Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blueberry + Spinach = Invisible vitamins!

Happy blueberry found on Etsy
One of my favorite recipe's from Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious, is, at first glance, the hardest to believe: Blueberry Oatmeal Bars...with SPINACH.

"Spinach?? In a dessert????????  No. Way."

Surprise!  The blueberry preserves not only completely cover up the taste of spinach, the bars taste sooo good I can't stop eating them...well, ok, maybe that's not a benefit.  After all, the added vitamins give these bars a huge bonus beyond an ordinary dessert, but it's still a treat, with lots of sugar.  However, my kids love them, I love them, my husband loves them, even the in-laws think they're great!

Want the recipe?  Click here.

One important note:  It is CRITICAL to let the bars cool completely!  If you serve them warm, they taste like cooked spinach.  If you let them cool for several hours, you can't taste the spinach at all, just the yummy.

Oh, and, when you're all caked-out, they make a nifty birthday treat:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Banana-oatmeal-apple-cinnamon-yum cookies

Today I was at what our family calls, "The Bread Store," which is actually a Franz outlet. (If you have never been, and you are lucky enough to have one near you, GO! $1 for a loaf of whole wheat bread? You can't beat that.). One of my impulse buys (5 for $6!) was 3 oatmeal/baking mixes. 3 kinds of oatmeal cookies! NOM.

Knit cookie source

However, when I got home, all excited to bake cookies, I started reading the recipe...and the first ingredient is 1 cup of shortening. Blech. Now, don't get me wrong, shortening certainly has it's uses...it is an excellent cake pan greaser, and I've heard it is great for pie crust (not that I would know, I don't do pie!).

So, I went on a trusty internet search.  (By the way, I don't google, I goodsearch.  Check it out!)  I searched for "healthy shortening substitute", and one of the first results was an eHow article.  They said that you could replace shortening with margarine designed for baking, or replace up to half with applesauce or pureed prune.  I had heard the applesauce before, but what they said next really surprised me.

"Bananas can be used measure for measure as a substitute for shortening."

Really? Are you sure eHow? We shall see.

Here is the mix I used:

I went ahead and replaced all of the shortening with bananas, after all, who better to experiment on then my kids?  The recipe called for 3 cups of the mix (there was closer to 3 and a 1/2 in the bag) but with the bananas the dough seemed way too soupy, so I went ahead and tossed in the other 1/2 cup.  I also added almonds (the only nut #2 is NOT allergic to!), but I followed the recipe to the letter for the rest of it.

My biggest concern with the banana substitution was that the cookies would be too sweet.  Surprisingly, even with the 1 cup of gran. sugar AND 3/4 cup of brown sugar, they still weren't too sweet.  I think when I try the next two mixes, I will keep the bananas, but reduce the sugar anyway. 

One more hint, I would highly recommend spraying your baking sheets with cooking spray.  I didn't until the third batch, and it made a huge difference.  (Aaaand then I forgot again on the last batch.  Sigh.)

Here is how they turned out:

I think Cookie Monster would approve.

As for my cookie monsters, here is what they thought:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cake Walk

And now, for something completely different.

Making the birthday cake this week reminded me how much I enjoy cake decorating.  I took the Wilton cake decorating classes at Michael's a couple years ago, and really enjoyed it.  I don't do fancy cakes often, but I think I do a pretty good job when I do, for an amateur.

So, for today's post, I thought I would share some of the cakes I have decorated:

One of my first cakes, an 85th birthday cake for my grandfather.

Roses: easier than they look!

Basketweave: one of my favorite fancy techniques!

Color flow letters and tree: also a very cool technique.

This one I made to let my oldest know that she was getting a sister...the first of 3!

I love, LOVE how cornelli lace looks on a cake, but it is murder on the hand!

Basket of flowers cake I made for a school auction.

Love the two colors of chocolate on this one. 

House warming cake!  I used a house shaped pan.

This is one of my all time favorites!  My husband helped me shape Snoopy out of marzipan, and his dog house is two of the house cakes put together!  #2 was a huge Snoopy fan when she turned 3.

