You’re going to love Megan’s food blog, The Hungry Little Blackbird! It’s the perfect balance of wit and wisdom, perfection and honesty. She has a way with words just as much as she has with baked goodies. Seriously, what’s not to love?! Plus, her Strawberry Rhubarb jam has been on my to do list forever…maybe this will be the year?!
When I first envisioned this chance to be a guest blogger here at Tried and True, I had delusions. I’m just being honest. Well, first I was beyond honored because I love Vanessa and her brilliant tutorials and ideas…and then I had those delusions.
I had this idea in my head that I could take a few library cookbooks I’d borrowed about toddlers, nutrition, and eating habits and fashion an entry so inspiring, so full of useful information, that some famous New York agent would stumble upon it, see my brilliance and a five-figure cookbook deal would soon be offered to me (and one for Vanessa, too! And did you see how I said five figure, and not six? I’m not greedy, I’m deserving!).
So then I attempted a few toddler-friendly, uber-nutritious recipes and if my 2 year old didn’t have the mouth of a sailor before that experiment, well, let’s just say he’d make DMX proud afterwards. In an attempt to coax him to take big bites of mushed pea paste (cleverly fried into a pancake-looking thing), I took big bites myself and nearly gagged. Gross.
Who was I kidding? My two-year-old is way too savvy to be tricked into eating something different than the rest of the family and in a way, I kind of like that about him. I also cringe at the poor mamas out there who have to cook six different meals each night to assuage the different palates sitting at her dinner table. Good on you, June Cleaver…but unfortunately, I’m a little more Roseanne Barr in this house.
I want my kids to eat real food. Real food that we prepare together and real food that I know they like. I’m not above the occasional sweet treat (as you’ll see in the following recipe) and I think the more they taste real, the less they’ll tolerate the fake. If baking with my kids each week means there will be less cries for packaged, corn-syrup laden “uckies” when we go grocery shopping…well, hand a girl her apron and let’s get cracking.
I also see countless teaching opportunities in cooking real food with your children. Boo, our toddler, is learning safety lessons that he just won’t get from his pretend plastic kitchen currently holding our misshapen pile of clean, unfolded clothes. He does, however, now know that an oven is hot. That you don’t go near an oven without Mom or Dad, and that you steer clear of any sharp object and let an adult pick it up. (He calls knives and scissors “pokers” and refuses to be in the same room with them if they are unsecured. Which they aren’t. Ever. Okay, often…)
My soon-to-be second grader learns how to apply those pesky fractions to measure cups when we bake together. He learns about chemical reactions and irreversible changes (things you can’t undo…like ultra red hair dye and overzealous eyebrow plucking). He learns that his family is actually pretty awesome and fun to be around, and good food usually follows to boot. He tells me about his homework, his friends, the video games he spends too much time playing (I always make a mental note to talk to him about cutting back computer time…but like my real to-do lists, I lose my mental notes all the darn time.)
The infant? Well, she’s learning to smell, lucky girl. Good thing I don’t like stinky food and overdo vanilla and cinnamon around here.
I give them real, live tasks to do that actually influence whether or not the baked goods will be successful. The older boy measures and cracks eggs and the toddler stirs and dumps raisins and nuts at will. My evil plan is to teach baby girl to clean up the mess we make, but I have a few years to see how that nefarious plan works out for me.
So there’s our not-so-perfect kitchen world in a nutshell. What once had been a plan to wow you with my strict nutritional advice turned into a rundown on life in the cramped, warm kitchen at our house and a chance to make one of our family’s favorite recipes: Carmelita Bars.
Adapted from my grandmother’s “Nuggets” recipe(see photo) and BHG cookbook’s Chocolate Caramel Bar Cookies.
1 ¼ c. quick oats
1 ½ sticks butter
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. soda
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
1 (6 oz) package of chocolate chips
1 bag Kraft caramels
Preheat oven to 350.
Melt caramels with evaporated milk (microwave 2 minutes, stir, and microwave 2 more). Let cool.
Mix flour, oats, salt, sugar, soda, and brown sugar. Pour in melted butter and stir. Press half of this mixture into a greased 8 by 8 baking pan (greased). Bake 12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle nuts and chocolate chips across top of mixture. Spread caramel mixture over top, and complete the bars by sprinkling the remaining crumb mixture evenly across the top. Bake 25 minutes and let cool at least 2 hours before cutting into bars and serving.
*Note: Do you see how I’m all blurry in that group photo with my kids? (Minus the oldest, he’s on vacation in Florida at the moment). I apologize for that…it’s just that I have three kids nowadays and I think the next time I’ll get to stand still long enough to smile for a photo will be sometime in 2024. Wish me luck!