Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My Favorite Recipes from Around the Web!

     Since I haven't been super dedicated to the blog, it's meant that I've neglected working on my own recipes for a few months.  The great thing about that is that I've looked around and found some fantastic recipes on the interwebs, some of which are becoming regulars at my house.  I thought I'd share them with you because, well, yum!

     This Superfood Kale Avocado Salad with Raw Olives from Pickles and Honey has graced my table many times since I first found it about a year ago.  I like it so much that, though I have made it many times, my husband has only gotten to try it once because I make it for lunch, then plow through it by dinner and there's none left!  So guuuud.

Massaged Kale Avocado Salad

     By contrast, this recipe I found only recently.  I was reluctant to try Shakshuka because I usually don't find I like tomatoes with eggs.  Holy cats was I wrong.  I might not like raw tomatoes with eggs, but I love tomato sauce with eggs.  I have made Tori Avey's Shakshuka recipe nearly once a week since I found it last month and everyone in my family loves it!

Tori Avey's Shakshuka

     Recently, I tried (briefly) to eat better, during which time, I found Eating Well's Vegetarian low calorie eating plan.  It's ingenious, delicious, and free.  There were very few recipes we didn't like, but my favorite was Tofu Cutlets Marsala.  My friend Susan eats Chicken Marsala pretty regularly, but I never understood because I'd never eaten anything Marsala before.  Oh, I never understood...  Thank you Eating Well.  Thank you.

Tofu Cutlets Marsala

     This last one is all over Pinterest and rightly so.  It's dang good.  My boys didn't like it.  One doesn't like coconut and the other didn't like the texture.  My husband and I were just fine with eating their portions, calories be hanged.  This Fresh Mango Coconut Chia Seed Parfait from Vegetarian Gastronomy has us hooked!

mango coconut chia seed pudding-8

The internet is a strange and beautiful place, everyone.  Thankfully, it's delicious, too!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Minecraft Bithday Party

     This post got lost in the hiatus shuffle.  We actually did this party before Christmas last year, and I didn't realize I hadn't posted this until just now! So just pretend I posted this last Thanksgiving, would ya?  Thanks.

     So the boys wanted a Minecraft birthday party this year.  I was not thrilled.  Minecraft is the most boring game that was ever invented in my opinion, and it has the added benefit of making me extremely nauseated when my son tries to show me something and goes zooming through the world like a crazed, half-dead, drunken Ender Dragon.  But the party was pretty fun to put together, I must say.  And the kids had a fabulous time.

Epic Minecraft Party
Found these at Amazon thanks to Bliss Bloom Blog who I shamelessly copied about 75% of this party from.  Thus the ease, I suppose...

Minecraft cupcakes
Made these with Perler Beads, hot glue and toothpicks.  I was inspired by Bliss Bloom Blog's fantastic Minecraft Party.   The square cupcake tin came from Amazon.  (Hiatus Update: My husband fell in love with Perler Beads after this and bought just about every color there is so he could recreate all his favorite video game characters.  In fact, while the boys and I were making Perler Bead ornaments for the grandparents this year, he was busy putting the TARDIS in Santa's sleigh to hang on our own tree!)

Food for a kid's Minecraft party
The best thing about Minecraft is the food.  So many people try to take red candy and call it "red stone" or "TNT" but Minecraft already has so many real food products, the menu practically writes itself!  Here you see potato salad, cheese cubes, and hard boiled eggs.

Menu ideas for a kid's Minecraft Party

Creeper Juice Boxes for a Kid's Minecraft Party
Found these sweet juicebox printouts at Bliss Bloom Blog.

Healthy menu for a kid's Minecraft party
Moar Minecraft munchies.

Square food for a kid's Minecraft party
All the cards I printed with the help of MinecraftBay on Etsy.

     Got the idea for this sad little guy from Catch My Party.  Theirs is much better done, I ran out of room and the tape kept falling off.  Maybe you'll have better luck than I did...  But anyway, I got the plates at my local party store and one pack of a different color green from Amazon.  I used the left-over plates as the party plates to eat on.

