Archive for March, 2012

30 minute Italian shrimp

My youngest used to love shrimp but now she’s going through denial. So we’ve been having shrimp a lot lately. Even with our ‘you’ve-got-to-eat-at-least-a-bite’ rule around our house she hasn’t budged to sampling more than she has to. I have hope: As a kid, I didn’t like shrimp either.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients

1 pound spaghetti

20-30 medium raw shrimp

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1/2 lemon (optional)

1 jar spaghetti sauce

Directions

  1. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. Prepare the shrimp. Note: I usually add half a bag of the medium-sized shrimp from Costco into warm water while I’m making the pasta. By the time the pasta is done, the shrimp is thawed. I removed the tails and dry off the shrimp before sauteing.
  3. Bring the olive oil to medium-high heat in a large skillet.
  4. Place the shrimp and garlic in the pan and cook until the shrimp begins to turn pink, about 3 minutes. Add a squirt of fresh lemon juice and the cayenne pepper, then pour the spaghetti sauce (Barilla is my fav) into the pan and cook until heated through, about 4 minutes.
  5. Serve the shrimp over the spaghetti.

Kids’ reactions: Well, you know what my youngest said. My teen gave it two thumbs up; my tween was mediocre on this one. She ate it, didn’t love it. But Mr. Squid (not technically a kid) was a fan and even finished off the last three shrimp left in the pan.

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Carrot garden on a plate

I’m always looking for ways to get my kids to eat carrots. This idea comes from one of my favorite places in Ohio–the Culinary Vegetable Institute, CVI. If you’re not following Farmer Lee Jones’ twitter feed–the man behind CVI–you should. (He tweets from his tractor.) That’s where I saw this picture of this ingenious idea using fresh carrots.


Now Farmer Jones has the benefit of pulling carrots from his own garden. I bought my at a local grocers Mustard Seed Market. I couldn’t find any with the leafy greens close to the carrot so I had to improvise. I wedged the greens into the cut stalks before placing the carrots into the black beans.


I did steam my carrots briefly before serving them, but you could also offer these raw. Next time I’d add some asparagus and radishes maybe too.


Kids’ reaction: My youngest, already a carrot fan, loved the playful presentation and cleaned her plate. My tween reminded me that she, “didn’t like carrots,” took a couple bites, finished the beans and left most of her carrots on the plate. Ditto for my teen. But that’s about two more bites than they’d normally eat, which I consider success.

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A week’s worth of chocolate

Did you know chocolate is a vegetable? That’s right. Explaining her recent study results, which showed that people who get a daily dose of chocolate are slimmer than those who don’t, Beatrice Golomb, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego said, “It’s my favorite vegetable.” Dr. Golomb cited chocolate’s antioxidant prowess when comparing it to other vegetables. She also relayed that chocoholics those in the study who ate chocolate each day had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than those who didn’t.

Well, of course, I want to make sure that we’re all getting enough vegetables in our diet so here’s a week’s worth of recipes so you can get your fill.

Monday

Whole wheat chocolate yogurt loaf

Keep 100% whole wheat bread moist by adding in plenty of Greek yogurt and chocolate, of course!

Tuesday

Blueberry-spinach chocolate brownies

Spinach-Blueberry Brownies

These brownies have a boost of extra nutrition from a blueberry-spinach puree that you mix in the batter. My teen loves these brownies even though they do turn out a bit softer than your straight-chocolate recipe.

Wednesday

Easy peanut butter cups (no bake!)

These homemade peanut butter cups are easy to put together. Thanks for the idea Martha and Me.

Thursday

Chocolate chocolate chip cookies

From Garlic Girl, add cocoa to your chocolate chip cookies for a extra boost of the good stuff.

Friday

Chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake

My signature dessert that I try to make infrequently because it’s soo tempting. (I should point out that technically you should be sticking to around an ounce of daily chocolate so you’d need to be nibbling your cheesecake slice.)

Saturday

Lemon Ginger Shortbread S’mores

Chocolate and lemon make such a surprisingly perfect combo–add a toasty marshmallow topping to make this updated kid classic from Good.Food.Stories.

Sunday

No cook cocoa granola bites

End your week with these simple treats that have both cocoa powder and mini-chocolate chips (although feel free to add the regular size if you feel like you haven’t been getting enough chocolate in your diet).

*Special thanks to the National Institutes of Health for funding this study and others like it. Dr. Golomb mentioned she needed to do additional studies. The big question: WHERE CAN I SIGN UP?

