Snow Treats

In case you hadn’t heard, southern New England got a bit of snow last night. It’s hard to say how much. The wind has pushed so much of it around and the drifts are 4 feet high in places. We had to shovel out a path from the door just so the dog could get out to do his business this morning. He is currently plopped in front of the wood stove and has made it known that he has no desire to go outside again today.

My girls ventured outside first thing this morning. Ten minutes later they came back thoroughly defeated by the snow. We quickly decided it would be a perfect day to stay in, wait for the plow to show up, and make some snow treats. (The grown-ups, however, are going to have to get outside and deal with reality sooner rather than later. It’s going to take a good bit of shoveling to get to the chickens and open their coop door.)

The first thing my eldest requested was Molasses on Snow. The Kitchn has a similar recipe for Maple Syrup on Snow.  Another cute variation comes from Food on the Food: Maple Syrup Snow Pops.

 

Then there is the whole Snow Ice Cream genre. It’s easier and quicker than Snow Candy. But it requires pristine snow. Lucky for us, we’ve got plenty at the moment right outside our front door.

How to Make Snow Ice Cream (video). Mix together 4 cups fresh clean snow, 1/2 cup whole milk or half and half, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. Serve.

Maple Snow Cream from Foodie Tots. A simple and tasty looking recipe. Wouldn’t mind a big slice of coconut cake to go with it. But like I said, I’ve got some shoveling to deal with. I’m looking at an excellent upper body workout today!

Happy weekend! Let me know if there are any other snow treats out there that I don’t know about.

 

Potato Skins with Crispy Cheese

When we rolled out of bed this morning the outdoor thermometer told us that it was -1 degrees. Minus 1. Having lived  in Connecticut for a while, I’m always a little shocked when it actually gets cold in January. We’ve had some warm spells and it was looking like we might have another mild winter. But apparently it was not meant to be. I am slightly comforted by the snowman recently built by my six year old.

Today was not a day to serve up the usual crudities after school. Today we are having soup for dinner while sitting as close to the wood stove as possible. Anything other than a warm snack was not an option. So I decided to put some leftover baked potatoes to use.

I’ve posted a  potato skins recipe before. But I’ve since been educated by the likes of America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook and Simply Recipes. These are better. They could be made in advance too and the glorious melting of the cheese could be saved for the last minute.

Potato Skins Recipe

This healthy (ha!) baked potato skin recipe is as good as its restaurant counterpart because of the crispy cheese. While your sprinkling the cheese on the potatoes to bake, don’t be sad if a big clump misses a potato. That’s the best part.

4 medium leftover baked potatoes
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups grated cheese such as mozzarella, cheddar, and/or parmesan
Fresh chives, for garnish

Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the majority of the inside of the potato. Set the potato insides aside for another use. Cut the potatoes up into child-sized pieces.

Arrange the potatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to douse the potatoes with the melted butter. Bake the potatoes for 10 minutes or until they have browned on the edges. Sprinkle the cheese over the potatoes and bake them for another 5 – 10 minutes or until the cheese is properly melted.

Yield: serves 3-4 as a hearty snack
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes

 

Breakfast Nirvana

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Moonstruck is probably my favorite romantic comedy of all time. I’ve been cuing it up for many years now. In the beginning, it was all about the unstoppable and offbeat romance between Loretta (Cher) and Ronny (Nicholas Cage). But lately every time I watch it I focus on the food.

I love the scene where Rose (Olympia Dukakis) fixes egg-in-a-hole for Loretta. Until recently I thought Rose had added some bacon on top of the egg. We’ve even made it this way a few times. But the last time I watched the movie I noticed that it was really strips of roasted red pepper! I am thoroughly over the bacon-on-top-of-and-inside-everything-you-could-possibly-eat thing. So roasted red pepper sounds so much more exciting.

The next morning I couldn’t find any roasted red peppers in the house. But we did have some leftover caramelized onions hanging out in the back of the refrigerator. I didn’t hesitate because, as far as I can tell, caramelized onions never disappoint. And this time was no exception.[/donotprint]

Egg-in-a-Hole with Caramelized Onions Recipe

One slice bread
One egg
1 tablespoon butter (or less, just don’t be shy with the butter)
Salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons caramelized onions

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Cut a hole out of the center of a piece of bread with a 2-inch round cookie cutter or the rim of a shot glass. Add butter to skillet and wait until the butter is melted and starts to bubble/sizzle.

