Sunday, October 21, 2012

Grandma's Monkey Bread

There's something about smell that evokes memories....the smell of sweet cinnamon bread and freshly brewed coffee wafting through the air, calling you from your bed and into the kitchen.  Such smells not only beckon us now, but trigger fond memories of times past. I'll never forget when my own Grandma came to our house just to make cinnamon rolls with me.  No, memories made in a Grandma's kitchen won't soon be forgotten. Our own kiddos always look forward to coming to Grandma B's house and waking up to Grandma's Monkey Bread....a simple and quick recipe that they had the chance to make with Grandma this morning for the first time.....and with the children, it took about 45 minutes from start to finish.

1 15oz tube refrigerator biscuits (or 2, 7.5oz tubes);
1/2 Cup (or 1 stick) of unsalted butter;
1/2 Cup brown sugar;
1/2 Cup granulated sugar;
1/2 Cup chopped pecans;
1 tsp cinnamon;
1/4 tsp salt

(Note: Grandma uses Immaculate Buttermilk Biscuits, which are non gmo, and free of artifical preservatives, hydrogenated oil and bleached flour. You can find them in the natural foods section of Fred Meyer. However, any refrigerator biscuits will work.)

Open biscuit tin and cut biscuits into 1 inch pieces.
(This is approximately 6-8 pieces per biscuit for a large biscuit, or 4 pieces each for smaller tubes)

Mix together granulated sugar, cinammon, and salt.

Roll biscuit pieces in the cinammon sugar mixture and drop into bundt pan.
(Grandma uses the Demarle Fluted Bundt Mold, saving herself an hour of soaking and scrubbing!
If you are not using a Demarle Flexipan - you will need to heavily grease the pan.)

Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture over the top of biscuits.

Combine butter and brown sugar in bowl and place in microvave on high to melt butter. (Approximately 40 seconds)

Pour evenly over cinnamon-sugared biscuits.

Sprinkle chopped pecans over top.

Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes.

Remove from oven and invert onto plate.

 Grandma's "Little Monkeys" getting ready for their bread! :-)

 Now, go make a memory!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuscan Pizza Bowl

Last night's dinner was pretty exciting.  I've been wanting to try this pizza bowl recipe for a while, and finally the ingredients in my refrigerator aligned with the recipe to make for a quick dinner that the boys were excited to help me make during the girls' nap time.  Well, I should rephrase.  The boys were thrilled at the idea of making a pizza bowl.  (Who wouldn't be?!)  However, when I mentioned it was going to be filled with veggies and no meat, they were not at all pleased.

Yet....there is some magic in having children help you prepare a meal.  Slowly, there is a transfer of ownership.  By the end of our 15 minute preparation time, Caleb had changed his tune from "No!  Not veggie pizza....I can't stand veggie pizza!" "Oh boy! This looks delicious!  I can't wait until it gets out of the oven!"  (I am not making this up!)  The boys ate half the pizza themselves.  Next time, I will make two!

Herb Pizza Dough (For instant gratification, Trader Joes has a great herb dough, ready to roll out. Demarle kitchens also has a good dough mix you can keep in the pantry, or lastly - make your own!); 1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
6 stalks asparagus, chopped; 
1 each red and yellow bell peppers, chopped; 
1/2 bunch of green onions (6-8), chopped; 
1 Cup baby spinach; 
1/2 Cup fresh basil leaves, chopped; 
2 Cups shredded mozzarella cheese;
1/2 tsp sea salt (I use Sel Gris);
1/4 Cup parmesan cheese;
(You could experiment with herb blends too)
Balsamic Vinegar to drizzle
(I love experimenting with flavored balsamics...tonight - Mediterranean & Fig)

Place dough on Roul’Pat or other rolling surface.  
(Note:  I do not use extra flour with the Roul'Pat, for it is completely non-stick....but if needed, add flour to your work area.  Also, I find that a rolling pin well oiled from many uses also doesn't require much additional flour, especially with an oily dough such as pizza.  I used none.)

 Put your children to work! :-) Roll out the circle large enough so that it will drape over your bowl.  If it pools at the bottom like ours did, just roll the edges for a nice thick edge.

