*Monster Menu: Recipes for Toddlers*

These recipes are quick, easy, and toddler-friendly.  This means that they are 80% less likely to be rejected and flung at the wall.  Just kidding.  Toddlers throw perfectly good food around all the time and these recipes will be no exception.  That being said, before we get cooking, a few words of advice about mealtime with monsters:

*Try not to stress out about one individual meal.  Toddlers will usually get the nutrients they need over the course of a day or a few days.  If your child is not gobbling up their dinner, think back to their recent snacks.  Did they have a hearty lunch?  Did they eat a lot the day before?

*Don’t make the dinner table a battlefield.  Putting pressure on a toddler to eat a new food is a sure way to turn them off when you try it again…and you should try it again…and again.  Sometimes you have to offer the same food ten times before a child will really evaluate it.

*Variety may not be an option right now.  Some people believe that finicky behavior at this age is biologically hard-wired.  Just when your child is newly mobile and the most curious about their surroundings, they become a little less likely to eat weird things.  A baby who seals their lips tight and refuses an asparagus spear is not likely to taste berries from the bushes outside.  Convenient, no? 

*Baby Bear’s Porridge (Pastina and Carrots)*

6 cups chicken broth

6oz. dry pastina (macaroni shaped liked teeny stars, 6oz. is half of a small box)

6 carrots, washed, peeled, and cut in half

Parmesan cheese to taste (optional)

Bring chicken broth to a rolling boil in a saucepan.  Add pastina.  Stir frequently until most of the broth has been absorbed by the macaroni.  It should take about 7 or 8 minutes for this to happen. 

While the pastina cools, steam or boil the carrots until slightly soft.  When they are cool, slice them into very thin rounds and use them to decorate the top of a bowl of pastina.  Think happy faces.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Makes about four toddler-sized lunches.

*Chicken Apple Meatballs*

1 lb. ground chicken

1 apple (any variety will work, as long as it’s not too tart)

1 small to medium onion

1 egg, beaten

1.5 cups seasoned breadcrumbs

1 Tbs. table mustard

1 Tbs. dried Italian seasoning

12 cups water or chicken broth (or a combination of the two)

Peel and grate the apple and the onion.  Add the ground chicken and other ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Form walnut-size balls and poach them in boiling water or chicken broth for 15 minutes.  Strain.  Serve as they are or with your favorite pasta and sauce.

Makes about 25 small meatballs.

*Mini Zucchini Muffini*

3 c. grated zucchini (about 3 small-medium zucchini, don’t peel them)

2/3 c. butter, melted

1-1/3 c. sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. baking soda

3 c. all-purpose flour

3 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease mini muffin tins or use paper baking cups.  Mix the sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a big bowl with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add zucchini and melted butter and mix well.  Sprinkle in baking soda and cinnamon and mix well. Add flour one cup at a time and mix well.

Fill muffin cups all the way to the top.  

Bake muffins for 12-17 minutes, or until the tops are dry and springy and a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool the muffins in the tin for about 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool the rest of the way.

Makes about 35 mini muffins.  Feed to unsuspecting toddlers.  Get someone else to clean the muffin pan.

Reference:
1. 11 easy toddler meals (they'll actually eat) – Kidspot
2. 42 Delicious Meal Ideas for Fussy Toddlers | Recipes | Food …

How To Make French Beignets

Many people have never even heard of a beignet, but here in Louisiana they are actually quite popular. Beignets can be served any time of the day, as a complete meal or even as a snack. Beignets are a extremely popular items in the city of New Orleans, however there you will hear locals simply refer to them as doughnuts. Beignets in New Orleans are usually served with the other local favorite, Cafe au Lait, or coffee. The Cafe Du Monde, located in the French Market of New Orleans, is world famous for it’s delicious beignets and cafe au lait.

Beignets have been a favorite in Louisiana for over two hundred years! It is believed this simple recipe was brought here by the Ursuline Nuns when they traveled here from France in 1727. For a more in depth history of beignets in New Orleans, you can visit the Crescent City Beignets website.

Some companies do make a simple mix for beignets, similar to instant pancake mix, however it can be very difficult to find outside of Louisiana. Fortunately, making homemade beignets are extremely simple and require relatively few ingredients. Most ingredients your probably already have on hand!

Homemade Beignets

1 cup of water

1/2 cup of butter or margarine

1 teaspoon of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of all-purpose flour

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

salad or cooking oil

confectioners’ sugar

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat your water, butter, sugar and salt until your butter melts and the mixture starts to boil.

