tmk tidbits

tastes of spring and summer in january

During the coldest month of the year, I often long for spring and summer, and the tastes that come with the seasons. This recipe makes me smile because growing up, we had a constant debate over which was better. Strawberry shortcake or angel food cake with strawberries. My dad preferred the strawberry shortcake (or the dry biscuits, as we called them), while the rest of us loved the light, airy sponge of angel food cake. Twenty some years later, I’ve decided to give the “biscuit” version another try.

I have to say I was very pleased!  And, a few others didn’t think these were too shabby, either.  This recipe could easily be substituted with any fruit, ie. blackberries, mangoes, blueberries, peaches. Mmm. I baked my biscuits ahead of time and warmed them up prior to serving. 

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This one, not so much.  Or, at least she’s giving it some thought.  Maybe next time.

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This recipe’s for you, Dad. Enjoy.

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Classic Strawberry Shortcake
adapted from Fine Cooking

Strawberry Topping
1 lb. ripe strawberries, hulled (about 4 cups)
2 Tbs. granulated sugar; more to taste

Biscuits
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 oz. (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
1/4 cup heavy cream; more for brushing
1/4 cup buttermilk

Whipped Cream
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
Prepare the strawberries
Put one-third of the berries in a medium bowl and, using a potato masher, crush them into a chunky purée. Slice the remaining berries 1/4 inch thick and stir them into the mashed berries along with the sugar. Taste the berries, adding more sugar if necessary. Let the berries sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Make the biscuits
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Line a large heavy-duty baking sheet with parchment.

Sift the flour, 1/3 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, and baking soda into a large bowl.  (I don’t have a flour sifter, so I improvise.)  Stir in the salt.

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Using a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingertips, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and heavy cream with a fork. Mix in the buttermilk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the cream mixture. Mix with the fork until the dough is evenly moistened and just comes together; it will still look a little shaggy. Gather the dough and gently knead it three or four times. If the dough seems dry and doesn’t form a cohesive mass, work in more cream, 1 tsp. at a time.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it into a 3/4 -inch-thick disk. With a sharp 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, press straight down to cut the dough into rounds and lift straight up to remove (don’t twist the cutter or it will seal the sides of the biscuits and interfere with rising). Transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheet. Gather the dough scraps, gently knead them together, re-roll, and cut out more biscuits until you have a total of 6.

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Lightly brush the biscuit tops with cream (about 1 Tbs.) and sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbs. sugar. Bake, rotating the baking sheet once, until the biscuit tops are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

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Let the biscuits cool slightly while you whip the cream.

Whip the cream
In a large, chilled metal bowl, whip the heavy cream and sugar to soft peaks with an electric hand mixer. (Use immediately or refrigerate, covered until ready to serve).

Assemble the shortcakes
Using a serrated knife, split the warm biscuits in half horizontally and transfer the bottoms to 6 dessert plates. Spoon about three-quarters of the macerated berries and their juice evenly over the biscuit bottoms. It’s OK if some of the berries spill out onto the plate. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and cover each with a biscuit top. Spoon more berries and cream over each shortcake and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

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puzzles and pancakes in our pajamas

Lazy Saturday mornings are the BEST! We usually brew an extra-large pot of coffee, hang out in our pj’s and lounge. And, sometimes, we don’t get out of our pajamas until late afternoon!

We finished two large puzzles over the holidays.  A 500-piece puzzle of Santa Claus and a 750-piece puzzle of Rockefeller Center decorated for the holidays.  Rockefeller Center was full of people, skating, spectating, and snow falling.  And, the pieces were small, and irregular shaped.  This one took us almost two weeks, and often, we just had to walk away from the table until the next day.  A new day and a new perspective. Pieces were everywhere – all over the kitchen table.   For those two weeks, we ended up setting our table on top of the puzzle.  Oh well, if our table wasn’t covered in puzzle, it would be marker or art projects or homework or crumbs.  I love a good puzzle. Great family time, and everyone can help. Great conversation, relaxation, and a great challenge.  Here’s one of our finished masterpieces…

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I had some canned pumpkin left in the fridge, so I whipped up a batch of Martha Stewart’s pumpkin pancakes. Love the spice and the fluffy, moist cakes. I would definitely make them again.