Ok, technically not a cake, but turns out I can do some neat stuff in gingerbread too!  My husband (the amateur architect) helped with the plans.  The roof is Necco wafers, and the stained "glass" windows are melted Life Savers!  (It is possible I watch waaaaay too many Food Network competitions!)

The second gingerbread house I made...this one I was aiming for a more fun, whimsical look. Both of these were for the annual ladies' dessert function at my church, which explains the steeples.

You can kind of see in this picture, I actually made pews and a lectern inside the church!  And no, I have no idea where I found the time...oh, yeah, this was when I only had two kids!

Fourth of July, pretty on the outside, but check out the inside:

I forgot I had the set to make checkered cake!  I should get that out again soon.

Bunny cake, with coconut fur and snowball cheeks.

My oldest has a summer birthday, so we had a "1/2 birthday" party in the middle of the school year.  10 girls, two 9" rounds cut in half, stacked, and covered in chocolate frosting...it was a long night!

I am particularly proud of the handwriting on this one. 

Monkey cake!  This was the banana cake I made for #3's birthday last year.  The monkey is actually cake, baked in a bear-shaped pan, with some adjustments.  The tail?  Edible playdough covered with frosting!  I love this monkey.  One of my all time favorites!

"Ice cream" cupcakes!  The cake batter is baked in the cones, I frosted with plain frosting, and then #2 and her friends got to choose topping to sprinkle on. 

Another bunny cake, with baby bunny cupcakes.  I loved how the coconut tail came out, so cute.  The flowers are jelly beans cut in half, and the baby bunnies ears are marshmallows sliced into triangles. The bunny shape?  I actually made this one up myself!  It's a 9" round cut in half and stood together on the cut side, and the legs, head and ears are all cut from cupcakes!  Wish I had a better picture, I'm pretty proud of how this one turned out.

Moly cow, that's a lot of cake!!  Hope you enjoyed, and if you have any questions about specific techniques, let me know!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Potayto, Potahto...it's all a no to them!

I resisted.  I did NOT follow the recipe.  I did NOT put cauliflower in the mashed potatoes!

They still didn't like them, but hey, I'm learning.

One of the plans that I have in place to attempt to make the "What's for dinner?" question easier to answer at 5:15pm is a weekly "menu".

Monday: Pasta
Tuesday: Soup
Wednesday: Pizza
Thursday: Chicken
Friday, Saturday, Sunday: um, what's in the fridge?

Of course, this is all flexible.  Soup frequently means grilled cheese and tomato soup, or sometimes chili.  Chicken is most often chicken nuggets, but occasionally my husband makes baked or grilled chicken...which as you can imagine, is less popular with the littles.  Monday used to be Mexican...but it turns out that as much as #4 loves beans, they do not love her back!

Knowing that tonight was chicken, I asked #3 what she wanted with dinner, and she said mashed potatoes.  So, what do I do?  Do I mash potatoes?  Nope, I get out the cookbook.  (Dun dun DUN!)

Tonight's fail manual: Kid Favorites Made Healthy.  The recipe: Veggie Mash.  The objectionable ingredient: carrot.  As I said, the recipe also called for cauliflower, but knowing that I can't even hide cauliflower in cake...yeeeeaaaah.

Now, I didn't have any real potatoes (well, I did, but they were sprouty, ew!) so I substituted instant.  Also, the recipe called for sour cream, but I used Greek yogurt.  This is actually a permanent substitution in our house.  Plain Greek yogurt actually tastes very similar to sour cream, but it is much healthier!  Lots of protein, calcium, plus active cultures. 

The carrots I steamed and mashed, mixed everything together, and added a blob of margarine.  Here was the result:

Quotes from the kiddos:

#1: Um, it's ok.  Did you use the fake potatoes?  (Busted!)
#2: I like it!  Well, sort of.  It would be better with more butter.  And no carrots.  And more salt.
#3: [Me: Do you like your potatoes?]  Yes.  [Me: Can you please use your fork?]  No.
#4: [Sits down, takes one look, aaaaand...] Not that!

