S’more Pudding

You may recall from my last post that I was working on an idea for a peach pudding. The test run of the recipe I created didn’t turn out as I had hoped it would, so I tabled the idea for another time.

The next week I headed off to the beach for a vacation with my family, and I guess the idea of creating a pudding recipe was still floating around somewhere in my brain. I have often said that inspiration can come when you least expect it, and that is exactly what happened during my trip.

One of the things we enjoy doing during a beach vacation is taking an evening stroll on the beach to fly a kite and enjoy the cooler air after a hot day. We also enjoy visiting one of the fire pits where we stay after our kite flying. Families often stop by to warm up in the cool evening air, to sit and talk, or to toast marshmallows and make s’mores.

The smell of toasted marshmallows, along with the smell of coconut from suntan lotion, were two scents that kept finding their way into my nose during the week. By Wednesday, I knew that my next blog would feature something using one of those two flavors! By Friday, the thought of trying another pudding that featured toasted marshmallows was in my head, and just like that today’s idea was born.

My first idea was to blend toasted marshmallows into the milk that I would use to make the pudding. I thought that would be a simple and logical way to get the flavor that I was looking for, and it worked – at first. The blended toasted marshmallow milk combo tasted exactly like a toasted marshmallow should.

Happy with the direction in which I was headed, I continued by making a graham cracker crust for the bottom of each pudding ramekin. Once that was in place, I went ahead with cooking the pudding and spooning it over each crust. When I was done, off it went to the refrigerator to cool and set.

As you can see from the pictures above, the toasted marshmallows gave the milk a bit of a brownish/greyish color. With the addition of whipped cream and broken chocolate bar pieces to finish off the s’more concept, the interesting color was hidden away!

The color really didn’t surprise me, but the taste test sure did! Cooking can often lead to some interesting or even mysterious results, as was the case with my first attempt. The mystery in this case was the missing toasted marshmallow flavor. All of the awesome flavor that was in the milk prior to cooking somehow vanished during the cooking process! What was left was some sort of nondescript flavor – not quite marshmallow or vanilla, just some sort of sweet pudding.

It wasn’t necessarily unpleasant, but it totally missed the mark on the flavor I was going for. I walked away with another not quite right pudding, but I was determined to make this idea work and not end up with another tabled project! After taking a day off to consider a new direction, I went to work again.

The idea this time was to make a simple vanilla pudding and garnish it with an intact toasted marshmallow, along with pieces of graham cracker and chocolate bar. The new plan worked, and I came up with a winner! The toasted marshmallow blended well with the vanilla pudding while eating it and gave me the flavor I was looking for. The presentation on my second attempt blew away my first attempt as well – with a few changes, this easy to make recipe looked as good as it tasted.

S’more pudding

S’more Pudding

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 s’more sized marshmallows or 10 regular sized marshmallows – toasted
  • 2 1/2 graham crackers split into 10 quarter sized pieces
  • 15 sections of chocolate bar, such as Hershey’s chocolate bars

Combine the sugar, corn starch and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Add the milk and vanilla to a medium sized pot. Heat the liquid mixture on a medium setting until it just starts to come to a boil. Add in the dry ingredients a little at a time while continuously stirring to ensure that they are well incorporated.

Continue to cook for another minute or two until the pudding begins to thicken. You want it to reach the point where it easily sticks to a spoon without sliding off – you don’t want it to get too thick or lumps will begin to form.

Immediately remove the pudding from the heat and evenly spoon it into 5 ramekins or other small bowls. Refrigerate for at least two hours, or until the pudding is cold and has set.

Just before serving, place 1 s’more sized (or 2 regular sized) toasted marshmallow(s) on top of each dish of pudding, and then stick two quarters of graham cracker into each dish and top with 3 pieces of chocolate.

We really enjoyed this fun twist on an old classic treat. The next time you are hosting a barbecue and s’mores come to mind, why not give it a try? The fun presentation will make your guests think that you put a lot of work into making it, but the reality is it doesn’t take much work at all!

Until next time, I hope you all have a great weekend.

Wednesday Q&A – 8/31/22

Welcome to the place where your two bloggers ask each other one question each week. We hope you enjoy them as you learn a bit more about us – sometimes we even learn more about each other!

Ray’s question to Karen:

Q: As summer begins to come to a close, have you put any fall recipes on your cooking/baking short list yet?

A: The other day I was talking to Tom about the pumpkin pie I made from Sarah Kieffer’s Baking for the Holidays: 50+ Treats for a Festive Season. I still have not mastered pie dough, so I’m not sure if I’ll make the homemade crust, but this pie is a winner, and I’ll be making it again.

