Tag Archives: family
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-it-yourself Designs to Amuse your Friends and Scare your Neighbors by Tom Nardone
We are less than two weeks from Halloween now! We picked out our pumpkins a couple weeks ago and my son has been rarin’ to cut into his ever since. For my part, I’m always hurting for inspiration when it comes to most crafty concepts. I came across this out-of-box book at the library. It’s full of amusing and sometimes a little disturbing ideas. On the cover is a mean pumpkin face chewing an understandably surprised-looking littler pumpkin. On the back is a pumpkin who has vomited its insides all over the table. Yuck! Unless you are a six-year-old boy, in which case: awesome!
Have you ever wanted to make a Darth Vader helmet pumpkin? How about using toothpicks as scary sharp teeth? What about a pumpkin puking guacamole? Whatever your weird desires, this book probably has some ideas for you.
Note: I did not do any of the pumpkins in this book in the end. I probably should have, as mine looks like a disaster. My kid’s looks extremely abstract and my wife’s is a fantastic nerd reference.
Post by Alison Hein.
The bad news is that summer is completely and entirely over. The good news is that autumn harvest vegetables are completely and entirely at their peak. Butternut squash, with its rich, buttery sweetness, is one of my all-time favorites.
You can dish a little bit of October flavor onto your breakfast plate with this Butternut Hash recipe. Best results come from fresh, not frozen, squash. Either steal a few pieces of a whole butternut when making soup (try my recipe for Butternut Squash Soup!), or use a handful of pre-cut pieces you can find in most groceries these days.
Broiling the butternut squash first makes finishing this hash a snap – do it the day before if you like to speed things even more. I like to roast the squash with a generous sprinkling of hot cayenne, infusing some heat as a counterpoint to its naturally sweet flavor. Stop here, if you like, and serve up the roasted butternut as a side dish for any meal of the day.
If you keep going, you will love the colorful array of vegetables tossed in the pan – deep orangey-gold squash, sprightly green celery, burnt auburn bacon, and rich red onion make this hash as pretty and autumnal as a mountainside of Eastern trees decked out in peak foliage.
Cook up some eggs as a go-with, if you like. Fried or scrambled are good alongside; perching some poached atop the hash is also lovely. A bite of tender yolk completely and entirely enhances the rich, crispy, flavorful bed of vegetables beneath, for a delectable harvest breakfast in bed.
1 cup butternut squash, chopped finely into 1/8-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dash of cayenne pepper
2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh thyme, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Toss butternut squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and cayenne and spread out onto baking sheet. Bake until cooked through and lightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon, celery, red onion and butternut squash to pan. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisped and vegetables are cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add garlic and sauté. for 1 to 2 minutes longer, or until garlic is golden but not yet browned. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with fresh thyme.
Serve hot, with a side of eggs of your choice.
Makes 2 servings.
Post by: Alison Hein.
Do you ever find yourself alone of a morning, craving something yummy, but don’t feel like fussing? The answer to this dilemma is a minimal-ingredient, one-pot, fast and furious, cheesy, vegetable-filled mini-frittata.
I love the meaty richness that mushrooms provide, and my fridge is almost always stocked with some kind of edible fungus or another. Adding green spinach (usually to be found in my freezer) for color and depth is a no-brainer. And of course, no frittata is complete without some gooey, sharp cheese.
If you’ve got other goodies stashed in your pantry, by all means, improvise. A tiny bit of salty bacon, ham or sausage goes a long way, and savory sautéed onions or garlic are always delightful. Tomatoes or peppers, potatoes or squash, tofu or seafood can all conspire to create your own custom-built mini-frittata.
I add a healthy dose of seasoning, and like to use a pre-blended mix which includes onion, garlic, paprika and the like. You should use whatever fits your mood and ingredients – basil, oregano and parsley for Italian flavors, or chipotle, marjoram and chili for Latin flair.
Start to finish, you’ll need about 15 minutes to concoct your very own personalized mini-frittata. Just enough time to fluff up those pillows, grab the daily paper, and dig in to your no-fuss, fast and furious breakfast in bed.
