Friday, April 4, 2014

How to Stage an Awesome Scavenger Hunt for Your Grandkids!


If you’re lucky enough to have a gorgeous spring day as a backdrop, little else is needed to pull off an Easter party & scavenger hunt.  Even if you’re short on Easter baskets, the Big Day can still TOTALLY work AND rock!

·         Money Saving Tip (repurposed Halloween baskets): Wrap trick-or-treat pumpkins in pastel gift wrap, and save on green grass (how many of us find that weird stuff trapped in our vacuum cleaners as much as six months later?) by using shredded green paper.

·        Activity tip: Let the Kids make the Party Decorations Beforehand: If you’re babysitting your grandkids before Easter, spend an hour letting them help create party decorations. A great Spring-theme idea that the local Cub Scout troop finished last Monday is pictured below; basically, they made a tree in full bloom, with handmade birds and leaves:
 
 

Get a Few Plastic Easter Eggs that Stand Apart: Make sure there are at least 6 novelty eggs in the batch you’re hiding: (example 6 gold eggs that stand apart from the rest). In your scavenger hunt clues, allude to these special eggs being the ones that contain something other than candy, like miniature toys, or a note that tells where something extra special is hidden!   TOP NANA found these examples @Target:
 
Bake this Cake! It’s an inconvenient truth, but most young kids prefer corndogs, nuggets and chocolate bunnies at Easter parties. This Tropical Carrot Cake from At Home Entertaining is a kicked up version of a classic that your adult family and guests will never forget. For icing use the macadamia nut butter recipe in TOP NANA’s last blog!  

How to Make Place Settings for an Epic Spring Party: These parties are a breeze because the spring color palette is so easy to remember: yellow, blue, pink and green; to rev up a place setting of paper cups and plates in these colors, fashion napkin rings out of big artificial flowers. For step by step DIY instructions, click on this Hyper House blog.
Hide the plastic eggs and make the REAL ones on the Big Day: This is a nice event that can be done in the air conditioning (yes, some states do use the A/C in April); letting party guests collect an egg WITH THEIR NAME ON IT is a nice, edible and waste free party favor. See below: a big basket of eggs that will inspire you to buy an egg dying kit with a wax pen:
And that’s all that’s in this Nana’s basket of tricks! Stay tuned for my next installment on fun recipes for Cinco de Mayo.
XXOO,
TOP NANA

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut!

TOP NANA DISHES ON DECEPTIVE LOOKING DESSERTS THAT WON’T (Seriously!) MAKE YOU FAT

So here’s the backstory on this snack I just discovered…. I’m trying to lose a pound or two, so that when I greet my really cute doctor (his name is “Steve”) at my annual physical in a couple of weeks, he won’t look down at my chart and frown. I hate to make him sad. In an attempt to accomplish (just a bit) of weight loss, I cut out the usual suspects: white starchy stuff, fatty meat and virtually all junk food. That leaves me with green leafy veggies, chicken and fish. I am a VERY creative cook, so my dishes are still fun, exciting and yummy! Snacking, however is a bit of an issue for me – until the other day, that is!

While playing golf, a buddy reached into her purse and pulled out a plastic bag filled with little white beads that turned out to be dry roasted Macadamia nuts.  I popped one into my mouth and was instantly pleased. The rich little nut is really, really crunchy on the outside and really, really creamy on the inside. Then I find out that Macadamia nuts are lower in Omega 6 fats than other nuts – a double blessing. My pal recommended that I buy a big bag from Costco and the rest, as they say, is history.


Thank God for FUN stuff! Just because I’m trying to make my doctor happy, doesn’t mean everyone else has to suffer. I decided to experiment with these little beads of nutty goodness, and look what I came up with: Maple Macadamia Nut Butter that tastes just as terrific in the following ways:

A)    Spread onto cool, crisp apple wedges
B)    Whipped into frosting and smoothed onto chocolate cupcakes
C)    Slathered between layers of tangy spice cake, topped with chocolate shavings.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

PS…. I’m sending the cake home with my kids after they eat Sunday dinner—here’s a shot of what it looks like on the inside:


PSS… I can’t wait to see the smile on Dr. Steve’s face!!

Maple Macadamia Nut Butter


(makes about 1 cup)
2 cups dry roasted Macadamia nuts
1 tablespoon maple syrup
¼ teaspoons coarse salt
Place the nuts into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are totally ground. Add the maple syrup and the salt. Continue pulsing until the nuts turn into nut butter.



