Oh The Horror...Cherpumple Cake

Every Halloween I try to make the most disgusting thing I can think of, like earwax Q-tips or Bloody Eyeballs or the infamous Cat Litter Box Cake. We always have fun with Halloween, we eat healthy during the year but on Halloween I just have to go to the dark side! Halloween is a great time for me to showcase my baking talents, I love to bake but I try to stay away from it during the year.  My friend Barb sent me a link to one of the worst horrors I'd ever seen, Cherpumple, a travesty of cake and pie a most disgusting mess. I knew I was destined to make this monstrosity and I knew it would take hours, and it did.  I think the originator of this mess was Charles Phoenix so I will give him credit too.  
       It is basically a Turducken in cake form, a Turducken is a turkey stuffed with a chicken a duck and quail and so on with stuffing in between each layer. I have made one before but it is not a regular occurrence in our house.
I knew if I made this cake for Halloween it would have to represent something creepy. It reminded me so much of Frankenstein that I decided to give it the green frosting and hair but not the whole face. I did make bolts for the neck but they ended up looking weird.  The problem with this cake it that finished it weighed about 25 pounds and I forgot that It would have to go on a car ride.  
I made three layers, yellow cake with a pumpkin pie, chocolate cake with a cherry pie and spice cake with apple pie.

     The way you make this cake is to sink a prebaked pie into raw cake batter and cook it for about an hour and 15 minutes. The glitch is that you can only bake on eat a time or they bake unevenly. I started at 9 am and finished the last touches at 5 pm. I was speed cooling the last layer as I was frosting the rest, it was mayhem. I used some wrapped up frozen salmon on top as it sat in the fridge. 
The guts.
      It was a ridiculous idea to transport this cake, every time we turned it leaned like the Tower of Pisa but the Tower of Pisa is not covered with green butter cream and fondant! I would not recommend moving this cake, it was like Food Network Challenge when thy have to move those 500 pound cakes, totally nerve wracking. 
The good news it that it made it to the party and the crowd loved it. The bad news it that as we removed pieces it became so heavy that it tipped the cake plate over, that's one hefty cake!
I am already planning on my Thanksgiving cake....maybe just two layers next time.  Don't miss the Poo Poo platter photo below,  yet another disgusting idea from my kitchen.

Poo Poo Platter! (Tootsie Rolls inside)

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Zojirushi's Umami® Micom Rice Cooker GIVEAWAY

The winner is....Serena Victoria
Zojirushi's Umami® Micom Rice Cooker 5.5 cup (you only win one)
I am so glad that you can't see my office, it's really cute but you'd never know it because it is almost always filled with boxes! The boxes are full of good stuff though, great products people send me to review and give away. This is where you come in, you as reader could be you as winner! I always have something to give away and this time it's pretty amazing.

One of the appliances I can't do without in my kitchen is my rice cooker. When I was at the ABC Baby and Kid show last year the people at Zojirushi were so kind to send me two machines!  I am a multitasker and for some reason can't be trusted to make rice stove top. I ALWAYS burn it, yes even trained chefs burn stuff. Once I experienced one of these rice cookers I couldn't dream of going back to burnt rice. This is by far the best my favorite appliance, well, I love my coffee grinder too but that is for another time. The Zojirushi Micom Cooker has a timer so all you do is add the rice and water, set it for the time you want it to be done cooking (a great feature) and press a button. This machine is so smart, it's like a PC that just happens to cook food.  Truth be told this is not only cute, portable and perfect every time but it plays the cutest little tunes. Yes it plays music...when set, it plays Twinkle Twinkle and when the rice is done it plays another tune but no one seems to know what that tune that is. For about 15 minutes I made it my mission to find out but came up short, let me know if you know what the little song is.

My daughter says that I love this machine too much, "it's just not right you shouldn't hug a machine mama!" The retractable cord is great and it has a handle so you can take it with you, just strap it in to the front seat!  Not because you don't want to be parted from it, but for bringing warm food to a potluck or dinner party.  The warm setting is great, my rice stays warm and doesn't over cook.  It even has a battery which means you can unplug it when not in use and it keeps track of time.

You can make porridge or congee, a thick rice soup popular as a breakfast in some Asian countries. I have not made soups but you can make pretty much anything in it, it even slow cooks.Tapioca works well but we use it for steel cut oats. If you add the oats and water the night before it will be done in time for breakfast! Now that's an easy healthy breakfast, add fruit and you can't go wrong.

