Archive for July, 2011

Mini oatmeal peach crisps

Warm peach slices with a crumbly, buttery filling, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream was a summertime tradition growing up. Of course, I’ve got to continue that one! When I see peaches at the grocery store or farmers’ markets, I figure it’s peach crisp baking time. And I like to take it one step farther and make ‘em mini. You can still use a regular dutch oven or casserole dish, but for change I’ve included the instructions for using ramekins (sorry, using a muffin pan for this one is a no-go).

I looked through several recipes—and even tried one that literally fell flat—before deciding on the one below. In my mind, fruit crisp has to have oatmeal in it (that’s so you can eat it for breakfast on day #2 and feel like it’s nearly as healthy as oatmeal on its own). But most recipes relied just on oatmeal without including flour, which made for a less crisp crust.

Another point on the crust—I like to cut the butter in with a food processor versus doing it by hand. But the first time I added in all of the dry ingredients from the beginning, then my oatmeal was reduced to crumbs. Ditto for the nuts. To keep my oatmeal and nuts from disappearing, I processed the dry ingredients with the butter first then added in the oatmeal and nuts at the very end. Two pulses so the pieces are still chunky.

Recipe

Tweaked from The American’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Prep time: 20 minutes + baking

Servings: 8-10

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons flour

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

5 Tablespoons butter

1/3 cup rolled oats (not instant)

¼ cup almonds

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon cinnamon

About 10 peaches

Blueberries or blackberries (optional; I had some handy so I threw ‘em in)

Directions

  1. Bring water to a boil in a large cooking pot. Place the peaches in a large mixing bowl and pour the boiling water over them.

    Found this little pot with a lid on sale--perfect for mini foods

  2. Allow the peaches to sit in the hot water for about 3-5 minutes. Pour out the hot water and rinse the peaches with cold water.
  3. Peel the skins off the peaches, remove the pits, and then slice into ¼” pieces. Place the pieces into a mixing bowl and toss with the cornstarch and cinnamon.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  5. In a food processor place the flour, sugars, salt. Pulse twice. Add the butter in pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles crumbs.
  6. Place the oatmeal and almonds into the butter mixture and pulse twice to four times (you don’t want to pulverize the nuts and oatmeal just break them up slightly).
  7. Lightly grease a 9” casserole pan or dutch oven (preferred). Place the peach slices into the pan and then add the butter mixture on top.

To make ‘em mini

  1. Grease one 7-ounce ramekin per peach.
  2. Distribute peach slices into ramekins (keep in mind the peaches will shrink by almost half when cooking so this will seem full but they’ll go down–promise). Toss the berries on top.
  3. Carefully top each ramekin with crumb mixture, pressing it down as you go.
  4. Bake on a cookie sheet (I overfilled one and it bubbled over but it still tasted good).
  5. Serve to smiling kids.
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Quick black bean salsa

Black beans and salsa make a tasty combo. The beans give the salsa heft, while the tomatoes, peppers and lime add a punch of flavor to beans that might otherwise go—well, let’s admit it–uneaten. So if you’ve always been reaching for pinto beans or refried beans at the grocery store, go ahead a pick up a can or two of black.

These smaller beans are just slightly harder than pinto. They also have a meatier flavor. Now I could also point out that black beans top pinto in terms of nutritional value and fiber content, but what I really like about them in this dish is the color—the shiny black color pops against the red tomato and the specks of green cilantro. So if you’re family usually shuns beans, this colorful combination might just convince them to give it a try.

Now a word about the chili peppers: First, I run the knife lengthwise across the pepper, then open it up and remove the seeds. Some people wear gloves to do this but I just make sure to wash my hands well after messing with the seeds. The oil from the seeds can sting if it gets in your eyes so be careful. I add the pepper in parts—1/4 at a time. It’s easy to add a little heat and a whole lot harder to take it out if you put in too much. I’d stir all the ingredients together, let it sit for half an hour, then add more if the heat isn’t enough. I save any extras in a small plastic baggy to put into other dishes. Also, while fresh is best, you can use pickled jalapeno peppers.

Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes

Servings: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

1 19.75-ounce can black beans (or similar size)

2 medium tomatoes

½ cup cilantro, chopped

2 limes (or one if it’s really juicy)

1 small onion

1 jalapeno or Serrano chili pepper

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Drain the liquid from the black beans place in a mixing bowl.
  2. Chop the tomatoes and onion into small, uniformly sized pieces. Add them to the beans
  3. Remove the seeds from the pepper carefully then add ¼ to the mix. Test the heat level and add more until you reach the desired level.
  4. Squeeze the juice from two limes directly into the salsa.
  5. Add the cilantro, salt and pepper, stir and adjust seasonings, then serve with tortilla chips.
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Pineapple sage and my mother’s garden

Borage, or starflower

“I was so excited when I found borage at the nursery,” gushed my mom recently. Borage, or starflowers are edible, beautiful and just happened to be a regular sight on our dessert plates growing up. (My mom would also freeze starflowers in ice molds to suspend in punch bowls during parties; I loved it.) Frequent visitors to MKES might wonder where I got my hankering for trying new flavors. Maybe from frequent trips to my mother’s garden to trim edible flowers, like borage, or pansies, to dress up dishes. Now, I have none of my mother’s gardening skills, but I do love experimenting with spices, ingredients and techniques in the kitchen.

Pineapple sage

And herbs? We had mint, chocolate mint, parsley, sage, rosemary, and oregano thyme. Just the other day I asked my mom what kind of basil she had in her garden. “Sweet, cinnamon, Thai…” I have no pictures of my own gardening efforts to pass along, I’ll just have to rely on hers for now. Update: I have kept my indoor basil plant alive for a week now. It’s looking good although the cilantro plant didn’t even make it 3 days.

a peek at my mother's herb garden

Your turn–what culinary skill did you learn from your mom? And hey, if it’s how to read the back of a box of brownies, that counts!

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My favorite on-the-go snack?

Apples in lemon juice. The temperature topped 95 degrees yesterday when we went to the zoo–the humidity was nearly as bad. For a refreshing treat that’s easy to pack, apples are my go-to snack. I don’t like carrying them whole, but I slice ‘em instead. That avoids the problem of the kids grabbing a couple bites then asking me to carry the rest, half eaten.

I make thin 1/4″ apple slices then squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a freezer bag or a tupperware (above I packed them in my favorite bento box). I toss the lemon in too–sometimes one of my kids asks to suck on that while we walk. Often I’ll also pack peanut butter for dipping (and energy:). I found aluminum foil ash trays at my local party store that make the perfect-sized tray.

Your turn–what’s your favorite snack for hot summer days?

Passing out snacks at the zoo

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Harry Potter eats

Gearing up to see the movie? Recovering from going to the midnight showing? Try these Harry Potter inspired recipes to enjoy a taste of Hogwarts at your house.

Butter Beer

This recipe from the Food Network seemed to be the fastest to put together. But I’d keep the glasses small–these are sweet!

Sorting Hats

From Monday’s MKES–try the quick version using ice cream cones or make your own chocolate sugar cookie dough to make ‘em from scratch.

Cockroach Clusters

Love this simple idea from HarryPotterrecipes.net. You use chow mein noodles and melted chocolate to create your bugs.

Cornish Pasties

From Good.Food.Stories, this recipe is almost like a shepherd’s pie merged with a calzone.

Treacle Tarts

Infused with molasses and ginger, I want to try this recipe from One Tasty Place.

Not ready to bake today? No problem, my answer is to use Harry’s initials or trademark lightning scar shape in whatever your making. I used a kitchen knife to carve them into the extra dough I had leftover from the sorting hat cookies. Make toast, smear it with peanut butter and then write an ‘H’ and ‘P’ with raisins. Or what about blueberry muffins with an ‘H’ on top formed with berries? Okay, I guess some of those do involve baking, but you get the idea. Your kids will love getting into Harry Potter whether you keep it simple or break out the tart pan.

Your turn–how are you celebrating the end of the Harry Potter saga?

