsp fresh)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 to 3 cups hominy, drained and rinsed

Toppings, use whatever and however many you like:

  • Lime wedges (or Lemon, if you’re like my kid)
  • Diced avocado
  • Diced onion
  • Shredded lettuce or cabbage
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Diced sweet peppers
  • Diced hot peppers
  • Chopped fresh oregano
  • Hot sauce

In a large saucepan, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the garlic and spices and heat just until aromatic, then add the chicken pieces and cook 1-2 minutes. Flip the chicken and add the herbs, then the stock and about 1 tsp of salt. Stir to make sure nothing is stuck on the bottom of pan and bring to a simmer. Cook at a simmer until the chicken is cooked through and can be pierced easily with a fork, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the chicken, place in a medium-sized bowl and shred with two forks, then return the shreds to the pot. Add hominy. Taste and add more salt if desired. Simmer another 5 minutes. Serve with toppings.


*Just spicy enough for a “belly warmer”, as his Grandma would say.

**Yes. Lemon, not lime. I just don’t understand this kid.

Public School Potlucks, Coffeecake

a recipe card showing a hand-written recipe for quick jam coffee cake

Ah, family breakfasts at elementary school. Parents are invited to come see their kids latest project work,* siblings are invited to join in from their classrooms, and each family brings something for a breakfast potluck. In kindergarten, there was clearly a lot of effort by some parents for the potluck contribution to be “healthy,” although there were also quite reliably a few boxes of donut holes. More recently, in a 3rd grade classroom, only two families brought something homemade – a local chef** and me – everything else was Entenmann’s, Dunkin Donuts, or drinks. Unsurprisingly, not many of the kids went for the whole-grain, banana mini-muffins.***

This led to an interesting side conversation with my eldest about why no one seems to cook. I tried to explain about time constraints, and needed energy, and needed know-how. He expounded a bit about how very bad it is for you to just eat Dunkin Donuts, which, is very true, and yet is a bit awkward to exclaim in a room full of folks who just brought donuts to a potluck.**** Mostly, I think he was sad that not many folks wanted the muffins. I was sad too, but I understood.

Still, I not-so-secretly do wish people cooked more. There are myriad arguments for doing it, most of which I’ll resist going into. For me, cooking is an important point of connection, to the world, to our needs and imperfections, to our history, to each other. I can’t do much about other families’ time and energy constraints, but I can chip away, a tiny bit, at the need for know-how and related reticence. Most cooking is actually pretty easy and forgiving! It doesn’t have to be a gorgeous, three layer, apricot jam sponge cake to be delicious and worth making! You can just try things! Really!

Next third grade breakfast, I think I’ll bring coffee cake, my mom’s coffee cake, a bit altered. It’s not Entenmann’s, but it is pretty darn easy (and delicious and flexible). This  way, I’ll bring something homemade, and the kids still might eat it. Compromise.

More or Less My Mom’s Quick Jam Coffeecake*****

  • 6 T butter, softened, plus a little for the pan
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup other whole grain flour or cornmeal******
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/8 tsp almond extract or 1 tsp citrus zest or …) – optional
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 chopped nuts
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or other complementary spice) – optional
  • 2/3 cup jam

Preheat over to 375ºF. Butter an 8×8 inch pan.

Cream 6 tablespoons of the butter with the 1/4 cup sugar. Add the egg and optional extract, then beat until well incorporated. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture alternating with the milk (in two or three rounds) and continue to mix just until you have a (mostly) smooth batter. Spread batter in prepared pan. Mix together the brown sugar, chopped nuts, and optional spice and sprinkle on top. Dot with ~9 dollops of jam. Bake ~25-30 minutes, until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Serves ~9. Double the recipe and use a 13×9 inch pan if feeding a large number of third graders.

*model Mayflowers! the Solar System rap! reports on the habitat of your chosen animal and how to protect it! research into one of your family’s countries of origin! The school projects are actually pretty cool.

**OK, technically I think the chef made his triple-layer, apricot jam sponge cake at work, so it wasn’t quite homemade either, but it was absolutely delicious.

***admittedly, these were not my best ever banana muffins. I cooked them a minute or 2 too long, so they were dry. Ah, well.

****also, I kinda like donuts, just not as part of a regular breakfast.

*****I may have added butter. Sorry, Mom! (Also, I have no idea how this would work if actually simply beaten with a fork and am too lazy to find out. I use a mixer.)

