Hassleback Potato Casserole

Acclaimed food science writer, J. Kenji López-Alt has developed this sort of “mash-up ” ( if you will ) of a classic French gratin, and a beautiful Hassleback potato recipe. The idea is to stand the slices of potato vertically, rather than laying them flat. This ensures each serving receives both a creamy potato serving and a crispy edge in each bite.

This is my adaption.

You’ll Need:

4 to 4 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick slices with a sharp knife of on a mandoline 

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup chicken stock

3 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves removed for the stem

Kosher salt and black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 cups finely grated Gruyère cheese

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 bunch chives, chopped for garnish

Here’s How:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400’F degrees. Combine cheeses in a large bowl. Transfer 1/3 of cheese mixture to a separate bowl and set aside for garnish.

Add cream, stock, garlic and thyme to the cheese mixture, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, add white pepper, and red chili flakes– stir to combine.

Add potato slices and toss with your hands until every slice is coated with cream mixture, making sure to separate any slices that are sticking together to get the cream mixture in between them.

Prepare a 2-quart casserole dish with butter. Place on a high sided baking sheet.

Pick up a handful of potatoes, organizing them into a neat deck stack, lay them in the casserole dish with their edges aligned vertically. Continue placing potatoes in the dish, working around the perimeter and into the center until all the potatoes have been added. The potatoes should be very tightly packed. If necessary, slice an additional potato, coat with cream mixture, and add to casserole. It is important the potatoes are very tight.

Pour the excess cheese mixture evenly over the top of the potatoes in the casserole dish until the mixture comes halfway up the sides. You may not need all the excess liquid.

Cover dish tightly with foil– sprayed on the inside with non-stick cooking spray. Transfer to the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until the top is golden brown, about 45 minutes longer.

Carefully remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and return to oven. Bake until deep golden brown and crisp on top, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let rest for a few minutes,  garnish with chopped chives and serve.

Enjoy!

Earthy Egg Embellishment

Searching for eggs around the yard is an annual tradition for many families in the Spring, but first there is decorating to be done. Dyes are easy enough to find in stores this time of year. No special trip to the store is necessary this year. All the things you need are in or around your house.

Decorating eggs has various historical roots. Eggs are a symbol of Springtime, and new life. The ancient Zoroastrians painted eggs for their new year’s celebration, which falls on the spring equinox. Sculptures on the walls of Persepolis, capital of the Achaemenid Empire, show people carrying eggs to the king. Jewish Passover Sedar calls for hard-boiled eggs called Beitzah dipped in salt. Thanks to craft.com, we have a homemade recipe for your own beautiful eggs.

This year start a new tradition at home by playing with flowers, clovers and pretty leafs as the inspiration for your beautiful eggs. So many things can be used as dye like berries and veggies – yep, a fun way to play with your veggies!

You’ll Need
White eggs
Flowers and leaves to decorate eggs
Pot of water
Dye (onion skins, blueberries, asparagus / spinach…)
1 tablespoon white vinegar to intensify the dye
One pair old nylon stockings (in a color that won’t bleed)
Thread

Here’s How
Cut up your stockings into 4-5″ sections. Tie off one end.

Wash the eggs in mildly soapy water to clean off any oils or residue that might keep the dye from being absorbed.

Dry off the eggs and place them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.
Choose leaves and flowers carefully, looking for interesting and distinctive shapes. Plants that can be pressed flat create interesting two-dimensional graphics.

Carefully place the egg in the stocking pouch. Be careful, your plant could move around. This will get easier with practice.

Tie off the other end of the stocking, making sure the stocking is stretched tightly as possible around the egg to hold your natural inspiration in place.

Add the dye material – blueberries, raspberries, spinach, asparagus – with vinegar and eggs to the water. Boil for 20 minutes. Remember to do the dyes separately. Or, mix blueberries and strawberries and see what happens.

Remove the eggs, cut off the stocking and leaves. Then rinse your eggs. Rub vegetable oil on for a nice finish.

Lastly, share any really special designs with me in the comment section below!

