Archive for June, 2011

Fruity animal mini popsicles

After finding each of my kids digging through the freezer looking for the yogurt popsicles I made last week (they’re all gone), I thought I’ve gotta to make more of these. But instead of yogurt I poked around the kitchen for ideas. My inspiration? Yet again leftovers, along with some candy-making molds from a friend.

The fruit. Yes, leftovers inspire me. Whenever I have fruit that goes uneaten or is a little on the squishy side, I chop it up and save it in the freezer. I toss it into sauces (savory and sweet), swirl it into smoothies, make fruit leather, and now use it in popsicles.

The molds. I’ve never used candy molds before, but since I don’t have popsicle makers or ice cube trays, I figure these would do the trick. I did notice the that molds don’t seem to like the cold. Next time, I’d take out the fruitsicles as soon as they became solid instead of letting them sit. The molds cracked a little bit on the edges but not so much that I couldn’t use them again. The molds happened to be of turtles. Why turtles? I have no idea. You could also follow the same technique though from the yogurt popsicles–no candy molds required.

The recipe. Simple, I thawed frozen strawberries and raspberries in the microwave (you could also let them just come to room temperature on their own), added 2 Tablespoons of water per one cup of fruit (you could also use fruit juice) then poured it into the molds. Instead of popsicle sticks, I used little swords (maybe it was the hot temperatures outside but I was feeling silly; paper popsicle sticks are fine too). So here are our turtle pops. My girls liked playing with these as much as eating them.

Looking for more ideas? Check out these for summer fun with a twist. As part of the Motherboard crew I’ve been clicking through for inspiration myself–I’m going to have to try the tweak on picnics by doing an after dinner dessert mixed in with some stargazing.

Your turn–care to share any ideas for summer fun you’re planning on trying out as the temperatures rise?

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Tonkatsu pork lettuce wraps

Fusion success–I paired crunchy Japanese pork tonkatsu with soft butter lettuce to create wraps that my kids loved. If your kids don’t seem to be eating enough greens lately, or if you’re just looking for something new for dinner (or a picnic), give these a try.

Recipe

Ingredients

1 recipe pork tonkatsu

1 head butter (Boston) lettuce

Thin red onion slices

Shredded carrot (optional)

Bulldog sauce (optional, but SO good)

Directions

Photo credit: Amazon.com

  1. Make the pork tonkatsu. Cut the meat into strips.
  2. Wash and dry the butter lettuce keeping the leaves large.
  3. Place a couple strips of pork onto the lettuce and top with slices of green onion, shredded carrots and a generous dollop of Bulldog sauce (you can usually find this in the Asian section of your grocers; also called Tonkatsu sauce).
  4. You can also offer the sauce for dipping.

Another yummy dip–equal parts soy sauce and fresh-squeezed lime.

Just a note, my oldest liked the spike of onion flavor in the wraps, but my younger two didn’t like it at all. No biggie. We went through all the lettuce and kept the extra pork to munch on for lunch the next day.

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5 minute yogurt popsicles

It started with leftover yogurt no one seemed to be eating and blueberries that were getting squishy. How to get my kids to eat the yogurt–and clean out my fridge? Popsicles!

I combined equal parts yogurt and fresh berries in a blender, drizzled in a tablespoon of agave (honey is fine too) then poured the mixture into little party cups (that hold about 2 1/2 tablespoons). My youngest was in charge of getting the popsicle sticks to stay upright. On their own the sticks fell so I had her poke the stick through a blueberry to give it enough stability to stay upright.

My kids thought this was the coolest thing ever. They’re already planning new flavor combos and asking to try out new fruits. My middle daughter wants to use the sticks to make frozen fruit kabobs.

To make your yogurt popsicles combine 2:1 parts of your favorite yogurt flavor, or plain, with fruit (thawed frozen fruit or bananas work well). You can add a teaspoon of vanilla extract or honey too. I don’t like to use popsicle molds. First, because I don’t have any and second, I like keeping frozen treats small. I find my kids are more willing to try something new if it’s kid-sized. For my batch of 8 small popsicles I used two 8-ounce blueberry yogurt cartons and 1 cup blueberries.

