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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cooking With Kids

When cooking with your kids, or anyone elses, you have to have a few things....patience, a sense of humor, and the ability to remind yourself that the experience is more valuable than a clean kitchen for the evening. They might spill the flour, drop an egg on your foot, or sneeze in the batter. It happens. When the finished product means a lot to you, as it usually does to me, this can be so challenging. Don't do it on a night when company is coming over. Do it on those evenings when it will just be your family, and you've got a back up frozen pizza in the freezer. :)

Use your intuition when deciding what to let your kids do. I let my oldest son do some things the other ones don't get to do yet, like turn the oven on, and take things in and out of the oven. He is an especially careful kid. However, we have a rule in my house that we will not visit using knives until the age of 8. The reason I picked this age is that when I looked into cooking classes for kids, they do not let kids into the ones that they use knives with until they are 8. I figure they know what they are talking about.

The week that I cooked with Elijah I learned a few things. Children's cook books make some assumptions. They assume that children apparently have no taste buds, like everything bland, and only eat about 3 different kinds of vegetables. Very sad. The meals were mostly bland, and dissapointing, even though we made them correctly. The only cookbook that impressed me, was one that my dear friend Joia recommended to me. It's called Honest Pretzels. It's by Mollie Katzen of the famed Moosewood restaurant and cookbooks. She has the cutest step by step pictures, and the recipes actually taste good. Joia's favorite from this book, and I have to agree, is the yummy Lasagna filled with lots of fresh torn basil. The whole family liked this one, and we had fun making it too. The recipe is below, and remember it is written for a child to read. :) My notes are in italics.


2 pounds ricotta cheese (4 cups)
20 fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon minced (cut in tiny pieces) or crushed garlic
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (buy a wedge and grate it yourself - its a fun thing for the kids to do, plus it tastes better!)
A 26 ounce jar of tomato sauce (A generous 3 cups) (we used Muir Glen Organics and it was really good)
12 lasagna noodles ( about 3/4 pound)
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated (4 packed cups)

Yield: This makes about 16 servings

Time: It takes about 45 minutes to make, and almost an hour to bake. Then it needs to cook for 15 minutes. Figure about 2 hours start to finish.

You will also need:

- Small sharp knife (or a garlic press) and a cutting board for mincing (or crushing) the garlic ahead of time
- Handheld grater or food processor fitting with the grating attachment for grating mozzarella ahead of time
- Large bowl
- Scissors
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Long handled spoon or fork
- 1 cup liquid measure
- 9 X 13 baking pan
- Soup spoon
- Aluminum foil
- Timer with a bell
- Knife and spatula for serving
- Plates and forks

1. Ask an adult to turn the oven on to 375 degrees.

2. Put the ricotta cheese into a large bowl.
3. Make a little pile of 20 basil leaves. Hold them tightly together and snip them into the bowl with scissors. Snip them really snall.
4. Add 1 Tablespoon garlic and 1/2 cup of the parmesan. (You will use the rest of the parmesan for the top)
5. Mix well with a long-handled spoon or a big fork. You have just made the ricotta mixture. Set this aside for now.

6. Measure 1 cup tomato sauce. Pour it into the baking pan and spread it a little with the back of a spoon.
7. Put a layer of noodles on the sauce. They should touch edges, but should not overlap too much.

8. Use a soup spoon to put blobs of the ricotta mixture onto the noodles. The blobs do not need to connect or touch. Use about half of the ricotta mixture.

9. Measure another cup of sauce. Pour it over the blobs of cheese and the noddles and spread it a little.
10. Sprinkle on about half of the mozzarella.
11. Put another layer of noodles right on top of the cheese.
12. Put the rest of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles, in blobs, like before.
13. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella over everything.
14. Pour on the rest of the sauce and spread it a little.
15. Cover the pan tightly with a big piece of foil. Ask and adult to help with the foil, and with putting the pan in the oven. Set the timer for 40 minutes.
16. Ask an adult to do all of this: After 40 minutes, take the pan out from the oven, remove the foil, and sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup parmesan. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes longer, and then take it out of the oven.
17. Let it cook for 15 minutes before serving.

