Category Archives: Food

On the Menu: Enchiladas

I am sure this is a bastardization of what real enchiladas are, but they are the enchiladas of my white, middle-class, suburban childhood. They are also incredibly simple and come together in about 30 minutes. 

Menu

Cheese Enchiladas

Rice & Beans

Peppers & Onions

Shopping List

You may have any or all of this in your pantry. Many of the ingredients will keep in your pantry and can be used on multiple occasions. 

  • tortillas
  • jack cheese (feel free to buy pre-grated if that makes your life easier)
  • red enchilada sauce
  • Spanish or yellow rice packet (you could do homemade if you prefer)
  • can of pinto beans 
  • 2-3 bell peppers, any color
  • 1 large onion
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Equipment List

  • 8×8 baking dish (can be an aluminum pan or a glass one; for enchiladas)
  • can opener (for enchiladas and beans)
  • cheese grater (for enchiladas)
  • saucepan large enough for your tortillas to be dipped in (for enchiladas and onions & peppers)
  • rice cooker or small pot (for rice, obviously)

 

Enchiladas
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For the enchiladas
  1. 8 oz. jack cheese, grated
  2. 1/2 large can red enchilada sauce (or 1 14 oz can)
  3. 6-10 corn tortillas (the number will depend on how much cheese you fill them with and their size)
For the rice and beans
  1. 1 package Spanish or yellow rice
  2. 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
For the peppers and onions
  1. 2-3 bell peppers, sliced
  2. 1 large onion, sliced
  3. olive oil
  4. salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Prep all your ingredients. Chop the onions and peppers, open the cans, grate the cheese, put out your fillings around a work surface, drain and rinse beans. Set out your baking dish and put the pan on the stove.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350.
  3. Pour the enchilada sauce into the pan and warm over medium-low heat.
  4. Place the rice packet into the rice cooker or pot and cook according to package directions.
  5. Once sauce is warm, begin to dip tortillas into the sauce. Let them become coated and warm (this will only take a few seconds).
  6. Place saucy tortilla onto work surface and spread a handful of cheese and any other toppings down the middle.
  7. Wrap the ends around the cheese making a tube. Place with the open ends down in the baking dish. To keep the first few tortillas from popping open in the pan I use a can or cup to hold them tightly in place.
  8. Fill as many tortillas as you can, leaving a bit of cheese to sprinkle on top. You may really have to cram the last one or two in.
  9. Once the baking dish is full, pour the remaining warm enchilada sauce over the top of the enchiladas. (This is why you don't need to use a whole large can.) Sprinkle the cheese over the top and place in the oven.
  10. After dumping the sauce wipe out your skillet and put in the olive oil- enough to coat the bottom. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
  11. Once warm, toss in the onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sautee until turning soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the peppers and sautee longer until they are starting to soften and brown, another 5 minutes or so. If you like them crunchy, just give them a few minutes.
  12. When the rice is done, mix in the beans. Close the lid of the rice cooker or replace the lid on the pot to allow them to warm up.
  13. Check the oven. The enchilada sauce should be a bit bubbly and the cheese melty. If not, give it a few more minutes (this should only take 20 minutes tops).
  14. Remove from oven and serve with scoops of rice and onions and peppers.
Notes
  1. The dipping may seem like an unnecessary step, but with corn tortillas it will prevent them from splitting on the top when you roll them up. You can skip it, but it might be kind of annoying. See the hacks section for tips on using flour tortillas.
Atomic Bee Ranch http://atomicbeeranch.com/

Recipe Hacks

Here are a few ways to change up the recipe. You can use them if you don’t like the original recipe or if you want to make it a little differently from the last time.

This is where this recipe shines. There is so much that you can do with it.

