Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Restaurant Review by My 6-Year-Old: Little Q Hot Pot (Arlington, MA)

Here's another restaurant review through the eyes of my kid. This time, we visit his new favorite restaurant: Little Q Hot Pot on Mass Ave in Arlington, MA. All pictures were taken by my son using my phone (as I sweat bullets while he held my fancy phone over the bubbling cauldron of broth).

6-year-old: First we wait for our food. This restaurant is nice. Because they have a stove connected to where the hole is in the table.

Little brother trying to decide if he should launch his car into the 'pit' as we wait for our food.

6-year-old: First the peanuts and other spicy stuff come. And carrots. They taste good, except for the spicy stuff.

Condiments of peanuts and spicy cabbage. Plastic bowls, cups, and spoons are ideal for feisty kids.

6-year-old: Finally the soup comes and they put it in a little hole in the table. They don’t let it splash on us so we don’t get hurt.

Complex and delicious Black Bone Chicken Broth equipped with ladles and basket.
6-year-old: This is the spring roll and dumplings you can order from the menu. It tastes so good. And we don’t have to cook it – they cook it for us. You can’t cook this in the soup bowl. 

Large menu includes traditional Chinese appetizers and entrees for those that do not want hot pot.

6-year-old: You can order meat. It looks like they are ground. They come to the table cold. You have to cook these foods in the soup bowl.

Paper-thin cuts of raw pork, chicken and beef.
6-year-old: You cook it by dropping it inside. And when you think it is ready, you take it out and try it. It is fun cooking the foodGrownups cook it – it is dangerous for kids. But I like to watch.

Chinese fondue - cooking chicken in savory broth.

6-year-old: The vegetables taste good. Some of these are super foods I think. 

Chinese broccoli, carrots and watercress.

6-year-old:  This is my soup. There are some noodles in it. You can cook the noodles. Kids can drop the noodles in. It is fun touching the noodles!
Cellophane noodles with pork, chicken, Chinese broccoli, and carrots in broth. The boy had two helpings.

6-year-old: If you feel a little sad, like if you were crying and bumped your head, someone that works here can bring you a lollipop. But it is a only for a special treat if you finish your dinner or lunch. I’m not sure if they serve breakfast.  

(note from umommy)
In my quest to raise my boys to be adventurous eaters, we dine out a lot as a family. We try to avoid ordering the boys the typical kid fare (chicken fingers and fries for example) whenever possible. We seem to have the best luck introducing our kids to more exciting foods when we go to places that have "family-style" dishes. So what better place to get our kids to be adventurous than Chinese hot pot? Bubbling cauldron of broth set in the middle of your table for cooking raw meats and vegetables. Seconds later you get to fish out your food using chopsticks. Exciting? Yes. Healthy? Yes. Tasty? YES!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Year of the Dragon and Chinese Almond Cookies

Today marks the first day of the Chinese New Year with this year being the Year of the Dragon.  Chinese New Year is the most important Chinese holiday. It is a celebration of change - out with the old and in with the new. And hopefully with newness comes an abundance of good health, happiness and prosperity. Who couldn't use some of that?

As with many things in Chinese culture, there are some *basic* superstitions you must adhere to that will bring good luck and ward off bad luck:

  • Sweep away any bad luck from your home by cleaning your house BEFORE New Year's Day
  • Wear something new (and red) on New Year's Day to bring good luck
  • Place a pair of tangerines in each room to bring good luck
  • Do not wash your hair on New Year's Day (!)
  • Serve food with auspicious characteristics
  • Give kids gifts of money in red envelopes

We're a little lax on some of these (yes, I did shower this morning), but I am trying to start our own family tradition of a big feast to introduce my boys to some traditional Chinese dishes I grew up eating on this holiday. To celebrate the Year of the Dragon, I'll be busy in the kitchen making the following:
  • Steamed whole fish: the Chinese word for fish is Yu, which sounds like the word for abundance.
  • Chinese broccoli: broccoli symbolizes blossoming flowers
  • Dumplings: symbolizes wealth
  • Lion's Head: Lion = strength and roundness = togetherness
  • Almond Cookies: symbolize gold coins and wealth
Wishing you good fortune and happiness - or GUNG HAY FAT CHOY!

