French Silk Pie with Coconut Crust for the New Year

My Day So Far: Preparing for New Year's festivities, short romp at the playground, quick trip to the eye doctor for a new prescription (too much squinting!)
Naptime Goals: Take 20 minutes to whip up French Silk Pie so it is set in time for dinner. Clean-up and de-Christmas house. Set table, prepare centerpieces, etc (!)
Tonight's Meal: Citrus Roast Chicken with potatoes, Green Beans with Walnuts, Warm rolls, French Silk Pie
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Toddlers love to celebrate all holidays in the same fashion - with presents, party tunes and chocolate.

Happy New Year! The brevity of this post is self-explanatory. It is New Year's Eve and I have loads of things I need to be doing. Tonight I am looking forward to a fun evening of festivities with family and friends. It won't be anything too wild or rambunctious, but it will be far more exciting then some of our New Years' in recent memory. Two years ago I had a 5 week old cuddled up in my arms and spent the holiday watching Spider Man 2 on DVR and was asleep by 9:30. Then, last year, I had a one-year old and we all ate our favorite Orecchiette with Pancetta and Three Cheeses and were asleep by 10:30. Can you say boring?!

This year things are bound to get better, if for no other reason than dessert. The dinner I am making is comprised of some favorite comfort foods followed by an all-star chocolate treat, French Silk Pie. At first glance this seems to resemble a recipe for chocolate mousse, but I assure you it is far richer and more decandent then a simple chocolate and cream whip. This no-bake concoction (other than the crust, that is) has a dense chocolate body with the texture somewhere between a mousse and a soft fudge. When eaten it melts swiftly on the tongue, leaving a smooth chocolate flavor that is polished off with a fluffy whipped cream top.

When I make this I prefer to use a coconut crust, although a graham cracker crust or chocolate cookie crust work well, too. I always make this during my daughter's naptime. That way it has plenty of time to set before it is topped with whipped cream and set out for dessert. I wish all of you and yours a fantastic New Year's Eve filled with fun and laughs. See you in 2010!

French Silk Pie with Coconut Crust
2 c. sweetened shredded coconut
4 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. sugar
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 t. vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. whipping cream
4 T. powdered sugar

For the Crust:
1. Preheat oven to 300ºF.
2. Mix coconut and cooled butter in a bowl then press into a 9" pie plate. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until coconut is lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

For the Pie:
1. Cream butter and sugar together in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add cooled chocolate and vanilla extract. Mix well.
2. Add 2 eggs to the chocolate mixture and beat on HIGH speed for 5 minutes. (You must beat it for 5 minutes, not a second less!)
3. Scrape down the sides, restart mixer and add remaining two eggs. Beat on HIGH speed for 5 more minutes. The mixture will be voluminous and a light brown color.
4. Pour chocolate mixture into cooled pie shell and spread it evenly with a spatula. Allow it to remain light and fluffy, don't try to compress it into the shell. Refrigerate for 5-6 hours or longer. THE PIE CAN BE MADE UP TO TWO DAYS AHEAD AT THIS POINT.
5. Beat cream and powdered sugar in a bowl. Spread whipped cream evenly over top of chocolate and serve.


Butternut Squash Ginger Soup with Cider for Television

It is so exciting that people have seen me on television over the past two days. In case it hasn't aired in your area yet, my good friends at WKTV Utica/Rome filmed me cooking earlier this month and put together a wonderful segment about The Naptime Chef. In it you'll see me cooking my healthy, favorite Butternut Squash Ginger Soup with Cider for Television. I hope to put the actual clip up soon (complete with a reference to Julie & Julia!), but in the mean time here is the recipe!

Butternut Squash Ginger Soup with Cider from The Naptime Chef™
3 medium butternut squash
3 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
2 T. chopped fresh ginger
1 t. allspice
1 t. cinnamon
6 c. vegetable stock
½ c. heavy cream
1 cup fresh apple cider
Salt & Pepper to taste
1.     Preheat oven to 375F. Brush a baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.
2.     Peel and cube butternut squash. Spread the squash evenly on the baking sheet and place in oven to roast for 30 minutes. Toss the squash once with a wooden spoon halfway through roasting.
3.     Meanwhile, in a deep saucepan or dutch oven heat the olive oil and sauté the onion, garlic, ginger and spices until the onion is translucent. Then, slowly pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
4.     When the squash is finished roasting add it to the soup. Turn off the heat and use a handheld blender to puree all of the ingredients.
5.     Finally, stir in cream until completely incorporated. Then, stir in cider.
6.     Add salt & pepper to taste.
Naptime Recipe Notes:
-       Not all squash are created equal. If you use big squashes and the soup is still thick after adding the cider, add warm water by the ¼ cupful until it is reaches the desired consistency.
-       I like to serve this with warm corn muffins to which I’ve added chopped marinated red pepper.
 Corn Muffins with Roasted Red Pepper
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 jar roasted red peppers in marinade
1.     Mix Jiffy corn muffin mix according to instructions.
2.     Drain and finely chop one roasted red pepper.
3.      Stir into muffin batter. Pour batter into muffin pan and bake as instruction.