Skinny Garlic Pommes Frites

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In the production of a really good ‘French Fry” the type of fat used to fry with can make all the difference. Not to mention the type of potato and the potatoes sugar content will make a difference as well. Seriously, this subject for scholarly debate! Many establishments that place “Pommes Frites” on the menu are doing the potato justice because they are correctly frying them in animal fat (tallow, lard, duck or goose fat). I think there might be one thing we all agree on– we are all looking for the same great flavor and texture in a skinny pommes frites. If so, this recipe is for you!

Ingredients:
1/8 cup good quality olive oil
4-6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and cut and smashed to paste
Grapeseed cooking spray, or your favorite high smoke point oil
3 russet potatoes, washed and dried
Kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup fresh grated, good quality Parmesan cheese ( optional)
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

 

Method:

Combine the oil and crushed garlic in a large mixing small bowl. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 F- 450°F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. If you use Aluminum, lay a sheet of foil inside baking sheet and spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. This will ensure easy cleanup. Set aside.

Cut the potato lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices; cut each slice into 1/4-inch thin strips. Once cut, pat dry with a paper towel.

Toss cut potatoes in the bowl containing the oil and smashed garlic. Use your hands to evenly coat. Season with salt and black pepper after they have been coated with the oil and garlic mixture. Place oil coated cut potatoes onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake uncovered in the center of the oven until tender crisp and golden brown, about 10 minutes on each side. Remove from oven and toss with cheese and fresh chopped parsley. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately. if you like, serve with my HomeMade Ketchup Recipe at 30 Second Mom

Variations: You can use other root vegetables like sweet potatoes or parsnips.  Or try Yukon gold, or other variety of potato. Increase bake time for sweeter content root vegetables.

Making Fresh Pasta at Home

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Sixteen years ago I designed a cooking school for kids with my then, 6 and 8-year-old daughters. They named it: Kids Culinary Adventures- where math, reading, science and art mix with kids. Although I’ve retired from teaching hands-on to children- and both my kids grew up and onto college. I do continue to food coach parents on picky eaters, on how to shop, and eat healthier.

Several classes at Kids Culinary Adventures were popular, many really stood out and we would need to continually teach them. The class I will be sharing with you today was always a success. It was called,”Have You Lost Your Noodle?”. KCA was popular for anchoring academic through the medium of cooking. This class was no expectation. Have you lost your noodle, was a vehicle to teach at home pasta making and an opportunity to discuss the beautiful history and geography of the noodle. As you might imagine it was a wonderful social studies course as a whole.

As the founder of KCA, my family and I have designed well over 400 culinary classes throughout the years. All  of those classes have been taught in our San Francisco, Bay Area location. Have you lost your Noodle, was no exception. The funny part was – THIS  was the class all the parents wanted to take. The demand was so high– we eventually designed an adult class that would also guide families away from fast, additive free, highly processed and pre- prepared foods. We named this class:”Cook Outside the Box”. Parents were learning how to and cook fresh– and, in as little time as possible.

Making pasta from scratch only seems like a huge undertaking. I’m here to tell you–making fresh homemade pasta can be done in under 30 minutes of hands on attention! (with the exception of the dough’s rest period.) It’s likely you will be spending more time reading about  pasta making— than you will be actually engaged hands-on.


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Before you approach the recipe– here are a few things I’d like to chat about before sending you off with a basic pasta dough recipe— here they are:

About the Flour :

The names, Doppio Zero ( double zero), 00 and 0 flour refer to specifically Italian milled flours used for pasta making.

The Italian grading system is used in many pasta making recipes—and is as follows: 2, 1, 0 or 00. These symbols indicate to how finely the flour is ground, and how much of the bran and germ has been removed in the process. American flour, on the other hand is graded by both– color included:  white, brown, whole meal and by gluten content, or strength. We read names such as:  all purpose, strong, extra strong or similar grammar. The basic rule rule of thumb among cooks is the stronger the flour, the better the bread. The less dense the flour is, the better the cake or pasta. All else being equal, stronger flour is good for stronger bread type textured items. We avoid these characteristics in our cakes and pastas.

If you are looking to make a better pasta, start with a finer flour– all purpose will work too, but 00 flour has been refined more so than the standard all purpose flour or bread flour– which is  higher in protein, and could result in your pasta tough to the bite and chewy.

