MAKE DELICIOUS CREPES FOR MEALS AND SNACKTIME

 

A quick trip to the grocery store has taken on new meaning these days. You never know what will be in stock. Hopefully you can get the basics of milk, flour, eggs and butter for this recipe, so you and your kids can enjoy cooking up this easy, fancy-looking recipe of French crepes.

Crepes are so versatile — they are tasty and nutritious for breakfast or a snack, or roll them up and heat briefly with leftovers or other items in your refrigerator and pantry such as goat cheese and honey, or salsa and grated Cheddar cheese.

You might want to double the batch of 12 crepes and refrigerate or freeze with wax paper between them for additional snacking and meals. Or, think dessert, and coax a tantalizing stack into a divine “crepe cake” to brighten spirits. Stack a dozen or more with whipped cream and sliced strawberries in between the layers. Top with candles and sing if there is a birthday in the house.

 

FRENCH CREPES

Makes 12 eight-inch crepes.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups milk

3 eggs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted plus more for cookin

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

To make batter: In medium bowl, combine flour, salt, milk, eggs and melted butter. Add vanilla, if using. Whisk until smooth. Or, place in a blender and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To cook crepes: Remove batter from refrigerator. Stir. Lightly butter flat large skillet or crepe pan. Heat over medium-high heat. Pour a scant 1/4 cup batter in center of skillet and swirl batter around to form an 8-inch round crepe. Cook until underside is golden brown. (Note: Lift up corner to check color.) Using a narrow spatula, flip crepe. Cook until other side is lightly brown, about 30 seconds.

To serve: Set on a plate. Roll up with fruit or applesauce inside. Or, fold in half or quarters. Add favorite toppings or simply squeeze some fresh lemon juice and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

MAKE A BEDTIME NIGHTLIGHT

 

Just when it seems your young child has drifted off to sleep for the night, a plaintive voice echoes through the hallway. “Mom! I can’t sleep. I think there’s a monster in my closet!” So you check the closet carefully.“Nope, honey. No monsters.” But it doesn’t help much. More drama kicks in.“I want a glass of water … I can’t find my teddy bear … Will you leave the light on, Mom, pleeeze?”

Whether it’s anxiety about school, monsters in the closet or navigating the change to daylight saving time, sometimes children need extra comfort to put closure on the day. Well, here’s instructions for a very special nightlight that your child can make and use. He can even switch it on and off without leaving his bed.

Before your child begins making the bedtime friend, have him think about what he wants it to be. An angel? Ladybug? Goofy alien? Leprechaun? Or, maybe a puppy or bunny with felt ears that stick out in funny angles.

Here’s what you’ll need:
— Standard-size brown or plain colored lunch bag

— Craft supplies to create your character’s face, such as construction or tissue paper, yarn, pipe cleaners, charms, ribbon, glitter,beads, etc.
— Scissors

— Household glue
— Hole punch (optional)
— An inexpensive standard-size, plastic, lightweight flashlight with batteries — Rubber band

First, cut out craft foam sheets or poster board in eye, nose and mouth shapes. Cut holes in the middle of the eyes and mouth pieces to eventually allow light to shine through. Glue the features to the front of the bag. When dry, an adult may use small, sharp scissors to cut out the center of the eyes and mouth on the bag.

Then add details for personality. Glue on rickrack eyebrows, attach lightweight junk jewelry earrings or pipe-cleaner antennae, depending on what you are creating. Outline lips with shiny beads or glitter. And don’t forget the hair — add braided yarn and fashion a style. It’s also fun to use a hole punch to make additional features or patterns on the bag that will be revealed when the flashlight is turned on.

When complete, carefully slip it over the top of the flashlight and secure with a rubber band, just above the switch. The nightlight will be on and off bedtime duty when you say so!

For older kids, it can be a simple whimsical glow to have on their bedstand in the evening. Or how about using it to light up a tent when camping this summer?

POPOVERS MAKE SPRING MEALS SPECIAL

  

 

  The first signs of spring include yard and garage sales sprouting up in our communities. Maybe you and your kids are tempted, like me, to scout these out for our neighbors’ castoffs and enticing bargains. 

  I’m not advocating for accumulating more stuff to add to already full cupboards and storage closets, but I’m aware that the decluttering craze has opened up opportunities for bargain shoppers like me. I’m always on the hunt for an unexpected surprise. 

