Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I never thought I'd say this...

But I am actually looking forward to cookie baking weather! That is, I am ready to get inside again, nest a little bit, and yes, bake some cookies!

Here's a photo I just ran across of me and my younger brother making cookies oh so long ago.

And now I am off on a search for that missing apron, one of my favorites from childhood, which has my absolute favorite recipe for mud pies on the front of it. After all, rainy season is nearly upon us here in Oregon and I think I am going to need that time-tested recipe.
Don't worry Alex, just because you are wearing it here doesn't at all mean I am blaming you for its mysterious disappearance from the apron drawer. At least not yet!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Play With Your Food, Part II

Remember this great book? We've been continually inspired by it.

Tonight, after dinner, with a few strands of leftover noodles, Zeal went to town shaping the noodles to be various animals and telling stories with them.

Up for a Rorschach test?

Here's the hippo that also doubles as a frog with a few overhead flies. What do you see?

They all, one by one, ended up in his tummy (dessert of sorts), topping the whole thing off with a wink, a smile, and of course, a mustache.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Pregnant Mama Eats Breakfast

Just back from early morning yoga...

On the menu:
-seasoned potatoes and peppers on a bed of greens topped with a bit of smoked cheese
-fresh papaya
-spelt toast with strawberry jam
-raspberry keifer

Perfectly balanced or pickles-and-ice-cream weird?
No one else around here was as excited about my combination.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Onion Rings

Like many children, Zeal is NOT an onion eater.

HOWEVER, we just made these little beauties and now he has professed to like them.

The secret: buttermilk. I rarely cook with it, mostly because of my dairy sensitivity, but I heard it made a good onion ring and since we were loaded with onions last week, we went for it.

* A vegan alternative to buttermilk is soured soy or rice milk. For each cup of buttermilk, use 1 cup soymilk plus 1 tablespoon of vinegar.

Soak the onions in buttermilk for about a half an hour.

Dredge in flour and fry in just a bit of olive oil.

Good organic, sweet onions make these irresistible!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Roasting Corn

Just back from a weekend of camping, (and preparing for the next one) Zeal can't get enough of roasting corn over the fire. Luckily, he'll get some more chances to do so as we have a few more camping trips planned before summer is out.

Still, he's taking advantage of any corn and flame available.

Mmmm. Flame roasted sweet corn sure does have it's own special flavor.

Read about more camp cooking here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Crispy Treats, Part II

We decided to make some after dinner Rice Crispy Treats again. This time, Zeal was making them on his own (with his mom, of course, just no friends this time.)

Again, this is an easy-peasy recipe for him to get through all on his own (with a little verbal guidance) and he loves being able to work at the stove "like an adult".

This time, we used:
4 T. Earth Balance
1 container of Suzanne's Rice Mellow Cream
1/2 cup peanut butter
5 cups of Natural Directions Crispy Brown Rice

Here's the process from the first time we did this together.

Here's what came of the treats once cooled and cut: A Crispy Castle, that ended up turning into a train because of course it needed to drive right into his mouth.

Don't worry, he didn't eat them all at once; I managed to save most of them away for snacks for the week.

Very yummy, vegan, and gluten free!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hey Friends!

Hey all you Thinking Outside the Recipe readers~
I am revamping my other blog, The Wondershop. Please stop on by and take a look at the new layout and design and let me know what you think. I'm hoping to similarly update things around here in the coming weeks and would love to get your feedback.

Happy cooking and wondering!

Kitchen Tool of the Week: Melon Baller

When hot weather hits (we're on the down slide now, whew!) watermelon is one of the best foods to help combat dehydration. And while it takes very little for kids to get excited about eating watermelon, they will also give a cheer for getting the watermelon ready to go if they can scoop out all that juicy sweetness with a Melon Baller.

Push the melon baller deep into the fruit and twist for perfectly round balls.

We also use a melon baller to scoop out the insides of zucchini when making one of Zeal's very favorite meals, zucchini boats or affectionally know as Zu-canoes! Luckily, we have lots of opportunity to be using it even now that the weather is cooling, because we're knee deep in zucchini.

And look what other fun a melon baller can bring:
Add some diluted food coloring to your melon baller (hold your finger over the hole until your ready) and use it for painting.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Candied flowers!