The one I own is the 3 cup perfect for our small family, don't think I haven't thought of opening the 5.5 cup that's been in my office! I have will power, not much but I have some. I kept it perfectly preserved for my winner, it's brand new and ready to be shipped. [Rice cooker stats below]

I thought I'd also add a great new cookbook to the giveaway from Michelle Stern.

Her new book is called the Whole Family Cookbook and is available on Amazon.   I am a bit biased since I food styled the book and my husband Matthew shot the photos. It is a great book because all the steps in the recipes are broken down into age appropriate tasks making it easy for all ages. Her Purple Rice recipe will work really well in your new rice cooker!! So have fun with your new rice cooker and cookbook. Rules for entry are below.

Requirements to enter the Zojirushi's Umami Micom Rice Cooker GIVEAWAY:

This giveaway ends on Wednesday, November 9th, 9am PST.
The winner will be generated with Random.org
When leaving a comment make sure you leave your e mail address, if I don't have it I can't contact you.

1. Subscribe to my email updates - enter your email in the box on the upper right of this blog 
2. Leave a comment on this blog post telling me you subscribed to my email updates. Tell me what your family's favorite rice add-ins are or what your kids favorite rice dishes are.

To increase your chances to win and receive additional entries, do the following:
  • Tweet about this giveaway. Add @chefjen and #toddlercafe to the tweet
  • Share on Facebook. Make sure you tell me you shared by commenting on my Facebook page that you did! Make sure to 'Like' my Facebook page!
Blah blah blah...
One winner will be chosen at random. Winner will be chosen in Novato California on November 9th 2011 at 10 am. The winner will be notified via email within one week after the draw. The winner will be required to provide an address to ship the two prizes to the address only be used for shipping purposes.
DISCLAIMERS: All federal, state, and/or local rules and regulations apply; void where prohibited by law. Jennifer Carden is not responsible for late, misdirected or illegible entries. Winners are responsible for any and all taxes associated with their acceptance of any prize. Jennifer Carden is not responsible for technical, hardware, software, telephone or Internet access failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, or failed or incomplete, garbled or deleted computer or network transmissions which may limit the ability to participate in this sweepstakes. Sponsor reserves the right at its sole discretion to cancel or suspend this sweepstakes or any part thereof should virus, bugs, unauthorized human intervention or other causes beyond its control corrupt or affect the administration, fairness or proper conduct of this sweepstakes, including terminating just one phase or portion of the promotion. 
Rice Cooker stats:
The Umami® Micom Rice Cooker Warmer comes with Zojirushi's exclusive Umami setting that soaks and steams the rice longer for enhanced flavor. It also has a Slow Cook function that allows the rice cooker to work like a slow cooker.
  • Micro computerized Fuzzy logic technology
  • Zojirushi's exclusive Umami setting soaks and steams rice longer for enhanced flavor
  • Versatile slow cook function to cook soups and other menus
  • Automatic keep warm, extended keep warm and reheating cycle
  • Spherical inner cooking pan and heating system
  • Delay timer (2 settings)
  • Menu settings include: white, umami, mixed, sushi, porridge, sweet, brown, GABA brown, rinse-free, quick cooking and slow cook
  • cETLus listed
Model No.
5.5 cups / 1.0 liter
Dimensions (W x D x H)
10-1/8 x 15 x 9-1/4
Electrical Rating
120 volts / 610 watts
Pearl White

Model No.
10 cups / 1.8 liters
Dimensions (W x D x H)
11 x 16 x 10-5/8
Electrical Rating
120 volts / 820 watts
Pearl White

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Rainbow and Squirrel Sandwiches (not what you think)

We made it through September and October seems to be even busier!! Seriously is it me or do we get busier every year? What happened to the down time it must be somewhere, I am still looking!! The preparing dinners is tough enough, but making lunches can leave you at a loss too. Walking in to the kitchen groggy and trying to juggle breakfast, finding missing socks and making sure homework is in the backpack can be a real chore. The last thing you want to do is make a bunch of lunches, am I wrong? Well I can't help with that because the kids have to eat!! At our school we have to bring lunch everyday we do not have a lunch program (yet).  Over one hundred and twenty or more lunches in a school year can seem daunting, and if you have more than one child...well you get my drift!  
          When winter comes I immediately get out the Thermos and go for soups and stews, warmth during the day can give a child that little boost they need. But until then I like to make sandwiches, the problem is that my daughter has never been a fan of the sandwich. She much prefers a warm lunch, something homemade of course but that can't always happen. Recently I remembered I had some edible markers I usually use to draw on hard boiled eggs with. My discovery that they work on bread was a gold mine!!! I can write notes like "I miss you" or "drink more water" on her bread!! 
The best part is that she likes make her own lunches (with some persuading) because the markers are fun to use. We make the sandwich the night before so we are not rushed in the morning. We only do this once a week to keep it special but it sure is fun!!  We add, fruit, cheese and crackers, and a veggie like cucumbers or carrots. I very rarely add any sugary treats unless it is home baked like banana bread.   This gives me a break the next morning so I can gear up my creative brain for the next day's lunch.

