Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Toss the take-out menus and buy this cookbook

December 7th, 2014

For those who didn’t learn to cook growing up, my friend Becky Duffett wrote “How to Feed Yourself” and filled it with 100 of her favorite go-to recipes, no fancy ingredients or equipment required. This hip foodie worked on Williams Sonoma cookbooks for several years and knows what’s what when it comes to making a great cookbook—from beautiful photos to crystal-clear instructions. While she’s targeting recent college grads and twentysomethings, this fortysomething mom likes it too. My cooking is a bit rudimentary, and I’ve aspired to kick it up a notch for a while now. I can follow a recipe, and Jeff and Carter are psyched that I’ll be trying some of Becky’s weeknight dinner recipes—the bulk of the book. Of course, she had me at one-bowl brownies with hazelnuts and Nutella.

Kid-friendly black bean brownies, high protein, gluten free

July 5th, 2014

Kids and adults gave two thumbs up to these high-protein, flourless brownies at last night’s fireworks watching. Adapted from the healthy food website Prevention RD.

  • 1 (15-oz) can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp oil (olive, hemp, or canola)
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp instant coffee or expresso, or ground coffee
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, divided use

Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray or butter.

Put all the ingredients, except ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips, in a blender or food processor and blend well.

Pour batter in prepared pan and smooth to edges.

Sprinkle remaining ½ cup chocolate chips on top of batter.

Bake for 25–30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

perfect playdate: baking brownies, chasing bubbles, digging in dirt

December 30th, 2011
Apron on and ready to bake

Apron on and ready to bake

Carter's turn to crack an egg

Carter's turn to crack an egg

Beyond excited, delirious with anticipation, and somewhat crazy describe Carter when it comes to getting together with other kids. He was at a small home daycare until he went to kindergarten, he’s a very social only child, and we work full time, so a playdate is a rare and cherished event. Yesterday, his friend Jade came over, and they tore up a patch of dirt in the backyard, ran after copious amounts of bubbles (not to name drop, but Gymboree bubbles really do last longer), baked brownies, and while the brownies were baking mopped up the dirt they had tracked in. Funny, how cleaning up can be fun when it’s part of playtime!

Obviously, from the Baking with Carter theme, I believe strongly that baking with kids is a great way to have fun together, to develop skills ranging from dexterity to tactile awareness, to learn everything from math to chemistry, etc., etc. It’s great to meet another parent, like Jade’s mom, Jennifer, who understands why kids should play with raw eggs. Needless to say, it was good that my favorite brownie recipe has two eggs to crack, since both kids are pros.

Because this brownie recipe uses cocoa powder, rather than melted chocolate, it’s ideal to make with kids. Here’s the recipe again, for easy reference:

Favorite Brownies

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (one stick, room temperature)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons oil
6 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper or foil coated with cooking spray. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and oil, beating until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Add the cocoa powder in three parts, mixing well after each addition. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and salt together. Add the flour mixture to the the cocoa mixture in two or three parts, mixing well after each addition. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes; do not overbake.

Adapted from Cooking with Amy

Easy, healthy orange cranberry sauce that kids (and grown-ups) will eat

December 26th, 2011

Even with a sweet tooth that rival’s mine, Carter likes tart cranberry sauce, or at least the lower-sugar orange cranberry sauce that’s become a tradition for holiday meals at our house. It’s hard to believe I blogged about the original orange cranberry sauce recipe two years ago—hard to believe I’ve been blogging that long! I’ve made a few tweaks—including all the zest from an orange, which is my favorite part, and using all orange juice and no water. All this orangey-ness freshens the taste, I think. Let me know what you think.

Orange Cranberry Sauce

12.5-ounce bag of cranberries
1 cup orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed
3/4 cup sugar
zest of one large orange, peeled in strips
5 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and mixture thickens to desired consistency, approximately 30–60 minutes (I like to simmer it a long time, but you don’t need to). Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves (if you can find them!). Cool in a bowl (the sauce will set).

Super yummy, gluten-free, low-carb chocolate chip cookies recipe

December 23rd, 2011

Jeff has been the parent baking with Carter lately. He discovered this gluten-free, low-carb, higher-protein recipe for chocolate chip cookies from Healthy Fellow. I’ve happily (and quickly) consumed the results. Last night, Jeff and I baked the cookies together. By this afternoon, they were all gone—not even one left for a photo.