YUM!!! :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

So sweet! Honey Peach and Blackberry Cobbler

I read up a lot on sweeteners, and the different arguements as to what is better, and who it is better for. The general consensus among nutritionists seems to be that if you have a family history of diabetes, or are or could be pre-diabetic yourself, then you should steer towards fake sugars (Splenda, Stevia, Agave Nectar). If you do not have a family history of it, and do not stuggle with it yourself, than pure sugars (honey, molasses, raw cane sugars) are the best. The raw food community encourages you to eat raw unfiltered honey, or raw agave, and some of them endorse Stevia. My husband's family has a history of Diabetes, and I go back and forth between trying to eat raw, or just more natural foods, so I feel like we have every type of sweetener in our house!

However with all the talk of cutting down on sugar (Hello South Beach Diet! another one followed in our house:) I don't think I have ever heard someone talk about the benefits of sweeteners. I just thought this paragraph was interesting, from an article on MSN. You can click here to view the entire article.

There are tiny differences in the minerals in some sweeteners; the less processed, the more trace minerals, says Blatner. (Honey, for example, has some magnesium and calcium.) And there is some evidence that the levels of antioxidants in sweeteners can vary. One study, published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that among sweeteners, dark and blackstrap molasses had the most antioxidant activity. Maple syrup, brown sugar, and honey had a bit less, and refined sugar, corn syrup, and agave nectar had the least.

One thing I do know about honey, is that some doctors encourage people with allergies to eat 1-3 tablespoons a day, (depending on who you talk to) of LOCAL honey. It will help ease your seasonal allergies. This can be hard to find. You may just have to read the labels at your natural food store, or head to your nearest farmer's market and stock up on it.

Interesting stuff!

This is what I'm making to bring to a BBQ (recipe below). I was eyeing this on Epicurious, but sometimes I think they think too little about calories, and I hit up to see if they have something comparable. Peaches and Blackberries are in season, and are a steal at the store right now. I bought a ton so I can freeze them too. yum!

Honey Peach and Blackberry Cobbler
Lorrie Hulston Corvin, Cooking Light, JULY 2003

A sprinkling of coarse turbinado sugar gives this deep-dish dessert a crunchy golden top.

Yield 12 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup cobbler and 1 biscuit)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
8 cups chopped peeled peaches (about 4 pounds)
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3 cups blackberries
Cooking spray
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 400°.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.
Combine 1/4 cup flour, peaches, honey, juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; toss gently. Let stand 15 minutes. Fold in blackberries. Spoon mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Combine 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, granulated sugar, rind, and baking powder in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk, and stir just until moist.
Drop dough onto peach mixture to form 12 mounds. Sprinkle mounds with turbinado sugar. Bake at 400° for 40 minutes or until bubbly and golden.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 283 (20% from fat)
Fat: 6.3g (sat 3.8g,mono 1.8g,poly 0.3g)
Protein: 4.3g
Carbohydrate: 56.5g
Fiber: 4.7g
Cholesterol: 17mg
Iron: 1.5mg
Sodium: 267mg
Calcium: 63mg

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Elijah's taking over the kitchen!

My oldest son Elijah, who is 7 years old, decided at the library last weekend that he wanted to check out 6 cookbooks. So he brought them home, and was pouring over them asking me if he could make a million things.

"Why don't you make dinner tomorrow night?" I offered.

"But I want to make more than one dinner Mom. Can I make more than one? Like the whole week?"

"Um. Hm. Um. Are you sure? Well, okay...."

So we got out my calendar of meals for the month, and I let him chose one for every night (only rule, had to be a main dish) Monday through Thursday. (Friday is our ten year wedding anniversary!) It has been a REALLY fun experience. He wants to be in charge of as much as possible, and I think it's a learning experience for me too. I'm realizing he can do a lot more than I thought, though I'm still weary of giving him a knife yet. Here's what's on the menu for this week. When he gets home today, we will start the Tortilla Soup! We are definitely eating more meat this week than normal, but I wanted to give him free reign to choose. So fun!

Book: Look and Cook: A Cookbook for Children by Tina Davis
Meal: He-Man Hamburgers

Book: Honest Pretzels and 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Cooks Ages 8 and Up by Mollie Katzen (recognize that name? From the author of the Moosewood cookbooks)
Meal: Not-From-a-Box Macaroni and Cheese

Book: Fun Food: 25 Delicious Recipes that Kids Can Cook by Williams Sonoma
Meal: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Book: Honest Pretzels and 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Cooks Ages 8 and Up by Mollie Katzen
Meal: Lasagna

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I got together with a group of fabulous ladies on Monday night, and I was in charge of bringing the Sangria. I have made Sangria one other time, convinced I could just throw some things together and it would be great, but it was unmemorable. This time I decided to go with a recipe, and it turned out great! Super yummy. I thought it was actually even better the next night. So if you are patient enough, I would make it one night, and serve it the next. It's definitely all about letting it sit though, so don't skimp on the 8 hours the recipe recommends. This could be one less thing to do some night when you are entertaining, as the drink would be ready! Sangria is such a nice drink once the weather gets warm. I've been told Red Sangria is technically a winter drink, and white a summer one, but I've never found anything to confirm this. I am partial to red wine, so I went for a red recipe. I'm going to keep this one as my favorite.