Place the bread in the skillet. Crack an egg into the hole. Season with a dash of salt and pepper. Top with the caramelized onions. Cook for four or five minutes and then flip the bread over with a spatula and cook one minute more.  Serve immediately.

Yield: one serving
Prep-time: 5 minutes

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Valentine’s Day Snack: Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie

Well, life is back to normal I guess. We’re all done being television stars around here. My seven-year-old is so over it. She watched the video in the previous post at school yesterday and hasn’t asked to see it again. I watched the show a couple times yesterday. I’m at the point where I’m starting to notice everything I did wrong and am obsessing about what I should have said and done to plug the blog more. But hopefully I’ll get over myself very soon. Considering it was my first time on camera, I’m just glad I wasn’t a total train wreck.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner I’ve got time to squeeze in one more snack. Normally, I try to stay away from smoothie recipes simply because I love the impromptu act of throwing a smoothie together based on whatever you happen to have on hand. But I’m making an exception for this one because it’s so easy and perfect for the holiday.

Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie Recipe

1/2 cup silken tofu or plain yogurt
8-10 frozen strawberries, preferably organic
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 small to medium-sized banana
1/4 cup orange juice
Chocolate syrup, for garnish

Place the tofu, strawberries, vanilla, banana, and orange juice in a blender. Process until smooth. Pour into cups and garnish with a swirl of chocolate syrup. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2 1/2 cups
Prep-time: 5 minutes

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Valentine’s Day Snack: Raspberry Cream on Heart-shaped Toast

I kind of hate Valentine’s Day. From my perspective as a mother, it’s a holiday that sneaks up on me out of nowhere just when I feel like I’ve restored some balance in our diets after the holidays. And my husband and I aren’t really into it. If the holiday was more along the lines of Mommy and Daddy get to take off for a week and hang out on a beach in the Caribbean, now that is something we’d be happy to celebrate. But an expensive night out at a crowded restaurant or a wilted bouquet of flowers is something we’ve decided to skip entirely.

However, always wanting to be a proper and loving mother, I feel compelled to acknowledge the holiday. And even I will admit that it is nice to have a reason to celebrate in the middle of The Darkest and Coldest Month.

Also, please note that my 4-year-old decided she needed to take photos of her snack today before she ate it. This isn’t the first time she’s mimicked my insanity. I guess she’ll have her own blog up and running by the end of the year.

Raspberry Cream on Heart-shaped Toast Recipe

Any frozen or fresh berry blend can be used in place of the raspberries in this recipe. Blackberries, I’m sure, would be especially nice. I experimented with different sized hearts cut out of toast and the bigger (around 4 or 5 inches) hearts worked better. The raspberry spread is a little on the thick side and didn’t do well when I tried to squeeze it onto a tiny piece of toast.

1/4 cup frozen raspberries, slightly thawed
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sugar
2 slices of toast, cut into hearts using a cookie cutter or free form

Vigorously mix together the raspberries, cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar in a small bowl. Spread onto prepared heart-shaped toasts and serve immediately.

Yield: 2
Prep-time: 5 minutes

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Valentine’s Day Snack: Mini Double Chocolate Zucchini Cakes

[donotprint]Lately I’ve been thinking it would be handy to have some sort of super spy tool that would allow me to see into the pantry of my average reader. Am I all alone on the white whole wheat flour band wagon? Is Greek yogurt something you need to make a special trip to the grocery store for? In the end, I’m pulling from whatever I happen to have on hand to make something resembling a healthy snack. But it would still be cool to know.

I’m starting to think about Valentine’s Day which these cakes would be perfect for. But honestly, I found this recipe  and had a half of a leftover zucchini in the fridge…and there you go. Along with using up the zucchini, I got to dispense with this bar of super dark chocolate which had been hanging out at the bottom of my chocolate basket for a while.

Not until after I’d put the cakes in the oven and I took a photo did I notice that this particular bar of chocolate was well past its expiration date. If you don’t hear from me for a while, you know what happened.

