sea change


Sometimes in life the tides change and you’re tossed in new directions. For this little family September has been one manic month, and the seas are definitely tossing us about.

The first wave: Dave was hired for an amazing new job, for which I am incredibly proud. He’s excited and nervous and more animated than I’ve ever seen him. It’s a big opportunity, but unfortunately it means he needs to spend some time away from home to train at corporate. I’m going to be single parenting for a few weeks. Gifts of cookies, wine and babysitters are highly encouraged.

The other exciting news is that I’ve become an aunt. My dear brother and his wife welcomed their sweet baby boy Ryker much, much earlier than expected. She was rushed into an emergency c-section at 34 weeks, but everyone is now happy and healthy. Ryker needs a bit more time in the NICU before he can head home with mom and dad, but he’s growing like a champ. We’re headed to California soon to meet the little one and spend time with my brother and sister.

On top of everything I’m dealing with some health problems that have been no fun at all. They call it “Chronic Migraine” but I call it “Syndrome that Baffles Every Medical Professional and Makes Jenny Want to Lobotomize Herself.” I essentially have a pounding headache all day, every day. I’m at my wit’s end and no one seems to be able to help. If you have any experience with chronic migraine, I’d love to hear tips (at this point if you told me that running around Husky Stadium buck naked would be the cure, I’d do it in a heartbeat).

Long story short, I need to take some time off from this blog. Normally it’s my lifeline; my night and weekend hobby that keeps me sane. But a break is in order so I can focus solely on the kids while their Dad is gone. Also any spare time I do have needs to be channeled into my other baby, Will Bake for Food, in order to make it the rousing success we need it to be (if you’re interested in helping out, shoot me an email).

I hope you have a calm September and a sane start to your October. I’ll be back soon. And in the meantime, surf the recipe index or find me on Twitter or Facebook. And send wine. Lots and lots of wine.

 

creative kid snacks

The other day Dave and I were wrangling Lucy at the drug store.

Daddy, look at THIS! I want it!” 

“Mommy, it’s pink! It’s CINDERELLA SHAMPOO! Can I drink it?” 

“I NEED THIS TOW MATER BALL! NO I DON’T WANT TOW MATER I WANT LIGHTENING McQUEEN!” 

Dave looks at me. “Why is marketing so damn effective for kids? They are the biggest suckers for advertising EVER.”

It’s true. If you want to see a toddler meltdown, tell them they can’t have that Thomas the Train frisbee. As parents, it’s incredibly frustrating. Sometimes I feel like the companies responsible are suckering me out of my money because they know a pink princess potty will work for toilet training. They know a Dora water bottle will get Little Miss Picky to drink more liquids. They know a Hello Kitty Band Aid will calm the crying after a scraped knee. And even if your kid has never watched television, they somehow know who all these cartoon characters are. Gah!

But what I’ve come to realize is that gimmicks work because kids just don’t want things to be boring. They want something they can identify with, something that’s fun. So as parents, we can totally use this to our advantage.

Take snacking, for example. I have a heck of a time getting Lucy to snack healthy. I’ve tried every trick in the book and she still whines for granola bars and goldfish. But if I make snacks fun—give her an activity within the snack—it works like a charm.

I give you the Peanut Butter Fishin’ Hole. Stick pretzels in a lake of peanut butter (hippie peanut butter—natural with no added sugar), surrounded by dried blueberries.

The sticky peanut butter allows your little one to “fish” for blueberries. I guarantee you’ll hear “Mom! I got one!” over and over. Lucy even asks for this one for breakfast.

Her other favorite? The Hummus Hut. Get architectural with some thick hummus, a few baby carrots and some snap peas.

If your kid’s imagination is anything like Lucy’s, they’ll be making up stories about who lives in the house (for her, it’s a monkey and a sock), how they water the garden, where they park the car, what they eat for dinner…and then their humble abode will be munched to pieces. Poor little hut dwellers.

It’s also fun to make hummus cars using olives or grape tomatoes as wheels. Zoom, zoom.

And the last member of my creative snack arsenal is Nutella Builders. Cut up fruit into different shapes and sizes, add a dollop of Nutella and break apart a few graham crackers.

Give your tiny snacker a child-safe knife for spreading the Nutella (or let them use their fingers if you like) and then watch them get creative with the fruit. Clearly I’m not as inspired as my toddler because I made a happy face. Lucy has been known to create puppies, hospitals and motorcycles. If you don’t have Nutella it’s easy to substitute cream cheese, peanut butter, or even hummus with crackers and chopped veggies.

