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KID IN THE KITCHEN: Tembleque (Tropical Coconut Pudding)

7 Feb

We spent the better part of last summer in Puerto Rico, and among the tasty things that my little guy fell in love with was tembleque, a jiggly (temblar means to tremble) dessert that falls somewhere between pudding and flan. I promised him we’d make it back in New York, and this weekend, for a dinner with some dear Nassau Community College colleagues with whom I serve on the Latin American Studies Committee, I delivered.

2015-02-05 21.03.20 temblequeWho knew it was so, so easy to make that my seven-year-old could do it almost completely on his own? All I had to do was pour the hot mixture into the mold. I adapted a recipe from Cocine a Gusto (University of Puerto Rico Press), which is one of my go-tos for traditional Puerto Rican recipes.

2015-02-05 21.27.57 temblequeIn future we will make it with homemade coconut milk (all you have to do is pour hot water over coconut flakes and strain, but more on that next time), but in the interests of expediency (I also made pollo guisado, black beans and pink beans from scratch, and yuca salad, so I had my hands full) I just used canned.

Next time you want a fun dessert that takes your tastebuds to the tropics, tembleque is the ticket!

2015-02-06 19.21.31 temblequeTembleque

2 14 oz. cans coconut milk

½ Cup corn starch

½ Cup sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

Powdered cinnamon

Place coconut milk, corn starch, sugar and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil at medium high, stirring constantly until mixture begins to thicken. Add vanilla, stir and pour the mix into a slightly moistened mold (a smooth pie tin for one, or six ramekins for individual servings). Chill for at least three hours or at most 48. Turn tembleque out of mold(s), sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.

Red, White and Blue Shortcake in a (World) Cup

16 Jun

My son’s birthday this year happens to fall on the day of the U.S. National Soccer Team’s opening World Cup match against Ghana. So — being a soccer/fútbol mad family, this is like thematic heaven for us!

USA shortcakeBetween last night and this morning, I banged together class treats that were all red, white and blue, homemade and — while they include cake and whipped cream — also include generous portions of summer fruit.

Very tender and moist cake....

Very tender and moist cake….

I like to think it strikes the right balance between healthy and sweet and it certainly reflects what is important to the little man today.

Pretty decent crumb!

Pretty decent crumb!

And the fact that I put this much time and thought into it reflects 1) my semester finished and I have some extra time on my hands 2) I am indeed the food DIY maniac everyone thinks I am 3) I love this little man so much I want him to be proud of the treats he brought in!

Piled it up nice (and casually no...LOW FUSS!)

Piled it up nice (and casually no…LOW FUSS!)

He went to school in his U.S. kit (with the non-playing Landon Donovan jersey, but never mind…I have to assume Klinsmann knows what he is doing) and seemed very pleased with the whole thing. He was down with a virus last week that has left him with painful bumps in his mouth….so I don’t know whether he’ll actually eat one, but he somehow managed to lick the whipping cream bowl clean all right this morning.

All tarted up for the big game

All tarted up for the big game

I include a link for the recipe for homemade whipped cream. I URGE you to try it…so much more fun and much more velvety and subtle…the kids around here love making it with the hand beater and eating it up! You can also make your own white cake (recipe for a very fluffy and tender one below) or substitute storebought poundcake. If you are going to make your own cake, I suggest you have a look at Paula Deen’s excellent Creaming 101 tutorial. Continue reading

Important Update: Walnut Cup Extra Filling Makes Great Crescent Rolls!

28 Dec

Many of you have undertaken one of my favorite cookie recipes ever: Walnut Cups (delicious walnut toffee inside a cream cheese crust)! And found, as we did this year — and so did my friend and colleague, Cara — that you had leftover filling that you didn’t know what to do with. Do NOT overfill your walnut cups to use it up.

Going into the oven

Going into the oven…this is the right height for filling. Any more and they will bubble over.

Here is the solution:

Marianne happened to have crescent roll dough in, the Pillsbury kind in the tube. so we put about a teaspoon of leftover filling at the wide end of each dough triangle, rolled them up and baked according to package directions.

just a little...

just a little…

Off. The. Hook.

Perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea…these were as good as those Cinnabon ones that smell so intoxicating and irresistible in an airport….

YUM!!!

YUM!!!

So, problem solved and here is a link to the original recipe for holiday Walnut Cups (with cream cheese crust..Lord have mercy!)

Delicious Walnut Cups

Delicious Walnut Cups

Award-Winning! YES, Leandro’s Oatmeal Cookies Take First Prize!

29 Sep

We shouted! We hooted! We jumped up and down! (Mommy even got a little misty)

The winner!

