Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Snowflake Brownies

In Chicago, the public schools have been closed since Friday. First, professional development day. Then, school improvement day. Then Veteran's Day and now, parent/teacher conference day.

Fortunately, we have a great network of people to help watch our kids, and Jay is off on Veteran's Day anyway.

Today, I am home with the 5 yo and it is kind of icky outside - on top of which, I have a 1:00 meeting downtown (babysitter coming at noon), so there wasn't a whole lot of time to hit museums/etc. like I would usually do. I have found that baking and cooking with my kids is a lot of fun for me - and they simply love being in the kitchen. The other night while I was making dinner, the two kids completely emptied out one of my cabinets and made a second kitchen under the dining room table!

So, after dropping the 2 yo at daycare and running a couple of errands, we made Snowflake Brownies!

Now, I have never been much of a baker. And, truth be told, I believe that people come in 2 categories - baker or cook/chef. Similar to the "Beatles/Rolling Stones" and "Abbott and Costello/Three Stooges" debates, I believe that while you can come to "appreciate" the one you don't really care for as much - deep down, you can either be one or the other.

I am a cook (Beatles and Abbott and Costello too...I wonder if anyone has ever done a regression analysis of all these... hmmmm).

That being said, I do foray into baking every once and a while. And, I am not opposed to using mixes, as long as they are TERRIFIC!

So, today we made Snowflake Brownies.

Here's the recipe. (really not a recipe - but whatever!!)

Brownie Mix (We use Ghiradelli - but whichever you like is fine)
1 cup Vanilla Chips (The best you can get - of course - Caillebout makes great ones)
1 tbsp flour

1. Toss the vanilla chips with the flour and shake off (this will prevent the chips from "sinking to the bottom" of the brownies.)
2. Prepare brownie mix batter as instructed and mix in vanilla chips.
3. Bake as instructed and enjoy!!

Composed Salads - or How to Get Kids to Like Veggies

There has been a lot of talk in the past year (as always) as to the best way to get kids to eat veggies/fruits/etc. Lots of people have touted "hiding" vegetables in purees and then inserting them into dishes. Personally, I think this is a bit too sneaky, and doesn't actually get the kids to like veggies or different tastes, since they are "hidden."

I generally prescribe to the notion (as my kids have shown over time) that if you present them with a wide variety on a regular basis (and try a few times with different things), they will eventually try and may even get to like them. My daughter, for instance, for a long time, seemed to have an aversion to all things vegetable - now she is really starting to love veggies - crunchy ones that she can "dip" - but veggies all the same.

So, with that in mind (and knowing that both kids will eat hard boiled eggs), last night I made a modified version of Salad Nicoise. The kids loved taking different "choices" from the large bowl with groupings of different veggies, hard boiled eggs, tuna, etc. And then mixing it together on their plate with a simple homemade mustard dressing.

You can choose to make it more traditional and include things like anchovies or nicoise olives - or different veggies. I also sliced a demi-baguette for everyone to have with some butter.

Here are the basics.

Dani's Salad Nicoise

2 cups mixed salad greens (I used baby romaine)
2 cups red baby potatoes, cooked, peeled and sliced or quartered
2 cups baby carrots
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 cans tuna, drained
2 cups green beans, "blanched" slightly so they are warm and slightly cooked, but not soggy
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled (I left them whole, but you can slice them too)


2 tbsp mustard
1 shallot sliced thin
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together ingredients for vinagrette and put aside.

In bottom of large platter or serving bowl, place salad greens. Put tuna in middle on top of the greens, and "groups" of green beans, carrots, hard boiled eggs, potatoes, celery on top of the greens around the tuna.

Let everyone pick what they want - spoon some vinagrette over it and dig in!!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

It's Cold and Time for some WARM food!

Late fall/early winter has finally hit here in Chicago. After having incredibly beautiful weather for Halloween (I mean 75 degrees!!) it was raw and damp yesterday and today. Which of course means - comfort food time!

Tonight for dinner I went back to an old reliable - roast chicken with lemon (pre-heat oven to 425. Slice a large onion - toss with a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a roasting pan. Clean whole chicken and pat down. Cut 2 lemons into quarters and shove into cavity of chicken with salt and pepper. Put chicken on top of onions. Brush with olive oil, bit more salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour 15 minutes or until juices run clear. Yum!).

But, what to go with it? Winter type squash of course and a salad with some cucumbers, carrots, dried cranberries, dried blueberries and a light vinagrette!

Acorn Squash "flowers" with cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar

1 acorn squash, cut into 1 inch diameter "circles" (cut squash in half the "round" way, scoop out seeds and cut disks about 1 inch thick)
2 granny smith apples, cored and cut in half
2 tbsp vegetable oil (olive oil is too strong a flavor here, I think)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3-4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 425.
2. Place acorn squash and apples on lightly oiled cookie sheet so they are in a single layer.
3. Brush tops of squash with veggie oil and sprinkle evenly with light brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as a bit of salt and pepper.
4. Roast squash for 30 minutes. Turn over squash circles after 30 minutes and roast another 30 minutes.
5. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Ordered pizza for BFFs and the kids (including honorary older sister for A)...

But more importantly -


Thank goodness!

Now the real work begins people as we have to fix this mess that 8 years of the Bush administration has created.