February 23, 2012 § 1 Comment
Several years ago, a friend volunteered to keep my oldest daughter while I went to an appointment. When I came back, we debriefed on what they’d done, whether she’d eaten, etc. My friend said to me, “I gave her a Pop Tart and she said, ‘what’s that?’. What are you doing to this kid? She’s never had a pop tart? She’s five!” I felt a little exposed, having been a wee bit controlling with my daughters diet. Yes, I was one of those mothers.
As the years have gone by, I’ve realized that I need to loosen up a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing Ramen noodles and blue Gatorade every night at the dinner table or anything; not by a long shot. I’m just not as uptight about their diets anymore. I’ve come to believe that if I want to steer my kids away from possibly harmful decisions, it’s helpful to be able to steer them toward something better. I can’t just go around saying “no, that’s bad” to everything they see. I need to show them, and let them experience, what’s actually good.
So, when my kids are wanting “food” like, say, pop tarts, instead of instilling them with some false sense of pride over how we don’t eat that kind of stuff, I can take a more positive route, get them in the kitchen with me, and try to show them what a Pop Tart was meant to be in the first place. I can aim for a filled pastry’s original goodness, of which, a God-knows-how-old Pop Tart, is merely a shadow. Then my kids would know that pastries aren’t something you eat every morning, but are treats (because they’d see the enormous amount of butter involved)! They would know that real food isn’t instantaneous; there’s a process to walk through. They’d know that pastries are best warm, and that the warmth is fleeting, so they should enjoy it. They might even notice that good pastry is light and flaky and makes a delicate breaking sound when they bite into it. Or, maybe, since they are kids, and not an over-thinking, slightly obsessive mother, they would just eat our homemade pastry and know that they like this better than a pop tart, that this is good. And that would be enough.
Homemade Pop Tarts adapted from King Arthur Flour
2 cups (8 ½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 quarter-pound sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk
1/2 cup (3 ¾ ounces) brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to taste
4 teaspoons ubleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg, to brush on pastry before filling
¾ cup jam
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with one tablespoon water
Make the dough: Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Working quickly with your finger tips (or a pastry blender or food processor) blend the butter into the mixture until there are pea-sized clumps of butter still visible, and if you squeeze some dough, it holds together . Mix the egg and milk in a small bowl and then add it to the dough, only mixing until everything is cohesive. You should still be able to see bits of butter in the dough.
Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a smooth 3″ x 5 rectangle. Roll the dough out immediately or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Make the cinnamon filling: Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and flour.
Make the jam filling: mix the jam with the cornstarch/water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool. Use on tablespoon per pastry.
Assemble the tarts: If the dough has been thoroughly chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Place one of the pieces on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick. You should have around a 9″x 12″ rectangle to work with. Trim the edges where it is over 9″x12″. (*if you want a snack for the kitchen helpers place the scraps on a baking sheet, sprinkle them with cinnamon-sugar and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.)
Roll the second piece of dough just as you did the first. With a well floured knife, score both pieces of dough into thirds lengthwise and widthwise; you’ll see nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.
Beat the egg, and brush it over the entire surface of the first piece of dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each marked rectangle. Place the second sheet of dough, scored side up, on top of the first and press firmly around each pocket of filling, sealing the dough well on all sides. Cut the dough, along the scored lines, to make nine tarts. Press the cut edges with a fork, to seal.
Carefully, place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet (I like parchment). Prick the top of each tart with a fork; this is to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become better pillows than pastries. Refrigerate the tart, on the cookie sheet, for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.
Remove the tarts from the fridge, and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until they’re a light, golden brown. Remove tarts from the oven, and allow to cool on the pan.
Yield: 9 tarts.
February 9, 2012 § Leave a Comment
My father-in-law showed up the other day with a garbage bag full of pink grapefruit that he’d picked from one of his trees. I was grateful, but I had to ask myself: what was I going to do with a garbage bag full of grapefruit? There are six of us in my family, but you can only eat so many grapefruit halves, sectioned, with a sprinkle of sugar. Clearly, I needed to explore the world of cooking with grapefruit.
I found that most recipes that use grapefruit cast them in a supporting role, never really giving them the lead. But since the fruit is at its peak now, I really wanted to let the flavor be, unabashedly, what it is: tangy, floral, sweet, and with a little bitter zing. What better way to let those qualities come out (other than eating them plain) than to make a grapefruit sorbet?
Sorbet is ice cream’s lighter, more directly flavored cousin: no dairy or eggs to dilute the flavors of in-season produce, but it still has the satisfying, silky texture. This particular sorbet is bright and clear, getting straight to the point. When the grapefruit juice and sugar are matched with a little spicy ginger and a smidge of soothing vanilla, the result is a group of flavors that bounce around your palate in a lively little dance. It’s so good, the rest of you may dance, too.
**Sorbet requires an ice cream maker. Ask around if you don’t have the machine. A lot of people have them and forget to use them, making it something they may not mind lending to you!
Grapefruit Ginger Sorbet adapted from a recipe in the April 1992 issue of Gourmet
3 cups strained fresh grapefruit juice (pink, Ruby Red, or white)
3/4 cup sugar
1-2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Combine 1 cup of the grapefruit juice, the sugar, and the grated ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Take the pan off the heat. Carefully pour the syrup through a fine mesh sieve and into a medium bowl. Discard the ginger. Pour in the rest of the grapefruit juice and the vanilla extract. Cover and chill the mixture, until cold.
