I get pretty creative when it comes to getting my kids to try new foods, but this idea came right from my tween.
Here’s the deal: I’m a spinach lover, and my youngest kids…well, not yet. I’m working on it. I recycle my spinach containers as giveaways when I take treats to friends or into my kids’ classes. My kids found my stash of extras and discovered another use for them–as fish “aquariums.”
My kids tend to spend every waking moment once the weather gets warmer fishing in a nearby creek. They’ve discovered that my spinach containers make the perfect holders for their catch.
So my tween made the connection that when we eat more spinach there are more containers for fish. Lately, my tween has started eating spinach without complaint. Coincidence? Well, I’m still thanking the fish for my tween’s new-found interest in greens.
For the finishing touch on tostadas, I like to add a little bit of sour cream swirls. They’re easy to make and the perfect job for kids.
Here’s how to make sour cream swirls for Mexican dishes:
- Place 1/3 cup sour cream into the corner part of a plastic baggy.
- Use kitchen scissors to cut a small hole in the corner of the bag with the sour cream. You’ve just created a DIY sour cream pastry bag!
- Make designs on your tostados, tacos, nachos, or flautas with the sour cream.
I just wanted to congratulate Rachel from Christine Gross-Loh’s blog who won the Great Mother’s Day Giveaway! I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day.
Is there a German chocolate cake fan in your family? Making an entire cake can be an overwhelming endeavor, especially for pint-sized cooks. Easy solution? Make German chocolate cake in a cup.
Ever since we made mini chocolate raspberry chocolate cups, we’ve been trying out other combos. This one has become a fast favorite. I’ve included lots of make-it-quick steps in the directions.
1 recipe chocolate cake mix
1 recipe coconut dream frosting (or packaged German chocolate frosting)
1 cup chocolate syrup
Whipped cream or ice cream
Toasted coconut (opt.)
You’ll also need:
Mini glasses (plastic mini champagne glasses work well, too)
- Cook the cake according to package directions. You could also use leftover brownies, or bake up a batch. (You will have extra cake.)
- Place a handful of cake into the bottom of all the cups, press it down to make about 1-inch. This is a perfect kid job!
- Drizzle the cake with chocolate syrup (Hershey’s is fine; even better melt 1/4 cup chocolate chips with 1/4 heavy cream in the microwave and let it sit until thickened).
- Add a heaping spoonful of coconut dream frosting into each cup.
- Put another inch of cake into each cup and repeat the process–drizzle chocolate, then add frosting.
- You have a few options for the top of the cup–whipped cream or a small scoop of ice cream. My recommendation: finish it off with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in salty caramel. Sprinkle each cup with toasted coconut flakes.
Almost German chocolate cake frosting, but not quite. That’s how I like to describe my coconut frosting.
Softer and creamier than your standard, sticky German chocolate, toasting the coconut and the pecans is the real secret (well, that and a generous helping of heavy cream).
Tweaked from 365 Great Chocolate Desserts
2 1/2 cups coconut
2 cups pecans, chopped
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
Dash of salt
- Place the coconut and nuts onto a nonstick skillet (or if the skillet isn’t big enough work in batches). Bring the skillet to medium-high heat, stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon occasionally to avoid burning, about 3 minutes. As soon as the coconut begins to turn color on the ends, remove from heat. Allow the coconut to cool on the pan–it will continue to toast as it cools.
- Mix together the powdered sugar and cornstarch and then pour into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan.
- Whisk the heavy cream into the powder sugar mixture until blended; bring the cream to medium-high heat, whisking vigorously.
- When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove from heat.
- Stir in the toasted coconut and pecans.
- Cool to room temperature before using to frost cakes, cupcakes, or for mini-parfaits.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how to use this yummy frosting to make mini German chocolate parfaits that are perfect for Mother’s Day.
“Holidays” are a great excuse to introduce your kids to new foods. Yes, I’m using air quotes as I type. Cinco de Mayo–literally, the 5th of May–is an American invention (granted, there was a battle in Puebla, Mexico, in 1862 where the much smaller Mexican army defeated a large French force). But you won’t find any big celebrations in Mexico, outside of Puebla, to honor Cinco de Mayo. Nope, as a couple of writers recently put it: “Cinco is as American as apple pie. So is the U.S. Hispanic melting pot.”
Whew, with that out of the way, it’s time to move on to the good stuff–getting your would-be picky eaters to sample something new.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Swap the cheese
Queso fresco, a fresh Mexican cheese (I know, that’s pretty much a direct translation, but it’s true), tastes like a cross between feta and mozzarella with a hint of ricotta thrown in. The cheese usually comes in a solid circle that you crumble up to put on enchiladas, nachos, tacos, tostadas…you get the idea.
Picky eater tip: We call this ‘crumble cheese’ at our house for good reason–you have to crumble it before you use it. Perfect. Kid. Job. Ask your child to be the official crumbler and when she wants to sample what’s all over her fingers, say, Yes!
Bag the regular tortilla chips
My all-time favorite tortilla chips are El Milagro tortilla chips. No Tostitos. No Santitas. Not even Xochitl come close. Ahem, yes, I get a bit particular about my tortilla chips. Get this, there are all of four ingredients in El Milagro tortilla chips–stone ground corn, corn oil, sea salt, calcium hydroxide (it helps glue the corn together according to the all-knowing folks at Wikipedia). And the chips are thicker, heartier than your standard “restaurant-style” chip. Admittedly, El Milagro can be hard to find–I see them most often in Mexican grocers, but they’re starting to pop up in larger grocery chains too. Look for them!
Picky eater tip: Dip it! Give your kids some salsa for their chips and let them dip away.
