March 18, 2007

Get ready to (April) fool the sushi lovers in your life



I learned the fine art of mock maki making at the Play with your Food exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center this past January. The free, hands-on event was perfect for ages 5 and up.

Attendees dabbled in sculpting with bread dough, designing stationery with potato stamps, carving fancy garnishes from apples, creating fragrant, wearable spice jewelry, and other fun food-based activities.

I couldn't wait to get home and try the mock sushi (fauxshi?) with my boys. To make the "rice," I blended Marshmallow Fluff with coconut flakes until it was moldable and not too sticky. For the filling I cut up slices of dried mango and gel fruit candy. I also chopped green Twistables into small bits that looked like scallions (green onions) and seaweed flakes. My biggest challenge was finding green fruit roll up-type snacks to approximate the seaweed wrappers. After checking several stores, I settled (as you'll see above or in the photo gallery) for a green and yellow.
From a distance, you might be able to fool the sushi lovers in your house, but this is a fun project for the kids, so it's probably even more fun to enlist their help creating the mock sushi and April Fooling an unsuspecting third party.

March 16, 2007

The New and Improved Scrambled CAKE

The revamped chicagoparent.com is now live and I hope you'll stop by for a hearty helping of Scrambled CAKE.


Stop by soon and set your bookmark to http://chicagoparent.com/cs/blogs/cake/default.aspx

March 14, 2007

Sipahh Straws: Coolest new product of the year (so far)




Coolest New Product of the Year (so far)

The new straws are here! The new straws are here! The excitement was palpable as we opened our sample boxes of Sipaah Straws—straws with built-in flavor. Each single-use straw is loaded with flavor beads. Quick sips through it result in bursts of flavor while slow slips deliver a steady stream of flavor- chocolate, banana, strawberry, or cookies and cream.

The novelty of these straws may inspire your milk-averse to down a glass or two. The straws are easy to tote along on outings or pack into lunch bags and they work their magic on soy, rice, or cow’s milk. They are also low on sugar, with just two grams per straw, but this can be good or bad depending on your view as they are sweetened with sucralose (A/K/A. Splenda).

We eagerly sampled several flavors, but sadly, none were a huge hit in our house. I say sadly, because I so wanted to love this product. I think the idea is fabulous.

Selling for only $2.00 for a box of ten, I urge you to try a box Sipaahs and decide for yourself. Everyone in your family will want to try them, if only for the novelty of drinking from a flavor-packed straw.

Look for Sipaah Straws at your local Walgreens later this month. And then stop back here and let me know what your family thinks of these straws.

March 06, 2007

Cereality Cereal Bar and Cafe




Cereality Cereal Bar and Café
1622 Sherman Avenue, Evanston
847-864-4400
(Also in Chicago at Wacker and Monroe)

Cereal combos $3.00-$5.00

Imagine heading to 31 Flavors for ice cream only to find they’ve replaced the frozen treats with cereal. That’s Cereality. You get a choice of over 30 cereals (sorry, Smartypants, no Alphabits) as well as a variety of mix-ins and toppings to choose from. They offer dried and fresh fruit, nuts in addition to melt-your-teeth options that will leave your kids drooling-- candy-coated chocolates, caramel syrup, mini-marshmallows, coconut flakes, pop rocks, and more.

“It feels like you’re at a friend’s house on a playdate,” observed eight year-old Smartypants. The breezy, casual atmosphere features pajama-clad employees, cool lighting, homey tables, and a cozy lounging area with couches and comfy chairs. Cereality offers wi-fi and two large TVs showing a steady stream of cartoons.
“You don’t have to get all dressed up to go here, but you should still use manners and stuff,” added Smartypants.
Our seven year-old dining companion, The Virtuoso, agreed. “Yeah, you don’t have to do things like you would at a fancy restaurant, like use a coat hanger, and you don’t have to wear nice clothes, but you still should have good etiquette. And you get to eat while you’re watching TV which you can’t do at a formal restaurant.”

While watching typical Saturday morning fare, you’ll eat a basic serving of two scoops of cereal, one topping and milk for $3.99. (They also have small serving consisting of one scoop at one topping for $2.99.) They offer some suggested combos, but you can mix and match as you please.

The cereal is served in stylized Chinese take-out boxes that you fill with your choice of milk- whole, 2% or skim, with lactose-free and soy milk available upon request. The milk is self-serve which is a bit tricky for the kids. Ask for a cup for the milk, otherwise you risk adding too much, something that can easily ruin this treat the entire experience.

They also serve smoothies, called Slurrealities. I’m not sure which marketing genius named the drinks after “a watery mixture of insoluble matter (as mud, lime, or plaster of paris),” but the actual ingredients sound a bit more pleasing to the palate. Take the Bran New Day featuring strawberries, bananas and orange juice with low-fat yogurt and Quaker Bran. Cereal bars, yogurt-cereal parfaits and hot beverages including coffee and flavored steamed milk are also on the menu.


When we stopped in for a late morning snack, I had the Bowlful of Cavities the Devil Made Me Do It - Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms plus chocolate drizzles and malted milk balls. (pictured) DH had the more sensible oatmeal with apples and almonds. Snuggable 6 year-old Splinter, had Rice Krispies with malted milk balls, Smartypants had Lucky Charms with mini-marshmallows, The Virtuoso, had Cheerios with both topping and milk on the side.

Virtuoso said his cereal tasted like the Cheerios he eats at home, but maybe a bit stronger. “It’s hard to explain, but it has more of a full taste, which is a good thing.” Especially since one bowl costs as much as an entire box from the supermarket.

Cereality also sells Sloops™ for about $1.00 a piece. Once your kids get a glimpse of these reusable plastic spoons with built-in straws, they must have one, so plan accordingly.

Cereality’s target demographic is college students who are either feeling nostalgic or have some serious munchies. DH and I felt like it was fun to visit, but we wouldn’t go out of our way to return. They have a diaper changing facility in one of their large unisex bathrooms, so Cereality might be a nice coffee shop alternative—a place to meet some mom-friends while the wee ones color at the tot table, play or cause a ruckus. Be discreet so you don’t get busted for bringing your own little baggy of Cheerios.

Our young review team gave Cereality a rating of 3 out of a possible 4 Sloops™. The kids welcome the chance to dine at Cereality again. “It’s a good place to come when you have people who like different kinds of cereal.” Ah yes, that old problem.

If someone in your family has a serious cereal jones, plan a weekend getaway to nearby Battle Creek Michigan home to Kellogg’s Cereal City edutainment complex. And while you’re there, stop in at Binder Park Zoo, where you can hand feed giraffes in the morning and then visit the old planes at the nearby Kalamazoo Air Zoo in the afternoon.

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