Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kicked up Krispies

We have been on a marshmallow crispy kick recently, we have made them 4 times in the past 10 days.  Luckily most of them have left our house shortly after being made.  They are one of those foods I find myself picking at until the entire pan has suddenly disappeared.  We made two regular batches, cut into triangles and topped with a piece of candy corn for school bake sales.  Then we made a batch that we turned into pumpkins.  We formed them into balls, dipped in orange chocolate,  used a green Mike-n-Ike as a stem and M&M's for eyes - the kids loved making these. 
Our last batch was an experimentation that I did with the kids, this batch stayed home, it was the most dangerous batch and really should have left the house, immediately.  On a recent trip to Colorado we went to the Hammond candy factory in Denver, it is a fun tour and a great way to spend a couple of hours, plus you can get some wonderful deals on their candy.  On the day we were there they were selling all their candy canes for .25 cents, so I loaded up for Christmas, I also loaded up on their Mitchell candies.  At the factory store they sell bags of mushed up ends for, I think $5.00, these candies aren't pretty, but they are still delicious.   I had a partial bag of Vanilla Mitchells, a partial bag of mini marshmallow and a partial box of Rice Krispies.  Melt the Mitchells and the marshamallows add the Rice Krispies and you have creamy caramel crunchy yumminess.  I definitely wouldn't do this with a "nice" bag of Mitchells, since they sell for over $20 a pound, but it is a great use for the "ugly" bags.  I only wish they sold these bags on-line and not just in the factory, actually I don't otherwise I would be making these way too often. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Battle - Salad!!

My kids, Liam in particular, love the food challenges on Food Network, so I challenged them to the Ultimate Salad Battle.  We get our vegetable delivery on Wednesday and they had to see how many of the items in the box they could use to create the best salad ever.  At first they didn't think about using the fruit, for them dinner and salad means vegetables.  We have fruit salad for breakfast or lunch, the idea of oranges and apples at dinner was a little strange for them, and this is why I like cooking with my kids, it helps me realize what I am teaching them without knowing it.  I have taught them that fruits are not part of dinner, this is not something I have ever said, but have taught them this by not making fruits a part of dinner.  Now that I know this I can now make an effort to find ways to include fruits and vegetables into our evening meals.   What do you teach your kids about food without realizing?

My youngest helped by taking a bite out of everything

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Another Squash Recipe

It must be Fall, it seems as if we are eating squash in some form with every meal.  Most weeks we have at least one meal with squash as the main dish, then if there are leftovers it reappears later in the week.  As much as I like squash I am running out of ideas and I don't know how many more times I can get the kids to eat squash soup.  Tonight I paired leftover acorn squash with pasta, not original but always popular.   The squash had been baked with brown sugar and butter, so it was pretty sweet, to balance out the sweetness I added bacon, sage, chicken stock and a little heavy cream.   I like a nice crusty bread with every meal, but there was none in the house so I baked off some pita chips, not the same but helped provide a nice crunch, some pumpkin seeds or nuts sprinkled on top would have also been a good addition.  It was a good quick meal and used up some leftovers, and I'm always happy when I can use those dreaded leftovers. 

Squash and Pasta
2 Acorn Squash - baked with butter and brown sugar, skin removed
1 lb Pasta cooked (I only had bow ties, but penne or rigatoni would be best)
5 Strips bacon diced
1 onion
1 Tbs. Fresh Sage finely chopped
1 cup Chicken stock
1/4 cup Heavy cream
Parmesan cheese

Saute bacon, add onions.  When bacon is browned and onions are soft add sage cook just to release flavor.  Add stock, heavy cream, squash and pasta heat until warm.  Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

Another week and another menu, added bonus, this week I am actually doing it on Monday!!

Monday - sasuage and potatoes - I'm not exactly sure what I'm making.  I thought there was a traditional New England dish with sasuage and potatoes, but I can't seem to find anything, I guess it's just my food imagination at work

Tuesday - Slow cooker squash stew

Wednesday - Salad  with steak - we get our vegetable delivery on Wednesday and Liam has two loves making salads and food challenges on FoodTV, so I thought we would try a salad challenge for our kids cook night. 

