Posts tagged kids
I think I have more food traditions tied up in Valentine’s Day then any other holiday (Christmas included!). First, I don’t cook–it’s like Mother’s Day. I don’t clean up either (notice a trend?). And finally, no matter what we have for dinner, for dessert my husband makes crepes. He makes them just once a year and Valentine’s Day happens to be it.
Unlike me, he doesn’t use a recipe book but takes a peek at ingredients online and then judges whether he’s got the batter right by checking the thickness. Then he makes a filling with a combination of bittersweet chocolate, pecans, almonds, coconut, honey, and whatever else he happens to find tucked in the back of the kitchen cabinets. Then he serves it topped with fresh whipped cream.
See, now you’re getting why we only have this once a year.
Well this year I’m going to try to let him concentrate on his crepes and let my kids take over the main meal. They’re actually pretty excited about this (my oldest mentioned something about tying it into the Chinese New Year, my youngest just loves any excuse to throw on her little apron).
But I’m going to try to make it easy on them. I want them to feel good about what they make. I’ve been brainstorming a recipe ideas that only take a few ingredients. Here’s a few ideas from our house, I’d love to hear some of yours too!
Ingredients= noodles, Italian sausage, 2 jars marinara
I always make my spaghetti sauce in the crockpot. I’ll brown the Italian sausage over the stovetop until it’s cooked through and then put it in the slow cooker along with the marinara. I set it on low for the day and the sauce takes on this rich, restaurant-worthy flavor. I think my kids can handle cooking noodles and then scooping out the sauce.
Ingredients=Ground turkey + Boston lettuce + teriyaki sauce
This meal is easy to throw together. You just need to brown the ground turkey (job for the 12 y-o), add in the teriyaki sauce and then serve it on the lettuce pieces. If you don’t have a little person old enough to be at the stovetop you could brown the meat for her or you could use a purchased rotisserie chicken and have her mix in the sauce. Of course, everyone likes washing-lettuce duty.
Ingredients=Romaine lettuce + salad dressing + grated Parmesan cheese
For a non-cooked meal, Caesar salad happen to be my favorite. Your kids can take care of washing the lettuce, pouring on the dressing and grating the cheese. If you want you can add croutons or even pieces of leftover chicken.
There are other ways to make the day fun for your whole family–while not spending a bundle. Check out these suggestions for Love on a Budget from Parents. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates.
Your turn–any creative ideas (simple recipes) that your kids can make for Valentine’s Day?
It snowed here last week. And this week. Next week? Yup, snow in the forecast. My kids love to play outside, but with chillier temperatures, they’re not begging to go out anymore like they did when the first snowflakes came.
That’s okay. I find that wintery temperatures make the perfect excuse to start baking. Lately, I’ve been trying to involve my kids more with what I’m cooking up. That’s led to some fun discoveries–and my our current fascination with making things in miniature.
As a child, my favorite bread my mom would make was challah. I still remember watching her carefully braid three thick pieces of the eggy dough into a large loaf. My job? Topper. I would decide whether we would sprinkle the dough with poppy seeds or sesame seeds after my mom brushed the bread with an egg wash, just before she popped it into the oven.
The loaf always came out massive.
On a whim, I thought I’d refashion mom’s challah bread using my favorite roll recipe, letting my kids do the braiding. With only one egg in the batter, my roll recipe doesn’t carry quite the heft of a regular challah recipe, but I think it probably makes creating miniature versions a little easier with the more elastic dough.
I’m including my roll recipe, along with the tweaks below:
Prep time: 45 minutes + 1.5 hours rising/baking
Yield: 16 rolls
½ cup milk
1 stick butter or margarine
1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 package yeast (or 2 ¼ teaspoons)
½ cup warm water
31/2-4 cups flour
- Place the warm water in a measuring cup and whisk in the yeast. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes and check that some bubbles appear on the surface (meaning the yeast is active).
- Over medium-high heat, bring the milk to a gentle simmer in a small saucepan. As soon as bubbles appear, move the pan off of the heat and add the butter, salt, and sugar. Whisk until smooth and melted in. Cool to room temperature.
- Add the yeast mixture to the buttered milk in a large mixing bowl. Using a handheld mixer to combine the ingredients, add the flour in 1 cup increments. The dough should start holding together after 3 cups. Stir in ½ to 1 cup more until the dough begins to pull away from the bowl.
- Sprinkle flour on a cutting board and place the dough ball onto the board. With floured hands, knead the dough until it becomes a smooth ball.
- Clean out the mixing bowl using warm water, then coat with cooking spray. Place the dough into the bowl and cover loosely with a lightly dampened cloth.
