Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bear Pancakes

You know those moms who are always coming up with fun and creative ways to serve their kids' food?  I am not one of those moms.  I am usually just trying to throw some sort of healthy food on a plate and don't even think about what it looks like.  However, there are times (about once a year) where I do have a little bit of fun with the presentation.  Last year, it was Christmas tree waffles.  This time I made bear pancakes and my daughter LOVED them!  The only problem is that now I think she's going to expect pancakes of this caliber every time I make pancakes.  Mine aren't as aesthetically pleasing as the one I was copying, but thankfully 4-year-olds aren't particularly picky about that!

Bear Pancakes
Pancake batter
Chocolate chips

For each bear, you will need to make 4 pancakes: 1 large one for the head, medium one for the muzzle, and 2 small ones for the ears.

Once they're all finished cooking, place the medium pancake towards the bottom of the large pancake, and place the two small ones at the top of the head for the ears.

Melt some chocolate chips in the microwave.  Place the melted chocolate in a zip-top bag and cut a small hole in the corner.  Pipe the chocolate into the shape of the nose and the mouth.  Place two chocolate chips on the head for eyes.

Enjoy the sheer delight when the kids (or grownups) see them!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Apple Streusel Cupcakes

Yes, I realize that the first post we've written in months was cupcakes and the second is also about cupcakes.  What can I say?  It's fall and finally cool enough to use the oven, so I'm making up for lost time.  Some of you may remember Sumiko's amazing Apple Streusel Cake she posted at the beginning of the year.  And let me emphasize the amazing part, because it truly is.  This post is just an adaptation of her cake into cupcakes.  It's pretty much the same with just a few minor adjustments.  I wanted to make this for my hubby to take to work, but figured cupcakes would be much easier than a cake in that type of environment.  I also took them to community group at our church and they were a major hit at both events, with several people asking for the recipe.  So, go make them today because you won't regret it (unless you're on a diet, of course). :)  But even then, they're so good, you still might not regret it.

Apple Streusel Cupcakes

Streusel Topping
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp cinnamon
1 c. butter, melted

½ c. water
4 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1 c. vegetable oil
1 box vanilla cake mix
1½ small boxes instant vanilla pudding (or 1 large)
2 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
3 or 4 medium apples (we prefer Fuji and Gala)

½ c. powdered sugar
2-3 tsp. water

Prepare muffin tins by lining with paper cupcake wrappers.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix all streusel topping ingredients and cream together; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°.  For cupcakes, place water in microwave about 30 seconds to heat.  Meanwhile, in mixing bowl, combine eggs, sour cream, vegetable oil, cake mix, pudding mix, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add warm water.

Mix on low until combined.  Increase speed to medium and mix about 2 minutes.  Fold about 1 c. streusel topping into batter, being careful not to over mix.

Carefully scoop batter into prepared cupcake tins, filling each one just over half full.  

Peel and core apples.  Cut into small bite-sized pieces.  Place on top of batter in cupcake tins.  Crumble remaining streusel topping over apples.

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Remove to wire rack.  Let cool until handleable; remove from tins and cool completely on a wire rack.  In small bowl, stir together powdered sugar and water; drizzle over cooled cupcakes.

Yields about 30 cupcakes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cake Series: Ghost Cupcakes

Last weekend, we went to a Halloween party and were asked to take some cupcakes for the kids.  So, I went about searching the web for fun cupcake ideas and I came across this one.  I knew I had to make them!  However, these directions call for each one to be made of one regular cupcake and two mini cupcakes.  I figured the other parents wouldn't be very thrilled with me if I gave their kids that much sugar, so I continued to scour the internet until I came across this.  I kind of merged the two methods and came up with my own ghost cupcakes.  They were a hit and the kids loved them (particularly the lollipop)!

Ghost Cupcakes
Cupcakes (any flavor)
Frosting (optional)
Lollipops (such as Tootsie Pops)
Black food dye
Fine Paintbrush (or mini chocolate chips)

Make sure your cupcakes are cool before you start assembling your ghosts.  You can either leave your cupcakes plain (no frosting) or frost them.  However, if you frost them, you're going to want to also cover them with fondant so your white ghosts don't get frosting on them when you're assembling them. If you're going to frost them, cut out circles of fondant that will cover the top of your cupcakes. Spread a little frosting over the top then cover with your fondant circles.