Pumpkin Pancakes
adapted from Martha Stewart

Whisk 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour; 2 tablespoons sugar; 2 teaspoons baking powder; 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt; 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg; and a pinch of ground cloves.

In a separate bowl, stir together 1 cup milk, 6 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 egg; fold mixture into dry ingredients.

Melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat; pour in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes per side; serve with butter and syrup. (I served mine with butter, powdered sugar and whipped cream since I’m not a fan of maple syrup.) Makes 8 to 10.  Enjoy!

elegance absent and dessert (or breakfast)

I love to cook and be in the kitchen, but I have to admit… I am not an elegant cook or baker. (Ina Garten is my personal favorite.) (And yes, she probably has a supportive team behind the scenes helping to make sure everything looks just right for the camera.) You know the kind. So calm and camera ready, always with great stories of entertaining and lively connections with food. The ones who wear aprons and never get them full of flour or grease. The ones who have mise en place mastered, with everything ready and at the tip of their fingers. The ones who have a spotless kitchen, organized cupboards and countertops clear of clutter.

Nope, that’s not me! As much as I strive to be, my husband will be the first to admit that I am more chaos than elegance in the kitchen. But, I am ok with that. It’s how I roll. My iPhone gets full of flour as I’m searching for recipes, my batter sometimes flies across the room and often, I am pushing my piles of paper aside to make room for cooking. However, I do have support in the kitchen. My husband, who washes the countless dishes that I dirty in my cooking adventures. Or, who picks up the kitchen and countertops in the midst of my chaos. My kids, who love to taste and see. It’s all good!

A new year and new year’s resolutions for 2013.

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A simple list – Be healthy.  Be happy.  Be thankful.  And, a new dessert recipe for the family, which uh… incorporates all three resolutions. Be healthy (well, not so much with this recipe. Although, chocolate does have some healthy qualities.) Be happy – always…with family and chocolate. Be thankful – for good dessert, and seconds.  King Arthur Flour’s Fudge Waffles with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce.  I’ve swapped the words in the recipe to call it Chocolate Waffles with Ice Cream and Chocolate Fudge, which fits better with the end product.  A chocolatey waffle dotted with semisweet chocolate chips, topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate fudge sauce.  Amazing.  My favorite part of the recipe is the fudge sauce.  Served warm, it’s runny and easy to drizzle –  more like Hershey’s chocolate syrup, but once on top of the ice cream, the sauce thickens to a fudge consistency.  So delicious! I could seriously eat it by the spoonfuls right out of the refrigerator.

The kids loved this dessert. Thank you King Arthur Flour!  What’s not to love?  Chocolate waffles?!  Breakfast for dessert?!  Chocolate and Fudge?!  Ice cream and waffles?!  We did have some leftovers, so we served up some chocolate waffles for breakfast the next morning.

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Chocolate Waffles with Ice Cream and Chocolate Fudge
adapted from King Arthur Flour’s recipe

2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk (I substituted with 1 cup of milk and 1 tbsp lemon juice.)
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, butter and vanilla, and beat until light, about 2 minutes. Blend in buttermilk, then flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Gently fold in chocolate chips.

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Bake waffles in a preheated well-greased waffle iron until done (following directions for your own waffle iron). Serve with the ice cream of your choice and chocolate sauce (recipe follows). Waffles can be served immediately, or wrapped in plastic wrap and served the next day. Warm them in a toaster oven if you wish.

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Chocolate Fudge Sauce

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa powder, corn syrup and milk or half-and-half. Stir to blend. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and add butter and vanilla, stirring until butter melts. Cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 cup.

Serve warm or at room temperature; this sauce reheats easily in a glass cup in your microwave.

Enjoy!

heirloom tomato summer salad

I’ve had such great luck with my two patio heirloom tomato plants this summer.  A bounty of green zebras and beefsteaks have resulted in many sliced tomatoes generously sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper, blt’s, homemade salsa, and this wonderful tomato salad.