  • Change up the cheese. You can do a mix of jack and cheddar, all cheddar. Buy the pre-shredded Mexican blend (what does that even mean?).
  • We prefer corn tortillas, but if you like the flour go for those. I find they can get soggy so I recommend toasting them either over an open flame or on a hot cast iron skillet first and NOT dipping them. But experiment with it and see what works best for your tastes. 
  • If you prefer green enchilada sauce to red, use that instead. I suggest sprinkling in a tiny bit of ranch dressing powder if you are using green enchilada sauce. It gives it a little extra oomph. 
  • My dad always added some softened red potatoes to our enchiladas. Sounds weird, but it’s delicious. Cut them into matchsticks and microwave them with a splash of water for a few minutes until soft. Then roll them into the enchiladas with the cheese. 
  • Add meat. Shredded chicken is great. Shredded beef. Ground beef. Ground turkey. Ground chicken. Just be sure it’s cooked already. 
  • Add olives and/or chopped green chilies. Add sliced pickled jalapenos. The sky is the limit with additions here. Just take into account everyone’s preferences for spicy. 
  • I suspect, although I have never tried this, you could make this more like a layered casserole. Try layering the sauce the tortillas (cut them up first), the cheese, and any other additions in the pan instead or rolling them up. If you try this and it works, leave a comment please!
  • For the rice and beans
  • So, feel free to make any of the elements of this from scratch. I haven’t found a great recipe for red enchilada sauce yet and sometimes it’s just easier, if not cheaper, to use canned beans. I know packaged rice is awfully salty, but we don’t eat it very often so I splurge and make it. If you don’t want to go whole hog and make Spanish rice from scratch make white rice (or brown if you prefer) with broth instead of water. It will be more flavorful, without being more work. 

Include Your Child

I frequently use dinner prep as a time to decompress and enjoy myself and find adding in my daughter makes it stressful and a lot more messy. That being said, I know it’s good for her to help out and she often wants to. So, here are some easy ways to include your child when making this dinner. No guarantee that they won’t be a bit messy, though. 

  • Assuming they wear an apron, kids do a great job spreading cheese and rolling the enchiladas up. Beware of red sauce it does stain hence the apron. They can also get the rice going in the pot or rice cooker.
  • If you are confident in their ability, your child can also grate the cheese. This might make the recipe take closer to an hour, though, so use your judgement. 

Cookbook Review: Good & Cheap

Good and CheapGood and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day by Leanne Brown

Through a local interest show on the public radio station I came across this cookbook Good & Cheap. I was more drawn to the message that author designed the cookbook to be used by people who live on the SNAP benefits program (food stamps). As I’ve talked about before we give to our local food bank once a month in an effort to help the community around us. I looked the book up and was enticed by the recipes for our own home. 

Brown developed the cookbook as a capstone project for her master’s degree. Using averages data she figured out how much each recipe would cost to make and keeps the costs down enough that you could eat three meals a day on the allotted $4 a day per person that the SNAP program gives you. Moreover, the cookbook is available as a free pdf download on her website. As someone who does not need to worry too much about the grocery bill (within reason, of course) I bought a copy of the book on Amazon. For every copy she sells she donates a copy to someone (or probably more accurately organizations that can reach someone) who needs it. 

The majority of the recipes are vegetarian since meat is expensive and ups the cost of most of the recipes. She also offers lots of good advice for those just learning to cook and those not super comfortable in the kitchen. While she uses ingredients that don’t cost a lot it’s easy enough to purchase more expensive organic ingredients if that is what you prefer. We have made at least a third of the recipes in this and not a single one has been bad. In fact they have all been incredibly good.

The best part? The vast majority of these recipes only take about 30 minutes to pull together and cook. There are a few, like the beef stroganoff, that take more time, but are well worth it. But most of them you could easily make on a weeknight when you’re feeling overwhelmed and have something healthy and inexpensive on the table for dinner (or lunch or breakfast).

I highly recommend seeing if your local library has a copy or downloading the pdf and trying out a few recipes to see if you like them. Then, if you do, be sure to purchase a copy (it’s only $10!) so she can donate copies to food banks and other service organizations.  

On the Menu: Risotto

Risotto is one of those dishes I had heard about and never made because it always sounded finicky and involved. Turns out it’s not. It can be on the table in about 45 minutes including prep time and it’s incredibly filling and simple. 

