November 6, 2009

Banana Coconut Muffins


Mmmmm. These came out sooo good! Sometime before we went to Hong Kong, Picky spent a day making "recipes" by drawing pictures and having me write the list of ingredients, and then neatly putting them in plastic sleeves. One of the recipes was for "Coconut Sugar Muffins".


I'm not sure where she got the idea - the only thing she's tried knowingly with coconut is granola, and she picks it all out and makes a face. Anyway, she's been bugging me to make the muffins using her recipe, so I looked up "coconut muffins" on Epicurious and this is what I got. They are really yummy, and definitely a dessert! I didn't have any sweetened coconut, so I used unsweetened coconut shreds, and that worked just fine. I really can't imagine making it any sweeter than it already was. Yummy!
Note: I don't usually use paper liners with muffins, but I did here because they said to (so I figured there must be a reason...a sticky reason...). I did spray the inside with canola spray, even though it didn't say anything about it - I think it's necessary unless you like picking bits of muffin off of the papers. Also - I used frozen bananas (I always freeze them for baking and smoothies when they start to get really ripe) - I just put them in the microwave for a minute and then mashed them up. I know you have coconut, Isabelle - get on it! :)

October 12, 2009

Cinnamon rolls


Well, my dishwasher is fixed (yeah!), and so I'm playing around a bit with my new stand mixer before I leave for Hong Kong. I've never tried to make cinnamon rolls before, but I found them quite easy to make with my mixer. The recipe I used is in the book Family Meals by Maria Helm Sinskey. The rolls sit overnight in the fridge - I started the process around 8 pm (although Picky was a little disappointed that she was going to bed and not helping me make them - I guess I'll have to start earlier next time...).

I made the dough in the mixer (a process that only took 15 minutes) and then let the dough rise while I watched a few episodes of Dexter with my husband. He snapped some pictures of me while I rolled out the dough, sprinkled the sugar, and rolled it up. I was getting a bit embarrassed, you can tell. He was saying things like "Talk to the camera, Baby". It's no wonder I was turning red.

My hair was straightened earlier in the day by my wonderful hairdresser Danielle, so I look like a different person. Picky seemed to like the new look at first, but then kept saying things like "you're not my mommy when your hair is straight" until I finally agreed to give it a wash the next morning. Everyone calmed down after that. Change isn't always good around here.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

To make the dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the water, allow to bloom for a few minutes, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm spot, about 30 minutes. (That's about how long it takes Daddy to put Picky to bed. If we're lucky.)

Add the eggs, sugar, salt, and the remaining 4 cups flour to the yeast mixture. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and knead on medium speed until smooth, 10-12 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours, or 2 episodes of Dexter.


(yes, I'm wearing my daughter's hair clip. My straight hair was falling into my face in a way that I wasn't used to...)


(Here I am giving my husband the "one-eyebrow raise" which indicates that he just said something particularly embarrassing...)


(Look at the veins in those hands - should have been a farmer)




Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish (I used my lasagna pan). Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Roll out into a 15 x 10 inch rectangle. Brush with half of the melted butter, leaving a 2-inch wide strip uncovered on one long side. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the butter. Starting at the long side covered with sugar, roll up the rectangle snugly and pinch the seam together. With the seam facing down, cut into 10 equal pieces. Place the pieces, cut side up, in the dish. Brush with the remaining butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator overnight.


(This is the same look that Picky gets on her face when she's concentrating...)





The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and let rise until half again as high, about one hour. (If you're really lucky, make your husband do this step while you stay in bed - you deserve it!) Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. (if you forget to set the timer, like me, you can tell it's done when it starts to smell really good). Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Spread vanilla glaze over the warm rolls and serve.

vanilla glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

In a small bowl, sift together the sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, milk, and vanilla and stir into the sugar to form a smooth paste.



October 6, 2009

Apple Oven Cake


I have a large bag full of apples sitting on my kitchen floor. I should have more, really - I do have 8 apple trees on my property, but only a few of them are producing apples, because I don't really know how to prune and take care of them. Anyway, I do have apples, and I've been trying to figure out what to do with them - my husband won't eat them unless they are cooked (he thinks he's allergic to them - is this common?). He doesn't like apple sauce at all. Picky will sometimes eat apple sauce, but not with any regularity, and she won't touch apples in their natural form. Everyone will eat apple crisp, but that gets old for me after awhile, and my scale doesn't like it either (it keeps protesting by going a little higher each time I visit...). So I've been on the lookout for apple recipes.