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Harry Potter’s polyjuice potion

It’s polyjuice potion time! What’s great about this magical concoction is…get this..it can be any color you want. Yup, before putting together my brew I checked on Harry Potter wikia and the color of the juice changes based on the person you want to become (dutiful HP readers would remember this). Gregory Goyle and Bellatrix Lestrange? Gross color, worse flavor. Mafalda Hopkirk (remember from the Ministry of Magic) was much more appealing. And Harry Potter‘s? Pure gold, of course.

So when it comes to crafting your version, have fun with the flavor and color. But I do have a few tips on making it taste fizzy and appear out of the ordinary. Pull out your caldron (that would be blender for us muggles) and start mixing.

1)1:1 juice to crushed ice ratio

Photo credit: Harry Potter wikia

I used grape juice to give the drink a bit of sourness. And instead of ice cubes, I chose crushed ice so that I didn’t have to blend it all the way. To me, polyjuice potion should be a bit crunchy instead of smooth so I pulsed 3 cups grape juice plus 3 cups crushed ice briefly.

2)Add yogurt

I added one container of berry yogurt to give the potion some creaminess and thickness. (You can use as much yogurt as you want just make sure only to pulse and not purify your concoction.)

3)Pop in berries–and spinach

My kids love smoothies so I wanted to make this one unique. Again, I thought having bits of various ingredients would make the drink feel more Harry Potteresque instead of smoothy-ish. I added 3/4 cup blueberries and 1/2 baby spinach and barely blended it so that the chunks of dark green and purple stood out. Finally, in the bottom of each glass I put in three blackberries so that when my kids were slurping up the last bits they’d find something unexpected.

Blueberries and spinach ready to be pulsed

4)Omit hair & lacewing flies

Yes, real polyjuice potion has the person’s hair in it that you want to turn into–along with some other ingredients I didn’t have on hand:), but I decided to forgo this step and instead sit back with my kids and watch Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince while downing our potion.

Your turn–what flavors would you put in your polyjuice potion? And what Harry Potter character would you most like to be?

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Harry Potter sorting hat cookies 2 ways

Sorting hat made with chocolate butter cookie dough

It’s here. The final Harry Potter flick. To celebrate the Friday opening, I’m coming up with Hogwarts-inspired eats all week. First up, sorting hat cookies.

I knew coming up with a cookie that looked like the sorting hat wouldn’t be easy. After all, it needed to be a dark color, 3-dimensional, and have that trademark scowl etched into the folds. Dark chocolate butter cookies. I figured I could work with the dough to shape the hats. My first few attempts yielded several helpful comments from my kids, most along the lines of–”Cool. Are those supposed to be dragon droppings or something, mom?” But hey, it’s the final Harry Potter movie so if it takes a little more time to come up with the perfect sorting hat cookie, that’s okay.

I did come up with a decent looking sorting hat cookie, trouble is, of my cookie batch, only 5 turned out, the rest, well, spread a bit to the point

Photo credit: Wizardinglife.com

that my kids’ comments were pretty accurate. But that’s where a little creativity comes into play. I turned my less impressive cookies into the base of a much simpler, easier version of sorting hats–inverted ice cream cones with melted chocolate chip faces. I’m including detailed instructions if you want to attempt the sorting hat chocolate butter cookies, but if you’re looking for something you can pull together in minutes (or to use your cookies that didn’t turn out) I’ve got those directions first. My kids were more than happy to eat any of my attempts at cookies–you can’t go wrong with Harry Potter-themed sweets.

Check back in Wednesday for a Polyjuice Potion recipe and Friday for a roundup of Harry Potter ideas to cook up.


