Posts tagged easy to make

Pumpkin Cookies from Just Baked’s Pam Turkin

pumpkin cookies

Photo credit: Pam Turkin

From cupcake queen Pam Turkin, the mind behind Just Baked, comes this recipe for pumpkin cookies.

Ingredients

4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (saigon is my favorite)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 cups butter
1 can (15 oz.) 100% Pure Pumpkin
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
2 cups raisins
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup Mini Marshmallows

Directions

  1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.
    COMBINE flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and pie spice in medium bowl. Beat soften butter and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl for 30 seconds. Add pumpkin, eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; beat until blended. Gradually add flour mixture into pumpkin mixture at low speed until combined. Stir in raisins and nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets.
  2. BAKE for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely. Spread each cookie with frosting.

Frosting ingredients

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup Milk

1/2 tsp Vanilla

dash cinnamon

Directions

Add Milk and vanilla to powered sugur until thin enough to drizzle.  Once cookies have cooled drizzle over cookies to taste and enjoy!!

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the asparagus contest

asparagus

Photo credit: elana's pantry

The other night at dinner my kids polished off all the asparagus. And I couldn’t be more disappointed. I really like asparagus, especially roasted, which is how I prepared it with just a little bit of olive oil and sea salt. I started off with 6 asparagus stalks on my plate at the beginning of dinner and after eating just 2, my 9 year-old was asking for more. She’d finished off what was left on the pan and was circling the table asking for anyone’s extras–I gave her mine.

So how did I lose all my asparagus? I’d like to say I started out the meal planning to have my kids asparagus-lovers by the end, but that was not my intent at all.

See, I’d visited one of my favorite grocery stores, Sirna’s, earlier in the day. They stock local produce (the best Empire apples) and Amish meats in all their varieties–ham, bacon, pork loin. I picked up fingerling potatoes and then spied the asparagus. The stalks were thinner and more pliable then the asparagus I usually find–I figured they’d be perfect for roasting (I also thought my husband and I would be the only ones eating them). It’s not that I don’t want my kids eating veggies, it’s that I thought asparagus was one of those foods you have to try a little bit so many times before you decide you like it. That’s how I discovered I was an asparagus fan.

As with any new-to-my kids or ‘they’ve-rejected-it-before foods,’ I put only a small portion on each of my kids’ plates. Two stalks a piece. I only give them a little bit of new foods so that when I say, “Ah, just give it a try,” it isn’t too overwhelming. That also meant there was more asparagus leftover for, uh, me.

My 9 year-old liked eating the asparagus right off–”It’s like eating a tree, mom.” But my youngest wasn’t interested at all. That’s when my husband prodded, “Your sister is going to eat more.” Cue my 9 year-old picking up each asparagus, aiming it into her mouth starting from the end and then chomping away until she reached the tip, then grabbing another to do the same. It was like watching one of those old cartoons when Bugs Bunny inhales carrots. My youngest immediately took to the challenge. Her two stalks disappeared, my 9 year-old had already cleaned off the pan and then of course they turned to me. I was torn between my excitement that they were eating–and enjoying asparagus–and really wanting to finish off my veggies myself. I caved. My asparagus went for the greater good–creating veggie lovers.

I have no idea whether our little asparagus contest would work again. And certainly, I wouldn’t encourage veggie eating contests as a regular habit, but at least this week, it got my kids eating more green. Next time, though, I’m buying more asparagus!

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Easy Ghostly Chocolate “Cookies”


Every Halloween, my mom would break out the white chocolate so we could make these ghost treats. They’re fast and easy to make–you can have them prepped and ready to go in under 10 minutes. You can even turn them into “ghost pops” to give to friends or teachers.

Here’s what you need:

•White candy bark (white chocolate chips can work too, but it’s much harder to melt them)
•Sprinkles or chocolate chips to make eyes, mouth
•Wax paper

Optional:
•Sprinkles

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave. I use two squares in a 4 or 8-ounce ramekin for each person. I usually melt them in 30 to 45 second rounds at full power and stir them after each time. White chocolate burns easily so be careful not to over do it. If the chocolate seems soft, take it out of the microwave and stir it to melt completely. If you do happen to burn the chocolate, don’t try to keep using it. Clean it out and start again.

Once the chocolate is melted,give each person a large piece of waxed paper, a spoon and decorations. Paint the ghost on the wax paper using the spoon to spread the chocolate into a ghost shape. Add a popsicle stick, if using them. Decorate with chocolate chips or sprinkle eyes and mouth. Let your ghosts sit for about 3 to 5 minutes then remove it carefully from the waxed paper. Now you’re ready to bite your ghost’s head off!

