cooking with kids

Tropical Blizzard

By Lisa

This is an unlikely and unpractical post for the middle of winter if, like me, you’re cold in any state but Hawaii.  But it’s not wholly inappropriate if you’re like my kids, and are not ever bothered by the cold, even in the middle of blizzard.  In an effort to keep my hungry kids out of trouble while I was cooking dinner on Saturday, I had Finn put together a plate of snacks (cheese, crackers, turkey, olives) and let Ella make the kidtinis. The problem was we had no bubbly water and no juice. She concocted a kind of smoothie with milk, ice, and mango and coconut syrups.

I was a skeptical, but the drink was really pretty, and–because she somehow found just the right proportion of milk and ice and syrup–perfectly light and not too sweet. In fact, it was a lot like shave ice.  It melted in the mouth.

Also, it reminded me of first snow. And the blizzard we experienced over vacation. Which was also a beautiful, serendipitous, icy mess.

Tropical Blizzard Smoothie

1 part low fat milk to about 3 parts ice

Equal parts mango and coconut syrups, about 2 T each

Blend in a blender. Adjust syrups to taste.

Kale & Avocado Salad

by Caroline

We make raw kale salad a lot, but over Christmas my sister made a version that was a revelation to me: raw, shredded kale massaged with avocado, then tossed with avocado chunks, slivered almonds and lemon juice. Yum. I ate it almost every day (an antidote to my daily handful of Christmas cookies?) and the whole family loved it. Yesterday we made it at home for the first time, and Eli wanted in on the action. I supervised at the beginning, but by the end he had taken over the process and, as you can see from the photo, was well pleased with himself (I should have supervised a little more closely; look at that knife!)

There are various versions of this recipe online, but I had a boy eager to make salad (that bears repeating: a five year old boy eager to make salad) so we just improvised, and it tasted great. Here’s how it went:

1 bunch of kale
1 lemon
2 avocados
1 handful (approximately 1/4 cup) toasted, slivered almonds
olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste

Strip the kale leaves from their stems, wash them, and then slice them into ribbons. Dump them into a large salad bowl. Slice one avocado onto the kale and mash it into the leaves with your hands. There is no kitchen implement that can do this for you, just dig in with your bare hands or enlist a willing helper to massage the kale leaves until they are all nicely coated with avocado. Juice the lemon over the leaves, and then add the other avocado, chopped into chunks. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with almonds, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and serve.

Strawberry Pop Tarts

by Caroline

The cooking division of labor in our household, as I have mentioned before, is basically Tony: stove; Caroline: oven. Or to put it another way, Tony: dinner; Caroline: dessert. It’s never more obvious than at our New Year’s Day party, for which I produce a line-up of cookies, muffins, coffee cakes and the like:

While this year, for example, Tony made a massaman curry, several batches of veggie spring rolls, a green papaya salad, plus a variety of fabulous chutneys and dipping sauces. He did suggest one thing for me to make, though: home made pop tarts. And I couldn’t resist. I found a recipe from Bon Appetit and it’s a great party snack since you prep them in advance and stick them into the freezer until you want them. Eli helped me with the assembly (and took to heart my caution to keep his warm hands off the pastry!):

They were gone so fast I couldn’t take a picture, but you know what a pop tart looks like. These are too good not to make again.

Here’s the recipe, with my notes in brackets:

* 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour plus additional for shaping and rolling
* 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
* 4 tablespoons ice water
* 12 tablespoons strawberry preserves

* Powdered sugar and fresh strawberries, for garnish [I skipped this step, given the dearth of fresh berries in January]


Whisk 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, coarse salt, and sugar in large bowl. Add butter. Using fingertips or back of fork, blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water by tablespoonfuls, tossing until moist clumps form. [You can do all this in the food processor: whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the chunks of butter and pulse until the mixture is coarse and grainy. Then add the water by spoonfuls and pulse until the dough starts to form clumps.] Gather dough into ball. Divide in half; shape each half into disk [or, shape into a rectangle to make your life easier when you roll it out]. Wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour.

Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough on floured surface to about 13×11 inches. Trim to 12×10-inch rectangle, then cut into eight 5×3-inch rectangles.

Arrange 4 rectangles, spaced apart, on each sheet. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons preserves in row down center of each rectangle. Top preserves with second dough rectangle. Using fingertips, gently press all edges of each tart to seal; press all edges with tines of fork to double-seal. Using toothpick, poke a few holes in center of top dough rectangle. Cover; freeze tarts on sheets at least 2 hours and up to 1 week.

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake frozen tarts uncovered until golden, reversing sheets after 15 minutes, 25 to 30 minutes total (some preserves may leak out). Immediately transfer tarts to rack. Sift powdered sugar lightly over. Serve warm or at room temperature [if they last that long] with fresh berries [in season].

Eli’s Elegant Broccoli

by Caroline

I won’t claim to take as much time with presentation as Lisa does, but Eli is either paying more attention than I thought to my small efforts or he is simply reading this blog. The recipe he invented yesterday (with production assistance from Tony) shows he’s as careful with style as substance.

The plan was for our regular rice with tofu and vegetables. I don’t make dinner often under even the best of circumstances; now, after a week locked into a bad head cold, I was just on the sidelines, listening, as Eli chatted about developing a new recipe for the broccoli. His first idea was to serve the cooked spears dipped in beaten egg. Tony balked. Eli cried. I thought about various other nice things into which one can dip one’s vegetables. There was a long conversation on the couch during which Tony successfully distracted Eli from his recipe long enough to return to cooking. We thought the recipe was forgotten, but I should have known my tenacious child would find a way to make his recipe work.

Dinner approached, and then Eli said, “I have another idea for my recipe!” I held my breath.
But in the end, it was OK.

Eli’s Elegant Broccoli

Prepare one head of broccoli by separating the spears and steaming lightly. While it’s cooking, melt a couple tablespoons of butter and let cook until it browns very slightly. Add a sprinkle of brown sugar. Serve in a shallow bowl with the broccoli spears surrounding it.

Now our proud boy wants to write a cookbook; I think we will.

On the Fly

Or, Not Such a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Dinner or Day After All…

By Lisa

It’s 4 pm and I have no desire to cook dinner nor do I really feel inspired.  I have lots of options: tofu, kielbasa, any variation on the egg, many variations on pasta, tacos…However, it’s 90 degrees, October, and I just have that in-between/nothing- feels-just-right feeling. That, plus we have 2 great parties to go to this weekend, so I am, perhaps, starting my cooking-holiday a day early, psychologically speaking.

But we do have to eat, especially the kids, and eat soon.  And the plan is to get this one:

The 8-year-old

together with this:

My late in the week refrigerator: salamis, cheeses, lettuces, green and yellow beans,

tofu, sausages (in freezer), lots of fruit, leftover french toast, eggs…

She’s been asking to cook dinner for a while now, so I’m going to let her–with supervision. Stay tuned.  In a few hours, I imagine she’ll have something from the following list:

  • eggs, scrambled or omelet
  • fresh bread
  • white beans
  • salad
  • yellow bean vinaigrette
  • charcuterie plate
  • pasta with fried egg
  • mystery meal?

I’ll post the result before the end of the night…

6:16 PM

One 3rd grader’s homework done, one Lincolon Log cabin, and one major meltdown over conflicting building priorities  later, we took the easy way out:

Egg sandwiches on the sesame buns left over from the panelle, yellow beans & shredded carrots w/olive oil and red wine vinegar, and padrones.

Finn set the table.

I made the beans, but Ella–with close supervision–fried & served the peppers.

She cracked two eggs–but the yolks broke so they became test cases. I cracked the two more (since they were the only two left), and she gently fried and successfully placed the eggs on the buns without breaking the yolks.

And she took the final photo of a perfectly successful dinner that is pretty much their version of comfort food. It’s certainly not fancy, but it was fast and fresh, and well, some dinners are like that. (Here, and probably in Australia, too.)  It was a nice way to bring the three of us back together and around the table.