food · growing up · slice of life

How I Landed Up Consoling Someone on the Kitchen Floor

I began thinking about my Thanksgiving hosting duties once the calendar turned to November. After 13 years of hosting, I have tried-and-true recipes, but I like to try new dishes. I am constantly on the lookout for new recipes. Puréed Roasted Squash and Yams With Citrus sounded like a delicious side dish when I came across it on the NYT Cooking website. I printed it out so I could remember to consider it for Thanksgiving.

The other day, I discovered a Maple-Mustard Roasted Chicken recipe in The Washington Post’s Eat Voraciously Newsletter. It sounded like it would pair perfectly with that NYT Cooking side dish. Why not make it now… for a weeknight dinner?!

First, I don’t know what I was thinking by trying two new dishes on a weeknight. Yet, somewhere between working with the kids to pack tomorrow’s lunches and helping Isabelle decode her Bat Mitzvah Torah portion (Yes, we are preparing for her Bat Mitzvah!), I managed to pull off both of these dishes!

I knew there was a possibility of some pushback with the cooked carrots and the squash/yam dish since the kids typically don’t like either one. (They must have an aversion to roasted foods that are orange.) I decided to give them smaller portions than what Marc and I had so they’d be willing to try it.
My plate is pictured above.

I bargained and lost. Isabelle began complaining as soon as she learned the names of the dishes. Of course, this led to Ari turning his back on the table and REFUSING to eat dinner.

“The chicken is good, Ari,” Isabelle declared after trying a bite. Then she tried the puree. “But not this, yuck!”

Marc and I dug into our food and were delighted by the taste of everything. However, our company was not great. Isabelle was pouty and Ari was obstinate.

We sweetened the pot. Instead of allowing them two small pieces of Halloween candy after dinner, we agreed to let the kids have three pieces if they finished their dinner.

Ari still REFUSED to try anything. In fact, he got up from the table and attempted to make himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Marc took the peanut butter away from him and placed it on a high shelf. Then, Ari went into the fridge, removed a yogurt, peeled off the top, grabbed a spoon, and sat down at the table.

“No way am I letting him have a yogurt,” I said.

“The top is already off,” Marc declared.

“Fine,” I sighed, resigned to the fact that at least Ari made a healthy choice. I continued eating.

The next thing I knew, Ari finished his yogurt, retreived our ceramic candy jar, and brought over three small Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for me to eat since I finished my dinner.

“I don’t need dessert,” I protested.

Then, he gave three candies to Marc. Ari must’ve had a plan because the next thing I knew, he grabbed one of Marc’s Reese’s, opened it up, and shoved it in his mouth.

“I think you have the wrapper in your mouth!” I called out.

Ari removed the wrapper from his mouth.

Isabelle and I sat there — stunned. Marc took away the candy jar.

“I’m still hungry!” Ari yelled.

“Eat your chicken,” Marc and I said in unison.

The next part is fuzzy for me. In the midst of all of this, we made a deal with Isabelle to eat half of her side dishes and we’d give her two pieces of candy. Thankfully, she got with the program!

“I want my candy bucket too,” Ari whined.

“But you didn’t eat your dinner. You had one bite of chicken. Eat your dinner and you can have some candy.”

“No!” Ari responded.

It was no use. Ari was on the move! He retreived his helper tower from the dining room, brought it over to the pantry, climbed up and tried to reach his Halloween candy bucket (which was not-so-conveniently located on the top shelf of our pantry).

“It’s too high,” he declared, climbing down. “I’m gonna adjust the height.”

“Don’t do that, Ari. It’s too heavy for you to do. And besides, you cannot have candy if you don’t eat your dinner.”

Do you think he listened to me?

He did not.

The next thing I knew, Ari let out a blood curdling scream and dropped to the floor, writhing in pain while grasping his fingers.

“Did the platform land on your fingers?”

“Yes!”

Cue the big sister giggling as she popped M&Ms in her mouth. I shot her a look.

While Ari was laying with me, I asked him, “Would you teacher believe what went on here tonight if I told her about it?”
He replied, “I don’t act like this at school.”
{Thank G-d.}

Oh. My. Goodness. If only Ari had eaten his dinner!

And that is how I landed up on my kitchen floor, after what should’ve been a lovely meal, cradling my son and rubbing his head until the pain in his fingers dissipated.

Guess what we won’t be having as a side dish this Thanksgiving? Puréed Roasted Squash and Yams With Citrus.

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fitness · food · slice of life · weather

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup, Anyone?

