Tag Archives: picnic food

Holiday Sparkle Nutella Cake Pops

hsncp“I feel like making something.” Oh the horrors. I love my Faithful Assistant. He’s so cute. He’s funny. He’s just about the sweetest little assistant a mom can ask for. But when he wants to make something, it’s usually something that is outside my comfort zone.

He didn’t have any firm ideas this time. We looked at the ingredients on hand and remembered that we had candy melts and sparkly sugar and for some unknown reason, we decided that we should make Cake Pops. I am a very good cook and I bake well too, but I do not specialize in lovely food. That is a realm of cooking I have attempted and I have come to the conclusion that I live outside that realm. But how hard could it be? Make some balls of cake. Roll them in melted topping and sugar. Voila!

Turns out it’s a lot harder than it looks.

So hats off to all you crafty bakers that can make this little balls of fun turn out cute too. And hats off to me for trying. This whole exercise reminded me that life is not always perfect. Sometimes you have a lovely cake that looks delightful and tastes like a bit of heaven.  And sometimes you have lumpy, bumpy cake balls that look like lumps of… but taste great and were fun to try making. We tried. I’m glad we did.

Trying reminded me of two things that two friends have said. One told a story about a less than stellar day she had when she got very angry at her daughter over a bumped batch of cupcakes. The other told a story about a friend who she refers to as her “too” friend. Her friend feels she is too (fill in the blank) and this has kept her from getting close to others. Both are stories about humanity and how, try as we might, we are flawed. It takes a very big person to openly admit they are not perfect and still like themself. I’m not sure if I consider myself a big person but I KNOW I’m not perfect and I’m okay with that. I guess I’d rather try something, not succeed and learn from it than not try at all.

Will we make Cake Pops again? Probably, because right after our failure, my Faithful Assistant told me what he thought we could do differently next time to have a better results. He didn’t care at all that the Cake Pops were hideous. He only cared mildly that I yelled at the dog, but in my defense, the dog has a terrible habit of deliberately trying to trip me when I’m cooking so I drop things for him.

Holiday Sparkle Cake Balls
Box of cake mix, prepared according to instructions
One cup of Nutella
10 oz bag of Candy Melts
Fancy sugar for rolling

1. Bake the cake and let it cool slightly.
2. With your favorite graduate of 6th grade Earth Science, mimic plate tectonics with big slabs of cake and crumble your cake into a bowl.
3. Add the Nutella until mixed well.
4. Shape into one inch balls. Place a stick in them and freeze for a couple hours.
5. Melt the candy melts according to instructions. We used the microwave. It took two minutes.
6. Dip your balls of cake into the candy melt. Twirl around so they are covered completely.
7. Roll in fancy sugar and refrigerate until the topping is set.

Have a Happy 4th of July!

Grilled Potato Salad

gpsHmm… What is Grilled Potato Salad? Is it hot like German Potato Salad? Do you heat the whole mess in some container on the grill instead of in a pan on the stove? Is it made with grilled potatoes? Wouldn’t that make it Grilled Potato Potato Salad? What in the world?

Let me clarify. The potatoes are grilled. That is all. They are grilled, cooled and added to your favorite Potato Salad stuff. Shall we begin?

Grilled Potato Salad
1/2 cup of potatoes per person being served
1 tbsp of mayo per serving of potatoes
Chopped celery
Chopped onion – I used green onions, naturally
salt and pepper
celery salt

1. Toss your potatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper and grill for about 10 minutes. I used some cute little golden potatoes so I didn’t have to cut them. If you use normal sized potatoes, you will probably want to cut them into smaller pieces. If you find it easier, you can grill them on skewers.
2. Allow the potatoes to cool completely. Toss in the rest of the ingredients, cover and chill for at least an hour.
3. Serve with your favorite summer food!

We are not big eaters of anything made with mayo in our house. That partially explains why this is such a bizarre recipe. When I made it, I only made enough for two with the leftover potatoes that we had grilled to go with our bratwurst. I had to reverse engineer my recipe, believe it or not. It was the only way I could figure out how to make enough for a larger group. I hope it makes sense. If it doesn’t, certainly feel free to use your favorite potato salad recipe with grilled potatoes instead of the regular boiled potatoes.


Homemade Taco Seasoning and Avocado Salsa

Original Post: 4/8/2013

I love tacos! They’re so fast and so fun to eat. Everyone loves them and they work with fish, shrimp  ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken… EVERYTHING!

What I do not love about tacos is the packaged taco seasoning. It has too much sodium and it leaves me feeling bloated and sad.

