the bite of the british snake?

the bite of the british snake?

Despite my promise to return one week later with a drink to accompany Great-aunt Helen’s Chicken Wings, it’s now been two weeks since reporting in. I’ll play the Mom Card and say it’s been another bunch of crazy weeks with … Continue reading

i’ve got wings. from my mom.

Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box sat lonely on my kitchen counter while I once again drowned myself in another summer of school’s out. With kids home full-time, the blogosphere disappears for me. I even wrote about it a few years ago … Continue reading

a spirited frap

Just two weeks ago we enjoyed a pan of Great-aunt Helen’s Toffee Squares. A promise was made to return with a suitable beverage pairing and though having kids out on summer break has derailed me, a promise is a promise … Continue reading

old-fashioned southern comfort

Cocktail U is once again in session. Thank you for coming to class this week. If you’ll please take your seats, I’ll first pass platters of Great-aunt Helen’s Grits. Our assignment this week was to find a cocktail to accompany … Continue reading

kiss my grits

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Hello, WordPress world. My but I’ve missed you. Offline life has completely taken over for me and it’s been nearly a year between posts. Never my intention to let things go so long. But here we are (thank you that … Continue reading

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.



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.

Thanksgiving in the blogosphere, French bread, and lots of blog links

The past week has been an especially tasty one in the blogosphere as forward-minded bloggers published post after post of amazing dishes that would make any Thanksgiving table proud. Simply Bitten Kitchen gave us cornbread dressing (along with the cornbread for said dressing), cranberry sauce, and turkey wings. A Pug in the Kitchen also offered cranberry sauce and dressing along with potato rolls, a centerpiece-worthy turkey complete with gravy and sides, pie, and even wine suggestions. These are two of oodles of blogs that published Thanksgiving recipes in a timely manner. If you are hosting a Thanksgiving meal or providing at least a component, you would have read their posts and still had plenty of time to whip up the recipes.

Then there is food for fun. My blog. Where you will indeed find a stand-out recipe for a lovely baguette–developed by a Jesuit priest, for goodness’ sake–posted very late in the eve before the day that is Thanksgiving. This is the bread I will be bringing to my mom’s Thanksgiving feast. We will slice it and slather it with butter and maybe spread some cranberry sauce on it or even dip it in gravy. It will be heavenly. I will also slice up a loaf and turn it into Sweet Potato Crostini as seen in a Taste of Home back issue and offer it as an appetizer.

But sadly, Brother Curry’s recipe will not help you this November 28. For who has time to make this bread–with its 10-hour rise time–for their Thanksgiving meal? I apologize for this. My bad.

Just the same, I offer you a photo, recipe, and hopefully a feel for how easy it will be when you do have time to make this bread. It doesn’t need a holiday to be enjoyed, no. Make a batch (you’ll be richly rewarded with three loaves) and enjoy for breakfast, lunch, supper, and any time before or after any of those meals. Eat it plain, spread it with butter/jam/honey, make turkey sandwiches with it, float thin slices atop soup. You’ll find plenty of ways to enjoy these baguettes.

three French loaves

three French loaves (recipe below)

Though I am unable to help American folk fill their Thanksgiving table, I still want to wish all a blessed Thanksgiving. The blogging community–readers, Likers, commentors, followers–is high on my list of what I am thankful for. Blogging has brought amazing friends and helped me stretch my writing wings, take a few more risks. I’ve learned how to use my camera’s photo editor and my recipe collection has expanded exponentially. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the blogosphere to be so rich. A sincere and heartfelt thank you to all.

In that vein, I’d like to especially thank Ada, of More Food, Please and Shanna, over at Curls and Carrots. Both ladies, besides offering first-rate content on their respective blogs, have supported my endeavors with their thoughtful and enthusiastic (and just plain fun) comments both here and over at deLizious facebook. Over the past few months, they’ve honored me with their nominations for Dragon’s Share, Versatile, Sunshine, Blog of the Year 2013, Dragon’s Loyalty, WordPress Family, and Best Blogger Ever of All Time (haha, just made that last one up) Awards. I love that you enjoy what you read here, Ada and Shanna. Many many thanks. You ladies rock.

