Friday, April 30, 2010

Clara’s Cold Lunch Corner Week 2

See that plain looking lunch up there? It's good enough to eat, but now I'm inspired. Totally and completely inspired by ABQ Bento Mama’s lunches. Does that mean I’ll do anything cool like her? Um, probably not, I’m not that talented! But her children have the coolest mom around. They get clowns, monsters, pirate chips, monster trucks, and princesses in their lunches! How the heck can one person be so darn talented? God, I’d hate to be the poor kid sitting next to Bento Mama’s kids with my plain old PB&J!

I try to do a little variety, and some substance, but Clara’s lunches will never be as cool as Hello Kitty, or an apple frog eating corn dogs. I’ve spent hours marveling over this woman’s handiwork. She’s brilliant.

So my question this week is, what do you do to keep your children’s lunches or your own lunches interesting? I’m finding myself doing a lot of repeats lately and could use some inspiration.

As for last week’s contest, my sweet geeky husband did the random number thing and Robin was picked. Congratulations Robin you get the food thermos and food guide.

Last thing before I go, Laptop Lunches is currently having a closeout on original bento boxes if you like the smaller size bentos.

Clara’s Cold Lunch Corner Week 2

Lunches are large enough to finish up as a snack on the bus ride home.

Week of April 26th-April 30th 2010.
1. Laptop (Picture above)
Medium covered- ½ bagel with cream cheese.
Medium covered- Carrot sticks, mini container of bleu cheese dressing, 1 strawberry.
Small covered- Pistachios
Small covered- Oregon Fruit Combo Berry Compote

2. Laptop
Large uncovered- Whole grain hot dog bun with mustard, mayo, ham & cheese. Carrot coins in a snack bag. 1 Fairytale Brownie. Thanks Tricia for the brownies!
Small covered- Strawberries
Small covered- Peanuts, organic raisins and mini pretzels.

3. Laptop
Medium covered- Grapes with berry sour cream dip in covered mini container. (Berry jam pureed with sour cream.)
Medium covered- Sandwich bites on homemade simple whole wheat bread with cream cheese & huckleberry jam.
Small covered- Homemade graham crackers
Small covered- Garden Veggie Straws (Costco)

4. Laptop
Medium covered- MorningStar Farms Chik’n Nuggets. Mini container organic ketchup.
Medium covered- Watermelon chunks
Small covered- Annie’s White Cheddar Bunnies crackers
Small covered- Organic sour gummy cubs

5. Laptop
Medium covered- Two mini samosa tacos with homemade tortillas.
Medium covered- Organic whole grain pretzel sticks (Costco). Small covered container stone ground mustard.
Small covered- Cashew clusters (Costco).
Silicone cupcake cup- Cutie Clementine
Tucked in side- Two Stretch Island Fruit Leathers (Costco again)
Liquid thermos- Cold milk

By Laura Flowers.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Brussels Sprout Bacon Potato Hash

This hash is one of my favorite foods in the whole wide world. Bacon, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, garlic, onion, Parmesan cheese and a touch of hot sauce make up this heavenly dish.

The picture isn’t my favorite however. I didn’t have time to set up the shot and was running out of light. I ended up opening my aperture to f/2.5 to grab a steady picture, which I dislike, but the recipe more than makes up for the bad photograph I promise!

I feel like I’m chasing my tail this week. I can’t keep up to save my life! Anyone else feel this way? It can’t just be me can it?

Brussels Sprout Bacon Potato Hash

I make this hash in a ginormous skillet. If you don’t have one you can cut the recipe in half, or make in batches.

1 ½ pounds Russet potatoes
5 slices Applewood Smoked Bacon, nearly frozen
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts
1 onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, rubbed between palms of hands
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley
Lots of freshly cracked pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup MSG free chicken broth
A few shakes of Tapatio Salsa Picante Hot Sauce, or hot sauce of choice
1/2 to 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

1. Scrub potatoes and stab all over with a fork. Place on a paper towel lined plate and microwave on high until pierced easily with a knife. Cool a bit, peel off skins and cut into large dice. Set aside.