When the mixture is chilled, freeze in an ice-cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
January 27, 2012 § 4 Comments
I’ve been making something lately that I’ve been calling olive tapenade. I love it. I can’t get enough of it. I put it on everything. Obviously I thought I should share it here, because this is where I put things that I like, but in the process, I discovered that I haven’t been making tapenade at all. You see, by definition, “tapenade” is only “tapenade” when made with capers (you know, those tiny green berry-looking things that are usually right near the olives the grocery store). So what have I been making? Olive pesto, olive spread, olive stuff? I’m not sure, or sure that it even matters, because whatever its name is, it makes almost everything I cook taste better.
I’ll typically make a batch, put it in a jar in the refrigerator, and then wait to see what I can put it on throughout the week. Lately, it’s been going everywhere: pizzas, roasted chicken, stirred into warm bowls of bean or vegetable soup (my favorite), spooned on top of plain vegetables, on little toasts, and finally, when there is only a little left, I add more oil and some vinegar to make a dressing for salad. It’s versatile, uses 5 ingredients (counting olive oil and salt), and takes about 5-10 minutes to make, even if you chop everything by hand (which is what I’ve been doing b/c I can’t find the blade to my food processor). See why I love it? Also, this is one of those things that tastes so much better when you make it yourself, and to make it costs a fraction of what it costs to buy already made.
Find more ideas on how to use it here, and, if you make it, let me know your favorite ways to use it.
Quick Black Olive Pesto
Have a small jar or mixing bowl available. Pit and finely chop about 25 black olives (Niçoise are pricey, so I use Kalamata). Finely chop 1-2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary OR thyme. In a mortar and pestle (or on a cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife), smash 1-2 (depending on how you feel about garlic) small garlic cloves with a 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, until a paste forms. Mix olives, herbs and garlic paste together in small jar or bowl. Add 3-5 tablespoons of good olive oil and stir to combine. taste to see if it needs salt (mine never does, but you have to check).
Optional additions: lemon zest (really good), crushed red pepper flakes, a teaspoon or two of red wine vinegar.
Makes approximately one cup.
November 27, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Does it get better than a slow, quiet morning? You know, the kind where you slowly roll into your day? Not too many things on the agenda, strong coffee, some music on? It’s like a spa weekend, but you don’t have to shell out loads of money or smell like too much lavender or leave your house. Perfect.
We had an unexpected morning like this recently, two days after Thanksgiving, as things were just starting to settle back down from the holiday craziness (or, fun…however you want to look at it). This pancake recipe, one by Ina Garten and not exactly spa fare, went right along with the relaxed vibe of our morning. You’ll feel like you’re relaxing in the Hamptons like her when you make it (results may vary).
Banana Sour Cream Pancakes
adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
- 2 extra-large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 2 ripe bananas, diced, plus extra for serving
- maple syrup
September 30, 2011 § 12 Comments
Well, my mother in law has decided to remodel her kitchen, and since I live in her house, that means I’m sort of getting a new kitchen, too. Now here’s where it gets interesting: She’s decided she trusts my aesthetic so much (really?) that she wants to let me steer the ship on the whole thing. Quite a fun task! Daunting, too. I’m not sure how you feed a family on a very strict budget when you can’t cook for a few weeks (at best!). But, whatever. We’ll make it. I’m just so excited!
So, I’ve been scouring everywhere for kitchen inspiration, spending hours and hours looking for things to copy and avoid. Here are some of my favorites (AND I’m looking for input here….if you have any advice, chime in!!!):
Probably too modern for us, but I love the gray grout with the creamy subway tiles on the backsplash and the open stainless shelves. Looks like a kitchen that really works!
And, this one is quite a bit too formal, but I love the wood and white together.
June 19, 2011 § 4 Comments
I made this recently as a gift for some friends that are having their first baby, and I’m kind of in love with the pattern. It’s called the Itty Bittty Baby Dress and you can download it for free here. It’s a pattern for newborns, so it’s super small. But it’s so cute (!) and takes about half a yard of material (minus the piping). It might be my new “standard” baby girl present.
(Thanks to Aiden’s hand for holding it up in the photo)
Also, it didn’t come with a pattern for a diaper cover, but I like it when baby dresses have those with them, so I downloaded this pattern and made it in the same material to match the dress. Both of these sites are FULL of help for beginning sewers as well as good, clear tutorials. Highly recommended.
May 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I inherited some popsicle molds from Susan before she and Kevin left for California. Actually, she just found them in the house they were renting, so I don’t really know who’s they are, but that’s beside the point. The point is, we love these things! You can do so many different kinds of popsicles. There have been pureed blueberries (with a bit of honey, lemon juice and rind), for blueberry popsicles. There have been watermelon popsicles made from a watermelon sorbet (recipe below) . There have even been popsicles made from just pouring whatever kind of juice we were having that day, and freezing them. We can’t get enough popsicles. And why not? It was 93 degrees yesterday. I went out at 5:30 (pm) for some weeding and I was dripping in about 5 minutes. So, bring on the popsicles!
**Our popsicles usually need to freeze for about 4 hours, but it depends on the size of the molds, I would think.
The watermelon sorbet is really refreshing, but I would give this warning: watch the salt. Mine came out well, but I could tell I was heavy on my “pinch of salt”. Also, the black bits (seen in the popsicles) are not seeds, but mini chocolate chips that are optional in the recipe. They gave the popsicles and sorbet a trompe l’oeil effect, but leaving them out is a great option, too. Really good, either way.
*you’ll need an ice cream maker for this recipe.
adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
3 cups watermelon juice (purée about 3 pounds of watermelon flesh with seeds removed)
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
Heat 1/2 cup of the watermelon juice with sugar and salt, stirring until sugar disolves. Remove from heat and stir it into the remaining watermelon juice. Mix in the lime juice and the vodka (if using). Chill thoroughly, then freeze the mixture in the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.