I saw a recipe on Pioneer Women for skillet apple cake, and that sounded promising. On further investigation, however, I realized that there was a bit too much butter in that recipe. A bit. And then I remembered that a recent Sunset had a recipe for Apple Oven Cake, and I went sorting through all of my summer magazines to find it (It was actually in October - go figure). What I found is a kind-of apple pancake that you make in a cast iron pan. The butter content is much more reasonable (3 Tbsp as opposed to almost 2 sticks), however I wouldn't really call this a cake, exactly. It was fast to make, and I love the way it puffed up on the sides in a surprising way. I over-cooked it a bit, and I only had it in for 12 of the 15 minutes they suggested. So the edges were a little burnt. But it still tasted lovely, and the apples were all caramel-y and wonderful. The only thing I changed was the type of apple - it called for 1 sweet apple, such as Fuji - well, the apples from my tree are tart - baking apple tart. It tasted great - I would suggest that you'd be better off with a golden delicious or granny smith, here. But, maybe I'm mistaken. I have to admit that I generally prefer tart baking apples to sweet ones. Picky seemed to like it just fine too.


Here it is, from Sunset Magazine, October 2009:

Apple Oven Cake

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 sweet apple, such as Fuji, peeled and sliced
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup each flour and milk
  • 1 tbsp each fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425
Melt butter in a 12-inch ovenproof frying pan over high heat.
Add brown sugar and cinnamon, swirling to combine
Add apple and cook until just starting to soften, about 3 minutes
Meanwhile, in a blender, whirl together eggs, salt, flour, and milk
Pour egg mixture into pan and bake until puffed and brown, about 15 minutes
Sprinkle with lemon juice and powdered sugar.

Oh, yum! It was gone so fast...I may have to try again tomorrow, and see if I can make it perfect...


October 2, 2009

Southwestern corn and potato soup

I keep forgetting about this soup. It really is one of the tastiest soups I've had - but it's in a cookbook that I don't use that much, and so I forget about it. But I had lots of corn in my CSA box this week, and I happened to have limes and cilantro in my fridge...and sweet potatoes too... you can see why I thought of this soup. Anyway, my mom liked it so much, she made me promise to put it on the blog, so here it is. Be sure and serve it with lots of lime and cilantro, cause that kind-of makes the whole thing. Squeeze some lime juice into your bowl, don't just use it for pretty. The book I got it from is called Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites by The Moosewood Collective. I have a bunch of their books, and I really like the recipes, but I don't use this particular book that often - maybe I should give it another look...


Southwestern Corn and Potato Soup

  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 small fresh chile, seeded and minced (I left this out - it shouldn't really be that hot, but I didn't want that to be the reason Picky wouldn't try it)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (I used homemade chicken stock)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin (mmmm, I love cumin...)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced (about 2 cups - I peel it)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped (ok, ok - I didn't have red...I used green instead - is that wrong? It still tasted good...)
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • salt to taste
  • lime wedges
  • finely chopped cilantro leaves (you know, I didn't chop them at all, and thought it was great...)



In a covered soup pot, simmer the onions, garlic, chile, and salt in 1 cup of the vegetable stock for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft. In a small bowl, make a paste with the cumin and a tablespoon of the stock, stir it into the pot, and simmer for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and the remaining stock and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the sweet potatoes soften. Add the bell pepper and corn and simmer, covered, for another 10 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are tender.


Puree about half of the soup in a blender or food processor and return to the pot (or just stick your immersion blender in and give it a whir...). The soup will be creamy and thick. Add salt to taste and gently reheat on low heat. If desired, serve with lime wedges and top with cilantro.

I could see adding cooked chicken and making this a one-pot meal. I served it with bean and cheese quesadillas (just cheese for Picky). She served some of the soup to herself, carefully squeezing some lime on top and adding a sprig of cilantro. Then she ignored it and ate her cheese quesadilla. At least it's making it onto her plate now, that's progress, isn't it?


