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Home - Blog - Creative Ideas and Family Fun - Creative Ideas and Family Fun - Entries written by Annette Menconi
Creative Ideas and Family Fun - Entries written by Annette Menconi
Chocolate Covered Frozen Bananas
My husband loves bananas and chocolate. We used to buy these at Cock Robin when we lived in Chicago. I decided to try creating a recipe that would duplicate what we couldn’t find readily in North Carolina. I usually have these in the freezer once the warm weather hits but they are a great treat any time of the year. It’s also a fun way of getting your serving of fruit for the day!
8 whole, ripe bananas
18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips, if you prefer them
9 tbsp. heavy cream
3 tbsp. butter
16 wooden sticks (I buy these at the craft store)
Chopped nuts (optional)
Peel and cut each banana in half so you have two short pieces. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment or waxed paper. Insert a wooden stick in the cut end of each banana and lay on baking sheet. Make sure the bananas don’t touch each other. Place in freezer until frozen, usually several hours or overnight.
In the top of a double boiler set over hot water melt chocolate, butter and cream and stir well. Spoon the chocolate mixture over each frozen banana (and top with chopped nuts if you are using them) and place back on prepared baking sheet. Continue coating each frozen banana with the chocolate. When done return the bananas back to the freezer until completely frozen. Store in an airtight container and enjoy.
Note: You can roll in toasted coconut, sprinkles or whatever your family prefers.
Fresh Veggie Sandwich
One of our favorite sandwiches was from a local store we frequented when we lived in Chicago. Several years ago I decided to try to duplicate it so we could enjoy them whenever we had a taste for something really healthy. This recipe makes about two good-sized sandwiches so if you're making more just adjust the amounts of everything.
4 slices whole grain wheat bread, or bread of your choice
2 cups Mesculin lettuce
1/2 English cucumber, sliced thin
1 large tomato, sliced
1-2 carrots, shredded
4 slices Muenster cheese
Mayonnaise (In the summer I chop fresh basil, oregano or other herbs from my garden into the mayo to give another layer of flavor to the sandwich)
Salt and pepper, optional
Spread bread with mayonnaise. Begin building sandwiches with lettuce, cheese, cucumber, tomato (I salt and pepper the tomatoes a little) and carrots. Adjust amounts of ingredients depending on the number of sandwiches you are making and how big you want them.
Note: Feel free to be creative with adding other ingredients, i.e., fresh spinach, pesto, sprouts, sliced avocado, different cheeses or raw veggies.
Amos & Andy Cookies
This recipe takes chocolate chip cookies to a whole new level. They are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside (if you don't over bake them). The coconut adds a great consistency without giving a strong coconut flavor. And, I just break the pecans with my hands so the pieces are larger and not uniform. Whenever I bring these anywhere people ask for the recipe.
3 sticks butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup Crisco shortening
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
7 ounces flaked, sweetened coconut
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 ounces pecans, coarsely chopped or broken
Cream the butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Add brown and granulated sugar and combine well. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. In separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture and mix well. Add coconut, chocolate chips and pecans and stir until well combined. Refrigerate until cold. Shape into 2” balls (or use a cookie scoop) and place 2 inches apart on un-greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before removing from cookie sheets.
Note: This recipe makes a large number of cookies, about six dozen. I usually mix up the cookie batter and spoon the dough onto the baking sheets and freeze. When frozen I put all the unbaked cookies in a plastic container or zip-lock bag and freeze. When I want some fresh-baked cookies, I just take the amount I need and bake them. **When baking from frozen, add about five minutes to the baking time and lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. The baked cookies also freeze well.
To make a special treat put a scoop of ice cream between two cookies and press gently to form an ice cream sandwich. Roll edges in mini chocolate chips or chopped nuts.
Aunt Martha's Chili
My Aunt Martha shared this recipe with me when I was first married, and it’s the only chili recipe I have ever used. If you make it the day before, the flavors get even better. And I usually double the recipe to serve for another meal later in the week or freeze for another dinner on those days I don't have time to cook.
1 lb. ground beef or ground chuck
2 16 oz. cans dark red kidney beans, drained
1 green or red pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 16 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 T. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Brown ground beef, onion and green pepper in large pot until meat is browned and onion and pepper are softened. Add remaining ingredients, stir and cover pot. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Note: This recipe works well in a crock pot. I sometimes add a little more tomato sauce to the recipe if it looks too dry. It's also fun to make a chili bar by filling bowls with shredded Mexican cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions, Rufina's Homemade Salsa, and guacamole, along with a basket filled with tortilla chips. Your family, or dinner guests, will enjoy building their own bowl of chili.
Chicken Imperial and Rice Pilaf
My sister shared this recipe with me years ago and it’s been a family favorite ever since. This is a wonderful, make-ahead main course that makes the house smell so good while baking in the oven. I always serve it with Rice Pilaf, recipe below.
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs or Panko
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
Mix together in shallow bowl and set aside.
12 T. melted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
3 cloves minced garlic
Mix together in shallow bowl and set aside.
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flattened
16 oz. fresh spinach, steamed and drained well
Dip each flattened chicken breast in the butter/garlic mixture, then in the breadcrumb mixture. Tuck a small amount of spinach under chicken breast before putting in un-greased baking dish. Pour any remaining butter over all the chicken in the baking dish. Squeeze juice of one lemon over the chicken and sprinkle with Paprika. Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes.