2. Remove pan from heat and add flour. Vigorously stir until all ingredients are well mixed and the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms into a ball.

3. Add your eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Add vanilla extract and mix it into the batter.

4. In another saucepan or frying pan, heat about 1 and 1/2 inches of salad or cooking oil to about 375 degrees (F). You can also use a deep fryer if you prefer.

5. Once the oil is hot enough, drop heaping teaspoonfuls of dough into the hot oil and fry the beignets a few at a time until they are golden brown in color. Drain on paper towels, keeping them warm until ready to serve.

6. Top with confectioners’ sugar.

Traditional beignets are served with confectioners’ sugar, however you can add any topping that you would like to beignets. Some people enjoy topping them with pancake syrup, chocolate syrup, melted caramel or even whipped cream. Whatever topping you choose to use, beignets will more than likely become a permanent fixture on your menu!

Reference:
1. Are Eggs Considered Dairy Products?
2. Are Eggs Dairy or Meat? | EggTutor

I made these with a great group of preschoolers! Tons of fun.

Super Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

Mix together:
1 cup of Peanut Butter
1 cup of Granulated Sugar
1 egg

Once mixed, roll into balls and press down into a criss-cross pattern with a sugar dipped fork. Bake in an oven at about 325 or 350 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes.

Tasty Peanut Butter cookies!

Sounds unbelievable? Try it… you and your kids will be impressed!

Reference:
1. Kid-Friendly Recipes – Allrecipes.com
2. Quick and Easy Kid-Friendly Recipes – Cooking Light

Whether a person has Asian heritage or they like serving and eating food from this area, Asian appetizer make a nice addition to elegant entertaining. Quite often, hosts or hostesses feel stressed when planning a party, yet they want to start things off with good flavors and attractive servings. There are several Asian appetizers that are easy to make, elegant to serve and have fresh flavors.

One such appetizer is an Asian meatball found at Betty Crocker. To make the meatballs mix together one pound ground beef, one-half cup finely chopped water chestnuts, one-third cup plain bread crumbs, one-quarter up sliced green onions, one-quarter cup milk, one slightly beaten egg, one tablespoon soy sauce and one-half teaspoon garlic salt. Shape the meat into one-inch balls. This mixture should make about 36 meatballs. Place these on a 15-inch by ten-inch by one-inch pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Place the meatballs into a preheated 375 degree Fahrenheit oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The meatballs are done when they are no longer pink in the middle.

Next spray a three- to four-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place the meatballs in the cooker. Then mix together one-half cup of barbecue sauce, one-quarter cup plum sauce and two tablespoons hoisin sauce and cover the meatballs. Gently stir the meatballs to mix the sauce in well. Place the lid on the slow cooker and heat for two to four hours on low.

Food Network also offers an easy, elegant Asian appetizer that will please all the party-goers. It is “Hot ‘N Sweet Shrimp.” To make this lovely dish one-quarter cup sugar, one-quarter cup rice wine vinegar, and one inch of peeled and thinly sliced ginger root are mixed together in a pan and brought to a oil to dissolve the sugar. This mixture should be set aside.

Then heat two tablespoons of light oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. One chopped onion, two thinly sliced red chili peppers, one-quarter pound of chopped shiitake mushrooms, without stems and four cloves of chopped garlic are sauted in the skillet for three to four minutes. Add one and one-half pounds of deveined medium shrimp with their tails off. Toss the shrimp while cooking for three to four minutes. The shrimp is cooked when they are pink and firm. Place the vinegar mixture to the pan and add salt and pepper. This can be served with lettuce so the mixture may be wrapped, either by the guests or by the hosts.

With either of these appetizers, any party will be set up for an elegant night with fresh food and a relaxed host, thanks to the Asian appetizers.

Reference:
1. Asian Appetizers | Martha Stewart
2. Asian Appetizers on Pinterest | Asian Meatballs, Tailgating Ideas …

New restaurant regulations proposed by the Obama regime promise to increase the cost of prepared foods while opening up restaurant chains to new sources of liability.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that a deputy FDA commissioner blames “excess food consumption outside the home” for America’s obesity problem and believes that posting calorie information where people go to eat will help them avoid overeating.

More about the rules

Reportedly part of the wildly unpopular Obamacare health law passed by Democrats last year, the new FDA rules will require menus in drive thru lanes and on menus inside restaurants to prominently post the calorie information for every menu item. This also applies to vending machines also. For example, if the calorie information is not visible from the vending machine window, the machine owner will have to post it on the outside of the machine where people can readily view it.

