Monday, March 31, 2014

Four Edible Plants You Can "Recycle" By Growing Again

So I had some trouble with the title of this post. I mean, what was I supposed to call it? 
1. "Four Plants You Can Grow From Nubs"
2. "Four Plants You Can Buy at the Grocery Store and Then Grow from the Leftover Remains" 
3. "Four Plants You Can Grow Not From Seed Because You're Going to Buy the plants from the Store and Then Sort of Recycle Them by Growing Another Plant" (yeah, that was a good one)
4. "Save Money by Growing Plants You Already Bought" (kind of like that one actually)
5. "Science Monday: Regrow Your Herbs and Vegetables"

You can see the problem here, but the point really is rather beautiful. You can buy these vegetables and herbs and then you can plant part of their remains and get more plants. Of course this saves money (sometimes those herbs can be really expensive). It also provides a good snow day activity to do with your kids. It also provides the starter for that nice little window sill herb garden you've been dreaming of. And finally, it's the perfect solution if you, like me, cannot seem to grow green onions from seed even though it should be crazy easy, but you simply cannot do it even in the spring/summer so you just keep trying and failing and then you have to buy a big bunch at the store so you can use, like, half a green onion for your soup and then... (Now that is what I should have titled this piece.) So it was finally a great way for me to get my green onions. And, although I've never had trouble growing basil from seed in the spring, I haven't ever been able to do it in the winter, but if you use a leftover bit of herb, you can grow basil in the winter and plant it in an indoor pot. 

Maybe this doesn't appeal to you. Maybe you consider this the type of crazy-talk that Pinterest posts are so famous for. Well, then, I can only hope that this gets re-pinned two jillion times like so many of those crazy-talk pins. 

1. Green Onions

Use the green onion. Save the bottom part--the white part with the root (or where the root once was).

(You'll use this top part in some cooking of course.)

Put this root end down in a pot with very wet potting soil (keep that soil really wet until this starts to sprout up).

You won't completely bury it--the top will show.

Soon it will sprout up. (Unless it rots, which did happen with one or two of mine, but I still got further than I've ever gotten with seed.) You can see a sprouted onion there in the back corner.

When it's grown, clip off the green onion and use it and it will regrow again from the nub left in the pot. It will do this a time or two, but be thinner each time. And then it will eventually poop out. Or at least mine always have. Still, this trick keeps me in onions for a while.

2. Basil.

Save a sprig of your basil. Put this in a vase like you would if it was a cut flower.

After a while it will start to sprout roots. When it's good and rooty, put it in a pot on the windowsill. Naturally I have never remembered to take a picture of my basil when it was good and rooty, so here is one from the internet. This blogger (thanks amykathryn) used a bunch of basil, but just a stem is necessary. Someday I will actually remember to take a picture...

3. Celery. My friend recently did celery. It's another plant I can't dream of growing from seed, but look what happens when you put a stump in a bowl of shallow water:

This is how it looks after two weeks. I'm totally trying this one.

4. Romaine Lettuce. This one's a bonus. I've never tried this or had a friend try it, but was enchanted by the idea and will try it next time I get a head of romaine (another thing I just can't seem to grow from seed). So go here if you want to try romaine. Thank you P's and Q's. Just like the celery, you put the nub from the romaine in a bowl of shallow water, set it by a sunny window and it will regrow. It's like magic.

As for my window sill pots (pictured up top), they were a gift from my sister. They are made from rice hulls and very pretty. I'm not sure where she got them (psst--she just told me she got them from West Elm), but I found some on Amazon. They were not intensely cheap on Amazon, but are awesomely cool since they last several years and then biodegrade. However a perfectly good window sill garden could be done with cheap terra cotta pots or whatever you've got. For indoor plants, you should use an indoor potting soil.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Pasta with Yogurt Pea Sauce

 Okay, so I struggled with the title of this dish. I mean, if you were trying to get your kids to not eat the food you made, you'd probably be like, "Hey kids, want some pasta with mashed pea and yogurt sauce. Also I plan to throw on some pine nuts with chili oil." And then they'd run to their rooms screaming about calling CPS to report abuse and you could just eat in peace. So I admit that on some levels this title is just not the greatest, but then on the other hand you get to eat your meal in happy silence. Well, until CPS gets there of course.

