Eton Mess On A Stick

[donotprint]

Eton Mess (a traditional English dessert consisting of strawberries, whipped cream, and crushed meringues) is my kids’ new favorite reason for livin’/snack. This afternoon they were happily introduced to meringues. Then we smashed them into bits! It was great.

I even put them to work making their own snack. Here they are whipping some cream and smashing meringues.

They are very focused.

But the pay-off for all their hard work is deemed worth it.

A sure sign that a snack is a winner is when my children, who are usually nice enough to humor me, refuse to stop eating so I can take a couple photos. [/donotprint]

Eton Mess On A Stick Recipe

This recipe actually works best with huge industrial-strength California strawberries. The beefy berries hold their own on skewers better than I imagine delicate local berries would. They also have more square footage for the whipped cream and meringue to cling to. For the meringues I took the easy route and used Trader Joe’s Vanilla Meringues, but feel free to make your own, especially if you have a ton of egg whites and sugar waiting to be used.

1 pound strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved lengthwise
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 medium meringue cookies

Pour the cream and vanilla into a small bowl. Whip the cream mixture until peaks form. Set aside.

Place the meringues in a sandwich bag or under a towel and gently smash the cookies into tiny bits with the flat side of a meat tenderizer.

Stab the berries with a small bamboo skewer. (Cut off the pointy tips if your little ones can’t be trusted not to poke themselves in the eye.) Dip the berries into the crushed meringues, the whipped cream, and then maybe the crushed meringues one more time. Consume immediately.

Yield: 3 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes

[print_link]

Mini Meatball Sandwiches

[donotprint]

Having been a vegetarian for many years, I’m still learning when it comes to making a decent meatball. Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is where I got the recipe for these little beauties. Lucky for me, we had a few leftover and I was able to whip up a delicious quick lunch that took no thought. Bliss![/donotprint]

Mini Open-faced Meatball Sandwiches

If you’re lucky enough to have some leftover homemade meatballs on hand, drop everything and make this now. Obviously, the proportions and number of sandwiches can be adjusted to your needs. The only real requirement is that the bread be sturdy enough to support all of that cheesy meaty goodness.

3 small slices of rustic bread
4 fully cooked small meatballs, cut in half
3 1-inch by 4-inch slices of white cheddar cheese

Preheat the broiler in the oven on High. Slide a rack into the upper third of the oven so the sandwiches will be close (but not too close) to the heat.

Assemble the sandwiches by placing the bread on a baking tray and topping them with 2 or 3 meatball halves. Top with a slice of cheese. Broil for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and has begun to brown.

Yield: 3 mini sandwiches
Prep-time: 5 minutes
Bake-time: 5 minutes

[print_link]

Shiny Happy People

Here’s another one to add to the simple yet brilliant category. My five-year-old thinks they’re the bee’s knees. Any snack that can momentarily distract her from her seemingly constant fixation on sugar is a winner in my book.

I think I’m going to save you from my blather and not post a recipe for this one. It’s obvious from the picture right? All you need is a slice of apple, peanut butter, and raisins and you’re good to go. I do the apple and peanut butter prep and let the child go to town with the raisins. We really know how to live it up here.

These remind me of Apple Flying Saucers which I wrote a recipe for back in 2009.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (for the Bread Machine)

[donotprint]

The weather here has been beyond amazing lately. It’s February in New England and sometimes I find myself in a t-shirt. Outside even. It’s been heavenly and I hope it continues.

What seems to be the early coming of Spring has sent me into a baking frenzy. I simply can’t stop making bread. Have you ever seen the cookbook Flatbreads & Flavors? It’s like crack for homemade bread makers. I just can’t stop. Before we know it it will be far too gorgeous outside to stay in and bake. I was planning on making tons of crackers this winter too and I’ve done next to none. Woe is me.

Recently, I couldn’t find a recipe for whole wheat pizza dough for bread machines on the World Wide Web. It’s always a little troubling when a recipe search just comes up empty. Doesn’t the web have everything on it by now? Anyhow, I was forced to do a little experimenting and come up with my own.

This recipe is actually a mash-up of my husband’s recipe and one I found in a bread machine cookbook. I’m not sure if any of it actually makes sense. But it works for me. I make the dough in the bread machine and then put it in the fridge overnight. My husband does the overnight rest, but I forget why – probably something to do with gluten development or something.

I haven’t tried throwing this dough to make a traditional pizza pie, but it would probably rise to the occasion. I’ve been making ten thousand pinwheels instead. I have enough pinwheels for an army in my freezer. My kid’s school lunches are going to be very predictable, but yummy, for the rest of the year.[/donotprint]

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Recipe (Bread Machine)

Scant cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Put the water, sugar, olive oil, salt, and flours in the bread machine pan. Make a well in the flour for the yeast and pour it in. Put the machine on the Dough setting. Check on it once the knead cycle has been going for a little while to make sure it’s not too wet or too dry.