While there are official rules for accepting these awards, I’m going to mix it up food blogger-style. Instead of answering questions and nominating others, I offer you a recipe.

Recipe for a Culinary (and otherwise) Tour of the Blogosphere

Makes as many servings as you think you can handle.

Click on links. Read, then laugh, drool, swoon, ponder, smile, etc as appropriate. Click Follow if you want another serving.

One more thing: I already sent you to Curls and Carrots above, but if you haven’t yet clicked over, I’ll send you directly to Shanna’s recent granola bar post. She claims she took inspiration from last week’s food fun for granola bar post, though even if that’s the case, she’s far surpassed anything I could have done. You must see these!

And now for that bread…

French Bread

From The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking by Rick Curry, S.J.

  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115ºF)
  • Pinch sugar (my addition)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In large bowl, combine yeast, 1/2 cup water, and the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Let stand 5 minutes.

Add remaining 3/4 cup water, the salt and 2 cups flour to yeast mixture; beat vigorously 3 minutes. Beat 5 minutes longer, continuing to add remaining flour until dough pulls away from side of bowl.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead 8 to 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed to prevent stickiness.

Lightly oil large bowl; place dough in bowl. Turn to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in refrigerator 10 to 12 hours or overnight. (or at room temperature for half that, which is what I did due to lack of foresight. see paragraph 2 above)

Let dough come to room temperature (lucky me–mine already was). Heat oven to 450ºF. Turn dough out onto work surface. Divide dough into thirds; shape into baguettes. Place dough on trays. Cover with tea towel; let rise 20 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Spritz loaves with water. (Original recipe recommends spraying with vinegar, which I didn’t understand. Anyone know why this would be a good thing?) Make seven slashes in each baguette (so says Brother Curry). Bake 10 minutes; spray with additional water. Bake 10 minutes longer or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

pan of (granola) bars

Pre-kids (and pre-Internet), collecting cookbooks was my thing. Consequently, my shelves are lined with hundreds of books I can’t seem to part with. While I’ve pared the collection down some, I still have far more cookbooks than I’ll ever need or use.

I’m betting many of you can relate. Cookbooks are more than recipes–they remind us of the people who gave them to us, restaurants enjoyed, travels made, classes taken, places lived. Even though there are plenty I’ll never cook from, each has its own reason for sticking around.

Why, though, would I purchase another cookbook? There are few recipes that can’t be found online and decluttering has more appeal than acquiring.

my new toy

my new toy

But I’m easy prey for a good deal and a pretty face. Hamilton Book offered both when its recent flyer advertised Entenmann’s Home Baking for a mere $4.95. Shipping didn’t add much and the memories I have of Entenmann’s baked goods, sitting on supermarket shelves in their blue and white boxes, drew me in. I wanted–no, needed–this book!

So in my collection it now sits and I’ve enjoyed turning its pages. Muffins, cookies, crumb cakes, pies, fancy desserts–they all look wonderfully homespun and there are many I would make. The Almost Homemade chapter uses Entenmann’s products as ingredients (their frosted donuts–along with coarsely chopped popcorn–somehow morphs into Dreamy Chocolate Bars). It all looks like great fun and I’ve already gotten my money’s worth by making two recipes.

Their basic chocolate chip cookies got a bit of a makeover when I subbed in cut-up Halloween candy (still trying to make my way through our stash) for the chips and are rich and buttery and delish.

Nutty Granola Bars were almost as successful. The photo reminded me of the Nature Valley bars we buy in bulk to keep my husband in constant supply. I’ve tried to make DIY versions with varying levels of success (thanks, Ada, for one of my favorites!), but have yet to achieve the crunch of store-bought brands.Open book

pan of bars

pan of bars

Instead of corn syrup, I used honey (seemed a cleaner ingredient) and maybe that was why these bars were softer than expected. Flour and a longer bake time differentiated this recipes from others, but the bars were still more soft than crisp.

