Tag Archives: dinner

Acorn Squash, Cutting Cooking Time in “Half” with a Little Help from OrAngie

12 Nov

I knew I wanted to share this idea with you but I was holding off for some reason. Maybe it’s because I recently posted about squash, but we LOVE squash!!
I’m super excited to be a part of the Paint Chip Pals Rainbow-Tastic Holiday blog hop which supports a fun and exciting Kickstarter campaign.  The Paint Chip Pals plush dolls – a colorful set of characters saving the world from blah one color at a time! Learn more about this exciting campaign and the creators Andrea and Cliff Currie (whom you may recognize from Hand Make My Day and Craft Wars) here!

I love all the Paint Chip Pals for their bright hues and unique personalities I naturally honed in on the chef OrAngie as the inspiration for this squashie project because I like her fireyness and off the hook kitchen skills. When I was contacted recently by The Paint Chip Pals to do a blog post, I knew this was the one for them.  I saw OrAngie the cute Paint Chip chef who loves making Orangie cupcakes and mini yam sandwiches and fell in love! We try to be as creative as we can over here and the Paint Chip Pals fall right into our category for fun!

“How can squash be fun?” you ask. Well first off when I was looking at the photos of this pretty Orange Acorn squash my first thought was it looks a bit like OrAngie! It’s orange, and has a pretty little scalloped edge. If it had arms it would probably reach out for a hug, it’s like a little baby OrAngie. See how cute she is, do you see a resemblance?

If you have never made Acorn Squash before it is the easiest side dish to make and is sure to impress your guests! Don’t you want some Ohhh’s and Ahhh’s at the table once in a while? (You know you do) Now I didn’t learn to make this at culinary school or on a cooking show, this is just how mom used to make it, simple, comforting, buttery and sweet. I did however come up with this brilliant microwave steaming method to cut cooking time…all by myself! Now go to the store and buy some acorn squash, when you get back I will tell you what to do with this prehistoric looking food.

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Nothing Special :

Dam Good Old Fashioned Acorn Squash Recipe

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2 similar sized acorn squash

1/2 cup water

4 Tbs butter, coconut oil or Earth Balance

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

pinch salt

Preheat oven to 425˚F

Wash squash with water, dry.

Place a towel on a cutting board, put squash down stem side horizontal to board. Wrap towel around base of squash like a snake, to secure it in place while you cut through it. Slice a tiny amount off the stem side and bottom so when the squash is sitting upright it won’t wobble. Using a sharp knife* cut through the equator (the fat middle) of the squash. (see photo)

Scoop all the seeds and pulp out of the center. Pour 1/2 the water into the bottom half of each squash, place top of squash back on top. (see photo) Place the squash in the microwave for 5 minutes on high. It is now steaming, when you remove it use caution not to get a steam burn. The squash should be tender when poked with a knife. If it is not, return it to the microwave.

Dump out any remaining water; place the squash on a baking sheet. Add 1 Tbs butter, 1 Tbs brown sugar, 1 Tbs maple syrup and a pinch of salt to the flesh of each squash. Lightly poke each one with a fork a few times to let the butter and sugar sink in.

Cook for 15 minutes or until bubbly and tender, let cool 5 minutes, serve.

* sharp knife – If the squash is too tough to cut through or you are afraid of slipping place it in the microwave for 2 minutes to soften.

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Chicken Little Hand Pies

22 Sep

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Chicken pot pie is not nearly as daunting a project as you may think. I know it sounds fussy with all that dough, sauce making, chicken cooking, chopping and so on. It is really just a matter of tossing everything in a pan and adding some kind of doughy top.  I got all excited one night while I was cooking some chicken and though these would be a prefect thing to make the next night for dinner.  Because I’d already cooked the chicken and would use the leftovers for the pies, it would be so easy. Then I remembered I don’t have those cute little pots that are  special for making individual chicken pot pie in. I have a million small dishes, but like Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, none were just right, some were too small and some were too large. Then I thought who needs those stinkin’ mini pots anyway, I’ll make hand pies and then I won’t even have to wash forks after dinner because you eat these with your hands! Brilliant.

