Off The Shelf: May Magazines

Well, our month has not gone quite as planned so this will be a shorter review and it’s later than we intended (my fault completely!). It’s wonderful to see the spring and summer recipes featuring seasonal vegetables and fruits! Perhaps inspiration will once again return to kitchens everywhere.

FOOD NETWORK (Alaina)- This wasn’t my favorite issue of Food Network but still, they have so many recipes and so much variety. The Jumbo Maple Pecan Scone, Poppy Seed Potato Salad, Stawberry Blondies, and Sage Limeade were a few of the recipes that looked interesting and tasty! 

However, my kids are big fans of chocolate milk and it is definitely a treat. So, I decided to make the Salted Chocolate Milk. The homemade chocolate syrup could be used as a sauce for all kinds of desserts. This was rich and delicious! The salt was a wonderful addition that brought out the chocolate goodness. This totally made me feel like a kid again!

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1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups cold milk
Kosher salt

Make the chocolate syrup: Combine the sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Let cool completely.

Spoon about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the chocolate syrup into each glass. Add 1 1/2 cups milk and a generous pinch of salt. Stir until the syrup and salt dissolve.

COOKING LIGHT – (Stephanie) I never know each month whether or not I’ll find many recipes I’m excited to try within the pages of Cooking Light. This month’s issue had several tasty sounding recipes. As I’m trying to learn to enjoy shrimp, I was pleased to find a couple new shrimp recipes: Shrimp Cobb Salad and Roasted Shrimp & Broccoli. There was also a section with assorted muffin recipes–Bacon-Cheddar Corn Muffins, Cherry-Wheat Germ Muffins, Tuscan Lemon Muffins, Pistachio-Chai Muffins–don’t those sound interesting and delicious? I also thought the Ancho Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Avocado Cream sounded yummy.

I decided to try the Strawberry-Avocado Salsa with Cinnamon Tortilla Chips. I love fresh salsas and the flavor combination in this one intrigued me. I enjoyed this, though unfortunately forgot to buy fresh cilantro and jalapenos, so I used dried instead. If you’re looking for a quick, seasonal snack, give this easy recipe a try.

(from Cooking Light, May 2011)
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2 teaspoon canola oil
6 6-inch whole wheat flour tortillas
2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cup finely chopped, peeled ripe avocado (about 2)
1 cup finely chopped strawberries
2 Tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon minced seeded jalapeno
2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
3/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

To prepare chips, brush oil evenly over one side of each tortilla. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle evenly over oil-coated sides of tortillas. Cut each tortilla into 12 wedges; arrange wedges in a single layer on two baking sheets. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes until crisp.

Combine avocado, strawberries, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, and salt; stir gently to combine. Serve with chips. 12 servings.

Beverages: Hot Cocoa

This past weekend winter came in full force to my little part of the world. Snow pounded down and we stayed indoors. Well, except for a walk in the winter wonderland.

Snow makes me wish for hot cocoa. As a girl, Mom would often have a steaming pot of homemade hot cocoa on the stove when we came in pink-cheeked and sniffly-nosed from playing in the snow. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I mixed up some cocoa for Jeremy and I to sip. This takes some attention at first, but is well worth the effort, and honestly quite easy.

(from Mom J.)
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heavy 1/4 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. sugar
dash of salt
1/3 c. hot water
1 qt milk
3/4 tsp vanilla

Combine the cocoa, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Blend in the hot water and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for 2 minutes.

Add milk. Stir and heat through. Remove from heat; add vanilla. Whisk in pan until foamy. Top with marshmallows if desired.

Weekend Fare: Chocolate

We are concluding this week of recipes on chocolate with a day devoted entirely to some easy chocolate recipes that are perfect for entertaining, for ending a special meal, or just because. The lava cakes and creme brulee would make excellent Valentine’s Day Desserts!

These double chocolate cookies are sure to please any chocolate lover. The beautiful texture and chocolatey goodness make it perfect for dipping in a glass of milk! When I want to make large cookies, I use my ice cream scoop and bake them for 12-13 minutes. Mmmm…

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1 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. white sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 package (11-12 oz.) milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In medium bowl cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt and blend until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet or stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

The oozy, delicious center of molten lava cakes makes this a popular dessert. I love it paired with raspberries – a perfect combination! Honestly, these cakes are incredibly easy but yet, so impressive. Bake them right before serving. Fresh whipped cream, vanilla bean ice cream, and/or fresh or frozen fruit make excellent garnishes.