October 1, 2009

Soup weather! - Gougeres

I'm really enjoying the cooler weather. I love to wear sweaters and long sleeve shirts, and I really love soup. Soup is warm and comforting, there are endless variations, and you can get away with vegetables that would never be eaten in your house on their own. Picky likes a few different soups, but I can't just throw anything in a pot and expect her to eat it, yet. Still, the soups she will eat invite some variation - she loves "martian soup" which is pureed, and I can basically put anything in it as long as it comes out a lovely green color. I usually put in some kind of spinach-broccoli-parsley-potato combination. No beet greens - the red parts turn it a nasty goose-poop color. Although Picky still ate that batch, I'm pretty sure. Anyway, since Picky won't eat every kind of soup I make, and I don't want to limit myself to making endless pots of Martian Soup, I try to make some kind of bready side-dish that she will like. Sometimes it's just that - bread. Sometimes It's quesadillas or grilled cheese sandwiches. Sometimes cornbread. If I have just a little extra time - gougeres!

Gougeres have been described as savory cream puffs without the cream. Or you can think of them as free-form eggy p
opovers. There are countless recipes out there for them, which is interesting since they only have 6 ingredients, basically. Some books (like Joy of Cooking) make them sound really hard to make, but I haven't found that to be the case at all - the one important factor seems to be (like in the case of popovers) to have a really hot oven. It's always a good idea to check the accuracy of your oven with an oven thermometer if you can. Also, if you set the oven about 25 degrees over the suggested temperature, and then turn it down to the correct temperature once the gougeres are in the oven, you can be sure that you haven't lost heat by opening and closing the oven door. This works with any kind of baking. Other than that, you just need a strong arm to stir the batter. I'm wondering if you could do this in a stand mixer - I just got one recently, so I don't know all of the possibilities yet, but it seems like you could.

This particular recipe for gougeres is from my book Whining and Dining by Emma Waverman and Eshun Mott. It's a nice simple recipe that has worked for me consistently.


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere or other hard cheese (I, of course, use extra-sharp cheddar)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine milk, butter and salt in a medium pot over medium heat until butter is melted. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Immediately remove pot from heat; add flour and stir vigorously until mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pot. Reduce heat to low. Return the pot to the stove and beat for another 30 seconds or until dough has formed a smooth ball. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
Beat 4 of the eggs into dough, one at a time, beating well to incorporate before adding the next one. The resulting dough should be shiny and soft. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese. Use a soup spoon to scoop batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, making 8 to 10 mounds, each 2 inches in diameter. Beat remaining egg and brush over top of gougeres. Sprinkle tops with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.DSC_0121


Bake for 20 minutes or until gougeres are brown, crisp and cracked. Turn down oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 10 minutes to dry them out so they don't collapse when removed from the oven.


September 18, 2009

Leek and garbanzo bean soup

Leek soup3

Leeks are apparently quite good for you. I tried to find out just how good for you they are by doing a little web search on the subject - here's a link. Ok, so I can read about how good leeks are, but what has convinced me that leeks have healthful benefits has nothing to do with a nutritional analysis - it's the fact that my husband now requests that I make this soup for him whenever he comes back from a long business trip (usually to China) because he swears it helps him get back on track with his eating habits (because he eats out more, and at irregular times, I think) and feel better after an exhausting trip. Since this soup also has garbanzo beans (chickpeas) in it, then you also get the fiber and nutrients in that as well. This recipe, from The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver (who was just a kid when he wrote this one!) calls for dried chickpeas, but I go lazy on this one and make it with canned instead - just be sure to rinse the beans to get off the salt. It's great with Parmesan and a little extra virgin olive oil on top, and fresh black pepper. Dh likes it with sausage on top as well. Picky hasn't tried this one (although I always puree some for her just in case) but she has shown some interest, and I think she'll come around eventually, especially since daddy loves it so much.

Leek soup2

Chickpea and Leek Soup

  • 2 15 oz cans of garbanzo beans, rinsed thoroughly
  • 2-3 small boiling potatoes, quartered
  • 5 medium leeks
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • extra-virgin olive oil

Remove the outer skin of the leeks, slice in half from the root up, and fan them out to wash in between all of the layers. Then slice finely. OR, you can just slice them finely first, dump them in a bowl of water, swish handfuls of them around to get them clean, and then throw them all onto a clean towel. Guess which one I do. I'm not elegant.
Warm a thick-bottomed pan (I like to use my fake Le Creuset for soups - it's an enameled cast iron dutch oven), and add the oil and butter. This gives you a nice butter flavor, but the oil keeps it from burning - I often do this for soups. If you want, you can just use 2 Tbsp olive oil instead. Add the leeks and garlic to the pan and cook gently with a good pinch of salt until tender and sweet. Add the drained garbanzo beans and potatoes and 2/3 of the stock, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. You can eat it this way, or you can puree part or all of it. Dh likes it chunky, but I like to make it a little creamy, so I stick my immersion blender in there and give it a whirl, but not for too long, so that it's a little creamy and a little chunky. If you don't have an immersion blender, get one - you can't feed a texture-challenged child without one of these! OR you can just put some of the soup in a blender, blend it up, and then dump it back into the pan. Add more of the stock, until you get the consistency that you like. Check to see if it needs a bit of salt, and add some Parmesan to taste, or you can just keep that for the top, like I do.

