Sometimes I have thought about what to open that night before 8am...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas - Cooking with Kids

This is such a fun summer activity! Not to mention a delicious treat! And it is completely appropriate for kids as young as 3 to make.

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas
1 bottle Magic Shell
5 bananas
10 Popsicle sticks

Additional optional ingredients:
Chopped nuts
Toffee Pieces

Begin by peeling your bananas and cutting them in half. Insert a Popsicle stick into the cut side of the banana. Place the bananas on a sheet of wax paper on a tray and put them in the freezer. I usually do this well in advance and that way they are ready to go whenever the kids want to make them: after slip n sliding, during a sleepover, as a reward for completing their summer bridge workbook assignment for the day, or whenever the mood strikes you.

When you are ready to make them take your bottle of Magic Shell out of the cabinet, shake well, and pour into a fairly large cup. A Solo cup works perfectly, but you could just as easily use any cup in your cabinet. Tim used a tea cup for this batch!
Hold the banana by the stick and dip into the Magic Shell.

You may have to swirl it around a bit to obtain maximum coverage, but the kids never seem to mind that part!
I normally put the bananas back on the tray covered with wax paper and pop them in the freezer for a minute or two. This is much, much easier than trying to get the kids to stand there holding their chocolate dipped bananas, without eating them, while they wait for the chocolate coating to harden!
Pull out of the freezer, serve, and revel in the happy faces!

Oh and yes, you just got them to pick a fruit for snack. Score one for Mom!

Now that we've been making these for awhile, I've started to spice them up. Some of the fun additions we have done, or that we are planning to do are:

1. Set out an array of sprinkles on the counter. After the kids dip their bananas in the Magic Shell they can pick a sprinkle, or two... or seven and shake them all over the bananas. If you don't have a dog, it is best to have them do this over some sort of tray. 

2. Take a shallow pie plate and cover the bottom in chopped nuts (I like pecans). After the kids dip their bananas in the Magic Shell, have them gently roll them in the nuts. Stick them in the freezer for a few minutes. If you are happy with the result, eat them. If you are related to me, remove them from the freezer. Dip them a second time in the Magic Shell. Place in the freezer for just a minute more, and then enjoy!

3. Take a shallow pie plate and cover the bottom in toffee pieces. After the kids (who am I kidding, you totally know I made this one for me), dip their bananas in Magic Shell, gently roll them in the toffee pieces. Place them back on the tray in the freezer. In a few minutes, remove from the freezer. Dip them again in the Magic Shell. Place in the freezer a second time, this time for just a minute. Enjoy!

4. Same procedure as above but use coconut!

The possibilities are endless!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tim's Almost a "Chocodile" Birthday Cake

I always feel a lot of pressure when it comes to Tim's birthday. When you love someone that much, you want nothing more than to give them everything they want and have it all come out perfectly.

In our house, you pick your cake. You name it. Someone makes it for you. Tim's only request was chocolate.

Now for a little secret: Tim has more than a small penchant for snack cakes. You would not expect this from a man with Tim's culinary background, but it is true. His favorite is the Chocodile.

However, like all of the best laid plans, mine had a snafu. Tim wanted a chocolate cake. My brain decided on a Chocodile styled cake. Yep, I completely forgot that a Chocodile is vanilla cake with cream filling and chocolate frosting! I am that blonde.

So what did I do? Well I made the cake I wanted, vanilla cake be damned, and honestly? It came out better than I ever could have hoped!

Chocodile Cake


(Who needs to work from scratch when the cake mixes today are incredible!)
And ingredients listed on cake box

(This is really just a seven minute frosting.)
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract

9oz semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream

Bake cake according to package directions using two 8 inch pans. While the cake is cooling make your frosting.

Place all of the frosting ingredients in a metal mixing bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water on the stove. Beat with a handheld mixer for approximately 7 minutes or until frosting is fluffy (soft peaks). Remove bowl from the saucepan and continue beating until the frosting is slightly cooled.

Place one layer of the cake on a cake stand. Top with all of the frosting. Place the second layer on top of the frosting.
Finally for the ganache. Pour your chocolate chips into a bowl. (I really, really want to type a glass bowl because that is what I always use, but I know in my heart of hearts that it doesn't matter. So you can just pour them in any bowl that you like.) On your stove, heat the heavy cream in a small pot, just until it boils. Watch carefully or you will end up with one heck of a mess!

