Harmony from Hominy...A light meal during the holiday frenzy

With Hanukkah swiftly approaching I thought I'd get out my oil and start frying! I figured my kitchen would smell like oil for the next few days so what is one more day? With all the preparations going on sometimes we just need something quick and  easy.  We love soup, the flavorful brothy kind the best when you are sick or cold kind. 

I talk a lot about texture for kids, I think it is important to teach them about different textures. This is a perfect soup for that, crisp tortillas, soft beans, chewy hominy and zucchini, makes a perfect warm meal. The flavors are mild and simple,  when your kids decide they like it,  you can add more ingredients the next time you make it.

I did not write a recipe for this but here is what I did:
Add about 1 inch of vegetable oil to a straight sided pot or skillet. Heat on high until it shimmers, reduce to medium high.
Stack about 5 corn tortillas and cut them into strips. Drop one in the oil to test, it should sizzle and cook quickly. When you fry, the faster the food cooks the less oil it sucks up, the better it will taste.
Drain them on a paper towel and set aside.

This is a quick soup so,  I started with canned chicken broth and added some ground chicken and onions to improve the flavor. Adding ground chicken will give you great chicken flavor in a flash. After the chicken is fully cooked strain it out and save it to use in hash or something else. You can leave the meat in but some kids find the texture strange.
Canned broth can be salty so taste before you add salt.
Add drained Great Northern beans, a can of drained Hominy and  a few diced zucchini.  
Cook it on medium until the zucchini is tender but still holds it's shape about 10 minutes.
Serve with a handful of tortilla strips and a sprinkle of dry cheese if you want.

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Last weekend I was lucky to be invited to make apple sauce with 100 1-6 year olds at the Jewish Community Center.  The trick was, how do we peel and prepare 50 apples half way so the kids could mash it into sauce and still feel like they participated. The answer, the apple peeler, slicer, corer and a big pot.
There's nothing better or faster for peeling, slicing and coring apples than this tool. It's great for peeling pears and potatoes, too. A suction base grips your counter top making it easy for little ones to help. We had one when we were small in the 70's, and they haven't changed. My whole family went into gear for this project, I washed, and they peeled and sliced! The apples come out cut into a large spiral so we broke them in half before they went in to the pot. 
We got all the apples done in about 1/2 hour. I stewed the apples in a bit of water and a squeeze of lemon. 
We transported the 4 pots of half cooked apples and by the time we arrived they were perfectly soft. I gave each child a bowl, 1/2 and apple and a fork. They mashed, added cinnamon and nutmeg and topped the warmed pre-made latkes with sour cream and the apple sauce. It was a big hit even the little ones were able to participate. My dad was visiting and he had a ball running around taking photos of the sticky kids.
I love this time of year because it reminds me of all the traditional foods we grew up with. It is about making food with friends and family. Find your foods and teach your kids a tradition to carry on into their adulthood.

I will share my own personal recipe for Latkes. Hanukkah is all about oil so we fry and fry and fry! Latkes are best eaten warm, as the are cooked one after another!
Oil was needed for the menorah (candelabrum) in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night every night. There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle. 

Home Style Latkes
Recipe by: Jennifer Carden
Author of The Toddler Café

3 Tbs all purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 russet potatoes, peeled
1 small onion
1-2 cups vegetable oil
For serving
Sour cream

Whisk the flour, eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl. Set aside. Grate the potatoes on a fine or small grating disk in a food processor, alternating with the onion.
Mix the potato onion mixture into the egg mixture with your clean hands.
The mix will be soupy, it is OK, and there is no need to drain it.
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium until a bit of mixture dropped in bubbles. Be sure not to let the oil start to smoke-you want a shimmer only.
Using tongs or large slotted spoon and gently drop the mix into the hot oil. Fry until edges are brown and crispy. Remove with tongs draining oil over pan.
Drain pancakes on brown paper bags or paper towels. Serve hot with applesauce and sour cream on top.

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Mommy Makes Cassoulet the Easy Way!

A rich warm meal for the whole family without the hours of cooking.
Cassoulet usually involves, duck and pork and sausage of some sort, here is my simple recipe for a look alike! If you like you can add bread crumbs mixed with a bit of olive oil on top and you broil the dish for an added crunch. Wait to add salt until the end because the salt pork adds a lot of salt to the dish.

1 chicken cut up
2 inches salt pork, diced
Pure olive oil
1 cup pearl barley
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 chippolini or pearl onions, quartered
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbs thyme, fresh
1 Tbs celery seed
1 bay leaf
1 cup mushrooms quartered
1 can white beans (such a Great Northern), drained

Preheat oven to 350 ˚F
Coat hot Dutch Oven with olive oil. Brown chicken on medium heat in a batches in Dutch oven
Remove chicken, drain grease and set aside.
Add bacon, barley, all onions and garlic, stir to coat, add broth all herbs and mushrooms.
Cook covered in 350˚F oven until chicken is tender. About 1 hour.

Remove lid, add beans tuck under chicken so they don't burn.
Broil uncovered 5- 10 minutes to crisp skin.

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Crafty Thanks and Giving

The season is upon us, like a speeding bullet, how is it that November is half over? Summer ended so abruptly, I guess that starting kindergarten tossed us into the routine of the school year. Time goes quickly when it is divided into semesters. I love Thanksgiving, it is my favorite holiday to plan and cook. I love it partly because I get to stuff myself with the comfort foods of childhood and partly because cooking this meal, smells up the house with the roasty delicious scents of times gone by.