Seriously, my kids did not like this. And, seriously, I didIt was simple, yet slightly sophisticated--the chili-ed pine nuts adding some heat, which was a nice foil for the creamy pasta. It was delicious, yet nutritious. It was delightfully well-rounded. Maybe that word is taboo in this vegan/paleo/gluten-free world, but I still find it refreshing to occasionally serve a dish that's got all my food groups just sitting there being grown-up and awesome together. Also, who doesn't like a meal thrown together in 30 minutes.

If the kid thing is an issue, I should tell you that if you slop a bunch of spaghetti sauce onto this to try to cover it up, that's actually pretty good--kind of a creamy tomato sauce. On the other hand, if you'd like to be even more grown up, I think that this would also be wonderful with some sun-dried tomatoes spooned on top, or maybe some roasted red peppers. And if you want to serve it aside some grilled chicken, well, more power to you.

Pasta with Yogurt Pea Sauce
adapted from Orangette
makes 6-8 servings
Prep/Cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $9.50 (This is kind of pricey for a pasta dish, but it's still only about $1.50/plate. Also, this was cheaper for us, since my yogurt only cost me about .50 and my basil was free and I used fewer pine nuts than called for--so we spent only about maybe $6.50 or about $1.00/serving)
yogurt (ours was way cheap because I did homemade, so I'm guessing on a store bought price here): 3.00, olive oil: .70, peas: 1.30, past: 1.00, basil (again I get mine for free since I have a bunch frozen, so this is a guess): 1.00, feta: 2.00, pine nuts: .50

-I halved this as I so often do with dishes I'm worried my kids will hate (I love me a good leftover, but 6 days of leftovers is a little much even for me).
-Also, to cheapen this a bit, you can reduce the amount of pine nuts/olive oil or try using a cheaper nut like almond slivers (or go nut free and use sunflower seeds). And I think you could totally get away with using less cheese. I think you could also use regular plain yogurt instead of Greek yogurt, though you may want to use only 2 C since it will be runnier.

2 1/2 C whole-milk Greek yogurt
2/3 C olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic
1 pound fresh or thawed frozen peas, divided
1 pound pasta (preferably a smallish pasta)
scant 1/2 C pine nuts
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes (or a chili flake)
1 2/3 C basil leaves, torn (or a few Tbsp pesto if you've got it)
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Get your pasta cooking. Boil some water, add a good dose of salt, and then add your pasta and follow the cooking instructions.

As the pasta cooks, get out your food processor. In a food processor (or possibly a good blender), combine yogurt, 6 Tbsp olive oil, garlic, and 2/3 C peas. Process to a smooth green sauce. Put this into a serving bowl.

Warm the remaining oil in a small frying pan on medium or medium low heat. Add pine nuts and red pepper flakes. Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally until the pine nuts begin to brown. Your oil may turn red, which would be pretty, but mine didn't.

Also, warm up your remaining peas.

Drain pasta and add it gradually to the yogurt sauce. You've got to add it gradually. If you add it all at once, your yogurt could separate (and then your kids really won't eat it). Add the peas, the basil, feta, and 1 tsp salt. Toss/mix gently.

Serve and spoon a spoonful of the pine nuts and chili oil onto each serving.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Coconut Cake with White Chocolate Frosting

Several years ago, I made the best coconut cake I've ever made for a friend. Unfortunately, I made it with a Swiss buttercream frosting, which I since realized is my nemesis (bleh--butter with a tiny bit of sugar= toast, not cake).

I didn't forget about that cake (it was really good), but I didn't make it again in order to experiment with frostings because Kip and Mark don't like coconut and as awesome as cake is, I rarely want to make one that I primarily consume by myself. So I didn't make this again for a couple years. Fortunately for me, my sister-in-law was looking for a good coconut cake. I gave her this recipe and she topped it with a white chocolate frosting, which I realized was the perfect pairing for this cake. This frosting walks the line between white chocolate ganache and regular frosting, and is positively delicious. It's perfect cake. Also, it's gorgeous.

And then, as fate would have it, we were having a baby shower for a friend of mine who does like coconut and I thought this white cake with mounds of pretty pink coconut would be just the thing. It was.

