Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Random ingredient of the week: Coconut Milk

Felt coconut found for sale here
So, I have recently discovered something about myself.  I am (most unfortunately!) slightly lactose intolerant.  Mostly it just makes me tired, especially if I have it early in the day.  (My theory is that because my body can't process dairy efficiently, it makes me sleepy.  Any other thoughts? Not like I've researched or bothered to see a doctor!)  Boo.  I love dairy.  Cheese.  Milk.  Ice cream.  I could go on.  One way I have found to decrease my dairy consumption, especially in the morning, is to replace the milk in my multiple cups of coffee with non-dairy alternatives.  I've been experimenting (with whatever is on sale, go figure!) and have determined the following:
Soy milk = good (the unsweetened is best)
Almond milk = also good
Coconut milk = NOT GOOD IN COFFEE!!!  It turns out that coconut (unsweetened drinking beverage style) is bizarrely thick and just doesn't taste good AT ALL in coffee.  So, I find myself with a half gallon of coconut milk that I am definitely NOT going to drink.  (Am I a little heavy on the CAPS?  I worry sometimes that I tend to over-EMPHASIZE what I am trying to SAY!)

When I go searching for recipes that include coconut milk, the vast majority are curries.  Not that I am against curry, I loooove curry, but it might be tough to sell the kiddos on a curry spree!  So, I thought I'd try replacing milk in a couple of simple recipes to start:

Coconut Milk Pancakes

2 cups Bisquick
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups coconut milk

I should mention, I stink at flipping full size pancakes.  Case in point:

So, I almost always make "silver dollar" pancakes.  See?

Much better!
And, bonus!  Not only are they easier to make, they are also easier for little people to pick up, negating the need for forks, butter, syrup, plates...

Next recipe, for dinner this time:

Coconut Milk Cornbread Muffins (recipe from the Albers brand Yellow Corn Meal box...well, except for the coconut milk...and they called for white flour...you know me!)

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups coconut milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup canola oil (the recipe calls for vegetable oil, but I only buy canola!  Google it, canola is sooo much better for you.)
3 Tbsp melted butter

Oh, look, more coconut milk!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray muffin cups with cooking spray.

Combine flour, sugar, corn meal, baking powder and salt in medium bowl.
Combine eggs, coconut milk, oil, and butter in small bowl; mix well.
Add to flour mixture; stir just until blended.
Pour into prepared muffin cups, filling 2/3 full.

(One more note, I made 12 full size muffins, plus a second pan of mini muffins.  I saved the mini muffins for tomorrow's breakfast, like the pancakes, smaller = easier for itty bitty hands to hold!)
Bake (large muffins) for 18 to 10 minutes (little ones for 8-10 minutes)
Cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes, serve warm.

They turned out less yellow than your average cornbread, but SUPER TASTY!

Our thumb round-up for the day:

Pancakes AND Cornbread Muffins...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Simple Stir Fry

Knit tofu (and pattern!) found here
Well, it started simple anyway!

Tonight's dinner really wasn't for the kids. I don't think every dinner has to be! Especially since the littles hardly ever eat more than a couple of bites, it's not worth the effort to always make dinner that I think they'll like. So tonight, we had stir fry! Or at least, our very simple, vegetarian version of it.

I made a box of Thai Kitchen's Thai Yellow Curry rice, which as odd as it may seem, everyone in our family likes...or at least, did the last time I made it.

Next, I sliced up one package of Trader Joe's high-protein-organic-super-firm tofu into little 1" rectangles. (With 14g of protein, 6% of your daily calcium, 10% of your iron, and only 100 calories per 3oz serving, it's well worth the ridiculously long name!)

We...whoops, I keep saying we, but what I should be saying is "my husband". He did most of the actual cooking. I just told him what to put in it! Anyway, he lightly fried the tofu in olive oil with a little garlic salt, and curry powder, then added about 1/2 cup of coconut milk.  He cooked it until the coconut milk had reduced to a sauce.

We had a bag of Flav-r-Pac Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry Vegetables, so he steamed those, and mixed them together with the tofu before serving.

Predictably, my husband and I loved it, #1 liked it, (#2 was at a friend's house), #3 wouldn't touch it...and #4 took one bite and then said "Ew, yuck!"...her current favorite dinner time phrase.  #4 did love the rice still, she ate 3 helpings!

So, curry stir fry:

How do you do stir fry?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Blackberries: Worth the pain

Berry Tart Baby Hat (and pattern!) found here
In the Pacific Northwest, one thing we have a lot of is blackberry vines.  11 months out of the year, one thing locals want less of is...blackberry vines.  August is the one glorious month were we love our spiky, invasive, almost-impossible-to-get-rid blackberry vines, because the blackberries are ripe and pickable.