Measure it out to make sure it's exactly the right size! (Just kidding - Caleb, like me, prefers precision!)

 Place mold upside down on perforated baking sheet. I used the Demarle Tart Mold. 
Transfer the dough to lay over the inverted "bowl".  
(Note: With the Roul'Pat, it peels right off.  This is how I do pie crust too.)

Trim or roll edges.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 12 minutes until crust is beginning to brown. 

While dough is baking, chop veggies and mix with salt and 1-2 T extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.

Flip the baked dough over, and peel out or remove bowl form. 
Place baked dough directly onto perforated baking sheet.

Brush inside of bowl with approximately 1 T extra virgin olive oil using a pastry brush.

Dump veggies into pizza crust bowl.

Mix cheeses and herbs together, then sprinkle cheese over the veggies. 
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Return pizza to oven for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Applaud the proud little chefs!

 Dinner is served. Enjoy!
(And you just might have enough veggies in this one, you can skip making a salad!)

Recipe adapted from Demarle at Home 2011/2012 Catalog.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Meatloaf Cupcakes with Smashed Potato Frosting

Last night was one of those nights when after too many recent meals of pizza, Subway, or burgers on the go....I really needed just to make dinner at home.  Bedtime needed to come early, and the thought of taking all 6 of us, (cranky ones and all), to a sit down restaurant sounded unpleasant and expensive.  I've also been making an effort to include the children in making dinner at least once a week.  And, as any parent knows, this slows the process by quite a bit. :-)

However, I had no energy and wanted to do nothing but dump, stir, and bake.  Enter.....Meatloaf Cupcakes with Smashed Potato Frosting!! It's something that sounds yummy to the kiddos, is easy for them to help me with, and requires little coaxing for them to eat.  Perfect. 

And on such nights as this, I have no energy for chopping, extensive measuring, or cleaning. THESE are the nights when having some healthy "dump and stir" mixes on hand are critical to successfully eating at home without caving to junk food.  I do have an awesome meatloaf recipe thanks to Rachael Ray.  But again, no chopping or intensive measuring tonight! (Yes folks, despite loving to experiment in the culinary arts, I'm no Supermom.  Some good news though, for those inclined to worry, the word on the street is that she doesn't really exist! )

Ingredients: Wildtree Just Like Mom's Meatloaf Mix, 2lbs Lean Ground Beef, New Potatoes (from our garden!!!), a clove or two of garlic, and I think I also used a couple of eggs, chili sauce, soy sauce, milk, and a pat of butter. 

Proof that the potatoes are from our garden.  But really, just a proud Mama showing off her little boy.  Because when you're almost 5....digging for gold and potatoes are equally as awesome!


Helping Mama. (Thank goodness for mechanical scoops!)
Just under 2lbs of meat did fit into 12, 4oz muffin cups, but they were packed full.

 Pack the meatloaf down into the muffin cups.

 Boil new potatoes and a couple of garlic cloves until a fork can plunge through them easily.

 Drain and "smash" in pot by hand. Drop in a pat of butter and splash of milk.  Salt to taste. (Note: I prefer to use a finishing salt for it's softer, milder flavor.  It doesn't get that "too salty" flavor as quickly. [I used Sel Gris here.] It sounds strange, I know, but you just have to try it to believe it.)

Bake meatloaf cupcakes at 450 for about 20 minutes. 

 Unmold meatloafs from the Demarle Straight Muffin Tray. (Yes - shameless product plug here, and I know meatloaf up close is not pretty, but can you see that you have NO STICKING with no added oil?!  30 second cleanup - max! This virtually eliminates the scrubbing of dinner dishes...every time. 
I LOVE my Demarle Flexipans!!!)

 Frost each cupcake with smashed potatoes. (Yes, the kiddos can help with this part too.)

 Drizzle your favorite bbq sauce, and grind some pepper (for the adults).  For veggies, either throw together a quick salad, or....pull the baby carrot card and call it good! :-)
 Dinner is served!!

