My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.


Archive for the ‘kid meals’

We Made Mozzarella! 3

Posted on July 03, 2010 by crankycheryl

It was an early summer day and there in the cheese section was a bright and cheery box of ingredients put together by Ricki the Cheese Queen.  It was about $25, said it made 30 batches of mozzarella and/or ricotta and I had a little extra money and couldn’t resist.

So I got some milk, invited friends over and off we went.

We thought the boys would love making cheese, but the process turns out to be a lot of cooking and then touching hot things.  Instead they turned out to be more interested in this:

So we mom-types got a look at the ingredients in the box …

And then, repeating to myself, “pay attention, pay attention, — ooh look, a glass of wine! — pay attention,” we got started.

We learned this is really important before you start:

  1. You can use raw (if you’re a fan) or pasteurized – but not ultra-pasteurized – milk.
  2. Get thee some chlorine-free water, either by buying filtered or letting your chlorinated water sit uncovered for a few hours to let the chlorine evaporate.  I don’t know why this matters but the Queen hath spoken.

We dissolved 1/4 rennet tablet in 1/4 c. of that chlorine-free water.

Then mixed the citric acid in with 1 c. more chlorine-free water.

Then we poured the milk into a big stainless steel pot, stirred in the citric acid, and heated the milk to 90F.  First it looks like this:

And then before I knew it, it looked like this.  This was definitely the first time I’ve ever been excited to see curdled milk, and the first time I can remember ever considering that “curdled” doesn’t mean “went bad” but does in fact mean “form curds as if to make cheese.”  Awesome.

Then it was time to stir in the dissolved rennet.  Ricki’s instructions say to stir with “an up and down motion,” and I have no idea what the hell that means since I’m pretty sure that stirring means something that happens in a circular fashion.  So I stirred, making sure to sort of fold the top part of the stuff into the bottom part of the stuff and hoped that was good enough.

Then it was time to cover the pot, leave it alone, and wait five minutes.

After 5 minutes, it was supposed to look like a custard, with the liquid (whey) separated from the curds.  It didn’t look like custard, and the whey was pretty milky looking (apparently not desirable), so the lid went back on for 5 more minutes.  Then it looked better.

We were supposed to next cut the curds in a sort of grid fashion, but ours were not so solid that they were really able to be sliced, so we stirred it around.

Then the pot went back on the stove to stir and to heat the proto-cheese to 115F while stirring, then stirred it off the heat for a few minutes more.

There is no picture of this.

Then Her Majesty said to “drain the whey” off of the curds, which seemed a little crazy because the whole thing was mostly liquid.  We poured it over a strainer instead.

Next a big pot of water got heated to 185F, and then the curds get dipped in and stirred around.  This was super-exciting because they quickly start to melt and look an awful lot like mozzarella.  Then there’s more dipping and folding and dipping and folding and stretching, some adding salt and herbs and before we knew it we had some cheese.

There’s no picture of this because I was dipping and folding and adding salt.  But look:  video!

We thought, “Why not bocconcini?”  so after it was thoroughly cheese-like we started forming those.  They were hard to get round and it was hard to make them without lumps and bumps and seams.  But by then we were on our second glasses of wine so we pressed bravely ahead.  We mixed up some garlic and olive oil and kosher salt and Annie chopped up some basil from the garden to marinate our little mini mozzarellitas.

And we threw together some edible flowers and greens and currants and thawed some biscuits from the freezer and turned it into dinner.

It was lovely, and I’m happy to report that every day since then Z. has asked for homemade cheese.  And it will most definitely be coming.

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Homemade Pop Tarts 5

Posted on June 23, 2010 by crankycheryl

It is day 5 of summer vacation and I have already threatened my #1 son with juvenile detention if he doesn’t stop hitting his brother.

Homemade sugary treats with purple sparkles!

He wanted to know if he could eat hot dogs if he went to kid jail.  No hot dogs, I told him.  No good food at all.

For breakfast!

Homemade Blueberry Pop Tarts
adapted from King Arthur Flour & with inspiration from Smitten Kitchen
makes about 9

Whisk together:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 T. ground flaxseed
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Use 2 forks or a pastry cutter to work in:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pats

Whisk together:

  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Add oil-egg-milk mixture to flour mixture and stir briskly until mostly incorporated.  You can knead it a couple of times if you like.

Divide the dough in half and shape each a rectangle.  Chill in the refrigerator for 10 or 15 minutes, then roll out first one rectangle and then the other to a rectangle about 1/8″ thick measuring 12 x 15 inches (use a cutting board or baking sheet as a guide).

