Picture Books, Farmers Markets, and a Peach and Blueberry Crumble

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Until I became a parent, picture books were definitely not on my list of interesting reads. I think it’s because as a so-called grown-up, I assumed that books that depended largely on pictures to tell their stories were dull and simplistic, appealing solely to the youngest among us.

And then I had children, and like most of my prior assumptions about being a parent, my assumptions about the appeal of picture books flew right out the window. A picture book, I quickly learned, is a magical combination of words and art that can stir the imagination of any age.

One picture book that I especially loved to read to my daughters was Katie and the Sunflowers by James Mayhew. It features Katie, a little girl of about six, who decides to visit the art museum with her grandmother after rain washes out their plans to spend the day gardening. Upon entering the building, Katie is immediately drawn to the warmth and sunniness of paintings by the artists Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gaugin, and Paul Cezanne. In fact, Katie is so captivated by their works that she soon climbs inside several of them. The charm of Katie’s antics as she plays with, and runs from, the characters in the paintings is matched only by the beauty of the book’s illustrations. Its pages glow with the reds, yellows, blues and greens that were so beloved by the artists whose paintings Katie unabashedly explores.

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Raspberry Lemon Bars

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Last week, after spending a fun Memorial Day weekend with family and friends, I felt as if I awoke Tuesday morning from a Rip Van Winkle-like slumber only to discover that I’d missed out on summer altogether. Despite a weekend of 90 degree highs, temperatures for the rest of that week struggled to escape the low 60’s. To make matters worse, the unseasonably cool temperatures were accompanied by overcast skies and, from time to time, a drizzly rain. Either I’d slept through the entirety of the summer season, or Washington DC had gotten stuck in a time loop that was forcing it to redo the cool, wet weather of early spring.

To put it bluntly, it was really cold. My plan to make the season’s inaugural visit to my community pool suffered a severe setback. However, mid-week, as I was running some errands wrapped warmly in a jacket I had retrieved from the back of my closet, it occurred to me that the arrival of this unfortunate weather pattern presented an opportunity. If spring had decided to do an unexpected rewind, then I would do likewise by revisiting a few spring recipes that had piqued my food blogger’s interest but which for one reason or another had fallen by the wayside.

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Cherry Oat Squares

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Are lower sugar desserts the wave of the future? According to an article that appeared yesterday on the Huffington Post, the answer for some prominent pastry chefs is an enthusiastic yes.

And they’re not doing it for health reasons, although that is a terrific benefit. Nope, they’re doing it because they are finding that desserts simply taste better with less sugar.

At this point, you may wondering how this could be possible. Isn’t sugar, in all of its sweet glory, added to foods to make them taste better? And if so, wouldn’t reducing their sugar content make them less appealing?

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Breakfast Smoothie

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In my last post, I calculated the number of grams of sugar in a hypothetical day’s worth of food that a 5-year-old might eat.  The result was a shocking one cup of sugar.  There is no question that sugar is everywhere!

Fortunately, it’s possible to buck the trend of our flourishing collective sweet tooth.  One way is to read food labels regularly and leave those items with added sugars on the grocery store shelf.  You could start with breakfast foods, store-bought cookies, and fruit juices, which were the biggest offenders in my example.

Another way is to replace some store-bought foods with easily made replacements that are less sugary.  That’s where A Busy Mom’s Kitchen can help.  In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a series of recipes for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner items that can be substituted for their more sugary counterparts.

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Cranberry Almond Shortbread Tart

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As much as I love the holiday season, the constant temptation to indulge in all manner of sweet and savory special occasion foods can be overwhelming. Rich fare at holiday parties, homemade baked goods brought to office and school events, cookie swaps among friends — I’m nearly in a food coma just thinking about it.

One way to keep the temptations in check is to find ways to lighten your holiday desserts. That’s what I’ve done with this cranberry shortbread tart recipe. I saw the original version a few years ago in an issue of Fine Cooking. As you know, I absolutely love cranberries, and this tart, with its mixture of cranberries and almonds, seemed a perfect addition to my holiday dessert list.

But it also has 550 calories per serving, which is about one-quarter of a day’s worth of calories for most people. That’s huge! So, about a year ago, I made a new version with less sugar, fat, and calories. Read More