January 28, 2011

Making a Food Statement: Arkansas' Finest

Snow is melting, I'm starting a new diet today that's more exercise —  NFL Training Camp for the Wii —  and calorie awareness thanks to MyNetDiary for the iPad — and we're getting back on track with more great, and easy family meals.

As advertised we're headed for Indiana next week, but today's meal features favorites from Arkansas.

This menu is compliments of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion. Thanks to Tiffany Dabbs who consulted the three culinary chefs on staff at the Mansion, as well as First Lady Ginger Beebe to present A Course for Adventure with the ideal Arkansas meal. I don't think you can get more authentic Arkansas flair than that!

January 21, 2011

Dinner for 200

Last Sunday afternoon a semi-artic chill circled through downtown Kansas City and mounds of gray-swirled, week-old snow left the town feeling lonely and eerie. I circled around the desolate block of mainly industrial buildings again, trying to figure out where to park near the shelter.

Katie saw something else. When I opened the automatic side door to our minivan she said: "Mom, I think I saw a castle nearby. Is this a fairy tale place we're going to?"

I didn't want to dash my sweet child's romantic notions. But she also needed to know that we weren't headed into an opulent place. We were meeting three families and a kitchen crew to make dinner for a homeless shelter. We'd not seen any Disney movies about this adventure.

January 19, 2011

Hoops in the Heartland

Too many snow days has caused a lull in our regional cooking but keep checking back. We've got Indiana coming up and with the cold weather here in Missouri, I'm thinking thoughts of Hawaii. I've forgotten what WARM breezes feel like. 

We have more snowflakes falling at a nice clip today so I'm guessing tomorrow will be a snow day with my daughters looking to be entertained. (Read: watching more TV and making some microwave caramel popcorn.) In the meantime, here's an adventure from our weekend.
It sort of pained me to tell people my daughter was giving up dance to concentrate on basketball and spring soccer. Well sort of, and perhaps if I was being totally honest it wouldn't be discomforting to see my little girly girl change into an athlete seemingly overnight. And not that dancers aren't athletes. I think Paula Abdul would make an incredible bodyguard.

Liz is lithe and graceful, fit to be a dancer in my scout's eyes. I loved watching both daughters in their beautiful, classy dance outfits in last May's dance recital. I was gearing up for that again this year. I liked the other parents and it seemed a more civilized way to get exercise without the notion of competition and all that brings out in parents. If you've been to a youth league game recently you know what I mean.

January 7, 2011

Potter's Place, Part One

We've recently returned from out outing at Harry Potter's Wizarding World at Universal's Island of Adventure Theme Park at Orlando, Florida. We went over break, as well as several other gazillion theme park fans.

My husband wrote about the experience here. Really, after that post there's not much more I think I could even add. But I will try to share about my experience standing in line for Butterbeer later. I'm getting ready for a marathon scrapbooking weekend right now.

So in the meantime, I'll leave you with some butterbeer recipes. It's very good even though I'm the only one in the family who seemed to really like it. And I want to experiment and try to see if I can brew a "hot" version.

I'm including some links for recipes that come similar to making your own magical Butterbeer:

Sanda Lee's take

MuggleNet's recipe by Melissa

Huffington Post's version

We'll also be doing some kitchen alchemy soon, and I just ordered Elizabeth this book, which I think she'll really enjoy.

January 4, 2011

There's a New Chef in the Kitchen

Happy New Year and thanks for checking in. We've gearing up for a great journey through some more great states. And really aren't they all great states? When we're seeking the best a state has to offer and finding quick family meal solutions, it's a great way to brush up on geography and dabble in the kitchen without feeling stressed.

So what's first on our itinerary in January? We're studying up for a trip to Indiana and a return trip to Arkansas where we call on the First Lady to provide her quintessential state meal.

We also plan to start a state-by-state page with food highlights, so if you've got a great find from your state, we'd love to hear about it!