The Naptime Chef™ Blogiversary: Year One, a Summary

Becoming a parent requires developing a new sensibility about home cooking. Nothing throws a wrench into a family's food life like the birth of a baby. Gone are the long hours of free time available for "project cooking" and making homemade puff pastry. Once a child arrives we, the parents, are forced - often under extreme duress - to develop a whole new approach to our kitchens. All of sudden we find ourselves steeling free moments during the day and evening to cook dinner, bake cookies or simply mix a much-needed cocktail. In addition, any remaining blink of free time is used to complete basic, but necessary, household chores likes laundry and bill-paying. In short, all it takes is one baby to take everything we once knew about happily cooking at home, and turn it upside down.

I was sad to discover that cooking and eating at home had indeed become a problem for my friends over a playgroup discussion in 2008. As I shared my strategy for make-ahead Chicken Tortellini Soup and Eggplant and Prosciutto lasagna, several people confessed to succumbing to the formulaic solutions often foisted upon new families. Many of them were turning to uninspired boring ideas like meals made in a short time-frame, with 5 ingredients or less, or assembled with a "fast, easy, fix-it" mentality. They had given up any hope of enjoying good food. Instead, taking the position that family cooking is a problem that needs to be solved, rather than a daily routine that should be enjoyed. It was at that point I realized my personal home cooking strategy and recipes were more relevant then I had previously thought.

A year ago I started this blog to inspire parents and foodies alike, record my ideas and share my revised approach to home cooking as a parent. Since 2007, despite the ceaseless demands of my wonderful daughter, I have stubbornly refused to let go of my favorite activities, cooking and baking. Most of time I cook and bake during her afternoon naptime, sometimes I cook on the fly, and on many nights we have leftovers or, occasionally, take-out. But, not matter what, I insist on enjoying my time in the kitchen. In two short years I have made the transition from fun singles and couples cooking a la "Big Girls, Small Kitchen" - a time in my life I remember fondly - to becoming a true Naptime Chef.

The key to fitting great food into family life, I find, is to marry the voices of the foodie and the parent in my mind. My dishes are inspired by many sources including the farmer's market, cookbooks, magazines or just what I happen to be craving that day. In that way I act like a complete foodie. However, before I actually cook or bake anything, I consider the time-frame in which it can be made, how many ways I can serve it and what might be freezer-friendly. In that way I think like a parent. Both perspectives are absolutely necessary when enjoying home cooking, they are inextricably intertwined. Parenting is forever, and good food should be, too.

I am glad you have joined me as I capture this time in my life and write it down for you to read. I hope you understand how I fit delicious food into my hectic daily life and feel inspired to do so in yours. In addition to my writing, I've also been filming my webisodes to demonstrate exactly how I do things in my kitchen. And, trust me, those videos are the absolute truth. I have never had any sort of regular nanny or babysitter, I film everything while my daughter is napping - from start to finish.

Thank you all for reading and leaving such wonderful comments, it is always much appreciated. I look forward to a fantastic coming year and already have lots on the docket to share with you. In the mean time, please feel free to leave any and all feedback, your thoughts are always welcome. Happy New Year!

2009 Highlights:
(Also, my trademark was just approved!!)

Stay tuned for Thursday's recipe, my very favorite French Silk Pie with Coconut Crust for the New Year!


Cinnamon Chip Scones for Christmas Morning

My Day So Far: A happy relaxing Christmas Eve catching up with friends and family.
Naptime Goals: Take 10 minutes to whip up dough for Cinnamon Chip Scones tomorrow morning. Spend the rest of the day in front of fireplace. 
Tonight's Meal: Christmas dinner at a friend's house = no cooking for me!
Parenting Lesson of the Day: There is nothing like the holidays and promises of Santa to send children into orbit!

A happy holiday season to all! I am stopping in with a quick post today because, no matter the occasion you are celebrating, you are going to need breakfast. Needless to say, given that I've risen at 7am or earlier for the past two years, I have become something of a breakfast expert. Pancakes in a jiffy? I'm your girl. Homemade yogurt shake with fresh berries? No problem. My daughter and I spend ample amount of time in the kitchen between the hour of 7 and 8am. She eats while I fix food for the both of us, and several cups of tea for me.

