May the 4th Have Food

Finally back in the kitchen after a hiatus due to work schedules.

I gotta admit…it feels pretty good.

I’m known as a Star Wars Geek. I cut my teeth in a darkened movie theater at the age of 6 watching A New Hope and decided two things:

1) I totally wanted to be Princess Leia
2) I wanted to marry Luke Skywalker

Now I ended up married to a rogue (who is also a bit of a farm boy) and together we have 3 little Jedis, or he’d tell you Siths in Training. I decided this this year I wanted to introduce them to the fun that can be Star Wars Day aka May the 4th.

Now I went to Google to mine for ideas so I want to be sure to credit justJENN with the idea of one of my mains The Double Sided Lightsaber Dogs.

Pinterest was also a treasure trove of ideas.

One of the best finds we have had at a Target in Fargo was a set of Solo cups that were solid plastic in the Dollar bin. Originally purchased for our deck last year it was mentioned by a friend yesterday that you could use Solo cups and have it fit the theme. So this morning I asked the kids…Light side or dark side. Sadly they all went red “dark side”.

Starting with breakfast this morning I went with Bantha Blue Milk and Leia Waffle Buns.

Bantha Blue Milk

Bantha Blue Milk – A simple combination that got a huge respsonse.

The Bantha Blue Milk is a simple creation of some 1% milk with two drops of blue liquid food colouring.

Leia Bun Waffles.

Leia Bun Waffles – A trick I learned from my roguish farm boy

A common theme I saw on many Pinterest boards was to do a Leia Bun but there is a recent trick learned from Kevin using my Belgian Waffle Iron. You take a refrigerator cinnamon bun and put one piece in each section of the waffle iron and press the iron together. I’ve got a Proctor Silex Waffle Iron and I set it to 3 and let it go for a couple of cycles before taking it off to serve.

I also highly recommend making sure you have some non-stick cooking spray on hand when you do this.

Leia Bun Waffles - I really like the shape.

Leia Bun Waffles – I really like the shape.

I had to work so a lunch menu was not in my hands today but maybe next year.

On to the dinner menu:

As previously mentioned I went with a Double Sided Lightsaber Dog.

Prepped Lightsaber Dogs - An homage to my husband's Dark Side Leanings.

Prepped Lightsaber Dogs – An homage to my husband’s Dark Side Leanings.

A really simple but fun entree. Simply take a weiner and then wrap a refrigerator crescent roll around the centre to make the handle so that you have a “blade” on either side of it. This was an homage to my husband’s love of the Dark Side and frankly I really think Darth Maul’s saber is pretty bad ass.

Finished Lightsaber Dogs - I made extras for the kids to take to school for lunch tomorrow.

Finished Lightsaber Dogs – I made extras for the kids to take to school for lunch tomorrow.

Now I wanted to provide a bit of variety in my menu today so I inspired by the Han Burgers I’d seen on Pinterest and decided to go with a Han slider which my kids are a huge fan of. While measuring out my 1lb of ground beef for my sliders I remembered that I had a spice from Epicure called Dukkah.

Epicure's Dukkah Spice - I thought it was a fun play on Count Dooku.

Epicure’s Dukkah Spice – I thought it was a fun play on Count Dooku.

This spice blend is one that I have come to love with ground beef. I’ve used it in past to add some spice to a meat loaf and the fact that it was a perfect play on a Star Wars character’s name really tickled my fancy. I added 1.5 teaspoons of it to the ground beef along with my salt and pepper and then went to mix my meat together.

Dukkah spiced sliders in the pan.

Dukkah spiced sliders in the pan.

Now for what to serve my sliders on. Princess Leia was known for her epic hair styles and I often wished my hair had been long enough to braid like hers. I was thrilled when I found these Braided Egg Buns from Kub Bakery.

Braided Egg Buns - An Homage to Leia's many braided hair styles.

Braided Egg Buns – An Homage to Leia’s many braided hair styles.

Finally for a side I felt giddy at the play on Yavin 4 with my Yam-in 4 Fries.

Yam-in 4 Fries in the oven and cooking on my Epicure chip pan.