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Why aren’t you eating … Pocky sticks

It’s a Pocky stick invasion. That’s right it used to be you could only find these Japanese treats at an Asian market. But now I’m seeing them pop up at my neighborhood grocers too (hint: look in the Asian food section or they’re sometimes stashed with the candy).

For Pocky newbies, here are the basics:

  • Pronounce it pock-e, not how I sometimes say it to rhyme with hockey
  • These are biscuit-like sticks that are coated in with a variety of flavorings, like chocolate and strawberry
  • In a well-stocked Asian grocery store, you might be able to find Pocky sticks coated with crazier flavors like green tea, sweet milk, cookies ‘n cream and more
  • Don’t buy just one box of Pocky sticks, get a couple since you’re likely to go through them quickly
  • These make for great on-the-go treats as long as they don’t sit in the bottom of the bag–they crush easily

Ready to try Pocky sticks? Or are you already a Pocky fan?

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Rocky road pizza

When I picked up the phone this afternoon at first I thought something was wrong. On the other end, my mother-in-law just didn’t sound like herself. When I asked what was up, I had to laugh at her response: “Kris, I finally tried Nutella today. It was a-m-a-zing.”

Even though she spent part of her childhood overseas, my mother-in-law had never tried Nutella. She’s hooked now. We talked about all of the ways she could use it, but one of my newly discovered favs has to be rocky road pizza. Bonus: these mini dessert pizzas are fun for kids or grandkids to make!

Recipe

Prep time: 15 minutes + baking

Servings: 4 mini pizzas with 4 slices each


Ingredients

1 package pizza dough

1-1 1/2 cups Nutella

1-2 cups mini marshmallows

1 cup smoked almonds, chopped (optional)

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking oil.
  3. Divide the dough into four equal pieces and roll each one out to a 6-8-inch circle.
  4. Spread Nutella on each pizza round using a kitchen knife.
  5. Place the mini pizzas onto the baking sheet.
  6. Sprinkle marshmallows, nuts and chocolate chips (if using) on top of the Nutella.
  7. Bake the pizzas for 20 minutes or until the marshmallows become golden.
  8. Cool before slicing.

Kids’ reactions: As you might expect, all of my crew, including Mr. Squid raved about these mini pizzas. We also tried mixing apple slices with Nutella on pizzas too. The pizzas were harder to slice than the rocky road version but at least I felt like they had some nutritional value. I’m thinking when raspberries are in season it would be tasty to spread the pizzas with Nutella and white chocolate chips and once they came out of the oven I’d pop on fresh berries.

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Magic smoothies

A few weeks ago I noticed someone posted on a picky eater dilemma on Facebook–when you give your kids a smoothie spiked with spinach, do you tell ‘em about it…especially if they’re liking said smoothie packed with one of nature’s premiere superfoods?

Full disclosure: I love, love spinach. Regular lettuce has no heft and doesn’t fill me up, but give me a bowl of fresh baby spinach (or let me sip it down) and I’m happy. My kids, well, I’m working on that.

I don’t believe in sneaking veggies into foods. After all, you want kids to like veggies, right? Well if they don’t even know what they’re eating, how will they know they like them? But, I do believe you can be a little creative in your veggie presentation. And St. Patrick’s Day offers a perfect chance to convince your kids to try this veggized version. Explain to your younger kids that you’re going to make a magic smoothie–it’s going to change colors from Leprechaun green to pink. My youngest has a fascination with leprechauns ever since one of her teachers convinced her the little guys existed by moving all of the desks around in her classroom on the holiday and claiming, “The leprechauns did it.”

So if you want to weave some sort of leprechaun lore into your smoothie prep, by all means. Frankly, I’ve found the best texture for a spinach smoothie comes from mixing the spinach with applesauce, water and Greek yogurt before adding in the berries. If you mix everything at once the spinach doesn’t always get blended well enough (as much as I like spinach, no one likes a big leaf hanging out in their smoothie). I add in the berries at the end. Sure enough my green smoothie becomes pink with just a few pulses. Whether you want to tell your kids the color change is magic, the leprechauns did it, or just serve them up spinach smoothies without telling them what’s inside, well that’s up to you. I will say that first time my tween saw me making this smoothie her reaction was “Ex, gross there’s spinach in there.” I asked her to give it a try and she balked, sipped, then declared, “Oh mom, I can taste the spinach that’s nasty.” Well, I made again and she didn’t say anything, just slurped away. When I was making it today I didn’t try to hide the spinach–and she didn’t ask about it–her only question, “Mom, where’d you put the straws?”

Ready to whip up some veggized spinach for your kiddos?