A vanilla note: The original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of vanilla, to mask the almond taste and increase the antioxidants. With this batch I used 2 teaspoons—I like the almond taste—so if you’re running short on vanilla, rest assured, it’s a forgiving recipe.

A sweet note: It’s likely that you don’t have the natural sweeteners erythritol and stevia in your pantry. If your grocery store doesn’t carry them, try a health food store. It’s worthwhile to seek them out and experiment with them as a sugar substitute in other contexts; for example, Jeff replaced sugar with stevia for his coffee quite a while ago.

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 cups almond flour, sifted

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup butter, preferably grass-fed, melted

½ cup erythritol

1 teaspoon powdered stevia

2 eggs, preferably organic omega-3 room temperature (place in bowl of warm water to bring to room temperature more quickly)

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

½ cup dark-chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or silicone baking liners). In a mixing bowl, whisk together the almond flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, erthritaol, and stevia; add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until combined (do not overmix). Fold in the chocolate chips evenly. Drop 12­–14 rounded tablespoons of dough (I love my cookie scoop) on each prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the sheet for 10–15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Healthy Fellow

easy slow cooker chicken recipe: Moroccan-Spiced Tomato Chicken

December 30th, 2010

In a shocking turn of events today, I managed to think about dinner far enough in advance to put chicken in the slow cooker (is anyone else still adjusting to not saying “Crock-Pot”?) before I left on a few errands. Each of which turned out to be problematic. So, so nice to come home and be ahead of the feeding game.

My Moroccan-Spiced Tomato Chicken recipe, which Carter loves because it’s sweet, is the one and only recipe I’ve written that has appeared in print, in the Home Plates column in the San Jose Mercury News. I was sure I’d shared it on Baking with Carter, but it turns out I’ve been holding out on you.

LIke the Quick Chicken with Salsa and Cheese recipe that I did share, the Moroccan-Spiced Tomato Chicken recipe is adapted from Beth Hensperger’s book Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Two, which I highly recommend. (To save time and cleanup, I skip the original recipe’s step of browning the chicken in olive oil with garlic first, but knock yourself out if you like the added flavor.)

When I used to work at the erstwhile Internet search engine Infoseek, “easy chicken recipe” was perennially a top search phrase. Now that I’m a working mom, the popularity makes even more sense. Add “kid-friendly,” and you really have a winner. So without further ado, here’s my favorite kid-friendly, easy chicken recipe:

Moroccan-Spiced Tomato Chicken with Almonds

4–6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (one package)
1 cup tomato salsa (good jarred variety)
2 tablespoons dried currants or raisins
4 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole-wheat couscous

Spray the inside of a 1 1/2 to 3 quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Trim extra fat and put the chicken in the slow cooker. Combine the salsa, currants, honey, cumin, and cinnamon and pour over the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the chicken is cooked (fork tender and juices run clear). Cook couscous according to package directions. Serve chicken over couscous.

Optionally: Toast 2 tablespoons slivered almonds in dry skillet on stovetop until brown and fragrant; serve chicken over couscous and top with toasted almonds.

This is one chicken recipe I can count on Carter, who has a sweet tooth, eating. He loves the currants/raisins, and I’m sure the honey helps too. Of course, he puts his own spin on the meal, eating the couscous separately with ketchup.

I searched “easy chicken recipe” at Food Blog Search, and here are some more ideas:

Tin Foil Chicken & Veggies from Kitchen Parade

Honey Mustard Chicken from Eclectic Recipes

Easy Cornflake Crumb Chicken from Chew on That

Grilled Island Chicken from Sarah’s Cucina Bella

Just a Little Mexican Chicken from Zesty Cook

Cookies and milk for Santa Claus: easy, fast blondies recipe

December 25th, 2010

blondies for santaHow embarrassing is it, when you write a blog with the work “baking” in it, and your son’s idea of baking cookies is to break apart grocery-store premade dough, put it on a baking sheet in the oven, and, voila, chocolate chip cookies? That was Carter’s plan when he woke me up at 7 a.m. to get Santa’s snack ready. (He never, ever sleeps in on weekends. And he never, ever wakes up Daddy.)