Then I realized that I had scheduled a very busy day the next day so… home-made pie dough wasn’t going to happen. Ok, I cheated, call me Semi Homemade (it’s ok I don’t mind, I know I can make pie dough if I really needed to) 

So I made the filling that evening after dinner and snuggled it right in the fridge for the next day. I was lucky enough to have some homemade chicken stock on hand. I was unlucky because I had a house of sick people, precisely why I had chicken stock.  The next day I had to grab some stuff at the store anyway so I tossed in a pre made pie dough, you can get fairly healthy ones at a natural market. You could use puff dough If you can’t find pie dough. I enlisted the help of my daughter in making these, she picked the size and shapes for the pies. We cut out the dough with cookie cutters, brushed them with egg, filled them and sealed them. Chilling the mixture makes easy work of filling the little pies when it’s time. We assembled them around 3 o’clock and put them back in the refrigerator until it was time to bake them before dinner. You could also freeze them raw for another day.  They baked up really pretty and were equally as tasty. You can try adding anything, make them vegetarian even, just use your creative genius. Serve alongside a colorful salad.

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Chicken Little Hand Pies

These little suckers stay very hot inside for a long time, be careful when serving little kids.

If using raw chicken, cut it up very small and add it after the broth, simmer until it is cooked through.

Tip: Slicing semi frozen chicken is easier than trying to slice raw chicken. Place your raw chicken in the freezer for 10 minutes and then slice away.

Adapted from Epicurious

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, quartered lengthwise and diced
1 small potato, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 celery rib, halved lengthwise and diced

1/4 cup thawed corn kernels

1/2 cup ounces cooked shredded chicken

Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme

Squeeze of lemon juice about a 1/2 tsp

2 unbaked pie crusts, either store-bought or homemade (not pie shells)
1 egg, beaten

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the carrot,potato and celery and season with salt and pepper to taste, raise the heat to medium-high. Cook until the vegetables are softened , add the corn and pre-cooked chicken.

Sprinkle the flour over everything in the pan, stir, and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth,  thyme and lemon juice,  and simmer for 5 minutes more or until thickened.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cool and refrigerate until cold, about to 30 minutes. Remove the pie crusts from the refrigerator so they can soften slightly.

When the filling is cool, preheat oven to 4oo°F  Grease or line two baking sheets with parchment.

Lay the crust out on a cutting board.   Use cookie cutter to cut as many shapes as you can. Re-roll the dough and cut more until you have no more crust left.

Place about 1 Tbs.  of filling in the center of dough, brush beaten egg around the outside of the crust,  then place another matching shape in top. Crimp the edges together with a fork, and prick the top a few times for steam to escape. Carefully transfer pie to the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining pie crust and filling. Just before baking brush all the pies with egg wash.

Bake until golden brown, 20 30 minutes.

My Little Food Stylist and Butterfly Dumplings

23 Jul

Easy soup with a twist

“Soup…mom I want soup for dinner tonight.” “Honey it’s 4:45, dinner is in one hour, I’d have to go to the store, blah, blah, blah…”  Once I get fixated on something to make nothing will stop me, so off to Trader Joe’s I ran (biked)….whoosh…

I grabbed a bag of frozen wontons and just like that…whoosh…I was back. I tossed together a very quick and “Semi Homemade” soup. I was lucky enough to have some good chicken stock on hand in the freezer, dried mushrooms and fresh spinach. I followed the directions on the bag for making the wontons, tossed in some onion and garlic, ginger, and let it simmer. It was very fast and created a warm light dinner. We can’t all be Super Mom or Super Chef every day and it’s ok, we shouldn’t have to be.

I was busy, getting the rest of our meal together and kidlet was restless so I came up with having her “style” her dinner. She loves tofu, the marinated kind, so I handed her some cookie cutters and tofu and walked away. When I turned back around she had placed the butterfly shapes so perfectly in the soup, I was shocked! She sees me working all the time, she even helps out occasionally on my food styling jobs.  I know she has the ability to decorate her food and make it beautiful, now if she would just start making entire meals for us!  I’m pretty convinced by now that if they cook it they eat it or in our case, if you decorate it, you eat it.