Recipe

Servings: 4-6

Prep time: 5 minutes


Ingredients

1 cup fresh baby spinach, loosely packed

3/4 cup plain yogurt (preferably Greek)

1/2 cup apple sauce

1 cup water

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

2 cups water

1 tablespoon agave or honey

lemon (optional)

Directions

  1. In a blender, pulse the spinach, yogurt, apple sauce and 1 cup water together until thoroughly combined. The mixture should be a bright green.
  2. Add the fresh or frozen berries along with another cup of water and the honey or agave. Pulse again.
  3. Pour in more water to get the consistency you want. Blend until smooth.
  4. Optional: squeeze 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice into the smoothie, pulse and serve.

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No cook cocoa granola bites

These look a little like bird seed, but they're tasty and packed with good-for-you ingredients

I love, love protein bars in all their forms–Nutz Over Chocolate is my favorite Luna bar. And if you visit the Target in my neighborhood, you won’t find any Chocolate Brownie Zbars, I’ve cleaned ‘em out (uh, ditto for the oatmeal cookie bars). But protein bars can get pricey and with my kids spending more time outside than in these days–yeah, it’s Spring people–I wanted to create a kind of granola-slash-energy bar type treat that they could eat on the go.

These granola bites are so easy and get their sweetness from honey, not sugar. I did add an extra step to the process you can cut if you’re in a real hurry–but toasting the oatmeal and coconut together brings out the nutty flavor of both and only takes a few extra minutes. Feel free to go crazy with the optional extras. I opted for sesame seeds and mini chocolate chips but you can create your own combos with dried cherries and sunflower seeds or maybe toss in some flax. The recipe is forgiving–stir in more peanut butter or agave if you need extra moisture. And trust me, the cocoa powder goes a long way it just sticks to the oatmeal giving it an intense chocolaty flavor. One word of caution: only refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes before rolling or else it will get too stiff. Speaking of getting things rolling, here’s the recipe.

Recipe

Prep time: 10 min + 30 min in the fridge + 10 min rolling

Servings: 20 balls

Need extra energy for playing outside? Try these granola bites


Ingredients

1/2 cup peanut butter (or almond)

1/3 cup honey

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon dark cocoa powder

1/4 cup craisins

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  1. In saute pan over medium high heat toast the oats and coconut together until the coconut just begins to become golden and fragrant.
  2. In a mixing bowl stir together all of the ingredients.
  3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (don’t refrigerate any longer).
  4. Roll the batter into nickel-sized balls in your hands.*You can add more peanut butter or agave if the dough isn’t moist enough. It will be crumbly at first.
  5. Store the granola bites in the refrigerator or freezer.

Kids’ reactions: Actually, I need to start with Mr. Squid. His comment: “These are better than cookies, you should make these more often.” The teen went crazy over these and is taking them to track practice with her. My middle child–the non-peanut butter eater, sigh–sniffed out the PB right away and only nibbled one then passed it along to her younger sister. And my youngest? She agreed to do pictures but only if she could eat the granola bites immediately after.

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Taquitos with Greek avocado guacamole

Greek yogurt guacamole

For my birthday Mr. Squid made a Mexican feast–chicken and potato ancho-spiced taquitos, rice and refried beans. But we only had one avocado. Not enough for guacamole. So he poked around the refrigerator to see how he could improvise. Now we’ve been whipping Greek yogurt in with salad dressing and vinaigrettes for awhile now, so he figured the creamy consistency of the yogurt might pair well with avocado. It did.

A few good reasons to give this Mexican-Greek fusion guac a try? Here you go:

At least around here avocados are pricy right now–adding Greek yogurt into your guac makes it go farther!

Say your avocado isn’t quite mash ready; mix in Greek yogurt and you can get the perfect consistency, whether the avocado is ripe or not.

Kids who are turned off by regular guac might like this lighter version.

Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes

Servings: 4-6


Ingredients

1 avocado

1/3-2/3 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup salsa (green preferred)

1/2 lime (enough juice for 1 Tbsp.)

Tabasco (or other spicy sauce)

salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise.
  2. Scoop both halves of the avocado into a mixing bowl along with 1/3 cup Greek yogurt and 1/4 cup salsa.
  3. Mix together using a emulsion blender (or you can use a blender).
  4. Add 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice.
  5. Adjust taste and consistency by adding extra salsa and Greek yogurt, salt and pepper.
  6. Blend and serve.

*For a chunky guacamole, put only half of the avocado into the Greek yogurt mix. Follow the remaining steps. Cut the other half of avocado into dices and mix with a spoon into the pureed guacamole mix.