So the result is:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quick plug, Vote for me!

So, crazy maybe, but I'm kinda hoping to be the next CakeWrecks.  You know, funny blog + lots of fans = book and tour...ok, maybe just the funny blog and lots of fans, but a girl can dream!

So, in order to get my blog's name out there, I'm asking my fans to vote for me as the best food blog in Seattle here:


I could win one of these:

A 2011 Golden Teddy Award!

C'mon, wouldn't you want one?  He's so cute and...hungry?

As an aside, a good friend of mine with a MOST AWESOME kid-friendly coffee shop would also appreciate your vote..and your business!  Her name is Heather, and her shop is called "Little Bean Coffee Company".  Here is a link to her fb page: Little Bean.

As always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Birthday Barn Cake

Has this ever happened to you?  I was baking this morning, and the littles (our nickname for #3 and #4) were really underfoot, so my dear husband took them for a quick car ride.  It was lovely!  However, it took me at least 15 minutes to realize that he hadn't turned off the TV, and the songs I was absentmindedly singing along with...were from Sesame Street.  Whoops.

Back to the cake!

Now, this technically has a healthy ingredient in it , but in my defense, I made it last year for #3's birthday, and one of the mom's who was in attendance actually begged me to make it again.

The recipe book I used is "Cake Mix Bible":

It is one of my all time favorite cake recipe books, especially because it starts with boxed cake mix, and ends with WOW!

I made the Banana Cake, with Banana frosting (instead of the chocolate they recommend), and although it sounds like a lot of banana, it's a lot of YUM!

#3's birthday is tomorrow, and we're having a party at a park with a petting zoo, so naturally, this is what her cake looks like:

Of course, the party isn't until tomorrow, so technically I can't really say how many thumbs up...but I'm willing to bet on 100%.  After all, it is cake.  With frosting.  And adorable animals.

I got the idea for the cake from Betty Crocker, but I added some ideas of my own.  Instead of red icing (one of my least favorites), or fondant (pretty, but yech!), I used strawberry fruit roll-ups!  I suspect it will still just get peeled off, but I easily save myself 30 minutes of agonizing, careful, perfect icing. 

So, with a baa-baa here, and an oink-oink there, the cake is done, and all that's left is to enjoy.

ETA: 12 kids, 7 moms, and everybody loved it!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Recipe for a Perfect Teacher

My parents visited over the weekend, and along with a stack of books, my mom brought "Wonderful World of Writing, Middle School Edition: Spring 1989".

Apparently, I have been making up my own recipes longer than I thought.  Here is my contribution (keeping in mind I was in the 8th grade!):


Recipe for a Perfect Teacher


     1 pinch of strictness
     1/2 cup of awareness
     1 tablespoon of humor
     1 handful of patience
     1/4 teaspoon of genius
     1/2 cup of creativity
     1/4 cup of organization


     In a large bowl blend the patience, humor and creativity.  In another bowl mix the strictness, genius, organization, and awareness.  Pour the mixture into the first bowl and stir for half an hour.  Bake over the weekend.

     If you add too much humor, you'll get corny jokes.  If you put in too much creativity, you'll have a student teacher.  Too much strictness and not enough awareness will make a substitute.  More than 1/4 teaspoon of genius, and you'll end up with a scientist.

     To make a principal, add an extra tablespoon of strictness and pour in a cup of organization.  Bake over spring vacation.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Inside-Out Pizza Experiment.

Before I get to the recipe fail of the day, I wanted to share:  I painted my toenails!  Ok, ok, not usually exciting news, but this is the first time my toes have had color since Mother's Day...2010.

I'd like to thank my MOPS (Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers) group for the new nail polish; the vacuum for having ridiculously similar markings on the "power" and "retract cord" buttons; and my husband for complaining about the buttons so much that I came up with the idea of painting one with nail polish. Most of all, I'd like to thank my two youngest children for playing together nicely for 10 minutes, without fighting or being so quiet that I would worry. (The phrase, "It's quiet...too quiet," applies better to small children than any monster in a horror movie.)