Macadamia Nut Frosting
(makes enough to frost an 8-inch 4-layer cake, pictured below)

2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup macadamia butter
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 to 6 tablespoons milk

In the bowl of an electric mixer place the sugar, nut butter, butter and vanilla. Stir to combine. Drizzle in 3 to 4 tablespoons of milk. Mix on high until the frosting is smooth and spreadable. You can add more milk if necessary.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Send Us Your Sunday Best!


Your Photo Could Win the Newly Released Cookbook: Sunday Best Dishes: a Cookbook for Passionate Cooks!

When the little girl in this black and white photo said “cheese”, it was somewhere in the mid-1950s—a time in American culture and cuisine that inspired me to create a career in food. A capricious 7-year old by 1960, I have so many memories of life in the Ozzy & Harriet days, when taking joy rides in the family car on Sundays worked up a serious appetite. Well I remember that winding road to Grandma’s house after church. Her blueberry pancakes and homemade preserves were next to Godliness. I also recall the baked beans, scalloped potatoes and smoky franks of all those after-game picnics. Getting back to the time and quality people used to devote to dinner time has been the impetus of everything I’ve ever written. I will always be a family-style cook, and my newest cookbook is a culmination of everything I’ve learned and loved in my 30 odd years of cooking for a living.

So, it is with GREAT pride (and a sigh of relief after more than a year of hard work) to introduce my sixth book: SUNDAY BEST DISHES: a cookbook for Passionate Cooks. This book is extra special for me because it was the first time I collaborated with my family to publish something. I owe my sons, who worked on this project with me, sooooooo much!

My son Jonathan Morgan, a graphic artist and a super-genius, built my book that was once just a 3-ring binder full of recipes, into an interactive e-book with click and tap widgets that show even the most novice home cook how to cook like an Iron Chef. My other son, Chris, click his name to see his incredible photography portfolio, snapped each and every one of the drool-inducing photos that appear in Sunday Best Dishes.

The best part of my collaboration? I got to spend so much extra time with my boys. We lived this cookbook together for a whole year and had so much fun, cooking and growing together. Tears are hitting the keyboard just typing that. My thanks to the entire Morgan clan, and all my recipe testers that have become like part of the family along the way. I hope they’ll take part in the contest I’m proposing:

The Contest: Submit a photo of you or a group dressed in your Sunday Best, or at the Sunday dinner table—it can be recent or from years ago—to my assistant: jen@rrusson.com or simply post it to this blog’s page on Facebook, “The Nana Network.” We’ll pick a winner and announce him or her on Grandparents Day, September 8th, 2013. To get a good gander at what you’re winning, check out the book’s exclusive website and photo gallery at http://sundaybestdishes.com/


Good night and Good luck!              

Friday, August 2, 2013

This Nana’s “Rainy Day Lunch” is a Full on Pizza Party!

This Nana’s “Rainy Day Lunch” is a Full on Pizza Party!

Photo courtesy of FNKWL reader, Mary Adams
A reader sent in a photo of her grandkids enjoying a summer lunch. Because school is still out, she got to babysit them for a week!   

How do you feel about the whole BACK TO SCHOOL thing? As Nanas, should it make us sad? After all, our place is where the kids go when Mommy & Daddy need a break—sometimes for days at a time! We sure do love ‘em. But how to while away the hours? Should you go out or stay in? Nana’s Kitchen believes frequent summer rain storms are good reason to stay put!

In the spirit of that, TOP NANA put together some ideas for a perfect rainy day luncheon and came up with Flat Out Pizza and GRAM’S Creamy Non-Dairy Tomato Soup—that looks just as it should once the kids get ahold of the Goldfish. 


The soup is great, I’m told (thanks recipe tester, Jen.) ….but it wasn’t the main event. It was the pizzas…..Having polled some friends on the different activities they do with their grandkids, I was impressed by not just one—but 3 replies of: “we make pizza together.”    One Nana did her’s from scratch, sort of like Top NANA’s recipe for Meatball, Spinach and Mozzarella Pizza. The other Nana, however, took a shortcut and let her grandkids top Flatout (flatbread) wraps with whatever they wanted. You can also use pita bread or a Boboli Pizza Crust.   

TOP NANA test drove the flatout wrap as a product and loved it.

While these (pictured above) are optional for the kind of pizzas shown below, the neat shape of the wraps makes kids feel like they are decorating savory Italian snowmen, with mozzarella, tomato sauce, onions, parsley and anything else they feel like trying out.     

While the grandkids get busy with their pizza—or anything for that matter—Grandma can get busy on a really easy soup recipe that is creamy, yet Dairy free. Through the cooking camp at Whole Foods, the Nana Network became aware, that you can puree whole grain bread cubes and add them to any soup. It produces the same thick and creamy texture/flavor that heavy cream does. The soup comes together with less than half a dozen ingredients and the recipe makes nearly 2 quarts!   