The best part of Thanksgiving to me is the warmth (being from the East we really needed it) of friends and family being together centered around the table.
Thanksgiving is also a great excuse for our family to get to be crafty. We love to use natural items that we gather from our yard or on a walk. A few years ago we started giving tokens to our guests. We wanted them to feel welcome and go home with some of our decorations.
At our craft store we bought inexpensive brown paper mache frames. We color copied photos of all our kid guests and glued them to the frames.
When the children arrived we gave them leaves and glitter and they decorated their photos. We hung them around the room, and when they left they got to take the one with their photo on it.

We also collected a bunch of bright yellow Ginkgo leaves and sandwiched them between contact paper to use as a table cloth for the kids table. (not pictured) This craft was a great way to get my daughter involved and a good way to keep our table clean.
Get the kids involved with setting the table too, even though I have to give up control on how my kids table should look, the kids are happy and excited to eat when it is time.
What I have learned over the years is that it is not how the table looks or how much food is cooked but how we remember the day and look back on it with nostalgia. I know everyone experiences the holidays differently, some turbulent some lonely, some loud but we have to make sure we find the little kernel of joy in it for ourselves and hold on to it. So make it a calm and enjoyable day and maybe lower your expectations a bit.
This year even though we are going to a friends house and I am sure whatever we eat and however the table is decorated it will smell good, be warm, fun and satisfying.

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EXTRA EXTRA! “Fairy Dust Found on Bed Post!”

I knew this day would come, the one where my daughter says, “look mom, my tooth is hanging out.” First off…ewe! The whole tooth falling out thing really freaks me out.
I have never had a good relationship with my teeth or the dentist for that matter.
The next day she came home with an over sized plastic tooth around her neck and inside was her real tooth. It is a little thing, like some old shell you might find in the sand on a beach.
My first thought was, yikes, she is not a baby anymore.
The second was, what the hell is the tooth fairy supposed leave her?
And the third was a memory of a friend telling me that one time she forgot to leave something from the tooth fairy for her child, she felt terrible of course.
My goal was not to forget to leave something.

The day was fading; my husband and I had not rehearsed this event yet so we were mouthing ideas back and forth during dinner. He had a great idea for a charm bracelet. With each tooth she would get a charm to attach to the bracelet, but it was 7pm and there was nowhere to get that, although it was a good idea. We had to think of something special, we ended up giving her 2 bucks and a pin (more of a broach) of mine of van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night. We wanted to put it in a little satin bag but we thought she may recognize it and then figure out that it was us all along. After much debate we decided on a baggie. It was like a silly sitcom, us runing around trying to decide on what to do, it was pretty funny. We slipped the tooth out and placed the new goodies under her pillow.
The best part is that I sprinkled “fairy dust” all over the bedpost so when she woke up she saw it.
In the morning she was delighted to see the gifts under her pillow. I told her the fairy must have landed there to rest and the dust came off her wings. The fairy dust was the icing on the cake, but really it was just edible cake glitter!
My husband thinks she knows it is us leaving the gifts, but is just going along with the whole song and dance because we are having such a good time with it!

Here is my recipe for 

Fairy Dust Snack Mix

Edible glitter- fine (get at baking supply or craft store)

Use up all your leftover:
Dried fruit (we love coconut)
and whatever else you need to use up

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, sprinkle in glitter and toss until you get the desired effect. 

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Yes, Beans for Thanksgiving!

About 6 months ago I was asked by The Vegetable with More to create some recipes for Thanksgiving and give people new ideas on how to work with beans. They wanted a stuffing recipe that would be somewhat traditional but also include beans. Here is what I came up with, Cranberry Rice and Bean Stuffing.

The second recipe was to include something green to replace that old standard, green bean casserole. I also thought why not change up the mashed potatoes for gnocchi?
Here is what I came up with,
Gnocchi with White Beans and Pesto

It is said that the Pilgrims didn't have most of the foods we now eat on Thanksgiving such as, sugary pies and an abundance of fruit and vegetables, so why not add beans to your table?

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Jupiter’s Acorn, a very fun name for a plain old Walnut

I am not a tree hugger by nature, although my East Coast family thinks that since I live in California I am. I do love trees though, especially, Walnut trees.
I never thought much of the Walnut, or so I thought.  Although my family did not live in a nut-growing region we always had a bowl of Walnuts on our coffee table. You know, orange shag rug, plaid couch, bad haircuts and a bowl of nuts, ahh..the 70's!

I had no idea how they were grown, They came from the store I supposed.  I did know they made my tongue dry, looked like little brains and were fun to smash. The Latin name for Walnut is Jupiter's Acorn, cute isn't it?

Nuts faded away for a few years, I’d forgotten about them like and old friend you don’t talk too much, but still really like. When you see them again it is like you were never apart…it was like that with walnuts.
Lucky for me, my husband and I bought a small house last year and in the front yard are two very old English Walnut trees. They have given our family so much, we make Nocino a green Walnut wine starting in the summer and we bottling it in December. Our daughter loves to help pick the nuts and help decide on the aromatics to put in the wine. We use orange, coffee beans, cinnamon, clove, she gets to smell them and help decide on the amounts to add in.
In the fall the nuts start dropping. We have to get them before the crows do, they toss them in the road and wait until the cars smash them, brilliant! It is always fun to see who can pick up the most nuts with the Nut Wizard, the kids love it!
I love that the weather is getting cool and we can watch our trees change from season to season. I am always looking for walnut recipes so feel free to send me yours!
So give your kids a rock and a bunch of nuts and let them smash them open and eat the yummy nut meats.

Here is a recipe you may get your kids to eat if you let them help shell the nuts!

Walnut Pesto
Try it spread on crusty bread. The bright lemon flavor and fresh herbs give this pesto a sunny feeling even in winter. Freeze in small portions and use it to add extra flavor to, rice, top fish or chicken or stir into soups.

