Why Moms Want Nothing For Mother’s Day

Why Moms Want Nothing For Mother's Day - by SpinningCook
Why Moms Want Nothing For Mother's Day - by SpinningCook

What’s this woman looking at? Nothing. © drbimages

Like many mothers, my dear wife wants nothing for Mother’s day. I know, I’m supposed to buy her a Lexus, or a diamond, or a Home Depot flower tower project or something. But in fact she wants nothing so badly that she made a list of all the nothing she can’t wait to have. See, there are so many things in our lives lately that nothing…is wonderful. Nothing is brilliant. Nothing is restorative and healing.

Before I list all the nothings which moms seem to want, I’ve decided that I too want nothing for Mother’s Day. Like last year, we are giving away the highly-rated Spinning Meals iPhone meal-planning app for free (regularly $2.99), throughout this weekend. Available here on the App Store, please be a good friend and spread the word.

So ladies, I’m looking for confirmation – do you too want nothing for Mother’s Day? Here is a list – a few are from my wife, but hers is short actually. So I’ve added some more based on moms I know, and some hilarious blogs which help us cope. Wonderful nothings moms want:

  • No “flotsam and jetsam” around the backyard, my wife’s term for all the stick swords, pine cone grenades, broken sand toys, unrecognizable dog chewies, etc.
  • No recycling hanging around, especially Styrofoam blocks and hard plastics needing a special trip to the recycling center
  • No interruptions during the sacred Mother’s Day morning sleep-in. No kids in my bed. Or as Karen Alpert says in her Baby Sideburns post, “take them outside immediately. Not downstairs. OUTSIDE. That’s right, scoop them up in a football hold and rush them out the door.”
  • No overcrowded shelves full of toys we don’t use anymore. No boxes of outgrown clothes or toys destined for Goodwill, or unsuspecting friends and relatives.
  • No dishes to clean up from any special breakfast, and no cleaning house for a special Mother’s Day event.
  • No bathroom interruptions. Cue the classic Rants From Mommyland slogan “For the love of God, let me pee alone.”
  • No Legos or dinosaurs scattered like landmines
  • No landmines in our food like GMO’s or pesticides. And wouldn’t it be nice if it were easy to know which these are? Labels?
  • No fluoride in our drinking water
  • No smartphones buzzing or ringing to interrupt family time currently happening in person
  • No anxieties about not parenting correctly
  • No internal or external pressures taking away enjoyment of just living and loving on those kids

Which of these nothings is most important to you this Mother’s Day, or is it something not on my list? Is it really possible to live simply, cut back to the true necessities? Because I think the bottom line is this:

This Mother’s Day, let’s prove we really care about moms, and help streamline the other 364 days out of the year, when they carry such a great load to hold everything together.

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Posted in Family, Food Articles, Parenting, Philosophies, Thanks

The 65 Cent Latte: How To Make Lattes At Home

How to make a 65-cent latte.
How to make a latte at home without an expensive espresso machine. Super easy!

Make your own darn latte.

Hot beverages can carry magical powers of encouragement, especially for tired parents. At Christmas one year I gave my wife an electric mug warmer, since she was suffering from perpetually cold tea syndrome, a common parental affliction. Around the edge of the warming pad I wrote in Sharpie something like “Ha-ha, you never get to drink your tea hot, but my love for you never grows cold.” Making matters worse, the tyrannical infant/toddler schedule means there is little point in leaving the house for “fancy coffee” only to have to rush home before the nap clock strikes again. And espresso machines cost a fortune, so lattes are simply out of the question, right? Enter the new cult favorite sweeping the nation, the AeroPress machine (dramatically) DUHN, DUHN, DUHN…

Invented by Alan Adler, the same game-changing mechanical genius who brought us the iconic 80’s Aerobie flying disc, the AeroPress is a hand-pump espresso maker, capable of making amazing coffee.

Shake milk in a canning jar to easily create a frothed latte.

While it won’t compete with steam-frothed milk, a few shakes in a canning jar is all you need to produce enough foam to insulate your drink and prevent a skin from forming.

