Saturday, December 3, 2011

No Need to Knead Bread

My four year old granddaughter ate a variety of vegetables and fruits when she was younger, but the older she gets the pickier she becomes. Last weekend she and her little brother came to have dinner with Poppy and me. I had prepared a healthy nutritious meal ahead of time: there was roasted chicken, pasta salad, a green vegetable salad, No Need to Knead Bread, and for dessert, chocolate zucchini muffins with fruit.

Both children were hungry and started eating right away. Lana had never tasted my No Need to Knead bread and being a carb-eating child, I was sure she’d like it. But she was reluctant to taste anything with green specks on top. I talked her into “just one small bite” and she loved it. While she worked on the second piece, the bread basket disappeared. Since she wanted more, she took her brother’s. So you have the Princess’s stamp of approval on this bread that is easier to make than a cake mix.

I love making breads as you’ve probably guessed by now. I have tried many different recipes for peasant breads, some were too refined, some too soft or didn’t have that homemade flavor. But this recipe was just about perfect. It’s not only delicious, but it has a wonderful chewy texture and is one of the easiest and most versatile breads I have ever made. In fact this recipe is so easy that I have written it in my children’s book. It doesn’t have to be kneaded—so I have renamed this yeast bread the No-Need-to-Kneed Bread. Be sure to let your Prince or Princess help with this one.

You will need: A large mixing bowl, wooden spoon, measuring spoons and cups, and a large jellyroll pan brushed liberally with extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkled with cornmeal. Set aside.

2 cups of warm water Toppings:
2 teaspoons of yeast Fresh Rosemary
2 teaspoons of salt Pepper
4 cups of unbleached flour
Crushed garlic
Grated Parmesan


Pour the warm water, about the temperature of a baby’s milk, into a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Stir just until the yeast is dissolved, then add the salt and flour. Mix until the flour is just moistened and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with olive oil spray, and place on top of the bowl. Cover with a dish towel and keep in warm and draft free place. Let it rest for about an hour or until the dough is spongy and about double in size. Brush olive oil onto a jellyroll pan sprinkle with corn meal and set aside.

The next step is the most difficult. When the dough has risen until about double, carefully remove the towel and plastic wrap. Spray or brush olive oil on your hands and on top of the dough. Carefully cup your hands and work your way around the edges of dough while the bowl is tipped over the baking pan. When it is completely on the pan, drizzle more olive oil on top, and gently pull apart leaving small holes. This should be about the size of a large pizza. Don’t be afraid that it will end up flat. It is very forgiving and will rise to the occasion.

Sprinkle the dough with coarse salt, chopped fresh rosemary, pepper to taste, crushed garlic, or a sprinkling of dried garlic. Grated Parmesan or your favorite cheese sprinkled on top is fine too. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes until your masterpiece is light brown. Serve with Italian food or after baking 20 minutes add some marinara sauce and pizza fixings. Place back into the hot oven and bake until it's bubbly and beginning to brown. We have done this at our home, and it has become our favorite pizza crust. With a green salad this will serve six to seven people. Even your picky eaters will love it.

Have you got any good recipe for your picky eaters? Send them to us. Maybe we can try them.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stealthy Healthy Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Food is my passion, but I realize that I’m consumed with finding not just delicious, nutritious, and appealing sustenance, but also finding ways to get my grandchildren to eat them. After polishing off two meals one day last week, I realized that my granddaughter had eaten only carbohydrates and dairy all day. Now she was begging for a chocolate muffin before dinner. It was time for Grandma to convince her to eat something from the vegetable kingdom.

“Princess, you haven’t eaten fruits or vegetables all day. It’s very important for your health that you eat vegetables and fruits—a rainbow of color that covers half your plate at every meal.”

She thought about that for a moment then said, “But Grandma, the other half of the plate can be brown, right?”

It was very hard to keep a straight face, but I continued, “Yes, but some of the brown needs to be meat, bread, beans, or nuts. Now can we have some cucumber slices or celery trees with humus just to last until dinner?”

She sighed deeply and said, “Okay.” I put a sandy beach of humus on her plate and planted some palm celery trees around it. She ate most of it. That’s when I decided we would make some chocolate zucchini muffins and hide some vegetables in her favorite food—chocolate.

First we began with the following ingredients:
3 eggs
2 cups of sugar
¾ cup of canola oil

The princess beat the eggs and sugar and then added the oil a few spoons at a time until the ingredients were thoroughly blended.

Next we measured and mixed the dry ingredients:
2 cups flour
¾ cups cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
Then I combined the contents of both bowls and added 1 cup of dark chocolate chips while the princess lined the 12 muffin cups with paper liners. She was happy as she snacked on the chocolate chips—two for the bowl and one for the mouth. Then I took out the grater and two glossy green zucchini which I began grating into a bowl.