The remnants of Hurricane Ian blew through Pennsylvania this weekend. There was enough rain predicted that our township canceled every age division’s weekend soccer game. Ari’s game was rescheduled for this evening, which meant that I needed to plan something simple for dinner tonight.

I flipped through the pages of my recipe binder on Saturday evening. I came up empty-handed due to the objections of my children who refuse to eat slow-cooker chili or lasagna. One won’t eat baked mac and cheese. The other… Oh, does it really matter?!?! They’re difficult to cook for these days.

“I could make grilled cheese and tomato soup,” I suggested to Ari after he said no to pretty much every recipe I could be made ahead of time.

“I don’t like tomato soup,” he said.

“You’ve never tried tomato soup,” I replied. “But you like grilled cheese. Grilled cheese and tomato soup are a classic combination. You’ll love it.”

I went online and found a recipe for scratch tomato soup, which I made yesterday afternoon. I figured I’d warm it up quickly this evening while making the grilled cheese sandwiches. (Note to any GF readers: Sub Bob’s All-Purpose Gluten-free Flour for AP flour. Also, sub a seeded and/or thick gluten-free bread in the classic grilled cheese recipe.)

This afternoon, I received an email that the township was canceling all make-up games and practices scheduled for tonight because of the ongoing rain. We may not need an ark, but it was cold and rainy enough to warrant another cancelation. So, I could’ve made dinner after all! But, I DIDN’T HAVE TO since it was halfway made.

So there I was, grating cheese and using a panini grill on a rainy fall evening. This turned out to be the perfect meal for tonight’s weather, I mused as I ladled the soup into bowls. In truth, I was giddy about how this would be the best grilled cheese I’ve ever made. I’m going to be a dinner-making hero.

Isabelle’s response was positive. “This is as good as the grilled cheese at Hersheypark!” Not exactly the comparison I would’ve liked. But it was better than Ari’s comment, which was “This cheese is awful.”

Well, at least he wasn’t complaining about the soup.

In the end, Isabelle consumed two-thirds of the child-size portion of soup and her entire sandwich. (In truth, she didn’t love the soup, but she knew she’d get ice cream afterwards if she tried something new without fretting.) Ari nibbled on half of the grilled cheese sandwich and downed a couple of spoonfuls of tomato soup. Apparently, he really doesn’t like tomato soup.

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food · Hershey · slice of life

A Milkshake Through-Line

It was a scorcher today in Central PA! It wasn’t the kind of day where I want to be anywhere other than a pool. However, Isabelle and one of her friends from a former school in Harrisburg had plans to meet up at Hersheypark so, naturally, I went knowing I’d probably spend the majority of the day with Ari on his rides.

By 1 p.m., I was exhausted. By 2 p.m., I was texting Marc asking how soon they’d be able to meet us at the front of the park. By 2:40 p.m., I marched Ari over to Milton’s, an ice cream parlor at the front of the park, and told him I needed a milkshake.

I reached the front of the line only to discover Milton’s wasn’t serving milkshakes today. (I would’ve asked if I had energy left in my body. But all I wanted was something frozen and copious amounts of ice water.) Ari, on the other hand, wanted chocolate.

“You do know it’ll melt as soon as we get back outside, right?”

He shrugged. He didn’t care and I didn’t want to fight with him.

Just as I ordered a dish of ice cream, Ari decided he wanted something else. An ice cream perhaps? No. A cake pop! Again, I had no fight left in me so I acquiesced.

After I paid for our sweet treats, we carried them out to the patio along with two ice waters. As I got everything set up, my ice cream began to melt! Within two minutes, I had half of a dish of ice cream and half a dish of ice cream soup.

I encouraged Ari to be careful by putting his enormous cake pop down between bites. He listened… until he didn’t. The next thing I knew, half of the cake pop was on the ground.

“Ugh!” he exclaimed.

Of course, that was the moment Marc and Isabelle reappeared with their ice creams. I cleaned up the mess while Isabelle waited for her friend and his mom to join us. As we waited, I wiped cake pop off of Ari’s face and hands because IT WAS EVERYWHERE. As I did this, he whined.

“I’m still hungry. Now I have nothing to eat.”

I went to throw the wet wipes into the trash can. When I returned, I discovered Isabelle was offering Ari some of her ice cream. And not just a tiny spoonful… multiple spoonfuls of her frozen treat.

“Oh, sweetie,” I said. “That’s such a thoughtful thing for you to do.”

Isabelle shrugged. To her, it was no big deal. To Ari, it meant the world.

