Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and the weather is wintry – rainy, snowy or windy! What better way to spend an indoor afternoon or morning making Valentine Lollipops with your Children. Children very often make paper Valentine’s to give to their friends, but Chocolate ones are even better. They taste good and Chocolate is good for you!
What you will need to make these treats is:
Candy (Heart-shaped Lollipop Molds) – available at your local Cake Decorating Store or Craft Shop such as Michael’s or JoAnn’s.
Pre-tempered Chocolates (Wilton’s)
A sheet of waxed paper or a flat pan to put the molds on.
A melting pot or double boiler If you don’t have either you can make a double boiler by placing a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water.
To make the Pops first set up your molds. Make sure they are clean and dry. Water and chocolate do not mix and your pops will not set up properly. The best thing to do is to wash and dry them 24 hours before you are going to use them. When you are finished with them, wash (DO NOT USE SOAP) just hot tap water and dry and then after 24 hours place them in a sealed plastic bag so that the next you need them they will be ready to go.
Place the molds on the waxed paper or sheet pan. Place the sticks in the molds (make sure that at least one inch of the stick is in the candy portion ) If you are using a Melting Pot place the Candy (the melting pots will hold a 12 oz. bag of candy) in the Melting Pot and set it to MELT. Once the Candy has thoroughly melted turn the setting down to WARM.
Once the Candy has melted you can then spoon it into the molds. Be sure and completely cover the Lollipop Sticks. DO NOT fill the mold to the top. Once they are about 3/4 full, stop and tap the molds to get rid of the Air Bubbles. If there is still space left in the mold slowly add additional candy until the mold is full.
Allow at least an hour for the candy to set at room temperature or about 20-30 minutes in the refrigerator or 15-20 in the freezer.
Once the Candy has set up turn the molds over onto a sheet of waxed or parchment paper and gently press on the backs to un-mold. If they are not going to be eaten right away place into bags (lollipop bags can be purchased at Cake Decorating Stores, Party Stores or Craft Stores). Tie with red curling ribbon. These lollipops are a great replacement for Valentines.
For heat loving Valentine recipients you can add a little bit of Chili Flakes (Old Boney Mountain Grotto Dust) available at http://www.oldboneymountainhotsaucecorp.com/
October is ‘National Apple Month’ so I decided to look up and see how many different kinds of Apples there are. Wow, I did not expect to find the number I did – there are literally dozens and maybe hundreds – the only letter in the Alphabet that does not bear the name of an Apple is ”X”. There are numerous kinds of Apples for each and every letter, however most of us are familiar with only a small number of them.
The most common Apples are the Red and Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Pippins and Granny Smith. The best for eating are the Delicious, of course and the Gala and Fuji. The best for baking are Granny Smith and Pippins. The last two are not terribly sweet and have a firm flesh which lends them well to baked goods such as pies and pastries. For cooking and Applesauce the Winesap and Gravensteins are excellent.
My favorite use for Apples is to make Pie and of course, there is nothing as American as ‘Apple Pie’. I also love Apple Turnovers made with Puff Pastry. Puff Pastry is a pain to make but you can purchase frozen Puff Pastry Sheets which work very well. You can also use Pie Crust or even Yeast Dough for your Turnovers Shells.
There are also many other ways in which we can use Apples and so I am going to explore some of them here and reference several really great recipes. The first one is for Apple Bread – what a good way to use up those Apples from your tree or even the ones you bought. You can even use Applesauce. Try the referenced recipe. This recipe makes two to three loaves, depending on the size of the pans you use. You can also make Muffins from the same recipe. If there is too much for your family to consume at one time, these loaves freeze well or you can share them with your friends. www.sylveeeskitchen.com/recipes/baked-goods/breads/apple-bread/
Apple Pie can be made in various ways – there are French Apple Pies with a streusel topping and then there are the traditional ‘American’ type Apple Pies with both a bottom and a top crust. The referenced recipe is for a French Apple Pie which always easy to make because there is only a bottom crust and you don’t have to worry about getting the top crust to fit and look beautiful. www.sylveeeskitchen.com/recipes/baked-goods/pies-pastry/
Apple Turnovers are absolutely my favorite way to go! You can eat them out of hand without utensils; they are good for Breakfasts on the Go or for snacks or Desserts. You can use Puff Pastry or Pie Crust or any of your favorite pastry doughs.
