Category Archives: Eat & Drink

Our Favorite Things – Pimm’s Summer Cup

The first time I visited the UK was early June of 1995. The weather was lovely and sunny but not especially warm. The friends I was visiting warned me that “summer” can be a relative term in the British Isles and to be prepared for anything. I packed accordingly (layers!) and spent a couple of beautiful summer weeks exploring the south of England and Wales.

One memorable day was spent in Bath. After touring the Roman sites and then listening to an extraordinary impromptu concert in the courtyard of Bath Abbey, we stopped for lunch at a small cafe. Our server, upon hearing me chatting, declared that an American her first trip abroad should drink something quintessentially British. Before I knew it there was a summer cup in my hand (and shortly thereafter a Bass ale, etc!).

Pimm’s is a gin based liqueur that tastes of citrus and spice with botanical notes. If you’re wondering about the exact ingredients don’t bother Googling the recipe. The formula is a well kept secret. I think it tastes a little like bitters but sweeter and smoother, though definitely not cloying. It has an alcohol content of about 25% so it retains a lot of flavor without an overpowering alcohol taste.

Much like the Mint Julep is the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby, Pimm’s is regularly served at events like Wimbledon and the Chelsea Flower Show. I’ve never seen one on a menu in my town – which is a shame because it’s a refreshing and unique drink that would make a great addition to a summer cocktail list. A quick internet search will yield dozens of recipes with a variety of ingredients to make the “perfect” cup. Try mine, or another that catches your eye and enjoy!

Pimm’s Summer Cup

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Fill a tumbler half-full with ice

Add 2 oz. Pimm’s

Finish with sparkling lemonade

Garnish with mint leaves and slices of strawberry and seedless cucumber

Variations

Substitute club soda, ginger ale, Sprite or Prosecco

For the garnish, try lemons, limes or oranges. Raspberries or blackberries make tasty additions as well.

Strategies for Introducing Children to Healthy Foods

    

Today we’re revisiting a post from 2015 – just in time for summer!

Fruits and veggies and legumes, oh my!

Getting kids to choose healthy foods can be difficult, but Entertaining Family has got some great pointers and tricks to help you get started.

Let me begin by sharing a story. Years ago, I was saddened to watch a little boy, who couldn’t have been more than ten years old, walking home from a neighborhood store drinking a 20 oz. caffeinated soda and eating a family-sized bag of cheese flavored chips. With all of the choices we have in our society, this was what he was using for nourishment and comfort.

It’s no surprise. Everyday, children and adults alike are bombarded with marketing campaigns, characters, and taglines pushing food and beverages that have little nutritional content and are loaded with sodium and sugar, which our taste buds get conditioned to crave. It can make it easy to feel disconnected from the origins of our food – and to miss the fact that what we eat has a direct impact on our quality of our life. Watching that little boy influenced the way I parent and the lessons I try to impart on my child.

To begin setting healthy examples, my husband and I involved our daughter in grocery shopping early on. From the moment I was able to carry her in the Baby Bjorn, we were taking her to food stores, farmers’ markets, and community gardens. Because of this, as a baby some of her first words were “garbanzos” and “cabbage”, and by the age of two she could name almost every item in the produce section of a grocery store. And fun fact: her first dolls were named after the cashiers at our local health food store!

Seasonally we bring home new offerings and incorporate them into our cooking – fresh fava beans, ramps and fiddlehead ferns are some of our favorites. We also take the opportunity to “farm” as a family and grow fruits and vegetables in our small urban garden. Our daughter loves eating tomatoes off of the vine, picking lettuces, chewing chives like blades of grass, and using fruit from our cherry tree to bake pies for dinner parties.

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Getting children interested in wholesome, nutritious food is something that parents can nurture. Like anything it becomes easier the more exposure children receive. For example, the first few times our little one tried arugula she wasn’t a fan, but we kept offering it to her and now she enjoys its peppery taste and eats the leaves right out of our raised beds.

At her school, our daughter and her classmates tend to garden plots filled with different herbs and vegetables and they are encouraged to sample what they grow. When we help young children develop an interest in real food they grow into teenagers and adults who make better choices (at times when they have the autonomy to make their own decisions and mom and dad are no longer watching over their shoulders). It teaches that food in its whole form comes from living entities – plants, trees, and animals – not plastic, Styrofoam, or aluminum containers.

