Tag Archives: family
Post by Alison Hein.
My daughter-in-law, Lesley, and her friends requested that I host a Girl’s Night movie screening of the 1987 film Overboard, one of my all-time favorites. Movie night rapidly escalated to include a nautical-themed dinner, replete with a giant sushi boat, napkins folded into little sailboats and personalized life preserver place cards. We made banana boats for our post-movie dessert. Given the late hour and minor excesses, our action-packed evening morphed into a pajama party.
In the morning, I persuaded Lesley’s friend Kelsey to make breakfast (Kelsey is terrifically talented and wonderfully creative in the kitchen). She politely agreed, and embarked on a quick tour of my pantry. Kelsey pulled a loaf of sweet brioche from my freezer, grabbed a few bananas from the fruit bowl, and began assembling an egg-rich French toast inspired by Ina Garten. When the toast was cooked to a buttery gold, Kelsey placed it in a slow oven to keep warm. She then used the same pan to toast the walnuts, and simmer a lightly-rummed sauce into a bubbling glaze for the banana topping.
Our dessert reprised, Kelsey’s caramelized banana breakfast in bed was a sweet culmination of our Overboard extravaganza.
1½ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon caramel topping
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
1 loaf sliced brioche bread
¼ cup walnuts
1½ tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon rum
2 bananas, peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick rounds
Preheat oven to 250°. Add milk, eggs, vanilla, caramel topping and salt to large bowl. Whisk together until thick and smooth. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Dip bread slices into the egg mixture, turning gently to completely saturate. Add bread slices to pan and cook over medium to medium-low heat, turning once, until golden and cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes, adding up to 2 additional tablespoons of butter as needed. Place French toast on a large flat baking tray and place in oven to lightly firm while making the caramelized banana topping.
Carefully wipe out pan, and place over medium heat. Add walnuts to pan, and cook for a few minutes until lightly toasted. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. When butter is melted, use the back of a wooden spoon to stir in the brown sugar and rum. Add banana slices and continue to cook, stirring often to coat, until fruit is cooked through and topping is lightly browned and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Remove toast from oven and place on large platter. Cover evenly with banana topping and serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we tend to crumple at the sight of a snowflake or a frosted window pane. Therefore, I was prepared to stay home when the first icy pellets hit my porch and the call came in that my son’s school was canceled. I still had work to do, but without any actual snow for him to play it, I was pressed to come up with activities to keep him entertained. By two o’clock in the afternoon, we were all feeling stretched so I suggested we find a movie to watch!
The moment the cover for Earth to Echo popped up on the screen, he knew that was the movie he wanted to see. He was not disappointed.
Earth to Echo is part E.T., part Cloverfield, part Goonies. Three adolescent boys are losing their homes to a freeway project. For their last night together, they decide to go on a big adventure. When their phones go all haywire, they realize, eventually, that they are suddenly showing them a map, guiding them to something out in the Nevada desert. Determined to record the whole event, they head out in the darkness on bikes, equipped with Go Pro cameras, spy cameras, smartphones. What they find is just the first piece of a puzzle that will lead them through deserts, danger, and strangers eager to get their hands on the little robotic alien nicknamed “Echo”.
This is a great fun and exciting movie for elementary age kids. Lots of action without any violence, and a satisfying, if bittersweet ending that will leave them pleased.
by Alison Hein.
Pumpkin is a harvest food. It’s not right to partake of pumpkin outside of autumn (it would be like eating gazpacho in winter, or a thick stew in summer). Savory pumpkin is wonderful. I like to chop and clean a fresh pumpkin, drizzle it with oil and spices, and roast it in a hot oven for an evening side dish. But sweet pumpkin is even more wonderful. Cooked, puréed, blended with eggs and a medley of pie spice, pumpkin rises to its flavorful peak. And since it’s November (and I shouldn’t have pie for breakfast), I’ve transformed waffles with sweet pumpkin and luxurious spice.
The trickiest thing about making waffles is pouring the proper amount of batter into the iron. Too much, and the gooey batter oozes from the edges and drips down the sides. Too little, and the puny waffles will be tough, and the rim of latticework ruined. With practice, you will be able to get it just right for your particular waffle iron and recipe. When you experiment with new batters, however, you may find yourself back at square one. For me it’s an easy decision – go for the heavy pour, then trim the waffles and scrub the iron when finished.
So blend; pour; trim; slosh with real maple syrup. Then partake of a harvest pumpkin breakfast in bed just as wonderful as pie.
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1½ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup vegetable oil, or butter, melted and slightly cooled
½ cup pumpkin purée (fresh or canned)
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in large bowl. In separate bowl, add milk, eggs and vanilla and beat until frothy. Pour oil or melted butter into liquid mixture and stir well. Using a wooden spoon or hand mixer, gradually add liquid mixture to dry ingredients until batter is smooth. Stir in pumpkin purée.