2 cups (tight-packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves
3/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves (large) garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest


Place parsley, walnuts, cheese, garlic, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until well combined. Combine oil, lemon juice, and zest in a small bowl. Add the oil mixture to parsley mixture in a slow stream, pulsing to combine. Serve immediately or freeze.
Freeze the pesto: Divide pesto into preferred serving sizes and place in small containers Pour a bit of olive oil on the top to keep the air away from the pesto. Seal
with airtight lids.

This recipe was adapted from Country Living.

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Chase the Gray Days Away with a Spring Birthday

With Winter approaching why not throw a little spring themed princess or princely birthday party, or heck just throw a party for the fun of it!
Keep the grey away with lots of ideas on how to create an easy bright and colorful party. Spur your creativity for healthy colorful foods and fun party ideas. You can get just about everything you need at a large craft store.

Princess and Princely Capes:
Purchase inexpensive fleece fabric or go to Ikea and get cheap fleece blankets there.
Cut wide rectangles about 3 feet long and make a 6 inch slit about 10 inches below the top. (See photo of prince)
The slit will slide over the head of the prince or princess. Remember get two colors if there will be boys attending.
Use the scraps to make “cuffs” by cutting a doughnut shape to slip over tiny wrists. Add fringe by cutting around the “doughnut with scissors.”

If you are feeling adventurous you can make a princess cake from a mold. You can get used molds on Ebay for less than a brand new one. You can also go on line to find out how to make a doll cake in a mixing bowl, just search “making a doll cake in a mixing bowl.” If you purchase the mold you can reuse it as a volcano for another child’s party. The doll for the cake comes with a spike in place of legs to be put directly into the "skirt" of cake; they can be purchased at most craft stores.

Dipped Strawberries:
Buy melting chocolate, little disks made especially for candy making. Get any color and follow directions on the bag for melting. Remember make sure your berries are dry, adding water to melted chocolate will turn into a hard lump. Drizzle berries with a contrasting chocolate color.


Use a sandwich press or shape cutters to remove crusts and cut in to simple shapes.
Fill them with cheese and a thinly sliced apple slice or your child’s favorite filling.
A springy salad and bread for the grown ups makes them feel welcome too.

Use molding chocolates (the same ones you use for the dipped strawberries) and a flower mold to make these cute flower arrangements. Buy a few pots of cat grass from the pet store and “plant” enough flowers (or bugs) for each child.

I like to invite a small group that way we can give out nicer favors. Fore this party we had one my little pony bought on sale, one cool marshmallow twist, a necklace and bracelet in a cute pink purse. For the little prince we had a brown more cowboy-looking horse in a more boyish bag.

Make sure you have a craft to occupy the time.
We made foamy crowns and wands with foamy-s that have sticky backing. Each child gets to be proud of the craft they made!

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Taste Testing Peanut Butters - Not Just for Kids!

I love peanut butter, maybe it’s that nostalgic icon the pb&j that brings back the memories. Although I was never a fan of the jelly part, I just preferred the sticky nutty spread all alone. A tasting comparison is a great way to get your kids eating foods they may not think about.  Any ingredient can work, whole wheat pasta, jelly, juice, cheese, tortilla chips, anything you can think of. Give each of them a plate with samples of one type of food item, have them taste it, smell it, and look at the color. Discuss or write down the findings and decide by voting which food they like the best.

This particular Peanut Butter tasting was all grown ups from the SFPFS. Our panel ranged from master taster to recipe developers to home cooks. We each had a plate with 11 samples of “oil on the top, natural peanut butter." I can’t say we were very scientific about the tasting, just that we tasted, and then yelled out our opinion across the room. It was a lot of fun, and I’d do it again, even with jelly!

Here’s our sticky conclusion:
8 votes – Trader Joes Organic $2.99
7 votes– Santa Cruz Dark Roast 3.99
6 votes – O Organics (Safeway) 2.50

5 votes - Laura Scudders 3.89
4 votes– Santa Cruz Light Roast 3.99
2 votes– Trader Joes regular 1.79
0 votes - MaraNatha Organic 3.15
0 votes - Adams 3.89
0 votes – 365 (whole foods) 1.69
The no-stir Skippy and MaraNatha products received no votes.

The overall winner was Trader Joe’s Organic at $2.99. The group agreed it had a focused peanut taste with mild salt and a bit of sweetness.

The second choice was Santa Cruz Dark Roast at $3.99, it was the most expensive. We all agreed that the deep peanut color and roasty flavor set it at second place.

The third choice was O Organics 2.50 (Safeway brand) it was considered to have mild flavor and a smooth texture a typical peanut butter.

Sunflower Butter is a great alternative for peanut butter.
There is also a new almond product called Barney Butter go to What's Cooking to read about it.

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Freaky Friday

Welcome to Freaky Friday. I happen to be the lucky owner of a set of recipe cards from 1973, a lot of recipe cards, and most of them are a bit freaky! I thought I'd share some of my thoughts and possible ways to update these recipes. Some cards are just too far gone and can't be fixed but hopefully, at least I can get you laughing. Now don't be afraid because some of these recipe cards have a good foundation for creative recipe ideas. We have come a long way baby...

You can't really go wrong with a cupcake but these seem to have gone really wrong. It is not Halloween yet but these sure are spooky!

Maybe it's the dried leaves they are sitting in, or the creepy faces, or the dangerous fire sticks positioned to burn off all your arm hair as you grab for one. These are perfect for your next front yard séance, don't forget the fire extinguisher.

Old School

unsweetened chocolate
baking powder
1 pkg fluffy white frosting mix
licorice laces
candy corn
Chocolate chips
chocolate sprinkles

Update Suggestions...

1 package organic cupcake mix, chocolate
assorted candies and some free time

Homemade Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

4 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon orange peel (optional)

Combine cream cheese and butter; beat until smooth. Gradually beat in sugar and grated orange peel.