Nutty Granola Bars

Nutty Granola Bars

Ironically, the other issue was that the edges crumbled and I had a cup or so of granola left in the pan after cutting and wrapping. The granola–and bars–were fantastic: buttery, a bit salty (did I mention I sprinkled the bars with Maldon sea salt before baking?), just slightly sweet. A splash of almond milk added to the granola crumbles made a fine supper.

granola for supper

granola for supper

I’m glad to have tried this recipe, but would add a bit more honey next time in hopes of better gluing the dry ingredients together. Perhaps a slightly longer bake time, higher temp, and larger pan would crisp them up a bit. Most likely, I’ll find another granola bar recipe to try (if you have one you love, please holler in comments or message me via my deLiz facebook page). Entenmann’s Home Baking will see more use, though, as there are crumb cakes, et al. to be made. This book will earn its place on my shelf.

Nutty Granola Bars

adapted only slightly from Entenmann’s Home Baking

  • 2 1/3 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey or corn syrup

Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease 9-inch square pan. (original recipe calls for 8×8-inch)

In large bowl, mix oats, hazelnuts, flour, and cinnamon.

In saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and honey; cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Pour over dry ingredients; mix well. Spoon mixture into pan, pressing down and smoothing top. Bake 25 minutes or until golden and firm to touch. Cut into 16 pieces while still in pan; cool completely. Makes 16 bars.

DIY fun-size candy, a surprise guest, and a cocktail

A recent link on a friend’s facebook page combined two favorites: kitchen DIY and candy. Healthier versions of peanut butter cups, milk duds, peanut m&ms, crunch bars, butterfingers (personal fave), tootsie rolls, twix, etc could all be mine if I followed these recipes.

On closer inspection, I saw that some of these recipes didn’t truly resemble what they were supposed to mimic (though they’re probably still delish) and many called for ingredients that might take a bit of hunting down (puffed quinoa? Wasa 7-grain crackers?). My criteria of almost duplicating the original (chocolate-coated chickpeas passing for malted milk balls sounds intriguing, but not for Halloween) and having everything on hand (sadly, the crunch bars were out) narrowed it down to 3 Musketeers bars–my winner.

Though it wasn’t a win, really. My digital thermometer was on the fritz and the two meat thermometers I dug from the bottom of my drawer didn’t read high enough. The outcome was overcooked fluff and undercooked nougat (this makes more sense when you look at the recipe) and bars that just didn’t hold together. It being Halloween and all, I’ll show you the blobs that formed when I tried to coat the base in chocolate.

now THIS is scary

now THIS is scary

at least it won't ooze out of the pan

at least it won’t ooze out of the pan

I know, right? But if you’ve been here before, you know I still went forward. Spreading the fluff/nougat base in a well-greased pan, I then covered it with the melted chocolate.

Freezing it gave best results, though too much time at room temperature makes it overly soft. Flavorwise? Not bad! They come close to the real 3 Musketeers bar. So much so that too large of a piece (or too many small pieces) makes your teeth hurt.

Knowing that, I’ll cut myself a sliver and wait for my little goblins to get home from school and start the Halloween madness. *sits down in a comfy chair, puts her feet up, slowly brings DIY candy up for a bite*

DIY 3 Musketeers bars, sort of

DIY 3 Musketeers bars, sort of

*there’s a REALLY loud knock at the door* Liz !! Liz !!! Knock knock !!!

Liz: Who could that be? It’s a bit early for trick-or-treaters. And the girls won’t be home from school for another hour. But I recognize that voice. It sounds like amb*laughing* Ok, I’ll bite. Who’s there?

amb: Orange!!

Liz: Orange who?

amb: Orange you glad it’s Halloween ?!?!

*amb comes in* Trick or treat Liz !!! Oh my, this is exciting; I haven’t been to your house in ages. Everything looks great. And is that … do I smell … chocolate ?!? Oh my goodness, you spoil me. And all my readers. It’s cool that they’re here too, right? We took our shoes off at the door and everything.

Liz: Give me some time here, amb. I’m still recovering from your knock-knock joke. And you seem especially excited today. Chocolate on your chin–have you been eating candy bars already? *shakes head* But yes, of course, bring your lovely self and your lovely readers in. The more the merrier and I just happen to have this batch of super-sweet, super-indulgent homemade candy. Have some!

amb: We have food and movies! I brought entertainment. I figured it was the least I could do, since you’re providing the goodies. The perfect film to go with our completely over the top, so-bad-for-us-they’re-amazing snacks: the 1993 cult classic “Hocus Pocus”. Before he got Zac Efron to sing in “High School Musical”, Kenny Ortega convinced Bette Midler to wear some really, really bad make up in “Hocus Pocus”. Seriously. It’s so bad. I can’t look directly at Bette’s teeth; they’re terrifying.



