Kiddos in the Kitchen – Scones & Flourless Chocolate Cakes

We have a really amazing little gig going in our neighborhood called the Children’s Resource Center.  It’s geared for educators really, but open to everyone.  We try to hit it at least every two weeks.  We check out games, books, puppets – you name it.  It’s basically the library concept, but with a lot more to choose from.  The upside is that we get to try without the BUY.  I especially love this for games since so often we buy a game, are hot on it for a couple of weeks and then it goes to rest in the game cupboard with all of the other various games that were once all the rage in this household.  With the Resource Center, we just return it once the love affair is over.

The down side to this system is that we have to be uber careful of how we treat these borrowed items.  Now for Big Little One and Medium Little One, this is a great lesson in responsibility. Little Little One even gets this and it’s good practice for her as well.  Wee One?  Not so much!  Just last week I had to go slinking back to the Resource Center, head hanging, tail between my legs, and broken game board in hand.  Yep, she quartered it!  Maybe surgery is in her future, because it sure was a clean cut and I can’t imagine that it was that easy to rip through.  I mean it WAS a game board and not her usual construction paper victim!

Recently, we have been on a little cookbook borrowing spree from the Resource Center.  Now I must admit that I’m really not a fan of the kids cookbook genre.  If I’m going to spend time cooking with my kiddos, I want the end result to actually taste good.  My experience has been that so many kids cookbooks sacrifice taste for ease of preparation and really miss the point when it comes to actually letting the kids COOK and not just assemble.  So you can imagine my jubilation when we hit on a cookbook that produced not one, not two, but three wonderful culinary treats.  Yes, we were three for three.  They whipped up a trio of recipes and every one was tasty. Safe to say the Around the World cookbook, will be checked out again by our little clan.

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Big Little One first whipped up some marvelous scones, and in my opinion, scones are not an easy one to nail.  They’re often too dry.  These ones were just right – to quote Goldilocks.

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Medium Little One pulled her own weight in the kitchen and served up a Tunisian soup (typically eaten at breakfast time in Tunisia) known as Leb Lebi.  So easy and yet very flavorful – and no, we didn’t go all cultural and eat it for breakfast; we stuck with it as dinner fare.

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And just because we force teamwork around these parts from time to time, the sisters collaborated on a little flourless chocolate cake number that even surprised me.  I just wasn’t expecting great results from something made in cupcake papers and using chocolate chips.  But they were good.  Like really good.  Like wow.  Like they disappeared so fast I am sorry to say that I don’t have a photo to share with you.

So there you go.  Another stereotype blown away – kids cookbooks can actually groove with some flavor and Abigail Johnson Dodge definitely does so in this one.  Hope you will find some time to bond with your kiddo in the kitchen.  If you do, here are a couple of the recipes mentioned above.

British Scones

Flourless Chocolate Cakes

Pizza Boxes, Pumpkins & Chickees – Bobby Flay’s Pumpkin Bread

These last couple of weeks, there has been just way too much creativity pumping through this house.  As if the joy of Halloween costumes for four small people weren’t enough, we have painted pizza boxes which we hope to get displayed at CPK, crafted a pumpkin (not carved, mind you) which will be displayed in preschool, half built a chickee which will be displayed at the school’s American Indian mock museum, and handcrafted a clay pot which will also be shown at the very same mock museum.  Now I love, creativity, don’t get me wrong, but whoaaaaaa.  All that in the course of two short weeks?   I’m whooped.

The pizza box painting was really enjoyable.  Mainly because Big Little One and Medium little One were totally self sufficient in their creation.  Did I mention that I really love crafts accompanied by self-sufficiency?

The pumpkin project too was very enjoyable, once we got past the design phase.  I – while background processing major items on my schedule, the amount of laundry piled in the garage, my daily taxiing schedule, and various other logistical concerns, was suggesting very cut and dry pumpkin projects; you could paint your pumpkin white and call it a snowman, you could put stickers on your pumpkin, you could stick Mr. Potato Head pieces into your pumpkin.  You fellow adults see where I am going with these suggestions, right?  EASY.  Unfortunately, the four year old would not budge from her own original scope of Project Pumpkin – – – a butterfly pumpkin.  So I acquiesced and off she went.  Aside from some super glue assistance, she was at the helm and it was honestly a delight to watch her work.

