Category Archives: food

Kid Food: Salty Pretzel Dogs & Sweet Coconut Soup

IMG_5144[2]What’s more kid friendly than a cooking project that doubles as dinner?  In my book, nothing.  Tonight we had pretzel dogs with coconut squash soup.  The mix of the sweet soup with the salty dog was divine enough to keep my taste buds happy while also providing that added mix of comfort.  Comfort food – yay!

Creating this perfectly simple dinner is even more fun when you hit rewind.  It all started with making the pretzel dough.  (Sorry friends, yes, I am still obsessing about pretzels).  B and CJ were involved from this point on.  The ingredients are few and simple.  The process provides short bursts at a time that are perfect for the attention span of my active brutes.

There is activating the yeast. Pouring, stirring and waiting for bubbles.  Each part captivating for young chefs.  Next there is creating the dough.  Followed by kneading.  Then, letting the dough rise.  Followed by shaping.  If your lil ones are playdough junkies, then they’ll love this. Why not make a pretzel in the shape of their favorite animal or superhero?

Frankly B’s favorite part was shaping the pretzels; whereas CJ’s was tasting everything.  Ahh yes, I’m proud to say he gets it from me.

While you are letting the dough rise, throw a pumpkin, preferably kabocha or a butternut squash in the oven and let it cook.  You can later use the baked pumpkin or squash to create a yummy soup.

Want to try it out? Here’s my adaptation of the Pretzel bite recipe.  Thank you Epicurious for getting me started on this!

Pretzel Dough

  • 1 cup warm water (100° to 110°F)
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter melted
  • oil for bowl

Hot dogs

  • Will make 6 bun length hot dogs or 8 shorter ones

Baking Pretzels

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • kosher salt

Squash Soup

  • 1 kobacha pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 1 can of light coconut milk

Making the Dough

Add yeast to water.  Make sure the water is the right temperature.  Mix.  Add the sugar.  Let sit until yeast is activated.  You’ll know when it is frothy and bubbly.  If it doesn’t bubble, then toss it out and start over.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix.  Then, four a work surface.  Knead dough until elastic.  This takes a few minutes.  It’s great for little hands.  But be forewarned that this is fun, yet messy process.
Frankly I loved the impromptu visitor while I was in the middle of this.  Coated in flour and sticky hands – yes, my kitchen and I (not to mention the boys) were in quite a state.
I digress.  After the dough is elastic, get out a bowl or a larger tubberware – lightly coat in in oil.  I use Canola or Olive Oil.  place dough in it, turn it over so it’s coated.  Then cover with a kitchen towel.  Let it rise until it is at least doubled in volume.
Starting the Soup
While the dough is rising, bake your squash.  You can bake it whole if you like, or cut it in half and take out the seeds.  Either way works.  It takes about an hour in an oven at 375 degrees.  You’ll know it is done when the squash is soft.  Once soft, then let sit and cool.
Baking the Dogs
Once it has risen, then (1) preheat the oven to 375 and (2) boil a pot of water with 1/2 cup of baking soda.  If you are making just pretzels, no dogs, then go on to shaping the pretzels.  If you are making pretzel dogs, then roll out the dough, and cut in pieces to cover the hot dogs.  Wrap the hot dogs completely in the dough.
Once all of your dogs are wrapped.  Place them three at a time in the pot of boiling water.  Let them cook there until they rise.  Once they rise, gently remove them and place on a baking sheet coated with nonstick spray or parchment paper.  Dust with salt if ya like.  Repeat for the rest of your dogs.
Once all of your dogs are on the baking sheet, then bake for 30 minutes or until the hot dogs reach at least 160 and the pretzel dough is golden brown.  The dough browns towards the end of the baking process.
Finishing the Soup
While the dogs are baking, then make your soup.  Scoop out the baked squash or pumpkin and put in a pot at a medium temp.  Then add a can of light coconut milk.  Mix with a whisk or an immersion blender.  Cover and let it warm.  Voila – soup!  If it’s too thick for your taste then dilute with a bit of water, cream or milk.  If you want to add more flavor, then consider curry as an fabulous option.
Dish it out and enjoy!
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making memories & mini muffins

This afternoon, I picked up my boys early from school just so we could spend some special time.   After naps, we made some zucchini mini muffins.  From start to finish, it was such a joyous activity.   Making the batter was just plain fun.  For starters, I will always remember – Bobby’s gleeful dumping of everything into the bowl.   And, his radiating smile of accomplishment.  Especially with the flour, which when it spilled all over the counter provided a nice opportunity for controlling me to let go.  After all, who cares if the flour spills?

Then, CJ playing with the muffin tin liners – happily sorting them from spot to spot.   It was just one of those moments that I’ll remember forever, like reading stories and singing them songs as they enter dreamland.  Motherhood is surely god’s greatest blessing.  And, this mama is so eternally grateful.