- Place in a warm place for 1 hour to rise. The dough won’t rise significantly.
- Divide the dough in two.
- On a floured work surface, knead one dough ball until smooth. Roll out to an 8-inch rectangle.
- Using a pizza cutter, slash into 4 equal pieces, working lengthwise.
- Cut each of the 4 pieces into 3 long pieces (again, lengthwise).
- Press the three pieces together at the top end, loosely braid the dough pieces. tuck the end pieces into the bottom part of the loaf.
- Place the formed dough onto a baking pan lightly coated with spray. Cover the roll with the slightly moist kitchen cloth.
- Repeat the process with the remaining dough slices and then with the other dough ball. You should have 8 mini-loaves in all.
- Let the formed dough rise again for 30 minutes. DO NOT allow the dough to go over that time.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the pan in the oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until loaves are just browned. You can also whisk an egg, add 1 teaspoon water, and then coat each roll with the glaze before baking to give each roll a shiny appearance.
Looking for more ideas about what to do with your family when the blahs set in after too many days stuck inside? Check out these boredom busters on Motherboard. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates.
What about your crew? Have you found creative ways to avoid cabin fever?
Trouble. Sorry. Whoonu. Don’t worry–I’m not expecting any problems on Thanksgiving, other than maybe a little indigestion. These are the games I’m going to bring over to a friend’s house where we’re spending the day.
See, sometimes Thanksgiving can seem like more of a grown-up holiday. So this year I’m trying to look for ways to keep my kids involved (and to win at least a round or two of Uno—seriously, when did my 7 year-old become such a card master?!).
Plus I’m really looking forward to spending some time with my girls without having to worry about homework getting done, being late for basketball practice, or even keeping up with my email.
Here’s what I’m planning so far–I’d love to hear your ideas too!
- Whoonu lets players rank items on cards according to how much they like them. You rank “macaroni and cheese” above “petting zoos”? Cue: Whoonu?
- Apples to Apples Junior is another favorite, giggle-inducing, didn’t-know-that-about-you game. Players take turns being the “judge.” The judge puts down a green apple card that has a word on it, say “dangerous,” and from the other players’ stash of 5 cards, they put down what they think best matches. The judge then picks the winner–and at least at our house–has to justify why she chose “doing the dishes” over “pirates” as the best match with “dangerous.”
- For more board games your family might enjoy, click through this round-up of games from Parents.com. I’ve been checking out their site as part of the Motherboard team.
My 9-year-old has become an origami machine. She’s already filled two shoe boxes (and we’re talking winter boot boxes here!) full of paper-fashioned frogs and snakes dragons. I asked if she wouldn’t mind trying out some of her skills with napkins and her eyes went two shades brighter blue. She went and grabbed her origami book and read the Table of Contents asking what requests I had. So along with bringing rolls, a dessert, and some games, we’re bringing napkin animals.
Lately, when I’m making batches of goodies to give to friends, I save a little dough for my kids. I just let them create whatever shape comes to mind. Last week my 9 year-old crafted a volcano sugar cookie oozing with raspberry jam lava. And before that my 7 year-old built snowmen out of coconut truffle dough, complete with M&M eyes. So along with making one regular batch of dinner rolls, I’m going to let my three kids roll out the second batch. My guess is some will end up crescent shaped, some frogs (a current fascination) and others snakes–because it’s just fun to roll the dough out with two hands and then add a couple raisins for eyes.
Do you remember anything fun that you did as a child at Thanksgiving to make it memorable? Are you planning on doing anything different this year to keep your kids involved?
*Reminder: If you haven’t already, make sure to enter the King Arthur $60 Giveaway. The deadline for the contest is next Monday.
Are you a meal planner? I try to lay out my meals for the week to trim costs and shave cooking time. In the past, I’ve gone in and out of keeping up with my weekly set up.
But yesterday after cleaning out the fridge and discovering a lonely, molding piece of Havarti dill in the bottom of the cheese drawer I thought, I’ve got to get back in the practice! No one likes to throw away food, especially when it’s tasty cheese that I could have added to an alfredo sauce, a salad, grilled cheese, if I’d known it was there.
Here’s how I plan:
- Sunday night or Monday morning I look through recipe books for a few minutes for ideas.
- Then, I look at our calendar. I mean, what’s the use of planning a fancy meal if my daughter has basketball practice that night? Those are leftover planned over nights.
- Scan the grocery ads to see if there’s anything interesting on sale. (I also try to remember to peek in the fridge to see what’s gone uneaten too.)