My kids loved making these ghosts. Even if the ghosts didn’t quite look right, that just made them look more…ghostly.

Coming soon: Freaky meatball mice.

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Easy to Make Bread–Promise!

BreadRaise of hands—who thinks they can’t make bread? Don’t worry, no one’s watching. Admit it, the thought of using yeast in baked goods scares you almost as much as the upcoming SpongeBob marathon on Nickelodeon.

I once thought I couldn’t make bread either—turns out, it is all about the recipe. My good friend Melissa made this bread for me when she invited my family over for dinner one night. “I wish I could make bread like this,” I told her. “You should try this recipe. It’s really easy,” she said. Sure it is, I thought sarcastically. I didn’t believe her at all. Still, I dutifully copied down the recipe fully intending to throw it away once I got home but instead decided to give it a try. I’ve been making loaves at least once a week ever since.

And the best part about making this bread is it’s a stress reliever. Seriously, follow me on this: Once the dough is mixed, you have to (or rather, get to) punch it down every 10 minutes. My middle child calls it “beater” bread. Now I’m no food science expert, so I’ve no idea why the punching makes this bread so good (probably has something to do with the two tablespoons of yeast in it), but I can tell you it does do wonders for the bread and your psyche. Give it a try—even my brother-in-law made perfect loaves the first time with this recipe.

Recipe
Ingredients
2 ½ cups warm water
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons oil
6 cups flour
2 Tablespoons yeast

Directions

  1. Fill a measuring cup with the warm water and then add the yeast and sugar. Let it sit for three to five minutes (bubbles should form, letting you know that the yeast is active).
  2. There are a couple different ways to mix up the dough. Sometimes, I beat half the flour with the wet ingredients with my handheld mixer. The dough will get a little unruly after you add the full 6 cups and you’ll spend more time kneading, but the end result is still perfect. Lately, I’ve been using my food processor to mix up the dough. If you have a large upright mixer, that will work well too.
  3. In a large bowl, or the food processor bowl, add six cups of flour and the salt. Mix. Add the oil to the wet ingredients and then gradually pour in the yeasted liquid to the flour (again, if you’re using a handheld mixer you should only use half the flour at first, then add in the rest until the mixer won’t mix any longer).
  4. Pull the dough out onto a lightly floured cutting board and briefly knead until smooth.
  5. Place the dough into a large, oiled mixing bowl (I spray mine with cooking spray) and cover with a slightly moist kitchen towel.
  6. Now, for the fun part! For the next 50 minutes, you’re going to punch down the dough every 10 minutes (so, four punching rounds). Set a timer at each ten minutes then punch away–you may need to dust your fist with flour.
  7. After the last punching session, let the dough rise for 10 minutes. Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and separate it into two balls (or three, or four, depending on the size of loaf you want).
  8. Let the dough rest for about five minutes before kneading it and rolling it out to a thick rectangle (about one-inch), then roll up the loaf tightly as you would a jelly roll. Place the loaf onto a lightly greased baking sheet.
  9. Cover with the kitchen towel and let it rise for 30 to 60 minutes (I once forgot about the bread rising and it went for nearly 90 minutes without any problems).
  10. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
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Easy roasted veggies–2 ways

Photo credit: greg.turner

We’ve been living on roasted veggies these days. Red potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, onions, even red peppers have been making it onto the baking pan and filling the house with yummy smells. (Forget turning on the heater–something cooking in the oven is my favorite way to heat up the house!)

Below, I’ve included the basic recipe for roasting veggies. I usually double this recipe and make enough to have leftovers for lunch and to include in other meals.

Lately, we’ve used roasted veggies in place of meat to make:

-Nachos

-Calzones

-Burritos

-Enchiladas

-Pita pizzas

They’re so easy the only hang-up is they take time to roast. But double the recipe (using two pans!) and you can have enough to last for two or three meals.

Recipe #1–Diced

Servings: 4-5

Prep time: 20 minutes + 40-50 minutes cooking time

Ingredients

2 pounds red potatoes (or your favorite although I’ve found red are best for roasting)

1 pound carrots

1 small onion

1 pound optional (sweet potatoes, parsnips, purple potatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes)

Cooking spray

Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Generously coat a large cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  3. Wash and dry your veggies. Dice the veggies into dime-sized pieces (I always leave the skin on the potatoes–makes it easier and better for you). Keep the onions separate.
  4. Place the veggies onto the sprayed cookie sheet (except the onions or peppers if you’re using them). Spray again and sprinkle with salt (if desired, they’re good without).
  5. Place in the heated oven for 10 minutes. Remove, add the onions, and return to the oven. (I find if I put in the onions from the start that they become too browned.)
  6. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until the potatoes are just browned. Let the veggies cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe #2–Whole

Lately, I’ve found small, whole potatoes (often called fingerling) at the grocers. With these potatoes the prep is even easier.