To make the ghosts, you'll need to find something you can use to cut out fondant circles big enough to drape over the top of your lollipop and hang down.  I used a plastic bowl that is 5 inches in diameter.  It still wasn't quite big enough, so I just cut a little bit off the end of each lollipop stick and it worked perfectly!

What I used to cut out the fondant circles for the ghosts.

Once you determine how long you need your lollipop sticks to be, stick them straight down in the center of the cupcake.  Drape the fondant circle over the top of the lollipop.  With a fine paintbrush, use black food dye to paint the faces on your ghosts.  You can make friendly ghosts (like mine) or scary ghosts.  You can also make it easier on yourself and dab a little frosting on and stick mini chocolate chips on for eyes.

**Note: You probably won't want to use filled cupcakes for this recipe, as there might not be enough structure to hold up the lollipop.**

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What Happened to Near to Nothing?

Ok, we realize it's been a little while since we've blogged.  It's not that we've given up; it's just that we've gotten quite busy.  Sumiko has started teaching part-time 5 days a week (on top of maintaining her roles at home as a wife and mother) and Kimiko's not teaching (except for my own little one at home), but is just busy!  So blogging hasn't been at the top of our priority list recently, but we do hope to continue in some capacity in the future.  In the meantime, though, you'll see posts here and there when we discover or create a new recipe.  Thank you to our loyal readers who have been patiently waiting and wondering if we're still alive.  We are!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Simple Red Beans and Rice

Homemade red beans and rice

Yup!  Beans and rice again!  There are just so many possibilities to feed my family of six for near to nothing.  When this package of red beans and rice mix caught my eye, I just had to give it a try.  Not that I was looking for a great new go-to option, but I just couldn’t believe that a pre-packaged mix could come anywhere close to being as economical or tasty as my homemade version.

The consensus?  I was right.  Not one of us was impressed or even liked the red beans and rice from the mix.  I didn’t make the kids eat it---and that rarely happens in our house.  And the leftovers?  Most of them got tossed.

I added some leftover ham.

The following week, I made my own version of red beans and rice.  There are two ways that I make this dish.  The first, that I’m sharing today, is very simple and frugal.  The second way I make red beans and rice, isn’t as near-to-nothing because it uses some pricey meat.  I will definitely have to share that one in the future.

Ideally, I would use one red pepper and one green pepper.  When I made this to take pictures, I used two red because they were on sale.  I was also out of onions, so I just did without.

The recipe includes hot sauce as optional.  I usually don’t put any in the pot because of the kids, but Robbie and I add it to our individual bowls.  If you do not include the hot sauce, you may want to add a little more salt.

Of course, when I make red beans and rice, I end up with a ton.  We ate them for dinner, froze some for another dinner, and refrigerated some for lunch.

Simple Red Beans and Rice
2 bell peppers (any color)
1 onion
1-2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 qts. water
2 c. brown rice
2½ c. cooked red beans
Chopped or diced cooked ham or sausage (optional)
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
4 Tbsp. chicken or vegetable bouillon
1½ heaping Tbsp. paprika
½ tsp. pepper
1½ tsp. salt (more or less to taste)
Hot sauce (optional)

Dice peppers and onion.  Heat oil in large Dutch oven or stock pot.  Add peppers and onion to oil; sauté until soft and onions are slightly translucent.  Add all remaining ingredients.  Bring to boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer until rice is done, about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When rice is done, leave at a simmer and use immersion blender or back of spoon to smash some of the beans until desired consistency is reached, adding water as necessary.

I used a spoon to smash some of the beans against the pot
because my immersion blender died.

Soup will continue to thicken a bit as it sits.  Adjust seasonings as desired.  Yield:  lots!  (probably about 4 qts.)  Total cost without meat:  less than $6.

It even just looks better than the packaged version.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Favorite Chex Mix

I mentioned that we were on vacation with my husband's family and posted a picture of all the food it takes to feed 24 people.  Well, you better believe we had some amazing food while we were there!  My husband's family has a tradition of making Chex Mix every Christmas.  While I realize it wasn't Christmas, we still had the Chex Mix while on vacation, so I decided to share the recipe with you!

Favorite Chex Mix
13 cups Chex (5 cups wheat, 4 cups corn, 4 cups rice)
3 cups pretzel sticks
1 lb spanish peanuts
1/4 cup bacon grease
1/2 cup butter
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp Tabasco
1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp savory or poultry seasoning

Preheat oven to 250.

Combine cereal, pretzel sticks, and peanuts in a large roasting pan.

In a separate bowl, melt the bacon grease and butter.  Add worcestershire and Tabasco to butter mixture; pour over cereal mixture and toss to coat.