For those of you who want to try the zucchini banana mini muffins, here’s the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tin.  Mix butter and sugar until creamy.  Add vanilla, salt, baking soda,  Add zucchini and bananas.  Add eggs and cinnamon.  Then add flour.  Mix until blended.   Check after 15 minutes.  Done when the toothpick comes out clean.  Enjoy the muffins but more importantly savor the memory.

adapted from King Arthur Flour‘s Heavenly Healthy Banana Bread available at kingarthurflour.com

making memories & mini muffins

This afternoon, I picked up my boys early from school just so we could spend some special time.   After naps, we made some zucchini mini muffins.  From start to finish, it was such a joyous activity.   Making the batter was just plain fun.  For starters, I will always remember – Bobby’s gleeful dumping of everything into the bowl.   And, his radiating smile of accomplishment.  Especially with the flour, which when it spilled all over the counter provided a nice opportunity for controlling me to let go.  After all, who cares if the flour spills?

Then, CJ playing with the muffin tin liners – happily sorting them from spot to spot.   It was just one of those moments that I’ll remember forever, like reading stories and singing them songs as they enter dreamland.  Motherhood is surely god’s greatest blessing.  And, this mama is so eternally grateful.

For those of you who want to try the zucchini banana mini muffins, here’s the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tin.  Mix butter and sugar until creamy.  Add vanilla, salt, baking soda,  Add zucchini and bananas.  Add eggs and cinnamon.  Then add flour.  Mix until blended.   Check after 15 minutes.  Done when the toothpick comes out clean.  Enjoy the muffins but more importantly savor the memory.

adapted from King Arthur Flour‘s Heavenly Healthy Banana Bread available at kingarthurflour.com

Bobby’s Banana Crunch Bliss

ice cream!My Bobby is quite a little chef. He’s always adding things to traditional recipes, like chamomile tea to banana bread. If you’ve been following my blog, then Bobby’s creativity isn’t new to you as I detailed the chamomile tea incident in my Mommy Manifesto post.

In any event, the recent weather has been another excuse to challenge Bobby’s creativity. It’s been hot out here in Sonoma. The 90 degree days mean something other than breaking out the kiddie pool. They also mean it’s time to break out the ice cream maker. Last year, I experimented with basic vanilla and chocolate creams. This year, I’m doing something different.

That difference is that Bobby is now in charge of picking the flavors. Our first batch of the season was banana cream ice cream. For our second batch, Bobby wanted to add ice cream cones and other goodies to the mix. So, we made a new flavor which we call banana crunch bliss. Basically it was the banana base plus a bunch of delicious toppings – sugar cones, marshmallows and chocolate shavings. Sound good? You can make it too!

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 super ripe room temp bananas
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • mixings ( 1/2 cup marshmallows, 3 mashed sugar cones, 1/4 c chocolate shavings)

Mix the eggs with a fork for a bit. Slowly add the sugar. Mix until blended. Add the cream and milk. Chill the mixture for a few hours. Then, freeze per the instructions of your ice cream maker. Mash the bananas. Do this right before you add them to the mix otherwise they’ll brown. After the ice cream firms, add the bananas, then the toppings. If too soft, then freeze.

If you’re like my boys, then this batch won’t last long in your freezer. So, get ready to get creative with the next one!

this recipe is adapted from the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cookbook.

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Pizza Pizza

Making pizza provides a fabulous kid friendly activity and meal.  It’s amazing how many vegetables I can get Bobby to eat just by offering them as pizza toppings.  He likes piling them on his little pizza.   Pizza 1And, then when it’s all baked, he’s so proud and happy to gobble up his creation.

To be honest, it took me a long time to find a good pizza dough recipe.  In the process, I made many a pizza dough Frisbee, that ended up being tossed into the trash.  To save you that trouble, here’s my “go to” pizza dough recipe adapted from Alice Waters, the Art of Simple Food.  The dough even freezes well!  So, make a batch and freeze half of it.

Ingredients

2 teaspoons dry yeast

1/2 cup lukewarm water

3 3/4 cups unbleached white flour (can use mix of flours as well)

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup cold water

1/4 cup olive oil

(if you like it sweet add a tablespoon of Honey)

(consider adding herbs to the dough)

Parchment Paper

Method

Stir together yeast and warm water until yeast is dissolved. Add 1/2 cup flour and stir well. Allow the mixture to sit until bubbly (30 minutes).  Add flour, salt, cold water and olive oil.

Mix thoroughly.  I use a KitchenAid Stand mixer with a dough hook.  Knead on low until the dough is soft and elastic, about 5 minutes. If the dough is too wet and sticky, add more flour, but only enough to form a soft, slightly sticky dough.

The dough is the right texture when it pulls away from the sides of the bowl of the mixer, but still adheres to the bottom.

Put the dough in a large bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. For an even better-tasting and more supple dough, let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from the fridge 2 hours before shaping.

Divide the dough into balls.  Allow the dough balls to rest at room temperature, for an hour or so.  Shape pizza dough on Parchment Paper.  Shape into desired shapes.  If doing fogaccia, you can make it into rectangles.  For a thicker dough, let the shaped pieces  sit for about an hour before baking.   Brush with olive oil and garlic.