These scones are quickly becoming a traditional Christmas breakfast in our family. I've been experimenting with all sorts of scone recipes over the past few Christmases, even landing on one similar to what Megan wrote about earlier this month. I thought I'd stick with that recipe until my friend Nicole, a favorite source of delicious inspiration, generously contributed her own version.

Of course, it wouldn't be a recipe to me if I didn't spend some time tweaking the ingredients. To start with, I decided to use cinnamon chips. Mini-chocolate chips would be delicious too, of course, but cinnamon seemed like a particularly Christmas-breakfast like spice, sweet without being overly so. Then, per the suggestion of Nicole, I added some fresh orange zest and glossed the top with milk and a sprinkling of raw sugar. The result was a buttery, mildly cinnamon scone with a light flaky texture. Upon first bite I knew these were the ones I'd been looking for.

Like most good doughs, this one is perfect to make ahead of time. In fact, this afternoon I am whipping up a double batch and putting it in the fridge to bake tomorrow morning. Then I'll be getting my daughter up from her nap and watching her tear around the house with excitement. At two years old she doesn't quite understand that holidays yet, but she knows something fun is happening. I'm sure it will be hard to get her to sleep tonight, and, honestly, it will probably be hard for me to sleep, too. I'll lay awake all snug in my bed, while visions of scones dance in my head.

Cinnamon Chip Scones
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 t. orange zest
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
6 T. chilled butter, cut into pieces
3/4 c. cinnamon chips
3/4 c. heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1 t. vanilla
2-3 T. whole milk
3 T. raw sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
2. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl. Add orange zest and rub it together with some of the sugar between your forefingers to release the flavor.
3. Add the butter pieces and work it into the dry ingredients with your clean (!) hands or a pastry blender. Work until the mixture resemble small peas. Toss the cinnamon chips with a pinch of flour and then add to the butter mixture.
4. In a separate bowl whisk together egg yolk, heavy cream and vanilla. Pour in a steady stream into the butter mixture, stirring continuously until the dough becomes sticky and everything is incorporated. AT THIS POINT DOUGH CAN BE WRAPPED IN PLASTIC AND REFRIGERATED.
5. Press dough into a circle that is 1" thick. Cut into wedges and place on baking sheet. Brush the tops of each scone with milk and scatter with raw sugar. As you can see above, I often cut them into some small pieces too - they are good for little hands!
6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. 

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Variation Ideas: Mini-Chocolate Chips or dried cherries (or both!) taste fantastic with this recipe if you are don't want cinnamon. Also, feel free to substitute lemon zest for orange zest - or not use any zest at all - to alter the citrus notes.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making this dough takes about 15 minutes. Then all that is left is the baking!
Naptime Reviews: This is a winner with almost everyone in my family. These scones are neither too sweet or bland, there flakey texture and cinnamon spices appeal to just about anyone and everyone!


The Kitchn, my guest post

Hi! Just thought you all might like my holiday guest post on The Kitchn today. Sara-Kate and her team run one of my favorite food websites around and it was an honor to contribute. Everyone be sure to subscribe to their weekly newsletter, they share a wealth of tips and great recipes all year long!

Ragu for Cold Weather: Webisode #6

My Day So Far: Christmas-chaos! Present wrapping, stocking-stuffer shopping, packing for Cooperstown, cleaning out the fridge, etc, etc, etc (!!!) 
Naptime Goals: Make Ragu to get us through the next two nights before we travel. Finish, well.... everything. There is no end to what needs to get done before the 25th.
Tonight's Meal: Ragu with Rigatoni. 
Tomorrow's Meal: Ragu over Polenta. 
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Children are impervious to the cold; parents are not.

Ragu, one of my favorite cold weather foods, was on my mind earlier this month while reading Merrill's post about it on Food52. After reading salivating over her article I moved it to the top of my winter foods list, my source of inspiration when the forecast calls for fleece-lined boots and trapper hats. The food gods must have been watching me work because right on cue, just days after writing r-a-g-u in my notebook, the thermometer plummeted from a balmy 50º to below freezing. It is no secret that I am not a fan of cold-weather, but in this instance I was kind of happy about it. Great, I thought, now it is officially the proper climate for making Ragu.

I get just as excited about my first go-round of favorite winter foods as I do by the first cookout of summer. Opening my binder to cold weather recipes signifies the start of the new cooking season. For me, pulling out instructions for lasagnas, stews and slow-cooker meals is like catching up with old friends. I read each one carefully, reacquainting myself with the flavors and cooking styles, then get excited about what I'm going to make first.

