I know weather talk is really boring most of the time but this has been a wild weather week for us so, forgive me. It was 55 degrees on Wednesday. We stayed late after school playing soccer, football, and sliding down the slide 1,000 times. Nobody had a jacket on. Then came Thursday. A storm blew in and dumped wet, heavy snow all across the island. Most houses lost power, the ferries stopped running, and school was canceled. Today, the island looks pretty and sparkly with its fresh coat of white but it hasn’t gotten warmer than 25 degrees and I do prefer those jacket-less winter days, however abnormal they are.
If you’re looking for an easy cooking project this weekend or simply want a new snack to toss into lunch boxes next week give these Popcorn “Granola” Bars a try. The list of ingredients is completely adaptable to your tastes and your pantry.
Popcorn “Granola” Bars slightly adapted from Food52
Makes 1 9-inch by 13-inch pan of bars
1 cup almond or peanut butter
1/3 cup honey, agave, or maple syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce or fruit compote
Olive oil, as needed
4 to 6 cups popcorn
1 1/2 cups whole walnuts or almonds or a combination
1/3 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup raw hulled sunflower seeds (I used raw sesame seeds)
1/3 cup ground flax seed
1. Line a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with parchment or wax paper so that you have overhang.
2. In a small pot over low heat, warm the nut butter, honey, and applesauce until melted. You want a sauce that is loose enough to cover the popcorn kernels and become evenly distributed amongst them. You may need to whisk in some olive oil (a couple of tablespoons) to achieve this consistency.
3. In a large bowl, mix together popcorn, nuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut, sunflower seeds, and flax seed. Pour over the nut butter mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.
4. Dump into the prepared pan, then use plastic wrap to mush the mixture down evenly. Freeze overnight, then slice into bars! Store in the freezer.
Gray turned 3!!! on September 22nd and we celebrated with a box of Grape-Nut and Chocolate Chip Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies on the playground and this over-the-top decadent Chocolate Pudding Pie after dinner. As birthdays always make me nostalgic, I thought it would be fun to take a little walk down birthday cake memory lane. Here we go…
Gray comes home with Apple Crisp.
Gray turns 1 with Spiced Applesauce Cake.
Gray turns 2 with undocumented ice cream sundaes because life was like this.
Dylan turns 1 with a classic birthday cake in Providence then we move here.
Dylan turns 2 with Strawberry Layer Cake.
Dylan turns 3 with Full Moon Chocolate Cake.
Dylan turns 4 with Chocolate Cake.
Dylan turns 5 with an undocumented mint chocolate chip / brownie ice cream cake decorated with dragons the same week as Frozen Summer Treats.
Dylan turns 6 with another undocumented mint chocolate chip / brownie ice cream cake shaped into a lightning bolt the same week as Peach Frozen Yogurt.
Chocolate Pudding Pie adapted from an old Gourmet Magazine
makes 1 pie
1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (from about 10 crackers)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 pinches sea salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not more than 60% cacao), finely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chilled heavy cream
Bittersweet chocolate shavings for garnish (optional)
Make crust: Heat oven to 350°F. Combine graham crumbs, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and stir until mixed. Add butter and stir until crumbs are evenly coated. Press crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a standard 9-inch pie dish. Bake the crust until lightly browned, about 9 to 10 minutes. Set on cooling rack to cool completely. Once cool, you can even transfer it to the freezer to get it started on the chilling process.
Make pudding filling: Whisk together cornstarch, 1/3 cup sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, then boil, whisking, two minutes (mixture will thicken). Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate and vanilla until smooth.
Pour filling into cooled shell and chill, its surface covered with wax paper (if you want to prevent a skin from forming), until cold, at least two hours.
Just before serving, beat cream with remaining two tablespoons sugar until it just holds soft peaks. Spoon onto pie and garnish with bittersweet chocolate shavings, if you’re feeling fancy.
Grape-Nut and Chocolate Chip Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies slightly adapted from Food52 Baking
Makes 24 to 48 cookies, depending on the size
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1 cup toasted nuts, preferably pecans or walnuts, chopped
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup Grape-Nuts cereal
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
Preheat oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars until very pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. In another bowl, mix together the rolled oats, flours, wheat germ, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, cereal, and coconut. Add this dry mixture to the butter and egg mixture and stir until combined.