- Now time to plot out the meals and write my list of groceries as I go. I usually plan two meals using leftovers–so if I grill or saute chicken breasts one night I’ll make extra to use in fajitas or sandwiches a couple nights later.
Okay, you’re still doubtful, huh? Let me tell you a few of the benefits (besides avoiding fuzzy cheese)–
- I use more fresh fruits and veggies in the meal.
- The kids can help me cook, since I know what I’m making.
- My grocery bill is usually about 30% less than when I don’t plan (and I can pass by the potato chips without taking them; they aren’t on the list!).
- Less panic around 5pm. I have all the ingredients on hand.
- Pizza night. When I’ve followed my meal plan and trimmed our grocery bill, I can use some of the savings for the occasional night out/in.
- No endless trips to the grocery store.
- Yummier meals.
Sneak a peek at what I’ve got cooking this week–
Monday–Italian chicken & spinach roll-ups
Tuesday–Chicken nachoes (make extra sauteed chicken)
Wednesday–Weinerschnitzel & roasted veggies (make double on both)
Thursday–Stir-fry & potstickers (use leftover chicken)
Friday–Blue corn tostadas topped with roasted veggies (again, leftovers)
Saturday–Sandwiches (yup, I’m using leftover schnitzel inside)
Sunday–Eat whatever my hubby makes:)
See, I only have a couple nights where the meals will take a lot of time to put together, every other night I’m using pre-made (by me!) ingredients. Granted meal planning doesn’t always go, well, as planned. There are nights when you get home later then you thought, or you couldn’t find an ingredient at the store, or someone ate all of the leftovers that were actually planned overs. For those nights, I try to have a back-up, usually it’s grilled cheese, apples, and Top Ramen.
Do you plan your meals ahead or do you have a method for figuring out what’s lurking in the corners of your fridge? Please, share!
**Keep reading MKES, next week I’ll be announcing a new giveaway.
Sometimes readers get the wrong idea about my blog–nope, I’m not serving my kids squid every night (just the occasional fried calamari or grilled). Instead I’m all about raising adventurous eaters.
Children tend to be miniature explorers by design. I’m just trying to tap into that through their stomachs. As a parent, it’s a way for us to share something together. I may get a bored playing Littlest PetShop for hours on end with my 7 year-old, but making calzones together, that’s something we both enjoy.
During the week, I’ll be sharing some recipes and guest posts about my blog’s namesake, squid. Now you don’t have to do these recipes with squid–chicken, pork or even tofu can be stand-ins–but I hope you’ll follow along to learn something more about what might be a new-to-you ingredient, cooking technique, or even an inspiration to try yet again for your kids to sample a food they’ve declared “yucky” in the past (I’m not talking squid here, spinach used to fall into that category around here).
So how do you jumpstart your child’s tastebuds? I have a few unconventional ideas.
Shop at a new grocery store. Okay, this might not be that unusual, but I’ve found that our favorite grocery stores often aren’t always around the corner. Google local seafood, vegetable, Asian, and/or Mexican markets to find new places to shop. Take the kids. We bought our squid by the pound at an Asian market in what used to be a mall. The person in front of us in line bought pounds of squid and tilapia and other seafood so my kids saw we weren’t the only ones!
Let them cook. That’s how my daughter came up with banana hot dogs. Give them a variety of ingredients, see what they come up with. If you’re willing to try their creations, they’ll be more willing to try yours. (And yes, this can be very scary.)
Try out a new restaurant. Chains don’t count.
Mix new with the old. When I’m trying to entice my kids to sample a new curry recipe, I pair it with plain rice, naan, or another food I know they’ll like and it. I serve it in small ramekins too to avoid that whole it-touched-my-rice/noodles/green beans issue. A new food isn’t nearly as intimidating if it’s served in small portions.
Refuse to share. Then share. I can’t tell you how many times, “Oh, you won’t like this” led to my kids trying, then asking for something I was sure they wouldn’t eat.
Yesterday I kept a room of 22 costumed 2nd graders in my daughter’s class transfixed for a whole ten minutes.
And this was after their school Halloween parade and after they’d exhausted all the games we’d planned for the in-room party and while they were eating cupcakes, grapes, and caramel-dipped apple slices. (Well, I guess the cupcakes helped keep their mouths a little occupied.)
Such is the power of a good children’s picture book–there were several parents that even stopped cleaning up tables to listen and look at the pictures. I had stashed two Halloween books in my bag in case the party became a little chaotic and I needed something to calm the (literally!) little monsters:) Sure enough the party activities went much faster than planned so I pulled out my book, hoping for the best.
