Have I ever mentioned that my kids have dessert every night? Are you scandalized? It's true that I haven't seen Fed Up yet. But before you leave in disgust, let me explain. Dessert is a legitimate meal in our house composed of real food as opposed to its more common components - white flour and sugar. It comes about an hour after dinner and serves to top off little bellies before bed. I'm totally not saying you should do this too, but it's an essential part of our day for these two reasons:
- In order to patiently and kindly be with children all day, you need to start with a good night sleep. Those dudes are ignorant. You know that part of the door where the hinges are? They'll stick a hand right in there. While the door's closing. Even a huge heavy metal door in a parking garage. You have to be on your toes and well rested for dealing with such crises. I do not want my children to wake me up at any point during the night for any reason that is possibly avoidable, like being hungry.
- Dessert takes the pressure off dinner. I don't have to make mac and cheese every night because even if they don't eat a ton of dinner, there's still dessert. This leaves me free to throw things out there like Cauliflower Yassa (adapted from a recipe in Wheeler del Torro's new cookbook) that they may or may not eat. We have a three taster bite policy before they can determine whether or not they care for a new food. And loads of times they surprise me by loving something that I'm sure they'll hate. So knowing that there's still a nutritional sure thing coming takes the psychological pressure off dinner. You don't care for the Senegalese cauliflower dish? That's cool. Thanks for tasting it.
After dinner and a little play time, once the boys are clean and pajama-clad, we sit back down to the table and chat or read stories while they eat again. Sometimes it's as simple as a bowl of cereal or yogurt or fruit, and last summer we had homemade ice cream in the backyard every single night, but last night with some ripe nectarines perfuming the entire house and a small jar of sweet cream in the fridge from an attempt earlier in the day to resuscitate the dregs of the french press (Why do I do this? Make fresh coffee.), I combined the two for what is now their favorite dessert.
I jazzed up my impromptu and too thick coffee creamer with vanilla and a pinch of salt, poured it into two dainty dishes and then nestled in slices of juicy nectarines. Made of nothing more than nuts and fruit, it totally filled my real food requirement for an everyday dessert.
And the boys were happy and full, declaring after their second dish, that they wanted this exact dessert every night from now on forever.
So I made a big jar of creamy date custard on purpose, and tonight their dishes were dotted with plump dark cherries that my friend, Jen, brought back from a recent drive through the central valley. The boys both had thirds, making up for my fried rice fail at dinner. (Fried rice. Really? You won't eat fried rice? You call yourselves children?)
Post Script: You should know that Felix's finger is fine. In addition to being ignorant of door mechanics, 4-year-olds are also shockingly resilient and receptive to the power of an ice cream cone from Scoops. I do believe there is occasionally a place for refined sugar.)
Cashew Date Custard
makes: almost 2 cups
takes: 5 minutes
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup (4 1/2 ounces or 130 grams) raw cashew pieces
- 3/4 cup (3 ounces or 85 grams) soft pitted dates
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Blend until smooth. (If your blender is not super-powered, you probably want to soak your cashews and dates for an hour or so before blending.) Chill if you like. Serve in a small dish dotted with fresh summer fruit.