Yam-in 4 Fries in the oven and cooking on my Epicure chip pan.

The two meals were a total win with my kids so I’ll take it as a sign that the Force, or maybe just the 4th, was with me.

Advertisements

Back At It!

Life has been a crazy mix these days. I started a new job over the summer and with shift work comes a need to re-learn the life/family/career balance.

So I’ve been out of touch which makes me sad because I adore this blog and I love writing it.

Now with things settling down and routines coming back more naturally I’m glad to say I’m getting back in the kitchen and will be able to put more posts on here.

Good to be back!

Sorry Aunt Jemima

A quick hit from my kitchen this morning.

I’ve been trying to convince my kids that sometimes fresh fruit, pure fruit spread or peanut butter make fine substitutes as toppings on waffles and pancakes instead of syrup  and I’ve been successful so far in not buying syrup for about a month or so now.

This morning however came a big  challenge….French Toast.

Pancakes and waffles are easy to tuck some sweet hits into with either fresh fruit or pureed on top but for some reason French Toast invokes the idea of stacks of thick bread dripping with syrup and powdered sugar.

Of course that could be what I see when I think of it. Making food changes has been a bit of a challenge in my life recently.

My youngest son and daughter both wanted to have French Toast and I rejected the suggestion from my 7 year old daughter to give them corn syrup as a substitute for Aunt Jemima’s warm smiling face…after all I’m trying to get some good eating habits in them as well as a sense of experimentation with their food.

So into my pantry I go and come out with a jar of a friend’s homemade apple sauce with cinnamon. Into my custard of 4 eggs and a tablespoon of heavy cream I put two tablespoons of this apple sauce. Whisk it together, dunk my whole wheat bread slices in the custard, cook it on my pancake pan and serve it up to some of my harshest critics…

There wasn’t a bite left after 5 minutes and while neither commented on the lack of syrup but kept delighting in the hints of apple.

Sorry Aunt Jemima but there seems to be a new sweetener in town…and it’s called pureed fruit.

Gotta say I’m very much looking forward to this coming berry season just so I can play with the flavours that can be incorporated as I loved this twist on a family favourite.

Shamrock Shots

Whenever St. Patrick’s Day comes around I often think fondly back to my youth when March signaled the sale of the Shamrock Shake.

Now as an adult I’m more aware of all the fat and calories that can be found in one so in recent years I have started making them at home with my kids using low fat milk, frozen yogurt, mint extract and a bit of green food colouring for nostalgia’s sake.

This year we decided to do a St. Patrick’s Day inspired dinner party. The theme was green, the decor was shamrocks and I decided to take my Shamrock-esque shake recipe and make it a drink that my adult dinner guest could enjoy as a shot while I made my regular version for my under 18 guests.

Ingredients (from left): Irish cream, green food colouring, mint extract, and frozen vanilla yogurt.

Ingredients (from left): Irish cream, green food colouring, mint extract, and frozen vanilla yogurt.

For the adults at my dinner I used Irish Cream in lieu of the low fat 1% milk I would normally use.

Yogurt in the blender.

Yogurt in the blender.

I didn’t really get a good chance to measure my scoops, as my ice cream scoop died a painful death a few months ago and I haven’t found one to replace it yet, but I would estimate it at about 5 scoops.

Irish Cream, green food colouring and mint extract.

Irish Cream, green food colouring and mint extract.

After scooping the frozen yogurt I add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.

Finished shot - Ready to Serve

Finished shot – Ready to Serve

Pour into shot glasses and recite your favourite Irish Blessing.

Shamrock Shots

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day

Ingredients:

  • 5 scoops of Vanilla Frozen Yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups of Irish Cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon of green food colouring
  • 1/8 teaspoon mint extract

Preparation:

  1. Put the 5 scoops of frozen yogurt in to a blender.
  2. Add the Irish Cream, green food colouring and mint extract.
  3. Blend until smooth.
  4. Pour into shot glasses and enjoy!

