Mr. N in the Driver’s Seat

This is the last installment for Chopped Challenge 2014. I wish our dessert round was more inspired this year, after all Charles gave us a great basket to work with! Dessert Basket 2014

Sadly, however, after a long nine hours of cooking our creativity (and quite frankly motivation) was lacking. Don’t worry Charles, we’ve decided next year’s Chopped Challenge twist will be that the dessert round goes first. I know the kids won’t complain! So what to do with quinoa, chocolate, mango and Grand Marnier? Well, Mr. N suggested no bake cookies – they are easy, they are good and it should work. He also knows it’s the only way his mom will eat chocolate and figured it was a sure-fire way to win. conspiracy

So that’s what team Cleavers opted to do. We subbed the quinoa for oatmeal, the vanilla for Grand Marnier and added bits of dried, chopped mango in our regular recipe. The result was interesting. It certainly had the flavor of no bake cookies, but not quite the texture. Mr. N and Miss A both loved them and gave them a 4 spoon rating – the same as the regular recipe. Mike and I gave them 3 spoons each; although in retrospect they were more like 2 spoons. I didn’t eat them again. no bake cookies

I really didn’t even think it necessary to share the recipe, but the kids were insistent. They loved the quinoa cookies. They save well in the freezer and I saw Miss A sneak one out just yesterday. I guess this is one way to get her to eat some quinoa! Team Number Won was actually going to make no bake cookies too (a first in the Chopped competition to have both teams thinking along the same lines), but ultimately they opted for a no bake-inspired granola bar. The result didn’t quite go over as well, only garnering 2 spoons from all but Mike.

Long story short, stick with the regular recipe (unless you’re trying to get your kids to eat quinoa). The recipe provided here is our regular recipe passed down for several generations on my dad’s side of the family. It’s been a favorite for years and soothed many a broken hearts during the high school/teenage years. At the kids request we did include the quinoa option in the recipe for anyone interested.

Print this recipe: No Bake Cookies

Before we sign off for the week, I figured we’d share a few pics from President’s Day this week. Unfortunately Mike had to work, but the kids and I had a fabulous day at the Arboretum. Since it had warmed up into the 20′s (F), we thought we should try to take advantage of some of the snow and try our hand at cross-country skiing. The kids did great for their first time. skiing

We were out for an hour and half (although we only got about 1/4 mile). Mr. N had a rough start, but quickly got the hang of it and had a lot of fun. Miss A had a difficult time staying upright. She remained determined and optimistic for a good while, but then collapsed in a heap flailing her skiis about, becoming quite contorted yelling, “I’m useless! I’m just useless! Don’t talk to me!” It was quite the dramatic scene. cross country ski

That was the end of our skiing adventure. Fortunately she calmed down after we warmed up and ate some lunch. We then decided to take a drive through the park and photo the snowy scene. We were in the midst of a solid blizzard. snowstorm

Each of the kids had a camera as we drove around. We’d occasionally stop the car and hop out for photos. snowy day

The kids were all giggles and we were having a lovely time. We found this particularly pretty spot and paused to play in the snow a bit (the park was virtually empty but for us). snowy forest

The kids had fun rolling around and catching snowflakes on their tongues. happy day

Then it was time to get moving – only we couldn’t move. I should have known this would happen. My car (which I loathe beyond words) is not the best in snowy, icy or wet weather. I shifted forward, shifted backward, but we were not moving. Not one bit. I tried again – nothing. I was beginning to think we might have to call the visitor’s center and request assistance, but I wasn’t quite ready to do that yet. I sat for a moment to think. We didn’t have any kitty litter in the trunk, there were no other cars/people in the vicinity…Then I hopped out of the car, opened the backseat and told Mr. N to hop in the driver’s seat. His eyes widened and he looked at me like I was crazy (and perhaps I was). He was a bit hesitant, but I explained he just needed to sit there, push the pedal with his foot and hold the wheel straight while I pushed the car. This he found quite amusing. snow play

So with Mr. N at the wheel, I stood with the driver’s door open for leverage and pushed with all my might. I rocked the car back and forth, back and forth. Miss A in the meanwhile was squealing with delight. “Wheee! This is like a ride!”

