Getting Creative with Menu Bingo

Getting Creative with Menu Bingo

Anyone who likes to experiment in the kitchen will tell you that having so many recipes under their belt can be both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, you have so many recipes to choose from when it’s time to prep your meals; on the other, making the choice can be quite difficult when you have too many options. An article on the New York Times goes as far as calling the problem of having too many choices “a paralyzing problem”.

But luckily, you can use a fun bingo game to create meal plans and menus for the week, eliminating the hassles of having to rifle through the hundreds of recipes you’ve mastered to be able to prepare something new for your family every day. Bingo has helped many households in surprising ways, with the UK Food Standards Agency even using it to promote healthy eating with Eatwell Bingo. The popularity of the game is undeniable too. When Iceland Foods launched their own online bingo portal in 2012, their CEO, Malcolm Walker, said, “we are excited to take our popular consumer brand into the world of online bingo , which is something we know that many of our customers enjoy. Now mums – and dads – can come to Iceland Bingo, too.” Now bingo can help you and your family too, all while making meal planning much more fun and interactive.

To play Menu Bingo, go through your recipe books (or choose from the dozens of recipes on Cooking Misadventures) for five recipes for each of the following categories: Main, Side 1, Side 2, and Dessert. Once you have these twenty recipes, you can then plot them out on a bingo card template, with one column standing for each category. Label each item in the columns a number from 1-5. You could also fill out there boxes by asking the members of the family what they feel like having and taking those down. Once you’ve made your bingo card, it’s time to roll a die, with the number that you roll corresponding to the dish that you’ll be cooking. Take turns rolling the die for each category, and when someone rolls a six, they get to choose which of the items to have. Once an item has been picked already, make sure to mark it off, and then proceed to roll for the rest of the days of the week.

You can have many variations of this game, such as a bingo card with seven items in each category – one for each day of the week – or even a bingo card each for breakfast, lunch and dinner. By taking some time out of the start of the week, you can cut back on your cooking prep time!

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Halloween Cookies

So, my mojo is gone.

I’m still cooking and baking, I just can’t get the writing/photography going. (I think because I truly am not a professional photographer and am never satisfied with the pictures I take.)

Anyhow, I thought I would quickly share a couple Halloween cookie ideas I made with my kids that they LOVED. And we all had a great time doing them. I am just going to post the link to the cookies since I didn’t really alter the recipes at all.

Here’s the first – Gooey Monster Cookies

And our version:

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And the other: Chocolate Peanut Butter Spider Cookies

Here’s our version (with the small substitution of Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups instead of chocolate truffle balls.)

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Can I just say that candy eyeballs are super fun?!

Happy Halloween to you all!

Portuguese Sweet Bread

Ahhhh, take a deep breath, my friends.

Do you smell it?

That gently yeasty buttery wafting smell…the smell of home, family, and fresh baked goodness.

Oh, yes, it is finally bread baking season!

Here’s an easy, sweet tasting bread for all occasions.

The Recipe:

Portuguese Sweet Bread, adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour

1/2 c milk

4 T butter, cut into pats

1/3 c sugar

1 1/4 t salt

3 1/4 c bread flour

1 T yeast

grated peel (zest) of 1 medium lemon

2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, white reserved

2 t vanilla extract

Combine the milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Heat to lukewarm, stirring to soften the butter. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, the bowl of your stand mixer combine the flour, yeast, and lemon zest; stir to combine. Add the milk mixture, (stirring first to make sure the sugar and salt aren’t left in the bottom of the cup or pan). Add the eggs, yolk, and vanilla. Mix and knead until the dough is cohesive and smooth; it’ll be very sticky at first. (If you’re using a stand mixer, beat with the flat beater for about 3 minutes at medium-high speed; then scrape the dough into the center of the bowl, switch to the dough hook, and knead for about 5 minutes at medium speed. It will have formed a ball somewhat, but will probably still be sticking to the bottom of the bowl.)

Lightly grease a mixing bowl, round the dough into a ball, and place it in the bowl. Cover, and let rise until very puffy, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Lightly grease a 9″ round cake pan. Gently deflate the dough, and round it into a ball. Place the ball in the prepared pan, and tent the dough gently with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in the pan for about 2 hours, until it’s nicely puffy. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the reserved egg white with 1 tablespoon cold water, and brush some onto the surface of the loaf; this will give it a satiny, mahogany-brown crust.