For your under 18 family members:

A (Lighter) Shamrock Shake

Ingredients:

  • 5 scoops frozen yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups of 1% milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon green food colouring
  • 1/8 teaspoon mint extract

Preparation:

  1. Put the 5 scoops of frozen yogurt in the blender.
  2. Add milk, green food colouring, and mint extract.
  3. Blend until smooth.
  4. Pour into glasses and enjoy!

Playing with Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a veggie that isn’t too hard to get into my kids. They love to eat them and when they are made there usually isn’t a bite left.

We usually have them one of two ways, however, either as store bought fries or baked and served with honey butter and cinnamon. So when the opportunity for me to play in the kitchen on a cold day presented itself today I decided to see if you could make a scalloped sweet potato.

Quick search and I get this recipe from Allrecipes.com and I figured this could be a good way to start playing with this method of cooking sweet potatoes as there are several different recipes and styles that can be found when you do an internet search.

Ingredients from left: 6 sweet potatoes boiled, peeled and sliced, 2 granny smith apples, grated and brown sugar combined with salt, cinnamon and nutmeg

Ingredients from left: 6 sweet potatoes boiled, peeled and sliced, 2 granny smith apples, grated and brown sugar combined with salt, cinnamon and nutmeg

Whenever I used a recipe from Allrecipes.com I take the time to read through the comments from previous users and see what suggestions I can glean esp when I find I haven’t got an ingredient on hand. In this case I took a suggestion from a poster to grate the apples instead of slicing them and substituted the mace with a combination of half cinnamon and half nutmeg. I think next time I make I will give using apple slices a try.

Getting ready to soften my sweet potatoes.

Getting ready to soften my sweet potatoes.

Now this is the first time I’ve ever done a partial boil on a potato, sweet or otherwise. So I will admit to feeling just a bit overwhelmed by the thought because letting it go too far will, of course, make these potatoes far to soft to be peeled and sliced. When the water came to a boil I checked it every few minutes and once I could feel the potatoes getting soft, but not squishy, I took the pot off the heat and then pulled my potatoes out of the water and put them on a plate to cool.

After peeling.

After peeling.

I let the potatoes cool so that I could easily handle them and then went to peel the skins off. I used a small paring knife and for the most part the skins came off with little effort. There were some parts where the skins didn’t want to come easily but a small wiggle of the knife worked through them and there wasn’t many of them.

Sliced and ready to go. Amazing how much these look like carrots.

Sliced and ready to go. Amazing how much these look like carrots.

One of the things I am having to learn as I work on my culinary skills is how to estimate and visualize the amount you get when you break ingredients down. For example, when I had boiled and peeled the sweet potatoes but before I sliced them I was unsure that I would have enough for a 13 x9 pan. So I was really surprised as I was slicing the sweet potatoes to find I had really did a good amount to make this dish with.

First layer in the pan.

First layer in the pan.

The layering process went quickly. One quick layer of sweet potatoes and then I used the grated apple almost as you would use parmesan in a traditional style scalloped potato. With the sugar and spice sprinkled on top and the first butter layer you can a great idea how these flavours are going to come together.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

The house smelled warm and welcoming as these cooked up and when I put the pan on the table the kids were very excited to try and my eldest called dibs on seconds after taking the first bite.

I am looking forward to making these again.

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Recipe from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, cored, and sliced apples (I used two Granny Smith apples and grated them)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace (I used the suggestion of 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg)
  • 1/4 cup butter

Preparation:

  1. Place sweet potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover, and bring to a boil. Boil until tender, then cool, peel, and cut into 1/4 inch slices.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  3. Arrange half the sweet potatoes in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Layer half of the apples over the sweet potatoes. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, salt, and mace, then sprinkle half of the mixture over the apple layer. Dot with half the butter. Repeat layers of sweet potato and apple, and top with remaining brown sugar mixture and butter.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes, until apples are tender and top is golden brown.

Thinking Pink Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about how I agreed to send an item on behalf of each of my school aged children for the Pink Shirt Day inspired Bake Sale.

I sent the Jell – O Magic Mousse cups which was an idea that came easily but I found myself at a loose ends trying to come up with another idea.

Enter Pinterest.

I will confess that I am a Pinterest newbie and until this request had come up hadn’t even peeked at it but an assist from a friend off of Facebook gave me a few pink recipes to choose from.