I purposely picked this movie because I thought I could handle the scare-quotient, and now I’m feeling really nervous here on your couch. Hey, do you think Dave would come over if we called him? To protect me? And be all tall and strong and supportive and … wait, what movie are we watching, again?

Liz: Hocus. Pocus. Remember? That movie where Sarah Jessica Parker plays a witch who enchants boys by batting her eyelashes and … *amb is still all dreamy on the couch* er, never mind. Bad example. Ok. “Hocus Pocus” is that movie where a trio of witches are resurrected from the grave on All Hallow’s Eve and have one night to create the potion that will allow them to suck out children’s souls and stay young and beautiful forever … you ok amb? You’re looking a little pale.

amb: *shivering* Do you ever notice, Liz, how stories that are supposedly for children so often turn out to be completely gruesome? I mean, nobody took “Hocus Pocus” seriously when it came out–they were too distracted by the costumes and the cheesy dialogue and those teeth. But when you think about it, the slaughtering of innocent children just to maintain an outward appearance of youth and vitality is pretty serious stuff. I think it really speaks to the lack of respect that we seem to have, as a society, for our elders, and to the universal fear of becoming irrelevant.

Liz: Your geek glasses have come out, I see. But you’re right amb, when you look past the surface there are some heavy themes in this movie for sure. Maybe too heavy for a Halloween party, don’t you think? Can we focus on one of the lighter elements of the film? Potions? I’ve been toying with the idea of an adult version of a liquid candy bar, so combined a few of my favorite sweet spirits to arrive at this dandy of a cocktail.

sugar overload

sugar overload

amb: Yes, please. Let’s end with the cocktail. More sugar, that’s what I need! And Dave. More sugar, and Dave, and maybe a nice, romantic movie that doesn’t have dark overtones of grimness and death. Can we feature a musical next time, Liz?

Liz: Sounds like a great idea to me, amb. Maybe we should get together on a more regular basis for movie-and-snack discussions. You bring the movie, I’ll provide the snacks? We clearly have a winning combination watching Hocus Pocus while chewing our way through these gooey candy bars and sipping our Candy Bar Cocktails. You bring your Words Become Superfluous friends and I’ll invite food for fun folk and we’ll celebrate the silver screen and sensational snacks.

amb: Another yes from me! Let’s get on that–after this spooky-fun Halloween party, of course. When you get back to your kitchen, start looking for recipes while showtunes play in the background to get inspired. Hey, they’re dimming the lights for the movie. Happy Halloween everybody! And thanks for letting us crash, Liz.

Liz: Always happy to have you and your amazing readers over. Come back anytime! To close, will offer the recipe for the wicked candy cocktail we’re serving. A very sugary cheers to all!

Happy Halloween from amb and Liz :-D

Happy Halloween from amb and Liz 😀

Candy Bar Cocktail

  • 1 ounce Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 ounce dark crème de cacao
  • 1 ounce half-and-half
  • 1/2 ounce white crème de cacao
  • 1/2 ounce Tuaca or vanilla vodka
  • 1/2 ounce brandy
  • Chocolate sprinkles

In shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients except for sprinkles. Shake well. Use small amount of cocktail to wet rim of glass; press glass into sprinkles on plate. Strain cocktail into glass.

gettin’ your freekeh on

If I ran analysis and crunched numbers, I could tell you exactly how many food for fun recipes are “healthy” and how many not so much. But since running analysis and crunching numbers sounds a bit dry, I’ll just say that the “better for the soul than your waistline” recipes found here far outnumber the “good for you” recipes.

Yet. If this blog more accurately reflected how I cook, it would offer a better balance. While I love my sweets (and my cocktails), the meals I make tend to showcase whole grains, veggies, lean proteins, etc. That said, the sweet stuff garners more attention (and generally seems more fun), so I don’t often include main dishes here. But today I will.‘s recipes grace my email box daily and today’s caught my attention. I’d just been thinking supper possibilities as I opened the email and Stir-Fried Buckwheat sounded good. With a bag of buckwheat groats already in my freezer (or so I thought), this recipe would make a healthy vegetarian entrée.

