Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Veggie Skeleton

You know your kids are going to have way too much candy on Halloween, so here's a healthy snack idea for a change. Added bonus: Because kids like the idea of eating this helpless guy's "bones" (ewww!?), they just may eat more veggies than usual. A healthy snack with entertainment value. A keeper!

Head--lettuce leaves, sliced olives, veggie dip in a small bowl
Body--celery, baby carrots, bell pepper, mushrooms, cherry or grape tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers

Arrange the veggies on a platter in the shape of a skeleton, top with an appropriate sized bowl of veggie dip for the head. (I'm sure your presentation will look better than mine. Note to self: skip the waxed paper next time. I'm not really sure WHY I used it in the first place.)

Take a picture of your final Veggie Man, print it up, then let your kids recreate him with the left-over veggies the next day.

I found this vegetable skeleton idea on the internet last year, but I'll be darned if I can find it now to give appropriate credit.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

If the weather here won't cooperate and act like it's fall, I'll just go ahead, get out the pumpkin, and start cooking like it's fall.

I begged this recipe off Joe's sister. Loving her little brother very much and being the kind sister-in-law she is, she gave it to me...and hand wrote the recipe onto a very appropriate orange recipe card. Ellen, have I ever told you how much time it has saved me looking for this recipe? The orange card pops out right away. (She's an accountant. She thinks of things like this to make life easier. I'm not an accountant.)

Here we go...

Pie crust 3 ways:

1. Traditional - Make a 9-inch pie shell (or use a frozen deep-dish pie shell). Prick & bake until very lightly browned (425 oven). Cool.

2. Ginger snap crust -- similar to graham cracker crust

25 cookies (or enough to make 1-1/3 cup crumbs), crushed with a rolling pin in a quart-sized freezer zip bag or swirled in a processor. Leave out about 1 tablespoon of cookie crumbs to sprinkle on top of pie.
1/4 cup melted butter

Mix finely ground cookies in a bowl with melted butter, press firmly into a pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. You can also add a tablespoon of sugar to the crust ingredients, if you wish.

3. Ginger cookie crust (our most preferred) :

Make the cookie recipe from the Krusteax Gingerbread/cookie mix. Use 3/4 mix and press into a tart pan. (Make cookies with the rest of the dough...or do as I do and drop little balls of dough into your children's mouths much like a mother bird would feed her little chicks. No raw eggs :: no worries.) Bake as directed (10 minutes). Let cool before layering ice cream and pumpkin topping.

Now for the topping goodness...

In medium bowl put:
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp. salt

In another bowl:
1 cup whipping cream. Beat until stiff. Here's what you'll have so far.

Fold into pumpkin mix until no white streaks are left.

This is not how you want it to look. Remember, streak rhymes with eek!

Ah, this is more like it--no streaks.

Scoop 1 pint softened vanilla ice cream into shell making sure there are no big air pockets between the crust and ice cream. (You'll need all the room you can get for the topping.)

Pour pumpkin mixture over it to make a full pie. Don't forget to save a good spatula full for yourself. A cook can't serve it unless it's tasted.

Sprinkle top with 1 tablespoon of ginger snap crumbs.

Freeze uncovered on a level spot in freezer for 1 hour, then cover with plastic wrap and keep in freezer until ready to serve.

Now, go answer your door and have your little girl's friend see that you still have some pumpkin topping on your face. Give her half the pie and send her home to share it with her family. Then maybe she will forget about your face being covered with pumpkin and won't tell anyone.

When ready to serve, let the pie sit out and soften for about 10 minutes (depending on how cold your freezer is) so it can be cut smoothly.

Forcefully stabbing through the pie and having it shoot across the table onto the floor on Thanksgiving Day would probably cause people to frown at you.

Frowning isn't very festive.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Roasted Split Chicken

I'm not a big fan of eating meat off the bone. Call me crazy. Okay, exception is Gramma Doogie's Back Ribs. I'll post that recipe in the near future. As far as eating off the bone though, maybe it's all the little tendons and ligaments or something. Ribs just have the one substantial bone that doesn't leave any stringy things behind. I like that. Alright, this is about chicken, right? Yes. Thank you.