Apple Brown Betty is an old fashioned dish which can also be used for dessert or for Breakfast. There is no Pie Crust to worry about, just a cumbly topping. It is fast and easy to make and is great with Vanilla Ice Cream or Whipped Cream on top. www.sylveeeskitchen.com/recipes/deserts/apple-brown-betty/
Caramel Apples are one of my favorite ways to eat Apples. I love Apples and I love Caramel and nothing goes better together than Apples and Caramel. And since Halloween is this Month what better treat than Caramel Apples to share with the kids. This recipe is simple to make and the Apples are fun to eat. The best Apples to use for Caramel Apples are Granny Smith or Golden Delicious. Pippins are also good, but make sure that they are somewhat ripe or they will be to tart to eat, even with the Caramel. www.sylveeeskitchen.com/recipes/halloween-recipes/caramel-apples/
Remember, October is ‘National Apple Month’ and there is no better time to buy and eat Apples than now. Even better is if you can pick your own, either from your own trees or nearby orchards. Play around and experiment – Apples are a wondrous fruit and don’t forget ‘An Apple A Day Keeps the Doctor Away’. Try a different Apple Recipe for the Month of October – ‘National Apple Month’. And another reason for eating and using them now is that later on, the Apples you buy will all have been in cold storage which makes them mealy and less tasty. So take advantage of ‘National Apple Month.
September is ‘National Breakfast Month’ and this is a particularly good time for it. With the kids back in school, it is a good time for parents to emphasize the fact that Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The word Breakfast literally means to break a fast. That Fast is the time between when you eat your last meal of the day and the first meal of the next day. This usually is a period of 10-12 hours. This is the reason that your body needs to replenish its fuel supply to run and to feed your brain. Automobiles can’t run without fuel and neither can the human body. Therefore, skipping breakfast is not good for your body or your brain.
A healthy Breakfast should contain some Protein and some Carbohydrates. If you eat wholesome nutritious foods they will also contain the vitamins you need along with essential fatty acids.
All cultures have a breakfast menu, although some do not call it as such. Breakfast foods as we know them in the West are not necessarily what people in the Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures eat. The typical American Breakfast is actually based on the English Breakfast which traditionally consists of Eggs, some kind meat such as sausage or bacon and maybe potatoes plus fruit and a beverage. And don’t forget the toast!
In Asia most breakfasts include rice of some kind. In China, it is Congee, a porridge made with rice but in other Asian countries rice is just used as one of the ingredients for the breakfast.
Since we could elaborate for miles and miles on the different breakfasts around the world I am going to stick with the Western Variety. This would include, of course European Countries as well as North America.
In Spain and Germany, the first meal of the day is usually just a cup of coffee and a pastry and a larger more elaborate breakfast is eaten a couple of hours later.
In American, many families have opted to have dry cereal for breakfast along with milk poured onto it. This is certainly faster for people in a hurry, but it is not necessarily the best or tastiest way to go.
My favorite breakfast stems back to my childhood when my parents and my brother and I usually had eggs for breakfast. To this day, Eggs are still my favorite food for breakfast.
Since this is ‘National Breakfast Month’ we will devote one blog a week to Breakfasts around the world. This month will be American Breakfasts such as we know them. The traditional American Breakfast at least as I knew it was Fruit Juice or Fresh Fruit, Eggs, Toast and Milk or Coffee for the Adults. Of course, there are many other variations such as Pancakes, Waffles, Crepes (one of my favorite filled with fruit), cooked Oatmeal (with Raisins! or dried Apples!) and the proverbial dried Cereal with Milk and fruit such as Bananas added.
Whatever your favorite Breakfast, just don’t forget to eat it! Remember, Breakfast is the most important meal of the Day! Especially for children who go to school and need the fuel and brain power that a good breakfast provides!
To give you some ideas and recipes for Breakfast Items check out the Breakfast/Recipe section of this Blog: recipes/breakfast-items/
Now that I had a batch of fresh homemade Ricotta Cheese the next step was to make something with it. I decided to make a batch of Cheese Blintz to serve for Sunday Brunch with fresh Strawberries. The crepes for the Blintz are easiest to work with if the Batter is made at least 1 hour ahead of time and then allowed to rest in the refrigerator. If you try to make the Crepes right after making the Batter there will be too much air in the batter for the pancakes to form properly. Now as far as I am concerned, the thinner the crepes the better, but of course you do need to have them thick enough to hold the filling without tearing. You can use the Sweet Crepe Batter Recipe under the Recipe/Dessert Section of this Blog. deserts/sweet-crepe-shells/ Just reduce the Sugar in the recipe from 1 Tbsp. to 1 tsp.
I made the Crepe Batter with the residual Whey from the production of the Ricotta. This reduces the waste that normally would result from making the Cheese. To make the Crepes, the Filling and the topping just follow the procedure below.
#1 – Make the Batter and refrigerate for at least one hour.
#2 – Rinse, dry, slice and sugar the Berries. If using Blackberries, Boysenberries or Raspberries eliminate the slicing procedure. Place the Berries in a bowl and squeeze the juice of 1/2 of a lime (for every pint of berries) over the Berries and then toss with 1/4 cup of Superfine Sugar. Taste and add more Lime Juice and/or Sugar as desired.
#3 – Make the Cheese Filling for the Blintz. /deserts/cheese-filling/
4. Make the Crepes –
Heat the crepe pan until a drop of water splashed on it sizzles; melt the Butter and stir into the Batter.