Exemptions

Obamacare is already widely reputed for its exemptions to the debilitating law that give special privileges to companies and demographics that form Obama’s political base. Because of this, the House Ways and Means Committee points to the waivers as just one more example why Obamacare is a bad law.

Yes, the FDA rules have exceptions to that make it so the law does not apply to businesses whose primary mission is not the sale of food. This means that movie theater concession stands, airlines, and bowling alleys will not need to comply with the new requirements of the regime.

Curiously, the new rules do not apply to alcohol so drinkers and revelers will not need to wade through pesky health information while they party. Perhaps someone should check on the campaign contributions of the alcoholic beverage lobby.

Conflicting messages

By issuing waivers and exceptions, the Obama regime seems cognizant that the new rules will unfairly burden business. After all, if the FDA was truly concerned about the health of humanity, wouldn’t they deem the calorie count of movie theater popcorn equally as important as that of a cheeseburger at a fast food restaurant? People are literally killing themselves at the theater concession stand and Obamacare is going to sit by and allow it to happen. Perhaps someone should check on the campaign contributions of the movie industry lobby.

Nutritional Margo Wooten was quoted by the Atlanta newspaper could send the wrong signals to consumers who may already be confused by the new menus. If calories are listed for soft drinks and juices, but not for beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks, people may construe that as an endorsement since the government doesn’t see the need to warn people about the calories contained in those substances.

Wooten generally believes, however, that the calorie posting requirement is good because it will help people factor in health concerns as they order.

Reference:
1. Labeling & Nutrition > Menu and Vending Machines Labeling …
2. Labeling & Nutrition > Questions and Answers on the Menu and …

Ahhh, the joys of the holidays: shopping, wrapping, cooking and baking, cleaning and decorating, the endless lists of parties and get-togethers we look forward to, and some we feel obligated to attend. It seems like there’s more to do each year as we try to create a picture perfect Christmas for our families.

I tried once to create the picture perfect Christmas when my boys were little. I baked and decorated sugar cookies and hung them on the Christmas tree after the boys were in bed. I made chocolate candy in tiny little molds, packaged them and put them high up in the kitchen cupboard where I knew they would be safe until Christmas Eve. All the presents were wrapped and hidden away in the utility closet, safe from prying eyes and hands. I had spent days cleaning and decorating the house, inside and out, and finished every last thing on my list WAY ahead of schedule.

What a great feeling I had that night when I finally climbed into bed! The only thing left to do on my list was enjoy the Holidays with my family; everything was done, and I dozed off feeling pretty proud of myself. Such pride is usually short-lived, a fact I discovered when I woke up to the sounds of whispered giggles coming from the living room.

Half-asleep, I staggered into the living room to find my three little boys sitting on the floor in front of the Christmas tree. The sight of them just sitting there staring up at the tree almost brought tears to my eyes; until my eyes focused on the tree and all the half-eaten cookies that were still somehow attached to the branches. My three little angels had eaten part of every cookie within their reach!

As I took a closer look at the boys, I noticed my middle son’s face had chocolate smeared all over it. My oldest son informed me that his brother had climbed up onto the counter in the kitchen and had found and eaten the chocolate candy I had recently made. When I went to the kitchen, I knew as soon as I saw the cupboard door open that my son hadn’t eaten the chocolate candy; he had eaten three or four squares of Ex-Lax! I thought they were safely out of the reach of the boyswrong! I was thankful that my son hadn’t seen fit to share with his brothers!

A quick check of the utility cupboard where the presents had been safely tucked away revealed they were all still tucked away, but now they sat naked and sad, no paper, no tape, not even a bow! They had all been unwrapped, played with, and stacked back into the closet. Needless to say, I spent the next two days baking more sugar cookies, tending to my son who spent a vast amount of time on the potty, and wondering if I should even bother to re-wrap all the presents or just put them under the tree as-is.

I did wrap the presents again, after the boys were in bed, and went to bed on Christmas Eve with an eye and an ear open for any suspicious activity. The next morning, the boys acted as if they had never seen any of the toys they unwrapped (for the second time) and I had to wonder if little kids really did have an extremely short memory span!

I learned a hard fact of life that Christmas: Nothing turns out the way you think it should! Take a hint from me, and don’t stress out over the holidays trying to re-create the perfect Christmas. Just do what you can, and enjoy the season with family and friends; you’ve always got next year to try to plan and pull off the “Perfect Christmas”Not!

