We are very happy to introduce Caroline Barrett, a food blogger — you can catch her musings and terrific recipes at Table for 5, one of our faves — and a mother who tries to find creative ways to feed her growing family. We've been a fan of her blog and her writing for a while, so we asked her to do a guest post for Food for Thought Thursday. We love what she's written about and can completely identify with both the need for something sweet after dinner and the sneakiness dilemma. Enjoy!
What do you eat when you find yourself alone in the kitchen? For me, it's always something sweet.
At the end of the day, when all three children are tucked into bed and baths are done, homework is checked and all is blissfully quiet, I look for something to eat. I'm not talking about a bunch of grapes or a sliced apple. I'm talking chocolate. Ice cream. Or cookies.
Our evenings usually go something like this: Dinner is put on the table. It might be ridiculously simple, like rice and beans. Or it could be something I thought about for far too long, bought special ingredients for, read many recipes about, and then wrung my hands while everyone took their first bite, wondering if all the effort was worth it. Either way, there is bound to be some complaining about eating the salad. Or the asparagus. Even a lovely bunch of green beans is likely to get a grimace from my five-year-old son. No matter the dinner or the response, I always expect the same thing when the meal is done. Someone always asks: What's for dessert?
This comes as the last bite of food is taken, and the forks have barely hit the plates. Now, depending on my mood, and how well everyone ate, I'm game for a little sweet after dinner. So I'll offer up a Newman-O (the natural food world's answer to Oreos,) or a popsicle made from leftover smoothies. Occasionally I'll say yes to a small scoop of ice cream. We usually leave big desserts for the weekend or special occasions.
So back to the good part, the one that comes after they are all tucked in bed. When I'm finally alone in the kitchen, I turn the lights down low. Wipe down the counters. Stack papers from school and put mail away. It can all wait until tomorrow. Then, I pour a glass of wine. Not a wimpy glass, no. I fill it right up, a big glass of Pinot Noir or a Zinfandel. Those both go well with late night snacking. And then it's time to bring out the good dessert: the grown-ups dessert.
Sometimes my husband is in on this crime with me. We keep a hidden pint of Adirondack Creamery's Chocolate Chocolate Chip hidden deep in our freezer. It's usually under the corn and behind the peas, a place no kid would look. Their ice cream is incredible rich, chocolate-y, but not too sweet. It's also sold at the Delmar Marketplace, making it easy for us to make a late-night run for a pint if we find our hidden stash too low.
Another favorite secret dessert is the really cheap kind of ginger snaps sold in any grocery store. Strange, I know. It's something about the small size of the cookie, the irresistible crunch and the real bite of ginger. All for $1.99! The serving size on the box says 5 cookies. Really, they go down so quickly that I can probably eat 20 with my (big) glass of wine. Those cookies are good for any clandestine snacking, as they also go well with coffee, tea or milk. I have been caught eating a handful on Sunday morning at 10 am, coffee cup in hand.
My most recent late night snack was the edges from a big pan of brownies. We made a double batch of brownies for Zoe's 9th birthday. It's a rite of passage at any public school to bring in something sweet to share on your birthday. So we mixed up the brownies, she licked the beaters clean, and headed off to bed while they baked in the oven. Next morning, she came down to find all of the edges from the big pan cut off and removed.
"Why are there no edges to my brownies?" she asked. I told her the truth: they were a little too crispy. I just didn't offer up the whole truth: they were too crispy, yes. So I cut all of the edges off, tucked them into a container, and put it in my other secret hiding spot behind the kitchen knives. Tonight, I'll pour myself one of those lovely glasses of wine, and pull out a few of those crispy brownie edges. Maybe I'll make Paul and myself little brownie sundaes, with a scoop of Adirondack Creamery's Chocolate Chocolate Chip on top.
There is risk in all this devious behavior. More than a few times, while we happily spoon our contraband and sip our wine, we'll hear a bedroom door squeak open and footsteps on the stairs. Thanks goodness we live in an old house. Can you imagine if the stairs didn't creak and they showed up in the kitchen, unannounced? When we hear those little footsteps, we scramble to hide our bowls, plates, whatever we were eating. We have been caught on one or two occasions. Once, when Lucy was 3 (she's now 10,) she was being devilish and wouldn't go to bed. There we were, bowls of ice cream in hand, feeling annoyed because we couldn't enjoy it. She kept jumping on her bed, then running down the stairs to see if we were paying attention. Paul calmly put his bowl down, went upstairs and told her to get into bed. Then he put his face very close to hers and said, "Lucy, go to bed, right now." To which she replied, "I smell ice cream."Lucy is no dummy. Knowing that there was ice cream being eaten in the house, there was no way she was going to bed. Paul tried to deny it, but she knew.
Maybe I should feel a little guilty about all this sneakiness. It's not the best behavior to model for my children, is it? As a parent, though, we have to take our small joys and escapes where we can find them. And I guess I shouldn't feel too bad about eating a big dessert, because I eat all my vegetables, every one of them. Without even making a face.