Thursday -  still deciding

Friday - Roast Chicken - Tuesday is my usual slow cooker night, but this week Friday is also super crazy so I'll break it out twice.

Halloween Cake

We had our neighborhood Halloween party this weekend.  One of the events is a cakewalk, which is always popular, but this year prizes were given out for the best decorated.  There were a lot of great cakes, but there could only be one winner and the winner was my candy barrel cake.  It is definitely a cool looking cake, but there is not much decoration on it and I think there were other cakes that should have won.  My favorite was the Frankenstein.  This cake is very easy to make and is great if you need something last minute, but still want a lot of wow factor.  It is made using two 9" round cakes stacked, I filled the layers with just buttercream, but you could add your favorite filling.  Ice the entire cake, you don't need to worry about the appearance, I didn't bother with a crumb coating and just added one thick coating.  Before the icing sets stick candy bars around the outside of the cake, I used Kit Kats, they work out perfectly as they are just a little taller than the cakes, but there are a lot of other options - peppermint sticks would be fun for a winter themed cake.   Cover the top of the cake with M&M's or your favorite small candy hiding as much of the icing as you can.  I used one and a half large bags of peanut M&M's which is a lot of candy, but makes for a fun cake.  This cake is not easy to cut.  When serving at a party I find it is easier to disassemble it before cutting and then giving a little bit of the different candies with each piece.  If you are enjoying it in the privacy of your own home I say just pick away at it and enjoy.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


We were supposed to go out on Friday night, but after a long week we just weren't up for it and decided to change plans.  Which meant we need something for dinner that would be quick and easy.  Enter, Stromboli.  I am a fan of anything that hides some of its ingredients and allows the use of those random bits of food that you have leftover at the end of the week.  This week we had some marinara sauce, one uncooked chicken breast, a head of broccoli and some mozzarella.  I made the pizza dough and while it was rising I poached the chicken in white wine and steamed the broccoli.  I used my steamer pot to cook the chicken and steamed the broccoli above it.  Once the chicken and broccoli were cooked I diced them into small pieces.  When the dough was done I divided it in half and rolled it out into two rectangles.  Spread the marinara sauce, leaving about 1/2" boarder on the edges.  Then sprinkeled the chicken, broccoli and mozzarella on top.   Bring the sides up and crimp together, closing tightly.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with parmasan cheese, bake at 400 for about 30 minutes.  Serve with a nice salad and you have a great, sort of quick meal. 

Crunchy Kale

I hate kale.  Unless it is like this.  Tossed with oil, salt and pepper and baked, then drizzled with vinegar, and I can eat an entire bunch.  I just devor it, last night I ate half of it before dinner.  I think it is the mouth feel.  It becomes so airy and crunch, it just vanishes when you put it in your mouth.  Plus I am a complete sucker for anything with salt and vinegar.  My kids even eat this stuff, again I think it is because of the texture,  it really is fun to eat.  I haven't tried it with any other leafy green, but I have read you can use almost any type.   I paired this with lemon chicken and we had a meal that everyone ate.  Such a happy day.

This is my receipe for lemon chicken.  I have never written it down before, but it is something I make at least once a month.  The receipe came from my Mom, who doesn't have much interest in the kitchen, but this was one meal she enjoyed making and eating, so I have been eating this dish for a long time

Lemon Chicken
4 Chicken bonless chicken breasts cut into bite sized cubes
1/2 onion diced
2 Tbs butter
2 lemons - thinly slice one lemon
1/4 cup flour
2 cups Chicken broth

Sautee chicken until golden brown.  Remove chicken from pan leaving all the little bits in the pan.  Add a little more olive oil and sautee onions. Once soft add the butter, when melted add the flour cook for a few minutes.  Add the sliced lemons, allow the juices to come out.  Add the chicken broth and juice from second lemon cook until thick.  Return chicken to pan and cook for about 5 minutes. 