- Use approximately ¼ cup of Batter (the exact amount depends on the size of the pan)
- While you are pouring in the Batter, tilt the pan with your other hand to cover the bottom of the pan.
- When the edges begin to dry and bubbles appear on the crepe surface, turn it over with a heat-proof spatula and cook a few seconds more on the turned side. (Cook one side to a light brown and the other just enough to set the batter. This side should still be almost white when you remove it from the pan.)
- You will be browning the Blintz in Butter before serving them so you do not want the second side to be cooked too long.
5. Filling the Blintz –
- Lay the Crepe Shells on a flat plate or work surface
- Place a scoop of the Cheese Filling in the middle
- Fold in the sides and then fold over the top and bottom. You should have a square package.
6. To Serve –
- Melt enough Butter to make a thin sizzling layer in the bottom of a medium to large frying pan. When the Butter starts to sizzle add the Blintz, leaving about 1/4 – 1/2″ between each one.
- When the bottoms brown gently turn and cook the other side.
- Serve while hot with the sliced Strawberries and Sour Cream or Whipped Cream as a Garnish.
One of my sons who lives in a country where Cheese is not a commonly found product has experimented with making his own. His adventures have inspired me to try my hand at Cheese Making even though Cheese is readily available where we live. So the first Cheese that I tried making is Ricotta. Ricotta or Cottage Cheese is probably the simplest of all Cheese to make. It took about an hour and a quarter and that includes draining time.
The products you need are readily available at your local grocer and you probably have the cooking vessels and containers that you need at home. Listed below are the groceries that you need and the equipment you should have.
Let’s start with the Equipment so that when you go out to buy the groceries, if you don’t have all the equipment, you can purchase it at the same time you purchase your groceries.
5-6 Quart Cooking Vessel
Large Colander or Sieve (Strainer)
5-6 Quart Bowl
The Groceries that you will need are:
1/2 Gallon of Milk (preferably from a local dairy and is not over-pastureized
1 cup of Heavy Cream
1/2 tsp. Salt
3 Tbsps. Lemon Juice
Start by combining the Milk, Cream and Salt in your large cooking vessel. Place it over high heat and bring to a rapid boil, stirring continuously to prevent burning.
Once the mixture comes to a rapid boil, stir in the Lemon Juice, lower the heat and cook (again stirring continuously until the mixture curdles completely. (About 2 minutes)
Remove from the heat and pour into the Cheese Cloth lined colander. Allow to drain for one hour.
Wrap in the Cheese Cloth and plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. This Cheese will keep for only 2 days, so plan on using it as quickly as you can.
You can see that the drained Cheese has taken on the shape of the colander and is formed into a perfectly round parcel. This is not so important with Ricotta Cheese as it usually gets mixed with other ingredients to form a filling for Ravioli, Lasagna or Blilntz, but if you are making semi-hard or hard cheeses this is a bonus.
After the Ricotta had completely drained I had about a quart of the residual whey (the portion of milk that does not form the curd) Some people feed this to their chickens ( if you have them), their cats or dogs (again if you have them). I no longer have pets but I did find uses for the Whey. I made a loaf of Wheat Bread with some of it and used another portion to make Crepe Shells for Blintz which I will show in my next blog.
This was the best Ricotta Cheese I have ever eaten and I usually buy an expensive brand that is made from whole milk and is very good. This at least matched it, but I think it was better. It costs no less to make it at home than it does to buy, but it is good and it is fun.
Check my next blog to see what I did with this Ricotta.
Saturday, June 2nd was the day of our Parent/Chlid Pizza Class at Let’s Get Cookin’. Four Teams of 2 parents each made Piizza Dough, their own indivual pizzas and pizzas to share. Everyone was very involved and had a good time. The class ended with everyone enjoying a lunch of Pizza, Salad, Italian Sodas and Dessert.
The items that were made were:
PIZZA DOUGH: Basic, Gurmet and Thin Crust
Chinese BBQ Chicken Pizza with Bell Peppers, Shitake Mushrooms, etc.
Hawaiian Pizza with Portuguese Sausage & Pineapple, etc.
Argentine Pizza with Smoked Spanish Chorizo, Red & Green Bell Peppers, etc.
Artisan Greens Salad with Zest Lemon Dressing
Chocolate Chip Cookie Pizza & Italian Sodas
The Upside Down Pizza shown below was made with a new pan, made especially for making a ‘Deep Dish Pizza’ which is made ‘upside down’. It was fun to do. The pan can be purchased at Let’s Get Cookin’ in Westlake Village, CA.
Everyone enjoyed making and eating their pizza and also had items to take home as there was just too much to eat all at one time. Our next Parent/Child Class is July 14th and will include various items from Europe such as Arrabbiata Pasta from Italy, Roman Salad, Monte Carlo Tea Cookies and Circus Snow Cones.