Mr. N was trying to play it cool and be all serious, but you could see the devious little twinkle in his eye. He was relishing this moment. After about five minutes of rocking, pushing, pausing, pushing we started to move. I quickly popped Mr. N to the passenger seat and took control. At first we were going back and forth sideways (maybe six inches either way). I didn’t even realize it was possible for the car to move this way. Then finally we began to slowly roll forward. Success!

We decided it was probably time to go home, and so ended our snow day adventure. It’s one we won’t forget anytime soon. We all had a lot of fun and Mr. N was quite proud to have saved the day – modest too. “Thank you Mr. N! Without you, we still would have been stuck and had to call for help. I couldn’t have done that without you.”

“I didn’t do anything. I just sat there and pushed a pedal,” he said. But you could see the gleam in his eye and the slight uptick in the corner of his lips.

What a winter! At least we have some fun stories to share now. And even though we’re facing another week of temps below zero and in the teens, we’re getting closer to spring. We did have one day this week where we hit 45F, some snow melted and I got out for a run. Spring is on the way. I know it!long shadows

Our shadows are getting longer!!! So while we continue to wait out spring, we’re going to get back in the kitchen and start cooking recipes from around the world again. First up are Miss A’s picks for a few dishes from Poland. See you next week!

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It’s Gunna be a Bright Bright Sun Shiny Day

Somewhere in the world it will be bright and sunny. I don’t think that will be in our neck of the woods though. In fact the sun seems to be in hiding this month making for quite the dreary March. So we thought for our flashback this week, we’d bring you a little plate of sunshine. You know when life hands you lemons…well, we make lemon tarts! These particular lemon tarts were made in the summer of 2011 when we were cooking recipes from Ontario, Canada, and are easily another one of our favorites. For those of you that haven’t seen this one before, we hope you enjoy! Next week we will post a little bit about what we’ve been up to in our absence, and then we’ll be back, rested, and ready to go! “See” you all soon. Continue reading

Feliz Navidad

It’s time for our next cooking around the world adventure and Mr. N is taking us to South America – Chile to be exact. Now since the holiday season is upon us, we also thought we’d make our first Chilean recipe something a little festive. Would you believe we actually found a Christmas recipe right off the bat – the Pan de Pascua. Now Pascua actually translates to Easter in Spanish, but in Chile they use Navidad and Pascua interchangeably. So today’s recipe is a Chilean Christmas Cake! Santa's helper Continue reading

King of Sour

When Mr. N was less than one year’s old, he tried his first taste of lemon. He put a lemon wedge up to his lips. His first reaction was much as you’d suspect. He cringed, shivered and sat wide-eyed staring at the little yellow wedge. Then, he put it right back up to his lips and went to town. From that day on, Mr. N has loved all things sour and even crowned himself “king of sour” when he was about three (and still sucking on lemons!).

Well, even though Mr. N is a far cry from three years old, he’s still our “king of sour.” That’s why it didn’t come as a huge surprise that he picked the Lemon, Lime and Orange Tart for his “blue ribbon” Illinois State Fair recipe. Continue reading

A Special Treat

Today we have a special treat for you.  Our good friend Charles at Five Euro Food asked us to guest post on his delicious blog which has everything from roasted chickpeas (one of our favorites) to the Swedish Sockerkaka, and all for around five euros. The reason for the guest post? Charles is a proud new papa to one of the most adorable baby boys I have ever seen! And knowing how special these early moments are, we were more than happy to help.

Now most of you regulars know that I don’t eat chocolate. I’ve just never been a big fan. I was allergic as a child and even though the allergy disappeared, I just never grew to really like it. However…there is one, and only one, exception to this rule. No bake cookies!  Continue reading

Kicking Off Birthday Week

Today we have a special post on behalf of a very talented food blogger, Raymund, at Ang Sarap. We were so excited and honored when Raymund asked us to write a guest post. I’ve often told Raymund that Mr. N, who as you know has a serious passion for Asian food, would love to eat dinner with his family every night. 

We’ve made several of Raymund’s recipes (and drooled over many others) and each one has been a huge hit. In fact several are on Mr. N’s “favorites” list, including Raymund’s sticky garlic chicken which Mr. N requested I make for dinner every day. Continue reading