Menu

  • risotto
  • roast chicken 
  • salad

Shopping List

You may have any or all of this in your pantry. Many of the ingredients will keep in your pantry and can be used on multiple occasions. 

  • roast chicken (You could buy a raw chicken and roast it yourself, but it will take about an hour. I also find that buying the pre-roasted ones are cheaper than the raw ones.)
  • broth, 3.5 cups or 28 oz (can be chicken or vegetable, store-bought or homemade)
  • arborio rice
  • onion 
  • butter 
  • grated parmesan or a parmesan rind
  • lettuce
  • salad dressing
  • salad toppings 

Equipment List

  • knife & cutting board (prep for risotto)
  • 2 2-quart pots (for risotto)
  • wooden spoon (for risotto)
  • ladle (for broth)
  • large bowl & tongs (for salad)

Risotto
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For the risotto
  1. 4 cups broth (or two cans or one carton)
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. 1 onion, minced
  4. salt and pepper
  5. 1 cup Arborio rice
  6. 1/2 cup grated parmesan
Instructions
  1. Place the broth into one of the pots and put over low heat.
  2. In the other pot, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice to the pot and stir to coat.
  3. Add one ladle full of broth and stir to combine. Lower the heat to medium-low or low. Allow the broth to be absorbed by the rice then add another ladle full. Continue this process until the rice is tender and most or all the broth is used up, about 20 minutes or up to 30. Stir occasionally and after each addition of broth.
  4. While the risotto is gently simmering is the time to prep anything else you need for the meal. Make the salad or saute the vegetables, zest the lemon and shred or slice the chicken.
  5. Turn the heat off and stir in the parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.
Adapted from Everyday Food
Adapted from Everyday Food
Atomic Bee Ranch http://atomicbeeranch.com/
Recipe Hacks

Here are a few ways to change up the recipe. You can use them if you don’t like the original recipe or if you want to make it a little differently from the last time.

  • The recipe calls for mixing in grated parmesan at the end, but sometimes I don’t have that on hand or don’t have enough. When that happens I throw in a parmesan rind at the start of cooking. It slowly melts into the risotto. It won’t be as cheesy, but it will add flavor. Just remove it before serving. The grocery store usually has them in the deli/cheese counter for sale for really cheap. 
  • My original recipe calls for a 1/2 white wine to be added the beginning of the cooking, before that first ladleful of broth. You can certainly do this. The white wine goes well with the risotto at the dinner table to be sure. I am usually out of white wine or don’t have a good bottle open so I frequently skip this step. In fact I nearly always skip it. Sure, it enhances the flavor of the dish, but not enough that I have ever felt it to be an essential step in the home kitchen. 
  • This is a basic recipe for risotto and to my mind it functions as a side. However if, instead of keeping it plain, you add a few things it becomes the main dish.

As the risotto finishes cooking, stir in some lemon zest (about a 1/2 tsp or more if you like it really lemony), some chopped parsley and, instead of serving the chicken along side the risotto, shred it up and mix it in. This is essentially chicken and rice stew. 

You can always skip the chicken all together and, if you want a one bowl meal, sauté some vegetables and mix them in. We like mushrooms, asparagus or squash of any kind. I don’t recommend cooking them in the risotto simply because they’ll get soggy and mushy. 

If you want to change up the grain you are using and try something else in the pantry, you can do that too. We frequently make this with quinoa. In that case, add all the liquid in at once and allow to cook while stirring. Also rinse the quinoa before cooking, because it can be bitter. You can make it with orzo, which is small rice-shaped pasta, or you can make it with barley. 

  • I usually hate having to use two pots – one for the broth, one for the risotto – so I frequently use bullion cubes to make the broth. I put the cubes in a large measuring cup and fill with water then microwave it to dissolve the bullion. This means the broth is already hot and there isn’t a need to heat it on the stove. 

Include Your Child

I frequently use dinner prep as a time to decompress and enjoy myself and find adding in my daughter makes it stressful and a lot more messy. That being said, I know it’s good for her to help out and she often wants to. So, here are some easy ways to include your child when making this dinner. No guarantee that they won’t be a bit messy, though. 