Eying me suspiciously the princess stopped chewing the chocolate and said, “Grandma, what are you doing with that zucchini?”

I continued to grate listening to the life-blood of the squash swishing through the tiny blades. “I’m going to put two cups of this living rainbow green vegetable into the muffin batter to keep you healthy and strong.”

“No-o-o-o, Grandma! Don’t do it. You’re going to ruin my muffins,” she said as she sprang from the stepladder and left me to finish the detestable task of spoiling a perfectly delicious chocolate dessert.

Ignoring her, I mixed the two cups of grated zucchini into the batter watching the green disappear. She writhed on the floor and mumbled that mixing vegetables and sweets wouldn’t work.

“Look, Sweetie Pie, the zucchini disappeared,” I said and scooped half the dark chocolate batter into the muffin tins and the rest into a greased loaf pan.

“But the zucchini is still there even if you can’t see it—right Grandma?”

“That’s right,” I said and placed the pans in the oven preheated to 350 degrees. The loaf had to remain in the oven for about 55 minutes until set, but the muffins were ready in about 25 minutes.

I removed the muffins from the oven as the warm chocolate fragrance wafted through the air—my mouth watered. I took the muffins from the pan and placed them on a wire rack to cool more quickly. Within five minutes I tore the paper from one and bit into the moist richness. “Um-m-m, better than a brownie, I said. “Delicious!” I held out my arm with the half eaten muffin, closed my eyes and tilted my face to heaven and inhaled.

The princess grabbed the muffin and took a bite, “Oh, Grandma, you’re right. I can’t see the zucchini or taste it. It’s magic! Can I have another one?

Yes, Stealthy Granny strikes again!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Imagination Cupcakes

My sister Wilma, an extraordinary grandmother, who has lived through many a power outage, came up with this idea that allows children to create their own cake. Since we had just come through hurricane Irene, I thought it would be a great way to get rid of all those long-shelf-life foods we purchased before the storm. Fortunately for us, all we lost was internet and cable TV, so we just needed entertainment. We scanned the pantry and found a yellow cake mix, cooking oil, cocoa, some already prepared pudding cups, mini chocolate chips, coconut, and powdered sugar. In the frig we found blueberries, eggs, butter, and cream cheese. The Princess pulled out the step stool; we turned on our imaginations and got started.

We followed the directions on the cake mix box and my assistant pastry chef used the wire whip to mix the basic batter then lined the cupcake pans—next came the fun part. Since the recipe would make 24 cupcakes, we figured out the math and made six of each kind. We divided the batter into four small bowls.

In the 1st, we added a handful of blueberries, mixed them and poured them into six cups.

In the 2nd, we added cocoa and mini chocolate chips and poured them into six more cups.

In the 3rd, we mixed in cocoa, put a heaping tablespoon of batter into each cup, and then added a spoon of butterscotch pudding before adding another spoon of the batter. Not only were those filled, but they erupted like little volcanoes in the oven!

In the 4th bowl, we added 2 tablespoons of flaked coconut, poured each cup half full of the batter then put in a spoon of lemon pudding and covered it with the rest of the batter. They also erupted. We put all of them into a preheated oven at 350 degrees and baked them until they sprung back when touched lightly.

Since our objective was to use things we had on hand, we made cream cheese icing but you could use canned icing. We topped off the blueberry with plain icing marked with a single blueberry. To both the chocolate cupcakes we added cocoa. Those with chocolate chip we topped with more chips and the others we iced then put just a tiny bit of chocolate syrup coming out of the volcano.

Finally the lemon ones were covered with plain cream cheese icing then topped with coconut. If we had fresh lemon, a tiny bit of lemon zest would have been a good way to tell what was inside, but that didn't keep it from being the most popular cupcake.

Your imagination can take you a long way and cooking with children can give you lots of ideas. Look in your cupboard and see what you can do with those ingredients before their expiration date comes around. Sometimes we just need a little push to see what we can do with leftovers.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Strawberry Pickin’ Time

My daughter picked me up early one sunny Sunday morning, Fathers’ Day to be exact. “Let the dads sleep. We’re going strawberry picking,” she said. My two and four year old grandchildren were squirming in the back seat. Dressed in farmer clothes, they were ready for action.

We followed the river and drove down a dirt lane to the farm fields. Old red barns surrounded with fertile fields and farm equipment rested in the grass. We rushed to the strawberry stand, picked up two cardboard crates and walked through the straw strewn field. The kids were so excited—my grandson, about the tractors and plows, and the strawberry princess about the bright red fragrant berries.

Now these berries were like the strawberries I remember from my childhood, almost like wild ones. They were juicy and sweet all the way through and smaller than the ones you find in the grocery. We walked across the rows picking at random and even when the crates were full, it was hard to stop. Every time I saw another juicy cluster I stooped for just a few more.

