Tag Archives: children

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!

 

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Kids in the Kitchen: Cub Scouts Make Pizza!

13 Jun

We love our Cub Scout pack (Theodore Roosevelt  Council Pack 776) and our den (10!). We have done so many fun and enriching activities both indoors and out in this first year! Part of the reason I am sharing this event with you is in case you need ideas for a kids activity…just ask your local pizzeria.

Stretching the dough and spreading the sauce

Stretching the dough and spreading the sauce

One of the nearest and dearest Scouting excursions to my heart happened this past week as Scout mom, Melissa,  organized a visit to a local pizza parlor and the boys made their own pizza!

Going for it!

Going for it!

No, they didn’t make the dough, and no it wasn’t whole wheat, multi-grain crust, or organic cheese and sauce, or free-range pork sausage…give me a break…

All hands on deck!

All hands on deck!

It was simply a local place that makes really nice pies giving the boys a chance to punch out a little pie into an oil-greased tin foil pie pan, slap on sauce and choose some toppings. The nice folks at Leonardo’s popped them in the brick oven, then: the boys ate their creations!

Serious business!

Serious business!

The joys and special satisfactions of DIY

The joys and special satisfactions of DIY

They had such a ball, it inspired me (who you would think makes homemade pizza with my kid all the time but never has!) to give it a try some time soon. Maybe it will inspire those of you who have to come up with a fun indoor activity at a reasonable price (lunch included!).

Mangia, mangia! The proud pizza maker of the one pizza I really wanted to steal!!

Mangia, mangia! The proud pizza maker of the one pizza I really wanted to steal!!

Our hosts

Our hosts

So thanks to Leonardo’s Pizza & Restaurant for showing the boys how to put a pizza together (and charging just $6 each for a drink, a garlic knot, and the individual pizza with cheese and choice of sausage or pepperoni, or both).  Thanks to Melissa for organizing and Meg and Moira for being such dedicated den leaders! It has been a really terrific year…

The professional pizza...with GARLIC KNOT CRUST...holy yumfest, Batman!

The professional pizza…with GARLIC KNOT CRUST…holy yumfest, Batman!

Chocolate Mini-Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

16 Jun

I caved. Yes, I did.

Driven by the fear of being “that mom” who rains on every party and won’t let kids enjoy their sugar fix and makes others feel guilty or annoyed by my holier-than-thou eating habits…and because my son asked very nicely to have a special treat…for Leandro’s birthday celebration at school, we made cupcakes. Chocolate Cupcakes. With Buttercream Frosting. Go big, or go home.

Mini-muffin before frosting

Mini-muffin before frosting

In my feeble defense, I also made fruit kebabs (which went over as well as, if not better than, the cupcakes) and we actually went little, making mini-cupcakes so that they were  a tiny treat rather than an exercise in excess, but BE IT KNOWN: I am not immune to peer pressure and I am not a complete whole food Nazi.

Mind you, making it all homemade is also a form of penitence for sins of sugar and spice. I put a lot of time and effort into it and was not always thinking gracious thoughts. Particularly about the moms who just pick up a box of Dunkin’ Munchkins for class celebrations and call it a day and don’t give that much thought to what children consume or what maniacs like myself choose to do with our precious time, but who are not going to waste their precious time making desserts for five-and-six year olds, when kids are just as happy with a Dunkin’ drive-by.

That buttercream frosting is NAUGHTY! and nice....

That buttercream frosting is NAUGHTY! and nice….

It’s that same grim satisfaction some of us get from pointedly and conscientiously using our directional when driving, as if anyone would care to learn from our example, or as if there was some direct HOV lane to heaven for courteous and law-abiding drivers. Underneath it all, I know no one gives a rat’s posterior. But the girl can’t help it. Continue reading

Kindergarten, Candy, and Valentine’s Day: A Rant

14 Feb

I really don’t want to have to get involved. I don’t want to be That Mom. I leave others to let their kids eat the cafeteria food (uncrustables, whatever they are; tacos; chicken nuggets; whatever) and kill myself to make sure my kid gets home-cooked food or whole-grain/natural/unprocessed/organic three meals a day. Most of the time.

