June 03, 2009 by
So I realized that I was building up a karmic debt to several of my neighbors who babysit for me for free. And since most of them don’t have young kids for whom I could provide some child care, having them over for brunch seemed the next best thing.
Do you agree that brunch is the best meal for entertaining? I even felt this way before I had children who would be in full melt-down by dinner time. I love how brunch can just sort of go on without everyone getting bleary-eyed and start mumbling about all they have to do the next day. How it comes with mimosas or coffee or dumplings or eggs or fruit or baked goods and fresh flowers.
This particular brunch gave me an opportunity to try a few new things. I’ve been in the market for a new go-to pie crust recipe. I love and rely on the Joy of Cooking’s Cream Cheese Crust (this recipe is very close – you’ll have to look into your heart and make the butter vs. shortening decision), but it’s not right for everything. And especially not suited to the quiche I wanted to make. I found the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Foolproof Pie Crust on Serious Eats, and gave it a whirl. The recipe’s hallmarks are
- Using vodka for the liquid, which has much less water than, well, water, and so develops the gluten to a lesser degree, which keeps the crust more flaky and delicate.
- Adding the flour in stages, which also limits gluten formation.
I made myself follow the recipe carefully, monitoring crumb size and shape and consistency. The only substitution I made was using the local Vermont Gleason Grains whole wheat pastry flour instead of white.
As I was moving on to turn crust into quiche, I discovered that I had just a smidgen of cream in the refrigerator. I was determined to make this a truly delectable one, and so didn’t want to skimp on the fat. As I was contemplating a mad dash to the store, I spied the ranch dressing in the refrigerator door. Hmm. It seemed plausible.
Also on the menu were some pumpkin-banana mini muffins, fresh fruit, and the crazily delicious Blueberry Bars from Farmgirl Fare. Seriously friends, I’m trying to find another reason to host a brunch so I have a reason to make these again so I can eat them fresh since they don’t store so well. Yum.
Classic & Comforting Roasted Mushroom & Cheddar Quiche
Adapted from Joy of Cooking, 1997
- 1 10″ pie crust, pre-baked
- 1/2 lb. mushrooms (your choice), sliced thickly, tossed with olive oil and then roasted at 400 for 20 min., cooled
- 3/4 c. grated cheddar cheese
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 c. milk (use what you’ve got – but don’t skimp on the fat content overall)
- 1/4 c. cream
- 1/4 c. ranch salad dressing
- 1/4 t. salt
- pinch freshly ground black or white pepper
- pinch of nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375. Place mushrooms and cheese on bottom of pie crust. Beat together remaining ingredients and pour into shell. Bake until filling is browned and set – 20 to 25 minutes. Let sit for 10 – 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
May 28, 2009 by
Ten years ago I couldn’t imagine a life that necessitated rules like, “You are only allowed to spit outside the house, and pick your nose inside the house.” And I couldn’t have known that I’d be sneaking healthy food into my children with clever marketing and techniques more appropriate for public relations than running a family.
But all things in life seem to intersect at some point, and I am where I am, feeding wild monkeyboys with whatever I can, trying to interrupt the cereal-pancake cycle of breakfast. So why not Breakfast Cookies? After all, the only real difference between a muffin and a cupcake and a cookie is some combination of height, frosting and marketing, no?
So I found this recipe on CD Kitchens (you’ll recognize the picture as mine), and adapted it slightly. It’s good, certainly healthier than a lot of the stuff we call breakfast food (purple & blue poptart, anyone?), and boy did I feel like a rock star of a mom when I heard the boys bragging that they were eating Cookies For Breakfast.
Banana-Oat Breakfast Cookies
Adapted from CD Kitchen, as submitted by Kasie of Milwaukee
- 1/2 cup sunflower butter or tahini (the original calls for peanut butter, but using one of these will let you bring them into a nut-free zone)
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 ripe medium bananas, mashed
- 1/4 c. pureed squash or pumpkin
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or chopped dried apricots
In a large mixing bowl, beat peanut butter and butter with electric mixer 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Beat in egg and vanilla until mixed. Beat in bananas, baking soda and salt.
Mix in flours and flax. Stir in oats and dried fruit. Drop by 1/4-cup measure 4 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Spread to 3-inch rounds.
Bake in 350F oven 15 to 16 minutes, or until edges are browned. Let stand 1 minute. Remove; cool on wire racks. Serve in 24 hours or freeze.