While dough is chilling, prepare filling by placing in a small saucepan, stirring well and heating to a boil for one minute:

  • 2/3 cup blueberry jam
  • 1 t. cornstarch dissolved in 1 T. water

Let filling cool.  Lightly oil a baking sheet and set aside.

Removing dough from refrigerator, use a sharp knife or a pastry wheel to cut 9 approximately same-sized rectangles.  Repeat with second rectangle of dough.  Brush outline with:

  • beaten egg

then place a tablespoon of filling in the center.  Put another piece of dough on top, then press and crimp edges with a fork and poke a few holes on top for ventilation.  Put each on the prepared baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 350.  Refrigerate pastries for 15 – 20 minutes, then place directly into oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until lightly golden.  Remove to rack to cool.

If you really want to be able to prepare these in your toaster, you probably should stop here.  But if you just want them to enjoy them without the actual use of a toaster, go ahead and make some sugar glaze and then top with colored sugar or sprinkles before eating them all in a carbo-loading festival of self-loathing and -pity at your horrible parenting surprising your little angels with them for a special breakfast treat.

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Carrot Cake Scones 0

Posted on June 01, 2010 by crankycheryl

If there’s a food habit I could break, it would be stealthing food into my children.

I’d so much rather have them happily eating their own vegetables to the tune of,

“Oh mama, how we do appreciate the organic local goodness you get for us, never mind the expense.  Could you pass the broccoli and sesame sauce for dipping?  It’s simply divine!”

I’ve seen children like this.  I see the looks their parents give me when I tell them what my #1 son’s food repertoire consists of.  Oh yes, I see the looks they exchange with their friends, smug and sure that their superior parenting skills have produced adventurous eaters.    I’m sure they’re right, and not for one minute do I wish anything unpleasant upon them, like maybe a child who develops a midnight yodeling habit or becomes possessed by the spirit of Vlad the Impaler.

I try.  I put the vegetables on the table in a casual way, and when the caterwauling begins I nonchalantly suggest they try one bite.  Then, while they’re convulsing on the floor and crying, I shrug.  I say, “It’s up to you how you get your three healthy choices.”

But I want them to eat vegetables.  So it’s squash in this and spinach in that and carrots in some other thing.  Like these scones, which embellished a King Arthur mix that someone had given me at the holidays.   They would have been good on their own (though I’d prefer that King Arthur leave the “natural flavoring” out of their mixes and just let real ingredients shine through), but the additions made them really yummy indeed.  And healthy enough that I fed them to the boys for dinner while guests were here this weekend, all of us happy that we had gotten away with something.

Carrot Cake Scones
Makes 8

Preheat oven to 425.

  • 1 mix or basic recipe for 8 scones
  • (please consult recipe for the amounts of butter, milk, etc. you’ll need for that)

Add to the mixed batter:

  • 1/2 c. pureed pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 1 c. shredded carrots
  • 1/2 c. yogurt raisins (it’s what I had around – use what you like)
  • 1/2 t. each ginger, cardamom

Press the dough into a circle 8 – 9″ on a baking sheet.  Cut nearly through into 8 pie-wedge type pieces.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Frost with anything, or nothing.  I had some cream cheese frosting around from cupcakes last week, which was pretty darned good.  In fact, that was the only part Z. ate, proving that I just can’t win.

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Roast Chicken with Rhubarb, Parsnips & Nettles 0

Posted on May 14, 2010 by crankycheryl

It’s that magical time of year, yes:  time to defrost the freezer! And so I’m trying to plan meals around the things that need to come out of said box of frost.   I found myself rooting around in there the other day, and was delighted to find a whole organic roasting chicken in the back of it that had somehow escaped winter meals.

Then I found the last round of root vegetables from a winter CSA pick-up, and had nettles and rhubarb from the farmer’s market, and before I knew it, I had a great dinner coming together, tart and sweet and green.  The rhubarb gets soft and melty, the big chunks of parsnip keep just a bit al dente, and the contrast is really nice.

I almost always make roasts in a clay pot, but you can use any basic recipe (like Thomas Keller’s below).  Clay pot cooking is its own special technique.  It doesn’t result in the same flavor intensity you get from dry-heat roasting, but I love how forgiving it is, and how it helps the other flavors inside the pot meld and transform.