Coconut Layer Cake with White Chocolate Frosting
adapted from The New Best Recipe
makes 2 layers
Prep time: 20 minutes for cake, 10 minutes for frosting, 2 minutes for coconut
Cook time: 30 minutes for cake, plus several hours of cool time before you can frost
Cost: cake--$2.90, frosting: $5.45, coconut: .60. Total: $9.00
cake--flour: .25, eggs: .60, cream of coconut: 1.00, extracts, etc.: .30, butter: .75
frosting--white chocolate chips: 5.00 (ouch, I know--go with plain vanilla frosting if you want to cheapen it), milk: .15, powdered sugar: .30
coconut: .60

A few notes:
-Cream of coconut is sort of like sweetened condensed milk, only with coconut instead of cow's milk. It can usually be found int he liquor aisle since it is often used for making pina coladas.
-If you're looking for a killer white cake but don't want coconut, my sister-in-law says she subbed sour cream for the coconut cream and more vanilla for the coconut extract and turned out a delicious white cake. I haven't done this, but she's a pretty great cake maker.
-If you just want regular frosting, this vanilla butter frosting also rocks this cake
-How to use all those extra egg yolks? If you're not interested in a yolk-heavy omelette (yum), I'd recommend a good pudding.
-How to use the rest of your cream of coconut? We made a smoothie with 2 C frozen strawberries, milk, 1/2 banana, and a good scoop of coconut cream and it was to die for.


2 1/4 C flour (cake flour or all-purpose)
1 large egg, plus 5 egg whites
3/4 C cream of coconut
1/4 C water
1 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 C sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces


Note: This cake is also delicious with this vanilla frosting.

Note: You should use a high quality white chocolate for this to work well. Cheap white chocolate isn't really chocolate at all (white chocolate contains the butterfat from cocao). My cheap ones were actually called "hite baking chips" when I looked closely at the bag.

2 bags high quality white chocolate
about 1 C milk
3-4 C powdered sugar

Pink coconut:

1-2 C sweetened shredded coconut
a few drops red food coloring

For the cake:

Heat oven to 325.

Grease two 9-inch cake pans. Then cut out a round of wax paper (or parchment paper) and put this in the bottom of your cake pan. Then grease that. [Do you have to do the whole wax/parchment paper thing? No. But it will make your life so much less stressful when you go to turn that cake out. Totally worth the 5 minutes.]

In a small bowl, beat large egg and egg whites with a fork. Add cream of coconut, water, coconut extract, and vanilla and beat with a fork until combined.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl (or stand mixer bowl). Add butter, one piece at a time, and beat until the mixture resembles coarse meal with butter bits no larger than small peas.

With the mixer still running (if you're coordinated enough; if not, life will go on) add about 1 C of the coconut cream/egg mixtures. Beat until combined. Then add the rest of the coconut cream/egg mixture and beat until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. You'll have a fairly thick batter. Usually I don't trust thick cake batters, but this one totally works.

Divide batter between cake pans and mix.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick/fork/large handsaw/whatever comes out clean or with a few moist (but not raw) crumbs clinging to it.

Let cool for 10 minutes in pans. Then turn out to cool on a rack or parchment paper lined plates/countertop. [This is the type of instruction I ignored when I was learning to make cakes. Don't. If you leave those cakes in there for hours, they will be VERY hard to turn out.]

For the frosting:

Combine white chocolate and milk in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 30 second intervals, mixing in between. Eventually it will start to come together into a runny, creamy mixture. If it is very thick (mine wasn't), add more milk. (This takes longer for me than when I use chocolate chocolate chips.)

Let this cool for a few minutes and beat. It will thicken somewhat, but it won't whip up like regular chocolate ganaches do. That's why we're going to add some powdered sugar.

Starting with 2 C, add the powdered sugar and beat. Taste. Is is sweet enough? Is it thick enough to frost a cake? I needed to add more to get the right consistency, but it may vary somewhat depending on what type of white chocolate chips you use. Add more powdered sugar in 1/2 C intervals and beat well. It will be somewhat thick--you want it thick enough not to drip off your cake. Also, remember that if it is warm, it will thicken as it cools.

To assemble your cake:

Put one layer on a cake holder or large plate. Frost with white chocolate ganache. If it seems like it will squish out when you top it with the second layer, throw it in the fridge for a few minutes so that it will harden up.

Add next layer of cake and frost the top.

Then frost the sides.

(Note: I hope I've given you enough frosting. Truth be told, I did the cupcakes pictured above with 1/2 of this white chocolate frosting recipe and I made a mini (6-inch cake), which I frosted with my vanilla frosting.)

Another random note: I think this would be super amazing with vanilla frosting in between the layers and then the ganache on the top and sides. Oh, yes, I do. But that's more work and I get it if you don't want to mess with it.

