Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Float Like a Butterfly

     I am a card carrying member of the Jeans Jumper Brigade.  Yes, I'm a homeschool Mom.  I can't even begin to describe how grateful I am that we are in a situation where I can stay home and deal with love on my kids.  I have wanted to homeschool since I heard there was such a thing.  Before I was married.  Before I had kids.  Blah, blah, blah, homeschooling is awesome, I'm awesome, my kids are awesome...

     As part of our awesome home school of awesomeness, we have been doing "Hawai'i Month" in the lead-up to our visit to the Big Island.  Our boys really hope to see the volcano and the lava tube, a macadamia nut farm, black sand beaches, and my youngest wants to eat shave ice and see a cowboy!  My wishlist mostly includes malasadas and mai tais...

     I had a mind to make you guys an Easter cake this week all covered up in coconut and then I realized how well this particular cake fits into our Hawai'i unit, too.  Coconut, bananas, pineapple, and vanilla all grow in Hawai'i!

     The boys helped me whip this together.  I got the recipe from my Mom.  When she gave it to me she thought it might be a recipe from a family friend, but having baked it, I can see that it's not the one she used to make.  Still, it's pretty darn yummy!  It's called a Butterfly Cake.  I've seen other similar recipes online called Hummingbird Cakes.

Aaahhh a cake lovely enough for a pedestal. 

Emperor Zurg crashed the photoshoot...

Butterfly Cake
2 C sugar
1 C oil
3 eggs
3 C flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
8 oz. can crushed pineapple
2 C mashed bananas
1 C chopped pecans
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Blend sugar, oil, and eggs well.  Sift flour, salt and baking soda together.  Add to the sugar mixture.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Bake in a tube pan for 1 hour 10 minutes at 350°.  Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack for at least two hours before frosting.

16 oz box confectioner's sugar
8 oz cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter
coconut flakes (optional)

     One of the Hummingbird Cake recipes I found said to divide the batter into three round cake pans and double the frosting recipe.  I used the frosting recipe above and baked it in two round cake pans.  As you can see, I didn't have quite enough frosting.  Also, dividing it into two pans caused the cake to be a little too thick, so the cake was pretty dry on the outside.  I remedied that by using a tip from Bakerella and used a spray bottle to spray some coconut milk on the cake to moisten it.  It didn't add as much coconut flavor as I was hoping, but it did a great job of moistening the cake!

Here is a little of what the library dished up for our study this month:

Pikoi and Other Legends of the Island of Hawai'i Our favorite story is "The Gift of Ku," a legend about how breadfruit was brought to the island.
Hawaiian Word Book Great, illustrated kid's dictionary of introductory Hawai'ian words includes a pronunciation CD
Pele and the Rivers of Fire, an introduction to Pele and her brother shark and sister waves.
The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka'iulani of Hawai'i.  This one was a little long for the boys, but it was interesting for me!
Other Media:
Putumayo Kids Presents Hawai'ian Playground (CD) We translated some of the lyrics so it's a great way to reinforce some of the language they are learning.
Travel with Kids-Hawaii: The Big Island of Hawaii (DVD)This series is great.  We watched the Kauai one last year and it was great to have an idea of some kid-friendly places to go.
We built and erupted a volcano and studied about how volcanoes work.

I can not believe how much they loved this volcano!

     We also ate Puka dogs, taro chips, and  Hawaiian Punch (The things I do in the name of education...)

     If you'd like to see more of what I want to squeeze into our visit to the Big Island, check out my Pinterest board!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Finally, Some Followthrough Around Here!

     Ohhhh.... Long about September of last year I promised I'd share a gluten-free cornbread with you guys.  I reckon it's about time I posted it, huh?

     I like Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free mix because it's a non-intimidating way for gluten gluttons, like myself to ease into the gluten-free world for friends without having to fiddle around with math and science.  I imagine gluten-free bakers as wild-haired chemists in lab coats gleefully chortling over beakers filled with guar gum and buckwheat flour.  They look pretty cool, actually...  Mostly, my wild-haired self chortles over butter and various forms of garlic.  Not much chemistry there...

     The flour mix works better for some things than others.  It can have a strong, bitter taste sometimes.  But in a recipe like this, where there are equal parts flour and cornmeal, it does a fantastic job of filling out the muffins while at the same time, not being over-powering...  It's pretty much a straight substitution of my regular cornbread recipe (good gosh, I just realized how many versions of cornbread I have on this blog... maybe I also chortle a little over cornmeal...) but I'll go ahead and post it here anyway.  I baked these in muffin form so they would cook faster, but they are not sweet like most cornbread.  I am from the South where the tea is sweet and the cornbread is not.  They held their shape very well as muffins, I'm not sure how this recipe would perform as an actual full-size cornbread.