These are perfect summer-time treats, but if you’re looking to bring more colors of the season into your home (not just on your child’s popsicles) check-out these decorating ideas from Motherboard. As part of the MB crew, I’ve been checking out their recent articles.

Your turn–what kind of yogurt popsicle flavors would you like to try?

(I just discovered that my local grocers carries dried edible flowers you can buy in handfuls…lilac strawberry anyone?)

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The great chocolate milk debate

Photo credit: Hersheys.com

Have you been following the news on chocolate milk bans? Recently the Los Angeles school district passed a ban as a way to help address rising obesity among students. My guess is other districts will follow. Now I usually don’t take up issues like this one–I’m concentrating on getting my kids to experiment with new foods and flavors, from chocolate bacon to roasted asparagus. But chocolate milk happens to be one of my favorite drinks. I literally run for chocolate milk; it’s my sports drink of choice. So I just wanted to highlight a few points that I’ve been following as the debate unfolds, and leave it to my readers to share their opinions. (My kids take their lunch to school anyway and I send in water to drink.)–

Milk vs. Juice. According to the Los Angeles Times report about the ban, “A cup of fat-free chocolate milk served in L.A. Unified has 120 calories, with 20 grams (80 calories) of sugar. Strawberry fat-free milk has 130 calories, with 26 grams of sugar. White, plain nonfat milk has 90 calories, with 12 grams of sugar.” Compare that to 1 cup of orange juice, which has 112 calories and 20.83 grams of sugar.

Cafeteria insights. When my kids do eat at the cafeteria they only choose flavored milk–surprisingly strawberry. They say the regular milk tastes funny. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a little carton of milk, but maybe that’s another reason kids are reaching for flavors. Maybe it’s not just about the sweetness (although I’m sure that helps).

Sports drink? I’m not just a chocoholic on this point (okay, well maybe I am), but there’s research to back me up here. Compared to typical sports drink choices, chocolate milk helped athletes recover better after a tough workout. Now, this doesn’t necessarily figure into the school debate–after all, if all the kids were endurance athletes the obesity problem wouldn’t exist. But chocolate milk can be a nutritious part of a balanced diet. Moderation in all things, right?

One mom’s opinion. In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, say-it-like-it-is mom Jen Singer talks about how her son wouldn’t get any nutrition in his lunch, without a little help from chocolate milk. Here’s a sample: “Let’s face it: Chocolate milk is like broccoli hidden in mashed potatoes. It’s the way parents sneak nutritional content into something palatable to kids who choose their breakfast cereal not by the quality of its content but by the cartoon characters on the box.”

Your turn–what do you think about the chocolate milk debate?

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Cheesecake pancakes

One breakfast meal that’s quick to put together and a kid-pleaser around our house is cottage cheese pancakes. (I may even make these for Father’s Day breakfast.)


Cottage cheese…in pancakes? Let me explain. Pancakes can sometimes be, well, boring, thin, even with a little buttermilk there’s just not much too them. But this version pumps up the batter with the cottage cheese that becomes creamy once you bake it in. The little cheesy curds have a hint of mozzarella stringiness to them, but none of the cheese flavor. They’re more like cheesecake pancakes than savory ones. In fact, if you top these with jam or fresh fruit along with syrup they’re even better. A few words of caution—remember to buy small curd cottage cheese instead of large. The bigger curds are overpowering and tend to trigger the “ews” from my kids.

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Recipe

Doubled from a recipe which appear in Cuisine at Home

Prep time: 10 minutes

Servings: About 14 3 ½” pancakes

1 cup milk

½ cup sugar

2 eggs

4 T butter, melted and cooled

2 cups flour (1/2 whole wheat works great too)

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup small curd cottage cheese

##########

Directions:

  1. Preheat your griddle to medium-high.
  2. Mix the milk, sugar and eggs together in a large bowl. In another bowl combine the dry ingredients.
  3. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones and then mix in the cottage cheese.
  4. Spray the griddle with cooking oil.
  5. Cook the pancakes 3-5 minutes, flipping once.
  6. Serve warm.