Since I've noticed that my kids are eating a lot more than they used to, and because this is all coinciding with grocery (and everything else) prices that are going up noticeably, I've come back to reality. How silly to avoid cooking and eating meat with the skeletal structure still in tact. Hey, I just bought a whole chicken (in pieces) that was discounted for quick sale for $2. So, now it's roasting away in my oven.

It's also good for my kids to see an intact chicken once in a while, so they don't get any crazy ideas like there is such a thing as a "Boneless Chicken Ranch."(I've always loved this Far Side.)

One more thing before we start roasting...
Let us all just say, "No!" to poached chicken breasts, okay? Please? There's something about the water just sucking the life, taste, moisture, character, dignity... No, wait. Just say you won't boil chicken! No matter what you make with it, you can do yourself less harm (as well as less flossing and fewer TMJ treatments) by roasting it. An' yer taster 'll thank ye too. =)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (will lower temp later)
Whole chicken--either split or all the parts and pieces
Jelly roll pan or baking sheet with an edge
Roasting rack (I use my cookie cooling rack)
2-3 TBSP olive oil
~1-1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
~1/2 tsp. pepper
~2 tsp. dried thyme or rosemary
(You can use any number of herbs that you like. Start experimenting! Rub your herb of choice together between your fingers as you sprinkle it on the chicken. It seems to wake up the aroma and flavor!)

Put the roasting rack in the baking sheet. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Place the chicken, skin side up, on the roasting rack so that there are no chicken parts hanging over the edge of the baking sheet (let's not force the need to clean the oven). Drizzle olive oil over the chicken, then sprinkle on the salt, pepper and herbs.

Bake uncovered for 15 minutes on 450 degrees, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees (or else it'll go spitter-spatter all over your oven 'til Kingdom come) for another 30 minutes, or until chicken is done--juices run clear and meat is not pink. Remove chicken from the oven, cover with foil for 10 minutes, then slice, shred, dice--you choose. (I remove the skin first. Remember, I'm still a wimp and don't eat all the body parts.)

I pulled mine apart in big chunks this time.I usually shred it with a couple of forks, but I also like to let it cool and dice it...or just pull it off the bone and leave it for others to do as they wish. I'm flexible--sometimes. You know what? It's your chicken. Do what you need to do!

When you lower the oven temp to 375, this is a great time to throw in some veggies to roast (diced sweet potatoes, new potatoes, zucchini, onions...toss with olive oil, salt & pepper). Then it'll all be done and hot at the same time.

That is, unless you're just using the chicken to make Tortilla Soup, or Italian Chicken Salad, or for Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas, or...oh, stop me now. Forget the veggies, maybe you should just throw in another chicken.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Great Uncle Dorance's Cookies

I'm told these cookies were requested by so many people throughout my great uncle's life, that he was known for these little gems. For the sake of keeping this much-requested heirloom recipe in circulation and in the family, I'm making sure to add it to my collection. Dorance was in his 90s when he died a few years ago. He was still making these cookies up 'til the end. I've given them to my neighbors and their kids, and they all gave them a big thumbs up...and then asked for more! We have several neighbors (as well as myself) who aren't big on coconut and nuts in their cookies, but after making this recipe I absolutely wouldn't leave them out. These cookies are tender and delectable. It's no wonder they made my great uncle pretty popular at the potlucks. But hey, if any 90-year old man makes me cookies, I'm gonna love 'em!

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Cream together:
1/2 cup Crisco
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar

Mix in:
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cup flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup coconut
1 cup nuts, chopped (I use pecans)
1 cup raisins

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes
Makes 36 or so cookies

My grandpa (my dad's dad) comes from a family of 10 children, including two sets of twins (which may be where I inherited the propensity for twins). Here they all are with their parents. My grandpa is in the middle row on the far left, and Dorance is in the middle row on the far right.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fruit Rosary

To celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary today, we put together a fruit Rosary. Celebrating with food always goes over well--especially with a bunch of kids! I'm sure if I had planned better, I could have thought of lots of food variations to make a Rosary, but this is what we had around today. Mmmm...prayers never tasted so good!

53 grapes (for the Hail Marys)
6 strawberries (for the Our Fathers)
2 small celery sticks (for the cross)
some pretzels (for the corpus)
peanut butter (for glue)

Assemble into the form of a Rosary, say the prayers as you eat it!