  • This is a tough one because there’s a lot of open flame and hot liquids, but I will have Cam help me ladle the broth and stir the pot as it cooks. I’ll let you determine if you want your child working at the stove.
  • Kids love to grate things. I know it seems scary, like using a knife, but hand them the zester and let them go to town on the lemon. Just remind them not to get too much of the white part of the rind, as it’s bitter. 
  • Kids can also help shred up the chicken. (I can’t recommend that variation of the recipe enough.) So long as the chicken isn’t piping hot they’ll do a fine job. Doesn’t matter if the pieces are big or small. They’ll break up more when they get mixed in. 
  • You can also include them on making the salad. They’re great at adding toppings, helping toss and tearing up lettuce leaves. 

On the Menu: Spaghetti

Menu

  • Spaghetti with sauce
  • Garlic bread
  • Salad

Shopping List

You may have any or all of this in your pantry. Many of the ingredients will keep in your pantry and can be used on multiple occasions. 

  • spaghetti (1 lb box)
  • ground beef (1/2-1 lb., depending on how many people and how much meat you like)
  • tomato sauce (15 oz. can, or homemade if you have it on hand)
  • Italian seasoning (this is one of those spice mixes that you can buy and keep in the pantry)
  • salt
  • bread (we like sourdough, but French bread is also good)
  • butter
  • garlic salt
  • lettuce (or bag salad)
  • salad dressing
  • salad fixings (whatever you like on your salad)

Equipment List

  • 2 quart pot (for sauce)
  • large pot (for pasta)
  • cookie sheet
  • large bowl (for salad)
  • tongs 
  • wooden spoon
  • butter knife

Easy Spaghetti
Serves 2
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
For sauce
  1. 1/2 lb. ground beef (use up to 1 lb. depending on how meaty you like your sauce)
  2. 1/2 tsp. salt (you may need to adjust this based on how salty the tomato sauce is)
  3. 1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  4. 15 oz. tomato sauce (if using canned), 2 cups if using homemade
  5. More salt to taste
For garlic bread
  1. sliced bread
  2. butter
  3. garlic salt
Instructions
  1. Heat your pot of water for the pasta. Make according to package instructions. This can be done while the sauce cooks. I use the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta as the time I cook and simmer the sauce.
For the sauce
  1. Over medium-high heat, heat the 2-quart pot and add the ground beef. Sprinkle with the salt. Brown the beef until there is little to no pink left. This shouldn't take more than about 5 minutes, but will depend on how much beef you are using.
  2. Lower the heat to medium-low once browned and sprinkle with the Italian seasoning and give it a stir to distribute.
  3. Add the tomato sauce to the pot and stir. I usually swish a bit of water in the can to get all the last dregs of sauce out. Bring to a simmer and lower the heat to the lowest setting.
  4. Let simmer until the pasta is done, or about 15 minutes.
  5. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
For the garlic bread
  1. While the sauce simmers, lay out the bread slices on the cookie sheet.
  2. Butter the slices.
  3. Sprinkle with the garlic salt.
  4. Place your oven's top rack close to your broiler.
  5. Place in your oven with the broiler on high. Toast for 2-3 minutes until brown and toasty, but not burnt.
  6. Remove from oven.
  7. If you are like me and forget to move the rack, it may take longer to toast the bread (closer to 8 minutes) if the rack is in the middle of the oven.
Atomic Bee Ranch http://atomicbeeranch.com/
Recipe Hacks  

Here are a few ways to change up the recipe. You can use them if you don’t like the original recipe or if you want to make it a little differently from the last time. 

