Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Are you planning to give your child a birthday party where there are wonderful, fun and healthy food yet it doesn't take up too much of your time, effort or money (that is, not calling the big guns like caterers)? Well, here's an article I came across regarding Kids Party Food. The ideas and tips are great and I plan to use them the next time I celebrate my children's birthday or have a party.
Kid party food doesn't have to take hours to prepare or completely blow your budget. When it comes to kids and party food, variety and presentation are the answer.
Rather than cooking a few specialty dishes, aim for serving lots of small dishes of fun and kid-friendly finger foods.
Try to serve mainly savory foods and only a few sweet treats. This will help avoid the dreaded sugar highs. Here are a few time-tested party food tips.
Presenting Kid Party Food - Make it fun, fun, fun!
Honestly, it really doesn't matter what you serve as long as you wow them with the presentation. You want the kids to see the table, light up and rush to their seats. Okay? so how do you do that?
1. Plenty of color - Use colorful kid tableware, balloons, serving bowls, etc.
2. Plenty of variety - Serve lots of small bowls or plates containing a selection of different finger foods such as cut fruit, bread sticks, mini muffins, mini wraps, crackers, cheese, etc.
3. Serve Fun Foods - You can easily turn the most normal foods into fun kid foods. Cut sandwiches with fun cookie cutter shapes to make them more interesting or roll them into pinwheels, cup up a selection of veggies and fruit and serve with a colorful dip. Also make all foods kid size. Cut everything from pizzas to hotdogs into small bite size pieces. This will make it easier to eat and be more fun.
4. Personalize - I've found that using table setting tags with individual names doesn't work as kids will just rush to find the first seat available. Instead tie a plain balloon to each chair and using a black marker write each child's name on a balloon in large letters. Make a game out of each child finding their seat.
5. Keep it interesting - Play a calm game at the table. For older kids have each one take turns in telling their favorite foods or a funny joke. Sing or play songs for younger kids.
So what do you serve?
Here are some top favorite kid party food ideas:
Fun mini sandwiches and wraps.
Cut up fruit and veggies with dip.
Breadsticks and chocolate sprinkle dip.
Pizza fingers, chicken finger, fish fingers? anything fingers!
Potato wedges or mini baked potatoes.
A selection of small savory crackers, dried fruit, and a few chocolate chips will make a fun trail mix.
Classic cheese and crackers with baby tomatoes in the center of plate .
Small meatballs (chicken, pork or beef all work well).
With a little imagination you can turn most foods in your kitchen cupboards into kid party food. Also, don't go overboard in the amount of food you provide. Most kids are so excited by the actual party they will only lightly pick at their party food? no matter how yummy it is.
So take it easy, prepare lots of quick finger foods, present it nicely and most of all enjoy the day!
Mila Sidman is a mom of three and the creator of http://www.easy-kid-recipes.com - A leading website providing simple, kid-friendly recipes, nutritional information, meal planning tips, fun kid cooking projects and much more.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The other day, my niece made some Chocalate Chip Cookies and brought them over to a gathering in my in-laws place. She had made it from a Ready Made Mix. I found the cookies too sweet with very few chocolate chips in them.
Although Ready Mix packages are convinient, they are generally more expensive compared to preparing your own. Furthermore, you have no control over the additives and preservatives they contain. On the other hand, Made From Scratch Mixes are healthy, cost beneficial, store well and taste great. When we make our own mixes we are able to tailor the ingredients to our taste and needs and thus have a control over the quality and quantity.
Making your own bulk mixes is a great way to stock your pantry. Creative containers make homemade mixes a terrific gift idea too. There's something deeply satisfying when cooking from scratch. It takes some minimal preparation, but many of the ingredients are already a staple in your pantry. It's not as time consuming as you may think.
Glass containers with tight fitted lids
Basic kitchen tools
Decorative items for gifts. (ribbons, printable recipe cards, labels)
Master Baking Mix
9 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup baking powder
1 Tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk solids
2 cups shortening (which does not require refrigeration)
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar and sugar three times. Add dry milk. Mix well. Cut in shortening until mixture looks like cornmeal. Store in covered container at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Combine 1 1/2 cups Master Baking Mix and 1/3 cup milk in a bowl. Add milk and stir. Knead lightly on floured board. Roll 1/2-inch thick; cut and place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Makes 8.