For the coconut:

Put the coconut in a Ziploc bag. Add a few drops of food coloring. Squish and shake it around. It will turn color. Fun, right!

Put this on the top of your cake while the ganache is still soft enough. If you wait till the ganache sets, your coconut won't stick.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chocolate Banana Blender "Ice Cream"

If you have any presence on Pinterest at all, you've surely seen the "One Ingredient Banana Ice Cream" or perhaps the "Two Ingredient Banana Chocolate Ice Cream." These consist of frozen bananas blended in a food processor until they're creamy and ice-cream-esque.

It seemed like a great idea, so I set out to make my own. However--perhaps because my food processor is insufficient or perhaps because my taste buds are too accustomed to regular ice cream--these didn't work for me. My bananas never got to the fully creamy state--they were always a little chunky and so then my concoction just tasted like a "Frozen Banana That Somebody Whacked Up and Put in a Bowl" or "Frozen Banana That Somebody Whacked Up and Put in a Bowl with Cocoa Powder Mixed In." Obviously neither of these was really rocking my world.

 So then I added some peanut butter and a then a bit of Nutella. I thought this would do the trick, but when they met with the frozen banana, they seized up and the mixture got really thick (and still not creamy). So then I gave up on veganism (though not quite on healthiness) and dropped in a bit of homemade Greek yogurt. And badabing badabam. It worked. Not only worked, but it was really really delicious. Really Really. And we added sprinkles for fun.

 (Also, you could add spinach and never taste it, but it will make this a slightly odd color that your kids might not go for.)

I toyed with the idea of calling this "sugar free" even though bananas clearly have sugar in them. Yet there are no other "added" sugars--either of the processed white sugar variety or the natural honey/maple syrup types, so I still think "sugar-free" works pretty well to describe this. You can add a bit of Nutella if you have it, but you can totally love this without that too.

Chocolate Banana Blender "Ice Cream"
adapted from all those internet recipes for banana "ice cream"
Serves 4-6 smallish servings
Prep time: 7 minutes
Cost: $1.05
bananas: .55, cocoa: .15, peanut butter: .10, Greek yogurt: .25 (or much cheaper if you make your own)

3-4 frozen ripe bananas (in chunks or slices)
3-4 Tbsp cocoa
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1-2 Tbsp Nutella (optional)
2-4 Tbsp thick Greek yogurt

Use a food processor or fairly nice blender. Blend bananas until they're chopped up pretty well. Add cocoa, peanut butter, Nutella (if using), and give it a few pulses--it'll get really thick, (so don't go and ruin the motor on your food processor or anything). Add Greek yogurt and pulse until mixture becomes smooth and creamy. I had to stop occasionally to mix my mixture because at first it would clump up in a ball, so I'd take a spoon and sort of redistribute the mixture and then pulse/blend some more. Eventually it got itself going and blended into a thick, smooth delicious concoction.

Eat. With sprinkles if you like to dance with the devil.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Truffles for Dummies

Today is my post for Secret Recipe Club. This month I had Sid's Sea Palm Cooking. I'd been planning on making her yogurt biscuits for weeks. But then we ate all our yogurt and then I took my sweet time making and/or buying more. So I started to look where I always look when I need a default recipe--the sweet stuff. Sid's got several delicious recipes I'd like to try including several Danish recipes. I have a strong streak of Swedish ancestry and those Scandinavian dishes always tempt me a bit. But what I settled on will be less of a shock for all of you--Truffles Truffles Truffles. They were just so easy and so good. It was ridiculous. Also--super cute. Perfect for a party or a little gift for a friend.  As you know, our family loves chocolate. And I think that the truffle may be my favorite of all. It's creamy and chocolatey of course. But it's also small. I have a deep and twisted (well, not really that twisted; I just like them a lot) thing for small desserts.

You'll notice I covered some in pink coconut. That's because I made a baby shower cake last week and had leftover coconut, but I was thinking that you could totally go green on the coconut for St. Patrick's Day.

