Yes, The Young One, There IS a Santa Claus. YES. THERE IS.

Recently my friend Gretchen wrote about the apprehension she experiences when she thinks about having the “there is no Santa” conversation with her young son when the time comes.

She’s completely justified in this.

I originally posted the following in August 2008, and it is extremely fitting for this time of year.  It basically recounts what is probably my biggest parenting fail (although I’m sure if you asked any of the kids, they could reel off an entire list of them).  But even if it wasn’t the worst, it’s one of those memories every parent has that makes them cringe whenever they think about it.

So, just do yourself a favor and think about how you’re going to tell your kids there is no Santa…or take the easy way out and never tell them at all.

(For the record, the child in question has turned out to be a reasonably well-adjusted human being.  Although he will NOT hesitate to tease me mercilessly about this.)

(Oh, and I’ve adjusted their ages for the purposes of keeping this current.)

~~~~~~

Beloved and I have 5 kids between the two of us – their ages are 28, 25, 23, 20 and 17; the oldest and youngest are boys and the middle three are girls.  We’ve been through this, and while I can’t vouch for Beloved, the most traumatic of the “There is no Santa Claus” conversations for me have been the first and last…probably because they were the first and the last.

When Oldest Son was about 8 years old – maybe as young as seven – his father and I told him the truth about Santa Claus.  I don’t really remember why; perhaps he’d heard something from the kids at school, or maybe we’d just decided he was old enough to know the truth.  Telling Oldest Son anything has always produced one of two reactions – grave contemplation, characterized by a slight frown and furrowing of his brow, or complete skepticism, denoted by the downturn of one corner of his mouth and the raising of the opposite eyebrow.  (As a teenager he expanded on that repertoire with a completely blank stare that was surprising in its eloquence:  “Yeah, Mom – just keep yelling at me…it’s all going in one ear and right back out the other…”)  The Santa Claus Revelation produced the Grave Contemplation response, whereupon he immediately retreated to his video games to mull it all over.

Maybe two or three hours passed when he approached his father, and with a completely hopeless and dejected countenance, said, “Dad…the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy too?”  We felt absolutely awful until we found out that he turned right around and – you guessed it – spilled the beans to his 4-year-old sister.

It wasn’t anything, though, compared to that same discussion with his little brother.  Fast forward 12 or so years, and The Young One and I are in my car, driving from Euless, a suburb of Ft. Worth, to downtown Dallas to pick up Oldest Son and bring him back to our place for a couple of days (probably so he could do his laundry).  If I remember correctly, it was early October and the initial “Holiday Season” onslaught of toy commercials was just beginning.  The Young One was 9 years old, and happily chattering away, something he does exceedingly well to this day (both the “happy” and the “chattering”).  Before I knew it, the subject of what he wanted for Christmas came up and somewhere in there the words “I hope Santa Claus brings me” were uttered.

I was a little taken aback – somewhere, somehow, my middle-aged and over-tired brain dredged up an obviously false memory of having laid this subject to rest the year before.  I shot a quick glance at him as we bulleted down I-35 towards the Mix Master, and uneasily said, “Uh…dear?  You know there isn’t really any Santa Claus, don’t you?”

He turned a startled and stricken face to me.  “Huh?  What???”

“Honey, you know Santa Claus is really Mommies and Daddies, right?”

He gave me an incredulous stare for maybe five seconds and then burst into anguished, wracking tears.  I was at a complete loss – never in my wildest dreams had I thought I’d get such a reaction, no matter how wrong I was in my assumption or how disappointed he might be.  It took him a couple of minutes, but he finally calmed down enough for me to say, “Honey – I’m sorry!  I thought you knew!  Haven’t the other kids in school been telling you there isn’t any Santa Claus?” (He was, after all, in the fourth grade.)

“Yes – but I believed YOU!” he cried, and began sobbing uncontrollably again.  “I’ll NEVER be able to trust you ever AGAIN!”

I have to tell you – I’ve had people say some truly horrible and crushing things to me before (*cough*ex-husband*cough*), but nothing has ever made me feel as awful as that did.  I had visions of being dragged, against my will, on Oprah and having Dr. Phil declare me the most insensitive and unfit parent in recorded history while the audience beat me with copies of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care.