The winner! Note blue ribbon in the background!

Leandro’s Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies took first prize in the Junior culinary class at the Long Island Fair!

We were completely surprised, because we had made a solemn decision that we didn’t care whether our submissions won. We just wanted our admission tickets (one per submission) and we wanted to be a part of it. We like our own baked goods and we like baking together and winning or losing wouldn’t change that.And then he won!

The calm before the storm. The gorgeous Fair building

The calm before the storm. The gorgeous Fair building

We are, of course, very excited, and we are, of course, sharing the recipe. And of course, we had a marvellous day at the fair with Lori, Brendan, Kate, Abu, Padushi, Madrina, and Betsy. It is always a wonderful time and there is one more day left if you haven’t made it yet!

Makes big batches!

Makes big batches!

Leandro’s Prize-Winning Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip, Cranberry, Walnut Cookies

½ Cup plus 6 Tbs butter, softened

¾ firmly packed brown sugar (I like to mix dark and light brown, but use whatever is on hand)

½ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 ½ Cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

3 Cups quick or old-fashioned oats

½ Cup bittersweet chocolate morsels

½ Cup dried cranberries

¾ Cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until blended and kind of creamy (I don’t have an electric mixer – yet—so I just use a big fork). Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Then add the oats and the fruit and nuts and mix well until all the oats are damp.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes or until light brown. After a minute cooling on the baking sheets, move the cookies to wire cooling racks and cool completely. Store in tightly covered containers.

The right way to celebrate at a fall county fair!

The right way to celebrate at a fall county fair!

You may also like: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Blackberry Muffins: Moist and Tart and Sweet

31 Aug

We finally made it down to the berry fields at Restoration Farm for blackberry season and boy am I glad we did!

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

The little guy picked and popped the berries directly into his mouth (“Oh Mom, these are so good! Try this one!) and ran up and down the rows and climbed up and down the compost pile, while I picked the juiciest and blackest berries and dropped them into my paper bag, and chatted with Donna “The Chicken Lady/Social Commentarist” in the cooling breeze of the late afternoon. One of my favorite things about going to the farm and volunteering my labor (which I don’t do as much as I should once the summer kicks in) is talking while you work. The folks at the farm are so interesting and warm and funny, and weeding occupies the hands, while it frees the mind to wander and the ears to listen and the mouth to chat.

Allison -- our long-time CSA partner -- picks her berries.

Allison — our long-time CSA partner — picks her berries.

Berry-picking does much the same thing. Once you soften your touch to only take the berries which fall off into your hand with the gentlest of tugs — if you tug at all — you find a rhythm as old as time and the conversation comes easily. So does silence.

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

For someone like me, who always has to be getting something done, it is a great relief to be able to have my hands occupied in dignified work, while sharing with friends. I also learn a lot about what to do in my own garden when nothing is going right. And the little man identifies the birds: swallows and mockingbirds and the occasional red-tailed hawk wanting a go at Donna’s chickens. The hawks cause quite a bit of excitement in Mr. Mini-Audubon. And the chickens, of course, who scurry under the coop.

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

So, we collected just under a quart of warm, sweet, soft berries that needed using immediately. Since back-to-school is right around the corner, my fill-the-freezer-frenzy has begun. Mini-muffins make for a perfect lunchbox snack, so that is where I went. Continue reading

Three Deliciously Sweet Blueberry Baking Ideas

14 Jul

Blueberries are in at Restoration Farm, our C.S.A.! We pick our own, each family picking as much as seems reasonable, given that we share with a lot of people, but keeping in mind that these berries won’t stay ripe forever.

Blueberries are one of those power foods, loaded with anti-oxidants, which may or may not counter the aging process. We just know they are powerfully delicious! The good news is they don’t seems to lose that phytonutrient power when frozen. They are also native to North America, which makes it positively patriotic if you are from around these parts.  The bad news is that even domestically-grown blueberries are high in pesticide residue, according to the Environmental Working Group. So use their freezeability to your advantage. Buy them organic while in season and freeze them for later use!

Here are three of our favorite blueberry recipes — should you be brave enough to turn on the oven in the middle of a hot summer. Or, store these recipes when you store your blueberries in the freezer, and pull them out for a burst of summer in your baking in the middle of winter!

Blueberry-Strawberry Muffins

We like mini-muffins because you get so many you can share them around!

We like mini-muffins because you get so many you can share them around!