While I’d love to claim this ten minutes of bliss was entirely due to my brilliant reading–I owe the few moments of calm entirely to Dav Pilkey (yes, the man behind Captain Underpants) and the author and illustrator of The Hallo-wiener. Thank you!
Hallo-wiener tells the tale of Oscar, a dachshund, who’s constantly teased by the other dogs for his hotdog-esque appearance. The 2nd graders immediately related to Oscar, especially when the little dog didn’t want to hurt his mom’s feelings and ended up wearing a hot dog costume for Halloween. Eventually, Oscar saves the other dogs from embarrassment at the hands–er, paws–of two “ornery” cats. His nickname, “Wiener Dog,” replaced with “Hero Sandwich.” (You’re tearing up too, right?)
The whole experience got me thinking about what favorite Halloween books to read to kids. I’ve asked a few friends to contribute their favorites. I suggest curling up with your little witch/hippie/punk princess/construction worker/SWAT team member/angel, grab some candies and read some of these books together.
Latisha S. is keeping two ninjas and a vampire happy reading Popcorn by Frank Asch. About a little bear that ends up filling his house with, you guessed it–popcorn, while his parents are at a Halloween party. I have to wonder if this one was inspired by true events.
Kimberly M.’s family, who is dressing up as the gang from Disney’s Princess and the Frog, has several favorites, including
Frank was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance by Keith Graves tells the story of a zombie who wants nothing more than to dance. But his Frankenstein-like body can’t quite keep up with his moves.
In Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini, Gritch the Witch heads off to Old MacDonald’s farm to dine on a few piggies. But the pigs knew she was coming and donned sheep outfits and other disguises.
CinderHazel by Deborah Nourse Lattimore is a quirky retelling of the familiar princess story, only this time she’s a witch. And Prince Charming–that would be Prince Alarming.
Do you have a favorite Halloween book to share? What about your favorite Halloween candy? (You know, the other 364 days of the year, Twix candies hold no appeal, but on Halloween, I, uh, well, tend to eat my fill, and then some.)
I had a vague idea of creating meatballs that looked like mice as a Halloween gag for my kids. I mentioned the idea to my husband, stuck him with the ingredients and then headed out to pick up my oldest daughter at a trick-or-treat party. When I returned, my younger two children were just giggling and my husband had a mischievous smirk on his face.
“They look so gross,” he said.
Now, you should know that when left alone my husband can come up with some pretty inventive creations. A few years ago he disappeared into the garage after asking where I’d stashed some black fabric we had leftover from one of my daughter’s witch costumes. Jump to a couple hours later and he’d crafted a giant black widow spider using old wiring, a deflated basketball, the fabric and some red paint. Seriously, the spider was about 6 feet across! He positioned the spider just above our front door and of course added webs all around. The 5 year-old living two doors down refused to walk on our side of the street in the week leading up to Halloween and she didn’t even stop by our house for candy.
Back to the mice roasting in my oven—here’s what my husband did, enlisting my daughters as helpers. He molded the meatball mixture into mice bodies (think teardrop-shaped) then he cut tails using slivers of deli ham. Olive pieces make up the eyes and once the meatballs were done baking he coated each one with spaghetti sauce.
Ready for a yucky dinner? Hey, only in appearance, they tasted delicious.
Directions for Mice Meatballs
Prep time: 25 minutes + 25 minutes baking
Servings: Around 5-6
Meatball or meatloaf fixings
Deli ham slices
Using your favorite meatball or meatloaf recipe, mix together the meat and spice combination. [In this recipe cut out the vinegar, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce and add a teaspoon of dried oregano or basil to the meat mixture.]
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly coat a baking pan with cooking spray.
Working with about 2 ½ to 3 tablespoons of meat, form the mixture into a teardrop shape.
Line up the meatballs in rows on the baking sheet.
Thinly slice the deli ham into “tails.” Press a “tail” into the back end of each meatball.
Add fingernail-sized piece of cut black olives next to the “nose” part of the meatball. Press into place. Repeat with all of the meatballs.
Make the spaghetti noodles according to the package directions.
Brush warmed spaghetti sauce over each “mouse.”
Serve 2 or 3 mice meatballs over the spaghetti noodles and top with additional sauce.
The other night at dinner my kids polished off all the asparagus. And I couldn’t be more disappointed. I really like asparagus, especially roasted, which is how I prepared it with just a little bit of olive oil and sea salt. I started off with 6 asparagus stalks on my plate at the beginning of dinner and after eating just 2, my 9 year-old was asking for more. She’d finished off what was left on the pan and was circling the table asking for anyone’s extras–I gave her mine.
