Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pizza Monkey Ring

So I'm teaching a cooking class at the local JCC. It's called "What's Cookin' Good Lookin'" and is geared towards PreK aged kids and their grown-ups. Initially I was daunted by the extreme youth of the kids, as well as the grown up element of the parents. But now I really like it, even if the grown ups think I'm sorta loopy. I play good music and we begin the class by washing our hands with soap (instilling good kitchen habits) and being a little silly. Then we gather around the kiddie tables and prepare a semi-healthy snack.
Week One: Hoppin' Popcorn 2 Ways- Apples & Honey, and Spicy Cheese
Week Two: Dino Chips and Grrrrreat Dips (tortilla's cut with dino shaped cutters and baked 'til crispy)- Guacamole and Ranch
Week Three: Bananachocolata Muffins with a side of Hot Cocoa
Week Four (yesterday): Pizza Monkey Ring (Recipe below)

The actual cooking takes maybe 20 minutes because let's be realistic they're 4- so while the stuff is in the oven, I give them an arts 'n craft project to do. Yesterday I brought in molding clay and rollers and cookie cutters and they made pretend pizzas as the aroma of melting cheese and garlic tumbled and rolled through the kitchen. By the time we're finished art-ing and craft-ing, the food is ready for enjoying. A nice way to spend an hour. The parents enjoy the snack as much as the littlelies do.
Yesterday's pizza ring recipe was adapted from a Susie Fishbein Kids Cookbook, and there was not so much as a crumb letfover.

Pizza Monkey Ring (like a pizza flavored monkeybread):
Preheat oven to 350F. With a pizza cutter cut 2 lbs. pizza dough into little 2" pieces. Set aside. Cut a ball of mozzarella cheese into 1" cubes and set aside. In a small bowl combine 3/4 c.-1 c. of olive oil with 2 tbsp. of pizza herb and spice mix or 1 tsp. oregano, 1 1/2 tbsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. chili flakes mix well. Take dough pieces and with your fingers flatten them , then place cube of cheese in center. Roll cheese into dough ball and then dip in olive oil concoction and place in a ring or bundt pan. Repeat process until all dough is rolled up, and tossed evenly in the pan. Sprinkle top with parmesan cheese. Place in oven until golden and bubbling. Serve with pizza sauce on side and dip pizza monkey into sauce for pizzalicious results. YUM!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy To Know You And Here's The Cake To Prove It

This past sunday evening my good friend, Kenzo, got married. It was a lovely and traditional affair, the kind of celebration that makes you feel warm, sentimental, and hopeful. I've been friends with Kenzo since college, all the way through our post-collegiate City days. Often times she was a co-conspirator, sometimes a foil, always a true pal. We wiled away many a dingy City day in her apartment on the Upper East Side, watching cheesey TV, drinking Diet Coke, and chain smoking (it was a long time ago). And huge blocks of time were occupied speaking on the phone hatching plans or unravelling our stories for one another.
I was very much looking forward to her wedding as I knew it would be a reunion of sorts. I was excited about seeing people from ye olde college days, as well as my newly sprung NYC days. After the beautiful ceremony in the elegant synagogue, we enjoyed cocktail hour which doubled for me as "This Is Your Life" Early Adulthood Edition. And the greatest thing about it? Everyone was exactly as I remembered them. I was so happy to meet their partners, view pictures of their offspring, hear about their lives. Goodwill deluged me all evening long, and the fruity cocktails didn't hurt one bit either. While chatting with them I was returned to the former moments when they were all a part of my life, whether peripherally or centrally, and I hold onto the bittersweetness of those moments. I was so young and so dumb and so insecure-but also completely free to live as selfishly and irresponsibly as I wished. I felt so grateful for knowing each of these interesting and fantastic people during this time.
Tomorrow night is book group. Book group is also a gathering of old friends- new old friends who I've spent my early Mommy days with. Eventually this too will pass, and I will reflect longingly on these moments. I will remember it with sweet sadness, how quickly it flew away. Growing older and moving on is inevitable. All I ask for is the foresight and wisdom to appreciate it while immersed in it.
I baked a warm and homey coffee cake for the occasion. Coffee cake goes perfectly with friendship and conversation. While I was preparing it I thought of the book club ladies and
how wonderful each one is, and how grateful I am to know them during these special moments in my life.

