wakame wha’?

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Those bloggers in the Cooking Through the Alphabet gang are wild folk. First, they tested me with T for Tofu (I jumped in late); next, U was assigned to udon. With V came vanilla beans, which seemed a simpler ingredient. … Continue reading

more marshmallow madness again

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The marshmallow train moves forward as I finally brought a bit of my madness to the masses. A friend who directs a local culinary school had asked me on board to teach a class on boozy marshmallows and last Friday … Continue reading

v, vanilla bean

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T, Tofu. U, Udon. Welcome, my food for fun friends, to V! Today I join Shanna, Sofia, and Ngan as we continue to cook our way through the alphabet. My culinary colleagues smartly assigned V to vanilla bean and I’m … Continue reading

owning the scallion ‘cakes

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Anyone else feeling the crazies lately? The end-of-school-year crazies when you run to games and banquets and recitals and whatnot? When you run in circles and fall so behind on sleep that you forget to write your weekly blog post? … Continue reading

making do, kitchen edition

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Let’s talk about those days when you don’t have time to hunt down recipes, shop for and prep amazing ingredients, and spend an hour putting a meal on the table. In other words, most of our lives nearly all the … Continue reading

jelly beans, peeps, rice krispy bars–oh my

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From the title alone, you know where I’m going with this, right? Mostly I’m hoping you’ll click over to read my latest Funny Names in Food post as it was heaps of fun to research and write as well as … Continue reading

the cake! the cake! and marshmallows, too

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Many many thanks to all of you who sent ideas (and encouragement) after last week’s puppy cake post. I promised follow-up on that cake and food for fun is here to deliver.Its deLizious facebook debut noted a resemblance to the … Continue reading

gate-crashing a Sicilian cocktail party

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Liz: Well, hello. Welcome to a Special Travel Edition here at food for fun. I hope you brought your passport, as we’re going International today. First, you’ll want to meet my friend Saucy of Saucy Gander. She puts my simple … 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

special edition: health hero

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Dear Dad, When I was asked to nominate my Health Hero, you were top of my list. Your commitment to exercise and staying fit has helped shape my view of what it means to be healthy. I may have been … 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!

food geek chocolate cake

The hardest part of monthly guest posts at Blog of Funny Names is coming up with that funny name. Committing to a food-related name helps narrow the field, but I’m never sure where to look for a name that is fun, fresh, interesting, relevant, and unique enough to be considered “funny.”

Googling always saves the day, but I still need a direction in which to head. This month I got that direction from a small inner voice whispering, “molecular gastronomy.” [While hearing small voices might qualify me for professional help, your reading this might qualify you for the same so we’re in this together. Stay with me? Please?]

So. Searching “molecular gastronomy” was exactly what I needed to do and we all benefit because 1) I found an amazing man named Hervé This, whom I now admire greatly and 2) I thought I’d try a bit of kitcheny science over here as well.

Those kitcheny science results are as laughable as they are delicious and we’ll move on to them as soon as I can convince you to hop over and learn a bit more about Hervé. Click here, then please return for a doozy of a chocolate cake experiment.

***

Back for cake? Very good, then. Learning about Monsieur This inspired me to find a recipe I remembered seeing on Foodography, a favorite Cooking Channel show. Self-proclaimed food nerd Jeff Potter demonstrated a microwave chocolate cake leavened only by N2O gasses in the cream whipper that dispensed the batter.

Long a cream whipper fan, I’ve used mine only to whip cream and branching out sounded like fun. A cake leavened with nitrous oxide instead of chemicals–kitchen science indeed.

ready to rock

ready to rock

Though the recipe threw me a bit: Four ounces chocolate, four eggs, plus smaller amounts of flour and sugar. This sounded like multiple servings, but best I could understand, it all went into one glass. Mention of only filling the “pan” two-thirds full should have been my clue, but after studying the recipe closely, I saw no mention of anything more than one serving. I filled that mug to the top. (also added a dollop of marshmallow fluff after half-filling with batter per recipe suggestion)

batter in place

batter in place

halfway

halfway

fluff!

fluff!

ready for the microwave

ready for the microwave

The first 30 seconds in the microwave didn’t “bake” the batter through, so I added four more 30-second intervals. And by the first minute, the batter was up and over the side of the mug. For sure this recipe is meant to serve four and shame on me for not getting that.

no words for this

no words for this

Just the same, this offers opportunity to turn disaster into triumph. (It’s a game I often play called, “I meant to do it this way.”) The cake turned out nicely on a platter, a bit of gooeyness on the top (now the bottom) adding to its charm. Dusting with powdered sugar, as advised, crowned it in glory and it was happily ever after.

A side of ice cream or sweetened whipped cream and it's restaurant worthy.

