puppies, not ponies: time for another birthday cake

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My youngest daughter, she of last year’s pony birthday cake, is set to turn a year older. Which means I have an excuse to go all out with another cake. Her chosen party theme for turning 8 is “puppies,” so … Continue reading

t is for tofu

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An invite to play with tofu was too good to pass up. Today’s food for fun post is a collaboration with three other fun-loving bloggers. Shanna, of Curls and Carrots, pulled me into a “cooking through the alphabet” game she … Continue reading

soy brownies and rum?

Spring break is so over. A week of r& r at the in-laws–complete with far more DIY marshmallows consumed than recommended–was lovely, but this week it’s back to that real world and all its ensuing insanity. Cue the crazy.

Which put me at the intersection of Nothing Prepared and No New Ideas when time came to write this week’s post. So I’ll fall back on a now time-honored tradition of repeating myself, visiting my work elsewhere in the blogsphere.

Another month, another post at Minnesota Soyfoods Real Story Blog: Brownies anyone? (no worries–neither tofu nor actual soybeans were used)

We also play a game here at food for fun called “Find a Cocktail Recipe.” Enter part deux of this post…

Immediately upon opening the liquor cabinet, out fell a small paperback volume I don’t remember seeing before.

vintage 1940

vintage 1970

Famous Rum Drinks of the Virgin Islands is all of 32 pages and was penned by a Ms Dea Murray as a collection of drinks from “famous hotels, restaurants & bars.” Drowning in red, brown, gold, and harvest orange glory, it could only be a garage sale find. Yet its appearance rang no bells.

That said, it fell out of my liquor cabinet–reason enough to thumb through. Bluebeard’s Wench called for blue curaco, which is not on my shelf. Same story Hurricane Buster. Old Fashioned Voodoo would be mine if only I had guava juice. Swashbuckler called for Champagne and Coco Loco requires the purchase of coconut cream. Clearly I need a better pantry for this book.

wpid-mntsdcardPhoto-Editor2014-03-19-20.32.06.jpg.jpgFortunately, Rum Swizzle met me where I was at. Out came the rum, sweet vermouth, lemon, bitters, and fresh nutmeg. Though not a big fan of rum, I like what it stands for: warm sand and sun, island breezes, tropical tunes.

The resulting sipper was bracingly tart and could’ve stood a bit more sweet, but it won me over by being both assertive and classy. A newly purchased thrift-store cocktail glass made the project even more fun.

sS what if it's only 33°F outside? I have rum in my cocktail.

So what if it’s only 33°F outside? I have rum in my cocktail.

Our winter may not be over quite yet, but the mercury climbs slowly and surely a tropical rum cocktail can help push things in the right direction. So here’s to seeing the backside of winter. Here’s to garage sale finds–remembered or no. And here’s to the busy-ness of life. May it all be great fun as often as it can. Cheers!

deLizious leftovers

What with all the sweet potato dishes cooked up here last week and the oatmeal cookies the week before that, I’ve burned myself out a bit in the kitchen. My husband has made more than a few of our weeknight meals and we have so many cookies (double dosing this cookie season with two Girl Scouts in the house), cakes, and the like that there’s no need to make any new sweet treats.

OK, I did make this cake for Valentine's Day. Inspiration and recipe found here.

OK, I did make a cake for Valentine’s Day. Inspiration and recipe found here.

So I’ll do what other cooked-out cooks do and serve leftovers this week. For starters, here’s a recent Blog of Funny Names post. Give it a click (Do it! It’s not like you’ll be tested on it 😉 ) and learn more about the folks behind your favorite cold-weather foods.

Minnesota Soybean’s Real Story blog also gave me opportunity to bake up tasty cornbread, containing not one, not two, but three soyfoods. You need cornbread if you have chili on the menu, so give it a read here.

Because food for fun’s goal is to send you away with more than enough, I’ll also offer you the recipe for husband’s killer oven-baked Crunchy Chicken. Served with creamed spinach (A pinch-and-dash puree of spinach and garlic sautéed in olive oil, then mixed with fat-free half-and-half and neufchâtel cheese. Sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg, it made a lovely side.) and reheated stuffing from a soon-to-be-posted clams casino recipe (spoilers!), the chicken was a hit.

Crunchy Chicken and sides

Crunchy Chicken and sides

Would love to see you back here next week and while I don’t yet know what we’ll be serving up, I promise it’ll be fun eats.

Crunchy Chicken

My husband plays it fast-and-loose with seasonings, so there’s no guarantee his results can be recreated exactly, though this is the recipe he used. Also note that he used only drumsticks and chicken breast tenders.