Karen’s Question to Ray:

Q: What is your favorite use of pumpkin?

A: Pumpkin bread! There are many great uses for it, but pumpkin bread, particularly my grandma’s recipe, is always at the top of the list.

Try, Try Again

Have you ever had one of those weeks where it seems as though your kitchen is somehow telling you to give up and try again next week? Well, that’s the kind of week I’ve just had!  Perhaps my mind was still caught up in the fun of the previous weekend at my nephews wedding (congrats again to the new bride and groom!), or maybe I was stuck in daydreaming mode about trips to the beach and other fun summertime adventures.

Whatever it was, the wedding or the daydreaming, no matter what I touched this week in the kitchen, it didn’t seem to come out quite right.  My attempts weren’t outright disasters, but they certainly weren’t exactly where I wanted them to be either. As such, my blog entry this week took a different turn – the one where I still talk about what I’ve done in an effort to keep it real!

The week started out with good intentions as I eyed the nice-looking produce we had purchased, especially the peaches, nectarines, and blueberries. As I contemplated what to do with them, my thoughts turned toward ideas for the blog this week. The first idea that came to mind was grilling the nectarines and combining them with some blueberries to use as a filling for lemon crepes. I could almost taste the summery dessert idea in my mind before trying it out!

My idea was to create a shortcut crepe using pancake mix. I’ve seen other crepe recipes using pancake flour before, so I sat down to write out a recipe idea. When it came time to test cook the crepes, I ran into nothing but problems with them sticking to the pan, no matter what I tried. Clearly my mixture and recipe idea were not going to work well.  They tasted perfectly fine, but you can’t very well make a filled crepe with something that comes out looking like a narrow and flat rectangle! After a few attempts, I decided to table the idea for another time.

I took a break for the rest of the day while I mulled things over in an effort to get back in the kitchen the next day.  As I thought about new possible ideas, my mind again turned toward grilled fruit – this time, peaches. The idea for a grilled Peach pudding was then born. Part of my idea included blending the grilled Peaches into the milk so they would be smooth and all of the peach flavor would be infused into the pudding.

The idea worked pretty well and it was very flavorful, but when my wife and I were taste testing it, we both felt that something wasn’t quite right. We agreed that the problem was that the pudding hadn’t thickened properly. It wasn’t super thin, but it wasn’t quite as solid as a pudding should be either. Despite the very good flavor, I didn’t feel good enough about sharing the recipe yet.

Until we meet again grilled peach pudding….

I have been contemplating where I may have gone wrong, and my one thought is that despite blending the milk and the peaches together very well in the blender, there were still very fine bits of fruit fiber present. This led to not only a bit of gritty texture, but I also believe it was the main cause in preventing the pudding from setting fully as it should have.  Once again, I decided to table my idea and try it again in the future, with the added step of straining the liquid mixture through cheesecloth in order to filter out the remaining fruit fiber.

With 2 failed attempts under my belt, and the week drawing to a rapid close, I was left with nothing more than a story to share with you! That’s OK though. As I’ve always said, I feel it is important to share not only my successes on this journey, but also my failures – or in this case, my moments of mediocrity! Until next time, have a great weekend!

Wednesday Q&A – 8/17/22

Welcome to the place where your two bloggers ask each other one question each week. We hope you enjoy them as you learn a bit more about us – sometimes we even learn more about each other!

Ray’s question to Karen:

Q:  Have you ever had caviar?  If so, do you like it?

A: You know, I don’t think I have. If so, it would be decades ago, and I have no specific memory of it. I have had various types of roe on sushi and always enjoyed it, so I’m guessing I’d probably like caviar as well.

Karen’s Question to Ray:

Q: Have you ever eaten frog legs?

A: I have not!

Chia Seed Pudding

The chia seed pudding craze is certainly not a new thing, it has been going on for several years now. We are however, in our house, late comers to the party! I liked the idea of a pudding that was easy to make and would set overnight in the refrigerator without needing to be cooked. I also liked the idea of the health benefits that chia seeds provide, such as being high in fiber and Omega 3, as well as containing many other beneficial nutrients.

There are literally thousands of recipes out there, but I often like to play with ingredients I haven’t used before and try to figure out how to work with them on my own. Once I read about the basics of how chia seeds work for making a pudding, I set out to figure out what ratio of liquid to seeds would work best for me.

On my first attempt, I went with 1 tablespoon of seeds and 1/2 cup of milk, but found that while it did thicken a bit, it was still too runny. Clearly, I didn’t put in enough seeds to get the job done, so I tried again the next day with the same amount of milk and 2 tablespoons of seeds, and the texture and thickness were just right.