I was able to get an abundance of cherry tomatoes from a friend, so I halved them and tossed them with sliced green zebras, fresh mint, shallots, olive oil, champagne vinegar and salt/pepper. Yum. The addition of mint is just perfect.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

A pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 green zebra tomatoes, sliced
1 shallot, chopped
4-5 fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips (could also work with basil leaves, and maybe addition of bacon or feta cheese)

Olive oil, to taste (1-2 tbsp)
Champagne vinegar, to taste (1-2 tbsp)
Salt/pepper, to taste

Carefully fold tomatoes, shallot and mint together in medium bowl and toss with olive oil, champagne vinegar and salt/pepper. Chill, serve and enjoy! 

busy schedules, life and asian chicken

I’m back, after a much necessary break. Life happens, and so does the reality of busy schedules!  In early April, my family visited my sister Whitney, in Austin, Texas! Left Minneapolis at 6 am and drove straight through to Austin. 19+ hours in the car, all 6 of us! We had a blast! Lots of road food and convenience store snacks on the way down, but lots of amazing food in Austin – Shipley’s Donuts (a donut shop way too close to my sister’s place), Kebabalicious (an amazing food truck serving falafel, chicken shawarma, etc.), Chuy’s (a Mexican restaurant), Moonshine (a great night out with my sisters and husband), and many others. The end of April marked the beginning of summer sports, and three colliding schedules. Oh, and a coaching husband. April and May were pretty much a blur.

In June, I visited my sister Kortney in California for a shopping, eating and dining trip. We indulged in amazing foie gras just weeks before a state-wide ban for restaurants. So fortunate to have been one of the last to have this and other amazing dishes at a quaint, French restaurant on Balboa Island in Newport Beach called Basilic. We also visited Palm Springs for a day/evening during Restaurant Week. Amazing place. Must go back with my husband! We had amazing Mexican food and margaritas at a place called Las Casuelas Terraza. Dinner at a place called Zin American Bistro – yum. And, brunch at the Ace Hotel / King’s Highway. Great food and gorgeous drinks. Kortney and her boyfriend visited Minneapolis the following weekend, and we cooked at home and dined at a local place called the Little River Inn and Bar. We also celebrated my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding in June. Busy and fun times!

In late June and early July we traveled back to Bismarck, ND for my husband’s 20 year class reunion and a week’s vacation over the Fourth of July. And, in August, celebrated a family reunion with amazing cousins from California, Kansas, Texas, North Dakota and Minnesota. It’s been a great summer spending time with family and friends, hanging out in the backyard with amazing neighbors, enjoying my patio heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs, and creating wonderful meals at home.

September means back to school month, and a search for quick fix, easy dinner ideas…

Here’s a great healthy, Asian recipe I adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food General Tso’s Chicken. A hit for us and the kids too! Love the light (almost non-existent) batter of the pan-fried chicken, combined with chopped veggies and tossed in a slightly sweet, touch of heat sauce. We added red and green pepper, sugar snap peas and green onions.

Asian Chicken / Healthy General Tso’s Chicken
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food
Serves 4

1 1/4 cups long-grain brown or jasmine rice – (We made our own fried rice.)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
1/4 red pepper, chopped
1/4 green pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 large egg whites
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower (we used canola oil)

Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add vegetables, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).

Add vegetable mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.

Enjoy!!

a special invitation…young helpers in the kitchen…

I can’t tell you how excited my kids get when I invite them to help me in the kitchen.  In fact, they often beg me to help with anything from mixing to measuring to pouring.  *Ahem.* Pause. This sometimes can backfire on me…and I’ve learned to grab one or two of them when the timing is right.  Two may be playing contently in the other room, and the other two may be looking a little lost, with nothing to do. It’s safer than all of them barreling into the kitchen at the same time…  I mean, who wants a buffalo stampede in their kitchen? 

