Tag Archives: recipe

Summer Snacktime Series: Blackberry-Lime Popsicles

Another week, another popsicle flavor! Thank you for all of the suggestions, we are working through them here in the test kitchen. Today’s combo is a non-dairy number, Blackberry Lime. Why, you say? Because the Practical Cook adores blackberries, they look cool in suspension, and that’s not going to happen in gel on her watch.

Blackberries Suspended

Blackberries Suspended

Without further adieu, it’s popsicle time.

Blackberry-Lime Popsicles

1 cup or more blackberries, washed and patted dry
1 Key or regular lime, zested (optional) and cut in half
blackberry juice drink (or a blackberry compatible flavor, this juice came from Trader Joe’s)

Denuded Lime, Blackberries, Trader Joe's Blackberry Juice

Denuded Lime, Blackberries, Trader Joe's Blackberry Juice

1. Drop the blackberries and a dash of lime zest (if using) in the bottom of the popsicle molds. Add just a squeeze of lemon juice, a spritz really, to each popsicle mold.

Blackberries and Lime Zest

Blackberries and Lime Zest

2. Top with blackberry juice.

Beautiful Blackberry-Lime Popsicles

Beautiful Blackberry-Lime Popsicles

3. Freeze for 2+ hours. Eat!

The next flavor we’re making: Key Lime Popsicles. Coming next week!

What are you snacking on this summer? Post your comments or Tweet away.

Send your popsicle pictures to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Like, like, like! Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, Some Like It Hot: Spicy Hot  Food for Summer?

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Filed under Recipes, Snacks

Spaghetti Bird’s Nests

The challenge of having a family that eats most things is that said family rejects obvious things. My children are regularly invited to meals as tools to get picky eaters to eat something, anything! But can the Practical Cook serve buttered noodles and some nice green peas—no, they are soundly rejected.

Another reject: spaghetti and meatballs. Though the Practical Cook counts a turkey meatball as one of her top 5 best meals ever (Mario Batali restaurant, and it was literally one big softball-size turkey meatball, when I thought I was ordering spaghetti and meatballs), the crew is not buying it.

Enter Spaghetti Bird’s Nests. Secretly, they are a play on spaghetti and meatballs, minus the meat and plus some faux pesto. Perhaps not as much as a play on as a play near situation. However, healthy, pretty fast, and a nice break from routine, the Practical Cook encourages you to play with your food and see what you can come up with!

Spaghetti Bird’s Nests Recipe

1/2 box Barilla Plus Spaghetti (I specify because this worked for me, whole wheat or the plus variety will be less starchy and less sticky–if you use regular spaghetti, move quickly or you’ll end up with more of a tangled yarn than bird’s nest look)
8 to 10 ozs mushrooms, sliced
~1 to 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese (sorry, didn’t measure this)
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 lb baby spinach (CSA!)
handful of parsley leaves and tender stems (optional)
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce, or homemade if you prefer
a few ounces of goat cheese (local) or Parmesan or mozzarella

1. Boil water. Prepare pasta according to directions on box.

Bubble Bubble Pasta Pot

Bubble Bubble Pasta Pot

2. While pasta is cooking, saute mushrooms over medium-high heat until water is mostly evaporated.

3. Place cottage cheese, garlic, spinach, and parsley into food processor. Will it blend? Yes. Blend until smooth.

Food Processor Pesto

Food Processor Pesto

4. Drain cooked pasta, and let cool briefly, until you can handle it without screaming like Ned Flanders. Put a thin layer of sauce into an oven-safe baking dish, and twist the noodles around until they form nests as shown.

Twist and Fill Spaghetti Bird's Nests

Twist and Fill Spaghetti Bird's Nests

5. Fill each nest with a dollop of pesto, a few mushrooms, and a sprinkle of goat cheese.

Mushroom Birds Alight on Nests

Mushroom Birds Alight on Nests

6. When the pan is full, top with enough extra sauce to prevent the noodles from drying out.

7. Bake, covered with foil, in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until sauce bubbles. Remove foil and bake for another few minutes to brown/melt cheese.

8. Serve carefully with a spatula to preserve the shape. Add a side salad, and enjoy!

Spagetti Bird's Nests

Spagetti Bird's Nests

Coming up next time–Punt! A viewer request for the Top 10 Punt Ingredients will be served up. Timely, because the Practical Cook just punted this evening.


