Fix Me A Snack

A blog created by a mom who got sick of feeding her kids crackers and ice cream

I was going to wait until next year to publish this little recipe. But I’m all caught up in the moment. The tomatoes are still rolling in from our garden and the only way we can stand to eat them anymore is salsa. I need to write this all down and get it out there right now.  My kids love this stuff.

This summer I’ve been falling in love with Alice Walter’s The Art of Simple Food. Her salsa recipe is the basis for this one and I love it.

Heirloom Tomato Salsa Recipe

The ingredient ratios in this recipe are extremely negotiable. But please do use the best tomatoes you can find. They carry the entire show. I’ve done it without the onion and with parsley instead of cilantro and it was still great.

3 – 4 heirloom tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped fine
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of one lime
A handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine. Transfer to a quart jar and put it in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour to allow the flavors to develop. Serve with tortilla chips. We like to use the Scoop variety because the tomatoes release a fair amount of liquid.

prep-time: 10 minutes
yield: approximately 1 quart

My convection oven and I still aren’t on a first name basis. But I’m slowly learning it’s ways and am often pleasantly surprised by it’s capabilities. Don’t ask me exactly what those capabilities are. Part of me wonders if it really does speed up dinner or if it’s just nice to have a button on the oven that makes me feel like I’m cheating time.

I’m not fully convinced, but if there is an ultimate use for convection ovens it is making kale chips. The fan in the back of the oven keeps the air moving evenly throughout the oven. As a result, the chips crisp up quickly and evenly. By keeping the temperature low, I am able to avoid the dreaded over-baked brown kale chip which would send my family away screaming. And did I mention how much more quickly I can turn out kale chips now? They’re done in 20 minutes instead of an hour in a regular oven.

The oven essentially becomes a high-heat dehydrator. The chips are roasted quickly and safely. (I tried dehydrating kale chips once in my dehydrator and they tasted like seaweed. So you won’t be seeing a recipe for dehydrated kale chips on this blog unless my palate is elevated significantly.)

The only problem with this recipe is that my husband wants me to fix him kale chips for his late night snack all the time now. One can only fit so much curly kale in the fridge. Woe is me.

Speaking of problems, I loved loved loved all the nice comments folks left after I whined in my last post. Thanks for the good vibes. They were much appreciated.

Convection Oven Kale Chips Recipe

1 bunch curly kale
1 generous pinch of fine salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to Convection 275 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rinse the kale and tear the leaves off of the stem and into pieces.  Spin the kale dry in a salad spinner. Transfer the kale to a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and oil. Massage the kale with your hands for a few minutes. Divide the kale between two parchment-lined baking sheets making sure the leaves are spread out evenly.

Bake for 20-25 minutes depending on how much kale was in your bunch. A bigger bunch will take longer as the leaves will be more crowded. If your chips aren’t salty enough, sprinkle on a touch more. Serve or store for up to two days in an air-tight container.

Yield: approximately 6 cups
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Bake-time: 20 minutes

When we rolled out of bed this morning the outdoor thermometer told us that it was -1 degrees. Minus 1. Having lived  in Connecticut for a while, I’m always a little shocked when it actually gets cold in January. We’ve had some warm spells and it was looking like we might have another mild winter. But apparently it was not meant to be. I am slightly comforted by the snowman recently built by my six year old.

Today was not a day to serve up the usual crudities after school. Today we are having soup for dinner while sitting as close to the wood stove as possible. Anything other than a warm snack was not an option. So I decided to put some leftover baked potatoes to use.

I’ve posted a  potato skins recipe before. But I’ve since been educated by the likes of America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook and Simply Recipes. These are better. They could be made in advance too and the glorious melting of the cheese could be saved for the last minute.

Potato Skins Recipe

This healthy (ha!) baked potato skin recipe is as good as its restaurant counterpart because of the crispy cheese. While your sprinkling the cheese on the potatoes to bake, don’t be sad if a big clump misses a potato. That’s the best part.

4 medium leftover baked potatoes
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups grated cheese such as mozzarella, cheddar, and/or parmesan
Fresh chives, for garnish

Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the majority of the inside of the potato. Set the potato insides aside for another use. Cut the potatoes up into child-sized pieces.