Fortunately, Oldest Son and Darling Daughter have a marvelous relationship with The Young One, despite their age differences, and he adores and worships them both.  Once I had Oldest Son in the car, he was able to begin damage control and had The Young One calm enough for Darling Daughter (master of the “Let’s See How We Can Use This To Our Advantage” school of thought) to take over by the time we got home and really work on him (I’m sure it was she who pointed out to him that Parents are far more easily manipulated accessible than Santa Claus could ever be).

I think he even learned to trust me again.  Or at least wrangle an XBox out of me.

 

Make Ahead Monday: Chicken Squash Chowder

It’s Monday, y’all, so that means it’s time for

So join the fun and link up your real food recipes that can be made ahead!

Today’s recipe makes good use of leftover chicken and squash and, in our case, some of the home-canned foods we put up this summer – most notably chicken stock and sweet corn (part of our 80/20 indulgence).  It’s always a good thing when you can grab a bunch of tasty things that you’ve already cooked. toss them into a pot and serve up something delicious in about 20 minutes.  If that isn’t a good definition of something that was made ahead, I don’t know what is.  And, like most soups, it is even better the next day.

Beloved really, really liked this.

Chicken Squash Chowder

Chicken Squash Chowder

serves 4

2 tablespoons lard or butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups butternut squash, roasted and mashed
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup fresh corn kernels, optional
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

In a large heavy pot, heat lard or butter over medium-high; add onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes more.

Reduce the heat to low; add the chicken stock, coconut milk, chicken and corn (if using) and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Nutrition (per serving): 400 calories, 23.1g total fat, 13.3mg cholesterol, 848.2mg sodium, 1089mg potassium, 41.1g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 10.1g sugar, 12.5g protein.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

A Little Food For Thought

I’ve been cooking for a long time, y’all.

I’ve no formal training, of course, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know my way around a kitchen or a few things about the best way to prepare different types of food.  Some things are just basics, like how to boil an egg, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people have no idea how to perform this simple task.

For those of you who may need a hand, you start with room temperature eggs.  Place them in a pot large enough to hold them (preferably in a single layer) and cover the eggs with cool water.  Bring the water to a boil, then remove the eggs from the heat and cover.  Allow the eggs to sit for 10 minutes, then run cold water over them until they are cool enough to handle.  For best results, peel the eggs before placing them in the refrigerator.  Cooking hard-boiled eggs in this manner will guarantee they don’t form a green ring around the yolk and peel easily.

IF your eggs are not fresh.  Did I forget to mention that?

Really fresh eggs will not peel easily, no matter what method you use to hard-boil them.  Allowing eggs to sit in the refrigerator for at least a week will cause the membrane to shrink away from the shell, making peeling them after they’ve been boiled much easier.

At least for battery produced eggs – when I still shopped at what my brother (who has also jumped on the paleo/real food bandwagon) now refers to as the “gross-ery store,” the method I describe above produced beautiful hard-boiled eggs that peeled like a dream if I let them sit in the fridge for a week to 10 days.

The same cannot be said for the eggs I get directly from our farmer.

We drive out to the farm and pick our eggs up every Saturday morning (during the warm months, we just meet him at the farmer’s market).  I can guarantee you that the eggs we purchase are no more than two or three days old – most of the time, they were gathered the day before.  They’re only washed if there’s dirt or manure on them – all eggshells are porous, and have a naturally occurring protective film over them when they’re laid.

Battery eggs are all washed, removing that protective film along with the filth from the horrible conditions in which they were laid (remember the recent Sparboe Farms scandal?) and allowing pathogens such as salmonella to enter the egg through the porous shell.  They’re then candled, packaged, and sent to distribution centers where they sit for who knows how long before finding their way to grocery store shelves (or your local McDonalds).  No wonder they peel so easily when they’ve been hard-boiled.