You, especially if you are a mother yourself, know this little craft saga can’t be all joy and light.  Enter the chickee.  Haven’t brushed up on your Native American tribes and habitats lately and need a refresher?  Well, a chickee is the type of hut built by the Seminole Indians who inhabited the Southeastern area of our country.  That would be the first definition you would probably find in the dictionary were you to look it up.  I would add a secondary definition and it would read something like this, “Pathetic looking hut; especially when crafted by mother and daughter team. Rickety at best when teacher requires “authentic materials” to be used in construction. Structure whose construction results in mother-daughter friction when mother resorts to use of super glue and throws “authentic material” requirement to the wind.  Dwelling place which, when built by mother-daughter team, makes said team thankful they are not responsible for the construction of their own shelter.”  I think that just about sums up the chickee ordeal, so I’ll just leave it at that.

No, I really can’t leave it at that.  The minor detail I was trying to overlook, but just can’t is that COOKING a traditional Native American dish was an option.  A very viable, enjoyable, right up the mother’s alley kind of option. First,  I suggested we whip up a little Safki (a Seminole dish made of hominy and meat of some sort).  Then I cleverly pulled up a recipe for Safki and left it prominently displayed on laptop where child could see it.  Finally, I whined and begged to cook rather than build.  But I guess my apples don’t fall far from the tree and Medium Little One held her ground in much the same way the four year old had.  So chickee it was, chickee it is, and chickee it shall be!

With so many little artisans working away around here, I have had to keep them nourished with snackable goodness, The fact that they have downed two loaves and multiple muffin tins full of this pumpkin number attests to its success.

I started by throwing together the dry ingredients which include flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves.

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In another bowl, I tossed together some butter, sugar, and vegetable oil, and beat with an electric mixer.  Once that was fluffy, I tossed in some pumpkin puree, and  a couple of eggs.

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Finally, I added the dry ingredients and a little water.

I dumped it all in a buttered loaf pan and put it to bake at 350 degrees for about an hour and ten minutes.

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I am not joking about the quantities consumed of this stuff.  The bread is a little on the long side to bake so in later versions, I opted for mini muffin tins and took the baking time down to about 15 – 20 minutes.  It really is delicious, and if you are ever sipping tea and bemoaning the sad state of your chickee, it’s just the perfect accompaniment.

Here’s the complete recipe for Bobby Flay’s Pumpkin Bread.

And here are some other fall pumpkin recipes  for your browsing leisure:

Honey Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon Streusel Topping (cafecarol.com)
pumpkin recipes (percolatingdesign.wordpress.com)
Scrumptious Pumpkin Recipes for Fall (myyogaworksblog.com)
8 Must-Try Pumpkin Recipes (pearlsandlaceblog.com)

Catching Up on the Backlog 3: Broiled Salmon with Citrus Yogurt Sauce

It’s actually chilly!  I repeat . . . it’s actually chilly.  This statement might not mean much to many, but to this SoCal girl transplanted from Ohio, this is cause for much rejoicing.  A fall day that feels like fall.

I won’t go on about the weather any longer because we are technically in the “recipe, and only the recipe” series.  Let me just add that if it actually rains, as per the weather forecast, I may become giddy.

This new salmon recipe recently made me giddy because it was just SO easy.  To start with, I tossed together the citrus yogurt sauce.  A little Greek yogurt, some olive oil, some grated lime zest, fresh squeezed lime juice, some orange zest, a little fresh squeezed orange juice, a bit of salt, and some honey – that’s all this great sauce requires.

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I just whisked that all together, along with a little water, and put it aside while I broiled my salmon.

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For the salmon, I just rinsed it and patted it dry, placed it on a foil lined broiling pan, and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

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I broiled the fish for about 7 minutes, then covered with some foil, and broiled another 7 minutes until it was cooked through.  I served with the citrus sauce, some roasted broccolini, brown rice, and roasted tomato slices,  and called it a day .

