Whilst preparing dinner couple days ago my 8-year-old, Aidan, and my 6-year-old, Ty, flew into the kitchen through the side door. They were holding two plastic cups with the open ends together -- obviously guarding a precious treasure -- and were breathless with excitement. Aidan exclaimed, "Mom! Ty had the best idea for dessert in the whole wide world."
I thought that maybe the cups contained some of the many wild strawberries that grow alongside our driveway. I had visions of hulling hundreds of tiny little strawberries and throwing them in some ice cream.
With eyes shining brightly, he opened the cups, showed me the contents and said, in all seriousness, "Roasted crickets dipped in dark chocolate. I would've said milk chocolate, Mom, but I know you like dark chocolate better! I picked these ones 'cause they're big and they look good and meaty."
I hadn't seen that one coming.
I tried to take the path that would provoke the least complaining and said something along the lines of dinner being almost ready and that I just didn't have the time to prepare crickets tonight. The boys looked sad, but did what they were told and released the crickets into the yard.
As I finished up dinner prep, I silently wondered where they got the idea. I figured it was probably all those "boy and dog survive in the wild" books of which they are so fond. As I served dinner, a fried rice déja food masterpiece, Ty said, "I don't want that."
What? This was a dinner made of things he had loved the night before. I tried a couple tactics:
1. Good Cop: "Hey! This is all stuff you liked last night. How about you just try it?"
Ty: "I'm not hungry."
2. Bad Cop: "Just eat it or I'll take away a privilege."
3. The Manipulator: "You want to be big and strong so you can make your brothers do what you want, right?"
Ty: "I don't like it."
Please remember that this is the same child who just wanted to eat crickets. I was frustrated and I was tired and I couldn't believe what came out of my mouth next. I actually clamped my hand over my own mouth as soon as I said, "If you eat everything I just put in this bowl for you I promise I'll help you roast crickets tomorrow night."
He hoovered that bowl. There wasn't one single stray grain of rice left. I was sunk. I had used the "P" word. I had promised to roast crickets. What kind of mother was I? I was vaguely aware that the boys were all sharing interesting nutritional information about crickets with me.
"Crickets are full of protein." "I think crickets are pretty good on calcium, Mom, but I don't know. They should be crunchy!"
I didn't even bother with my cookbooks. I was pretty certain none of them would have a chocolate-dipped roasted cricket recipe. I scoured the Internet and, unsurprisingly, the choices were slim. I finally found a recipe on a herpetology Web site, www.nyworms.com/roastedcrickets.htm. The following recipe is as it appears on their site:
Recipe for Dry Roasted Crickets
"It is important to know that once insects die, postmortem changes happen rapidly making them unpalatable very quickly. You have to cook them alive like you do a lobster.
"Just before cooking, put your crickets in the refrigerator until you are ready to roast them. You don't want to kill them, only slow their metabolism down so that they stop moving. This allows for arranging them on the cookie sheet without them trying to get away.
"Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Spread a bunch of precooled live crickets out on a cookie sheet. Bake at low temperature for an hour or more until completely dry. Test by crushing a dried cricket with your fingers. If they do not seem completely dried out, roast them some more. However, be careful not to burn them as they taste terrible scorched! Let cool.
"Dry Roasted Crickets have a nutty flavor and are very good eaten plain with a sprinkle of salt. They are also very tasty as a substitute for nuts in dessert and cookie recipes. Dry Roasted Crickets can also be blended into flour to be added to bread flours to make lots of different recipes."
I kid you not. Can you imagine serving grasshopper cookies that actually had grasshoppers in them?
I thawed my attitude about the whole project when I saw how genuinely excited my kids were to try something new and unusual even if the new and unusual thing was disgusting to me. We roasted the crickets, cooled them off and drizzled melted chocolate chips over them. When the chocolate was firmed up, the kids eagerly waited by the tray for our go-ahead. With digital camera in hand I told them they could eat. To my surprise every one of those kids ate not just one, but two or three chocolate-covered roasted crickets. These kids were fearless! You can see the video of them eating the crickets at www.foodiewithfamily.com/blog
Should you wish to repeat the experiment with your kids here's what you need:
Chocolate Covered Dry Roasted Crickets
10 freshly caught, live crickets, put in a jar and into the freezer for 30 minutes to one hour prior to roasting
1/2 cup of chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl
Roast crickets according to instructions above. While they're cooling on parchment paper, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for 30 seconds at 50 percent power. Stir chocolate and continue microwaving at 50 percent power in 10-second increments, stirring after each 10-second burst, until the chocolate is smooth and completely melted.
Using a teaspoon, drizzle melted chocolate over each dry-roasted cricket. Set aside until chocolate has set back up and is firm.
Too grossed out to give it a go? How about this instead -- it's the best of spicy ginger and decadent chocolate combined.
Chocolate Dipped Candied Ginger
20 pieces crystallized ginger (available in the baking aisle)
4 ozs. high-quality dark chocolate
Prepare a plate by lining it with waxed or parchment paper. Break chocolate into small pieces in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds at 50 percent power, remove and stir, and place back in the microwave. Continue cooking at 50 percent power in 10-second increments, stirring after each 10-second burst, until the chocolate is smooth and completely melted.
Dip the bottom half of each piece of crystallized ginger in the dark chocolate and let the excess drip away. Place dipped ginger on lined plate and allow the chocolate to set up. Store in an airtight jar in a cool dry place.
You can read more of Rebecca Lindamood's recipes, kitchen tips and parenting adventures at www.foodiewithfamily.com.