CREATE A HOUSE OF HEARTS

     

The last of the December holiday decor has finally been tucked away in bins in the attic. Well, almost. In frigid snow-covered Minnesota, I’ll keep the white twinkle lights up that frame our outdoor windows and wind around the pine treetops in flowerboxes. The lights seem to brighten our spirits, and add warmth with their sparkle in the evening snow during sub-zero temps and blistery snowstorms — at least through February … OK, March.

This time of year I think about the happy color pink, the taste of chocolate and lovely heart shapes everywhere. Even outside. That’s why I’m inspired to freeze water with a sprinkling of birdseed in heart-shaped cake pans to unmold and hang with twine from tree branches in the front yard. It’s a suncatcher attraction for feathered friends and passersby (search Heart-Shaped Ice Sculptures at www.donnaerickson.com).

What’s next? More heartfelt ideas to create a house of hearts. Enjoy them with your kids no matter where you live:

  1. Heart-shaped cookies

Use your favorite rolled-out sugar cookie recipe and cookie cutters in heart shapes to fill your cookie jar with cookies made by you and the kids.

For a creative twist, when making medium or large cookies, use a knife to cut out a 1 inch deep and 1/4 inch wide wedge off the side of the heart-shaped dough before baking. Once cool and decorated, hang the cookie on a glass of milk or a mug of hot chocolate.

Or, poke a hole through the top of several cookies before baking. When cool, string them with twine individually, and hang from a table centerpiece of bare branches. When friends visit, they can take home a cookie heart.

Make mini cookies with your smallest heart cookie cutter. Pack in a cardboard jewelry gift box lined with waxed paper. Give to someone special with a Valentine message attached.

                             

  1. Say “I Love You” on Valentine’s Day

Put a love twist on breakfast. Use strawberry jam from a squeeze container to draw a heart on your child’s toast. When you prepare pancakes, spoon the batter onto the pan in various sizes of heart shapes. Top them with fresh strawberries cut lengthwise to make hearts.

  1. Family love

Share your wedding photos with your children. Tell them how you and your spouse met, and include any funny or romantic stories they would enjoy. Look for formal wedding pictures of grandparents and great-grandparents, too. Learn their names and share family love stories and lore.

 

CELEBRATE CHINESE NEW YEAR WITH FIRECRACKER SHRIMP



When it comes to demystifying Chinese cooking, my friend Katie Chin, daughter of restaurateur Leeann Chin, knows what it takes to bring tasty recipes into American homes. As a chef, cookbook author and television personality, Katie believes in spreading the word about how truly delicious Chinese cuisine can be, starting with sharing culinary traditions with her 8-year-old twins.
“Chinese New Year is coming up on January 28,” she reminds me. “Firecracker shrimp is a tasty and whimsical appetizer to kick off the celebration in our home in Southern California. My sous-chef kids mix the dipping sauce and roll up the ‘firecrackers,’ revealing shrimp tails and carrot strips for ‘fuses.’ As we prep, I’ll tell them about their grandmother’s memories of growing up in China, and how firecrackers (believed to ward off evil spirits) lit up the sky on New Year’s Day.”
Roll up her firecracker shrimp for an appetizer that explodes with flavor in every bite. Adapted from her new cookbook “Katie Chin’s Everyday Chinese Cookbook: 101 Delicious Recipes from My Mother’s Kitchen.”

https://www.amazon.com/Katie-Chins-Everyday-Chinese-Cookbook/dp/0804845220

I enjoyed an afternoon in the kitchen of Katie’s sister Laura with Katie’s fabulous twins, 8 year old Becca and Dylan. Here are some in-step photos of our cooking adventure along with the complete recipe.

The first step in preparation was taking the thin spring roll wrappers out of the package and separating them—a fun job for kids to do.

Cut the wrappers into thirds with kitchen scissors to make 12 long strips, then lightly brush the ends with beaten egg.

                                  

Becca and Dylan showed me how to lay the carrot sticks and shrimp tails just so on the spring roll wrappers to resemble firecrackers when they are fried.

Be sure the ingredients are dry to prevent spattering while frying. She places 4 or 5 at a time in the wok and turns them frequently. It only takes 2-3 minutes per batch.

The kids were in charge of stirring up the tasty dipping sauce while Katie fried the shrimp.

