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KID IN THE KITCHEN: Banana Nut Maple Mini-Muffins (Simplified)

6 Mar

(Don’t forget to vote for my Watermelon Mojito story for a #2015EDDY award for food and beverage writing. Vote daily till March 15. Thanks!)

Today was yet another snow day in a winter that has been the coldest in decades and during which we’ve been snowed on an awful lot. Most of us are well sick of the disruption and the winter coats and gloves and hats and the shoveling and the slush.

The bakers did very well!

The bakers did very well!

But there are small pleasures with unexpected days off…like sleeping in and — if your seven-year-old shuts up long enough to allow you to complete a thought or a blog post or pay a bill or anything for the love of God — finishing little tasks you wouldn’t have time for otherwise. And then there’s baking, because the best defense against the bad weather blues is a house that smells like sweet, warm, doughy things.

The muffins were not all exactly the same size, but that's part of the charm of home-made!

The muffins were not all exactly the same size, but that’s part of the charm of home-made!

So I decided to try a simpler version of our Banana Walnut Maple muffins with my little man and his friend from across the street after they’d been playing in the snow for a couple of hours (remember when you considered that kind of thing fun?) and I had actually completed one report.

Cute, no?

Cute, no?

It was a great success, both the making and the fragrant baking and the tasting, plus being able to send the neighbor home with muffins for her family and having muffins for the guy on the corner who cleared the driveway with his snow blower and for the sweet couple in their 90s across the street. Mini-muffins go so much farther than standard size muffins!

And we still have plenty left over for lunchboxes!

And we still have plenty left over for lunchboxes!

Banana Walnut Maple Mini Muffins II (simplified)

2 Cups all-purpose flour (or 1 Cup all-purpose and 1 Cup whole wheat)

1.5 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

4-5 overripe bananas

1 Cup light brown sugar

¾ Cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

¼ Cup maple syrup

¾ Cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375˚F and grease or line with cups 2 standard muffin tins (12 muffins) or 4 mini-muffin tins (48 muffins) plus be ready to do an additional six standard muffins. This makes a lot.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and salt. In another, mash the bananas, then add the sugar and mix well with a fork. Add the melted butter, egg, vanilla and beat well. Fold in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the nuts and maple syrup gently with a rubber spatula. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins to fill about halfway.

Bake 12 minutes for mini-muffins and 20 for standard muffins. Allow to cool for a minute before planning them on a rack to cool further or just serve warm. These store well in an airtight container for about three days and also freeze well. I take them out of the freezer and pop them into my son’s lunchbox frozen and they are good to go by snack time.

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KID in the KITCHEN: French Toast Casserole (make ahead!)

30 Dec

We are a fútbol-loving family ( fútbol = soccer in the U.S. and football in most other English-speaking countries except the U.S. where football — rather inexplicably – means gridiron a.k.a. that sport with the helmets and shoulderpads. There’s also Australian rules football, which is actually a form of rugby, but never mind that right now). We particularly follow the English Premier League and support Chelsea, in case you were wondering. We watch it a lot at home, but watching soccer in the U.S. has ceased to mean spectator-in-exile. Increasingly in America you can find people with whom to watch.

This is part of the spread...Can you name the team jerseys in the background? Hint: Only one is EPL

This is part of the spread…Can you name the team jerseys in the background? Hint: Only one is EPL

So that creates opportunities to invite folks to brunch or lunch (EPL matches are played at GMT and so rarely go later than 5 p.m. here in NY) with fellow travelers at home. Buffet-style is best, because the footie runs continuously for two 45-minute halves and if — like me — you are the hostess but really want to watch the action too, you want to get everything done before kick-off and then sit right down with the guests for the first half.

Yes, we used white bread. And it was good.

Yes, we used white bread. And it was good.

So, we invited friends for the 9 a.m. Southampton v. Chelsea fixture this past weekend. In addition to bagels and cream cheese, tortilla española, gravlax, ham and cheese, and mango-prosecco mimosas, my little guy made French toast. Since it would have been insane to try to make French toast to order at game time, we chose a recipe he could do the night before and pop in the oven for 40 minutes before everyone arrived. Thus this French Toast Casserole recipe we adapted ever so slightly from Love, Pasta, and a Tool Belt. It was super-easy, sweet and delicious and has a bread pudding sort of texture and was loved by one and all.

