Tuesday, February 14, 2012


The last time I made Tiramisu was about 20 years ago.  So, you can imagine the puzzled look on my kids' face when I called out, "Who wants to help make Tiramisu for our Valentine dinner dessert??"  They wouldn't admit it, but even as they roll their eyes, they delight in the idea of what crazy food mom might be whipping up in the kitchen tonight!  Ethan rolled up his sleeves to help out while Elsie decided to make her own Valentine creation.

The 10-year-old toasting almonds resulted in some pretty, well, toasted, nuts -- but they worked.  The mascarpone cheese availability was nonexistent in our teeny-tiny town, so we improvised with a very similar substitution of cream cheese, sour cream and whipping cream. I love substitutions in general.  Sometimes you end up with something far better than the original product.  Plus, there's nothing better than the feeling of resourcefulness!!  Sometimes when I finish making a recipe, I look back through and am surprised to find I have used virtually nothing that the recipe actually called for.  Those of you who cook the same way know the obvious downfall of this method--you will never recreate the same amazing dish twice!

Arranging lady fingers would have been a great project for any age. Who doesn't like lining things up? Sprinkling the cocoa powder was another bit of fun--which ultimately led to some vacuuming.  But, I think nearly everything leads to vacuuming it seems.

So, now the wait.  Tiramisu needs to sit, and get happy.  And, we're hoping in about a day, we're going to sit, with it, and get happy.

Meanwhile, Elsie was constructing some Valentine joy for her classmates.  This cake recipe has been enjoyed by our family for many years and it's always a hit!  The cake is black devils food cake with a very light egg white frosting.  Elsie decided the frosting should be pink for the occasion.  There is truly no "whippier" frosting than this one.  I am eager to hear how cutting this beauty into 24 pieces went! There's not much messier than this frosting either!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Practicing for Valentine's Day

It was my daughter Anna's half birthday last week, so we had a great excuse to bake!  We decided to make uber-girly, pink mini-cupcakes to share with her classmates {Yes, lucky for us, they still allow home-baked goods at her small school!}

You may remember from my previous birthday cake posts, that I am a one-cake wonder.  So of course, we made mom's chocolate devil's food cake recipe with fluffy white pink frosting.  The recipe for the cake and frosting are on the previous post, but here's few things I forgot to mention the first time.

I buy a lot of generic brands, but when it comes to cocoa powder, I always stick with Hershey's.  Spend the money.  Don't mess with chocolate!

Same story with the coffee.  I've used everything from Sanka to Starbucks in this cake, and better coffee really does make a tastier cake.

Be careful when baking small cupcakes (mini-muffin size).  The baking time was about half. 

Each batch took about 8-9 minutes to bake.

Yummm, pink.  Doesn't pink just look more delicious than white?  Also, even if you used vanilla-flavored corn syrup, add extra vanilla. 

Don't hold back on the sprinkles.  You can never have too many.

And last, but not least, always recruit help with the cleanup!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Lunch Containers

I'm always looking for new and improved lunch box containers {since I'm packing three school lunches per day, four days per week}.   Around Christmas time, I noticed that Old Navy {of all places} started selling lunch containers.

They are available in a few different configurations, but the two that I was most excited about were the sandwich size and the dual storage snack box.  The sandwich size is compact, so it doesn't take up the whole lunch bag.  The snap-lock sides of all the containers are easy for small fingers to open and close. 

The dual-compartment snack container is great for all the small things I like to add to lunches.

I've been using these now for a few weeks, and so far I have been able to put something like veggie dip on one side and something dry like crackers on the other side without anything leaking from one side into the other.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Meyer Lemons!

The other night I was strolling down the decidedly non-gourmet aisles of Cub Foods, when what to my wondering eyes appeared, but a small, lonely, misplaced bag of Meyer Lemons! 

I didn't even know we could buy them in Minnesota.  I tried to grow a Meyer Lemon tree at home once, but it didn't survive the dry winter air in my house.  Since these are not waxed, I am excited to use them in a special lemon poppyseed muffin recipe.  For once I won't have waxy zest!  As you can see from the picture, they are a much deeper yellow than the standard grocery store lemons.  I used one in a batch of guacamole tonight, and in my opinion, they smell and taste exactly like old-fashioned lemon drop hard candies.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Desperate for Green

Ah what I won't do for a little bit of fresh, green goodness during a Minnesota winter... like potting fresh grocery store herbs meant to be eaten.  Yes, my friends, these were spendy bedding plants.

I bought these large white ceramic pots from Ikea for $2.99 each (the same price as those ridiculous herbs).

Then off I went to the shore of our backyard pond to scrape up a few shovelfuls of pea gravel from under the snow.  Are you picturing me out there, scraping in the snow, suburban neighbors wondering if maybe I need one of these sun lamps for S.A.D. (maybe I do)?   After my snowy trek, I lined the bottom of the pots with the rock for drainage.

I lucked out and found one proper basil plant in the floral section of my local grocery store.  What a beauty.  Now I'm just hoping these little guys will survive, especially the thyme, so I can use it for my broccoli soup!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lunch Box Superfood

Hot lunch is served only once a week at my kids' school, so I'm always working to dream up easy, nutritious lunch ideas that they'll eat.  One of my favorite lunches is a chicken salad packed with protein, fruit and veggies.  It's like a meal-in-one for lunch!  Let's break it down.


3 ribs of celery
1 large apple or 2 small apples
handful of baby spinach
handful of craisins
handful of slivered almonds
canned chicken breast (12.5 oz) or leftover cooked chicken (chopped)
1/2 cup mayonaise

One of the kitchen gadgets I value most is our apple slicer.  We use it all the time, so much in fact, that this is my third one.  I've broken inexpensive ones and expensive ones alike, so now I just buy the economy model. One of these days, I'll find an uncrackable, all-metal model at a garage sale.  I buy organic apples and leave the peeling on because that's where the majority of the nutrients are. 

Slice the apple, celery and spinach.  I buy the jumbo box of organic baby spinach from Costco, and I sneak its green goodness into recipes as often as I can.  To slice the baby spinach, roll the leaves like you're rolling a cigar and cut the rolled bundle into thin ribbons.

In a mixing bowl, shred the chicken with a fork.   Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

For lunch boxes, spoon into thermal containers and refrigerate overnight. 

Or simply serve it up and enjoy immediately!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eggs in the Garden

On Christmas Eve morning, my mom taught my sister how to make "Eggs in the Garden" for breakfast.  Since you can use many different ingredients, it's really more of a technique than a recipe.  First, we chopped a variety of fresh vegetables that were on hand.  On this day, it included sweet red pepper, green pepper, red cabbage, spinach and onion.  In my opinion, onions are essential.

Then we chopped some ham.  Any meat, or no meat is fine.

The veggies and ham are browned in butter.  Beans are added (in this case, canned black beans).  Seasoning is added (in this case, a delicious Tuscan seasoning blend from Oil and Vinegar).  The sauteed ingredients are pushed to the outside edge of the pan, leaving an empty circle in the middle.  Crack an egg into the circle and cover the pan until the egg is cooked.  Your egg is in a garden, get it?  Slide the cooked garden and egg onto a plate and enjoy. 

We also made a Mexican version that was seasoned with taco seasoning and topped with fresh avocado, salsa and sour cream.