What intrigued me most was how the grains were cooked. First, they were mixed with an egg, then toasted for a brief time in a large saucepan. Vegetable broth was added and the grain simmered 15 or so minutes until the broth was absorbed. The cooked grain was then spread out on a baking sheet, each kernel separated as much as possible for cooling. When added to the stir-fried and seasoned veggies, the grains mostly remain separate.

cooling the kernels

cooling the kernels

A quick search of the freezer failed to uncover buckwheat groats, but I found freekah and gave that a go instead. (Do you know freekeh? I first discovered it a year or so ago and figured it as the next quinoa. Billed as cracked green wheat, it’s chewy, slightly sweet, and adds variety to a whole grain repertoire. As for being the next big thing in the grain world, it’s now sold at Costco–a sure sign of being mainstreamed.)

freekah: a young, green cracked wheat

freekah: a young, green cracked wheat

Another change was subbing curry paste for the chile paste as that’s what I had on hand (paste is paste, right?). As well, I didn’t have any green beans, so added color with a handful of chopped fresh mint.

Stir-Fried Freekah

Stir-Fried Freekeh

Nutritionally, it makes a better side than main as it’s all carbs, but a sprinkle of peanuts upped the protein content. Though my girls weren’t impressed, I was. Reminiscent of fried rice, it also had its own personality: warm and slightly salty and savory and herby. I’ll definitely be making it again.

up close and personal

up close and personal

So while food for fun will continue highlighting ice cream, cookies, cakes, bread, adult beverages, and the like, it’ll also serve up the occasional healthy dish. The way I see it, not-so-good-for-you food can be enjoyed (relatively) guilt-free when you’ve filled up on the good stuff first.

get crackalackin’ or DIY crackers

Though last week’s bacon jam has yet to meet a food it doesn’t improve, it was meant for a party and simply screamed to be partnered with goat cheese and homemade crackers.

ready to party

ready to party

Which meant I needed to bring my cracker-making A-game to the kitchen. Past experience with DIY crackers has yielded tasty results, though the baked crackers always seem softer than what you’ll find in stores. I wanted crisp, so this seemed perfect opportunity to give cracker making another shot.

The Homemade Pantry, Alana Chernila’s collection of all things DIY kitchen, was the book I turned to for my recipe. Her humbly named Wheat Crackers–basic and über-healthy–seemed just the thing to balance bacon jam. Ingredients were gathered and dough was made, rolled, and baked. I focused on rolling the dough to exactly the 1/8-inch thickness given in the recipe, as I’m guessing the softer crackers I’ve made hadn’t been rolled thin enough.

1/8 inch thick

1/8 inch thick

Using olive oil instead of butter also gave them a slight crunch and the uncooked millet added to the texture further. Because I can’t seem to do “pretty” or even “uniform” when baking, the crackers came out looking a bit disheveled. They were still delish and some would say their slightly ragged appearance adds to their charm. (You would say that, wouldn’t you? 😉 )crackers in bowl

Following Alana’s suggestion of adding garlic or rosemary to the dough would have given them more flavor; I’ll make this change next time. Still, these crackers were paired with that bacon jam, which has enough flavor for them both.

wheat cracker, goat cheese, bacon jam

wheat cracker, goat cheese, bacon jam

These were good crackers and making them reminded me of how easy a process it is. I’ve featured Homemade Pantry before along with Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. These books deserve another shout-out as they’re fun reads (Reese is lol funny) and offer recipes for so many basics: pudding, bread, yogurt, pop-tarts (that’s a basic, right?), pasta, lemonade, Kahlua, fruit roll-ups, marshmallows, etc. You don’t need chef’s training to make any of it and food always tastes better–and usually costs less–when you make it yourself. (Excepting A-1 Steak Sauce and ketchup–I tried making both and am sticking with store versions.)

If you’re reading this, my guess is you’re already on the DIY bandwagon, but if no, I encourage you to pick something–anything–and give it a shot. (Butter, for instance, is nothing more than overwhipped cream. You can make butter; no churn required.) If you’re well versed in from-scratch kitchen arts, would love to hear your stories. Please share in comments!