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"Mom, can I have a snack?"

If you have kids you could hear that phrase a few times a day, or more. You probably reach for the cheese and crackers, pretzels or yogurt. Fruit is always a good choice but if you are fresh out you could try some

If you have never had dehydrated fruit it's crisp and packs a punch in the flavor area. Dehydrated fruit has a crunch kids love and is a good alternative to chips and junk. 
Funky Monkey dehydrated fruit comes in 4 flavors: Bananamon, Jivealime, Purple Funk and Carnaval Mix.
The difference I find with this product compared to other dehydrated fruits we eat is the flavorings. The Bananamon, Jivealime and Purple Funk are are sprayed with a  thin coat of cinnamon, lime or acai berry. The Purple Funk is banana coated with acai, many people have never heard of acai, it is a very high in anti-oxidants. The acai berry is a drupe and comes from the same family as the coconut.
The pineapple was a bit tart for our 5 year old, I'd love to see a coconut pineapple flavor something a bit more mellow. Our favorite flavoring was the Bananamon, dried bananas coated with cinnamon.
Our favorite overall was the Carnaval Mix with raisins, apple, papaya, banana and pineapple, because the true fruit flavors came through so well.
I'd say these would not be great for very small children because the pieces are a bit sharp, but perfect in an a school lunch. Over all we liked them a lot and they are a great snack and a healthy one! Each 1 oz. pack contains 3 of the four daily servings of fruit required for a healthy diet.
The other thing I was curious about was the life span. Products with water extracted tend to rehydrate and become chewy or sticky over time. Surprisingly these didn't, we left them open for a few hours and then sealed the bags with a bag clip. The next day they were just as crisp!
The best part is that they are organic,
all natural, no sugar or fat added. No colors or preservatives are added and they are gluten free, dairy free, wheat-free and certified Kosher.
We made a cone out of a paper bag and filled it with cereal and Funky Monkey and coconut. It is a great way to do a craft with your child and eat healthy mixes too!

Here is a recipe from my book The Toddler Café

Happy Trails Mix
Tell the children it’s time to be important explorers who need some healthy snacks to bring with them on the trek. This is a great way to use up all those half-empty packages in your pantry. Dehydrated foods are healthy and easy for small hands to pick up and eat. Portion out small amounts into reusable containers and store for a grab-and-go snack. Get adventurous—look around and buy different kinds of dried fruit for this recipe.

Use dried fruit such as
Large flake coconut
Dried kiwi
Cashew pieces
Any leftover cereal
Dehydrated fruit of any kind

Mix and store in an airtight container.
Keep some in the car for hunger emergencies.

To make paper cone
1. Help your child cut out a circle from a paper bag using an upside down bowl about 6 inches across as the circle template.

2. Have your child draw and decorate paper circle.

3. Create a cone shape and seal with tape.

4. Have your child scoop whichever ingredients they choose into the “cone.”

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Music to my ears, I think?

Here is a super challenge for you and your kids your family is sure to get a few laughs.

This is a contest to encourage America to reinvent the classic schoolyard chant, “Beans, beans the musical fruit.”

For years, children and parents have recited variations of this memorable chant, but what they don’t realize is that something in the lyrics is wrong - beans are a vegetable, not a fruit! While 3 out of 4 adults know the bean chant, only 1 in 4 know that beans are actually a vegetable. It’s time to set the record straight!

We’re inviting the public to grab a video camera and record an original bean chant. The requirements are:
· Begin your chant with the phrase “Beans, beans”
· Convey somewhere in your lyrics/chant that beans are a veggie or vegetable

People can visit Bean Chant until Dec. 12, 2008 to upload their videos for a chance to win the grand prize – $5,000 and a trip for four to perform the winning chant at a February event in Times Square hosted by Drew Lachey, multi-platinum recording artist, bean fan and dad.

Here is some inspiration
Beans, beans have protein to spare
Call them a fruit? I won’t even dare
They’re a veggie that makes you grow up big and strong
And with beans on the table, your meal can’t go wrong

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Getting Into the Green (sorry, it's not about money)

Getting our kids to eat their veggies can be tough, even kids who like veggies can have a hard time eating the proper amount.
They are always on the run and need lots of good energy foods.
A few months ago I picked up a book called The Raw Detox Diet for myself. I was feeling a bit sluggish and needed a good inner scrubbing! One of the healthful things the author suggests to have every day is something that is brilliantly named Green Lemonade. She says in the book that it can become addicting, I thought ACK how could kale juice become addicting? I gave it the benefit of the doubt and I started juicing this green lemonade every morning. I had a juicer from my obsessive days of drinking carrot juice (that is a whole other story in itself) when ones hands turn a strange shade of rust it is time to step away from the carrots. Back away from the carrots...and I did.
Anyway back to the story, so I juiced: Kale, apple, ginger, lettuce, lemon and guess what? I LOVED IT, I loved it so much I offered it to my 5 year old, telling her it was called, green lemonade. She loved it too. The lemon cuts the "green" taste and the apple adds sweetness. If you have a finicky kid try adding agave nectar to sweeten it up, agave has a low glycemic index and is better for you than sugar.

So what's your point Jen? My point is is that if you call something as bizarre as kale juice and lemon something a kid can relate to they are much more likely to try it. Now it is possible that your child may not like it but you can experiment with the lemon, add more apple and bingo you have a perfect veggie in a cup all you need is a straw!

Recipe for

Green Lemonade
adapted from Natalia Rose The Raw Food Detox Diet
For juicing try to buy organic especially when juicing the peels.
for kids cut this in 1/2 and add ice to dilute and you can drink the rest.
Warning: this can be intense so start small and work up, I do double this recipe in the am for myself.
Ginger does not have a long shelf life so I wash and cut my ginger into coins and store it in the freezer. You can toss it in to most the juicers or thaw it a bit in the microwave.

