DD: “Cream cheese frosting? What’s that? I don’t want it.”
Me: “Oh, did I say cream cheese? I meant delicious creamy caramel frosting”
DD: “Then why did you say ‘cream cheese’?”
Me: “Mommy misspoke.”
I’m not above lying to my kids. In this case, I had made a special pumpkin spice cake with caramel cream cheese frosting for Thanksgiving (recipe below), and DD is fond of all things pumpkin. But she’s also suspicious of anything new. Deceived, she tried the cake and loved it.
But the primary secret of the meal? I put parsnips in the mashed potatoes. When referring to this dish with adults, I adopted a code: “How did you like the potatoes with the . . . other potatoes?” DD happily ate the potato parsnip puree without knowing that her creamy spuds had been adulterated.
But my Jessica Seinfeldian tricks only work on DD. Anyone with an inordinately picky child had to laugh at the whole Seinfeld wife vs. Sneaky Chef controversy. Oh yeah. We’re supposed to believe that these women were the very first mothers ever to slip furtive ingredients into their little one’s meals? How could Mrs. Seinfeld have plagiarized an idea that every desperate mother has come up with on her own?
DS began his life with the kind of nourishing, carefully orchestrated diet that that most babies of overeducated, health-conscious, formerly vegetarian, type-A mommies provide. I mashed sweet potatoes, pulverized avocadoes, and introduced whole grains only. And then, around age 2, DS began to refuse his old favorites. One by one, it seemed, my child was jettisoning the foods of his balanced and varied diet. My former omnivore now ate only a handful of items. Frustrated, I read books on picky eaters, nutrition, and development. (It was only later, when he was diagnosed, that I learned about sensory issues and the restricted palate of kids on the spectrum.) And yes, of course, I attempted to sneak in the veggies.
But unlike the dupes of Seinfeld and Sneaky, DS always knew something was up. “This spaghetti sauce tastes weird.” “I don’t like this ‘milkshake’” “Is this the kind of chicken I usually eat?” Food had become a battle. And as the cliché goes, you have to choose your battles. I decided not to make meals into war. So I chose to ignore those parents who take a “holier than thou” attitude about food, and I opted to “cater” to my picky child.
And what do you know? He’s not so picky anymore. He still prefers a narrow range of foods, but he willingly eats many, many new flavors—from sushi to crab cakes to raw spinach—and I’m confident that he’ll have many more culinary adventures when he’s ready.
As for DD? What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. And sometimes (when it’s not frosting), it might make her healthier.
Here are some pictures from our Thanksgiving feast:
with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting (from Bon Appetit)
3 cups of flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1 1-pound box powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, room temp.
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp.
Candied orange peel (I omitted this)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans. Whisk first 9 ingredients in large bowl. With an electric mixter, beat pumpkin, sugar, and oil in another large bowl. Add egges one at a time, beating between. Mix in orange peel. Add flour; beat on low speed just to blend. Divide batter between pans. Bake about 33 minutes, until tester comes out clean.
Frosting: Sprinkle 1/2 cup powered sugar over bottom of small nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until sugar melts (do not stir). Continue cooking until sugar turns deep amber, stirring occasionally about 2 minutes. Carefully stir in 1/2 cup cream, vanilla, and salt. Stir until any caramel bits dissolve. Stir in remaining tablespoon of cream. Strain into small bowl. Cool to room temp. Sift remaining powdered sugar into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Beat in cooled caramel. Cover and chill until firm enough to spread, about 2 hours. Frost cooled cake.