2. Clean and peel outer leaves from Brussels sprouts. Cut off stems and cut into quarters. Set aside.

3. Cut nearly frozen bacon into small strips. (Bacon cuts easier frozen). Place bacon in a very large skillet over medium to medium high heat. Cook until crispy. Turn off heat and remove bacon from skillet with a slotted spoon and strain on paper towels. Leave bacon grease in the pan.

4. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet. Turn heat to medium high and add diced onion, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cook until translucent and add Brussels sprouts. Cook until softened.

5. Clear a small area of the skillet and add minced garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or just until fragrant then mix into the sprouts. Add potatoes and warm through. Add chicken broth and hot sauce and stir.

6. Let potato mixture brown and crisp with chicken broth, folding the mixture occasionally. This may take awhile. Hash will be done when there are some crispy parts, the broth is absorbed, and everything is heated through. Stir bacon and Parmesan cheese into hash, taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasonings if needed.

Recipe & photograph by Laura Flowers.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Apricot Almond Biscotti

Biscotti are genius. I mean, who would have thought if we used the Italian word for cookie we could eat our favorite treats for breakfast? I wonder if Italians say “cookie” to ease their breakfast guilt? Ok, so probably not.

Anyway, I adore this biscotti recipe so much I don’t make it very often. They’re too dangerous to my shrinking pants to have sitting around the house. A couple are fine, but I’m much too fond of these things. On those rare days there's apricot almond biscotti here I tend to brew a large pot of coffee, and God forbid I let good coffee and excellent biscotti go to waste. Instead it tends to go to waist! Unless I can get them out the door and into the innocent hands of unbeknownst friends quickly enough.

Apricot Almond Biscotti
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup almonds, toasted and chopped into large pieces
¾ cup finely snipped dried apricots (toss in a couple tablespoons of flour so they don't sink to the bottom of your cookies)

1. In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 second. Add sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon; beat in as much flour as you can with mixer. Stir in any remaining flour, almonds, and apricots. Divide dough in half. If necessary, cover and chill until easy to handle.

2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

3. Shape each portion into a 9-inch log. Place 4 inches apart on cookie sheet. Flatten logs slightly until about two inches wide.

4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let logs on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Cool logs on a cookie sheet on a wire rack for 1 hour. Save the parchment to reuse.

5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With a serrated knife, cut each log diagonally into ½ to ¾ inch slices (picture above). Lay slices cut side down on the parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Turn slices over and bake for 8 to 10 more minutes until dry and crisp. Transfer cookers to cooling rack to cool.

Recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book, 1998, with slightly rewritten instructions for clarity. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Welcome to Clara's Cold Lunch Corner

I’ll start off with the giveaway so you can skip the article if you’d prefer. Leave a comment about your favorite school lunch as a kid, or your child or grandchild’s favorite school lunch for a chance to win “The Laptop Lunch User’s Guide” and a Laptop Lunch Food Thermos. The thermos is too big for one person, but would be great for a picnic for two. Winner will be announced next Friday at the second post for Clara’s Corner.

Clara is my 2nd grade daughter and this series is a peek into her lunches, tastes, likes, and dislikes. We try to stay on the healthy side, but treats and some processed food are often part of the meals. Clara’s eating reflects mine of course, and she likes a lot of vegetarian and vegan foods. These lunches are a fun journey and they evolve as her tastes change. Right now she’s at a neat age where she likes adult food, but doesn’t shy away from fun kid food.

I don’t expect you to take my ideas and use them directly, as we all have different tastes and notions of what our children should be eating and what they like. What I do hope is this opens up a forum for sharing what works and what doesn’t. Most importantly, I want this to be fun.

This series isn’t necessarily about recipes, but more about concepts and ideas. Not everything is homemade, but like most parents I’m slightly discriminating of the processed food I buy. I tend to shop at Costco and my local Co-Op so you’ll probably recognize that. This is a private and honest view into our food life and I hope I won’t be too embarrassed along the way. Please go easy on me!