When it comes to a boil, pour it over the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the cream and chocolate are combined. Let it rest for a few minutes so that it cools and thickens slightly. Pour over your cake starting at the center. It will cascade down the sides of the cake on its own.

Refrigerate until time to serve.
It kind of reminds me of another hostess cake...
Can't you see it with some white swirls down the middle?
But whether you prefer a Chocodile, or a Hostess Cupcake , I promise you won't be disappointed if you make this!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Fruit with a Surprise

1 lb strawberries
1 package raspberries
2 dozen cherries
2 dozen mini oreos
Chocolate mousse
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate melts 

Start by preparing your chocolate mousse. If you have a recipe that you love, make that! If not, I really like this one from All Recipes.

While the mousse is setting up, wash and dry your fruit. Cut the stem and the core out of the strawberries. Pit the cherries. Now I'm going to be picky about this and tell you that your cherries will be the highlight with your guests and they will be twice as cute if you pit them from the bottom and leave the stems attached. It is more work, but totally worth the end result. I normally make two slits across the bottom of the cherry (it makes an x) and then I stick my fingers in and pull out the pit. This will effectively divide your cherry in 4 sections, but that is okay. The mousse will pull it back together, and when it is chocolate dipped no one will be the wiser!

When your mousse has set up you are ready to start filling the fruit. Start by lining a cookie sheet with wax paper. Fill a piping bag with chocolate mouse. Fill each piece of fruit and then place it on the cookie sheet. For the raspberries, I fill them slightly over the top of the raspberry. Finally, move on to the Oreos. Pipe mousse onto the top of each Oreo and place on the tray with the fruit. Place cookie sheet in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.

While your delicacies are in the freezer you can start melting your chocolate in a double boiler on the stove. I like to work with a half a batch at the time. Sometimes when moisture gets into chocolate it can seize. By only melting half of the chocolate at a time you can avoid losing all of your chocolate if it does seize. When your chocolate is melted turn your burner all the way down to it's lowest setting. This will maintain some heat in the chocolate while you are working. Place your tray next to the double boiler.

Start with the strawberries. This is going to feel a little backwards to you because you are dipping the opposite end of the strawberry than you normally would. Dip the top of the strawberry 1/2-1 inch into the melted chocolate. This seals the chocolate mousse inside the strawberry. Place the dipped strawberry back on the wax paper.

Repeat the process with the raspberries, Oreos and finally the cherries. It is important to do the cherries last as they are extremely juicy and can cause your chocolate to become grainy and seize. Melt more chocolate as neccessary.

When you are finished, place your chocolate covered delicacies in the refrigerator. While they are setting up you can melt the white chocolate. You can do it in a double boiler on the stove, or if you purchase the white chocolate melts they will melt just as easily in the microwave. White chocolate can be a bit finicky. Which, in my opinion, makes it worth the trip to Michael's to pick up the White Chocolate Melts!

Finally the fun part. When the white chocolate is melted, take the tray out of the fridge. Now you can drizzle with white chocolate in one of two ways. You can fill a piping bag with the melted white chocolate and pipe it onto the chocolate covered fruit and Oreos, or you can go with a more haphazard approach. I usually dip a fork or knife into the melted chocolate, and shake it back and forth over the tray. It adds a bit of whimsy and lends a less formal feel to your dessert. But again, suit your own fancy!

Keep the chocolate covered fruit and Oreos refrigerated until you are going to serve them. Arrange on a platter and await the oohs and ahhs as your guests discover the secret hidden beneath the chocolate!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Little Chocolate Magic

I am in love with Summer. The easy pace, the company of friends, the lack of scheduling renews my soul. Summer finds me wanting to pack picnics, sip wine, and feast on Caprese made with the tomatoes from my garden. 

Summer is for living, and we do lots of it.

As I was pondering an offering for the blog this week, I came across the idea of giving you a snapshot of my Summer. So this week I am going to share with you a little chocolate magic: a series of desserts that have made the cut on many a gorgeous summer evening. There are recipes to share with friends, a cake to make your family swoon, and a great summer activity to share with your kids. 3 Chocolate recipes. And really, doesn't chocolate make everything better?

