Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rr is for Rainbow!

Rainbow Jello that is... this week Madeline's class is studying the letter Rr, so we made a big batch of rainbow-striped Jello blocks to share with everyone. Thankfully, she's in a school where that's still allowed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Very Merry Year: April

So, instead of going crazy with holiday baking last year, I decided that it would be much more fun to spread the joy out over the year and gift someone each month (or so) with something lovely from my kitchen.

This month's cookie is Snickerdoodles, and they go to our friends up North in lovely Lynden—Jerrie, Troy and Archer. We love to visit them, often, and the kids adore their "big kid" Archer, who is now in high school. These cookies are off in the mail for a cinnamon-cardamom-sugar treat (sorry, I had to mess with the recipe a little). The cookies are fabulous too.
And, with this recipe I discovered that you can make your own Baking Powder using Cream of Tartar and Baking Soda—2 parts to 1 part. Which, coincidentally, is the ratio in most Snickerdoodle recipes for soda and cream of tartar, which I had an expired tin of, so... I subbed baking powder and the cookies were fabulous. I may never make them with cream or tartar again!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Holy Flapjacks, Batman!

I've been searching for a great pancake recipe for a long time. In high school, in South Africa, I found a wonderful recipe in a library book about Au Pairing. But, of course I lost that recipe long ago, and the source is a bit far away. And mixes really don't do it for me. I mean, I've used mixes and they are okay, but... I think I must've been spoiled in my formative years with awesome pancakes.

About six years ago, Miki made her mom's recipe at the office when different teams were planning breakfast for everyone. They were divine, and she gave me the recipe. But, when I made them, they weren't the same. However, last Fall when she made them at my house, again, they were heaven. So, I thought maybe it's just me and pancakes – bad luck. Or, maybe it's the fact that food is nearly always better when someone cooks for you!  I do feel the need to tackle Miki's mom's recipe again though... clearly, there's something I'm missing there.

But thankfully, this morning, I tried a new recipe for pancakes that is easy, makes light and moist pancakes, and they are utterly delicious. The trifecta of perfection. This is my new recipe. Mmm...  And, a good thing too, since Madeline adores pancakes. Seriously, she's always begging me to make them, and would eat them for every meal if she could.

The Best Pancakes Ever
(AKA Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes, not adapted at all from The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond)
Makes a dozen 4-inch pancakes

1 c. sour cream (I used light, they were fab)
7 Tbs. flour
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Butter and real maple syrup

Heat a cast iron pan over medium low while you make the batter. Do not be impatient (like me) and turn the heat up, although these cakes are good even if they do get a little charred. Anyway, in a medium bowl, mix together the sour cream, flour, sugar, soda and salt. Mix until just combined. Do not over mix. 

In a separate bowl, mix eggs and vanilla, and then pour this into the sour cream mixture. Again, mix until just combined.

Melt about 1 Tbs. of butter in the pan, and then cook the pancakes. Be patient. They are worth the wait. Delicious!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Earth Day!!

Happy Earth Day tomorrow! Just one of the ways that we do our part to make this a greener world to live in...School Lunches!

Reusable lunch sacks

Bento lunch boxes with reusable picks and dividers

And, reusable cotton sandwich and snack bags (and I made a new stash today with fabric scraps and Velcro strips that I had on hand). And, if you don't have time to make your own, and have the cash, the folks at ReUsies make some beautiful reusable sandwich and snack bags. Just click here to buy online from their site or find a retail store near you!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Math in the Kitchen: Sequencing

Popsicles by the numbers...
  1. Gather banana (and other fruit - berries), Popsicle sticks and molds (or ice cube trays, etc.) and juice (preferably sneaky 100% veggie/fruit juice)
  2. Peel banana, slice, stick on stick. 
  3. Put in mold.
  4. Pour in juice and toss in other fruit/berries.
  5. Cover with foil to secure sticks, then freeze.
  6. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Munkki = Doughnut

In Finland, you'd request a munkki (Moonk-KEY) if you wanted a doughnut, and Vesa loves 'em. And finding Finnish-style jelly doughnuts here is very hard with the nasty artificial filling that even the "good" doughnut shops use. So, for Ukki's birthday I made a doughnut birthday cake with both filled (seedless raspberry jam) and glazed (raspberry glaze with "essential cane" raspberry sugar sprinkles) munkki. Stack 'em up, sprinkle with raspberries, and you have a fantabulous birthday cake!

Erik loved helping cut out the doughnuts and sprinkle on "just a touch more flour, Mama," when we rolled them out. Madeline built a great barricade between the living room and kitchen when I was cooking the munkki too. Because, 350-degree scalding oil and small kiddos do not mix...

Happy Birthday to Ukki! His birthday was Friday, but what he wanted to do for his celebration was go geocaching with us and out to Mexican for lunch (the other diners at the restaurant were coveting the pretty stack o' doughnuts too.) Mmmm... They were tasty!

Oh! And, I used the recipe from right here. Under the High Chair is a great foodie blog, and
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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Well Chuffed...