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Here’s the complete Broiled Salmon with Citrus Yogurt Sauce recipe from Gourmet.

Catching Up on the Backlog 2: Scalloped Tomatoes

So I have to ask, do you feel as unfulfilled as I do?  OK, don’t answer that.

It’s just that this “recipe and nothing but the recipe”  thing isn’t quite working like I thought it would.  I’m not really able to put things up that quickly, AND I miss what we used to have together.  Again, if you’re OK with the new gig we have going on, just don’t hurt my feelings and keep it to yourself.

Seriously though, I think we’ll just power through one more post after this one and chalk it up to a lesson learned.  We will then return to our regular programming and I’ll get new things up as I can.  After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

But for today’s quickie, let’s just say I am overrun with tomatoes!  They come abundantly in my weekly produce box and they have been coming abundantly from our own little backyard garden.  I’ve done soups, BLTs galore, tartes, quiches, salads, and I’m just about tomato-ed out.  But this recipe for Scalloped Tomatoes added another dimension to our tomato life just when I thought I had covered every possible angle to this red headed beauty (yes, we’re partial to the red around here).  It’s really like a hot panzanella and very tasty.

I started with an assortment of red and yellow tomatoes (mostly yellow, really) and a big bunch of basil (also from our backyard mini garden).

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Then I cubed up a little over half of a French baguette (yep, partial to the French stuff too!).

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I heated some olive oil in a large skillet and tossed in the baguette.  I cooked over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the bread cubes were evenly browned.

After that I added in some garlic, the tomatoes, and a bit of sugar.   I cooked that mixture for about 5 minutes longer, removed from the heat, seasoned with salt and pepper, and tossed in the basil.

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I poured the whole thing into a 9×13 baking dish and covered generously with Parmesan cheese.  I then drizzled a little olive oil the top.  I had an extra special olive oil keeper just for this very special drizzling step in the recipe!

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I baked the whole deal at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes until the top was nice and bubbly and golden.

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I served it up with some lemon garlic peas followed by a simple green salad. Quick, Easy, & Yummly.

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Here’s the complete recipe for Scalloped Tomatoes, adapted from Food52.

Cathing Up on the Backlog: 1 – Butternut Squash, Rosemary & Garlic Lasagna

This just feels weird.  It’s almost as though we’ve decided to “take a break” from each other.  You know that awkward stage of a relationship, right?  I have so much I want to tell you, but we’re taking a break so I’m just going to keep it all inside.  So here it is . . . the recipe and just the recipe.  The first in my series I’m affectionately calling “Catching Up on the Backlog” – catchy, I know.

Even though my SoCal weather won’t cooperate, I am determined to remain delusional and cook as though it really is fall.  This lovely Butternut Squash, Rosemary & Garlic Lasagna was a little time consuming, but so worth the effort.  To start with I peeled, seeded, and chopped one medium butternut squash.  I then tossed it with a little olive oil and roasted it for about 25 minutes in a 450 degree oven.

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While my squash was roasting, I brought some milk and dried rosemary to a simmer in a saucepan. I let it simmer for about 10 minutes and then strained the rosemary out.

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Then, in a skillet I sauteed a bit of garlic in some butter.  I added in some flour, and cooked the roux for about 3 minutes.

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After that, I poured in the heated milk and simmered for about 10 minutes, whisking the whole time,  until the sauce thickened.  Then I stirred in the roasted squash and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Then the assembling fun began.  I poured a little of the sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan.  I covered that with 3 lasagna noodles.  I spread more sauce over that and sprinkled with parmesan.  I repeated this layering one more time, beginning and ending with pasta.

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With my electric mixer, I beat some heavy cream with some salt just until it formed soft peaks.  I spread that cream over the last pasta layer and then sprinkled the last of the parmesan over.

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I had turned down my oven temp after roasting the squash.  I put the lasagna, covered loosely with foil,  in the 375 degree oven, and baked for about 30 minutes.  I removed the foil and baked another 10 minutes.  Then I let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

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An absolute perfect taste of fall!

