July WAS Ice Cream Month

August 12th, 2014

Yes, July was National Ice Cream Month.   And yes, I know it’s August.  But that doesn’t mean ice cream season is over.  My family turned out the ceremonial first batch of homemade ice cream just after school got out in June.  Of course we always start with Mint Chip.  The real deal (see past blog) with real mint.  Not the fake colored, extract stuff.  This year we’ve also made a few new flavors, below.  When making ice cream remember to explain to your kids (and husband) it’s not a quick instant gratification process.  Be sure to read the recipe and see how much time (refrigerator, freezer, machine) you’ll need before you’re actually ready to scoop and enjoy.

 

Vegan Coconut Ice Cream

This was a huge surprise.  I received the Vegan Al Fresco Cookbook and went for this right away.  Overall I like this cookbook, and we love this ice cream.  The coconut oil gives this a great dense and creamy texture.  It has become my husband and daughter’s favorite flavor.  I even brought a batch to a friends’ for dinner and she served it with a homemade peach pie she had made.  It went together perfectly.

I made a few changes you’ll see noted below.  I don’t like the coconut texture so I didn’t add the shredded coconut.  I didn’t have the extract, so I didn’t use that either.  There’s still debate about confectioner’s sugar and whether it’s a “vegan” ingredient.  If you’re concerned buy the vegan brand.  (I explained “bone char” in an earlier post.)  And I didn’t see the need to buy arrowroot when I had cornstarch in my pantry.

Coconut Ice Cream from Vegan Al Fresco by Carla Kelly

Makes 4 cups

2 14 oz. cans full-fat coconut milk

3 tablespoons melted coconut oil

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder – I substituted cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (optional) – I didn’t use

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional) – I didin’t use

Place 1 can of coconut milk in refrigerator overnight (to speed this up I put in the freezer for 2 hours).  Open can – do not shake – and scoop off 1/2 cup cream from surface.

In a blender, process coconut cream with contents of second can of coconut milk, melted oil, sugars, arrowroot and extract until creamy and smooth.

Transfer blender jar to refrigerator to chill overnight.  Stir in shredded coconut if using, and mix to distribute evenly.

In an ice cream machine, process mixture for 30 minutes, or according to machine instructions, until aerated and cooled.

 

Lemon Sorbet

My daughter requested this when she started her orthodontist expander.  I was happy to oblige.  Especially after realizing I already have the ingredients on hand.  Ice cream requires a trip to the store for cream and whole milk.  Sorbet is simple.  The recipe I used came with my ice cream maker.  I even had simple syrup in the fridge left over from making lemonade.  Next time I need to read the recipe more thoroughly as the one I used made a small quantity (maybe a pint vs our usual quart).

Lemon Sorbet from Allrecipes.scom

Ingredients

Original recipe makes 6 servings
  • 1 lemon’s peel, finely diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup carbonated mineral water
  • 6 strips of lemon zest, for garnish

Pina Colada Sorbet 

This was almost a merge of flavors from the coconut and the lemon.  It was bright and refreshing and we ate it with my daughter’s birthday cake.  Seemed very tropical as we enjoyed it during the Fifa World Cup in Brazil.

Pina Colada Sorbet from MyRecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cubed fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup coconut water $
  • 1/2 cup sugar $
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup cream of coconut

Preparation

  1. 1. Place first 3 ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth and sugar dissolves. Combine pureed pineapple mixture, coconut milk, and cream of coconut in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
  2. 2. Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon sorbet into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze for 2 hours or until firm.

 

My son just asked what flavor is up next.  My daughter and husband said coconut.  But he wants something new.  Stay tuned…

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Coconut Water Taste Test – Fresh and Fun, or Canned?

July 18th, 2014

My kids love to open coconuts.  Last year (see post) it was on their list of top 5 summer activities.  However we  never seem to actually eat or drink much of it.  This time was different.  Because of all the coconut waters and juices on the market we decided to do a taste comparison.  Does the coconut milk from the actual coconut taste like the kind in the can?  We also needed to learn the difference between coconut milk, coconut juice and coconut water.