Firm, bread pudding type texture meant the kids could pick it up like a sandwich!

Firm, bread pudding type texture meant the kids could pick it up like a sandwich!

To do it with kids, make sure you have the ingredients, measuring implements, and other equipment at the ready before you get the kids going. It is a breeze!

2014-12-28 13.06.06 french toast casseroleFrench Toast Casserole

Ingredients:
1 stick salted butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
12 slices white bread

Directions:
Melt butter and mix with brown sugar and cinnamon until well-blended. Spread half of the brown sugar mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 rimmed baking pan. Lay six pieces of bread over the sugar mixture. Spread the remainder of the brown sugar mixture over the bread trying to make it pretty even. We used a butter knife to spread, but a stiff spatula would also work.
Place remaining six pieces of bread on top. Beat eggs and milk together and pour over the whole thing evenly. If, like us, you forget to put on the second layer of bread, you can lift the already covered slices one by one and slide the unsoaked slices underneath and it will work out just fine. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Heat oven to 350°F and bake uncovered for 40 minutes.

Allow to rest and then serve up!

 

KID IN THE KITCHEN: Cornbread

26 Dec

The best thing about school holidays is that the kids are home. The worst thing about the school holidays is that the kids are home.

Okay, that’s not really how I feel about holidays but it seemed like a catchy way to start this post on cooking with kids.

The little man impressed his grandfather by leveling off the measured ingredients

The little man impressed his grandfather by leveling off the measured ingredients

Regular readers know my seven-year-old is starting to learn his way around the kitchen. Part of that is giving him responsibility for certain dishes at the holiday table. He can manage roasted asparagus on his own now. He makes bread as well, from his prize-winning no-knead recipe. And with his grandfather, he makes a delicious cornbread that goes well with roasts (and chili).

What's next? Let's see.

What’s next? Let’s see.

The original recipe comes from Kids Cook! by Sarah Williamson & Zachary Williamson, a treasure trove of simple and tasty recipes that kids can manage. Padushi and Leandro have tweaked it a bit (starting with substituting the margarine for real butter and beating the eggs before mixing with the rest of the ingredients) and the results are an ever-so-slightly sweet, rich crumb that has a lovely cakey texture.

Not my most artistic image, but a good indication of the nice texture.

Not my most artistic image, but a good indication of the nice texture.

The other results are a kid who is learning to follow instructions, a grandfather who is learning to let the kid do the work, and a grandson and grandfather who accomplish stuff together.

*See tips for cooking with kids below.

Nice crumb!

Nice crumb!

Easy Cornbread

1½ Cups cornmeal

1½ Cups buttermilk

2 eggs (lightly beaten)

½ Cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ Cup butter, melted

1 tsp sugar

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, beating for about a minute.

Pour batter into a greased 8”x8” pan.

Bake at 450° for 25-30 minutes (if you use a glass pan, you’ll need the longer time) or until golden brown. Serve warm.

*Tips for cooking with kids

1. Get all the ingredients and measuring equipment laid out before having them wash their hands and get started.

2. Make sure the surface you are using is a comfortable height for your child(ren).

3. Use aprons or smocks or clothes you don’t care about.

4.Read the ingredients and ingredients out loud with the kids BEFORE starting. Use that opportunity to make sure you have everything you need. FRom this point on, the fewer times you have to turn your back on them the better.

5. If you will be allowing the kids to measure ingredients, have them do it over a bowl that is not your mixing bowl. That way accidental overpours or spills don’t ruin your batter or dough or whatever.

6. As soon as you are done with an ingredient, close it up and get it out of the way. Many spills come from stuff left around just waiting to be knocked over.

7. Remember to have fun. This one can be a challenge for me…my little guy can be very impulsive and tends to believe that he has a better way of doing things than the instructions indicate. I am learning to hold it together and focus on recovering our recipe from whatever he’s done, but when you do get snappy (and I do), just take a deep breath and remember that you are not the only adult that has ever barked at a kid who isn’t listening or wrecking your kitchen. Keep Calm and Keep Baking, as it were.