Here's what you do:
-Just add some sweetened coconut to a Ziploc bag.
-Add 1-2 drops green (or whatever color) food coloring.
-Then shake the bag around and voila. Happy St. Patrick's Day

Truffles for Dummies
adapted from Sid's Sea Palm Cooking
Makes: about 20 smallish truffles
Prep time: 10 minutes
Eat time: 12 seconds
Cost: $1.40 (that's about $.07/truffle)
chocolate: .90, cream: .25, dusting cocoa: .25

4 oz chocolate, chopped (or chips) (I used 60% Ghiradelli, which is my favorite, but you can use semi-sweet or even white chocolate instead--be sure to use good quality white chocolate or it won't work)
4 oz cream
cocoa for dusting, or chopped nuts or coconut or mints or powdered sugar or whatever

Heat your cream until almost boiling. Pour over chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes. Then whisk together until smooth--it'll take a minute. This is a nice thick ganache. Now let it cool for several hours (at least three) in the fridge.

When you're ready to make the truffles, have whatever toppings prepared that you want to roll your truffles in (worst use of prepositions in a sentence ever--please forgive).

I used cocoa, coconut, raw cashews, and some powdered sugar (not pictured). On the bottom right is the chilled ganache, ready to be rolled.

Take your chilled ganache out and use a tiny scoop (I used a melon scoop, but a very small cookie scoop would have been better) to scoop it out. If you don't have a scoop, use a spoon or something and roll very quickly with your hands. It will be messy (but don't worry, you can lick your hands off at the end). Work quickly because it will melt into your hands. Don't worry about getting perfect circles--circular-ish things are fine. Drop those little balls into your dusting stations and roll them around. And then put them in the fridge to chill again if you wish. They'll stay solid at room temp, but I like them better straight out of the fridge--they're firmer.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Pi Day: My Favorite Chocolate Pie

I've always meant to make a pie on pi day. And I've always forgotten. But this year I realized (finally) that it was also my friend's birthday and I offered to make her a pie and that commitment kept me on track. Naturally I made us a pie too.

The sad thing about this is the slight amount of grief that was experienced in doing some simple math in the dividing of the two chocolate batters on a day brought about to celebrate math. At a certain point, Kip said, "Let me just get the calculator" and that offended me deeply. But we need not speak of that at this moment. Eventually my brain kicked in and I managed not to ruin anything (at least not that I know of). For now we celebrate pi and also Pie. Good-bye. (Note: We will also celebrate rhyming and also homophones.)

This is the pie I made. I've updated the post with a few more pictures.

I don't have tons of pies on this blog, but let me say that the ones I've got are good ones.

1. A very Chocolatey pie:


2. Vegan Pumpkin Pie:

3. Peanut Butter Pie: When I saw this picture, I swooned for the memory that is this pie.

4. The best traditional Pumpkin Pie I've found:

4. Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake Pie: This is a-maz-ing.

5. Not to be outdone by stupidly easy Chocolate No Bake Pie (which needs a picture re-do I'm afraid):

6. But maybe you'd rather have pie for dinner. Onion Hater's Chicken Pot Pie:

7. And let's not forget Pie Crust 101:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Farro with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Tahini Dressing

So I've stopped hurling desserts at you. You miss them don't you. I know; I know. Everyone's just like, "That woman has a problem" and then when the Nutella-filled dessert items stop coming...

But don't miss them too much. Because some healthy foods are just so good and so deeply satisfying that they practically make you swoon in just the same way. There are many many great meals out there, but some of them just stumble into the realm of perfection--where the flavors balance perfectly and the textures balance perfectly and the flavors and textures meet and then balance perfectly again. This is one such meal. When I read about the tahini dressing, I thought, "Umm, I don't know; tahini is just so bitter." But seriously--it is the perfect balance to the sweet roasted potatoes and the chewy farro. I thought the pine nuts sounded amazing, but then I forgot them and it was still amazing. I'm sure it'd be doubly amazing with them. I mean, it's a perfect meal.

And if perfection isn't good enough for you, it's also vegan. And easy.

Farro is part of the wheat family. Per the bag my farro came in it comes from older varieties of wheat and is therefore something that even people with gluten intolerances can eat because it has not been modified (GMO-ed) over the generations. I hope that's true and it makes sense to me, but I can't promise anything. In a nutshell, farro comes from certain types of wheat (the whole portion of the wheat--it's a whole grain), but not just any wheat could be considered farro. When cooked it should be chewy and pleasantly toothsome. I got mine from my sister in D.C. You can order it online, but then it's a good deal more expensive. Mine was $6 for 3 pounds, which is a good price.

It can be a side or a main dish. It can be left very basic or pumped up with vegetables (I used asparagus in the picture above) or even chunks of chicken.