How to throw a kid's Minecraft Party
The grass and streamers came from Amazon.  Props to Bekah who hung those streamers for me.

Easy Enderman Pinata for a kid's Minecraft party

Yep, that's a Creeper face pinata.  I just used one of the three masks I bought, covered the hole with construction paper, and let the kids beat the tar out of it.  I made a loop out of a zip tie to tie the rope to.  The kids all went through once blind folded, but it was so tough, we let them go through again a few times without one.  Work for that candy, kids!

Easy Enderman pinata for a kid's Minecraft party

Game ideas for a kid's Minecraft party: Slime Toss
     We had a slime ball toss.  You may remember these from our Monster party a year ago.  I had a few left over and let them over inflate to make these slime balls.  We played it just like an egg toss.

Papercraft table decorations for a Minecraft party
Inspired by Bliss Bloom Blog (again), I found this set of paper Minecraft figures on Amazon.  They were the perfect decorations! (Hiatus Update: These little paper toys have really hung in there!  The kids still play with them!)

Easy TNT poppers for a kid's Minecraft party
     Using another free template, this time from FPSX Games, I made these little TNT poppers, for our final activity.  The kids had a great time and the boys are begging for more video game parties.  I think next year I'm going to do an easy party like hire a magician or something.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Very 80's Easter

     When I was a kid, my Mom made lemon cupcakes with coconut sprinkled frosting in little baskets to take to school at Easter.  My Great Aunt made cakes shaped like bunnies with lemon cake and coconut sprinkled frosting to feast on at the huge family Easter luncheons she used to throw.  When I was pregnant with my first son and craving lemon everything, I had to have lemon cake with coconut sprinkled frosting (generously supplied by my friend Susan, who I am convinced is the reason I survived my first pregnancy without killing somebody in a lemon craving induced stupor).  What I'm saying is that lemon cake with coconut sprinkled frosting and me go waaaay back.

     Unfortunately, the kind of cake and coconut I ate growing up is not how I eat anymore.  I haven't bought a Duncan Crockerbury box in a decade at least.  I don't use sweetened coconut or green food coloring (with one exception).  But I really, really wanted to make those little cupcake baskets with my boys that my Mom made all those years ago. 

Naturally colored Easter cupcakes lemon and coconut with matcha for green

So I did.

     I found Trader Joe's jelly beans, flavored and colored with fruit juice, modified an America's Test Kitchen recipe to taste exactly like the ol' boxed cake lemon flavor, and colored the coconut with matcha powder.  The result was pretty much exactly like what I remember from childhood.  Except the jelly beans.  I'm particular about jelly beans.  Beware the dark purple TJ's jelly beans.  They are not grape.  TJ's, if you're going to throw licorice about all willy nilly, you gotta warn folks.  Allz I'm sayin'.

Easter cupcakes with natural colors and flavorings

A beautifully decorated little basket with a not grape jelly bean on it.  And two others.  Who might be in cahoots.

To make the baskets Mom used to use construction paper, but I found a sweet little set of scrapbooking papers at Target.  Cut strips about 3/4 inch wide and 9 inches long and tape or staple them to an empty cupcake wrapper.  These are great for holding other candies or nuts, too!

How to color coconut for Easter grass with matcha powder

     To make the coconut, I found Bob's Red Mill unsweetened shredded coconut, and got some matcha powder at my local natural foods store.  I heated 1 tsp coconut oil in the microwave until it melted, then stirred in 4 Tbs coconut until just moistened.  Then I stirred in 1/2 tsp matcha powder.  It was a nice mossy/grassy color without changing the flavor too much.  Keep in mind, eating it plain, you will be able to taste the tea, but once you add the flavor of the frosting, you can't taste it any more.

  Since the Bob's Red Mill coconut doesn't have as strong a "coconut" flavor as the moistened sugar-coated stuff, I added 1 Tbs coconut oil (in solid form) to my butter cream frosting.  I used two sticks of softened butter, 1 Tbs coconut oil, 4 cups of organic confectioner's sugar, and about a Tbs of milk. Cream everything together with a mixer until frosting is smooth and fluffy. You may want to adjust the sugar and milk levels of your own depending on how fluffy you like your frosting.