Options: Add grated cheese and chopped herbs. Increase milk to 1/2 cup for drop biscuits.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Beat together in a bowl 1 egg, 1 cup milk and 2 tablespoons sugar. Add 3 cups Master Baking Mix. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon into greased muffin pans or into paper muffin cups and bake 20 minutes.
Options: Add drained fruit, chopped nuts or dried fruit. Replace 1/3 cup of Master Baking Mix called for with quick-cooking oatmeal or All-Bran® cereal. Add chopped dried fruit and nuts to recipe and bake as a fruit bread in a greased 8 x 5-inch loaf pan. Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Pancakes or Waffles
Beat together 1 cup milk and 1 egg. Stir in 1 1/2 cups Master Baking Mix. Bake on griddle or waffle iron.
Mix 1/3 cup water to 1 cup Master Baking Mix. Drop into hot stock and cook 10 minutes, uncovered, and 10 minutes, covered.
Sift together in a large bowl 3 cups Master Baking Mix and 1 1/4 cups sugar. Mix together in a small bowl 2 beaten eggs, 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add this to dry ingredients. Beat at high speed for 4 minutes. Grease a 9-inch square pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Frost or sprinkle confectioners' sugar over the top. Options: For chocolate cake increase the sugar to 1 1/2 and add 1/2 cup of cococa powder.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Beat together in a bowl 1/3 cup milk and 1 egg. Add 1/4 cup sugar and 2 1/4 cups Master Baking Mix. Stir until well blended, about one minute. Pour into a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 3 tablespoons margarine and 1/4 cup chopped nuts and sprinkle over the top. Bake 25 minutes.
Place 2 1/4 cups Master Baking Mix in a bowl. Stir in 1 3/4 cups brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Combine 1/3 cup milk, 2 beaten eggs and 1/2 cup melted shortening. Stir into mix and blend well. Add 3 cups oatmeal and mix. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 12 minutes.
Beat 2 eggs and 1/4 cup sugar together in a bowl until well blended. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/4 cups (about 3) mashed bananas. Stir in 2 1/2 cups Master Baking Mix. Pour into a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 55 minutes or until brown.
Add 1/2 cup water to 2 cups Master Baking Mix and form into a ball. Knead and roll out 1/2-inch thick. Place in a 10-inch pan, leaving a rim around the edge. Brush the dough with oil, then spread with favorite toppings.
Chicken Coating Mix
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons onion powder or dried minced onion
2 teaspoons dried minced celery
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container.
To use: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Gently beat 1/2 cup milk and 1 egg together in a bowl. Wash and pat dry chicken. Fill a bag with 1 cup of the coating mix. Dip each piece of chicken into the milk-egg mixture and then drop a piece of chicken into the bag and shake. Let pieces dry thoroughly before baking. Place chicken on a shallow, lightly greased baking dish and bake for 45 minutes or until tender.
6 cups large bread cubes
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1 Tablespoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon leaf thyme, crumbled
1/2 cup dried minced celery
1/2 teaspoon leaf sage, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 cubes chicken bouillon, crumbled, or 3 Tablespoons chicken bouillon powder
Bake bread cubes on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes, turning a few times to brown evenly. Toss bread cubes with remaining ingredients until the cubes are evenly coated. Store in a tightly closed container on the shelf for 1 to 4 months, or freeze for 1 year. To use: Melt 3 tablespoons butter; stir into 2 cups Stuffing Mix in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup chicken broth or water, stirring gently. Warm in a pan on top of the stove, in the oven, or in a microwave.
Ranch Dressing Mix
15 saltine crackers
1 cup dry parsley
1/2 cup dry onions
2 Tablespoons thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Whirl in blender until crumbs are very small. Store in an airtight container. It will keep for 1 year.
To use: Whisk together 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup buttermilk and 1 Tablespoon Ranch Dressing Mix.
Italian Dressing Mix
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
2 Tablespoons garlic powder
6 Tablespoons granulated sugar
Mix and store in an airtight container.
To make dressing: Use 3 Tablespoon mix with 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil and 1/2 cup wine vinegar.