Blueberry Pound Cake

Blueberry pound cake is rich and tart and sweet

Blueberry pound cake is rich and tart and sweet

Blueberry-Lingonberry Muffins

A favorite for tea, lunchbox or thoughtful treat for neighbors, caregivers and friends

A favorite for tea, lunchbox or thoughtful treat for neighbors, caregivers and friends

Chocolate Mini-Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

16 Jun

I caved. Yes, I did.

Driven by the fear of being “that mom” who rains on every party and won’t let kids enjoy their sugar fix and makes others feel guilty or annoyed by my holier-than-thou eating habits…and because my son asked very nicely to have a special treat…for Leandro’s birthday celebration at school, we made cupcakes. Chocolate Cupcakes. With Buttercream Frosting. Go big, or go home.

Mini-muffin before frosting

Mini-muffin before frosting

In my feeble defense, I also made fruit kebabs (which went over as well as, if not better than, the cupcakes) and we actually went little, making mini-cupcakes so that they were  a tiny treat rather than an exercise in excess, but BE IT KNOWN: I am not immune to peer pressure and I am not a complete whole food Nazi.

Mind you, making it all homemade is also a form of penitence for sins of sugar and spice. I put a lot of time and effort into it and was not always thinking gracious thoughts. Particularly about the moms who just pick up a box of Dunkin’ Munchkins for class celebrations and call it a day and don’t give that much thought to what children consume or what maniacs like myself choose to do with our precious time, but who are not going to waste their precious time making desserts for five-and-six year olds, when kids are just as happy with a Dunkin’ drive-by.

That buttercream frosting is NAUGHTY! and nice....

That buttercream frosting is NAUGHTY! and nice….

It’s that same grim satisfaction some of us get from pointedly and conscientiously using our directional when driving, as if anyone would care to learn from our example, or as if there was some direct HOV lane to heaven for courteous and law-abiding drivers. Underneath it all, I know no one gives a rat’s posterior. But the girl can’t help it. Continue reading

Berry Crisp: Sweet, Crunchy, Charming

13 Jun

It’s just about summer and the strawberries are at their sweet juiciest, and as the season progresses, they are followed by blueberries, raspberries, blackberries…I just can’t get enough of summer fruits, but I do like to play with different ways to serve and enjoy them.

Summer fruit reminds me of piles of precious gems!

Summer fruit reminds me of piles of precious gems!

Last weekend I found a new way to love up ripe berries. We had our Single Mothers By Choice monthly meet-up. These are families I have known and grown with since before Leandro was born, so it is a support structure we really cherish.  On this occasion, in the middle of the kid chaos and seven simultaneous conversations pinballing around the moms, we celebrated several kids’ birthdays all at once. The hostess made cupcakes for the kids, and I made berry crisp for the grown-ups, we sang, blew out candles, and got back to the chaos.

Crunch on the top, syrup underneath

Crunch on the top, syrup underneath

This dessert is perfect for this kind of occasion. It is decidedly unfussy, but combines sweet, tart, syrupy, and crunchy (plus rich and creamy if you top it with whipped cream; it is so easy to make homemade!) which makes it pretty perfect in my book. It is simple to prepare, but looks so enticing! The original recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook, by Myra Goodman (shout-out to Sean and P.J. Goralski for giving it to me years ago!) and I tweaked it ever so slightly to add more cinnamon and less clove flavor. Continue reading

Quick, Before It Gets Dirty! Before It Melts! Maple Syrup Ices

9 Feb

Been waiting so long to do it that I almost ran out of real New York Maple Syrup to do it with (Sugar Brook Maple Farms, Kerhonkson, NY)!

Maple Snow

Maple Snow

But a few scoops of fresh snow(center cut) and some drizzles of maple syrup later, Leandro and the neighbors had real ices, Little House on the Prairie style…or in more modern parlance Maple Nemo Sno-Cones…..

Are postal workers wishing that no-delivery Saturdays had started now, rather than August?

Are postal workers wishing that no-delivery Saturdays had started now, rather than August?

Stay warm and cozy folks.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (Baking with Kids!)

7 Feb

My intentions were good. But the road I am on took a turn that was paved completely with…Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I was supposed to take Leandro and his buddy, Scott, to the gym with me for their regular weekly play date, where they could scramble in the habitrail (like McDonald’s Play Places without the Happy Meals), watch movies, draw, or just run like the demented maniacs they are after a day cooped up in school. Meanwhile I would do a virtuous hour on the treadmill, go home and make dinner.

It started so innocently...making trail mix!

It started so innocently…making trail mix!

But between one thing and another, we did not go. I attempted to recuperate from said setback by having the boys make their own trail mix for snack. Craisins, walnuts, sunflower seeds and…semi-sweet chocolate chips. Just enough virtue. But mischief was lurking… Continue reading

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