Reading over these recipes became even more relevant this year when I quickly realized my daughter does not share my distaste for the cold. She is completely unfazed by ice and frigid winds, requesting daily trips to the playground as if it were still August. If my winter continues this way, I think it means that I'll be doing lots of cold-weather cooking this year. We will surely be in need of lots food to warm us up after chilly days outdoors.

Ragu is one of the most perfect cold weather meals, the rich meaty tomato sauce is a thick stick-to-your-ribs kind food that can be served any number of ways. As you'll see, I serve it over pastas, polenta and have even eaten it on top of a thick slice of peasant bread sprinkled with cheese. Every time I make it I like to adjust the flavor by playing with the ingredients. In this webisode I'm using fresh pork sausage from my butcher, but I have also used ground lamb, beef and even turkey. I also like to change up the herbs and vegetables sometimes, both are easy and fun ways to alter the flavor of the sauce.

The true brilliance of making Ragu for families is that it can be eaten for several meals and freezes beautifully. I often make this during my daughter's naptime and we eat it in a variety of forms for two or three days. Then I freeze a small container so that we have more stashed away for a night when I am dead tired at 5pm and haven't done any Naptime Chef-ing. Luckily my daughter has taken to eating Ragu. Like most children she is a big fan of noodles, so my addition of a tasty red sauce makes her all the happier to clean her plate. I hope you all feel the same way! Enjoy!


Ragu for Cold Weather
based on a recipe from my mother that I've altered over and over...
2 lbs. fresh sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 c. carrot, finely chopped (optional)
1 c. red wine
56 oz. Whole peeled plum tomatoes, or diced tomatoes, with juices
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
(See below for additional flavor variation ideas)

1. Place a heavy bottom pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Drizzle some olive oil into the pan and allow it to warm up. Then, add the sausage and break it into pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook the meat until it is completely browned, adding pinches of salt and pepper while it is cooking.
2. Once the meat is cooked add the onion and carrot and stir until the onion has become translucent. About 5 minutes. Next, add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
3. Add the red wine to the mixture and scrape up the brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Then, let the mixture simmer until it is reduced by about half.
4. Pour in the tomatoes. Use a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes into chunks if you are not using diced tomatoes. Be careful! The tomatoes will squirt everywhere if you jab them too hard - be gentle. Add the bay leaf and rosemary and stir into the mixture.
5. Let the sauce simmer on the stove for an 1- 1 1/2 hours. Take a look occasionally and give it a stir.
6. After the sauce has thickened to a desirable consistency remove from heat. Take out the bay leaf and stem from the rosemary sprig. Serve hot! 

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Variation Ideas: There are many possibilities for flavor combinations when making ragu. You could use ground lamb, turkey, beef or almost any kind of sausage. It is also fine to combine meats as well. For herbs you could try basil, thyme, or any kind of bouquet garni. I also love addition other vegetables, carrots, red or green pepper or mushrooms all would taste delicious.
Naptime Stopwatch: The prep time for Ragu is roughly 15 minutes, the rest is just about waiting while it simmers on the stove.
Naptime Reviews: Most everyone loves ragu. We have fun now deciding what we flavors we are going to try each time make it. I encourage everyone to make it their own!


Katie's Simple Christmas Candy

My Day So Far: Distributed all the Christmas gift bags, weekly Friday farmers market visit, mushroom soup for mother/daughter lunch. 
Naptime Goals: Write timeline for Christmas cooking next week, wrap gifts and hide them (!), make Katie's Candy for tonight's party. 
Tonight's Meal: Buccatini Alla' Amatriciana - a favorite go-to dinner.  
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Toddlers love unwrapping presents, even when they are not their own!

The Christmas spirit is alive and well in our house. My daughter has spent the day searching for gifts she suspects I've wrapped and hidden from her (she's right) because she loves nothing more than tearing off paper and bows. Truth be told, I don't think she really cares about what is actually underneath the paper, she is still at the stage where she just likes the act of unwrapping in general. In keeping with the holiday season we've been to several parties lately and we have another tonight. I am not hosting this particular party, but I do plan on taking some homemade Katie's Candy to the hostess.

I've named this after the person who gave it to me because she deserves the credit. Katie has given me some of my favorite recipes over time, and this is yet another one from her treasure trove. Katie actually gave this to me when I was in high school and beginning to make homemade Christmas gifts for my friends. It was the perfect recipe to start with. It only takes a few steps to make, requires four simple ingredients and is unbelievably delicious.