  • You don’t have to use spaghetti. I frequently cook up whatever pasta I have on hand. Fusilli and farfelle are good with this sauce. If you are super ambitious you can make your own pasta -it’s simple, but takes some time. I use about half the box of pasta for this recipe which means one box makes two dinners!
  • If you want to add in some vegetables or are vegetarian shred up some carrots (say one carrot per person if there is meat and two or three per person if there isn’t any meat) and add them in after you’ve put in the tomato sauce. Just be forewarned that they will cook down and release some liquid and will thin the sauce, so you may need to cook the sauce longer to boil it off. This is a Depression Era trick my family used. 
  • I use 3/4 lb. of ground beef with one 15 oz. can of tomato sauce (we like the Muir Glen, not because it’s organic, but because it seems to have the best flavor) and that will serve me, my husband, and my daughter (and sometimes my father in law). If you like meatier sauce or have more people, add more beef. I would say use 1 lb. and 2 1/2 cups of tomato sauce if you have 2-3 adults and 2-3 kids. 
  • You can add parmesan, either shredded or grated, to the garlic bread. 
  • Instead of salad, feel free to steam some broccoli and sprinkle the sauce and broccoli with parmesan. 
  • I don’t buy salad dressing. I just drizzle the lettuce with some olive oil and soy sauce, the way you would with oil and vinegar, then toss. Sounds weird, but it’s delicious. 

 Include Your Child

I frequently use dinner prep as a time to decompress and enjoy myself and find adding in my daughter makes it stressful and a lot more messy. That being said, I know it’s good for her to help out and she often wants to. So, here are some easy ways to include your child when making this dinner. No guarantee that they won’t be a bit messy, though. 

  • The garlic bread is one of the best places in this meal to include your child. They can butter the bread and sprinkle on the garlic salt. 
  • Kids are also good at making salads. There are lettuce knives that are plastic and not sharp that they could use to cut up the lettuce leaves. They can also simply tear the leaves once you have sliced off the bottom of the lettuce head. Or they can empty the bag of leaves into the bowl. 
  • If you’re looking for a story to go along with this check out Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. It’s all about how her magic pasta pot goes awry. 

Cam in the Kitchen: Poetry Tea

I recently came across this idea for a poetry tea on Pinterest. I thought it sounded like a lot of fun and told Cam we were going to try it out. Here is a link to the post that I found through Pinterest. We had so much fun that we’re going to make a it a Wednesday tradition. 

IMG_6215I actually started building anticipation on Monday when we started looking in a few stores for a teapot. I have kettle, but that isn’t exactly an efficient way to brew tea (it makes too much and the pot is really hot). It turns out a decent (and decently priced) ceramic teapot is really hard to find! While we keep looking, we’re using the tea kettle. I brew tea at the stove and pour into cups. 

On Wednesday, after lunch and before nap time, we brewed a pot of tea, put some cookies on a plate and found a poetry book to share. Cam pushed our chairs close together and we sat down to sip tea and read. It worked beautifully and Cam loved it. IMG_6216It was relaxing and lovely. At the end of the month I will create a list of our favorite poetry books and link to it here. 

It doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ll have whatever is on hand for a snack. We just read the poetry. I suppose if Cam wanted to talk about the poems we could, but right now we’re just listening to them. I hope eventually she will take over reading some of them because learning to read poetry aloud is a good skill to practice for public speaking, for fluency, and for understanding how the spoken word works. 

Cam in the Kitchen: Graham Cracker Cake

 This cake has a long and storied history in my family which might make you think it has some top secret family recipe behind it. But it doesn’t. It was my grandfather’s favorite cake and we used to make it every year on his birthday. My grandmother made it for years and then passed the torch to me. The thing is, my grandmother swears up and down it turned out beautifully their first year of marriage- tall, light, airy -but never turned out the same way again. My grandfather corroborated that story, but also admitted he was surprised, because the cake his mother would make was a lot more dense. 

My grandmother spent years trying to recreate that first graham cracker cake, going so far as to contact Nabisco and try every available brand of graham cracker on the market. When she finally passed the recipe on to me, I turned to the internet. Now I always thought the denser cake was fine, if a little dry, but for my grandmother’s sake I kept trying to improve. I found a couple other recipes and have tried incorporating the different ratios and ingredients.

I am not usually a baker. I can do it, but I don’t especially enjoy it. I have,  however, discovered that it’s a great thing to do with Cam. It’s way less stressful than having her help make dinner (when it really counts and it’s late in the day). When we bake I like to get everything set up and pre-measured while she naps so that when she wakes up we just throw everything into the bowl.