Arrange the potatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to douse the potatoes with the melted butter. Bake the potatoes for 10 minutes or until they have browned on the edges. Sprinkle the cheese over the potatoes and bake them for another 5 – 10 minutes or until the cheese is properly melted.

Yield: serves 3-4 as a hearty snack
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes

 

A fight almost broke out in my kitchen this afternoon. After my kids spent half the day hidden away in their room eating Halloween candy, they pounced on a plate of perfectly roasted kale. We had to take the plate away so that the grown-ups could have a few.

I’ve finally figured out  the right amount of salt and how to avoid burning the little suckers. I know everyone else got into kale chips years ago. But I just couldn’t figure them out. I wanted to know what all the fuss was about and even posted a recipe back in 2010. But even then it seemed like kale chips were nothing more than a snack that super healthy people had talked themselves into. Kale is so chocked full of nutrition it’s hard not to eat some even when it is not at it’s best. But the kids will have none of it unless it tastes good. Kale chips to the rescue.

Like so many of the great snack foods, with kale chips it’s all about the salt. When they’re roasted properly, they’re crispy but they instantly melt in your mouth. There isn’t a ton of flavor unless you get a chip that’s still soggy. So again, it’s all about the salt.

Roasting the chips at a low temperature allows the kale to dry out evenly and avoids burning. Gone are the days of desperately stirring the kale around on the baking sheet trying to let those last few bits dry out before the other half starts to burn. Burnt kale chips are foul and should be outlawed. The extra time is takes to roast the kale at a lower temperature is well worth it.

Kale Chips Recipe

Curly kale is perfectly suited to kale chips. I prefer it greatly to dino/tuscan kale for this recipe. Ripping the leaves off of the stem quickly with your hands rather than removing the stem with a knife saves a lot of time. It takes me 10 minutes to get the kale in the oven, if not less.

1 bunch curly kale
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 generous pinches of fine salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Wash each leaf of kale. Shake off  any excess water and rip each leaf off of the stem and into bite-sized pieces. Discard the stems and place the kale into a large bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the kale. Coat the kale with the oil using your hands to mix and gently massage the kale until the color starts to brighten and the leaves soften a tad. This only takes a minute. Sprinkle on the salt and mix well.

Spread the kale out over the two baking sheets and place in the top third and lower third of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

Lower the oven’s temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pull the baking sheet out of the oven and toss the kale with your hands to redistribute it. Rotate the trays turning them from front to back and switching the top sheet with the bottom sheet. Bake for approximately 15 more minutes or until they are crispy. Taste and sprinkle on more salt if necessary. Serve immediately.

We took the plunge and planted our first real in-the-ground garden this spring. Excuse me as I gush over how cool it has been to plant seeds, tend to their needs, and harvest their fruit. I don’t think any of us expected things to go as well as they have. It’s entirely possible that a gang of raccoons is circling at this very moment and plotting an invasion, but for the moment we are blissfully enjoying our gardening honeymoon.

The other day my 8-year-old had a moment. She looked over at me while eating veggies and dip and said, “It just hit me Mom. We are actually feeding ourselves.”

When it comes to cucumbers, indeed we are…

We are growing pickling cukes and slicing cukes. I’m already hatching plans for a few more varieties next year. Are Perisan cukes better than American slicing cukes? What about English? We’ll have to grow them all now and find out.

Anyway, back to the problem at hand…

I’ve already made a couple batches of dill pickles but the plants are showing no signs of waning. Rather, I’m a wee bit afraid of what they have in store for me. Come to my house this winter if you like pickles.

Pickling cukes are easy. I know what to do with those (even if it can be a lot of work). But slicing cukes have been demanding more and more attention lately so I decided to make a list of all the ways I’d like my family to eat them up:

1. Cucumber Snack Salad is a family favorite. And don’t forget Cucumber Sandwiches. And Cucumber Yogurt Cups.

2. And Tzatziki too!

3. Dill Cucumber Corn Salad is delightful.

4. I made a pretty killer cucumber soup (recipe from the WSJ, scroll down) the other night.

5. Check out this Cucumber Salad with Mint and Feta from Simply Recipes. And this Bread Salad is so happening once the tomatoes come in. Oh and this White Gazpacho too!