Leek soup

September 17, 2009

Caught on camera!

One of the foods I try to always have on hand is "Martian Soup" - a pureed spinach and potato soup that Picky eats regularly with lots of cheese on top. I make large batches of the soup and freeze portions so that I always have it on hand for lunches and the occasional dinner. Although it's not time-consuming or difficult to make, I've gotten in the habit of making the batches at night while watching shows on DVD (tonight it was "Weeds"). Sometimes I do this in a tiara.


September 8, 2009



Ok, Freezer Week did not work out as I planned. If anything, I have more in the freezer now than when I started. This is not entirely my fault - in our house September is birthday month: My birthday and my daughter's birthday are right next to each other, and my husband's birthday is a few weeks later. That means lots of baking, pizza making, BBQ, etc. Also, when I made the plum jam last week, I ended up with tons of leftover pureed plums, which I froze in ice cube trays with the idea of putting a few cubes in when I make smoothies. And, somehow, I now have a whole wild salmon in my freezer, where there wasn't one before. Not that I'm complaining. We did eat some of the chicken thighs. Soup season is upon us now, so I'll be using up the stock and making a new batch before long - I think I still have several bags of chicken necks, wings, and backs to turn into a lovely stock sometime soon. For now, I'm taking a bit of a break from the kitchen, except to make some fresh yogurt, and bake up a batch of crunchy granola to eat with it... I love to make these two things, because they are so simple to make, and yet they make me feel like a star in the kitchen somehow. Plus it is really nice to know exactly what is in even your most basic foods. Pizza dough and bread are also on my list of foods that make me feel accomplished when I make them myself, plus they make the whole house smell good (well, not the yogurt...) and give you that warm, fuzzy, homey feeling. I love this crunchy granola recipe that I got from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe - the only thing that I change is the soy protein powder (because my mom loves granola, but can't eat anything with soy in it...). There are so many recipes for granola out there, it's easy to find one (or make one up) with all of your favorite ingredients, and with the amount of oil and sweetener that you prefer. The more oil, the crunchier the finished granola - this one has quite a bit of oil because I like it crunchy - but I rarely eat this as a breakfast cereal - it makes a great topping for yogurt (um, or ice-cream...).


Very Crunchy Granola

Nonstick spray (I actually use a silicone baking mat instead)
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup barley flakes (you can just add another cup of rolled oats if you want)
1 cup oat bran
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup chopped almonds
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup light honey or pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla extract (always use real vanilla - in everything...)
1 cup soy protein powder (I sub. nonfat dried milk, and use between 1/2 to 1 cup)
1/2 Tsp salt
1/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin seeds (optional - I leave them out because Picky won't eat them)

  • Preheat the oven to 325 F. Spray a 13 by 18 inch baking tray with non-stick spray.
  • Combine the oats and barley flakes, bran, sunflower seeds, and almonds in a large bowl.
  • Combine the oil, honey, and vanilla, and pour this mixture into the bowl. Mix thoroughly.
  • Stir in protein powder and salt, and mix thoroughly
  • Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden, stirring once or twice during the baking (really keep an eye on it for that last 10 minutes)
  • Crumble in the sugar as soon as the granola comes out of the oven, and let it melt in. Cool it on the tray, and stir in the pumpkin seeds (if using) as it cools. The granola will get crunchy as it cools.
  • Store the finished granola in a tightly closed jar in the freezer for maximum freshness.


September 4, 2009

Plum crazy!


