Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ben's Birthday Cake

I never posted a picture of Ben's dragon cake, and I've had a request - so here it is!

Soft Serve Banana "Ice Cream"

Growing up in New Hampshire, we had a soft-serve ice cream shop named King Kone. King Kone had never more than six flavors: usually chocolate, vanilla, twist, banana, black raspberry, and bananaberry. Their soft serve was excellent and the cones were huge, and if you ever visit Merrimack, NH in the summer, be sure to check it out.

This recipe doesn't really have anything to do with commercial soft serve, but it sure is good. And healthy!

Take three bananas (overripe or ripe) and cut them into pieces, then freeze. To make the ice cream, take the bananas out of the freezer and let them soften for a minute or two.

Put the banana pieces in a food processor and blend until the ice cream is light and airy. It will take about 2-3 minutes; scrape down the bananas as needed.

The boys love this - the first time I made it, I told them they were having ice cream for breakfast. It's amazing how creamy, rich, and smooth the bananas become, truly mimicking the texture and flavor of soft serve.

Cheddar Broccoli Soup

I needed to use up some broccoli and chicken, so I came up with this soup. It was delicious - a meal in a bowl! I did make some scallion pancakes for the carb lovers in the family.

Cheddar Broccoli Soup

1 small onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 T. butter
1/2 cup flour
5 cups chicken broth
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 t. red pepper
1 t. salt (can use less)
4 cups broccoli florets
1/2 cup cream
2-3 cups cooked chicken breast
2 cups cheddar cheese, divided

Cook celery and onions in butter until starting to soften (about five minutes). Stir flour into butter and cook for a minute or two. Slowly add chicken broth and whisk into flour mixture. Cook over medium low heat until starting to thicken.

Add salt, black pepper, red pepper, and broccoli. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until broccoli is tender. Stir in cream, chicken and 1 1/2 cups of cheese.

Serve with remaining cheese on top.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Caramel Corn

I have known my favorite brother-in-law Shane for 13 years now, and allegedly he's been making caramel corn for his entire life. But he's never made it for us before tonight! And it is soooo good; nobody could stay out of it! You could leave out the pecans and use an extra bag of microwave popcorn.

This is a great party snack for fall and winter, and it would make an excellent Christmas gift in a cellophane bag, tied with a festive ribbon. I hope you like it as much as we did!

Caramel Corn

2 bags of microwave popcorn, popped
1 1/2 cups pecans (can sub another bag of microwave popcorn)
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup Karo syrup
1 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. baking soda

Mix popcorn with pecans in a large heat-proof bowl. Remove the unpopped kernels.

Cook brown sugar, butter, salt, and Karo syrup over medium heat until it boils, stirring frequently. Let caramel boil for four minutes without stirring. Remove from heat.

Add vanilla and baking soda to the brown sugar mixture and stir. The baking soda will make the caramel bubble up. Pour over popcorn and nuts and toss to coat.

Put caramel corn in a large roasting pan or jelly roll pan. Bake at 250 for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and turn out onto waxed paper in a single layer; cool.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Yellow Rice

In our Story of the World curriculum, Jack and I have been been studying medieval Spain. I decided to make a Spanish meal for dinner. The chicken in almond and garlic sauce was delicious, but I expect I'll be making the yellow rice quite often - it was so good. I found both recipes in Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World.

Yellow Rice

2 1/2 cups chicken stock
large pinch saffron threads (1 teaspoon) or 1/2 t. turmeric
1 medium onion, chopped
4 T. butter or olive oil
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
salt and pepper to taste

Warm the stock gently in a saucepan with the saffron or turmeric. Put half the butter in a deep skillet with a lid over medium heat. A minute later, add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened - about five minutes. Add rice and continue to cook, stirring, until the rice is glossy and begins to brown, about five minutes more.

Add the stock all at once, along with salt and pepper. Cover and adjust the heat so the mixture simmers gently and cook until rice is done, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the remaining butter; taste and adjust the seasoning.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

I love salsa, but lately I've been making pico de gallo more often. I like how chunky and flavorful it is, and it's a great topping for breakfast burritos or tacos. I first made it when I was introduced to Rick Bayless's Mexican cookbooks, but I wasn't a huge fan until I read Pioneer Woman's take on pico: each ingredient plays an equally important role. In other words, pico de gallo should not be 3/4 tomato with a little onion, jalapeno, and cilantro; equal amounts are what gives pico its flavor.

When you make it, save a 1/2 cup or so for the guacamole; that recipe will come next.

Pico de Gallo

4-5 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 small onion, diced
3 jalapenos, seeded and minced (leave the seeds in if you want much spicier pico)
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed and leaves chopped
2 T. lime juice
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients. Taste and correct with more lime juice and salt if needed.


3 ripe avocados, mashed (you can buy unripe avocados a few days ahead and put them in a bag with an apple to ripen them)
1/2 cup pico de gallo
lime juice

Combine avocado with pico de gallo. Add more lime juice and salt if needed.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mini Twice-Baked Potatoes

Twice-baked potatoes are so retro but so good! For my mom's birthday, I decided to make them in mini red potatoes for the cute factor. These would make great appetizers or a side dish for company, since you can make them ahead of time and reheat.

Mini Twice-Baked Potatoes

18 mini red potatoes
1/4 cup milk
1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese (more to taste)
1/2 cup sour cream (more to taste)
paprika, salt, and pepper

Note: If you bake another russet potato along with the red potatoes, you'll be able to make more overstuffed twice-baked potatoes.

Bake potatoes at 350 for 45-60 minutes. Remove from oven when tender. When cool enough to handle, cut a thin lid from the top of each potato. Using a small teaspoon, scoop out the inside of the potato, leaving a half-inch border from the edge. Remove all the potato insides to a medium size mixing bowl. To the bowl, add the milk, butter, sour cream, cheese, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix to combine. Taste and add more sour cream or cheese if needed.

Spoon filling back into potatoes. If you want to make them fancy, you can do what I did in the photo above and put the potato mixture in a cake decorating bag. Use a star tip to fill the potatoes. Sprinkle tops with paprika and return to the oven. Bake until golden.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Baked Tomatoes with Feta

I should have posted this recipe in the summer, but in case you can still find any good tomatoes, here's a great lunch or side dish. You can serve it with crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Baked Tomatoes with Feta

2 flavorful tomatoes, sliced
1/4 - 1/2 cup feta, crumbled
Olive oil, salt, and pepper
fresh basil leaves, julienned

Place tomatoes in one layer in a baking dish. Scatter feta on top and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until tomatoes are blistery and juices are released. Top with basil and serve.