And I got to enjoy eating the tasty, hot appetizer! I’m crazy about them, and so is my family! They’re fabulous  for a special occasion like Chinese New Year, birthdays, and definitely 4th of July!

FIRECRACKER SHRIMP and DIPPING SAUCE
Serves 6 as an appetizer.
1 large carrot, cut into 3-inch-by-1/4-inch matchsticks
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, divided
12 shelled and deveined large, raw shrimp (tails left intact)
4 spring roll wrappers
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Place carrot slices in a small bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt. Sprinkle shrimp with remaining garlic salt. Set aside.
Cut each spring roll wrapper into thirds to make 12 long strips.
Brush the top third of each strip with egg. Lay one shrimp at the bottom of the strip. Set a carrot slice on top of the shrimp. Tightly roll, letting the egg seal it together at the end. (The tail of the shrimp and the carrot should protrude from one end to resemble a firecracker) Repeat with remaining wrappers.
In a large wok or deep skillet, heat 2-3 inches of oil to 350 degrees. Fry the shrimp rolls 5 or 6 at a time until golden brown, about 2 minutes, turning 2 to 3 times. Transfer to a cooling rack lined with paper towels.
Serve hot, with dipping sauce.
DIPPING SAUCE
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Sriracha chili sauce
In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise and Sriracha together.
Cook’s note: Find spring roll wrappers in the freezer section of Asian markets. You may substitute with egg roll wrappers from the produce section of grocery stores.

RESOURCES: “Katie Chin’s Everyday Chinese Cookbook: 101 Delicious Recipes from My Mother’s Kitchen” (Tuttle Publishing) and www.chefkatiechin.com.

 

AND, THERE IS MORE…

Katie has boundless, creative energy. Within minutes of preparing the firecracker shrimp, she was stirring up her Pineapple Fried Rice recipe from her new cookbook for a demo she was off to at KSTP-ABC’s Twin Cities Live studio. (see her segment:  http://twincitieslive.com/article/stories/s4229844.shtml)  It’s a heart healthy, easy meal to prepare.  Serve it in pineapple halves to make it look refreshing…and impressive!

            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EASY BAKED PANCAKE

pancake
Long holiday weekends call for special family breakfasts. It’s a time to relax, read the paper and stir up a new family recipe together. If pancakes have been your Saturday standby, keep up the tradition with a new twist. This Oven Pancake is simple to prepare and dramatic to serve piping hot, right out of the oven. It’s more dense than the common “Dutch Baby,” puff pancake recipe, so it serves more people.

OVEN PANCAKE
Serves 6

4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1. Let one of your kids count and crack the eggs into a mixing bowl. Inspect it to be sure there are no remaining shells. Beat eggs with a whisk. Stir in salt.

2. Add milk and flour gradually. Mix well with spoon.

3. Meanwhile, place utter in a 9 x 13 pan. Place the pan in the oven until butter is melted, not brown.

4. Add egg batter and bake for 45 minutes until puffy and golden-brown on the edges.

Serve with good maple syrup, fresh fruit or jam.

I cooked up this recipe in my kitchen for Fox News with host Todd Walker-click below

Donna-Pancake Bake-Fox News 11/27/16

BEST FUDGE SAUCE

fudge

What’s in your refrigerator right now? Mine is in a bit of disarray with the basics — milk, eggs, yogurt, condiments, a few nondescript leftovers, and wilting arugula. Now, if you open Nancy Nyberg’s fridge door in Naperville, Illinois, you eye her delectable homemade fudge sauce in neatly stacked jars in the back corner. Any day, month or year.

No wonder her four grandkids think she is the sweetest grandmother ever. Her signature “Heavenly Hot Fudge Sauce,” which she has been making for 20 years, is now affectionately renamed “Mormor’s Hot Fudge” (“mormor” is Swedish for “grandmother”).

Granddaughter Paige, 9, makes it with Nancy to sell annually at a country fair by their summer place in Bethany Beach, Michigan. “She learns how to measure, pour and stir until the sauce is ‘just right,'” says Nancy. There’s a bit of finance that goes into the mix, too. “We shop together and figure out how much each jar should sell for to cover costs with enough left over to give to a nonprofit project. We have fun learning and cooking together. It’s really more about the relationship-building with my granddaughter than the fudge sauce,” she says.

Here’s the recipe with steps to involve school-age kids.