I’m not naive. My daughter won’t always make healthy selections, but she won’t always make unhealthy ones either. At the grocery store, after a long day at school, she is more apt to ask for an orange than a candy bar. At home she is more likely to reach for radishes and hummus than potato chips. Her pallet has been trained to appreciate juicy, flavorful fruits and vegetables, and to crave what is in season.

Here are some of the simple strategies and tricks that we use in our house to keep her interested in healthy foods:

  • Our daughter gets to help plan our menus for the week and design what we serve at dinner parties. We try to eat “around the globe” and let her try foods from different cultures.
  • We go through my Pinterest Boards to find new recipes and flavors, and the more colors we can add to a meal, the better!
  • She helps us chop vegetables and mix ingredients which makes her feel very proud. It also gives her a sense of ownership for the meal. If she has a hand in creating it, she is more likely to try it.
  • When we’re on a shopping trip, she is encouraged to find unusual or “new” fruits and vegetables to sample. This keeps her taste buds open to new experiences. It keeps us on our toes too! Sometimes we have to Google the food she selects to figure out how to prepare it. Some flavors she likes and some she doesn’t, but she is eager to try them. Lychee and Rambutan are new favorites.
  • We stock “special treats” like clementines, kiwis, “pickles” (cucumbers in rice vinegar) and nori/seaweed chips which makes snacking fun and nutritious.
  • We refer to sparkling water as “soda”. She is in first grade, and to this point she has never had a traditional sugar or diet soda in our home.
  • For weekly desserts we try to choose sorbet with fresh berries or fruit that is in season. On special occasions we will bake vegan cookies or cake from scratch.
  • If she is really curious about something that we consider a “junk food” we will usually let her try a taste. We don’t want things to be forbidden.

To keep our family inspired, I’ve create this Pinterest Board on healthy meal ideas that I invite you to visit. And please share your tips for keeping your family healthy!

Vegan Brunch: Shiitake Mushroom Tofu Scramble With Micro Greens

As a vegan, it used to be that when a friend invited me for brunch, I would get a knot in my stomach. Let’s see, my options are eggs, more eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurt, butter laden hash browns, pancakes, waffles, and croissants. Hmmmm…could I have an English muffin with jam, hold the butter? And some black coffee?  Boring.

But times are a changin’! Most cities (including my beloved Milwaukee) have become vegan-friendly, so at many popular brunch spots I can find at least one thoughtful item on the menu. A fairly standard option is a tofu scramble. This staple is really versatile and can be made a myriad of ways…from tasteless and disappointing, to yummy and satisfying. This week’s recipe, of course, is all about yummy and satisfying!

Our Shiitake Mushroom Tofu Scramble turns things up a notch with Asian influences and plenty of flavor. It’s a great Sunday morning dish, whether you’re lounging around in your PJs reading the New York Times, or throwing a brunch for friends. The cooking time for this easy recipe is 10 minutes and it serves 4.

What you need:

14 zo. package of extra firm tofu

1 cup of shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1/2 of shallot, diced

1 cup of grape tomatoes, halved

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of ginger, minced

Dried Thai basil

5 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

1 package of spicy micro greens for garnish (mustard or radish)

1/4 cup of olive oil

Tamari

Toasted sesame oil

Rice wine vinegar

Salt

To prepare:

In a large frying pan, heat 1/4 cup of oil over medium heat. Add your garlic, shallot, mushrooms, ginger, tomatoes, and a pinch of salt, and let cook until all of the ingredients become really tender, stirring so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Then, add in the tofu, crumbling it between your fingers as you go (to give the look of scrambled eggs, rather than cubed/sliced tofu). Add in a pinch of dried Thai basil leaves and a tablespoon of tamari. As the tofu cooks, regularly stir the ingredients together to get an even heat throughout the dish. After 8 minutes of cooking, stir in the fresh basil and add another tablespoon of tamari. Let the tofu cook for 2 more minutes.

As the dish is finishing, put your micro greens into a bowl and dress with a dash of toasted sesame oil and rice wine vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Stir to make sure everything is evenly distributed.

Divide your tofu scramble into four portions and top with the spicy micro greens. On the table, set out tamari and Sriracha for extra zip.

vegan brunch

 

Valentine’s Day Desserts Part 3 – Molten Chocolate Cake

For our last Valentine’s Day dessert we present Molten Chocolate Cake. Delicious, elegant and very simple to prepare, these warm delights have soft cake on the outside and oozing molten middles. In about 30 minutes you can be eating one (or several!) of these decadent treats.

This recipe, as presented by Food & Wine, is the original version created by master chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The only modification we made is dusting the ramekins with cocoa powder rather than flour. When using this method the finished cakes have no residual white flour sticking around…they are full on chocolate!