6. If buttermilk dressing is more your thing, check out this Cucumber Ribbon Salad from The Perfect Pantry.

7. If you’re having a party, try some Cucumber Bites with Garlic Herb Filling.

8. Looking for a perfect starter for a meal? Look no further: Cucumber Salad Recipes from Eating Out Loud.

9. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, this recipe uses up zucchini as well as cucumber and looks scrumptious: Cucumber and Zucchini Carpaccio Salad from White on Rice.

10. When all else fails, peel a fresh cuke and cut it into wedges. Sprinkle on some fine salt and eat it immediately. Yum.

 

Any other suggestions are more than welcome. I’m gonna need all the help I can get. Thanks.

Don’t tell anyone, but did you know that people just give you new cookbooks when you’re a food blogger? And sometimes they even give you recipes to share. Even really good recipes. Take, for instance, these brilliant pinwheels from Parents Need To Eat Too by the lovely Ms. Debbie Koenig.

Oh, how I wish this cookbook existed when I was a new mum. I think my husband and I made quesadillas and spaghetti for many months. I vividly remember not being able to tackle any recipe that involved chopping of any sort until the baby was at least 6 months old. I’d read a recipe that called for peeling and chopping an onion and roll my eyes and mumble something like, “Yeah, like that’s ever going to happen.”

The author of Parents Need To Eat Too has been there and has amassed a stunning array of parent-friendly recipes that would have broken even me out of my quesadilla and take-out pizza rut. It includes exciting recipes for a variety one-handed meals such as these pinwheels, slow cooker delicacies, recipes broken down into stages so most of the work can be done during naps, as well as recipes that support breastfeeding.

If you’d like to win a copy of Parents Need To Eat Too, comment on this post and tell us how you keep yourself fed when you have a new babe in the house. I’ll pick a winner next Saturday, February 18th at 7pm EST using random.org.

Update 2-18-2012: And the winner is Christy! Thanks to everyone for your comments. 

Broccoli and Cheddar Pinwheels Recipe from Parents Need To Eat Too

1 pound prepared pizza dough, white or
whole wheat
2¹⁄₂ cups finely chopped broccoli, or one 10-ounce package of frozen chopped broccoli, defrosted and finely chopped
1 to 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line or grease a baking sheet.

1. Remove pizza dough from the refrigerator 30 minutes to 1 hour before you plan to use it.

2. Steam the broccoli until just tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Cool slightly, then combine broccoli with the Cheddar, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Roll or stretch the dough on a floured work surface into a large rectangle, about 10 x 14 inches. Don’t worry if you can’t get those exact measurements, but take care not to stretch the dough so thin it rips.

4. Spread the broccoli mixture over about three-quarters of the dough, leaving an uncoated portion at one short side. Begin to roll the dough from the short side covered with the broccoli spread, and keep rolling until you’ve got a nice, neat log of dough.

5. using a serrated knife or a pastry scraper, cut the log into 8 equal pinwheels. Carefully lay the pinwheels flat on the prepared baking sheet, and bake until crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes.

Yield: 8, easily doubled
Cooking time: 1 hour (20 minutes active)

My approach to bruschetta is one I made up a while ago without referring to anything or anyone. I figure I’ve read enough cookbooks that I should know how to make bruschetta with my eyes closed. Feel free to educate me in the comments if I’m commiting some bruschetta sin of the highest order.

Grilled Bruschetta Recipe

Feel free to mix it up based on whatever abundance of summer produce you have on hand.  The kids love to “paint” the olive oil onto the bread prior to grilling.

For the bread:
1 large loaf of rustic crusty white bread
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the tomatoes:
16 grape tomatoes
1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves, chopped
Pinch kosher salt

For the summer squash:
2 to 3 yellow summer squash and/or zucchini
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground pepper
Goat or feta cheese, for garnish

1. Fire up your outdoor grill to medium heat. Somewhere around 400 degrees Farienhight is nice.

2. Slice the loaf into 1/2 inch slices. Combine the olive oil 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, coat one side of each slice liberally with the olive oil mixture. Set aside.