Sometimes I out-creative myself.  Tonight is a prime example.

I started with a can of crescent rolls.  I sorta remembered an "easy" pot pie recipe that ended with crescent rolls on top as the crust, so I went searching for it on Pillsbury.com.  I found several options.  So, armed with a recipe, I foraged in the pantry.  Phoo.  Not a single required ingredient was to be found.  Except the aforementioned crescent rolls.

Plan B: consult the cookbooks!  My husband picked up a new (to me, it was published in 2003) cookbook: Better Homes and Gardens, KID FAVORITES MADE HEALTHY!  150 delicious recipes kids can't resist!  (We shall see!)

Still no pot pie, or recipes that call for crescent rolls, but I did find this one: More-Cheese-Please Calzones.  I didn't have the frozen bread dough, the onion, zucchini, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese...you get the idea.  So, I took the basic concept and made up my own recipe.  It started as calzones, but the crescent rolls are triangle-shaped, so I named them:  Inside-Out Pizzas.

Since this is a brand-spanking new, never existed before, (and if they hate it, may never exist again) I include for your approval, testing, mocking, whatever...the recipe:

To start, I didn't have ricotta.  Poke in fridge.  Idea!  I had a half-brick of Trader Joe's Super Firm Tofu, and I seemed to remember reading a vegan recipe somewhere that used tofu-ricotta.  (What would you call that?  Tofotta?  Rifutta?)

So here is my recipe-within-a-recipe for...

Tofratta...Rifutti?  Whatever.

1/2 package TJ's Super Firm Tofu
1/4 Parmesan (really?  that's how it's spelled?  go figure.)
2 Laughing Cow Light Swiss Cheese wedges
1/2 cup milk

Place ingredients in blender and blend until...well, blended.  (Note: cut up the tofu first!  That stuff is SOLID!  Oh, and healthy.  Really high in protein and stuff.)  (Note the 2nd: this took FOREVER.  I think I need a new blender.)
I added about 1 tsp of Italian Seasoning to the torcatta-ritoto-turducken...(no, wait...that's something else entirely... ), for no other reason than it seems to need some color.  I did resist the urge to add broccoli!  Yay self control!

Next for the pizza:

Open can of crescent rolls.
Try not to jump and say "eek!" when it pops.
Unroll crescent rolls onto a baking sheet as 4 rectangles.

Mix filling:

4 shredded baby carrots (because I didn't have big carrots, sorry)
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used Costco's Mexican blend.  It's what I have, I pretty much use it in everything!  Plus, I find it is less stringy when melted than mozzarella.)
1/2 cup Trader Joe's Tomato Basil Marinara

1. I smeared about 1 tsp of "ricotta" (that works!) on each crescent triangle, leaving space on the edge for sealing.

2. I plopped about 1 tbsp (sorry about all the "abouts", I really should measure more!) of the filling on one side of each triangle.
*This was the moment when I realized that the rectangle shape would not work.  Dur.  So, I sorta rotated the top crescent roll so they were more of a kite shape.

3. Dampen the edges, place the top onto the bottom triangle.
4. Use a fork to smoosh edges closed.  (Heh heh.  Smoosh. Smooshy smoosh. Sorry, that word is too fun!)
5. Poke holes in the top of each pizza "slice".

6. Sprinkle a pinch of cheese on top.
7.Bake for 15 mins. Oh, oops, forgot to turn on the oven.  So, back up to the top there and turn on the oven to 375.
8. Make sure to let them cool especially for little hands!

(Notice the salad.  My older kids are savvy.  If there is not a visible vegetable on the plate, they assume I've attempted to hide them in the food, and are much more likely to nibble cautiously, looking for the sneaky veg!  Sheesh.  You'd think my own kids would trust me...Mwa-ah-hah-hah-hah!)

Ready for a shocker?