Wishing you a Happy – and sweet – Valentine’s Day!

MOLTEN CHOCOLATE CAKE

SUPPLIES

Four 6-ounce custard cups or ramekins

Baking Sheet

Double boiler (If you don’t have one, use a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water)

Mixer with whisk attachment

INGREDIENTS

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

6 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 450°. Butter the ramekins or custard cups and lightly dust with cocoa powder. Tap out the excess.

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Set prepared cups on a baking sheet.

In a double boiler, over simmering water, slowly melt the butter with the chocolate.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and salt at high speed until thickened and pale.

Whisk the chocolate until smooth. Quickly fold it into the egg mixture along with the flour.

Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins and bake for 12 minutes, or until the sides of the cakes are firm but the centers are soft.

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Let the cakes cool in the ramekins for 1 minute, then cover each with an inverted dessert plate.

Carefully turn each one over, let stand for 10 seconds and then unmold.
Serve immediately.

Berries, ice cream, and whipped cream are great accompaniments. A glass of pink Champagne or Prosecco wouldn’t be too bad either!

Enjoy!

Valentine’s Day Desserts Part 2 – Lemon White Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

white chocolate lemon cheesecake

I confess, I love everything lemon. The more lemon desserts the better. Perhaps it’s the combination of tart and sweet that appeals, or the citrusy scent that gives a zing to the senses. The bottom line is I’ve never met a lemony dessert I didn’t like. When everyone is ordering double chocolate cake I’m looking for a lemon bar, cake, tart, mousse or meringue.

This recipe comes from a fabulous blog called Pretty. Simple. Sweet. I made these cheesecake bars for a dinner party last year and there wasn’t a single crumb left. They are very rich (don’t even think about the calories) with a luscious smooth and creamy texture. I added candied lemon slices (because – more lemon!) and some strawberries for a pop of color.

These are a definite indulgence for Valentine’s Day.

LEMON WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE BARS

Ingredients

Crust

1 cup vanilla wafer crumbs (pulse in a food processor or blender until finely ground, then measure)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

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Photo courtesy of Pretty. Simple. Sweet.

Filling

4 ounces  white chocolate, coarsely chopped

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

16 ounces full-fat cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons lemon zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

White chocolate chips for sprinkling (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang on the sides for lifting the cheesecake out after baking.

In a medium bowl, stir the crumbs and melted butter together. Put mixture in the lined pan and gently press with your fingers until crumbs form an even layer. Bake for 8 minutes. Allow to cool while you prepare the filling.

Reduce oven temperature to 300F.

In a medium heat-proof bowl, combine the white chocolate and heavy whipping cream. Melt in the microwave in 20 second-intervals, stirring between each interval, until melted. Alternatively, set the mixture over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Add eggs, one at a time, until fully combined. Add vanilla, lemon zest and juice and beat until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate mixture and mix until combined.

Pour batter over the cooled crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle with chocolate chips if desired. Bake for about 45 minutes. The center of the cake should be slightly wobbly when it’s taken out of the oven. Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for 1 hour, then refrigerate for 4 hours (or, preferably, overnight) until completely set. Lift the cake out of the pan using the parchment paper and cut into squares.

Yields: 8×8-inch pan (16 bars)

Candied Lemon Slices

Ingredients

2 small lemons
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup water

Preparation

Cut lemons into 1/8-inch-thick rounds; discard seeds. Stir together sugar, lemon juice, and water in a large skillet over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add lemon slices, and simmer gently, keeping slices in a single layer and turning occasionally, 14 to 16 minutes or until slightly translucent and rinds are softened. Remove from heat. Place slices in a single layer in a wax paper-lined jelly-roll pan, using tongs. Cool completely (about 1 hour). Cover and chill 2 hours to 2 days.

Assemble

Place chilled candied lemon slices on cheesecake bars. Top lemons with strawberry slices, if desired.

Enjoy!!

 

Valentine’s Day Desserts Part 1 – Chocolate Shortcakes with Strawberries

chocolate shortcake“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”                               –Charles M. Schulz

We love holidays here at Entertaining Family because they are the perfect excuse to bake something special. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner we are treating you (and ourselves!) to some decadently delicious desserts.

Chocolate always prevails on Valentine’s Day so we will begin with a chocolatey twist on traditional strawberry shortcake. This recipe diverts slightly from standard shortcake as we add an egg to give the cakes a slightly richer and chewier texture.