A couple weeks ago would have been my grandfather’s 92nd birthday so I we made the cake as a little remembrance.  This year it turned out perfectly. Not light an airy the way my grandmother claims her first one did, but still good enough that it was gone in two days. A record in our house. My husband does not usually eat baked goods and even he went back for seconds. 

Graham Cracker Cake
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Ingredients
  1. 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  2. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  4. 2 eggs
  5. 1/3 cup flour
  6. 2/3 cup almond meal/almond flour
  7. 3 teaspoons baking powder
  8. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  10. 3/4 cup milk, room temperature
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch layer cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together, beating until pale. Allow to sit for five minutes. Add vanilla, then eggs one by one.
  3. While letting butter and sugar mixture to sit, mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.
  4. Begin mixing the dry ingredient mixture into the butter-sugar mixture. Add it a little bit at a time.
  5. Once all the dry mixture is added, slowly add the milk.
  6. Pour into the prepared cake pans and place in oven. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool on a rack for about 10 minutes before trying to remove them from the pan.
Atomic Bee Ranch http://atomicbeeranch.com/

Cam in the Kitchen: Chocolate Chip Granola

IMG_2597Awhile back we bought some granola that was lightly dusted with cocoa powder and had chocolate chips in it. It was, not surprisingly, absolutely delicious and Cam loved it. We would sprinkle it on our morning yogurt and Cam would pick out all the chocolate chips before eating the rest of the yogurt and granola. Sadly our grocery store stopped selling this brand so using a granola recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks and the ingredients list from the granola package I created a chocolate chip granola recipe. Making granola is pretty simple, it’s mostly stirring ingredients then baking.

IMG_2598While it’s currently winter (so I don’t mind turning the oven on) I decided to give this a try in the slow cooker since that would make it more Cam-friendly. It worked okay, not well. It just didn’t dry the ingredients out enough so I ended up popping it in the oven after all. I’ll include instructions for both ways in the recipe in case you want to give the slow cooker a try. I also swapped out the oil for coconut oil, but you can use either. I had it on hand and wanted to give it a try. 

 (Yes, it is winter and yes, Cam is wearing a tank top. This kid never gets cold.)

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Granola
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb. oats
  2. 1/2 c. canola oil
  3. 1/2 c. honey
  4. 1/3 c. water
  5. 1/4 c. sunflower seeds
  6. 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  7. 1/2 c. flax seed
  8. 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
  9. 1/4 tsp. salt
  10. 1/3 c. chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line or grease a large cookie sheet.
  2. Mix all the wet ingredients together and all the dry ingredients together. Leave out the chocolate chips. Stir the two together and pour onto the cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for about 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn.
  4. The granola is done when it is no longer wet and you can smell it toasting. Stir in the chocolate chips and let cool. Store in an air-tight container.
Notes
  1. Slow cooker method: Grease your slow cooker insert. Once the ingredients are mixed pour them into the slow cooker and cook on low for 3 or more hours, until the granola is dried out. Leave the lid canted or off completely to allow the moisture to escape. Stir every once in awhile to prevent it from burning. Once it's dried out turn out onto a cookie sheet to cool.
  2. If you were so inclined, you could add some sort of dried fruit, such as cranberries at the end with the chocolate chips.
  3. I used coconut oil instead of canola.
  4. Feel free to toss in whatever else might be in your pantry and sounds good- nuts, seeds, etc.
Atomic Bee Ranch http://atomicbeeranch.com/

Cam in the Kitchen: Vanilla Crescents

Every year since I was just a few months old my grandmother, my mom and I have gathered to bake Christmas cookies. When Cam was born my grandmother was not able to join us, but my mom and I continued the tradition. The cookies we bake have dwindled in numbers over the years, but the recipes have stayed the same. Spice cookies rolled paper thin. Orange candy oatmeal cookies. Candy cherry cookies. And vanilla crescents. The vanilla crescents were a particular favorite of my grandfather and I discovered last year that they, or something very similar, are a traditional cookie for Martinmas. The crescent shape is reminiscent of a horse shoe and therefore St. Martin’s horse.

