rhubarb pie, please

Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box has yet again yielded riches. Seasonal riches at that. With rhubarb growing strong in the backyard, my family had been making noises about bringing that rhubarb inside and putting it in a pie. So when I … Continue reading

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

spring break special ed. or there really is such thing as too many marshmallows

Spring break means sunshine, beaches, and tropical beverages. Especially after Coldest Winter Ever, trips to warmer climes seem mandatory. But our family had other plans. We would visit my husband’s parents in a small town 200+ miles north of where we live.

While this vacation locale won’t bring us any beach days, it does offer opportunity for rest and relaxation. With grandparents on-site to mind the kids, I can sleep in, work out, and tackle projects that haven’t been moving forward back home. One project in particular–remember Marshmallow Madness?–kept me busy today.

Since that last January marshmallow post, I’ve been drawing up outlines, testing recipes, dreaming up marshmallow flavors and uses (popcorn balls, anyone?), and researching what’s already out there in hopes of advancing my own spin on DIY ‘mallows.

To that end, I bought bottles of sweet red wine and sherry, intending to try these wines in marshmallows. Weeks went by, the bottles collecting dust on the shelf (save the sherry, which I enjoy sipping come evening) and I wondered when my schedule would allow me a few hours in the kitchen to try these new marshmallow flavors.

Knowing I’d have plenty of time at my in-laws, I packed it all up and set out to turn my mother-in-law’s kitchen into a marshmallow test kitchen.

And how. After making three different kinds of marshmallows–sherry, sweet red wine, and root beer–I can say without reservation that there IS such a thing as marshmallow overload. Tasting along the way, many spoonfuls of sugary fluff were consumed. Add to that the many marshmallows “tested” after project completion, and I write this in the throes of a sugar coma. That said, here’s a review.

The sherry and red wine flavors were riffs on Alton Brown’s recipe, subbing alcohol for part of the water (1/2 cup for the sherry and 2/3 cup for the red wine). Red wine won for appearance as it started out deep purple, then faded to light pinkish lavender after whipping. Sherry won flavor, if only because I prefer sherry over red wine.

sherry marshmallows-to-be

sherry marshmallows-to-be

boiling the wine syrup

boiling the wine syrup

whipping the wine fluff

whipping the wine fluff

Wanting to make a ‘mallow for the kids, I turned to Marshmallow Madness (Shauna Sever beat me to this book title!) for its Root Beer Float marshmallow. Sever’s recipes had different proportions of corn syrup, sugar, and liquid compared to other recipes I’ve tried, though she knows what she’s doing as her marshmallows were fluffiest and the “batter” easiest to work with. I’ll be turning to Sever’s book again.

gelatin "blooming" in root beer

gelatin “blooming” in root beer

I wasn’t overly crazy about any of these flavors, though that’s more about my being sick of marshmallows than it is marshmallow quality. My best bet is to step back from marshmallow making, though I’ll need to hit it again soon as I’ve signed on to teach a marshmallow class at a local cooking school. The madness must continue. I’ll also be reporting back here, eventually offering up the root beer float marshmallow recipe as well*. Please stay tuned!

l to r: red wine, sherry, root beer float

l to r: red wine, sherry, root beer float

*Can’t wait for the recipe? Let me know in comments or on deLizious facebook and I’ll send it your way.

proving the pudding…is delish

It’s been a double-down week for classes as my daughter and I taught a kids’ cooking class last weekend, then Monday eve I helped same daughter’s Girl Scout troop earn their Simple Meals badge. Originally intending to repeat my Saturday menu (DIY instant oats, noodle bowl, chicken tenders) for the troop, I realized that badge requirements called for a dessert. This realization hit the morning of the Scout meeting, leaving me little time to come up with a quick-and-easy sweet that would teach basic cooking skills and appeal to 10- and 11-year-old taste buds.

Little time was needed, though, as the obvious dessert choice was homemade chocolate pudding. A favorite dessert with my family (especially the husband), pudding needs only a few ingredients, cooks up quickly, and is undeniably swoon-worthy. I also imagined that at least a few of the girls may have only experienced the snack-pack variety of pudding. And I was excited to see these girls learn that homemade is so much better.

