boys food recipes

Snow Day!

Here in the mid-Atlantic we got our first real snow of the season today. On March 1st. And what’s really sad is that #2 Son, who is almost 12, was overjoyed when he woke up this morning; he thought this was a huge amount of snow.



#1 Son remembers — just barely — the Great Snow of 1996, when we got 30 inches and it lasted for days. He was not quite 4 then, and our exchange student from Austria built him a snow cave to play in. That was a huge amount of snow. But poor #2 Son hasn’t seen much snow in recent years, and he really, really, really likes snow.

Where is the food-related content in this post? you may be wondering. Never fear: It’s coming.

This afternoon #2 Son scooped up a bowl of snow and prepared to mix it with maple syrup, as we’ve done with our pitiful little snowfalls in the past. But I remembered seeing a technique for pouring hot syrup over snow to make candy, so we tried that. (I Googled and found a recipe here.)

It took a while to get the syrup to the right temperature; as with every other kind of sugar syrup I’ve ever dealt with, it’s a long process that progresses almost instantly at the end to disaster. But I managed to get it just about right this time, and we dribbled it over the snow.


The syrup hardens almost instantly to candy: chewy or brittle depending on the exact temperature at the moment of pouring. Either way, it’s yummy.


And it’s very pretty, too!


More snow!!!

bread food Friday dinner meat recipes

Bicultural Friday Dinner

I had some lamb cubes in the freezer — grass-fed, organic, local lamb, straight from the farmers market. What to do with lamb cubes? Around here, there’s really only one answer. Irish stew:


I started with the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated‘s The New Best Recipe, #1 Son’s bible. We gave it to him after his bar mitzvah in 1995, and almost four years later it’s still his go-to cookbook for just about everything. (He made a cheesecake yesterday to take to a gathering of teenage homeschoolers today; he used it for a class on the science of cooking.) But the CI recipe called for shoulder chops, and I, of course, had the aforementioned cubes. So I played around with the proportions, but the technique is basically theirs.

Irish Stew (adapted from The New Best Recipe)

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound lamb cubes, cut into whatever size you like
2 medium onions, chopped into whatever size you like
a little less than 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
2 cups of water, divided
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
3 medium potatoes (the book recommends Yukon Golds, but you can also use reds)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle the lamb cubes with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and brown half the lamb on all sides. Remove to a bowl. Add another tablespoon of oil and brown the other half of the lamb on all sides. Remove to the bowl. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the last tablespoon of oil, and cook the onions till they’re softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir till the onions are coated evenly. Add one cup of water and stir, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the thyme and the salt. Gradually add the other cup of water and continue to stir until the stew begins to simmer. Put the meat back in and bring the stew back to a simmer. Put the stew in a Dutch oven or covered baking dish and bake for one hour. Remove from the oven, add the potatoes to the top of the stew, re-cover, and bake for another hour or so, until the meat is tender. Stir the potatoes into the stew, let it stand for a few minutes (it’s really, really hot), and enjoy.

And if you’re having Irish stew, you must also have Irish soda bread. Again I turned to The New Best Recipe, and again it didn’t let me down.


Irish Soda Bread (adapted from The New Best Recipe)

3 cups (15 ounces) lower-protein (read, not King Arthur) all-purpose flour
1 cup (4 ounces) plain cake flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter for the crust
1½ cups buttermilk

Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the over to 400 degrees. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Work the butter into the dry ingredients (with a fork or your fingers) till the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the buttermilk and stir with a fork just till the dough begins to come together. Turn it out onto a floured work surface and knead just till the dough is cohesive enough that you can form it into a loaf. The less you mess with it, the better. Pat the dough into a round about 6 inches across and 2 inches high; place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. I used a round stoneware pan. Use a serrated knife to cut a cross shape in the top of the dough; each cut should be 5 inches long and ¾ of an inch deep. Bake till the loaf is golden brown and skewer inserted into the center comes out clean (or the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees), about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter. Cool to room temperature before cutting.

I’m not really a big fan of soda bread, but Husband loves it, so I make it several times a year. This is the best recipe I’ve tried — I actually liked the bread. If you like soda bread, you’ll love it.

And for a change, dessert wasn’t a Dorie recipe. (This week it’s pumpkin muffins, and we’re having them for breakfast tomorrow!) #2 Son goes to a secular Jewish Sunday school (and #1 Son works there), where they learn all about the history and culture and traditions of Judaism. And apparently one of those traditions is celebrating the harvest festival of Sukkot by building model sukkahs out of graham crackers, pretzels, and frosting. When they did this at Sunday school they used that nasty frosting in a tub. But I don’t roll that way. So …

This afternoon I bought graham crackers, spice wafers, three different pretzel shapes, a couple of different kinds of candy corn, mini M&Ms, big marhsmallows, mini-marshmallows, and probably some other stuff I’ve forgotten. Then I made vanilla buttercream icing, chocolate buttercream icing, and royal icing (for architectural purposes). After dinner, the boys went at it.

#1 Son went with a traditional sukkah, complete with autumn leaves scattered on the ground:


#2 Son, the someday architect, went for something a bit more modern (and a bit less stable):


food recipes

I Made One Up!

I finally have a recipe to offer here, one that’s all my own. This is so exciting.

Farmers Market Pasta

  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 1 pound green beans (or however they sell them at farmers markets; I forgot to weigh them before I cooked them)
  • 8 ounces ground meat of some sort (I used the leftover burger mix from yesterday, which was equal parts beef, pork, and lamb)
  • 8 ounces pasta of some sort (I used whole-wheat penne)
  • kosher flake salt to taste
  • garlic powder to taste
  • fresh basil to taste, chopped
  • parmesan (if desired)

Chop the tomatoes and green beans however you like them; keep them in separate bowls. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat and add the tomatoes, stirring occasionally. They’ll get really watery, and then the water will cook off, leaving you with a lovely sauce. At some point while they’re still watery, add the wine; when they’re closer to done, add the garlic powder and salt. The whole process took me about 10 minutes, but it will vary depending on how high your flame is and how watery your tomatoes are.

Meanwhile, brown the ground meat in a large frying pan or wok; I used a wok because I tend to slop food over the side when I try to stir-fry in a frying pan. When it’s done, remove it (leaving the fat behind) and set aside. Add the green beans to the fat in the pan or wok and stir-fry till they’re as tender as you like. It helps near the end to turn the flame down and cover the pan to let them steam a bit. When they’re done, throw the meat back in to warm up.

Meanwhile (yes, there are a lot of steps, but it’s worth it!), cook the pasta in boiling salted water till done. Drain.

Mix everything in a big bowl, then mix in the basil. Serve immediately, with parmesan if desired.


This was really good. Son #1, who tends to disdain anything with tomatoes and/or most green vegetables, took seconds. Son #2, who in fairness likes almost everything (he’s a very happy child), said it was very good. Husband liked it quite a bit; he said the proportions of everything were excellent, and the snappiness of the green beans were a nice contrast to the pasta and tomatoes. I will definitely do this again — I got two different kinds of vegetables in there!