Bake the bread for 15 minutes, then tent it lightly with aluminum foil. Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until it’s a medium golden brown and its internal temperature registers 190°F on a digital thermometer.

Tips and Tricks:

Whenever I place bread dough in a bowl to rise, I put it in the greased bowl, and then flip it over. so that the top is greased as well. That seems to keep it from drying out on top.

The Results:

I made this bread to go with our chili from the previous recipe. I wanted something sweeter to counter the savory of the chili. I thought it worked wonderfully.

Additionally, this was a super easy recipe to make and it seemed pretty full-proof.

Everyone enjoyed the bread, though Hubs thought the lemon flavor was a little much. I thought it was very similar to a Hawaiian bread recipe and found it worked well with the chili – and on it’s own as a dessert. :) The kids all liked it, so I call it a success.

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And it’s pretty, too!

Crockpot Chili

The weather here in the great northwest took quite a turn last week. We went from weeks of sunny warm weather, to wet and much colder weather.

(I’m crazy to admit it, but I was kind of glad. I love me some fall foods.)

Anyways, I’ve been trying to crockpot my way back into cooking a meal each week, and this recipe was a super easy way to do it – while honoring a return to cold weather food.

(Oh, and I use ‘chili’ in the pop culture way – because apparently, according to Sheldon Cooper, real chili does not have beans in it. I learn so many interesting things from him.)

The Recipe:

Crockpot Chili

1 lb ground beef, browned

3/4 c onion, diced

3/4 c celery, diced

1 can green chilis

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large can diced tomatoes

2 cans kidney beans, drained

1 can cannellini beans, with liquid

1 T chili powder

1 t dried parsley

1 t salt

1 t oregano

Place all ingredients in crockpot and and cook on low for 8-9 hours.

The Results:

So, I have to be upfront and honest about something. Hubs may have helped me out the night before by prepping all the ingredients for me. This was super helpful because, as he put it, it would’ve taken me 45 minutes to prep what took him only 20. (It’s a sad, but true fact.) Anyways, that basically just led to me just dumping everything in first thing in the morning – SO easy.

And it turned out really good.

Now, this is not a gourmet chili or a specialized chili, or anything fancy like that. This is a regular basic chili that I think everyone would like. It’s hearty and delicious – and is wonderful for leftovers.

(And everyone in the family enjoyed it – which is crazy and hardly ever happens around here.)

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

Or, as my four-year-old calls them: ‘Bikini Muffins.’

(I actually considered using that as the title of this recipe, but I realized I might get some, ahem, inappropriate traffic using those terms, together.)

This delicious recipe came about because my lovely neighbor gave us just a small, petite, little zucchini. (Insert sarcasm and see picture below.)

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Yeah. It was actually HUGE.

Anyways, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to bake using zucchini for the very first time. (Nope, I’d never done it before.) I looked through my Recipe list on Pinterest and found a recipe stating it was ‘Award-Winning.’

Sold.

And the four-year-old and I were off on our baking adventure.

The Recipe:

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins, adapted slightly from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Streusel Topping:

2/3 c old-fashioned oats

1/2 c dark brown sugar

2 T  flour

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 c butter, cold, cut into small squares

1 T semi-sweet chocolate chips

Muffins:

1 egg, beaten

1/2 c dark brown sugar

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c vegetable oil

1 c grated zucchini 

2 t vanilla

1 1/2 c flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

2 t cinnamon

1/4 t ground nutmeg

3/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray muffin tin and set aside.

Streusel: Combine the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the cold butter with a pasty cutter. Mix until the streusel resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips with a spoon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the beaten egg, brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, zucchini, and vanilla until evenly combined. In a large bowl, toss the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate chips together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula until combined. Avoid over-mixing.

Fill muffin cups all the way to the top (I only had enough batter for 11). Sprinkle streusal over the top of each muffin, covering completely. Gently press the streusel into the tops of each muffin. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees and, keeping the muffins in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 13-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.

The Results:

I think I’d always avoided baking with zucchini because I was afraid it would taste funny, but, boy – oh boy! – was I wrong. These tasted absolutely perfect. They were so moist and full of fall flavor. The cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate chips work so well together. And the streusel, wow, it just took these to a new level.