 

Coconut milk is easy.  It’s the stuff you cook with.  Think Indian food.  It’s the liquid and meat that comes from the brown coconut.  It’s pulverized and put in a can.  It can be light fat or full fat.  More of the solids and fats move to the top of the can so depending on your recipe you may spoon the creme off the top, use just the milky liquid or use it all.

 

But what’s the difference between coconut juice and coconut water?  Both coconut water and juice is the clear liquid in young green coconuts.  Seems the difference is the marketing.  The juice may have other additives (although I bought one that didn’t) and the water does not.  They may sometimes have pulp at the bottom of the can/bottle.

 

My kids were split on what they like.  No surprise there.  My daughter didn’t like that the juice from the actual coconut was still cloudy after straining.  My son thought is tasted more like coconut and the canned tasted like vanilla.  I, to liked the stuff right out of the coconut, but best after being refrigerated.  However everyone agreed it was lots more fun to break open the actual coconut vs opening a can.

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Rediscovering the Mission with Edible Excursions

July 9th, 2014

When my husband and I lived in San Francisco, now 10 years ago, we would search out the latest and greatest in food and neighborhoods.  Sometime this led us to some not so safe or clean areas.  We didn’t mind.  It was always an adventure and part of the experience.  One such neighborhood was the Mission District.  20 years ago we would go directly to our Mission destination restaurant (usually the original Slanted Door) or bar (Blondie’s or the Elbo Room).  Not wanting to stray too far from the crowds.  Some restaurants had valet which was great.  Or we’d try to park near the police lot.  Certain blocks were shady and even scary to walk through to get to your car.   Over the fourteen years of us living in SF this changed and more and more restaurants and shops moved into what was predominantly a neighborhood of taquerias and furniture stores.  Unfortunately Slanted Door moved to bigger and more tourist digs at the Ferry Plaza.  Since moving to Marin 10 years ago, we’d still go to the Mission now and again to dine at our favorites such as Foreign Cinema and Luna Park.  But we weren’t discovering anything new.

 

Last weekend we did.  I gave my husband a gift certificate to Edible Excursions, a company started by a dear friend of ours, from back before we had children.  After working at Gourmet Magazine, Edible Excursions owner Lisa Rogovin traveled the globe searching out cooking schools and culinary adventures.  Once back home, she brought her culinary expertise and connections to lead culinary walking tours throughout San Francisco and East Bay (Berkeley, Temescal) neighborhoods to discover and share delicious tastes, local artisans and community treasures that you may or may not have heard of (neither  from tour books or even living in the city).  Over the years she has added tours, such as Japantown, as well as guides, called Epicurean Concierges.  These individuals run the gamut from chefs to cookbook authors to food purveyors and teachers.

 

Here’s a little peek at our tastes…

And when I say tastes, I mean yummy food and lots of it.  Come with an appetite.  My only complaint would be my belt was too tight at the end.  Not sure if that’s the tour’s fault or my will power – not to eat every morsel.  After wine and cheese, chocolate and a lovely courreges, we were served a tasty beef sopa plate, followed by a delicious pork taco and then a rich ice cream.  I could have skipped the pork taco.  Although you needed something to go with the tequila tasting.  Maybe this stop could have been a lighter item, such as ceviche.

 

Our tour guide Karen, was very knowledgeable and even lives in the neighborhood.  She introduced us to everything from a small batch chocolatier to a farmer’s market food stand and a non-profit off shoot of the famed Bi-Rite Market.  On the way we saw new playgrounds full of kids, the newly refurbished murals at the Women’s Building and small mini community gardens only as long as a car length.  My husband and I couldn’t believe we were in the Mission.  Specifically we spent lots of time on Valencia Street.  And there are still bars on the shops a few blocks over.  But it wasn’t shady.  Overall the area was colorful and jovial and felt like a real community.