8 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/2 cups non-dairy coffee creamer
3 cups instant chocolate drink mix for milk
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
In a large bowl, combine all and blend well. Store in an airtight container.
To serve: Combine 1/2 cup of mix with 9 ounces of boiling water. Stir well. Makes 16 cups of mix.
1 cup instant coffee creamer
1 cup instant chocolate drink mix
2/3 cup instant coffee crystals, regular or decaffeinated
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine creamer, drink mix, coffee crystals, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, and mix well. Store in airtight container. Makes 3 cups dry mix, 15 servings.
To prepare: Add 3 Tablespoons mix to 6 ounces of hot water and stir well.
All Purpose Spice Mix
1/3 cup Grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Sesame seeds
2 Tablespoon Paprika
1 Tablespoon Poppy seeds
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 teaspoon Dried parsley
1 teaspoon Onion flakes
1 teaspoon Garlic powder
1 teaspoon Celery seed
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
Crush bouillon cube into fine powder, put in screw-top jar. Add remaining ingredients and shake until well mixed. Store in refrigerator for up to 4 months. May be used on fish, meat, stews, casseroles, salads, vegetables.
Onion Soup Mix
2 cups powdered milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup beef bouillon crystals
2 Tablespoons dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves, crushed
Mix and store in an airtight container in refrigerator.
To prepare: Mix 1/3 cup dry Onion Soup Mix with 1 1/2 cups water.
cook and stir until thickened.
Gift Ideas (Gifts In a Jar)
1/2 cup orange-flavored drink mix (Tang)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups vanilla baking chips
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Combine the flour with baking soda and baking powder. Starting with the Tang, then sugar, chips and flour mix, layer the ingredients in a glass jar.
Attach Instructions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F Empty contents into a large mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg and teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix well. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls into balls. Place 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.
Colorful Soup Mix in a Jar
1 cube beef bouillon
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1/2 cup dried split peas
1/2 cup uncooked twist macaroni
1/4 cup barley
1/2 cup dry lentils
1/3 cup long-grain white rice
1 cup uncooked tri-color spiral pasta
Use a funnel. Layer ingredients in the following order: bouillon, onion flakes, split peas, small shape pasta, barley, lentils, rice, and enough tricolor spiral pasta to fill jar.
Attach Instructions: Brown 1 pound ground beef or stew beef in a little olive oil. Remove tricolor pasta from top of jar and reserve. Add the rest of the jar contents to the pan and add 12 cups water. Boil and simmer 45 minutes. Add tricolor pasta and simmer 15 minutes more.
Be sure to store your mixes in a cool, dark place. They hold a shelf life of approximately six months. You can also freeze flour for 24 hours prior to using in your mixes to prevent the possibility of bugs.
Gifts In a Jar Tips
When assembling gifts in a jar, you should use one quart, wide mouth canning jars;however, many containers will work such as mugs, baskets, gift bags, flower pots, bowls, and teapots. Press each layer firmly in place before adding the next ingredient. You can decorate with fabric, floral and ribbon embellishments, or by drawing on jars with glass paint markers. You can consider attaching small gifts to the container such as ornaments, cookie cutters, measuring spoons, or a wooden spoon. Don't forget to attach the recipe to your homemade gift.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
What do you do when your oven goes kaput and your daughter has invited some of her friends over for tea and cookies. Well, I managed to make some delicious NO Bake Cookies. Luckily, my pantry is well stocked and most ingredients for No Bake Cookies are common items like oats, butter, honey, peanut butter, cornflakes etc. Here are some No Bake Cookies that I have come across ( through trial tests, from friends and from the Internet such as The Quaker Oats Company website.)
3-minute no-bake cookies
(Got this recipe from The Quaker Oats Company website)
2 cups granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) margarine or butter
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/3 cup baking cocoa
3 cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1. In large saucepan, combine sugar, margarine, milk and cocoa. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Continue boiling 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. Remove from heat. Stir in oats.* Drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let stand until firm. Store tightly covered.
Servings: ABOUT 3 DOZEN
variations *If using old fashioned oats, cool mixture in saucepan 5 minutes.