Your little one doesn’t want anything to be dull, so let them use a little creative energy during snack time. You might even be able to steer them toward healthier, whole foods. Steering them away from that Disney Princess Halloween costume, however? Sorry. Can’t help you there.

What are your tricks to get kids to snack healthy?

 

mint thins, and a giveaway

*Contest Closed*

As a food blogger, you get offered a lot of odd things for free. My all-time favorite? Kangaroo meat. I wish I were joking.

It’s every blogger’s own decision whether to accept swag or not. Personally, I believe that my blog is all mine, and I don’t do any sponsored posts here. If companies want to send me something, I’m cool with it. I just don’t promise to write about it.

My other rule of thumb is that when I receive things that I honestly do like—things that I would recommend to you all—I have to give them away to you guys. That’s why I’m excited to be handing over this great cookbook from Quirk Books, and a little bummed that I’m not keeping it for myself.

The Cookiepedia by Stacy Adimando (who also writes for Serious Eats), is yes, you guessed it—an cookie encyclopedia. It’s cute and colorful and full of tips for churning out perfect cookies. I do believe this cookbook was tailor made for me.

There are recipes for chocolate lovers.

Recipes for ambitious bakers.

Pretty photos to gaze at even if you don’t bake at all. And if you love to bake, there are recipes for every cookie under the sun, from buttery to spicy to fruity.

I even found a recipe for one of my all-time favorites: mint thins. Or in Girl Scout land, the über popular “Thin Mints.”

It would be irresponsible of me to not test out a recipe from the book before handing it over to one of you. So I just *had* to make them. And as it turns out, they weren’t as labor-intensive as I thought they would be. And worth every minute of preparation.

You begin by churning a thick, buttery dough in the mixer.

After letting it chill, you roll it out and cut into circles.

Bake, then dip in a blissful blend of chocolate and peppermint…

…and twiddle your thumbs as they cool.

In Lucy’s case, twiddle your tiny, very impatient thumbs.

Savor. Lick the melted chocolate from your fingers.

They are, in my approximate estimation, about 11,957 times better than the Girl Scout version. No offense, little ladies.

Try them for yourself using the recipe below. And if you want to try your hand at other types of cool cookies, enter to win The Cookiepedia in the comments. I’ll announce the winner next week!

Contest Rules

  1. To enter to win The Cookiepedia by Stacy Adimando, simply tell me in the comments: What is your favorite type of cookie?
  2. U.S. addresses only, please. I’m paying for the shipping myself, y’all. One entry per person.
  3. A magical random number winner picker computer thingie (that’s it’s technical name) will choose the winner next week.
And the winner is…
Karen! Karen said, “My favorite cookie is chocolate chip. Maybe a little boring but eating one while still warm from the oven with a glass of milk always makes me smile.” Karen, you’re my soul sister. Soul. Sister. I’ll be emailing you with the details. Thanks everyone for entering!

Mint Thins from The Cookiepedia by Stacy Adimando        printable version

Nobody you know will not come by when you say you’re baking homemade mint thins. (If they don’t so much as ask, consider defriending them immediately.) The question is: Do you want to share? The baking and dunking takes no time (especially if you taste as you go), but these bite-sized treats do hold up best (and taste yummiest) once the mint chocolate has had ample time to set. If you’re protective of your stash, store them in the freezer. They’re best with a chill anyway.

Preheat oven to 350F. Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

  • 1 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 c cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/4 c unsalted butter
  • 3/4 tsp peppermint flavor
1. Cream the butter until it’s light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and continue mixing, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the egg and vanilla extract. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture by halves, beating to incorporate after each addition.

2. Turn out the dough onto a clean surface and form it into a disk with your hands. Split the disk in half and place them in the fridge to firm up for 1 hour.

3. Working on a floured surface (you’ll need a decent amount, since the dough is sticky), roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thick. Shape the cookies using a 1 1/2-inch round cutter and place them on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, then let cool completely.

4. Break up the chocolate into a bowl and set it over a small pot of simmering water* (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Add the butter and the peppermint flavor and stir the mixture steadily until it’s fully melted and looks glossy and smooth. Remove the bowl and let the chocolate cool slightly.

5. One by one, drop the cookies in the chocolate, then scoop them out with a fork to let the excess drip off. (Tap the cookies against the side of the bowl to help drain the extra chocolate). Move them carefully to a wire rack or parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. When they’re all coated, move the sheet to the refrigerator or freezer to set.

*Note from RDG: If the chocolate gets too hot, it will harden. To reconstitute it, add a little vegetable oil and/or milk and stir until it comes back to a smooth consistency.