I have always thrown together my own mix of spices for tacos and I thought I’d share it with you. I rarely ever measure what I add to my meat so the measurements below are “guesstimates.” Depending on your palate, add more or less of any of the ingredients to suit your taste. The amounts below were for three ground chicken breasts. I think it was just about a pound of meat.

Taco Seasoning
1/2 tsp + cumin
1/2 tsp + chili powder
1/4 tsp + cayenne pepper
2 or more cloves of garlic, crushed

1. Throw all the spices in a pan with the meat of our choice. Cook until done.
2. Serve on your choice of taco shell with cheese, lettuce, chopped tomatoes, salsa or whatever else you have.

I used ground chicken for my taco in the picture. And I was so lucky to get avocado that was perfectly ripe so I could throw together a side of Avocado Salsa. Here’s how that shaped up:

Avocado Salsa
2 avocados, cut in cubes
1 Roma tomato, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
a dash of cayenne pepper
juice of 1/2 a lime

1. Cut everything up and put it in a bowl.
2. Toss it around gently so the avocado stays in cubes.
3. Squeeze the lime juice over the top and gently toss again.

You can add black beans  and corn to this, too and you will have a wonderful vegetarian filling for your tacos.

Since it’s going to be so lovely out this week, I recommend you make some tacos and enjoy a meal on the patio.


Perfect Roasted Chick Peas

prcpOriginally Posted April 15, 2013

I have been trying for months to perfect the Roasted Chick Pea, and thanks to extensive research and trials, I am happy to say, I’ve done it! I have tried many brands of chick peas; store brands, name brands, organic, etc. I’ve tried very hot ovens and medium hot ovens. I’ve tried long roasting times and shorter times. I think you get it. I’ve tried a lot of methods and I simply couldn’t get the chick peas to dry out completely.

The trick it seems, is using dried chick peas, cooking them and then roasting them. This is beyond ridiculous. I am saying that you take something dry, rehydrate it just so you can dry it out again. It makes no sense. I am asking for your trust. Please, trust me on this.

Perfect Roasted Chick Peas
1 1/2 cups dried chick peas

1. Place the dried chick peas in a 2 or 3 quart pot.
2. Cover with water and cook on medium for 60 minutes
3. After the hour is up, drain the chick peas, dry them a bit and place them in a single layer on a pan sprayed with cooking spray.
4. Place in a 375 degree oven and roast for 90 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
5. When the 90 minutes are over, turn off the oven and leave the chick peas in there for another 30 minutes.
6. Remove and season as desired.

I opted to season my chick peas with only sea salt. You can add some garlic powder or cayenne pepper or toss them with Parmesan while they are still hot. Roasted chick peas are a great little snack and are much healthier than chips, of course.

Today was another shocking day. As if paying taxes isn’t enough, now we again struggle to process the senseless brutality that occurred in Boston this afternoon. Today, I hope you did the things you love, with the people you love. I cooked because it helps me make sense of the things that don’t make sense.  I really hope I don’t have to hit the kitchen and cook while fighting off tears ever again.


Maple Bacon Butter Beans

I have to tell you something. Lean closer so I can say it quietly. I don’t want people to hear me. I don’t like baked beans. I don’t like those little chunks of pork. I don’t like the sickeningly sweet sauce. The beans are always mushy like baby food. Blech.

But here we are, approaching a holiday weekend and the people want what the people want. “Make something like baked beans,” one of them said. Argh.

To the pantry! (Similar to going to the bat cave, but for people who like to cook and not dark, lonely, middle aged men with more money than sense.) Butter beans, maple syrup, turkey bacon and onions in the fridge. Voila! I found my inspiration! Maple Bacon Butter Beans. Slightly sweet set off with a little bit of green onion. I have to say, to me, these were an excellent alternative to regular baked beans.

Maple Bacon Baked Beans (4 servings)
2 – 15.5 oz cans butter beans
5 slices turkey bacon, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp honey mustard

1. Cook the onions and bacon on medium heat until the bacon starts getting a little crispy on the edges. It might take a while so you may prefer to cook the bacon in the microwave instead and then add it to the onions.
2. Combine maple syrup, ketchup and honey mustard.
3. Combine syrup mixture, bacon, onions and beans in a baking dish.
4. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes until nice and bubbly.

You can safely double this without adjusting any ingredients. One thing I noticed about this bean recipe is that it doesn’t reheat well. So if you plan on taking them to a picnic, cook them just before you leave. And feel free to try different beans. I’m not sure it would really matter. I did like the different colors of the bacon, green onions and beans, though.

The verdict was good in my house. The beans ended up being an afternoon snack. There were still enough for dinner.