Roast Chicken with Rhubarb, Parsnips & Nettles
4 – 6 servings

  • 1 4-ish pound chicken, humanely raised please, rinsed, patted dry, and with any necks or whatever removed from the inside
  • 4 – 6 large parsnips, scrubbed, peel left on, cut into nice big chunks 2″ or so
  • 4 stalks rhubarb (about 3/4 lb.), washed, leaves removed, cut into 3/4″ pieces
  • 1 lemon, organic, washed, seeded, and cut into 1/8’s
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 1 t. kosher or other favorite salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb. nettles, handled with gloves, rinsed, blanched for 2 minutes and drained very well  (mine were from Half Pint Farm – maybe they’ll have more this week)

If  using a clay pot, prepare by filling top and bottom with cold water and letting sit for 20 – 30 minutes.

Line pot with parchment paper (I was out & so I didn’t).

Mix 2 T. oil, 1/2 salt, garlic, and juice from 2 or 3 slices of the lemon together in a small bowl.  Rub all over the chicken, including under the skin.

Place parsnips, rhubarb, remaining salt, remaining oil in the bottom of the pot.  Place chicken on top, put cover on pot, then place whole thing in the oven with rack in the lower third.  Heat oven to 450 (on my slow oven 475 works better), and cook for 50 – 60 minutes, until juice from deepest part of the thigh runs clear.  Remove top from pot and cook for 20 minutes more, or until nicely browned.  Remove from oven, place chicken on a platter to settle for 10 or so minutes.  Mix nettles into the parsnip-rhubarb mixture in the pan.  Place vegetables around chicken and serve.

Don’t have a clay pot? Here’s Thomas Keller’s Basic Roast Chicken Recipe.  You can do the vegetables on the side, in their own covered dish while the chicken cooks and present them the same way.

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Baking Biscuits on a Cool Evening 1

Posted on May 07, 2010 by crankycheryl

It’s a cool night, the boys are sleeping, and the woolly caterpillar living in the bug house on the counter is nibbling on a clover leaf.  Why have I grown so fond of this thing?  Last night I actually found myself baby-talking it as I handed in new greenery.

Things are anyway mellow around here, and it seemed like a good night to start on my goal of using the cool nights to bake and freeze some stand-by favorites to have even when it’s too hot to bake.  I’m aspiring  to have a few dozen muffins, a big old batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, maybe a banana bread or two on hand.

Plus these biscuits, which are vegan, mostly whole grain, and a big favorite of E.’s.  With a kid like him, it’s nice to have a few argument-proof things in the freezer to throw on the table with some fruit and milk when whatever thing I’ve made for dinner is the cause of consternation.

Flax-Butternut Squash Drop Biscuits
Makes 24

Preheat oven to 475.

Whisk together:

  • 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 c. white flour
  • 2 T. ground flax seed
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt

In a separate small bowl, whisk together well:

  • 1/4 c. pumpkin or butternut squash puree
  • 2/3 c. soy milk (or regular milk)
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil

Add the liquid ingredient mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined – it will still be sticky.  Use two spoons to form walnut-sized balls and place on a baking sheet about 1 1/2″ apart.

Bake 8 – 11 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.  Cool and serve, or freeze.

While mine cool, I’m headed out for more fresh clover for our little pet.

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Curses! Greek Veggie Burgers 4

Posted on May 05, 2010 by crankycheryl

I don’t know what is happening to me, but I seem to be turning into Cursing Mommy.

We were coming home from Costco the other day, merging onto the highway.  There were three cars driving in our direction, and two of them merged into the passing lane so we could merge in.   I started to get up to speed and steer into the right-hand lane, but saw that car #3 had not yielded.  This is clearly annoying, but really not an unexpectedly big deal, right?

So what happened next is a little confusing.  A word came out of my mouth that I didn’t really know was in my vocabulary, a word so far beyond polite conversation that I can’t write it here.  It was a word that had Z. in an explosion of delight there in  the backseat:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  What’s a dushbag Mommy?!  HAHAHAHAHAHA!  DUSHBAG, DUSHBAG, DUSHBAG!  Mommy said duuuuuushbag.

Proud I was not.

Clearly I have no excuse for what came out of my mouth as I was reading about the recall of all those children’s products and realized I had given the boys the tainted medicine.  Upset, of course, but was it really necessary to provoke E. to ask:

Son of a what, Mommy?