I've seen this recipe around in other places and have sometimes heard it referred to as "poor man's toffee" or "cracker bark." These names come from the fact that the simple act of baking the butter and sugar over the crackers forms a pure toffee. The unsalted cracker remains as the innocuous core, giving it structure without any undesirable taste. For extra flavor sometimes I like to top the bark with sliced almonds or chopped hazelnuts, but in this particular case I used holiday sprinkles to make it party-perfect.

When I used to make this for my friends I would break up the tray of candy into pieces and put them in clear treat bags. For my friend's party I will break it into shards, separated the layers with wax paper, and take them to her house in a Tupperware. As you can see by the directions below, the eight minutes of baking time means that preparing this candy while my daughter naps is a snap. The 15 minutes of preparation time is easily one of the fastest ways to prepare toffee that I have ever found. And, happily, the quick preparation time means I can spend the rest of naptime taking care of family holiday gifts - making sure I don't leave a trace for my daughter to find when she wakes up!

If you have Christmas parties to attend this weekend I guarantee this will be a surefire hit. I know it was for my friend, and it was for my daughter, too. I let her have a nibble after it had fully cooled in the fridge. I think it has become her most favorite part about Christmas, next to the gift unwrapping, of course.

Katie's Candy
40 unsalted saltine crackers
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. sliced almonds, or other toppings (suggestions below)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Line a 10x15 jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. On the foil line up 40 crackers so that they fit snuggly.
3. Melt butter and sugar together over medium heat in a saucepan. Once it is all melted pour the hot mixture over the crackers. The crackers will "float" at a bit, try to keep them all lined up.
4. Bake for 8 minutes, the mixture will be nice and bubbly.
5. Remove from the oven and immediately scatter the chocolate chips on top. As they begin to melt smooth them with a spatula so that they cover the entire tray.
6. Place pan in the refrigerator until cool and set. At least 2 hours.
7. Break into pieces and serve.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Variation Ideas: There are endless possibilities for topping this bark. I suggest sliced almonds, chopped hazelnuts, chopped pistachios, chopped pecans or sprinkles. I bet sea salt would be good, too!

Naptime Stopwatch: Making this candy takes 5 minutes of preparation, 8 minutes of baking and about 2 hours of cooling. Leaving the rest of naptime to get other things done!

Naptime Reviews: Adults and children alike love this candy bark. The pure toffee taste appeals to even the pickiest of candy connaisseur.


Peppermint Bark and Christmas Gift Bags: Webisode #5

My Day So Far: Manic Thursday! Visited Macy's Santa-land (can't help it, I promised my daughter!), picked up gift packaging materials, bakery for fresh baguettes.
Naptime Goals: Finish Peppermint Bark and assemble gift bags, laundry, book sitter for date night. 
Tonight's Meal: Paprika Pork Stew I made last night - it always tastes better the next day.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: It is unwise to let a toddler sample peppermint bark before bedtime. 

I know I've been clamoring on and on about this all month, but edible Christmas gifts are a thing of mine. I've already told you about Apricot Jam, Spiced Walnuts and Peppermint Hot Fudge Sauce, and today I'm going to tell you about Peppermint Bark. I adapted this recipe from one I found in Bon Appetit years and years ago. Since then I've seen it turn up on other people's sites, including here and here. It appears this recipe has many fans, and rightly so. Then, leave it to good ole' BA, they ended up giving us a recipe on how to use this bark in cookies in the December 2009 issue! They are amazingly delicious, I tell you, but I'll leave that post for another time.

Peppermint Bark is ubiquitous this time of year, and after sampling many many varieties I can confirm, with a great deal of authority, that this recipe is indeed the best. It has just the right balance of chocolate, sugar and peppermint. It is neither too hard, nor too soft, and I love the way the crushed candies add a nice crunch that won't break your teeth.

As I mentioned above, I purposely planned ahead with dinner, making Paprika Pork Stew the evening prior and leaving it the fridge for the flavors to marry overnight. This way I had all of my daughter's naptime to make my batches of Peppermint Bark and get them ready for distribution. In this webisode I show you how I make the peppermint bark - whilst tackling several loads of laundry and catching up on emails - and how they fit into my finished gifts bags. (Parents note: I fit in my chores while the chocolate is chilling.)