Add a side of ice cream or sweetened whipped cream and it’s restaurant worthy.

No question the batter was meant to be divided evenly among four glasses. Though the numbers divide in half easily enough, making two servings an option as well.

While this was fun, and meeting Hervé was worth any amount of kitchen mess, my next microwave cake will be of the chemically leavened mug variety. Fortunately, another Liz–of Tip Top Shape–has me covered with her funfetti version.

I raise my future mug of Liz’s Funfetti Mug Cake to you all for spending time with me here and over at Blog of Funny Names. I look forward already to our next food adventure.

British (cake) invasion

Anyone who writes, reads, comments on blogs would attest to the power of online communication for building relationships. Ditto for facebook, twitter, etc. We’ve all made friends we’d never have imagined meeting outside of online connections.

Today’s story is about such a connection, though it goes back 12 years, before blogs, facebook Likes, or tweets. Remember the chat room?

With little to do at the end of my first pregnancy (I had stopped accepting new projects in anticipation of first-time motherhood and the nursery was ready and waiting), I found myself newly addicted to a television show I’d enjoyed in the ’80s. Discovering its virtual chat room linked me to others following this cult favorite. Thus my bonding with Scarecrow & Mrs. King fans began.

It’s with some embarrassment that I ‘fess up to having been into this show (admitting to a trip to LA for SMK’s 20th anniversary reunion doesn’t help my street cred either), though I will forever be grateful as it formed a friendship I still hold today.

Di–watching SMK in Great Britain–was brilliantly funny and we soon moved on to emails and exchanging packages (though she’s much better at sending than I am). We’ve met up in LA, Vegas, Boston, D.C., and DisneyWorld and I’ve hosted her in my home as well.

(You can meet Di yourself, through TourGuide Ted, her well-traveled stuffed bear who has his own website, twitter account, and vacation property.)

Though Di would never call herself a “cook,” her bear, Ted, has posted the occasional culinary delight. Most recently, he showed up on his Twitter feed with a piña colada cake. And when Di sent me the recipe, I was on it like a maraschino cherry on a pineapple ring.

TourGuide Ted's cake is much prettier than mine.

TourGuide Ted’s cake is much prettier than mine.

What’s surprising here is that I don’t like pineapple. I especially don’t like pineapple in baked goods. (My theory that raisins don’t belong in baked goods easily extends to all fruit, excepting apple pie and crumble of course.) But a seemingly endless string of sub-zero temperature days broke me and I wanted nothing more than a slice of piña colada cake.

Luckily I have a kitchen scale and working knowledge of google as I needed to weigh ingredients and translate British cooking terms such as sandwich tins, caster sugar, and Gas Mark 3.

In the end, my cake baked up flatter (didn’t have 7-inch cake pans, so used 9-inch) and was less pretty (bought two cans of pineapple tidbits instead of one each rings and tidbits–oops) than what Ted had whipped up, but it couldn’t have been any less delicious. Moist, sweet, a little bit boozy, the cake offered texture contrast with moist pineapple pieces and shredded coconut. I put away three (not huge, honest) slices before I could stop eating.

Kept going back for more.

kept going back for more

slice of heaven

slice of heaven

In the spirit of the recent Winter Olympic games, food for fun salutes all its readers–international and domestic–with a cake that is good enough to bring about World Peace. And hopefully a spring thaw for those in northern climes.

Piña Colada Cake as told to an American food editor

  • 2 ounces brown sugar
  • 4 ounces tinned pineapple rings
  • Maraschino cherries
  • 6 ounces butter, softened
  • 6 ounces caster sugar (used granulated)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons coconut rum (used twice that and Ted claims to have tripled the amount)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces dessicated coconut (used shredded)
  • 6 ounces self-rising flour (used 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 ounces tinned pineapple pieces, drained and well-chopped (used canned tidbits)

Filling and Frosting

  • 525 grams icing (powdered) sugar
  • 225 grams butter (1/2 cup), softened
  • Coconut rum
  • Pineapple juice (reserved from canned pineapple)
  • 2 to 4 ounces dessicated coconut (Ted says toasted, though I did not)

Set oven to Gas Mark 3 (325ºF). Line 7-inch sandwich tins (with removable bottom). [I coated two 9-inch cake pans with baking spray.] Sprinkle bottom of one pan evenly with brown sugar. Top decoratively with pineapple rings and cherries.

In mixing bowl, beat together 6 ounces butter and the caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, rum, and vanilla until blended. Fold in coconut, flour, baking powder, and pineapple pieces. Add more rum if mixture is too thick to pour. Divide batter between pans. Bake on same oven rack 35 to 45 minutes or until cakes pull away from sides of pans and wooden pick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Cool (pineapple-side-up for pan with rings) on wire rack.