1 tablespoon high-heat olive oil
1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms
½ teaspoon seasoning mix
½ cup chopped spinach (thawed and drained if frozen)
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
Pour olive oil into a 6-inch ovenproof heavy frying pan, and place on stove over medium heat. Add mushrooms to pan, sprinkle with seasoning mix, and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Cover mushrooms evenly with chopped spinach and reduce heat to low.
Break eggs into bowl, and whisk until smooth and thickened. Stir in shredded mozzarella cheese and season with salt and pepper. Pour egg-cheese mixture over mushroom-spinach mixture. Continue to cook, gently moving uncooked eggs back around the sides of the pan, until edges are set, about 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle top of frittata with parmesan cheese. Place frying pan under broiler, about 5 inches from direct heat. Broil frittata until eggs are firm and do not jiggle, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Makes 1 serving.
Post by Alison Hein.
Scotland’s recent historic vote for independence has got me thinking a lot about this lovely place, its people and its traditions.
The Scots are an ingenious people. Did you know that marmalade, raincoats, tarmac, pneumatic tires, adhesive stamps, penicillin, the bicycle, and the telephone were all invented by Scottish people? I learned this from one of my well-worn and well-loved linen dishcloths gifted to me by my dear friend Anne after a visit to her native homeland many years ago. Anne brought me a second linen at that time, too – this one emblazoned with traditional Scottish recipes: haggis and clootie; cock-a-leekie soup, scones and bridies; and of course, shortbread.
Also ingenious in their simplicity, Scottish recipes require little in the way of provisions, and offer much in the way of flavor. My dishcloth shortbread recipe calls for only three ingredients – flour, sugar, and butter. I’ve modified this approach over the years, using a light brown sugar for depth and a smooth, subtle splash of vanilla for mellowing. Remember, shortbread is all about the butter, so be sure to use a high quality variety when you try this recipe. You must cut the cookies immediately after removing them from the oven, while the dough is still soft. Then, allow them to cool in the pan for a bit so they won’t crumble.
Scotland’s history is also rich with music and verse, like this lovely little snippet from the song Bonnie Scotland, I Adore Thee:
Bonnie Scotland, land of grandeur,
Where the sparkling streams meander,
Here will I delight to wander,
Bonnie, Bonnie Scotland.
So, make a quick batch of shortbread, brew some thick, dark tea the way the Scots do, hum along, and surrender – to a bonnie, Scottish breakfast in bed.
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla and mix well. Add flour gradually until a thick, crumbly dough has formed. Knead lightly until dough sticks together in a ball, then press evenly into a 9×9-inch pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned, but not crisp. Immediately cut dough into 3×1-inch strips and prick tops with a fork or toothpick. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on a rack until firm. Store in waxed paper-lined tin.
Makes 27 cookies.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Bunnicula by James Howe.
Well, school is in session, and since we seem incapable of experiencing any down time between holidays, all the mini fridges and Trapper Keepers are being pulled and replaced with shrieking skeleton heads and bags and bags of candy. Friends, it is officially the start of Halloween season! Personally, I couldn’t be more pleased. I love all the masks, monsters, and makeup. Pumpkins, papier-mâché skeletons, and party favors. It’s also time to bring in a new collection of spooky stories to share!
My son is now old enough to move past the cutesy Halloween picture books and tackle some heavier material. A couple of those old picture books will forever have a place in my heart, but I’m super excited to share with him the classic vampire story, Bunnicula. Narrated by the family dog, Harold, this story introduces us to the most unusual family of pets I know of. While Harold is very much a family dog, interested in snacks and naps, his companion, a cat named Chester, is a little different. He’s well-read and a little paranoid. When the family comes home one rainy night with a bunny they discovered in the movie theater, Chester is immediately wary. And as he begins to put the pieces together, wariness turns to suspicion, to fear. For it becomes clear that this is no ordinary rabbit. For one thing, he only wakes up at night. For another, he can slip in and out of his locked cage in mysterious way. And when Chester discovers that vegetables are suddenly turning bone-white, his fears are confirmed. This bunny is a VAMPIRE!
A little bit spooky, and a whole lot of fun, this book is a great family read to offer goose bumps and laughs in equal measure. Ages 6+