Both the kids have really gotten into being my sous chefs for any meal prep, and Madeline is well chuffed with her improving knife skills (and the fact that she even gets to use a knife). Last night we made "miso block" (AKA tofu) stir fry, and the kids loved pressing the tofu too.

We threw in, one whole block of extra firm tofu, about 1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, 1/2 a red bell pepper, some brocolli, three small zucchini, and two small baby bok choy. Sesame oil, soy sauce, agave nectar, ginger. Yum. Easy peasy as Jamie Oliver would say.
I think that he'd approve of our "naked" meal served up with brown rice.

Speaking of which, the kids love his new Food Revolution show (ABC 8-9pm and 9-10? it was both this week, Fridays). They already knew of him from my cookbooks (I use his recipes often), but they are hooked now. And why not? He is a charming sweetheart.

Oh, and did Erik actually eat this? Well, of course he did. It was dinner. He ate the rice, miso blocks (tofu), mushrooms, and brocolli. He left the peppers, zuke and bok choy on the plate, and that is fine by me.
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Soup's On!

Is there anything better (or easier) than homemade soup? Really, chop/prep the ingredients, combine in soup pot, and simmer on the stove while you do other things. Easy! And, homemade soup tastes infinitely better than anything out of a can. Plus, there is way, way less sodium in soup you make yourself. Oh, and it happens to be a sneak-tastic way to get my veg scrutinizer to eat vegetables that he otherwise wouldn't willingly try. So, since Easter, I've made Potato Leek, Creamy Cauliflower, and today... 4B's Tomato Soup (Erik despises tomatoes).

Potato Leek is easier than pie, and my mom's fave. She actually prepped that one after Easter brunch by chopping up about six potatoes, and three large leeks (all, even the green part), tossed them in my soup kettle, and covered with water. It simmered for about an hour, then I seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper, and whirred it up in my blender in batches. Voila! Dinner full of veg that E wouldn't usually eat (well, the leeks anyway).

I did the Creamy Cauliflower in similar fashion, cleaning and separating into florets, one head of cauliflower. I tossed that into a hot soup pot with 2 Tbs. of butter and about 1/3 cup of tiny star-shaped pasta. I browned that up, then added hot water to cover and simmered until the cauli was soft. Then I tossed in a can of navy beans (with bacon) for about 10 mins of simmering, a little garlic, celery salt and pepper, and whirred batches in my blender. Erik inhaled two bowls and said, "Hmm... I guess that I do like cauliflower. I thought I didn't."
(clockwise in pic: 4B's tomato regular and creamy, E enjoying his soup, E prepping cheese sammies to go with leek onion soup, and creamy cauliflower with cheese crisps)

And, so... on to an actual recipe! The 4B's is a popular restaurant chain in Montana, where we had this fabulous soup with Jamie and John on a summer road trip, nearly six years ago. I found the recipe online, posted by a local paper in Havre, MT. I'm going to follow it pretty closely, except for the cream part. To lighten up this one, I'm going to employ my trusty blender to "cream" the soup. My second reason for the blending is to get Erik to love tomatoes (which he's already informed me that he doesn't like and won't eat). Blending those tomatoes will make the soup creamy, yummy, and chunk-free!

4B's Tomato Soup (adapted from the recipe posted here, plus, I doubled the recipe since I had enough ingredients to do so!)
2 28-oz. cans of diced tomatoes (I used organic)

18 oz. chicken broth (I used low-sodium)

4 Tbs. butter

4 Tbs. sugar

2 Tbs. chopped onion

2 pinches of baking soda

Combine ingredients in a soup pot, bring to a low boil over medium-high, and then reduce to low to simmer for one hour. Then comes the cream part...

2 c. half and half
- (and being doubled, if you are following the real recipe, this should be 4 c. half and half or cream - yikes!)

Heat the half and half in the microwave until nearly boiling, then add to tomato mixture (not the other way around) before serving.

I blended about 1/2 of the tomato mixture in the blender first, than added some of it back to the pot, which made the soup creamy without all the fat of the 4 c. of half and half (I only used 2c.), then add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!! I also separated a completely creamed amount out for Erik, and left the chunkier soup for the rest of us, so E's did have more of the half and half in it as well.

The verdict... Erik LOVED the creamy version of the 4B's soup! And, I think that tossing in a handful of carrots to simmer for the hour (for sweetness) and maybe blending in white beans would lend creaminess without the fat of half and half and add protein and vitamins — I'll definitely try that next time!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Move Over Martha!

Move over Martha, Madeline's in town! I told Miss M to arrange the starfruit (her fave) and strawberries however she wanted on this platter, and here's what she did...
... makes a Mama proud! She's got the eye. And, E's busy sampling the fruit as well...
And, at Grammy's the day prior, M was thrilled to practice her knife skills ala Jamie Oliver!
Erik is always the first to volunteer for sous chef duty, and hopped up to the sink to wash scallions.
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