 

There were 6 of us total on the tour.  Five of us were locals of the Bay Area.  Two lived in SF.  And one was from St. Louis.  The tour was a surprise for everyone – locals and tourist.  My husband and I enjoyed ourselves so much we made plans to eat at a new restaurant, The Abbott’s Cellar on Valencia Street a few nights later.  Thanks to our friend Lisa, and Edible Excursions we’ve rediscovered a great hood.  By the way Lisa started the business 10 years ago!  I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to participate in a tour.  Funny our son is almost 11.  I guess that’s what happened.  We swapped culinary adventures in hip, shady places for parenting adventures in safe spots.  I’m looking forward to bringing them together again.

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Happy 8 and 48, with Single Layer Cake Recipe

July 4th, 2014

Well she’s not a baby anymore.  I can’t believe my daughter is 8.  Turning 8 also coincided with finally being 48 inches.  I say “finally” because she has been waiting for that height.  48 inches opens many doors to kids, such as the slide at the community pool, a host of carnival rides and being able to drive an indoor go cart.  This is what she wanted to do to celebrate her day.  That and making a birthday cake of course.

I went to my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that I’ve had for 20 plus years and found this recipe for a Busy Day Cake (aren’t they all?).  This was a super easy single layer cake that was perfect for last minute making and decorating.  We omitted the broiled coconut topping and went with a classic buttercream frosting.  Which of course we needed multiple colors.  The birthday girl and brother did it all by themselves.  They did a lovely and tasty job.

 

Busy Day Cake

Makes 8 servings

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cups sugar

2 teasponns baking powder

2/3 cup milk

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a bowl combine flour, sugar and baking powder.  Add milk, butter, egg and vanilla.  Beat on low speed with electric mixture till combined.  Beat on medium speed for additional 1 minute.  Pour batter into greased and floured 8 x 1 1/2 inch round baking pan.

Bake in 350F oven for 25 to 390 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Remove cake from pan.  Cool thoroughly, then frost and decorate.

 

 

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“Chef” Gets the Scene and Story Right …But Bring Your Own Food

June 10th, 2014

Chef, movie

Ever since the movie Swingers I’ve loved Jon Favreau.   I haven’t agreed with his movie choices lately with blockbusters such as the Iron Man films, but I enjoy his Dinner for Five Series and now Chef brings him back to sharing food, friends and stories.  He’s written a film about a self-absorbed chef who gives up his safe restaurant job after a bad review, for creative integrity, and ends up searching for a new way to express himself and discover happiness on a food truck.  While food is everything to him, Chef Casper is forced to explore his relationship with his 10 year old son, himself, ex-wife, friends, and the ways of the Internet.   His journey is an enjoyable one to watch.

 

I went to see Chef at a matinee with my foodie friend.  Unfortunately I was late for our planned lunch and the theater café was closed.  The thought of eating concession popcorn for lunch was unthinkable, so we snuck in some food from neighboring Japantown.  No.  I’m not above sneaking in food.  Although my friend wasn’t pleased.  However I won’t be forced to eat junk from the theatre.  Plus I cleaned up after myself, which is more than I can say for many theatre goers. You’d never know where I ate my tea noodles.

 

Chef was big with food and personalities.  In addition to Favreau (Chef Casper), there’s Sophia Vergara (the ex-wife), Scarlett Johansson (the hostess), Dustin Hoffman (the restaurateur), Oliver Platt (food blogger/critic) John Leguizamo (the sous chef),  and even Robert Downey Jr. (Sophia’s other ex) .  The 10 year old son, Percy , is played by Emjay Anthony.  He’s got an old soul  and can hold his own with Favreau beautifully.

 

While watching this film my friend and I were very pleased to eat our contraband lunch. Food itself is one of the main stars in Chef.   It all looks amazing and delicious and you wish you could taste every dish.  Everything from caviar eggs to grilled meats to chocolate lava cake to cubano sandwiches are on screen – sizzling and tempting you for two hours.  In addition to the beautiful food is the carefully chosen soundtrack to help transport you as the food truck travels from Miami to Los Angeles and has the rhythms and beats to match.

