A Fun Spring-y Cocktail

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I love blood oranges.  I love that purple color.  It’s just so much different than any other fruit juice.  I had a few friends over and I made this cocktail with blood oranges, lime, sparkling wine, and Old Grandad.  It’s super easy and you can make the cocktails in a pitcher because they go quick!!

 

Here’s what you need:

Six blood oranges

Two limes

1/2 cup sugar

Sprigs of thyme

1 bottle of sparkling wine

Half of a small bottle of Old Granddad

 

Juice six blood oranges, add to the pitcher.  Juice two limes, pour into a sauce pan, add sugar and sprigs of thyme, cook until the sugar dissolves.  When it’s cool, add to the pitcher.  Add the sparkling wine to the pitcher and add the half of a bottle of Old Granddad.

A nice touch is to make ice cubes with some extra blood orange juice.  You can serve the drink with the sprigs of thyme.  

It’s everything I like in a cocktail.  Potent and delicious.  🙂

Getting ready for Mardi Gras? How about a King Cake?

King Cake is a pre-Lenten cake served around Mardi Gras.  Your kids will love to eat it and make it, there’s a small plastic baby hidden inside the cake.  Who doesn’t want to find a small plastic baby in what they’re eating?

This is also a fun rainy day (or snow day) activity because the cake is made with yeast and needs to be rolled out.  This always keeps the kids busy around here.  

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Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, place 2 (1/4 ounce) packages of dry active yeast in a bowl with one tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 cup of warm water.  The rule is that the water should be about 110 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometer, test it so it’s warm to your touch, your body is 98 degrees so the water should be slightly warmer, but not hot to your touch.

Meanwhile, heat 2 cups of Greek yogurt with one stick (1/4 cup) of butter, 1/3 cup of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Heat this until the butter melts, it shouldn’t be too hot.  Add the yogurt mixture to the yeast after the yeast has risen (it’s going to look really frothy).  Add 2 eggs that have been beaten, slowly add up to 7 cups of flour.  The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Knead the dough until it looks smooth and pretty.  Cover with a kitchen towel and allow it to rise for an hour or until it doubles in size.

Cut the dough in half and roll the dough out into a rectangular shape, about 22 inches by 12 inches.  Smear half a stick of softened butter onto the rectangle and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  Don’t forget to tuck your plastic baby in before you start rolling!!  I used about a cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cinnamon.  Fold the dough over and start to roll it up as if it was cigarette.  The tiny plastic baby will be hidden and some lucky person will hopefully not choke on it.  Repeat this with the second piece of dough.  Braid the two pieces and form into a circle.  Let both pieces of dough rise until they double in size.  

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Once the dough has risen, about an hour, place it in the oven and bake until the dough is golden brown.  This should take about half an hour.

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Next, you’ll prepare the icing.  Mix three cups of powdered sugar with three tablespoons of milk (I had extra heavy cream, so I used that) and two tablespoons of melted butter.  Add one tablespoon of vanilla.  Mix until it’s thick and smooth.  I like a thicker icing, so I added some extra powdered sugar.  The kids sprinkled yellow, blue, and pink sprinkles on top of the icing immediately.  I wanted to add purple, but couldn’t find purple sprinkles.

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Please make sure you tell people there is a small plastic baby tucked somewhere into the cake.  I told my kids that whoever found the baby had to give me $50.  It was worth a shot.

Check back later for the other recipes we made in our mock Mardi Gras.  We had a party of ten for $68, including a fancy blood orange, bourbon drink!!

 

 

More emergency snow day baking with my kids. Chocolate bread pudding…

I have been struggling at keeping the kids busy during all the snow days.  Since it’s been snowing and raining, they can only be outside for a certain period of time before coming in soaked, usually around 45 seconds.

Chocolate bread pudding was a perfect choice because they can do all the prep for this one.  They can also be acceptably destructive as they tear the bread apart with their bare hands.  I like to use cinnamon raisin bread, but I also throw some regular bread in.  I have also made this recipe when the kids have neglected to tie the bread up and half the loaf has gone stale.  

12 slices of bread, I like cinnamon raisin, but you can use whatever is available.