It helps to have some ingredients on hand for quick dinners these are things I love to keep around:
peeled ginger in the freezer, you can add it to soups,
Cooked marinated tofu
Chicken stock, homemade or boxed
Dried mushroom assortment
Green onions, sliced frozen

Wonton Soup with Tofu Butterflies

I realize that not everyone has a Trader Joe’s market across the street. This recipe is so flexible that you can use just about anything in it. If you can’t get wontons, try Gyoza or just ramen style noodles and cooked chicken. Make this to taste, if your kids need more flavor, add more soy sauce and sesame.  Water chestnuts are crunchy and take on the flavor of the dish they are in, try them. Try dried reconstituted mushrooms, they can add great flavor to lots of dishes.

1 Bag of Trader Joe’s Frozen mini chicken wontons
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 coins of ginger, peeled
1-2 green onions, sliced thin
1 cup sliced mushrooms 
2 Tbs soy sauce
4 cups of Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 can of  sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 tsp sesame oil
Handful of spinach, fresh or frozen
Teriyaki marinated cooked tofu
Salt/Pepper
Optional
2 eggs, beaten (see below)
Follow directions on the bag of wontons, when cooked, remove and set aside. They should be browned on the bottom and cooked through.
In the same pan, add a tablespoon of oil (peanut, or vegetable) sauté garlic, ginger, green onions and mushrooms until dry.  Turn heat to medium and add the soy sauce and stir to incorporate.  Add chicken broth, and water chestnuts and  simmer.   Add the mini wontons back, to warm through, add sesame oil  serve. Salt and pepper to taste.
If adding the beaten egg for and egg drop style soup, add just before the wontons.
Slowly stream in the beaten eggs to simmering (not boiling) soup mixture, let simmer untouched 2 minutes. Continue with finishing the recipe.

“Let Us” Roll Ups Revisited

2 Jul


Since I moved my blog over from Toddler Café to Playful Pantry I haven’t posted any recipes from my book. This is for all of you who never saw this crunchy delicious one it is one of my favorites so I am resurrecting it.  This is our go to meal for summer, you can add any veggies you desire,  it’s great for kids and adults love it too!  Stay cool and eat well!

Getting kids to eat raw vegetables can be a real struggle but this one may turn your kids around. This dish has crisp crunch and texture from healthy vegetables! The sauce binds the meat together so it stays put in the lettuce leaf. Give your child the smaller inside leaves so they will be easier for little hands to manage.

Make sure you break up the meat as small as you can to make it easy to eat. Have them fill the lettuce boats with the tasty “cargo” and sail them into the port (mouth). Try to be a shark and bite the boat as you sail it by their mouths.

“Let Us” Roll Up

Makes 4 servings

1 head romaine lettuce hearts, separated washed and dried

1 pound ground chicken, beef or turkey

1 medium carrot minced or grated 3/4 cup chopped or 3 ounces

1 cup broccoli crowns and stems, minced, 3/4 cup chopped or 3 ounces

Sauce

3 tablespoons soy sauce

4 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon granulated onion

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)

Chopped Peanuts or Cashews for sprinkling (optional)

Put sauce ingredients in a small bowl stir to combine and break up lumps with a fork, set aside.

Heat a large sauté pan or wok on medium high heat. Add meat and cook untouched until meat looks like it is cooking underneath and juices start release. Chop the meat with a wooden spoon as it cooks, when meat is almost cooked through add vegetables. Continue stirring and breaking up lumps until meat is thoroughly cooked, if the meat is giving off a lot of grease drain it before adding sauce. Turn heat down to medium low, give the sauce a stir and add it to the center of the pan. Mix well cook 2 minutes more, continuing to break up any large chunks of meat and coating with sauce.

Serve meat and lettuce leaves separately on a plate, have your child try to put the meat in the leaves with a spoon sprinkle with nuts and eat like a taco.

Variation:

Mix cooked rice into meat mixture to change it up.

Next time add minced onion or garlic when you add the vegetables. This will get your kids used to new flavors without them seeing the identifiable chunks.

 This recipe can be made gluten free easily by substituting the Soy for GF Tamari.
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