The recipe I turned to is from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, a highly readabale book by Jennifer Reese of Tipsy Baker fame. Though I cut down on the milk just a smidge, I otherwise honored the recipe and its prose, quoting the recipe’s cleverly-written doneness test to the budding cooks: “It will start out looking like scummy hot chocolate, after which it will look like thin hot chocolate, until suddenly it becomes hot, bubbling glossy pudding. This is how you know it’s done.” While wordy, it’s also wonderfully descriptive and perfect for anyone who hasn’t cooked up pudding before.

As suspected, the pudding was a huge hit–sweet, but not overly so and also at a “chocolatey” level ideal for young kids who may not yet appreciate the darker side of chocolate. (Though using dark cocoa powder instead of the traditional would fix that.)

When I posted a photo collage of the foods the girls made that night (quinoa, roasted carrots and asparagus, breaded chicken tenders, and the pudding) on deLizious’ facebook page, all comments were for the pudding. And that’s when I knew I had a blog post.

From-Scratch Chocolate Pudding

tweaked only slightly from Jennifer Reese’s awesome Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk (2 1/4 cups in the original recipe and Reese recommends whole, though I use what we have which is usually 1%)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In medium saucepan, stir together brown sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt.  Whisk in milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until hot, bubbly, and glossy. (The better doneness descriptor is given above.) Remove from heat; whisk in vanilla.

Divide pudding among 4 serving dishes. Cover with plastic wrap. (Or not–I do not as I like the thin layer of skin that forms on a pudding’s surface as it chills. Texture!) Refrigerate. (Or not–who can wait for chocolate pudding to chill? It tastes great warm and slightly thinner, too 🙂 ) Makes 4 servings.

creamy chocolate pud from scratch!

creamy chocolate pud from scratch!

granola and baked apples, flavors of fall

Les Dames d’Escoffier, the same group that got me to St. Louis for their annual conference, had yet another assignment for me. Our local Les Dames chapter sponsors Community Design Center, a youth gardening program. Dames are often called upon to teach cooking classes to program participants and Tuesday was my day.

I had limited time to pull ideas together, so a quick “menu” of granola and baked apples was planned. The granola recipe came from a class I’d taught many years before (again, to a youth gardening program, so I was confident it’d fly) and the baked apples were inspired by a cookbook my husband brought to the marriage. Strictly for Boys: A Cookbook for Boys 8 to 80 had been a gift to my husband from his mom when he was a small boy. Dog-eared, it also serves as a place for him to store any recipes he picks up from his mom, and it’s a kick to see it still used. My girls have scribbled “and Girls” just below the “for Boys” on the front cover and it’s a fun go-to book for simple brownie recipes and such. It was the first place I looked for a baked apple recipe.

First step with the 12 high-schoolers was making a batch of brown sugar for the granola. I’m loathe to pay for what I could easily make on my own, so was glad to show these kids that a batch of brown sugar is as easy as thoroughly mixing 1 cup granulated sugar with 2 tablespoons molasses. (That’s how it’s done in the factory; why pay for that extra step?) Granola ingredients were then thrown together and the students proved their creative mettle by etching a smile and a heart in their granola before baking.

granola with a smile

granola with heart

Next up was baked apples. I used the Strictly for Boys book as reference, but provided no recipe as I wanted the kids to feel comfortable making these “pies without a crust” (coined so by a student) without exact amounts. They enthusiastically cored their own apples, then filled them with cinnamon-sugar and a small slice of butter. After baking for half-an-hour at 375°F, the apples were ready. The fragrant baked fruit, oozing with buttery, cinnamon-sugar syrup, was gobbled up as quickly as the granola had been.

These kids were amazing—cooperative, enthusiastic, entertaining, creative. (Even better, they did dishes without being asked.) And it was gratifying to see soon-to-be young adults enjoying (and inhaling) foods that were packed with good-for-you nutrients. I know I’ll soon be whipping these fall favorites up for my kids as well.

classic granola

Classic Granola

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Extras (nuts, seeds, dried fruits)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or other flavor extract

Heat oven to 275°F. Grease baking sheet.

In large bowl, toss together oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, salt, and Extras except for dried fruit.

In saucepan, bring maple syrup, oil, and water to a simmer. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour liquid over oats mixture; stir to coat. Spread mixture evenly over baking sheet. With fingers, squeeze oat mixture to form clumps. Bake 30 minutes. Stir in dried fruits, if using. Bake 15 minutes longer or until browned and fragrant. Makes about 3 cups.