Cake for Everyone!

We were having a family gathering and my daughter offered to make a cake for dessert. Great! I’m always open for some help in the kitchen. What she presented at the table was a wonderful surprise and something that pleased everyone. Plus,  it was so simple!

She started with a cake mix and premade frosting, but it’s how she topped and decorated the cake that was special. Knowing that some in the family like toffee, others like peanut butter cups and others like white chocolate, she bought those candies, broke them up and topped the cake with the candy bits, in marked off wedges. She even left one section blank for those who usually don’t want anything to get in the way of their cake and frosting experience.

Everyone loved the dessert and enjoyed getting exactly what they wanted on their cake. Try this handy trick on your next cake. What will you add? Gummy worms? Skittles? Chocolate chips? Potato chips?

Cake with Candy Toppings

“Eat Your Vegetables” – Gladly!

By Edan Goode:

It strikes late afternoon, every day, at least for me. It’s the need to eat something with a big crunch and a little salt. They say we crave something sweet when we’re sad and something crunchy when we’re stressed. As the work day winds down and the kids come home from school, and dinner needs to be made (in other words, the “second shift” of my day), I get stressed and crave something crunchy. Do you experience something similar?

Recently, I discovered a new crunch – chips from a Boulder company named Snikiddy®. The chip brand, “Eat Your Vegetables®” intrigued me because they are

A few of the "Eat Your Vegetables" chip varieties we sampled.

A few of the “Eat Your Vegetables” chip varieties we sampled.

vegetable chips made with a blend of kale, carrots, sweet potatoes, beans and other vegetables. Although they say there is one serving of vegetables per ounce, the flavor does not scream “I’m really a vegetable!” They are just good chips, plain and simple. Eat Your Vegetables chips are made from non-GMO ingredients, are certified gluten-free and have 3 grams of protein per serving.

I love the story behind the name and concept of Snikkidy. The company is founded by Mary Schulman and her mother Janet Owings. When Janet was a little girl, her mother would pack healthy foods in her and her siblings’ lunch boxes. They became known around school as the persnickety kids. That got shortened to Snikiddy kids, which Janet and her siblings were proud to be called. When Janet’s daughter, Mary, became a mom, she was very concerned with the state of children’s health and the types of foods that were available to them, especially in terms of snack foods. The mother/daughter team came up with the company and a line of healthier snacks.

Varieties include Sea Salt (a good, basic chip), Sour Cream & Onion (which my kids liked if they didn’t try to compare them to their favorite potato version), Korean BBQ (spicy and good) and our hands down favorite, Curry. Yup, even the kids liked this one best, surprisingly. It’s a full-flavor, exotic, delicious and super crunchy chip.

Snikiddy also makes Cheese Puffs and Baked Fries. I’m looking forward to trying them too, if they are anything like the Eat Your Vegetables chips. Snikiddy’s products are available nationwide, including at numerous stores in Colorado. Visit their website and click on the Purchase link, put in your zip code and you’ll see which of their products is available at a store near you. They are also available on Amazon.com. You can also print out a coupon on the website.

We were given a variety of chips to facilitate this review. Our opinions are our own and are not influenced by receiving the samples.

Quick and Healthy “Tidbit” Side Dish

By Edan Goode

Lately, I’ve found myself making meals out of tidbits from the fridge. Part of that is because I’ve been super busy lately and just haven’t done the menu planning … or the shopping for said menu planning for a couple of weeks. Ironically, the impromptu, experimental cooking I’ve had to do lately has resulted in some really good meals. For instance, here’s a side dish I made last night that could easily be a vegetarian main dish on its own, with quinoa or polenta. I made something similar the other day and served it over a slice of crusty bread, topped with a sunny side up egg. I’m liking this “tidbit” cooking!

Chard Side Dish 2

The finished product. Isn’t it pretty?

As I started pulling things from the refrigerator to make a side dish, here’s what the various ingredients in front of me formulated into:

Saute a little bacon, onion and garlic. Smells SO good!

Saute a little bacon, onion and garlic. Smells SO good!

Rainbow Chard with Kale, Bacon, Onion and Tomato! 

Ingredients:

Rainbow Chard and/or Kale

Bacon Onion (any variety)

Tomato (any variety-Cherry tomatoes cut in half would be especially pretty)

Directions:

1. Chop up one or two slices of bacon and stir them around in a pre-heated, ungreased skillet. As they start to brown, the fat will render, so that you can add…

2. One onion, sliced or chopped. Saute it with the bacon pieces until the onion starts to become translucent. Add…

3. Two cloves of garlic minced. (Hint, always add garlic after onion because garlic cooks much faster than onion and will burn and turn bitter. You just want garlic to be slightly past the point of being raw to bring out its best flavor.)

4. Add as much chopped and washed Rainbow Chard and/or Kale as your pan will hold, mounding it. Drizzle with olive oil, stir around and cover with a lid.

5. Stir periodically, adding a splash of water if you need to but between the bacon fat, olive oil and slight moisture from the onions, it shouldn’t stick. The greens will cook down. Don’t let them completely wilt. Remove them from the heat when they still look fresh and not a wilted mess. This preserves flavor and nutrition and looks prettier.

6. Near the end, add 1 diced tomato. You are just warming it up, not cooking it down.

7. Finish with a drizzle of fresh lemon juice if you have it (about 1 teaspoon) and a grind or two of sea salt and black pepper.

With something off the grill, this was the perfect meal for the first dinner on the patio of the year!

With something off the grill, this was the perfect meal for the first dinner on the patio of the year!