1 1/2 cups of milk

1 cup of semi sweet or dark chocolate chips

2 large eggs

1/2 cup of sugar

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

Confectioners sugar to dust.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Have the kids tear the bread into large chunks.  Place (or throw) the bread in the greased casserole pan.  

Meanwhile, heat the milk with the chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts.  Beat the eggs and sugar together, add the chocolate to the eggs slowly so that you don’t scramble the eggs.  When that is mixed, pour the chocolate egg mixture over the bread.  Bake for about 20 minutes. 

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This kept them happy for about thirty minutes.  SUCCESS.  I have also made it up to the point that it needs to be baked and served it at brunch.  It’s super easy and costs less than $4.00.  

Please let me know how you like this!!  Have fun with the kids!!

 

Will school be cancelled again? Here’s an idea to keep your kids busy.

I don’t know about you, but I am SICK of snow days.  I love my kids, but there is such a thing as too much togetherness.

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The other night, they were outside for approximately four minutes before coming in because they were “frozen”, demanding hot chocolate.  I gladly made it for them, but I had committed a major faux pas in the eyes of my eight year old.  I didn’t have enough marshmallows.  

I am always desperate for something that will keep the three boys from wrestling or annoying each other to death, or worse still, from whining about the wrestling and annoying.  I decided we could make marshmallows at home together.  I took care of the dangerous parts and let them man the mixer and spread out the marshmallows once it was done. This could potentially provide me with 15 minutes of near silence.  🙂

Yes, it’s probably more expensive to make these on your own, but it will provide you with an activity for your kids.  You’ll need a candy thermometer, light corn syrup and gelatin.  Those are the only things that I can think of that you wouldn’t readily have available.  You will need a mixer, it would take WAY too long to mix this by hand with a whisk.  

So here goes…

3 sheets of plain gelatin (we used Knox)

1/2 cup of ICE cold water, shouldn’t be hard in this arctic climate.

1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar

1 cup of light corn syrup

pinch of salt

1/2 cup of water

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/2 cup of confectioners (10x) sugar

Place ice cold water in the bowl of your mixer with the three sheets of gelatin.  In the meantime, heat the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a saucepan.  Clip the candy thermometer to the side and cook until the temperature reads 240 degrees.  This took the longest and I did it without the assistance of any minor child.

Once the syrup reaches 240 degrees, slowly pour the syrup over the gelatin.  Increase the speed of the mixer until the syrup/ gelatin mixture is three times larger than what you started with.  Add the vanilla at the last minute.  I had the kids watch the mixture and touch the side of the bowl to tell me when it was lukewarm.  This sucked up about 15 more minutes of their time.  The marshmallow is super thick and really messy at this point.

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Now for the fun part!!  I had the kids dust a baking dish with half of the confectioner’s sugar.  I sprayed their impeccably clean hands with cooking spray (Pam or something like that) and had them smooth the marshmallows onto the pan.  It’s really messy and kids love that so this will buy you about ten more minutes of peace.

We made the hot chocolate, sliced the marshmallows and they went to town.  My eight year old was happy, I got half an hour of peace, and redeemed myself to my son.  They all had a lot of fun!  By the way, when you cut the marshmallows, spray or oil a pizza cutter or bench scraper.  This will make it a lot less sticky.  I hope you enjoy this one!  I know we did!!

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Making pizza with the kids (the dough and sauce are technically vegan).

I have been planning what to make for the Super Bowl.  I was looking for things I could do ahead of time and throw together during the game.  So I decided to experiment with pizza.  Also, my kids were driving me insane and I thought this would occupy them for a bit.  It occupied them, but they continued to bicker through the process.  Oh, well.  It was worth a shot.

This recipe was so easy.  I threw the dough together and let it rise for about an hour.  It’s only a few ingredients.  Aside from the yeast, it’s probably all stuff you already have in your pantry.

1 .25 ounce package of dry active yeast

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 cup of warm water (you want this slightly warmer than body temperature, around 110 degrees)

2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 tablespoons of oil (we used olive oil)

First, add the yeast, sugar, and water to a bowl.  Let it rest until it looks frothy.  This should take about 10 minutes.  

You can add the flour, salt, and oil by hand or in a mixer.  Mix until it comes together in a ball and let rest for an hour.  