Wheat Crackers

from Alana Chernila’s The Homemade Pantry

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat or spelt flour
  • 1/3 cup uncooked millet
  • 1/3 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, minced and 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary, if desired
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Freshly ground pepper

Heat oven to 350°F. In medium bowl, combine flours, millet, flax, baking powder, salt, and garlic and rosemary, if using. Add oil; mix with fork. Slowly add water, mixing with hands as you go. Add more water (up to 1/4 cup) as needed until dough holds together.  Knead in bowl 2 minutes or until smooth and workable.

Turn dough out onto floured surface; press into flat disk. Roll with rolling pin until 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch thick. For square crackers, use pizza wheel or sharp knife to cut dough into 2-inch squares. For round crackers, use 2-inch biscuit cutter. (Or to make it food for fun-style, attempt to cut diamond shapes with sharp knife, realize it’s not going so well, but transfer dough to baking sheet anyway.)

Transfer dough to ungreased baking sheets with spatula; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 20 to 22 minutes, rotating baking sheets midway through, until crackers are hard to the touch. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Makes about 50 crackers.

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.



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.

because sometimes one ice cream flavor just isn’t enough

Seems the blogosphere has been heating up. True, some bloggers are now enjoying a winter season (talking to you, Peckish Kiwi), but for the most part I read of folks pert-near melting from high temps. Becky, Deb, Lilly Sue, Cheri, and so many others have been advising us on how to stay cool. Even in Minnesota, where winter kicks in late October and sometimes stays put until April, we’re looking at high temps and dastardly humidity that make indoor cooking unfathomable. For my part, meals this week have been no-cook, grilled (thanks to the fine folk at Patrons of the Pit for teaching me there are few foods that can’t be grilled), or cooked up in the slow cooker.

The soaring mercury also has me thinking ice cream (though ice cream thoughts are always near regardless of what the mercury is doing) and plentiful fresh produce offers hosts of options. Nearly 30 pounds of pick-your-own berries (when local fresh produce shows up in Minnesota, we consume with a vengeance) and a neighborly gift of MORE BANANAS helped me narrow these options. My ice cream cravings would be satisfied in flavors of banana and strawberry.

First, those bananas. What to do with more bananas? I’d already baked bread, cakes, cookies, and bars. I’d made a smoothie. I’d roasted and pureed the flesh for mashed banana at a moments’ notice. But, I had yet to make ice cream. Stories of “healthy” banana ice cream had always intrigued me as it was purported to taste like ice cream, while being nothing more than frozen frappéed bananas. It seemed a good way to burn through the six bunches I had recently acquired, so I peeled, pureed, froze. I also mixed in chopped chocolate just because I could.

banana "ice cream" in the making

banana “ice cream” in the making

Verdict? Not bad. Though I’d compare it to an icy popsicle more than I would ice cream. In the end, the poor banana faux ice cream didn’t stand a chance as it was compared to my next project: Killer strawberry ice cream.

Turning again to Humphry Slocombe, I pureed 2 cups sliced fresh berries per instructions for Here’s Your D@mn Strawberry Ice Cream. (This wicked-cool ice cream has the same naming origins as does HS’s Here’s Your D@mn Chocolate Ice Cream, featured here.) A no-cook “custard” made this the perfect frozen treat to make on a sweltering day in a non-air conditioned kitchen.

berries + cream=bliss

berries + cream=bliss

And when I put these ice creams side-by-side for their deLizious facebook post

can you spot the imposter ice cream?

can you spot the imposter ice cream?

a clear winner emerged. The strawberry ice cream was rich, creamy, tart, sweet, and pink; a frozen ball of brown banana was going to play second fiddle.

Wanting to give the banana ice cream another shot, I thawed it slightly, then beat it with an electric mixer (a food processor was used the first round) to whip more air into it along with ingredients I hoped would enhance flavor: ground cinnamon, vanilla, peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, and bourbon (!). It was much improved with a stronger flavor profile and slightly creamy texture. But it was also still basically frozen banana.

creamier and a fuller flavor, but it still ain't ice cream!

creamier and a fuller flavor, but still not ice cream

If this were a contest, the strawberry ice cream wins. But there’s always room for more than one ice cream–real or faux–so will enjoy each flavor for what it is. The banana as a sweet and sort-of healthy treat (adding bourbon, etc zapped much of its nutritional merit) and the strawberry as a decadent summer I-shouldn’t-really-eat-this-whole-bowl-but-I-just-can’t-stop-myself sort of thing.