Once we were back home, Ari declared, “You can draw me a picture instead of giving me a joke note.” (He kept forgetting to have someone read the jokes to him last week in the cafeteria. Seeing as he can’t read yet, I offered to draw him a picture when he told me this.)

“I’m not that good of an artist,” I replied.

“Just draw me a smiley face,” he said.

“That’s boring. I can do better than that. Let me get one of my drawing books.”

I went on a search for an old Ed Emberly drawing book, but couldn’t find it. I found John Burgerman’s Daily Doodle instead. First, I attempted a dog for Ari. I came up short so I traced {🤫}. Then, figuring I might as well knock out Isabelle’s lunch note at the same time, I flipped through the pages to find something worthy. Eventually, I settled on a milkshake. Apparently, despite a shower and a few hours of A/C, I still had a milkshake on my mind!

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food · slice of life

Spoon Cake + Spoon Cake

Last week, we went strawberry picking — twice. After yesterday’s jam-making mishap (Don’t ask.), I wanted to redeem myself (since I’m my harshest critic) by making a new strawberry recipe for this evening’s dessert. After scrolling through lots of strawberry recipes, I picked Jerelle Guy’s Strawberry Spoon Cake, which is like a clafoutis.

I checked the reviews (which I should’ve done for the jam recipe). They were excellent. I checked the ratings. They were five stars. I checked the ingredients. We had all but the whole milk in the house, which I added to my shopping list. All I’d need to do was swap the AP flour for gluten-free cake flour and I’d be ready to roll.


Ari and I were in Wegmans for about three minutes when he asked, “Can I buy sugar cookies for me and Isabelle?”

I thought for a minute. As kind as it was for him to include Isabelle in his request for cookies, I replied, “Not today, buddy. We’re going to make Strawberry Spoon Cake for dessert tonight.”

“I don’t like strawberry spoon cake,” he replied.

“Do you know what’s in it?” I asked.

“No, but I want a sugar cookie.”

“Do you want to know what’s in it?”

“Yeah…”

“Strawberries, butter, flour, brown sugar… ice cream.”

Ari’s eyes lit up. I had him at ice cream.


Once we finished lunch, Ari and I got started on the spoon cake. He greased the pan while I hulled the strawberries. He mashed the strawberries, while I melted the butter.

Just as we added the dry ingredients into the batter, I realized I dumped an extra half of a teaspoon of salt into the batter rather than grabbing the teaspoon measuring spoon and the baking powder.

“Shoot!” I said.

“What’s wrong?” Ari asked.

“I just — I just put double the salt into the recipe.”

“Uh-oh,” he said in a menacing tone.

Uh-oh, indeed. There was no way to remove extra salt from the batter. I could either scrap it and restart or double the recipe. I’ll be honest… the decision was kind of a no-brainer given that we picked two more quarts of strawberries on Friday morning.

And that is how we landed up making TWO strawberry spoon cakes this afternoon.

Given that we had an extra cake, Ari and I decided to preview half of one of the cakes — which are thin — with a spoonful of Tillamook vanilla bean (What else!??!) ice cream five minutes after we removed them from the oven. We determined they were delectable… much better than a sugar cookie, which was long forgotten.

food · slice of life

It’s Strawberry Season!

Ari adores strawberries. He eats them daily… unless we are out of them. So it’s no wonder he’s been looking forward to making strawberry ice cream ever since September. (I refused to make it with him until strawberry season since I wanted the strawberries to be fresh and inexpensive. I mean, have you seen the price of strawberries recently?!?! They’ve been astronomical until a few weeks ago when the supply must have increased in the springtime!)

This morning’s weather was forecast was in the upper 60s so it was the perfect time for us to head to our favorite strawberry field for our farm-to-table adventure.

A timeline in pictures:

I’ve never been a strawberry ice cream fan — until today. Apparently, it tastes delicious when the berries are picked the same day as the ice cream is churned and served!

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food · slice of life

Eat It Like a Pizza

I offered up the leftover skillet cookie cake* as an incentive for the kids eating their (non-preferred) dinner this evening.

* = Yesterday morning, Marc offered to bake a dessert since my father was handling dinner. He doesn’t bake so I scoffed at him. I thought it was preposterous, but sweet, that he thought he could pull off a from-scratch gluten-free recipe. I could tell he wanted to do this for me for Mother’s Day so I suggested he make a S’mores skillet cookie from a recipe I adapted for gluten-free living about a year ago. While I did overhear Ari admonishing him for incorrectly mixing the dry ingredients, the skillet cookie came out well.

Remembering the cookie cake was a little dry the previous night, I decided to add a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream to the top. I asked, “Would anyone else like their slice à la mode?”

