Tag Archives: recipe

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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So You Want a NonTraditional Themed Birthday Party?

Even before his birthday, all my 2 year old wanted was the movie “Rio.”  If you don’t know what Rio is – you’re not alone.  Rio is a sweet movie about two parrots in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The film includes a nice social element about conservation.  In any event, the movie was the first thing he asked for in the morning and the last thing before he went to bed.  My dad even made up a song – “rio in the morning, rio in the evening, rio in the afternoon.”  So, I took it as no surprise that CJ wanted a Rio birthday party.IMG_4878

Rio is not one of those pre-packaged parties you can find at Target, Walmart or even my favorite locale for party supplies, the Dollar Store.  Perhaps during the summer you could use luau themed supplies, but in the dead of winter they are hard to come by.  Trust me – I tried.  From invites to food it became a fun challenge and took my own party planning to the next level.

I started by sharing the challenge with a more experienced (and creative) friend of mine who makes her own invitations that look elegant, classy and professional. The trick – stamps, craft scissors and glitter.  Who knew that this affordable trinity of goods could create a heavy weight card-stock invite that was personal and fun.

Once the invites were done, it was time to consider menu & decorations.  Elements of the movie came to mind parrots, Carnival, tropical fruit.  It evolved into a quasi- Mardi Gras theme with necklaces,masks and maracas for favors, punches for beverages, and brightly colored tissue paper flowers for decorations.

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Punches are my favorite party beverage.  They’re easy to make and delicious.  I usually do two an adult beverage like bloody marys and a virgin beverage.  This time, Sangria popped into mind – so that was that.  The concoction – plain red wine, some white rum, a bit of gran marnier, a little sugar, orange soda and club soda.

Feathers, glittery pompoms, colored lights  and tulle decorated the house.  The table centerpiece was a pile of bananas topped with a tropical tree made with pineapples. IMG_4857

Tissue paper pom poms and origami parrots were dancing up above.  (ThaIMG_4859nk you Martha Stewart for the recipe for fabulous pom-poms, and Tiny Shiny for a template for origami parrots that was easy to follow.)  Tried making an origami parrot?  Well most of the directions call for tons of steps  that made me feel like a total idiot! I was immensely grateful to find Tiny Shiny’s post offering a 6 step parrot.

For food, I decided to do bird bites.  Since the party was mid-afternoon, the idea was to provide a mostly well rounded menu that could serve as dinner if folks desired.  Meatballs, Pineapple, Cheese Balls (recipe here), Pesto Pizza Bites, Soft Pretzels; and since a party isn’t a party without sugar (don’t tell they boys’ fabulous dentist Cherylin (JK)) – homemade fudge & kettle corn.IMG_4876

Then, there was the cake.  When you’d ask my son about his birthday, he would say “Rio Cake.”  That’s it.  He wasn’t concerned with anything else – just the cake.  Again, he’s “my” son.  So what the heck is a Rio Cake?  Well, ask Google.  A Google images search will show images of cakes topped with marzipan parrots, flowers and the like.  Since that is way beyond my skill-set, I opted for Rio cupcakes that aimed to look like the faces of little birds, pinned here.  CJ loved helping to decorate them – or helping with the M&Ms – he would hand one to me and then eat a few.  For a larger cake, I did one with fondant and a 2 dimensional very amateur or shall I say avante guard parrot. (Sorry about the pic, had started eating the cake before realizing I hadn’t taken a photo)IMG_4863

Lastly, for entertainment, we broke the bank putting $$ from my Ebay store (WinePlusCountryEqualsStyle) and rented a jumpy from a local Sonoma company.  I’m usually anti-jumpy, due to cost, but having done parties both ways the jumpy is worth the dough.  Russell at Jump Jump gets an A+ in my book for being easy to work with, providing excellent service and a practically new jumpy.

At the end of the day, throwing a nontraditional birthday party is a winner in my book.  Thinking of how to go with the theme, or no theme, and putting your own stamp on it is such a fun experience.  For anyone reading this, I totally recommend it.  For me, well, it’s time for a sugar detox. And time to plan the next shin-dig a MadMen themed cocktail party to raise awareness about the Epilepsy Foundation – whaahoo!

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!

Birthday Bash Baked Brie

Celebrating birthdays Sonoma style means being surrounded by close family, close friends and good food.  This is how we have been ringing in Bobby’s 3rd birthday.  The highlight food wise so far has been what I’ve named Birthday Bash Baked Brie (try to say that 10 times) or as it has also been called Brie Cobbler.   It is both easy and versatile.

You will need:

1 package of frozen puff pastry sheets

Wheel of brie

1 egg (beaten in a cup)

Two cups of fresh fruit (peaches, apples, pears would work well)

¼ cup sugar

1 Tbsp Quick cooking tapioca

Dash of cinnamon

Thaw your puff pastry sheets.  Slice your fruit.  Warm a saucepan and cook fruit with sugar, tapioca and cinnamon.  Stir frequently until the fruit is soft and the juices are thick.  About 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease an ovenproof dish with a bit of butter.  Lay one sheet of puff pastry on the bottom.  Unwrap brie and place on top.  Place fruit mixture on top of brie.  Fold pastry over brie – Depending upon size of brie, you may need another sheet of puff pastry.  Seal pastry at the seams.  And, then brush with an egg wash. Bake in oven at 350 until golden brown (about 40 minutes).  Let cool for a few minutes before serving.  Serve with crackers and/or sliced baguette.

Enjoy!