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 3 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half, thighs, and/or drumsticks), trimmed
  • 3 1/2 cups cornflakes, crushed
  • 2/3 cup coarse breadcrumbs (about 2 slices bread)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

To marinate chicken, in large plastic resealable food-storage bag, whisk together buttermilk, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the hot sauce. Add chicken; seal bag. Turn to coat. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position; heat oven 400ºF. Set wire rack on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Coat rack with cooking spray.

To make coating, in shallow dish, combine cornflakes, breadcrumbs, paprika, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle oil over crumbs; toss until well coated.

Working with 1 piece chicken at a time, remove from marinade. Dredge in crumb mixture, firmly pressing crumbs onto all sides. Place chicken on wire rack, leaving 1/2 inch between pieces. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until coating is deep golden brown and thickest part of chicken thigh registers 175°F and thickest part of breast registers 165ºF.

soy snack break

After recouping from last week’s presentation with multiple mugs of hot chocolate, food for fun is ready to hit the blogging circuit again. This week, I offer the six recipes featured last week when presenting a Snack Break at a client’s annual meeting.

Minnesota Soybean has been a long-time partner and my work with them has taught me that soyfoods can be a fun tool in the kitchen. Why not include them in your ingredient palette when you’re thinking through meals, snacks, and even the sweet stuff?

True, some people have allergies to soy and there have also been whispers of soy’s “dark side” in certain media circles. To those with allergies, skip right over these recipes, or try subbing in another type of nut, nut milk, green veg, or flour. And to those who believe soy has that dark side, I’d offer that moderate consumption of soy has yet to show negative effects in any study to date. On the plus side, it’s a strong source of plant protein and fiber and has been proven to reduce high cholesterol levels, possibly prevent against certain hormonal cancers, yadda yadda yadda.

Shopping for and cooking up the snacks for the presentation was loads of fun–as a writer, it’s a treat to move around and create something tangible (and edible!) for a work project. An overestimate of attendees meant there were plenty of leftovers, which I wish I could serve up here. Instead, I’ll post photos and recipes and invite you to try a little soy.

green tea edamame

Green Tea Edamame

  •  1 quart water
  • 4 tea-bags green tea
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag frozen edamame
  • Sea salt to taste

In medium pot, bring water to a boil. Remove pot from heat; add tea bags. Steep 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove and discard tea bags. Return pot to medium heat. Bring tea to a gentle boil. Add edamame. Cook about 7 minutes or until beans are cooked through; drain and discard tea. Sprinkle edamame with salt. Serve immediately. Makes 4 (generous 1-cup) servings.

soy sconesSavory Spring Scones

  • 1 tablespoon vinegar plus enough soymilk to measure 1 cup
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup soy flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sliced green onions
  • Dash cracked black pepper

Heat oven to 500°F. In measuring cup, combine vinegar and soymilk; let stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Stir in soured soymilk until dough forms. Stir in onions and pepper.

Turn dough out onto well-floured surface; knead dough gently 8 to 10 times, sprinkling with flour as needed. Pat dough into 8-inch circle, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut circle into 8 pie-shape wedges, pressing down with knife without sawing. Sprinkle baking sheet with flour. Gently transfer wedges to baking sheet.

Reduce oven to 450°F. Bake scones 20 minutes or just until golden. Makes 8 scones.

tofu saladEgg & Tofu Salad

  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh chives
  • 4 hard-cooked large eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1 (14-ounce) package water-packed soft tofu, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, and chives until smooth. Add remaining ingredients; stir gently to coat. Adjust seasoning to taste. Makes 4 cups.

Edamame-Chile Hummus

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen edamame, cooked and drained
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons each seeded diced red and green jalapeño chiles
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In food processor, combine all ingredients; cover. Process until blended, but still slightly chunky. Adjust seasoning as desired. Makes about 1 1/3 cups.

pumpkin granolaPumpkin Soynut Granola

Love pumpkin? Go ahead and double the pumpkin puree.

  • 3 cups old-fashioned (rolled) oats
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup roasted soynuts (can use Cinnamon-Roasted Soynuts, recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Heat oven to 325ºF. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In large bowl, toss together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt.

In small bowl, stir together maple syrup, pumpkin puree, applesauce, and vanilla. Stir into oat mixture until coated. Stir in cranberries, soynuts, and pumpkin seeds.

Spread mixture evenly on baking sheet. Bake, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, 45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool before storing in covered container. Makes 5 cups.

1386593552042Cinnamon-Roasted Soynuts

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups soynuts
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 300°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.

In medium bowl, beat egg white just until frothy; beat in vanilla. Fold in soynuts. Stir in brown and granulated sugars and cinnamon.

Spread soynuts evenly on baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes or until just lightly browned. Cool slightly, breaking up any clumps before serving. Makes about 2 cups.