Try going to a thrift shop for cookie cutters, Ikea has some fun ones too!  I have a large collection and find that I almost never make cookies with them. They work so well for "sandies" as we call them in our house!

Cookie cutters and edible markers make a great lunch.

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Epic Cake Decorating Day

Beanstalk Stump Cake
Our school has a fair every October, but because we just joined the school last January we have never been to the feté.  One of the requirement for every class is to bake a cake for the cake walk.  There is also a friendly competition for the snazziest cake, so naturally I wanted to enter.  I immediately started thinking of something to make and as usual my mind was blank. I usually don't have a clue what I will make but I got lucky here. Our class booth is the "sleeping giant," you know the Jack and the Bean Stalk story.  I figured I'd make a beanstalk themed cake, the ax was an afterthought but my favorite part!!  

My eight year old wanted to make a cake too she went with the draw bridge theme, I love her cake! She made a sitting night at rest with his helmet off hanging out by the river.
We worked, mostly in silence sharing tools, ideas for hours. 
 What a treat to be able to sit with my daughter and craft something that we are both totally absorbed in.  Who knows if either of our cakes will win a prize but I know someone lucky cake walk winner will be taking them home for sure!
Claire's drawbridge and Knight cake

Claire took first place in her division!!!
I won nothing.....

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Let The Kids Decide What's For Dinner

Kids love to give their opinion and to be the boss so let them, sometimes.  Dinner can be tricky with toddlers and siblings and distractions.  It’s hard to tear them away from a game or task to come to the table.  Admit it, if you were in the middle of writing an email or playing with Lego's and someone made you get up in the middle of it for dinner you may be have a tantrum too. We need to be gentle with kids, they live in a whole other world of make believe and play, they may be in the room but their minds can be elsewhere. A warning 10 minutes before dinner can make a huge difference in getting them to the table with sanity!  If that trick fails then for sure involve them in the dinner planning to start their engines. 
Kids want to be involved, feel independent and be a part of the group. Get them involved in dinner, planning so they know what to expect.

Start small by stocking your fridge with healthy brightly colored veggies, and proteins. Keep a well stocked pantry full of whole grains and rice and beans.
When it comes time to plan dinner have your kids help choose a veggie, a protein and a starch.  Let them know that plain pasta just will not give them the energy they need to play for hours. (remember eating a rainbow is the way to grow) Letting your child understand choices gives them confidence and good decision making skills. Set them up for success by starting with simple choices.

Pick Your Toppings Pasta Night

Once they decide on the 3 or 4 ingredients,  cook them up and, put them in separate dishes and let them “mix” their own bowl for dinner. Feel free to offer a sauce on the side like olive oil or Alfredo and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. We like to have a bunch of sauces and spices on the table so everyone can tailor the meal to their liking.  Get them used to seeing different foods arrive each night.  Give them some guidelines, for instance, only add ingredients one spoonful at a time, it is easier to add than take away.  and they have to try everything they have chosen to mix in. Give lots of praise even if it tastes bland and boring. Try to avoid saying something tastes bad in front of a child, being negative around food will quickly create a picky eater. This is about building self-esteem around eating not necessarily what they end up eating. The point here is you are putting them in the driver seat, put on your seat belt and get ready to take a ride.

Grown-ups can go heavy on the veggies to model meals for the kids.  Adding nuts is a great way to get protein too!

Choose wisely like trying whole-wheat pasta vs. white pasta, shredded zucchini vs. sausage, white beans and grilled chicken instead of ground beef. 
Use ingredients like bacon and some meat as seasonings or flavorings instead of using them as the star of a dish.  

For do-it-yourself pasta night here are a 2 ingredient suggestions, using the same pan, sauté one after another.  
To sauté, heat a large shallow pan on medium heat, add 1- 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add your first ingredient, continuing adding until everything is cooked.