3. Cut off the ends of the summer squash/zucchini. Slice them lengthwise to 1/4 – inch thickness. Spread the slices out on a plate. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Place the prepared squash, tomatoes, and bread on the grill. Watch the bread closely and flip it once grill marks appear and is starting to brown. Flip the vegetables when grill marks start to appear. Remove from heat and allow the vegetables to cool slightly.

5. To assemble, cut the bread slices in half, if they are large. Spread the bread out on a large serving plate in a single layer. Chop the tomatoes and mix them with the basil. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. Next, chop the grilled summer squash and mix with the thyme and parsley along with pinches of salt and pepper. Heap the vegetables onto the prepared bread slices. Garnish with goat or feta cheese, if desired. Devour immediately.

Yield: 16
Prep-time: 25 minutes

Print Print

Has everyone been snacking on edamame and keeping it secret from me?? Actually, now that I think about it I’ve seen it mentioned all over the place as a great snack. But I never thought I was crunchy or worldly enough to take to it, much less locate it at the grocery store.

Luckily, I took the plunge and finally tasted some at a restaurant a while ago. And then I spotted some at the farmer’s market.

All fresh edamame needs is a five minute steam over salty water. When they’re done,  run them under cold water for a couple minutes to cool them down and stop them from cooking further. Et voila!

Popping the beans out of their shells brings some fun to the table. But I also genuinely like the taste. They remind me of a firm pea, but not as sweet. My normally adventurous eater has recently decided she doesn’t like edamame. But the younger one loves them. I’ll take it.

Working a new food, especially a legume, into my family’s diet is a bit of a thrill for me. Such is the life I lead.

I love this zippy little summer salad when I have a little extra time in the afternoon. It gives us a break from the usual carrot sticks. If you don’t have champagne vinegar, you can try lemon juice. Champagne vinegar is also lovely with strawberries or on salads containing fruit. (A cucumber technically is a fruit, right?)

This recipe is adapted from a recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

1 medium fresh-picked cucumber, peeled
A generous pinch of fine salt
Pinch ground white pepper
1 – 2 tablespoons of champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill (optional)

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon and discard. Slice the cucumber thinly and transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, and dill. Mix with your hand or serve as is.

Print Print

I’ve always been secretly fascinated by the oft discarded broccoli stem. It reminds me of asparagus. So I decided there has to be some potential there. And lately I get an extra rush out of making a snack out of leftovers or something that would normally be trashed.

Well, it turns out there is some potential. After a little steaming, the core of the broccoli stem is a tender shadow of the florets we normally consume. And more importantly, it is perfectly suited to being strung up with other vegetables on a bamboo skewer.

3 broccoli stems
3 medium whole carrots, peeled and tops cut off
Salt, if desired
3 – 4 radishes, sliced into 1/4-inch thick circles
1/3 cup Ranch dressing or other dip

With a large knife, remove the tough outer layer of skin on the broccoli stems. I did this by standing the stem on end (where the florets used to be) and carefully slicing downward from the base. The outer skin is a little less than 1/4-inch thick and slightly darker than the core.

Cut the peeled broccoli stems and carrots into one inch lengths. Transfer to a steaming basket. Place one to two inches of water in a pot (with salt, if desired) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Lower steam basket into pot and cover. Steam the broccoli and carrot for 5-7 minutes. Rinse in cold water and allow to cool completely or refrigerate.

When snack time arrives, provide bamboo skewers* to snackers and let them make their own. Serve with ranch dressing or Herbed Yogurt Dip.

*Note: I’m guessing bamboo skewers should not be put in the hands of most children under the age of 3, possibly 4. Adult supervision required. When in doubt, cut off the pointy tip. Although this can make it more difficult to assemble the kebob. A safer option might be lollipop sticks; pre-punch holes in the food and let the younger ones assemble on their own.

Yield: 6-8 kebobs
Prep-time: 15 minutes

Print Print