Tag Archives: rainy day fun

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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Tackle Those Spices: One Way to Organize A Shelf

Too cold to jaunt outside in the morning?  Or are your kids like mine, sick as dogs with the cold that just won’t go away?  Why not take advantage of being inside and make life a little easier by organizing your spices.

spice 1If you’re like me, you have a few spices on hand.  Some of them you may never use, because they are buried in a corner, at the bottom of a drawer or have just disappeared completely.  After years of trying to figure out how to best organize my spice drawer, I finally figured it out!

Rather than use a spice drawer, I am using a shelf.  I have labeled the tops of the spice jars.  Since the tops of the spices are at eye level it is so easy to find the spices I need when I need them.  My cooking has gotten a bit more creative as now everything is easily accessible.

All it took was a few labels, a sharpie pen, a little time and a dash of patience spice 2and voila — mission accomplished!  You can color code your spices as well.  I used red for spicy, yellow for savory, and blue for sweet which is turning out to be helpful.

By the way, the Slap Ya Mama spice in the photo besides adding a dose of humor to a spice collection, offers a fabulous slightly spicy yet salty flavor.   In my opinion,  like the man spice for women.  You know, the one your husband wants to put on everything? My husband would put Lawry’s or Mrs. Dash on anything and everything (before he met me).  So Slap Ya Mama is a southern favorite -its like Old Bay but with more flavor.  Made with red pepper, garlic and salt, it is pretty darn versatile.

What’s your favorite way to organize spices? I’d love to hear.

Rainy Day Fun – Ornaments With A Bit of History

Desperate for a rainy day activity, I remembered back to when a babysitter in days of past made cookie ornaments.  It dawned on me that Bobby might like doing something like that, after all he does love to play with playdough.  Salt-dough is basically the same thing but more keepsake friendly.

The difference between the two recipes comes down to oil – play dough has it, salt-dough doesn’t.  Consequently salt-dough dries hard giving lasting life to your child’s creations.  The good news is that kids can play with the dough for days (just keep it airtight) and then dry their creations for further play or even gifts.

Here’s how to make salt dough.  Take 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup salt and 3/4 cup warm water.  Mix all ingredients and kneed for 5 minutes.  Then play!

We made animals and even cookie cutter ornaments in the shapes of cowboy boots as Bobby has been really into Woody from Toy Story lately.  If you decide to make ornaments, make sure to make holes in them before you set them out to dry.  Straws make perfect holes.  Drying takes about a week.  After they are dry, you can color them with paints or markers.

As a side note, making cookie ornaments also provides a way to teach a bit of history.  The whole tradition of decorating a Christmas tree started in Europe. Back then trees were decorated primarily with food and candy as a symbol of giving thanks for daily bread.

Wishing you rainy days filled with fun!