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Here’s the complete recipe for Butternut Squash , Rosemary & Garlic Lasagna.

Want to explore more squash recipes? Have fun browsing through these:

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Mac & Cheese (acedarspoon.com)
Roasted Butternut Squash and Ricotta Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Glaze (girleatsgreens.com)
Ah-Mazing Forbidden Rice n Butternut Squash (veganva.wordpress.com)
Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat’s Cheese Risotto (confuzzledom.wordpress.com)
Roasted Stuffed Butternut Squash (sweetenoughthanks.wordpress.com)

The Art of Delegating . . . some things, anyway – Curried Butternut Squash & Green Beans over Quinoa

I feel like that little cartoon saying that you see pinned up in middle management offices sometimes – “The faster I go, the behinder I get”.  The reality of my everyday real life makes it so that I just can’t write as fast as I can cook.

I literally have recipes, creations, and pictures backing up like baby clothes in a laundry hamper.  And I know you mama readers can relate to that little analogy.  For those of you who have gracefully left the baby stage of parenthood, just take a moment and reflect on those days when you easily tallied in FOUR dirty outfits for one tiny creature.  You remember now, don’t you?  An endless parade of bibs, burp cloths, and buntings (what is a bunting really anyway?).  And everything so tiny that folding was like origami practice.  So much so that sometimes it was easier to just leave the mass of tininess in a big pile rather than even trying to fold and put away.

Well that’s how I’m feeling with my cooking these days.  I’m pumping out the meals and chronicling each creation in photos as I go,  but there they all sit in digital nowhereland on my laptop.

I manage to keep up with other stuff around the house by delegating to my troops.  Everyone pitches in and that’s what makes it all work.  I recently found a little gem called My Job Chart which I use to help keep everyone on track.  They LOVE it and clamor to the computer to log their helpfulness in exchange for points which they can spend, save or share.  It’s really an amazing motivator – I mean after all, it’s got technology AND money involved.  But there are some things, like this blog, that just can’t be delegated.  Teeth brushing would be another one of those “un-delegatable” items.  Is it really just me, or can anyone else relate to those days when you fall into bed at night after a trying day and just wish someone could take your head off, go brush your teeth for you, and then return your head?  OK, definitely just me, but now it’s out there and now you know the true level of my weirdness . . .  not to mention the extent of my fatigue on “certain” days.

So before I get any more “behinder”, I have decided to take a few days and give you the recipes, just the recipes (to be spoken in your best Joe Friday imitation), without any of my superfluous spiel.   Here’s the first one to get us started, and it’s an ORIGINAL creation (read – no recipe) that I just can’t wait to share.

To get started with making Curried Butternut Squash and Green Beans over Quinoa, I first peeled and cubed one medium butternut squash.

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I tossed the squash with a little olive oil and then roasted for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees.  While that was roasting, I sliced up some green pepper and a little lemon grass.

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I melted a little butter in a skillet and then added the green pepper and finely chopped lemongrass along with some red pepper flakes and curry powder.

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I sauteed everything until the pepper was just tender.  Then I added in a little coconut milk and some Thai fish sauce.  At the same time, I had brought a pot of salt water to a boil and cooked up some green beans until they were just tender.  I added the green beans to the curry mixture and also tossed in the roasted squash.

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I let things simmer just until everything was heated through.  I served it around a bed of quinoa and garnished with chopped cashews and some chopped fresh cilantro.

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Quite a satisfying little dinner.  It also got approval all around the table – which isn’t always the case when I go free-wheeling and recipe-less.

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Here’s the complete recipe for Curried Butternut Squash and Green Beans over Quinoa.

Looking for more curry recipes?  Give these a gander.

Mutiny at the Taco Bell Drive Thru – Zucchini & Tomato Rice Gratin

I’ve made my own bed and now I must lie in it!  Well, isn’t that a timely phrase given that I just finished a grammar lesson with Big Little One on the difference between the transitive verb – lay and the intransitive verb – lie.  Such thrilling stuff that it just makes you want to sprint back to elementary school doesn’t it?  But I digress.  Back to this bed that I have made.

