Friday, December 11, 2009

Gingerbread Party

Lillie's Kindergarten class had a Gingerbread party this week filled with tons of candy, a good game of pin the nose on the gingerbread man and a gingerbread house-building contest. Sadie got to play along. Her house is in the forefront and Lillie's is in the back. They built them over recycled milk cartons. Too cute.

Bellies full of candy. Time for a rest before the sugar buzz kicks in!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Lettercakes

Buttermilk pancakes are the top requested breakfast in our house. These half-whole grain beauties are light and fluffy and the girls can't wait to eat their initials. Its the little things...Usually, I make a big batch and freeze the leftovers in ziptop bags for a fast and easy weekday morning meal. No buttermilk? Never fear! Give your pancakes some zip by adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (or even cider vinegar) to 2 cups of milk in order to bring up the acidity.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Lettercakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 egg white
Cooking spray
Maple syrup

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and stir with a whisk. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, honey, oil, egg, and egg white. Add to flour mixture and loosely combine until moist with some lumps. An over-mixed smooth batter will make dense, hard pancakes. Keep them light and fluffy by not over-stirring.

Heat a nonstick griddle or skillet coated lightly with cooking spray over medium heat. Quickly ladle in about 1/4 cup of batter onto griddle in the shape of a letter. Turn pancakes over when tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked.

Serve with syrup and maybe even some butter. Take the picture quick before the crew revolts!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lillie McShakes a Lot

Lillie won some silly glasses from the Treasure Box and wore them all afternoon. I kept telling her to put down the McDonald's milkshake so I could take a picture but she refused. I'm glad she did. I love this picture. Reminds me a the old school McDonald's characters like Mayor McCheese and the Hamburglar...

Whoa! Look at this guy! Lillie looks like the long lost daughter of Captain Crook! Nice Frisbee.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Who knew popcorn came in different sizes, shapes and colors? Each variety has a unique texture and taste. My favorite collection so far is from Crown Jewel Gourmet Popcorn. Their varieties include the world's smallest Petite Princess Amber, the crunchy and nutty Purple Amethyst, and the light and sweet hulless White Diamond. Bigger isn't always better and these tiny puffed nuggets of goodness are here to prove it. Once you try this gourmet popcorn, you will never settle for plain old microwave popcorn again.

I usually pop the corn on the stovetop using a medium-sized saucepan. Cracking the surface of my stovetop made it challenging to even boil water for a few weeks so I improvised with a stainless electric wok. The popcorn popped faster and cleanup was a piece of cake. Wok Popcorn is the way to go.

I used a 1/2 cup of Baby Yellow Topaz and a 1/2 cup of Baby Black Pearl. Heat up your pan or wok to a scorching medium high heat and put in 2 tablespoons of your favorite high smoke point oil like grapeseed or canola oil. I've also popped the corn in toasted peanut oil and coconut oil - each added another dimension of flavor from the oil that is worth trying.

Drop the kernels on top of the oil and give them a good coat. Cover and wait for the popping to start. With the wok, this should happen within 30 seconds! Once the popping starts, give it a gentle swirl every 5 seconds while holding the handles. Be careful not to shake the top off. Use the same technique if using a saucepan. Just like microwave popcorn, once the popping slows way down, you are done. Don't risk burning the puffed popcorn to save 20 unpopped kernels on the bottom.

Quickly transfer to a large bowl. If you are feeling the need for some butter, prep the bowl beforehand by laying out very thin slices of butter on the inner surface of the bowl. Fold in the warm popcorn using a large spatula or spoon.

Don't be shy with the salt.

Crack in some pepper. Mix it well. Stir, fold, stir and fold! Done!

Throw in a good movie and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spicy Shrimp and Smokey Sausage over Roasted Poblano Chile Grits

Chopper and I undertook our biggest culinary challenge yet. He wanted to create a New Orleans feast for the Alabama/LSU game and chose Susan Spicer's amazing cookbook as the source of inspiration. We spent half a day smoking sausage, reducing a fresh shrimp stock, roasting poblanos, perfecting the cream sauce, etc...

In the end, we had a dish with sooooo much flavor, it was just ridiculous. The effort paid off! The smokey poblano grits would have been great all by themselves. He also boiled up some spicy crabs and shrimp. Amy made some fantastic bloody mary's and Liz soaked up the whole experience. Roll Tide!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

what not to do with grapes...

Two starving kids at the Plaza Restaurant, a plate of grapes and the lonely condiments for our pending burgerfest...wonder what happens?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Will They Eat it? Japanese Seaweed Snacks

I can always count on the Number 1 Oriental Market in Ocoee for a steady stream of exotic snacks, unusual vegetables and the best seafood selection around.

We were grabbing a few Strawberry Yin Yan and some Bulldog Sauce when these seaweed snacks caught my eye.

"Delicious with good nutrients from the sea." Sounds like a winner to me.

Called Tao Kae Noi, these savory snacks are paper-thin and airy - imagine a flattened seaweed-flavored Cheeto!

Dusted with wasabi powder, the heat was a little much for Sadie although she couldn't stop eating it! I wish I caught the faces she made with my camera.