The AeroPress isn’t brand new by any means; but despite its huge cult following among coffee geeks, I find that most people are still just discovering it. It is impressively simple: the chamber sits atop your coffee mug, with a filter on the bottom, grounds and hot water stirred inside, and a plunger which presses the brewed espresso down into the cup. Remove the filter, and the puck of pressed grounds pops out into the trash; just rinse the end of the plunger and it’s clean.

How to make lattes at home

To make your own 65-cent latte, you will need: An AeroPress, ground coffee beans, hot water, and hot frothy milk. Once you have the AeroPress, the frothy milk is the hardest part. You can skip the foam entirely, but it serves two purposes: keeping the coffee warm, and preventing a thin “skin” from forming on top. You can buy an Aerolatte device (electric mini-whisk), but I recommend simply giving it a few quick shakes in a canning jar, then microwaving it without the lid until hot.

Check my math. The cost of coffee has shot up in recent years, but the home latte is still very affordable I think.

Item Total Cost Number of uses Cost per latte
AeroPress espresso maker with 700 filters (with the 350 filter bonus pack) 29.35 700 (buying more filters, or a reusable steel mesh filter, reduces per drink cost further) $0.04
Espresso roast coffee, ground for fine-drip machines (not espresso grind, which will clog the filter) 14.99 3 scoops per ounce, 16 ounces, equals 48 shots, or 24 double-shot drinks $0.31
1 Gallon Milk 2.98 13 x 10 ounce servings (each makes a 12-ounce latte)  $ 0.30
 Conclusion:  $0.65 for 1-shot, $0.96 for 2-shots $0.65

Tips on using the AeroPress:

How to make a 65-cent latte.

Regular AeroPress method, per instructions: brew over the mug, then plunge to express the coffee.

  • Watch the temperature of the water when brewing, but consider going higher than the directions. The coffee should brew at 170-180 Fahrenheit, so the boiling point is way too high. But a barista at Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco pointed out to me that the chamber itself will cool the water, so consider adding the water at 190, or even 200 if your grounds are from the freezer.
  • Keep your coffee fresh. Aromas escape at room temperature, especially after grinding. If you’re after convenience, get pre-ground coffee and keep it in the freezer. Grinding your own will improve the taste, but the beans should still stay in the freezer even if kept whole.
  • Consider brewing upside-down (see photo) which allows you to steep the coffee for longer than the directions state; my barista friend recommended a full 90 seconds, while you continue to stir.
  • Experiment with diferent beans and roasts. Some medium-roast coffees can make an exceptional latte, more fresh and flavorful, depending on what you like.
  • Know your ideal coffee ratio. One shot may not be enough coffee to go with 10 ounces of milk. If you have young children at home, you may want to start by brewing yourself one shot for every child who is not yet in full-day school, or the number of times you were awakened last night, whichever is higher.
Turning an AeroPress upside-down allows for longer, controlled steeping without drainage.

Turning the device upside-down allows for longer, controlled steeping without drainage. Add the filter cap and turn into normal position over your cup to press.

Do you, or does someone you love, suffer from always-cold-hot-beverage-syndrome? Have you tried an AeroPress or some other means of making high-quality coffee at home? Do you know someone who needs one of these for Mother’s Day?

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Posted in Beverages, DIY, Recipes

Homemade Airbrushed Sous Vide Easter Eggs and (High) Holiday Expectations

Photograph of an airbrush
Photograph of an airbrush

No airbrushes were harmed in the writing of this post. Photo by Manfred Brückels, License GFDL.

Yesterday we had the best Homemade Airbrushed Sous Vide Easter Eggs. And now the bar has been raised.

Three weeks ago I acquired fresh eggs at the Farmer’s market, to age them in the refrigerator for easy peeling. White eggs are best (a blank canvas) even though everyone knows brown eggs are superior since they seem more “earthy.” I checked the chickens’ papers, asked a few follow-up questions, and was satisfied that these were the eggs for us.

After aging at exactly 45 degrees on the refrigerator’s top shelf, I cooked them using a homemade sous vide system I designed, with 170 degree water (a touch of orange flower water added) constantly pumping through an insulated cooler. The eggs themselves plateau at 170 over the course of 36 hours. Note that bags and vacuum sealing typical of sous vide is unnecessary since each egg provides its own package, yet the method is still considered sous vide if you were wondering.

