Mar 16

The third Iron Craft 2012 challenge was during one of the coldest times of the year for most people. February is usually the time those who live up North get sick of the snow and want to get somewhere warm. With that in mind, we were challenged to make something for the theme Warm Up.

4 Ingredient Fudge My submission: Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry Fudge

After success with the original recipe, I expanded on Cookies & Cups’ recipe for two ingredient strawberry fudge and made chocolate-dipped strawberry fudge. Only four ingredients this time! I also learned that a double-boiler works WAY better than a microwave since the chocolate will heat up the frosting enough to make it easy to pour. I didn’t have an official double-boiler, so I set one sauce pan on top of another that was filled with water.
[See all the third Iron Craft 2012 submissions

Did you participate in this Iron Craft 2012 challenge? Please share your craft in the comments!

Feb 11

daphnerecycledfoodAfter reading some terrific instructions on Like Merchant Ships on how to simplify when cooking for your family, I pretty much posted a blog in the comments.

As much as I wish I did, I don’t love cooking. Being the house cook is tough!

In our family, I have to accommodate a vegetarian (who doesn’t love all veggies equally), a pre-schooler who eats a HUGE breakfast and tiny other meals, and a toddler who has 3-1/2 teeth and must eat a good meal at regular times.

I’m of the oh-crud-it’s-4:50-and-dinner’s-in-10-minutes school of cooking. You could call me a Lazy Mom. I would be a perfect candidate for a meal plan, but I’m more of a grey-area person so schedules only work so well for me. I try to make meal plans, but I haven’t found a system that works for me!

I HAVE to have leftovers to use, or we’d all starve.

Here are some of my biggest kitchen secrets:

  • I make cream-of-whatever soup by the gallon on the weekend. I just chop up whatever veggies need to be used up for the soup (I use the recipe in my 70s BHG cookbook–we tend to mix potato, onion, broccoli, etc), and store it in a washed-out milk container so we always have soup on hand. You can eat it as is (sooo much better than Campbell’s condensed stuff), or use it as gravy, or as a binder in a casserole. It’s nice and versatile! It takes me about an hour to make the batch, from chopping to cooking, to pureeing.
  • I usually have cooked carbs on hand in the form of whole wheat spaghetti noodles (make pasta marinara, or use them for asian-inspired stir fry), and cooked rice. I am currently loving Calrose (white sushi rice). You can eat it hot or cold! I am going to switch to brown rice, though, because the Calrose isn’t as nutritious (darn!) I also like to make a big batch of oven-baked potato cubes (guess they’re home fries?) that can be reheated for breakfasty meals (or breakfast for dinner), or incorporated into breakfast burritos.
  • We eat a lot of mexicanish meals with canned refried beans as a main component. With a can of fat-free refried beans, you can make burritos (they take 5 mins to make), taco salad, or tostadas. I also personally love to heat the beans up, top ‘em with cheese, salsa, and low-fat sour cream, and just eat ‘em as dip with chips for a meal. That doesn’t fly well in our household, usually though! I used to cook a big batch of beans up, puree them and freeze them so I didn’t have to buy canned (more expensive) but there were some complaints about the taste and consistency of the homemade refried beans. I am still thinking about doing that again, and then mixing the homemade with the canned to cut the cost down of the canned beans. (We do get the cans in bulk at Costco – they cost about 87 cents each… still pretty cheap for a meal).
  • We buy eggs by the 5-1/2 dozen and eat breakfast-for-dinner regularly. It’s super quick to make eggs, toast, and reheated veggie sausage. You can also make quick egg sandwiches for a meal-on-the-go.
  • I keep breads in the freezer. We always have loaves of sourdough (for the adults), and whole wheat sandwich bread (for the kiddies’ PB&Js), and we keep whole wheat flour tortillas in the freezer in bulk as well. Bread defrosts super quickly once you take it out of the freezer, and it doesn’t get moldy and wasted if it’s kept in the freezer.
  • I keep frozen veggies and berries in the freezer. Veggies are important, and frozen ones are healthy (they freeze ‘em the same day they pick them, there aren’t any added ingredients). They’re quick to heat up, and versatile. You can use them as they are with a bit of seasoning for your veggie side dish, or add them to other dishes (like the aforementioned asian-inspired stir fry) or soups. Want to turn your cream-of-whatever into a chunky chowder? Heat up some frozen veggies and add ‘em! Quick!

My most important tool:

  • My toaster oven. It’s a mini oven. I rarely use the big oven anymore! The toaster oven cooks small batches of things (cookie dough for instance), and reheats things to crispy perfection. Leftover pizza tastes as good as it did the first time when reheated in a toaster oven. It’s as indispensible to me now as a microwave is. I can’t believe I lived this long without one.

Those are my cooking secrets! The main secret is, I’m really lazy and not apt to plan ahead. By using staple leftovers, I can make a “new” meal every day.

*Image by Daphne for CROQ Zine

Oct 2

My friend Kellie has a great blog called Little Nummies (here’s the interview that we did with her a few weeks ago) that is dedicated to showcasing all the fun lunches she serves to her kids. She is really creative and does a great job at coming up with fun ways to present food to her girls.

For some reason I have been really intimidated to try it… I don’t know why! I don’t have trouble jumping into any other kinds of crafty things. Here is my first attempt at making something fun for Lewis to eat.