1 apple, cut peel on
1/2 lemon, cut, peel on
1/2-1 head Romaine lettuce, washed
1 large kale leaf or more if desired If using Dino Kale use 2 or more)
1/2 inch ginger, peel on

Juice all ingredients as machine suggests, drink and enjoy.

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Freaky Friday

Welcome to Freaky Friday. I happen to be the lucky owner of a set of recipe cards from 1973, a lot of recipe cards, and most of them are a bit freaky! I thought I'd share some of my thoughts and possible ways to update these recipes. Some cards are just too far gone and can't be fixed but hopefully, at least I can get you laughing. Now don't be afraid because some of these recipe cards have a good foundation for creative recipe ideas. We have come a long way baby...

I wouldn't want to eat one of those pool balls thinking it was a cherry tomato!!

Hot Tuna and Egg Buns

Old School

stuffed green olives
cheddar cheese cubes
hard cooked eggs, (the overcooked kind with the green ring)
mayonnaise or cooked salad dressing 
sweet pickle relish
chopped onion
frankfurter rolls

Update Suggestions...

Easy Tuna Melt
olive oil or mayonnaise (just a bit)
good quality cheese, Swiss or Provolone
grated Parmesan on top
leftover hot dog or hamburger bun
Black olives on the side

Broil cheeses over tuna serve.

Remember buy dolphin safe tuna and don't eat it too often.
More on safe fish to eat go here too.

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Play is Back

With school in full swing, I thought this was a good time to share this short post.
I am getting serious on you but don't worry regularly scheduled programming will return as soon as possible.

A while back I had the pleasure of listening to a fantastic author and researcher named Kathy Hirish-Pasek. She spoke about her book Einstein Never Used Flash Cards. Not only was she funny and energetic but a wealth of information on the subject of how our children learn. It was as if she was speaking directly to me, I breathed a sigh of relief for my school days past and my daughters future.
School for me was an endless struggle of failing miserably and succeeding superbly. Trying to fit inside a box of purple and white dittos, smelling the wet ink feeling the frustration before I even tried. Sitting in endless math classes feeling lost and knowing summer school was in my future.
I hid in the art room, throughout my years in middle and high school I retreated to the art room where the familiar smells of tempera and clay welcomed me. I was good at art I thrived there, I received praise there I was smart there I succeeded there.
My daughter at the wise age of five loves to play, make up stories and be in her fantasy land as much as possible. I do not feel the need to drill her on flash cards or force her to stifle her creativity. I was worried about her academic prowess. She is learning through her play they kids are designed for that, have you ever seen a four year old able to sit still for more that 10 minutes? Drilling her with flashcards may put my worries at ease but it is about her not me right? Hirish-Pasek says, " putting children in a rigid structure as young as two or three can create anxiety, hostility and fear." They need us their parents not tutors, she also states that, "children as young as nine are experiencing anxiety attacks," that is an outrageous statistic. We want our kids to be creative thinkers not robots, the system is an endless snarl of red tape and test scores, not designed for individuals but fore the group.

What does this have to do with food and your child you ask? Well, Hirish-Pasek is passionate about learning through play, touching, exploring, imagining and more and so am I.
Let them play and teach them while they are comfortable and relaxed. If your child needs to brush up on letters, serve alphabet soup. If they are having trouble counting, count and stack carrots, teach it out of context and see what happens. Our kids don't have to struggle just find out how they learn best and follow their lead.

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The fruits or vegetables of our labor...or not

A few months back I did a post about our Magic Garden, well the time has come to show it off.

Here is a shot of some of our beans in different stages and our Echinicha flower.  The reason we call it our Magic Garden is because a while back my dad sent me an envelope marked Irv's magic beans. Of course I thought he was just being silly, he usually is.  When we spoke he told me that he had a photo of he and his sister in the 30's in front of a bean plant. He'd been searching for the same heirloom bean and found it, that is what was in the envelope!  We planted them and they grew beautifully and without much attention in our garden. It is so nice to be growing something that I can pass to friends and has a great history to it.
My daughter likes to make soup from the beans, she gets out her spices and adds herbs from and vegies. Tonight she made up a "soup" with curry, cinnamon cherry tomatoes, beans and basil, it wasn't half bad!
So when you need a quick meal don't forget about beans even if you did not grow them yourself!

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A Quick and A"peel"ing Snack

How to make a fun interactive snack when the cupboards are bare you ask?
Well, maybe you didn't ask but I will tell you anyway.  I am always looking for fun ways to make the same old thing feel new, so if you have and aging banana and peanut butter you have it made!  If you look carefully you can see the banana peel under the slices, just for fun.

I am not a lover of bananas (I know, I know how could that be?) but I am trying hard not to impose my culinary dislikes on my child's pure palate. I always say, "never let them see your reaction to a food, let them judge for themselves," but I don't think you have to do much convincing to get kids to eat bananas. 
Disliking the banana has been a bit of a hardship for me, missing out on shared desserts like banana cream pie, Bananas Foster, smoothies heavy on banana, it has been tough. (tears)
Lucky for me I happen to love peanut butter so I have found that the two together are quite good. I think most of you would agree with that statement, or at least be happy for me that I can enjoy a banana with my daughter now and then. Here is an easy idea for a quick snack.
Read about the contest below and see past winners too!

Back to the task at hand.

Banana Dots on a Peel Plate
1 Banana, save 2 strips of peel for serving on
peanut butter, smooth 
shredded coconut, cereal or cracker crumbs

All we did here was to slice a banana in rounds on a plate, use a plastic knife and make sure to let the kids do it.
Give them a baggie with a tablespoon of peanut butter in it, cut off the tip to create a small piping bag. Let them squirt the peanut butter on the rounds, this will make a mess. 
Place the rounds right on top of the inside of the peel  (hard to see here) it gave it a nice curve and the girls thought it was really silly. 
Let them sprinkle the coconut or topping of choice on the rounds and eat.

