Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 5, 2009

Foodie With Family: Encouraging loose teeth

I may be confessing to being a less-than-wonderful mother but at the risk of ruining my reputation I have to say something that's been weighing on me: I hate loose teeth. They give me the heebie-jeebies.

Right now three of my five children are walking around with one or more teeth that appear to be ready to leap from their rightful places in their mouths. Every time I look at those teeth quivering in the breeze it leaves me with tingly knees and a fuzzy brain and the children with the certain knowledge that until those teeth fall out they have a weapon of monstrous power at their disposal.

"Hey Mom! Can I watch SpongeBob?" (Anonymous male child of mine).

"No! You know that inane show drives me up the wall. Five minutes of watching and you all start talking like Patrick, who we all know is willfully stupid. Read a book."

(Anonymous male child approaches mother ominously. Opens mouth and wiggles hinged tooth with a little pink tongue. Mother clasps one hand to mouth and the other to her chest and points back at the TV room with a shudder. Child closes mouth with a smile and trots off with the remote to watch the awful show.)

"Hey Mom! You don't mind if I use your good wooden spoon to dig a nice big hole in the front yard, do you? Charlie and I want to make a World War I-type trench." (Another anonymous male child of mine).

"Are you serious? No! You cannot have my good wooden spoon. And if you dig a hole in the front yard someone might break an ankle in the dark. No way!"

(Second anonymous male child bares teeth and uses a pencil eraser to push tooth backward from where it ought to be into an unnatural relationship with the roof of his mouth. Mother mutely sinks against the wall and gestures wildly to indicate a different spoon.)

"Thanks! Hey. I'll make it in the side yard. That'll be way safer," chirps the little cold-blooded ankle-biter as he runs for the side yard with the second-best wooden spoon.

And while my children run roughshod over my loose-tooth sensibilities I stuff my apron pockets with crisp dollar bills to leave under pillows. I serve plate upon plate of apple wedges and veggie sticks with dip to hasten the day when those little Chiclets finally go to tile the tooth fairy's kitchen backsplash. (Why are you looking like that? What story do you tell your children?) And I anticipate a summer full of corn cut from the cob and barbecue beef sandwiches served for the toothless, smiling, charming, manipulating little angels who I call my boys.

This simple-to-make dip is a wonder served with apple wedges or spread on cinnamon raisin bagels. And apple wedges are a wonder for encouraging stubborn loose teeth.

Creamy Caramel Apple Dip

8 ozs. cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/2 c. dulce de leche or jar-type caramel ice cream topping

1 t. real vanilla extract

Dash salt

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes prior to serving. Serve with apple wedges or spread on sweet bagels or toast.

This melt-in-your mouth tender beef forms its own barbecue sauce while it bubbles away merrily in your slow cooker.

Barbecue Beef Sandwiches

1 beef brisket (approximately 4 lbs.)

11/2 c. ketchup

11/2 c. brown sugar

2 T. prepared mustard

2 T. cider vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T. neutral oil (such as canola, vegetable or corn oil)

1 T. coarse ground black pepper

11/2 t. salt

1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 t. liquid smoke

For serving: either hot cooked rice or sandwich rolls

If your beef brisket has a great deal of visible fat, carefully trim it away. Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over both sides of the brisket and gently rub it in to the surface. Drizzle oil into the crock of a slow-cooker and swirl it around. Add the brisket to the slow-cooker and then flip so that both sides are lightly coated in oil.

In a mixing bowl or large measuring cup use a fork or whisk to mix together the remaining ingredients. Pour over the brisket. Cover, turn heat to "LOW" and cook for 8-10 hours or until the brisket falls apart easily when tested with a fork. Allow to cool to a comfortable temperature (or cool in fridge overnight for easier removal of any fat). Remove beef to a cutting board or platter and use your hands or two forks to shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Add back to the cooking juices, toss to coat and serve on hot rice or sandwich rolls.

You can read more of Rebecca's recipes, kitchen tips and parenting adventures at For more of Rebecca's Food With Family, log on to