Dinosaur Hunt Snack Mix

I’ve been hosting lots of backyard dinosaur hunts that require dinosaur hunt snacks. For the next one, I’m serving gluten-free snack mix. I’ll also have a make-your-own s’mores station.

If your grandkids are like mine, they LOVE dinosaurs. Not only that, they can pronounce all of those impossible dinosaur names: Diplodocus, Parasaurolophus, Ankylosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Pachycephalosaurus. How do they do that?

In this era of distanced visits, a dinosaur hunt can be a fun way to get together and keep connection. Some grandkids like to know there will be constant feature they can count on, but there also needs a bit of novelty to keep them interested. This week, I’m changing up the food to include snack bags filled with cereal mix.

Like sausage balls, I’ve tended to only make this during the holidays. Recently, I was playing with recipes for college students and ended up with a microwave version that’s really good! It has salt, crunch, and takes only 10 minutes to make. Now I’m going to have to force myself not to make it all of the time.

Here’s the recipe:

1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 cups Rice Chex™ cereal
2 cups Corn Chex™ cereal
1 cup Kix® cereal
1 cup gluten-free pretzels
1 cup mixed nuts (optional)

In large microwave-safe bowl, place butter, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. Heat in microwave on high for 1 minute. If butter is fully melted, stir ingredients together until fully mixed. If butter is not melted, microwave in 30-second increments until it is.

Once spices and butter are mixed, add Rice Chex and Corn Chex. Mix making sure to spoon plenty of the spiced butter up from the bottom of the bowl. Add Kix and pretzels and mix again. Return bowl to microwave and cook on high for 6 minutes. Stop the microwave every two minutes and stir the mixture. Allow to cool.

When I’m making this for little ones, I leave out the nuts. Also, word to the wise, don’t be tempted to go for a can of fancy nuts. I did that last Christmas and I was not happy. I missed the peanuts!

I know I’m not the only one trying to navigate distanced visits. You don’t have to do a backyard dinosaur hunt to get together, but carrying some snack bags filled with a homemade treat along on any adventure is a great way to remind the family of memories you share.

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/media/beasts-feather/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Peaches & Cream

We all love peaches & cream! It’s the perfect complexion. It’s a life without problems. It’s an easy dessert. If you don’t love one of those, you’re unusual. Most of us want something in our lives to be peachy.

I can’t necessarily make your life peachy, but I can fill a biscuit with peach butter. Actually, that’s probably not true because I’m eating the peaches as quickly as they arrive. It’s peach season and the fruit is too good to chop, mash, cook, or pickle.

I’ve been placing a freshly sliced peach atop arugula from the garden. When I add a few walnuts and some goat cheese, I have an amazingly flavorful salad! The arugula from my garden is so peppery it brings a slight burn to the sides of my tongue. The peach adds a perfect balance of sweet and tart and the goat cheese delivers a delightful creaminess. A light splash of vinaigrette dressing might take this up a notch, but I seldom bother.

Like pears, I prefer peaches ripe enough for the juice to stream down my chin. If I’m using them in salad, I peel them. This is just a personal preference. You can leave the peel on both peaches and pears.

Anyway, back to the peach butter. If I ever get enough peaches and enough time on my hands to coincide, I’m going to try a recipe I found on a page ripped from The Progressive Farmer magazine and left to yellow in my cousin’s kitchen. It looks like it’s from the 1950s.

There are only two ingredients – peaches and sugar. The approximate ratio is 3 cups of ripe peach pulp to 2 cups of sugar boiled together until it’s thick and smooth. After that you place the hot mixture in sterilized hot jars and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

I already have some jars on hand and this sounds simple enough. Not just simple, it sounds so yummy my mouth is watering. Of course that could be because I just picked up a peach in my kitchen to snap a photo and the smell wafted past my nose.

Do I think I’ll improve the peaches by making peach butter? No! I don’t think you can improve on a perfectly ripe, fresh peach.

But it sure will make my biscuit better!

Update: I made a batch of peach butter. I used 3 cups of peach pulp (8 peaches) and 3/4 cup sugar. Using 2 cups of sugar would have been waaaay to much for my taste.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Progressive_Farmer

Thanksgiving Keeps On Giving at Cooking2Thrive

Thanksgiving keeps on giving by warming our hearts and our bellies. This week, I’m focussing on the role of food in this process. When we’re hungry, it’s hard to feel anything but tired and irritable. When it’s cold, a warm bowl of pasta can set the stage for gratitude on many levels.
pasta
Yesterday, I decided to use some of my Thanksgiving leftovers to create dairy-free pasta sauce. Many Cooking2Thrive recipes begin this way. The process goes something like this:

The idea centered around what was available in my kitchen. For the base, I used two cups of broth leftover from making stuffing. To this I added water, half an onion, a couple of pieces of bacon, two large fresh sage leaves, two sprigs of fresh thyme, garlic powder, salt, fresh ground black pepper, and a dash of cayenne.

When I first cook a recipe, I don’t measure. I just cook. I use sight, smell, and taste to get the proportions right.

I considered thickening my sauce with corn starch but decided I’d rather try using potatoes. I peeled and cubed two Irish potatoes. Once I’d added these to the broth, I brought it to a boil and then let it simmer until the potatoes were falling apart.

I removed the onion, bacon, and fresh herbs and let the broth cool. Of course, I tasted it as well. It was delicious! I considered just eating it as soup with or without adding some leftover turkey. For the ideal soup, I would probably cook the potatoes a little less, add a hint of curry powder, and throw in some frozen green peas.