All together now:

tofu, edamame, soynuts, oh my!

tofu, edamame, soynuts, oh my!

hot chocolate blogging x 2

Last week’s marshmallows (black cherry whisky! rum!) have been joined by Rumchata marshmallows and they all scream for hot cocoa. Because it’s been a busy week with lots of food prep leading up to a presentation, I’m plumb (or plum?) tuckered and will fall back on work already done for this week’s post.

Hot cocoa made an appearance over at this month’s Funny Names in Food Post. Hoping you’ll click over for a read about San Fransisco’s most famous (and funnily-named) chocolatier, even if just because I use the word “dude” in the title.

The hot cocoa bell was also rung for this month’s Minnesota Soybean post, where I feature a recipe for a DIY chocolate syrup that was written up here over a year ago. Love the stuff so much that I’m never without a jar in my refrigerator and I’d strongly recommend you make yourself a batch as well. Too simple not to.

Speaking of Minnesota Soybean, these are the folks that had me cooking and baking crazy-like for a presentation I did at their annual growers’ meeting. In the interest of offering healthy foods to balance out all the sweets we’ve been enjoying of late, I’ll bring my soyfoods stories–and recipes–next week. For now, here’s a picture of the spread.

tofu, edamame, soynuts, oh my!

tofu, edamame, soynuts, oh my!

Would love to see you back here next week for more on tofu “egg” salad, green onions scones, pumpkin soynut granola, green tea edamame, and edamame chile hummus. Just writing that sentence made me feel healthy. Imagine how awesome we’ll feel once the recipes are out there. Until then, let’s add a few more ‘mallows to our hot chocolates and enjoy!

minty muffins? and just two more things

There’s nothing like the thrill of finding something completely new in the food world, though I’m often humbled by how little I know about what’s out there. Take Biscoff: After discovering it here on WordPress, and writing it up myself, I was mildly aghast at having been in the dark about this peanut butter-style spread made out of COOKIES.

Seeing mention of ice cream bread in an electronic newsletter was another wow, though I also wondered why I hadn’t heard of such a thing. Its simplicity–only two ingredients–appealed as did the concept of making bread from ice cream. How could I not give it a go?

Instead of a loaf pan, I used muffin cups (yes, amb, the liners are Valentine’s Day leftovers 🙂 ) and also subbed in 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt for the self-rising flour.

mint chocolate chip ice cream + self-rising flour

mint chocolate chip ice cream + self-rising flour

in the cups

in the cups

cooling it

cooling it

On paper it looks good: leavened flour plus ice cream, which is dairy, fat, sugar, and flavoring. It could work, right? They certainly looked tasty.

they look like cupcakes

they look like cupcakes

But they were meh at best. The texture was borderline gummy, and the flavor fell flat. Perhaps a dash of vanilla extract or even an egg would have helped, but I don’t feel strongly enough about this project to keep working at it. Why throw perfectly amazing ice cream away when it’s so tasty as-is?

But if you’re up for the challenge, I encourage you to give it a go and report back. Can you turn this recipe into something worth making?

As long as we’re here, I also want to give a shout-out to Bandhna and Trace in the Kitchen for their kind nominations. Bandhna, who tossed the Liebster and Versatile awards my way, writes with great enthusiasm and fun about life, travel, food, fashion, and technology. Her Foodie Fridays can’t be missed and even her fashion posts have been known to be almost edible 😉

You’ve met Trace here before and her posts are always worth a read. We share strong opinions about peanut butter as well as a love of all things food. Trace, to you I say: Thanks for the Sunshine, Sunshine 😀

I admit to not playing these awards games very well. While I for sure want to send oodles of thanks and appreciation to Bandhna and Trace, I’ll skip the Q & A part and send you here for further “nominations.” There are so many amazing blogs out there and to narrow it down–as well as find blogs that have yet to receive these awards–continues to stump me.

In the spirit of “just one more thing” (any other Columbo fans out there?), I’ll finish off with another Minnesota Soybean guest blog link. Go ahead and get your cinnamon-roasted soynuts on and circle back next week for more fun in food.

being a guest, DIY cocktail mixers, and pb graham poppers

blog  /bläg/

  • noun: blog;  plural noun: blogs
  1. a personal website or web page which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, etc. on a regular basis.
  • verb: blog;  3rd person present: blogs;  past tense: blogged; past participle: blogged; gerund or present participle: blogging
  1. add new material or regularly update a blog.  “It’s about a week since I last blogged”
  2. write about (an event, situation, topic, etc.) in a blog “”he blogged the Democratic and Republican national conventions and an independent”

Who knew?

“Blog” is a relatively new word for most. Wikipedia cites its first appearance in the late 1990s and only in 2009 did it take off on a more personal level. (Credit for definition and graph goes to google.)index

I never imagined I’d author something with such a funny name, but here I am. (And here you are–you’re probably doing it, too.) Food for Fun was born because it seemed important for a food writer to have a food blog. It’s been rewarding and a favorite part has been the community of like-minded (and some not so like-minded, but fun just the same) folk I’ve come to know.