March 05, 2009 by
I thought I had finally demonstrated my cooking nuttiness this week when I looked down in the sink one evening and saw every one of my 8 (8!) wooden spoons there. There was the one from starting the sponge for sourdough bread, the one for the cake, the one for its icing, the oatmeal, the custard for the cohousing dinner, plus whatever else I’ve already forgotten.
But I realized that I didn’t feel nutty. I was tired, but I felt kind of great. And it made me realize that there’s something I haven’t yet said here:
I cook for the joy of it. For the satisfaction and simplicity of feeding those I love. For the pleasure of necessary thriftiness. Because it’s art and craft and creation and primal and needed.
For me, cooking all the time – the daily grind of it, and the fanciest flights – is life. To do it with a glad heart is to try to keep my own best self close. That I can make people happy and engage in the organic magic of bread-making and fill the house with the smell of chocolate or melting butter and evoke memories and even save money is a pure and needed joy.
So every day, here we are, slogging along through money worries and perpetual lateness and ADHD and cabin fever and the rest of it. But every day we can come back to this quiet, necessary, open-hearted act of creation and sharing. And if that doesn’t make it all somehow worth it, I don’t know what could.
And in that spirit, I’m sharing some recent, unblogged creations:
March 01, 2009 by
“Hey monkeys. What would be in Cranky Cake?,” I found myself asking the other day. The older tyke thought for a moment and started listing. “Flour … milk … eggs …sugar … baking powder … salt …” What about flavor, I asked. He told me, “Bananas. And chocolate! Lots of chocolate!” Hmmm. So I asked, “So Cranky Cake is a banana cake with chocolate chips in it?” They told me yes. And then we made it.
Preheat oven to 350. Grease 3 8 x 8 square pans, or (as I did) 1 8 x 8 square, and one 9x 13, which was just the right capacity.
Whisk together thoroughly:
1 1/3 c. white whole wheat flour
1 1/3 c. unbleached white flour
1/3 c. ground flaxseed
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. powdered dried orange peel (optional)
In a large bowl, beat together until lightened:
5 T. + 1 t. butter
2/3 c. sugar (keep the sugar at the ready – see below)
Add to the butter and sugar:
1/4 c. olive oil
1/3 additional cup of sugar
Then add in:
3 mashed very ripe bananas
1 T. molasses
1/2 c. squash, pumpkin, or sweet potato puree
2 t. vanilla
Mix together until smooth and very well blended. (I usually use an immersion blender.)
Fold into flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon just until thoroughly combined. Stir in:
4 c. semisweet chocolate chips.
Scrape batter into pans and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan and then cut into squares or slices to serve.
February 13, 2009 by
We love smoothies. Well, I love smoothies, and I think the monkeyboys kind of forget that they’re actually consuming something mommy gave them, cutely sipping their straws and gesticulating with their helicopters and dinosaurs and whatnot.
Usually it’s a blueberry combo (I’ll post the recipe sometime), but I wanted to do something cute and pink for the day-before-Valentine’s Day. So this morning we had:
Strawberry Banana Maple Smoothies
1 1/2 c. skim or lowfat milk
1 c. plain (unsweetened) yogurt
1 1/2 c. frozen strawberries
2 ripe bananas
2 T. maple syrup
Blend until smooth. If your kids start complaining about the noise, just remind them that if you don’t let the blender go long enough, you end up with a “lumpy” instead of a smoothie, which should make them laugh confusedly.
January 20, 2009 by
I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about waffles yet. I make these all the time. And they’re the only thing my 3-year old wants to eat for breakfast these days, so I find myself making them a lot.
We have a divided house on the issue of topping. There are those who are strictly maple (and I know I don’t have to specify that I’m talking about pure Vermont maple syrup so I won’t insult you any further), and there are those who go for fruit preserves. (I’m, well, a waffler.)
12 6-inch waffles
(I always triple this, and freeze the extras for future meals.)
Preheat your waffle iron.
Whisk together in a really big bowl if you too are tripling, or else just a pretty big bowl if not:
1 c. white whole wheat flour
3/4 c. unbleached flour
2 T. ground flaxseed
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. powdered orange peel, or 1 t. fresh orange zest
Whisk together in a second large bowl:
3 large eggs, well beaten
1/2 c. olive oil
1 1/2 c. milk
3/4 c. pumpkin or squash puree
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in wet ingredients. Mix with a few vigorous strokes until liquid is incorporated, but still pebbly looking (like a muffin batter).
Cook in waffle iron the way you do, then serve with your favorite topping. We like:
- maple syrup
- apricot preserves
- blueberry preserves