Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 19, 2009

Foodie With Family: Late-night snacks


Last night my husband offered to get the boys ready for bed and tuck them in last night so I could have a break. He did this out of the kindness of his heart. Or maybe he did it because I had crazy eyes when I begged him to do it. Who knows? The fact remains that he did it. And as I sat on the couch snuggled up in my favorite blanket I heard snippets of my husband's bedtime conversation technique drifting down from overhead ...

Daddy: "Can't you just brush your teeth already? Wait! Hey! Get back here! Where are your pants?"

(Guffawing from the boys and the sound of feet that are attached to naked legs running on the floor.)

Daddy: "Why are you going in there practically naked with no shirt on? You can't do that. You'll freeze!"

(Riotous laughter from the boys and the sound of feet attached to a body with a naked torso running on the floor.)

Daddy: "You know, in the old days people went to bed with a chamber pot and lots of layers of clothes. When they woke up, the chamber pots were frozen. Do you want to freeze like a chamber pot?"

At this point, there was total silence. His methods may be unorthodox, but they work. Apparently my boys didn't want to become frozen chamber pots because they quietly donned their jammies and slid their no-longer running feet beneath their flannel bedclothes. I guess he confused them to bed.

And me? I remained on the couch with stomach cramps from my attempts not to laugh out loud. I didn't want to wreck it and ruin the chances that someday I might crazy-eye my way into convincing my husband to fly solo on the nighttime routine again.

The Confuser and I have a long-standing tradition of enjoying dessert or other treats together after the boys are tucked in for the night. Here are a few of our favorites.

Nobody says a late-night snack always has to be a sweet one. These Seriously Sesame Noodles are one of my comfort foods. They are definitely a great accompaniment to any Asian-style meal, but they also make the perfect fare for cuddling up in front of the television and watching "Hell's Kitchen," "Top Chef" or "The Next Iron Chef." I don't know about you, but I can't watch those shows without eating good food.

Seriously Sesame Noodles

1/2 c. soy sauce

1/4 c. tahini (sesame paste)

2 T. toasted sesame oil (the dark, fragrant stuff)

3 T. sugar, honey or agave nectar

1/2 t. fresh ginger, grated

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 c. sesame seeds

1 lb. thin spaghetti noodles

4 green onion tops (scallions), thinly sliced

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, tahini, ginger and garlic until the sugar is mainly dissolved. Set aside.

Put sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium heat on your stovetop. Shake the pan or stir the sesame seeds until they smell fragrant. Remove from heat immediately and whisk into the sesame dressing in the mixing bowl.

Cook the thin spaghetti according to package instructions and drain.

Whisk the dressing in the mixing bowl once more before adding the pasta to it. Toss the pasta to coat completely and top with the thinly sliced green onion tops.

Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.

Super Thick Grown-up Caramel Apple Milkshakes

1/2 c. apple cider

1/4 c. caramel sauce (dulce de leche or ice cream topping)

1/4 c. Calvados or other apple liqueur

3 c. vanilla ice cream

1 t. pure vanilla extract

Additional caramel sauce for drizzling

Place all ingredients in the blender and allow to sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes so the ice cream can soften slightly.

Blend until smooth. You may find that you need to shut off the blender and manipulate the contents a little with a long handled wooden spoon or scraper to get things moving. Divide the shake between two glasses and drizzle with caramel sauce. Serve with spoons and straws.

Every late-night snack repertoire needs a killer popcorn recipe, and here's mine. This recipe uses popcorn that has been made on the stovetop. If you need to use microwaved popcorn, be sure to get one without butter flavoring and salt. And it's addictive. You've been warned.

Killer Caramel and Chocolate Popcorn

10 cups popped corn

1&1/3 c. sugar

1 c. unsalted butter

1 t. vanilla

2 c. salted peanuts

1/2 c. light corn syrup

1 c. chocolate chips

1/2 c. heavy cream

Put corn and nuts in a large roasting pan and keep warm in oven set at 225 degrees while making you make the caramel.

Bring sugar, butter and corn syrup over medium heat until it reaches 280 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Be careful, it will bubble up when you add the vanilla. Pour over popped corn and nuts. Spread caramel covered popcorn in large rimmed pans that have been lightly sprayed with non-stick spray. Allow to cool. While this sets up, turn your attention to the chocolate ganache you will drizzle over top.

In a microwave safe bowl, combine heavy cream and chocolate chips. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

Leave the bowl in the closed microwave for 2 minutes after it is done cooking. After two minutes, remove the bowl and gently whisk until the chocolate is smooth and glossy. (If it doesn't become smooth and glossy, heat and stir at 30-second increments in the microwave until it is.) Set aside.

Break up the caramel popcorn into your preferred size and leave on pan.

Drizzle ganache over the top and allow to firm up before serving. Store leftovers in a tightly covered container at room temperature.

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