Ice cream cone 'sorting hat' cookies


Fast & easy sorting hat cookies

Yield: 4 large cookies

Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

4 sugar ice cream cones

4 scoops ice cream

1/4 cups chocolate chips, melted

4 chocolate wafer cookies

Directions

  1. Heat the chocolate chips in a glass dish in the microwave until melted. (At high power, my microwave takes 1 minute.)
  2. Invert the ice cream cones and use a table knife to draw the sorting hat ‘face’ onto the cones. I also dipped the tip of the cone into the chocolate.
  3. Allow to harden–if you use chocolate candy coating this can take minutes, chocolate chips will take around half an hour.
  4. Place the ice cream carefully into each cone and top with the chocolate wafer cookie. (This is where you can use your chocolate butter sorting hat cookies that didn’t quite turn out:)
  5. Service right away!

Chocolate butter sorting hat cookies

*Adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Baking Companion Cookbook

Yield: Depends;)

Prep time: 30 minutes + baking, fridge time

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups flour

Use two circle sizes for the hat

3/4 cocoa (*see note below)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 butter at room temperature (not margarine)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 egg

1 Tablespoon water

1/2 Tablespoon honey or agave

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Directions

  1. Cream the butter and sugars together. I wanted an intense, chewy chocolate cookie that’s why I went with brown sugar in

    Notice the thickness of the cookie and how to cut the circle

    stead of just granulated.

  2. Add the egg, water, honey and extract (if using) to the butter mixture. Blend well.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. *Note: to get the dark color try using Hershey’s special dark cocoa at the grocers or order dark cocoa powder from King Arthur Flour.
  4. Gently mix the dry ingredients gently into the batter just until incorporated.
  5. Place dough on waxed paper, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or until solid.
  6. Here’s the tricky part–putting the cookies together: preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line your cookie pans with parchment paper.
  7. Working with 1/3 of the dough at a time and leaving the rest refrigerated, roll out the dough, using flour and a rolling pin, to 1/4″ thick. The object here is to keep the cookies AS COLD AS POSSIBLE so they don’t melt much when you cook them.

    Roll the dough inward at least 3 times and make it as high as possible (it'll shrink)

  8. Use a small circle as the base of the hat (I used a spice container lid) and a larger circle (cups work well) to construct the hat.
  9. Place the small circle on the cookie sheet. With the larger circle, make one cut toward the center (pictured). Roll this part inward so that it resembles a cone or Christmas tree. Place it on the smaller base. Don’t worry about pressing it in, as it cooks, it will come together.
  10. With a spoon, make the sorting hat face. Place the cookies into the fridge for 15 minutes (or more) before baking.
  11. Bake the cookies for 8 minutes and then check on them. I indented the face again part way through cooking. Bake another 3-5 minutes until just done.
  12. Remove the pan and allow the cookies to cool ON the pan. Again, you can use the spoon to shape the face; the cookies will harden as they cool.

Shaped sorting hats ready to go into the oven

Early attempts at sorting hats that fell flat--but still tasted good!

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Creme brulee french toast from Betsie Bay Inn

Perkins sent me this from her camera phone

My mouth is watering just looking at this picture and checking out the ingredients for this recipe–homemade caramel sauce hugging pieces of whipping cream-soaked sourdough bread. Scottish born Lesley Perkins, owner of Betsie Bay Inn & Restaurant in Frankfort, Michigan, graciously passed along this recipe to me when I was interviewing her for MetroParent’s Crumbs column. So if you want to indulge yourself a bit for breakfast–although I think this would be an amazing dessert–here you go. (Perkins told me this is one of her guests’ favorites.)

Recipe

Caramel Sauce

  1. Melt 1 pd. butter in a saucepan (take care to do this slowly so butter does not brown).
  2. Add 3 cups brown sugar.
  3. Whisk together over low heart until sugar is completely dissolved.
  4. Add 1 pint of heavy whipping cream.
  5. Mix well, set to the side.

Egg Mixture

  1. Whisk together 1 dozen eggs, 2 pints whipping cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla until well mixed.
  2. Fill large mixing bowl with bite-sized chunks of good quality bread (we use our homemade sourdough which had a orange zest added to it ).
  3. Pour egg mixture over the bread until the it’s absorbed.

Assembly

  1. Grease glass baking dish with butter, approximately 8” x 14”; we do single servings in a skillet.
  2. Ladle caramel sauce into dish, then fill dish with soaked bread chunks and the rest of the egg mixture.
  3. Bake in oven until golden (about 10 – 12 minutes).
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What do you do with purple carrot juice?