To make filling and frosting, sift icing sugar into large bowl. Add 1/2 cup butter and small amount of liquids; mix until smooth. Add liquids to taste until mixture is smooth and spreadable. (Here Ted mentions that it is important to keep tasting, though he is speaking specifically about the rum at this point.)

When cake layers are cool, place bottom half (without pineapple rings) on serving plate. Spread with about half of frosting; top with remaining cake layer, pineapple-side-up. Spread remaining frosting around side of cake. Top with coconut as desired.

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.

sweet stuff

Too many sweet potatoes. That’s where I found myself after Trader Joe’s opened up in our neighborhood. My girls and I refer to TJ’s as our “happy place” and while the prices are most definitely right, I always manage to drop large amounts of cash if only because I buy so much. Hence the sweet potatoes.

My plan was to serve them solo baked, mashed, and roasted and also cook them up for chili, shepherd’s pie, biscuits, and the like. Best of intentions. What really happened? I baked a batch one night, and while my husband and I devoured ours, the girls were unimpressed. Same thing happened a few days later when I served sweet potatoes mashed. Apparently naturally sweetened foods do not work for my children.

Their lack of enthusiasm dulled mine, and the potatoes sat. Not wanting to throw them out, I finally roasted and mashed what was left of the five-pound bag and committed to making something fun with sweet potato puree.

First up was sweet potato spoonbread, from Down Home Wholesome, 300 Low-Fat Recipes from a New Soul Kitchen. Quintessentially Southern, spoonbread had never graced my Midwestern table. But this custardy, pudding-like “bread” seemed a good way to pass dessert off as part of the main course. Because the cookbook focused on low-fat fare, this version had only one teaspoon butter and one egg. Cornmeal and sweet potatoes made up the bulk and two whites were folded into the final “batter” for extra lightness.

prebake

prebake

It baked up lovely and glorious–especially served with (fat-free) half-and-half. I’m calling it a side dish, dessert, AND breakfast. Score one for the sweet potato.

sweet potato spoonbread

sweet potato spoonbread

glory be!

glory be!

A recipe for squash rolls also came to mind; I remembered making them for Thanksgiving years back and that they were a hit. Sweet potatoes were a natural sub for the squash, so I collected ingredients and made me some dough. It rose nicely and in the interest of variety, I divided the dough in half, shaping 12 dinner rolls from one and rolling out cinnamon rolls with the other.wpid-mntsdcardPhoto-Editor2014-02-12-16.36.08.jpg.jpgContaining only whole-wheat flour, the dinner rolls could have been heavy, but weren’t. Honey and oil kept them soft and tender and the 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes added plenty of moisture.

now with butter

now with butter

The cinnamon rolls got a heavy pour of honey-sweetened cream cheese and offered a legit breakfast, dessert, or snack. They weren’t as light as the bakery-style mile-high rolls, but their graininess and sweet, earthy flavor put them in a league of their own.

before frosting

before frosting

after the frost

after the frost

after plating

after plating

Though my girls were nonplussed with the spoonbread (more for texture and unfamiliarity than objecting to flavor), the rolls–dinner and cinnamon–got a big thumbs-up from all. Mission accomplished.

With that, I’m closing my sweet potato chapter for at least a short while. Just the same, I sense another trip to Trader Joe’s, for yet to be discovered bargains, in the near future.

Sweet Potato Spoonbread

  • 3 cups 1% milk (I used soymilk)
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large egg whites, beaten until stiff

Butter 2-quart casserole. Heat oven to 375°F.

In heavy 2-quart saucepan, whisk together 2 cups milk, the cornmeal and salt. Heat over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir in sweet potatoes, brown sugar, and butter.

Whisk egg into remaining 1 cup milk; stir into saucepan. Remove from heat. Stir in baking powder and baking soda. Fold in egg whites until no white streaks remain. Transfer batter to casserole. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until just set, though custard will still be jiggly.

Sweet Potato Rolls

Instead of making 24 rolls, I rolled half of the dough into a 15×12-inch rectangle, brushed the dough with melted butter and sprinkled generously with cinnamon-sugar. The dough was rolled tightly, seams sealed, and cut into 1-inch slices. Rolls were then placed in a 9-inch pie pan to rise, covered, 20 minutes. They baked at 375°F for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and baked through.

  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115°F)
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour

In large bowl, combine yeast and water. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients except flour. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring until dough forms. Turn onto floured surface; knead vigorously 8 minutes or until soft and elastic. Place dough in clean greased bowl, turning dough so all sides are greased. Cover; let rise in warm place until nearly doubled. Shape into 24 rolls; place on greased baking sheet. Let rise 20 minutes or until puffed.

Bake at 375°F until browned and baked through. Transfer rolls to wire rack to cool.