 Sit back, relax with a full tummy, and feel good that you avoided the fast food trap! :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Simple Cup of Coffee

Recently, I've spoken with several friends who have mentioned that entertaining is not their gift.  It seems a fair amount of fear is associated with the idea of having people over into their "less than perfect" homes.....(you know - the kind that isn't perfectly polished, features a laundry pile rivaling Mt. Vesuvius, has a few dust bunnies hopping about, splattered windows, sticky counters and floors, piles of shoes cluttering the entryway - right next to the baskets where they belong, and papers scattered about).  Oh, wait! I just described the state of my house....most of the time.  You might have happened upon it once or twice in a fully clean state, "Martha Stewart Style" but not likely....and not often. 

My friends also mentioned major trepidation surrounding their cooking and baking skills.  People often don't feel comfortable cooking or baking for people, because they either don't know any good recipes, feel that theirs are inferior, or the whole process just takes too much time and energy.

Overall, the consensus is that the process and time associated with cleaning and preparing food for guests is just too stressful!  So, they don't often entertain guests.  Period.

Hence....the genesis of this post.'s the deal.  Similar to the issues the modern man or woman faces when staring into the face of airbrushed perfection via magazines or larger than life window decor, we also face that same pressure for perfection when viewing model homes, Better Homes & Gardens, and Food magazine. Sure, I don't know anyone who doesn't enjoy passing through the pages of a well illustrated food magazine.  I could personally look at them for hours.

But amazing recipes, clean houses, and beautiful food aside.....I encourage you to think to the heart of the reason that people visit each other in the first place: relationship.  People love to feel invited and welcome. From my own experience - when I enter a home that appears "lived in", I simply feel relaxed and at home.  I don't have to run all of the guilty and insecure thoughts through my head regarding why I can't also constantly maintain such a standard....(despite having 4 small kids at home).

So, I implore you to ask yourself the following questions next time you feel hesitant to call someone for a morning play date or a last minute dinner invitation:

  •  How do I feel when I walk into someone's messy home?  Am I disgusted and judgmental?
  • When I am invited to someone's home, am I upset when the food presented before me is not perfectly presented or gourmet?
  • Does it bother me when someone else doesn't cook with all organic or whole grains?
  • Am I insulted if I'm not offered muffins or treats every place I visit?  
  • Do I truly mind if the coffee I'm offered isn't the best?
I'm going to guess that you answered "no" to all of the above questions.   And, while food is a valuable thing indeed,  (after all, we can't live without it.....and our social lives often center around it), relationships matter even more.

Might I then suggest, my friend, that you start with a simple cup of coffee.  Some like cream and sugar.  Some like it black.  Instructions either come with the pot or are on the bag of coffee.  Most resources say 2 Tbsp ground coffee per 6oz water.  We all have our preferences.  If coffee seems like too much - offer tea.  It can't get much easier than hot water and a tea bag. Even a glass of water will do.

Once you have broken your initial entertaining "comfort barrier", you can experiment by slicing up fruit, baking a simple cookie recipe, or having pizza and salad for dinner.  I hope you'll find some great recipes and entertaining ideas here on my blog! 

Opening your home to guests can be a fun, rewarding experience.  It can be a chance to dabble in the "art of food", to decorate and explore, to try new things.  You can delight and surprise your guests with details meant to make each of them feel special.  However, before any of this can take first have to be willing and comfortable to invite. a simple cup of coffee.....and friendship!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Jungle Monkey

Not to be dramatic with the recipe titles here, but when you have 4 small children age 6 and under, creative naming goes a long way in creating recipe favorites (especially when trying to "sneak" in some nutritious elements!)

The Jungle Monkey has become our family's "go to" for a super quick meal replacement or nutritious afternoon snack....and the kiddos love it, because it is a chocolate shake!!!

Ingredients: 3 Bananas, 3-4 Cups Ice,  1 Generous Cup Spinach, 1 Cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk, 1/4 Cup Natural Peanut Butter, 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, 2 Tbsp Honey, 2 Tbsp Flax Meal

Makes about 8 Cups

I place all ingredients into my Vitamix in the ingredient order listed above.
(The key here is to have the large, soft fruit at the bottom to get the blades engaged and processing. Then the ice and spinach are easily incorporated and completely blended.)