Read below and enter the contest, get the kids involved and have fun.

One Kid Chef Will Win a $25,000 Scholarship Fund
Making a peanut butter sandwich has never been more rewarding. The makers of Jif(R) peanut butter, the number one choice of choosy moms, announced today a call-for-entries for the Seventh Annual Jif(R) Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest(TM). The grand
prize is a $25,000 scholarship fund with four runners-up receiving a $2,500
scholarship fund. Parents can help their kids (ages 6-12) enter this
nationwide contest between August 4, 2008 and November 14, 2008.

Through the Jif® Moms Voice Their Choice Contest™, one lucky mom will win a 4-day, 3-night trip to New York City and a seat at the judging table at the 7th Annual Jif® Most Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest™.

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Freaky Friday

Welcome to Freaky Friday. I happen to be the lucky owner of a set of recipe cards from 1973, a lot of recipe cards, and most of them are a bit freaky! I thought I'd share some of my thoughts and possible ways to update these recipes. Some cards are just too far gone and can't be fixed but hopefully, at least I can get you laughing. Now don't be afraid because some of these recipe cards have a good foundation for creative recipe ideas. We have come a long way baby...


Old School

ground beef, raw
lemon juice
egg yolks, raw
sour cream
chili sauce
rye bread

Update Suggestions...

My vote,  let's just pretend we never saw this and move on.

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Move over Easy Bake Oven..

There is a new dog in town and she knows how to "roll" over!
Remember the Easy Bake Oven (yes I still have mine) well forget those little cakes and get a load of this:

Recently I wrote a post on making sushi with your kids. It was about making "fast food," now I know it can be done even faster, where have you been The Norimaki Makki Sushi Roll Maker? Some of you may be intimidated by hand rolling carefully cooked rice, perfectly sliced veggies but now it is so easy even a kid can do it, perfect every time, and it isn't even a Ronco!  For some reason I just think this is hilarious and can't wait to get one.

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Freaky Friday

Welcome to Freaky Friday.
I am the lucky owner of a set of recipe cards from 1973, a lot of recipe cards, and most of them are a bit freaky!  I thought I'd share some of my thoughts and possible ways to update these recipes. Some cards  are just too far gone and can't be fixed but hopefully, at least I can get you laughing.  Now don't be afraid because some of these recipe cards have a good foundation for creative recipe ideas.  I am always up for suggestions and comments.
We have come a long way baby...

As you can see this card is marked as "children's favorites," hmmm maybe not.
It may have been a good snack after recorder practice in 1972 but let's talk about how we can make it better. 

Old School...

heavy cream

canned pineapple
lettuce cups
buttered toast

Update suggestions...

plain yogurt
lemon juice

wheat germ or flax for sprinkling

Serve in silicone cupcake cups or foil cupcake papers

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An apple a day could keep a species alive

Photo by Matthew Carden

Apple season is beginning and you should know that the Gravenstein apple is an endangered species. As my husband pointed out, unlike an endangered animal, the way to save this apple is to eat it. In the 1970’s Sonoma County was the Gravenstein capital of the world: today there are fewer than 10 Sonoma farmers who still make a living selling apples. Eat them, seek them out and find them, help the farmers survive. Slow Food Russian River and it's volunteers are helping save this delicious apple, all the farmers and people who make products from this fruit. This delicious and crisp apple really bring me back to my childhood, we didn't have these where I grew up but we had apples.

I grew up in Upstate New York in the midst of apple orchards, the best times were getting the fresh cider and a paper bag of apples to take home. I would like to be able to do that here is Sonoma with my daughter, good times we hope.

My husband was commissioned by Slow Food Russian River to create a poster about saving the Gravenstien and chronicle the life of the apple from blossom to fruit and everything in between. If you are interested in Slow Food go to the Slow Food Nation event here in San Francisco in September.

"Slow Food Russian River is one of 140 convivia in the USA to carry out the Slow Food mission at the local level. We support and promote the food traditions that are part of the cultural identity of this country. Please join us as we work to celebrate and sustain the agricultural and culinary traditions of people around the world."

If you would like a poster contact info@slowfoodrr.org

If you would like to purchase one of Matthew's other works go 350 Degrees or contact me.

Poster Text 
Sebastopol Gravenstein Apple Presidia Project - Production of Gravenstein apples is now only a fraction of its historic levels as small farmers struggle to market their heirloom fruit. The international
Slow Food Foundation for Bio-Diversity has established the Sebastopol, California Gravenstein as one of only six food products in the U.S. to be placed in their Presidia.
The Presidium, (from Latin praesidum, ‘protection, garrison’) works to promote farmers who nurture their apples from tree to table. Their agricultural traditions yield sweet-tart, crisp, juicy and delicious
Gravenstein apples. For more information go to
Slow Food USA envisions a future food system that is based on the principles of high quality and taste, environmental sustainability,
and social justice – in essence, a food system that is good, clean and fair.
Limited edition poster by Matthew Carden -

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Letter Ice, it's Cool

We have been working on numbers and letters in our house these days, brushing up before Kindergarten starts next week. (yikes)

The stars must have been aligned, because recently I was asked to review a cool new product called Letter Ice, gladly I accepted. The website says you can bake them freeze them and basically make anything in them. I thought this would be a perfect way to get her to practice without making it all academic, you know the creative way. Since our whole world revolves around creative thinking and eating, and well, both at the same time this product was perfect for us.