I've been swimming in plums! When I saw the plum trees in my friends back yard over-burdened with plums, I decided I had to do something to take advantage of the abundance - I started out with loads of plum crumbles - I think we were eating plum crumble almost every day for several weeks! When I saw that I wasn't making a dent in the plum population, I tried my hand at canning for the first time. I have to say, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, although I know I did plenty wrong (like put the plums through a food mill - I guess that's just for apples? You're supposed to leave the skin on the plums - a pectin thing?). Despite that, I have to say that the jam came out really good - just the right texture (at least I think so, although some would like it chunkier...) and sweetness. I think I'll get a book for next year - I had up 6 different websites to walk me through the canning process...many of them were blogs that had their own experiences and recipes. The site that helped me with the technical aspect of sealing the jars in a water bath was this one. I have to say that it is somehow very satisfying to turn a big bag of plums into a neat little row of jam jars...I think I'll have to do the same thing for my apples when they ripen - that is, if the squirrels don't eat them all...
Anyway, I won't embarrass myself by putting up a recipe - I mean, it was plums, sugar, lemon juice, and pectin - plus, It's not like I'm an old hand at canning or anything...but I have to say, I think I'm hooked! And now that the plums are sealed up in little jars, I won't feel the need to stuff myself with them - I can enjoy reasonable amounts of plum jam all year long! :)







September 2, 2009

Vanilla Ricotta Muffins


Oh yes, I did! I got that dinosaur muffin pan! Actually, I didn't buy it from Amazon, though - I found it at Target for 10 bucks cheaper, and then I really couldn't resist any longer! I'm impressed with the pan - it's heavy and has nice details. Today I was testing out a muffin recipe both to see how the dinosaurs came out, and to see if Picky would go for Vanilla instead of her usual chocolate for her birthday party. I put a scoop of home-made plum jam in each muffin (I'll write about my jam making experience later in the week...) to see if that would work as well (the kids liked it, but it did spill out the sides a bit because of the awkward shapes...). This muffin recipe is nice - homey and filling - but it's not my favorite muffin recipe from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe (the chocolate ricotta muffin is my husband's favorite as well as Picky's, and I like a toasted oatmeal one...). This is one of my favorite cookbooks, and is full of kid-friendly recipes, although it's not marketed as a kid-friendly cookbook (but rather as a breakfast cookbook). Anyway, here it is:


Vanilla Ricotta Muffins

Nonstick spray
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry milk powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
a pinch (or a few grates) of nutmeg
2 Tbsp (packed) light brown sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

  • Preheat the oven to 350 - Lightly spray 8 standard (2 1/2 inch diameter) muffin cups with nonstick spray.
  • Combine flour, powdered milk, salt, baking powder, granulated sugar, and spices in a medium-sized bowl. Crumble in the brown sugar, rubbing it with your fingers to break up clumps. Stir until blended
  • Place ricotta in second bowl, beat in the milk. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with a medium-sized whisk after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
  • Pour the ricotta mixture, along with the melted butter, into the dry ingredients. Using a spoon or a rubber spatula, stir from the bottom of the bowl until the dry ingredients are all moistened. Don't over-mix.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. For smaller muffins, fill the cups about four-fifths full. For larger muffins, fill them up to the top. If you have extra batter, spray one or two additional muffin cups with non-stick spray and fill with the remaining batter.
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven, then remove the muffins from the pan and place them on a rack to cool. Wait at least 30 minutes before serving.
I also sprinkled powdered sugar on the top, which was a nice touch, I thought - you could still see the details of the dinosaurs. Of course, Picky wants frosting for her birthday, so frosting it is - but I think I'll serve it on the side, so that everyone can admire the beautiful dinosaurs for a few seconds before covering it with frosting and devouring it... sound good?

August 28, 2009

Playdough muffins...


Ok, technically this isn't a food recipe - but play dough is really easy to make. I'm not going to say that it's cheaper to make it than buy it at the store, because play dough is really cheap, and I still buy it sometimes to get the vibrant colors that you can't get with homemade (the muffins pictured here are a mixture of homemade and store-bought - the blue and pink are homemade and the other brighter colors are store-bought.) - but honestly, preschool age children (and younger) are perfectly happy with homemade, and you can make much larger amounts that aren't packaged in little disposable plastic cups. Plus, it's fun to make, and fun to play with the still warm dough after you make it. And, as long as you keep it in a sealed container (I use old yogurt containers, but you could just as easily use a ziploc bag or something), it keeps for a long time (well, until your child makes muffins with it that she refuses to take apart or put away, then they dry out - but even if they look a little faded and cracked, they make perfectly good pretend muffins when they are dry...). Be sure to use the cream of tartar in the recipe - that's what keeps it from getting moldy or something. You don't need to refrigerate this or anything.