You can see in this photo, my Nana’s Kitchen correspondent’s experience using these rainy day luncheon recipes:  

So try making a special lunch with the grandkids; for there is only so much Wii and Netflix one can stand. Same goes for iPad, cleaning out closets, and delegating other chores with the promise of ice cream, and that’s why—WAIT A MINUTE! Did I just say something bad about ice cream?! Please forget that part. You can take them out for ice cream right after lunch.

Flat Out Pizza

Serves 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes


6 pieces whole-grain flatbread or pita bread
4 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 large white onion, peeled and thinly sliced, about 1 cup
1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup marinara or tomato sauce
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
8 ounces grated Mozzarella cheese, about 2 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cook time 10 – 15 minutes

Toss vegetables in olive oil and season with salt and pepper and olive oil; spread mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes.

To assemble pizza, spread tomato sauce evenly over the flatbread or pita. Spread roasted vegetables, basil and mozzarella cheese from edge to edge of flatbread.

Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Let sit for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.


GRAM’S Creamy Non-Dairy Tomato Soup

Makes 2 quarts
Prep Time: About 15 minutes

1 cup homemeade or preapred beef broth, low sodium
1 medium garlic clove, peeled and minced, about 1 teaspoon
1 onion, peeled and minced, about 1 cup
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 (1-inch thick slices whole grain bread), crust removed, processed into about 2 cups coarse crumbs
1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes 
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a stockpot over medium high heat. Add the garlic, onion, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently until the onion is soft, about 4 minutes.
In a food processor, blend the bread with beef broth; add processed bread and peeled tomatoes to the stockpot. With a potato masher, press down on the tomatoes until they are incorporated into the broth. Mixture should be thick in texture.   
Add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer. Place a sprig of parsley on top of soup. Cook for 5 minutes.

Ladle into individual serving bowls and serve with crackers; preferably Goldfish!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Whole Foods Market Hosts Its Fifth Summer Cooking Camp the Week of July 4

All-American Kid Classics Get Leaner with a Few Healthy Tweaks

Shortly after the 4th of July holiday, Whole Foods convened its fifth cooking camp, and the experience was, well…as American as apple pie!  The class instructor let the kids create their own individual apple pie in—get this—a cored apple!   Said apple was stuffed with traditional apple pie filling and hint of maple syrup; then topped with a lattice work of dough. Considering that apple pie usually dirties a pie tin and plate, and has a lot more calories and fat when it isn’t served this way, I’d say it’s a waste not-want not proposition.  Whole Food’s Mini Apple Pie is pictured here.

I can vouch for how good it tasted and smelled. It had a very crisp Fall—back to school—kind of aroma, even if we’re several weeks out from that. Although this particular cooking class featured lots of different menu items, the apple pie was everyone’s favorite. The teacher actually took a vote!

But now to address those other “All-American classics”.  The kids also made dairy free mac n’ cheese, dairy free mashed potatoes, and “Sloppy Janes”—a version of the Sloppy Joe, but with turkey meat instead of beef. The whole point of the July 6 menu was to prove that you can always shave off tons of fat and calories with a few cleaver tweaks.

Even if looking great for swim suit season isn’t the issue, sometimes having a food allergy is. So for any Nanas out there who can’t serve their grandkids milk, click on these classic American recipes and see that there’s hope after all!

A few notes on these Marvelous recipes:

The Dairy-Free Mac n’ Cheese tastes great, but looks a bit weird.  If you want to avoid the chunky look of the sauce, get yourself a Vitamix blender for smooth sailing every time you want to customize ANY dressing, soup, topping, sauce, etc. The wave of the healthy eating movement is a Vitamix. The cheapest place to get this space age blender is at Costco or Bed Bath and Beyond, with one of those 20% off coupons that come in the mail.

The Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes made this Nana want to use Almond Milk in savory recipes that call for cow’s milk more often—really, really good! Just remember to get the spuds good and steaming hot, so they yield easily to a masher. Your grandchild can do that, rather than use an electric mixer. You add the spices and milk while you mash. F-U-N!

The Sloppy Janes had a nice, spicy little kick to them, thanks to condiments from Whole Foods very own 365 brand. Put the seasoned lean meat in between two whole-wheat hamburger buns, and you are setting a great example for health next time you dine with your grandchild.

These, plus those mini apple pies, hit the ball right out of the park! Nana’s Kitchen hopes you click all the links and use all the recipes. Thank you, Whole Foods!


Happy Summer!
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