HOT FUDGE SAUCE

Makes 1 quart

4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate bar (in the baking section of your market)

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 12-fluid-ounce can evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Let kids break up chocolate and place in the top of a double boiler with the butter. Stir until melted together. Add salt.

Stir in sugar gradually, making sure it is completely blended before making another addition. Mixture will become very thick and dry.

Stir in evaporated milk, a little at a time. (Shake the can well before adding.)

Continue to cook about 10 minutes to blend the flavors and dissolve the sugar.

An adult should remove from the heat and set on a trivet. Add vanilla and stir. Serve warm over ice cream.

To store in containers: Pour into a quart-size measuring cup with spout and pour into storage containers such as Mason jars. Keep refrigerated

MAKE FRESH PASTA

pasta

Pasta is a favorite national food of Italy, where it is typically cut into a variety of shapes and eaten with a sauce, in a soup or incorporated into a baked dish. But not just in Italy! Kids everywhere love pasta. No wonder it regularly appears on our family table. Mysteriously, though, when the kids were young, they often claimed to love linguine but not spaghetti, or shells but not elbows. And no matter how many times I tried to explain that it’s all the same thing, they insisted, “No! It tastes different!”

Here’s your chance to check it out when you make fresh pasta with kids. They can cut this dough into a variety of shapes right before their eyes. When it’s cooked, they’ll discover one thing is certain — eating fresh pasta (pasta fresca) opens the taste buds to something quite different from the standard dry pasta from a package.  And if, while slurping the pasta into their mouths, you hear, “We like the squiggly shapes better!” you’ll have your answer. Maybe some forms are just a little more fun.

FRESH PASTA
Makes 2 servings
1 cup flour
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
To prepare dough:
Mound the flour on a work surface and make a deep “volcano” with your hands. Break the egg into the volcano.
Beat the egg lightly with a fork while adding water. Continue until smooth, being careful not to break down the volcano walls.
Gradually incorporate flour into the egg mixture from the inside walls of the volcano. (This is a good job for kids to exercise their motor skills and patience.)
Continue to stir in the flour until the dough is stiff. When it is too firm to mix with the fork, knead it with your hands. Incorporate just enough flour to make a ball. (You may not need all of the flour.)
Knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth and pliable. Place the dough on a floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
To make pasta shapes:
Roll the dough out on a floured board into a very thin rectangle. The thinner the better, as the noodles will plump up when cooked. Cut lengthwise into narrow strips with a pizza cutter. Of course, you don’t have to stick to standard forms. Using a small table knife, try different “kid” shapes like wiggly lines, little triangles or stars.
To cook pasta:
Boil the pasta in salted water for 4-5 minutes. Drain and serve with a pasta sauce and cheese. Or, toss into a pot of simmering chicken soup and boil until cooked.

CHOCOLATE ROSES

IMG_3576

Make 10-12 edible chocolate rose garnishes like pastry chefs using this simple recipe.

To make edible chocolate clay:
Ingredients:
10 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 ½ cups)
1/3 cup light corn syrup

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave for about one and a half to two minutes in 30-second intervals, stirring each time. If you don’t have a microwave, use a double boiler.

Add the corn syrup to the melted chocolate. Stir. The lovely smooth mixture will turn into a clay consistency.

Put a sheet of waxed paper on a cutting board or kitchen counter and scoop the chocolate mixture onto it. Spread it out evenly with your fingers until it is about
½- inch thick.
Cover loosely with waxed paper and let it rest for at least 2 hours. The clay will become pliable.

To make a rose:
-Roll ten smooth balls of chocolate clay a bit smaller than the size of a marble and line them up an inch apart on waxed paper. Cover the little balls with a sheet of waxed paper. Press down hard on the paper with your thumb to spread out the clay. Aim for the size of a half-dollar.

-To create petals for a rose, remove one clay disk and curl it into a tepee shape, narrow at the top and wider at the bottom. Wrap the next disk around the opening of the tepee as if you were making it a little door. The third disk goes at the back of the tepee. The fourth along the side. Layer as many of these clay disks as you’d like. Bend back the edges of the disks ever so slightly. Don’t worry if little slits appear because they will make the petals look more natural.

-Set finished rose on a cupcake or other dessert.

Note: Use up the clay the same day while it is pliable. Candy melts (available at craft stores) and/or butterscotch chips may be substituted for the chocolate chips.