Note: I have made this recipe using seasoned breadcrumbs, but prefer the taste of the plain breadcrumbs. Also if your family doesn't like spinach you may omit it.
This recipe was a staple in the Armenian home where I grew up. We never had chicken without having Rice Pilaf. This side dish always brings back fond memories for me - it’s one of my “comfort foods”.
1 cup long-grain rice (my favorite is Uncle Ben’s)
1 14 1/2 oz. can chicken broth
1/2 cup thin egg noodles
3 T. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
In a medium saucepan, melt butter and add egg noodles. Brown noodles over a low heat – watch that they don’t burn. Add rice and salt. Add enough water to the chicken broth to make two cups. Add to the rice and noodles and stir until well incorporated. Cook until broth comes to a low boil, cover saucepan and lower heat to simmer. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, turning off the heat before all the broth is absorbed. The rice will continue to cook and absorb the remaining broth. Makes about four servings.
Rufina's Homemade Salsa
When our daughter was in college she brought a girlfriend home with her for a visit. Rufina's family owned a Mexican restaurant and she taught us how to make the salsa they served to their patrons. It's become our favorite salsa and makes enough for a whole week of snacking.
3 28 oz. cans Italian plum tomatoes (I drain most of the juice from each can and save it in the freezer for marinara sauce)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, cut in quarters
1 jalapeno seeded and cut into quarters (use more if you like a hot, spicy, salsa)
2 tsp. kosher salt (or more to taste)
Juice of one lime
In a food processor, chop the tomatoes -- one can at a time so you have more control over the size of the chopped tomatoes. Pour into a large bowl.
Put onion and jalapeno in small saucepan and cover with water. Simmer until fork tender. Drain and chop fine, or add to tomatoes in food processor to chop.
Add remaining ingredients to chopped tomatoes in bowl and mix. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Note: I chop the cilantro by hand rather than putting it in the food processor because it keeps the intense flavor of the herb.
This salsa is wonderful served with tortilla chips. I also like to have some on hand when I make a breakfast casserole or scrambled eggs for breakfast. Enjoy!
If you've always been a little hesitant about making anything with yeast, this is the bread for you. I mix the dough and let it rise the night before I am going to bake it, but this fool-proof bread could not be easier. And the results are so delicious. The first attempt produces a beautiful and tasty loaf of bread. And, another bonus, if you have any leftover bread you can make yummy croutons (recipe follows).
3 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Yield: One 1 1/2 pound loaf.
- In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18 hours, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. (I place the bowl in my unheated oven).
- Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
- Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
- At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6 60 8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, ceramic or dutch oven) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess but that is okay. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Extra-virgin olive oil
Slice bread into 1/2 inch cubes and place in large bowl. Sprinkle with 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and kosher salt, to taste. Toss to distribute oil and salt. Spread cubes of bread onto a shallow baking pan making sure they are spread out properly. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 20-30 minutes until they are golden brown and crispy. Store in an airtight container and enjoy as a snack or on salads or soups. Note: you might try adding other seasons like fresh cracked pepper, dried oregano, garlic powder or parmesan cheese.
Fun and Easy Dessert Displays
Both of my daughters really enjoy baking. When my younger daughter, Stephanie, was pregnant last year her sister, Jennifer, created this dessert table for her baby shower. One of the displays is filled with mini-cupcakes held in place with long toothpicks. It ended up looking like a big bouquet of flowers. The other has chocolate-dipped marshmallows-on-a-stick decorated with sprinkles.
Not only were they pretty to look at, but it was so much fun choosing items from the decorative urns to eat. This is an easy project, especially if you prepare the urns ahead of time. And, you can use them over and over again for other dessert displays.
Items you will need:
Small to medium-size decorative urns
1 styrofoam ball, making sure the circumference is the size that fits the opening of the urn
Any type of moss sheets or loose moss
1. Prepare urn by making sure it is clean and dry (you will be displaying food items in these).
2. With heated glue gun run a bead of glue around the top inside circle of the urn.
3. Place styrofoam ball so that the glue is meeting all the edges of the ball, where half the ball is above the top of the urn. If the styrofoam ball is a bit small you may need to build up the interior space with supports to hold the ball in place, i.e., styrofoam bricks, lots of crumpled paper, stones, etc. This will help support the ball as it is drying. Remember, whatever you use as a support will need to stay in the urn. When the ball is securely in place, and the glue dry you may now begin the process of adding moss to cover the styrofoam ball.
4. To do this you will need to cover the styrofoam ball with more glue and start covering the ball with the moss. You may even use florist pins to secure the moss in place. Just make sure the pins are hidden under the moss. Let dry for several hours or overnight. These are now the perfect vessels to use on a dessert table for displaying mini cupcakes or chocolate-dipped marshmallows on long sticks.
2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bag large marshmallows
Extra long wooden sticks
Graham cracker crumbs
1. Prepare marshmallows by pushing a wooden stick about three quarters of the way through each marshmallow. At the same time ready your toppings by placing them in dipping bowls.
2. Place chocolate and vegetable oil in a microwave-safe bowl (preferably glass) and cook on low for about one minute. Run a spoon through the chocolate to see if it is melting and add additional time until the chocolate is smooth and creamy.
3. Dip each marshmallow-on-a-stick in the melted chocolate and roll in the toppings of your choice. When done place on a cookie sheet and cool in the refrigerator for about ten minutes, or until the chocolate is set.
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