Last week was a bit busy so I decided rather than wait I would start freezing whatever we had around. First we took a banana pudding we had and put it in the numbers mold. I put the pudding in a Ziploc and cut off the tip and squeezed it into the molds. I tapped them down and tossed them in the freezer, taking care to lay it flat.
When we took them out they easily popped out of the molds but looked bland and pale, that needed fixing. I figured that this was kind of a treat, although not quite ice cream, so I added a pool of chocolate sauce to stand the numbers up in. They still needed something and my daughter suggested sprinkles, how could I refuse. We put about 6 numbers standing up on a long narrow plate and it was adorable. Everyone took one or two and the plate was cleaned in minutes.

Now for experiment number two. My husband and I had been shooting Mojitos for a client that day and had lots of mint leftover. I tore up the mint and added them to plain water to make minty ice. I also had some rapidly aging blueberries so we tossed in the frozen minty letters and as they melted Claire ate her letter fruit, and loved it!

The molds are tough and durable, dishwasher friendly and all around great. They are a nice addition to any kitchen and a great way to use up leftover ingredients.
The verdict, we love them, from ice to cake to chalk or crayons, these molds rock!

For more information go to Sillycone inc.
Letters retail for 19.95$
Numbers retail for 9.95$

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Incr-Edible Facts About Beans

Throughout the year I will be helping my friends over at The Vegetable with More get the word out about beans and the benefits of eating and cooking with them. You will learn a lot about them and I will pass on some easy kid friendly recipes, so make sure to check back for bean updates!
For more bean recipes go to TVWM.

Most Americans need to triple the amount of legumes 
they eat, such as beans, to meet the 3 cups per week the numbers show that they have tons of protein and fiber. 
I bet you knew that!

Beans By The Numbers
(amounts based on ½ cup x 3)

White Beans (Navy, Great Northern) *Protein: 8.5 g, Fiber: 5.5 g

Garbanzo Beans Protein: 7.8 g, Fiber: 7.1 g

Red Kidney Beans Protein: 7.4 g, Fiber: 6.4 g

Cooked Broccoli Protein: 2.2 g, Fiber: 3.0 g

Frozen Corn Protein: 2.1 g, Fiber: 2.0 g

Fresh Carrots Protein: .6 g, Fiber: 2.2 g

Here is a recipe from The Vegetable With More
I love what the author said about praying for cold days so they can make this soup, that cracks me up!
As always alter the recipes to your family's taste.

White Bean Chicken Chili

"This recipe was passed down from a friend, and now it is one of our favorites! It's great to make whenever there is left over chicken or turkey around! We pray for colder weather in California just so we can make this soup! You can substitute additional diced tomatoes for the tomatillos. If you would like the soup to be spicier, you can add some red chili flakes or salsa. Serve with these toppings for people to choose from: limes, cilantro, cheese, avocado, sour cream, and tortilla chips."
Submitted by: Thea

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Total Time: 35 Minutes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound diced, cooked chicken meat
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
1 (18.75 ounce) can tomatillos, drained and chopped
1 (16 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (7 ounce) can diced green chilies
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (15 ounce) can white beans
2 ears fresh corn
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1 lime, sliced
Heat oil, and cook onion and garlic until soft.
Stir in broth, tomatillos, tomatoes, chilies, and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
Add corn, chicken, and beans; simmer 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with these toppings for people to choose from: limes, cilantro, cheese, avocado, sour cream, and tortilla chips.

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Don't Waste Summer

You were in the store and the watermelon looked tasty and it was on sale. You wrestled it in to the car taking care not to let it roll around the trunk.
You cut it into triangles and the juice ran down the kid’s faces, it was delicious but now you have half an aging melon taking up most of your refrigerator. What to do now? I know tossing it seems like a waste so don't make it into a sweet, refreshing snow-cone-ish dessert. You don't need a fancy ice cream maker, just a fork and container and a bit of time.

Make this to taste, depending on the sweetness of your watermelon, it does not have to be overly sweet, really it should just taste like fresh fruit.

I really like to use simple syrup, sugar and water melted together but you can make this with regular sugar, substitute in 1/2 cup granulated for the simple sugar. If you have an oversized fork use it to rake the mixture. But don't leave the fork in the freezer and then lick it when it is frozen, my mistake...ouch.

Watermelon Granita

4 cups seedless watermelon chunks
1 C. simple syrup (recipe below)
Juice of 1 lemon

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Puree until smooth. Pour into a 9 x 13 inch plastic or glass container and freeze for 1 hour. Rake mixture with fork and freeze for another hour. Check it a few times to make sure it is not turning in to a solid block. Rake and freeze for one more hour. Rake and serve in cups. It should stay granular indefinitely.

Simple Syrup

1 C. sugar
1 C. water

Bring the water to a boil.
Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water.
Once the sugar is dissolved completely, remove the pan from the heat.
Allow to cool completely.

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Homemade Corn Tortillas - the easy way

I know you are thinking, homemade tortillas for breakf
ast why bother? Well my job is to get kids interested in food and this is faster and more fun than you may think! Make the tortillas, fry some eggs add cheese and black beans and you have a meal.
Cast Iron Tortilla Press
You do need a tortilla press, but a few sheets of parchment and a rolling pin or two baking dishes will double as a press just fine. If you have a Mexican market near you you will likely find an inexpensive press there. You can pick up a bag of Maseca too. You can find this in the ethnic isle of your grocery store too. I use Maseca, code name, masa harina..... just add water, it is that easy. Now get the kids working it is just like playdough.

Follow the recipe on the bag.
I add a bit of salt and a squeeze of lime juice

Combine masa harina with water.

Mix with hands until dough is moist but holds its shape. Add more water if needed.

Let dough rest for 15 minutes. Divide dough into 12 balls. Dampen your hands slightly with water.

