Sunday, November 30, 2008

Deceptively Delicious Debates

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:

Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake
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.


Anonymous said...

Your turkey day looks yummy! I love anything with a cream cheese frosting, this will be next on my list!

I haven't luckily had to deal with a picky eater...yet. I look forward to following your lead!


CaptnRachel aka Tha Pizza Cutta said...

I truly appreciate your rhetoric (not all persuasion is lying) for talking to your children about their food.

As for the cake, I LOVE the idea. So much that I might just have to try it one of these days. Ciao!

Pam said...

Everything looks really tasty but that cake is calling my name. It looks wonderful.

Chrystal said...

Next time try mashing celeriac in those potatoes! That's a surefire way to see if your sneaky levels are at tip top shape. :)

Caramel and cream cheese induce tears of joy!

Joie de vivre said...

This makes me laugh. Whenever I make something new, I always give it a snappy title. I might call your cake "Thanksgiving cake" or your potatoes "Thanksgiving potatoes" then my 3 year old thinks it's alright. If I call were to call these mashed potatoes (without even mentioning the parsnips) it would be an automatic, "I don't like mashed potatoes"

Mary Louisa said...

I was pretty picky as a kid and am thankful my mother "catered" to me in some areas. Today, I eat widely and with gusto.

Like ncfoodie and some of her commenters, I am also careful to name things so that my kids (3 and 5) will accept them on their plate. I prefer to call it "marketing" rather than "lying." Then, when they realize they actually DON'T like it, I know it's not prejudice, but their own personal tastes talking. I can accept that.

ncfoodie said...

Calm: You may not have a picky one. Some kids eat it all! I did.

Rachel: You're right. Persuasion takes good rhetoric. I still can't help but think of George on Seinfeld. "It's not a lie if you believe it" ;)

Pam: Thank you! It was yummy, and it went fast.

Chrystal: Celeriac sounds good. Great idea!

Joie: That's clever. I may adopt your tactic.

Hey Mary Louisa,
I wouldn't call kid-marketing "lying" either. But I did lie to DD about the cream cheese. So I felt like I had to 'fess up to y'all.

Dani said...

I just wanted to let you know that I too am a NC blogger! And to tell you that I love your site and have added you to my blogroll. I found you by way of Palate to Pen - Jen's great! Oh, and your turkey looked AMAZING!

Can't wait to read more!


Jennifer said...

Alright, I confess I often deceive my little one as well. I've got a picky eater on my hands as well. I often chop up veggies into tiny pieces and blend them into things so he won't know.

Your turkey looks gorgeous! And pumpkin cake with caramel cream cheese frosting.. mmmmm! I will have to make this!

We Are Never Full said...

it's amazing to think back on how much my own tastebuds changed through the years. i probably would've asked the same thing about cream cheese frosting (that is, IF my mom baked!) and prob. would've turned my nose up at it. hell, i just started eating anchovies about 3 years ago and now i can't get enough of them! it's all about trying to push the boundaries and allowing the tastebuds to continue to grow. i don't have kids yet but i can only imagine the frustration of cooking for them!

ncfoodie said...

"We are never full": I love anchovies, too. Read my post (way back) on how my husband fell in love with them just this summer.
Do you have a food blog?