Cooking Light, August 2001

6 servings

3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons white rum
3 tablespoons Cointreau (orange-flavored liqueur)
3 tablespoons brandy
6 orange slices
6 lemon slices
1 peach, cut into 6 wedges
1 cinnamon stick
1 (750-milliliter) bottle Rioja or other fruity red wine (such as Beaujolais or Zinfandel)
1 cup sparkling water, chilled

Combine all the ingredients except sparkling water in a large pitcher. Chill for 8 hours. Stir in water immediately before serving.

Nutritional Information
Calories:189 (0.0% from fat)Fat: 0.0g (sat 0.0g,mono 0.0g,poly 0.0g) Protein: 0.6g Carbohydrate: 15.8g Fiber: 1g Cholesterol: 0.0mg Iron: 0.6mg Sodium: 7mg Calcium: 25mg

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spicy Jack Cauliflower Dip

The other night I was making our favorite Vegetarian Chili, and wanted to have something out to go before it. I came across this recipe a few weeks ago on the Whole Food website, and thought I would give it a try. It was SOOOOO good!! I ate so much of it, I hardly ate any of my favorite soup! :)
Serves 12

Cooked cauliflower is pureed and combined with cheese, spinach, garlic and jalapeño in this tasty and different dip. Serve with pita chips or toasted baguette.
Florets from 1/2 head cauliflower (about 2 1/2 cups), steamed until very soft and cooled
4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 to 2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 ounces (about 3 1/2 cups) Cheddar-Jack Shreds
3 lightly packed cups (about 5 ounces) baby spinach leaves
Heat oven to 375°F. Pulse cauliflower in a food processor until very smooth. Add Neufchâtel, mayonnaise, jalapeño, garlic, salt and all but 1/2 cup of the cheese shreds and pulse until very smooth. Add spinach and pulse until chopped. Scrape into a 1-quart ovenproof baking dish or casserole, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake until hot and bubbling, about 35 minutes.
Per serving (about 3oz/73g-wt.): 180 calories (130 from fat), 15g total fat, 9g saturated fat, 40mg cholesterol, 420mg sodium, 3g total carbohydrate (1g dietary fiber, 1g sugar), 8g protein

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Rainy Day = Blueberry Pie

We had a day where we had a fun outdoor adventure planned, and then woke up to clouds and rain. We had a fun play date in the morning, but I was itching for something to do in the afternoon. Sometimes when we have enough leftovers for another meal, and I feel like cooking, that's when I like to make a dessert. I have the time, and dinner's already done, and it gives everyone something to look forward to after leftovers.

I have been seeing lots of pictures of fruit pies, crisps, and cobblers lately with the spring weather here, and everyone it seems is getting excited about all the fruit summer will bring. I know I am! I checked out a book from the library called Williams-Sonoma Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen and it has a beautiful picture in it of Blueberry Pie.

Now I have to admit, blueberry pie is one of those pies that I have skipped over in the past. It's just not that glamorous, and it's not flashy. It doesn't spark any childhood memories, and it doesn't seem all that romantic. However, I kept flipping back to this page, and decided to give it a try. I'm so glad that I did!
Elijah came wondering into the kitchen and was interested in helping out so I enlisted him to do a few things, and then decided to stand behind him, and direct him, but let him try to make it. I figured we weren't bringing it anywhere, and it was just us enjoying it, so it didn't have to be perfect. I already had all the ingredients in the house, so if it didn't turn out, we weren't out anything. He did such a fabulous job! We even did a lattice top together, which I actually have never done before, and it was actually simple. I was so proud of him, and he really loved that my first time ever having Blueberry Pie was with HIM. :) Made by him. What a guy!
If you have ever had Blueberry Pie before and didn't like it, I would encourage you to give it a second chance. This is not like the too sweet, too mushy pies with a white gummy crust that they sell in your grocery bakery. Those are not fit for consumption! Pies I believe are easy enough for anyone. Grab someone in you life that knows how to make a crust, and enjoy an excuse to spend some time in the kitchen with them learning how. (I am forever grateful to you Taya!:) Once you know how, pies are a cinch, plus you'll be able to enter the world of quiches too! If that's not an option to you, don't feel bad buying some already made crust. This is such a treat, either way you'll enjoy it!
Blueberry Pie