Spray waffle iron with cooking spray and heat to high. Pour ½ cup to ¾ cup batter into center of iron, making sure you have enough batter to evenly spread across the surface of your waffle iron. Cook until golden brown and crisp and waffle pulls away easily from iron, about 5 – 7 minutes. Serve warm with melted butter and maple syrup.
Makes approximately 5 waffles.
Post by Alison Hein.
My grandma used to bake Date Nut Bread in an old coffee can. It was common practice to clean and generously grease a coffee tin with shortening, then fill it with batter, place it in a hot oven, and bake a dense, round loaf. As kids, we would anxiously gather around the stove, inhaling the baking bread’s sweet aroma, eagerly awaiting its completion.
While you still see many round bread loaves (Boston Brown Bread as well as Date Nut and Raisin Nut), it is becoming ever more difficult to locate tin, oven-proof coffee containers. Check carefully in the grocery store before purchasing, as many modern containers are made of paper, plastic or cardboard – none of which work well in the oven!
My ongoing frustration with food history compelled me to skip it for this post (so many claim to be the originators of Date Nut Bread!), with one important exception. In the 1950s and ‘60s, when Chock Full o’Nuts lunch counters were wildly prolific, Date Nut Sandwiches – two thick slices of Date Nut Bread slathered with cream cheese – were a star of the menu.
Chock Full o’Nuts tried to make a recent comeback with mixed results. The company still makes and sells its popular coffee (anyone remember the famous “heavenly coffee” jingle?). Why not go buy some? Make a giant pot of coffee, then use the canister to whip up a loaf of Date Nut Bread. Bake. Cool. Slice. Slather with cream cheese. Pour yourself a steaming cup and reminisce over a heavenly breakfast in bed.
1 tin coffee can, with top removed
½ cup butter
½ cup light brown sugar
1 cup white flour
¼ cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped walnuts
Cooking spray, or other shortening, for greasing coffee can
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. In a separate bowl, mix together white flour, wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients all at once to butter mixture, stirring to combine. Add eggs, honey and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in dates and walnuts. Spoon batter into a well-greased coffee can. Bake at 350° for about 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack at least 20 minutes. Remove from coffee can and slice.
Makes one loaf.
Post by: Alison Hein.
It is my joy to create an annual Halloween recipe. In 2011 (when I began writing for Charles P. Rogers) it was the fun and popular Crêpe Dracula – a little chocolate crêpe dressed up like the count himself. Following that, I shared my secrets for baking individual Smoky Pumpkin, Egg and Bacon Cauldrons, and last year, we enjoyed rich and colorful Pumpkin Cream Crêpes.
This time, I chose to explore an ancient and somewhat confusing tradition of Soul Cakes, which are linked to the Gaelic harvest festival of Samhain, the forbear of Halloween. It was a time of year when spirits and fairies could enter more easily into our world, and celebratory, seasonal foods were served. Soul Cakes were baked with exotic saffron, perhaps to represent the great harvest sun. Much later, Samhain evolved into a Christian holiday, and Soul Cakes were made to honor the dead. Many bakers pressed currants in the tops of their cakes in the shape of a cross.
Soul Cake recipes abound, ranging from quick breads to yeast breads, tiny muffins to giant cakes. They are sweetened and spiced, glazed and decorated. I decided to make sweet, individual golden orbs, swapping out currants for plump golden raisins – tiny little suns within the great harvest sun. Fall spices add a pie-like feel, and become mysterious and aromatic when warmed. Wrap one in a colorful napkin and give it as a gift, or hoard them and share with a special someone for a soulful breakfast in bed.
10 – 12 threads of saffron
1 tablespoon hot water
¼ pound (1 stick) butter, softened, plus an additional teaspoon for greasing pans
1 cup sugar
½ cup milk
1½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ cup golden raisins
Preheat oven to 325°. Generously grease two 4×2-inch round cake pans and set aside.
Place the saffron threads in a mortar and crush with the pestle until powdery. Cover with 1 tablespoon hot water and let sit for at least 20 minutes.
Add butter and sugar to a large bowl, and cream together until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, until batter is light and smooth. Pour milk into a measuring cup and stir in saffron “tea”. In a separate small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. Alternately add milk mixture and flour mixture into batter, stirring thoroughly after each addition. Gently stir in golden raisins.
Spoon batter equally into the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with a spatula. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until cake is golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool on rack for 30 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and serve warm, if you like.
Makes 2 4×2-inch cakes.
NOTE: If you are as fascinated as I am by convoluted food history, I recommend reading this engaging article and recipe from T. Susan Chang.