Mother’s Day Pancakes

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I awoke on Sunday morning to happy sounds. Caleb and Mateo laughing in the kitchen, and Sadie making her usual bird songs throughout the house as she was trying on various shoes and clomping around. Is that genetic? Mateo had taken out his family pancake recipe and was making a Mother’s Day breakfast with Caleb for me.

Watching my guys in the kitchen together fills me up with all sorts of warm fuzzy feelings. Mateo is a baker and usually engages Caleb in pancake making or pie baking when he feels moved to cook something. I love that their project this morning was in honor of me.

Caleb follows his poppa around the kitchen and hangs on his every word. It’s sweet to see a family tradition of pancake making being passed down to Caleb, and eventually Sadie (Mateo’s father, Fred, was the pancake chef in their household growing up).

The blueberry pancakes were delicious! Soft and fluffy, and packed full of fresh berries…yum! I enjoyed every bite while sitting around the breakfast table with my family. Feeling pretty proud of the work Mateo and I have done over the past 5 years.

Mother’s Day wishes to my sisters, Niki, Jody, & Rebecca – truly wonderful mothers, all three. Special wishes to all of my mom friends. Finally, to the most important mother in my life, my mom, Lola. I miss you immensely, especially today, and wish you were here to see all this. This post is dedicated to you with all of my love and gratitude. Thank you for teaching by example. I hope I’m making you proud. Happy Mother’s Day.

Guest Post: Mema’s Mandel Bread

In my last post, you met Caleb’s friend, Jordan and his mom, Robyn. I asked Robyn to write a guest post about her grandmother’s mandel bread recipe – known also as mandelbrot. This post kicks off a new tradition of including the stories of other families cooking in their kitchens or sharing stories of family food traditions. If you would like to contribute to a future guest post, please let me know – you could write about cooking with your kids, share memories of cooking with your mom when you were a child, or just some fabulous food memories from childhood. I would love that! I hope you enjoy Robyn’s story as I did. Happy Holidays! Warmly, Anya 

By Robyn Barfield

I’m not a writer or a blogger, and I’m certainly no great chef; however, I do love to eat and talk about food. So, it seems I should have no problem sharing my grandmother’s recipe for mandel bread (a Jewish dessert) and telling you about the memories it conjures up every time I make it.

I think of myself as “semi-Jewish.” Both of my parents come from Jewish families, but my Jewish upbringing consisted of no more than eating at my grandparents’ house for the Jewish holidays. At this point in my life, married and a mother to 2 boys (Jordan-4 and Evan-1), I don’t consider myself religiously or culturally Jewish. But when the Jewish holidays come around and I hear people talking about Jewish dishes and traditions, it is always a happy reminder of my grandparents, especially my maternal grandmother who I called “Mema.”

Robyn's "Mema"

Anya thought I could tell you about making mandel bread with my Mema. The thing is, I can’t actually remember making it with her. Mema really wasn’t much of a cook. She obviously did cook some – the taste of her mandel bread, turkey tetrazzini and brisket are perfectly clear to me. But my favorite food memory of Mema is something that requires no recipe. 

My sister, Dana, and I spent the night at Mema’s house once a month. Mema always slept later than we did in the morning, so she left breakfast waiting for us in the fridge – a bowl of corn flakes covered with saran wrap accompanied by a glass of milk to pour on top. After eating our corn flakes, Dana and I would wait anxiously for Mema to wake up so she could make us breakfast #2, something we thought of as a real treat. What was this very special second breakfast?  Frozen Lender’s bagels toasted to perfection with melted butter spread on top and a mug of hot chocolate!   Frozen or not, when food is delivered with love, nothing tastes better.

When Anya and I discussed getting together to make latkes, I said I’d make Mema’s mandel bread recipe since it’s the only Jewish thing I know how to cook. I love making (and eating) mandel bread, as it brings me back to a time when I was a little girl sitting with Mema in her yellow kitchen. My son, Jordan, helped me make the mandel bread. As we made it, I shared stories with him about Mema. Jordan measured and poured all the ingredients, but when it came time to mix all the ingredients by hand, he let me take over. He has apparently inherited the tidy gene from his Dad. 