The bottom line is : All this doesn’t refer to the flours ingredients, as much as it refers to how finely the flour has been ground down. Doppio- zero is great to work with — especially making pasta by hand. It is super-fine, like talcum-powder. Because it is so fine, the whole mixing, folding, rolling process is much easier, and result in a perfect textured product. Italian Grade 00 is a soft flour with around just 9% protein and best for cakes. I use it for pasta too.

Lower gluten = soft flour = cake, pasta, items soft and billowy baked goods
High gluten = hard flour = breads or yeasted items that expand with heat need to withstand the rise of the yeast without blowing the top off the loaves.

Variations: Some cooks like to add fresh chopped herbs. Fresh garlic, or powdered spices to the recipe before mixing and kneading — just make up for the variance of water content if there is one. Some people like to add liquified spinach, or other delicious vegetables. Experiment. The dough will tell you what it needs— by how sticky or dry it is. Listen to it. Start with a basic dough recipe below and gradually begin to add to your repertoire each time you make a new batch. Learn the basics first.

Making dough on a raining day is not for first time learners. The flour will absorb the moisture from the humid atmosphere and make things… well, a sticky situation. Making dough on these days become a bit more time-consuming, among other things. Stick to drier temperatures until you really have the pasta making method down.

Note of Filled Dough: Pasta can be filled with just about anything. The most important thing to remember is: How the dough is cooked and filled. Over-filled or under-fill can ruin your day. If you over-fill the dough, you risk the ravioli or the tortellini popping in the cooking liquid. If you under-fill the dough, you risk the mouth-feel at serving time will be just chewy gob of tasteless dough.

Chefs Secrets:
Adding any type of oil to the water is a no-no — this will stop the pasta from its absorption rate, and the sauce will run off of it instead of adhering the finished product.

Always add a touch of the pasta’s cooking liquid to the sauce. The starch in the water will combine with your other ingredients and become sticky insurance— the results will be a better marriage between your pasta and your sauce.

If making any type of creamy egg-based pan sauce; always add the sauce while the pasta pan is completely off the flame. This reduces your risk of scrambling the eggs in the recipe and instead will result in a beautiful decadent base to blanket your glorious work.

Always cook pasta in boiling salted water.


Basic Pasta Recipe

Ingredients:

3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 Tablespoon good quality olive oil
Pinch of salt
2 cups of low protein flour, such as Italian grade Doppio-Zero flour or American grade AP or cake flour, sifted.

Method:

Whisk eggs and oil in a medium bowl or if you don’t want any clean up in a large plastic food storage bag– but begin on the table if you want the authentic feel. Combine with your finger, the salt and 2 cups flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour, and pour the egg mixture into well.

Gradually incorporate flour mixture into egg mixture with a fork or your fingers– (shaped in a claw ) mix until a shaggy type dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it comes together as a smooth ball. About 5-8 minutes. If the dough is sticky, dust lightly with additional flour as needed. The dough will become family stiff because the protein in the dough is developing gluten strands. These strands are like rubber bands. If the dough becomes too difficult to knead cover it and give it a five-minute rest. This will relax the gluten strands and allow you to get back to work.

Once a smooth ball has been formed from your kneading efforts, shape the ball into a 1/2 inch disk. Wrap in plastic or in a gallon sized food storage bag. Allow to rest until the dough holds an indentation when pressed with your finger, minimum 30 minutes but up to 1–2 hours is fine.


When you are ready to roll—literally

Set a pasta maker to thickest setting. (If you do not have a pasta maker, skip this step and proceed to my notes below). Dust dough lightly with flour and divide into 4 pieces. Working with a single piece at a time and keeping remaining dough wrapped in plastic.

Flatten dough into a narrow rectangle no wider than mouth of machine and pass through the rollers on the highest setting. Alternatively, flatten the dough with a rolling pin.

Fold the outer most edges in from each side overlapping one another, then rotate the whole piece 90 degrees. Run through the rollers again and then repeat without folding or rotating , adjusting the machine to a thinner setting after each pass. Dust lightly with flour if the dough becomes sticky at any point. Continue until the pasta sheet is 1/16” thick— and you can almost see your hand through it, like a fine set of silky sheers, as in,“window treatment”. Usually about an #8 on the dial of most pasta making machines.