Once the broth had cooled sufficiently, I put it in a food processor and pureed the mixture. Actually, I just have a small food chopper so I have to do this in stages. At the end, I returned the puree to the pan and turned the heat on low.

While I was doing this, I cooked some gluten-free egg noodles in lightly salted water. This gave me plenty of time to cube two cups of leftover turkey and add it to the sauce to warm. When the pasta was done, I drained it and topped it with the sauce.

The result was hearty, warm, rich and creamy enough to be pleasing without including cream, milk, cheese, or non-dairy substitutes. The flavors are pulled from Thanksgiving, but the combination provides enough variety to prevent leftover flavor fatigue.

Green peas would also be a good addition to the pasta sauce. I almost always have some in the freezer. They cook quickly so adding them into the puree along with the turkey should allow ample cooking time. If I were adding them, I would cover the pan while it simmers.

After tasting a recipe, or eating two helpings, I sit down at the computer and record what I did. To some degree, I’m guessing how much salt I added, but I’ve followed this process for years creating and testing recipes so it’s an educated guess.

I also taste the dish again warm and cold. I note both taste and texture and add notes of things I may want to try next time I cook the dish. This process will be repeated until the recipe is right. Along the way, we get input from tasters and testers. These include friends, family, neighbors, and volunteers as well as professional bakers and chefs.

Sometimes a recipe only requires our minimal triple testing. Other times, it takes more than 10 trials to get it right. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. Yes, sometimes it’s frustrating, but it’s also like solving a puzzle with delicious food as the reward.

We are grateful to have food to put on the table, rework and put on the table again. We are grateful to have input from people who help us improve. We are grateful for those of you who follow us.

And for all of this, we give thanks knowing Thanksgiving keeps on giving!

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/food-junkie/201807/the-many-health-benefits-soup

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/im-going-let-thanksgiving-kickoff-new-year-filled-gratitude/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/new-life-for-leftovers/
ad

Watching Football Makes Us Hungry for Tailgate Food!

Watching football makes us hungry for tailgate food even though we’re at home! As the teams settle into conference play, we can easily spend a whole day in front of the TV. No one wants to cook, but we all want to eat. Taking the tailgate approach not only makes us feel more like we’re at the game in person, it means we have food ready so that all we have to do is watch and yell…a lot!
football
When we actually tailgate, we coordinate with our friends to decide who will bring what and then we do the prep in advance. This approach works well when friends or family gather in front of a big screen. Instead of the burden falling on whoever has the biggest screen, food prep can be treated the same way it would be if you were meeting at your favorite tailgate spot.

Sometimes, we ask that the contributions follow a certain theme. Other times, it’s a free for all. Next week, the theme is peanuts. Don’t worry. There are no peanut allergies within the circle of invitees.

This theme is a throwback to Sunday nights from my childhood. My parents had a group of friends who met after church every Sunday for snacks and conversation. At some point, multiple people brought desserts containing peanut butter for several weeks in a row. From then on, the group was known as the Peanut Butter Club.

As host, I like to provide a substantial central dish. To keep with the peanut theme, I’m considering chicken satay with peanut sauce or African peanut soup. I like the idea of chicken on a skewer, but I also like the idea of a soup I can cook in and serve from a slow cooker.

We’ll want to include some lighter foods. A Thai chopped salad filled with veggies and topped with a peanut drizzle fills the bill. This can be easily served build-your-own style. A fruit tray with peanut butter dip is also a great choice.

This theme makes it easy for those who don’t want to cook. Mixed nuts, trail mix, Reese’s Pieces, or peanut butter cups can all be grabbed on the way to a party. Peanut butter stuffed pretzels are also relatively easy to find. Jif® offers Chocolate Poppers-a bag filled with peanut butter-coated popcorn and chocolate flavored covered pretzels-for a crunchy, sweet variation.
cookies
Classic peanut butter cookies can be an easy gluten-free dessert. Our Cooking2Thrive recipe adds some jelly to become PB & J cookies. Here’s the recipe:
Cooking2Thrive PB&J Cookies
About 25 cookies

Ingredients
Baking parchment
1 cup sugar
1 cup natural crunchy peanut butter (peanuts & salt)
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 1/2 tbsp Concord grape jelly + 2 tbsp additional for topping
Water

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350º. Line cookie sheet with baking parchment.

In medium bowl, combine sugar, peanut butter, salt, and egg. Mix well, then stir in 1 1/2 tbsp jelly. Form dough into small balls approximately 1 inch in diameter. Place balls on cookie sheet about 2 1/2 inches apart.

Put water in a small cup. Dip a fork in the water and use it to press each ball flat, then press each ball with the fork a second time at a 90º angle to the first pressing.

Bake in 350º for 10-12 minutes. Remove parchment to cooling rack and cool for 5 minutes, then remove cookies from parchment directly onto rack. Once completely cool, top each cookie with 1/4 tsp grape jelly.

While I know we’ll enjoy this peanut theme, we’re not the Peanut Butter Tailgate Club. We like variety too much. The rest of the season may include burgers and brats, mac & cheese, pulled pork with vinegar coleslaw, nachos & cheese dip or enchiladas and guacamole. Whatever the theme, the food will be delicious.

Watching football makes us hungry for tailgate food, but the real focus this fall is on the game itself! Roll Tide, go Hogs, Tigers x 3, Gamecocks, Volunteers, Rebels, Bulldogs x 2, Wildcats, Commodores, Aggies, and Gators! Yes, I favor the SEC. I can’t help it. Those roots go deeper than the Peanut Butter Club!
ad