Good question, huh? You may not have a friend who passes along cool food finds like purple carrot juice (thanks Sarah!), but you might have a fridge or pantry with ingredients you need to use. Maybe you just can’t recall why you bought coriander seeds or orange vinegar in the first place. Or maybe you found a new fruit or veggie at your farmer’s market or grocers that you’d like to use.

When you’re looking to use a new ingredient, here are a few ideas to get you experimenting…

Taste it. I know, I know, that sounds obvious, but you might be surprised. I was sure that purple carrot juice would have a sweet, mild taste, something similar to the flavor when I roasted them. Poured myself a big glass. The pungent juice had an almost molasses-like taste and a strong steamed carrot smell. I’m sure some people like drinking it straight but I figured the best way for my to enjoy the flavor–and the nutritional punch–was to put it into something.

Bake it in. Since the flavor mimicked molasses and went well with veggies, I decided to replace some of the apple sauce in my favorite bran muffin recipe with the purple carrot juice. I swapped out 2 Tablespoons. The juice gave the muffins a slightly darker color and a hint of carrot I liked. I’m thinking next I need to try it in carrot muffins. Doesn’t that sound tasty? Or add it to fruit leathers?

Marinate with it. Mixing new-to-you ingredients in marinades is a great way to play with the flavors. I thought the carrot juice would work well with a strong soy sauce-based marinate. I wouldn’t use it in Mexican dishes, but Asian or standard BBQ marinades, toss some in!

Sauce it. Now about BBQ–lately we’ve been doctoring our BBQ sauces, either making our own from scratch (recipe coming) or tweaking our favorite bottled variety. My hubby starts with about 1 cup of juice–usually cranberry for a bit of tartness–and he boils it down by half until it thickens slightly. Then he adds 1 1/2 cups bottled BBQ sauce and then tweaks it with spices according to what we’re putting it on. Last week it was ground ancho chiles to go along with shredded pork. I’m thinking the black carrot juice would make for a cool BBQ sauce. I’m going to give it a try. But at your house, think tossing pureed or fresh squeezed juice into sauces and dips. Better yet, let your kids think up the combinations. One of my favorite Asian dipping sauces is simply equal parts lime juice and soy sauce. Hum, I wonder what apricot-soy would taste like…

Your turn–any ingredients that you’ve been wanting to use but weren’t sure how to use ‘em? Any ingredient experiments that worked well, or maybe tasted awful?

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Try something new for the 4th of July

What about black bean burgers?

Independence Day, ah the perfect excuse to try something new on the grill or at the picnic. I wanted to pass along a few ideas. It really doesn’t take much to tweak basic recipes to give them just a little bit more pizzazz.

Add heat: Not from the grill but from chile peppers. Chop ‘em up to put in potato salads or add a few shakes of cayenne pepper to your burgers or kabobs.

Go for color: If you’re a regular reader you know I love my veggies in a rainbow of options–from yellow carrots to purple potatoes, peek around at the farmer’s market or your local grocers for something fun. Yellow tomato slices on burgers or orange cauliflower in the pasta salad.

Marinate your hotdogs. Check out this recipe from my blogger buddy, Casey at Good.Food.Stories. You score the hotdogs, then marinate before grilling. With the added flavor it won’t be just kids downing the hotdogs!

Make hamburger hotdogs. I found these at my local butchers but there’s no reason you couldn’t do these at home. I bought the “Black Angus beef–tastes like steak” variety and they were a hit. But you could mold ground round into the shape of a hotdog and grill it and offer it on hotdog or brat buns. Or, forget the meat altogether and try out black bean or salmon burgers.

Drink up. Add frozen fruit for ice cubes or pair different combinations–like watermelon limeade.

Stick to sweets. Make your goodies more mobile; try yogurt popsicles, fruitstickles. You could even make watermelon balls and serve them on popsicle sticks.

Your turn–are you trying anything different for your holiday celebrations this year?

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