(adapted from
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1 c. butter
8 oz. semi-sweet or dark chocolate (a nice quality of chocolate will give a better cake!), chopped
5 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
pinch of salt
4 tsp. flour
fresh or frozen raspberries, opt.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease 8 ramekins and set aside.

Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Beat eggs, sugar, and salt with a hand mixer in a medium bowl until sugar dissolves. Beat egg mixtures into chocolate until smooth.  Beat in flour until just combined. (Batter can be made a day ahead and refrigerated – bring to room temperature before baking).

Adjust oven rack to middle position. Divide batter between ramekins. Bake until batter puffs but center is not set, 9-12 minutes. Carefully loosen the sides of the cake and invert on a dessert plate. Serve with fresh or thawed raspberries if desired.

Although white chocolate isn’t really chocolate, I wanted to make sure and include a recipe for something with white chocolate! This gluten free creme brulee is WONDERFUL! Seriously, go make it. It doesn’t have a strong white chocolate flavor – just a hint and even my tasters who normally don’t care for white chocolate loved this dessert! 

I desperately wished for a torch to make this dessert look prettier – the sugar just did not caramelize as well under the broiler. It did have that lovely crisp texture though which is so wonderful with the creamy custard. 

(adapted from
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4 egg yolks
1/3 c. sugar
2 c. heavy cream
4 oz. quality white chocolate (I used Ghiradelli), chopped
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 tsp. sugar.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg toiks with 1/3 c. sugar until smooth. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add the white chocolate. Whisk until chocolate is melted. Temper the eggs by adding 2 Tb. of the white chocolate mixture  to the eggs. Whisk. Add the rest of the white chocolate and whisk to combine. Add vanilla.

Divide between 4 -6 ramekins. Place the ramekins in a 9×13 pan filled with 1 1/2 inches hot water. Bake for 45-55 minutes of until set. Allow to cool, then refrigerate the custards until chilled. Before serving, sprinkle the tops of each ramekin with 1 tsp. of suagr and place under the broiler or use a torch to carmalize the sugar. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Finally, I wanted to give you a quick and easy hot chocolate recipe. It’s not the very rich, homemade hot chocolate I often think of but it was light and delicious with a hint of cinnamon. It was made with ingredients that I almost always have on hand. You could top it with whipped cream or shaved chocolate.

(adapted from Ellie Krieger)
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1 c. milk
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. water
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat the milk and the cinnamon until just simmering. In a mug, combine the cocoa powder, sugar, and water and stir. Pour the milk into the mug and stir to mix well. Add the vanilla and stir. Makes 1 serving.

Weekend Fare: Smoothies

Smoothies are perfect for the weekends or any day of the week. They often feature yogurt and/or milk but there are dairy-free recipes as well. You can boost their nutrients by adding protein powder, ground flax seed, or whatever other additives you prefer. Here are two that our family enjoy.

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1 c. vanilla yogurt
2 Tb. shredded coconut
8-10 oz. crushed pineapple w/juice
1/2 banana
1/2 c. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
8 ice cubes

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. The coconut will still have some texture, so if you don’t prefer that, you can make a pineapple-banana smoothie and omit the coconut or substitute coconut milk for the milk and shredded coconut! Serves 3-4.

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1 c. vanilla yogurt
1 1/2 c. frozen strawberries
1/2 banana
1/2 c. fruit juice (I used a berry blend)

Combine all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Serves 2-3.

Off The Shelf: December Food Magazines

December has come and with that all of the new food magazines. Ours arrived remarkably late this year and we have yet to see a few of them. But here our reviews of three magazines.

Everyday Food (Heather) — I was kind of hoping that December’s issue of Everyday Food would be just a little bit more festive. Granted, it does have 20 pages devoted just to holiday food, but somehow I wanted a whole issue with almost nothing but holiday food.

You will find a number of good dinner recipes for “everyday” cooking as well as a whole section on soups. Holiday recipes include: Brandied Ham, Spinach and Gruyere Souffle, Crispy Potato Roast, Leek Gratin, Fudge, Truffles and Mini Fruitcakes.

