This weekend I bought a pumpkin, which inspired my son to beg for pumpkin pie. The kid has an insatiable sweet tooth (he’d eat sugar straight, if I’d let him), but since pumpkin pie is one of the healthier desserts he could ask for, I agreed that we could make it on Sunday.
In fact, I’ve decided to take a slightly different tack on trying to curb his sweet tooth. My plan is that on Sunday he will be allowed to choose a recipe, and make the sweet thing of his choice with Mom or Dad. He can indulge all he wants in the finished product on Sunday. After that, whatever it is gets put up out of sight, and will be distributed on a very limited basis. We were getting a little out of hand with dessert every night—gummy worms, Rice Krispy treats, cookies, candy corn, marshmallows. Not all of that in one sitting, of course, but that was perhaps the catalog of a weeks’ worth of desserts. Too much crap, too often. I’d far rather have him satisfy his sweet tooth with something homemade, and I’d like to encourage him to make it himself (with our help) so he gets a feel for cooking. And we’re not talking about cake from box mixes here—if we’re making cake or cupcakes, we’re starting with flour, sugar, eggs, etc.
I did not, however, force him to make the crust for the pumpkin pie. I think that would be a little cruel, especially since the recipe I originally chose (from the Bon Appetit cookbook) included the instruction “refrigerate dough for 30 minutes” at least twice, and involved the cutting out and scoring of pie crust leaves, then scattering them across the surface of the baked pie. That’s hard on a little kid who just wants some pie. It was hard enough getting him to wait until the one we made cooled down. But we did find a good recipe for pumpkin pie that involves few ingredients, and little measuring, and so is ideal for small children to help with. The recipe comes from the back of the little container of McCormick’s Pumpkin Pie Spice that I bought at the grocery store on Friday. It goes like this:
1 15oz can pumpkin puree
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 frozen pie crust
Combine pumpkin, milk, eggs and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl. Pour filling into pie crust. Bake for 15 minutes at 425. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 40 minutes. Cool. Eat.
Couldn’t be simpler. The next time I would blind bake the crust, at least half way. It was a tad underdone for my taste, but the recipe did clearly call for a frozen pie crust. Otherwise it was perfectly fine, and even the twins at age two could help. Matthew cracked one egg, Chris cracked the other, and Chris, Patrick and I each lent a hand (or a finger) to getting the mixer turned off and in an upright position. This actually does require some tricky manipulation because of my lame duck mixer.
Everyone had a slice with whipped cream (made by all interested parties with the help of Dad) for dessert. Chris loved it, Matthew liked it, and Patrick was a little unsure. He’s the pickier of the twins anyway. Matthew pretty much shovels it all in and looks around for more.
The other great food event from this weekend was that I actually made something from scratch (well, OK, mostly from scratch) that my kids would eat. You simply cannot imagine my delight. Granted, what I made was bean and cheese “burritos” made with canned refried beans, but hey, it’s a start! It didn’t start life as a brick of ice that spent two and a half minutes in the microwave before hitting my dining room table. I actually assembled and baked them in the oven, and my kids ate them. In fact, when I coaxed Chris into trying a bite, the first words out of his mouth were:
“It’s yummy! Can I have some more?”
It brought tears to my eyes.
I put burrito in quotes here, because I didn’t have burrito sized tortillas, so they were kind of funny looking. Also, because the tortillas I started with were cold, they broke when I tried to fold them around the filling. But since they get cut up into little squares anyway, appearance isn’t that important to my kids. And I didn’t hear, “It doesn’t taste like at school.” This is the sentence I so dread, because I know what I’m competing with is processed, over-sugared, over-salted, lacking-in-nutrient crap. Of course it doesn’t taste like at school—it has actual food in it, instead of a laundry list of chemicals!
So between the semi-healthy pie (healthy, that is, as compared to something like gummy worms), and the warmly accepted bean and cheese burritos, it was a good food weekend. For someone as food-obsessed as I am, my children’s acceptance of my food is one of the keys to my happiness. I know I need to work on this—I can’t dissolve in tears or become angry when they reject something I’ve made. Food shouldn’t be the only way I have of showing them that I care about them. And I do try. I do my best to shrug and think, “In a few years—they’re just little kids.” I also remind myself how downright finicky I was as a child. I must have driven my mother completely around the bend. I guess this is what they mean when they talk about karma. I’m getting as good as I gave.