I have fought off my cookie-baking phobia (remember the chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies) in the past, and on Christmas Eve, I was determined that the cookies were going to be homemade. It was the only option anyway, since I had no premade dough on hand. We made blondies. Yes, I took a shortcut opting for bar cookies and skipping doling out dough. Worse, though, I planned to cut them into squares. Carter saw that as an attempt to thwart his next notion about making cookies: once, you actually make the dough, cookie cutters follow.

Fortunately, the dough was soft enough that he could cut out a stocking, a gingerbread man (always seems sexist to say that, but “person” just doesn’t seem the same), a star, a tree, and a squiggly circle, the last compliments of his PlayDoh set. All for Santa Claus.

Tonight, Carter was following Santa’s progression online. When Santa got closer to California, Carter popped out of bed to remind me to pour milk for Santa. We had enough trimmings and squares to nibble on with Grandpa and Aunt Janet, and to share with neighbors. So to all, it was a good night. Hope yours was, too.

Santa’s Blondies

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4–1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Melt butter and pour into a separate mixing bowl. Add sugar to butter and whisk to blend. Whisk in eggs one at a time and then vanilla. Add flour mixture in several small batches until incorporated.

Spread batter in baking pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake until the edges are browning and a tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 25–30 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. Cool and cut into squares or use cookie cutters to cut out shapes.

Kid tip: To grease the pan, Carter likes to “paint” the butter on with a silicone pastry brush, which may appeal to other kids.

Adapted from Epicurious Blondies with Pecans and Chocolate Chips

alphabet cookies, with red sprinkles, of course

June 20th, 2010

letter_cookies From letters to sounds to words, Carter is making the literacy journey. He aced letters and sounds, started reading words well over a year ago, and can sound out new words. But he’s a bit spooked about reading. No fear of baking, though, so our culinary take: alphabet cookies. We used Alton Brown’s trusty sugar cookie recipe, teamed up with Carter’s neighbor friend Sonia, and got rolling. As you can see, I kid not about Carter’s love of red sprinkles.

One note: If you buy alphabet cookie cutters, be sure to check the size. Miniature letters will spell “frustration” with kids. The letter cookie cutters we used are 2 inches high. They came as part of  The Alphabake: A Cookbook and Cookie Cutter Set. The set comes with 26 ABC cookie cutters, a square baking sheet, and a wipe-off, 32-page cookbook. Author Debra Pearson has some fun ideas, such as making a “negative” cookie with the letters of your name or a word cut out; edible Cocoa Cookie Kisses, with Xs and Os; and not-for-consumption salt play dough. You can also just buy ABC cookie cutters, which often come with numbers, too; for example, Wilton has a 50-piece ABC and 123 cookie cutter set with cookie cutters that are about 3.5 inches in size.

rainy-day strawberry cake

April 20th, 2010

When it rains, strawberries go on sale at the CalAve farmers’ market! Who knew? Perfect for a pie, for most bakers. I’ve already confessed my cookie-baking phobia, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that making pie crusts aren’t yet in my repertoire. (We’ll discuss my avoidance of yeast another day. How is it that I claim to be a baker?) In my recently, very specifically filed recipe clips, I found the answer under Desserts > Fruit: strawberry cake.

Strawberry cake in a 9-inch Emile Henry pie pan.

Strawberry cake in a 9-inch Emile Henry pie pan.

Carter had decided he would rather watch a movie with Daddy than bake with Mommy, until I started making the cake around bedtime. Then, big surprise, he wanted to stay up and bake. Carter got away with it only somewhat (yes, he gets away with probably too much with me, but that’s yet another story). I let him get out of bed to arrange the strawberries on top the batter—a perfect colorful, tactile task for kids.

This strawberry cake is closer to a coffeecake or teacake than a dessert cake. It’s delicious and looked beautiful in the Emile Henry pie dish I got for a wedding present—something I didn’t registered for, but should have. Mine came from Williams Sonoma, Emile Henry also now makes a pink “Bake for the Cause” pie dish. Another confession: I had to Google to find out how to measure a pie pan. The answer is rim to rim at the widest part.

I also had to Google to find out the origin of the recipe—turns out I clipped it from the June 2005 Martha Stewart Living, so it’s nearly as old as Carter. Good thing I saved it. Better thing: I could—finally—easily find it.

Strawberry Cake

6 tablespoons butter, softened, plus more for greasing pie plate
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking poweder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat over to 350˚F. Butter a 10-inch pie dish (or a 9-inch deep one).