******I like to match this to the jam type – rye for stone fruits, cornmeal for berries, etc.



The Family Biscuits

There aren’t many things that everyone in my family will happily eat. Arugula salad with apples, almonds, and sherry vinaigrette is one. Cornbread, as long as it’s served butter and honey for some of us, is another. Fruit*. And then there’s these biscuits. Everyone will almost always eat these biscuits.**

NB: These are not high-rise flaky southern biscuits. I hear I need self-rising flour for those. Or maybe cake flour mixed with AP. Or maybe something else. Someday I’ll try out the options.*** These are also not fancy, mix-in, serve at a dinner party biscuits. These are “I have half an hour before dinner and 2 qts of frozen soup” biscuits. They’re for when you just want something hot out of the oven to go with dinner.

An aside about flour: I often use sprouted spelt flour instead of standard whole wheat. This is mostly because I have sprouted spelt flour. I have it mostly because I have a habit of trying things and know someone who likes spelt, so one day I tried it and decided I like it. Pretty much anything I do with sprouted spelt can be made with regular (or sprouted) whole wheat pastry flour. Since the point of these biscuits is to make something quick and easy that the family will eat, I highly recommend using whatever you’ve got on hand.****

  • 12 oz (2 1/2 cup) sprouted spelt flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 oz unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
  • 6 oz (3/4 cup) yogurt*****
  • 2 oz (1/4 cup) milk*****
  • 1 T butter, melted
  • coarse sea salt or fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 375º. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter, using your hands, a pastry cutter, or a food processor, until it is in pea-sized pieces or smaller. Add the yogurt and milk and stir using a spatula, folding the mixture against the sides of the bowl, just until it comes together in a ragged dough. (If it refuses to come together, add a smidge more milk.) Scrape onto a counter or other good rolling surface and fold and press, repeatedly, until you have a cohesive square. Roll to about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into rectangles with a bench scraper (or use a biscuit cutter to cut rounds if you prefer). If you have time, let the biscuits rest in the refrigerator for a bit (15 minutes up to a day). Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake ~20 minutes, until beginning to brown. Eat with soup (or honey or apple butter or …).

*Yep, pretty much any good fresh fruit.

**Of course, yesterday, when I made them (and typed most of this post), the youngest decided he didn’t want any, he wanted bread and butter instead. sigh.

***My sis just sent me a link to this post comparing self-rising flours, which got me thinking, but not testing yet.

****Unless whatever you have on hand is old, sad, dusty, whole grain flour; please don’t use that. These biscuits are basically just flour and butter and yogurt, so you can really taste the flour and if it’s old and sad, your biscuits will taste old and sad.

*****if you happen to have buttermilk, use 8oz buttermilk in place of the yogurt and milk.

Pizza Fridays (the Dough)

three rounds of pizza dough showing between two silpats

Family meal planning (really any meal planning) is a heck of a lot easier with recurring parameters. We’ve been doing Taco Tuesday almost every Tuesday since we saw the Lego Movie*. We’re trying to do Meatless Mondays more regularly. Friday? Friday is Pizza Night.

I picked up the habit of pizza night from my sister, whose household has a regular pizza and movie night. The beauty of pizza night is it can be as simple as getting delivery pizza and eating it out of the box and it is easily adapted to the “choose your own adventure” model of family dinner.

When I have time, we do make your own pizza on a simple homemade crust. This isn’t three-day, naturally leavened, meant for a wood-burning oven in Rome, crust. It’s more let’s maybe eat some whole grains and mostly everyone likes it just fine crust. And most Friday’s that’s just fine.

Pizza Dough

  • 10 oz white bread flour
  • 10 oz spelt or other whole wheat flour
  • 12 oz water, divided
  • 1 oz olive oil
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp salt

At least 2 and 1/2 hours before dinner – Combine the yeast with 4oz of (body temp or cooler) water. Mix flours, yeast, remaining water, and olive oil until they form a rough dough. Add salt and knead for ~5 minutes. (I use my stand mizer with the dough hook, on low.) Let rise in the bowl for 60-90 minutes.

When the dough has roughly doubled (about an hour), punch it down and divide into six or eight equal(ish) size pieces. Form each piece into a ball. If it’s over an hour until you want to bake, put the dough, loosely covered, in the fridge. (I usually space them out on a half sheet pan, on a silpat, which I cover with another silpat and a towel. Lightly oiled plastic wrap over the top also works well.)