I served the pancakes with agave instead of syrup

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Kids in the kitchen: Mexican fiesta for Father’s Day

Are you ready for Father’s Day? More important—are your kids? We did a dry run this week of the fiesta we’re planning for dad’s big day. (Don’t worry, I’m not usually practicing for every holiday meal a week ahead but I needed pictures for this post and, well, we had a lot of fun putting this together.)

Appetizers: Heart-shaped quesadillas

Putting it together: Heat a skillet to medium high and place a flour tortilla in the center, top generously with Monterrey Jack or mozzarella cheese and add another flour tortilla. Flip after 3 minutes, or when crisped. Repeat with as many quesadillas as you need. Let the quesadilla cool for 3 minutes and then make shapes using a cookie cutter. Our theme for the meal is heart-shaped–1)because it’s Father’s Day and 2)because that’s the cookie cutter I had on hand. (I really need to get a few more cookie cutters!!)

Kids’ favorite part: Making the cut-outs of course. And decorating the plate with shredded lettuce and tomatoes.

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Entrée: Shredded pork tacos

Putting it together: Simple and delicious. I put a pork roast in the crockpot for the day along with a can of salsa verde. You could also throw in onion (whole, don’t even bother cutting), fresh chile peppers, along with one cup of a liquid that will give the pork a bit of flavor (chicken broth is good too). Cook on high for 5-6 hours and shred once it’s done. Add 1 teaspoon canola oil to a large skillet at medium-high heat and crisp the shredded pork. Add salt to taste and a little cayenne and cumin powder. Toast corn tortillas over a medium-high heat flame (if you don’t have a gas oven, use a skillet to toast the tortillas). Once they’re just crisped put them in a tortilla warmer or clean kitchen towel until you’re ready to use them. On each plate place two tortillas along with a heaping mound of pork, salsa, fresh cut-up tomatoes, lettuce and a dollop of sour cream (if desired). We found these pork tacos were so tasty they didn’t need much dressing up–the secret is the flavoring in the crockpot and the crisping afterwards.

Kids’ favorite part: Well, swiping little pieces of pork as it was crisping. My oldest liked being able to work with the skillet and my youngest liked having tomato topping duty (my middle daughter was busy setting the table).

###############

Dessert: Cinnamon sugar tortillas with honey and fresh berries

Putting it together: You didn’t put away the cookie cutter, did you? Use it again to make heart-shaped pieces of flour tortillas. Spray a baking sheet with cooking oil, add your flour tortilla cut-outs, spray again and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar; this has the flavor of a light churro. Bake at 375 for 8 minutes or until just crisped. Cool slightly and serve on a plate drizzled with honey or chocolate sauce and top with fresh berries.

Kids’ favorite part: Every step–I mean, this is dessert!

###############

If you’re looking for ideas outside the kitchen to make Father’s Day special, check out these ah-inducing stories from Motherboard moms. I looked through these as part of the Motherboard crew and I must say I enjoyed every one, especially the military family who shares the day with the families of those who’ve lost husbands and fathers. We shared our Mother’s Day meal with a friend who’d recently been widowed and it made the day so much more special to celebrate together.

Dressed up heart quesadillas

Heart-shaped tortilla crisps

Your turn–what are you doing to make the dads in your life feel special on Father’s Day?

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Kumquat cookies

After posting about kumquats last week I just wanted to pass along a cookie recipe that was a big hit with my kids. You use the kumquat puree to give the cookies a boost of citrusy sourness. The cookies puff up more like pumpkin ones than dense chocolate cookies. I pulled this right from the Kumquat Growers website but made a few changes. (White chocolate chips–nope, dark chocolate!)

I also made another change, the dough isn’t very sweet. I like that but on half of the cookies I sprinkled Lavender Vanilla Sugar (thanks for the care package mom!). The floral aroma and flavor boosted the kumquats’ tanginess. Plus, my kids liked sharing them with their friends outside so they could say, “Would you like a Lavender Kumquat Cookie?” You just don’t have those everyday.

