Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Marshmallow Pops

Oh my goodness. These were really fun and easy to make. All of my kids participated in the process. We hosted a dinner party for my mother's birthday and made these treats for all of the cousins... (8 in total). The ingredient list is very small: Standard size marshmallows, candy sticks, white melting candy wafers, food dye and sprinkles, sprinkles and more sprinkles. You simply dip half of the marshmallow into the tinted melted wafers, sprinkle on topping while still wet and set to dry.I discovered that a baking dish covered in foil with worked the best for allowing them to harden without smearing your work everywhere. I did put them in the fridge to hasten the process, but that would be optional.

Very simple, very easy to tailor to different seasons/events and allowed the kids to participate!! I would also add that these things were so amazingly over-the-top sweet, that there was no temptation on the part of the grownups to snitch! Whoo Hooo! Enjoy

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Whole Wheat Goodness

I was inspired to make a batch of whole wheat sandwich bread after seeing pictures on one of my favorite cooking blogs. I was very committed to making our own bread in late 2004/2005. Then, I somehow got sidetracked, and abandoned my baking. (oh, yeah, I had another baby in early 2006). The smell of baking bread, cutting into a lovely loaf, and the wonderful work out of kneading your own bread is a heavenly experience. I have tried a variety of recipes, and find some more interesting and others more kid friendly. The bread I made today definitely has a kid friendly texture, color and taste.
Bread making should not be intimidating. It really isn't hard at all. It isn't even that time-consuming. The trick is you just have to be home for several hours to see the process from start to finish.
A few key points... the amount of flour can vary depending on many factors. I have found that when the bread clears the side and most of the bottom of the bowl you are done adding flour.
You need to have a stand mixer with enough power to handle the dough. I reduced the recipe to 2 loaves and still had to finish kneading by hand.
I do believe that I usually have let the dough rise twice, but this called for a single rise once it was formed into a loaf.
The American Test Kitchen has excellent pictures on how to form a loaf, but I am still practicing. After letting it rise for about 90 minutes, it was ready to go. I put it into a cold oven and baked for exactly 90 minutes. I did brush butter onto the top of the loaf when it was done, but that's about it. The amount of actual hands on work time is quite minimal, however, I think it was at least 3 hours from start to finish. Growing up, my father would bring a television set into the kitchen and make bread while watching Monday Night Football. He would often cut a warm slice and deliver it to us if he still heard any pitter-pattering. Pure love and goodness!!!
The verdict on this bread was a definite yes, make again. The entire loaf was gone in about 2 days!! Enjoy!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blanching Sunday

I have taken to blanching vegetables in a large batch, one right after another on Sundays. I find that blanched vegetables look so much more appealing and if your fridge is stocked with them, you can just reheat either on the stove or in the microwave mid week to get a quick veggie to your dinner table. The trimming, rinsing and most of the cooking is already done for you. If you blanch them serially, the amount of time really in minimal for each vegetable. I, often (gasp) don't even change out the boiling water between veggies. I do, however, end with asparagus, as I think that is the most potent flavor in the bunch.
So... to blanch, you need boiling water (unsalted), fresh veggies, a careful eye and ice water.
Here I have started green beans in boiling water, for just a few minutes. The timing depends on the thickness of the bean and also your taste preference. I like to heat to change the taste from raw to just a hint of sweetness, but abhor flimsy, smushy green beans.
After a few minutes, pluck them out with tongs and plunge them into ice water. This stops the cooking process and protects that lovely green color you just obtained.
Now, after they are cooled down, you are done. Look at the before and after colors of the green beans. Wow!! Way better looking veggies!!
So you ask, what do I blanch: usually I blanch in this order: Sugar snap peas, Green Beans, Broccoli and then Asparagus. I don't know why they are all green vegetables or if you can blanch non-green friends, but this is just what I do. Another benefit of blanching is that they do seem to last longer than uncooked fresh veggies in your fridge. It must kill off some unmentionables that I don't want to even think about!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Roasted Asparagus

I grew up on steamed asparagus. I was "made" to try it and disdainfully bite off a tiny, tiny piece of the tip. It was horrible. I grew into liking steamed asparagus. I tolerated it. I included it in my cycle of spring veggies. Then, I tried roasted asparagus. Oh, my goodness, this is an entirely different vegetable. I love them, I crave them and most importantly, one of my three munchkins actually will try them when "made" to do so.
Things I have learned about asparagus. The woody end is best gotten rid of, not by trimming them, but by simply snapping them off. Take the two ends into each of your hand, bend until it snaps. It will more likely than not, snap at joint of woody and yummy. I am trying to show this one handed, so you just have to imagine the other hand!!

Then, toss with some olive oil, Kosher salt and coarse ground pepper. Roast in over at 400 degrees. Timing will depend on the thickness of the stalk. It really can be fast... like 8 minutes with thin stalks and up to 15-20 minutes for very thick ones.
Top with freshly grated parmesean and you have a delicious, healthy side dish with minimal mess and fuss. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Birthday Cakes

This was the weekend of 2 birthdays. Both wanted star wars cakes. I, however, wanted to practice making cakes for the cake raffle at school this week. We compromised a bit. Mr Muscle had a round layered cake filled with raspberry and whipped cream. I ran out of time to decorate his in any fancy fashion. He wanted Luke and Yoda. There were a ton of great ideas out there for amazing creations, but time was of the essence as guests were coming in 20 minutes!! I printed out a photo and placed it in a Ziploc bag. Then just frosted around the border. Voila. Next year, perhaps if I start weeks in advance, rather than hours in advance, he might have a bit more of a creation! The cake was a white lemon flavored cake. I made a Swiss meringue buttercream, which is wonderful to pipe, but not so many people like to eat the rich butter and sugar combination. My daughter, Ms Personality, wanted a shaped R2-D2 cake, and wanted nothing to do with any fun filling other than whipped cream. I made her a yellow cake with vanilla flavored butter cream.
I do have to say the raspberry filling was amazing. Looking at the picture now, I am a little embarrassed at the irregularity of the layers. However, no one complained :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Everyone is normal until....

Everyone is normal until you get to know them. I repeat this phrase a lot. I also like to think in terms of everyone has "a closet". You know, the one that you hope guests never open. If they do, stuff, often unmentionables or embarrassing purchases will come tumbling down. I have 3 kids, a job, a husband and a desire to run a smooth, happy house. Some might even say, "perfect". I can't be perfect, no one is. but I can strive to be outwardly normal. This is my journey in life.