Place your newly formed sheets of pasta sheets on a lightly floured surface to dry. Or hang on a clean clothing hanger, covered with a clean lint free dishcloth. The dough can be rolled out into sheets 4 hours ahead. Stack on a baking sheet between pieces of parchment paper; covered. Cut into any shape or form.

Rolling the Dough by Hand
If you don’t have a machine, don’t worry. Use a rolling pin and your body weight to press the pasta as thin as possible. Just like described above—you need to build the pasta in layers, folding it back over itself, and flattening again and again, about 4-6 folds. You will know when its ready when it is very smooth to your sight and touch; and you can roll it out thin enough to see your hand on the other side of the sheet. This method will take a bit longer, but is very achievable. Now cut and shape the dough with a knife or a pizza fough cutter If you’re not making filled pasta. Or you can purchase a Eppicotispai “Chitarra” Pasta Cutter with 32cm/12.5-Inch Rolling Pin

Note: Below is a link to one of the best homemade pasta making website I think I’ve ever seen. Because I am not standing next to you and teaching you hands-on, take a good look at this website. If I was going to design a pasta making photo montage, this is exactly how it would look– scroll all the way through for the best benefit.

 Serious Eats Makes Pasta.

 

 

Loaded – Jalapeno Popper Potato Skins!

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Ingredients:

3-4 jalapeños

2 pounds small round baby potatoes, about 2 inches in size.

2 Tablespoons organic canola or vegetable oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 pound pancetta or center cut strip bacon, cooked crisp, drained of excess fat, and crumbled

Garnish Toppings

1 cup sour cream

1 bunch chives, chopped fine

1 tomato, small diced

10 black olives, chopped fine

Lime wedges

Method:

1-Place oven rack to top position and preheat your broiler to high.

2-Place the jalapeños onto a foil-lined baking sheet and broil,turning occasionally. Broil until skins are black and blistered on all sides. Or place on your outdoor grill for the same affect. Once skins are blisters and blackened,remove peppers to a brown paper lunch bag, or a plastic gallon- sized food storage bag. Seal.

3-When peppers are cool enough to handle, peel away skin with the sharp part of a paring knife scraping away from you onto a paper towel. Slice open and remove seeds. Discard skin and seeds. ( I wear gloves when handling peppers and seeds- do not touch your face. If you get caption on your skin and it is burning, wash with whole milk or anything high in fat. )

4-Dice peppers fine, and add to a small mixing bowl. Add cream cheese and mix well. Set aside at room temperature.

5-Place an oven rack to center portion of your oven. Adjust temperature to 400′ F degrees.

6-While oven is warming. Wash and dry potatoes. Place into a large food storage bag or bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil and the garlic salt. Toss to coat all sides.

7-Place potatoes on a foil lined, high-sided baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center goes in easily. Remove from the oven and set to cool.Turn oven heat up to 450’F degrees.

8-When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise. With a teaspoon gently scoop out warm potato flesh, leaving 1/8″ potato inside the skin — ( save potato flesh, and use for mashed potatoes  during another mealtime)

9-Brush the inside of each halved potato with remaining oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper and place facing up on the foiled lined high sided baking sheet again and place back into the hot over for an additional 10 minutes until dry and edges are getting crispy. Remove and cool slightly.

10- Fill each potato skin with 1 teaspoon roasted jalapeño cream cheese mixture, top with pancetta or bacon and grated cheddar cheese.

11-Broil for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

12-Remove from oven, and serve with sides of sour cream, chopped chives, diced tomatoes, black olives and lime wedges

Serve warm and crispy!

*Make variations by adding grilled and finely chopped, Carne Asade steak or ground taco seasoned cooked ground hamburger to the bottom of the potato skin before filing with cream cheese mixture.

It’s all about the dressing

Summer salads are a great way to explore what’s in season while introducing your little one to new flavors. Dips, dressings, that little something extra is what makes a difference from the little one turning his or her nose up to diving right in. Dressing doesn’t need to come in a bottle. It’s something you can make at home with your little ones. Get them involved. See which flavor they like. Then, try mixing the dressings with produce. What do you like with the raspberry vinaigrette? Is there something that the balsamic is better with? (Try strawberries, feta and spinach with the last one. It’s a simple, warm weather healthy addition to any meal.)