Using a tortilla press or two flat baking dishes, press dough between two pieces of waxed paper to a 6 inch round. Carefully peel off the top sheet of paper.

Place tortilla, paper side up, on a hot ungreased griddle or skillet. Gently peel off remaining paper.

Cook for 30 seconds or until edges begin to dry. Turn and cook until surface appears puffy. Repeat with remaining dough balls.

Keep warm in tin foil in a low oven.

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Beans, beans...you - know - the - rest!

I never gave beans much thought, I mean, yes creamy white beans with a touch of brothy red sauce and a crust of bread, I can get in to that. But growing up in a kosher household it was bagels and Lox, not rice and beans. I didn't really discover rice and beans until I came to California, now beans are one of our everyday foods. Kids love them because they are soft, flavorful and they forget they are a vegetable!
But they are...more than that they are fiber, flavor and a perfect food.
I am lucky enough to have been asked to be on The Bean Expert Advisory Network (B.E.A.N.) which is composed of nationally renowned food, nutrition, health and culinary experts who advise on ways to help Americans achieve the 2008 Dietary Guidelines.
The recommendation is to consume 3 cups per week of legumes, such as beans, as part of a healthy diet.
Here is a breakfast idea to help you start to get those beans in your family's diet. My colleague Connie Guttersen, R.D. PhD developed this one. She is an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America and author of The Sonoma Diet.
As with any recipe for children, you can alter it to your family's taste, play around a bit.

Rise and Shine Burrito

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 15 Minutes

1 (16 ounce) can BUSH'S® Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 small eggs, lightly beaten
8 (6 inch) flour tortillas
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup fresh tomato salsa
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup sliced green onions
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Heat beans in a medium sauce pot. Set aside.
Heat a nonstick large pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and eggs. Using a spatula, cook and stir until eggs are scrambled. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread the pinto beans in the lower section of the tortilla; top with cheese and eggs. Place salsa and avocados on top. Garnish with sliced green onions.
Fold the outer 1/2-inch left and right sides of the tortilla in. This will help keep the filling inside once you roll your tortilla into a burrito.
Warm completed burritos in the oven for 5-10 minutes.

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Bento Lunch #2

Here is a quick nut free camp lunch for a hot summer day. 

The sandwich: Biscoff spread and cream cheese. Biscoff or Speculoos spread looks like peanut butter but is nut free, unfortunately it is not available in the U.S. yet. I was working on a photo shoot and was lucky enough to get a hold of a jar!

Veggies: baby carrots and cooked sliced purple potatoes

Fruit: blackberries and banana

snack: Goldfish crackers and a frozen thawed filo cup with avocado and shredded cheese.
yogurt, frozen to add chill to the box.

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Doof-a-Palooza was Fun-a-Palooza!

Yesterday was a fantastic day for us at the amazing Google campus. 

Toddler Café  and  What's Cooking 
teamed up to create a fun interactive booth at  DOOF

DOOF is a food show for kids with a mission to help fight childhood obesity. We made Happy Trails Mix from my book. The recipe helps kids with fine motor skills and teaches about recycling by using old bags.
Kids and parents cut circles out of brown paper bags.  The circles were then decorated, formed into a cone shape and filled with dried fruit and other healthy snacks.

We also gave away Boon Snack Balls, they were a huge hit. For the give away we put a bunch of healthy play food in a big stockpot and without looking the kids chose one. If they got the marked veggie they won!! We had lots of fun and made tons of noise every time we had a winner.
We handed out a recipe card with a recipe from Toddler Café generously printed by The Vegetable With More a website promoting beans and fiber in the American diet.

A big thank you to our volunteers, Jessica, Drew and Maria and sponsors, Boon and The Vegetable with More.

Stay tuned to see our gang on a cooking segment with  Joey Altman.

Below is a clip from the Show which is due to air sometime this all on PBS.

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Red White and Pink on the 4th

Instead of the typical 4th of July strawberry, blueberry and whipped cream dessert we decided to make our famous marshmallows. We usually only make them at Christmas time who says there are rules about white-ish desserts, it's not like I was wearing white after Labor Day or anything.

We got this beautiful hand marbled paper effect by using a skewer and drops of food coloring. We put the mixture in a pan and dropped tiny drops of our food coloring right on top, a little goes a long way.

Then we used a skewer and dragged it all over the pan. I thought it was really pretty but unfortunately my smarty pants daughter let me know that they looked more PINK, white and blue! Whatever color they turned out they were delicious. Here is the recipe:

You can make them white or add coloring. Add color either when mixing or use a skewer to drag color through them after you have put them in the pan but before chilling. Getting them out of the pan can be tricky, be patient and pull slowley if they give you trouble. Use clear vanilla to get bright white marshmallows, you can get it at a baking supply store.

Confectioners’ sugar or more for dusting
2 Tbs plus 2 1/2 teaspoons or 3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup warm water about 115°F
1/4 tsp salt
2 egg whites (pasturized are ok to use)
1 tsp vanilla
Food coloring of choice.

1. Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal
baking pan (non stick works great) and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners' sugar.

2. In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle
gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften.

3. In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, hot
water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until
sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium and boil mixture,
without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers
240°F about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture
over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

4. With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high
speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about 6
minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held
mixer. (if making one color batch add color here)

5. In a large bowl with cleaned beaters beat whites (or
reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat
whites and vanilla into sugar mixture by hand until just combined. Pour
mixture into baking pan (add color here for swirl effect) and sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly
over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours,
and up to 1 day.

6. Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large
cutting board. Lifting up 1 corner of inverted pan, with fingers
loosen marshmallow and let drop onto cutting board. With a large knife
trim edges of marshmallow and cut into small squares.
Shake confectioners sugar over the sticky edges, serve.
Keep them chilled overnight to retain freshness.

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