I decided to go with Strawberry Mousse Sugar Cookie Cups. I liked the look, that it used my favourite mini muffin pan, filled the nut free requirement and most of all would be easy for transport. While I looked it over I did consider that it would be a small bite that kids might not pick over larger cupcakes and cookies and while that did happen when my son gave some away at the end of the day the reviews were positive so I’ll take it.

Starting left: Softened cream cheese and powdered sugar, chopped strawberries, and whipped topping.

Starting left: Softened cream cheese and powdered sugar, chopped strawberries, and whipped topping.

Again I liked that this was a simple recipe. I’ve never made a mousse before and the fact that this wasn’t overly complicated with pretty familiar ingredients made me confident I could make this come together with good results. I will say that I debated with myself while chopping the strawberries if the pieces should be smaller. Turns out that they could have been but it wasn’t a show stopper.

Lesson learned.

The mousse with all the ingredients combined.

The mousse with all the ingredients combined.

I will say that as I was working the ingredients together I found that even with the softened cream cheese and my Kitchen Aid mixer that when I went to fold the strawberries in that it took a bit of work and I was very worried about loosing some fluff in my mousse.

After all when you think about mousse you think of something light and fluffy.

Turns out that it worked out well in the end despite my concerns. After having my mousse combined I put a lid on it and tucked it in the fridge for the 2 hour resting period.

Taking advantage of the 2 hour rest period I turned my attention to my attention to my sugar cookie cups.

Mini muffin pan ready to bake the sugar cookie cups.

Mini muffin pan ready to bake the sugar cookie cups.

Now the author of this recipe used a tube of sugar cookie dough but I couldn’t find one at my neighborhood IGA so I wen with Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookie Mix. Betty Crocker’s mixes are nut free I’ve found and work in a pinch when you need it.

My first batch of cups were a bit lean as I wasn’t sure how much dough to use in the cups. My second batch turned out much better as I was a bit freer with the dough. They went into the oven and were done in 8 minutes.

I skipped the white chocolate chips after baking because I couldn’t find some I was sure would be nut free.

Finished cookie cup after the pan.

Finished cookie cup out of the pan.

I wasn’t sure how the cup would be formed when I pulled the pan out of the oven. I had what looked like small cookies but as they cooled the centre sunk down and made the cup happen.

As you can see not perfect but still very tasty.

The mousse two hours machine.

The mousse two hours machine.

The picture doesn’t do the mousse justice sadly. The mousse did go a really lovely shade of pink that I was very happy with.

My new kitchen gadget must have. I had to borrow this one from my mom.

My new kitchen gadget must have. I had to borrow this one from my mom.

This lovely decorator is from Tupperware and my next purchase I think. I borrowed this one from my mom’s recent Tupperware order. I’m fully in love with this one! It loads easily and dispenses just as easy. One of the issues I have with my arthritic hands is often I can’t hold a decorating gun without cramping in my hands setting in after only a matter of seconds.

This easy to squeeze decorator made the task go quickly and I am converted to it.

Finished bites! Packed and ready to go.

Finished bites! Packed and ready to go.

I used the large star tip and filled my cups until I had what I thought was a good amount of mousse in each cups.

I still have left over mousse in the fridge. I’m planning to use it this weekend for Strawberry Mousse shots for a friend’s house party.

Jell-O Magic Mousse

Recipe via Pinterest. Originally from Cookies and Cups

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temp (half a brick of cream cheese)
  • 1 cup Cool Whip, thawed
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup chopped strawberries, plus more for garnish *optional
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 (16.5 oz) tube sugar cookie dough

Preparation:

  1. With your electric mixer beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth, about 30 seconds. Carefully stir in your Cool Whip. When combined fold in your chopped strawberries.
  2. Place bowl in refrigerator to chill for 2 hours.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 ° and spray mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Place 1 1/2 teaspoons of cookie dough into each muffin tin.
  4. Bake for 8 minutes until they are just starting to golden.
  5. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle 4-5 white chocolate chips in each cup. The heat from the cookies will melt them. As soon as the chips are soft spread carefully in the bottom of the cookie cup.
  6. Release the cookies from the muffin tin by loosening with a knife. Let cool on a wire rack until ready to fill.
  7. When ready to fill the cups, use either a spoon or a piping bag (or ziplock) and fill each with about one teaspoon of mousse.
  8. Garnish with a strawberry slice, if desired.

