Thursday, February 25, 2010

Madeline's Choice Bento

Dill tuna salad, cheese Sun Chips, a "really big" carrot, and banana.
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A Very Merry Year: February

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.

The second recipient is my good friend Margo, whose birthday is this month, and who adores coconut. She's also out of work at the moment, and could certainly use the extra cheer for her birthday. So, I made my favorite light-as-a-feather, delicious coconut cookie crisps for her. Happy "New" Year, Margo!
Coconut Snowball Crisps
(adapted from Everyday With Rachael Ray December 2008)

3 large egg whites
1 pinch salt
1 c. powdered sugar
2 c. sweetened shredded coconut
2 c. Rice Krispies cereal
1/4 c. cornstarch

Preheat oven to 200-degrees F (they bake for one hour). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment. Beat egg whites and salt on medium-high speed of mixer with whisk attachment until thick and foamy, then add sugar and once incorporated, beat on high for about 5 minutes (until firm and glossy).

In another bowl, toss together the additional three dry ingredients, then fold the coconut mixture into the egg whites when ready. Scoop with small cookie scoop into parchment-lined sheets. They can be fairly close together since these cookies do not spread at all, and are basically drying out in the 200-degree oven for 1 hour (until firm and dry to touch).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Twist & Shout!

In 6th grade, pretzels were the first recipe we tackled in Mrs. Gill's Home Ec. class. We followed that with scrambled eggs and coffee cake, at which point I was going crazy with boredom. My mom pointed out that to most of the kids in my class these recipes were probably new and exotic... so I soldiered on. Then, something wonderful happened. Ms. Feek took over the class mid-year. She was a former chef from New York and she was fabulous. We started making croissants, bagels, chocolate mousse, roasted duck... whatever we wanted to learn about. She also had us find our own recipes, write up grocery lists, and manage our kitchen team. I learned a lot in that class and took it in 7th and 8th grade as well.

Yesterday, I made pretzels for the first time with the kids, but not with Mrs. Gill's recipe (which I long since lost).

The new recipe I found is from the King Arthur Flour site, and it's lovely. The kids (including Aura and Rowan) scarfed them down, and this will easily be a first solo recipe for the kids when they're older. Good thing too since Home Ec. isn't even offered in junior high anymore... The kids got very creative with shapes yesterday, and Mad ended up with this "snail" that she took in her bento today—filled with cream cheese.

King Arthur Soft Pretzels (16 pretzels)
(adapted from the King Arthur Flour web site)
About 2 cups warm water
2 pkgs. regular instant yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1 cup warm water
4 tablespoons baking soda
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat till well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, till it's soft, smooth, and quite slack. Oil the dough and place it in a bowl, cover, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 475°F. Prepare two baking sheets by spraying them with vegetable oil spray, or lining them with parchment paper.Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into 16 equal pieces (about 70g, or 2 1/2 ounces, each). Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda, and place it in a shallow bowl. Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved; if it isn't, it'll make your pretzels splotchy.Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28 to 30 inches long), and twist each rope into a pretzel (or other shape). Dip each pretzel in the baking soda wash (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown, reversing the baking sheets halfway through.Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you've used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but it's covering 16 pretzels. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave.
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Spring Preview...

"Spears" - AKA asparagus... Erik actually ate two spears of this. Victory!! He also inhaled two bowls of "Grumbly Bean Soup" this week. He like edamame (or Grumbly Beans) so that's what I called the Split Pea Soup I made on Tuesday. It has no edamame in it, but he doesn't know that. He LOVED it. Sweet. He also isn't aware that I discovered a sneaky cauliflower recipe in one of the Moosewood cookbooks today at the library, which I'll be making next week. Bwahahahaha!!
We ate the Grumbly Bean Soup (or Hernesoppa in Finnish) on Laskiaistiistai (Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday) along with Shrove Buns. These tasty treats are called Laskiaispullat in Finland and are cardamom sweet rolls (similar to Challah) sliced in half and filled with almond paste (or raspberry jam) and sweetened whipped cream. In turns out that Erik adores almond paste, and there is zero problem getting him to eat that.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Heart-y Scones

The kids helped whip up some heart-shaped orange-vanilla scones for Valentine's Day brunch. Along with bacon and fruit, it was a tasty little meal.

The finished product! Mmm...

Ready for the oven...


Erik loves the pastry blender... and the Microplane (he's irritated that I won't let him us the Microplane alone).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Wall*E is One Tough Cookie!

Well, Wall*E turned out great, in the end, and tasted fabulous, and G loved him! However, he lost his head three times, one arm entirely, and his neck just got shorter each time he lost his head.

Erik loved snipping the black licorice for his "tracks," and Ro was pleased with the base and tracks made of rice Krispie treats. The body was lemon poppy seed pound cake, and the head was wafer ice cream cones and macaroon cookies stuck together with melted white chocolate. Next time, I will frost the head and neck with buttercream rather than the cream filling from the center of the cakes (but this time I lost my fave pottery bowl and half our frosting to the floor *crash!*, so had to improvise). I think the moisture from the filling (used as frosting) contributed to the last two face-plants. The previous head falling was due to my use of cookie stick as support rather than the dowel that replaced it (that Joel cut and sanded for me).

Light & Creamy Whipped Filling
1 c whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks with sugar and vanilla
3 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. vanilla
Add the cream cheese half at a time and blend
1 8-oz. tub whipped cream cheese

Fill jelly roll, cake layers, or use as frosting (but not on a wafer-cone Wall*E head!)

Happy 5th Gavino!!


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