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So, by the time I got around to taking a picture of these – this was the only one left.

My only complaint was that this only made 11… but so easy to rectify by doubling. Believe me, you’ll want to make more.

(And since I only used about 1/5 of that huge zucchini, making another batch of these is on today’s agenda.)

Just look at inside of these:

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Perfection.

And I don’t have to feel bad. Because they have a vegetable in them.

Right? ;)

Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread

I had some brown bananas.

Strike that.

I had dark, dark, brownish-blackish, mushy, falling-apart bananas.

They needed to be used ASAP.

And we all know the best way to use those kinds of bananas is in a banana bread. But I’ve been there, done that lots of times.

Now, if you’ve ever looked through my recipe index, you’ve probably realized that I quite enjoy the chocolate banana combination. And I’d already made a banana chocolate chip bread, so I knew I needed to take this version to a new level. And a little experimentation with my four-year-old was the perfect way to do it.

The Recipe:

Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan.

Part 1, Banana Bread:

3/4 c flour

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1/4 t ground cinnamon

2 medium bananas (heavily speckled or even black bananas are best)

1/4 c butter, melted and cooled

3/8 c packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 t vanilla extract

Whisk all dry ingredients down to the cinnamon in a small bowl. Whip/mash bananas until frothy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until blended. Add dry ingredients in two batches, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Pour into loaf pan.

Part 2, Chocolate Pound Cake:

1/4 c butter, softened

1/2 c sugar

1 eggs

1/4 c vanilla yogurt

1/2 t vanilla

3 T cocoa powder

3/8 c milk

5/8 c flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, yogurt, and vanilla and mix well. Add cocoa powder and stir until incorporated. Add milk alternately with flour, mixing just until incorporated.

Pour batter over the top of the banana bread mixture. With a small spatula or spoon, gently scoop and fold the banana mixture over and through the chocolate one.

Bake in center rack for 60-70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, remove, and let finish cooling on a rack.

The Results:

Hey, look… something turned out pretty:

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And it tasted pretty good, too!

It was moist throughout, and the two flavors (obviously) went well together.

I do have to say, though, the banana bread was the definite flavor winner – for me, it overpowered the chocolate a bit. If you are a chocoholic, you might want to up the chocolate-y-ness if you make this. I wanted more chocolate, personally, but the rest of the family loved it the way it was. So, it’s your choice.

The best part, my four-year-old was SO proud and thought that the marbling was very cool.

And his smile made the extra work worth it.

Coffee Sugar Cookies

Do you ever see a recipe on your social media feed that is just undeniable?

Not only does it sound tasty, but it looks beautiful and you just know you can recreate it.

Yeah, that did not happen this week.

I saw an amazing recipe from I am Baker a couple weeks ago, pinned it, and waited until I could find a quiet, non-kiddo time to make it.  (Dreaming of gorgeous off-white round cookies, with perfect little sprinkles of black coffee throughout.)

You’ll have to scroll to the end to see what happened.  I bet you can guess.

The Recipe:

Coffee Sugar Cookies, adapted very slightly from I am Baker (mostly because it didn’t turn out exactly right)

1 c butter, softened

1 1/4 c sugar

2 eggs

2 T instant coffee

1 t vanilla

2 c flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t salt

In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar. In a small bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, and coffee until fully incorporated. In separate bowl add together flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add your egg mixture to the butter mixture until well combined. Slowly add flour mixture until fully combined, do not over beat.

Chill this dough for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough into tablespoon sized balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are slightly golden. Allow cookies to cool completely.

The Results:

Let’s just start out by sharing the picture…

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Sad little misshapen cookies

Hmmm, I’m thinking something went wrong. (You should click on the link to I am Baker above to see what they actually should look like.)

I’m not sure if it was the use of instant coffee vs fresh-ground or what, but these did not look like the cookies of my dreams. Plus, my dough ended up really sticky – so I couldn’t roll it out as suggested or use a circle cookie cutter to make a perfect shape. Ooops.

But, but, but

In the good news column, they still tasted like I dreamed!

They were crisp and chewy and very much a grown up coffee-flavored treat (no kids allowed!).

So, my suggestion – head back to the original recipe…and let me know if your’s turn out better.