  This season is a good time to snag a buy on a gently used product you can enjoy together with your kids and grandkids. Be on the lookout for an item you might not purchase in a store, like an electric Panini pan for yummy lunch-making this summer, a waffle iron for extended Saturday morning breakfasts, or my latest find, a never-been-used nonstick popover pan. 

  Popovers are easy to prepare, and they’ll make any springtime brunch or supper extra special. When it’s time for popovers at our house, my granddaughter helps me push the button on the blender, and then I “pop” the batter filled cups in the oven. When baking (no peeking), they puff up so high that when they are done there is always a collective “wow” or “whoa” when we open the oven door and see the spectacle. 

  POPOVERS

  Makes 6.

  Preheat the oven to 400 F. 

  1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus softened butter for greasing the popover or muffin pan

  3 eggs at room temperature

  1 cup milk at room temperature

  1 cup all-purpose flour

  1/2 teaspoon salt

  Grease aluminum popover pan (or 6 compartments of a muffin pan) with butter. Place the pan in the preheated oven while you prepare the batter. 

  Whisk or whirl butter, eggs, milk, flour and salt in a blender for a minute on medium speed until smooth. 

  An adult should fill the hot popover cups with batter until half full. If using a muffin pan, fill cups 2/3 full. 

  Place in oven for 20 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees and bake 20 minutes longer (no peeking while they bake).

  Remove from oven and immediately poke the side of each popover with the tip of a knife or wooden skewer to release steam trapped inside. This keeps them from collapsing. Remove from pan and arrange in a serving basket. Serve hot. 

  Extra tasty ideas:

  — Add 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest to the batter to add a refreshing spring taste. 

  — Popovers make tasty edible containers for crab, shrimp or tuna salad for a main course. Cut the top 1/3 off of the popover. Scoop out a space in lower portion. Fill with salad and top with popover piece. Serve.

APRIL FOOL’S MARZIPAN POTATO SURPRISE

 

April Fool’s Marzipan Potato Surprise

  The French are famous for their trompe l’oeil or “trick of the eye” cuisine. One food is made to look like another. A famous example is the candy truffle, made of chocolate, in the shape of a mushroom-like root.

  This marzipan potato is another trompe l’oeil you can make easily with your kids for an April Fool’s Day caper. The “skin” of this potato is marzipan almond candy dough, made with ground almonds. The body of the potato is a scrumptious chocolate cake mixture.

  Once made, serve the small trick potatoes with verve! Place them in a small basket or bowl and present them as a surprise dessert. After confusing everyone, slice them into 1/2-inch-thick servings and place on dishes accompanied by a triumphant “Ta-da!” Or should we say, “Fooled ya.”

  April Fool’s Marzipan Potato Surprise

  Ingredients for 6 “potatoes”

  –2 1/2 cups crumbled chocolate cake (no frosting)

  –1/2 cup chopped walnuts

  –1/4 cup apricot preserves

  –1 roll (7 ounces) almond marzipan candy dough or marzipan paste, which is stickier (in the baking section of the grocery store)

  –1/4 cup cocoa powder

  –1/4 cup slivered almonds

  Here’s the fun:

  In a large bowl, lightly combine the cake crumbs, walnuts and preserves with a fork. 

  Shape approximately a quarter-cup of the mixture into irregular, stubby, oval “logs” with your hands. Wash your hands to remove all the crumbs when you’re done with the shaping.

  Cut the roll of almond paste into six equal, medallion-type pieces. Place one piece at a time between two sheets of waxed paper and roll out into a 5-inch disk with a rolling pin.

  Remove the waxed paper and wrap each disk around the oval-shaped cake logs. Fold in all edges and press together to seal the cake mixture inside. Trim away any extra “skin” to use on another “potato.” The finished shape should resemble a small russet potato, which typically has an imperfect skin. Little bumps and dents make it look more realistic.

  Roll lightly in the cocoa powder or brush it on with a pastry brush. Insert a few slivered almonds to resemble slightly sprouted potatoes.

 

   

MAKE EASY CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

 

  

  “Camera two, action!” There is always extra energy in the air at the Minneapolis/St. Paul KSTP-TV/ABC studio when weekday “Twin Cities Live” begins. The hosts chat about the current day’s events and promote what’s coming up on the show in front of an enthusiastic audience while I scurry around on the sidelines of the set to finalize prep for the recipe and activities from this column I’ll be demoing. There’s no time for distractions until, well, I admit, I spot an array of chocolate truffles on the demo table behind me. “Go ahead and taste one,” says award-winning baker and candy-making instructor Nancy Burgeson, another regular on the show. A quick bite and I was smitten. “And, they’re simple to make,” she adds. 