I’ll be posting Clara’s Cold Lunch Corner each Friday for as long as this idea remains relevant. They’ll be patches of missing time over the summer of course, but I still expect to post a shortened version as Clara has summer day camp a couple days a week and will be bringing lunch.

Welcome to Clara’s Cold Lunch Corner! I hope you’ll come back and participate.

Clara’s Lunch Hardware
This part is expensive and I've slowly collected these pieces over time. I consider them essential tools for lunches and they cut down package waste. They’re good quality items and should last for years. Never stick thermos and water bottle caps in the dishwasher; they can get water under the seals.

10 ounce food thermos/container (Preheat with boiling hot water 10 minutes before packing hot food)
Small liquid thermos for hot or cold liquids, (Not one with a straw)
Standard size metal lunch box
Laptop Lunch System (Needs extra containers, below. We don’t use or like the included water bottle.)

Bento Buddies (These are necessary extra containers with lids for Laptop System)
12 ounce Klean Kanteen with flat plastic lid for water. (The metal lids leak in case you're tempted to buy one.)
Cup-A-Cake Container for cupcakes and frosted muffins.

Clara’s Cold Lunch Corner
Clara's lunches are a bit large because I pack extra food for her to eat and share with friends on the bus ride home.

Week of April 19th-April 23rd 2010.
1. Laptop
Large uncovered box- 2 Kraft cheese slices, blue cheese dip in small container, carrot sticks in snack bag, cutie orange, 4 chocolate gold coins to share.
Small covered box- Two Oberto Beef Pepperoni sticks, sliced.
Small covered box- Keebler Club Crackers

2. Laptop (Pictured above)
Large covered box- Kid Caesar Salad: Chopped romaine, Parmesan cheese, and garlic croutons. Caesar salad dressing in small dip container tucked inside.
Small covered box- Diced watermelon
Small covered box- Mini Nilla Wafers

3. Laptop
Medium covered box- Leftover fried vegetable brown rice with egg.
Medium covered box- Cauliflower pieces with small dip container of bleu cheese dressing.
Small uncovered box- Snack bag with organic sour gummy cubs. Snack bag with organic raspberry yogurt covered pretzels.
Small box area- 1 Cutie Clementine

4. Metal Lunch Box (Cold rainy day here)
10 ounce food thermos- Annie’s Organic All Stars Pasta in Tomato & Cheese Sauce
Snack bag- Bite size carrot pieces
3 Stretch Island Fruit Leathers
Sandwich bag- 2 homemade chocolate chip cookies
Liquid thermos- Homemade hot cocoa

5. Laptop
Medium uncovered box- PB&J sandwich on homemade whole wheat bread & huckleberry jam. Cut in half and placed in two snack bags.
Medium covered box- Cauliflower pieces with small covered container of bleu cheese dressing.
Small covered box- Mini pretzels
Small covered box- Split ½ dried apricots ½ organic raisins

By Laura Flowers.

Sale Alert! I got a nicely timed email yesterday-> Receive 20% off all items at with coupon code earth2010. Today through Sunday (4/25) only!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

1970s No bake Coconut Orange Juice Cookies

At times I get bored baking cookies for my husband every week. To change things up, I tend to make silly recipes like these 1970s no bake "cookies" on days I can't face another cookie.

This is one of those love ‘em or hate ‘em recipes. These coconut-covered balls are intensely orange with a cookie dough consistency. I don’t happen to like most no bake cookies, and these are no exception. However, I’ve had so many requests for these darn things I’ve given up and am posting the recipe anyway.

Here you go Eric and Aunt Trina and the rest of you weird no bake cookie lovers. Enjoy!

1970s No bake Coconut Orange Juice Cookies
1 (12 ounce) box Nabisco Nilla Wafers 

3/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

1 pound powdered sugar

1/2 cup butter, half melted

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut

1. Spread chopped nuts on a plate and microwave in 30 second increments until toasted, tossing between stops. Usually takes about 1 1/2 minutes total. Set aside to cool.

2. Crush Nilla Wafers until fine in a food processor or plastic bag. Mix wafer crumbs, orange juice, powdered sugar, butter, and chopped nuts together. Shape the mixture into walnut-size balls, and gently press in coconut.