So how did I lose all my asparagus? I’d like to say I started out the meal planning to have my kids asparagus-lovers by the end, but that was not my intent at all.
See, I’d visited one of my favorite grocery stores, Sirna’s, earlier in the day. They stock local produce (the best Empire apples) and Amish meats in all their varieties–ham, bacon, pork loin. I picked up fingerling potatoes and then spied the asparagus. The stalks were thinner and more pliable then the asparagus I usually find–I figured they’d be perfect for roasting (I also thought my husband and I would be the only ones eating them). It’s not that I don’t want my kids eating veggies, it’s that I thought asparagus was one of those foods you have to try a little bit so many times before you decide you like it. That’s how I discovered I was an asparagus fan.
As with any new-to-my kids or ‘they’ve-rejected-it-before foods,’ I put only a small portion on each of my kids’ plates. Two stalks a piece. I only give them a little bit of new foods so that when I say, “Ah, just give it a try,” it isn’t too overwhelming. That also meant there was more asparagus leftover for, uh, me.
My 9 year-old liked eating the asparagus right off–”It’s like eating a tree, mom.” But my youngest wasn’t interested at all. That’s when my husband prodded, “Your sister is going to eat more.” Cue my 9 year-old picking up each asparagus, aiming it into her mouth starting from the end and then chomping away until she reached the tip, then grabbing another to do the same. It was like watching one of those old cartoons when Bugs Bunny inhales carrots. My youngest immediately took to the challenge. Her two stalks disappeared, my 9 year-old had already cleaned off the pan and then of course they turned to me. I was torn between my excitement that they were eating–and enjoying asparagus–and really wanting to finish off my veggies myself. I caved. My asparagus went for the greater good–creating veggie lovers.
I have no idea whether our little asparagus contest would work again. And certainly, I wouldn’t encourage veggie eating contests as a regular habit, but at least this week, it got my kids eating more green. Next time, though, I’m buying more asparagus!
Ah, any excuse to use Nutella, right?
Well, not exactly. I really like cinnamon rolls, but Mr. Squid, not so much. Whenever I make cinnamon rolls I tend to be the one to finish off the pan (even the kids get a little bored with the standard variety). I wanted to craft a roll that my crew wouldn’t be able to resist. In the past, I’ve tried adding golden raisins instead of regular ones, dried cranberries, orange frosting instead of the powdered sugar glaze. But nothing seemed to really set the cinnamon roll apart from something you could get at pretty much any decent bakery.
Then, I opened the cupboard–Nutella.
In the 1940s, Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker in Italy, was trying to make his rations of chocolate go just a little bit farther so he added in crushed hazelnuts, which were plentiful in the area. I learned more about Ferrero when I visited Nutella’s website. Along with historical tidbits, I found that if I saved 5 proofs of purchase, I could get a Nutella t-shirt (I’m going to start clipping!).
So here’s the deal on making the Nutella cinnamon roll. I have the complete details below, but for a quick summary, just spread Nutella in place of butter on the dough before rolling, then sprinkle with chocolate, coconut, almonds, walnuts, cinnamon that you’ve pulsed in a food processor. It’s almost like a German chocolate cinnamon roll. I finished these off with–what else–a glaze made from Nutella.
Servings: 24 rolls
Prep time: 45 minutes + 1 ½ hours rising + 30 minutes baking
I jar Nutella
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup coconut
1 teaspoons cinnamon
dash of salt
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2/3 cup Nutella
2 Tablespoons milk or heavy cream
1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 batch of easy-to-make bread
- Prepare the bread recipe above, substituting one of the cups of warm water with warm milk (for a total of 2 ½ cups liquid—so 1 ½ cups water, 1 cup milk). Proceed to the step where you divide the dough into two equal parts. Instead of making loaves of bread, divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 9 x 13” rectangle.
- In a food processor, pulse the filling ingredients (except for the Nutella) until the mixture is crumbly.
- With a kitchen knife gently spread the 3-4 tablespoons of Nutella over the dough (straight from the can:).
- Sprinkle 1/4 of the coconut blend over the first dough rectangle. Going from one long side to the other, roll up the dough, careful to make the dough tight enough so that the filling will stay in but not so tight that it can’t rise.
- Cut the rolled dough into 6 equal pieces Place the pieces onto a large cookie sheet that has been lightly greased.
- Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Let the rolls rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the rolls are lightly browned. Let the rolls cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan before frosting.
- In a small bowl whip together the frosting ingredients, adding more powdered sugar until the glaze has a slightly thicker consistency than corn syrup. Drizzle over rolls and let the frosting set before removing from the pan.