Archive for the ‘recipes’ Category

Zombie Cookies

This little ghost refuses to turn right side up no matter what I do 🙂

By accident, we discovered a simple way to make zombie cookies. The girls wanted to make gingerbread cookies and decorate them so I got out our Halloween/fall themed cutters and some sprinkles. They wanted to also use candy corn. I warned them that it would likely melt in the oven but they wanted to try it so we did. The results: the candy corns melted completely, turning a reddish orange and looking like decayed flesh. Ta da! Zombie cookies aka dead body gingerbread.



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Rainbow Cupcakes

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the first day of spring, we made these rainbow cupcakes from Family Fun. The girls loved the bright colors and though I was nervous that the layered effect would not work out like the magazine picture, the inside of the cupcakes was indeed just like a rainbow.  These would be perfect to celebrate spring, when learning about rainbows, or anytime you need some cheer.  You could not be uncheered by a rainbow cupcake.

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We’re having such a wonderful time with our study of prehistory.  All of us are learning things and getting inspired to look up answers to new questions.  I’m still tweaking the book, video, and activity lists and figuring out some technical issues, but eventually I’ll be sharing the curriculum I’m creating for us in a series of posts and/or downloads.

Right now, we’re studying the Paleozoic era and what better way to celebrate the variety of life in Paleozoic seas than to make trilobite cookies.

M made a prehistory timeline using one piece of construction paper per time period.  As we study each period, she fills in some of the animals that were alive at that time. We keep these pages in a file folder where she can pull them out as a reference or practice putting them in the correct order.

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Making Caramel

Last week we made Pecan Caramel Clusters combining two of M’s favorite things, science experiments and cooking with me.  Before we started the caramel, we watched this excellent video describing the process of caramelization in simple terms.

First we heated milk, sugar, and salt until the sugar melted.  We sat that mixture aside and combined 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water.  Then we watched the carmelization begin.  M was fascinated by the wild bubbling, and she couldn’t wait to see it begin to turn golden.

To help M visualize the sugar molecules breaking apart, we held hands and pretended flames were jumping toward our hands we stretched further and further apart but finally had to let go to escape.

Once the liquid had turned amber, we added the milk mixture and pecans watched it turned into a thick caramel candy.

Finally, we took it off the heat, added the other ingredients and stirred and stirred and stirred until it cooled.  Then we dropped clumps onto parchment paper and let it harden.

The recipe we used was based on one in the December 2009 Living Magazine:

Combine 1.5 cups sugar, 3/4 cup whole milk, and 1/2t salt.  Heat until sugar is completely melted.  Set Aside.

Combine 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water.  Boil without stirring until the mixture turns golden.  Swirl pan until mixture is amber (approximately 2 minutes).  Remove from heat.

Add milk mixture and 2 cups pecan halves.  Be careful because it bubbles up.  Return to medium heat and cook for approximately 7 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 242F.  (Our thermometer is broken so we just stopped after 7 minutes.)

Remove from heat and add 5T butter, cut into small pieces, 2t vanilla and 4t rum.  Stir until mixture cools and is very hard to stir (about 10 minutes).

Drop onto parchment or wax paper-lined cookie sheets and let cool until hard.  Store in the refrigerator.

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We got a lovely white acorn squah in our CSA box last week. I used it to make this pumpkin squash soup recipe from Southern Living.  The soup was delicious but the next night I wasn’t in a soup mood.  I knew there were lots of uses for pumpkin in Mexican cooking so I looked up several recipes.  Using this recipe from Martha Stewart for my base, I made pumpkin enchiladas. I wasn’t sure how they would be, but my husband and I loved them.  I was thrilled to eat them the next night as left-overs.

Pumpkin Enchiladas

2.5 cups Pumpkin Acorn Squash Soup (or a pumpkin sauce of your own devising)

Refried Black Beans (my recipe follows)

3/4 cup Salsa

8-10 fajita-sized tortillas (corn or flour)

1 cup grated cheddar or monterey jack cheese (or a mix)

Pour one cup of pumpkin soup/sauce into the bottom of a 9X13 in pan. Fill tortillas with black beans.  Roll them up and lay seam side down in pan in a long row. Mix remaining pumpkin soup/sauce with salsa and pour mixture over tortillas.  Top with cheese.  Bake 20 minutes at 400F.

Refried Black Beans

2 cans black beans, drained

1T olive oil

1T minced garlic (or to taste)

mix of spices (I use roughly 1/2t cumin, 1/2t curry powder, 1t chili powder, 1/2t black pepper.  You could use a taco seasoning envelope, but I try to avoid the incredibly high salt content)

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat and add garlic, saute until fragrant and starting to brown.  Add drained beans and spices.  Cook until bubbling vigorously.  Begin mashing beans with side of spatula or a potato masher. Cook until mixture is as thick as you like it.

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Eggplant Basil Stir-fry

A few weeks ago, we got basil, eggplant, and a beautiful puple bell pepper in our CSA box.  I’d been reading The Best 30 Minute Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, and I realized I had the perfect ingredients to use their Create Your Own Stir-fry method with the Spicy Thai Basil Sauce.  It came out so delicious that we made it again this week.

Spicy Thai Basil Sauce

1 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped

3/4 cup chicken broth

2T fish sauce

1T Asian chili sauce (I used Sriracha and lowered the amount to 2tsp)

2 tsp brown sugar

2 tsp cornstarch

Stir all ingredients together and set aside.

The Stir-fry (all measurements are approximate)

1 lb shrimp (peeled and deveined) (You could substitute tofu or chicken)

2 thin eggplants (or equivalent, I didn’t have quite enough the second time I made this so I added a yellow squash)

1 bell pepper, chopped into strips or large chunks

2 tsp chopped garlic

soy sauce

Season shrimp with salt and pepper and drizzle with soy sauce.  Add 1T olive oil to pan. Stir fry shrimp over medium high heat until curled up and pink.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Add 1T more oil. Then add eggplant.  Saute until softened, adding more oil if necessary.  Add peppers and saute 1-2 minutes more.  Push vegetables to the side and add garlic.  Saute garlic until fragrant.  Combine garlic with vegetables. Add shrimp and sauce.  Stir-fry until sauce thickens.  Serve over rice.

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Blueberry Blackberry Pie


Using the crust recipe I learned at my pie class, I made a blackberry and blueberry pie last week with berries from the farmer’s market.  It was by far the best crust I’ve ever made.

Blackberry/Blueberry Pie


2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

pinch of baking powder

10T cold butter, cut in cubes

8T ice water with a touch of lemon juice

Mix flour, salt, baking powder.  Rub in half the butter by hand.  Use pastry blender to mix in the rest of the butter until pieces are the size of peas. Do not overmix.  Add water and mix with a fork.  Turn out on a cutting board or other hard surface.  Split in half and form into two flattened disks.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.


2 cup blueberries

2 cups blackberries

1.5 T cornstarch

1.5 T instant tapioca

1/2 cup sugar

Mix sugar, cornstarch and tapioca. Pour over fruit and mix together, tossing lightly.

Roll out one chilled crust.  Fit into a 9in pie pan.  Pour in filling.  Roll out top crust.  Cut vents. Put top crust on pie. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350F and cook up to 45 minutes more or until filling is bubbling in center of pie.

I just used the same recipe substitituting cherries for the berries and it looks like it turned out perfectly.  I’ll find out tomorrow when we take it to our friends’ house.

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