This is a really fun holiday cooking project to make with the kiddies. There is no actually cooking involved and kids get to put their hands in sticky, goopy popcorn and make a big mess. What could be better than that?
These popcorn balls were perfect to make because they didn't take very long and involved my daughter Lily's favorite things: chocolate, marshmellows and popcorn.
Here's the recipe.
Ginger-Cranberry Popcorn Balls
Bring 1/4 cup light corn syrup, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 cup confectioners' sugar, 1/4 cup chopped crystallied ginger, 1 cup mini marshmellows and 1 tablespoon water to a boil in a large pot over medium heat. Then stir in 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/ 2 cup white chocolate chips, a pinch of salt. Remove from heat. Stir in 12 cups prepared popcorn ( I used old Dutch gourmet). Butter your hands and form into balls.
Add more chocolate chips, marshmellows or corn syrup if they start to dry out and you want to make them stickier.
It’s October, which marks the end of my CSA deliveries. I must admit, I’m sort of happy about that. Mainly because I simply cannot handle anymore squash. I am squashed-out.
We were given the full gamut of squash varietals this season. Everything from the classic butternut, spaghetti and acorn squash to an interesting stripped squash called a “stripped eddy”. I made good use of the squash I was given, I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy. During the final weeks of my CSA I had made everything from squash soup to squash risotto to just eating plain squash with butter and brown sugar, which is really good by the way. I started putting mashed squash into one cup containers and I would add it to pasta dishes and sauces. But by the time I had reached my last squash, a 6lb butternut squash, I was ready to give up and throw it away or throw it at someone. Yes, I know freezing is an option but it just felt like too much work. Ultimately, I pressed onward and rallied and made one last squash dish for my family this week. I was really glad I did.
My mom saw this recipe on “Twin Cities Live” so I went to the website and watched the video and wrote down the recipe. I’ll put the link to the video up on my blog if anyone wants to watch how Elizabeth at Twin Cities Live makes this recipe.
When I finished the recipe I was relieved to finally use up the last squash in my refrigerator. I felt asense of accomplishment. That 6lb butternut squash had been staring me in the face every time I opened up my refrigerator for over a week. I was ready to part ways with it and say goodbye. And I was ready to say goodbye to my bi-weekly CSA deliveries as well. Overall, I think the CSA was a good experience but I’m not sure I’ll be back next season. I know the CSA that we chose had some issues to work out in the beginning, and they did work them out. The rest of the summer went smoothly without any problems. I guess my main complaint would be that we received so much of one thing and not much of other things. For example, during the months of July and August, we received a ton of zucchini and only 4 tomatoes. The nice thing is that zucchini and squash don’t spoil very fast so you can hang on to them for a few weeks without them going bad. Same thing with the squash. But I would have liked more tomatoes, salad and corn. All the vegetables were incredibly fresh and flavorful and I did my best to use up everything I was given. So I end my CSA experiment a little uncertain about whether we’ll do this again next year. As I mentioned, I am relieved for the CSA deliveries to be over for the season but who knows what will happen come spring time. Maybe in March when the ground begins to thaw and we start to see the first hint of green popping up in our gardens, I feel inspired to try this all over again.
I did some tweaking to the Twin Cities Live recipe mostly because I don’t own a food processor and you really don’t need one. Also, I used a 4lb squash instead of the recommended 2lb squash, which made it extra squashy and extra yummy. Once I cooked the squash I mashed it with a potato masher instead of pureeing it in a food processor, which I think worked out great. It was really smooth and creamy. It was a little hard to get my 3 year old to eat this dish but she did (while watching SpongeBob).