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  

While I was letting it rise, I was breaking up wrestling matches in my living room, vacuuming, and making the marinara sauce.  I used the marinara recipe from my cookbook (You can buy it on my website!  www.theformerlydestitutediva.com  Don’t forget!!  Purchase before February 15 and you’ll be entered to win a $25 Target gift card)

I had the boys roll out the dough.  It was more of an oval than an actual circle, but it was pretty enough for us.  Add the sauce and whatever toppings you choose.  We just used cheese.  The crusts bake for 15 minutes.

 

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Super fast, super easy Chicken and biscuits (for nights you don’t feel like doing much)

 

 

It was a pretty lazy Sunday around here.  I’ve had one of the worst weeks I’ve had in a while and I guess I just didn’t feel like doing too much.  I’m sure everyone who has a lot of responsibilities feels that way sometimes.  

Nonetheless, these kids insist on eating regularly so someone had to bite the bullet and make dinner.  

This is one that can be made with minimal effort and costs about seven dollars.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 cup carrots, diced

1 cup celery, chopped

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup chicken stock

1 store bought chicken, shredded

1 package store bought biscuits (Pillsbury Grands, etc.)

Heat the oil and sauté the vegetables until they soften.  Add the butter and flour, then add the chicken stock.  Let boil until the stock thickens.  Throw the shredded chicken in.  Top with the biscuits and bake according to the biscuit directions, about 12 minutes at 375.

Done!  Now I can finish alternating between watching football and Waiting to Exhale.  The kids are happy, I’ve fulfilled my legal obligation to keep them alive, AND I only have one pot to wash.  Everyone wins!  Have a great week!!

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Resolutions

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I don’t know how I feel about resolutions at New Year’s.  I usually make my resolutions on my birthday, which I did this year also (in July). But things have been so dynamic since my birthday that I really want to keep the momentum going.

2013 started off in a not so wonderful fashion, I was laid off, in a dead end relationship with a liar who was, apparently, constantly looking for a person who “looked better” on paper than I do, my finances were in a desperate state, and I was unhappy with the direction my life was going.

Then, suddenly, things changed.  It had to be divine intervention.  I got a job working as a nurse again.  I found out I was dating the worst kind of liar in the world, the kind who lies to himself about being a liar.  After that ended, I met someone much more fun and honest…  And hot.  I started making money and venturing out more, doing things out of my comfort zone.  By May, I was liberated from most of the toxic things that had been seemingly holding me back.

I learned to get back on my path and pursue an open heart.  I’ve met amazing people who I love.  Great people have come back into my life, my friendships have strengthened.  I feel like I’m on the brink of joy again.  That’s something that I haven’t felt in a few years now.

So, could it get better?  Absolutely!!!  Why shouldn’t it get better?  How can I start to make it even better?

Well, as much as I like to make fun of girls who are so type A that they never have a hair out of place and their roots are always pristine, I want to be a little more type A as far as organization goes.  I want to get over my fear of no longer being fun if things are perfectly organized.  I’m starting to believe that if things are in better order, maybe I can find more time to be even more fun.  I’m actually amazingly fun, so being more fun is going to be hard work.

With organization comes better control of finances.  So, like everyone else in the world, I want to make more money.

I want to do more good in the world.  I want to help people.  My job allows me to do that every day and I’m so grateful for it, but what if I could do even more?  What if I can help other people get on their paths so they can be happier people? How can I find ways to volunteer in a way that is meaningful to me and the things I believe in?  Specifically, I’d like to help other women learn how to get out of bad situations.

I want to cook more and be around the people I love.  I want to be a better friend and I want to be better about keeping in touch with the people I love who I don’t see as often.  I want to, most importantly, be a better mom and spend more time with my kids.

I want to show more gratitude.  There’s so much to be grateful for, my parents, my kids, my work, my friends, my home, the health of the people closest to me, and so much more…  I’m going to continue to learn how to be happy in the moment I’m in and love myself.

I hope I’m held accountable to these goals.  I know I can accomplish these things.

This year, I hope everyone learns how to be happy in their moment and love themselves.  I wish you happiness, health, and better lives than last year.  Thanks for all your support.

