Wednesday, June 1, 2016

2 Ingredient Banana Nutella Pops

Summer can be a sugary time, what with the snow cones, cotton candy, popsicles, ice cream, and so forth. It’s tough to stay cool without loading up on sweets. But I'm not going to give up on what makes summer so much fun!

One summer treat I love from my childhood are Creamies. They are creamy ice-cream-like popsicles that are available in the west, but apparently not as far west as the Portland area... I miss them. These pops really remind me of Creamies, which is an awesome thing! They're more nutritious, too, and as easy to make as it would be to drive to the store to get some -- if they sold them here, that is.

I love this recipe because it makes me feel so sneaky: First, it feels like a complete cheat, as there are only two ingredients, neither of which are cream, and yet they are dreamily creamy. And it's so easy, your toddler or preschooler can help you every (quick and easy) step of the way.  When I hand it off to the kids, they feel like they are getting a sugary treat, when in reality they're mostly getting a healthy banana. Sneaky mom for the win! Oh, yes, and they’re husband-approved, too!


2-Ingredient Banana Nutella Pops

2 large bananas
1/4 c. Nutella

Peel bananas and cut into chunks. Place on a plate and freeze several hours or overnight -- until banana chunks are completely frozen. Put frozen bananas and the Nutella in a blender or food processor and process until completely smooth. Pour or scoop into popsicle molds of your choice, and freeze until firm. When ready to serve, run molds under cool water to release the popsicles.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Caramelized Salmon with Chilled Pea Soup

Summer is coming so soon! We've had a run of early summery weather, which my garden and children are loving! I'm trying to love it, too, and not think about how much the air conditioning is running already (and it's only May! Yikes!) So here's a summery meal. The soup is equally delicious hot, but hot soup + hot day = no. Just no.

The first time I had salmon, my mom had made some sort of delicious salmon cake. Not  usually a fish person (at that time), I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. The next day, I had some sort of allergic reaction. So I avoided salmon, thinking that I was allergic to it. They were sad times, my friends. Sad times.

In the meantime, I grew to love seafood. Shrimp and halibut and tilapia, cod, sole -- I'll probably eat just about any white fish you offer. But still no salmon. It made me so sad, because I really liked it!

So a couple of years ago, I ventured to try it again just to make sure. And lo and behold! No issues whatsoever. So basically, I'm making up for lost time and eating as much salmon as I can  -- I was missing out on so much yumminess! Plus it's nutritious, and the B really loves it!

This preparation makes the best of simple ingredients, and really brings out the best salmon has to offer. If you're thinking about skipping the pea soup, think again! It's simple to make the day before and is the perfect complement to round out the meal. The combination is so summery and light. And since you've already made the soup the night before, dinner can be minutes away when you get home from a long day of work (or play). This was my favorite meal last summer, and I hope it will be one of your favorites, too.

Caramelized Salmon

1/2 c. sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. flaky sea salt (I use Maldon), crumbled OR 1 Tbsp. table salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4, 4 oz. skin-on salmon fillets
olive oil

Combine the sugar, salt, and black pepper in a shallow bowl. Dip each filet into the bowl and coat the entire surface of the salmon with the sugar/salt mixture.
Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large well-seasoned, cast-iron skillet (or other broiler-safe pan) over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the salmon, skin side down in the pan, and saute for about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler to high heat.
Carefully flip each salmon fillet and saute for another 2-3 minutes. If the fillet is thick enough, flip to the side and briefly saute each of the sides, then flip back to top-side-up position.
Sprinkle the top of each salmon filet with a teaspoon or two of additional sugar/salt mixture. Transfer the pan from the stovetop into the oven. Let the salmon broil for 5-8 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure it's not burning. The sugar in the pan might look burnt but that's okay as long as the tops of the salmon are looking golden brown. When the salmon is done cooking, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes -- that caramelized sugar is very hot!. Remove the skin before serving -- I usually slide my spatula right between the fillet and the skin, leaving the skin in the pan.

Chilled Pea Soup 

1 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
1 c. chopped leeks, white and light green parts (1 leek)
1/2 c. chopped yellow onion
2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1, 10 oz. package frozen peas
1/3 c. chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. creme fraiche, plus more for serving
1/4 c. chopped chives, plus more for serving

Heat the butter or oil over medium-low heat, add the leeks and onion and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the stock, increasing the heat to high, and bring it to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the mint, salt, and pepper.