Butternut Squash Lasagna
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced (about 4 lb.)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3½ cups milk
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
2½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 box (8 oz.) oven-ready lasagna noodles
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add squash and toss to coat. Add 1 cup water. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly. Mash with a potato masher until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, whisking for 1 minute. Increase heat to high and gradually whisk in milk. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Whisk in nutmeg and cinnamon. Let cool slightly. Pout half the white sauce into a blender, add the basil and blend until smooth. Return basil sauce to saucepan and combine with the rest of the white sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Reserve ½ cup mozzarella cheese. Lightly spray a 13“ X 9” X 2" baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread ¾ cup of basil sauce in bottom of dish. Place 3 noodles crosswise over sauce. Spread some of the squash puree over the noodles, followed by ½ cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat layering.
Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with reserved ½ cup of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Return to oven and continue baking 15 minutes until the top is golden. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.
This week my husband and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary. In past years we would go out for an elaborate dinner some place downtown and stay out late drinking wine and eating things like oysters or foie gras. We would buy each other thoughtful gifts and anniversary cards. I even wrote him a poem one year. But after 9 years of marriage, we’ve become a little less ambitious on our anniversary. We still get each other cards and my husband usually buys me flowers but we’ve lowered expectations a little. Our life is filled with more tater tots than foie gras these days. But that's just fine with me.
This year having a nice dinner at home with our daughter sounded like a perfect way to celebrate. It was on a Wednesday after all.
Even though our anniversary was on a Wednesday and it was 9 years, not a big fancy anniversary year like 10 or 15 – I still wanted to make something special for dinner. But my good intentions were quickly washed away with a chest cold, a case of laryngitis, and a work deadline. I was all set to forget the whole thing and order a pizza (who celebrates 9 years anyway) when I decided to go to Trader Joe’s and see what I could come up with that would require the least amount of effort. I didn’t really have anything in mind but I was hoping to find something pre-made or frozen that I could whip up on short notice.
I wandered over to the meat section and found a Balsamic and Pepper marinated leg of lamb, which looked interesting. I threw the lamb in my cart, feeling guilty as I always do about lamb for some reason. I saw figs were on sale for $4.99. I grabbed some goat cheese, walnuts, rosemary, a Trader Joe’s blueberry pie and some French vanilla ice cream for dessert. At the check-out the cashier informed me that the Trader Joe’s French vanilla ice cream has won awards and people travel from all over just to buy their ice cream. Through my laryngitis strained voice, I told the cashier about my anniversary dinner plans. I whispered “thank you” and went on my merry way.
Things were starting to come together and 9 years started to feel worth celebrating – it’s a long time to be married to one person, my own parents weren’t even married 9 years. My mother kindly reminded me of that earlier in the day.
So here is what we had for dinner and honestly it was one of the easiest meals that I’ve ever made. The salad was the star of the show. And yes, the ice cream was as good as promised.
The leg of lamb took 2 hours to make (I just followed the package instructions) and I added peeled whole baby potatoes to the roasting pan. I took 2 tablespoons of butter and smashed in the rosemary with salt and pepper. I put dollops of the rosemary/butter mixture on top of the potatoes. I covered the dish with aluminum foil and removed it after 1.5 hours to let the potatoes brown. I let everything set for 10 minutes while I made the fig and goat cheese salad. The recipe for the salad is below.
Fig & Goat Cheese Salad
Ingredients: Mixed greens, olive oil – 1 tbsp, balsamic vinegar – 1 tbsp, 6 figs, goat cheese, ¼ cup walnuts
Directions: Salad greens of your choice, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Cut the stems off the figs and slice in half. Sprinkle figs with 1 teaspoon of sugar. Place in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. The figs are done when they looks soft and have released some of their juices into the pan. While the figs are still hot, place on top of the salad. Put goat cheese on top of the salad and sprinkle with walnuts. Then pour some of the wonderful fig juices from the pan over the top.
Honestly, this was so good that I ate the salad for dinner the following evening too. The thing about figs is that they pair so well with cheese and salty meats like prosciutto – their texture and flavor completely change when cooked. Try it. I’m sure you’ll love it.
Ingredients: 6 medium size zucchini, 1 lb ground beef, 1 yellow onion, 1/3 cup of rice, 1/3 cup sour cream, 2 egg yolks, 2 eggs, 1 cup flour, 2 cups of milk (possibly more), 1 teaspoon salt. Pepper to taste.