The next day, I cleaned the berries, crushed them with a potato masher, and made delicious strawberry jam. Boiling the berries with sugar and Sure Jell in grandma’s big jelly kettle took me back to her steamy kitchen. Patiently stirring the chunks of succulent berries with their bright red color and intense flavor reminded me that you can’t find commercial jam like this today. Sealed in half pint jars the jam now waits contentedly for cold weather, and Grandma’s toast and biscuits.

While the berries are still in season, make Heaven’s Strawberry Bread with you grand kids. It will bring joy to your family and guests, especially those that helped make it. If you’ve missed the strawberry season in your part of the country, you can still make it using frozen berries. It may not be as perfect as these sweet soft berries of the gods, but it can match banana bread any day. And don’t forget, the best strawberries are those you pick yourself at the peak of ripeness in June, about Fathers’ Day.

Heaven’s Strawberry Bread (or cake)

1 ½ cups cooking oil (may substitute half with applesauce)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. salt
1 ½-to 2 cups fresh strawberry—with juices (sliced and sprinkled with sugar and allowed to set until juices are released or over night in the refrigerator.)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Flour and butter for greasing loaf pans (or use baking spray with flour.)
Directions: Mix oil, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl. Then add mixture of dry ingredients: flour, soda, cinnamon, and salt, alternately with the strawberries. Last fold in the nuts and stir just until blended.

Pour into two prepared loaf pans. (9”X5”) and bake 350 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack and serve.

Hint: for cake: Pour all batter into one fluted bunt pan and after baking and cooling, drizzle with cream cheese icing. Garnish with fresh strawberries, mint and/or nuts.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Birthday on a Shoestring

Have you ever thought about ways to celebrate your child’s birthday without breaking the bank? It’s not unusual for families to spend hundreds of dollars on a child’s birthday party including the gifts, gift bags, venue, and the cake. Does this sound familiar? Well, you think, “My mom always gave me a bash on my big day. If I really love my kids then I have to do the same thing.” Wrong! That is insane and we were insane for doing it to you in the first place.

In my lifetime birthday celebrations have gone from simple to extravagant. As a child I was just happy to be a year older. A birthday spanking with one lick for each year I’d been alive plus one to grow on, just meant I’d grow some more.

When my first two children came along in the 1960’s and I saw others celebrating with birthday cakes and company for dinner I embraced it with a twist. I made a special birthday cake—one pictured in the Betty Crocker Cookbook. How about a cat or a train?
In addition my child could choose the menu—no liver allowed—and invite their best friend. They got one special gift and didn’t expect one from their friend. Since birthdays were celebrated at home, expense and extravagance were held to a minimum.

By the time the 80’s came along things had changed. I was working full time and had two more children. We followed the crowd to Chuck-e-Cheese’s or rented the pool for a party. Not only did thy get a gift from us, but all their friends brought them too.

Thankfully retirement and a new century have knocked some sense into my head. My younger children were having parties for their children that matched their own—until this year.

Thank the Lord; we got off the merry-go-round at Granny-Nanny’s house (That’s me).
I provided dinner that I knew they’d like. The Princess helped bake the dirt cake with a dump truck on top for her little brother who loves anything with wheels. The gifts were purchased at a resale shop at a fraction of the cost that was spent the year before.

Dump Truck Cake

Our cake began with an idea we found online. Even with this I put a frugal twist. Logan already had a small dump truck that would fit on top of a small rectangular cake to serve Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, his sister and himself. I plopped the truck in the dishwasher and Wala! Like new!

When I’m going to cook anything, the first place I look is on the pantry shelf and next is the freezer. I found a box of yellow cake mix and a large box of vanilla pudding. Whoops! I needed chocolate. No problem, I had a box of Hershey’s cocoa. In the freeze I found a small tub of whipped topping. The only thing I had to buy was a package of Oreo cookies (With peanut butter filling), on sale! I did the victory dance!

Now down to business. The Princess and I made the cake according to package directions with ½ cup of cocoa added. We poured 2/3 of the batter into a greased floured rectangular dish and the rest in 2 large custard cups. We baked the cakes at 350 degrees until they sprang back when we touched them in the center. (Remember the little ones will be done first.) When done we cooled them for 10 to 15 minutes and turned the big cake onto a large platter, or I used a metal tray covered with foil. When the cake was cooled completely we prepared the pudding according to package directions with the addition of 3 tablespoons of cocoa, and the princess used a wire whip to beat it until it was smooth. We folded in two cups of the whipped topping and spread part of it on the cooled cake.

I placed the truck at an angle on one end and one of the cupcakes on the other end. I poured more icing on the cup cake while the princess smashed ½ the Oreos in a large zip lock bag (and only snacked on two or three) using a rolling pin. The other cupcake she broke into chunks and put in the truck bed with a final scoop of topping and more crushed crumbs. We sprinkled the rest of the crumbs on the cupcake that now looked like a pile of dirt. Lana sprinkled a few fall-leaf decorator sugars at random on the cake and we made a banner that said “Happy Birthday Logan”. We placed it on the dirt pile using toothpicks.