Chinese Almond Cookies
Adapted from Simply Recipes


  • 1 1/3 cups of almond flour, lightly packed
  • 1 cup of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of almond extract
  • 1 3/4 cups of flour
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • Sliced almonds

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the almond flour, salt, and butter into an electric stand mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for three minutes. The mixture will become course and chunky looking.
  3. Add one of the eggs and the almond extract. Mix on low speed until just incorporated. 
  4. Sift together the flour, sugar, and baking soda then add to the butter mixture at low speed. Mix until just combined.
  5. Take the dough and flatten it into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator for two hours to chill.
  6. Place other egg in bowl and whisk  
  7. Take pieces of dough and roll them into balls about a half-inch wide. Place them on the sheet about and inch apart and then press them down slightly with your palm to make a coin shape.
  8. Place a slivered almond onto each cookie and lightly press it into place, then paint the surface of the cookie with some of the beaten egg using a pastry brush.
  9. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the edges just being to tan. Cool on the sheet on a wire rack.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Upcycling Christmas Cards and Apple Snacking Spice Cake

Apple Snacking Spice Cake

Confession: It's January 12th and our Christmas tree and lights are still up. We are typically not this delinquent when it comes to dismantling our Christmas decorations. I swear! I will shake my head in dismay if I see a Christmas tree out on someone's curb any day past January 2nd. Yeah, yeah. Glass houses and stones - or however that saying goes. So in an effort to not be a total slacker, I've begun by gathering up all the holiday cards for a quick afternoon craft activity with the boys.

Around this time of year, we find ourselves staring at the pile of holiday and photo cards from friends and family near and far, wondering what to do with them. I feel guilty throwing away pictures of our friends' kids and/or pets.  So for the past few years we've trimmed and saved photo cards and file them away in a photo album, only to be taken this time the following year to marvel at how big everyone is getting.

With the holiday cards, I got the boys to work and had them make gift tags for next year's gifts. Got the idea from good 'ol Martha of course. Other ideas include ornaments, gift bags and garland to name a few. The kids love any craft involving sharp tools (yay). And it resulted in a glorious 20-minutes of peace and quiet as they snipped away, turning old Christmas cards into funky-shaped gift tags.

The afternoon of upcycling (my new favorite word - thanks Etsy!) worked up an appetite. Can I introduce you to the a tasty, oh-so-delicious hunger buster courtesy of Joanne Chang? The boys didn't even complain about the good-for-you ingredients in this Apple Spice Cake. It is so good.

Apple Snacking Spice Cake
Adapted from Joanne Chang's Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (at room temp)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups peeled, cored, and chopped green apples
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cup walnut pieces, toasted
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting
  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan
  2. Sift together the flour, cake flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add sugar and butter to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 1 minute with paddle attachment (stopping the mixer a few times to scrape the bowl to make sure butter is mixed in). Add eggs and mix on low for 10-15 seconds. Then turn mixer to medium-high and beat for one minute until batter is light and fluffy.
  3. Fold in apples, raisins and walnuts. Note: the batter will be stiff and thick and it will look like there is not enough batter. This is what it is supposed to look like. Scrape all the batter into prepared pan and spread it evenly to fill the pan.
  4. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until cake feels firm and top is golden brown. Let cake cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
  5. Invert the cake onto a serving plate, then invert again so it's right-side up. Dust with confectioners' sugar if desired.
The Good: Easy to prepare. Loads of fresh apples and raisins. Boys could not get enough.

The Bad: None!

Grade: A. Have made this several times now. Great for breakfast, snack or dessert (or lunch and dinner too if you're like me).

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Boy and cheese pie (Santarpios, E. Boston)
Proud moment: baby boy eating pizza like a big man (folded in half) at favorite old-school pizza joint.


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