Farro with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Tahini Dressing
adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen
Serves: 8 as side dish portions; 4-6 otherwise
Prep and cook time: 20-25 minutes
Cost: $4.80 (That's just about $1.20/meal, but you can cheapen it further by leaving out the pine nuts as I accidentally did--it was still awesome)
sweet potatoes: .75, farro: 2.00, stock: .40, pine nuts: 1.50, other stuff: .15

Note: Okay, I get that farro is weird. It's actually wheat. And it's amazing. If you don't have it you could use barley, which will take longer to cook (or even brown rice in a pinch). But truly the farro is something special. Try it if you can.

2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice (about 4 C total--I probably had a little less than this)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper
2 C farro (I don't know if you can even buy this locally, but you can order it online)
4 C vegetable stock (or chicken broth)
1/2 C toasted pine nuts
sliced green onion for garnish


1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp Tahini
1/2-3/4 tsp salt
dash pepper
1/4 C olive oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat the diced sweet potatoes in olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper. Spread on a cookie sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, tossing/mixing them every 10 minutes or so. You want them to have some good color on the sides by which I mean at least one or two sides should be more brown than orange, even though that can be scary, but it creates a caramelized-type flavor that is unbeatable.

While they're roasting, cook your farro. To do this, put the broth into a pot and heat it. Add the farro. Stir and let it simmer, uncovered for about 15-20 minutes (depending on the type of farro you have, this could take longer--it comes in different sizes). You can stir it occasionally. When done, it should be chewy, but not crunchy. If there's any broth left, pour it out.

When the sweet potatoes are ready, add them to the farro.

Then make your dressing. To do that, just mix all those dressing ingredients.

If you happen to remember, toast your pine nuts. You can do this by tossing them in a hot skillet and stirring them around for a minute or two. Or (if you don't want to dirty another pan) you can put them on the cookie sheet and back in the oven, stirring them every minute or two until they're lightly browned and aromatic.

Add the pine nuts to your farro/sweet potatoes. Then pour the dressing on, mix it up, and garnish with green onions.

You can add other vegetables if you wish. I've made it with and without the asparagus and loved both.

I also think that if you'd like to un-vegan it, chunks of chicken would be delicious with it.

We served it as a side for burgers and I found it so good I could have skipped the burger.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Pizza Buns

Why is it so fun to take a pizza, roll it up, cut it, cook it, and then serve it as pizza buns? I don't know, but it is. I can't quite stress to you the funness and I'm surprised it didn't occur to me sooner. I admit that it takes a tiny bit more work and adds more time to the task. And yet, it's just fun. Sometimes cute ideas are just cute (like when people/bloggers cut tiny burrito shells, which they put in muffin tins and then fill and then cook instead of just wrapping up the dumb burrito and eating it already). But this one also has a practical side. I originally came across this idea under a "what to send for school lunch" category. And it is good for that. My kids don't seem to mind them cold (I guess kids eat Lunchables cold too right) and as lunches they're cute, compact, and hand-holdable (by which I mean that you can hold them in your hand, not that someone will hold your hand if you eat one, although maybe if you share one...) But anyway, they're good for school lunches. And they're good for playground dates or anywhere where you want to grab something quick and ready for your kid to eat. Though truthfully, I liked them best when they were hot. Bread, melty cheese and a bit of sauce all wrapped up and ready to go. They were fun to dip in marinara (or Ranch--Kip's favorite). They were just fun.

And they weren't much harder than pizza. But here I have to warn you that they did take longer than pizza. The dough must rise twice and that added a good 30 minutes to my prep time. Then they take a bit longer to cook as well. So while making them isn't harder than making pizza (well, not much), you should start them 2-2 1/2 hours before you want to eat unless you want to walk around your house with a starving child hanging to your leg and weeping hysterically. Although, hey, if that's your thing, you can totally start them whenever you want.

Pizza Buns
adapted from Simple As That
Makes 24-30 (or so) buns
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Rise time: 1 1/2 hours (1 hour first rise; 30 minutes 2nd rise)
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $3.25
flour: .50, sauce: .25, cheese: 2.00, pepperoni: .40, other stuff: .10

Note: You can use any pizza dough you normally would as long as it's not excessively sticky. You're going to need to roll these up after all.

1 1/2 C warm water
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2-4 1/2 C flour (I used about 1 1/2 C whole wheat and the rest all-purpose)

Combine water, sugar, yeast, and salt. Mix.

