Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kids Cupcakes

The cookbook Flour is absolutely beautiful.  Joanne Chang has filled the book with mouthwatering recipes that make me want to plan a trip to Boston just so I can visit the bakery.  The book sits on my baking shelf with many recipes bookmarked. I have been so excited to make something that I have been waiting for just the right occasion.  Which means the the book has been sitting on the shelf for over six months, untouched, not a single recipe made.  Until this week when I decided that Tuesday was special enough - we had made it through Monday so we might as well celebrate, with some lovely chocolate cupcakes.

Joanne explains that one of the things she likes about this recipe is that everything is dumped together and the result is a wonderfully moist super chocolaty cake.  Sugar and butter and water are combined until the butter melts and the sugar dissolved.  This is then poured over chopped chocolate and cocoa powder, everything is stirred together until silky smooth.  Some milk and egg are added and then some flour to bring it all together.  Then comes the part I really liked and have never done before the batter is left to rest before baking.  This gives the batter time to absorb the liquid and thicken up.  This little rest period is also good for little ones who might be easily distracted and become more focused on making-up their own recipes than finishing the one they  had started.

My favorite thing about this recipe, besides it's amazing taste and textures is that it a great recipe to do with kids.  There are opportunities to practice cutting, and scooping plus there are a variety of measurements - great for practicing math skills.

But the best part is it doesn't require the use of a mixer.  It is fun to use the mixer and it is great for kids to watch it go around and observe how the ingredients combine.  But, I think it is even better when they are the ones in control of mixing the ingredients together.  It is so much more fun to crack an egg, break the yolk open, slowly stir it around and watch it blend with the other ingredients until it has completely disappeared.  When doing it by hand beginner cooks get a much better sense of what the ingredients feel like and how they they work.  It can be a messy process, but there is nothing cooler than watching an egg drip slowly off the end of a spoon or play with sugar just as it is becoming moist.  Playing with sticky flour is also pretty cool.

Grab your favorite little person, a copy of Flour if you have it, or your favorite recipes and mix it together the "old fashioned" way.  When you're done go ahead and let them lick the bowl, having their name written on the forehead is optional.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I am not a huge fan of cooking with greens.  I use them in soup, but other than that I don't know what to do with them and therefore end up not cooking with them very often.  Usually if I have some in the fridge chances are pretty good that a portion of them will end up in the garbage, and I thought that was the fate of the half bunch of Collard Greens I had leftover from our New Years Day celebration.  Then I saw Sunny Anderson making a collard green pesto and  I now have one more way of  using up those greens.

This is a wonderfully  garlicky and nutty pesto.  Without any bitterness that is sometimes found in greens.  The recipe by Sunny Anderson uses kalamata olives.  I didn't include them because I thought the brine flavor of the olives would be too much for the kids, but after reading reviews of similar recipes I am definitely going to add the olives next time I make this pesto.

Besides the wonderful flavor and numerous ways this pesto can be used, it is a a great recipe to make with kids.  There is something kids of all ages can do.  Older kids can do all of the steps, with the exception of cooking the greens.  Younger ones they can get lots of practice cutting by rough cutting the greens and garlic before adding them to the food processor.  And the really little ones always love pressing the buttons and watching the food go around in the food processor.

I got two meals out of this recipes.  I used it one night on pasta and another night used it as a sauce for turkey meatball subs.  Both dishes were simple, super flavorful and enjoyed by the big and little people of the house, which recently hasn't been happening very often.  

Collard Green Pesto
Printer Ready

1 lb Collard greens (stems removed)
½ cup Almonds lightly toasted
2 cloves Garlic
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup Olive Oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add greens and blanch for about 1 minute, or until bright green.  Drain and shock in ice water bath.  Remove from ice water and pat dry with paper towels.  Roughly chop greens

Add greens, almonds, garlic and cheese to food processor.  Process until ingredients become finely chopped, with processor running begin adding olive oil until a paste is formed and pesto comes together.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

Salmon Cakes

Well, I'm not sure where December went to and January is quickly disappearing as well.  I have started various posts about all the goodies we enjoyed over the holidays, but like many of you I am over the holidays and already back in the rhythm of regular days.

While my days have gotten back to normal, I haven't found my blogging rhythm yet, so to get me started I thought I would share our meal from January 2nd.  All of our company had left.  We were tired of vacation and tired of what felt like constant eating.  We wanted something light, simple and comforting, that would begin working our way through leftovers.  The answer - salmon cakes.

I remember eating salmon cakes as a kid and loving and hating them.  My mom made them using canned salmon, which is a fine option, but canned salmon doesn't always contain the best cuts of the fish.  The result is salmon cakes with a funny texture.  Some bites are wonderfully smooth a great blend of flaky fish and flavorful filler, other bites though, are a little crunchy as those pieces that maybe should have gone on the processing room floor somehow wound up in the can.  It is one of those things that it is best not to give too much thought to.  My taste buds loved the flavor of salmon cakes, but my brain did not like those random crunchy bites.

Now when I make salmon cakes I use the second cuts of the fish, but I make sure it is fish we have cut.  I love getting a whole salmon at COSTCO and cutting it up, or more accurately having Mike cut it up.  The upper cuts are used for grilling and lower cuts by the tail are poached, flaked and used to make this super simple dinner.  Apparently the tails are also great for playing with.  Making the tail dance is optional and not an important part of the recipe or filleting a fish.

Salmon Cakes

1 lbs. Poached Salmon flaked
½ cup Finely chopped red (or green) pepper
2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
½ cup Dried Breadcrumbs
⅓ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup Mayonnaise
¼ cup Dijon mustard
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice


Preheat oven to 350°
Put all ingredients in large mixing bowl.  Gently mix together until thoroughly combined and moistened.  Form mixture into 5-6 equal sized patties.  Place patties on lightly oiled baking sheet.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  

I love serving these on a soft roll that has been covered with a creamy red pepper or lemon dill sauce.