My Mom always served this with peas and rice, but you can decided on your own sides.   Like I said the kale is fabulous.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lollipop Cookies

 Aggie had a friend over today and wanted to make cookies.  I had planned on making sugar cookie dough earlier in the day then let the girls cut-out and decorate, but I didn't get a chance to make the dough and give it time to chill.  Martha must have known I needed something - I like to think Martha and I are on the same wave length -  and sent this recipe for Lollipop Cookies, in the daily cookie e-mail, it was the perfect solution.  The girls were able to make the dough, decorate the cookies and enjoy, all in the 3 hour playdate, which meant Aggie's little friend was able to take some of the cookies home.  A win win situation for all. 
The girls had a great time working together and were pretty co-operative.  I had them take turns measuring out the ingredients and tried to break the measurements down as much as possible.  At four they don't understand the math, but telling them we need one cup of flour and have them measure it out using the 1/4 cup measurer gives everybody lots of opportunity to measure while hearing math concepts.  They spent a lot of time playing with the flour, which is a really important part of cooking for kids this age.   Giving kids the opportunity to play with ingredients and explore the texture, smell and overall feel helps gives them a good understanding of the ingredient and eventually how the ingredient changes and can be used.  With my youngest I often give her something like flour, sugar, cornstarch or beans and let her play with the item while I am working with my older two.  It distracts her giving us an opportunity to work, but is also helping her learn about the item.
The only problem the girls had was when it came time to clean, they both wanted to sweep and had a hard time sharing the task.  Definitely not the worst problem to deal with and I hope my girl will always fight for the opportunity to sweep my kitchen floor.  I know I will never stand in her way.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake

 This month was my first bake along with The Cake Slice bloggers.  We are baking from "Cake Keeper Cakes" by Lauren Chattman and this months selection was Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake.  I love pumpkin and would have liked a little more pumpkin kick, but overall the cake was, flavorful, tender and moist. I didn't have semisweet chocolate chips in the house, which is very odd since I usually have about 3 bags, so I used Ghirardelli dark chocolate, the size and flavor of the chips were overwhelming, so I need to make it again with the right chips to give the cake a fair chance.   I was also working with an assistant who insisted he could prep the pan, unfortunately some spots were missed and we lost about half of the cake.  I will definitely give the cake another try, but I'm not sure it will replacement for the receipe I usually use. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

Maybe I should just start posting this as menu planning Monday, a day late.  This week everything was planned by Sunday, just couldn't make the jump from my scrap piece of paper to the computer.

Monday - manicotti with a cheese and spinach filling - making with all leftovers and items in the fridge/freezer
Tuesday - chipolte beef tortillas - Tuesday is becoming slow cooker day
Wednesday - lemon chicken - the kids love using the juicer so hopefully we won't have a repeat of last week
Thursday - Ginger fish in Parchment
Friday - pizza at school - no this isn't a recipe name, Liam's school is having its Harvest Festival so dinner will probably be items from the bake sale and we'll skip the pizza all together

Monday, October 18, 2010

Apple Tart

It is fall, which of course means it is apple pie, tart, crisp season.  Each year Marshall and I have endless discussions about what form the apples should be used in, we love them all and it is always such a tough decision.  Crisps are easy and a great mid-week treat, but pies and tart can be a little trickier.  Marshall loves a thick apple pie with lots of flavor and I understand the love, but sometimes I just want the apple without all the other stuff and that is where the tart comes.  Tarts let the apples shine you get to see and tasty their beauty.  This is my favorite recipe, a simple pate sucree with thinly sliced apples, I sliced my apples a little thicker than normal this time and the apples were a little crunchy, but the end result still tasted yummy.   I like to serve this tart with cinnamon whipped cream, it gives some of the apple pie feeling, without being overwhelming. 