If you need a summer cooler, I’d recommend whipping up bananas (with beaters instead of in a food processor) and freezing the puree. Stirring in plain or vanilla yogurt would be a good move, too, adding creaminess. But don’t stop there. Go ahead and make HS’s sensational strawberry ice cream as well. It’s as simple as pureeing those 2 cups fresh hulled berries (straining if desired, though I did not) and whisking together with 2 cups cream, 1/2 cup condensed milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (!), and 2 teaspoons salt. Chill thoroughly, then process in ice-cream maker.

tastes like summer

tastes like summer

So, chill out, beat the heat, stay cool. There are more summertime clichés I’d like to use here, but that strawberry ice cream is melting and it’d be a shame to let it go to waste. Rushing off to catch it now, but will see you next week. Thanks for stopping by!

amazing muffins and crazy ice cream part I

The raisins-in-baked goods question seems to divide folks and I’ve always found myself on the side of the not so muches. A handful as-is makes me very happy, but keep them out of my cookies, quick breads, scones, etc. thank you very much. (Don’t even get me started on sour cream raisin pie.)

But I baked with a friend recently and when she suggested we make Super Muffins, I couldn’t say no. (Super Muffins? How often do you get the chance to make Super Muffins?) I overlooked the fact that there were raisins involved as well as that the recipe looked much like that for the ever-popular Morning Glory muffins. (Never a fan–too chock-full-of-goodness for me.)

But I was baking with a friend and willing to try something new. And things didn’t look all bad–outside of raisins, the other ingredients were winners: oats, bran, whole wheat flour, shredded carrots, applesauce, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger. I was willing to look past the raisin thing and give these a try.

And it’s a good thing I did or I would not have been able to tell you that these were the Best Muffins Ever: full of flavor, dense but not in a doorstop way, just sweet enough. The raisins? They melted into the muffin’s structure, only making themselves known so far as their hit of tangy sweet.



out of the oven

out of the oven

Super Muffins cooling

Super Muffins cooling

These muffins are prize winners on so many levels. My baking friend and I enjoyed one for lunch, though they’re also no-brainers for breakfasts and snacks. And I imagined they’d also make a fine dessert warmed, then drizzled with caramel sauce and served alongside vanilla ice cream.

definitely yum

definitely yum

Thinking ahead, we talked about mixing pumpkin or sunflower seeds into the batter. Or chia seeds. Or flax seeds. Or subbing pumpkin puree in for part (or all) of the applesauce. Adding freshly grated nutmeg and upping the ground ginger seemed smart. But I wouldn’t touch the carrot amount–it was perfect. And despite what I thought going in, I’d keep the raisins. (Though perhaps they could be plumped in bourbon rather than boiling water?  😉 )

The muffin recipe follows, but note that I took my suggestion of serving these muffins drizzled with caramel sauce and alongside ice cream very seriously. (or as seriously as you can take something as fun as Super Muffins, caramel sauce, and ice cream 🙂 ) There’s more to say about that ice cream, but seeing as how this is getting long, I’ll leave you with a picture and ask you to come back later in the week for the second half of this divine dessert pairing. (There will also be beer chocolate sauce, so well worth the wait.)

super muffins, DIY ice cream, and salted caramel sauce--it doesn't get any better than this

super muffins, DIY ice cream, and sea salt caramel sauce–it doesn’t get any better than this

Now for those muffins…

Super Muffins

Credit for these absolutely above-average muffins goes to my friend Stephanie’s grandma–thanks for sharing!

1 to 2 cups raisins
3 cups all-bran cereal
1  (23-ounce) jar unsweetened applesauce
2 1/2 cups milk
3 large carrots, grated (about 2 cups) or more if desired
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil (we used coconut oil)
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon salt

2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease muffins cups.

In small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add raisins; let stand 5 minutes. (DO NOT DRAIN.)