CREAM-PUFF HEARTS

QPN20160125

Cream puffs look so fancy, but they are easy to make from scratch with your kids. Really! Give them a try for a special occasion, such as Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. This heart-shaped version with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream between the layers is a delicious treat for celebrating with your family.
CREAM-PUFF HEARTS
Makes 12 hearts.
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving
Strawberries or raspberries, for serving (optional)
Chocolate sauce or confectioners’ sugar, for serving
To prepare oven, baking sheets: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Let your school-age child draw 12 (3-by-3-inch) heart shapes with a pencil on 2 sheets of parchment paper cut to fit 2 cookie sheets. Tell your child to press hard enough as she draws so you see the hearts on the reverse side. (If you need a pattern for drawing the hearts, cut out a heart from an index card or use a similar-size cookie cutter.) Turn parchment over and lay it on cookie sheets.

To prepare dough: An adult should place water, butter and salt in saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to low. Stir in flour until mixture is smooth and forms a ball. Remove from heat. Let stand for 3 minutes. Place in a mixing bowl. Let your child crack eggs into small bowl. Pour eggs into flour mixture. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth and shiny. (Note: Initially, mixture will look like scrambled eggs.)

To form each heart: Drop large spoonfuls of dough onto center of each heart shape on cookie sheets. (Note: I use an ice-cream scoop.) Let your child spread dough with fingers to form each heart shape. (Note: I discovered top “V” of the heart should be extra-wide and low to compensate for expansion of dough. The bottom “V” shape of the heart should be narrow and pointed.)
To bake: Bake for 25 minutes or until slightly puffed and golden. Remove from oven. Cut small slit in sides to release steam. Set aside to cool completely.
To serve: Slice each cream-puff heart crosswise. Spoon whipped cream or small scoop of ice cream on bottom half. Set top half over filling. Top with raspberries or sliced strawberries (cut vertically to make thin heart shapes). Drizzle with chocolate sauce. Or let child use strainer to dust with confectioners’ sugar.

GRAPEFRUIT BAKED ALASKA

grapefruit
I like making this wintry dessert billowing with snowy peaks to eat. Each serving is showy, and elicits ooh’s and ahh’s even on a dark, dreary day.

It’s a take on traditional Baked Alaska you may have enjoyed at a fancy restaurant. This mini version is much easier, using fresh grapefruit in it’s own “bowl” instead of cake. But it still keeps the wow factor with warm meringue on top and chilly ice cream nestled inside.

Timing is everything with this dessert. Do some simple prep work beforehand. Then, as the table is being cleared after your main course, heat the oven and whip the egg whites while your child or friend spoons fruit into the grapefruit bowls and tops each one with ice cream and mounds of sweet meringue.

GRAPEFRUIT BAKED ALASKA
Makes 6 servings

4 grapefruits
6 scoops vanilla ice cream
3 egg whites (1/2 cup) at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

One hour or more before serving:
Cut each grapefruit evenly in half crosswise. Using grapefruit knife, cut out fruit sections. Place fruit in bowl. Drain juice (enjoy drinking it for a snack). If grapefruit is tart, add some sugar. Cover. Refrigerate fruit.
Remove and discard membranes in 6 grapefruit halves to form hollow “bowls.” (Note: Discard 2 remaining grapefruit halves. You need halves from 3 grapefruits for dessert, but fruit from 4 grapefruits to have ample servings.)

To prepare ice cream:
Line tray with wax paper or plastic wrap. Scoop ice cream into 6 rounds. Place on prepared tray. Return to freezer..

15 minutes before serving:
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

To fill grapefruit bowls:
Ask one of your kids to spoon chilled grapefruit pieces evenly into 6 grapefruit bowls. Set bowls on prepared baking sheet.

To make meringue:
In a mixing bowl, use electric mixer set on low speed to beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar. Increase speed. Beat until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while continuing to beat. Let your kids watch as mixture changes and enlarges and glossy, stiff peaks form.

To assemble:
Set one ice cream round in center of each fruit-filled bowl. Immediately spoon glossy, stiff meringue on top. Using butter knife, seal edges around cut grapefruit rim.

To bake:
Bake in the middle of the oven for 5 minutes, or until meringue is golden. Place on dessert plates. Serve Immediately.

Tip: For a special occasion such as a birthday party, top each one with a candle and light.

Note: Use pasteurized eggs, if you prefer.