I served this with grilled pork chops and mini corn meal muffins for a healthier twist on a  Southern-inspired meal. It was delicious. Even my kids loved the greens. Bacon and onion make everything a little better…

Go-To Recipes: One Pot Chicken and Peppers

By Edan Goode:

 

One Pot Chicken and Peppers.

One Pot Chicken and Peppers – delicious the first night and even better the next day.

You may have noticed by now that I don’t like to have to work really hard in the kitchen. I don’t want to do a lot of chopping or take multiple stages for a meal and I really don’t like a lot of cleanup. That’s why this dish is one of my favorites. Better than that, it’s one of my family’s favorites – even the picky eaters who will only eat parts of this meal. There’s a minimum of chopping with this dish, and it all gets thrown in a big pot and then put in the oven.

This dish smells amazing while it cooks. I once had a neighbor yell over the fence into my open window “What are you making? It smells so good!” I gave her some leftovers (which are even better) and this recipe. Add some crusty bread to soak up the juices and this dish is easy enough for a weeknight but impressive enough for company.

One Pot Chicken and Peppers
Serves 6 – with the intention of having leftovers

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs  (I’m a big fan of these because they are equal in size, flavorful and moist)
2-3 potatoes, peeled and cubed (any variety will do)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into wedges
1/2 an onion, cut into fourths
2-3 cloves of garlic
2-3 peppers, red, yellow or orange – not green! – cut into fourths
Approximately 1/4 cup olive oil
1 sprig of rosemary
Salt and Pepper
Juice of half a lemon or lime

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle some olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy pot like a Dutch oven. This can also be done in a Pyrex baking dish but having deeper sides makes it easier to turn all of the contents periodically during cooking.

One Pot Chicken and Peppers.

The beauty of One Pot Chicken and Peppers is that all of the ingredients go in one pot, in no particular order. Easy!

Throw all the ingredients in the pot except for the last four. Then sprinkle the salt and pepper over everything and drizzle the olive oil. Using a spatula or stiff spoon, turn it all over a few times to make sure everything is coated with salt and pepper and olive oil. Break apart the rosemary sprig, scattering the soft needles all around.

Please the pot in the oven for 40-45 minutes, taking it out twice to turn everything over for even cooking. You’ll see an increasing amount of liquid building up as the vegetables begin to release their juices, flavoring everything. Yum!

Once the vegetables are tender (but not mush) and the chicken is cooked through, remove the pot from the oven and give a squeeze of lemon juice over everything.

Scoop out one thigh per person with some of each vegetable (skip the garlic cloves for the wee ones) and serve with a slice of crusty bread. Delicious!

A Family Twist on Cheese and Crackers

By Edan Goode

Recently, I got to take a tour of the factory where 34 Degrees Crisps are made. It was fascinating. I’ve always had a thing for seeing how something is made, watching it come down a conveyor belt, being inspected, packaged up and sent off to the store where it’s in the more familiar form I’m used to seeing.

Where does the name, 34 Degrees come from, you might ask? We did and found out it’s the latitude of Sydney, Australia where the owner, Craig Liberman, attended school. He was so taken with the Australian cuisine, he set out to import some of his favorite products to America, among them, thin crisp crackers. The crackers turned out to be the hottest seller, so Lieberman started making them locally. Cool story, huh?

Nutella and a strawberry slice, on a 34 Degrees Sesame Crisp.

Nutella and a strawberry slice, on a 34 Degrees Sesame Crisp.

I’ve been a fan of these very thin crackers that remind me more of a pizzelle cookie with its irregular edges, substantial but thin texture and decorative stamp on the surface. I first sampled them at Whole Foods when they were served with a soft cheese and fig jam. They were so good and didn’t show up the toppings like some crackers do. So when I had the opportunity to peek behind the scenes, I jumped at the opportunity and in the process learned some neat tricks for families.

After the tour, my fellow bloggers and I were treated to a brief education in taking good old cheese and crackers to a more elevated, yet still doable art. We paired various hard and soft cheeses with different flavors of 34 Degrees Crisps including their natural flavor, whole grain, sesame, rosemary and cracked pepper flavors (they have two new flavors coming out soon but that’s top secret – wait and see). It was interesting to see how the subtle flavor of the crackers brought out certain elements in the flavor of the cheese.

Some topping ideas: Left, baby spinach, smoked trout, goat cheese and chive garnish on Natural Crisps. Right, corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and a cornichon on a 34 Degree Cracked Pepper Crisp.

Some topping ideas: Left, baby spinach, smoked trout, goat cheese and chive garnish on Natural Crisps. Right, corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and a cornichon on a 34 Degree Cracked Pepper Crisp.

Here are some ideas for ways to top 34 Degrees Crisps:

  1. Turn them into dessert by spreading Nutella over a Natural or Whole Grain Crisp (think pie crust flavor), topped with a strawberry half.
  2. Break apart the Rosemary Crisps over a salad as a lighter crouton.
  3. Have a cheese and cracker party for kids to introduce them to new cheeses, offering mild and sharp cheddar, brie, Colby Jack (they’ll like the mottled effect) and gouda.
  4. Set out a bunch of different ingredients including meats, poultry, seafood, cheeses, diced veggies and herbs and get creative with combinations. Vote on your favorites to serve next time.
  5. One great hint for adding toppings was to always put down a small piece of lettuce, spinach or arugula before adding a wetter topping like tomatoes, sour cream or a moister cheese to prevent the crisp from getting soggy-plus it looks pretty.
  6. Spread a thin layer of a nut butter or spreadable cheese over a crisp then let kids design faces or other patterns with chocolate chips, raisins or craisins.

For more ideas for combinations, whether they are just for the family or for an easy party treat, visit the 34 Degrees website, 34-Degrees.com.