Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Feeding Minds and Creating Life-Long Readers #MomsMeet #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Moms Meet
I received complimentary product for the purpose of review, 
but all opinions are honest and they are my own. This page may contain affiliate links.

If you follow my blog, you'll know that I focus on food and our family's culinary adventures; I also write about food inspired by books that I've read. This is slightly different in that I'm writing not about actually food. I'm focusing on feeding kids' minds and creating life-long learners.

In a blink of an eye, it seems, they go from this...


...to this.


My boys are never far from books! This is R just after two different signings with his new books. The first was meeting Greg Mortensen in 2010 and the second from meeting Andy Weir just last week.



Through my association with Moms Meet -I received a selection of books from National Geographic, including Hey Baby: A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature's Nursery. You might think it an odd book for a mother of two teenage boys to read and review, but we have shelves full of books just like this; they have always preferred books about natural history to pure fiction. So, I've read many, many of these kinds of books over the years. And this one is a beauty.


My Thoughts on the Book
This book is a delight to look at and to consume...kinda like a beautiful dish. There are vivid photographs and engaging stories and poems in addition to the purely factual information about all the animals and their habitat. The book is organized by habitat. We particularly enjoyed the folktales from around the world. And while you might think this is a children's book, all of us in our household - from ages 13 to 44 - enjoyed consuming text and images. We sat on the couch and took turns selecting a page and sharing it.

Why Read to Them?
When you read to your kids, you form a habit of reading. They see reading as part of life...kinda like eating. Yes, I always do bring my posts back around to food. My boys always have a book tucked into their bags - or my bag - when we go to events. It helps pass the time!


My husband and I joke that some parents take their teens to rock concerts. We take our kids to author meet-and-greets. Just last week we drove up to Santa Cruz to hear and meet Andy Weir, the author of The Martian and, newly released,  Artemis. "He's a rockstar, Mom!" they both quipped. I agree.

 Can you spot us in this seas of nerdiness? [photo by host Bookshop Santa Cruz]


When you have readers, they are constantly learning. Each book can transport them to a time or place, especially if it's a historical work. Books can challenge them to think about concepts in different ways.

Readers are life-long learners. And this process starts waaaaaay before they themselves know how to read. So, I'll get off my soapbox, but just do it. Read to your kids! And books such as these are engaging ways to get them excited about reading.

Giving Back and Where to Buy
Purchases of National Geographic Kids books support National Geographic Society in their efforts in conservation, research, and exploration. You can purchase Hey Baby! and other titles from stores such as Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million, from local independent bookstores, from mass merchants such as Target, Costco, Walmart, and from Amazon.


You may find National Geographic...
on the web
on Twitter

Disclosure: I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program,
May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.

Oklahoma Cookies v. 2017


If you've been following my blog for awhile, you'll know the history of these cookies. They are always my first large batch of holiday cookies each year because now I can laugh about it. And the boys get a kick out of hearing the story while they eat them. But, when it happened, I cried and cried. You can read about The Great Oklahoma Cookie Diss of 2003.

This year's version includes twp different kinds of nuts and some coffee extract that gives them a little bit of a mocha flavor. They are so tasty.


Ingredients makes approximately 5 dozen cookies
  • 4 C semisweet chocolate chunks, divided in half
  • 2-2/3 C flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t freshly ground sea salt
  • 1 C butter
  • 1 C organic dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 t pure coffee extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 C dried cranberries
  • 1 C raw pecans, chopped
  • 1 C slivered almonds
  • 1 t ground cinnamon

Procedure
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt 2 C chocolate in a double-boiler  over low heat.

Stir until smooth and remove from heat. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter, sugar and coffee extract in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in melted chocolate. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in remaining 2 C of chocolate, cranberries, cinnamon, and nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoon onto silicone or parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are slightly puffed. Cool on baking sheets for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely. Enjoy!


