Monday, September 28, 2009

New Breakfast Idea – Egg Toasts

Scrambled eggs with a side of toast can get kind of ho-hum. I saw this in a magazine (which I’ll have to dig up so I can give it credit) and gave it a whirl last week. It’s become one of the new favorite breakfasts around here. It’s the hidden shape that sealed the deal.

Egg Toast

Piece of bread (1 slice per toast)
Cookie cutter that fits within the size of the bread
Egg (1 egg per toast)
Shredded Cheese (optional)
Ham (optional)
Warm a fry pan, and drop in a pat of butter. Let it melt over medium heat.

On a cutting board, you’re going to start with a piece of bread.

Using a cookie cutter, cut out the center of the piece of bread. (Make sure to leave the whole outer edge in tact, since that’s what is going to frame the egg.) Put the piece of bread into the warm fry pan (that already has melted butter).

Then you crack an egg into the opening. The egg will ooze around and fill the shape you cut out. Cover with a lid so the egg cooks more quickly. (As you'll see above, I started adding some cut up ham and shredded cheese after I got the hang of it. But first, I'd just try it with the eggs...then you can get a little more creative!)

Once the egg is a little past halfway cooked, you’re going to flip the piece of toast. It may splatter. That’s ok! As long as one side is pretty, you’re good to go!!

Let the egg finish cooking, the toast finish toasting. Then remove it from the pan and wow! Look at that. After my kids have ogled the hidden shape, I have been cutting it into quarters for them to eat it more easily.

A quick note on bread: you cannot use that funny, really thin bread for this. It will not work…the egg will run everywhere and you’ll have one disappointed mom and child. Go for a nice hearty thick piece of bread. Our favorite is Eli’s Health Bread (which you can get in 4-piece packs at Aux Delices in Darien). La Brea’s Seeded Wheat or Whole Wheat would probably also work well.
And, as you see above, the buttery, egg-y bread is wonderful dipped into your favorite jam too.

Stuffed Acorn Squash + Meat Sauce Too

I didn’t rush to post the recipe for Stuffed Acorn Squash, since my one child that didn’t like the acorn squash the first time still didn’t like it this go round. My goal in posting recipes is to pass along ideas of meals or sides you can make that have a high likelihood that both the kids and the parents will enjoy. But, I still think this one is worth sharing. First it’s such a comforting, cozy Fall dinner. And second, the remaining meat mixture you have left after stuffing the acorn squash can be combined with your favorite jarred tomato sauce and voila!: a fabulous meat sauce (which goes over particularly well here when served over Trader Joe’s Alphabet Pasta). So, all is not lost if one of your kids still isn’t digging the squash.

Stuffed Acorn Squash (makes 4)

2 acorn squashes, sliced in half, seeds scooped out
Olive oil
Rimmed baking sheet
1 lb ground beef (preferably lean)
4 Sweet Italian Sausages, casings removed
1 large (or 2 small) onion(s), chopped
2 handfuls of shredded Mozzarella
1 handful of shredded Asiago or Parmesan
(1 extra handful of either cheese to sprinkle on top)
Kosher salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle some olive oil on the rimmed baking sheet and rub the cut side of the acorn squash in it so it’s lightly covered. Turn it right side up and pinch a little salt and pepper onto the acorn squash (kids can help with this part). Put it back down on the sheet (cut side down so you’ve got these four little mounds looking at you). Bake it for 25 minutes.

In the meantime, in a large fry pan, sauté the beef, sausage and onion until cooked. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cheeses. If you get done with this part before the squash is done cooking, let it sit (off the heat) and pick up a magazine. Once the squash comes out of the oven, turn it cut side (sunny side) up (green side down). If it’s too wobbly on its base, simply cut across the base—just a little—enough to make it level. Then stuff each squash with as much of the meat mixture as you can fit in there. Sprinkle with cheese. Pop back into the oven for another 15 minutes, until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork.

This can be made ahead and reheated in the microwave, so perfect for a bust night in the week ahead. And, as mentioned above, any extra meat mixture can be combined with your favorite jarred sauce for an instant second meal of a fabulous meat sauce to go on pasta!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Simple Side: Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

Maple Glazed Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped (or buy it this way)
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Maple Syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Earlier today, I showed readers how to prep a butternut squash. For this simple, sweet side that is nutrient dense and perfect for Fall, you’ll want your squash to the point that it’s roughly chopped in 1” (or so) pieces. I hate to dirty another bowl, so I lay it right on the rimmed cookie sheet I am going to be roasting it on. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with some Kosher salt, and then drizzle with maple syrup. Carefully shake the pan to mix things up. Pop into the oven for 40 minutes, or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Once or twice during the roasting process, I used a spatula and gave the squash a stir.

If you want to wow your kids with some butternut squash facts at dinner, here are a couple of facts courtesy of Wikipedia:
Butternut squash is a fruit;
It grows on a vine;
In Australia, it is regarded as “Butternut Pumpkin” and used interchangeably in recipes.

The above recipe is simple and kid-pleasing. But if you're a fan of butternut squash, you might also like Ina Garten's, where she tarts the recipe up with a little pancetta and sage. Sounds like a perfect dinner party or Thanksgiving side dish, doesn't it?

What does a Butternut or Acorn Squash look like?

It dawned on me that as I post squash recipes, I should back up and clarify what kind of squash you want to pick up at your local market. Many markets sell squash already cut-up, but it’s much less expensive, and the squash will be fresher if you purchase the whole thing, peel and scoop the seeds yourself.

This is an acorn squash, which if you have a good imagination looks kind of like an acorn. To prep this one, you simply cut it in half, scoop the seeds out and it’s ready to be drizzled with a little olive oil and go in the oven! The skin cooks while it’s roasting and I usually eat it, but my kids want nothing to do with skin, so after it comes out of the oven, let it cool down a little bit and then simply peel the skin off. It should come off very easily after cooking.

This is a butternut squash. It has a sweet taste, similar to pumpkin. For those wondering about butternut's nutritional value: it is a great source of fiber, vitamins A and C, magnesium, and potassium. So, kid-pleasing and good for you, a bonus. (If you’re going to buy one of these two squashes already peeled and cut, this would be the one to go for since it takes a little more effort...) To prep this one, first I cut it in half, and then I scooped out the seeds. Then I carefully held the squash and used a carrot peeler to whisk off the skin. Once you do that you can chop it any size and you’re good to go!

The Legos have lost their allure, but I’ll aim to post two more squash recipes: stuffed (pictured above) and maple roasted later on this afternoon. Until then, enjoy this gorgeous Fall day!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Announcing Full Plate's Fall Cooking Lessons

My availability for Fall cooking lessons has been emailed out to everyone who sent me a request. I will be booking the classes on a first come-first served basis. If I missed you (or you want more info but have been too shy to ask), here's the scoop on the lessons:

My cooking lessons are personalized, practical and most importantly, fun. I’d like you to come away from the session feeling confident that you can easily recreate the meal(s) we made together…and tweak them based upon the foods you have on hand. Whether you’re an experienced home cook looking for some new ideas for make-ahead meals, or a mom who feels like you never really learned to cook, I promise to make you feel more at ease in your kitchen, and to make cooking fun.

Classes are offered in your home kitchen or mine-- wherever you’ll be most comfortable. My kitchen is not fancy, so yours need not be either. I, personally, think it’s best to work in the space where you’re normally going to be making meals, just so it’s realistic. The only thing I ask is that you have enough clear counter space that we can comfortably work, and that you have an idea of where the basic cooking gear is before I arrive. (We don’t want to spend our time together locating a cutting board, or taking the wrapping off your new baking sheets!) Once we confirm your cooking goal for the lesson I will email you a list of recommended pans, food storage containers, etc. The equipment will not be fancy, and if you don’t have something just let me know and we’ll improvise. I will tell you right now that my Cuisinart was broken for over a year and I made do just fine…and I can safely say that I have never used the KitchenAid mixer I registered for….

I charge $75/hour and recommend a 2-hour class. This is enough time to complete a couple of dishes, but not so much time that you can feel overwhelmed by information. Groceries are purchased by you, so you are familiar with ingredients and your local supermarket where you’re going to be shopping. But if you want me to do the marketing I am happy to, at my hourly rate + the cost of the groceries.

Classes will be filled on a first come-first served basis. My availability is as follows:
Monday, October 5 9:30-11:30am - booked!
Tuesday, October 6 9:30-11:30am - booked!
Monday, October 19 9:30-11:30am - booked!
Tuesday, October 20 9:30-11:30am - booked!

Monday, October 26 9:30-11:30am - booked!
Sunday, November 1 10:00am-noon, 11:00-1:00 or noon-2:00pm
Monday, November 9 9:30-11:30am
Tuesday, November 10 9:30-11:30am
Monday, November 16 9:30-11:30am
Tuesday, November 17 9:30-11:30am

Classes may be cancelled up to 24-hours in advance, since we both know kids get sick or mom duties can get in the way. If I can, I will do my best to reschedule your lesson.

In terms of topics, I know some of you already know what you’d like to learn in your lesson. For others, you may just say, “Please teach me how to cook!!” Each two hour lesson should teach you something useful, so please think of what it is that gives you most angst in the kitchen. The goal is to make cooking easier, and more enjoyable! Because this is a private lesson, the focus is totally on you and making sure you are comfortable re-creating a dish. Plus, with a private lesson I can tailor a lesson to your individual cooking experience and goals, as well as your family’s food preferences. So, dream away, and then let’s get cooking! Some classes that have been requested, to give you some ideas:
- Make-ahead Breakfasts – Frittatas and Protein Pancakes
- Kid-Friendly Make Ahead Dinners – Mini Turkey Meatloaves and Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin + 2 sides
- Not-Your-Average Meatball – Beef & Bulgur Meatballs and Lamb and Pistachio Kofte
- Fruit & Veggie Sides – Roasted Broccoli, Maple Roasted Butternut Squash, Ratatouille, Sweet Potato Wedges, Fresh Fruit Skewers with Homemade Yogurt Dip
- Fall Dinner Party – Cider Braised Chorizo and Savory Pumpkin Cannelloni

A week or two before your class, we’ll chat on the phone and I’ll find out if there are any ingredients we need to avoid (because of strong dislikes or allergies), then I’ll email you an idea of what we can make together. Once you approve of the dishes, I will email you a shopping list. Then the morning of, I’ll show up ready to cook alongside you. At the end of the lesson, depending upon what dishes we have made, you’ll have the week’s breakfasts already made, a couple of dinners ready to go into the freezer for nights that end up nutty, or a meal ready for a dinner party.

To book a cooking lesson, or if you have any further questions about these classes, please feel free to email me. The above dates are what I see fitting in before Thanksgiving, but I’ll gladly add more cook times after the Holidays. I will look forward to cooking with you!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Simple Side: Roasted Acorn Squash

When I was doing the grocery marketing with my little one this week, he was really interested in the big acorn and butternut squashes prominently displayed at this time of year. So, I picked up one of each, and he’s been eagerly waiting to see “what’s inside”. Now, something tells me that tonight’s dinnertime reveal wasn’t quite as exciting as he’d hoped for. Still, it was a simple side that he helped prep for the oven and then was excited to eat alongside his roasted chicken and broccoli. (My older son liked the bright yellow color and was excited to try it, but quickly turned his nose up at it, saying he didn’t like the texture. Ironically, at this same time last year it was my little one who didn’t like acorn squash, and my older one who couldn’t get enough. So, while it may drive you slightly nuts, it’s worth it to keep putting these foods on their plate. You never know when they’ll come around…or run the other way!)

Simple Roasted Acorn Squash – Sweet for the Kids / Sweet Heat for Mom & Dad

1 large (or 2 smaller) acorn squash
couple tablespoons of butter, melted
turbinado (or white or brown sugar, your choice)
kosher salt
chili powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the acorn squash into 1-2” thick slabs, and scoop out the seeds and any extra stringy stuff. Baste each slice with butter on both sides, and lay flat on a cookie sheet. You can roast them at this point, or put toppings on as I did tonight:

I let my little one help at this point, since shaking bottles and sprinkling sugar and salt is fun…
For the kids: a dash of cinnamon, a pinch of turbinado sugar and a bit of kosher salt;
For us: same as above + a dash of cumin and a dash of chili powder, for sweet heat.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork.

Monday, September 21, 2009

After 6 months, am I more or less mom-a-licious?

Six months ago, I started this blog as a way of sharing recipes, and other good things I came across with my fellow mom-friends. We were all muddling through motherhood, so it seemed like a good idea to share information and ideas so each of us wasn’t reinventing the wheel when it came to figuring out what we could easily make for dinner (that our kids mights actually eat), strategies for staying upbeat when trying to be a little more frugal, and ideas for how we could squeeze a workout or adult conversation in when “free time” was in short supply. Every so often I find it helpful to re-read my initial post. It recalibrates me, and reminds me of my need to be balanced as I look at the week ahead.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Rainbow Plates

Most of my friends are on week one, two, or three of the new school year. The novelty of preparing lunches and nourishing breakfasts and dinners has worn off. But sometimes all it takes is a fresh idea or two to reinvigorate. So, with that in mind, here are some of the rainbow plates we've been having here.

Frittata, steamed broccoli "trees", grapes, dried apricots, and little peanut butter sandwiches made with Carr's Water Crackers.

Annie's Mac & Cheese, fresh (green and wax) beans, grapes, Snap Pea Crisps, and a little homeade trail mix (pistachios and cranberries).

Cheese tortellini with tomato sauce, corn on the cob, berries and grapes, and a slice or two of cheddar cheese that I used a little cookie cutter on (the other kid got the square with the missing stars which he thought was equally neat)

"Mexican Rice" (rice with corn and black beans) + grated cheddar cheese + sour cream, roasted zucchini and peppers, cucumber O's (I simply cut the seedy part out of the center for a little "excitement") and roasted broccoli.

Trader Joe's French Toast (found in the freezer section) + apricot jam (found one made with fruit only, no added sugar) + fresh berries.

PB&J, a cheese stick, a mini whole wheat cinn-raisin bagel with cream cheese (the kids wanted both bagels and sandwiches this day...I guess all that playing made them ravenous), cucumber "pennies", strawberries, and grapes.

Simple Side: Cilantro Roasted Zucchini & Peppers

A delicious, simple side that takes advantage of zucchini and peppers while they're still in season. Great because you just chop, toss and pop in the oven. Oh, and did I mention that your kitchen smells amazing while this is roasting? Enjoy!
Cilantro Roasted Zucchini and Peppers

Red peppers
Olive oil
Kosher Salt

* Or, if you do not have fresh, or don’t feel like dealing with the leaves, as an alternative you can use Dorot Frozen Cilantro (found at most markets, including Trader Joe’s)

If using fresh cilantro: Preheat oven to 375. In a blender, combine olive oil with cilantro and pulse until you have a nice, green slurry. Slice zucchini into ½ inch slices and chop the peppers into about 1 inch pieces. Toss in a large bowl with the olive oil/cilantro mixture; give a hearty shake of cumin, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Toss to coat the veggies, then roast (single layer, or close to it) on a rimmed baking sheet, for about 20 minutes or until veggies are tender when pierced with a fork…but not mushy. Excellent served with my chicken enchiladas. Leftovers are great tossed in a salad.

If using frozen cilantro: Preheat oven to 375. Let the herbs sit out for a bit to thaw. Slice zucchini into ½ inch slices and chop the peppers into about 1 inch pieces. Toss the veggies with some olive oil, and a hearty amount of the frozen herbs (5 cubes or so), then give a hearty shake of cumin, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Toss to coat the veggies, then roast (single layer, or close to it) on a rimmed baking sheet, for about 20 minutes or until veggies are tender when pierced with a fork…but not mushy. Excellent served with my chicken enchiladas. Leftovers are great tossed in a salad.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sloppy Kids

I must have cafeteria food on the mind these days, given that I whipped these up for my kids. But trust me, these are better than you remember from the lunch line, and make for a kid-pleasing dinner in a hurry!

Sloppy Joe's

1 pound ground beef or turkey
Green Pepper, chopped
Onion, Chopped
Celery, Chopped
Tomato, chopped
15 oz jar tomato sauce
Brown Sugar
Cider Vinegar
Whole Wheat Burger Buns

Sauté the onion and beef (or turkey) in a bit of olive oil, then drain the oil. Toss in the peppers, chopped tomato and celery.

Add the tomato sauce, then a hearty squeeze of ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar, stir. A splash of cider vinegar (for zing). Let the flavors meld as it cooks over low heat for about 10 minutes.
Serve on whole wheat buns. Can definitely be made ahead, and kept in the fridge (or freezer) until you get home from sports practices, music classes or a long afternoon playing outside!

Second Apple Crisp Batch of the School Year

Bus arrived at 8am and my older one hopped on, then it was time to make more coffee and get cooking with my little one. Today was his first day of preschool...and not to be outdone by his older brother, he whipped up dishes of apple crisp for his 4 teachers, carrying on the tradition we started when his big brother was heading off to 3-year-old preschool.

The teachers are tickled to get a homemade treat and my kids love using the Cuisinart. So, it’s a win-win all around.

If you missed it the first time, here’s the post for the Apple Crisp recipe that is a perfect cooking activity to do with your kids.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What a day!

Today was my older child's first day of school, my husband and my anniversary, a day-from-hell potty training...and my cook day for our Wednesday Supper Exchange. (The potty training mayhem started after I was done cooking, thank goodness.) One of the recipient husbands claimed it was on of his favorite meals so far. So, without further adieu, be sure to check out (and try) this simple recipe for Chicken Enchiladas.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Apple Crisp - Our Back to School Tradition

Making apple crisp for my son’s teachers on the first day of school has become a tradition in our house. We don’t have many traditions, outside of a Christmas tree, but this is one that has stuck. I grew up eating apple crisp, peach crisp, berry crisp. Whatever was in season my mom made into a delicious crisp. Making apple crisp is very easy for a young child to help with, and the recipients are tickled to get the homemade treat. Since our older child would gladly bake for his entire school if he had enough apples, we encourage him to focus in on his teachers from the previous year, and the ones he’s looking forward to having this year to keep the project special...but still within reason for mom, the sous chef.

Apple Crisp

Apples (any variety, we like to use a mix of tart, sweet, and baking)
Brown Sugar
Whole Wheat Flour
Ginger (optional)
Nutmeg (optional)
Vanilla (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and core your apples, then quarter them, leaving the skin on. Using a Cuisinart (the slicing attachment it comes with), slice the apples. This part is great for kids. Simply have them feed chunks of apple into the tube up top. Safe, loud, and they can see their progress as the bowl fills up.

Fill baking dish(es) ¾ of the way up with sliced apples, pressing down gently to make sure you’ve put enough in since they’ll cook down a bit.

I find it is easiest to make the topping in a big bowl with a hand-mixer. Combine oats, brown sugar, butter, a handful of flour and ample amounts of the dried spices and vanilla and blend on medium-low until combined and crumbly. Let your children dump in the dry spices and vanilla…just let them shake shake shake, as it’s hard to have too much cinnamon or vanilla. I am not giving you exact amounts b/c you can look to see how it’s coming together, and taste the topping and add more of one thing or another until it’s the way you like it. We do not make ours very sweet (brown sugar) but do go heavy on the spices and vanilla, so it counts as a legitimate breakfast food around here too.

When making the topping, basically you just want the consistency of the topping to be a little drier than an oatmeal cookie batter…enough butter and flour that it’s going to help bind the oats together when you bake it + enough of the brown sugar spices and vanilla to flavor and sweeten it to your liking. As readers of this blog know, I like to wing it when I am cooking, relying on my sense of taste, and texture, to end up with a delicious result. But if you are more comfortable with an exact recipe, here’s one from Food Network and one from Quaker Oats. Bake the apple crisp, uncovered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the apples pierce easily when you poke down into the center of the dish.

If giving it as a gift, let your recipient know that Apple Crisp is best served warm with a rich vanilla ice cream. You can reheat the crisp in the microwave (for ok results) or in a 350 degree oven (for much better results, as the topping will crisp up again). Should the topping start to get too dark, simply cover with a bit of foil when warming it up.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Simple Sweet Potatoes

Here’s an idea for a simple sweet potato side dish that is equally pleasing to kids as it is to adults.

Sweet potatoes
Olive oil
Kosher salt & pepper (to taste)
Cinnamon (optional)
Cumin (optional)
Chili Powder (optional)

There are two methods, one which is quick and the other that you can use on a day when you’ve got time on your hands (and want your kitchen to smell delish). This weekend, we opted for the quick preparation.

Quick Method: Poke the sweet potato(es) a couple times with a fork, then microwave 6-8 minutes (skin on), until tender. Slice, about 1 inch thick. At this point, you can simply serve them (particularly handy for kids who like their food plain). Or, you can keep going… For my kids: I drizzled the sweet potato slices with a little olive oil, and sprinkled them with kosher salt, pepper, and cinnamon. On ours, I also sprinkled some cumin and chili powder, in addition to the cinnamon. Then I grilled the sweet potato slices so they got some nice grill marks and a slightly crispy outer layer.

The longer preparation method would be to slice the (raw) sweet potatoes into chunks, drizzle with olive oil and your choice of spices, and then roast them in the oven at 425 for approximately 25 minutes, or until tender.

Either way, it’s a nutrient-rich (high in fiber, protein, and vitamins A, C, iron, and calcium) side dish that many kids and adults enjoy, and that you can feel great about giving your family.

3 Rainbow Plates for a BBQ Weekend

A 3-day weekend meant 3 nights of BBQs and al fresco meals over here. Here are some "rainbow plate" ideas for those of you assembling meals for kids that take advantage of the fruits and veggies that are in season, and readily available in our supermarkets and farmer's markets.

Above: green beans (if they're tender, no need to steam/cook them), apple slices, blueberries, steamed corn on the cob, chicken sausage, and baby carrots...not the uniform kind in the bag. These ones came from Gazy Brother's booth at the New Canaan Farmer's Market. They were twisty and tender.)

I have a bun-averse 2-year-old these days, hence the reason no buns are present in the photos. But add a bun if your kids like! The plate above included: grilled hamburger, corn on the cob, chunks of fresh tomato, some grilled asparagus (that was drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper), and slices of nectarine.

And last but not least, since one must have at least one hot dog on a holiday weekend: cucumber pennies (just thinly sliced cucumber), fresh corn mixed with a little olive oil and rice wine vinegar, nectarines and blueberries, all beef hot dog, and sweet potatoes.
Hope everyone had a great weekend!