Three Layer Holiday Peppermint Bark
adapted from Bon Appetit December 1998
16 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped (make sure it has "cocoa butter" in the ingredients!)
30 hard peppermint candies, crushed
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, (at least 60%), finely chopped
6 T. heavy cream
3/4 t. peppermint extract

1. Line a 9x13 baking pan or jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.
2. In a double-boiler, or heatproof bowl set on top of a bowl of simmering water, add the white chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Remove chocolate from the heat.
3. Pour 2/3 of the chocolate onto the aluminum foil and spread the chocolate to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle this chocolate with 1/2 of the crushed candies. Place pan in the fridge to chill for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan combine bittersweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract. Warm, stirring frequently, until chocolate and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and cool until it is room temperature.
5. Remove baking sheet from the fridge and spread the dark chocolate on top of the white chocolate and candies. Return pan to fridge and chill again for 25 minutes.
6. Finally, remove baking pan from fridge and reheat white chocolate. Spread on top of dark chocolate layer and sprinkle with remaining candy. Return to fridge and allow to chill for 30 minutes.
7. Once bark is completely chilled break into pieces as large or small as desire.

Storage/Packing Notes: It is really best to store this in a cool, dry place. I always wrap it in parchment paper before putting it in a gift tin. Also, don't store it with other foods or they will absorb the peppermint flavor!

Naptime Notes: 
Naptime Recipe Props: This one of the best, and easiest, edible gifts to give. If you want to make this two-layer, simply omit step three. 
Naptime Stopwatch: As you can see, making this takes about 45 minutes, because of the chilling involved, but a lot of that time is free time when you can do other things. 
Naptime Notes: Everyone I have ever given this to raves about it. In fact, some years I give the recipe along with the gift!


Artichoke Rosemary Pizza

My Day So Far: Post office to buy stamps and mail holiday packages, daughter's library class, pizza parlor to pick up fresh dough for tonight. 
Naptime Goals: Catch up on blog posts, stamp Christmas cards, weed through mounting stack of store catalogs, laundry = no time for Naptime Chef-ing today! 
Tonight's Meal: Artichoke Rosemary Pizza - simple, delicious and requires no preparation. 
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Toddler's will eat almost anything when you call it "pizza."

I don't read many parenting magazines, I read food magazines. It's not that I don't like monthly volumes dedicated to parenting, it's just that I find food writing infinitely more interesting and inspirational. This month, while reading Food and Wine, I was particularly taken with Eugenia Bone's December Food Diary where she chronicles what she cooks and why, for the month of December. In a household with two kids, Eugenia's cooking outlook reads very similar to mine. She bakes on Sundays as a way to relax, makes large meals on Mondays that will last for a couple of days, and loves to entertain her friends. One of the dishes she writes about making is artichoke and fontina pizza. Given my love of all things artichoke, I knew this would be a great recipe for us. 

With all the craziness of the holidays it is harder to cook every single day. Earlier this week I made stew and it lasted us for a few nights, freeing up time for me during the day to get items checked off my holiday list. Tonight, since I am working all afternoon, I am taking one of my favorite shortcuts and using fresh pizza dough I picked up at the parlor (for $4!) to make homemade pizza for dinner. Sure, there are many times when I love to make my own pizza dough. But, in this case, buying a fresh pre-made ball from the experts down the street is the best way to go.  

Eugenia's pizza recipe calls for marinating artichoke hearts for three days. It is simple to do - and I plan to in the future - but since I wanted instant gratification after reading the article the day before the first time I made this, I cut out that step. Instead, I used olive oil flavored with herbs on the pizza dough, then added fresh chopped rosemary and a few dollops of fresh ricotta. These additions more than compensated for the un-marinated artichokes, rounding out the pizza with a fresh herbaceous flavor.

Preparing this pizza in the evening is very simple and doable for even the busiest home cook. The longest part for me is grating the fontina, which takes all of 2 minutes. Then I just layer on the ingredients, pop it in the oven and go about rounding up the troops for dinner. My daughter didn't love the artichokes because that flavor is still a little foreign to her. However, once we plucked them off she loved the rest of the pizza with the cheese and herbs. For a quick, tasty supper I was very pleased with it's warm reception. In addition, the clean-up was minimal. Leaving me plenty of free time after my daughter went to bed to continue with Santa duties. 

Artichoke Rosemary Pizza
adapted from Food and Wine, December 2009

1 8oz. ball store-bought pizza dough
1 9oz. package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped into bite size pieces
1 1/2c. freshly grated fontina
3/4 c. fresh ricotta
1 t. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 T. olive oil, or a flavored olive oil of your choice
cornmeal for baking 

1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Prepare a pizza stone with cornmeal, or rub a 9x13 jelly roll pan with plain olive oil.
2. Roll out the pizza dough to 1/8" thick on a lightly floured surface. Drizzle plain or flavored olive oil on top of dough. Place on pizza stone or on pan. Bake for... or until bubbles start to form on the surface of the dough. About 8 minutes.
3. Remove dough from the oven and scatter fontina on top. Then layer on chopped artichoke hearts, chopped rosemary, and dollop the ricotto on randomly by the Tablespoon-full. 
4. Return to oven and bake for 13-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted, crust is golden around the edges and pizza is piping hot. Cut and serve. 