About an hour before baking, have your dough balls on the counter, still loosely covered, so they can rise slightly and come to room temperature. Just before baking, form each into more-or-less a flat circle, about 1/4 in thick. Coat with a bit of olive oil, then add sauce and toppings of your choice.

Bake assembled pizzas at 475ºF for about 12 minutes.

*Taco Tuesday, er, Freedom Friday

Salad People

salad person made of yogurt and vegetables with pepper moustache, arugula skirt, and celery stick cane

When my elder kid turned 3, I excitedly gave him his very own copies of Salad People and Pretend Soup, cookbooks for preschoolers and up by Molly Katzen. I just couldn’t wait to cook with my kid. And then, of course, I waited. Though there were occasional flares of interest in the five years since I bought those books, neither of my kids really embraced cooking, at least not until recently. Recently, sometimes, there are salad people.

The truth is, I’m a hard person to share a kitchen with. I have all sorts of ideas about how to do things. Despite wanting to break away from rules and recipes, I have a tendency to believe my ways are the right and proper ways. I walk along behind people and “fix” things. I am a wealth of information and assistance. I am a problem.

If I’ve learned anything about cooking with kids, it’s this: back off and let them lead. My job is to get the ingredients, find the tools, possibly help prep, but maybe just take deeps breaths while it takes forever for someone else to peel an apple. The other night we had a dinner of chocolate banana shakes, pretend soup, salad people, and hide & seek muffins. Making dinner took about three hours, not counting the grocery shopping. It was messy. The  muffins were boring. It was far from the most nutritious meal we’ve ever sat down to. Everyone cooked though, and everyone ate. It was glorious.

This Is Not Neil Gaiman’s Porridge (Overnight Oats)

Neil Gaiman allegedly makes the World’s Best Porridge, which I thought I remembered was pretty much the way I make it, until I went back and read the recipe. Turns out I don’t really make it the world’s best way, though both Mr. Gaiman and I use butter.  My porridge may not be the best, but it’s pretty good and makes me happy on cold mornings, particularly on cold mornings when my spouse isn’t home to feed the kids breakfast, like tomorrow will. I am not good at feeding kids breakfast before I’ve had my coffee; it helps to have a plan.

I probably started making porridge this way in one of my spates of reading about Weston A Price. I’m not totally convinced that phytic acid is all that bad for me, but soaking grains, with or without whey, sure does make them cook faster in the morning, so I still do it.

Pretty Good Overnight Oats

  • 1/4 steel cut oats (or blend of steel cut and rolled or maybe even rolled something else like triticale) per person
  • some butter (~1 tsp per 1/4 cup oats)
  • some salt (a good pinch per 1/4 cup oats)
  • some optional whey or yogurt (~1.5 tsp per 1/4 cup oats)
  • 3/4 cup water per 1/4 cup oats
  • chopped fruit, nuts, maple syrup, brown sugar, cream, etc. for serving

The night before: In a saucepan that will happily hold the amount of oats you’re making, melt the butter over medium heat, then toast the oats in the butter until your kitchen smells like delicious oatmeal cookies. Turn off heat and add the salt, optional whey, and water. Cover.

The morning of: Bring to a simmer and cook until done, which shouldn’t take long (5 to 10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Serve with your favorite add-ins.

Tapas (or The Dangers of Telling Kids Things, Though Sometimes I Get Lucky)

Ever since my older kid found out about High Tea, he’s been (even more) intrigued about the different ways people eat. The other day we told him that people in Spain eat snacks around 5pm (aka after school time) and dinner really late. So, of course, he wanted to try it.

Tonight we had “appetizers” around 6pm and are planning on dinner at 8:30pm. (NB: there’s no school tomorrow.) Because we’ve stretched out the evening*, and because we shook up our routine, we were all much more relaxed and I found myself eating bluefish paté**, drinking a martini***, and listening to my spouse explain hexadecimal to two actually interested kids. Magic.

Now the problem is explaining why we can’t do this every night. (Or maybe figuring out how we can do it every night, though I suspect it would require siestas.)

*generally dinner is at 6:30, then there’s arguing about clearing the table, then one brief thing like a game, then arguing about getting ready for bed, then…

**apps menu: smoked salmon and bluefish paté from the farmers’ market, crackers, teeny pumpernickel toasts, cornichons, and blue corn chips (because kid the younger did not trust me to make the pumpernickel toasts the right degree of crunchy and wanted a back-up)

***because I’m extra lucky