Today, it’s all about the dressings. Maybe you end up with a variety of them in your home to meet individual tastes. That’s OK!! These are homemade and fresh. Each recipe makes enough to dress salad for four. If you find one that everyone likes, consider doubling or tripling the recipes and storing it in a mustard or jam jar. Before to shake before serving. These dressings should stay fresh for a week.

Citrus vinaigrette

  1. In a saucepan, simmer ½ cup of orange juice, ¼ cup lime juice and 2 Tbsp. lemon juice for 4 minutes or until 1/3 cup remains. Pour into a bowl.
  2. Whisk 1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar, minced red chile, a large minced shallot, chopped mint, ½ tsp. each grated orange and lemon zests, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, kosher salt and black pepper.
  3. Whisking continuously, slowly add ¼ cut extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified.

 

Balsamic vinaigrette

  1. Whisk together 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (white or dark), 1 ½ Tbsp. warm water, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard and ½ tsp. of each minced garlic, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Whisking continuously, slowly pour in 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified.

 

Mustard-herb vinaigrette

  1. In a blender, puree 1 hard-cooked egg yolk (this makes the dressing extra creamy, 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp. each grainy Dijon mustard and water, and ½ tsp. each of minced garlic, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. With blender running, slowly add 5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified. Pour into a bowl; stir in 2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon, chervil, basil or parsley.

 

Fresh raspberry vinaigrette

  1. In a blender, puree ¾ cup fresh raspberries with ¼ cup reduced sodium chicken broth.
  2. Scrape puree through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl and discard seeds.
  3. Into the puree, whisk 2 Tbsp. canola oil, 1 Tbsp. each of apple cider vinegar and minced shallot, 2 tsp. Dijon honey mustard and ¼ tsp. each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper until emulsified.

 

Sesame-ginger vinaigrette

  1. Whisk together 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger, 1 tsp. each of minced garlic and sugar, and 2 Tbsp. each of rice vinegar and soy sauce.
  2. While whisking, slowly add ¼ cut peanut or canola oil and 1 Tbsp. toasted Asian sesame oil until emulsified. Stir in 1 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives and 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds.

 

Chipotle-honey-lime vinaigrette

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk 3 Tbsp. lime juice, 1 minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce, 1 ¼ tsp. each or honey and ground cumin, and ½ tsp. each of minced garlic and kosher salt.
  2. Whisking continuously, slowly add 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified. Stir in 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro.

Ice cream waffle sandwiches

You know when you pass by an ice cream shop, there is an intoxicatingly delicious smell that gets you, right? It’s not like ice cream has a scent that travels. It’s the waffle cone – fresh pressed waffle cone – that makes you take an extra second. A big deep sniff in and then you smile; that smell means tasty relief from the warm weather that’s just starting to descend on us now? (I guess that depends on where you live but the Bay Area is on a definite warming streak.)

That’s the kind of thing that makes you think about ice cold ice cream and tasty waffle cones. You know, the fun of trying to eat it fast enough that it doesn’t melt, creating a sticky mess on your hands, but not too fast as to create a headache. It’s a tough world out there. These are the real problems.

One delicious solution is the ice cream sandwich. Have you ever considered making your own waffle to go with the frozen treat? That’s what we’re doing this week. Thanks to a craft from ComeTogetherKids.com, we’re making cake and ice cream sandwiches. It’s a simple concept: Take chocolate cake mix – from the box or the scratch recipe below – and use it to make waffles in a waffle maker. Let the waffles cool the spoon vanilla ice cream on one side. Add a second waffle and enjoy. It’s that simple.

You’ll Need

1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup best-quality cocoa
1 1/2 sticks soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 tsp. good-quality vanilla extract
2/3 cup sour cream

Here’s How

Take everything out of the refrigerator so that all ingredients can be room temperature.

Preheat the waffle iron.

