Archive for May, 2013

Fancify Friday: Cookie cutter rice

Rice--squared!

Rice–squared!

Reinvent leftover rice with this easy trick–shape it!

 

Here’s how it works:

  • When you’re reheating the rice make sure to add a little bit of water so that it’ll be moist and a touch sticky.
  • Coat the inside of your cookie cutter with baking spray. Now, you’ll need a big, deep, basic shape like hearts, squares, circles–an intricate palm tree wouldn’t work well with this.
  • Place the cookie cutter onto a flat, movable surface; I use a cutting board. Fill the cookie cutter with the heated rice, making sure to press down as you go. Smooth the extra rice off of the top of the cookie cutter with a kitchen knife or spatula.
  • You should be able to slide the rice-filled cookie cutter onto each person’s plate and then wiggle the cookie cutter free. It might take a little practice to get the hang of the making the shaped rice.

Shaped rice

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Hawaiian salad with avocado pineapple salsa

Hawaii saladI’ve never been to Hawaii, but after trying this new barbecue sauce, I want to go! Whenever I’m starved for dinner ideas (forgive the pun) World Market is one of my go-to places for inspiration. Enter Da Kine Hawaiian BBQ Sauce. I was debating between a couple of bbq sauces and I asked one of the staffers  which one was better. She mentioned she got regular calls requesting Da Kine. After trying it out, I understand why. You don’t have to have Da Kine to make this salad, but it is worth hunting down.

 

Recipe

Servings: 5

Prep time: 30 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 Head Romaine lettuce

2 chicken breasts

Almond slivers

Da Kine Hawaiian BBQ Sauce (or regular BBQ sauce with a few tweaks–see below*)

Ranch dressing (or plain Greek yogurt, sour cream)

Garlic powder, onion powder

Olive oil

 

Salsa

AvocadoDa Kine BBQ Sauce

Green bell pepper

1/2 red onion

1/4 cup cilantro

1 lime, divided

1/8 cup pineapple (tidbits from a can work well)

Cayenne pepper (opt.)

 

Directions:

  1. Cut the chicken into thin pieces. Bring 1 tablespoon olive oil to medium-high heat in a saute pan; add the chicken.
  2. As the chicken cooks, sprinkle it with onion and garlic powders along with salt and pepper to taste. Once the chicken is almost cooked through–about 5 minutes–drizzle with 1 tablespoon bbq sauce and squeeze with a little fresh lime juice. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl mix up diced avocado, green pepper, red onion, and cilantro. Squeeze half a lime over the salsa and season with salt and pepper and cayenne (if using).
  4. In a small bowl mix equal parts bbq sauce and either ranch dressing, sour cream, or Greek yogurt. *Now if you don’t have Hawaiian bbq sauce, I understand. Try doctoring regular bbq sauce with a little bit of pineapple juice. I don’t like to drench my salad so it’s your choice how much you want to make.
  5. Assembly time! Place a handful of chopped romaine lettuce in each serving bowl. Top with chicken, sprinkle with almond slivers and then drizzle with bbq-ranch dressing. Finish off the salad by adding a heaping scoop of salsa to each dish.

 

Kids’ reaction: My youngest finds an excuse to put the Hawaiian bbq sauce on her wraps, salads, as a veggie dip… All around, we plan on having this salad a lot this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hamburger cake

Hamburger cakeJust in time for Memorial Day–the hamburger cake! We had a blast putting this together as a family and the grandparents even joined in to add the finishing touch…the olive on top.

 

Here’s how to put the cake together.

First, the bun:

Mix up a boxed yellow cake mix and divide into two 8″-round cake pans. Bake until golden. One cake will be the top of the bun and the other the bottom. Let your kids choose which cake looks the most like a bun top. Put them in the fridge (the cake, not the kids).

 

Now for the meat:

Bake a brownie mix in a 9″-round cake pan (or you can use the same 8″, I just like having the “meat” hang over the side). Yup, in the fridge it goes. Note: You will have extra brownie batter if you use a family-sized brownie mix.

 

The fixins’:

You can’t have a decent burger without the fixins’ mayo, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. I bought 1 can of ready-to-go vanilla frosting. Divide the frosting evenly into four bowls.

 

In three of the bowls mix in 1/4 cup melted, colored chips (I buy mine at Jo-Ann Fabrics or Micheal’s) in red, yellow, and green.