  Truffles are often made with high-quality baking chocolate and heavy cream, but Nancy’s basic recipe, ideally suited for first timers, uses unsalted butter with the chocolate instead of cream.

  Once the chocolate and melted butter are combined and the mixture is chilled, kids can form the round truffle shapes with a melon baller tool, drop and roll in cocoa powder and arrange the impressive sweets in cute tins or small boxes for gifts.

  Here’s the basic recipe: 

  EASY CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES 

  Makes 25-30 truffles. 

  — 8 ounces good-quality baking chocolate, such as Ghirardelli or Guittard brands (aim for 60% cacao content or more) 

  — 8 ounces unsalted butter, preferably a European-style butter such as Kerrygold brand 

  — cocoa powder for rolling, or other dry toppings such as crushed toasted nuts, cookies or cereal

  Break chocolate in small pieces and melt in a microwave at half power. Or, using a double boiler, heat water to very warm. Remove from the burner and set the chocolate on top only long enough to melt it. 

  Melt butter in a saucepan or microwave until just melted. 

  Add chocolate to butter and gently stir until well combined and glossy. Pour mixture into a baking dish, about 8 inches by 8 inches, or use a loaf pan. Refrigerate 1-3 hours uncovered. 

  With a melon baller, scoop the chocolate in a ball. If chocolate mixture is too hard, let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes. If too soft, return to the refrigerator until firm. Remove it from the melon baller with a tiny spoon, such as a baby spoon, and drop it into a small bowl of cocoa powder or other chosen dry topping. Roll lightly in topping, remove and roll in your hands slightly. Drop back in the bowl until covered. Set on a parchment-lined pan. 

  Chill the truffles until firm. 

  Resource: classesbytoptiermn.com. 

BAKING FUN WITH KIDS

 

 

Jeannie Klint bakes traditional family yeast bread with her granddaughters when they visit.

  “Rules for Little Cooks

  Wash your hands.

  Put on your apron.

  Read your recipe carefully.

  Place everything you need on the kitchen table.

  Have Mother teach you how to heat the oven.

  Measure everything very carefully.

  Wash your baking dishes.

  Sweep the kitchen and leave it in order.”

  So begins the inside cover page of “KITCHEN FUN: A Cook Book for Children” (copyright 1932), a 28-page collection my mom used as a child. From Bran Muffins and Fairy Gingerbread to Cinderella Cake, the baking section caught my eye. Both the “rules” and recipes haven’t changed significantly over the past 88 years and are easy to replicate in any kitchen. 

  The book got me thinking about how baking something delicious is a wonderful way to entice kids to learn cooking basics as they assist and learn from you. The benefits go beyond the mixing bowl. The memories of being shoulder to shoulder, talking, laughing and preparing something amazing out of basic and sometimes exotic ingredients is what it’s really all about. 

  I recall the magic of dough rising in a large bowl in front of my eyes in my grandma Ruth’s kitchen as she intuitively made traditional Swedish cardamom bread. The connection between just the two of us lives on in my memory, and the effort we put into the making was justly rewarded when we opened the oven and took it out.

  Baking with kids this month is a great way to spend time together when weather keeps you indoors. Thumb through family recipe cards and cookbooks. Or go online for a how-to video that captures your and your child’s imagination, then bake it your own way. Here are more ideas:

  Cookies

  Make sugar cookies in heart shapes for Valentine’s Day. Purchasing heart cookie cutters can be the start of a collection of holiday designs you pull from throughout the year.

  If you have preschoolers, make a “Jam Thumbprint” recipe, another ideal “first.” Toddlers can stick their thumbs in the dough balls, then fill the indentation with a bit of jam. 

  Quick breads 

  Baking powder and baking soda don’t require kneading or the time to let dough rise. Let seasons of the year inspire you and the recipes you choose. Start with lemon bread with poppy seeds this spring, and by fall you’ll be a pro at making pumpkin and cranberry breads. 

  Yeast breads

  Watch it rise, punch it down and enjoy the bonus of the taste of aromatic homemade breads. Once your kids get their hands on the “living” dough, they’ll be motivated to bake again and again. 