Zeal is quite the little gardener these days. All winter, he saved rain water in little pots, cups, and bowls because he read somewhere that rain water was much better for plants than tap water. With the nursing of his pet plants in the yard and the hot weather we've been having, he has officially ran out of the stuff. So it's a good thing that his nasturtiums came of age at just the right time.

Here's what he decided to do with them this year.

Rinse and make sure all the bugs are gone.

Separate the petals.

Paint the petals with a water/arrowroot mixture and dip in fine sugar.

Eat on top of salad!


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Great new snack plates!

I have this “thing” for divided plates. We have a nice little (growing) collection of them (found from garage sales, flea markets, and occasionally stores) and we use them regularly for snacks, picnics, camping, and lunches. Well, here’s my new find, of which I am very excited about.

Here's Zeal's inaugural run on them, enjoying an odd combination of 1 yellow peach, some fresh figs, and a few cubes of baked tofu:

These great little plates (I bought 4, for our growing family) are our new picnic and camping plates. They are made by Zak! Designs from 100% recycled melamine. I found them deeply discounted while on vacation, but you can also find them for sale here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Potato Yummers!

Wow! Nothing like a fresh dug potato! These are Yukon Golds. I brought them to a potluck and they got rave reviews from adults and children alike. Zeal asked for more when we got home and since I was suggesting ice cream instead, I guess that makes them a true hit.

Here's what I did:
1.Bake potatoes for about 45 minutes in a 425 degree oven.
2.Slice in half and scoop out the insides.
3.Mash potatoes with a mixture of onions and garlic (I sautéed mine first). Add a combination of salt, pepper, basil, and cheese to taste.
4.Return mashed potato mixture to potato shells and bake until slightly browned (about 12-15 minutes).
5.Top with fresh tomatoes (I added salt, pepper, and more chopped basil to mine because frankly this pregnant mama is craving saltier foods. Still, the extra salt on the tomatoes was a nice balance with the starchy potato.)

Everyone agrees: Yummers!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Oh my, he does like carrots!

A new favorite snack, for a kid who has always turned his nose up at carrots.

Complete with this discovery of vegan and gluten-free ranch dressing. (If you know of other egg-free ranch dressings, please post it here as we are always on the lookout)

Amazing what a homemade plate fresh out of the kiln will do for even the simplest, most common snacks!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Kitchen Tool of the Week: Spoons

Make funny faces with them.
Play them.
Stick them on your nose.

The must-have kitchen tool of the century: the beloved spoon!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Swirl Cream

We're on a homemade ice cream kick, and it is truly yummerific! Our latest foray was vanilla, with real vanilla beans (is there any other way when going homemade?) And we all had our way of wanting to eat it. While I was reaching for the organic chocolate syrup, Zeal got a stool and went searching in the highest cupboard, where he knows I keep the stuff we "never get to use" - sprinkles!

Here's his version of Swirl Cream, turning a lovely shade of grey as all those yucky colored sprinkles start to dissolve into the melting perfectly fresh, organic, vegan vanilla ice cream.

So much for trying.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Screaming for Ice Cream: Summertime Creativity Tastes so Good

from the August edition of Wonderwise:

Screaming for Ice Cream: Summertime Creativity Tastes so Good

It’s that lovely time of year again, and the heat is on. What better way to cool down and give your kids a creative boost than with a few yummy frozen treats? Fortunately, there are lots of ways for children to get creative when ice cream is the medium. Here are a few ideas to get you going on your frozen adventures:

Ice Cream in a Can
There’s nothing quite like homemade ice cream. Crafting a batch of your own can really get your kids rolling in creative fun. To get started, you will need two clean metal cans (one smaller than the other) with lids. To the smaller can, add one cup of milk (and milk will do: coconut, whipping cream, or try soy creamer for a real treat), sugar (to taste- I prefer mine less sweet) and one tablespoon of vanilla. Place the smaller can inside the larger one and surround with ice and rock salt. Make sure the lids to your cans are sealed tightly and roll the can back and forth on the ground for about a half an hour. This is also a great time to get some pre-eating energy out and play “kick the can”. Pure yummy fun!