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Variation Ideas: The possibilities for homemade pizza are endless. There is nothing wrong with buying fresh pizza dough, this will free up your time and leave your schedule to spend more time thinking about toppings! When coming up new ideas I suggest trying different cheeses, sauces, vegetables, thinly sliced meats and even fruit.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making this pizza takes very little time. I had it on the table in 30 minutes from the start it's preparation. 
Naptime Reviews: My daughter ate what essentially amounted to a white pizza, but the adults loved the artichokes!


Eggnog Cookies with Browned Butter Icing

My Day So Far: Playdate with daughter, totally random errands (buying toothpaste and balloons?!), mother/daughter grilled cheese lunch.
Naptime Goals: Bake Eggnog Cookies for Ashley's housewarming, finish online Christmas shopping, Ironing (least favorite chore). 
Tonight's Meal: Leftover Eggplant and Prosciutto Lasagna.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Do pick up balloons for your friend's party; don't take your two year-old with you unless you expect to buy her balloons, too.

*Note: I am thrilled to submit this cookie recipe to the 12 Days of Sharing event taking place at In Jennie's Kitchen. Jennifer Perillo and her co-hosts are doing a fantastic job using this event to help end hunger, a cause that is especially relevant during the holiday season. I hope you'll use the donation button to the right of this post to make a donation to Share our Strength this holiday season.

We are all crazed during the holiday season, myself included. As you can see from the list above, my goals these days are ambitious, but no less so than anyone else I know. Everyone seems to be running to and fro, purchasing gifts, rushing to performances and prepping for holiday parties. I find that day to day parenting is a lot of work and adding a major holiday season on top of these duties is enough to send anyone over the edge. To keep myself from crossing to the other side I do my best to plan my days carefully to keep them manageable and reasonable, and to enjoy myself while I get things done. To kick off the celebrations this weekend we are going to our friend's Ashley and Kevin's housewarming party at their new home in Westchester, and I am bringing eggnog cookies.

I love baking just as much as I love cooking (as if you couldn't tell that already!). Over the past year, while the my daughter has graduated from crawling to walking to running full stop, I've figured out that if I want a hassle-free baking experience the best time to do it is while she naps, or is out on a weekend activity with her father. Additionally, since I have other things to do while I have free time, like laundry, present wrapping, etc, it is best for me to have dinner already planned so as not to overload myself with too much to do in one two-hour stretch. On this occasion I had my Eggplant and Prosciutto Lasagna in the fridge from the previous night, so all I needed to concentrate on was my eggnog cookies and other chores.

This recipe was given to me by my friend Susan who ripped it off of the back of an eggnog carton a few Christmases ago. Over time I've adapted it, adding spices and a little boozy flavor, and changed the topping from an eggnog to a browned butter icing. I prefer the browned butter icing since it has a sweet nutty flavor that works well with the eggnog in the cookies and adds a complexity to the dough rather than icing in the original recipe. Unlike a lot of Christmas cookies these have more shortbread taste, dense and buttery with a hint of spice, they are cakey and less sweet then many more conventional holiday treats.

Since these are so easy to make squeezing cooking baking in along with the rest of my naptime to-do list was not a problem. While they baked I was able to catch up on laundry, and then I iced them after I'd finished my online Christmas shopping. I know Ashley is going to love these when I take them to her house this weekend, and thank goodness I doubled the recipe, because my family loves these, too.

Eggnog Cookies with Browned Butter Icing

1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 c. non-alcoholic eggnog (not low-fat!)
1 t. rum extract
3 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. Kosher salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 t. cinnamon

For Icing:
adapted from Martha Stewart Cookies
5 T. unsalted butter
2 c. powered sugar
1/8 c. evaporated milk
1 t. good quality vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line cookie sheets with Silpat or parchment paper.
2. In an electric mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and eggnog, mix until smooth. Then add the rum extract. Mix to incorporate.
3. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
4. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls on the cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the edges of the cookie begin to turn golden brown. Allow cookies to cool.
5. To make Icing: Sift confectioners' sugar in a bowl. In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter and allow to cook until it turns a golden brown and has a nutty flavor. About 3 minutes. Swirl butter occasionally during cooking. Remove from heat and immediately add to confectioners sugar, bringing in any browned buts from the pan. Add evaporated milk and vanilla, stir until smooth. Allow to cool and ice the cookies.