Put all the cake ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, cocoa, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream into a food processor and process until you have a smooth, thick batter. If you want to go the long way around, just mix the flour, sugar and leavening agents in a large bowl and beat in the soft butter until you have a combined and creamy mixture. Now whisk together the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla, and eggs and beat this into your bowl of mixture.

Once you have the mixture, use it the way you would a waffle batter. Pour it into the waffle maker and follow the cooking instructions for your personal machine.

Allow the chocolate waffles to cool. Once cold, take a couple spoonfuls of ice cream – your choice in terms of flavor – and spread it on one waffle. Once you have enough, place another chocolate waffle on top. Then, enjoy!

Planning healthy habits

Did you ever notice how difficult it is to eat healthy when hunger strikes? Your little one wants a snack; you go to the kitchen and start looking around. Often we find ourselves in this situation. The key to keeping it healthy is planning. I know! We’re all busy. In the spirit of spring cleaning and getting organized, consider organizing snacks with a snack station.

Inspired by Realsimple.com, today’s idea is a grab-and-go snack stashes.

Using a larger bin – consider Tupperware, something that can be cleaned easily – place a variety of snacks that can be mixed and matched for treats. You can use snack size sandwich bags to portion out orange slice, baby carrots, celery sticks, pepper slices. You can even rotate these treats to showcase whatever is seasonal, like berries. Include grapes, lunch meat roll-ups (like turkey and Swiss of ham and cheddar), yogurt, string cheese and, for dipping, a jar of peanut butter and hummus.

Make a habit of refilling your snack station one day a week, say Sunday night. Once it’s ready, you can tell your kids to grab something when you’re busy without worry. And, you can pick up a small bag on your way out to the many baseball and soccer games going on. Those chips are tempting, but not the best option for your little one – or you.

How will you personalize your snack station?

Veggie hide-and-seek

Are your little ones eating enough veggies? They probably aren’t specifically asking for extra peas and carrots. That could change by hiding them.

Investigators at Columbia University recently gave this a go. They enlisted 68 elementary and middle school children and gave them two samples to try. One was labeled broccoli gingerbread spice cake and the other simply gingerbread spice cake. The kids didn’t know the cake was the same but they loved the gingerbread spice cake that didn’t have broccoli in the name.

While children were more likely to eat products that didn’t have veggies listed on the label, doctors did encourage parents to introduce their children to a variety of vegetables to find one they like. Then the hiding won’t be necessary.

Let’s give it a try with sweet potato cupcakes with toasted marshmallow frosting. Thanks to Better Homes and Gardens and Lovin’ From the Oven for the recipes, respectively.

Ingredients
For the cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
16 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
17 oz. sweet potato puree
½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; stir together with a fork and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Mix in the sweet potatoes and vanilla extract, beating just until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes; then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it reaches 160 degrees with an instant-read thermometer. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Mix in the vanilla until combined. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.
  5. For a fun extra touch, you can use a kitchen torch and garnish with a sprinkle of brown sugar, if desired.

Mac and Cheese surprise

All kids love macaroni and cheese. Well, not just kids… let’s be honest. Cheese and noodle casseroles started appearing in medieval cookbooks – so yeah, you’re not alone in a love for this wonderful dish. Even Thomas Jefferson was a fan, serving “macaroni pie” at a state dinner in 1802. The recipe by today’s moniker appeared in 1824.

But it doesn’t need to be a completely unhealthy meal. With this Food and Wine recipe there’s some good news: mixing carrot puree with the cheddar cheese creates a wonderful source of vitamin A while reducing the amount of fat in the recipe. And, it’s still tasty.

 

Ingredients

3/4 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Zest and juice of 1 navel orange, zest removed in strips with a vegetable peeler
Salt
3 cups penne rigate (9 ounces)
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
1 Tbsp. chopped tarragon
Freshly ground white pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine the carrots with the zest and juice and 1/4 cup of water. Season with salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderate heat until the carrots are very soft, about 30 minutes. Discard the zest. Transfer the carrots and any liquid to a blender and puree until very smooth.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  3. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the reserved water and the carrot puree and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is coated with a thickened sauce, about 5 minutes. Stir in three-fourths of the cheese and cook, stirring, until very creamy, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Stir in the tarragon and season with salt and white pepper.
  4. Transfer the pasta to a medium baking dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.