An apple cake and a tarte tatin walk into a bar…

I love Jewish Apple Cake.  I also love tarte tatin.  I wanted them for breakfast, but I didn’t want to make two separate things at 5:00 a.m.  This is my mash up.

First, I’ll give you the long version.  Then, I will give you a cheat so you can do this in less time.

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The long version…

For the cake

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups of sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract, rum, or brandy

2 eggs, beaten

3 cups chopped Granny Smith apples

3 cups of all purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the pan

1 stick of butter (6 ounces)

1 cup brown sugar

1 apple, sliced

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spread the stick of butter in the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of the butter.  Lay the apples in a way that’s similar to dominos, overlapping the slices so it forms a pattern (see below).

Next, assemble the ingredients.  Mix the oil, sugar, and flavoring (vanilla or whatever you choose).  Next, stir in the chopped apples.

Mix in the dry ingredients, flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Stir until the ingredients are mixed.

Pour the cake batter over the arranged apples in the pan you prepared.

The cake will take about 40 minutes to bake.  I know this is a little more cumbersome than my usual recipes in that it takes longer to bake than my usual half an hour, but this is a great coffee cake for New Years Day with the kids.  The top gets caramel-y and the apples become chewy with the super moist cake.

Now the short version…

Duncan Hines makes a spice cake mix.  Prepare the batter the way the box tells you.  Add three cups of chopped apples.  Prepare the pan the same way as you would have above and bake according to the box directions.  Or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Tiny hint…  If the bottom of the cake starts to brown more than you think it should, cover with aluminum foil and continue to cook.

Happy Baking!!!!

 

Having a Vegan for dinner

I have a friend who is a Vegan.  Personally, I don’t want to live in a world without pork fat, but I’m not judging anyone and she seems like a good person in spite of this belief she insists on having.

I’m kidding, but I really don’t know much about being a Vegan.  It’s like a super strict vegetarian diet, but you can’t fall back on another of my favorite ingredients…  Butter.  If the zombie apocalypse did come, I wouldn’t really choose to live if I had no access to butter or bacon.

Anyway, the point is I invited her for dinner.  She offered to bring her own food, but I said no.  It didn’t make much sense to me for her to be invited to my house, yet still have to make her own dinner. 

I do have a problem, in addition to learning how to cook like a Vegan by Sunday, and that is how do I make something that my other guests will be willing to eat?  My other friends love bacon and butter almost as much as I do.

So I went to the library and started to read.  I found a vegan pie crust, so I’m going to make a tomato, olive, onion sort of thing.  It’s going to be somewhat like a pizza, but without the cheese.

 Surprisingly, she told me that not all wine is Vegan.  Something about fish guts, but she’s willing to compromise on this issue.  I’m going to ask the guy at the wine store anyway.

 So, here is the crust I’m going to try.  There are variations with coconut oil, but I’m highly allergic to coconut and I don’t know what coconut and olives might taste like.  I’m not sure what coconut tastes like, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mesh well with olives. 

 Vegan Pie crust

2 cups of flour

1 Tablespoon of sugar

½ teaspoon of salt

½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons of Vegan margarine. 

            I found this at Whole Foods.

2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil

3 Tablespoons of ice water

Place flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the vegan margarine while using the pulse button on your food processor.

Add the oil and ice water to the margarine mixture and continue pulsing until it’s mixed. 

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Roll it out and place in a pie plate or tart pan.

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This was pretty different for me.  It didn’t have the consistency I was used to, but it held together well and I didn’t have problems rolling it out.  In spite of the fact that it’s a humid day in Philadelphia.

I did make sure that the vegan margarine was super cold when I cut it into the dough, which is what you’d do for a regular carnivore’s piecrust.

I grilled eggplant and mushrooms, added some tomatoes, and sprinkled with olives.  Then, bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

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P.S.  I didn’t put hot vegetables in the pie crust, I chilled them for about an hour in the refrigerator.  If they go in the crust hot, they will melt the margarine and things could get sloppy.

Thanks, Lisa, for being a good friend!  I hope you’ll come for dinner again and again.  Especially now that I know where to buy Vegan margarine.  🙂