Naptime Notes:
Recipe Props: For eggnog lovers this is the ultimate cookie. Cakey, buttery and not to sweet, these cookies are the perfect treat for the holidays or to add to any cookie plate.
Peparation Notes: If you don't have time to bake these immediately, simply wrap the dough and put in the fridge. It will stay just fine. Also, if you need to wait to ice the cookies, place them in an airtight container and they can be iced up to 12 hours after being baked without loosing any flavor.
Stopwatch: Making this dough takes about 15 minutes, and the icing another 5 minutes.
Reviews: Even my daughter liked their slightly boozy flavor!


Herbs de Provence Popovers: Webisode #4

Location: My parent's house, Cooperstown NY 
My Day So Far: Filmed cooking segment for WKTV Utica/Rome, returned emails, leftover butternut squash soup from cooking segment for lunch. 
Naptime Goals: Pack suitcases, bake Herbs de Provence Popovers for snack and dinner, wrap Christmas gifts, catch up with Dad.
Tonight's Meal: My Mom is cooking (yeah - a break for me!)
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Grandparents are helpful to have around.

While visiting my parent's in Cooperstown this week, I found myself in the mood for a hot savory snack on Monday mid-afternoon. Luckily, since my mom was cooking that evening, during my daughter's naptime I had two hours completely free for baking projects, suitcase packing, gift wrapping and a quick catch up with Dad. Given my savory craving I opted out of baking yet another batch of Christmas cookies, and instead decided to make my favorite popovers.  A piping hot buttery roll was just the ticket for a chilly afternoon snack, plus I knew they would pair beautifully with our meal that evening.

My favorite part about making popovers is that delicious reward comes from minimal effort. Unlike a complicated butter pastry, this dough can be mix together with relative ease and put straight into the oven. Furthermore, it can be flavored almost any way you like. In my first batch I used my favorite Herbs de Provence, and in the second I added freeze dried chives (there is nothing wrong with freeze dried herbs when fresh aren't available). Either work well, you could also add cheese, other herbs like rosemary or thyme - or nothing at all!

Many times people have asked me about using specialty popover pans and I assure them that they are definitely not necessary. As I've said before, I don't spend a lot on specialty baking items that only have one purpose. Instead I've invested in good quality muffin tins, they are versatile in the kitchen and work beautifully when making big, puffy popovers. If you already have popover pans certainly use them, but they are not going to make or break this recipe.

When I made these my daughter and I almost consumed the entire batch by ourselves. We couldn't get enough of the flaky butter dough and fragrant herbes de provence. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I got straight to work making another batch the very next day and was thoughtful enough to film it for you. I hope this demonstrates to you how utterly simple these are to make, and how delicious they are to eat. As you will see, making these during my daughter's afternoon naptime is a snap. In fact, they are also easy enough to make that sometimes I do so when I have five minutes even if she's awake. I've also made these right before guests come over and have served them at dinner or brunch. They are always hit, and you'll soon see why. Enjoy!

Herbs de Provence Popovers
adapted from The New Basics Cookbook
2 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. whole milk
1/4 c. Herbs de Provence OR 1/4 c. freeze dried chives
1 pinch Kosher salt
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray, or a 6-cup large muffin tin - depending on the size of the popovers you'd like.
2. Melt butter in microwave and allow to cool.
3. Combine eggs, flour, salt and pepper in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until all ingredients are blended.
4. Scrape down the sides with a spatula. Then, with the mixer on low, add the cream, milk and melted butter. Mix until everything is smooth and completely incorporated.
5. Add the chives and fold them in with a spatula.
6. Distribute batter evenly amongst muffin cups, so each cup is roughly 2/3 full of batter. Bake for 35 minutes, or until popovers are poofy and a light golden brown. Serve hot. Or, if you want to save them for dinner, pierce a tiny hole in the top so that they don't "fall" while you are waiting to serve them.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Variation Ideas: Popovers are incredibly versatile, you can add or subtract almost any flavoring to create the exact taste you want. I recommend adding cheese or interesting herbs such as rosemary or thyme for unique variations.
Naptime Stopwatch: As you can see, making the popover batter takes all of two minutes, then it is just a matter of baking. There is hardly an easier way to make a homemade hot snack.
Naptime Reviews: Be mindful of people's flavoring preferences, my husband is wary of dill so I do not add them it to anything I make, especially popovers. But everything else I've tried has been a big hit with him, and my daughter, too.


OXO Good Grips Contest: VOTE for The Naptime Chef™

Great news! I've been selected as a finalist in the "World's Biggest OXOniac" contest. In order to be one of the three winners I need your vote. Voting is open for the next 7 days and you can vote once per day. So vote early and often!

1. Just click VOTE under "Kelsey Banfield" and you have voted.

Thanks so much for your support!