 

Baked Stuffed Pumpkin or Winter Squash

26 Nov

 

 

It’s been a long time since I stuffed a pumpkin, but Halloween and late fall combined to make me want to do it again. This is so easy and you can stuff any old winter squash with any old stew (or stuffing) and make a dramatic dish!

stuffed squashBaked Pumpkin with Beef and Sweet Potato Stew

One or two whole pumpkins (We used two 6” tall pumpkins), hollowed out, seeds reserved for pepitas, cap reserved

2 Tbs olive oil

1.5 Cups chopped onion

1/4 Cup garlic, minced

¾ Cup carrots, diced

¾ Cup celery, diced

2 lbs ground beef

Adobo powder

1 Cup sweet potato, peeled and cubed

3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp soy sauce

2 Tbs tomato paste

1 Tbs oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil until fragrant at medium high. Add onion, stir to coat, then lower heat and cook for about five minutes, until well-softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add carrots and celery and cook another five minutes, until softening. Add ground beef and brown. Sprinkle with abundant Adobo powder, then add sweet potato, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and tomato paste. Preheat oven to 350°F while allowing meat mixture to simmer for at least 20 minutes on low, adding, adding oregano about five minutes before you take it off the heat.

Sprinkle the inside of the pumpkin very generously with salt and pepper. Put each pumpkin on a stable rimmed baking sheet with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. You’ll want something that you can carry the pumpkin to the table on, as the shell will soften and fall apart if you try to move it.

Stuff the pumpkin with the meat. You can freeze leftover meat, or, as we did, quickly open up a couple of butternut squash, season and stuff also.

Bake the pumpkins for an hour and check for tenderness. We cooked our two small ones for two and the squashes for about 1.5 hours.

Allow to cool for a bit and bring to the table with the lids on for extra drama. As you scoop out the meat (it’s nice with rice), also scrape out some pumpkin, which should be seasoned and tender.

 

 

Blue Ribbon Yeast Bread (no kneading required!)

18 Oct
Another blue ribbon for my little baker!

Another blue ribbon for my little baker!

Leandro has done it again! My seven-year-old won another blue ribbon at the Long Island Fair for his baking in the Junior Culinary division! What better way of celebrating than sharing it with you on the day of my 550th post and the fourth anniversary of this blog?

Sizing up the competition

Sizing up the competition

Last year it was his Oatmeal Raisin Cranberry Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies. This year it was an extension of his successful Science Fair project on yeast. We’ve been making a lot of the no-knead refrigerator bread we began making for that, so he decided that would be his submission as it is something he can do almost entirely by himself now.

The Exhibition Hall

The Exhibition Hall

This bread, slightly modified from our original to include some whole wheat flour, has terrific sponginess, nice, not-too-crunchy crust, and good yeasty flavor. (My colleagues at LINCC can attest to this, as I brought in some practice loaves)

We get better results with quick-acting yeast than regular AND we include our tips for encouraging the yeast to activate. This is the easiest bread you can imagine and you can keep the extra dough in the fridge for whenever you want warm bread.

Celebratory candy apple. Don't judge....

Celebratory candy apple. Don’t judge….

I’m so proud of him…and in a life where it’s not always clear that I am doing things right, at least I can feel that I am sending him into the world with a love of good food and an ability to feed himself. Yay us!

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

Leandro’s Award-Winning No-Knead Refrigerator Bread

3 Cups warm water (it should feel cozy-comfortable on the hands)

1.5 Tbs salt

1.5 Tbs quick-acting yeast

5.5 Cups unbleached white flour

1 Cup stone ground whole wheat flour

Extra virgin olive oil or other fat for greasing the loaf pan.

Container large enough to hold this much flour and water only doubled in size. You’ll want a cover for it.

Place the water in a large container and dissolve the salt into it.

Stir in the yeast until well mixed. Wait a few minutes for it to begin foaming nicely. We put it on top of a warm toaster oven to encourage yeast activity.

Add the flour, all at once. Stir with a big spoon until well mixed into a sticky dough and there are no big air pockets.

Cover loosely and allow to rise 1-2 hours in a warm place. Again, we put it on top of our toaster oven when it’s on low.

Cover (punching down if necessary) and place in fridge (for up to three weeks).

When you are ready for fresh bread, preheat oven to 450°F. Grease a loaf tin and grab a half to a third of the dough (putting the rest back in the fridge for next time). With greased hands, form a loaf (the cold dough and the fat on your hands — we use olive oil — will keep it from sticking to you), Place in loaf pan and slash across the top with a knife (for a pretty finish) and top with a bit of olive oi if desired. Bake for about 30 minutes or until crust is golden. You can give it a blast at 500°F for the last few minutes to develop the crust more.

Red, White and Blue Shortcake in a (World) Cup

16 Jun

My son’s birthday this year happens to fall on the day of the U.S. National Soccer Team’s opening World Cup match against Ghana. So — being a soccer/fútbol mad family, this is like thematic heaven for us!

USA shortcakeBetween last night and this morning, I banged together class treats that were all red, white and blue, homemade and — while they include cake and whipped cream — also include generous portions of summer fruit.

Very tender and moist cake....

Very tender and moist cake….

I like to think it strikes the right balance between healthy and sweet and it certainly reflects what is important to the little man today.

Pretty decent crumb!

Pretty decent crumb!

And the fact that I put this much time and thought into it reflects 1) my semester finished and I have some extra time on my hands 2) I am indeed the food DIY maniac everyone thinks I am 3) I love this little man so much I want him to be proud of the treats he brought in!

Piled it up nice (and casually no...LOW FUSS!)

Piled it up nice (and casually no…LOW FUSS!)

He went to school in his U.S. kit (with the non-playing Landon Donovan jersey, but never mind…I have to assume Klinsmann knows what he is doing) and seemed very pleased with the whole thing. He was down with a virus last week that has left him with painful bumps in his mouth….so I don’t know whether he’ll actually eat one, but he somehow managed to lick the whipping cream bowl clean all right this morning.

All tarted up for the big game

All tarted up for the big game

I include a link for the recipe for homemade whipped cream. I URGE you to try it…so much more fun and much more velvety and subtle…the kids around here love making it with the hand beater and eating it up! You can also make your own white cake (recipe for a very fluffy and tender one below) or substitute storebought poundcake. If you are going to make your own cake, I suggest you have a look at Paula Deen’s excellent Creaming 101 tutorial. Continue reading

You Need No-Knead Bread Dough in Your Fridge!

9 Apr

500th POST!!!! 500th POST!!!! Thanks to all of you for following, commenting, liking, and cooking with Hot, Cheap & Easy these past few years. I appreciate your support and love having your company on this food and life journey…Don”t forget to sign up for email alerts if you haven’t already! xoxoxo

As we were learning about yeast for my first-grader’s Science Fair Project, it was obvious that blowing up balloons with anaerobic respiration, while cool, was not enough to fully demonstrate the wonders of this delightful fungus.

The best way to appreciate how useful and all around terrific these little creatures are is to tear into a loaf of steaming, fresh-from-the-oven, homemade bread. Yeast lifts flour from its one-dimensional powder form into the sublime airy, nutty, soft, comforting cloud of tasty goodness that is bread. Add a slab of good butter, and you know that manna from heaven must’ve been a yeast bread.

Basic ingredients

Basic ingredients

The problem is, bread is a pain in the ass to make. You knead, you wait, you punch down. You do it again. Or you have a standing mixer with the right paddles and let the machine do much of the work. And you still have to wait.

Sticky dough

Sticky dough

I don’t have a standing mixer. I don’t have the space for it. I don’t have the money for it. I don’t have the time to read all the reviews to find the best standing mixer with the best ratings and the best price that I anyway have no room for and no money for…so usually I don’t make bread. This is why bakeries exist.

After a bit more than an hour

After a bit more than an hour

But a bit of digging around the internet found me a fabulous recipe on Jezebel called Foolproof Refrigerator Bread by Jenna Sauers. It required no kneading, no standing mixer, and very little waiting and one batch is enough for three loaves that you can make one at a time when you get the urge. SOLD!

Slash the top for good looks

Slash the top for good looks

Here is our version, which doesn’t really stray much from the original. The measurements and instructions are easy enough for a little kid to follow. We shamelessly took a fresh loaf to the Science Fair and offered still-warm slices to the judges and voila! Leandro won the Creativity Prize (the K-4 category was otherwise non-juried except for a few special recognitions). Talk about fostering a sense of pride and joy in a little boy who loves science and food.