Chewy Chocolate No-Bakes
1 cup (6 ounces) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
5 tablespoons margarine or butter
16 large marshmallows
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup (any combination of) raisins, diced dried mixed fruit, shredded coconut, miniature marshmallows or chopped nuts
1.In large saucepan melt chocolate morsels, margarine and large marshmallows over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Stir in vanilla. Stir in oats and remaining ingredients.
2.Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours. Let stand at room temperature about 15 minutes before serving. Store tightly covered in refrigerator.
Makes about 3 dozen.
Chocolate Date Cookies
1 (16-ounce) package graham cracker crumbs
1 (16-ounce) container chocolate frosting
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 ounces pitted dates, coarsely chopped
Powdered sugar for rolling
1.In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, melt butter about 1 minute and remove. Stir in graham cracker, frosting and dates, stir until thoroughly combined.
2.Form into 1-inch balls and roll in powdered sugar. Place in an air-tight container.
Makes 32 cookies.
Cow Chip Cookies
2 cups granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1.Cover a baking sheet with waxed paper; set aside.
2.Combine sugar with cocoa in a large saucepan. Stir in milk, butter and peanut butter. Cook, stirring continuously, over medium heat until butter melts and mixture is combined, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Add oats and nuts; mix thoroughly.
3. Once mixture has cooled slightly, drop by large spoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheet. Refrigerate cookies until set, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 48 cookies.
No-Bake Butterscotch Cookies
1 (12-ounce) package or butterscotch flavored chips
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
4 cups corn flakes
1 cup peanuts
1.In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butterscotch chips and peanut butter.
2.Combine corn flakes and peanuts in a large bowl and pour in butterscotch mixture; mix well.
Toss until coated evenly.
3.Drop by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets lined with wax paper. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Makes 36 cookies.
Easy 5-in-1 No Bake Cookies
Begin with the following ingredients:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey or corn syrup
1/4 cup orange juice concentrate
1 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk solids
Mix thoroughly. Now choose one of the following 5 steps:
2 c. rolled oats
1 1/2 c. raisins
Mix. Shape into balls then flatten. Makes 3 dozen medium cookies.
2. Crispy Balls
4 cups crispy cereal Mix. Shape into small balls. Makes 4 dozen small balls.
3. Raisin Clusters
1/4 c. cocoa
4 c. raisins Mix. Cluster into small balls. Makes about 4 dozen small clusters.
4. Coc O Balls
1/4 cup cocoa
2 c rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1 tsp. vanilla Mix. Shape into balls. Makes 2.12 dozen cookie balls.
Add 1/4 cup raisins. Spread between graham crackers. Makes about 3 dozen.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Having lots of leftover has always been a problem of mine. Can't just seem to cook less! I came across this great article by Linda Gray on how to make good use of leftovers and thus save money and time.
There a lots of simple recipes for common extras like rice, potatoes and chicken. As rice is a staple food in our home, I got to try out many of the recipes given in this article. My favourite recipe is Rice Salad, (so that I don't end up having to make Fried rice all the time! ) which is easy to make and healthy too!
As for the potato dish, I especially liked the Cottaged Pie. It reminded me of Shepard's pie.
Hope you find these tips helpful.
50% Less Cooking
without hitting the fast food button! Don't you just cringe when some clever kitchen type tells you what you could be doing with the leftovers in the fridge, when it's plainly obvious the leftovers will stay there until they walk out by themselves!
More often than not, saving money with leftovers, although a great idea, takes a lot of time in preparation and relies on many other ingredients being available. So..........
Design your own leftovers!
Cooking twice as much as you need 'by design' allows you the extra time tomorrow with the added bonus of knowing what you're going to cook.
Dithering around in the kitchen working out who wants what and what you forgot to buy, takes ages. If you know you've already got a portion of the evening meal ready in the fridge, life becomes a lot less stressful.
Most 'in-the-pot' dishes like bolognaise, chile, casseroles and stews can all be made in double quantities in very little extra time. Make sure you thoroughly reheat meat dishes until very hot. The only real problem with in the pot recipes is that you're obliged to eat the same meal two nights in a row. Although you can serve it with rice, pasta, or potatoes to add some variety.