If you have an immersion/stick blender, stick it right in the pot and carefully puree until it's as smooth as you like it. Otherwise, puree the soup in batches in a regular blender or food processor. Once pureed, whisk in the creme fraiche and chives, taste and adjust seasonings. Chill thoroughly -- overnight would be best. Serve cold with a dollop of creme fraiche and snipped chives.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Snickers-Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies

Do you like to be on your own? I don't think "alone" has a nice connotation, generally, but I love having time to be by myself. My mom tells me that I've always been pretty happy with my own company. And the P is the same. We're both the kind of people who are content to go to a movie alone. A shocking number of people find this idea appalling, but why? I don't get why this is such a strange thing -- it's not like you get to chat much with your companion at the movies when you go together. And when you go by yourself no one else can hog the popcorn. You can do all the hogging.

Obviously, my choice to stay home with my children full-time results in finding myself with very little time when I am truly alone. I've forgotten the kinds of things I would do when I was under no obligation to be with anyone else. So lately I've been making a list of things to do when I again find myself with alone time (or consciously carve it out, as I'm making more of an effort to do). What would be on your list?

High on my list is time alone in the kitchen to just do my thing.
I started motherhood with the notion that I would love cooking with my kids and give them every opportunity to join me in making yummy things in the kitchen. 

Do you hear that laughter? That's me laughing maniacally at the crazy notion of cooking side-by-side with my children, as I shoo crying little ones out of "my kitchen" every night at 5 o'clock. Look, it's not my idea of a good time to cook with people attached to my appendages. 
That's more my idea of a gymnastics event. 
Or Iron Man competition. 
Or Crazytown.

Oh look! Cookies! We should talk about these cookies for a minute, because they are flipping awesome-sauce-amazing. If you like peanut butter cookies and you like Snickers, I think the very idea of these cookies is reason alone to make them. You owe it to yourself to shove candy bars into cookie dough and see what happens. And if you don't love Snickers, you can make these with equal success using mini Milky Way bars. Both will rock your socks right off!
The oven temperature is not a typo. Bake them at 300ยบ. This will let the candy melt all the way through as the cookie bakes and sets. They'll look a little pale and puffy, but that's just what you want. They look great with a drizzle of chocolate on top to hint at the surprise inside.

Snickers-Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies
Recipe Source: Foodie with Family

1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 c. creamy peanut butter (I use the natural stuff)
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 c. (17.5 oz.) flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
about 30 miniature Snickers bars (NOT "fun size")
1/2 c. melting chocolate or chocolate chips (optional)

Cream together the butter and sugars until smooth. Add the eggs in, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then add the peanut butter and vanilla until, beating until smooth and creamy.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Add the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture and beat until well combined. Be sure to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure all the dry mixture has been incorporated. (I almost always have some that hides on the bottom of the mixer.)
Cover and let chill for 2 to 3 hours. Meanwhile, unwrap the snickers bars. (Try to control yourself and save them for stuffing into the cookies. Your patience will be rewarded!)
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300°F.
Scoop the dough into generous 1 Tbsp. balls. Flatten the ball, and put a mini Snickers into the center of the flattened dough. Wrap the sides up around the bar, and smoosh it (a technical term) over the top of the candy so it is sealed on all sides. Be sure there are no cracks for Snickers goodness to leak out!
Place on a well-greased or parchment-lined (I prefer the parchment) baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and candy bars, spacing the cookies 2-inches apart.
Bake for 12-18 minutes, until the edges are set and the cookie looks puffy.
Let cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack (they will deflate and crack a bit as they cool). Let them cool completely. If desired, melt the melting chocolate or chocolate chips and drizzle over the top of the cookies in whatever design you like. (A fork works well for me as a drizzling implement.)
Store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

5-Ingredient Butternut Squash Soup

Happy New Year! We had a wonderful holiday season visiting family and friends, and we are glad to be back home in our own beds. We brought the snow with us from Utah to Western Oregon, though, and they simply do not know what to do with it here. School is cancelled for the second day in a row when all that covers the ground is 1/2 an inch of slush! I just shake my head at the whole situation, really. And cry a little because I really want my kid, who missed school before the winter break because of illness, by the way, to go to school and spend some time finding entertainment and knowledge from someone who is not me. I know all you stay-at-home parents can feel me on that one, am I right?