The other day I was out in the park with my girls, and I made them come back home with me, so I could get a bucket to bring berries home in.  Granted, it's been a chilly summer around here (apologies to the rest of the country, who have been sweltering!), so they're really just starting to ripen.  Maybe one berry in a dozen was the dark, almost black, purple.  It's amazing how quickly you remember how a ripe blackberry feels.  The slightest touch and you can tell whether to pull or let go...unless you're two.  #4 kept running up, excited to drop her contribution in the bucket...but they were invariably green.

I was all set to start this lovely Blackberry Cobbler recipe I found on Betty Crocker, but it called for 2 1/2 cups of blackberries, and I had just under two cups.  No problem, just pick more!  (Yet another reason I love blackberry season.)  This time, I was better prepared.  After the nicks, scratches and itchy rash (turns out I'm allergic to blackberry thorns...who knew?) I knew to wear jeans, shoes (rather than sandals), a long sleeve sweatshirt and gloves...but here is where I got really clever. I took an old pair of leather work gloves, and cut the tip of the thumb and one finger off of each glove.  That way I was protected from thorns, but I could still grasp the berries.

Here is the recipe, with my usual slight adjustments:

Fresh Blackberry Cobbler

2 1/2 cups fresh blackberries

1 cup sugar(although I think it could have been a little less, maybe 3/4 cup)
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
Cream, whipped cream or ice cream, if desired (I skipped it, it was still fantastic!)
In a medium bowl, mix berries and sugar.Let sit for 20 mins, or until fruit syrup forms.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, milk, baking soda and salt.
Gently stir in melted butter.
Spread in ungreased 8" square pan, or 9" pie pan...because that's what I had!

Spoon berry mixture over batter.; (They don't mention it on Betty's website, but don't put the berries too close to the edge!; The berries and juice make the crust sticky.)
Bake 45 to 55 minutes, or until dough rises and is golden brown.

All together now...


I honestly wasn't sure how this would go over with the littles, but...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sandwich Spree Wrap-up

BFF pbj found here
My original goal for the sandwich spree was to find alternatives to soynut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I tried fun looking sandwiches, different filings...but ultimately, sbj is still the safest bet if I want everyone to eat the same thing.

But, so what?  At least I know there is one thing I can make that they will eat!

And, I also found that while using cookie cutters to make different shape sandwiches may not get them to eat something different inside, but it is an easy (and fun!) way to take off the crusts that no one was eating anyway.

There was one big improvement that came out of the Sandwich Spree.

#2's school lunch last year included a soynut butter and jelly, soynut butter and honey, or fluffernutter every day.  Every.  Day.

This year, she has asked to include pepperoni and hummus, hummus and carrot, and egg salad as lunch menu options!

The lesson learned, for me at least, is to try new things, even if you don't think anyone will like them!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bringing the Sandwich Spree to a close...with dessert!

Knit whoopie pie found here
Have you ever had a magical butter moment? It's when the recipe calls for a certain amount of stick butter, and you pull out all the little spare ends of sticks to find that the add up to EXACTLY how much you need for the recipe. I had a magical butter moment today. It was brilliant.

Today I decided to bring the sandwich spree to a close, with a dessert sandwich, so I thought I'd try my hand at a whoopie pie...of course, I can't just do a whoopie pie, I have to feel a little better about giving my kids a pile of sugar, so I went a-googling, and found a recipe for Pumpkin Whoopie Pie, here
I should preface this recipe with a disclaimer: I have never had whoopie pie before. I haven't even seen one, except in pictures online. I have no frame of reference on how big they should be, what they should taste like...so you'll have to forgive me if I've violated any whoopie pie laws.

I really liked this recipe.  Not only because it called for pumpkin, but because it started with a cake mix!  However, I did have a small quibble.  In the directions, she says to "Use a small cookie scoop drop mounds of the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets...", but I don't own any cookie scoops, and I haven't the foggiest idea how big they are!  So, I made two sizes:

Heaping tablespoon

Using a 1/4 cup measurer as a scoop
 As it turns out, the heaping teaspoon was probably closer to the correct size.  It cooked in the ten minutes the recipe called for.  The larger ones took 15 minutes.