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Mini Double Chocolate Zucchini Cakes Recipe

These decadent and satisfying little cakes are inspired by a recipe for Chocolate-Zucchini Cakes with Walnuts from marthastewart.com. If you don’t have white whole wheat flour, replace it with all purpose flour. If you don’t have Greek yogurt, replace it with sour cream.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
Scant 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons plain Greek-style yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3.5 ounce bar of dark chocolate, chopped fine
1 cup finely grated zucchini, loosely packed

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease one mini muffin pan or line it with paper baking cups and set aside.

2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the butter, egg, yogurt, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir a few times. Add the chocolate and zucchini and stir until combined.

4. Place heaping tablespoons of batter into each of the mini muffin wells. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool for a few minutes in the pan. Remove from pan and place on a cooling rack. Serve warm or cool. Store remaining cakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Yield: 24 mini cakes
Prep-time: 20 minutes
Baking-time: 15 minutes

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Little House Molasses Snow Candy

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The other day, we finally made Molasses-On-Snow Candy from The Little House Cookbook. And let me tell ya that nothing enlivens a snowy New England day like playing with molten sugar! 

Last winter, books from the Little House series dominated our bedtime reading. I don’t recall reading them as a child so I was enjoying them as much as the kids were. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s retelling of her childhood transported us back in time. 

After we read the Christmas chapter of Little House on the Prairie my eldest said to me, “Gee Mom, I hope our Christmas is as good as Laura and Mary’s!!” I think Laura and Mary got a candy cane, a cake, and maybe a pair of mittens in their stockings…and that’s it. They marveled at a heart-shaped cake they found in their stockings and squealed with delight because it was dusted with white sugar! While I enjoy the comforts of modern living, I certainly relate to my child’s desire to be fully enraptured by the magic of Christmas-time.

Given our heartfelt connection to the Ingalls family, it’s unclear who likes the whole idea of making foods out of the Little House Cookbook more, me or the girls. Either way, they did a spectacular job making molasses candy. Nobody had to go to the hospital with third degree burns. Another successful day of parenting! Mostly we made blobs. The fun little shapes depicted in the Christmas in the Big Woods picture book were a little out of my kids’ reach. However, it did get much easier to control the pour out of the pitcher after the molasses had cooled for a few minutes.

These candies are quite tasty. The brown sugar takes the bitter edge off of the molasses perfectly.[/donotprint]

Molasses Snow Candy Recipe

This recipe requires a small ceramic pitcher (A creamer works well), a candy thermometer, and fresh snow. The pitcher’s spout helps control the flow of the molasses. The handle on the pitcher allows the kids to pour the molasses without touching a hot cup directly.

1 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed

Prepare 3 or 4 pans of snow using 9-inch pie plates, cake pans, iron skillets and the like. Gather fresh clean snow into the pans and leave them outside in the cold.

In a small saucepan, stir the molasses and sugar together over medium heat with a rubber spatula. Heat the mixture to 245 degrees Fahrenheit (firm ball stage), stirring frequently. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. When the molasses mixture has reached 245 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour the molasses mixture into a small ceramic pitcher. Place the pitcher on a plate in your work area.

Bring the pans full of snow into the work area and allow the kids to pour the molasses mixture onto the snow. Read them the riot act about how hot and dangerous the molasses is and supervise them closely. You have about 10 or 15 minutes until the molasses starts getting difficult to pour.

About 5 minutes after the molasses has come into contact with the snow, test to see if has solidified. If it feels cool and hard, it’s ready to go. Let the kids eat some. Stick any leftovers in the freezer (or outside) still on the snow. If you store it without the snow, it will turn into goo.

[Update Feb 8, 2010: See my daughter and I make it on TV! http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/ct_style/in_the_kitchen/molasses-snow-candy]

Yield: 3/4 pound
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Kid activity time: 15 minutes

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Date Butter

Date butter is not something a lot of folks have probably made before. Turns out that it is super easy and has a surprisingly pleasant taste. It’s plenty sweet, but much more mellow than white sugar because there’s still so much of the date left in there. I assume that means a lot of the dates’ nutritional goodness has stuck around as well, which is a bonus.

You will need:

6 ounces pitted dried dates (about 15-16 medium dates)
2/3 cup boiling water

Place the dates in a small saucepan. Pour boiling water over them, cover, and allow to sit for one hour.

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After an hour, they look about the same. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat. Allow to simmer for 5 – 7 minutes or until it starts to turn to mush.

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Remove from heat and allow to cool. Put mixture through a strainer placed over a bowl using the back of a spoon or rubber spatula to push it through.