No one answered so I got my own scoop, but left the ice cream scooper on the counter in case someone else wanted some.

Marc noticed my slice topped with ice cream and reconsidered.

“That’s why I left the scooper out,” I replied as I grabbed his plate. I removed the ice cream container from the freezer, scooped a spoonful on top of his cookie, and then put it back in the freezer. I brought Marc’s plate to the table.

A few minutes later, Ari noticed a “big marshmallow” atop Marc’s slice.

“That’s not a marshmallow,” I replied. “That’s vanilla ice cream.”

“You didn’t ask me if I wanted ice cream!” Ari responded indignantly.

“I asked everyone if they wanted their slices à la mode. You didn’t respond. I’m assuming it’s because you didn’t know that à la mode meant a slice of pie (or cake) with ice cream. Now you know. So, would you like your slice à la mode?”

“Yes!” Ari replied.

Out with the ice cream container. Another scoop of ice cream onto a third piece of cookie cake. Ice cream back in the freezer. Cookie cake plate back to the table.

Ari forked the ice cream and the cookie cake, but had a challenge getting both items onto the same forkful. After a few tries, I noticed Ari bring the slice up to his mouth and take a bite.

“It’s not a pizza!” I replied. “Use your fork, please.”

That’s when Ari did the unthinkable with his fork. He used it to spread the ice cream out across the slice as if it were cream cheese. Once it sank into every nook and cranny — which helped the dryness — he devoured it. Of course, this did nothing to help our kitchen floor, which was already overdue for a cleaning after Ari managed to get lots of pieces of cauliflower rice on the floor when he ate dinner.

This bird’s eye view of the mess doesn’t even do it justice since it doesn’t take into account how many crumbs covered Ari’s shirt, pants, face, and hands.

Sometimes, as a parent, you have to know when you’ve been beaten. This was one of those times.

“Bon appetit,” I replied with my finest French accent. “Know that you’ll be dustbusting the floor once you’re finished eating dessert.”

Ari grinned, getting crumbs and chocolate everywhere. Thankfully, once we got him wiped up (Yes, it took two adults to clean him up!), he cleaned every last cookie crumb and piece of cauliflower off of the floor.

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food · politics · slice of life

It’s Broken.

“Mommy, look at this cracker and tell me if it’s broken,” Ari commanded.

Playing “Is it broken?” is what happens every time Ari selects cheese and crackers for a morning snack.

I examine the cracker. Chances are it’s broken. It’s usually split in ‘half’ when Ari wants to play this game. But today, I cannot tell.

I venture a guess, declaring, “It’s broken.”

Ari pulls apart the cracker with ease revealing the break. Yet, when I go to take a picture of this — since I decide it’s finally time to write about this silly game, I noticed two pieces of the cracker are still touching. The rest is spread apart.

“Separate it into two parts,” I say to Ari.

Ari keeps the cracker as is. He won’t separate the cracker completely. It’s still joined when I snap the picture.

For some reason, I started thinking about the deeper meaning of the cracker after I took the second photo. In my mind, it reflects the chasm that’s happening as a result of yesterday’s leaked draft opinion that has made many Americans believe that the Supreme Court is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade. Many of us have known that something like this was coming just as I had assumed Ari’s cracker was broken. Reading the draft opinion (No, I didn’t read all 98 pages. I’m relying on legal scholars and the journalists who vetted this draft.) that was leaked to Politico makes it as real as seeing Ari’s broken cracker with my own eyes.

Something in this country is broken. Unlike Ari’s cracker, this is not a game. Women’s lives will be at risk if Roe is overturned.


Not sure what to do next? Get to work mobilizing voters. (The Postcards to Swing States project is a great place to begin.) There are 13 primaries coming up this month and lots of important elections coming up this fall. If you’re unsure where to focus your energy, pick Pennsylvania! There’s a vacant senate seat up for grabs plus we have a crucial gubernatorial election in November.

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food · Philadelphia · slice of life

Franklin Fountain

This could be a slice about eating in an outdoor chalet at Parc, a restaurant in Rittenhouse Square we’ve been trying to eat at for the past three months. But it won’t be.

This could have been a slice about taking our kids to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell for the first time. But it’s not.

This is yet another food-related slice! (Susan Kennedy tempted me to think about a month of food-related slices in early March. I thought about it — and somewhat delivered — but not on a daily basis.) If you aren’t into ice cream, then you probably won’t understand my never-ending pursuit of delicious ice cream. Because that’s what THIS SLICE is about.