Gluten-Free Cornbread
1 C + 3 Tbs yellow corn meal
1 C Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free flour mix
1 Tbs granulated sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 C milk
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400°.  Line a muffin tin with liners.  Combine corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl.  Combine milk, vegetable oil and egg in bowl; mix well.  Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir till just blended.  Pour into prepared baking pan.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Absolutely everyone at our dinner party loved this!  No one with gluten issues will feel deprived eating this.  If you do want sweeter cornbread, increase the sugar to 1/4 C and omit the extra 3 Tbs cornmeal.  Just don't tell me you did it, OK?  It might cry a little...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

St. Patrick's Day's A Comin'...

     Last year on St. Patrick's Day I lamented the fact that I didn't have anything green in my recipe box.  This year I've got another confession to make.  I've been deceiving you with my recipes (only a teensy bit).  Maybe "deceive" is the wrong word...  Exaggerating?  I do believe in eating fresh, organic, and local as much as possible, but we don't eat like this all the time, especially when my farmer's market is closed for the season.  I've got two little boys who can make gourmet meal preparation a challenge to say the least.  What we actually eat are things like macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, and burritos.

     Now, though I usually make them from scratch (no blue boxes of "mak n' cheaz" in my pantry, thank you) we are hardly the gourmands we seem to be with recipes like this, this, and this.  So this St. Patrick's Day I'm kicking off a new (occasionally updated) series called: "How We Really Eat."  The recipes are quick, sometimes use store-bought/name brand ingredients, are free of preservatives, as local as possible, and weird chemical-free.  (I spend a lot of time in the store squinting at labels, let me just say!) I'll be posting the recipes throughout the year. 

Today, for St. Patty's day, that traditional Ye Olde Irish dish:  Pesto Pizza

Check out the also not Irish beer.  It's local.  It's goooood.  It's Pike's Place Brewery Pale Ale.  You can get your own at Pike's Place Market and grocery stores in the greater Seattle area.  They have one called "Kilt Lifter" but I was afraid that a Leprechaun might beat me to death with a shillelagh if I used it in a St. Patrick's Day post...

Pesto Pizza 
Start with the pesto:
Yield: enough for two pizzas and a little left over
3-4 C basil, washed and dried
3 large garlic cloves
1/2 C olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 C pine nuts
2 Tbs shredded Parmesan

Put everything in a food processor except the Parmesan and buzz until it's "pesto-y."  Then add the Parmesan and buzz it some more.

For the Pizza:
1 package Trader Joe's garlic and herb pizza crust, divided in half
4-8 sundried tomatoes packed in oil (Mediterranean Organic brand), roughly chopped
5-6 cloves garlic
baby bella mushrooms, sliced (these are button mushrooms pictured here, and they turned out fine, too)
feta cheese
mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 425°.  Dust your work surface lightly with bread flour.  Divide dough in half and roll out as thinly as possible, about a 1/4 inch.   Lightly brush entire crust with olive oil.  Crush garlic with a garlic press over the crust and brush until it is distributed evenly.  Pesto is next, make sure to leave the edges clear.  If you really want to guild the lily, you can drizzle a tablespoon or so of oil from the sundried tomatoes bottle over the pesto.  Place mushrooms and tomatoes sparsely over  pesto.  Sprinkle salt around the edge of the crust.  This next part may seem weird, but trust me.  Put the pizza in the oven without the cheese.  Bake until the crust just begins to brown, about 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with feta and/or mozzarella.  The more sparse the better.  Then return to oven and bake for 2-4 minutes until cheese is just melted.

If you don't want to make your own pesto, or don't have the time, Roland Pesto is the best!  The 3 oz jar should cover at least one crust and you can over the other with tomato sauce and see how you like that!

This my favorite pizza of all time.  My previous view of pizza was more cheese, more crust, gimme.  This crust is so crispy I just couldn't stand to make it all soggy under a million toppings and gobs of cheese. It's thin crust gone sophisticated with zero time spent slaving over a warm proofing drawer!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Return of My Alter-ego...

Wow!  That was quite a week!  I had no idea how quickly Souperheroes would take off!  Thank all you new readers out there for following me!  I hope I don't disappoint with my boring ol' regular people food.  There will be more Souperheroes coming, though, don't worry!

So this week, after all that superhero food, my boys are still expecting everything to have a superhero theme.  I told them this was "Twisty Man Pasta."  Their minds are still reeling with ideas for his possible abilities.  "Hey Mama, do you think maybe he's really springy?"  "Hey Mama, do you think he is really stretchy?"  "Hey Mama, do you think he farts a lot?"  Yeah.  That's the world I live in.  This morning my eldest told his brother that when "all the kids grow up" superheros will be real.  Sweet Barney on a Horse!  That kid can't wait to grow up!  Until that time, when that most dastardly of all villains "Reality Man" rears his ugly head, there is Twisty Man!