So it’s really great -on most days- that I have educated my offspring about food and what we eat and how we eat.  I love that my four year old will tell me she doesn’t think we’ve had enough protein, or that my eight year old will pipe up and announce that she’s bummed that figs are no longer in season, but can’t wait for pomegranates.  But remember, I said this stuff is awesome on “most” days.  Then there are the days that I really need them to play along like your average American kids.

This hit home one day last week when the mother was really in a pinch.  I had only a thirty minute window between one activity pick-up and our next engagement and yes, the 30 minute window fell right at lunch time.  I didn’t have enough time to drive the troops home and I hadn’t packed anything. (Not sure whether I have confessed this one before or not, but I despise packing lunches, picnics, etc.  Don’t know what it is, but I would rather clean the toilets than pack a lunch).  So there I was, needing to nourish 4 small bodies in under 30 minutes.  In my best sing-song cheery voice, I inquired, “Oooooooh, who wants a quesadilla from Taco Bell?”  CRICKETS from the back of the car.  Now on any other day, crickets would have been music to my ears.  It’s not often I get lavished with silence in the car.  But, not on this day.  I held my breath and just waited.  Then it started, like an avalanche just building up its own momentum. “That’s not even real cheese, Mom, it’s a processed cheese product.”  “Do you even know what chemicals they put in the sauce, Mom?” “Taco Bell is gross, Mama.”  You can match the comment to the kid without much effort I would guess.

Pretty simple.  It was a mutiny.  I was being bitten by my own well-intended food educating.  As I saw it, I had two choices: let the pompous little foodies go hungry or flex my parental muscle and say “suck it up – it’s quesadillas from Taco Bell or nada”.  Well, hunger would have led to crankiness, and crankiness would have led to fighting, and fighting would have led to mayhem, so . . .  under the piercing glare of the two older ones, I went with the “suck it up” line.

They moaned. They protested.  They complained.  But they ate their quesadillas. So yes, REAL food is wonderful, and it’s my ideal way to feed my family.  But from time to time I find myself in a REAL pinch, and a mama’s got to do what a mama’s got to do.  Not to worry though, I recovered quickly from my relapse and served up a yummy little dinner of Zucchini Rice Gratin . . .  greeted by small approving nods and angelic smiles.

To start with, I roasted some sliced zucchini and sliced tomatoes both brushed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  The zucchini took about 20 minutes and about 10 minutes for the tomatoes.

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While my veggies were roasting, I sauteed some onion and garlic until the onion was tender.  To that I added some cooked rice, a couple of lightly beaten eggs, some fresh  thyme, a little more olive oil,  a touch more salt and pepper, and some freshly grated parmesan.

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Then I spread half of my rice mixture into a glass baking dish and topped it with half of the zucchini.  I spread the remaining half of the rice over that and then topped with the remaining half of the zucchini and all of the tomatoes.  I drizzled the whole thing with a little more olive oil and sprinkled it all with more parmesan.

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I baked the whole deal in a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes, just until is was nice and golden brown.

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Along side a nice green salad, this was a simple and satisfying dinner.

Here’s the complete recipe for Zucchini & Tomato Rice Gratin, adapted from Epicurious.

Dreaming Simple – Moscato Cake with Grapes

When I was a younger woman, I dreamed of adventure.  Maybe riches.  Sometimes romance.  I have a very vague recollection of what it was like to let my mind wander and get lost in my own thoughts.  As a much older woman now, let’s just say my dreams have shifted slightly.  I have adjusted to my current season.  Some might delicately put it that way.  But the blunt truth of the matter is that I dream of very simple things these days.  Like finishing a sentence without being interrupted. Just to pop out the first one that comes to mind.  Yes, yes, yes . . .  I am trying to train my children in this arena, so let’s not even go there.  I mean really – there are four of them, and one of me.  I’m grossly outnumbered.