Once I had the proper ratio of seeds to liquid down, the sky became the limit on how to flavor it, what toppings to add, etc. I tried several different combinations, and really enjoyed most of them. One or two of the varieties I created didn’t really work for me, but I love that I can test out new varieties by making only one portion at a time. If it’s not a winner, at least a lot of ingredients weren’t wasted.

One of my favorite creations is the recipe I am including today. It is scaled to make 4 portions, but it can easily be adjusted to make more, or less depending on your needs.

Chocolate Cinnamon Chia Pudding

  • 8 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 packets sweetener, such as Splenda or Stevia
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Toasted coconut and toasted almonds to sprinkle on top of each pudding before serving (optional)

Choose 4 small bowls or cups for your pudding. Put 2 tablespoons of chia seeds into each and set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the almond milk, cocoa powder, vanilla, sweetener, and cinnamon. Whisk all the ingredients together until well combined, about 2 minutes.

Pour equal amounts of the liquid mixture over the seeds in each bowl and stir each one until the seeds are mixed in.

Cover each bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. While this is completely optional, I do like to stir the bowls again after they have been in the refrigerator for an hour to help evenly distribute the seeds once again – I have found that this step helps to prevent some clumping of the seeds.

Top with the toasted coconut and almonds (or other topping of your choice) if desired, and serve.

Chocolate cinnamon chia seed pudding

I’m glad I took some time to learn about and to try making chia seed pudding. I love how easy it is to make and how versatile it is as well. Not only can you change up the flavors to suit your taste, but you can also use a wide variety of base liquids, from milk to water, to juice, just to name a few. I also like that these easy to make ahead puddings are a great grab and go breakfast or snack option when you don’t have a lot of time to make something else.

Are you a chia seed pudding fan? What are some of your favorite varieties? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. Until next time, have a great weekend!

Wednesday Q&A – 8/3/22

Welcome to the place where your two bloggers ask each other one question each week. We hope you enjoy them as you learn a bit more about us – sometimes we even learn more about each other!

Ray’s question to Karen:

Q: It occasionally occurs to me that a meal we frequently used to feature in our meal rotation just fell off one day without being noticed, sometimes for years! Can you think of a meal that you used to make all of the time that one day you just stopped making without any particular reason?

A: Ah yes! Way back in 1998, I was in the supermarket and impulse purchased a Pillsbury recipe booklet called Easy Vegetarian Meals. There is a recipe for Southwestern Vegetable Stew that is just delicious. I have to confess, though, we always made it with chicken broth instead of vegetable broth so even when we try to eat vegetarian, we fail. I have no idea why it hasn’t been made in years, but you have inspired me to revive this one. By the way, the booklet cost me $2.99!

Karen’s Question to Ray:

Q: What meal has fallen out of rotation for you?

A: I used to subscribe to a magazine called Bottom Line Personal. It’s a fun little publication that puts together quick and to the point stories and information on many different topics.

One issue featured an interview with Jacques Pepin. One of the questions, I don’t remember it exactly, was something along the lines of “what is an ingredient you like to use that might surprise people?” His answer was ketchup, and he shared a recipe for chicken thighs that featured it as an ingredient. It was absolutely delicious!

I still have that issue tucked away somewhere and now I, like you, feel inspired to start making this blast from the past again!

New Kitchen Gadget – The Ninja Creami

Summertime brings with it many of the simple joys in life – getting together with friends, family vacations, barbecues and swimming on a hot day all come to mind.  Also included on my list of favorite things to enjoy during the summer months is eating ice cream, as well as other frozen treats. 

Shortly before summer began, my wife and I were flipping through the channels one weekend morning when she paused on QVC.  They were featuring a machine called the Ninja Creami that made ice cream as well as other sweet treats.  Having owned (and usually returned) other ice cream making machines in the past that didn’t really do what they promised, we are always a little leery of such devices.  After watching the presentation, something about this machine and the method used to make the ice cream made sense to me and seemed like it might actually work, so we decided to give it a shot.

The Ninja Creami comes in several colors – we chose the mint green.

Unlike other machines or makers that often rely on adding the ingredients to a large and bulky pre-frozen bowl, the process for this machine is different.  It comes with several pint sized containers (the bundle we bought that day included 5) and extras are available to purchase separately.  Instead of using a big frozen bowl to start the freezing process, you simply fill the containers with your ingredients, and freeze them until they are solid. 

When you are ready to enjoy one, you pull it out of the freezer, load it onto the machine and choose what type of treat you are blending.  The blending process uses a spinning blade that cuts through the bowl, turning the frozen block of ingredients into a smooth and creamy treat.