Turn the blender to high, using the tamper as necessary to push the ingredients into the blade while processing.  And, in about 30 seconds......your Jungle Monkey is ready to serve (possibly in the car en route to your destination!)

Note: Spinach is a nutrient dense, antioxidant rich addition to many smoothies.  It has a sweet, mild flavor that can be easily incorporated into the recipe without changing it's flavor.

However, it is key to make sure you don't add more spinach than will be masked by your other fruits or sweeteners.  (Trust me, I have pushed the envelope on this one and lost!)  I suggest you start with the ratios I suggest, then alter the amounts based on your own families' taste.  For instance, increasing the amount of unsweetened cocoa will darken the color of the drink, but will require more honey....but increasing both will further mask any spinach "over dose" errors, whereas adding more peanut butter can end up dominating the flavor balance of the drink.

Also, using local, raw honey has the added benefit of helping to ward off / lessen allergies.

Enjoy...and happy experimenting!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Baked Egg & Ham Cups

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day....the one that lights the "kindling" for the metabolic fire that is to burn and sustain us for the rest of the day.  Because of this, it's best to start off with a balanced meal including both complex carbohydrates and protein. 

Yet, around our house, (and I'm guessing we're not alone here), mornings are a bit rushed and hectic! We scramble about trying to get 4 kiddos dressed, fed, and in the car to drop our oldest off to 1st grade, and my husband tries to beat the rush out the door.
Enter..Baked Egg & Ham Cups! Taking less than 5 minutes to prep and get into the oven, and 20 mintues to bake...a batch of these can get the family through a couple of breakfasts...(more if you're not a family of 6!).  The best part of this is - it's a super simple recipe that the whole family will eat.

Ingredients:  a dozen eggs, 3 pieces of sliced ham (or 12 pieces of deli meat), & garlic powder. 

(Possible Accompaniments: Whole Grain English Muffin, Laughing Cow Cheese, Favorite Sauce, Spinach, or Arugula)

I cut the ham into 4 pieces/slice, and place 1 slice in each cup of my Demarle Straight Muffin Tray;

Crack 1 egg into each of the 12 muffin cups and sprinkle with garlic powder;

Bake at 350F for 20-22 minutes;

Let cool for a few minutes, then remove from pan and serve! (I like them on a toasted whole grain English muffin with a wedge of Laughing Cow Light cheese.  It is also delicious to take this base and add some arugula or spinach and drizzle with your favorite sauce.)

 Left overs stored for tomorrow's breakfast on the go!


Note: While you might be tempted to add salt before baking, I find the salt makes the egg whites a bit tougher when baked in this way.  Hold off on adding any salt until you are ready to serve.  I find the garlic and ham go a long way in flavoring the eggs, and I often don't add salt at all.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Just Married!

The Marriage of Culinary Adventure and Blogging in Mama Ann's kitchen has finally taken place.  Because experimenting with food is my passion, and writing is my best form of expression - the collision of the two was inevitable.

I don't have a fancy camera yet (hints to the family and husband).....but oddly, if not surprisingly, I have been taking pictures of my food for a very long time, so I may indeed be able to dip back into the past for a few pictures and recipes alike!

I am known to be a bit of a "Pinch and Dasher", often substituting a little of this for that, so it's hard to nail down my recipes.  But to the end of capturing it all in my blog....I'll give my best shot!

My culinary goal is to delight the taste buds and please the eye using whole, natural foods, avoiding preservatives and making healthy choices as often as possible.  I'm not a purist in this....nor am I seeking perfection.  I simply try to make the best choices I can whenever I can.

If you're interested in following our family's Life Bites in addition to our Culinary us on over at Gerber to Gourmet. (Yes, by the title of my "Life Blog", you can tell that food may indeed be at the very center of my existence!) :-)

Patience may be the key to our Blogger-Reader relationship, for Cook-Bake-Write though I love.....laundry, dishes, and the wiping of dirty faces and sticky hands consumes the majority of my time.  And how could I forget the snuggles and stories?  I wouldn't trade a minute of those...for anything!

So, then, shall we embark, Dear Reader?  From this day forward.....