After cooking we dried our eggs in the sun, for both culinary and symbolic reasons. Eggs were then cooled in the refrigerator atop a bed of fresh hand-clipped grass trimmings while I prepared the airbrush equipment.

Typical paints might leach through the shells into the egg whites, so a local bean-to-bar chocolate maker devised an organic alternative cacao-based paint which still feeds through my airbrush, while tying in the theme of Easter candy. Then came the easy part, the painting itself.

Computational Future geometric pattern photo

Algorithmically-created geometric patterns can be surprisingly beautiful. Here is one Stephen Wolfram showed in a SXSW presentation on “Our Computational Future.”

Taking inspiration from traditional macramé, I followed visual geometric algorithm patterns, calculated using my children’s names as base input for a little mathematical personalization.

By now I sincerely hope you’ve realized that this is not my Easter post, but April Fool’s day. The truth is, we had a very nice, very simple egg-dying time with the kids on Saturday, just in time for a simple Easter. But I do have a real point to add.

Recently there has been some debate over the holidays getting out of hand, with parents, bloggers, and some creative teachers constantly raising the bar to a level which is unsustainable for families. On St Patrick’s Day our girls built 12 clever leprechaun traps, and we indulged them by “springing” some traps and carrying off the bait of Lucky Charms.

Leprechaun traps

This year’s collection of leprechaun traps was extensive (here is a small sampling), and entirely kid-driven, though inspired by preschool and kindergarten activities.

This was all great fun, but are we setting ourselves up for annual exhaustion? Here’s my take on the debate:

  • Every parent, blogger, and parent-blogger has every right to spend each holiday the way they wish. The Internet and social media amplifies remarkable content, so it is natural for bloggers and other writers to try to make a big splash.
  • For each of us, it’s our job to manage expectations (both our own and our children’s) for how big or small we want to make each holiday.
  • Practice moderation with tools like Pinterest, Google, and the blogosphere. Find your personal balance where you’re having fun but not exhausting yourself.
  • Remember that a parent’s one-time splurge can easily turn into an annual expectation by the kids, but don’t be afraid to ratchet down that bar later (“Christmas can’t always be like last year”).

Do you agree? Do you think it’s wrong or unfair for some to go totally overboard on certain holidays? What’s your own policy, and how do you keep things from getting out of control?

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Posted in Food Articles, Holidays

Rock Candy Lollipops Recipe

Rock Candy Recipe

It was a case of a rock star gone pop. Lollipop, that is.

Rock Candy Finished

My girls were raving fans of a successful experiment we did out of a science kit, growing rock candy crystals in a jar. In that experiment we hung a sugar-coated string down into some sugar syrup, which results in crystals coating the string and jar. But when you all told me on facebook that you wanted a Spinning Cook rock candy recipe, I knew that it had to be lollipops.

Lollipop Stick Preparation

Here is how I connected three pops in a line between two tongue depressors with double-sided tape. A clothespin is much easier, if you only need to make a few.

The biggest complaint I’ve seen regarding other rock candy recipes, is that they sometimes don’t successfully form crystals, or take a really long time to do so. While I hate to criticize, many recipes simply have the wrong sugar ratio, or unclear instructions. But you and your young scientists deserve a reliable outcome. I can assure you that after extensive testing, this method works. It has also been simplified down to a minimum of steps; follow them carefully and you’ll have a household of happy scientists.