For smaller cookies, drop the dough with a tablespoon, allowing 2-inches between each. For larger cookies, use an ice cream scoop or 1/4-cup measure to portion the dough and allow for 3-inches between each one.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies, until firm and golden brown at the edges. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
It sneaks up on me every year, the transition from school routine to summer break. Should I panic or celebrate? Create a regular schedule or fly by the seat of my pants? I don’t have all the answers yet but I’m happy to crown June our adjustment month. My crew is digging warm weather food (popsicles for breakfast and strawberries for lunch) so if we have to pop a few extra bonbons while easing into our new routines then so be it.
These incredibly simple two ingredient bonbons (spoiler alert, all the ingredients are in the title) can be customized to fit your family’s preferences and patience. You can experiment with flavoring the chocolate with vanilla extract, orange zest, or almond extract. For older kids who want a project, the bonbons can be topped with anything you like from chopped nuts, shredded coconut, crystallized ginger, or sea salt. The goal isn’t to make a tray of perfectly round bonbons but to make a summer dessert that is both delicious and free of junk.
2 Ingredient Banana-Chocolate Bonbons
makes about 25
3 bananas, peeled and frozen
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate, either chips or roughly chopped from a bar (substitute dark chocolate, white chocolate, or another favorite)
Chocolate flavoring options: vanilla extract, cinnamon, almond extract, melted coconut oil, orange zest.
Topping options: sea salt, unsweetened shredded coconut, finely chopped nuts, crystallized ginger.
First, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Break the frozen bananas into chunks and blend in a food processor until the fruit runs smooth. This took some work – big chunks of banana may get stuck. If so, stop half-way and remove the smooth portion and puree the remaining chunks on their own. Don’t worry if the mixture is slightly chunky, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Transfer all of the blended banana to a bowl.
Next, using a melon baller and your hands, scoop portions of blended banana and roll it slightly to form bite-sized balls (again, doesn’t have to be perfect!). Place the balls on the lined baking sheet and put it in the freezer while you prepare the chocolate.
While the banana balls set up, melt the chocolate. Heat a few inches of water in a small saucepan and place a metal bowl on top. Add in the chocolate plus any flavorings you may be using. Constantly stir the chocolate over the heat until it is fully melted. Turn off the flame and grab the tray from the freezer. Working with one at a time, drop each ball into the melted chocolate, move it around with a spoon, and place it back on the tray. If you are using a topping, sprinkle it on now before the chocolate sets up. Coat all the balls with chocolate and put the finished bonbons in the freezer. Enjoy just out of the freezer or after a few minutes on the counter for a softer bite.
I love a good book club (in fact I love it so much I just started a cookbook club…more on that below) – the snacks, the drinks, the chatter, and (of course) the push to read a little. But really, it’s about the snacks. All of my fellow book club members are moms of young children so by the time we all plop on someones couch and open a bottle of wine we are feeling equally exhausted and ecstatic to be face to face with friends and eat undisturbed. Our meetings are certainly a time to indulge so I recently prepared these incredibly simple but totally delicious small ice cream sandwiches built from gingersnap cookies, peanut butter, and chocolate ice cream. I ate four while we discussed Fates and Furies (our next book is Not That Kind of Girl which is comforting as I thought I was the last 34 year old fan of Girls).
And this cook book club? Well, after I realized that half the time I bring cookbooks into bed at night it occurred to me that a cookbook club would be SO FUN! especially when we all bring a dish from the chosen cookbook to our meeting – talk about a killer potluck. Our first cookbook club read was Soul, Food, Love (I made Shrimp Stew, recipe below) and now we are reading (and will cook and eat from) A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus.
^As seen on my instagrm, our kitchen awaiting cookbook club.
Gingersnap, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches
Box of your favorite gingersnap cookies
Jar natural peanut butter
Pint of chocolate ice cream
I remember seeing this recipe, or one very similar, in The Forest Feast. It’s really an idea more than a recipe. Essentially, you just spread peanut butter on two cookies, scoop some ice cream on one, and sandwich them together. Place all the assembled sandwiches in the freezer until serving time.
This shrimp stew was incredibly easy to make and feeds a crowd. I was hesitant to put a full teaspoon of cayenne pepper into the pot but the heat and flavors were perfect. At cookbook club we ate the stew over white rice but I enjoyed leftovers served over farro too.
Shrimp Stew from Soul, Food, Love
serves 6 to 8
2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
5 green onions, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
4 cups diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 pounds peeled and deveined medium shrimp
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped (reserve some for serving)
Cooked rice, for serving
In a large pot, cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers, green onions, and celery and cook for another 5 minutes. Add in the tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, shrimp, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, salt, and parsley, and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 hour.
Ladle the stew over hot rice in individual bowls and garnish generously with parsley.