Divide the dough in two and place each dough in a lightly greased 2-quart airtight container. Place the containers in the refrigerator overnight.

30 – 60 minutes before you are going to need the dough, place it on the counter and allow it to come to room temperature. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface or onto a baking sheet.

The rest is up to you! Happy pizza!

Yield: 2 pounds of dough, enough for 2 12-inch pizzas
Prep-time: 5 minutes

[print_link]

Brocoli and Cheddar Pinwheels (and a Cookbook Giveaway!)

Don’t tell anyone, but did you know that people just give you new cookbooks when you’re a food blogger? And sometimes they even give you recipes to share. Even really good recipes. Take, for instance, these brilliant pinwheels from Parents Need To Eat Too by the lovely Ms. Debbie Koenig.

Oh, how I wish this cookbook existed when I was a new mum. I think my husband and I made quesadillas and spaghetti for many months. I vividly remember not being able to tackle any recipe that involved chopping of any sort until the baby was at least 6 months old. I’d read a recipe that called for peeling and chopping an onion and roll my eyes and mumble something like, “Yeah, like that’s ever going to happen.”

The author of Parents Need To Eat Too has been there and has amassed a stunning array of parent-friendly recipes that would have broken even me out of my quesadilla and take-out pizza rut. It includes exciting recipes for a variety one-handed meals such as these pinwheels, slow cooker delicacies, recipes broken down into stages so most of the work can be done during naps, as well as recipes that support breastfeeding.

If you’d like to win a copy of Parents Need To Eat Too, comment on this post and tell us how you keep yourself fed when you have a new babe in the house. I’ll pick a winner next Saturday, February 18th at 7pm EST using random.org.

Update 2-18-2012: And the winner is Christy! Thanks to everyone for your comments. 

Broccoli and Cheddar Pinwheels Recipe from Parents Need To Eat Too

1 pound prepared pizza dough, white or
whole wheat
2¹⁄₂ cups finely chopped broccoli, or one 10-ounce package of frozen chopped broccoli, defrosted and finely chopped
1 to 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line or grease a baking sheet.

1. Remove pizza dough from the refrigerator 30 minutes to 1 hour before you plan to use it.

2. Steam the broccoli until just tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Cool slightly, then combine broccoli with the Cheddar, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Roll or stretch the dough on a floured work surface into a large rectangle, about 10 x 14 inches. Don’t worry if you can’t get those exact measurements, but take care not to stretch the dough so thin it rips.

4. Spread the broccoli mixture over about three-quarters of the dough, leaving an uncoated portion at one short side. Begin to roll the dough from the short side covered with the broccoli spread, and keep rolling until you’ve got a nice, neat log of dough.

5. using a serrated knife or a pastry scraper, cut the log into 8 equal pinwheels. Carefully lay the pinwheels flat on the prepared baking sheet, and bake until crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes.

Yield: 8, easily doubled
Cooking time: 1 hour (20 minutes active)

Kettle Corn

[donotprint]You must make this snack as soon as you possibly can. It is brilliant simplicity.

Today when the kids were munching happily on kettle corn I told them I didn’t want to hear any more whining about how they never get Oreos in their lunch like all the other kids at school. As long as they get to snack on homemade kettle corn, I can do no wrong.

[/donotprint]

Kettle Corn Recipe

I like to get all the ingredients ready for this snack while the pot is preheating. Things happen quickly once the pot is ready and the popcorn needs all of your attention while it is popping. But then 4 minutes later you get to experience a snack trifecta: crunchy, sweet, and salty.

1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
3/4 cup popcorn
2 heaping tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat a large non-stick pot over medium high heat. When it is nice and warm, add the oil, popcorn, and sugar. Stir well to make sure that the sugar is well distributed. Place the lid on the pot. Shake the pot with increasing frequency once the popping begins to make sure that the corn and sugar do not burn.

After a few minutes, the popping should subside. Remove the pot from the burner (a little too early is better than too late) and stir the popcorn with a wooden spoon while you sprinkle on the salt. Stir a few more times to make sure none of the sugar burns on the bottom of the pot.

Serve immediately. Be sure to give the popcorn a little extra cooling time if you’re serving youngsters. The sugar bits can be very hot.

Yield: 10 cups – serves 3 -4
Prep-time: 10 minutes

Note: My kids didn’t start eating popcorn until they were three years old. Make sure you’re up to date on current recommendations as far as choking hazards and feeding before serving this snack to children.

[print_link]

Chocolate Chip Banana Biscotti

[donotprint]

Biscotti are a snack I’ve come a tad obsessed with lately. And this recipe is perfection because it uses up a single overripe banana and we always seem to have one languishing on the counter this winter.

I’ve shied away from biscotti in the past because they can be a little challenging for the kiddos to eat. But it turns out that if you make your own, you can leave them a little soft. Eureka!