Ingredients:

2 pounds small potatoes

1 small onion, cut thick

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Generously coat a large cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  3. Wash and dry your veggies. Keep the onions separate.
  4. Place the whole veggies onto the sprayed cookie sheet (except the onions). Spray again and sprinkle with salt (if desired, they’re good without).
  5. Place in the heated oven for 10 minutes. Remove, add the onions, and return to the oven. (I find if I put in the onions from the start that they become too browned.)
  6. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until the potato skins begin to blister (you’ll even hear them popping). Let the veggies cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

*Note: these are also good sprinkled with dried rosemary.

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Banana dessert mini-eggrolls

Banana mini-eggrollsMy kids raved about a dessert we tried at Peppermint, a nearby Thai restaurant (actually, they devoured everything they had, but the dessert was the easiest one to figure out all the ingredients:).

We decided to recreate it at home. Truth be told, my oldest had to bring in a food to share in one of her classes, so we thought it was a good excuse to give it a try.

These were simple to put together and really tasty. If I were making this to serve, I’d pair it with some vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce and pop these along the side.

Recipe

Servings: Lots!

Prep time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

3 Bananas

Nutella

1 package small square wonton wrappers (3-inch squares)

Oil for frying

Heat your oil to medium-high heat while you prepare your eggrolls.

Cut the bananas into 1-1 1/2 inch sticks–cut the banana into a 1-inch piece, then divide lengthwise into fours.

Put out the wonton wrappers on either a cutting board or cooking sheet. Place a cut piece of banana in the center of each wrapper. Add a teaspoon sized dollop on each banana piece.

Have a shallow bowl of water handy. Using your finger add a little water to the edge of the wrappers to help them stick. Fold on corner of the wrapper in toward the filling. With the other two sides remaining fold them in toward the first folded side and press down to make sure the dough sticks. Finally, fold over the top side. The packets should not contain any air, just filling.

Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers or until you’re ready to stop making little banana packets:)

Fry the packets for about 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally. Serve warm. We discovered cold banana eggrolls weren’t so tasty.

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Firefly snack crackers

One of my earliest memories was catching fireflies at my grandmother’s house in Iowa. Like most kids who get anywhere near a lightning bugs, I ran inside and asked for a glass jar. I just had to catch one! My grandmother helped me poke holes in the top of a Ball Mason canning jar. Back outside, I scooped up as many fireflies as I could. In the end, I think my glass jar had a total of three swirling inside. I let two go immediately, but I wanted to keep just one to light up my room.

Whether my captured lightning bug kept flashing into the night or not, I don’t remember. And, of course, since then I’ve learned that lightning bugs really shouldn’t spend too much time “indoors” no matter how many holes you poke! But what I do recall is the fascination and draw of these twinkling little creatures. It makes the outside feel magical at night–especially when all of a sudden one pops up next to you and flashes.

With summer nearly over and the fireflies making fewer and fewer appearances, I wanted to do something special with my kids. We’re having a ‘firefly’ picnic. Our plans are pretty simple–to take time to eat outside a little later at night (8pm) and to use battery-powered candles as light (granted, it won’t be that dark outside), but my kids liked that touch. Oh, and we’re eating our meal under the trees. We’re hoping a few fireflies will make a guest appearance and that the mosquitoes stay away during our “feast.”

Our meal will be a spread of peanut butter and honey sandwiches, juice boxes, chips and carrot sticks (can you tell the kids are ready for school again?), but we’re taking time to create some special firefly snacks—just in case the real ones don’t make an appearance.

Recipe for Firefly Crackers

Servings: As many as you want to make!

Prep time: Depends on how long it holds your kids’ interest

Ingredients

Circle crackers (Ritz or similar variety)

Spreadable cream cheese

Raisins

Kiwis (or pineapple rings)

Directions

Have all of your ‘firefly’ materials on hand ready for assembly.