Friendship Coffee Cake
Mix together 1 1/2 c. sugar, 1 1/2 sticks of softened butter, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract until fluffy. Add 2 eggs one at a time until a batter forms. In a separate bowl mix 2 c flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. baking soda. Add flour mixture in parts to batter, alternating with 1 c. thick greek yogurt (I used 2%) beating after each addition until smooth and thick. Scrape the beans of half a vanilla pod into the batter, mix well.
In a small bowl mix 1/2 c. chopped pecans, 1/3 c. brown sugar, and scant tsp. of nutmeg. Pour half of the batter into a greased bundt pan, sprinkle pecan mix on top. Spoon and smooth out the rest of the batter on top of pecan layer, and then sprinkle rest of pecans on top. Bake at 350F for about an hour, or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.

Post Script: The cake was served last night to general approval. However, Daz, my most honest and constructive critic- is decidedly not a nutmeg fan. I suggested that if she was to make the cake she simply substitute the nutmeg for cinnamon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Birthday For Girlette!

Yesterday was girlette's birthday. Wary of another kiddie party where I would have to come up with a theme and amusements, all the while spending needless amounts of money, I offered her the option of going into the City for a manicure and lunch and playtime with her brothers in Central Park and FAO Schwartz. Done and done, I didn't have to ask her twice. The manicure would have been enough, as I'm a real girlie-girl grinch and save nail polish for just for special times like birthdays.
We began the day by being dropped off on my beloved UWS, and to our great good luck right in front of Loehmanns! I could definitely not miss the opportunity to share a Loehmanns moment with my daughter, as I had with my mother many times before. It being her birthday no less! We dragged les boys into the store, Boy 1, grumbling the whole time, and almost ruining it. I got her a sparkly long sleeved tee. And for me a woollen winter cap and cat's eye sunglasses. Fun! Despite the boys.
Then off to her first real-life/big-lady manicure. She went straight for the gold colored polish and sat at the table like she'd been doing this for years. I wanted to get one too, as my nails look like some lazy goth girl's . But les Boys insited on acting like the boys that they are- and alas my chipped-off nails remain. Then we met my brother, also a boy, at Crumbs cupcake eporium on Amsterdam and 75th. Wowee! I had a golden cupcake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles YUM! My brother had one named the Artie Lang which was appropriately overladen with junk (but delicious I hear). Here's were the day gets New Yorky but not in a good way. I wanted to take Girlette for the perfect ladies lunch (despite the Boys tagging along). Initially I called to make a reservation at Sweetiepie for the Eloise experience, but like Museums they are closed on Mondays-boo! Then I tried Alice's Tea Cup, despite the fact that I swore never to darken their tea cup again. Well, they showed me- no reservations, not even for a party of six in the middle of a recession. Apparently, Manhattan really is a magical island that is not affected by a recession that gnaws at the rest of the country. Or maybe just parts of NYC?
Next defense was Sarabeth's- and if Alice's Tea Cup doesn't take reservations, her all-grown up sister Sarabeth's sure as hell won't. I'd have to chance it. Suffice to say we ended up lunching with Hub at Le Pain Quotidien which was perfectly fine and the fudge fallen souffle delighted Girlette regardless. However, next time I take Girlette to the City it will be any day but monday.
We then spent time at Central Park, for the children to observe how city kids live and play in their habitats, and to enjoy the differences. We ended the day at FAO Schwartz and by this time Munch had fallen asleep, mouth ajar in the stroller, and Girlette and I had a... disagreement. The perfect time for Hub to pull up and whisk us back home to the country.
Because I'm a guilty Jewish mother, or maybe because you can't take the Celebration out of Celebrationist, tomorrow I'm serving lunch to both Kindergarten classes at her school. Mac 'n cheese (Girlette's fave) and cupcakes are on the menu. Easy, fun, festive, convenient, and inexpensive for everyone. Happy Birthday, Girlette! Life with you is a wonderfully female experience!