I’ve started to let my oldest son, Brendan, slap on a pair of hot mitts and remove piping hot dishes from the oven.  I know, I’m a bit of a control freak mom, but I’ve learned to let go just a little.  And, I have to say I am so impressed at his willingness to jump into the kitchen and help – especially with the more “dangerous” things.  Perhaps, he sees an opportunity to show his responsibility and his maturity, his right of passage into a world of more independence.  After all, he’s no longer just a young boy.

OK, he’s a little grossed out by slimy, raw eggs or raw meat, but he’s also learning a lot about food and preparation.  He gets to see what’s involved from reading the recipe, to gathering the ingredients, to measuring and mixing, to baking and sauteing, ultimately, ending up in a plated meal on the table. Oh, and the cleanup and washing dishes part too. Perfect. A wonderful gift to his someday wife.

Dane is my curious culinarian, always making comments… “What animal is this from?” or “Is it spicy?” or “Looks disgusting.” or “mmm. I like that.” or “How do you make lemon juice?”  He loves when I make almond puff pastry and will often talk about it for days prior to me actually making it. (It’s usually a weekend event.) He loves spaghetti squash, salmon, and is always first to try new foods.

Clare is also very curious, especially when I’m making sweets or anything with chocolate. “Can I lick the bowl?” While making an assortment of Christmas cookies this year, she was right at my side, asking to help with anything she could.  We’re still working on cracking eggs.

Eleanor usually likes to perch a top the kitchen step stool, eyes above the counter top, taking in a whole new world. A world not often seen by someone so small. If I’m not looking, I may turn to find a chocolate hand or a nose dusted with flour.

If I want the kids to gather in one spot, all I have to do is start cooking and they usually come running to ask about what smells so good or … not so good.  As I’ve said before, the kitchen is the center of the action in our family.  It’s where family and friends are gathered, conversations are made, board games are played, homework is finished and meals are had.  I want all my kids to grasp and appreciate the lost art of cooking.  To take the time to read recipes and to develop adventurous, diverse palates.  To carry on old traditions and to start new ones.  And, most of all, to cherish the quality time spent with family.

May you all have many fun cooking adventures with your families in 2012 and beyond.

grandma irene’s krumkake

Check that one off my to-do list.  And, a first in 2012.  Teamwork at its best – Jeff and I in the kitchen making krumkake together.   Not bad for our first attempt.

Krumkake – a delicate, traditional Scandinavian waffle cookie, full of beautiful design and commonly made around Christmas time.  (Usually shaped in a cone or rolled.)  I remember eating these around Christmas as a kid.  I was fortunate to inherit my Grandma Irene’s krumkake iron set, a family heirloom that just shouts Norwegian.

Loved and handled with care and used many a Christmas, well before my time.  I can almost see my Grandma making them and I’m so proud to carry on the tradition with my own family.  I know this will be one of the favorites each holiday – I can’t wait to make them again.

It took some trial and error, but ultimately, we seem to have mastered the technique (at least in our eyes…)  In fact, once we got it down, we could barely make them fast enough to keep up with Brendan and Dane’s demand.  They LOVED the krumkake.  “It’s so good, Mom.  Can I have another one?”

The first couple of attempts ended in results like this:

Here’s how I so fondly remember them…

Krumkake

4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup melted butter
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla

Beat eggs slightly. Add sugar to eggs and beat until light. Do not overbeat. Add vanilla. Blend in melted, cooled butter, cornstarch and flour.

Preheat iron on both sides. Iron is ready for baking when a few drops of water placed on the iron dance around. Drop about a tablespoon of dough on the center of the iron. Cover quickly and turn the iron. Bake until delicately browned. Remove from iron with a spatula or table knife. Roll quickly into cone shape (rolled diploma), using a krumkake roller or end of wooden spoon.  I actually used my hands. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.  Can also be pressed into cups to make shell forms.

*Note* – We found medium-low heat for about a minute on our gas stove worked perfectly.

Here’s my Grandma Irene’s krumkake recipe card, which was with the krumkake iron set.  (Similar to another recipe I received from my mother-in-law and other recipes online.)  Some recipes call for the addition of cardamom, but we used vanilla instead.  We may also try almond extract next time we make them.  Enjoy!