Chocolate Shortcakes with Strawberries and Cream

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling

4 tbl cold butter, cubed

1/4 cup plus 1 tbl half & half cream

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 lb strawberries, hulled and sliced

1/8 to 1/4 cup sugar

1 tbl Grand Marnier (optional)

1 pint whipping cream

2 tbl powdered sugar

Chocolate shavings (optional)

Supplies

Pastry cutter, or two knives

Baking sheet

Parchment paper

Mixer with whisk attachment – or a strong arm and a wire whisk!

Before you begin making the dough, prepare the strawberries

For the Strawberries

Hull, slice, and place in a bowl. Add 1/8 to 1/4 cup sugar (depending on desired sweetness) and 1 Tbl Grand Marnier (optional). Mix well. Allow to macerate in the refrigerator for at least an hour (or more) to draw the juices and saturate the berries.

When you are ready to bake heat the oven to 400°

Prepare the Shortcake

Sift cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda and sugar into a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture has a sandy texture.

Make a well in the center and add half & half and the beaten egg. Mix all ingredients until combined. Make four patties, about an inch thick and 3 inches across. Flour your hands or dust them in cocoa powder if the dough is sticky.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle a little sugar on the tops.

Bake 12-14 minutes. A toothpick in the center should come out clean with just a few crumbs. Watch them carefully so they don’t overbake and dry out.

Remove from oven and cool slightly.

Split carefully with a serrated knife.

Whip the cream

In a mixer fitted with a whisk, whip 1 pint of cream to desired creaminess. Add 2 tbl powdered sugar just before desired consistency is reached. If you like a sweeter cream, add more powdered sugar and mix in at the end with a spatula or spoon.

Assemble!

On the bottom piece of shortcake drizzle some of the juice from the strawberries, then top with cream and berries. Place the top of the shortcake and add more berries and cream as desired. If you want to add even more chocolately goodness, grate a chocolate bar and sprinkle the shavings on top.

Enjoy!!

 

Holy Veggies, Batman! Ginger Vegetable Noodle Soup – Perfect For Winter

Winters in Wisconsin can be harsh and unforgiving. From dry air to brutal winds and short days, the weather can leave me tired and depleted. In fact, as I write this we are in the middle of a “polar vortex” and the temperature outside is roughly zero degrees. Thankfully, I’m curled up under a blanket in my living room, dreaming of my next tropical vacation, and watching episodes of The League.

Because the cold weather makes me crave warm, comforting meals that are both hearty and nourishing, this week I’ve created a  soup that will keep us healthy and happy during these arctic blasts. Rich in vitamins and minerals, this dish is like eating a flavor rainbow. With carrots, tomatoes, pea pods, cabbage, broccolini, and rainbow chard, the veggies are the star of this soup. But it is the ginger that turns up the heat!

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Vegetable Noodle Soup (Serves 6)

Ingredients:

1 tsp. or minced ginger

1 clove of minced garlic (about 1 tsp.)

1 cup of sliced carrots

1 cup of whole pea pods

3 Roma tomatoes, quartered

1 cup of shredded purple cabbage

3 cups of broccolini, flowers and stems (leaves are okay too)

2 cups of cubed extra firm tofu, or baked tofu that you can find in the deli section of your grocery store

1/2 cup of cilantro (I prefer to use stems because they hold up during the cooking process)

1/4 cup of vegetable oil

5 cups of veggie stock

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 pkg. of soba noodles

Cilantro leaves, lime wedges, and green onion for garnish

Vietnamese chili garlic sauce for finishing (optional)

Directions:

In a stock pot, heat vegetable oil and add the ginger and garlic, cook until tender. Add in the veggies, tofu and cilantro, sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Stir until the colors brighten (like the photo below).

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Add 5 cups of veggie stock and the juice of 1/2 a lime. Cook over a medium heat for the first 5 minutes, then simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes or until the veggies are tender.

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After the soup has been cooking for about 10 minutes, begin preparing the soba noodles per the packaging instructions. They usually take 8-10 minutes to cook. I keep the noodles and soup separate to prevent the noodles from getting over cooked or from soaking up too much broth.

When everything has finished cooking, it’s time to dish it up! This soup is best served in a deep bowl that can hold plenty of veggies. Add a small serving of noodles to the bottom of each bowl and then cover with the vegetable soup. To garnish, add cilantro leaves, green onion, a lime wedge, and I love to use a dab of chili garlic sauce for additional heat.

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Enjoy! And stay warm. If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out Jessica’s cream of mushroom soup.