double Pie dough recipe (I used my favorite, not the one in the book, see below)
4 cups fresh or frozen bluberries (1 lb)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 Tablespoon
3 Tablespoons all-purpose plain flour
pinch of kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons whole milk
serve with Vanilla Ice cream or whipped cream
Makes one 9-inch Pie

On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the pastry into a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Loosely roll the pastry around the rolling pin, center it over a 9-inch pan, then unroll and fit it into the dish, pressing it against the bottom and sides. Trim the overhang to about 1 inch.
In a bowl, toss together the blueberries, lemon juice, and vanilla. Add the 1/2 cup sugar, the flour, and the salt, and toss again to coat the berries evenly. Pour the blueberries into the pie shell, and dot the filling with the butter.
To make the lattice top, roll out the dough into a round the same size as the bottom crust, and cut into strips 1/2 inch wide. Place the longest strip across the center of the pie, and place about half of the shorter strips on either side, spacing them evenly, 1/4 - inch apart. Rotate the pie 90 degrees. Place the remaining strips perpendicular to the first layer of dough strips, spacing them evenly. Trim any long strips even with the bottom crust, then fold the bottom crust over the ends of the strips and crimp with your fingers or fork tines. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. (Note: Don't feel like you have to do all of this just so. We just ignored this, and cut strips and layered them over the top. No big deal. Homemade pies rarely are perfect, and they taste amazing either way, so just relax!:) (P.S. We didn't refrigerate due to bedtime nearing, and it turned out just fine)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the top crust with the milk and sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden, 50-60 minutes. Let cool on a rack. (Note: I find with the altitude, I have to cover the entire pie with foil partway through, to avoid it burning before the pie cooks through)
Whole Wheat Crust
makes 1 crust
6 tbsp butter (prefer lightly salted, and cold, in this recipe)
1 heaping cup Whole Wheat pastry flour
2 or 3 tbsp ice-cold water
some white flour for rolling it out

Blend butter and flour well with a pastry blender (or two butter knives)....till it's the consistency of small peas. Add water - a little at a time - until it all sticks together. Roll out in white flour.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Paris food pics Day 2

On Day 2 we did a marathon of a day. We did too much really! We did the "Paris in 1 Day" in our guidebook, figuring we'd have all the big things out of the way (and they were forecasting rain the rest of the week). We did the Louvre, Notre Dame, Champ Elysses, Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower all in one day. yikes! It was too much. I also forgot to take food pictures at the wonderful place we had lunch at Les Bouquinistes, one of Guy Savoy’s five Parisian restaurants. Guy Savoy is a 3 Michelin star French chef who also has a restaurant in Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas.

It was a wonderful lunch. We got to sit in the front room that overlooks the Seine. I had the three course lunch that came with wine. The first was a type of salad that had French ham, and a poached egg over the top of it. Not a lettuce -type salad that we are used to. It was wonderful. Then I had the swordfish with a side of vegetables. The swordfish was sliced and fanned beautifully across the plate. The chef was very into foam, because there actually was foam on all three of my courses. I had a chocolate type cake for dessert. The restaurant was very clean and bright, with minimal decorating, which made it seem comfortable, yet modern. I would love to go back! A great place to have lunch there during the day, and afterward you can walk along the road which is filled with Booksellers, which is what the restaurant takes it's name after.
The only picture I have of that day, is of me with my very first crepe in Paris. We ate a Chestnut Crepe as we walked the Champ Elysses. It was a beautiful afternoon!

Paris food pics Day 1

Here are some pics of the yummy food and places we ate on Day 1 while in Paris!! I'll be up and running writing some of our recent family recipes again on here now too, but I thought I'd catch up on this. It's good to be back! Some of these are at the market we went to. Some at a cafe. The one with strawberries is just stuff we bought at the market and store and had in our room for breakfast. I miss the amazing yogurt. There is NOTHING like it here. *sniff*