Blending modes include ice cream, lite ice cream, gelato, sorbet, smoothie bowl and milkshake.  The machine also has two additional modes – re-spin, which gives your treat a second quick blend if it still appears to be too frozen and not creamy enough, and mix-in mode which is used for adding extra items to your treat, such as chocolate chips.  

We wanted to give it a good test run before I wrote this entry, so we tried out a few of the recipes in the book, as well as some variations on those recipes and a couple of other simple ideas that we came up with ourselves.

Lite vanilla ice cream – this recipe was included in the recipe book.  We used the mix-in mode to blend in some mini chocolate chips.

Mint chocolate chip – This was a variation that we made to the lite vanilla ice cream recipe that was included in the book.

Chocolate – another variation to the lite vanilla ice cream recipe.

Mango passion fruit sorbet – a quick and easy recipe we made up.  A simple blend of mashed mango and passion fruit juice.

Banana – we made this one with very ripe bananas, milk,  vanilla, and some stevia.  It’s nice to have a new use for them other than banana bread!

Lite strawberry chia seed ice cream – this was a recipe from the book.  The original recipe called for blueberries, but we didn’t have any on hand, so we used strawberries instead.

Banana chocolate chip – same mix as the banana recipe above, with chocolate chips mixed in.

Chocolate milk – The name says it all… nothing but frozen chocolate milk put through the blending process.  As simple as it was, it turned out to be one of our favorites!  It reminded us of chocolate soft serve ice cream.

I’ve shared lots of nice pictures, but how did it all turn out?  Delicious!  The process was easy, and the end result made for a great treat we could all enjoy whenever the mood hit.  We were amazed that the light recipes we tried, which often used milk instead of cream, could end up being so smooth and creamy.  We were also big fans of the sorbet – with nothing more than frozen fruit and juice, it produced a very smooth and creamy treat. 

We love the fact that not only can we produce a lower fat ice cream option to enjoy, but also one that can be low in sugar by replacing some or all of the sugar with alternative sweeteners, such as stevia.  Another plus to this machine was that with many of the recipes we tried needing little more than some milk, flavoring and sweetener, a pint could be quite economical as well. 

I also appreciated that our package included 5 of the containers.  It was so easy to mix them all up in about 20 minutes to have several on hand in the freezer, ready to be blended up on demand. 

Does this mean we will never buy our favorite store bought ice cream or go to our favorite ice cream parlor again? Of course not! Those things are both enjoyable as well, but perhaps it does mean we would do so less often. There are so many recipes left to explore, and we haven’t even tried making milkshakes, gelato, or smoothie bowls yet.

On that note, it sounds like it may be time to mix up some new creations! Have a great weekend.

Wednesday Q&A – 7/20/22

Welcome to the place where your two bloggers ask each other one question each week. We hope you enjoy them as your learn a bit more about us – sometimes we even learn more about each other!

Ray’s question to Karen:

Q: How do you feel about Sushi? Love it, hate it, or used to love it, but I’m kind of over it right now.

A: Love it! We haven’t had it in a long time, but I will be excited the next time I do.

Karen’s Question to Ray:

Q: What is your favorite soup?

A: I like many kinds, but I’d have to say turkey noodle is way up there. It is more flavorful than chicken and perhaps one of the reasons I like it more is because we have it less often than chicken soup – usually only around Thanksgiving. Also way at the top would be New England clam chowder.

From Angie’s Kitchen – Potato Croquettes

Welcome to our 7th edition of Angie’s Kitchen! For those of you that have been following along, you already know the deal. For those of you joining in for the first time, welcome! You can read more about what we do in Angie’s Kitchen here.

It was my turn to pick the recipe, so I reached for my grandma’s book to make my choice. Often I flip through the whole book and look at the recipes to decide which one we should make. This time, I just looked at the little table of contents that my grandma had conveniently included. The recipe for potato croquettes instantly caught my eye. There are very few savory recipes in the book, so we have been using them sparingly, but I decided it was time for one.

I did pause for a moment before making the final decision to go with it. What made me hesitate? My mind flashed back to our adventures with grandma’s rice croquettes. If you read that entry, you may recall the shock we both had during our individual attempts at making them. A seemingly very simple recipe resulted in both of our kitchens looking like some sort of cyclone or freight train had passed through them! Despite the memory of that day, I decided to go forward and hoped that the potato croquettes wouldn’t result in a similar disaster.

Surprises in Angie’s Kitchen can come in many forms. You might find ingredients without exact measurements or very vaguely written procedures that fail to include small details such as what temperature to use, or how long you should bake an item. This time around, I was surprised to find that none of the above was true. Most of the ingredients (cayenne being the one exception) had proper measurements and the procedure, although a bit short, was more than clear.