Success! Now I just need to make another batch. Because, by the time my cookie monsters were finished, I didn't have enough cookies to package up for other people...and certainly not enough for the cookie tray I need to be filling for D's Christmas party on Friday.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pickled Chard Stems


Somewhere, awhile ago I read a recipe for pickled chard stems. If you have read my blog for any amount of time, you'll probably know that I love to pickle things. Anything. Along with the usual pickles - cucumbers (though they were a Japanese smashed pickle), carrots, and beets - I've pickled Golden CauliflowerPeppersRed OnionsGreen TomatoesRadishes, and even Blueberries and CranberriesBut, it never occurred to me to pickle chard stems! If I happen to be making stock, I'll toss the stems in; otherwise, they go straight to the compost bin.


And, since I couldn't find the original article I read about pickling chard stems, I just decided to make up a pickling recipe. As I mentioned, I'm a pickling fiend.


Ingredients makes 1 cup
  • about 1 cup chopped chard stems (any color, I used rainbow chard)
  • 2 t salt, divided
  • 1 t dill seeds
  • 1 t fennel seeds
  • ¼ C apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ C rice vinegar
  • 3 T raw cane sugar
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, destemmed



Procedure
Rinse and chop your chard stems into bite-sized pieces. Place them in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle them with 1 t salt. Toss to coat and set aside.

Place the vinegars, sugar, and 1 t salt in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Swirl and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat, stir in the dill and fennel seeds. Let the brine cool.


Rinse and drain the chopped stems and place them in a jar, cover them with the brine and refrigerate overnight before eating them. I used them as a flavor foil to a creamy lobster roll. I also served them with a fennel slaw and pickled okra.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Coffee is the Foundation of My Food Pyramid #FoodieReads


Let's just start with this: Coffee is the foundation of my food pyramid. And this book tells me that I'm not alone. Coffee Gives Me Superpowers by Ryoko Iwata*.


This is a really cute book that's fun and educational with just the right amount of snark (which I just learned is actually a combination of 'snide' and 'remark'! That makes total sense.)

Fun
The Coffee Snob: "...it's pronounced 'espresso', not 'eXpresso.' Also real coffee must first be cleansed in the tears of sacred Peruvian yaks. Also, I have no friends" (pg. 13).

On why it's called a 'cup of Joe', after Josephus Daniels: "Coffee became a clean and righteous substitute for booze and debauchery. Coffee = Bean juice from Jesus" (pp. 79-81).

Educational
Okay, I have been known to scoff at Starbucks drinks. I mean, they really taste like dessert in a cup. Now I have calorie counts...and will never order any of these creations. Seriously. "Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha = 520 calories or the equivalent of 3.7 cans of Coca-Cola" (pg. 61).

World's Most Expensive Coffee: "Black Ivory Coffee, which comes from elephant poop, is now the most expensive coffee in the world at 2 cups for $50" (pg. 17). No, just no.

If you make coffee a routine part of your day, you'll get a kick out of this book.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.

Here's what everyone else read in December 2017: here.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Sips Worth Sharing #WinePW

Today the Wine Pairing Weekend crew is posting about Giving the Gift of Wine. You can read David's preview on Cooking Chat. It's timely as we race headlong into the holiday season.


As Christmas approaches, I always tend to have extra wine bottles on hand...in case people drop by and I want to uncork something or in case we are invited somewhere and I need a quick hostess present. Also, wines are a favorite gift for most of my circle. So, there's lots and lots of wine swapping.


But this Wine Pairing Weekend event was the first time I actually stopped to think about why I pick the bottles that I pick as well as which bottles I share the most.

Giving the Gift of Wine
Here are the topics the #winePW crew will be covering: 

Be sure to check on Saturday morning for these great articles! We will also hold a live Twitter chat on Saturday, Dec. 9., 11 am Easter Time / 8 a.m. Pacific. Just tune into the #winePW hashtag on Twitter at that time to join the conversation. You can check out past and future #winePW topics by visiting this page.


Sips Worth Sharing
I put out a call for favorite bottles and came up with a list of bottles I need to track down. But what I decided to share with this post boils down to this: share sips and bottles that, first, you have actually tried and, second, have a great story you can share with the recipient. That's it.

