Friday, October 28, 2011

Of cooking, cheese and good morning omlettes

Am I obsessed with breakfast food? Maybe.

But... there might be a good reason.  Morning is the one part of the day I tend to have wide open stretches of time with my son. Cooking together has become a time for us to just be with each other ~ laughing, making something, and exploring new ways to communicate. It's our special time.

My little sous chef, with his own pots and pans. 
Canape "baby knife", spice cabinet, and favorite spices.

He's starting to talk a lot more, and it's so exciting. And even though I know it's happening, I am always surprised when ~ out of nowhere ~ he says words and phrases I didn't realize he had even heard before. Watching his mind and imagination blossom has been one of the single most amazing things I've ever experienced. I'm sure, if you're a parent, you've had this experience... you hear the words "apple cider" pop out of the mouth that used to solely utter "ba ba ba ba" ~ and you just want to jump for joy. Or cry. Or hug him. Or all of these things. But instead, so the kid doesn't think you're a complete loon, you say "oh, yes! I see the apple cider too! Would you like some?" and nod sagely.

While cooking with Q, I'm having more and more of these moments. He is showing so much personality, and I'm getting to know more of what he likes and doesn't ~ for example, he loves basil in his eggs and cardamom in his oatmeal.  I see how much of what he gets ~ like, he knows mommy loves smoked paprika, so he hands it to me whenever he finds it in the spice drawer. (we have a spice drawer that rolls out of the bottom cabinets, only 4 inches wide but cabinet depth... it's the perfect height for a toddler to pull out and, well, re-organize!) And I get to hear his new language skills as he describes what he is doing.  "I stirring, cover, bubble bubble!" he says to me as he does all those things.

We got him his own little pot and pan set (thank you Ikea kid's section!) and he's in love.  You see him using it in the picture above: I pull up a kitchen chair with its back toward the stove, remove the stove dials he can reach, keep him faaaar enough away from the hot spots, and let him pretend to cook alongside me.  He has to have a spatula all his own, a mini "cutting" board, and a few play veggies (or real ones) so he can make his own thing.  We let him "try" ingredients to see if he wants to include them in his masterpiece ~ if he likes them, they go in the pot!  Just the other day we ended up with a piece of broccoli, a tiny bit of mushroom, a couple peas, black pepper and some tarragon.    A lovely dish!

So... back to breakfast. 

We've been making eggs for Q for a long time.  Sometimes we mix it up a bit and fry a couple chopped hot dogs in there, or bacon.  (We have found both in nitrate-free, uncured versions ~ Oscar Mayer all-beef Angus Selects for the hot dogs, and Nature's Promise uncured bacon (from Stop & Shop)... plus other deli meats that are uncured and gluten free, like Hormel Natural Choice oven roasted turkey, shown below)   We can add variety by frying up a little of one of those first, then adding eggs and scrambling them.  Delicious!

Working on communication, I asked Q the other day what we needed to make "eggies" as he calls them.  During the conversation, we drew the items either he or I came up with, and it became kind of a visual recipe.

We needed: a pan, eggs, a spatula, oil, and of course basil. 

And while that's been fun for a while, I began to wonder how to mix it up.  At the same time, I heard about rice-milk based cheese!  Oh cheese, the holy grail of missing foods for me when I was nursing!  I missed it, craved it ~ but non-dairy versions I found either were soy-based or even had casein in them.  It was so frustrating!  

Just recently, however, I heard about rice-milk based cheese ~ it was hard to hunt down, but I found one at our local natural foods market that was soy, dairy, gluten and nut free ~ Daiya Dairy Free.  (For those in the New Haven area:  Edge of the Woods)  There were other dizzying options for those who don't have the same limitations:  almond milk cheese looked interesting, lots of soy, but... well, if you're reading this blog you're likely already a label-reading person.  There's a lot of hidden casein and soy in many.  

Even so, it was so exciting to stand at the cheese section and imagine the possibilities for my little guy... grilled cheese sandwiches, nachos, pizza!  Many of the foods that the grand poobah in the sky created specifically to delight children. 

I picked up two varieties: cheddar and mozzarella styles.  As soon as I was home, I had to try them!  Right out of the package, they seemed a little ... eh.  A bit salty, not so much creamy.  But, apply heat e voila!  Melty, gooey, and pretty darned good for something that isn't the real thing.  Yay!

So again, back to breakfast: 

Combining my recent discovery of the rice-milk based cheese and my desire to branch out in the eggs department, it was a natural progression to omlettes.  Simple, easy, fast, and way better than just scrambled.  Here's what we used:

Turkey-Broccoli-Cheese Omlettes

Olive oil
1/4 medium onion, diced fine
1 broccoli "tree" chopped fine
1 slice deli turkey, diced small  ~ or hot dogs, leftover chicken, etc.
2 Eggs
1/4 cup cheddar-style rice milk cheese
ground black pepper, just a shake 
basil or Italian spices, to taste

In a little oil, saute onion and broccoli together until the onion is translucent and the broccoli is bright green, just a minute or two.  Add the broccoli and saute a couple minutes. 

Meanwhile crack the eggs into a little bowl and scramble them.  Add to the pan in as close to a circle as you can manage.  Lower the heat to medium low, and cover for a couple minutes until the egg is starting to set. 

Add the cheese and spices and cover again until the egg is set and the cheese looks melty. 
Fold over the omlette, but if that doesn't work, just serve this as scrambled eggs and no one will know the difference!

Get the plate on the table to cool off while you wrangle your small child into the high chair, booster seat or if necessary, your lap.  This should be the precise time needed to cool off the omlette to the perfect temperature! 

This was such a win with Q! ... he gobbled it up, practicing "cutting" skills with his little plastic fork, but eventually just started grabbing chunks of egg and turkey omlette.  Dipping daintily into ketchup first, then unceremoniously shoving the food into his mouth, he loved it.  And I felt so close to him, as I did just about the same.

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