Some weeks, having fun with this blog is one of the only times I can reassure myself that I’m still capable of maintaining  a train of thought.  I’ve also realized that I have a new way of rating my friends in regards to this new dream.  A REALLY good friend is one who, after I have had to stop mid-sentence and run after my two year old, will say upon my return, “OK, so finish what you were telling me about xyz”.  That friend was actually listening and cares about what I have to say.  Then there are the friends who will say nada, zilch, zero upon my return.  I always wonder whether they weren’t even listening in the first place or are actually just happy the toddler split when she did because they were over what I was saying 10 minutes ago.  Then there are the friends who have their own 2 year olds  (or a various aged gaggle of other children) with intermittent fleeing, climbing, and falling bouts.  Pretty safe to admit, that we’re basically just smiling and nodding at each other and pretending to catch even  1/10th of what the other one is saying.

I know there will come a day in the future where I will wish I had a kid interrupting me.  I also know that day will come sooner than I can probably imagine.  I know I should make a mental recording of their angelic little voices that won’t always be calling my name (of course I would need some major sound engineering to lower out the whining, screaming, and/or sniveling).  So I’ll try to keep that all in mind as I maneuver through each day.  But I’ll also continue to dream my here-and-now-dream and let my reveries take me to the land of coherent, uninterrupted conversations while being surrounded by my offspring (other current dreams include reading a book on an airplane and peeing without an audience, in case you were wondering).

And with that, I think I was mentioning when we last spoke (before I was interrupted)  that I had this great little grape and cake combo to tell you about, didn’t I?  Well let’s get back to that .

Our CSA box has been bursting with grapes these last three weeks.  Really delicious grapes. Autumn Royal Grapes, they are called and they come from A H Organics.  After the second delivery, curiosity got the best of me and I started wondering what exactly I could do with grapes besides just rinse them and feed them to the troops as a snack or have a stomp fest in the back yard and teach a home school lesson on wine making.  Well lo and behold, I found a recipe for a Moscato Cake with Grapes.  I got really excited about this since I had never made a cake with moscato, nor had I ever confectioned with grapes.  So off I went.

I started by brushing  a spring form pan with olive oil, lining it with parchment, and then brushing the parchment with olive oil.

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After that, I mixed some flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and set the dry mixture aside.  Then I whisked together some sugar, butter, and olive oil.

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To that, I added a couple of eggs, some grated lemon peel, some grated orange peel, and vanilla.

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Here’s where it got fun . . .  and started to smell divine.  To this mixture I alternately added the dry ingredients and 1 cup of moscato, making sure to blend well after each addition.

I poured the batter into my spring form pan, and then scattered my grapes over the top.

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I baked it at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until the top was set.  Then I dotted the top with butter and sprinkled with sugar and baked another 20 minutes.  When it was golden I pulled it out of the oven and let it cool for about 20 more minutes before releasing it from the pan.

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The result was surprisingly good.  Kiddos claimed it tasted like baked apples (hmmmmmm?)  Every last crumb was gone in one sitting.  Even the Hubs, who generally isn’t a fan of any baked fruit, liked it.

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So chalk that one up to a new adventure . . . grapes in a cake, and some moscato to boot.  Oh, and I feel so much better now that we had a chance to actually finish this conversation.

Here’s the complete recipe for Moscato Cake with Grapes, adapted from Epicurious.

A REAL Checkup – Spicy Lentil Tacos

So it’s time to check in again and see how “real” I’ve been keeping things.  I believe the last time we did this little self check-up was back in June.  Can you believe I have stuck with this blog thing for almost SIX months now?  I can’t.

So back in June I felt good overall about the meals we were eating, but didn’t give myself such a great grade on the snacks front or in the dessert arena.

Summer brought some interesting snack experimentation.  If you joined me for any of those posts, we tried Carrot Protein Breakfast Bars, Apple Peach Fruit Leathers, Cranberry Pistachio Energy Bites, Baked Oatmeal Bars, and a few others.  Some of these I’ve added to my reappearing snack repertoire.  My other big decision?  I just quit buying the stuff I would turn to when we needed to grab something on-the-go.  And you know what?  If you don’t have it, you can’t grab it.  Ha!  How profound is that?!  Seriously though, I found that if I don’t buy it, they’ll just grab something else that we DO have (meaning a fruit, a veggie, some nuts, cheese, or a yogurt).

I wish I could say we had improved on the dessert front, but NOPE!  Baking is just too fun.  And during the summer we turned that notch way up.  In fact, just tonight I dished up a number that I can’t wait to tell you about.  But I’ll have to save that for another post.  Just think . . . grapes and cake.  Ok – enough said.

So our snacking habits have taken a step forward and let’s just say our dessert dilemma remains status quo.  If you remember back in July, I was all about advocating the baby step approach.  I even (at the risk of sounding bossy . . .. pfffff, I’ve tried to deny that accusation my whole life) gave 5 suggested steps you could take toward eating a more “real” diet.

I figured since no one sent me any threatening e-mails after those suggestions, that as we enter into the fall, I would go out on a limb and give a few more suggestions.  So here goes.

1) Buy what you will eat for the next 5-7 days (specifically stuff that will go bad after that time window) and nothing more.  Don’t shop again until you are literally out of food.  Real food, because it is actually real, will go bad.  Stuff you can stock up on (with a few exceptions, of course) is generally not real food.  Try to adopt this cycle of shop, consume, shop again.  Try to ditch the cycle of shop, store up, consume a little, shop some more, consume, store up, etc.

2) Consider a CSA program.  I recently decided to get a weekly delivery from Abundant Harvest Organics.  I can’t tell you how much I LOVE it.  First of all, it totally accomplishes what I suggested in #1 above.  Our little box arrives and I know exactly what I have to make my meals out of for the next 5 – 7 days.  It can also expose you to new fruits and veggies you may not be friends with yet, and expand your recipe and meal options.

3) The post-it plan.  Research says it takes about 21 days to acquire a habit.  Take 21 post-it notes and number them 1 – 21.  Display them (in a line) in a prominent place in your kitchen.  Start with a specific meal.  I would recommend dinner.  For every evening that you eat a dinner of real food, pull a post-it from your line, starting with the number 1.  By the time you remove post-it number 21, you may be surprised at how much more real your meals have become.

So go ahead and give these a whirl.  I’ll check back in around winter time to see how things are moving along – baby  step by baby step.  In the meantime, let me introduce you to some Spicy Lentil Tacos.  Good for you, fast, and easy peasy lemon squeezey.

I started by sauteeing up some onion with some olive oil, garlic, and salt.  I rinsed my lentils (green ones in this case because I was out of brown) and drained them.  Then I added them to the onion sautee mixture along with a packet of taco seasoning.  I like the Trader Joe’s taco seasoning, although it tends on the spicy side.  If you have little mouths that are sensitive to spice  to feed, I would recommend only using half a packet.

Lentil tacos - 2

I let that mixture cook for about a minute just to blend the flavors and then I added in some veggie broth.

Lentil tacos - 3

I covered things and turned down my heat to simmer.  I simmered until the liquid was mostly absorbed – about 30 minutes.

Lentil tacos - 4

I set everything out “taco buffet” style (shells, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, cilantro, lime, salsa & rice), and let the troops have at it.  As usual, they loved assembling their own deal and hence, not a complaint around the table.

Lentil tacos - 9

Interested in knowing more about my friend, the lentil?  This site is bursting with helpful info.

Here’s the complete recipe for Spicy Lentil Tacos, adapted from Epicurious.

And finally, some other good lentil recipes for your perusing pleasure:

Yin / Yang: Hot / Cold – Broccoli, Yellow Pepper & Cheddar Chowder and Cantaloupe Limesicles

No, I didn’t fall off the face of the planet.  More like swallowed up by the busy-ness of end of summer and back-to school.  And, as if those two numbers weren’t enough to keep me on my toes, we decided to fit in a little jaunt back to Ohio to visit the grand parents.  It was kind of a last minute decision, actually.  I mentioned that we should probably try to schedule a trip sometime soon.  The Hubs suggested October.  Sounded good enough to me, but then I realized that the Wee One would turn 2 on September 3rd.  The cheap-o in me said, “Get that clan on the plane before 9/3 and then you won’t have to pay for another seat and you can take Wee One as a lap baby.”  The masochist in me, then added in, “Of course you want to fly to Cleveland via San Francisco ALONE with four girls!”  So with all of my split personalities speaking their piece, I dove in and booked the tickets.