 

Chef is one for the time capsule.  The backdrop is the foodie scene as we know, live and eat it today.  Learning via Twitter where a certain food truck will be during your lunch break.  Reading the latest food blog that can make or break a chef.  Kids knowing more than their parents about the ins and outs of videos and the Internet.  Teaching kids the importance of cooking, sharing and eating good, real food.   There’s even a reminder of one of my favorite other food movies, Ratatouille (see past review) in the feel good ending.  Stay past the credits and watch famous Korean taco truck chef Roy Choi, who consulted on Chef, teach Jon Favreau how to make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich.  For all these reasons I really enjoyed the film.  So go …but not hungry.

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Six Part Plant Fest – Kids Eat Veggie “Burritos”

June 2nd, 2014

Did you know there are six parts to an edible plant and they all have different health benefits?  Neither did I.  I went to a great event at my kids’ elementary school where the garden teacher discussed the parts of the plant, their use, and how we eat all parts by having the kids make salad burritos.  I thought they looked more like lettuce cups, but hey I was there to prep, serve and learn.  In case you’re wondering the six parts and their uses are:

1. Seeds – essential for reproduction.  Makes new plants.

2. Stems – part that carries leaves.

3. Roots – underground structure to hold the plant and soaks up water.

4. Leaves – offshoot of the stem, here “food” is made for plant.

5. Flowers – colored and usually scented.  Attracts insects.

6. Fruit – product that follows the flower.  Holds and protects the seeds.

Makes sense.  But I never really realized how we eat different and multiple parts of produce.  It was a tasty visual to understand the plant parts.  And many of the offerings came right from the school garden.  All the plant parts were chopped and grouped together so kids knew wheat they were eating.  The leaves started the burrito wrapper with big leaves of romaine.  At the stems table there was celery and green onion.  At the flower table there were nasturtiums petals to eat as well as broccoli tops.  The seeds were popular with an array of sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  The fruit was a variety of berries and sugar snap peas.  For roots there were carrots and radishes.  There were even sauces to choose and flavor your creation.  Kids realized too that on the same plant we can sometimes eat multiple parts.  This is helpful in thinking how to serve, prep and cook these parts as well for a diet in a variety of color, taste and vitamins.

The kids (and a few of us helpers) had a great time.  The only downside was there was only one to a customer.  Feeding 600+ students doesn’t lend itself to second helpings as many of the kids were hoping.  We make a lot of burritos and lettuce cups at home and this just gives me more ideas for using all the plant for a variety of textures and flavors.

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Empower Your Kids and Free Yourself of School Lunch Packing

May 23rd, 2014

 

Are you looking forward to summer because you can take time off from making your kids’ school lunches?  I have heard this complaint from quite a few moms.  Now that I got my kids to make their own lunches I’m not worried about the frantic morning lunch rush.   Ok there is a rush…but it’s not me scrambling.  My kids have made lunches in the past but somehow it always comes back on my shoulders when we’re in a hurry and my kids are enjoying a leisurely breakfast.  I love that my kids have breakfast with Dad every morning while I’m in the shower.  However is doesn’t need to go on for 40 minutes!

 

I turned the tables on my kids a few weeks ago and told them they needed to scale back their breakfast time and were now officially in charge of their lunches.  This was met at first with groans.  However when I told them about their new power and freedom in packing what they want they got excited with questions.

First was my daughter.  “We can pack whatever we want?!”

“Well within reason”, I said.  “I am going to check the lunches before you put them in your backpack”.

My son then requested,  “Can I put in a dessert?”

“Depends on the size and type of dessert”.  Thinking an ice cream sundae doesn’t really pack in a stainless lunch box.

 

I did have to confiscate a chocolate egg the size of a real egg from lunch day number one.  My kids were laughing when I found it.  Of course I expected some testing and trickery.  (I forgot about the neighbors bringing Easter chocolate)  But my son was happy when I suggested he could have a small mini chocolate egg.  “See.  If you don’t push it and put treats and sugar in every time, you can do this yourself and I won’t even have to check.  You know what gives you good energy to play P.E. and get your through the day.”  Yes, that was a bit of my usual healthy food reminder, but they get it.  That reminds me if you don’t have junk in the house, they can’t pack it.