Stuck inside with nothing to do but laugh at people who cannot function in wintry conditions, what's a girl to do?
Well, naturally, make soup is the obvious answer. I've been making this for over two years now and I can't believe I haven't shared it here yet. I've tweaked it and played with it until it comes out right every time. The trick is to start with less liquid than you think you need. Let the squash steam until it basically falls apart, then whiz it all up and add more liquid if you want it less thick. This is my favorite soup. Favorite. It is so easy, especially if you get the 2 lb. pack of pre-cut squash from Costco, as I often do.  It's smooth and silky even if you don't want to add the cream, and so filling. If you want something on the side, it's great with cheesy panini. Or a salad, I suppose -- it's January, right? So I guess a salad. (But we'll all be dreaming about the cheesy panini while we munch down our greens.)

Butternut Squash Soup

2 Tbsp. butter
1 c. diced onion
2 lbs. butternut squash, cut into medium chunks
2 - 4 c. chicken stock
1/8 tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. cream (optional but highly recommended)

Melt butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt, and saute until translucent. Add butternut squash and 2 c. chicken stock. Bring to a bubble, then reduce heat and let simmer, covered, for 15 or 20 minutes, until squash is so tender you can mash it easily with a wooden spoon. (Really, it should be disintegrating.)
Remove from heat and puree until smooth (I use my immersion blender, but you can use whatever you have on hand in the way of a blender or food processor). If desired, add more chicken stock to thin. Grate in nutmeg and add salt and pepper to taste. If desired, stir in cream and taste again. Adjust seasoning as needed. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

THE BEST Pumpkin Pie

Pump. Kin. Pie!!!!!!! I get excited about it right around September, but not just any pumpkin pie. I mean. I don't mean to sound as snobby as I am, but keep that Costco giganto monstrosity away from me.
That is not what I'm talking about when I say I like pumpkin pie.

I know you're all sick of emphatic statements like THE BEST Pumpkin Pie. Well I'm sorry, kind of, but I can't curb my enthusiasm for this pie. Can't. Won't. Etc.

My mother takes her pumpkin pie very, very seriously. (Hmmmm... wonder where I get it from...) Only my grandmother's will do. My grandmother isn't cheffy or particularly gourmet -- she uses the recipe from the back of the Libby's Pumpkin can. Which is a good recipe, but between you and me, this one is just so much better! If I tell you my mother likes it even better than Grandma's she will disavow all knowledge of such a statement, so I won't tell you that. Can't. Won't. Etc.

I think what I love most about it is the simplicity of the ingredients. Okay, I'm lying. What I love most about it is how it tastes, particularly the day after Thanksgiving. For breakfast. With whipped cream. While I listen to some Nat King Cole. And shake my head at all those crazies out there doing the Black Friday thing.


But the ingredients are simple and pure and completely delicious. Use the best quality ingredients you can find, and feel free to make your own pumpkin puree -- it's not hard and makes your pies something extra special. Use any crust recipe you like. Here's my favorite: All Butter Really Flaky Pie Dough. Bookmark that. Seriously. And use a good, fresh spice blend. I like Penzey's or to mix up my own using this recipe: Pumpkin Spice Blend.

I also love the texture. This is creamy and almost silky, but only if you don't overbake it. So watch it carefully to avoid that yucky, grainy, terrible thing that so many pumpkin pies have going on. Yes, I'm looking at you, Costco monster pie. You're the worst.

But give this recipe a shot. It's as simple as it can be, and definitely worth a special place at your Thanksgiving table!

Maple Spice Pumpkin Pie
recipe from the incomparable Aimee at Simple Bites

1 prepared, unbaked 9" pie crust
4 eggs
1 c. heavy cream
1 1/4 c. pumpkin puree (homemade, if you have it!)
2/3 c. pure maple syrup (NOT pancake syrup. Make sure it's the real stuff.)
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pumpkin spice blend
Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350F. Keep the pie crust chilling in the refrigerator while you work on the pumpkin filling.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream until well blended. Add the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, vanilla, salt and spice blend to the pie filling and combine well.
Remove crust from the fridge and put it on the middle rack of the oven. Slide the rack out a couple of inches and pour the filling into the pie shell. Slowly, slide the oven rack back into place, being very careful not to spill the filling onto the bottom of the oven.**
Check pie after about 30 minutes and rotate, if necessary, to ensure even baking.
When the center of the pie has puffed up, and jiggles only slightly when the pan is moved, the pie is ready. This will take about one hour.
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. When cooled to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve. (Up to three days in the fridge if well covered.)
Pie may also be well-wrapped and frozen for up to 8 weeks.

**If there is extra filling,you can pour it into a couple of ramekins and bake alongside your pie until set (they will set quicker than the pie, by virtue of the fact that they are smaller). Chill them, top with whipped cream and enjoy them as pumpkin custard. For breakfast. You have my permission.

PS: Double this recipe. I mean it! You'll want more than one.