Before this pasta was endowed with super abilities, he was a mild mannered experiment in which I tried combining gluten free corn pasta with toppings more likely found on a Mexican plate. I was hoping to highlight the corn flavor in the pasta.  It worked out pretty well!

Twisty Man Pasta
(4 Servings)
Corn Fusilli Pasta (I used Ritrovo Brand)
1 C cooked black beans
1 C chopped tomato
1/4 C chopped onion
Sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

Cook about half the bag of pasta according to package instructions.  Once the pasta is made and drained, you can either stir the beans into the pasta to heat them up, or if you want it all pretty like the picture, you can heat them separately.  Top with raw tomato and sprinkle with raw onion.  Little sour cream and voila!  A Mexican inspired Twisty Man pasta.

If you like cilantro (and I do not) you could add a sprinkle for a little something extra.  I will not debate you as to what that "something extra" is...

The boys love it and I do, too.  It would be good with some olives or maybe even guacamole!  Man, I wish I'd thought of that... Oh well, next time.  I'm sure I'll make this again before "all the kids grow up" and superheroes start flying past my window!

Friday, March 2, 2012

It's Soup Eatin' Time!

     Today's Souperhero is incognito over here on Crackers on the Couch.  He will reveal his identity on my buddy Cara's blog: Fork and Beans!!

      I hope you've enjoyed the Souperhero posts this week!  If you didn't see your favorite, fear not!  I've got more ideas percolating this very minute!  I'll be posting them periodically throughout the year as I work them out!

     Oh!  And hey, before I forget!  I've been nominated for a Homie Award!  Today's the last day of voting!  If you're so inclined, how about giving CotC a little love?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Striking while the Iron is Hot...

Iron Man, that is...

     There was a time when Iron Man was my little one's hands down favorite superhero.  He has never seen a movie or a comic book.  I think he's watched a couple of cartoons.  Mostly he was in love with his Iron Man toy.  He got to pick it out using a gift card that his Uncle sent him for Christmas.  It was the prize toy for nearly a year in this house.  Many a moment was spent looking for that darn thing (he always had to have it with him, but never remembered where he had it last!)  It has a button on the front that says clever things like, "I am Iron Man!"  It's shiny, it's red, it might be the coolest toy ever invented.  He's grown past it a little recently, it no longer occupies the coveted position beside his head at night, but I like to think that with this soup, he'll be able to take a little of that old love into adulthood with him.

     Just like my son has heard of Iron Man but never seen the movie, I have always heard of borscht, but had never eaten any!  I looked it up and realized that most of the recipes call for boiled beets.  I. Do. Not. Like. Boiled. Beets.  (Unless they're mixed in with a bunch of chocolate...) So I decided to roast everything and see what happened.  I found the result fantastic, as did my boys.  My husband is not much of a beet guy.  He would have liked to have tasted more onion or garlic.  I think you could cut the beets back by a cup or so if you want it a little less "beety."

Iron Man Roast Borscht
Yields 6-8 servings

3 large beets (4 cups cubed)
1 C carrots
2 C parsnips
1/2 medium head cabbage (quartered)
4 cloves garlic in peel
1 large onion, quartered
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 C vegetable stock
2 C water
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
sour cream

Roast whole beets wrapped in foil at 425° for 2-3 hours or until soft.  Remove from oven.  Place carrots, parsnips, cabbage, garlic, and onion on a sheet, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast until slightly browned, remove cabbage first, if necessary.  (Cabbage cooks in about 1/2 an hour, the rest of the veggies in about 45 minutes).  Remove peels from garlic, peel and cube beets, and put all veggies together in a large pot.  Add water and stock and cook together until everything is heated through.  Either in a blender or using an immersion blender*, puree the soup together.  Stir in vinegar.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add sour cream to top.  I used a piping bag and smoothed it with the back of a spoon (high tech, that...)  Tastes great with sour dough bread!

*Be careful using an immersion blender with this one!  I burned myself pretty good when a bit of it plopped out... An apron is a good idea for this red soup, too...

For once something my little Iron Man kid likes!  He actually liked it from the first bite.  It took my eldest two bites.  A wonderful, filling soup that's great for cold winter days.  This does take quite a while to roast everything.  I did the beets the night before and roasted the veggies the next day.  It makes quite a bit though, so you can freeze half and have two meals!  Tomorrow, the final day of Soup-erhero week!
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