Watching the hamburger cake

Spread the red-tinted frosting onto a piece of waxed paper making two, large circles for the “tomatoes.” Put the tomatoes into the fridge. For the lettuce smear the green-tinted frosting onto a piece of waxed paper with a spoon trying to make the texture uneven, like lettuce. Finally, the yellow-tinted frosting is smoothed onto a piece of waxed paper (you’ll cut it later so the edges don’t need to be even). Into the fridge for all the fixins’.

 

Burger assembly:

I recommend having a burger assembly team–there is flipping involved, folks! Make a circle just smaller than the bun bottom with a piece of cardboard. Put your bottom bun piece onto the cardboard circle (this will make assembly, cutting, and moving the cake much easier.)

Break up the green-tinted frosting lettuce into large pieces and lay half of them around the bottom of the bun. Spread a little bit of the leftover white frosting (remember that fourth bowl we haven’t used yet?) and carefully place the brownie “meat” onto the bun bottom–this will hold the “lettuce” in place.

 

Add more lettuce around the edges of the brownie “meat” and then carefully add more white frosting onto the center of the brownie. Lay the two tomato slices on top of the lettuce. For the cheese, use a kitchen knife to slice the yellow pieces into squares that look like American cheese. Place two pieces of your “American cheese” on top of the tomatoes. Use the rest of the white frosting to smear over the bottom side of the bun top for the “mayo.” It’s flipping time! Flip the bun top onto the cheese layer–carefully (this is a two- or three-person job). Gently push down on the bun top.

Hambuger cake full image

Finishing touches:

With the remnants of white frosting, stick crispy rice cereal pieces onto the top of the bun to look like sesame seeds. We had leftover red and green pieces from constructing the lettuce and tomato so we made it into a green olive for the top of the burger.

 

Voila! It’s hamburger for dessert.

Hamburger cake side view

 

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How fish helped my kids eat spinach

Photo credit: the Kitchn

Photo credit: the Kitchn

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.

Fish in spinach: Don’t worry the fish are always released back to the creek.

Fish in spinach: Don’t worry the fish are always released back to the creek.

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 10.43.19 PM

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Fancify Friday: Sour cream swirls

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.

Sour cream swirls

Here’s how to make sour cream swirls for Mexican dishes:

 

  1. Place 1/3 cup sour cream into the corner part of a plastic baggy.
  2. 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!
  3. Make designs on your tostados, tacos, nachos, or flautas with the sour cream.

 

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Great Mother’s Day Giveaway Winner!

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.

 

My kids made me a chicken salad for lunch with spinach, chicken, carrots, dried cranberries, and almonds.

My kids made me a chicken salad for lunch with spinach, chicken, carrots, dried cranberries, and almonds.

Mother's day note

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German chocolate mini parfaits

German chocolate mini parfaitsIs 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.

 

Recipe

Servings: 12

 

Ingredients:

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 Irish coffee mugs (4.8 ounces)

Mini glasses (plastic mini champagne glasses work well, too)

 

Directions:

Photo courtesy: Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

Photo courtesy: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

  1. Cook the cake according to package directions. You could also use leftover brownies, or bake up a batch. (You will have extra cake.)
  2. 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!
  3. 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).
  4. Add a heaping spoonful of coconut dream frosting into each cup.
  5. Put another inch of cake into each cup and repeat the process–drizzle chocolate, then add frosting.
  6. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Coconut dream frosting

Toasted coconutAlmost 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).

 

Recipe

Tweaked from 365 Great Chocolate Desserts

 

Ingredients:German chocolate cake

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

 

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. Mix together the powdered sugar and cornstarch and then pour into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan.
  3. Whisk the heavy cream into the powder sugar mixture until blended; bring the cream to medium-high heat, whisking vigorously.
  4. When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove from heat.
  5. Stir in the toasted coconut and pecans.
  6. 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.

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Try something new for Cinco de Mayo

“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 cheesequeso fresco

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. Milagro tortillas chips

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Italian burger

Italian burgerBurgers 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

 

Recipe

Servings: 4

 

Ingredients:

1 pound Italian sausage or ground turkey

Italian seasoning

Garlic powder

Onion powder

Salt and pepper

4 slices of mozzarella or provolone cheese

1/4 cup marinara, divided

4 burger buns

 

Caprese topping

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

 

Directions:

  1. Shape meat into four patties. Sprinkle liberally with Italian seasoning, garlic and onion powders, and salt and pepper.
  2. 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.
  3. Place the patties onto a baking sheet. Add 1 tablespoon marinara onto each patty along with a slice of cheese.
  4. Broil the patties for about 3 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  5. Meanwhile mix together the caprese toppings and add a heaping tablespoon (or more!) to each burger.
  6. 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.

 

 

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