In a small mixing bowl, combine seasoned salt, celery salt, garlic salt and savory or poultry seasoning.  Sprinkle over cereal mixture; tossing to make sure the Chex mix is evenly coated.

Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

This picture was taken before it was baked.  Sadly, I didn't get a picture of the finished product, but it looks pretty similar to this.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sautéed Green Beans

Green beans sauteed with almonds

A few weeks ago, we went for a play date with one of the boys’ preschool friends.  When we left, they sent us with a bag of green beans from their garden!  Yay!  I love summer produce!

Out of all the ways I could have prepared them, I chose to sauté them.  I think this is the easiest and tastiest way to cook most vegetables.  In my experience with my kids and with other kids, they tend to like veggies more when they are sautéed than when they are prepared other ways.

I sauté green beans just like I sauté other vegetables, except I like to add sliced almonds.  The nutty flavor goes great with the beans, and they add great texture.

If the beans are long, I snap them each in two or three pieces to help them cook more evenly.  Try to have the beans as dry as possible before adding them to the pan to prevent spattering.

Sautéed Green Beans
Vegetable oil
Green beans, cleaned and snapped in half or thirds
Slivered almonds
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Heat skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil.  When oil is hot, add green beans.

I've been using this handle thing from my Grandma--I love
it!!  Thanks, Grandma!

Sauté, tossing occasionally until almost done.  Add slivered almonds; continue to sauté until beans are done and almonds are toasted and golden.

Remove from heat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Spinach and Berry Salad

First of all, let me apologize for my absence recently.  We just got home from a 10 day vacation with my husband's family.  We had so much fun that there was just no time for blogging!  And I don't have a picture of today's recipe, but I am hoping to get one up later today.  So instead of a picture of today's salad, here's a picture of just some of the food we had on vacation.  There were 24 of us, and this doesn't even include any of the refrigerated or frozen stuff!!!

I enjoy eating salads for lunch, and I eat one almost every day.  The type of salad I eat varies, but lately I've been hooked on salads made with spinach and berries.  I was inspired when we had dinner with friends and they made a similar salad that was just so delicious.  I will say, though, that the berries often cost more than what I would normally pay for fruit, but Sam's Club has pretty good prices on them during the summer.

Spinach and Berry Salad
Strawberries, sliced
Sliced almonds
Crumbled feta
Balsamic Vinaigrette

Place spinach in a bowl.  Top with desired amount of strawberries, blueberries, almonds, and feta; drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and toss.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Summer Apology and Homemade Tortilla Chips

homemade corn tortilla chips

We'd first like to start out today's post with an apology.  We've been very flaky on posting lately.  Our usual Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule has been interrupted by summer.  Both of us have been busy enjoying our families with vacations, day trips, outside fun, VBS, and house projects.  We know our loyal readers look forward to new posts regularly.  Please know that we still have lots of yummy things to share with you and we will hopefully soon get back to our normal posting schedule.

I do have a new recipe today--homemade tortilla chips!!  No store-bought tortilla chip can come close to the flavor of warm, homemade chips, especially when served with homemade guacamole or pico de gallo!

The key to golden crisp chips is the oil temperature.  I never actually check the temperature; I just adjust according to how the chips are coming out of the oil.  If they are getting too dark, turn the oil down.  If they aren't crispy, turn the oil up.  Super oily chips are the result of the cooking oil not being hot enough.  Considering this, you want to avoid adding too many tortillas to the oil at once.

I like to drain the cooked chips on my cooling.  I usually turn it upside down and place it on a brown paper bag to wick away the oil (an Alton Brown trick).  If I don't have a paper bag on hand, I place the rack upright over a cookie sheet.

In order to get the salt to stick to the chips, they must be salted immediately after they are removed from the oil.

Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips
Vegetable oil for frying
Corn tortillas (I prefer white)

Heat 1-2 inches of oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, cut tortillas into wedges.

When oil is hot, add wedges in single layer.  If they don't start sizzling right away, the oil isn't hot enough.  Fry until golden brown, turning once during cooking.

Remove from oil onto cooling rack.  Immediately add salt.

How else can you serve your homemade tortilla chips?  Here are a few ideas (click on the captions to find the recipes):

Bapa's New Year's bean dip

Chicken chili

Corn and black bean salad as a salsa

Southwest refried bean soup

Sweet tortilla soup

Taco salad

Taco soup

Tangy chicken tortilla soup

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