Thursday, January 18, 2007

Little girls love French desserts

Last night was Girl Scouts, and since The Husband is back to school, that means I'm on Girl Scout duty (and The Boy gets to come with me). The girls are getting ready for Thinking Day, which is essentially an international festival in which each troop chooses a different country and makes a visual and skit presentation. We studied Ireland a couple of years ago, and last year, the girls (unprompted by any adults, I promise) chose Iraq. This year they chose France, which is tres facile compared to Iraq.

Since I'm not a camper and really don't enjoy entertaining groups of giggling girls and don't live in the right kind of house to be the cookie mom, Thinking Day is where I get to give my time and skills to the troop. Because I love cooking, and part of the presentation is a bite-sized morsel, for each girl in the service unit (roughly 200), that represents our country. For Ireland, I baked 20 loaves of Irish Soda Bread (thank goodness Thinking Day is in February! That made the kitchen so nice and cozy warm.), and for Iraq I made a carrot dish called Helawat al Jazr, which is amazingly sweet and you don't want to know how many pounds of carrots I used. Because it was a lot. I could have kept a farm of rabbits for at least a week.

Last night, since the girls were doing research and learning all about France, I made crepes for their snack. And I was a little nervous about it, since some girls in that age group (1st-5th grade) are notoriously picky. But I figured if I also brought strawberries, vanilla pudding, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream in a can, they'd be good sports.

So I grabbed my crepemaker (doesn't everyone have one?), whipped up the crepe batter in the blender, transferred it to a Tupperware container, and hit the road.

Making the crepes took about an hour, but I was not even trying to rush. The Boy acted as my garbage disposal: he ate whatever crepes didn't quite turn out right (not quite circular, holes in them, etc.) . This is the child who, like me, prefers his pancakes plain or with a little butter. (I've been known to eat a whole batch of crepes with nothing in or on them, so I totally get where he's coming from.) One girl's dad was in the kitchen with me, and he took a whirl with M'Sieur Crepe too (and he did great!).

Each girl got to choose her own fillings, and no crepes were thrown away. A few girls wanted seconds, but we really had just the right number for each girl and adult to have one. And they loved them and life was wonderful. As a working mom who does not have time to bake cookies and do all that other fun stuff, I definitely felt like I had won the mommy wars last night.

The question did arise: what will I make for Thinking Day itself? Our troop leader always wants to make my life simple and suggested that we simply buy and slice French bread. But really, doing this mad quantity cooking one day a year is really a lot of fun for me. So I'm thinking mini-tarts (like Anthony Bourdain's recipe for Tartes au Poires) or mini-quiches.

I don't have my family cookbook handy, so I'll edit to add the recipes for crepes and Irish Soda bread later. But here's the Iraqi carrots. Yummy.

Helawat al Jazr (Sweet Cardamom Carrots)

Ingredients: 1 pound carrots, peeled and finely grated
1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups low-fat milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
Pine nuts

Steam the carrots with the sugar, milk, cardamom, and lemon peel for about 15 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Pour into a sieve, pressing firmly on the carrots to remove all the liquid. Set the liquid aside.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Add the carrots, stirring to coat with the flour mixture, and toss for 3 or 4 minutes.
Pour the reserved liquid over the carrots, mix well, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into individual serving dishes and garnish with pine nuts, pistachios, almonds, and raisins.


Anonymous said...

Costoco has mini quiches--I think Nancy's is the brand--and they are just the bite-size you need!

Kaleigh said...

But that would take away the whole "I made this with my bare hands" aspect that I so enjoy. Remember, I've got the Mommy wars to win.

furrjen said...

Hurrah for you, Kaleigh. I am far from being a foodie, but I am a big home-made food fan. I refuse to even use the instant cocoa crap my husband uses. There is no comparison to making it on the stovetop! Food is love, after all.