Start with 2 C flour. Add and mix with a spoon. Gradually continue to add flour in 1/2 C increments, mixing as you go. When you get to the point that you can no longer mix, turn it out to need it. On a well floured surface need away until it's just barely tacky and soft and supple when you handle it (like a nice pillow of dough). (Or you can use a Kitchenaid if that's your thing.)

Let rise 1 hour.

Roll this out. I rolled mine into two rectangles.

Cover with pizza sauce (or pesto or whatever floats your boat). Add toppings that are chopped into smallish bits (we used pepperoni cut up into smaller bits) and plenty of cheese. Don't go and be all skimpy with the cheese. If you use too little your dough will poof out as this rises, then bakes and you'll be like "Where's the cheese?" So use close to as much as you would on a normal pizza.

(I wish I'd added more cheese than this.)

Now roll it up longways. Then cut into rounds with a very sharp knife.

Put those into a well-greased pan. I used a 9x13 and then an 8x8 (that's a lie--I used a weird sized pan for my second batch, but an 8x8 would have worked much better).

Let rise another 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes until they're just starting to get some color and they're no longer doughy in the middle (sometimes if I'm not sure I violently pull one away from itself to check, but usually if the tops are browning, you're good.

Serve with a dipping sauce if you like evil and a nice salad if you don't.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Creamy Cheese Potato Soup

So apparently winter is not over. I'm more okay with it than a lot of people. I like to believe that this is because I'm flexible and adaptable and a good sport about stuff. In reality it's because I think I might start to cry if I have to start weeding again (those weeds really gave me a butt-kicking last year). 

My own sad laziness aside, there's plenty to love about winter. Only this morning, my sweet Emma said, "Mom, the snow is sparkling." As indeed it was. Then there's our wood-burner, which I'm planning to marry if anything happens to Kip. And soup. There's always soup. 

I really like potato soup. Kip, however, is usually pretty meh about it. So I've tried jazzing it up in a bunch of different ways (bacon, people, bacon), and he eats it and he's fine with it, but until I prepared this super easy, creamy soup for our Christmas party, I hadn't really found one that made him call dibs on the leftovers. The best news is that this is the easiest of the lot. There's not even a roux. You boil potatoes (and a bit of onion) in chicken broth. You add cream cheese and a bit of cream. And then some salt and pepper if you need it. You mash it up, so that it's in little chunks, not big ones. And you're done. Yeah. It sounds too easy right. Bland. Boring. Nope. It's really very delicious. And if you are a bit more daring than my husband (doesn't take too much in the food department), it provides the perfect (truly perfect) canvas for you to go all rogue. You can add kale or spinach, colorful peppers, carrots, corn, sweet paprika, onions. Crazy kinds of cheese. And I think we all know that there's always room for bacon. But if you want to keep it completely simple you can and not be embarrassed to serve it to guests. Also, I haven't tried it yet, but I'm 99% sure that this would be a cinch in the crock pot as well, since it's already a throw-it-all-in recipe. 

We had it with this bread and garnished it with a bit of cheese. 

Creamy Potato Soup
adapted from Rose Bakes
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Serves:  a lot of people. I usually halve it, but as is, it should serve 12-16 people
Cost: $7.00 (or about $.50/serving)
potatoes: 3.00, broth: 1.00 (this is for cubes or granules), onion: .05, cream cheese: 2.00, whipping cream: 1.00

10-12 C chicken broth
6 lb red potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 C onion, finely diced
1/2-1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 8-oz blocks of cream cheese
1 C whipping cream
salt and pepper to taste

Heat your broth while peeling and cutting your potatoes and onion (you can also use onion powder if you or a loved one suffer from pieces-of-onion-aversion-intolerance-syndrome). Add salt and pepper to broth. (I'd start with only 1/2 tsp salt and add more later if you need more.)

Throw the potatoes and onion in the broth and let it boil gently until the potatoes are soft. 

Mash the potatoes. You can make it smoother or chunkier depending on your preferences (and whether or not you or your loved ones suffer from low-chunky-tolerance-disorder--or LCTD for short--or not). 

Add the cream cheese (cut it up if you'd like--it makes it a little easier to incorporate). Stir it into the potatoes until it's smooth and incorporated. Add cream. 

Simmer this soup for 20-30 more minutes, stirring occasionally (so it doesn't stick to the bottom of your pot). 

Taste and adjust seasonings. 

Garnish with cheese, green onions, bacon bits, or whatever you like. 



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