Step 1: Slice zucchini into thin slices
Step 2: Put two eggs into a bowl and 1 cup of flour into another bowl. Dip each slice of zucchini in the egg, then roll in flour.
Step 3: Heat ½ cup of oil in a frying pan. Fry each slice of zucchini until brown and soft.
Step 4: Once all of the zucchini has been fried. Wipe pan clean and sauté onion until translucent (about 5 minutes), then add ground beef. Cook until brown.
Step 5: In a small bowl, mix together 2 egg yolks with 1/3 cup sour cream. Add 2 cups of milk and stir. Add salt (1 teaspoon) Set aside.
Step 6: In a 9x13 pan, put down one layer of zucchini, then add ground beef and a little of the rice. Place another layer of zucchini on top, add beef and rice. Ending with a layer of zucchini on top. Pour egg/sour cream/milk mixture over the top of everything. It should just cover everything. You may need to add a little more milk if needed to make sure the zucchini is covered with the milk mixture.
Step 7: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for one hour and fifteen minutes. Just make sure the rice is done.
I attended my first MN Food Bloggers event last night. I was even brave enough to enter the "bar bake-off". It was a lovely evening getting to meet some fellow food bloggers. The food was fantastic and the sangria was unforgettable!
Below is my recipe for the bars that I entered in to the contest. Even though I didn't win, it was great fun trying. I'll post the winning bar recipe once it's online.
Salted Caramel Glaze
Directions: For the brownies, melt 6oz chocolate and butter on top of a double boiler. Use a very low heat. Careful not to burn the chocolate. Then stir in the sugar. Then whisk in the eggs and flour. Bake in a prepared 9x13 inch pan at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool completely.
Caramel Glaze Directions: In a small saucepan over low heat, warm heavy cream until hot, but not boiling. In a saucepan, combine sugar and water. Place over medium-high heat. Do not stir as sugar dissolves and mixture reaches a dark amber stage. Add cream, butter, and salt. Stir gently until mixture is smooth and well combined. Remove from heat and add gelatin, stirring to combine. Use immediately.
Once the caramel has cooled and set. Melt 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler until completely smooth and melted. Then swhirl over the top of the caramel. It will be a very thin layer. If you want the layer thicker, simply use more chocolate. Let cool. Top with the coconut.
Here's the link to the whipped cream recipe that I wrote awhile ago. If you are visting my blog from my Woodbury Patch column - see the link below. This will go perfectly with the Cherry Clafoutis recipe that I wrote about today. Thanks for visiting.
I learned how to make this dish from my mother- in- law. In Serbian it's called branija. I thought the word meant stew or casserole. But I recently learned it just means beans. So this dish doesn't have a name other than beans. I"ll have to try and come up with one because it is definitely worthy of a name.
Yellow beans are in season here in Minnesota during the months of July and August. By September they are pretty hard to find. I've never found frozen yellow beans and canned yellow wax beans don't look very appetizing. Fresh yellow beans have such a nice vivid color and crisp flavor that they are worth using even though I can only make this dish once or twice a year.
Regarding the beef I use in this dish. Beef chuck works best but sometimes I buy that stew meat found in the packged meat section. This recipe is with the stew meat. The only difference is you'll need to cook it slower and on a lower heat.
Ingredients: 3 cups fresh yellow beans, 2 small onions or 1 large, 2 carrots, 2 ribs of celery, 2 lbs strew meat, 6 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 tomato, 1 tsp paprika.
Directions: Using a heavy stock pot (make sure yours can go in the oven) sauté onions, carrots, celery and garlic in olive oil. Then add beef. Cook all together until beef has browned. Coat with 2 tablespoons flour. add the diced tomato, paprika and beans. Mix. Add enough water to just barely cover everything (too much water and it will be too watery). Lower heat and cook for 2 hours on very low heat. Then taste. Add salt and pepper. After two hours if it still looks too runny take 1/2 cup of the stew liquid and add another tablespoon of flour. Mix in a small bowl and then add back to the pot.