An unforseen bonus has been having clients bring me on as guest poster for their sites. As it’s all food related, I’ll offer links here–please give them a look-see. The salad alone make them worth the read. Promise.

But I won’t just send you elsewhere to read other blogs. Food for Fun is about content, folks 😉

First up: I’ve become of fan of celery simple syrup, which goes especially well in gin and vodka cocktails. It’s also a great way to use up those last few ribs of celery that always seem to be hanging out in the crisper. For each 2 ribs chopped celery, add 3/4 cup each water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes; drain and voilà! It’s sharply flavored enough that you’ll know the celery is there, but mild enough to be a versatile and interesting addition to lighter cocktails.

celery simple syrup

celery simple syrup

Second: How-To sour mix (margarita, anyone?) posts are everywhere, so this may be old news, but having tried it once, I always keep a stash on hand. It’s tasty enough to drink as-is, but a dilution of at least soda water makes is irresistible. And it shines in tequila-based drinks, absolutely.

D.I.Y.

D.I.Y.

Making the homemade sour requires more muscle than does the celery syrup as it calls for a cup each fresh lemon and lime juice. After much squeezing, the juices are poured into a premade simple syrup (boiling 1 cup each sugar and water until sugar dissolves). Its bright and fresh flavor set it worlds apart from store-bought sour and there will be no going back if you haven’t already made the switch.

Third: Now that your cocktail pantry is stocked, we’ll roll some peanut butter balls. A recent project put me close up and personal with oodles of peanut butter recipes–most of which I want to make immediately as they look so amazing. Because I’m paid for working on the recipes on paper and not in the kitchen, I hadn’t tried any. Until I came across this 3-ingredient, 5-minute recipe that demanded to be made NOW. You’ll like them, too, I think.

three ingredients--all you need

three ingredients–all you need

peanut pyramid of power

peanut pyramid

PB Graham Poppers

adapted from a Skippy® recipe

  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Sprinkles, coconut, additional graham cracker crumbs, unsweetened cocoa powder, and/or other favorite coatings

In medium bowl, stir together 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs, the peanut butter, and honey. Refrigerate 10 minutes. Roll into 15 (1-inch) balls; coat in sprinkles, etc. as desired. Refrigerate to store.

I’ll be back next week with a more cohesive post, though hoping you enjoyed today’s smorgasbord of goodies.

banana bread and the soybean

Back in the late-’90s, I was swimming in soy. Minnesota Soybean, a commodity organization, hired me to help educate folks about the health benefits of soyfoods. I knew very little going in, but after studying the research on soyfood consumption, I was convinced that enjoying whole soyfoods (NOT taking soy pills) in moderation can be healthy. Fast forward to 2012 and soyfoods are found in mainstream grocery stores. Soymilk is frequently sold alongside dairy milk. Tofu hasn’t replaced steak (and I hope it does not), but in part thanks to the emphasis on enjoying the occasional meatless meal, soyfoods have found their way into many kitchens.

Minnesota Soybean came to mind when I was cleaning out my files recently and came across a recipe brochure I had helped put together. The photos were dated, but the card for banana bread caught my eye. I’ve had a large bag of overripe bananas in the freezer for a while and this seemed a good use for them. Other draws included the whole wheat flour and ground flax in the recipe–this banana bread would be whole-grain and healthy. Crushed soynuts were also stirred into the batter, upping the nutrition and adding taste and texture.

I made the banana bread a few days later and it was indeed delicious. Sweet, rich, and nutty, it’s great toasted and spread with butter for breakfast. A slice makes a filling late-morning snack. Tonight, I spread it with cream cheese and date jam and called it dessert. My girls are iffy on it, but my husband thinks it’s grand. Anyone looking to add whole grains or soy to their diet–or anyone who likes banana bread–should give this recipe a spin.

Banana bread with soynuts

Flax Banana Bread

This recipes makes two loaves–I cut ingredient amounts in half and made one.

  • 1 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup ground flax seeds
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon vinegar plus enough milk to make 1/3 cup–let it stand 5 minutes before using)
  • 6 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2/3 cup crushed soynuts + extra for sprinkling

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 2 (9-inch) loaf pans.

In large bowl, stir together flours, flax, baking soda and salt. In separate bowl, beat together butter, applesauce, sugars, eggs and buttermilk with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in bananas. Add mixture to dry ingredients, stirring just enough to blend. Stir in 2/3 cup soynuts. Divide batter between pans. Sprinkle tops of each loaf with additional crushed soynuts. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until knife inserted into center of each loaf comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.