Cracker Jack Calamity


Once upon a time, so very long ago, when I was a child, Cracker Jacks were the thing. The snack itself was not terribly interesting or tasty. Children across America did not dream about Cracker Jacks in terms of eating. The allure was the promised toy hidden somewhere in the recesses of the sugary corn and peanuts. Eating the stuff was merely an afterthought, a means to an end, because it was all about solving the mystery of what toy the box contained. One never knew.

Cracker Jacks today come in a bag instead of a box, and are a bargain at just 99 cents. But I’ve got to say, the prizes look pretty lame. Back in the day, the prizes were much more interesting; our anxious fingers would pull out salty treasures like tiny games, puzzles, toys and tattoos. Today, you get… a baseball card. Okay, so it’s a collectible baseball card, but still.

The idea of a hidden toy was ingenious. Parents who remember the thrill of discovery may still feel a distant sense of reverence for the promise of what might be, and be more likely to succumb to the heartfelt pleas of their own children who yearn to unearth whatever treasures today’s products might hold.

I did.

While Christmas shopping the other day, my daughter came over clutching two vividly- colored tins which loudly proclaimed that they held not only Enchanted Unicorn Bandages, but…you guessed it…a free toy inside!! We did, in fact, need band-aids. No, really. Our supply at home had dwindled down to only a few unappealing Barbie band-aids (and Barbie is currently so out in our household) so it was quite simple for me to say yes. Plus, my daughter had been thoughtful enough to grab the extra tin to give to her cousin for Christmas, making it feel like a real win-win situation.

As you might imagine, my daughter felt driven to open her box immediately, which she did in the car ride home. Heck, even I wanted to know what the toy was. Listening to the crinkling of the plastic seal as it was removed, I waited for her excited proclamation. Instead, she said, “Mom, can this box be for my cousin instead? I think I want to open the other one.” Obviously, her toy was not at all appealing. “It’s some half-naked angel shooting something,” she explained, holding up a tiny plastic cupid. Apparently, cupid is borderline repulsive to a six-year-old. While I couldn’t blame her for feeling disappointed, I felt compelled to break the bad news that the other box probably contained the same half-naked anomaly.

But isn’t this the perfect metaphor on life; you never quite know what you’re going to get.

Sing Out Loud

We are in the car again, as we often are; the role of chauffeur figures prominently in the job description of a parent. My six-year-old is belting out a post-piano-lesson, impromptu song: “my twist tie can be shaped into a giant BALL and there is a book all about it you can READ it if you want and it talks all about the figures you can MAKE with twist ties because twist ties are so GLORIOUS….”

Well, you get the idea.

It is a loud song, and the volume level is walking the thin red line of okayness. Today has been a good day, however, so it doesn’t bother me. Today I am able to tolerate it by taking deep breaths and letting it happen, because, truth be known, I am slightly envious of her complete and utter reckless abandon to this (yes, slightly obnoxious) song. At her age, singing your heart out can happen anytime, anywhere and in front of anyone. The grownups I know (myself included) have either forgotten what that feels like or been socialized out of it. I wouldn’t mind revisiting that mindset again in a while; but I’m not sure I can remember how.

Listening to the heartbreakingly sweet tone of her singing voice, (liquid honey with a slight helium tinge) I know in my heart that this is one of those moments… where as a parent, I just want everything to slow down, or better yet, to stop altogether, just for a while, to hold onto it, freeze it, preserve it, crystallize it and place it in a bell jar, where it can still be taken down every once in awhile, revisited and enjoyed. But I can’t, and can only watch helplessly as it slips away through my fingers, gone for eternity. I don’t ever want her to lose this level of innocent, unbridled self-expression, and, even more selfishly, I don’t ever want to let go of this present-day, precious reality that is my daughter. So at least for today, I will let her be her uncensored self, without any commentary from me, and let the song remind me of the value and beauty of being completely and unabashedly authentic.,. and really, really loud.

Ten Ways to Up Your Child’s Protein Intake

protein shake

Making sure your child eats enough protein in a given day can be a big challenge, especially on school days, when the lunch you pack has to be foods that can be eaten easily and quickly, without needing to be heated. The following list will provide ten quick and easy ideas to create protein-rich healthy snacks for your child:

Seeds, nuts and nut butters: These finger foods are provided straight from nature. Easily portable, very edible and packed with nutrition, there are many nuts to choose from: in addition to peanuts, almonds, and cashews, the classic standbys, there are many other flavorful choices, including macadamia nuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. These days it is possible to find any kind of nut in a variety of flavors, such as tamari or cinnamon. Nut butters can be spread on whole grain bread for a nutritious sandwich option.(research nutritional benefits- vitamins, protein amounts, types of fats, etc.)