EASY ENTERTAINING WITH OVEN-BAKED GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES

   

 

  Is there such a thing as easy entertaining? When reviewing our busy December days, I admit that in spite of my intentions, parties became a bit of a production with my long to-do lists and shoutouts to kids to run last-minute trips to the store to pick up mushrooms for the gravy or to our Scandinavian market for lingonberries and herring. By the time I lit ice candles on our porch to welcome guests, I had to ask myself, “Could I have simplified this?”

  In this new year, I want to keep our welcome candles burning for all, but skip a bit of the fancy and go for the easy-prep practical. After all, it’s the get-together that matters, right? Spending time around the table eating, laughing and connecting with family and friends matters most. 

  That’s where making and serving oven-baked grilled cheese sandwiches for a crowd the easy way saves the day. Bake them in the oven all at once instead of the traditional way of grilling in batches on your stovetop in a frying pan. They’ll be evenly browned and done at the same time, ready to be paired with a bowl of piping hot soup, such as fragrant basil tomato. 

  Slice the sandwiches in half diagonally and watch your guests enjoy dipping the pointed ends into the soup. Crispy, gooey and tasty, you’ll be creating fond food memories in 2020.

  Here is my basic oven-baked grilled cheese sandwich recipe. Feel free to embellish with spicy mustard or mayo sauce spread inside, and add additional varieties of cheese. Sometimes I include a pinch of kale or other fresh greens I have on hand. 

  EASY-PREP OVEN-BAKED GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES 

  Makes 6 sandwiches.

  — 12 slices white bread a half-inch thick, such as pre-sliced Texas toast 

  — butter, softened for spreading

  — 6 thick slices cheddar cheese

  Preheat oven to 450 F. Set parchment paper on a large baking sheet.

  Ask your child to count and place six slices of bread on the parchment lined sheet. Butter each piece and flip over.

  Lay a slice of cheese on the unbuttered side. Top with another slice of bread. Butter top side.

  Bake in the oven for 5-6 minutes until bread is toasted on exposed side. 

  Flip with a spatula and bake an additional 5 minutes until golden brown and cheese is just melted. 

  Cool for two minutes. Slice in half diagonally and arrange on a platter. Serve with hot bowls of your favorite tomato soup. 

PERSONAL PITA PIZZAS

I took an informal poll in my neighborhood with the question, “What do kids like to eat most?” I noted responses from both adults and kids, like mac and cheese, burgers, tacos and chicken fingers. But, to no surprise, pizza dominated. Maybe it’s because it offers something for all tastes.

  If pizza reigns in your house, throw an informal Halloween pizza party, or another get-together with family and friends this school year. Planning and hosting can be creative and easy to cater for all tastes when you keep it simple. 

  Instead of preparing and shaping pizza dough in advance, here’s the shortcut: Make personal pizzas together using pita bread available at a bakery or grocery store. Provide the toppings so guests can enjoy putting their pita pizzas together assembly-line fashion, letting everyone choose their favorites as they go for unique combos. It’s an ideal set-up for picky pizza eaters who prefer their favorite toppings.

  FAMILY-STYLE PERSONAL PITA PIZZAS 

  TOMATO SAUCE

  The pizza-making begins with a good tomato sauce. Purchase your favorite sauce, or make this homemade recipe that goes together in minutes. Enlist your school-age child to measure and stir the chunky sauce.

  For 2 1/2 cups, mix together in a bowl: a 14-ounce can diced tomatoes and a 6-ounce can tomato paste, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. (For a smooth sauce, whirl in a blender). 

  TOPPINGS

  Classic kid-pleasing toppings include bowls of shredded mozzarella cheese, sliced pepperoni, red onion thinly sliced into rings, sliced mushrooms, chopped bell pepper and pitted olives. For variety, and to accommodate adult tastes, you might include marinated artichoke hearts and drained oil-packed sun-dried tomato slices. 

  For a seasonal option, skip the tomato sauce and layer your pita pizza with Italian shredded cheeses, sauteed onion and slices of an apple or pear. Sprinkle with crumbled gorgonzola and fresh thyme.

  SET-UP 

  At one end of a counter or table, stack pita bread and small plates. Continue assembly-line fashion with the bowls of sauce, toppings and ending with baking sheets. 

  ASSEMBLE

  Invite guests to place a pita bread on a plate. Spread with sauce, if using, then add toppings according to taste. When complete, remove from plate and set on baking sheet. 