The upside of the Ohio visit?  Seeing family and catching up.  The down side?  Two words: muggy and buggy.  And to think that I had just recently contemplated what it would be like to move my family back to the land of my childhood.  Ummmmm, no thanks.  Just that one visit let the girls get in their tractor driving, lightening bug catching, box trap building, and toad hunting.  Now we’ll just return to our OC suburban life, thank you.

Unfortunately, I think Mr. Muggy decided to stow away in our suitcase or something.  This OC heat is ridiculous and immediately upon returning I remembered a crucial point – I detest OC in September.  It’s as if I have a honing pigeon like instinct born out of my mid-western roots.  The minute it is September my brain starts to think chilly, crisp, fall.  I want to wear sweaters, sip warm tea, and decorate with red, orange and yellow foliage.  But no, it’s a sweltering over here in September and you just can’t escape the heat.

Also, in the midst of all this traveling, and back-to-school planning, and other time consuming stuff, I decided to subscribe to our local CSA program.  Basically this means I’m getting a box of wonderful local and organic produce delivered to my doorstep every week.  I chose Abundant Harvest Organics and so far, love the fruits and veggies.  However, this week’s box gifted us with an abundant harvest of broccoli and we are just not a broccoli eating family.  Call me strange, but my beef (ha! no pun intended) with broccoli is that it doesn’t retain its heat.  And the only thing I hate more than bland food is cold food.  So . . . all this to say that in this blazing weather, I, the genius that I am, decided to make Broccoli Soup.  Yes, you heard right, soup in 98 degree weather.  So here goes.  You, being a more intelligent person than I, can just tuck this little recipe aside and whip it out on a chilly fall day.

I started by chopping up an onion. a yellow bell pepper, and a russet potato.

Broccoli soup - chop

I separated the broccoli florets from the stem and then peeled and finely chopped the stem.

Broccoli soup -florets

I boiled some salt water and then added the florets and boiled for about 3 minutes.  I removed them and plopped them right into some ice water to stop them from cooking.  I saved about 4 cups of the cooking water for later.  I sat the florets aside and went to work on the other veggies.  I sauteed the onion, potato, pepper, broccoli stems, and some garlic for about 10 minutes.    Then I added in some cumin, salt, pepper, and some flour.

Broccoli soup - sautee

I added the reserved cooking water to this sautee and let  it simmer (partially covered) until the potatoes were tender – about 10 minutes.   Then I added in some half and half and grated sharp cheddar.  I whisked it well until the cheese was all melted.  After that, I pureed about 2 cups of the soup and returned it to the pot.  I then added in the broccoli florets and heated until everything was piping hot.  I served with a little French baguette and we were good to go.  The kids gave it rave reviews, even while thinking their mother was insane for serving soup on one of the hottest days of the year.

Broccoli soup - final

So just to redeem myself, I pulled out the coolest dessert ever.  Throughout the summer I have been experimenting with homemade popsicles.  We’ve done orange-raspberry creamsicles (a hit!), watermelon-basil-honey pops (so-so), and then, the the chef d’oeuvre of the summer – – – -cantaloupe limesicles.  So easy and delish!  I took about 3 slices of cataloupe, and, in the blender, combined it with 1/4 c. water, 2 Tbsp. sugar, and the juice of one lime.  Into my popsicle molds it went and hours later we had a wonderful treat to combat the heat!

popsicle2

popsicle13 - 1

So call me crazy for my soup concoction, but in the blazing weekend ahead, whip up your own cantaloupe lime-sicles and enjoy!

Here’s the full Broccoli, Yellow Pepper & Cheddar Cheese Chowder recipe, adapted from Epicurious.

Want to browse other broccoli recipes?  Here are some to get you started.