So onward into 2011, exploring more great foods of all 50 states. And there's another new development in the kitchen. I thought you'd like to hear about it, too.

I grew up watching my mother and my grandmother cook, domestic goddesses in their warm kitchens. And lured by premium prize money at our summer county fair starting at the age of 8, I learned to bake. I still have my 4-H cookbooks with names like: Tricks for Treats and All American Foods. They're dated, sure, when a drop biscuit recipe calls for either shortening or lard. I kept them not so much for the recipes but for the chance to have my daughters look through them someday.

Someday is here. And how it came about after fixing a gazillion meals I'm not sure. We've been watching a bit more food shows over the holiday break and I've been baking more, though a "creamy caramel" flop made me question my time in the kitchen. My caramel didn't get firm enough and resembled a blob, though its taste was dulce.

But what was sweetest of all was when 9-year-old Liz confidently announced early Monday that she wasn't just helping cook. She WAS cooking. She got out her fairly recently acquired Cookbook for Girls and picked out her evening menu she would be preparing "on her own."

Liz's new fave cookbook

Her menu was: Spring rolls for appetizers, barbecued chicken kabobs for the main course with pink lemonade and white chocolate and raspberry brownies for dessert. She made her list and one modification. She agreed to use regular dark chocolate when her father announced he didn't like white chocolate.

Liz diligently wrote out her shopping list and we all went to the store. She was ready to start cooking right after we returned. I told her starting at 3:30 was a bit too early. But once she got started at quarter til 5 and for the ensuing hour and a half, she was a trooper, grating, stirring, reading and instructing me in which vegetables needing chopping and other ingredients she needed. I'd read over her shoulder occassionally to make sure she was reading the fractions right but I was more than happy to be the sous chef as she directed the action.

Liz was most concerned that her homemade barbecue sauce was made with ketchup, which to her is a most vile ingredient. But with a little coaxing she added the six tablespoons of the yucky red sauce with plenty of brown sugar and it turned out much better than she imagined. We'd also forgotten to soak our wooden skewers so we just placed the chicken chunks directly on the broiler pan and it still tasted fine.

Nearing 7 p.m. I told Liz that we'd have to make her lemonade recipe another night and so her father stepping in to help her with her fourth and final recipe. They used a salad spoon as their drink stirrer, but hey, we were ALL cookin'!

Katie, who helped too was most complimentary of her sister's abilities. Liz seemed pleased with her accomplishments and ready to make Monday night her cooking night. (Cue the Hank Williams Jr. lead-in music!) Leadership in action and oh, how I hope it continues, if only so I can have one less meal to plan. I've not been this excited for Monday nights in a long time.

Got an aspiring chef in your kitchen? Here are super easy biscuits I made my first year of cooking in 4-H when I was around Elizabeth's age.

Drop Biscuits
2 cups sifted enriched flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspon salt
1/3 cup shortening or lard (don't worry about seeking out lard, shortening will do)
1 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to very hot (450° F).
 2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into mixing bowl. (I don't worry about sifting just weighing the flour. A kitchen scale is a great thing to have. One cup of flour is around 4 ounces/113 grams)
3. Cut in shortening until mixture looks like coarse meal.
4. Make a hole in the center of mixture and pour in all the milk.
5. Stir until dry ingredients are barely damp.
6. Drop dough by spoonsful onto the ungreased cookie sheet. Use one spoon to dip out the dough and the other spoon to push the dough onto the cookie sheet. Leave about 2-inch spaces between the biscuits.
7. Bake in preheated oven about 12 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Makes about 14 biscuits.

Variation: Cinnamon Balls
1. Combine 3 Tablespoons sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon on a piece of waxed paper.
2. Drop a teaspoon of biscuit dough at a time into the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Roll dough around to coat the surface and gently shape into a ball.
3. Place coated balls of dough about 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in a preheated hot oven (450° F).
Makes about 24.

from "Tricks for Treats, A Fun with Foods Project" member manual published by the National 4-H Council.