  BAKE

  Bake in a 400 F preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and pita is crisp. 

BOW-OH-WOW! VALENTINE TREATS FOR YOUR PET


Middle-school English teacher Alex Eckroth calls herself the “queen of takeout.” It’s rare to find her scrolling through online recipes or thumbing through tattered pages of a cookbook. Unless, as she readily admits, she’s baking treats for her adorable pug, Bomba.
“Dogs have a sweet tooth, like me,” she says, “but when it comes to shopping for treats, it’s tricky to find dog biscuits with ingredients I want to feed Bomba. I like to bake treats for him using heart-healthy ingredients like whole wheat, rolled oats and peanut butter. It’s relaxing and fun to do, plus I enjoy sharing them with our neighborhood canine friends.”
If you’re fond of your fido, bake a batch of these crunchy dog biscuits with your kids for Valentine’s Day pet treats and gifts. This simple recipe comes together in minutes — no mixer needed, just a big wooden spoon and your kids’ energy to stir everything together.
Create shapes with heart-shaped cookie cutters. Small hearts, big hearts, and how about a few X’s and O’s?

DOG BISCUITS
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup peanut butter                                                                                                                                                     1 cup evaporated milk or evaporated goat’s milk
1 tablespoon molasses
All-purpose flour for rolling dough
Makes about 5 dozen 2-inch heart-shaped biscuits.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two cookie sheets, or line them with parchment paper. Set aside.
To make dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, combine peanut butter, milk and molasses. Slowly pour peanut butter mixture into dry ingredients. Stir until well-combined.

To shape biscuits: Sprinkle all-
purpose flour on the counter. Knead dough a few times, until it is easy to roll out into a rectangle that’s 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick with rolling pin. Using cookie cutters, cut dough into shapes. Transfer to prepared cookie sheets.

To bake biscuits: Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Place on cooling rack. Cool completely.

To wrap: Divide your pretty “doggone cool” biscuits into gift bags or heart-shaped paper pockets. Attach valentine tag and deliver to neighborhood dog friends on Valentine’s Day.

TASTY SLOW-COOKER GRANOLA

We’re a granola-eating family. When the tall jar in our pantry reads almost empty, it’s time to stir up and bake a new batch. It’s never a chore, because the fresh homemade taste of heart healthy oats with nuts and dried fruit always satisfies, whether combined with yogurt and berries at breakfast, or sprinkled over a scoop of ice cream for an evening dessert.

No wonder I was curious when a friend suggested I make granola in my slow cooker instead of baking it in the oven. Skeptical, I gave it a try and loved the results. In fact, it’s a game-changer.

I stick with my basic recipe that never disappoints. The hand-crafted, economical blend is open to variations, like substituting cashews for the almonds or pecans. When I buy a jug of fresh local maple syrup, I leave out the brown sugar entirely. For variety, I’ll cut up something unusual, like dried persimmons, to toss in at the end with the raisins.

Tasty Slow-Cooker Granola
Yield: About 6 cups.
Ingredients:
— Cooking spray or olive oil
— 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
— 1/2 cup brown sugar
— 1 teaspoon cinnamon
— 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
— 1/2 teaspoon salt
— 1/2 cup coarsely chopped whole almonds
— 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
— 1/2 cup canola oil
— 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
— 2 egg whites, slightly beaten
— 1/2 cup raisins

Prepare the slow cooker: Spray the cooking spray on the bottom and sides of a 3-quart or larger slow cooker or lightly coat with oil.
Combine the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and nuts in a slow cooker.
Stir together the oil, vanilla and egg whites in a small bowl. Add to dry ingredients and toss well until fully coated.
Turn slow cooker to high. Set a wooden spoon under one side of the lid to hold the lid open, slightly ajar. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until toasted, stirring mixture well every 30 minutes.
Stir in raisins and spread mixture on a baking sheet to cool. Store in jars or in an airtight container.

Note: Substitute brown sugar with 1/2 cup maple syrup, honey or agave syrup, and combine with liquid ingredients before tossing with dry ingredients.
In addition to (or instead of) raisins, use your favorite dried fruit, chopped.

Gift-giving tip: Let kids draw a label to glue to a mason jar. It might say “The Johnsons’ World’s Best Granola.” For a Valentine’s Day gift, tie a pink ribbon around the jar with a paper Valentine card.