Pumpkin Dots

[donotprint]Here’s my tribute to Jim’s Pancakes, a blog authored by a dad who is insanely creative when it comes to pancakes. My kids loved these little pancakes and gobbled them up drizzled with pure maple syrup.

Pumpkin dots aren’t much more trouble to make than regular pancakes if you have a squeeze bottle. They cook very quickly.

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Pumpkin Dots Recipe

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (plus extra for cooking)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, stir together the milk, pumpkin puree, egg, butter, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined. A few stray clumps are fine.

Transfer the batter to a squeeze bottle by pouring it in slowly or using a wide-mouthed funnel.

Warm up a non-stick skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Place a teaspoon or two of butter in the skillet. When the butter is melted and starts to sizzle, squeeze 1/2-inch wide dots into the skillet at least 1/2-inch apart. Cover and cook for one minute. The top of the dots should be set with the occasional hole formed by a bubble. Check the bottom side of one of the dots to make sure they are golden brown. The dots do not need to be flipped. Serve warm with syrup or cold with milk. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Yield: 6 cups of dots
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Cook-time: 30 minutes

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Web morsels

Break it down for me from boston.com. Food in 100-calorie packs. Messages in 140 characters. YouTube escapes in 3 minutes or less. In an overloaded culture, the bite-size experience rules.

The Snack List from A Life Less Sweet. Cathy gives us a run down of what’s on the plate during snack time at her house.

Spaghetti Dogs from plumpudding via not martha. Also from not martha, the most genius halloween dinner: Tentacle Pot Pie.

Five ways to help kids eat smart this Halloween from Raise Healthy Eaters.

La Creme de la Creme from It’s Not About Nutrition. You have to use a lot of imagination to classify a bagel and cream cheese as healthy.

Caramel Corn

[donotprint]You’re looking at my family’s recipe for caramel corn nirvana. It disappears all too quickly when snack time rolls around. I made a few test recipes with honey and/or peanut butter. I tried to come up with a “healthy” version. Really I did. But once you’ve tasted caramel corn perfection, it’s hard to compromise much more than this.

I did manage to health it up a bit by decreasing the sugar and butter and replacing the corn syrup that most recipes call for. But even so, it’s still full of refined sugars and fat, just a little less than most. If you love caramel corn like I do, it’s worth it!

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Caramel Corn Recipe

 

Do not allow children to do much more than observe from a distance as the caramel coating gets extremely hot. Also, try to remove any unpopped kernels from the mix. Eating them is jarring when they are coated with baked-on caramel.

This recipe calls for a candy thermometer for making the caramel mixture. One that can be mounted on the side of the saucepan with a clip is easiest and safest. The mixture doesn’t cover as much of the bottom of the thermometer as it should. But it does rise a bit once it boils and manages to get a decent reading.

1/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1/2 cup shelled lightly salted peanuts (optional)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown rice syrup OR Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pop the popcorn via your preferred method.

Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with spray oil. Pour in popped popcorn and peanuts, if desired. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and the syrup and bring to a low boil, stirring frequently. Clip a candy thermometer onto the saucepan. Bring the mixture to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This should only take a few minutes with the mixture at a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. It will foam a bit.

Pour the hot caramel mixture over the popcorn and peanuts. Stir gently but vigorously with a rubber spatula until the popcorn is evenly coated. Spread the caramel corn evenly onto a parchment-lined jelly roll pan (a baking sheet with raised sides). Take a couple minutes to spot and remove any unpopped kernels.

Bake for 50 minutes, stirring once halfway through. The caramel will darken as it bakes. Allow the popcorn to cool for a couple minutes on the jelly roll pan. Once it is cool enough to touch, separate the pieces with your fingertips a few times. Once it is completely cool, the pieces should no longer be sticky. Serve or store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Yield: 8 cups (a little more with peanuts)
Prep-time: 15 minutes
Bake-time: 50 minutes

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Cheese Stromboli (Pizza Pinwheels)

I finally got my hands on more of my husband’s pizza dough*. I told him I was thinking of doing pinwheels and he said, “Those are called Strombolis.” What a great name! Now I really had to make them.

My favorite part of the strombolis is the underneath where all of the cheesy saucy goodness has melted together.

Cheese Stromboli Recipe

 

1 pound pizza dough*
1 1/2 tablespoon non-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pizza sauce (I used Trader Joe’s)
1/3 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Allow the dough to come close to room temperature so that it is easy to work with. Keep it covered. If you have some good dough on your hands, you should try tossing it. Otherwise, use a rolling pin to create 14 – 16 inch circle.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Spread on the olive oil then the sauce and cheese. Gently roll up the dough and slice it with a sharp knife into 2-inch segments. Gently reshape the segments into circles and place swirl side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Make sure that the circles are 2 to 3 inches apart.

Bake for 8 minutes or until the dough starts to brown. Allow the stromboli to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet. Serve or transfer to a cooling rack. The stromboli can be frozen in an airtight container for up to a month.