Read the label...what? You can't understand it? Me neither. That's why I don't buy it!

Read the label…what? You can’t understand it? Me neither. That’s why I don’t buy it!

On occasion, he has sweets (a lot of them we bake together), we hit Friendly’s, or All-American Burger. He has pizza once a week. At least!

I know I am something of a maniac, but I am not unreasonable. And I know people don’t always want to hear it, so I mind my own business, blog, and feed my kid my way. As a single parent who works full time, I don’t have time to try to change school policy, and I don’t have the energy to give a rat’s ass if everyone else wants to stuff their kid with junk. I am tired enough already.

Another view. I am sputtering in disbelief.

Another view. I am sputtering in disbelief.

But the garbage my son came home with in his backpack today has me bouncing off the bloody walls in a sugar rush of the enraged kind. Continue reading

The Chicken Dance (Chicken Cutlets Meunière)

22 Feb

You know we are frequent visitors to my friend, Pam’s, where the kids play while we fuss in the kitchen and try to reassure one another that whatever inadequacies we think we have as parents are not going to cause permanent damage to said children’s psyches or emotionally cripple them or lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or cause some such long-term catastrophic effect that will require years of therapy and narcotics to overcome.

Foreground: chicken breast, background: browned butter

It’s not all about anxiety. We also talk about our new projects and ventures (I’ll be telling you about some of mine in the next couple of weeks!) and brainstorm ideas for one another. Now that the children are getting older, there is more space and time to dream about a different future and it is fantastic to have people cheering from the sidelines. It’s good fun and of course it all happens in the kitchen.

And then we all sit down to dinner.

The kids have recently developed a new way to show appreciation when they like the food. They get up and dance! This, of course, makes me feel like a rock star (Everybody get your hands up!). So far so good, but last week we had two additional children who were staying over at the table with us. Is there any tougher audience than a collection of other people’s kids?

I tried this adaptation of a chicken recipe from The Minimalist (The man behind The Minimalist is one of my food and writing heroes – Mark Bittman). The only thing minimal about this chicken was the effort and the leftovers; the flavors were big and the chicken juicy and sure enough…all five kids got up and danced! Admittedly, this can become annoying when they won’t sit back down or someone looks like they are dangerously close to mooning the table or they start squealing too. But it is flattering and festive and fun and thus, today’s title: The Chicken Dance…corny, but hey, what’s a little corniness amongst friends?

We had rice, asparagus spears (oiled up and roasted in the oven for 15 minutes at 350°), and salad on the side. Triumph on the dance floor!

Chicken Cutlets Meunière

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about three lbs), pounded down to cutlets if you want them to cook more quickly

Salt and black pepper

About ½ cup flour or cornmeal for dredging*

Vegetable oil for frying (Bittman also suggests clarified butter)

2 Tbs butter for browning (optional)

1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

2 Tbs minced parsley

Heat a 12-inch skillet (nonstick if you’ve got) over medium high for two minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and set up the flour or cornmeal on a plate for the dredging.

Pour the oil into the skillet so it is about 1/8” deep and turn the heat to high. When the oil is hot, coat the chicken thoroughly in the flour or cornmeal you have set up on the plate. Add each to the pan as you dredge. You will probably have to do two rounds.

Cook until the chicken is nicely browned (3-4 minutes on each side if the breasts are pounded thin; 6-7 minutes on each side if they are thick). Lower heat if you are getting scorching!

Meanwhile, melt the optional butter over medium heat until nut brown.

When the cutlets are done, drain on papers towels then transfer to a warm platter, drizzle with lemon, and sprinkle with most of the parsley. At the very last minute, drizzle with browned butter and the last of the parsley.

*For variety, season the flour or cornmeal with your favorite flavors – curry, Italian herbs, herbes de Provence, cayenne pepper – it’s up to you.

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