I’m going to give you my sugar cookie recipe, and hopefully, there will be intact cookies to serve at your house, (if they do get half-eaten, look on the bright side, dunking cookies in milk is easier when you’re only dunking a half!)

SUGAR COOKIES

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Bake 7 9 minutes, until lightly browned Yield: 4 -5 dozen

1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar

2 1/2 cups flour

1 cup butter or margarine

1 tsp. soda

1 egg 1 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. almond flavoring

Mix sugar and butter together. Add egg and flavorings, mix well. Blend flour, soda and cream of tartar together in large bowl. Blend dry ingredients into wet mixture. Roll into ball, cover tightly and refrigerate for 2 3 hours.

Divide dough in half and roll out on surface sprinkled with equal parts of flour and powdered sugar until about 1/16″ thick, (I roll until 1/4″, we like thicker cookies). Cut out with cookie cutters, transfer to lightly greased cookie sheet, (I use parchment paper, it’s much easier and less mess to clean up). Bake at 350 degrees for 7 9 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Frost/decorate when completely cooled. Store in air-tight container for up to a week(like they would really last that long!)

RUSSIAN TEACAKES

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Bake 10 12 minutes
Yield: 4 dozen 1″ cookies

1 cup butter or margarine

2 1/4 Cups flour

1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup finely chopped nuts

Mix butter, sugar and vanilla together. Stir flour and salt together, blend into wet mixture, and stir well. Add nuts, stirring to blend well. Chill dough for one hour. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough into one inch balls, place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. These cookies don’t spread out, so you can place them close together. Bake 10 -12 minutes, until set but not brown. While still warm, roll in powdered sugar; when cooled, roll in powdered sugar again.

Note* Cool cookies without rolling in powdered sugar. Dip in thin white icing, and then in colored sugars. Let dry. These sugared cookies add a festive touch to your cookie trays, and they’re delicious and easy to make.

Reference:
1. Quick and Easy Holiday Recipes – Food Network
2. Easy Chicken and Dumplings – Quick Holiday Dinner Recipe Ideas …

CONFETTI SPAGHETTI…I like spaghetti but I get sick of it in the same
old way all the time. The following recipe is one that I got from a
co-worker, Elsie Aberlee, several years ago and I really enjoy it this
way. It is a little different and goes wonderful with grilled chicken.
I think you will like it too.

CONFETTI SPAGHETTI

Cook 1 pound thin spaghetti until tender. Drain and rinse with hot water.

Meanwhile in a deep fry pan with 3 Tbsp. light olive oil
Saute
3 cloves garlic minced
1 med purple onion diced
1 small zucchini squash chopped fine
1 med. red tomato diced
1 stalk celery sliced thin crosswise
3/4 cup mushroom pieces chopped
1/4 cup green bell pepper diced
1/4 cup yellow bell pepper diced
1/4 cup red bell pepper diced
3 Tbsp. chopped ripe black olive
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. rosemary
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. basil

When vegetables are just tender (onion is transparent) add 2 cups (or 1 15.5 oz can) chicken broth. Bring to full simmer and stir in 2 rounded Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1/3 cup water. Reduce heat to low and stir until starts to thicken. Remove from heat and let set 5-7 min. before serving.

Stir and serve over cooked spaghetti with a leafy green salad. Garnish with shredded cheese (I like to use Cheddar).

Source:

  1. Spaghetti Recipes – Allrecipes.com
  2. 50 Best Spaghetti Recipes – Easy Ideas for Spaghetti Pasta

Image Credit

Egg Noodles and Cheddar Bake

This is a perfect meal that is excellent for serving at brunch, lunch, or dinner. This recipe will make 6-8 servings. It is something that the whole family will enjoy. It only takes 45 minutes to prepare and less than 1 hour to cook. It is a very healthy dish in that it contains protein, calcium, iron, vitamins A and C. This recipe may be cooked using the microwave which means less time in the kitchen. It will only take 8 minutes to cook in the microwave. This casserole will store well covered in the fridge and may be easily reheated in the microwave. This casserole is delicious served with hot buttered rolls and a green salad. This recipe has a lot of healthy ingredients that kids will love.