And the best gifts are the bottles you actually want to squirrel away for yourself! A few of my favorites are bottles from Hundred Suns (it's like Bottled Poetry), Donkey & Goat (love that they have an 'esoteric' category in their wine list), Pierce Ranch Vineyards (a Spanish and Portuguese emphasis right here on California's central coast), and I. Brand & Family Wines (local-to-me winemaker who was named by Wine Enthusiast Magazine to its "40 Under 40: American Tastemakers" in 2012...and, yes, it was well-deserved). Additionally, I always have a case of prosecco ready at this time of year because Italian bubbles always make me smile and it's a good bet that almost everyone enjoys a good bottle of sparkling wine.

Mocha Crinkle Cookies #ChristmasCookies #Sponsored #Giveaway

 This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Nielsen-Massey, a #ChristmasCookies sponsor.
I received complimentary product for the purpose of review and recipe development,
but all opinions are honest and they are my own. This page may contain affiliate links.


December always means Christmas cookies. Lots and lots of Christmas cookies. I was excited to see that Ellen at Family Around the Table was organizing a week-long event surrounding cookies...and what a week it has been! She has also created a giveway from one of our event sponsors. I hope you enjoy the recipes my fellow bloggers have shared to celebrate the cookie season. Get baking!


Nielsen-Massey + A Giveaway
Nielsen-Massey Fine Vanillas & Flavors is giving one winner a set of their pure flavors: 2-oz each of Orange, Lemon, Peppermint, Almond, Chocolate, Coffee, Rose Water, and Orange Blossom Water.

Nielsen-Massey Vanillas has been crafting the world’s finest vanillas and flavors since 1907. Each of Nielsen-Massey’s all-nature pure flavors are crafted with premium ingredients, sourced from around the world and chosen to meet the utmost quality standards. From lemon to peppermint to coffee or chocolate, Nielsen-Massey’s pure flavors offer convenience, quality and consistency to ensure your favorite recipes taste delicious every single time. All products are gluten-free, allergen-free, GMO-free, all-natural and Kosher.


Saturday's Cookie Tray

Mocha Crinkle Cookies

These are so easy to make, but are rich and yummy. They definitely satisfy any chocolate and coffee cravings I have. 


Ingredients
  • 1-1/2 C lightly packed organic dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 t pure coffee extract (prefer Nielsen-Massey)
  • 1 t coffee liqueur
  • 1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 T instant espresso powder
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t fleur de sel
  • 1/4 C raw pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 C organic powdered sugar (for coating)

Procedure
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, eggs, coffee extract, and coffee liqueur. Mix until smooth. Fold in cocoa powder, espresso powder, flour, baking powder, salt, and pecans until just moistened.

Roll tablespoon-sized pieces of dough into balls. Roll each ball in powdered sugar until nicely coated.


Place on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes. 


Finish cooling on wire racks. Serve with a strong coffee or espresso.

You may find Nielsen-Massey on the web, on Twitter, on Pinterest, and on Facebook.

*Disclosure: I received product for free from the sponsor for recipe development, however, I have received no additional compensation for my post. My opinion is 100% my own and 100% accurate.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Honningkagehjerter #ChristmasCookies


December always means Christmas cookies. Lots and lots of Christmas cookies. I was excited to see that Ellen at Family Around the Table was organizing a week-long event surrounding cookies. She has also created a giveway from one of our event sponsors. More on that soon! For now, I hope you enjoy the recipes my fellow bloggers have shared to celebrate the cookie season. Get baking!


Friday's Cookie Tray
Honningkagehjerter &Apologies
I am apologizing, in advance, to my favorite Danes because I have taken my usual culinary liberties with this traditional Danish Christmas gingerbread cookie. Undskyld på forhånd! Sorry in advance, Rikke, Mette, Ulla, Danya, and Stella.

Honningkagehjerter = Honning (honey) + kage (cake) + hjerter (hearts)

If you plan to make this, please read through completely. The dough must sit, refrigerated, for two days before it can be rolled and baked. So, don't plan on making and baking these on the same day.

There is something magical about making Honningkagehjerter dough. The texture. The scent. It's magnificent. It's hard to wait the two days to bake them...


One thing that posed challenging - the original recipe calls for hjorthornssalt which is baker's ammonia; hjorthornssalt was originally made from the ground antlers of reindeer. I substituted baking powder and hoped for the best.