Top with desired sauces and toppings.  My favorite is brushed with a salted garlic oil, then top with prosciutto, pears, white cheese and fresh herbs.  Bobby’s favorite is brushed with garlic olive oil, then topped with marinara sauce, veggies (mushrooms, zucchini & broccoli), and sausage.

Preheat the oven (and a baking stone if you have it) to its maximum.  Preheat for about a half hour.  Put in pizza and turn down oven to 400.  Bake for about twenty minutes. Let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes.  Enjoy!

Where to Dine With Kids in Sonoma & Glen Ellen

FremontWith numerous Michelin rated restaurants, Sonoma is definitely a culinary mecca. There’s no reason to let kids deter you from hitting the town. From formal to casual, there are endless places to enjoy. Here is my short list.

cafe The Fig Cafe, Glen Ellen – With kid friendly tablecloths, divine food and friendly service, the Fig Cafe has it all. Savor the seasonal flavors and local produce while your little Picasso decorates the tablecloths. Don’t panic, because the cloths are topped with butcher paper (yay!). Bobby and CJ (well and to be honest I) highly recommend the mac & cheese. Bring your favorite bottle of wine as corkage is complimentary. A word to the wise – make sure to avoid the long wait by arriving when they open at 5:30.

Hopmonk Tavern – With a lovely beer garden that is nearly fully enclosed, Hopmonk is absolutely kid friendly. Hopmonk also hosts a variety of musical gigs, which can be captivating for young-ones as you enjoy the local brew.

Murphy’s Pub – Warm enough to dine al fresco? Then Murphys is a great spot. With burgers, fries and chicken strips, the menu offers kiddo friendly food. Bobby and CJ love the curry fries. So order up your favorite pint and enjoy!

Red Grape, Sonoma Square – Who doesn’t love Italian food with fresh Sonoma flair? In a laid back setting, the Red Grape allows families to do so in a no fuss setting. And, what kid dislikes pizza? I recommend just ordering off of the adult menu and providing Junior a slice of the adult flavor. Should you be meeting up with friends, consider reserving a spot in the back room. The bench is a great way to corral tumbling toddlers.

Taste of the Himalayas, Sonoma Square – This quaint restaurant is perfect for kids. With warm service and flavorful food, kids are right at home. They’ve brought food out for the kids almost immediately. Bobby recommends the garlic naan and CJ the lentil soup.

Fancy a special breakfast spot? Then check out the Fremont Diner or Studebaker Cafe.

Fremont Diner – It doesn’t get more kid friendly than Fremont Diner where you’ll be greeted by rusty trucks out front. Watch out Cars fans, Bobby has cited Mater. Farm enthusiasts will delight watching the chickens free range in the back garden. The patio hosts picnic tables perched atop gravel. A delight for toddlers as they toss their food on the floor (yay!). So, grab a table and order up some comfort food. I’m in love with the breakfast sandwich, and my husband with the biscuits and gravy.

Studebaker Cafe home to the Golden Hawk Cafe (breakfast only) offers a more casual experience. Fully equipped with a train table and developmental toys, Studebaker photo(18)Cafe can help keep your kids entertained while you enjoy some of the decadently sinful offerings there including the famous cheesecake. They have a nice and affordable breakfast menu. For example, organic egg omelets with cheese are $4. That said, I highly recommend the scones. with each bite, a symphony if bliss. Maybe its from the fact that Studebaker takes endless efforts to ensure perfection, including making their own buttermilk. So, check it out.

Did I miss your favorite spot? I’d love to learn about it.

Sonoma Slow Cooker Stew

Winter in Sonoma means rainy weather, cozy fires and warm stew.  Having 2 young boys around makes finding a dish that all will enjoy challenging at times.  This stew though is a winner.  With Bobby loving the veggies and CJ the meat, this dish is both baby and toddler friendly.  The deep flavor imbued by the red wine (I use cab) makes it adult friendly too.  Plus this recipe yields quite a bit of stew so it is a perfect excuse to invite over a few friends to share it with.

4.5 lbs of stew meat

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp bacon fat

1 lb frozen white pearl onions

1 lb crimini mushrooms quartered

2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes cubed

2 cups kale chopped

1 leek

1 stalk celery

2 tbsp tomato paste

4 cups beef broth

1 bottle red wine

¼ cup flour

2 tsps parsley

2 tsps thyme

3 bay leaves

Salt & pepper to taste

Heat pan, add oil and bacon fat, heat till smokes.  Brown meat.

Add bouquet garni (leek cut lengthwise and 1 stalk celery tied together with kitchen twine) and bay leaves

Add mushrooms, potatoes, onions, broth, wine, tomato paste, spices (parsley, thyme, salt and pepper).  Cook on low in slow cooker for 7.5 hours.  Toss the bouquet.  Thicken sauce to desired thickness with flour.  Add kale.  Let kale wilt.  Serve with rice.  Enjoy!