 

Thinking Pink Part 1

Today my kids’ school had a Bake Sale for Pink Shirt Day and the theme, of course, was to have pink items for sale. The funds raised are going to be donated to Winnipeg Harvest and their Operation Donation Food Drive for Manitoba kids.

My daughter has a young girl in her class that has a gluten free diet. Back in October when my daughter’s birthday came around I found it a bit of a challenge to get a nut free and gluten free choice for a class snack. I was thrilled to find out that a treat my husband introduced me to, from Kraft, was not only allergen friendly but something kids would enjoy and, most importantly, fun.

When the Bake Sale note came home I knew then that I wanted to make these mousses in small shot glasses so there could be a gluten free option to go with the traditional items bake sale items of cookies and cupcakes.

I understand that these were quite popular today. My daughter said by the time her class got to go they were all gone.

Ingredients - One tub of Whipped Topping (I went with Compliments) and the 170 gram box of Strawberry Jell-O

Ingredients – Whipped Topping (I went with Compliments) and the 170 gram box of Strawberry Jell-O

The ingredient list for this is that simple. One small tub (or 2 cups from a large tub) of whipped topping and a 170 gram box of Jell-O gelatin. I was going for a pink colouring so I selected the Strawberry flavour. Both of these are also nut free selections.

You can make this with any flavour of Jell-O you like and Kraft says you can make it in a mould instead of individual dessert cups as well but I haven’t tried that yet. I think I might try that for summer potlucks this coming BBQ Season.

24 shot glasses lined up and ready to go.

24 shot glasses lined up and ready to go.

I picked up 2 ounce plastic shot glasses from Dollarama. I figured this would make for a snack sized serving and the cups would also be able to be recycled when they were done being used. I had planned for 24 of these servings and got 26 in the end with just one batch of this recipe.

Jell-O powder and 3 cups of boiling water.

Jell-O powder and 3 cups of boiling water.

I will admit to using my Keurig to help make this. My Keurig has a hot water setting which is handy because it will dispense 8 ounce cups of  hot water which is ideal for cup of tea or when you need less than a full kettle of hot water. It also makes for easy measuring and quick work of getting my Jell-O going.

Adding Whipped Topping

Adding Whipped Topping

Your Whipped Topping doesn’t need to be thawed previous to this point though you can thaw before hand if you choose to. The Jell-O will foam up when you add the topping and you just keep mixing until the topping is completed dissolved in the Jell-O.

Once you have the topping and Jell-O combined together you want to get it into the cups as soon as you can. It will start to separate into the layers quite quickly so the sooner it can be in which ever dish you are planning to serve it in the better layering you will get from this.

Just poured - Can see the layers starting to form

Just poured – Can see the layers starting to form and my goal of multiple shades of pink is achieved.

After pouring them they need to set in the fridge for at least 8 hours. I had mine in overnight.

Jell-O Magic Mousse

Recipe from Kraft Recipe Website

Ingredients

  • 1 170 gram box of Jell-O gelatin
  • 3 cups of boiling water
  • 2 cups of whipped topping (or a small tub)

Preparation

1) Add boiling water to gelatin mix in large bowl; stir 2 min. until completely dissolved. Whisk in COOL WHIP until well blended. (Mixture will be thin.)

2) Pour into 10 glasses or dessert dishes, 1-1/2-qt. bowl or 6-cup mold sprayed with cooking spray.

(I used 2 ounce plastic shot glasses from Dollarama and I got 26 servings that way)

3) Refrigerate 8 hours or until firm. If using mold, unmold dessert onto serving plate just before serving.

This is a quick recipe and ideal for class snacks and almost all dietary restrictions.

Tomorrow I will blog about the second item I made for this Bake Sale which was Strawberry Mousse Sugar Cookie Cups.

Until then…eat what you enjoy and enjoy what you eat.