Part I

Ingredients
  • 1-1/2 C organic light brown sugar
  • 1/2 C honey (I used a pine honey)
  • 1/2 C blackstrap molasses
  • 1-1/4 C butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 t ground cinnamon
  • 2 t ground cloves
  • 2 t ground ginger
  • 2 t ground cardamom
  • 8 C flour
  • 2 t baking powder

Procedure
Place sugar, honey, molasses, and butter in a saucepan and cook until the butter is melted. Whisk the eggs and spices into the mix. Sift flour with baking powder and knead the dough thoroughly. Wrap and place in the refrigerator for two days.

Part II

So after the dough has been in the fridge for two days, pull the dough out and let it come to room temperature to make it easier to roll. Roll the dough out between pieces of parchment paper.

Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Place them on a baking stone. Bake at 370 degrees for 15-17 minutes.

Let cool completely then melt semisweet chocolate in a double-boiler. Paint the tops of the cookies with a layer of chocolate.

For a more traditional look, press decorative bits of paper into the chocolate before it cools completely. Here's what Honningkagehjerter look like when they are made by a real Dane...


And here's what they look like when they are made by an American of Filipino descent who learned to cook in Italy...


This is the version I made for #ChristmasCookies Week.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Coffee-Kissed Pizzelle #ChristmasCookies #Sponsored #Giveaway

 This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Nielsen-Massey, a #ChristmasCookies sponsor.
I received complimentary product for the purpose of review and recipe development,
but all opinions are honest and they are my own. This page may contain affiliate links.

Nielsen-Massey + A Giveaway
Nielsen-Massey Fine Vanillas & Flavors is giving one winner a set of their pure flavors: 2-oz each of Orange, Lemon, Peppermint, Almond, Chocolate, Coffee, Rose Water, and Orange Blossom Water.

Nielsen-Massey Vanillas has been crafting the world’s finest vanillas and flavors since 1907. Each of Nielsen-Massey’s all-nature pure flavors are crafted with premium ingredients, sourced from around the world and chosen to meet the utmost quality standards. From lemon to peppermint to coffee or chocolate, Nielsen-Massey’s pure flavors offer convenience, quality and consistency to ensure your favorite recipes taste delicious every single time. All products are gluten-free, allergen-free, GMO-free, all-natural and Kosher.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thursday's Cookie Tray

Coffee-Kissed Pizzelle
Last year the Enthusiastic Kichen Elf's godparents gave him a pizzelle maker for Christmas. I groaned inwardly when he opened it - another kitchen tool to take up cabinet space, another kitchen tool that only has one purpose, another...[imagine much grumbling]. But D loves making them! I don't care for sweets too much, but these cookies are amazing...and simple. Perfect!

He has made many different versions, but this one uses the coffee extract I received from Nielsen-Massey as a sponsor gift for #ChristmasCookies Week.


Ingredients
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 t pure coffee extract (prefer Nielsen-Massey)
  • 1 t pure almond extract
  • 1 3/4 C flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 C melted butter
  • zest from 1 organic lemon
  • oil for greasing the pizzelle maker (he used a non-aerosol grapeseed oil spray)

Procedure
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, coffee and almond extracts until well combined. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour  and baking powder.

Add the melted butter to the egg mixture. Then, with a wooden spoon, fold in the flour mixture and the lemon zest. The batter will be thick.

Heat your pizzelle iron. Lightly grease with oil. Cook the pizzelle according to the instructions that came with your iron. D's suggested 1 to 2 t of batter per pizzelle.


The pizzelle cook rapidly, browning in about a minute or two. D used a setting between 3 and 4 on his machine. Remove the pizzelle from the iron, and cool. As the pizzelle cool, they will harden. 


Repeat till all the batter is gone. You can use a pair of kitchen shears to trim any ragged edges. Or leave them rustic.


He served them with small bowls of coffee-scented whipped cream. Oh. My. Goodness.



You may find Nielsen-Massey on the web, on Twitter, on Pinterest, and on Facebook.


*Disclosure: I received product for free from the sponsor for recipe development, however, I have received no additional compensation for my post. My opinion is 100% my own and 100% accurate.

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