It’s a good thing I’ve got some nice mellow dinners like this one to get myself on an even keel.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Greek Veggie Burgers
yield: about 12

Puree together in a food processor, leaving it just a bit chunky for texture

  • 1 1/2 cups steamed and drained kale or spinach
  • 1/2 c. chopped sauteed mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked or canned chick peas, drained

Place spinach mixture in bowl and stir in:

  • 1 1/2 cups bulgur wheat (3/4 c. dry, soaked in 1 1/4 c. boiling water for 30 minutes)
  • 3/4 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 T. tamari, soy sauce, or Bragg’s
  • 1 t. chopped garlic
  • 1 t. dried lemon peel
  • 1 t. chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 t. dried

Form into patties, then place on baking sheet (give a little space around each, but they won’t expand like baked goods so don’t worry too much).  Bake for 25 minutes, then carefully flip with a spatula and bake for 20 more, until nicely browned.  Serve in whatever burger-y way you like.

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When in Doubt: Fritters 3

Posted on April 23, 2010 by crankycheryl

We were out to dinner the other night and a friend pulled a couple of crinkly plastic bags out of her purse.  She had a share of a wild-crafting CSA, and declared that she needed some help “appreciating” the coltsfoot and sedum with which she had been gifted that week.

We nibbled at bites, furrowed our brows, and concluded that frying was the answer.  Definitely frying.

Two days later, Z. and I were having our usual Monday at home and it was time for breakfast when I stumbled on the bags in the fridge.  Fritter time.

So I beat together until smooth:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1/4 t. kosher salt

And then stirred in a cup or so of the mixed wild stuff.

Then heated up in a large skillet until it was slightly rippling:

  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 T. olive oil

Then poured the whole mix in, and let it sit until the underside was set and the top was starting to bubble, when it got flipped.

Then I cut it into wedges and ate half of it. It was really good – the coltsfoot has a sort of cumin-like taste that I found delicious.  The sedum tasted most like wilted thick spinach, pretty green but unoffensive.

And this is when the really startling thing happened.  Z. was watching Sid the Science Kid when he started wrinkling up his little nose and said, “I smell something yummy, Mommy!”  Hmm.  I asked if he wanted some.  I gave him a little slice, which he promptly devoured.  And then he ate the rest!  Hardly picking out the greens at all!

Truth be told, I’m still a little stunned.

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200th Blog Post! Deviled Eggs Three Ways 2

Posted on April 05, 2010 by crankycheryl

[4/8/10 — This picture was included in the march of gorgeous spring holiday food over at Photograzing.  If you too are a lover of food-porn take a look!]

I’d like to nominate deviled eggs for the next food craze.  They’re cute, only slightly naughty, portable, adaptable, and individually sized.  What’s not to love?

For our annual Easter brunch-egg hunt extravaganza, I wanted something simple, special and spring-like and this is what we got.  They went fast, and I think I’ve found my brunch potluck standby for the season.

Do remember that the freshest eggs are harder to peel.  If you have time to think ahead, get the eggs you’re likely to want for this a week or so before you make them.

Deviled Eggs Three Ways
yield: 36 halves

Boil eggs your favorite way, or else try this technique that allegedly preserves more of their protein and other nutrients.

Place in cold water to cover by at least an inch:

  • 18 room temperature eggs

Bring water just to a boil, stir vigorously once or twice, then cover and turn off.  Let sit for 20 minutes. (I’ll admit that I often let them sit for an extra 5 to ensure they’re done.)

Prepare a platter by rinsing and arranging:

  • about 4 c. torn lettuce or mesclun salad on a large platter

Cool the eggs by plunging into a bowl of cold water with some ice in it.  Peel, cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out the yolks into a medium bowl.  Add to the yolks:

  • 3/4 c. mayonnaise
  • 2 T. yellow or other fairly mild mustard

Beat with an electric mixer until very creamy and smooth.

Using a spoon or pastry bag, fill 24 of the egg white halves with the yolk mixture.  To the remaining yolk mixture add:

  • 2 – 3 T. pesto (I used the local Bella Pesto I picked up at a recent winter farmer’s market, which was incredibly fabulous), depending on how strong and green you want the flavor and color.

Fill the remaining 12 egg halves with the pesto mixture.

Slice or rip into 12 small square-ish pieces:

  • 1 1/2 oz. good quality smoked salmon

Curve into a small roll and tuck next to the yolk mixture in 12 egg halves.  Place next to each salmon piece:

  • 1 caper per egg

Serve, and watch ’em go.