Lemon Cake
Yields: 24 cupcakes

1/2 C whole milk, room temp
4 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp lemon extract (I used Nielsen Massey)
1/4 tsp vanilla beans
1 3/4 C cake flour
1 1/2 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
16 Tbs (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
Zest of 1 lemon

Heat oven to 350°F.  Line muffin tins with 24 liners.  In a medium sized bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together.  In the bowl of your mixer, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla beans, and zest together.  On low speed, mix the butter pieces in one at a time until the mixture resembles moist crumbs.  Beat in all but 1/2 C of the milk mixture, then increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the batter until smooth, light, and fluffy, 1 to 3 minutes.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly beat in the remaining 1/2 C milk mixture and the lemon extract until the batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.  Give the batter a final stir with a rubber scraper and portion into cupcake liners till they are 3/4 full.  Tap the pans on the counter to release bubbles and settle the batter.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 10-15 minutes, rotating the pans 1/2 way through baking time.  Remove cupcakes from tins and cool on a wire rack.

The boys have been begging me for these all day.  I love these.  I may never share them.  You're just lucky I shared the recipe with you.  In fact, I take it back.  You can't have it.  Happy Easter, ya cake thieves.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Stinging Nettles with Grits and an Egg

   So it's been a while, I guess.  I took a little hiatus.  I focused on my kids, survived the holidays, ate horribly and gained weight and lost weight and gained it back.  I went to Maine to see my brother marry the most wonderful woman on earth.  I learned that I really like candid photography.  Food photography is easier because usually the subject stays still for ya but candid photography is so much more rewarding when you get "the" shot.  

This was that shot:

chiaroscuro portrait photography

I swear I didn't pose her this way.  The light, you guys!  The light...  I can't even.  *Sigh*

     Anyway, I learned some stuff about myself in my time off.  I miss black and white photography, I like taking pictures of people, and apparently, I like to eat stinging nettle.  Who knew, right?

     Stinging nettle is crazy painful and also crazy good for you if you can get past the crazy painful part.  It's also delicious!  So somehow, I have gone my almost 40 years without ever seeing stinging nettle in the wild or getting stung by it.  But I found some at recent farmer's market and managed to sting the fool out of myself almost immediately.  Dag, ya'll.  Ow.

     So anyway, I decided I needed grits this morning and stinging nettle was going to go along with it.  So good.  I guess I was supposed to remove the leaves from the stems before cooking, but I couldn't find any specific directions about that online.  I just went ahead and cooked the stems, too.  It was fine.  No stings, good flavor, just a little too furry for my husband's taste.  I'll probably strip the leaves next time.

Stinging Nettle with an Egg and Creamy, Cheesy Grits

Stinging Nettles with Grits and an Egg
Serves 4

1 C grits
4 C water

4 eggs
3 C stinging nettle very lightly packed
olive oil
salt and pepper

Cook grits to package directions, mine called for 1 C grits to be rinsed, then placed into 4 C boiling water and simmered for 30 minutes.  I add cheese to mine, I like sharp cheese like Beecher's Flagship, but I encourage you to find your favorite local cheddar.  Stir in a little butter and salt and pepper to your taste.  In the mean time, fry or poach four eggs.  I like mine over easy, but poached eggs would be fantastic on this.  Rinse the stinging nettle.  I used tongs to transfer mine to a salad spinner, rinsed in the basket and spun it around until dry.  Heat olive oil in a large pan, then dump nettles in.  Watch out for stingers!  If I were to cut the leaves off first, I would use gardening gloves to hold them while I removed the leaves after washing.  Heat leaves until just wilted and plate as shown.

     The boys weren't having the nettles.  They saw me get hurt and were NOT having any of that business.  My husband and I were a little trepidations, but the flavor was like a pleasantly strong spinach and pared well with the eggs and grits.  If you can't find nettles or are in the boat with my boys, sub out the nettle with spinach.

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