Monday, June 30, 2008

Kanpai! Sushi Night!

Sabrina made sushi last night! Now there's something I never thought we'd make at home! It's just rice, seaweed, vegetables and some crab (not the kind that begins with a "k"), so I knew she could do it!

We went to Whole Paycheck to find the correct sushi rice and a piece of ahi tuna for David - sadly, the tuna is being returned today, it was tough and for that price, they can have it back!

Here she is, patting the rice onto the sheet of seaweed: (notice the trays of meatballs in the background - that was their other project yesterday!)

Next, laying out her fillings: fresh king crab, cucumber, avocado - sounds like a California Roll to me!
Rolling it up wasn't so hard, after watching the sushi chefs for years, it's pretty simple -

Artfully arranged on the platter:

We threw in some panko breaded shrimp that I found at Costco - they were great. And Sabrina even ate one - she usually doesn't like shrimp but she enjoyed these!

Alexander wasn't up 100% yesterday, too many late nights have led to a cranky boy, so he had teriyaki chicken with steamed rice. But the sushi was awesome, and Sabrina was so thrilled that she made it herself!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sloppy Joes - Alexander Style

Well, after a bit of a Guitar-Hero induced hiatus, Alexander is back in the kitchen and better than ever! I convinced him that his adoring public needed to see him back in action - and it was also a way to get him involved in something other than annoying Sabrina and her friend. He decided to make Sloppy Joes - and I wanted a recipe that was easy to follow, and guaranteed delicious.

I've used Rachael Ray's recipe for Sloppy Joes before, and I always substitute ground beef for the turkey. The only way we like turkey around here is smothered in gravy with mashed potatoes.

So while Sabrina and her friend splashed around in the pool, Alexander learned one of the best ways to win a girls heart - (by cooking dinner!):

First, he started off by browning the meat in a large pan:

Then he added chopped onion:

Next, he mixed up the tomato sauce, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce, along with a sprinkle of Mrs. Dash seasoning and black pepper:

And then he poured it over the meat, and carefully blended everything together:

Simmer for 10 minutes, and serve! Yes, that pan is as big as it looks - it's a 14" skillet from Smart and Final.

Sloppy Joes - adapted from Rachael Ray

1 ½ lbs ground beef
½ large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash seasoning
1 - 8 oz can tomato sauce
2 tbs. brown sugar
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
Fresh ground black pepper

In a large saute pan, brown the ground beef. Add onion, and cook for several minutes on medium-high heat. Mix together seasoning, tomato sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper to taste. Pour sauce over meat, blend well, and simmer for 10 minutes, until sauce is thickened and bubbling.

Serve over crusty rolls.

The verdict? Sabrina's friend went home and told her mom that Alexander made Sloppy Joes, and they DIDN'T come from a can!! And that she should learn how to make them. Got to love a childs honesty.................

Everyday Food's Mac & Cheese - by Sabrina

The other night, we were watching the Food Network Challenge, and all the chefs were preparing their signature mac and cheese dishes. Well, after about a half an hour, Sabrina looked at me and said, "Tomorrow, we are having mac and cheese for dinner!" All that cheesy goodness was just too much to handle.

So I handed her my recipe for Everyday Food's Macaroni and Cheese, and turned her loose:

First, she prepared the cheese sauce:

A close up - perfectly smooth, and extra cheesy:

And for her favorite part, the crunchy bread crumb topping:

I think she just likes using the mini-chopper!!

Sabrina here: It's the best mac and cheese ever!

Macaroni and Cheese -adapted from Everyday Food

1 pound short pasta, such as cavatappi

6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk

3 cups shredded (12 ounces) medium cheddar cheese
1 cup finely grated (2 ounces) Parmesan Reggiano cheese

3 cups very coarse fresh breadcrumbs
Coarse grind black pepper

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water 4 to 5 minutes less than package instructions. Drain, rinse with cool water, and return to pot.

Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour; cook, whisking, 1 minute. Add milk; bring to a simmer. Cook, whisking, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in cheeses until smooth. Pour over pasta; toss to coat. Pour into greased baking dish.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter; toss with breadcrumbs, and season with pepper. Sprinkle over pasta.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake until bubbling, 25-35 minutes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chicken With Ina

This weeks choice for Barefoot Bloggers came from our mom, Megan at My Baking Adventures.

Alexander here: This is my favorite way to have chicken. I love it! I like to dip it in ketchup. Sometimes Mommy puts arugula over the top, but tonight she didn't.

Sabrina here: I really like it. We've had it a few times already, and sometimes I have it with mozzarella cheese and Daddy's homemade marinara sauce, other times I have it with lemon juice squeezed over the top.

So now, the kids will demonstrate their chicken cutlet skills:

First, Alexander cracked the eggs into a pan:

Then, Sabrina pounded out the chicken breasts , till they were nice and even:

Now, at this point, you won't see any more action shots, because the kids don't like touching raw chicken. So this is where I had to step in.