Rock Candy Lollipops Recipe
5.0 from 2 reviews
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Recipe type: Dessert
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-12
Making rock candy can be a great family activity, combining science and cooking with sweet success. If you follow the instructions carefully you should see substantial crystals forming after just one day, and full lollipops after 3-5 days.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • food coloring (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon flavor extract, such as cherry or vanilla
  • Special Equipment:
  • 2-3 small to medium heat-proof canning jars (jelly jars work well)
  • 4-12 round bamboo skewers or cake pop sticks
  • clothespins or tongue depressors, for holding the sticks
  • 2-3 small plastic bags
Instructions
  1. Start heating the water in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Pour the sugar into the center of the pan, and continue to heat without stirring, until it boils. Let it continue to boil rapidly for two full minutes, then remove it from the heat. The syrup should now be clear, not cloudy or grainy (if it is not clear, continue boiling for another minute or two).
  2. Carefully pour the hot syrup into your canning jars to an equal depth, which should be at least 3 inches in each jar. Add the flavoring extract to the jars (you can use different flavors in each, but ½ teaspoon is about right for the total amount). Add a different type of food coloring to each jar, and give each jar a quick stir. Cover each jar loosely with a small plastic bag.
  3. Dip each stick into the syrup about three inches, then sprinkle it on all sides with granulated sugar over a piece of parchment paper or wax paper (you don't want these sugar crystals getting into the jars at this point). Set the sticks on the parchment or wax paper to dry. Set the timer for one hour, which will allow the syrup to cool while the sticks are drying.
  4. After an hour has passed, use a spoon to gently lift off any hard coating which has formed on the surface of the syrup in the jars and discard (don't scrape or chip away, just lift away the big chunks). Next, prepare the sticks to be inverted down into the syrup. If you only want 2-3 lollipops per jar you can simply pinch each stick with a clothespin, and set the clothespins across the mouth of the jar. If you want to make more than this, use tongue depressors, two-sided tape, and scotch tape as follows. Apply two-sided tape to two wooden tongue depressors, place three lollipop sticks between them with the tape facing in, and then wrap scotch tape around the two tongue depressors to hold them tight. Using either tongue depressors or clothespins to hold them, now place the sugared sticks down into the syrup so they are at least ½ inch from the bottom of the jar. Cover each jar again with the plastic bag.
  5. Place the jars somewhere out of the way, and gently jiggle them about once per day to ensure that they are not connecting to crystals on the bottom, top, or sides of the jar (or each other). Wait 3-5 days for the lollipops to reach your desired size, then remove, and dry for a couple of hours before serving. Drying can be done on wax or parchment paper, or hanging inside a clean jar to avoid a flat spot. If using long bamboo skewers, these should now be trimmed down to a reasonable handle size of 3-4 inches. Once fully dried the lollipops can be kept indefinitely in a sealed container.

 

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Posted in Dessert, Kid Friendly, Science, Snacks, Techniques

Living Upside Down: Are We Celebrating Birthdays, Anniversaries, or Australia Day?

Cake Pop Birthday Photo: It doesn't feel like my daughter's birthday. It feels like the 8th anniversary of a completely. Different. Life. Happy Birthday my love.
Cake Pop Birthday Photo: It doesn't feel like my daughter's birthday. It feels like the 8th anniversary of a completely. Different. Life. Happy Birthday my love.

It’s hard to put into words what they mean to me, so I put it in pictures. I’m still “processing” the food photography workshop at last year’s International Food Bloggers’ Conference, and can’t wait for this year’s in Seattle.

Eight years ago my life turned upside down. And starting today the Spinning Meals app can turn upside down as well, which is really important for some people.

Most of you know personally how different life becomes when a child enters. They come into this world needing…everything. Needing to be taught…everything. And bearing great joy and meaning. The journey has been a kick in the pants, though every so often it feels like a kick in the teeth, because it can be so. Darn. Hard.

Two of my kids had birthdays this month. One wanted cake pops, which led to this fun photo. It took a bit of fiddling with lighting effects, but was worth it I think. Fun, right?

We’ve also been fiddling with the app, turning it upside down so to speak. See, the app thinks it’s pretty smart since it knows when winter is, and can automatically make a meal plan and shopping list at the right time of year. Except when it’s the wrong time of year, since south of the Equator it’s actually summer. Case in point: today’s Australia Day holiday, filled with summer barbecue and fireworks, a lot like our July 4th from what I understand. So our latest version lets users enable a Southern Hemisphere mode, to flip things upside down. Or right-way up, depending on your perspective, perhaps the Northerners have had it wrong all along.

So please enjoy the new version of Spinning Meals. And welcome to the world of automatic seasonal meal planning, to the good folks of: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa (not just the country), Argentina, Chile, and countless others. I want to visit every one, truly. But right now I have kids to attend to, as my world is kind of upside down.

What location in the Southern Hemi do you most want to visit? Or if you’re there or have  already had first-hand experience, what are your favorites?

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Posted in Dessert, Food Articles, Kid Friendly, Parenting, Philosophies, Snacks, Spinning Meals, Thanks

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