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Green Wraps & Chocolate Guinness Cake for St. Patrick’s Day 0

Posted on March 17, 2010 by crankycheryl

Filed under the category of “Things My Children Ought to Have Liked but Instead Were the Cause of Great Consternation and Caterwauling” are these wraps that were yummy, simple, adorable, healthy, made with nearly all local ingredients, and a fun twist on St. Patrick’s Day. Dangit.

I had meant to make Green Eggs & Ham for Dr. Seuss’s birthday earlier this month but never seemed to have all the ingredients at the same time.  Then fresh spinach arrived from a friend’s CSA share, and off we went.

Green Egg Wraps with Bacon
Makes about 6 wraps

Place in a blender and puree the heck out of:

  • 2 cups of fresh spinach leaves, well washed, stems removed
  • 2 eggs

Pour the egg-spinach mixture into a medium bowl and beat in:

  • 4 eggs
  • salt & pepper to taste

In the meantime, cook:

  • 8 strips of bacon (a couple of extra never hurt)

And warm up:

  • 4 or 6 whole grain wraps

I do both of these in one easy, lazy step by placing the bacon on a rack on a broiler pan that fits in my convection oven and broiling it for 10 or so minutes, until it’s as crispy as we like.  At the same time, I place the wraps on top of the oven.  They end up just warm enough and I’m not fussing with extra dishes or labor.

While the bacon’s going, cook the eggs in a skillet until set.

Into each warm wrap, place:

  • 1 slice of cheese (we used Muenster)
  • 1 piece of bacon
  • a couple scoops of green eggs
  • favorite add-ins: tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, hot sauce, jalapenos, whatever you like.

Then wrap ’em up and serve.

For dessert we made Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Guinness Cake.  It was great, and I even lucked out and found some cream cheese frosting in the freezer to thaw to put on the top.

However, I would note that when a recipe calls for a 9″ springform pan, it really and truly doesn’t mean an 8″ springform pan.  Not that that’s a mistake you would ever make.

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Steamed Buns 3

Posted on March 10, 2010 by crankycheryl

How often does life remind you of the old New Yorker cartoon of the man sitting at his desk, looking at his calendar and saying “How about never?  Is never good for you?” into his phone?  This is how it feels to try to schedule dumpling-tasting events.  And I do intend to schedule them, because I will honor my pledge to try every dumpling in Burlington in 2010 … no matter how the itineraries of the world try to foil me.

And while I’ve been working to get our next event on the calendar, I thought I’d give steamed buns a try.    The ones we had at Joyce’s were just so very delicious, kind of uber-dumplings, really.  I got a look at a couple of recipes and gave it a whirl.

I almost always find the recipes over at reliable, so I used theirs for the dough.

Then I came across Joyce’s filling recipe, which she had sent me after our visit there:

Mix together in a medium bowl:

  • 1/2 lb minced pork meat
  • 1 c. finely chopped Chinese Napa cabbage
  • 4 scallions, cut into small rounds
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 t. soy sauce
  • 1 t. sesame oil
  • 2 t. chopped fresh garlic (not in Joyce’s recipe, but I felt compelled to put it in)

I found the dough nice to work with by hand, so I skipped the rolling pin and flattened each small piece into discs by hand on a floured cutting board and then placed a spoonful of the topping on each.  (Start with a teaspoonful and work from there.  You won’t get good coverage if you overstuff so err on the stingy side.)  Fold over two opposite sides to meet in the middle and pinch together.   The dough should be sticky enough that it sticks easily; if not, place a little bit of cold water in a small bowl and put a small dab along the edges of the dough.

Pick up the bun, and pinch the open sides together, squeezing all around to make sure you have it well sealed.

Repeat for the remaining dough and filling, keeping the finished ones on a plate or cutting board that’s well-floured.  When all are formed, start water boiling in a steamer.  I am the lucky recent recipient of a big-ass Chinese steamer, but you can use any steamer-insert pot or insert in a pot as long as it’s nice and level.

When the water reaches a boil, line the steamer with cabbage leaves to prevent the buns from sticking.  Don’t use purple cabbage, which will turn your buns blue, and obliterate any chance of your seven-year old trying the buns.

Steam for about 25 minutes.  Don’t peek early and release the nice heat and steam that will have built up.  The buns will be nicely puffed up and the meat will be cooked through when done.

To serve, cut a little slit in the top of each bun, and drizzle a tiny bit of:

  • white or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce in each.

And I don’t mean to brag, and it may be unrelated, but two days after 4-year old Z. polished off 5 of these, he presented me  with a World’s Best Cooker trophy made of an empty play-do container and a crayon.   Give ’em a whirl and let me know how it goes in your house.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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