Recipe

See all the bits of kumquat on the cookies? And the Lavender sugar?

Ingredients

2/3 cup margarine or butter

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups oatmeal

2/3 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup kumquat purree

Directions

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  2. Beat the eggs into the creamed butter one at a time.
  3. In a small bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, combine.
  5. Add the kumquat puree, combine, then stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour until stiff.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees on lightly greased cookie sheets for 10-12 minutes or until just browned.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

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Watermelon limeade

Mmmm...watermelon + lime

Lemonade needs an update. Playing around with some different variations of lemonade I happened on one my kids loved–lime with watermelon. Okay, I need to back up a bit. Full disclosure here: I had some watermelon leftover that was getting a bit mushy but I didn’t want to toss it. So instead I made it into ice cubes. Yes, I believe leftovers inspire creativity!

The temperatures hit 95 here the other day–with a dose of humidity so my kids were more than willing to give this flavor combo a try.

Here’s how to put it together:

  1. Put watermelon chunks into the blender. Puree.
  2. Strain the watermelon liquid to remove seeds.
  3. Pour the puree into an ice tray or another container to freeze. I lined a bowl with a baggie to make a ice disk and then I placed a little umbrella in it just for fun. (I also saved a bit of the watermelon juice to stir into the limeade so that you don’t have to wait until your ice cube thaws before you get the flavor.)
  4. Make a pitcher of limeade. You can use concentrate or make your own using fresh, squeezed limes + water + a bit of sugar (if my husband’s anywhere nearby this is his job–he’s the limeade master)
  5. Once the watermelon is frozen, add it to a glass filled with limeade and enjoy.

After you’re done making your watermelon limeade, check out these ideas for summer fun from Motherboard. I want to try out the backyard Iron Chef competition with friends.

Your turn–what are you looking forward to most about summer eats?

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Why aren’t you eating…kumquats

Nagami kumquats

Kum-what? I let my 13-year-old chose something new for us to try in the produce section. Her find–kumquats. As you can see from the picture, they look like oranges in the shape of a grape. But apparently there’s a debate as to whether they belong in the citrus family or deserve their own designation. I say kumquats are in a category all their own.

They taste exactly the reverse of what you’d expect (and you eat them whole). The sweet outside rind encases the wickedly sour fruit inside. It was fun to watch my kids give ‘em a try. My middle daughter kept asking, “Are you sure you eat the skin too?” It wasn’t until she bit in that the sour punch hit her. Instant pucker face.

You can eat kumquats like you would grapes (although 2 or 3 and I’d had enough sourness) and/or experiment with them to add a sweet-sour taste to different dishes. To use them in other dishes, cut them in half and remove the seeds then add them to a blender to create a puree. My puree went into some kumquat cookies (I’ll pass along the recipe next week), but if you had any leftover–which I didn’t–I was thinking you could freeze them in small packets and use them to add a zing to barbecue sauce, a viniagrette, so many possibilities. Now I just need to get more kumquats!

You can thank China for the kumquat. Their name means, “golden orange,” and they’re often given as gifts around the Lunar New Year since they symbolize prosperity. In the U.S., there are generally two varieties, the Nagami, which I tried, and  the sweeter, juicier, rounder, Marumi. Doing a little research, I found there are also several kumquat hybrids, like the Limequat–you guessed it: lime + kumquat; and the Calamondin–stumped? tangerine + kumquat. I’m going to have to keep my eyes peeled (sorry, couldn’t resist the lame pun) to find the hybrids.

Your turn–Ever tried a kumquat? Did you like it?

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Cherry chocolate chip oatmeal cookies from The Cherry Stop

As promised, here’s a cookie recipe from Jamie Roster, who happens to co-own with her husband The Cherry Stop, in Traverse City, Michigan, better known as the tart cherry capital of the U.S.

Recipe

Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups, quick cooking oatmeal

1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Cream the butter and sugars together. Whip in the eggs and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and oats.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients in with the wet. Stir in the cherries and chocolate chips.
  5. Use a tablespoon to drop dough balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  6. Makes 4 dozen cookies.
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