Our only party extravagance was balloons. Lana wants her party at Grandma’s next time. Now can you think of a better and more economical way to celebrate a child’s birthday? If you can, let me know or post it here so we can read about it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fairy Very Berry Smoothie

Fairy Very Berry Smoothie

Do you have a very finicky little eater in your house? I am the granny-nanny to two of my grandchildren and they are both picky, but act out in different ways. My grandson, Logan the toddler, pitches unsavory tidbits over his shoulder to the tune of, Yuck, Yuck, and Yuck. These sometimes end up glued to his bottom in the highchair.

The other child is a princess who has become a little more sophisticated at almost four years of age. She turns up her tiny nose and says, “No, thank you.” But sometimes bribery works. (If you try this new vegetable you can have a lolly-pop.) That’s rather self defeating when the object is to try new foods and get nourishment into their little bodies. I have discovered, however, that subterfuge works best. Make a Fairy Very Berry Smoothie. You can vary the ingredients and just the name alone will have the princess in your life slurping down wonderful vitamins and antioxidants—she will, no doubt, be dressed in her royal robes. She might even put her wings on for this one. The prince, however will have it devoured before he can deliberate whether or not there are any unsavory chunks that the dog would like.

You know those tiny black spots that appear on banana peels after about a week? They might as well be chicken pox because kids won’t eat bananas with spots! This is one place where stealth comes in. At the end of the week when you discover that you bought too many bananas (and the kids aren’t watching) remove the peels, wrap them in plastic wrap and stack them like logs on the freezer shelf. They will last up to a month or so. Ka-ching! The money you would have thrown away is now the sweetener and thickener for your drink.

The princess refuses to help with this recipe because she’s scared of the loud blender, so I am on my own—te-he-he-he—unless I ask Logan for help. He loves noise and loves to push buttons.

1. I quickly remove the plastic wrap from the frozen banana and toss it in the blender.

2. Then I add 1 cup of plain organic yogurt.

3. Next clean and remove stems from 1 cup of fresh organic strawberries and toss them in.

4. Now add 1 cup of juice, preferably pink or purple (grape or cranberry)

5. Look around and, if the kids aren’t looking, toss in a couple leaves of kale—honest, I really do that and they don’t even know the difference! Just make sure it is thoroughly blended. (If there is a milk allergy you can substitute soy milk and a little ice for the yogurt.) It tastes great and doesn’t need sugar, Mother Nature already sweetened it.

6. At last it’s time for Logan to push the buttons. Go Logan!

Fill a princess and a prince cup with this wonderful drink and be sure to save some for yourself. Now Granny Nanny, you can rest in peace knowing that you just fed your descendants two servings of fruits and vegetables, and a serving of dairy. Nothing got tossed in the floor and none of it was fed to the dog or hid under the couch cushions. Don’t you feel like a real sneak? Now go put your cloak and crown on. Don’t you know you are supposed to play the part of the Queen Mum?

Now folks, do you have a recipe or something you do with your children or grandchildren that gets them to eat nourishing food? If you do, be sure to leave a message, a recipe to share, or a link so we can join forces. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Christmas Breakfast for Lunch in January

I remember when my daughter told me, as a child, she always wanted me to play house with her, but I never did. I don’t recall her ever asking, but if she did I probably said I was too busy. I’m afraid that much of my young adult life was too busy. I regret that, but today I am a Granny Nanny—I make time. So, my rug doesn’t get vacuumed—big deal. I am snowed in but fortunately my little princess is just doors away. Mommy called and asked if Lana could come over because she missed Grandma. I replied, “Oh yes!”

In boots and coat I stepped out on the porch and watched her plod through the snow. It was almost time for lunch so we decided to have Christmas breakfast for lunch. Who cares if it’s January. I just happened to have all the ingredients needed with only a little improvisation.

Of course we washed our hands first. We used our favorite pancake mix with water and in no time the flapjacks were sizzling in the pan. When they were all done, we put a pancake on each plate—then came the fun part—making a face for Santa. We used whipping cream for his beard, his mustache, and his eyebrows. Mini marshmallows worked well for the fur trim on his hat. We had enough strawberries for the rest of his red hat, his nose, and mouth. We used a dab of whipping cream with a chocolate chip in the center of each eye. When he was all done, he looked jolly even if I do say so myself. Hey, we could have made a monkey, or a bear. (Don’t forget chocolate syrup.)

We had warm cocoa with extra marshmallows and we both cleaned our plates. At last we went upstairs and played house with the dolls. Granny Nannies know life is too precious to waste time cleaning house when you have royalty to entertain.