Ingredients:

1` pack of egg noodles

1/2 cup of real butter, melted

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 cup of shallots, sliced

3 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups of sour cream

1 tablespoon of dried parsley

1 cup of Cheddar cheese, shredded

2 cups of cooked ham, chopped

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon of hot sauce

Directions:

1. Butter a large casserole dish.

2. Saute’ onion and shallots over medium heat.

3. In a small mixing bowl, mix eggs, hot sauce, sour cream, parsley until well combined.

4. Add the onion, shallots, cheese and ham and blend untilo well mixed. Add the salt and pepper evenly.

5. Place the cooked noodles into the casserole dish and add the ham mixture and mix until well combined.

6. Bake the casserole in the oven on 350 degree F for 45 minutes.

7. Serve hot and enjoy!

How to Microwave Egg Noodles and Cheddar Bake

Ingredients are the same as the conventional oven method.

Directions:

1. In a microwave safe dish combine butter, onion, and shallots. Microwave on high for 2 minutes.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, sour cream, hot sauce, and parsley and mix until well combined. Add the onion, shallots, cheese, and ham and stir until combined. Add the salt and pepper evenly.

3. Grease a microwave safe deep casserole dish. Place the cooked noodles into the dish. Pour the ham mixture over the noodles.

4. Cover and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Uncover.

5. Let cool for 2 minutes.

6. Microwave on high uncovered for 4 minutes more.

7. Let cool for 4 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Reference:
1. Three Cheese Noodle Bake Recipe – Allrecipes.com
2. Campbell's Hearty Chicken & Noodle Casserole Recipe

Enjoying Ethnic Dishes

Opening your mind to another cuisine is essential to really enjoy foods in restaurants and in cooking a variety of different foods. There are many types of foods now widely available and the ingredients are no longer difficult to find in most places.

Mexican food has been a favorite in the U.S. for many years, starting in the southwest, but now common everywhere. In addition to the fast food and Mexican chain restaurants, many cities now have authentic Mexican restaurants with chefs that learned to cook in their native Mexico. Delicious dishes featuring tortillas, sauces that can be spicy or not, meats, beans, rice, cheeses and vegetables are often quite delicious. The popularity of Mexican food attests to the changing American taste buds.

Many Asian cuisines are popular, as well. Chinese food has been a staple of American restaurants for many years. In addition to the continuing popularity of Chinese foods, there are Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, and Korean restaurants that attract many people. The foods can be spicy or not, the sauces can be delicious, and the prices reasonable. There are so many to choose from, that you see restaurants come and go. The best ones seem to succeed in the tough restaurant business.

Indian food has achieved popularity in many cities. The interesting curries and sauces and the delicious meats, rice and bread have entertained and satisfied diners. Often the sauces are quite rich and exotic and there is the need to experiment or eat with experienced diners to understand what dishes are the best. Most wait staff can answer questions about dishes and what they are made of and can recommend what is most popular. Another way is to partake in their lunch time buffet lunches, where you can try a variety of the foods to get an idea of what you will like.

Spanish restaurants, especially those serving tapas, have begun to draw people in and be successful. Tapas are the small plates of foods that allow diners to try different things without getting too full. They are more on the order of appetizers, but several of them can make a nice meal.

I’ve only touched on some of the most popular ethnic cuisines here. There is a world of culinary delights waiting for you! Bon Appetit!

Reference:
1. Cuisine of the United States
2. Ethnic Cuisine: How to Create the Authentic Flavors of Over 30 …

I love lasagna! But, I don’t love how many steps there are to make it. Not long ago, I happened upon a great little recipe that I changed to make my own through trial and error. It makes the best and easiest lasagna ever!

Here’s the recipe:

1 pound sausage (I prefer Italian, but it doesn’t matter)

2 jars spaghetti sauce (I prefer Ragu mushroom and green pepper)

cup water

2 eggs, beaten

12 ounces cottage cheese

12 ounces ricotta cheese

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

teaspoon each of garlic powder, pepper, dried basil and oregano

9 uncooked lasagna noodles

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink, drain. Stir in the spaghetti sauce and water. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, cottage and ricotta cheeses, Parmesan cheese, parsley and seasonings.

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or lasagna pan. Spread meat sauce to just cover the bottom. Layer with three noodles, a third of the cheese mixture, meat sauce and mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers twice to end with the mozzarella.

Cover with tin foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer or until noodles are tender. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

A variation of this recipe that I like is to add some washed and chopped baby spinach to the meat sauce for added vegetable content.

Don’t worry about the uncooked noodles, they will soak up the extra water you added and will be plenty soft.

Source:

  1. World's Best Lasagna Recipe – Allrecipes.com
  2. Lasagna Recipes – Allrecipes.com

Image Credit