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Spring indeed

24 Mar
Everything is better in a heart-shaped bowl.
Everything is better in a heart-shaped bowl.

Wouldn’t it happen that as soon as I let my guard down and decide to be excited about spring, we’d have a gray day with four days of snow in the forecast? Well. Let me tell you one thing. It might not look like spring outside, but it can be spring in my heart…aww. In lieu of that, it can be spring in my bowl and in my mouth. Even better.

 

Not knowing whether D would be available to come to our church St. Patrick’s Day party the Saturday before last (and, well, because we have an absolutely impressive reputation for making and breaking our own plans), I signed up to bring the least committal thing I could: dessert. Normally, I love cooking and baking for people, especially in my own house. But in potluck-type settings, there’s a part of me who knows that the offerings will be full of casseroles, Miracle Whip, Jell-O, and rolls picked up from the bakery, and that’s what people want and expect. I’m inclined to think that it’s not worth the while to rack my brain for some never-before-seen creation from the oven when either someone will slurp without tasting or a very cute, well-meaning child sticks their finger in the middle of. I know. I need a little attention when it comes to the food I make.

 

Despite these crucial, shattering circumstances, I thought anyway. I pondered, I prayed, I aspired to make Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Toffee Pudding or bring a plate of homemade donuts or Chocolate Clafoutis. And thought some more, and then forgot promptly once church was over.

 

The Saturday of the St. Patrick’s Day party rolls around, and fifteen minutes before it, procrastination and forgetfulness catches up, sits on me until I cry for mercy, and pushes me in the direction of the fridge and cupboard. It also threatened me with a life of only canned green beans unless I bought several pints of strawberries (they were on sale). Obviously, I obliged. Forgetfulness is a hard master.

 

So with five minutes until takeoff for the party (hooray for living really close to the church!), I scrambled and searched for something to pair with the strawberries, and you’re looking (look! look!) at the results: a regular bowl ‘o cream with a few twists. Cardamom, strawberries, and orange are good friends, but a word of caution: cardamom can be a pretty strong friend. You know that one friend who’s always the center of attention at every party? Right. Cardamom. The funny friend, but still. Once in a while, a strawberry would like a chance.

 

I’ve tried this both with plain, slivered almonds and sugared ones, with the vote that plain is best—the sugared almonds provide a crunch that is great in some places, but is kind of the guy at the gym wearing jeans and flip-flops on the treadmill; a little awkward.

 

I can see this with a variety of fruits, though I definitely wanted to stay away from the typical fruit salad offering. Blueberries would be a great addition, as would be a swirl of maple syrup. Let me know what variations you come up with.

 

Welcome, spring! (Please stay! Please! I am not native to Minnesota and can only do snow so long.)

 

-Erin

 

Spring Strawberries and Cream Bowl

 

This recipe is best made a few hours ahead of time, though it was born in about five minutes. Making it ahead of time allows the cream to absorb the cardamom and orange flavors.

 

Kitchen tip: Cream whips best when you use a chilled bowl, preferably metal. (I don’t have a metal bowl, but I just refrigerate a glass or ceramic bowl at least half an hour.) If mixing by hand, choose a large, sturdy whisk to incorporate the maximum amount of air.

 

Lastly, though the cardamom might seem exotic, this recipe has been certified both kid- and adult-approved. Miracle.

 

Prep time: About 7 minutes

Difficulty level: Not even close

 

1 pt. strawberries, tops removed, sliced thinly

1/2 C heavy whipping cream

scant 1/4 C granulated sugar

1 1/2 C plain yogurt (fat-free varieties tend to be grainy; Old Home is slightly better)

2 dried cardamom pods, ground (or 1/8 t cardamom, to taste)

1/2 t dried orange peel (or zest of one medium orange)

handful slivered almonds, divided

 

Set aside strawberries.

 

*In a large serving bowl, whip cream to soft peaks (~3 minutes with an electric mixer). Fold in sugar gradually. Fold in yogurt, cardamom, and orange peel or zest. Fold in strawberries, reserving a handful. Fold in almonds, reserving a handful. Top bowl with reserved almonds and strawberries.

Quick & slick dessert list for little and big kids

22 May

Seeing that I have a great dearth of posts in any kind of a sweet category, I thought I’d put out some of my quick, classic treats out there. These can be made with a blindfold and just a few components and some common cookware, and most can be made when you find out at the last minute that you have guests coming. Sweets on this list have also been approved by people who know who Calliou is and who might speak with a lisp. And children.

This list is also great for budgets and big groups; the ease and the cheapalicity factors make them winners.

Approved by children and adults

  1. Pudding cups with animal swimers: scoop of chocolate instant pudding, animal (or graham) crackers stuck in, and small candy sprinkles on top. (Sprinkles upgrade everything.)
  2. Sneaky chocolate chip cookies: Make them with white whole wheat flour. I buy this brand, because it’s so available in grocery stores. It’s also relatively inexpensive (though we could talk about the rise in the price of wheat…). White whole wheat flour is easy to use anywhere you’d use regular, refined, white flour, and no one will know that you’re upping the nutritional density of your treat. High in fiber, without any additives and preservatives, I am a big fan of this flour. Give it a try. Oh–and don’t forget the milk, for bonus nutritional points (skip the juice!).
  3. Homemade ice cream with fruit. Yes, it’s still cream, but with chunks (or pureed) fruit, you’ve got a serving of dairy and a serving of fruit. I’ve also found success making nearly cream-less ice cream, even with skim milk. Either make it with the fruit, or top it; stew the fruit if it’s a harder fruit (like apple), or top it straight up if it’s a softer fruit (banana, strawberry). It takes a little longer, but I like the interactivity of my ice cream “maker.” It lets everyone help; but it is very heavy!
  4. Jamie’s cheat’s dessert. I am a sucker for anything ginger; I even eat the very, very strong ginger candies that most Americans can’t stomach. So this dessert made with gingersnaps drew me in. It’s sophisticated enough for adults, but a strong flavor for kids. Switch out the ginger snaps for cookies with a milder, more familiar taste for the little ones. Try chocolate cookies with caramel topping. Add some simmered, sweetened fruit to top it. (Sorry, a lot of top-it-with-fruit preaching here! Can you tell it’s spring? And that I love m plant food?)
  5. Toffee with apples and strawberries. Take a can of sweetened condensed milk, put it bottom- or top-side up in a pan big enough to fit it plus a couple of inches, and cover it with water. Do not open the can. Boil it for about an hour and-a-half, turning with tongs (hot!) every once in a while so it all cooks evenly. Let the can cool, and open it–you will have your own toffee! Cook a little longer if you like it thick like frosting, less if you like it runny like thick caramel. Dip apples, strawberries, or bananas into it. Excellent.

Happy desserting!