My other change was to the filling.  Her filling called for a block of cream cheese, an entire stick of butter, and 3 CUPS of powdered sugar!  Um, no.  I had just come across an article on Pinterest called "Use this, Not that", that had suggestions for baking.  I flipped through that article, and low and behold:

Use marshmallow fluff to replace butter in baked goods
 Eureka!  I replaced both the butter and sugar with the fluff, and the filling came out perfect! (For me.  I have no idea what whoopie pie filling is supposed to taste like...which I think I already mentioned...) One big tip when cooking with fluff, is coat EVERYTHING with cooking spray.  Your measuring cup, your beaters, the mixing bowl, everything!  Fluff sticks.  I learned this the hard way making fudge.  (I made fudge for Christmas a couple of years ago because I thought it would be fun.  Eating fudge is fun. Making it can be a pain in the rear!)

Since I made some changes, here is the recipe as I made it:

Pumpkin Whoopie Pie with Light Filling

1 box Spice Cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup butter (magic butter moment!)
1 cup pumpkin (yep, plenty left over for applesauce)
1/2 cup milk


8oz block of cream cheese (room temp)
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
1 tsp
couple dashes of cinnamon
*cooking spray on everything fluff will touch!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or spray the bejeebus out of them with cooking spray)
Beat butter and pumpkin at medium speed until smooth.
Add remaining ingredients, beat on low until combined.
Drop rounded tablespoons of dough on cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. (Or, if you want giant pies, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup, and bake 15 minutes)
(Another note, if you are using parchment paper, turn slowly. Parchment paper is slippery, and will shoot right off of the cookie sheets!)
Bake 10 minutes.
Cool completely.
Put frosting in a ziploc bag, snip a corner off, and squeeze a generous amount on one cookie, and put the other one on top.

Here is the finished product:

Oh, and #3 was especially excited about dessert.  So excited that when I told her that we had to wait until after dinner, she wanted dinner at 4:00pm.  Plus, she sang a song:

#3's Whoopie Pie Song (with a little help from me):

First we mix the ingredients, then we put them on the pan.
But we cannot taste them, until Mommy says we can.
Put them in the oven, bake them until it beeps.
Cool them down and frost them, and them we can eat.
That's my whoopie pie song for you.

Now, I think you saw this one coming:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sandwich Spree: Day Three

Happy knit sandwich found here
Day Three...ok, actually it's day four, but we were rather busy yesterday, and the only sandwiches my girls ate were...yep...soynut butter and jelly.

Today, I managed two experimental sandwich meals, breakfast and dinner!

For breakfast, I had a HUGE assist from one of my very best friends of all times, who showed up on my doorstep yesterday with two jars of homemade jam: one champagne grape and one strawberry-basalmic...YUM!

With that brilliant starting point, breakfast was easy.  I made bisquick biscuits, (with 1/4 of the bisquick replaced with white whole wheat flour...of course!), cut them in half, added jam, aaaaand...
ta da!

All of the girls loved the biscuit sandwiches:

I also had an assist on dinner.  I found this great recipe:  Grilled Cheese with Bacon and Avocado.  (I skipped the apple she added in her recipe...I have limits!)  I knew the avocado was a gamble, but the bacon was a pretty sure bet.  Since I don't do bacon, my husband was very helpful and cooked it up for me.

I mashed the avocado, and spread it on both sides of the sandwich, and put havarti cheese on one side.
For the littles, we chopped up the bacon:

And for hubby and the bigs:

For the record, I would like to point out that I love my family.  I touched bacon to make a sandwich for my family.  Nuff said.

Finished product:

A second note: someday I will get a better camera, and take decent pictures!!  For the moment, I do apologize about the lack of photographic quality.

Dinner was a mixed success.  Husband, #1 and #2 loved dinner!  #3 took the sandwich apart, and only ate the bread and avocado.  #4 took her sandwich apart, and just ate the bacon!  I figure the littles each count for half a thumb up, so...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sandwich Spree: Day Two

Hoagie pattern for sale here
 Day two of the spree, and in an attempt to avoid sandwich fatigue, I just made sandwiches for lunch.

Today's experiment:  mini ROUND sandwiches

I made one big sandwich, with hummus and shredded carrots.  (Since they all liked dipping the carrots in hummus, I thought flavor-wise this was a safe bet.)  Then I used a small, round cookie cutter to cut tiny circular sandwiches out of the big one.

The grater on the right?  That's from IKEA.  And I love that grater!  Not to be an IKEA ad, but it really is the best one ever.

The hummus is from Costco (and no, I have no idea why it's spelled "hommus"...).

For one sandwich, I used about 4 baby carrots.  Most of them.  I can never grate all of the carrot, so I always eat the ends.

Here are the mini sandwiches, and a bowl of chili.

Chili is usually a safe bet with my girls, and I thought with the experimental tiny sandwiches, it would be good to have an option.

#3 continues to have a solid aversion to anything new and/or different, but both #2 and #4 loved them!  In fact, #4 ate hers, then ran around the table to eat #3's sandwich.

Official tally: