Monday, March 24, 2014

Kid Cooks Saturdays: Week #6

I'm really not sure this qualifies as a Kid Cooks Saturday. There was no actual cooking involved, and I made this for myself the day before. But I enjoyed it so much and knew my son would as well, so I helped my son make it for breakfast for himself the day before.

It was a huge it! It was easy to make -- my son loved that he could make it all by himself. It's versatile -- any of the ingredients can easily be swapped out for something else. And it's fun! It brought out the kid in me -- so much so that I drank a glass of chocolate milk with it.

So here is my recipe for a fruit wrap. We we definitely be adding this to our breakfast rotation. Left to his own devices, my son would switch between pancakes and waffles every morning for breakfast. He does eat cereal and I love that he eats yogurt, since it's a great way to incorporate more fruit into the most important meal of the day. This fruit wrap follows in yogurt's foot steps.

And for those that frequently need to eat breakfast on the go, this wrap is portable without being messy. Score!

Fruit Wrap
A Country Cooking Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • tortilla or your favorite wrap
  • peanut butter, or your favorite butter (I like sunflower seed butter)
  • slided bananas
  • sliced strawberries
  • blueberries

Directions:

  1. Spread peanut butter over tortilla in a thin layer, leaving a 1-inch border.
  2. Arrange sliced bananas and strawberries over the peanut butter.
  3. Sprinkle blueberries over the bananas and strawberries.
  4. Roll up tortilla burrito-style and slice in half on the bias. Enjoy! Chocolate milk is optional.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kid Cooks Saturdays: Week #5

Deciding what to make for this week's Kid Cooks Saturday was easy. My son saw a commercial for Pillsbury crescent rolls, and they made pizza pockets from them. "Mommy, can we make those?" he asked. "Sure thing!" I told him. And Saturday's meail was decided.

One of the great things about these Saturdays has been discovering how much fun meals can be. I'm not talking about the "fun" associated with finding and making a new recipe. I'm talking about childlike fun. Eating with your fingers and childhood favorites. Good, old-fashioned fun. And sharing it with my son has made it that much sweeter.

And if you're tired of the usual meatless options during Lent, give this twist on pizza a try.

Pizza Pockets

A Country Cooking Original Recipe
Makes 8 pizza pockets

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of Pillsbury Grands Buttermilk Biscuits
  • pizza sauce
  • shredded mozzarella
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • favorite pizza toppings, such as pepperoni and black olives
  • ricotta cheese, for a calzone option
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Flour your board and roll out each biscuit to 6 inches in diameter.
  3. Spread sauce on biscuit, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Top with cheese and your favorite toppings, if desired.
  4. Fold in half and crimp edges with the tines of a fork. Cut a slit in the top for steam to escape and lightly brush with egg wash.
  5. To make a mini calzone, swap out the pizza sauce for ricotta cheese. Add mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and any of your favorite toppings.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with remaining, heated pizza sauce.


The pizza pockets were a hit with my son!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Kid Cooks Saturdays: Week #4

We've hit a snag with Kid Cooks Saturdays: The remaining recipes in my son's cookbook don't entice him. What's a mom to do?

So I started looking over my own cookbook collection, to see if there were any books with recipes simple enough for my son to make. I hit pay dirt when I came across The Four Ingredient Cookbook.

With only four ingredients per recipe, all are simple enough for young hands. It was just a matter of finding the right one.

Breaded pork chops was just the ticket. He was able to do the prep, and the oven took care of the rest. Served with wild rice and roasted green beans, and we had a satisfying meal.

All in all, this is a meal I would recommend making with young chefs, and for older ones, too.

Onion-Baked Pork Chops

Ingredients:

  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 4 pork chops, 1 inch thick
  • 1 egg, well beaten

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine soup mix and bread crumbs. Dip chops in egg, then bread crumb mixture, until evenly coated.
  2. In a lightly greased 13x9-inch baking or roasting pan, arrange chops.
  3. Bake, uncovered, 20 minutes or until done, turning once.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Kid Cook Saturdays: Week #3

We had a couple of things come up the past 3 Saturdays, so there were no new recipes for Kid Cook Saturdays. And technically, this is Kid Cook Sundays. We had every intention of making this meal on Saturday, but we went out to lunch with my parents and were so full, we ended up skipping dinner altogether.

But we're back on track now!

February 13 - 18th my son was off from school between the weather, the weekend, President's day, and the weather once again. And during that time my son saw a Pillsbury commercial to make "unsloppy joes." I knew we had this week's selection for Kid Cook Saturdays.

We followed the recipe exactly. It calls for a can of sloppy joe sauce, which is not how I usually make sloppy joes. I typically follow The Pioneer Woman's recipe. Using the can of sauce certainly made the preparation easier, especially for my son. But it left a lot to be desired in the flavor department.

As for making the pockets themselves, my son did this with a little help from me. He had so much fun, and was so proud of his work! It was easy enough for him to do that he could feel accomplishment instead of frustration.

We had a little mixture left over, maybe 2/3 cup. I was serving fries with this, so I went ahead and served the leftover sloppy joe over the fries with shredded cheddar and spicy brown mustard. Yum!

The Verdict: We will definitely making this again, and they are worth trying. If you have kids, they are fun to eat and I'm sure they'll be devoured. If you have a budding chef like I do, you have a few options. The rolling out, filling, and folding of the biscuits is the perfect job for younger chefs. For older chefs, they can make the sloppy joes as well. How you make them is all up to you, based on time available and taste preferences. If a young chef is making them, you might want to stick with the can of sauce. Or if that's how you normally make sloppy joes and what your family enjoys, well, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

But as for my family table, I'll be sticking with The Pioneer Woman's recipe. If you want to go this route as well, you have two options: Make the full recipe. You can make the pockets one day with one half, and the sandwiches one day with the other half. You can make the pockets with one half, and freeze the other half for a later date. You could have the recipe altogether. Or you could make the full recipe and just double the amount of pockets if you're feeding a crowd, or ravenous teenagers.