It’s a tractor-ish vehicle made out of bread with melted cheese for the tractor-color. The wheels are a meatball (meatless!) cut in half, with olive slices. It’s driving on snap peas.

Hopefully I will improve as I keep trying.

Aug 25
hotdogtapus guarding treasure

hotdogtapus guarding treasure

Kellie of For the Love creates fun lunchtime fare for her kids and posts the results on her blog. I have been enjoying her creations so much that I wanted to ask her more about them and share my findings with you.

What inspired you to start presenting your kids’ lunchtime fare in such fun ways?
My girls were bored with the basic sandwich, hotdog, corndog, quesadilla, or whatever I gave them for lunch. It started with cutting up a bunch of things and letting them “play” and make faces or designs with their food. I started getting involved with “playing” with their food and it was really fun!! I also found that the kids ate more with a “hands on” approach.

Where do you get your inspiration for your creations?
I love gourmet food and especially the presentation. I guess it comes down to the presentation for kids. What would they like to eat?!? They always go for the fun smily faces on menues, why not give them that option at home?!? It’s a whole lot cheaper for me to make my own smily face on a pancake then to order one at IHOP. It just makes sense.

Ever serve your kids a plain, boring meal?
ABSOLUTELY!!! They had a peanut butter sandwhich and popcorn today for lunch. Nothing special to it, just put it on the plate and gave it to them. Some days I feel like doing something special, and other days it’s whatever I give them. Somedays they ask for something that they can play with, which is less work for me, and other days they may ask for me to create something. It all depends on the day.

Favorite ingredients?
I am trying to add more things to the pantry. Grocery shopping has become…”Oh, I can make something with this.” It’s like the grocery store has become my craft store!! It’s kind of fun. I use peanut butter a LOT, probably an unhealthy amount, but it’s great for glue. Pretzel sticks are amazing for holding olives, grapes, raisins, marshmallows, or whatever you would use a toothpick for. I seem to make sandwhiches a lot and use cookie cutters (or a tin can) to cut out shapes and then use that as a foundation piece. Whatever I have in the cupboard is what I use!!! All my creations seemingly have the same ingredients though!!! I haven’t gotten to any fancy stuff yet…I am trying to expand my culinary skills.

a creation by Kellie's 5 year-old

a creation by Kellie's 5 year-old

Do your kids have a favorite creation? Do you ever make the same one again another time?
Right now, the kids keep asking for “Squidward”, who is a wonderfully crafted hotdog octopus. I cut the ends off of raisins and use the sticky side to make eyes. So yes, I do create the same thing twice, but I always change something about it. I served the Hotdogtopus with a graham cracker treasure chest filled with marshmallows and raisins, and the next time I served him with homemade cheesy garlic tortillas chips. I like to have variety, but I am sure the kids could care less.

Have any tips for others who want to have more fun with their food?
Oh my goodness….just PLAY with your food!! Skip manners and etiquite and just get in there and be creative!!

You also let your kids create their own food sculptures sometimes. Can you give us a quick overview on how you’d set a project like that up for them?
I choose a random variety of food with different color, texture, and size and put it all on a plate. I usually give them a big plate to create their food sculptures. For example, I would put celery, cut into little pieces, apple wedges, miniature marshmallows, a cookie cuttered sandwhich, grapes and or raisins, cheetos, olives, and a handful of cereal all on a plate and let them play to their little hearts desire!! Whatever you have, use it!!! As far as a time allotment, lunchtime at my house goes from 12-1. That’s it. They have to create and have it all consumed by 1:00pm. I don’t make anything that will be completely time consuming. With 3 kids, I don’t have time for it!!!

Mar 3

I wanted to do something fun with Lewis today, so I asked him if he wanted to cook. He said yes (of course), so we worked on this recipe that was GREAT for him because he could do almost the whole thing himself.

What we did:

First we washed our hands because it’s never too late to start teaching real elements of cooking. Lewis is old enough to learn about washing your hands before cooking!

Then, I got out various dry ingredients appropriate for a trail mix, such as pretzels, cereal, raisins and craisins, sunflower seeds and candied sunflower seeds (like M&Ms, but sunflower seeds!). Lewis put his hand in each bag to measure out whatever amounts he wanted of each item (his hands are small, and so was the bowl, so it didn’t get out of hand like pouring would have!). When we were happy with the formula, I had Lewis mix it up with his hands. While he worked on that, I microwaved a small bowl of white chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup, probably), watching it carefully because they scorch easily. Then I poured the melted white chocolate over the mixture, mixed it up, and let him “mix it up” with the spoon when everything was evenly coated.

We just left it in the bowl (I’ll put it in a ziploc bag to store it), but you could make it into clumps if you want. Maybe that would be a good twist if your kid was older – they could put the clumps out on the wax paper.

Okay, it’s basically candy, but it was a great recipe for us because Lewis could get so involved in making it!

Feb 14

I made a couple of Valentine’s Day treats. I wanted to see what happened when you crossed conversation hearts with rice krispie treats. The result: cute. The conversation hearts stay hard, and don’t get soggy even after a day.

Then I used this recipe for Conversation Heart Fudge from the Family Fun website. These are cute, but they probably taste better for grade schoolers than for adults. If I made these again to give to my friends (big people!), I would probably use a real fudge recipe! Also, unless you are fastidious in cleaning your knife between each cut, the chocolate on the knife sticks on the white layer of fudge. Martha would never approve!

Still, they are cute!