Last fall, we ate Franklin Ice Cream when we stopped into a Philly coffee house that was served it. I hadn’t heard of Franklin Ice Cream so I started asking questions. The woman behind the counter suggested we visit The Franklin Fountain on another visit. I made a mental note of where it was located and filed it away in my mind under “ice cream to try.”

While we were on line to see the Liberty Bell, I opened the Maps app to see how far The Franklin Fountain was from our location. An 11-minute walk. I asked Marc what he thought. He was willing to walk if my parents and the kids were. Everyone agreed they could make the half-mile walk so we were on our way as soon as we left the Liberty Bell Center!

Once on Leticia Street, I noticed two women walking down the street licking ice cream cones. Not seeing an ice cream parlor within 500 feet, I called to them. “Did you get those cones at the Franklin Fountain?” They did so they pointed us in the correct direction. We walked a bit further on the narrow street and finally came upon a long line of people who were waiting to pick up their ice cream. (They’re closed to indoor seating due to Covid.) The line looked long, but wasn’t actually that bad, so we ordered.

Yet another eating-ice-cream-outdoors-in-March moment.

But there was a problem. I didn’t think to call The Franklin Fountain ahead of time to determine if they had outdoor seating. They didn’t. We walked and ate our ice cream until we realized how ridiculous this was. Eventually, we stopped in front of a building and ate it there. Stopping to eat was a good decision since it allowed me to savor the vanilla bean ice cream topped with gluten-free hot fudge. (This was such a special treat since a lot of hot fudge contains gluten.)

This is what a dish of ice cream comes in when you take away ice cream from The Franklin Fountain.

By the time we finished eating our ice cream, it was raining lightly. All of our umbrellas were in our cars.. My mom asked Marc if he was willing to get the car while the rest of us waited inside of our favorite spice store, Penzey’s, which just happened to be on the same street. Marc retrieved the car while my Dad, Ari, and I looked around and Isabelle and my mom looked through old photos on her phone. But this isn’t a slice about husbands who don’t make you trudge through the rain or shopping for spices, now is it?

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celebrations · food · raising boys · recipes · slice of life

Half of a Cake for a Half Birthday

Last year, Kristi Lonheim, a fellow Slicer, commented on a Facebook post I shared about Ari’s half birthday.

Last year, I created a granola bar tree on Ari’s half birthday.

And so began the idea for making half of a cake for Ari’s half birthday.

Several weeks ago, I floated the idea of half of a cake to Ari. He told me he wanted chocolate cake (doable), cream cheese icing (doable), and it should be a drip cake (WHAAAAAAT?!?!?). After a momentary panic, I reached out to my next-door neighbor, who has fabulous decorating skills, and asked her for help. She suggested a chocolate ganache drip cake. After going down the Google rabbit hole for chocolate ganache drip cakes, I settled on a recipe. I considered buying a turntable, but landed up only purchasing a squeeze bottle instead.

This morning, as planned, Ari and I started backing at 7:00 a.m. Here’s a peek at our cake baking and decorating:

We will celebrate tonight with buttermilk-brined roast chicken, green beans, and french fries. (Ari is hit-or-miss with green beans, but the rest was requested.) Then, we’ll devour half of a cake in honor of Ari’s half birthday. I cannot wait!

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food · reading · recipes · siblings · slice of life

Mise-en-Place

Ari’s half-birthday is approaching so I’m going to be baking a half-of-a-cake cake with him. Thing is, his half birthday falls during the week so in-between homeschooling, trying to get work done, and writing, I’ll be baking a cake tomorrow. Knowing this is going to make for a TIGHT day, I thought it would be a good idea to have all of the ingredients — except for the ones that require refrigeration — laid out on the counter tonight.

Thing is, the mise-en-place-the-night-before idea came to me while I was cooking dinner — a new recipe — this evening. Therefore, I couldn’t read off the list of ingredients to Ari, who knows where most things are kept in the kitchen. Even if he cannot read the ingredient names, he knows the difference between even more obscure ingredients, such as the look of the regular cocoa powder and my dutched cocoa powder. What he doesn’t know, by sight, is the difference between bittersweet and semisweet chocolate bars.

Isabelle knows where nearly none of the ingredients or baking tools are kept. BUT, she can read! So, I enlisted her help to read through the ingredient list to Ari so he could gather everything up and place it on the counter. They were quite the pair!

Everything is ready to go, waiting for us, for the morning. I cannot believe I’m going to start baking at 7 a.m. (Because our homeschool day starts at 8:00!), but that’s the plan… as of now.