I made the cookies last year, but this year there was the added benefit of them being a favorite of my grandfather. Martinmas falls close to All Soul’s Day and we still had our pictures up from that celebration and we were able to continue celebrating. 

These cookies are very simple to make. Just throw all the ingredients into the bowl of a mixer and whip them up. Cam has helped the last two years with the mixing and powdered sugar dusting with great success. Shaping the crescents is still a little difficult, though. 

Martinmas Vanilla Crescent Cookies
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup butter
  2. 1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
  3. 2 cups flour
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together.
  3. Add vanilla and then add the flour gradually.
  4. Scoop out tablespoon sized balls and shape into crescents.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes. The cookies do not get very brown, so don't over bake them.
  6. Remove from cookie sheet and allow to cool.
  7. When cool dust with powdered sugar.
Atomic Bee Ranch http://atomicbeeranch.com/

Cam in the Kitchen: Butter

Inspired by this post on How We Montessori I decided Cam and I should make butter. It’s fairly easy and requires movement. Both excellent qualities for a toddler activity. 

What You’ll Need:

  • a small container, preferably with a screw-top lid such as a small mason jar or tupperware (we used this one)
  • 1/2 pint of heavy cream, get the good stuff because there is only one ingredient and the quality will stand out
  • Raffi’s “Shake Your Sillies Out” (video here)
  • French bread rolls or baguette
  • second container and sieve

What To Do (it looks like a lot of steps, but it’s super simple):

  1. Bring the cream up to room temperature. It’s easiest just to leave it on the counter for awhile.
  2. Pour the cream into the container leaving some room at the top so it can slosh around.
  3. Put on the song and start shaking. I suggest taking turns with your child as they may not be the most efficient shaker. This is why I recommend a screw-top lid!
  4. Listen to the cream sloshing around. After a few minutes (3-5) you’ll notice that it isn’t sloshing anymore. If you open it to check, you’ll notice that it’s quite thick and starting to look like whipped butter. 
  5. Keep shaking. After a few more minutes you’ll notice that you hear sloshing again. This is the fat (butter) separating from the buttermilk (not exactly like the buttermilk you buy in the store). You can check on it a couple more times. Each time you’ll notice that the butter is coming together more and more. Feel free to taste at every stage. Cam did! 
  6. When it’s a consistency you’re happy with pour the buttermilk out into another container through the sieve. This will catch the butter if it falls out. You can save the buttermilk to use in baking (such as biscuits, see here for our recipe).
  7. Spread your fresh butter on the bread and enjoy!

Cam in the Kitchen: Apple Chips

A few weeks ago we had some apples lying around that needed to be eaten up. Instead of just cutting them up and eating them that way I thought it might be fun to make them into apple chips. Of course you can buy apple chips at the store, but they’re kind of expensive and it’s really easy to make them at home. It’s also a great recipe to celebrate fall and the prep is quick.

This is a project that definitely has a parent-child component. You’ll need to slice the apples, but your child can sprinkle them with the cinnamon sugar. I recommend using a mandolin if you have one (if you don’t and you want a relatively inexpensive one, this is like what I have) as it will give you thin slices with a uniform thickness. I also recommend taking an old (clean) spice jar with a shaker top and filling that with the cinnamon sugar. Don’t worry if the chips get really unevenly sprinkled, it won’t make much difference in the finished product. 

Apple or Pear Chips
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Ingredients
  1. 2-3 apples or pears
  2. 1 tbsp cinnamon
  3. 2 tbsp sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 225.
  2. Slice the apples or pears and lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together and have your child sprinkle it on the tops of the apple or pear slices.
  4. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for about an hour. Flip the slices over and bake for another hour. Keep your eye on them especially in the second hour. Depending on how thinly you have sliced them they will dry out more or less quickly. They are done when the edges curl a bit but they still have a chewy consistency.
Notes
  1. I recently read in a Martha Stewart magazine that you could also brush the slices with a thin layer of maple syrup.
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