My one and only surprise this time came in the form of an ingredient. As I mentioned before, I chose the recipe from the table of contents where it was listed as “potato croquettes.” When I turned to the page with the recipe a few days later to see what ingredients were needed, I was surprised to see the slightly different title “nut and potato croquettes.” This certainly wasn’t a big deal or showstopper, I just found it to be an interesting, and perhaps a bit odd, ingredient for potato croquettes!

I went to work on making the recipe, and it was certainly easy enough to follow which was a nice change of pace. While the preparation did require several dishes and cooking utensils, when I was done, I was thankful that my kitchen did not look like the rice croquette disaster!

Potato croquettes

Overall, the flavor was pretty good, and they weren’t bad to eat, but during the taste test I quickly identified a few things that I would like to address in round 2. I felt that they could use a bit more salt than the recipe called for, and also, I found them to be a bit dry.

I will also stand by my first impression that the addition of pecans was an odd choice. They certainly didn’t result in an offensive taste or texture; it was quite the opposite. For us, they didn’t really result in any extra noticeable flavor at all! While I am not 100% certain of the direction I will go in round 2, I do know that I will be eliminating the pecans. I like pecans, but why waste them if you can’t taste them? On that note, I’ll turn this over to Karen to share her experience. Have a great weekend!

Angie’s original recipe

It’s funny, as I was cleaning up my kitchen, a thought occurred to me…. “I wonder if Ray’s kitchen looks as messy as the usual Angie’s Kitchen war zone?” Without any prompting from me, I see that he addressed the subject. My kitchen? It was absolutely destroyed, despite my efforts at mise en place (everything in place) beforehand. I always start with putting some thought into the process, and try to get organized, but I find that about halfway through, something happens and I’m in the weeds. It’s not that anything specific happens. I think it’s just me losing my composure and organization.

For this round, I agree that Angie did give a little more “intel”, but there was one part that made me stop and think. In the list of ingredients she includes the yolk of one egg. She also instructs us to roll the croquette in bread crumbs, dip them in an egg water mixture, then roll them in breadcrumbs once more. That made me wonder. The crumbs aren’t listed in the ingredients, so what about the egg? Was there only one egg yolk involved, or was there another covert egg in play? In the end, I decided there was indeed going to be a second egg in my interpretation as there probably should be some sort of binding ingredient in the croquette, and one egg yolk with a little water likely would not be enough to coat all the croquettes.

I was a little surprised to see the pecans in the croquettes, and did do a double check to ensure that I was on the correct page, but it sounds like I wasn’t as thrown off as Ray!

So, kitchen mess aside, how did the potato croquettes turn out? I would say they were rather successful! The only critique I had was the lack of salt, which squares precisely with Ray’s experience. I did kick myself a little for not tasting as I was preparing the croquettes, but it is a lesson for this recipe that I won’t forget in the future. As for the pecans? I quite liked them. I liked the added texture they provided. My husband Tom had no negative feedback concerning the pecans. My son Ryan? He didn’t notice them at all. He had no idea that there was any nut involved until I mentioned that Ray didn’t care for the pecans. My croquettes were not dry at all, which makes me wonder how Ray used the egg listed in the ingredients and if that made a difference.

The next round? I have all sorts of ideas floating around in my head, but have not settled on any one in particular. I just hope I manage to keep the kitchen fallout to a minimum.

Potato croquettes

One last note. I’m amused at how similarly we styled this dish. There was absolutely no consulting ahead of time, and yet me managed to produce eerily similar photos!

Wednesday Q&A – 7/6/22

Welcome to the place where your two bloggers ask each other one question each week. We hope you enjoy them as your learn a bit more about us – sometimes we even learn more about each other!

Ray’s question to Karen:

Q: Do you have a favorite memory of a particular time that you dined out? Last week or 20 years ago, it doesn’t matter – any happy memory will do!

A: Once, early in our relationship, Tom took me to a family favorite restaurant. He took me to The Spanish Tavern in Mountainside. I’d never eaten Spanish food, and had always wanted to try Paella. The restaurant was lovely, romantic and made me feel fancy. Oh, and the food was great too!

Karen’s Question to Ray:

Q: Cheesecake. Plain, with a fruit topping, or something altogether different?

A: I don’t go for it all that often, but I would say without fruit – I’m not necessarily opposed to it, it just wouldn’t be my first choice. I am definitely open to many of the varieties that you would find at Junior’s or Cheesecake Factory. We’ve had a few fun flavors through the years, including some that also have a layer of regular cake in them – red velvet and birthday cake come to mind!