Filed under On the Table, Recipes

All-Purpose Blueberry Muffins

Ever since the Practical Cook can remember, she’s loved blueberries: fresh, frozen, in pancakes, pies, muffins, and turnovers. Blueberry cereal—brilliant. Turns out, I’m not alone in this passion. The recipe that follows is both simple, made from common pantry staples, and flexible, providing room for you to adapt according to your cooking goals, from health to not force-feeding breakfast to the younger set. For your creative convenience, you’ll find a number of options listed below and within the recipe. Remember, guidelines.

Blueberry Muffins

Mrs. McGee's Blueberry Muffins

Mrs. McGee’s Blueberry Muffins

This recipe is passed down from the Practical Cook’s mom (who is a reader and thus will not be referred to as PC Sr., but as PCM), and came from Mrs. McGee, whom I don’t really know. However, she made a mean muffin.

1/2 cup oatmeal (not instant, quick-cook or slow-cook will work)
1/2 cup orange juice or water
1/2 cup sugar (I cut this to just over 1/4)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you can swap up to 1/2 cup or more of whole wheat pastry flour, whole wheat flour, or almond meal)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup oil (not olive, but anything else will work, canola, grapeseed, walnut; also, I cut this to about 1/3 and make up the difference with a dollop of applesauce; can also sub lowfat plain yogurt)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with muffin liners, or grease lightly with butter or oil.

2. Combine oats and orange juice. Stir well and let sit till OJ is fully absorbed.

3. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, oil, and egg. Mix well.

4. Fold in blueberries.

5. Spoon into muffin tin, filling to 2/3 full.

6. Mix together topping and sprinkle on top of the unbaked muffins.

7. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until golden brown.

8. Let cool in pan for 2-3 minutes, then put on cooling rack or plate. Enjoy!

Other Options: Trade out the blueberries for any other type of berry, or dried cranberries or cherries. Add some chopped nuts (less than 1/4 cup). Add flax seed meal or toasted wheat germ (1-2 tablespoons).

If you’ve got kids, they can help with this recipe. They can measure, mix the oats and OJ, and also help customize the recipe. And they are prime candidates to put the muffin liners into the pan.

Staying with this theme, the next blog post is about Food Presentation: Why Go Vertical? Keep sending in those questions!


Filed under On the Table, Recipes

Friday Night Lights

Just keeping with the football theme here. In our house, when dinner does not proceed according to plan, we punt. Perhaps an ingredient is missing, has gone bad, or wasn’t quite what was expected. Maybe the Practical Cook just wants to get through the meal without convincing everyone to try something new.

Whatever the reasons are, they are most likely valid ones. The only invalid response is just throwing in the dish towel and walking out of the kitchen forever. No, you must fight back! Drop the phone, do not call for a pizza. It’s time to punt.

On Friday, the meal plan called for a one-skillet meal using sausage, tomatoes, greens, and gnocchi. The tomatoes were still frozen, I didn’t feel like cutting up the sausage, and I was not 100% convinced that the greens that were supposed to be turnip in origin actually hailed from a turnip plant (they had some very collardy characteristics).

Here’s what we served instead:

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

The smoked sausage (CSA) took a bath in some beer and then a quick sizzle in the skillet, and the mystery greens (their turnip provenance became more apparent as they cooked) paired with green onions (CSA), garlic, and red pepper flakes for a quick saute. The pierogie arrived courtesy of Mrs. T from the freezer (one day I will commit to making my own, but Friday was not that day) and just boiled.

It was all served with a good quality mustard and homemade applesauce. Good condiments can elevate a simple meal.

Look for more punting in upcoming posts–it happens as often as I stay on plan. Thank you for the feedback, and do continue to share your suggestions for posts and punt ideas.


Quick and Easy Mystery Greens

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb greens, washed and stemmed (collards, kale, turnip, mustard, beet greens will all work)
3-6 green onions (scallions), or sub 1/2 onion of your choice
3 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste
salt and pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium to large sized skillet over medium-high heat.

2. While the oil is heating, take the washed and stemmed greens and either A) tear them into bite-sized pieces or B) stack several on top of each other, roll them up like a cheese roll/pinwheel, and slice them thin, about 1/4 inch wide. (Basically a chiffonade.) Smaller cooks faster and that’s what you want here.

3. When the oil is hot but not smoking, saute the onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes for 1 minute or until softened and fragrant. Lower the heat if you start to burn something.

4. Toss in the greens, add a dash of salt and pepper, mix with onion mixture to blend, and cover, stirring frequently. Cook for ~10 minutes or to your preferred level of chew. Add a splash of water if you prefer a softer green or are feeding someone without all of their teeth (from youth, not old age in my house).

5. Serve warm. Vinegar optional. I don’t find greens fixed this way require additional seasoning.


Filed under Punt!, Recipes