3. Store "cookies" in the refrigerator in a covered container. Layer cookies between sheets of wax paper if stacking.

Notes: Aunt Trina thinks these would be great sans coconut and dipped in dark chocolate instead. Sounds like a good idea to me!

Original recipe source unknown. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Holy Moly Chunky Guacamole. It’s the Pits!

What to do with a Costco bag of avocados? In my case, I run to the chip isle and buy a big bag of pita chips and head home to make this incredible chunky guacamole.

My Dad taught me a few years ago if you stick the pits in the finished guacamole it turns super yummy. I have no idea how this happens, but it does. Like magic. Cooking is magic, even when you don’t touch the stove.

I skipped over my blogiversary last month, but decided to celebrate late by adding a new Friday post series called, “Clara’s Cold Lunch Corner”. I’ll be addressing the daily happenings with my daughter’s school lunches until either you, or I, get bored.

Clara’s lunch tends to change a great deal and I thought it would be fun to open up discussion. I’ll be conversing about food, ideas, products, packaging, helpful links, and super cute lunch boxes! It would be nice if we could give each other ideas and tips during these posts too.

They’ll be a little giveaway to kick things off Friday, so please check back soon.

Holy Moly Chunky Guacamole
5 ripe avocados (1 Costco bag)
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Kirkland Seasoning Salt (from Costco) <-Good Stuff!
1 smallish onion, diced
2 to 3 Roma tomatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, or to taste
1 clove garlic, minced well
Lots of freshly cracked pepper to taste


1. Halve, peel and remove pits from avocados. Save three of the pits. Place avocados in a large bowl with lime juice and mash with a potato masher or fork until creamy with lots of small chunks.

2. Dice the tomatoes, then scoop some up in your hands and squeeze juice out over the sink. Place squeezed tomatoes with the avocados; repeat with the rest of the diced tomatoes.

3. Place the rest of the ingredients in the bowl and gently stir to combine. Tuck the three pits into the guacamole covering them completely. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set at room temperature for one hour before serving.

Recipe by Laura Flowers with ideas & methods from Dad (Tim) Komberec. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Great Deceiver: Artichokes with Lemon Dipping Sauce

This sauce. Its terribly deceiving sitting there all white and boring. It’s that wallflower so easy to overlook. Yet, if you just take a very small amount on your tongue the flavor will blow your senses with creamy lemon and garlic. It tricks you this little lemon sauce. Tricks you into coming back for more. Before long, your artichoke is sadly gone, and you’ll be wishing you had something else to dip, so you’ll start dipping your garlic bread, then your pita chips, and then you’ll be licking the bowl clean.

At least, that’s what happened to me.

Artichokes with Lemon Dipping Sauce

• 1/4 cup mayonnaise
• 1 teaspoon lemon peel
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
• 2 cloves garlic
• 2 teaspoon coarse salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
• 4 medium artichokes

1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a small food processor and puree. Cover and chill.

2. Wash artichokes by plunging up and down in cold water. Cut off stem ends; trim about 1/2 inch from top of each artichoke. Remove any loose bottom leaves. With scissors, trim one-fourth off top of each outer leaf.

3. Place artichokes in a large Dutch oven; add water to depth of 1 inch. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until tender.

4. Serve artichokes with sauce.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 artichoke and 2 tablespoons sauce).

Recipe from
Everyday Health. Photograph by Laura Flowers.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Favorite Mustard Potato Salad

It was a beautiful Idaho day and we headed outside this evening to grill thick hand pressed bison burgers and then scooped this marvelous potato salad on top. We also had potato salad on the side, snuck bites of it out of the bowl, and should have stopped eating long before we did.

I realize you probably already have a favorite potato salad recipe, as most families do, but this one I put all my favorite potato salad ingredients in. It’s perfectly spiced and so creamy with olive oil, mayonnaise and pickle juice. I thought I’d offer it to you just in case you had room for another one on your table.