Kids’ reactions: The teen gave it two thumbs up (it’s taken her a long while to like avocados). My two younger kids tried a dip or two of guacamole with their taquitos–they liked that it was dippable, but no rave reviews from them. I’m working on it.

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Yogurt banana cake with chocolate chips

Shhhhh, don’t tell my kids but this recipe is simply a tweaked muffin recipe. Yup I just didn’t want to take the time to fill up all of the muffin tins so I poured the batter into a 9×13″ pan instead, called it cake, and my kids were hooked. Okay, the chocolate chips helped, but so did the hefty amount of Greek yogurt which makes this ‘cake’ moist and filling.

Recipe

Servings: 20

Prep time: 15 minutes + baking

Ingredients

3 cups flour (whole wheat flour would work well too)

1 cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

2 ripe bananas

1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt

2 eggs

8 Tbsp. melted butter

2/3 cup chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Using a hand-held mixer mash the bananas and then add the brown sugar, followed by the yogurt, then eggs and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together all of the dry ingredients.
  4. Blend the dry ingredients into the banana mixture. Stir in the melted butter and chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into a greased 9×13″ pan.
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Cool and eat for dessert, breakfast or snacks.

Kids’ reaction: Well, no surprise but this was a big hit with my crew. I’ve now made it twice this week and my kids are trying to keep from eating bananas around here so they’ll be ripe enough to use in this recipe. Originally, I was going to make a simple glaze for this using powdered sugar and maple syrup but it doesn’t need it.

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DIY Greek yogurt

It’s Greek yogurt week here at MKES! Lately, I’ve been throwing it into just about everything. I even came up with a yummy banana chocolate chip Greek yogurt cake last night that my kids loved. (I’ll post that next.) But before you go out and buy tubs of Greek yogurt at Costco like me, why not make it yourself? Jessie Voigts, Ph.D., owner and creative force behind Wandering Educators (if you haven’t checked out the site yet, you should!), graciously passed along her method for making Greek yogurt at home and one of her recipes for Greek yogurt cheesecake.

Here’s her take on making one of my favorite foods:

We eat  yogurt every day – cook with it, bake with it, make smoothies, eat it with rhubarb sauce, make dips…well, the list goes on and on. But do you know what is in some commercial yogurt? More than just milk and yogurt starter. Making your own yogurt is easy, economical, and you know exactly what goes into it – yogurt, and milk. Once you get started, you’ll never buy yogurt again!

Yogurt

It’s easiest if you have a yogurt incubator, available online or in thrift stores for a few dollars. If you don’t have one, that’s ok. You can still make yogurt easily.

Equipment you will need:

A large pyrex measuring cup (8 cups) or a pan

A glass candy thermometer

A yogurt incubator with jars, or 2 quart jars, a towel, and a small cooler.

Heat 2 quarts of milk to 175 degrees. I do this in the microwave. In my microwave, it is 19 minutes at 80% power. You can also heat it on medium low on your stove, but this requires careful tending. Once it is at 175, sit on the counter and cool until it is 110 degrees. You’ll see a film on the top of the milk. Remove it with a  fork right before the next step.

When the milk is at 110 degrees, stir in 2 T of yogurt. This can be storebought yogurt or homemade yogurt. If you have Greek yogurt, even better. Whisk the milk and yogurt until the yogurt is dissolved. Pour into your containers and place in your yogurt incubator. Or, pour into your 2 quart jars, wrap in a towel, and put in a small cooler. The point is to keep it at a low temperature for 12 hours, so the yogurt cultures can grow. Once your twelve hours are up, put the jars into the refrigerator and let sit for another 12 hours, to firm up. Eat and enjoy! Be sure to make your next batch of yogurt before you run out – you’ll need 2 Tablespoons to start your next batch.

To Make Greek Yogurt:

Put a strainer over a bowl, and line your strainer with a coffee filter (or doubled up cheesecloth). Pour in your yogurt and let sit for a few hours. If it is warm out, or you need to let it sit overnight, place it in the fridge. The whey will drain out (you can use this for other purposes, but I just throw it out. No haters, please). You’ll be left with nice, thick Greek yogurt.

Recipe: Yogurt cheesecake

Here’s a delicious, easy, and healthy recipe using Greek yogurt.

2 c Greek yogurt

2 T sugar (or to taste. You might want 1/4 c or more)

1 t vanilla

2 beaten eggs

If desired, a graham cracker crust

Mix up the yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and eggs until smooth. Pour into a baking dish (pie plate, 8×8 glass dish) with or without a graham cracker crust. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until the middle stops jiggling.  Cool and refrigerate for 4+ hours. Serve with fruit or jam.

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