Tag Archives: cooking

Benjamin’s beet cupcakes

For his birthday, Benjamin wanted to bring in cupcakes to camp.  Red cupcakes with chocolate frosting.  He was very specific about the red thing.

Y’all know me well enough to know I was not just going to dose white cake batter with artificial coloring and call it a day.  Fortunately, in my fridge were four very small beets, stuck in my weekly produce bag from the organic co-op.  They often stick me with stuff we don’t normally eat, like parsnips and some strange, spiky, bitter green leaves that made even me give up on the salad.  We find ourselves forced to eat cucumbers because, hey, they were in this week’s bag.

I had been staring at those beets, trying to get motivated to do something useful with them, but they were too small for any meaningful dinner recipe.  Fortunately, beets provide an absolutely lovely red color, just perfect for a fourth birthday.

Whereas once I hated to have Benjamin help in the kitchen, he has recently become so competent that he is actually an asset.  He can level off flour well, he butters pans, he stirs without spilling.  He uses the electric beaters with no supervision, so I can start on the next step while he is creaming butter.  He’s way better in the kitchen than his father is, and far less messy.

So, while we were boiling the beets, I decided to ask him what he thought ought to go into the cupcakes, and here is the recipe we camp up with.  Needless to say, due to the high sugar content, we went with mini cupcakes, which is only effective if you don’t eat twelve of them.

4 small beets – boiled till soft enough to pierce with a knife (depends on size but mine too 20 minutes).

2 cups of flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 egg whites plus 2 eggs

1 cup sugar

2 sticks butter, softened

½ cup milk

½ teaspoon vanilla

Rub the boiled beets under some tap water and the skins should easily scrub right off.  Then chop them roughly and toss in the food processor with a bit of the milk to help puree smooth.

Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Beat together eggs, egg whites, sugar, and butter until creamy.  Mix in remaining milk, beet puree, and vanilla.  Put in buttered mini-cupcake pans.

Bake  approximately 13 minutes at 350 degrees.  Makes 48 mini cupcakes.

I was quite pleased with how light and moist these were, probably a combo of the extra egg whites and the beets.  They were a dark pink, rather than red, but I didn’t notice anyone complaining.

As to the chocolate frosting, there was no reason to reinvent the wheel.  We used the recipe on the Domino sugar website.

Of course, sometimes it ends in flying laptops

I hate cooking with my children.

I know, I know.  Cooking with one’s children is supposed to be one of life’s finest pleasures: a science lesson, math homework, and a bonding experience all rolled into one.  It is the passing down of knowledge.  It is two generations, joined together in the essential act of preparing sustenance.

The problem is that I love to cook. By myself. I like to chop, mix, and invent.  In fact, the only thing I don’t enjoy doing is greasing the pan, which is to me as annoying a step as stretching before running, except messier.  Before I had children, I could put on some music and shake my groove thing while tossing extra garlic into the pan.  Now that I have kids, my groove thing is three sizes larger and I can’t use garlic because one of the children is allergic.

The kitchen is no longer a place to get away from it all, because it all follows me right in.  The children want to cook with me, which is frustrating as hell because that’s my place.  I don’t get in their way while they build blocks or play pirates or whatever the hell they do for entertainment.  Why the hell do they keep getting all up in my space?

Benjamin, in particular, has begun to show a tremendous interest in all things culinary.  Unlike Lilah, who spends most of her time in the kitchen taking things out of cabinets, Benjamin wants to help me.  Which, God love him, he is completely incapable of doing.  Because he is three, and three-year-olds don’t know what the fuck they are doing in the kitchen.

What three-year-olds excel at, however, is getting dirty.  Like, say, their hands.  With butter. And, suddenly, it occurred to me: I could make him butter the pan.

I’ll be damned if he doesn’t love doing it.  Now, after all that annoying asking to taste each ingredient and insisting upon working the food processor, I can give him a muffin pan with a few chips of butter and he’ll set to work.  He’s pretty good at it, I must say.

Once I realized how useful he could be in the kitchen, I stopped trying to devise clever ways of shooing him out.  Instead, I welcomed him with his buttery little paws.  It became much less annoying when he asked to whisk the eggs because I knew that soon he would earn his keep with that muffin pan.

Then, I realized he was getting pretty good at the other stuff.  True, he still gets batter everywhere when filling the pan, but he manages to mix the dry ingredients without getting flour on the ceiling.  An added bonus?  Since he gets ample whisk-using time in the preparation of actual food, he is much less likely to abscond with the thing to use it as part of his dragon-fighting costume.

Since we’ve started baking more together, Benjamin and I are having a lot more quality time.  I must admit, although I rue the loss of privacy, I do appreciate hearing things like, “Mommy, I beat up the milk!”  And, every now and then, while the computer is shuffling through its play list, we stop cooking to shake our booties.


It is quite easy to keep a three-year-old from eating sugar, provided you are willing to seal up all your doors and windows, plug up your chimney, and not let him out of the house until he’s old enough to register for Selective Service.  If however, you send him to preschool, take him on play dates, or occasionally step out to get the paper, he is pretty much guaranteed to stumble across mounds of refined sugar on a daily basis.

Then there are the “events.”  You know what I’m talking about – birthday parties, Halloween, cupcakes for kids’ birthdays in school even though all the same kids are going to the party that weekend, dinners out, and family get-togethers.  People always say to me, “Oh, but on special occasions, he should have a little treat.”  Hell, yes.  But, um, could we be a little more circumspect in how we define “special occasions”?  Because it seems like those come up about four times a week.

Thanksgiving dinner, as you can imagine, is a fucking minefield.  Nothing says “sugar rush” like a dessert buffet.  As we led up to the big day, Benjamin found it important to underscore his sugar issues.  We gave him a mango lassi and a smoothie a few days prior to Thanksgiving, whereupon he proceeded to flush his toothbrush down the toilet in a fit of mania.

I couldn’t exactly ask everyone to 86 dessert that night.  It wasn’t happening.  So, I knew I needed to come up with a sugar-free sweet for him.  That would be easier if I were into chemical substitutes like Splenda or the pink packets, but I just don’t trust that shit.  I flirted with agave briefly, only to discover that the reason its glucose index is so low is that it is high in fructose.  Sort of like high fructose corn syrup.  Instead of hitting one’s blood stream, it goes straight to other systems and overloads them, so the argument goes.  I am still not convinced agave isn’t a perfectly safe item, given that fructose is the sugar in fruit, but what I read raised enough concerns.  If it were as fantastic as everyone seems to think it is, I guess we’d have been using agave a great deal more frequently for decades.  We’d probably have Agave Twinkies for the yuppie who can’t let go of his childhood passion.  They’d sell for $8.95 a pack.

Anyway, I needed to find another sweetener.  Something that takes awhile to digest, that makes the body root around for the sugar, rather than simply shooting it straight into the various organs.  You know – like fruit.  I love the way apples require the body to work hard for that sugar.  I do still sweeten with honey, as that does not give the same rush as refined sugar and has been around long enough that I figure time has safety tested it as a substitute.  Nonetheless, I try to keep the honey content as low as possible, because it is still a much more direct form of sugar than fruit.

I came up with these little numbers for Thanksgiving.  They are quite good, both hot and when cooled.  The peanut butter option makes them, like, way better, but if you are baking them for school or if you have a one-year-old who has declared herself allergic to everything, you should probably leave it out.  The only sugar is the chocolate chips, and if you get very, very dark chips, the sugar content is pretty low.

Please note that I have removed the cookie recipe.  The problem with posting recipes is that people STEAL them and then they somehow become public property.