I chose to try the Crostini with Kale and Parmesan, since the thought of using Kale as an appetizer had never occurred to me before. Despite enjoying Kale as a side-dish, I was slightly apprehensive about this recipe. However, one bite was all it took to impress me! This recipe is GOOD! The tangy greens on top of the crisp, salty bread, with just a bit of bite from the parmesan yields a really delightful appetizer that’s also not that bad for your health!

(Everyday Food Magazine, December 2009)

1 baguette, sliced 1/3-inch thick on the diagonal
3+ Tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds kale, washed, stems removed, leaves sliced into 1/4-inch strips
2 tsp. lemon juice (I substituted 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar)
1 small wedge Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400F. Arrange bread slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Bake until light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (I needed mine to finish in a hurry, so I eventually turned on the broiler).

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil and garlic over medium-high heat until garlic is fragrant. Add kale and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper and add 1 cup water; cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook until almost all liquid has evaporated, 12 minutes. Uncover and cook until liquid is evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Toss with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.

Top crostini with kale. With a vegetable peeler, shave Parmesan on top.

Serves 8.

Everyday with Rachael Ray (Alaina) — While this issue is a double issue and claims to have many ideas, I found it rather disappointing. Appetizers, drinks,  snacks, desserts, and cookies are the main types of recipes I look for in December/Holiday issues of magazines. This issue has a few of these things but nothing that really makes me want to get in the kitchen and cook or bake. The magazine does feature a few pages of holiday menu.

Lest I sound too harsh, there were some great sounding recipes. Some of the recipes that sound especially good are Nougat Hot Chocolate w/Whipped Cream, Caramelized Banana Loaf Cake, French Onion Mac ‘n’ Cheese, and Smoked Mozzarella and Chicken Sandwiches with Italian Barbecue Sauce.

I did make the Chived Yorkshire Puddings and they were delicious. The whole family enjoyed them and I would make them again. Mine  rose beautifully and then deflated a bit – perhaps if I had left them in a couple more minutes they would have faired a little better. They were very tasty nonetheless! The oniony flavor of the chives was a great addition.

(Everyday with Rachael Ray, Dec./Jan. 2009-2010)

3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs and milk; stir in the flour, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 pinch of pepper. Gently stir in the chives; then let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Brush two jumbo muffin pans with oil or use 12 8-oz. ramekins set on a baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and let stand until hot, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the muffin pans to a heatproof work surface. Working quickly, add 1/4 c. batter to each cup, then bake until puffed and golden-brown, 15-17 minutes. Run a knife around each cup to loosen and serve immediately.

Makes 12

Cooking Light (Alaina) — This is truly a double issue. It has a lot of recipes and is 292 pages! This issue was less disappointing. It has 13 cookie recipes, 20 dessert recipes, and 7 beverage recipes. For a magazine that generally seems to focus on savory dishes, I am impressed. The recipes look delicious – Pecan-Date Bars, Raspberry-Cream Cheese Brownies, Lemon-Almond Tarts, Roasted Pear Creme Brulee, and many more! They had even have a recipe for Toasted Coconut Marshmallows. I’ve mentioned this feature before but I like that they list serving information – serving size, calories, fat etc.

I made the Hot Buttered Vanilla Rum. I’ll be honest, it was way to strong for us. However, if you really, really enjoy rum, this drink is for you. I was hoping for more of a buttery flavor and stronger vanilla (next time, I would cut the vanilla bean completely in half and scrape the seeds into the mixture at the beginning).

(Cooking Light, December 2009)

1 1/2  cups  water
2  tablespoons  sugar
1  vanilla bean
1  (2-inch) piece lemon rind
1  cup  dark rum
1  tablespoon  butter

Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 15 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl, reserving liquid; discard solids. Return water mixture to pan. Add rum and butter to pan; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until butter melts. Serve immediately.

I (Alaina) haven’t had a chance to check out Bon Appetit yet. And while I’m not generally a fan of Taste of Home, I’m usually impressed with the holiday issue though I haven’t seen this year’s magazine. They seem to know how to do holidays right! So you might check out those two publications!