Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 14, 2008

Foodie With Family: Whispers and shouts


I don't try to eavesdrop on my children but I can't always help it. I'd have to lose all my hearing to give them the privacy that they want. They are, simply put, loud. Just last week I was in the kitchen and heard the following exchange from the boys who were in the dining room:

Ty: "Hey Liam! What's the difference between gravity and anti-gravity?"

Liam: "I don't know. I'm not Einstein. Aidan's not Einstein. Nobody's Einstein except for Einstein and he's dead so I'm pretty sure he doesn't know anymore either."

At this point there was silence for a couple seconds and then Liam added, "Go ask Mom." This either means that Liam wanted me to verify that Einstein was indeed passed beyond the veil or that he wanted Ty to ask me for the theory on gravity vs. anti-gravity. Since I am an optimist, I choose to believe that my children have put me on an intellectual level with the great mind that was Einstein. Don't try to talk me out of it.

In addition to having loud everyday speaking voices, my kids also have bionic whispers. The bionic whisper is accomplished when the child who wishes to be subtle adopts a very breathy near-scream. Because, as they've explained to me, "you still want to be heard even if you're whispering."

You could say that my kids' bionic whispering makes me more pious. In church, I hold my breath and pray really hard when my boys tug on my sleeve and motion for me to incline my ear toward them for a whispered missive. I never know what they're going to say. Two Sundays ago, Aidan got the attention of the pastor after the children's message as he was walking back up the aisle. He screech-whispered, "Hey Pastor Dave! My Uncle Greg killed a deer yesterday. I watched him pull the guts out. It was really gross. But it was great when he pulled the intestines out 'cause they made a huge pooting noise."

I kid you not. He actually said "pooting noise" in church.

Aidan was so loud when he shared this heartwarming story that a sweet elderly gentleman sitting nearby turned down his hearing aids. At least he didn't repeat his, "Ass is an old Bible word for donkey, you know," performance of last year.

I imagine that both of my parents might think that I had this coming ... But that's another cup of coffee.

I want to thank all my kind readers for following my (mis)adventures in the kitchen for yet another year. And I would like to say, as Victor Borge so aptly said years ago, "I'd like to thank my parents for making tonight possible. And my children for making it necessary."

Try the following recipes for the food lovers on your gift list. They'll thank you!

Super Thick Hot Chocolate

This European style hot chocolate is so thick you can eat it with a spoon. It is available in street carts and kiosks all over Italy, Spain and France. Try it out this evening and you'll see why it's so special. Not only is it delicious and decadent, but it's also incredibly quick and easy to prepare. To give as a gift, mix the dry ingredients and put into a resealable plastic bag or container along with the directions on how to prepare it.

4 T. cornstarch or arrowroot powder

4 T. high-quality dutch processed cocoa powder

4-8 T. sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)

13/4 c. milk (whole is preferable but 2 percent and skim are acceptable substitutes)

Pinch of salt

Whipped cream and chocolate shavings, optional for serving

Whisk dry ingredients together in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed 11/2 quart or larger pan. Add milk slowly, while whisking, until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the milk. Turn burner heat to medium-high and continue stirring.

Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, until thickened to an almost pudding-like consistency. Remove from heat immediately and transfer into serving bowls or mugs. If desired, top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Serve while hot.

Cider Trilobites
(or Cider Beetles for those of you not arthropodically inclined)

This is a fun project to do with or without the kids. These adorable little orange shells stuffed with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves resemble trilobites or beetles and make wonderful hostess gifts by themselves or packed with a half gallon of cider. My kids made a score and passed them out to rave reviews at a party we attended recently. Make certain to include directions for preparing the beverage with the Cider Trilobite when you give it as a gift! To make these most economically, buy your spices in the bulk section of your grocery store.

6 large oranges

6 c. approximately, light or dark brown sugar

12 cinnamon sticks

12 small whole nutmegs

24 whole allspice berries

72-96 whole cloves

Halve the oranges. Scoop the shells clean taking care to leave the orange peel and pith intact. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place empty orange halves, cut side up, on a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet or sheet pan. Place a crumpled foil ball in the cavity of each orange and bake for about 2 hours or until the shells are dry. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before proceeding to the next step.

Pack about 1/2 c. of brown sugar tightly into each orange shell, doming the sugar slightly at the top. Lay a cinnamon stick so that it appears to divide the orange into two halves. Lightly press it into the sugar so that it stays in place. Place a whole nutmeg at the top of the cinnamon stick to serve as your trilobite's head and lightly press that into place.

Repeat with an allspice berry on both side of the nutmeg for the trilobite's eyes.

Lay three or four cloves perpendicular to each side of the cinnamon stick and press until they're held by the sugar.

Carefully and tightly wrap the trilobite (beetle) with plastic wrap and tie closed. Be sure to label with the following instructions!

To prepare cider with your Cider Trilobite:

Remove and discard wrapper from Cider Trilobite. Place trilobite in a large pan with 11/2 -2 quarts unsweetened apple juice or apple cider.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain out solids before serving.

The cider can be served with a cup of brandy stirred in if desired.

Store leftover juice or cider in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator.

For more homemade holiday gift ideas for the food lovers in your life, visit