This is a wonderful recipe, it goes together easily and has many uses.  In addition to making a wonderful tart it is also great for cookies

Pate Sucree
1/2 cup Sugar
1 cup Butter
1/2 Tbs. Vanilla Extract
1 Egg
2 1/4 cups Flour

Cream sugar and butter together until smooth.  Stir in vanilla, then add egg, mixing until combined.  Add flour mix until just combined (with all my doughs I always leave some flour visible then mix in by hand).  Turn dough out on to floured surface pat into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Apple Tart
8 Apples peeled, cut into 3/4" cubes
4 Apples peeled
7 Tbs Butter
8 Tbs Sugar
1/2 cup apricot jam

Pre-bake apple cubes.  Tightly pack into a baking dish, dot with about 5 Tbs butter and 4 Tbs sugar.  Bake at 400 until just soft, about 10 minutes. Cool.
With remaining 4 apples, cut in half then slice thinly keeping them attached.  Place apple halves on baking sheet, dot with remaining butter and sprinkle with remaining sugar.  Bake at 400 until just soft, about 10 minutes.  Cool.
Butter tart pan.  Roll out sucree dough about 1/8 of inch to fit tart pan.  Place dough in pan, prick bottom, refrigerate for at 30 minutes.
Spread apples cubes evenly across bottom of shell.  Arrange slices decoratively on top.  Bake at 400 for 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown. 
Heat apricot jam, then lightly brush over tart. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I have always hated the word leftovers, it sounds so sad.  The word brings back visions of gym class, those last few kids just waiting to be picked, except instead of skinny legged kids I envision sad pieces of food lined up against a gym wall.  To prevent these sad images I am trying to get in the habit of not being as wasteful and use up the little bits as much as possible.   Baking leftovers are easy, cake scraps transform into cake pops, curds and cake scraps become yummy trifles, pie crust turns into small turnovers to be eaten as the pie bakes.  
For me, one of the best ways to use leftovers is to give them to the kids when I am baking something for an event and can't have any helpers.  One of the problems of having kids who are very comfortable in the kitchen is that they feel they can, and should, always be able to help.  Some of our biggest kitchen meltdowns have occurred when I am trying to work on an item for a customer, or just want to practice, so when I sense a meltdown approaching I go to the freezer and see what is waiting for us.   I can usually find something similar to what I am working with so the kids feel like they are contributing and doing the same thing I am.  It is a good opportunity for all of us.  I get to focus on what I am doing and when I am working on my own project I don't hover as much and the kids have more opportunity to experiment and play.  There is usually more mess to clean-up, but I just tell myself that is one more learning opportunity for the kids. 
Yesterday I was making an apple tart to bring to a friend's fall festival.  I didn't have any extra dough in the freezer, but I got my dough rolled out quickly and was able to pass the scraps on to the girls.  They got to play with flour and practice rolling dough, Aggie even made her own tart to bring for the kids' table.   They became so involved in their own projects that I was able to work on mine with little interruption. 
Not all leftovers go to the kids, sometimes they are used to make something all new, like these cupcakes for Aggie's birthday celebration at school.  All I had to make was the cake, the icing was leftover from cakes made earlier in the week.  I put all the icing in a pastry bag and got fun swirled icing that the kids loved and they looked as if the swirled icing was a plan right from the start