Creamy Mustard Potato Salad

6 medium-large Russet potatoes
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 Kosher Deli-style dill pickle, chopped fine
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon dry dill leaf
¼ heaping teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon celery seed, rubbed between palms
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup extra light olive oil (Not extra virgin)
1 ½ tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
2 to 3 tablespoons dill pickle juice from the jar

Peel, dice, and boil potatoes in unsalted water until tender, but not so soft they fall apart. When done, place in a cold water bath, until cool, then strain well. Mix all dry spices and liquid ingredients together in a small bowl.

Add potatoes, onion, egg, and pickles to a large bowl, and gently stir in the seasoning mixture until well mixed. Chill at least an hour before serving.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Copycat Hostess Blackberry Fruit Pie

I have a life long love affair with Oregon Fruit, and some of my most treasured memories involve their Red Tart Cherries and holiday baking with my mom. It feels like Mom’s been making great cherry pies every Thanksgiving and Christmas forever. Or at least in my personal version of forever. I remember as a child, every time she opened a can of Oregon Fruit cherries, she’d tell us how wonderful their fruit was and how great it made her pies. To this day I still believe her, and now I use every kind of Oregon Fruit I can get my hands on. This time it was a can of gorgeous blackberries.

When you check the ingredient label on Oregon Fruit Blackberries it will simply read, “blackberries, water and sugar”. You won’t find corn syrup, chemicals, or any other garbage. Just top quality fruit picked and canned when perfectly ripe. Why can’t more food processors do this? This is what processed food should be!

I created this copycat recipe because my husband adores those fruit-like Hostess Pies. I thought if I could make a hand pie with the same taste and mouth texture of his beloved chemical filled ones, I might be able to convince him homemade can blow the packaged version out of the water.

It took a bit of trial and error, but these treats are a lot like the Hostess version, only with much better tasting blackberry filling and a tender almost cookie like olive oil crust. They’re so good I’ve already made five batches this past week in the name of “testing”! Ok, so maybe I just wanted to make more tasty hand pies and share them with my family and friends.

These little copycats completely won Jesse over and I don't think he'll be buying the Hostess version for awhile. Hopefully they'll win you over too.

Blackberry Fruit Pie Filling
You can leave out the Crème de Cassis if you aren’t comfortable baking with liqueurs. Although, by the time it’s said and done, there’ll likely be less residual alcohol in each pie than in other baked goods with vanilla extract.

1 (15 ounce) can Oregon Fruit Blackberries in Light Syrup
2 tablespoons Crème de Cassis Liquor (really enhances the flavor)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1. Drain the blackberries and reserve the liquid.

2. In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add flour and salt. Cook stirring constantly until the mixture is a light golden brown. Slowly add the reserved berry liquid stirring to combine. Add the Crème de Cassis and sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook until thick stirring frequently.

3. Add the black berries to the saucepan. Gently stir often until it comes to a simmer. Let simmer for about 2 minutes or until mixture looks like it is starting to be come thick again. Remove pan from heat and stir in almond extract.

4. Move mixture to a bowl and cool uncovered to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours until the mixture has gelled.

Olive Oil Pastry
You’ll need two batches of this dough to use up the fruit mixture. Don’t double up the batches though. The dough can get tough if you do. This simple dough takes just a minute to make, so it won’t take long to prepare two.

2 ¾ cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup extra light olive oil (Vegetable oil will work too, but don't use extra virgin olive oil.)
½ cup milk

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the oil and milk all at once and stir just until moist and starting to combine. (Don’t over mix; there will still be some crumbs.) Press half the dough into wax paper and fold to cover. Press the other half of the dough in another piece of wax paper.

Refrigerate dough for about 20 to 30 minutes. This pastry cooperates better with less time sitting around, so make it shortly before assembling the hand pies.

Copycat Hostess Pie Assembly
You’ll need:
1 egg
1 teaspoon water
Flour for dusting
3 inch biscuit cutter or other pie cutter, stamper, or crimper
Silicon pastry brush
1 (standard size 50) cookie scoop
Parchment paper
Cookie sheets

1. Make the glaze (below) and place in the refrigerator in a small covered bowl.

2. Flour a clean surface and roll out one section of pastry at a time like you would for pie, dusting the top with a little flour as needed.