Kefir: similar to a drinkable yogurt, kefir also contains beneficial yeast and healthy probiotic cultures like those found in yogurt. Essentially, drinking kefir adds protein to the diet and provides nutrients that keep your digestive tract happy and healthy. Kefir can be found at your supermarket in the dairy section in many flavors such as vanilla, strawberry, and cherry.

Smoothies: Think of them as the healthy alternative to milkshakes, and what kids doesn’t like a milkshake? Pull out the blender and start with a potassium-rich banana and other favorite fruits (fresh or frozen), add juice or milk, and be sure to add protein powder; either whey-based, or soy-based, depending on your child’s level of dairy tolerance. You can also toss in other powdered supplements, such as probiotics or brewer’s yeast (high in vitamin B) for added benefit. Blend well until smooth.

Cheese, glorious cheese: Slip slices into sandwiches, cut into cubes and slabs, spread soft cheese on whole-grain bread or crackers, or pair with sliced apple or pear. There are so many kinds to choose from, including goat cheese and soy cheese.

Tofu: The beauty of tofu is that it soaks up any flavor you give it. Cut it into chunks and add their favorite dipping sauce. Many children love teriyaki sauce, soy sauce and ranch dressing. Tofu is also often available in a variety of flavors.

Flavored milk: My daughter loves to make flavored milk by adding a few drops of vanilla extract. This technique adds delicious flavor without any unhealthy sugar and preservatives. Check the baking aisle for other extract flavors your child might enjoy.

Beef Jerky: Many stores carry organic and nitrate-free beef jerky. Since it is cured, it keeps well over time. Pack a few slices or sticks in their lunchbox.

Eggs: Easy to eat, fun to peel, no mess, no fuss, very little bother. Plus, they come in their own package. If your child eats them, what could be easier?

Protein energy bar: These are not all created equal, so be sure to read the label. Look for bars with a low glycemic index and high quality ingredients. Be sure to avoid bars with high fructose corn syrup.

Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah): Quin what, you say? Quinoa comes from South America, where it has been a staple food for thousands of years. It is actually the seed from the Goosefoot plant, but is cooked, eaten and used just like any other grain. However, quinoa has twice the amount of protein found in rice, and eight essential amino acids, making it a worthy substitute.

By choosing any of these easy and healthy snack ideas, you will be making sure that your child gets enough protein to build a healthy, strong body. Having this list of ideas to draw from offers quick alternatives that you can easily incorporate into the morning rush as you get your kids off to school. It’s nice to know they’ll be eating well.

Cheesecake Glorious Cheesecake: A Timeless Recipe For Grandma’s Most Luscious Cheesecake

Cheese Cake

Say the word “cheesecake” and it rolls off the tongue, bringing with it associations of decadence and sweet, creamy goodness. In New York, it’s even “famous.” Yet many people opt to buy this time-honored dessert, thinking it must be complicated and time-consuming to make. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If cheesecake is a favorite for your family, then the following recipe can show you how to whip one together quickly and easily.

The recipe also comes with a fun story: one day, as a friend was driving home, she noticed sheets of paper littering the side of the road, whipping up near her windshield as she drove along. Feeling curious, she decided to stop and see what was written on these mysterious scraps. It turned out that this “trash” became her treasure; each scrap contained a recipe, neatly hand-written, from the 1950’s. Hence, forever after, this cheesecake will be referred to as “Roadside Cheesecake.”

Here is the recipe that came from someone’s grandma (we just don’t know whose):

NOTE: Prepare ahead of time by letting the cream cheese soften to room temperature. Also, the cheesecake needs to bake one hour, then remain in the turned-off oven an additional hour. Don’t start this project too close to bedtime.

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
Spring pan (9 ½” x 3 ½”)

Mix crumbs and butter and line spring pan with it. Refrigerate.

Meanwhile, Preheat oven to 300˚ and prepare the filling:

5 eggs (separated)
1 cup sugar
1 lb. cream cheese (softened)
1 pint sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon juice

Using a mixer, beat yolks. Add sugar. Next, add cream cheese gradually, then sour cream. Add vanilla and lemon juice. Beat all very well, especially yolks and sugar. Beat whites separately and then fold in gently. Pour into spring pan with crust. Bake for 1 hour. Open door and leave in oven with heat off for 1 hr. Cool. Refrigerate 24 hours.

This recipe will help you make an incredibly delicious cheesecake in a short amount of time. Not only will your friends be impressed with your baking skills, you may find your popularity will also increase!

Next time you’re looking for a dessert to serve at a dinner party, or a fabulous addition to a potluck, Roadside Cheesecake promises timeless delight.