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Change of Plans

Some days just don't work out as planned, yesterday was one of those days.  Once a week I plan a meal that the kids can help fix in its entirety.  The rest of the week there is always something they can do to help, but on Wednesdays I plan a meal with a lot of easy components so each child can help.   Wednesday is our slow day of the week, I can start dinner early and move at a kids pace.  I expect the unexpected, I know dishes won't turned out exactly as planned, I make an effort to put my type A side away for a while.  Yet there are still those days when everyone has their own agenda and nobody is willing to budge.  It is on those days I want to just let the kids watch TV and not worry about their healthy growth and development.  TV was invented for a reason, to entertain grumpy tired kids, or keep kids entertained when adults are grumpy and tired.  Yet there are days when not even TV works, little bodies are too tired and can't even be distracted by our good friends Nick and  Disney.  On those days food gets thrown together and we hope there is enough to go around and that everybody will find something they are willing to eat.  Usually when I do a throw together dinner, nobody is happy Marshall complains there isn't enough to eat and the kids complain everything is gross.  But last night something strange happened.  The kids were grumpy, little bodies were constantly flopping on the floor, dinner didn't get started until about 6:00, and yet everyone enjoyed the dinner and there was just enough to go around!  This probably won't happen ever again so I am going to bask in this small triumph and not worry that I don't have anything to share for my weekly cooking with kids update.   In my world, and after my miserable day happy bellies and happy people is much better than what my kids would have learned if they had helped me mush some ground beef together.
Now speaking of the ground beef, I had planned on making Salisbury steaks using this recipe.  Well I read the recipe once when I first decided on it at the beginning of the week, but I never printed it.  So, when it came time to make dinner I basically had to make it up as I was going along, and hope I remembered most of it.  The final result was very tasty, but different from the recipe.  I ended up doing a meatloaf recipe and instead of doing one big loaf I made 4 smaller loaves.  I served it with mashed potatoes and roasted carrots and fennel. 

Here is my version of the Salisbury recipe:
2lbs ground beef
1 onion finely chopped
1 glove garlic finely chopped
2 carrots finely chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 cup ketchup
3 tsp mustard
1 Egg
1Tbs. McCormick Hamburger seasoning
1 Tbs. Worcestershire

Mushroom Gravy
2 Tbs. butter
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbs. Flour
2 cups Beef Broth

Mix all meatloaf ingredients together and shape into 5 individual loaves.  In a high sided pan brown each loaf, the middle will still be raw, remove from pan.   Dump some of the beef fat and add a tablespoon of butter, once melted add sliced mushrooms and sauteed briefly.  Add remaining tablespoon of butter, melt then add flour and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add broth and return beef to pan.  Cook until beef is done. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Number 2 has been showing more interest in the kitchen and she desperatly wants to use a "real" knife like her brother, but she tends to be a little scatter brained and she makes me nervous around sharp objects.  Liam has been using a knife since he was three and has always been very careful.  Aggie on the other hand is now four and is far from careful, with anything.   When teaching Liam I can show once and know he will follow, with Aggie she wants to experiment and figure out how to do it by herself.  Experimentation is a great way to learn many things, but I am finding it very difficult to let her experiment with a sharp knife and there are only so many things we can cut with a butter knife.  I finally gave in and let her use Liam's knife to cut up squash and carrots for dinner.  I tried many times to show her how to properly hold the knife and food, but she was not going to listen and was determined to do it her way.  We had a variety of slice sizes, but there were no cuts in anything but the squash, so it was a successful first attempt.  She helped at the stove for a little, but quickly turned her attention to her favorite part of cooking, doing the dishes.  And while I am hesitant to let her do many things in the kitchen, I will never say no to somebody who offers to do the dishes, especially now that our dishwasher is out of commison. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

We were out of town for the weekend, so this is a day late, but better late than never.

Monday - peanuts, soda and pretzles on the airplane.  I didn't even have any other snacks and our flights were so close we didn't have time to pick anything up, definitely not a day of healthy eating

Tuesday - Butternut squash soup - there are so many ways to make this soup, but I love it with apple.  A little crunchy bread and you have the perfect meal.

Wednesday - Salisbury Steak, I don't think I have ever made or eaten salisbury steak and I don't usually like Sandra Lee and her receipes, but I was watching Food Network in the hotel and this just looked really good, plus it will be a good meal to make with the kids. 