In large bowl, combine cereal, applesauce, milk, carrots, brown sugar, eggs, and oil; mix well. Stir in raisin mixture. In separate large bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients except for walnuts. Gently stir wet ingredients into dry; mix just until combined. Stir in walnuts if using.

Ladle batter evenly into muffin cups, filling each completely. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate to store. Can also be frozen, which is good as this recipe Makes 40 Muffins!

foodforfun’s guide to irreverent cookie wisdom

Mentioned here before is my delight at meeting like-minded folk in the blogging community. Often, these bloggers write about food, but just as often I’ve enjoyed learning about nonfood topics from experts in other fields. Movies and TV, humor and travel. I’ve even (unwittingly) picked up a bit of sports trivia. (Still looking for a music blog–please recommend!)

Then there’s the “fiction” blog, which took a bit of getting used to. But Fannie Cranium and her adventures pulled me in. Stand-alone “chapters,” each post recounts an episode in (mostly) fictional Fannie’s life. The first paragraph on the About page welcomes readers “to Fannie’s world where she explores the adventures of married life, on the intersection between “I Love Lucy” Way and “Erma Bombeck” Avenue.” This has to be good, right? Even better, Fannie’s stories are authored by a talented (and soon to be famous, I’m sure of it 😉 ) writer who has an eye for detail and a way with words.

And here’s the food connection (you knew there had to be one, didn’t you?): One of Fannie’s stories involved a plate of mint-chocolate chip cookies. I sent off a comment (jokingly) asking for the cookie recipe and darned if author Tracy didn’t send me her cookie recipe! Talk about a class act.

So with many thanks to Tracy–and an urging to you all to check out her fun-to-read stories, which follow the life of Fannie Cranium, husband Richard, friends Bunny and Clarissa, and other assorted and colorful characters–I bring you Mint Decadence Cookies.

Mint Decadence Cookies à la Fannie Cranium

Mint Decadence Cookies à la Fannie Cranium

Mind you, I made changes along the way, but what food blogger worth his or her (chocolate) salt wouldn’t? For starters, instead of grating a large Hershey bar, I gathered leftover chocolate Easter bunnies (about 14 ounces worth) and chopped them into chunks. Also, wanting to apply some of the “irreverent wisdom” found in Tracy’s blog, I tried to get more mileage out of the cookie dough by treating each baking sheet a bit differently.

The first batch was rolled in powdered sugar before baking, the second sprinkled with vanilla salt, and the third with chocolate salt. At this point I was down about two-thirds of the dough and my eyes happened upon a bottle of rum sitting on the counter (you can’t enjoy that Derby Day mint julep without rum, folks). Before I knew it, a splash or so (thinking about 1/4 cup) of rum went into the leftover dough, as did about 3 tablespoons baking cocoa to balance out the extra liquid. These cookies were sprinkled with either vanilla or chocolate salt, then dusted with powdered sugar as soon as they emerged from the oven.

rolled in powdered sugar prebake

rolled in powdered sugar prebake

sprinkled with chocolate or vanilla salt before baking

sprinkled with chocolate or vanilla salt before baking

rum in the batter, dusted with powdered sugar after baking

rum in the batter, dusted with powdered sugar after baking

No matter how they were topped, the cookies were deep, dark, and yum. The mint flavor wasn’t so much a wallop as it was a subtle backnote rendering these cookies Decadent with a capital D. I imagine Fannie and Richard Cranium would approve and I’m hoping Tracy does too. So here’s to friends made while hanging out in the blogosphere. I thank you all for your reads and likes and comments. May you always enjoy chocolate decadence as you continue to write and read about your favorite topics.

Mint Decadence Cookies

1 (10-ounce) bag mint-flavored chips
1 (12-ounce) bag chocolate chips
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 giant Hershey’s candy bar, grated (I used 14 or so ounces chopped assorted chocolates)

Heat oven to 375°F. Grease baking sheets.

In top of double-boiler set over simmering water, melt 3/4 cup each mint chips and chocolate chips over hot, stirring until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In large bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla; beat until creamy. Stir in melted chips and eggs; beat well. Gradually blend in flour mixture. Stir in grated chocolate bar and remaining mint and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets. Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until just set. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 60 cookies.