Ice Cream in a Bag
Don’t have the half hour it takes for the canned version of homemade ice cream? Try shaking up some summertime delight with ice cream-in-a-bag, which only takes about five minutes. Similar to making it in a can, you will need two plastic sealable bags (one pint sized and one gallon sized). In the small bag, put one cup of milk or half & half, two tablespoon of sugar, and ½ teaspoon of vanilla. Seal the bag tightly. Fill the larger bag half full of ice and add 6-7 tablespoons of rock salt. Place the smaller bag inside the larger one and seal carefully. Shake until the mixture becomes ice cream, about five minutes.

Juicer-style Ice Cream
Looking for an ice cream made from whole foods? Run your frozen fruits through your juicer to make a wonderfully healthy ice cream your kids will scream for. Frozen bananas make an incredible soft serve treat; you won’t believe it is only banana. We especially like using frozen mango pieces for a tropical sorbet. Top with some freshly picked berries and a spring of fresh mint, and ooh-la-la!

Sandwiches Your Way
Once you have your ice cream made, the possibilities open up for some more creation fun. Use your favorite pre- or homemade cookies to serve up some ice cream sandwiches. Our favorite way to make ice cream sandwiches is to make a pan of thin gingerbread. After baking, cut into squares or use cookie cutters to give your sandwiches even more personality. If you have large batches of cookies and ice cream, stock your freezer with sandwiches to last the rest of the summer.

Ice Cream Social Forays
Step back in time to the simple pleasures of a hot, summer afternoon. You and your children can have a great time, learn a lot, and make all your friends and neighbors very happy by creating your very own neighborhood ice cream truck.
Load up a wagon, wheel barrel, cart, or whatever you can find with your frozen yummy treats. Include ice cream, frozen banana slices (we dip ours in chocolate!), homemade popsicles (made from different fruit juices and poured into an ice tray or other small shape with a stick), and fruit smoothies. Don't forgot a cooler, ice, a sign with your options and prices, a box for collecting money that includes change, a towel, cups, bowls, cones, spoons, napkins and other necessities. Offer music as you travel through the neighborhood, letting everyone know the ice cream truck is in business!

Scoop up the last bit of summer with some treats that will have everybody smiling. You’ll be dripping with enough sticky creativity to last you through even the hottest days. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mmm, Mmm, Strawberry Ice Cream...and it's vegan!

Yippeee for an August heat wave. Man, I love this stuff!
No better time to get going on some ice cream.
We're experimenting with a vegan variety with the strawberries that came in our CSA box.

Here's what we're working with:

ice, rock salt, 1 cup of soymilk, 1 pint vanilla soy creamer, strawberries (sliced), a bit of arrowroot, and 2/3 cup of sugar (forgot the rock salt in the photo) - Yes, that's Zeal hitting the ice with a hammer to move this process along just a little bit faster!

Here's what to do:
Blend everything together except the rock salt and ice and transfer to ice cream maker.

This is a hand-me-down ice cream maker from my childhood; still works fabulous! Thanks Mom!
Zeal was loving being the official "keep-your-eye-on-it-and-add-more-ice-and-rock-salt-guy"!

25 minutes later:

This is what you call "getting to lick the spoon!"


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Zucchini Whistles

Yet another reason to grow zucchini in your garden, or at least go raid your neighbors patch...Zucchini whistles!

Here's how:

1. Start by using a relatively sharp knife to cut off one stem of a zucchini plant from the very bottom (if you cut higher, the plant feels "stunted" and won't regrow the shoot).
2. Then, cut the stem to be about 12-14 inches long (or however long you want your zucchini whistle to be) - keep the top half with the leaf and compost the bottom part.
3. Cut the leaf off. Use the back side of your knife to scrape off all of the "pricklys" that might be growing on your shoot.
4. Just under the top (where the leaf was) cut a one inch long slit in your zucchini shoot.
5, Add 1-3 holes on the front of your whistles (leave the back hole off for easier playing). When cutting the holes, cut a small "v" shape rather than a semi-circle to prevent breakage.
6. Place your mouth over the entire 1-inch slit you've made on the top of your whistle and blow!

Now you have your own One Man Garden Band. Invite your friends for a real party!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Gazing at Morning Glories

Zeal’s favorite place for breakfast in Eugene (other than at home, which he usually prefers – but this mama just LOVES going out for breakfast) is the quaint little café called Morning Glory.
So he was truly delighted when, just as he was waking up from our early morning ride home, we stumbled upon this wonderful little gem of a restaurant in Ashland, Oregon.