*beef should be nice and tender before putting in the oven. If it's not, then cook a little longer.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Next: Place stock pot in preheated oven for one hour. Check on it occasionally to stir. It's done when the beans are soft. When it's done add more salt and pepper to your taste.
Last week I was given a bountiful crop of blueberries in my CSA. In a panic about what to do with all of these blueberries - I scoured the internet and recipe books for blueberry ideas. One problem I've always had with fruit pies is that they are often too runny. I think I may have uncovered the secret to avoid this problem.
Short on time this week I went to Whole Foods to buy a frozen pie crust. When I got home I was a little nervous because although it said "organic" it also said "no animal ingredients". I wasn't sure how a pie crust without butter would taste but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. This pie crust from Whole Foods (I wish I could remember the name of it) was flaky, light and absolutely delicious. It was as good, if not better than a home made pie crust. This blueberry pie recipe is from Simply Recipes. I just added the gelatin.
Double Pie Crust Recipe or buy a double pie crust
Filling Ingredients: 6 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and stems removed, 1/2 tsp lemon zest, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 2 tbsp butter (unsalted), 2 packets knox unflavored gelatin (the secret to non-runny fruit pies).
Egg wash ingredients: 1 egg, 1 tbsp milk or heavy cream
Directions: (If using home-made pie crust, roll out dough to an 1/8 inch thick circle on floured surface. Fit dough over 9-inch pie pan and trim edges, chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes). If using a frozen pie crust - let it thaw for 30 minutes until doughy.
Gently mix blueberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, lemon zest, lemon juice and gelatin in a large bowl. Transfer them to the chilled bottom crust of the pie pan. Dot with butter. Either roll out, or use frozen/thawed out 2nd pie crust and place on top of the berry filling. Tuck dough over and under the edge of the bottom dough, and crimp the edges with your fingers. Transfer the pie to the refrigerator to chill until the dough is firm about 30 minutes. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk egg and milk together to make an egg wash. Remove the unbaked pie from the refrigerator. Brush the top with the egg wash. Cut 4 slits into the top of the pie crust. Place pie on the middle rack of the oven (on top of a cookie sheet to avoid spillage). Bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 degree and bake for another 30-40 minutes more or until juices are bubbling and have thickened. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
Note: The first slice may be a little runny but after that this pie was perfect. Not too sweet. Not too tart. Just right.
So far summer has been a bit of a buzz kill around these parts. I'm still waiting for my summer to begin. Despite the brief summer-tease of 103 degrees a few weeks ago, there hasn't been much else going on around here in the way of summer. In fact, I'm a little frustrated. I had some friend's over a for a BBQ last weekend and we ended up eating in-doors because it poured rain non-stop all day. I waited and waited for the rain to stop but it never did. Heck, it's already June 25th and the days are getting shorter - if summer doesn't start pretty soon we're going to miss it altogether.
One sign that summer has arrived is that I received my first shipment of farm fresh vegetables via my CSA membership. You can read more about my experience here: https://patch.com/A-jDmn
I even met a new vegetable an icicle radish. I'm really excited to give it a try.
Here's an easy recipe for those of you that love strawberry shortcake or any other dessert that calls for whipped topping. Most people know about this already but for those that don't take the time to make your own whipped cream - you really must. I make this for everything. I find most pies, clafoutis and short cakes too dry so I always make a batch to add to any dessert that needs a little somethin' somethin'.
1 small or large container of heavy whipping cream (depending on how big of a batch you want to make)
Add powdered sugar by the 1/4 cup - one 1/4 cup at a time depending on how sweet you like it.
1 tsp vanilla
Directions: Mix heavy whipping cream in a mixer until fluffy and creamy. Add 1/4 cups of sugar until desire sweetness is reach. Add vanilla.
Now if summer would just arrive so I could make some strawberry shortcake!