Use corn tortillas
Toast them! Please. Corn tortillas are bland and caulk-like until you toast them and then something magical happens–they become entirely different in flavor, texture, aroma. It only takes a few minutes to toast up a stack of corn tortillas. Then try out your favorite taco fixins’ in the toasted corn tortillas instead of the stale, hard-shelled kind.
Picky eater tip: Break out the cookie cutters. You can make small shapes in the corn tortillas (before or after toasting). Granted, your filling may fall out of the tortillas with too many openings, so you might want to keep the cookie cutting to a few conveniently placed shapes. I use my linzer cookie cutters from King Arthur Flour.
Make your salsa
Homemade salsa is simple to make, really. You can keep it basic and just chop up tomatoes, onions, fresh jalapeno chiles, and cilantro for a pico de gallo. If you want more of a authentic salsa consistency, put all of the pico de gallo fixins’ into a blender with a little lime juice for a thinner salsa.
Picky eater tip: Have your kids help you make the salsa. When my kids have friends over, we often whip up salsa together. I let them cut up the ingredients and adjust the seasonings.
Bring on the cumin
Add something new to your standard Tex-Mex recipes–ground cumin. You can find cumin in pretty much any grocery store. Sprinkle in cumin with your taco fillings, guacamole, salsa.
Picky eater tip: Your kids aren’t likely to notice this subtle seasoning added in. But it will give your Mexican dishes and added depth and more authentic flavor.
Your turn: Are you planning a special meal for Cinco de Mayo?
Burgers get boring, fast. So I’m always up for experimenting with new burger ideas. And now’s the time: It’s National Hamburger Month. But don’t you think calling it National Burger Month, would inspire far more creativity. Let’s just leave the ground beef out it entirely, shall we?
This recipe goes sans ground beef. Instead, Mr. Squid picked up Italian sausage for the patties for half our crew and ground turkey for me and my teen (we like lite burgers). You could also use portobello mushrooms.
3 things make this burger a stand-out:
- Baste it with marinara at the very end of the grill time.
- Broil cheese on the burger after grilling.
- Add a caprese-inspired topping
1 pound Italian sausage or ground turkey
Salt and pepper
4 slices of mozzarella or provolone cheese
1/4 cup marinara, divided
4 burger buns
1 Tbsp. chopped pepperoncinis (opt. but oh so tasty)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or Asiago (preferred)
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup basil, chopped into thin strips
- Shape meat into four patties. Sprinkle liberally with Italian seasoning, garlic and onion powders, and salt and pepper.
- Grill at medium high heat for about 6 minutes on each side. During the final minutes of grilling, baste with 1/8 cup of the marinara.
- Place the patties onto a baking sheet. Add 1 tablespoon marinara onto each patty along with a slice of cheese.
- Broil the patties for about 3 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
- Meanwhile mix together the caprese toppings and add a heaping tablespoon (or more!) to each burger.
- Serve on lightly toasted buns.
Kids’ reactions: My teen added extras of the caprese topping to her burger. My younger two kids tried the caprese topping but didn’t want it on their burgers. Ah well, the pepperoncinis can get a little spicy.
I’m intrigued by this aluminum pot that’s the perfect size for my youngest to hold in her arms. And yet, it’s not big enough for sauting or small enough for sauces. My aunt tells me this was my great grandmother’s prized pot for boiling potatoes.
Recently, my aunt has been sending me care packages of cookware from my grandmother’s kitchens. Included among the boxes was this pot. It looks to me like it was made to fit onto another part.
So I’m wondering, does anyone know what exactly this pot might have been used for–besides boiling potatoes? Right now, I’m just enjoying having something of my great grandmother’s to use in my own kitchen.
Here’s a quick way to add some ambiance to a family meal that you want to make a little special (and yes at my house it’s required that you say ambiance with a fake French accent–the worse it sounds, the better).
I have my kids cut up fruit into small pieces to put into water goblets. Add seltzer (or club soda) water and you’ve got a fancy, colorful drink.
I’ve found some kids are reluctant to try seltzer water (La Croix is my favorite). The sugarless, fizzy water is an acquired taste but it’s such a great replacement for soda it’s worth trying to get your kids to sample it.
How did I get my kids hooked on seltzer water? Well, I used to drink it all the time and my kids would ask for sips. At first they didn’t like it, but I kept drinking it. Fast forward several tries and my kids are regular seltzer drinkers.
If your kids tend to be especially picky, my suggestion is to mix half seltzer water with half juice. We’ve tried the half-half approach with apple, orange, lemonade, grape…and pretty much any other juice we might have on hand (tomato juice the big exception, of course).
Now, I haven’t mentioned the best part–once you’re kids have downed their drink they can eat the fruit. And the fruit will be “fizzified” (yes, it’s true we do make up words at our house). The carbonation in the drink works its way into the fruit giving it a bit of a bubble bite.
This past weekend my parents were in town so of course we needed to make something fun in the kitchen. The idea? Pepperoni pizza cake. I hunted down some ideas online, like this pizza cake recipe from Serious Eats. For my version, I wanted to try to make it look a little more realistic.
The cake ended up being simple to make–and a crowd pleaser.
Step #1: Bake a yellow cake mix in a 10″ spring form pan.
Step #2: Place the cake in the fridge to cool and to become firm. Use a serrated knife to trim off the top part of the cake. Make sure to leave the edge untouched to look like a pizza crust.
Step #3: Spread raspberry or strawberry jam over the inside of the cake, working out toward the edge of the cake, but leaving a 1″ crust.
Step #4: Sprinkle shredded coconut over the pizza to look like mozzarella cheese.
Step #5: Create “pepperoni” from berry fruit leather. You can use a cup to make the pepperoni shape. We actually emptied a salt container to make our pepperoni.
Step #6: Serve your pizza cake in a pizza box.
Don’t forget the the Great Mother’s Day Giveaway is underway. Enter today for your chance to win!