Sabrina here: My mom made me stop eating so she could get a picture of the chicken. We also had baked ravioli - it was really good. My Pop-Pop thought Mom had made the ravioli from scratch - she almost fooled him, except she couldn't stop laughing.

Sabrina and Alexander here: We loved this! It's also good the next day, if you put it in a squishy roll. Yummy!

Thanks Tara, we really like being a part of this group - and we can't wait for our turn!

Parmesan Chicken - Barefoot Contessa Family Style

4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon water
1 1/4 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
Unsalted butter
Good olive oil
Salad greens for 6, washed and spun dry
1 recipe Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe follows
Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4-inch thick. You can use either a meat mallet or a rolling pin.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts. Toss the salad greens with lemon vinaigrette. Place a mound of salad on each hot chicken breast. Serve with extra grated Parmesan.

Lemon Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Yield: 6 servings

Friday, June 20, 2008

R.I.P. Caterpillar

After waiting and waiting for the caterpillar to turn into a butterfly, we were saddened to discover that something (pesky bugs?) broke open the cocoon and destroyed the caterpillar. The kids are really bummed out.

At least we got to see the fuzzy resident while he was happily munching our parsley plant!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Watch It Wiggle..........

Woohoo! Sabrina's been keeping busy this week - her brother is at basketball camp and out of her hair, so she has had a chance to exercise a little creative freedom in the kitchen.

She's been dying to make a layered Jello mold. So yesterday, we picked up an industrial sized tub of Cool Whip from Smart and Final, and today she performed a little gelatin magic.

Now the only problem we ran into was that I've never made a gelatin mold before. So I hit the Jello website and found a recipe that was exactly what we were looking for.

First, dissolve the gelatin in hot water:

Stir in ice water to thicken:

Stir in Cool Whip:

After mixing in the Cool Whip, she poured the mixture in the pan - we used a bundt type cake pan, it was the only one I had that was large enough to accommodate both layers. I could have used a 9 x 13 pan, but Sabrina had her eye on the flower shaped pan.

After the lemon layer chilled, she repeated the steps with the lime jello.

Don't mind the fork marks, Sabrina was poking it before I was able to get the picture. Although we greased the pan, the mold was a little difficult to remove - so please overlook the messy shot:

Unfortunately, we forgot about the salad tonight so we broke it out of the mold while we were cleaning up from dinner. The verdict?

Sabrina here: It was really good - lemony and limey. I'd like to try and make it with different flavors.

I thought it was outstanding. Perfect for the super hot weather. We're waiting for David to try it, his mother used to make a salad similar to this so we are anxious for his opinion.

Lemon - Lime Jello Mold - adapted from

2/3 cup boiling water
1 pkg (4 serving size) Jello Gelatin (we used lemon and lime)
Ice cubes
½ c. cold water
8 oz Cool Whip, thawed

Dissolve Jello in boiling water. Add enough ice cubes to cold water to measure 1 cup. Add to Jello and stir until ice is melted and mixture is thickened. Whisk in Cool Whip until well blended.

Pour into greased mold and refrigerate until set and firm, about 2 hours. Repeat process with another flavor Jello, then carefully pour over top of first layer. Chill for at least 4 hours.

Unmold and enjoy!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sabrina's Making Ice Cream!

Since the temperatures are well over 100 degrees - and they won't be going down anytime soon (like October!), Sabrina decided it was time to break out the ice cream maker!

She received this as a gift last year for her birthday, but we have had trouble finding a recipe that produced good quality ice cream. So far, all the recipes we've tried are too icy. Now, the machine she is using is supposed to produce soft serve, but we are looking for a recipe that stays reasonably soft after it's been in the freezer for several hours - without being too hard.

Now Dianne over at Dianne's Dishes gave us this recipe, but since we don't have sweetened condensed milk in the house, we tried a different recipe. This came from the current issue of Food and Wine, and Jeni Britton, the creator, is quite well known in Columbus, Ohio for her ice creams. I didn't save the entire article, I just tore out the recipe, so I can't tell you any more than that! So with recipe in hand, Sabrina got ready for the ice cream:

First, Sabrina prepared the ice bath.

Then, she mixed milk and cornstarch. We've never put that into ice cream before!

She measured out the cream cheese and set it aside to soften. According to the recipe, you add the cream cheese to keep the ice cream "scoopable".

Then she combined the milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup. She brought it to a boil, then whisked it into the cornstarch mixture. Return the entire mixture to the pan and return it to a boil, stirring constantly until it boils and thickens.

Carefully whisk the hot mixture into the cream cheese and whisk until completely blended. Put the mixture into the ice bath and stir occasionally until it is cold, about 20 minutes.

Pour the cold base into the ice cream maker and let it go!! It took about 20 minutes for our machine to produce the ice cream.

The verdict? WOW!! Alexander had a black and white cookie on the bottom, two scoops of ice cream, and topped it with rainbow sprinkles.

Update: Even after freezing for several hours, the ice cream was smooth, creamy and easy to scoop.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream - Jeni Britton / Food and Wine Magazine

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened (3 tablespoons)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (we used 1 tbs. vanilla extract)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In another large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.
In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup and vanilla bean and seeds. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves and the vanilla flavors the milk, about 4 minutes. Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Whisk in the salt. Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes.
Strain the ice cream base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pack the ice cream into a plastic container.
Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid. Freeze the vanilla ice cream until firm, about 4 hours.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Kids are rolling in dough

In an effort to combat the summer boredom that has started to set in, the kids asked if we could make play dough. Actually, I was in the midst of making pizza dough, and they like to pretend they are in a pizza tossing competition, like they saw on the Food Network.

So to avoid having them ruin good pizza dough, I suggested we make homemade play dough. So who do you think ended up making it? Yes, me.

And what started out as a fun way to pass the afternoon quickly escalated into a dough-throwing match that ended with me swearing never to make playdough again.

I found this recipe a long time ago on the Family Fun website. It's quick to make, and unless your children are grinding it into the pavement like mine do, it lasts for a few weeks.

Homemade Play Dough - adapted from Family Fun Magazine

2 cups flour
2 cups water
1/2 cup salt
2 tbs. vegetable oil
1 tbs. cream of tarter

Combine all ingredients in a large pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat - it can be colored at this point. Cover tightly to store.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers - 3 P's Please

Another fun week with the Barefoot Bloggers - Alexander is doing the cooking today, so I'll let him do the narration for the pictures:

Hi, this is Alexander - and this is so cool, I got to check out the chop and grind buttons on this chopper thing - I put in pesto, spinach, peas, oil, parmesan cheese and mayo (mayo?) :

It was fun watching it go around and around - especially making the machine change directions:

Then I stirred the pasta with the sauce. Sabrina couldn't try it because she's allergic to nuts.

Ok, here I am eating it. My mom really liked it. It was okay, not my favorite. I like pasta with butter and olive oil. And pepper. And cheese. But I'm glad I tried it.

Here's the recipe if you want to try it.

Pasta, Pesto and Peas - Ina Garten

3/4 pound fusilli pasta
3/4 pound bow tie pasta
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 cups pesto, packaged or see recipe below
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups good mayonnaise
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
1/3 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until each pasta is al dente. Drain and toss into a bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, pignolis, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

VTV - Zucchini Parmesan

Sabrina has graciously agreed to be my substitute host for this weeks Vindicate The Veggie. The theme for this week was freestyle - and the market had exceptional zucchini yesterday, and since Sabrina loves fried zucchini chips, we decided to take this one step further and use up the leftover marinara sauce in the fridge.

First, slice the ends off of the zucchini and slice them lengthwise into about 4 strips.

Dip the slices into beaten eggs first:

Then dip them into seasoned breadcrumbs:

Instead of frying the zucchini, she put the slices onto a well-greased baking sheet and baked it at 425 degrees until it was golden and just starting to get crispy.

Then layer the slices into a greased casserole pan, and alternate the slices with the marinara sauce.
Top off the sauce with a bit of mozzarella cheese.

Bake in a 400 degree oven until hot and bubbling.


Sabrina here: This is so great - I burned my tongue on the hot cheese - but I can't wait to eat more! I love zucchini this way but it's even better with the sauce!!

The Caterpillar - Still Waiting

We are into Day 7 of the caterpillar chronicles. The kids have been checking it faithfully - it could be any day now, so they will be watching more closely than before.

No Cooking Today - Building Instead

The kids aren't cooking today - Alexander had a gift card from his birthday last week that was burning a hole in his pocket so we made a trip to Target. Here's what he came home with:

Much to my utter amazement and surprise, this is what the kids are doing right now:

They are using the dogs bed (on the right) as a holding station. They've been doing this for the last 45 minutes. We'll see how long it continues until there's a fight.............................

Alexander has to help me later - it's Sabrina's birthday tomorrow and she wants panda bear cupcakes from a cute little book I picked up at the bookstore last week. I can't remember the name but we'll definitely be posting pictures later.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sabrina's Making Matzo Brei

Sabrina has been anxious to get back in the kitchen and cook, after being sick last week - then spending the first two days after school got out watching every episode of Spongebob. That's enough to make your brain congeal into cold oatmeal.

Today she's making matzo brei. David makes this for them every blue moon (which is to say not very often) so she wants to learn how to make it herself.

First she assembles her ingredients:

Then she mixes the eggs with a splash of milk, and a dash of vanilla extract:

Next, she breaks up 3 matzo crackers into the egg mixture, tosses it together a few times, then lets it sit for a few minutes to allow the egg mixture to soak into the crackers.

She coats a large frying pan with non-stick spray and puts it over medium heat. Then she places the mixture into the hot pan and lets it cook for a few minutes.

Then she flips it to cook the other side:

While that's cooking, she mixes sugar and a pinch of cinnamon.

Here's Alexander when he saw what was for breakfast.

A sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar, and maple syrup, and breakfast is done!