Archive for July, 2009

Grind my own nutmeg? Are you nuts?

July 31st, 2009

I admit that a nutmeg grinder sounds like a pretty geeky gadget. In fact, not that long ago, I pooh-poohed the mere concept of freshly ground nutmeg that same way I pooh-poohed that of freshly ground black pepper. Who has the time, when you could just as easily scoop the same spice out of a jar all ready to go?  And this still remains a fine strategy as far as I’m concerned.

Just like any cook worth her salt arguing for fresh ground black pepper, though, I’m going to plead my case for fresh grinding nutmeg: it’s a small thing that makes a big impact.

For convenience and to keep the nuts fresh, I keep my nutmeg grinder, which also holds nuts in compartments on top, in the refrigerator. 

After very carefully showing Carter the slit on the bottom toavoid, I held the grinder and let him turn the handle for the first time when we made banana bread last weekend. Having him marvel at the smell made it even more worthwhile than the added flavor.

Shopping notes: My nutmeg grinder looks like the Peugeot Tidore Nutmeg Shaver, but I can’t imagine that I paid $40 for it. The Carefree Kitchen Compact Nutmeg Grinder and Norpro Spice Grinder are similar in design, with a turn handle on top and a slit on the bottom—away from little fingers.


spinach and/or pepperoni pizza?

July 29th, 2009

rolling pizza doughpizzaUsing Trader Joe’s pizza dough to make pizza, instead of cinnamon rolls. Can you guess which side is the boys’ side and which one is Mommy’s?

(No) spilled milk

July 28th, 2009

A good way to teach kids to pour liquids (for example, their own cup of milk) is to first pour it into a small pitcher and have them practice pouring from there into a cup. I learned this tip from author Nancy Hall when I was editing the book Gymboree’s 365 Activities You and Your Child Will Love. I started doing this with Carter ages ago and still do it, using a 1- or 2-cup liquid measuring cup. He likes pouring his own milk without any mishap, and I don’t mind the mitigated risk of spills, either.

Gadget du jour: mini measuring cup

July 27th, 2009

419SJQZN12L._SL160_]No kitchen should be without a Oxo mini angled liquid-measuring cup,  a ¼ cup measuring cup lets you measure up to 4 tablespoons of a liquid in a pitcher. I like it because I can measure liquid ingredients in advance and avoid over-pouring mishaps common to traditional tablespoon.

More important, though, it makes it much easier for kids to measure and/or pour small quantities of liquids, like the 1 tablespoon of oil  in Saturday’s banana bread. I measured. Carter poured.

Instant cinnamon rolls

July 26th, 2009

cinnamon rolls I’ve made “simple” (non-yeast) cinnamon rolls, but it was still a lot of work. As an experiment today, Carter and I rolled out Trader Joe’s whole-wheat pizza dough, brushed with butter, sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar, rolled up, sliced into 12 pieces, and baked for 15 minutes at 425F. Pretty close to instant. Here are the sticky details.

Instant Cinnamon Rolls

Flour, for rolling out the dough
1 package pizza dough
3 tablespoons butter, not quite melted
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425F. Generously butter round baking pan.

To prevent dough from sticking, sprinkle flour on a large sheet of wax paper, and flour hands and rolling pin. Roll out dough into thin layer in the shape of rectangle. Brush top generously with melted butter. Combine cinnamon and sugar in the jar with a sprinkle top. Generously sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over butter. Roll up dough from a long side. Using serrated knife, slice through layers to make 12 pieces and evenly space in baking pan. Bake 15 minutes or until dough is browned and firm to touch. Let cool and sprinkle with leftover cinnamon-sugar mixture.

painting butter

When I asked Carter his favorite part of making cinnamon rolls, I expected him to say the rolling or the sprinking, which he did with gusto. His answer was painting the butter, so I have to mention yet another Oxo gadget I love the  silicone pastry brush. (I promise I’m not a company shill.)

Later: Unprompted snack request: “More cinnamon rolls, please.”


Banana bread

July 25th, 2009

red whiskFinally dealing with the black bananas in the fridge. Carter wasn’t interested until I got out the red whisk. (Red is his absolute favorite color in the whole wide world.) Then he really got into it.

This recipe is a healthy take on a childhood classic from Real Food for Healthy Kids. It’s rare that I find a cookbook from which I make more than one recipe, a true hallmark of success in the cookbook world (we cookbook readers aspire more than we execute). Written by two working moms, Tracey Seaman and Tanya Wenman Steel, Real Food for Healthy Kids is one of those books. 

Ba-Ba Banana Bread

From Real Food for Healthy Kids

2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
4 very ripe medium bananas, coarsely mashed with a fork
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (in lieu of 2/3 cup chopped walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-by5-inch loaf pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and reserve.

Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the bananas, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and mix at low speed until blended.

Add the flour mixture and mix at low speed just until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips or nuts and the scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour, until a cake tested inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let the bread cool for 15 minutes in the pan on a rack, then turn out and let cool before cutting.



Shhh! not-from-scratch brownies

July 24th, 2009

Costco is a great source for essential emergency stashes, say, for example, Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate brownie mix. Perfect for fulfilling a craving quickly. Like the one I had tonight.

Have you seen the muffin mom?

July 23rd, 2009

last two muffinsCarter has been watching me take pictures of his baking and the results, so he decided to get out his camera and record the evidence for himself: the last two Finnley’s Super Muffins. 

This morning, Carter said “No thank you” to a muffin offer. Tonight, after he heard that our neighbor Paul, who’s also a 4-year-old boy, ate three of them, he decided to try one after all. And then another one. And then take Daddy the last one—so he wouldn’t “miss out.”

Bottom line: Made 18 muffins last night. Distributed to family, neighbors, colleagues. All gone tonight.

Digg these muffins

July 22nd, 2009

I liked this muffin recipe so much, it inspired me to write my first Digg contribution:
Chef/dad helps parents cook easy healthy food for their kids
relishmag.com Do toddlers and zucchini mix? Yes, says Seattle chef and dad Greg Johnson who teaches parents how to prepare easy homemade food for babies and toddlers. His muffin recipe caught my eye because of its unusual ingredient combination: zucchini, olive oil, goji berries, apple sauce, etc. Result: cake-like muffins that don’t taste “healthy” but are.

Note: I put in about 5 tablespoons of goji berries to make up for having only 1/3 cup of raisins. Costco carries goji berries: key ingredient, not to be skipped!

Finnley’s Super Muffins

From Relish Magazine, courtesy of Greg Johnson

2 tablespoons goji berries
1/3 cup warm water
4 eggs
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Soak goji berries in warm water 3 minutes.
3. Combine eggs, oil, applesauce, sugar, agave nectar and vanilla extract in a bowl; whisk together. Whisk in goji berries and soaking water.
4. Add flour, baking soda and cinnamon. Mix well. Fold in zucchini and raisins just until mixed. Batter will be very heavy.
5. Coat cups of muffin tins with cooking spray. Spoon batter into cups, filling each one-half to three-fourths full. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until semi-firm to the touch. Makes 18 muffins.

Nutritional Information
Per serving: 200 calories, 7g fat, 45mg chol., 4g prot., 31g carbs., 160mg sodium.

Unusually disagreeable

July 21st, 2009

“I don’t like eating dinner.”

“I don’t like taking a bath.”

Jeff: “Do you want to bake banana bread with Mommy?”

“No, thank you.”

Ouch.