If you've managed to cook enough rice to feed the neighborhood, don't throw away the leftovers. Let the rice cool completely, place in a bowl, cover with plastic food wrap, and refrigerate. Then the following evening you have a base for a new and exciting meal...try these ideas:
Egg Fried Rice: Make a plain omelet and remove from pan. Cut into small pieces and set aside.. Put cold leftover rice in the pan and stir gently. Add omelet pieces, stir and heat until hot right through. Serve with Chinese style ribs, or veggie sausages.
Special Fried Rice: Fry in olive or nut oil a finely chopped onion, tomato, green pepper and a few sliced mushrooms. Add leftover rice to pan. Stir gently. Add sweetcorn for colour and a few chopped walnuts if liked. Serve with any meat, fish, egg or veggie dish.
Rice Salad: In a large bowl, mix leftover rice with fresh raw chopped vegetables; onion, tomato, sweet pepper, celery, sweetcorn, and any other favorites hanging around in the fridge. Chill for half an hour before serving. A half mayo-half natural yogurt dressing can be gently stirred in if liked. To create a whole summer meal in a bowl, add chopped boiled egg, cooked flaked fish, pieces of ham or cooked chicken or even nuts and raisins!
Potatoes can easily be turned into 'designer leftovers'
Cooking a whole tray of jacket potatoes will take no longer than cooking one or two, just a few extra minutes scrubbing time needed. Store leftovers in the fridge.
Flat Fries: Slice and shallow fry leftover jackets in hot olive oil and some mixed dried herbs or cumin spice. Turn occasionally. Serve hot with anything.
Family Omelet: Peel and dice leftover jackets and gently fry in olive oil, with a chopped onion. Pour over beaten eggs and add some grated cheese. Cook gently for a few minutes. Turn and cook the other side. The omelet will probably fall apart during this manoeuvre. Just push it back together. No-one will know! Serve hot with a green salad.
Rough Potato Salad: Peel leftover jackets and chop roughly. Mix in a large bowl with sweetcorn, tuna and a little chopped onion or chives. Serve with a mayonnaise sauce.
Hot mashed potato, served with a delicious gravy, is always a family favorite. Make twice as much and delight the family two days in a row! Cool the leftover mash thoroughly. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic food wrap and refrigerate.
Baked Mash: Put leftover mash into a large bowl and stir in cooked flaked white fish, bacon pieces, or cooked vegetables. Place in a greased ovenproof dish, top with grated cheese and bake in a medium oven until hot right through.
Burger Mash: In a large bowl, mix leftover mash with a little beaten egg, some chopped chives or very finely chopped onion. Then form small balls in your hands. Flatten slightly and, if available, coat with breadcrumbs or chopped nuts. Fry as you would a burger!
Cottage Pie: Cook minced beef, or veggie equivalent, a chopped onion and a tin of tomatoes together and place mixture in a large lightly greased ovenproof dish. Spoon leftover mashed potato over the top, and sprinkle on a little grated cheese, if liked. Heat through thoroughly in a medium to hot oven and serve hot with green vegetables.
Cook a slightly larger chicken and keep the leftovers covered - and maybe hidden - in the fridge. A vegetarian equivalent of chicken will work equally well with these dishes.
Quick Chicken Curry: Pour a home made curry sauce or a jar of ready - made over cut up leftover chicken pieces and heat through thoroughly in a hot oven. Always make sure re-heated meat is steaming hot right through. Serve with rice or jacket potatoes.
Chicken Salad: Mix cold leftover chicken with a finely chopped onion and stir in a half mayo, half natural yogurt dressing. Add a few walnuts for an extra special treat. Chill for 30 minutes and serve with any dish..
Chicken Stir Fry: Put cut up chicken pieces in a frying pan with a little olive or nut oil. Mix in thinly sliced sweet peppers, onion, tomato and any other bits in the fridge that look healthy enough to eat. Cook gently for a few minutes, ensuring the chicken is thoroughly hot. Then mix into a bowl of hot cooked noodles. Serve with an oriental style sauce.
Hot Tip: Planning a few menus in advance will mean you are always in control of nourishing and tasty meals, and no need to lean guiltily on the microwave waiting for the latest TV dinner to cook!
About The Author
Linda Gray is a freelance writer based in a log cabin in a wood. See what else goes on between the trees over at http://www.mylot.org. Drop in anytime!