Colored Playdough:
1 cup water
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup salt
1 Tbsp cream of tartar
food coloring
1 cup flour

Combine water, oil, salt, cream of tartar, and food coloring in a saucepan and heat until warm. Remove from heat and add flour. Stir, then knead until smooth. Store in an airtight container.


Tip: I always find that this needs more flour than it calls for - I add 1 cup at first, and then add flour a little at a time until it's the consistency that I like. I've also found that you can skip putting it in a saucepan if you want - you can throw everything (but the water) into a large pyrex measuring container, and add boiling water. Also - if you want red - forget it. Adding red food coloring to white flour makes pink. And if you use whole wheat flour (I've done this...), it completely throws the color off. Of course, you would probably figure that one out before you tried it. Also also, if you use organic flour (ahem...I've done this as well), the resulting play dough will be really expensive. But organic.

August 19, 2009

Plum crisp


I admit, when my husband is out of town, I rarely cook. I used to try, just to keep meal times normal for my daughter - but it was usually a study in frustration. I mean, who wants to spend an hour in the kitchen making a full, healthy dinner, only to have the only other diner refuse to eat? Although that didn't always happen, it happened enough that I learned my lesson. Now it's all about quick food, and I don't even try to make the same thing for her as I do for myself. I make myself a nice big fresh salad with all the trimmings, and I make her something that I'm fairly sure she will like. I mean, I could put some salad in front of her, but I already know what will happen (she won't even eat with it on her plate), so what would be the point? I always offer her a bite of mine, and she always refuses. Tonight was such a night - and I'm sure glad I didn't spend a bunch of time trying out a new recipe or making a casserole, because she didn't even touch her grilled cheese sandwich. Or mango. Or tomato soup. In fact, I'm pretty sure she didn't eat anything. I'm not completely sure, because I was too busy enjoying my beautiful salad - a nice organic salad mix, avocado, apricots, feta cheese, teriyaki tofu - and a yummy home made simple salad dressing made with Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar (which is, I think, the key ingredient...) MMMMmmmmm. And after, I enjoyed some plum crisp, made with plums from my friends backyard. Picky didn't even go for this - something in the air? I hope she's not getting sick...


My favorite crisp recipe at the moment is from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. I don't really follow a recipe for the fruit - you need about 3 lbs or 6 cups of fruit, and the amount of sugar varies with the sweetness of the fruit. For apples, I add a squeeze of lemon, 2 tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp cinnamon. For other fruits, I just add sugar, between 2 tbsp and 1/2 cup, to taste. I've tried adding either flour or corn starch as a thickener for fruit other than apples (which don't seem to need it) - I tried 2 tbsp corn starch tonight, but it was a little weirdly creamy - I think I prefer it runny, honestly. Perhaps I'll try instant tapioca, I think they use that in pie recipes sometimes. Anyway, the recipe is really the topping:

Crisp Topping

  • 6 Tbsp canola oil (you can use butter - I find oil easier to work with)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats or chopped nuts (I almost always use oats, although almonds would also be good)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon, optional

You can also use a nut oil, such as walnut or hazelnut, for some or all of the oil - I haven't tried this, but it sounds good, especially if you're using nuts instead of oats. Anyway, all you have to do is combine the ingredients (if you're using butter, use your fingers to work the butter with the rest of the ingredients so that each piece is coated and you have a coarse, crumbly mixture). Spread the topping over a shallow gratin dish with your fruit mixture. Put the gratin dish on a cookie sheet (unless you just love to clean your oven), and put it in a preheated 375 degree oven. The recipe says 1 hour, 10 minutes, but I've always found 1 hour to be plenty. Plus, I usually have to loosly cover the dish with tinfoil about half way through or else the oats start to burn.


Although Picky didn't eat any of my plum crisp tonight, I know she'll enjoy some in the morning. I always eat a generous scoop with (plain) yogurt. Picky prefers the crisp alone, and likes the topping more than the filling (naturally). I think we enjoy it for breakfast more than dessert.

Tip: try combining fruits, or adding dried fruit. I put a handful of dried cranberries in tonights crisp - last week I made a delicious crisp with a little of everything from my CSA box: apricots, peaches, plums, and a can of blackberries that I had gathering dust in my pantry. oh yummy! My apple trees are promising many versions of apple crisp this fall! :)