Verdict? YES! Another sucessful Will They Eat It? Challenge!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tuscan Cantaloupe Ice Cream

The last man standing in the land of fruit bowls is almost always the cantaloupe. Long after the pineapple, strawberries and grapes have been cherry-picked to freedom, the broken-hearted balls of soggy cantaloupe mope in a warm fruity broth, awaiting their date with disposal destiny.

Love it or leave it, the musky funk of an over-ripe cantaloupe is a flavor you will never forget. I can't say that I've ever been a huge fan so when I saw that Ben and Jerry's co-founder Jerry Greenfield named cantaloupe ice cream as one of his all time favorites, I thought it was a great opportunity to revisit this under-appreciated fruit salad filler and give it another shot. I have a theory that just about anything mixed with cream and sugar will taste fantastic. Just ask my friend roasted garlic or any one of the random Iron Chef judges.

(click the image for more amazing daily oil paintings from Justin Clayton)

Fun facts from Wikipedia: Cantaloupes were first introduced to North America by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World in 1494. The Burpee Seed Company developed and introduced the now common "Netted Gem" in 1881 from varieties then growing in North America. A moldy cantaloupe in a Peoria, Illinois market in 1941 was found to contain the best and highest quality penicillin after a worldwide search.

The Tuscan cantaloupe is a relative newcomer to the American supermarket and is sweeter than the more popular reticulated cantaloupe. The lighter the green stripes, the sweeter the flesh. If only every produce had a built in ripeness meter! The melon above is ripe with a capital R!

Tuscan Cantaloupe Ice Cream
(completely stolen from Ben and Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream Book)

1 average-sized ripe cantaloupe
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup half and half
3/4 cup turbinado sugar

Halve the melon and remove the seeds and schmutz.

Use a large spoon to scoop out all the melon meat!

Place in a mixing bowl with the juice from 1 lemon hand-squeezed by Sadie Sauter.

Smash into a purée using a potato masher or your angry fists.

Drain the juice into a seperate container, cover the purée and refrigerate.

Whisk sugar into the cream a little at a time. Once the sugar granules are completely dissolved pour in the half and half along with the reserved melon broth. Refrigerate for 1/2 an hour.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following your ice cream maker's instructions.

After the ice cream stiffens, add the cantaloupe purée.

If additional juice had accumulated, do not pour it in because it will water down the ice cream. Continue freezing until the ice cream is ready, Freddy.

Fold into your nearest waffle cone...

...or bowl and devour!

The flavor was fresh and intense. The melon funk was tamed like I hoped - the cream mellowed the overpowering fruitastic sweetness and elevated the subtle flavor nuances to the surface.

It was truly delicious.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fine Young Pineapple

One of the unforeseen benefits of having a kids food blog are the unique and odd culinary gifts bestowed on us. Take this punk rock pineapple from the Adams Family! Thanks Shanna and Todd!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fresh Pickles: Old-Fashioned Barrel Cukes

Right around the time I started this blog, there were two new culinary revelations in my life: Homemade pickles and fresh buttercream frosting. Pickles and Cake was born!

I needed more guidance so a pickle recipe book was in order. I started searching on Alibris and low and behold, Chris Schlesinger had published a book called Quick Pickles. My hero! The book simplifies pickling and the recipes cover pickles from around the world.

Chris Schlesinger's The Back Eddy in Westport, MA is the perfect place to end up after a day at the beach or an afternoon of wine tasting at Westport Rivers Vineyard. The food is fantastic and every meal starts with a pickle sampler on the table. Chris is the author of my favorite cookbook Thrill of the Grill - the stories and insight jump off the page and the recipes will change the way you grill forever.

Old Fashioned Barrel Cukes

I modified the Kick-Ass Westport River Barrel Cukes recipe from Schlesinger's book. You will never find a pickle at the supermarket with this authentic flavor-packed pickle barrel flavor. The fresh horseradish made the difference. The grape/oak leaves aren't necessary but will keep the pickles crisp for a longer period of time - we ate ours so fast, we didn't even need them.


4 pounds small cucumbers
5 small red chiles
1 large head of garlic, cloves peeled and minced
1 cup peeled, grated fresh horseradish
1 large Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced into small wedges
1 generous handful fresh dill fronds/heads
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed
2 tablespoons craked coriander seed
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorn
3 crushed bay leaves
8 cups water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup white vinegar
6 tablespoons of kosher salt
1 handful of grape or oak leaves (optional)

Combine cucumbers, chiles, garlic, horseradish, onion, dill, mustard seed, coriander seed, peppercorn, bay leaves and grape leaves in a extra-large crock or bowl.

In a seperate bowl combine water, vinegar and salt to make the brine. Stir until the salt dissolves. Pour in the brine.

I used a crock to pickle the cukes but the large bowl will work. Place the right-sized plate or saucer over the cukes and weight it down with a can or jar. The object is to completely submerge the cucumbers.

Cover with a clean cloth and keep it in the darkest corner of your kitchen counter out of the sun for 5 to 7 days. Make sure the contents are submerged at all times.

Skim off any foam that has formed on the surface of the brine and transfer to the fridge.

The pickles will be ready in about a week but taste great even on the third day. We tried one every day and it was fun to taste the change. Reach into that pickle jar and grab a good one!

We made 4 different kinds of pickles so far this summer and these were the hands down favorite. Crunchy, salty and packed with flavor - every sandwich's best friend.

Sadie loves the extra-crunchy small ones the best.

Pickles on Foodista