Bananas aren’t a typical player in the biscotti universe, as far as I can tell. But the taste is brilliant, especially with the chocolate (surprise!). The whole family loves them and they are relatively low in fat and sugar. The kids have taken to dunking them in tall glasses of milk while we discuss important matters such as whether or not fairies are real. [/donotprint]

Chocolate Chip Banana Biscotti Recipe

This recipe was inspired by a recipe from Cooking Light housed at My Recipes.

The crispness of the biscotti depends on how thick you slice them and how long they are baked the second time. If you’d like a traditional hard biscotti, bake them until the edges begin to brown (probably an additional 10 minutes). They will crisp up much more when they cool. By the same token, you can cut the second baking time by 5 minutes if you want especially soft biscotti.

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium overripe banana, peeled and mashed well
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup small chocolate chunks or mini chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

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

In a large bowl, mix together the banana, egg, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and mix until the mixture starts to form a ball. Add the chocolate and mix to incorporate.

Divide the dough in two and form into logs about 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. Wet your hands to keep the dough from sticking, if necessary. Place the logs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten them with the palm of your hand so they are about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for 25 minutes. When they come out of the oven, turn the heat down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Allow the logs to cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. If they hang out longer they will be more likely to crumble when they are sliced. Carefully transfer the logs to a cutting board. Use a serrated knife to make 1/2 inch thick slices, preferably at an angle.

Arrange the slices on the same parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. They will still feel soft, but will harden as they cool. Serve or store in an airtight container. They will keep for several days or can be frozen.

Yield: 24 biscotti
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Bake-time: 55 minutes

[print_link]

Our Daily Bread

[donotprint]Right after college, one of my roommates got a bread maker. After a couple months of excitement, she started to complain about feeling alienated from her bread. The machine was quietly tucked away never to be seen again.

Given this experience, I resisted getting a bread maker for a long time. But a few years ago I ended up with one and haven’t looked back. I have a Zojirushi which seemed like a good idea because it has two paddles and produces a traditionally shaped loaf. But now it’s pointless because a couple years ago I decided to use the machine to make the dough and then bake it in the oven. Those paddle holes in the bottom of a loaf are disheartening. And the crust always came out way too dark in the machine.

Just in case there are some other folks out there who are as pre-occupied with bread as I am, I thought I’d share my stand-by recipe. It’s mostly whole grain and is the main source of flaxseed in our diet.[/donotprint]

Whole Wheat Flax Bread Machine Recipe

This recipe is inspired by Flax Prairie Bread from Ameriflax. I usually use King Arthur’s all-purpose flour for this bread, but if you have bread flour by all means use it instead of the all-purpose flour. It delivers.

1 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons safflower oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup all-purpose flour or bread flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Put the water, salt, flaxseed, oil, honey, and flours in bread machine pan. Create a small well in the top of the flour and pour in the yeast. Run the machine on the Dough setting. When the dough is ready, punch it down and form it into a loaf shape. Place the dough in a greased bread pan. Cover with a light-weight towel.

Allow the dough to rise for an hour or until it is doubled in size. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 28 minutes. Remove loaf from pan by turning it upside down and catching it with an oven mit. Allow the loaf to cool completely on a cooling rack. If you put it away before it cools, it will get soggy. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: one loaf of lovely bread
Prep-time: 10 minutes

[print_link]

Romesco Dip

The people of Spain who originally came up with this concoction are clearly culinary geniuses. I’m in love with this dip right now. I usually have all the ingredients on hand and it takes no time at all to make. Plus it’s vegan and doesn’t feel as heavy as the usual diary-heavy party fare.

Romesco Dip Recipe

This recipe is minimally adapted from Allison Fishman’s You Can Trust a Skinny Cook. Love this cookbook. Everything I’ve made from it has kicked some major arse.

1 slice bread, whole wheat or otherwise
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup jarred roasted red pepper, dried with a paper towel
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons water

Place the bread, almonds, and garlic into the bowl of a food processor and whiz until the almonds are finely ground – about 30 seconds.

Add the red pepper, vinegar, salt, red pepper flakes, and olive oil and process until smooth. Add the water in a steady stream through the feed tube with the processor running.

I find that this dip thickens up nicely if refrigerated overnight in an airtight container. Serve at room temperature with bread or vegetables. Spread it on sandwiches. Serve it with grilled chicken, fish, or vegetables.

Yield: 2 cups
Prep-time: 12 minutes

[print_link]

Crostini

These crostini are the backbone of dip and cheese plates that I find myself putting together in the winter months.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut a baguette  into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange the slices onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Pour 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil into a small bowl. Brush a bit off the oil onto each slice with a pastry brush. Bake until golden and dried out, approximately 30 minutes.

As far as I can tell, these will keep for months in an airtight container, if they are completely dried out. I always make way more than I think I’ll need because the kids devour them and we can always save them for the next get together.

Yield: variable
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Bake-time: 30 minutes