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Discard the dry bits that will not pass through the strainer. Store the date butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I think this date butter would work wonderfully in place of the apple butter in my granola bars. I’ve also enjoyed some Almond and Date Butter Sandwiches as of late.

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Yield: 3/4 cup
Active prep-time: 10 minutes
Inactive prep-time: 1 hour

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Nutty Apricot Turnovers

[donotprint]A year ago I would have dismissed you completely if you told me I’d be making pastry dough from scratch and turning it into little turnovers full of dried fruit and nutty goodness. My mission is to make quick and easy snacks that are healthy too. But alas, it’s time to fess up to the fact that I’ve been playing around with pastry dough lately. I’ve been keeping it off the blog. I’ve been leading a double life.

These turnovers are made with a pastry dough that I’ve modified to include yogurt and white whole wheat flour. The innards include walnuts, pecans, dried fruits, and ground flaxseed. I had a lot of fun making them…and even more fun eating them.

I used to be really frightened by the thought of working with pastry dough. And I still sort of am. But I’m starting to think we should all make pie. I took a pastry class a while ago and it really helped to see a professional whip out a pie shell and see the consistency of the dough, etc. I’ve still got a lot to learn. Thank goodness I’ll need to practice practice practice.[/donotprint]

The recipe for the filling is flexible. Don’t have ground flaxseed handy? Try replacing it with some wheat germ. Don’t have pecans? Just replace them with walnuts. Don’t have dried dates? Try replacing them with more dried apricots and raisins. Other than that, I’d try to stick to the recipe.

Turnover dough:

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup plain Greek style yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt together a few times. Evenly distribute the butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse 5 or 10 times until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with the occasional pea-sized chunk. Add the yogurt and vanilla and pulse until mixture starts to form into a ball.

Remove dough from processor. Form into a disk as best as you are able. Knead it a few times if necessary. The dough will be wetter and stickier than most pastry dough. Wrap the disk tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Filling:

Make sure the walnuts and the pecans are minimally altered. They should not be salted or flavored – just nuts.

2 dried dates, pitted (preferably Medjool)
2 unsulfered dried apricots
2 tablespoons raisins
1/4 cup walnut pieces
6 pecans
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
2 teaspoons apricot preserves

On a cutting board, finely chop the dates, apricots, raisins, walnuts, and pecans together. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the flaxseed and salt. Stir to distribute. Add the agave nectar and preserves and stir to coat.

To Assemble:

1 egg
1 teaspoon milk
All-purpose flour

In a small bowl make an egg wash. Beat the egg and milk together. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare a work surface by dusting it with flour. Get out your rolling pin and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. The dough gets unfriendly once it warms up, have everything ready to go and work as quickly as you can. Don’t make this on the hottest day of the summer.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Place on floured work surface and dust the top of the dough with additional flour. Beat on the dough with the rolling pin a few times in order to make it malleable while still cold. Roll it out to 1/4″ thickness, turning it occasionally (a quarter or half turn) and dusting with additional flour when it starts to stick.

Cut dough into four squares. Gently pick up with your hands or by resting it over the rolling pin. Dust off any excess flour with a pastry brush. Transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Place 2-3 tablespoons of the dried fruit mixture on each square. Wet the edges of the squares with the egg wash using a pastry brush. Fold each square over into a rectangle or triangle. Gently press edges together with the tines of a fork. Cut a small hole in the top of each turnover to allow any steam to escape. Brush the tops with more egg wash.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Transfer to cooling rack with a large spatula. Allow to cool 5 – 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 turnovers (I cut them in half to serve to the kids)
Prep-time: 30 minutes (not counting the time the dough rests in the refrigerator)
Bake-time: 13 minutes

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Ambrosia

Apparently there are as many different ways to make Ambrosia as there are cooks who make it. If you’d like, add some banana, subtract the pineapple, subtract the marshmallows, and so on. The only consistent elements I found in my survey of Ambrosia recipes were citrus, sugar, and coconut. But even those are probably up for debate.

2 small blood oranges, peeled, skinned and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1/4 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons shredded sweetened coconut

Place the oranges, pineapple, marshmallows, sugar, and coconut in a small bowl and stir to combine. Serve or store in airtight container in the refrigerator and consume within 24 hours.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Prep-time: 15 minutes

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