Jordan helping make the bread

In honor of my sweet, sweet Mema, who died peacefully 3 days after I told her I was going to be a Mom, here is her recipe for mandel bread. It’s biscotti-like, but way better in my opinion!  Mema’s recipe, not surprisingly, says nothing about mixing dry and wet ingredients separately, but you can go ahead and do that if it makes you feel better! 

Mandel bread just out of the oven

Mema’s Mandel bread (made with walnuts, not the more traditional almonds)

¾ c oil

3 eggs

¾ c sugar

3c flour

1 ¼ tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

½ small pack of walnut pieces (that’s what her recipe says!  We used ½ c)

1 c golden raisins

More sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling

Mix all the ingredients (except for the extra sugar and cinnamon used for sprinkling) thoroughly.

Shape the dough into 4 oval patties.

Bake at 350o for 30 minutes.

Take the Mandel bread out of the oven and slice it (I slice into 1-1 ½ inch slices).

Sprinkle the sliced Mandel bread with sugar and cinnamon (as little or as much as you want. I tend to sprinkle generously.)

Put the Mandel bread back in the oven for 20 minutes with the oven turned off.

Enjoy!

Caleb’s Birthday Cake

We celebrated Caleb’s 5th birthday this weekend with a trailer-trash themed potluck gathering. Don’t ask. In preparing for this event, Caleb and I made his birthday cake on Saturday morning and it was a huge hit that evening. Now, I enjoy sharing my recipes with others, but this is one that I’m almost embarrassed to give out. It’s an amazing cake recipe and someone inevitably asks for it (then thanks me years later because they’re still baking it and receiving rave reviews), it’s just not entirely from scratch. Perfect trailer-trash fare, it includes sour cream, cake mix, chocolate pudding, and chocolate chips.

Standing at my side at the kitchen table, Caleb carefully added each ingredient to the mixing bowl and stirred until smooth. We then transferred the mix, which we had doubled, into two buttered lasagna pans and placed in the oven. Almost an hour later, our home smelled like a chocolate factory and we were all excited to enjoy the cake, but had to delay our satisfaction until evening.

A small group of Caleb’s friends and their families began gathering around 5pm, each arriving with a white-trash-errific dish. Soon, our table was covered with Velveeta-stuffed pigs-in-a-blanket, deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese done two ways, tuna noodle casserole, green bean casserole, vegetarian chili, quiche (we had a French friend in our midst who insisted that because she wasn’t an American, she was exempt from cooking “white-trash” – this being fine with us as the quiche was terrific, if not slightly out-of-place), ambrosia salad, and dinner rolls.

After a much-enjoyed dinner, our stomachs felt like lead weights, but despite that, the kids were running circles around the house and enjoying themselves in the basement play space. Once I had a chance to light the candles on the special cake that Caleb and I had made together, we gathered everyone around and sang to our soon-to-be five-year-old (Nov. 15). After blowing out his candles, Caleb was so proud to dig his fork into his big slice of cake, and then silently enjoyed each bite. I was so proud to have made it with him and enjoyed it with our guests.

Happy (almost) 5th Birthday Caleb!

White-Trash Chocolate Cake (passed on to me by my sister, Niki)

4 eggs

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup oil

1/2 cup sour cream

1 package chocolate pudding

1 box chocolate cake mix

1/2 bag semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven at 350F. Beat eggs, then fold all ingredients together. Pour into baking pan. Bake 45 minutes – 1hr. Toothpick should come out clean. Makes great cupcakes, but would need less oven time. Add your favorite frosting – we used Trader Joe’s boxed chocolate frosting. This cake also works without frosting – just bake in a bundt pan, then sprinkle with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

Farmhouse Cheddar Muffins

One of the reasons I was inspired to finally take the plunge and create a blog of our experiences was due to another blog that I love reading each day, A Little Yumminess.  If you don’t already subscribe, you should check it out! The two blog owners recently invited me to post a piece about cooking with Caleb. This got me thinking about writing about our weekly food adventures for all to enjoy: http://alittleyum.com/2010/10/25/guest-post-farmhouse-cheddar-muffins/