Chocolate-Dipped Marshmallows

Here’s a little treat that doesn’t take long to make. You can adapt it to any holiday with sprinkles, keep it plain, or try drizzling with icing or white chocolate. It’s a fun snack that would be great to set out at parties or nice to box up and give as a gift.

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All you need are large marshmallows and chocolate morsels — I used peppermint chocolate morsels — then sprinkles, icing, or white chocolate morsels.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (the baking sheet must be rimmed so sprinkles don’t roll away and make a mess when you decorate).

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In a bowl, melt a large handful of chocolate morsels in the microwave. Do it in 20- or 30-second intervals, stirring in between, to make sure all the chocolate is melted and none of it burns.

When chocolate is completely melted, you must work quickly. Take a large marshmallow and dip it into the chocolate, then set it on the parchment paper with the chocolate side up. Sprinkle it right away, then do the next one. Refrigerate once they’re all decorated so the chocolate hardens, then serve.

If drizzling with icing or white chocolate, let the first layer harden in the fridge before decorating. Melt the white chocolate as above.

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Microwave Poached Eggs

The easiest cooking you’ll ever do, and the simplest way to cook an egg. Finally, eggs can be poached without all the fuss!

Put 8 oz. of water in a glass measuring cup or coffee mug. Break open an egg and quickly pour it in the water. Microwave for 1 minute, then remove the egg with a spoon.

The reason you need to do it individually is to help the egg keep a compact shape. That’s often tricky when trying to poach eggs in a pot of water. A coffee mug or small measuring cup will do that.

Enjoy it on toast with a sprinkling of salt on top. Heavenly.

Moosewood Restaurant’s Coconut-Bean Soup

20181128_191832The most reliable cookbook I own is one from the Moosewood Restaurant. The recipes always work and are always delicious. And they’re healthy. The restaurant, a collective that started in 1973 in Ithaca, New York, is famous as one of the first to highlight vegetarian, natural, and locally sourced food.

Moosewood has a number of cookbooks, and recently I found a treasure — this 1987 copy of “New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant,” one of their early ones. It’s interesting to see them carefully describe ingredients that are common these days, such as coconut milk, miso, and polenta.

20181128_191620The first recipe I tried from the book was this coconut milk soup with navy beans. It’s a thick soup, made substantial with the beans and a small amount of rice, but kept light with the fresh lemon juice and chopped tomatoes. I served it with flounder sautéed in butter and lemon juice. A light, crispy salad would be nice as a side dish.

I made a few tweaks, including using canned beans in place of dried in order to save time.

Serves 6

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne (optional)
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 14.5-oz. can coconut milk
1/2 cup cooked rice
1 14.5-oz. can navy beans, drained
Toasted coconut flakes for garnish

In a large pot, heat oil on medium heat and saute onion, garlic, and spices until onions are translucent. Add peppers, tomatoes, salt, sugar, and lemon juice and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the peppers are tender.

Stir in coconut milk, rice, and beans and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until flavors are blended. Serve garnished with toasted coconut flakes.

Halloween Eyeball Cupcakes

20181030_1539161. Bake some chocolate cupcakes with cupcake liners.
2. Prepare a thick buttercream frosting and tint it with Halloween colors like purple, orange, green, and brown.
3. Pipe spikes all over the top of the cupcake. (Squirt a small blob and bring the tip of the frosting bag straight back up.)
4. Put candy eyes randomly between the spikes.

As you can see, we didn’t just do spikes — we had fun making crazy monster faces. This is one Halloween treat that doesn’t require a specific shape or design, so just use your imagination!

Chicken Gumbo

A delicious stew for an autumn day, and very easy to make.

It’s yet ANOTHER recipe I’ve had in my binder for ages. It’s from Parade magazine, the Sunday insert in many newspapers, and it was from the late Sheila Lukins, the magazine’s former food editor and famed author of “The Silver Palate Cookbook.”

That book, and her New York restaurant that inspired it, ushered in a new style of cooking in the late ’70s and early ’80s — one that emphasized flavors and seasonings and was still easy to make. Although this gumbo recipe was printed in the magazine much later, probably around 1995, it is still a great example of that kind of cooking.

I simplified the recipe even further, using rotisserie chicken instead of the chicken she laid out in the recipe. But I’ve included her original instructions for that below, in case you don’t have a rotisserie chicken or you want to make it all from scratch.

The only tough part was taking a nice picture of such a basic dish — gumbo may be delicious, but it’s not elegant — so I have no photo to share. But I hope you’ll try it and see for yourself how wonderful Lukins’ cooking was.

Serves 4

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 green bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups sliced okra, fresh or frozen
1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded*
14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, juice reserved
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Place oil in a large, heavy pot. Add celery, onion, peppers, and garlic; cook over low heat, stirring, for 10 minutes. Raise heat to medium, add okra and cook, stirring an additional 5 minutes.

Add chicken, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover with reserved tomato juice, making sure that all chicken pieces are covered in liquid (if necessary, add a touch of water to ensure it’s covered).

Simmer over medium-low heat, partially covered, until chicken is thoroughly tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in half the parsley. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes longer. If gumbo begins to boil, reduce heat. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Garnish with remaining parsley. If desired, serve over hot rice.

*If not using a rotisserie chicken:
1 chicken, 2 1/2-3 lbs., cut into 8 pieces, wing tips removed
1 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. sweet paprika
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground pepper
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Preheat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Combine seasonings in a small bowl and rub over chicken pieces. Place chicken in shallow baking pan and bake for 15 minutes.

Trail Mix

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Salted peanuts, raisins, almonds, cashews, and M&Ms are in this trail mix, a copycat of the prepared trail mixes you’ll find at the store. Bonus: Making it at home costs less, especially when you find some of these ingredients on sale.

This is a favorite of ours for lunch boxes, after-school snacks, and snacks at work.

Adjust the amounts here to your liking, but this mixture was the closest I came to store-bought. Just mix it all in a bowl.

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup cashews
3/4 cup M&Ms
1 cup raisins
1 cup salted peanuts

Tortellini in Brodo

Easy gourmet and perfect for a weeknight.tortellini

This is a dinner in itself. Just pick your favorite store-bought tortellini and boil it in a homemade bone broth with leafy greens, vegetables, and pork.

While the recipe isn’t quick, it’s certainly not difficult, and it’s easy to make ahead of time. I made the broth this morning and added the tortellini and pork just before dinnertime. The house smelled wonderful all day.

The recipe is another winner from the Food Network. The only thing I changed from the original was using chard instead of escarole. And I recommend using the Parmesan rind, which adds a rich flavor. A touch expensive but worth it.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced and rinsed
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 small celery stalks, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 small piece Parmesan rind
2 wide strips lemon zest (removed with a vegetable peeler)
1 12-oz. bone-in pork chop, meat diced and bone reserved
1 9-oz. pkg. refrigerated cheese or meat tortellini
2 large leaves of swiss chard, spine removed and leaves chopped

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks wilt, about 5 minutes.

Add 2 cups water, the chicken broth, Parmesan rind, lemon zest, and pork bone. Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and take out the Parmesan rind, lemon zest, and pork bone from the pot with a slotted spoon.

(You can make the broth up to this point and save it in the refrigerator, proceeding with the next steps when you’re ready to prepare dinner.)

Bring the broth to a boil over medium heat. Add the tortellini, chard, and diced pork; season with pepper. Cook until the tortellini is tender, about 5 minutes.