Well, I am an oatmeal-for-breakfast kind of girl. I eat it most mornings with a predictable combination of flax seeds, walnuts, cinnamon, raisins, molasses, and a touch of agave. I love my little morning ritual of a breakfast, usually eaten in the dark, quiet, early morning hours before the world awakens or the newspaper even arrives. Still, I’ve been wanting to spice it up a bit and haven’t yet had the kick in the oats to do so. Well, I have found my inspiration.

On the menu at the Ashland Morning Glory is this little pot of gold: Moroccan Oatmeal.

Now, the waiter wouldn't dare to give up the recipe, but I am pretty sure it had some combination of the following: turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, dried apricots, walnuts, and cloves. I'll be working on my version n the coming weeks and will update you on my progress.

So we sat and talked and ate and laughed...
And enjoyed the wonderful, quirky, and artful atmosphere, together!

And I’m now inspired to somehow find room to paint this haiku (by one of Zeal's favorite poets, Basho) on my kitchen wall.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tomato Love

Aaahhh.... how we love tomatoes! Especially these freshly picked ones, the lovely organic ones we find in our CSA box each week, and the ones we fondle at the Farmer's Markets we're so lucky to have here several days a week.

When I was pregnant with Zeal, I ate (for the first time in my life) a good ton of tomatoes, and interestingly enough, they are now one of Zeal's favorite foods. Usually, we just chop them up and give him a fondue fork and a little cupful of his favorite salad dressing to dip them in for a snack. In his growth spurt moments, he's been known to go through five good-sized tomatoes in one sitting. Lately, I've been slicing the cherry, grape, and heirlooms we've been savoring and mix them all together with this little bit of marinade: 2 T. olive oil, 1 T. balsamic vinegar, 1 garlic clove, minced, salt and pepper to taste. Add some chopped basil if you have it.

We're all in tomato heaven! With any luck, this next baby will like tomatoes as much as the rest of us.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Kitchen Tool of the Week: Pitter

I'm generally kind of a "fingers" gal when cooking. Whether they be cherries, avocados, peaches, or plums, I prefer to just pick the pit out with my little nimble fingers than have to reach for a gadget somewhere to help. Well, no longer. After last week's experience making plum cake tartin , I'm a believer. While we all got to work on the recipe, my mom pulled out one of these little fellows (only hers was passed down from great grandma and looked much more antique and well-used), and of course, I gave her a hard time about it. "It really makes it easier," she said.

So it does, and now I'm hooked. And guess what? It's also a great little gadget for intriguing the kids to get involved - they love to carry the honored title of "official pitter".

Friday, August 1, 2008

Of Plums and Cousins

While on our recent road trip to spend time with grandparents and cousins, we stopped at the home of our beloved friends who we see only a few times a year. Lucky for us, their plum tree was bearing more fruit than they could handle and they sent us on our way with a nice big bag of purple plums.

So we started eating them in earnest, but still didn’t seem to make a dent in our crop. We arrived at Grammy’s, and of course with her kitchen filled with books, we found a few possibilities for things to make with our stash of plums. We settled on a recipe from the cookbook Barefoot in Paris, a Plum Cake “Tatin”, an apparent take on the French classic usually made with apples.

A wonderful treat when you are fresh from waterfall play with cousins:

Here's all that remained after dessert that evening; it got promptly eaten with somebody's morning coffee.

So we made another one.
Here's the five star recipe:

Plum Cake “Tatin”
Serves 6

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the dish
10-12 purple “prune” plums, cut in half and pitted
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-inch glass pie dish and arrange the plums in the dish, cut side down.
Combine 1 cup of the sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it turns a warm amber color, about 360 degrees on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan, but don’t stir. Pour evenly over plums.
Meanwhile, cream the 6 tablespoons of butter and the remaining ¾ cup of sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the sour cream, zest, and vanilla and mix until combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and, with the mixer on low speed, add it to the butter mixture. Mix only until combined. Pour the cake batter evenly over the plums and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto a flat plate. If a plum sticks, ease it out and replace it in a design on top of the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioners’ sugar.
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