3. Make an egg wash by beating the egg in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon water. Set aside. Line a couple cookie sheets with parchment paper, move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 375 degrees.

4. Cut the dough with a biscuit cutter as close as possible to each other. Move the rounds and roll out half the pieces about an inch large. Move the rounds to the cookie sheets. Patch any cracks by pressing them closed, or with small flat pieces of dough brushed with egg wash. Don’t worry about small cracks; the egg wash will seal them.

5. Scoop a small amount of filling onto the smaller dough pieces. Flip the large dough pieces over onto the top so the egg side is touching the filling. Press out the air and gently push the filling to the middle and seal the pastry well with your fingers. Cut again with the cutter for a pretty round shape and press the edges together with a fork.

6. Brush the tops with egg wash and bake for about 15 minutes until the edges just start to look golden brown. Don’t over bake. Move the pies to a cooling rack and set the timer for another 15 minutes. After time is up drizzle on some glaze and brush it over the pies. Cool completely.

7. Repeat with remaining dough tossing the scraps in the garbage can, as they don’t reroll well. Cooled pies can be places in sandwich bags and frozen to throw in lunch boxes or for quick treats that warm well in the microwave.

Makes about 15 or so hand pies.


1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk

Place the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in the salt, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Then whisk in the milk with a fork until smooth.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Creamiest Macaroni & Cheese Ever

I stood in my kitchen growling over yet another bad recipe. I don’t know why, but I have terrible macaroni & cheese karma. I’ve tried everything. I even went as far as making all of Alton Brown’s recipes from Good Eats. Well ok, I didn’t fry mine into blocks. That’s going a bit too far.

Anyway, I got lucky. Dishboy Scott was over helping me cook that Monday evening and he started babbling about how he always makes a medium white sauce first, and it’s fantastic, and blah blah blah blah blah. I stared at him incredulously. “What did you just say?”, I demanded. “Back up a bit. You mean to tell me you have a fabulous, easy macaroni and cheese recipe you make all the time, and you’ve let me suffer for years through all my bad attempts?!”

I tossed the recipe in my hand into the garbage and Scott quickly instructed me how to make the most simple, most wonderfully creamy, and by far the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had. This recipe is a keeper!

I love my foodie friends. Thanks Scott you are awesome!

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese

Printer Version
Use flavorful, good quality cheese in this pasta. It makes all the difference.

1 pound good quality sharp cheddar or vintage white cheddar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 & 6 tablespoons unbleached flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
Lots of freshly cracked pepper
1 pound macaroni, cappelletti, or other pasta of choice
Salted pasta water

1. Begin boiling the water and cooking the pasta according to package directions in heavily salted water. Meanwhile, grate the cheese and toss with 3 tablespoons flour. Set aside.

2. In a large pot melt the butter over medium to medium high heat. Stir in 6 tablespoons flour (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons to make it easy), and salt. Cook until golden stirring frequently. Very slowly pour in the milk stirring completely into the flour as you go so lumps don’t form. Add lots of freshly cracked pepper and stir the mixture constantly until thickened. Turn off the heat and add the cheese. Stir until melted.

3. When the pasta is done cooking, set aside about a cup of the salted pasta water. You'll need it for the sauce. Drain the pasta and add it to the cheese mixture. Stir gently to combine. Add pasta water as needed to make creamy.

Recipe by Dishboy Scott. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Beevil the Evil Makes "S'mores"

Beevil the Evil disregarded the tortured screams of Bernie, his latest victim, as he stood on the graham cracker platform slowly crushing his purple cousin to death. Instead of feeling sympathy, Beevil found himself annoyed at Bernie’s cries as he waited impatiently for him to suffocate. "What is taking you so long to DIE?", he spat through gritted teeth.

As the last breath left the victim's body, Beevil’s only thoughts were, “Good riddance to your perfect face”. For you see, Beevil’s eyes and nose were recklessly stamped on his chin and neck, instead of on his sugary face. Thus, Beevil was teased and harassed by attractive Peeps like Bernie all through school, by ones with their cute faces placed on correctly, and he swore that one day he would take his revenge on those snotty perfect Peeps. It was retribution he craved.