Yield: 10 stromboli
Prep-time: 15 minutes
Bake-time: 10 minutes

*Note: For this recipe I recommend store-bought pizza dough unless you are already accustomed to making your own. My local Whole Foods has some nice whole wheat dough in the freezer case. Alternately, you could try asking your favorite pizza parlour if they would sell you some of their dough.

Feed Me Something New!

It has recently become commonplace for my 4-year-old to say at snack time, “I want something new that I’ve never had before!”

Really. I’m not kidding. She says it all the time. It started several months ago after she had become accustomed to being subjected to my snack experiments on a regular basis.

I started blogging in March of 2009. Save a few favorites that have made repeat appearances, my kids have been continuously exposed to new foods for a year and a half. During this time, I’ve become increasingly daring and have gathered a vast arsenal of secret weapons.

My kids are an integral part of the snack development process. They are learning to appreciate new (and old) foods just like I am. And it seems like once we established our own little kitchen subculture, they have become delighted to try new foods. Granted, the level of delight increases exponentially when sprinkles or marshmallows are involved and it also helps if they’re starving…but still.

The trick is that I started preparing snacks with the blog in mind as much as my kids. Experimentation is the rule of the day. Good or bad, I keep moving, learning, and thinking about new ways to make happy and healthy snacks. The end result is that my kids are being exposed to new foods and preparations all the time. And more importantly, I’m not necessarily catering to what I believe to be their likes and dislikes. Occasionally, their reaction to a snack is nowhere near what I would have predicted.

I don’t think my kids’ taste buds are much different than most. Before I started bombarding her with all kinds of new snacks, my four-year-old was well on her way to being labeled as “picky”. Even now only beige or white foods will cross her lips for what seems like days. Even so, she’s willing to try new foods.

If you’re wishing your kids were more open to trying new foods, you could turn your snack regime on its head for a week or preferably a month. Try not to repeat the same thing twice in a week. Make novelty the rule and banish predictability and monotony. It sounds like a lot of work, but aside from the intial adjustment to your routine, it doesn’t have to be. Watching my own children get excited about preparing and tasting new foods has been extremely rewarding.

If you asked my kids directly, they’d probably tell you that they sometimes wish their mom would let them eat a bunch of cookies or potato chips for snack. And to that I say, “Sure, we’ll do that sometime soon…but first let’s taste this thing I made today…”

Apple Sage Quesadilla

I’m feeling oh-so back-to-basics with this little bundle of dried sage hanging by my kitchen window. For a recent lunch, I used some of it in a quesadilla with apples and cheese. It was delightful.

2 8-inch flour tortillas
1 1/2 – 2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thinly
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 small apple, peeled and coarsely grated
7 – 10 dried sage leaves, crumbled into bits

Place one tortilla in a skillet over medium heat and cover evenly with cheeses, apple, and sage. Top with second tortilla and cook until the bottom tortilla is golden brown and cheese is starting to melt (around 5 minutes). Flip the quesadilla with a stiff spatula and cook for a few more minutes or until the tortilla is golden brown. Transfer quesadilla to a cutting board and allow to cool for a couple minutes. Cut into 8 wedges with a large knife and serve.

Yield: 8 wedges
Prep-time: 5 minutes
Cook-time: 8 minutes

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Apples Apples Everywhere

Here in Connecticut, Fall has arrived. Families are going to the orchard and joyfully picking apples. It’s all good family fun, until you get home and realize you actually have to eat them all.

The good news is that, most of the time, freshly picked apples will keep for weeks. Keep them in a cool, dark and somewhat ventilated place and they may last even longer. But even so, the apple supply can be a tad overwhelming.

Here are a few suggestions (gleaned from previous posts and from other food bloggers) for making apples easy to eat and exciting even when you’re near the bottom of the giant pick-your-own bag:

Sliced apples with honey
Sliced apples with carmel sauce or delce de leche
Sliced apples with cheddar cheese
Apple Flying Saucers
Sliced apples with Mud Dip
Sliced apples served alongside Honey-Roasted Pecans
Applesauce
 or Halloween Mush
Warm Apples Over Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt
Microwaved Apples
Fried Apple Rings
Apple Crisp Cookies
Grilled Sausage and Apple Kebabs

Please share your favorite way to use up lots of apples in the Comments. Thanks!

DIY Sunflower Seeds

Blah blah blah…we were strolling through the farmer’s market like our usual wannabe locavore selves and there it was – a big ol’ sunflower head. The person I gave $2.00 to told me to soak the seeds overnight in salty water and roast them.

I completely thought I was going to get stuck with the job of removing the seeds, but my kids went nuts and removed almost all of them themselves. Those little fingers do come in handy.

Once they were all removed we soaked them overnight in a couple cups of water with around 2 tablespoons of dissolved salt.

Then I roasted them on a baking sheet at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes until they started to brown just a bit.

The resulting seeds are a bit tough to crack. I find it easiest to rest the base of a shell on one of my lower molars and gently press down on the tip with an upper molar. It is a bit of a pain. But the perfectly salty little seed is worth the trouble. My 6 year-old loves these. I have to break them open for the younger one. 

The yield was about 1 1/2 cups. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.