Unsloppy Joe Pockets

Recipe from Pillsbury
Makes 8 pockets

Ingredients:

  • Your favorite sloppy joe recipe, made with 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 (16.3 oz) can Pillsbury Grands biscuits
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Make your favorite sloppy joe recipe with 1 lb. ground beef
  2. Preheat oven to 375.
  3. Lightly coat baking sheet with cooking spray.
  4. Roll each biscuit into 6-inch round. Spoon 1/3 cup meat mixture and about 1 tablespoon cheese onto center of each round. Fold dough in half over filling; press to seal.
  5. Bake for 9 - 14 minutes, until golden brown.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A True Crowd Pleaser

Feeding a crowd. It can be stressful, but it can also be fun. It's a great time to experiment with new recipes. But if the gathering is last-minute, it's great to have fool-proof, crowd-pleasing recipes in your back pocket.

This recipe is the one of those.

Now, in the interest of complete honesty, the first time I made this it wasn't quite crowd-pleasing. I had soaked the red pepper flakes in the vodka for too long, and it was too spicy for some members of my family to eat. Since then, I've omitted the red pepper flakes entirely, and I now have a winner on my hands.

I've learned that everyone has a different tolerance when it comes to heat, so it's better to err on the side of caution. And there is so much flavor in this recipe, the missing flakes don't hurt the dish at all.

So the next time you need to feed a crowd, give this recipe a try.

Vodka Sauce
Makes enough sauce for 1 lb. of pasta

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 slices prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups light cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Directions:

  1. Sauté onion and prosciutto in olive oil for 8 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes and vodka. Cook on low for 30 minutes.
  3. Add cream, cheese, and butter. Cook on low for another 20 minutes.
  4. Serve over your favorite pasta.

Notes from my country kitchen:

  • To add some heat to the dish, soak 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes in the vodka for 10 minutes. Then discard the flakes.
  • Do not use pre-packaged Parmesan cheese, such as Kraft. These cheese isn't grated fine enough, and it will give the sauce a grainy taste. Use grated cheese from the deli department of your market.
  • To stretch this dish a little further, use 1 lb. of mini penne or some other short-cut pasta.
  • For that restaurant feel, add 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed, at the end and stir until heated through.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Soup Stir-Ins

What do you stir into your soup?

I'm a crackers girl. But which cracker I use depends on what kind of soup I'm having. Growing up my mom would make Lipton's Giggle Noodle soup. Saltines was always my cracker of choice for that one. For chili and stews, I opted for Ritz.

Then a few years ago I made a Cheesy Vegetable Chowder. As we were breaking Ritz crackers into our bowls my husband said, "You know what would be good in this soup? Those oyster crackers."

And a third cracker was thrown into the mix.

The thing is, in addition to crackers, I like to top some of my soups with grated Parmesan cheese, like Pasta e Fagioli, Sausage, Peppers and Onions Soup, and Hearty Pasta Tomato Soup. But a few weeks ago I was walking down the crackers aisle of my supermarket when I saw something that would forever change the way I would garnish my soups: Parmesan Goldfish.

This is the perfect soup stir-in. You get the crunch from the cracker and the wonderful deep flavor from the Parmesan. I don't serve soup without them.

And saltines, and Ritz, and oyster crackers, too.

Monday, February 3, 2014

No "Helper" Needed

Back before I was married, when my husband and I were first living together, I didn't do much of the cooking. I cooked once, maybe twice, a week. The other days either my husband cooked, or we ate out. My repertoiré was nothing to write home about either. Most of what I cooked came from recipes on canned goods, soup mix packages, or were boxed all together. (Everyone has to start somewhere, right?)

One of my favorite recipes came from a can of Del Monte stewed tomatoes. Looking back now, I'm not sure if it was favorite because it was that good, or because it was that easy. No matter though. It was a more homemade approach to cheeseburger macaroni, and the more fresh ingredients (read: less from a box with a glove with only 4 fingers), the better the meal.

Slowly my confidence in the kitchen became to grow. With emphasis on the word "slowly." I bought a 4-ingredient cookbook. Then a 6-ingredient one. And finally I bought a special issue of Cooking Light. They were -- and still are -- a great resource of easy and tasty weeknight meals. And that's where I found this recipe for cheeseburger macaroni. It has more flavor than the Del Monte version, and I quickly switched to this new version of the dish.

And as my confidence in the kitchen grew even more, along with my desire to experiment, this recipe fell to the wayside. But just recently I pulled it out again. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. As an added bonus, it was quick and easy to make. And the taste brought me back to all those years ago, first making this dish with my husband in our apartment in New Jersey. It tasted like new beginnings, youth, and love.

The epitome of comfort food.

Cheeseburger Macaroni

Recipe from Cooking Light
Makes 9 1-cup servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces uncooked small elbow macaroni
  • 3/4 lb. ground sirloin
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15-oz. cans Italian-style diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced fat shredded cheddar, divided

Directions:

  1. Cook the elbow macaroni according to package directions.
  2. Cook beef, onion, and garlic in a skillet over medium-high heat until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Drain well and return to pan.
  3. Add tomatoes and next 3 ingredients; cook 3 minutes. Add macaroni and 3/4 cup cheese, and cook 2 minutes or until cheese melts and macaroni is thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat; sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.