Chocolate Dipped Fruit with a Delicious Surprise

Chocodile Cake
Chocolate Covered Frozen Bananas
The magic starts tomorrow!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Caprese Pasta

Nothing is better than tomatoes fresh from the garden, unless it is this years basil. The basil from my garden this year is heavenly. 

So Saturday night I went for a simple dinner. I was in the mood for fresh ingredients but I wanted a hearty meal. The solution? Turn my fresh Caprese salad into a pasta dish! Oh and it was 15 minutes from chopping to plating. How's that for quick and easy?!

Summer Caprese Pasta

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups of grape or cherry tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
2 hand fulls of basil
12 of the small size mozzerella, halved
12 oz pasta (whatever is in your cabinet. I had rigatoni)

Cook the pasta according to package directions. While it is cooking...
Halve the tomatoes and the mozzerella, mince the garlic, chiffonade the basil.
Heat oil over medium high heat add garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and saute two or three minutes.
Add your basil and saute just a minute more.
Add the pasta. Stir to combine and until heated through (less than a minute really). Season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper. Remove from the heat and add the fresh mozzerella.
Divide equally among 4 plates.

Adding the mozzerella while the pasta is still hot gives it this terrific meltiness and an almost buttery mouth feel. This recipe was a keeper. I have a feeling I will be making it a lot this summer!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cooking with Kids- Calzones

Last Thursday Tim taught a cooking class at our local library. 40 kids, 2 kinds of calzones, an apple-blueberry crumble, and a good time was had by all!

The highlight for me was all of the moms coming up at the end asking for the recipes... because their "kids actually ate them!" We of course had the recipes for all of the children to take home.

Cooking with your kids is so incredibly fun, and often, if they have a hand in making it, they are more apt to eat it! Here are a few pictures of the action. The recipes are at the bottom.
 Learning to work the dough.

 Everyone had a turn.
 A better shot of the mayhem. Trust me, if Tim could teach 40 five-nine year olds how to make calzones... you can definitely do it with your kids in your kitchen!
 We had some great teen volunteers too!

 And look at how beautiful they turned out!

Chicken, Black Bean and Corn Calzone with Salsa Sour Cream
1 store bought pizza dough
1 pound chicken breast, roasted
1 can of corn, drained and rinsed
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2-2 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4  tsp black pepper
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a cookie sheet with Pam.

Allow dough to come to room temperature, and then roll or stretch dough into a large oval or rectangle. Make sure your dough is not bigger than the pan you will use to bake the calzone.
Chop the roasted chicken into bite size pieces.  Heat a large pan over medium heat. Spray with Pam. Add chicken, black beans, corn, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper and stir until combined and heated through. 

Remove from heat and stir in half of the cheese. Spoon the mixture onto one side of the dough you rolled out. Top with remaining cheese. Pull the other half of the dough over the top and pinch the edges to seal it shut.

In a small bowl whisk the egg. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg over the top of your calzone. Poke a few holes in the top of the calzone so that it won't fill with air while you are cooking it.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Cut into pieces and serve with salsa sour cream.

Salsa Sour Cream
1cup sour cream
1/3 cup mild salsa (like pace)
In a bowl mix together sour cream and salsa.

Chicken and Broccoli Calzone
1 large pizza dough ball
1 lb of chicken breast, roasted
1 1/2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 onion chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 cups mozzarella, shredded
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a cookie sheet with Pam.

Allow dough to come to room temperature, and then roll or stretch dough into a large oval or rectangle. Make sure your dough is not bigger than the pan you will bake it on.
Chop the roasted chicken into bite size pieces.  Steam the broccoli until crisp tender. In a large pan melt 2 tbsp of butter. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the chicken and broccoli and half of the cheese stir until combined.

Spoon the mixture onto one side of the dough you rolled out.  Sprinkle with the 2 cups of cheese. Pull the opposite side of the dough over the top and pinch the edges together.

In a small bowl whisk the egg. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg over the top of your calzone. Poke a few holes in the top of the calzone to keep it from filling with air while cooking.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

Cut into pieces and serve with your favorite marinara sauce.

 Have fun and enjoy!