 

So now it’s been a month and with the exception of Dad being out of town and the kids and I oversleeping, I haven’t had to help with the lunches.  I do have to set a timer so they get up from the breakfast table and sometimes I help clean up as we’re hurrying out the door.  The clean up part is always the bummer.  It’s the reason why sometimes I don’t feel like cooking.  It’s not the cooking but the mess and cleaning that inevitably comes after.

 

My kids have gotten very creative and sometimes even competitive about who’s packed a better lunch and now ask for specific things for me to buy for them to pack.  My daughter has discovered all the various burritos she can make with veggies and beans and left-overs.  They both now like pickles on sandwiches.  Flat bread pizza is easy if you toast it while gathering the rest of your lunch items.  My son now makes his wrap with less turkey and more hummus so it’s not too thick, like “mom used to make”.  And they both now cut carrots into “coin” shapes.

 

I hope we can keep this up until the end of the school year and then for camps and summer outings.  I’ll just look forward to sleeping in a bit this summer.

 

Here’s 6 tips for getting your kids to pack their own lunches:

  • Set expectations and timers so they have enough time to get the packing done.
  • Stock the pantry with things they like so they’re excited to make and eat their lunch.
  • Store all the lunch containers in one location, and within their reach, so they can find things easily.
  • Give them some variety and flexibility.  Make cookies or muffins on the weekend so they can pack for their lunches.  Make a dip they can pack with their veggies.  They may need some help with suggestions.
  • Show them which food prep items are appropriate for them  (knives, cutting boards) and show them how to use them with caution.
  • Praise their efforts and tell them how great their lunch looks.  You may have to take foodie photos too.

 

 

 

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Ode to my Rice Cooker – Plus Lettuce Wrap Ideas

May 14th, 2014
Rice Cooker

25 Years Young

I pulled out my rice cooker to make forbidden (we like to call it “forbeeeden” in a scary voice) black rice and my son asked “How long have you had that?”  I remembered that I got it as a gift for my 21st birthday from my college roommates.  No, really.  That was almost 25 years ago.  It’s hard to believe this $40 appliance has seen me and now my family through 25 years of rice and quinoa meals.  It is low tech.  There are no switches and timers other than cook and warm.  Rice and water go in and you press to “cook” then the cooker clicks to warm when the rice is cooked.  Couldn’t be easier.  I wish more things in life lasted as long and were as simple and reliable.  So here’s a sexy picture of my rice cooker in all it’s glory.

 

We’ve been on a lettuce wrap/cup kick with the warm weather.  Here I made asian cups by offering the forbidden rice and added tofu or chicken, chopped peppers, broccoli and mangoes.  I also made rice noodles for layering and added some peanuts for crunch.  Fresh mint and cilantro brought some great freshness.  Kids love to make these.  Each person can assemble themselves to suit their own tastes.  This means no complaining!

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Asian Lettuce Wraps

 

A few nights later we made mexican themed lettuce wraps.  I didn’t have time to make spanish rice (and maybe I should give my workhorse cooker a break) but had everything for a quick meal with left-over ground turkey, olives, cilantro, black beans, guacamole and salsa.  My husband even suggested doing lettuce instead of tortillas on burrito nights because he felt less full.  The kids thought Dad was crazy suggesting no tortillas, but it’s a good option for us, sometimes.

Mexican Lettuce Wraps 

I’m sure I can think of other lettuce cups themes and ethnic variations to use up left-overs.  Maybe next up will be mediterranean.

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Here’s to New Mom’s! with Baby Puree Recipes

May 9th, 2014

 

Approaching mother’s day I’ve been reflecting back on becoming a mother myself.  We all know how time flies and it seems like just yesterday I was feeding my kids their very first bites of food.  I’ve always loved being there for a first taste of something new.  Their first apple, strawberry, broccoli, fish, etc.  I still enjoy that.  But now it’s first escargot, starfruit, escarole, etc.  Sometimes I think being a new mom was easier than where I am today.  I’d take sloppy kisses and naps, any day over eye rolling and working school carline.  Although certainly while you are in the thick of it (diapers, no sleep, constant crying), you can’t imagine.  If only you had the sleep and awareness when they are babies, to appreciate every minute.