Keeping in mind that fresh eggs don’t peel easily, when I decided to make deviled eggs for our party this last week I kept two dozen eggs in the refrigerator for 3 weeks.  Yes, three.  And this is what happened.

I’ve decided that ragged deviled eggs are an acceptable trade-off for peace of mind.

How old are the eggs you’re eating, and where did they come from?

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

Almond Flour Banana Bread

I was going to call this “Grain-Free Banana Bread” but I didn’t want to get the hopes up of my readers with nut allergies.  Sorry, you guys.

For the rest of us, though, this is one of the things I made for our holiday party this past weekend.  As far as banana breads go, grain-free or otherwise, it’s really pretty good – nice and moist, not too dense and not too sweet.  It’s really filling, too, and everyone seemed to enjoy it (especially banana bread-loving me *burp*).  If no one told you it was made with almond flour, I’m inclined to believe you wouldn’t know the difference.

This keeps very well for several days, tightly wrapped and stored in the refrigerator.  At least, I think it does; I made this on Saturday and it didn’t make it past Tuesday.  Did I mention a slice is a very nice breakfast, coupled with a hard boiled egg?

Note:  Because it’s made with almond flour, and nuts can burn easily, keep an eye on it the last 10 or so minutes it’s in the oven because it will over-brown pretty quickly.

Almond Flour Banana Bread

Almond Flour Banana Bread

12 generous servings

3 cups almond flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3 large eggs
2 large very ripe bananas
1/2 cup coconut sugar
4 tablespoons melted coconut oil or butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350 F; grease a 1.5 quart loaf pan.

Whisk together the almond flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or another large mixing bowl if you’re using a hand mixer), mix the eggs, bananas, sugar, coconut oil (or butter) and vanilla on medium speed until well blended. Mix in the almond flour mixture in three additions on low speed, mixing well and scraping down the sides after each addition. Stir in the walnuts.

Pour the batter in the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place on a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out the loaf. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Nutrition (per serving): 277 calories, 21g total fat, 46.5mg cholesterol, 227.6mg sodium, 296.5mg potassium, 14.7g carbohydrates, 3.9g fiber, 8.8g sugar, 2.6g protein.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Best Blogger Awards Bust

It occurred to me recently (very recently – like this morning) that I never updated you on how the whole Best Blogger Awards over at Shape.com ended.

It was a bust.

Well, not a complete bust, I suppose – out of 20 nominees, I came in 7th (and way ahead of Pioneer Woman, Smitten Kitchen, 101 Cookbooks and Chocolate and Zucchini, I might add).  Really, there only ever really appeared to be 3 true contenders and even the fat-free vegan blog didn’t win.  No, it was Skinny Taste, replete with literally dozens of recipes for low-fat cookies, cupcakes, muffins, breads and desserts (each recipe with painstakingly calculated Weight Watchers points) that took the honors in the food blog division of the contest.

Honestly, I really can’t complain since the winner was chosen by reader’s votes, and is it really surprising that the winner is a low-fat blog when that is Shape.com’s food philosophy?

However, I do believe I’m justified in being a tad disgusted with how they handled the whole damn thing.  They emailed me not only once, but twice, when I was nominated and then two more times for my essay about my blog – which, as I predicted, they never published.  Not only did they not publish it, I never heard a single word back from them.  Not so much as a “sorry, but you’re a loser” notification.  I could respect it if they’d told me something like “You just don’t fit the image we’re trying to project and don’t feel our readers can identify with your lifestyle” even if I don’t agree with it, but I guess Shape.com doesn’t have to worry too much about professional courtesy (to say nothing of just plain human courtesy) when dealing with the little guys.

They’ll figure out soon enough that it’s us little guys – what I like to call the Real Food Foodies, with our cold-pressed virgin coconut oil, grass-fed beef liver, pastured whole eggs and homemade bone broths – who are really driving the bus into a nourishing, sustainable future.

To paraphrase one certain headless lady:  Let them eat CAFO.  And keep their silly blog awards.

Posted in participation of Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday