Friday, October 2, 2015

Candy Bites Energy Balls

School was over and I had nothing new for snack, information usually met with great dismay by Crazy Kid 2. But I had a plan! With my right and dominant hand useless thanks to a tendon injury, I haven't been able to cook or bake much in the last few weeks. But energy bites are made in the food processor which I can handle single-handed. And the rolling could be done by my servants children.

We looked over our collection of pinned energy bites on Pinterest, but nothing with dates managed to catch our interest. And we had to use dates because I need to get them out of my fridge. So I asked the kids how they felt about making up our own recipe. Crazy Kid 2 and Crazy Kid 3 were enthusiastic. Crazy Kid 2 said we should put them on Pinterest if they turned out ok. :)

I asked the kids how much of the different ingredients they thought we'd need. Crazy Kid 2 has been trying to pay attention to serving size lately, so her first thought was a single serving of dates, which was about 3 whole dates. We looked at other recipes and those usually had 10 or more dates, so we started with 10. We estimated the other amounts and put the ingredients into the food processor.

The first taste of our Candy Bites Energy Balls was pretty awful. Crazy Mom accidentally put waaaayyy too much vanilla in. I thought it wasn't possible to have too much vanilla. It is. We decided to try to kill the vanilla taste with more dates. That wasn't enough. So we upped the peanut butter from 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup and that seemed to do the trick.

Crazy Kid 3 discovered you need to press pretty hard to get the mixture to stay together, but it will stick together.

I decided to make this a literacy/math mini lesson while I was at it and had Crazy Kid 2 write out the recipe, with corrections as needed. We got to talk about fractions, abbreviations, and measurement. We also made a life lesson out of it:

"You always need to test. You need to try again if your first experiment doesn't work. If it tastes bad, add more of the things you like. You have to try your best and if it comes out bad, do not be sad."

Words of wisdom from a six year old. :)

In case you can't easily read 1st grade writing, here is the finalized recipe.

Candy Bites Energy Bars
17 whole dates
1 cup oatmeal (we used rolled oats, not sure how quick oats would work)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Put all of the ingredients except for the chocolate chips into the food processor. Mix until all combined. Add the chocolate chips and pulse until just distributed. You could stir in the chocolate chips separately, but I'm lazy and don't care if my chocolate chips are slightly chopped. The Crazy Kids got creative and added a chocolate chip to the top of each Candy Bite.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Some good looking cookie recipes from Joanne Fluke's book Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery. If I put them here, I can put them on Pinterest and I'll have them. If I make them, I'll try to make a point of updating the blog about how they turned out.

The book was a fun mystery with a touch of romance. I'd recommend it and I will read other books in the series. If anyone reads this and makes the cookies or passes on the recipe, please give Joanne Fluke and her book credit.

Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies

Preheat over to 375

1 cup butter (2 sticks) melted
1 c white sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 t vanilla
2 eggs beaten with fork
2 c crushed corn flakes (just crush with hands)
1-2 c chocolate chips

Melt butter, add sugars and stir.
Add Soda, salt, vanilla, and eggs.
Mix well.
Add flour and stir in.
Add corn flakes and chocolate chips and mix thoroughly.

Form dough into walnut-sized balls and place on greased cookie sheet - 12 to a sheet.
Press down slightly.

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack until completely cool. Will not be crisp if not on a wire rack.

If the cookies spread out too much, bake at 350 and and do not flatten.

Yield - 6-8 dozen

Regency Ginger Crisps

3/4 c melted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 c brown sugar
1 large fork  beaten egg (or two medium eggs)
4 T molasses
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 t ground ginger
2 1/4 c flour
1/2 c white sugar for later

Melt butter and mix in sugar. Let mixture cool, then add egg(s). 
Add soda, molasses, salt, and ginger. Stir thoroughly.
Add flour and mix in.
Chill for 1 hour to over night.

After dough chills, preheat oven to 375

Roll dough into walnut sized balls.
Dump balls into bowl with white sugar and gently shake bowl to coat.

Place on greased cookie sheets, 12 to a sheet.
Flatten with spatula.

Bake at 375 for 10-12 min.
Cool on cookie sheets for no more than 1 minute, then remove to a wire rack. If you leave the cookies on the sheet for too long they stick.

Yield - 6-7 doz

Black and Whites

2 c chocolate chips
3/4 c butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 c brown sugar
4 eggs
2 t vanilla
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
2 c flour
1/2 powdered sugar in a small bowl for later

Melt chocolate chips with butter. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, then stir until smooth.
Mix in sugar and let cool.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between.
Mix in vanilla, baking powder, and salt.
Add flour and mix well.

Chill dough at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

After dough chills, preheat oven to 350.

Roll walnut sized balls of dough. (Wear gloves if you don't want to get too messy.)
Drop dough into bowl of powdered sugar and roll until coated.

Place balls on a greased cookie sheet - 12 to a sheet.

Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes.
Let cool on sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to wire rack.

Lovely Lemon Bar Cookies

Preheat oven to 350

2 c flour
1 c cold butter (2 sticks)
1/2 c powdered sugar
4 eggs beaten with fork
2 c  white sugar
1/2 c lemon juice
1 t lemon zest
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
1/4 c flour

Cut butter into small pieces. 
Combine butter, flour, and powdered sugar in food processor until it looks like course cornmeal.
Spread into a greased 9x13 pan and pat down with hands.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes until golden brown around edges. 
Remove from oven, leave oven on.

Mix eggs with white sugar.
Add lemon juice and zest.
Add salt and baking powder and mix.
Add flour and mix thoroughly.
The mixture will be runny.

Pour mixture on top of crust and put  back into oven.
Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Let cool completely and cut into bars.

Pecan Chews

Preheat oven to 350

1 c butter (2 sticks)
3 c brown sugar
4 fork beaten eggs
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
3 t vanilla
2 c finely chopped pecans
4 c flour

Melt butter and add brown sugar. 
Mix well and let cool.
Add eggs and mix.
Add salt, baking soda, vanilla, and nuts.
Mix well.
Add flour and mix until flour is thoroughly distributed.

Form dough into walnut-sized balls.
Place on a greased cookie sheet - 12 to a sheet.
Press down with spatula sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.
Let cookies cool on sheet for 1 minute, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Farmer's Market Week 2, May 22 - Grilled Pizza

Lonesome Mill is one of the new vendors at the Greenway Station market and they have a lovely selection of milled grains. The pancake mix is incredible - not even I can screw them up! They also have a cornmeal-rye pancake that is great with pork instead of cornbread (although they have cornbread mix, too). I saw a package of whole wheat bread flour that I had to have. I wasn't sure what to do with it, but I knew I needed it.

I have a recipe I found on Jamie Oliver's website for pizza crust and I've been making pizza on the grill ever since. It is pretty easy once you get the hang of it. And if you don't have access to a grill or the weather is too miserable you can cook the crust on the stove top in a skillet.

I looked at crust recipe and I looked at the whole wheat bread flour and decided to give it a try.

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust for the Grill
(adapted from Jamie Oliver)

  • 2 lbs whole wheat bread flour - about 6-7 cups (can be combined with white bread flour if you discover you're a little short of the whole wheat - oops!) 
    2 T wheat gluten, optional, but good for getting a crust that stretches nicely
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 T instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 - 3 1/2 c lukewarm water

    Put the flour, gluten, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. In a bowl, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes. Add the yeast mixture a little bit at a time until a dough forms. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough, add water if the mixture seems dry and crumbly, add a tablespoon of flour if the dough seems too sticky.

    Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.

    Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called knocking back the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in plastic wrap , in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straight away, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas. The recipe says 6-8 pizzas, I got 16 individual-sized rounds.

    Timing-wise, it's a good idea to roll the pizzas out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them. Don't roll them out and leave them hanging around for a few hours, though – if you are working in advance like this it's better to leave your dough, covered with clingfilm, in the fridge. However, if you want to get them rolled out so there's one less thing to do when your guests are round, simply roll the dough out into rough circles, about 0.5cm thick, and place them on slightly larger pieces of olive-oil-rubbed and flour-dusted tinfoil. You can then stack the pizzas, cover them with clingfilm, and pop them into the fridge.

    Heat a grill on highest heat or a skillet on high until smoking. Place a dough round on the oiled surface and flip after about 45 seconds. Cook for another 45-60 seconds, then remove from the heat. Add toppings of your choice and return to the grill until the cheese melts. I have found that keeping the red sauce to the side instead of trying to cook the pizza with the sauce on makes for a crispier crust. I tend not to put too many toppings on so the pizza doesn't fall apart while it's cooking.

Farmer's Market Meal - 1st Week, May 15

I love the Farmer's Market. Not just like it a lot, or enjoy it, but I LOVE it. Our local little market is on Thursdays and they are usually the highlight of my week. I love talking to people, seeing all of the produce, thinking about meals, eating my favorite foods, enjoying the weather. The last market of the year makes me want to cry and the first market makes me so excited I bounce out of bed without hitting snooze - impressive for a mother of 3.

I like to make up new recipes and tweak existing recipes. I play my own version of the Food Network show Chopped, but without the insane ingredients.

The first week is a little tough since May in Wisconsin is rarely conducive to growing much produce. Especially this May! And the first week of Market was freezing and rainy, but darn it, I'd waited 6 months for this day! Many vendors decided they wouldn't even break even if they came, so it was a small market. Tom Murphy, who had organized the Market at Greenway Station from the beginning, decided to take a well-earned retirement and has turned his table over to his grandson. Tom's wife also has decided to cut back on her baking, so the bars, cookies, and little breads are only available at the larger markets. I'm sad about this, but we've got a new bakery this summer and they also have lovely selections of goods. Cheryl Heck has now taken over organizing the Market and there are many new vendors as well as most of the reliable standbys.

I was able to get asparagus, morel mushrooms, butter, and maple syrup at the first week of Market. This gave me the idea for a couple of recipes, but of course I didn't think to take pictures when I made them.

Morels with Asparagus and Orzo

2 T Butter
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb asparagus with ends snapped off and cut into bite sized pieces
morels - as many as you can get! - soaked to get the dirt out and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup orzo

Cook orzo according to package directions. You can do more or less orzo depending on your taste or if you're trying to stretch out the meal.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the minced garlic. (I like to use a fine hole grater to shred the garlic since my knife skills are awful.) Let it get a little soft, but watch so the garlic doesn't burn. Add the asparagus and saute until starting to get bright green. Then add the morels and cook them all together until they reach the texture you like. There may be a lot of liquid left as the mushrooms cook down and you can either drain it or keep it as sort of a sauce when you add the cooked orzo.

This would have been good with some Parmesan-style cheese shredded on top, but I didn't have any. It was pretty delicious without it, if you ask me!

Maple Rhubarb Sauce for Waffles

2 cups of rhubarb - chopped
1/4 cup maple syrup
1-3 T water
Pinch of salt

Combine the rhubarb, maple syrup, and salt into a medium sauce pan and watch carefully as you bring it to a boil, then turn down to simmer, simmer often. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, if needed. Simmer until the rhubarb begins to break down. You can add more maple syrup to taste.

The Waffles (adapted from King Arthur Flour's Maple-Bacon Yeast Waffles recipe)

  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter or canola oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon maple flavor, optional, for enhanced maple taste
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1) Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, leaving room for expansion. Stir to combine; the mixture won't be perfectly smooth.

2) Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour; the mixture will begin to bubble. You can cook the waffles at this point, or refrigerate the batter overnight to cook waffles the next day.
3) Preheat your waffle iron, and spray it with non-stick vegetable oil spray.
4) Pour 2/3 to 3/4 cup batter (or the amount recommended by the manufacturer) onto the center of the iron. Close the lid, and bake for the recommended amount of time, until the waffle is golden brown.
5) Serve immediately, or keep warm in a 200°F oven while you cook the remaining waffles. Serve with butter and Maple Rhubarb sauce.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pizza Minestrone

Our local elementary school does a neat program called "Farm to School". It gives the students a chance to taste fresh produce grown on local farms. Peer pressure works in a positive way to encourage the children to try the produce and I witnessed some kids - mostly boys - competing with each other to see who could eat the most samples before the end of lunch. Hey, whatever it takes!

I got a note from one of the volunteers telling me that my daughter, Bug, absolutely loved the fresh vegetable minestrone soup. She went up for seconds and possibly thirds and said that the soup was so good it should be called Pizza Minestrone and the school should sell it. So the volunteer sent me the recipe and I made it the next week, where it was again met with positive results. Any time Bug is willing to eat any vegetarian meal is a good time since Bug would like to be vegetarian, or at least a flexitarian (basically someone who is mostly vegetarian, but sometimes eats meat). I have no problems with her becoming a vegetarian, but she knows she must eat a wide variety of vegetables, paying careful attention to being sure she gets enough protein and iron from vegetables and fruits. So far she's not eating enough of a variety, but this soup is a good step toward that.

(Adapted from the MCPASD School Nutrition Services recipe)

- 1.5 quarts of broth (I used chicken, but any should work)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup onions
- 2-3 cups carrots, scrubbed and diced (don't bother peeling them - it's a waste of time and carrot)
- 2 cups shredded green cabbage
- 2 cups diced celery
- 2 cans diced tomatoes - fire roasted if you can get them
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cans cannelloni beans (these seem to be the most inoffensive beans to my kids)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 3/4 tsp dried oregano
- 3/4 tsp dried basil or 3 Tbsp pesto
- 3/4 tsp dried parsley
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic granules or 3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
- salt to taste
- 4 oz whole grain pasta (I like the little shells when I can find them)
- Parmesan cheese to taste

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot and saute onions, carrots, and celery until softened.

Add all remaining ingredients, except for the pasta and cheese. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until veggies are soft.

While veggies cook, prepare pasta according to package directions.

Add cooked pasta to soup after 20-30 minutes and simmer for another 5 minutes.

*** You can use fresh herbs if you'd like, but I'm not good about using up fresh herbs in the winter when I'm most likely to make soup. Or if you have any Wildtree spaghetti sauce spice mix, you can put 2 generous tablespoons in the soup instead of the individual dried spices. I also used the bones from the previous night's rotisserie chicken to make chicken stock for the soup. I just covered the bones with about 3 quarts of water and cooked in a crock pot all night.

Friday, March 14, 2014


March 14, for those of you who are not math nerds or who love a math nerd, is also known as "Pi Day", because the date 3.14 is the same as the number called pi, which is used to calculate the measurements of a circle. (Please don't ask me for more in depth information than that! My geometry class is merely a distant trauma.)  In order to encourage an interest in my children for math - and to eat pie - I have vowed to honor this day by making my family a pie.

I asked my girls what kind of pie they wanted. First they wanted cherry, then blueberry, then cherry-blueberry. Then I decided to only use stuff that I had at home and asked if any berry pie would be acceptable. They agreed.