Right now I know lots of mom’s with babies.  Some are just starting motherhood while others have new babies to add to their families.  So here’s to new and experienced moms alike.  And to the new flavors and experiences we introduce them to.  Whether our kids are 6 months, 6 years, 26 years or 66 years.  We can always come up with firsts and new foodie adventures.  But be careful…it’s not always pretty.

Apple Puree (The Petit Appetit Cookbook, page 59)

Apples are a great first food because of their sweetness and versatility.  Besides being for baby, this puree can be used in all kinds of recipes.  Use it to sweeten baked goods, as a topping for pancakes, or even to dress up grilled meats.

Golden and Red Delicious as well as Fuji apples have the least amount of acid, and thus are the most tolerant for babies.  You may peel apples before or after cooking.  Cooking with skins on allows the apples to retain more nutrients.  Be sure to choose organic apples as they are number 1 on the Dirty Dozen list for pesticides.

6 medium (2-3 ounce) organic apples, washed, quartered and cored just before cooking

Steamer Method:

Place prepared apples in steamer basket set in a pot filled with a small amount (about 1 – 2 inches, but not to touch fruit) of lightly boiling water.  Cover tightly for best nutrient retention and steam for 10 – 12 minutes or until apples are tender.  Apples should pierce easily with a toothpick.  Set apples and cooking liquid aside to cool.

Scrape apples for skin and puree in a food processor with a steel blade.  Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid to puree to make smoother and adjust consistency.

Makes 16 – 18, one ounce baby servings.

TIP:  An apple a day…When baby is ready for more texture, chunks on steamed apples are good finger foods.  Also for teething baby, put steamed apple slices in the freezer for a soothing treat.

First Fish (The Petit Appetit Cookbook, page 98)

This is an easy way to prepare fish for your baby or toddler.  Because of the mild and “non-fishy” taste, Tilapia is a good introduction to seafood for a little one.  Fish can be thinned with reserved cooking broth or mix with plain yogurt or cottage cheese for a more creamy texture.

1 cup organic vegetable broth

2, (4 ounce) white fillets

Heat broth in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until simmering.  Add fish fillets.  Broth should not cover fish, but come up about halfway.  Simmer fish 3 to 4 minutes per side or until opaque.  Fish should flake easily with a fork.  Remove fish from pan and mash to desired consistency, or puree with some of the cooking liquid in a food processor.

TIP: No bones about it.  Be sure to check fish carefully for small bones before feeding to baby.  Fillets have fewer bones than steaks.

 

 

 

 

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Play Ball! Packing a Little League Dinner

May 2nd, 2014

Tailgate Dinner

Baseball season is officially underway and here I am packing and planning for tailgate dinners we can take to my 10 year old’s games.  Sure sometime we can wait until it’s over but that could be 7:30 or 8 p.m.  It’s easier for me to plan ahead and get it ready and packed.  I’m also discovering my son not only wants food during the game but can eat a meal after too.  My daughter is happy with packing food as it gives her something to do and as she says “it’s like a real baseball game”.   I’ve done lots of sandwiches and pasta in the past.  See last season’s dinner line-up blog.  But now I got to to thinking about the real game aspect and wanting to expand my little league menu.

So this week it was chicken apple and vegetarian sausages with popcorn.  Then to round out the meal there were blackberries, apples, carrots, tortilla chips and dip.  I ended up doing the score keeping so I couldn’t eat mine during the game.  But I was pleased when I got home.  My son was thrilled to have a sausage during the game when he got hungry.  One of my son’s teammates asked his mom to please get him the same thing my son had.  My kids I’m sure are sometimes embarrassed by all my food rules and snobbery but I saw my son smile as I told the mom I had made it at home.  She could’ve guessed by my large cooler bag under the bleachers.  I’m happy to share too.  I know I can go overboard, but I’d rather have too much than nothing.  I sometimes see parents rush out and leave the game to go get anything that will suffice as food for their children.  My son was even happier when he realized I had made an extra (actually thinking for Dad) and could have another dinner after the game.  I could’ve set up a stand.

 

 

 

 

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