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.

In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer on medium-high to cream butter and 1 cup sugar together until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in the egg, milk, and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Gradually mix in flour mixture.

Transfer batter to buttered pie pan. Arrange strawberries on top of the batter, with cut sides down, as close together as possible. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over the berries.

Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325˚F. Bake until the cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into wedges to serve.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

phobia cure: chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies recipe

March 7th, 2010

Cookie recipes scare me. I remember too well as a kid struggling to hand-mix the stiff Tollhouse chocolate chip dough and then burning the cookies. My sister Margaret’s always came out just right, so I ceded that ground to her. Then there was that time I attempted to make my Great Aunt Frances’ famous ginger snaps. I can still picture the baking dough oozing across the cookie sheet, leaving a charred path in its wake.

My mom’s go-to cookie recipe was oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with wheat germ. I remember eating a lot of those—no childhood baking trauma attached. So the other day, I was in line at Trader Joe’s and saw packages of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, strategically placed for impulse purchases. Not only did I resist, but I also vowed to set aside my cookie baking phobia and make some myself.

Coincidentally, I’ve also had a copy of Sur La Table’s book Baking Kids Love by Cindy Mushet that I’ve been wanting to try out and report on. (Editorial note: I received a free review copy of this book from its publisher, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC.) One of its 30 recipes is Chewy Oatmeal Cookies. Perfect.

Cindy’s 11-year-old daughter, Bella, helped her create the book and offers a running commentary. Photos of Bella and other kids, a colorful design, and full-page photos of the end results will appeal to kids. In addition to baking these recipes with your child, I recommend this book for kids who are old enough to read it themselves.

Although I didn’t in my adaptation of the Chewy Oatmeal Cookies recipe below, each recipe in the book lists the required tools as well as an ingredient list. Cindy includes those extra steps, for instance, when to scrape the bowl, that more experienced bakers wouldn’t need. Other recipes I’d like to try: Gone Bananas Chocolate Chip Cake, Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake Muffins, and Crunchy-Top Vanilla Scones (along with its Scrumptious Strawberry Shortcake variation).

Cindy’s original Chewy Oatmeal Cookies recipe calls for cranberries, but I swapped in chocolate chips. I actually enjoyed making the cookies—enough so that I plan to make more cookies! Having the right gear, especially a stand mixer, helped.

Because baking with me is no longer novel and there are now so many different ways Carter can entertain himself, I never know exactly when or for how long he will join me. “Special time with Mommy” no longer is an automatic attraction. This time, he wanted to put the dough on the cookie sheets. The attraction: a mini ice cream scoop.

Gotta love the appeal of kitchen gadgets, and I highly recommend a 1 tablespoon scoop for doling out cookie dough. Carter needed some help squeezing the handles and didn’t make it through all 48 scoops, but had fun trying. The scoop was so much quicker than the two-spoon method I used to use. Carter is going to kindergarten in August, and I pictured myself up late scooping out cookie dough, so he would have cookies to take to school in the morning.

As far as taste and texture, these cookies passed the test: they were all gone fast. In fact, my neighbor Nandini, who sampled them, came over to get the recipe. She needed to make cookies that night for her son’s class. I lent her my mini scoop.

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (see note)

Position an oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl on low speed for one minute and then medium speed for another minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In three parts, add the dry ingredient to the butter mixture and beat on low speed just until a few patches of flour remain. Add the oats in three parts and then the chocolate chips. Mix until the ingredients are evenly blended. Scrape down the bowl and fold the dough a few times to make sure all the flour is incorporated and the chips are evenly distributed.

With a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, shape the dough into cookies. Evenly space 12 cookies on each baking sheet. Place one sheet on each oven rack. Bake for 7 minutes, then switch the pans’ positions and rotate each a half turn. Bake another 7 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown around the edges.

Place the baking sheets on cooling racks and cool the cookies completely. Once the pans are cool, remove the cookies and line the pans with new parchment paper. Bake the rest of the cookies. Yield: approximately 48 cookies.

Note: The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup of dried cranberries or other dried fruit, such as raisins, currants, dried cherries, or chopped dried apricots, with the optional addition of 1/3 cup of chopped nuts or chocolate chips.

Adapted from Baking Kids Love