After dropping out of sugar fluff school, Beevil and his two goons have been slowly snuffing out the lives of the “pretty ones”. Suffocating them between two graham crackers and microwaving them until their bodies blow up into balloons. “Ha! How do you like it now that you’re so ugly?” Beevil cackled. But the poor Peeps lay silent in death.

Beevil is still at large, as he’s quite successful at disposing of evidence. He long ago realized if he left his gooey kills near hungry humans they would quickly devour the platforms, the chocolate body stretchers, and the bodies themselves.

If you find one of these disturbing, but delicious “s'mores” on your plate, it’s possible Beevil the Evil has been up to his criminal activities again. And if you happen to spot Beevil in your Bunny Peep box, please eat him first and stop these horrific assassinations in the Peep community.

Update: Read about Beevil's latest escapade here!

Beevil's Death Platforms a.k.a. "Graham Crackers"

Printer Version

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, almost room temperature.
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup whole wheat flour or whole wheat graham flour
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

In a food processor, cream the butter and sugars together for about 30 seconds. Add everything except the flours and pulse until combined. Add the wheat and all purpose flour and pulse until just combined. Turn out onto a clean surface and knead a few times until combined. Wrap in wax paper and put in a container with a lid. Let rest in the fridge for about an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Lightly flour a clean cutting surface. Separate dough in half and kneed in your hand a few times. Place on surface and sprinkle with a little flour. Using a rolling pin roll out dough just under ¼ inch thick. Using a pizza cutter, slice off jagged edges, next slice the dough into squares. Place squares on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough adding the scraps from the first rolling.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes. Let rest on the baking sheet for a minute, and move to a cooling rack.

1. Freezing unbaked cookies on the baking sheets for 15 minutes will help them hold their square shapes better.

2. If you like traditional holes and lines in your graham crackers, score the center of the cut dough with a cookie cutter on each cracker, and deeply prick each side a few times with a salad fork. Bake as directed.

Graham cracker recipe & pictures by Laura Flowers.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sweet and Creamy Tres Leche Cake with Strawberries

Happy Easter! It's family time this morning and we’re busy goofing off and blowing up peeps in the microwave, so I can't chat long. I'm posting too many desserts lately, but I couldn't wait to share this cake with you! I promise, I'll clean up my act and write only about carrots and celery for 30 whole seconds twenty-five years from now.

The cake is an Alton Brown recipe and everything liquid is measured by volume, but everything dry is measured on a kitchen scale. I prefer to bake this way when I can because it’s simple and the results are more accurate. The bad part about this recipe of course, is that you’ll need a kitchen scale.

If you don’t have a kitchen scale, my friend Veronica baked and posted a tres leche cake created by our friend Marina. Marina’s been winning awards for years with her recipes, even once participating in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. So if you want a recipe you don’t have to weigh, give her’s a go.

Tres Leche Cake with Strawberries

For the cake:
• Vegetable oil
• 6 3/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for pan
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 4 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 8 ounces sugar
• 5 whole eggs
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

For the glaze:
• 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
• 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
• 1 cup half-and-half

For the topping:
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 8 ounces sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
• Small pinch of salt
• Lots of sliced fresh strawberries

For the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour a 13 by 9-inch metal pan and set aside.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar over 1 minute. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix to thoroughly combine. Add the vanilla extract and almond extract and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches and mix just until combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. This will appear to be a very small amount of batter.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden and reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.

Remove the cake pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork. Allow the cake to cool completely and then prepare the glaze.

For the glaze:
Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and the half-and-half in a 1-quart measuring cup. Once combined, pour the glaze over the cake. Refrigerate the cake overnight.

Place the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract and small pinch of salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk together on low until stiff peaks are formed. Change to medium speed and whisk until thick. Spread the topping over the cake and allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Top with fresh strawberries.

Recipe adapted slightly from Alton Brown & Food Network, 2007.
Picture by Laura Flowers.

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