Chicken-ish Pasta Dish 
Chicken apple sausage, cut in rounds and sautéed
Sautéed zucchini rounds
Cooked whole-wheat rigatoni or elbows
Shredded green apples, raw to add on top
Olive oil, salt and pepper

Gobble It Up Turkey Sauté
Ground turkey, sautéed
Broccoli florets, steamed
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Quinoa or Brown rice, cooked

Taco Night
The ever-popular taco night, another great way to get your kids experimenting! Put out bowls of ingredients and let the kids add what they like. Smearing re-fried beans in the bottom of the taco can help the ingredients stick, thus preventing ingredient spillage! Cutting the ingredients into small bits makes it easier for little mouths. Use soft or crunchy taco shells and lots of healthy ingredients like:


Corn tortillas, soft or crunchy
Ground beef or turkey or a mixture (cooked with taco seasoning and crumbled)
Shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese
Shredded lettuce
Green or black olives, sliced
Avocado, sliced
Red or green salsa, mild
Re fried beans, organic, warmed
Diced tomato
small amounts of sour cream
corn off the cob
caramelized onions (raw onion can be too harsh for kids)

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Crunchy Granola a Whole New Generation

A fun craft to serve your creation in
My latest article from Edible Fall 2011
Stone's Soup Corner
Crunchy Granola a whole new generation...
When I told my parents 18 years ago that I was moving to California, they labeled me as "crunchy granola." I was pretty offended. After all, I wasn't a hippie; I was a modern 20-something heading to San Francisco to seek out conversations about art in cafés with Beat poet types! They also asked me when I was coming back, to which I replied "never."

After a year or so in San Francisco, I decided to set aside my artist's tools and take up cooking–the right choice, looking back. The joke is on me because now one of my favorite recipes is what I call "Grab and Go Granola." I guess I was "crunchy granola" after all!

The ways of Woodstock may be gone, but the tradition of making healthy homemade snacks is alive and thriving. These days, "health food" is not just for love-in breakfasts or others on the fringe; it is mainstream. Snacks like granola are soaring in popularity and it seems every time you turn around there is a new gourmet granola on the market shelf. There are fruity ones, nutty ones, even regular-old cereals masquerading as granolas. A great way to ensure that your family truly is getting a healthy, wholesome granola is to make your own–and it's an easy and fun activity for kids, too!


In the cooking and gardening camps at Napa's Connolly Ranch, we teach the kids to make pots for seedlings out of newspaper. These paper pots are also a fun way to serve snacks like homemade granola. You can use newspaper or even plain copier paper or construction paper for colored snack cups. This is a fun and creative activity for parties and play dates, too. Try making different shapes, like squares or rectangles!

Materials needed:

Sheets of paper
Markers or crayons
A can (vegetable or soup cans work well)

To make:

1. Cut or fold the paper so that you have a piece that is long enough to fit all the way around the can (with a slight overlap) and is about 1 inch higher than the height of the can.

2. Wrap the paper around the can and tape the seam to seal the paper around the can–but not so tightly that you won't be able to slip it off.

3. Fold one end of the paper under the can to form a bottom for your cup.

4. Tape the seams to secure the bottom.

5. Have your child draw a design on the paper, then slip it off the can.

6. Fill your cups with your homemade granola or any other dry snack.

Grab and Go Granola 

Granola is easy to make and store and it is delicious plain or as a topping. Try it on yogurt! My recipe below is easy and adaptable. Add more or less of any ingredient to your liking and it will always be delicious. Experiment with different types of nuts and dried fruits–dried blueberries or cranberries give it a flavorful punch. Make a double batch because it will disappear quickly.

Yield: About 6 cups


1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (Note: Using large-flake coconut adds a great chewy texture.)
4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ or flax meal
2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
2 cups almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sesame seeds or flax seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey 1/2 pound butter, melted
3/4 cup dried currants or golden raisins


Preheat oven to 350° F.

Spread coconut on a baking sheet and place in the oven for about 5 minutes, checking constantly. Once coconut starts to toast it will brown quickly, so keep an eye on it. Bake until the edges are golden, then remove from the oven and transfer coconut to a shallow dish to cool. Once cooled, crush to break apart into individual strands.

Decrease the oven temperature to 300° F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a small pan, melt honey, maple syrup and butter and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine oats, wheat germ or flax meal, sunflower seeds, almonds, sesame seeds or flax, cinnamon and nutmeg, then stir well to combine.

Pour melted honey, maple syrup and butter mixture over oat mixture, then stir well to combine. Spread on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake at 300° F. for about 25 minutes, until lightly golden. Check often to make sure it does not burn. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, then break up any large chunks with your hands and add the coconut and dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.

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