 

pulled pork enchiladas

Remember a few weeks ago when I revealed my secrets on how we eat well on the cheap? Well, this dish totally falls into that category. It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s delicious. Plus, it’s perfect for double batches. Double the recipe, freeze the second pan and save for a rainy day. Or, you know, a tuesday.

I love making enchiladas because they are so adaptable for every season. In the summer I love stuffing them with fresh corn and herbs. In the fall, they’re fun to make with roasted pumpkin. In the winter, sweet potatoes make them scrumptious. Switch up the meat, cheese, and seasonings to make whatever flavor you want, whenever you want.

This particular batch—one of my favorites—uses slow-cooked pulled pork, jack cheese, sweet corn and fresh basil. They’re so summery but warm and comforting at the same time.

Begin with a pork shoulder. They usually range anywhere from 2 1/2 to 4 pounds (boneless), and that’s too much meat for 8 enchiladas. So either plan on making a double batch or using half of the pulled pork for something else.

I would say slice the roast in half and freeze the remainder, or just buy a really small roast, but I’ve never had good luck cooking small amounts of meat in the Crock.

Marinate overnight in enchilada sauce. A word to the wise: the kind of enchilada sauce you use is important. Make sure it’s a brand you know and like since it’s such a dominant flavor in this dish.

After marinating, place in the slow cooker for 8 hours on low.

To assemble the enchiladas you’ll need basil, tortillas (handmade will make all the difference—trust me), corn, sour cream, enchilada sauce, jack cheese, one sweet onion, and a few cloves of garlic.

Begin by mincing the garlic…

…and slicing the onion. I like wedges myself since it’s more fajita-style.

Saute the garlic in a little vegetable oil, then add the onion and saute for a few minutes until the onion just begins to become tender. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl shred half the pork…

…then add the corn (carefully sliced from the cob), chopped basil, and onion mixture.

Toss together.

Now here’s a trick that will perk up any enchilada recipe: mix sour cream into the enchilada sauce. It will make it creamier. And dreamier.

Next, shred an unholy amount of cheese. A hill of cheese. Heck, a mountain of cheese. If you like the pre-shredded stuff you obviously don’t like cheese should really consider taking 5 more minutes and shredding a real brick of cheese yourself. I don’t know what they put in those plastic baggies, but I don’t think it’s actually cheese.

Pour one cup of the the enchilada sauce/sour cream mixture into the bottom of a 9×13″ pan, then fill each tortilla with a sprinkle of cheese…

…and a few spoonfuls of the pork filling.

Roll up each tortilla as you go and place in the pan.

Pour the rest of the sauce mixture over the enchiladas…

…and top with the remaining shredded cheese.

Bake. Bask in the heavenly aromas that are wafting from your oven.

Serve topped with sour cream and pico de gallo, if you wish. Or just inhale them right out of the pan. Up to you—no judgment here.

For me, the contrast of the sweet corn and basil against the spicy pork and creamy sauce is just about as good as it gets. I have died and gone to summer enchilada heaven.

Pulled Pork Enchiladas    printable pulled pork heaven

Using quality pork, handmade tortillas and good enchilada sauce makes all the difference in this dish. Plan on either doubling the recipe or finding another use for the other half of the pulled pork. Serves 4-6.

Inactive Prep Time: 1 day                 Active Prep Time: 30 minutes          Cook Time: 35 minutes 

  • 3-4 lb boneless pork shoulder roast (sometimes called “pork butt”)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 28 oz can red enchilada sauce, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 ears sweet corn, shucked
  • 1 c lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 16oz container sour cream
  • 8 handmade 9″-10″ flour tortillas
  • 4 c shredded monterey jack cheese
  • pico de gallo, for serving (optional)
1. Rinse pork and pat dry. Place in a large freezer bag with 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce and the kosher salt. Refrigerate overnight.
2. Place pork and marinade in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 350F. Mince garlic. Slice onion. Heat vegetable oil on medium-high in a large saute pan. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add onion and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until onion just becomes tender. Remove from heat.
4. Place half of the cooked pork roast in a large bowl and shred with a fork (reserve remaining half of pork for another use). Add the onion mixture. Slice corn kernels from the husk and chop the basil. Add corn and basil to bowl, stir and season filling mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
5. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the sour cream (reserve some for serving, if desired), and the remaining enchilada sauce. Pour 1 c of the mixture into the bottom of a 9×13″ pan.
6. Divide the filling equally among the 8 tortillas. Top with 2-3 tbsp shredded cheese, roll, and place in pan. Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas and top with remaining cheese.
6. Cover dish loosely with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes, removing foil for last 10 minutes of baking, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Top with sour cream and pico de gallo if desired.