Body—circle cracker

Wings—circle cracker broken or cut in halves

“Glow”—cut kiwis into thin slices or alternatively, use pineapple rings

Raisins—eyes

Cream cheese—glue

Add a generous dollop of cream cheese to a full circle cracker and spread. Add the kiwi to the bottom half of the cracker and carefully place a wing on either side. Add two raisin ‘eyes’ to the top of the body circle cracker. That’s it! If you don’t have kiwis available, go ahead and use pineapple rings, but you’ll have to carefully cut them in half to create a thin enough slice for the ‘glow’ part of the firefly cracker.

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Fast & Easy Creamy Sauteed Spinach with Ricotta and Fontina Gnocchi

Gnocchi and spaghetti with ragu

Ingredients

1 17.6 ounce package gnocchi

4 cups spinach

1 cup ricotta

¾ cup fontina

1 clove garlic

1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil, separated

ground pepper and salt to taste

2 Tablespoons either half and half or cream (optional)

Fresh, chopped basil (optional)

Directions

Cook the gnocchi according the package directions.

Add the olive oil to a large sauté pan and bring to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds before adding the spinach (I don’t even bother pulling them into smaller pieces I just throw them whole into the pan). Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or just until the spinach leaves just barely begin to wilt. Push the spinach to the outer sides of the pan and add another ½ tablespoon of oil. Add the cooked gnocchi to the middle of the pan. Let the gnocchi cook for about 4 minutes before moving them around.

Now that the gnocchi have had time to sauté, turn the heat down to medium. Add the ricotta cheese in dollops on top of the gnocchi and sprinkle with the cheese.  Don’t mix the ingredients until you see cheese just beginning to melt. Sprinkle with pepper and salt, stir briefly until the cheeses mix with the rest of the ingredients. For a creamier sauce you can add a few tablespoons half and half or heavy cream at this point. You can also toss in fresh basil, Parmesan cheese and/or a few red pepper flakes. Serve.

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Dirty Cakes Your Kids will Love

“You can eat the whole thing—except the flowers and the pot,” my nine-year-old daughter explained with a smile when we dropped off a little treat at her friend’s house. “It’s a dirt cake!” Her mom seemed to pick up on the joke right away, but my daughter’s buddy looked a little puzzled. “It’s Oreo soil,” giggled my daughter.

Her friend seemed confused still, “I can eat this?”

“Yup,” answered my daughter. That’s right—we’ve been doing a little planting around my house. With the warmer temperatures, and April Fool’s Day as an excuse, we decided to make some dirt cakes to give to my kids’ friends. Dirt cakes are fun and easy to either make with your kids—or to create to play a joke on your kids. This time, I let me kids in on the silliness. When I explained to my crew that we were going to put together dirt cakes, they weren’t sure what to make of it, until my 9-year-old spotted the Oreos. She didn’t care what we were making as long as Oreos were involved.

Making dirt cakes is easy. Pick up a new planting pot at the hardware store, cut up pieces of chocolate cake to place in the bottom, then add a layer of chocolate pudding, and then insert either fresh (stems wrapped in tin foil) or artificial flowers into the center of the pot. Then sprinkle ground up Oreos (the “dirt”) and gummy worms at the top of the pot. If you need more detailed instructions, see below.

Child eating dirt cake

Don't forget to add some "worms" into your dirt cake!

Child making dirt cake

Adding dirt...

Children with dirt cakes

Dirt cakes ready for delivery!

.

This time, we chose individual servings, but if you really want to fool your kids, buy a large potting plant and add your cake ingredients to create a centerpiece for your kitchen table. Then, once you’ve eaten your dinner explain to the kids that you’re still really hungry. You can then start taking nibbles at the planting soil and dare your kids to join you. Older kids might already guess your rouse, but younger ones will be amazed that mom is a dirt eater.

If you miss getting in on the fun for April 1st, don’t worry, maybe the Easter Bunny will leave your kids a special plant…

We had so much fun putting these cakes together my kids are already asking when we’re going to do it again.

“Dirt” Cake Instructions

Supplies:

Several small flowerpots or one large one

1 chocolate cake mix, cooked according to directions in a 9×13” pan

1 chocolate pudding mix, put together according to directions

15-20 Oreo cookies, crushed

1 package gummy worms

Artificial or real flowers

Aluminum foil

Directions:

Wash and dry thoroughly all of your flowerpots. Cut the chocolate cake into large chunks. Places several pieces into your flowerpot until it is 2/3 full. Heap several spoonfuls of pudding into the flowerpot to cover the cake pieces entirely. Wrap the bottom of your flowers with tin foil. Poke a hole into the center of the cake/pudding using a chopstick. Place the flowers into the hole you created. Sprinkle crushed Oreos and gummy worms around the flowers.

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