Thursday - Minestrone Soup

Friday -  Breakfast,  it has been a while since we did breakfast for dinner I think it will be a waffle night and of course eggs, scrambled and over easy, and most importantly BACON!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blueberry Muffins

Liam has been asking to bring blueberry muffins to school for snack so this morning we, or more accurately Liam, made some.   He is very comfortable in the kitchen and now that his reading skills are improving he is becoming much more independent.  I had him start by reading the recipe, even though we have made these muffins hundred of times, and then begin pulling the ingredients.  He is still not consistent with his measuring, so I did supervise with that and with using the mixer.  Being 5 he like to turn the mixer on high especially right after the flour has been added.  He has also been asking what would happen if the spatula was in the bowl when the mixer was turned on, and yesterday we had a long discussion about fingers and the beater, so there is a lot of curiosity, and I'm a little worried about unsupervised experimentation in this area.  After Liam had everything measured out we began mixing.  I supervised, but let him decide when the ingredients were mixed enough and when to continue.  As I said he likes the mixer so he over mixed slightly, and the muffins were a little rubbery, but for the first solo attempt by a 5 year old they were fabulous!  
Like always the kitchen was a complete mess when we finished.  We still have a long way to go before the "clean as you go" concept is fully implemented, at this point I would be happy with any cleaning before or after.   But I would rather the kids build their love of cooking and not have it squished by getting to focused on the cleaning part. 
This is the reciepe we used.  It isn't very flavorful, but that is part of why I like to use it with kids.  Because it is very straight forward without a lot of "extra" ingredients - ie nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon- that can be confusing and overwhelming to young bakers.  I also like it because there is a lot of opportunities to practice math skills.  You can measure out all the ingredients using only the 1/4 measuring cup and teaspoon or you can use just the 1/4 and 1/2 measuring cup and teaspoon.  It makes it a fun challenge for older kids. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Squash Risotto

I love squash, and am always looking for new ways to use it.  Last night I made a quick curried squash risotto.  When planning the menu for the week I found a risotto receipe and used that as the base idea.  I sauteed squash, garlic and onions in butter and olive oil. 
 While that was cooking I made the risotto using a combination of vegetable and chicken stock, I had leftovers in the fridge.  Just before the risotto was finished I added some ginger, golden raisins and sliced almonds.  When the squash was soft I combined everything and served it with some leftover chicken and bread, I had french bread, naan would have been much better, but naan is always the best. 

It was a good receipe, but a little coconut milk would have been a nice addition to the squash.  Definitely a receipe to keep in mind for a quick weeknight meal.  I used carnival squash, but any type of  winter squash would work.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

Monday Planning Monday

Monday - Squash Risotto - a new recipe, we have been getting a lot of squash in our weekly vegetable delivery and need new ways to use it.

Tuesday - Pulled chicken BBQ - this receipe is always a big hit and since it is a Rachel Ray it is super easy.  I make this a lot when I need a dish to share or to bring dinner to someone. 

Wednesday - Salmon Skewers, with sauteed squash - kids cook night, this is an easy and healthy receipe that the two oldest can help out with.

Thursday - Pot Roast - slow cooker receipe of the week

Friday - Beef sandwiches - leftovers from the pot roast

Hopefully this week I will find my camera and post some pictures throughout the week!

Friday, October 1, 2010


I have been sort of trying to start a cake business.  When I say sort of trying I mean if somebody asks me to make them a cake I will, and then hope they will help spread my name.  My approach so far as been OK, definitely not a major success, but I do have a small following.  This weekend I have two cakes, a bridal shower and a birthday, both needed on Sunday.  I was given very loose guidelines for both cakes, which is good and bad. The birthday cake is for a little girl turning 4, I was asked to do something pink and girly, so I am going to do a tiara cake, I usually try to stay away from putting non-edible items on a cake, but the tiara cake is such a big hit I am willing to make an exception.  I am not very worried about the birthday cake, the bridal shower cake is proving to be a little more stressful.  It's not because the customer is being difficult, she is almost being too relaxed. 
The only request I was given was chocolate so the flavor was easy, white chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling, it is the decoration that is freaking me out.  I have decided to keep it simple, white buttercream with chocolate piping and to add a little extra detail I made some simple rolled fondant flowers to put around the bottom tier.  Hopefully it will be well received!

In case you are wondering the only white chocolate cake recipe worth using is from the Cake Bible, I love Rose Levy Beranbaum.