No sense skimping on the butter.

No sense skimping on the butter.

And ever since we have been keeping dough on hand to pop in the oven when we need a snack. It’s done in a half-hour….what could be better for a dinner side or something to wow impromptu guests? Continue reading to get the ever-so-simple recipe. Continue reading

Getting Better All the Time: Black Bean Burgers with Black Quinoa…Baked!

20 Feb

I am always tinkering with my black bean burger recipes – at under a dollar per pound of dried beans that end up being at least 1.5 quarts once soaked – almost everyone can afford to play with beans in the kitchen. My six-year-old likes them most of the time (we’ve had a few failures of seasoning and of texture along the way, before developing and settling on this recipe) and they freeze well, so I can throw them from the freezer into my lunch bag and heat them up satisfactorily in the office microwave.

Getting beans ready for the mashing

Getting beans ready for the mashing

I generally start soaking my beans by rinsing and picking through. I put them overnight in a big bowl covered by at least 3″ of water. In the morning, I drain and rinse, then put them in the slow cooker (crockpot)with a teaspoon or so of salt, switch them on low, cover and go to work. By the evening they are usually done; there is a “beany” smell that tells you it’s time to check for tenderness. Good cooks engage all their senses to the task; the more you cook, the more likely you are to raise your nose from the computer suddenly, like a mystic having a vision, and say solemnly: “The beans are ready” or “The rice is done.” The less you cook, the more likely you are to look up from the computer with streaming eyes and cough “Oh s**t, dinner is burning!” Continue reading

Strawberry and Jam Mini-Muffins

8 Feb

Here is a quickie recipe that my son and his friend from across the street helped make on a recent playdate. They did a great job. Kids love wearing aprons to cook, so try to have enough available for everyone. And set out all ingredients ahead of time. Measuring is a great way to talk about fractions!

They are the cutest little tea muffins and we used some organic strawberries I had got on sale and frozen in season. I freeze these and then toss a couple in the kid’s lunchbox for school. They thaw out and warm up in time for snack!

Easy and delicious!

Easy and delicious!

Strawberry and Jam Mini-Muffins

1 egg

½ Cup plain yogurt

¼ Cup coconut oil (or any neutral vegetable oil)

1 ½ Cups flour (mix of white and whole wheat)

½ Cup sugar (mix of brown and white)

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 Cup strawberries, chopped (frozen is fine!)

1 Tbs strawberry or lingonberry or other berry jam

Topping

½ Cup sugar

1/3 Cup flour

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ Cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 400° and line mini-muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, beat the egg with a fork. Add the milk and oil and continue to stir. Add all dry ingredients. Mix the batter well, but do not over mix (which would toughen the muffins). Fold in strawberries and stir in jam.

Fill each muffin cup about 1/3 full. Then start making the topping.

In a separate bowl, combine all ingredients for the topping and crumble together with your fingers (if you are baking with children, expect to be abandoned midway when they are grossed out by the stickiness. Also expect to find bits of this topping on the floor and all over the bathroom sink as they try to get it off). Sprinkle each muffin with a bit of topping.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until plump and golden brown. Let stand for a minute, then remove from trays. Serve warm or room temp. They freeze well too!

Important Update: Walnut Cup Extra Filling Makes Great Crescent Rolls!

28 Dec

Many of you have undertaken one of my favorite cookie recipes ever: Walnut Cups (delicious walnut toffee inside a cream cheese crust)! And found, as we did this year — and so did my friend and colleague, Cara — that you had leftover filling that you didn’t know what to do with. Do NOT overfill your walnut cups to use it up.

Going into the oven

Going into the oven…this is the right height for filling. Any more and they will bubble over.

Here is the solution:

Marianne happened to have crescent roll dough in, the Pillsbury kind in the tube. so we put about a teaspoon of leftover filling at the wide end of each dough triangle, rolled them up and baked according to package directions.

just a little...

just a little…

Off. The. Hook.

Perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea…these were as good as those Cinnabon ones that smell so intoxicating and irresistible in an airport….

YUM!!!

YUM!!!

So, problem solved and here is a link to the original recipe for holiday Walnut Cups (with cream cheese crust..Lord have mercy!)

Delicious Walnut Cups

Delicious Walnut Cups

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