Spring is a tough time of year for me for some reason. I think my body figures if the weather can't make up its mind, I should just hibernate until things smooth out. And while this is a lovely idea, it's not going to happen. So I drag my tired self all around trying to do the whole living and momming thing. But this also means that I was in no mood to fight with pie crust. The funny thing is that I can do just about any baking with yeast, do ok with meringues and biscuits, bake cookies and bars without a problem, and enjoy making cakes from scratch. But pie crust eludes me. My mother makes the most wonderful pie crust and I cannot manage to copy it. I've tried other crust recipes and I wind up frustrated. Fortunately I remembered my friend made us hazelnut chocolate tarts the other day and she used a shortbread crust. I'd never heard of such a thing, but it turns out to be a wonderful creation. You don't have to roll it, which makes me super happy. You mix it, pat it into the pan, and boom - you're done.

So I looked at my beloved Pinterest and found this recipe Easy Shortbread Pie Crust So many times something says "Easy" and it's absolutely not my definition of easy. This was. I mixed it - adding a bit of almond extract for fun - patted it and baked it for 9 minutes before putting the filling in. I don't know if I needed to prebake, but I figured better safe than sorry. And the crust didn't shrink or bubble up much at all.

Then I found this recipe for the filling. Almond Crumble Blueberry Pie I didn't want a double crust pie and I'm not sure it would be possible with a shortbread crust. But I'm a sucker for anything with a crumble, so this looked like it would work. BUT...I have major issues with making a recipe as written. I always have to mess around with it. It's a compulsion with me. Crazy, but it usually works.

I didn't have blueberries, but I did have mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries). For the crumble topping, I absolutely love oatmeal, so I reduced the flour to 1/4 cup and added 1/4 of oatmeal. It worked. I also omitted the cinnamon because cinnamon has it's place, just not in every baked good under the sun. I upped the citrus and everything was just fine flavor-wise. And a useful tip I came across - you can freeze citrus fruits to use later for zest and juice. So I pulled out a lemon and an orange, ran my zester over each one several times, then popped them back into the freezer.

This is my filling and crumble based on the Pillsbury Almond Crumble Blueberry Pie:

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries, thawed and drained
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel (or more)
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated tangerine or orange peel (or more)


  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup chopped almonds
(I apologize for the quality or lack of quality of my photo. I hadn't planned on blogging this, but I had to get the recipe written down somewhere because it turned out well enough that I want to eat this again!)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mixing Foods

A friend and I recently met to walk through beautiful Olbrich Botatnical Gardens with our children. Her baby is about 4 months younger than Sprout and they're just starting to think about solid food. Since my kids are pretty decent eaters, she asked me what I do.

One of the things I told her about was blending the less palatable foods - like beans and broccoli - with more accepted foods like apples and sweet potatoes. It really helped Sprout have a positive feeling about broccoli which many children don't care for. My friend told me in her online research she's encountered many people saying that you should never mix foods so children get the chance to taste and appreciate foods individually.

Well, first of all, I have an issue with absolutes - always, never, etc. I can definitely see the benefit in getting a child to know that this is what broccoli tastes like on its own, why not make the first experience a good one? I think about my dad, a great guy, but kind of a picky eater. Seriously, if I had to deal with cooking for some of his food issues I'd have gone crazy long ago. (Then again, it's been long established that I don't have anywhere near the saintly levels of patience my mom has.) I think part of Dad's problem is that vegetables weren't always prepared in the most flavorful way and that he had to eat it, as is, no matter what.

I've decided that I would rather have my children eat food paired up with other foods if that's what it will take to get them to eat. I don't mean frying the heck out of it or smothering it in cheese sauce (although those are good, too), but what's wrong with combining one healthy food with another healthy food? Then when you present the broccoli or green beans or whatever to the child on it's own you can say "remember, you like it when it's with applesauce or pears" or whatever else you've mixed with it.

Ironically, Sprout would rather eat small bits of steamed broccoli on their own than when the pureed broccoli is mixed in with other food. She will eat it when it's mixed, but it's not the voracious "I can't get enough!" that she has when it's little trees. Whether it's because she's eating big girl food like her sister or she really likes the taste/texture/whatever more in whole broccoli, I don't care. She's eating a healthy vegetable prepared in a healthy way and she knows what it is she's eating.