Archive for February, 2012

Toad-in-the-Hole with Crispy Kale {Happy Leap Day!}

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

One of my favorite breakfasts as a child was something so simple I’d nearly forgotten about it. It begins with an egg and a slice of toast, but is somehow elevated to something fancy when you stick the egg inside the toast. While I’ve since heard it called by various names, in my house it’s a toad-in-the-hole. (Oddly, I always assumed the name came from my English great-grandmother, but according to Simply Recipes, a British toad-in-the-hole is another dish entirely. The Pioneer Woman goes with the more descriptive “Egg-in-a-Hole.”)

toad-in-the-hole with crispy kale

I’m also a sucker for greens with my eggs, so when I spotted eggs with crispy kale on Pinterest I immediately gave it a try.* Fabulous. Hop on over to Happy Jack Eats for the recipe. As for the toad-in-the-hole, butter both sides of a piece of whole wheat sandwich bread. Use a biscuit cutter or glass to cut a circle out of the center. Put your skillet on over medium heat, add the toast (cook the cut-out circle on the side), and crack an egg into the center. Cover and cook about 2-3 minutes, until white is set, flipping for the last minute if you prefer your egg over easy.

(*Every time I type “crispy kale” I have to fight the urge to write “krispy kale.” I don’t want to get into a trademark battle with the doughnut chain, but wouldn’t that be something, a kale-centric breakfast food chain?)

Start your Leap Day off right with some frogs and greens, and enjoy the “extra” day!

Kid-Friendly Oscars Party {and Mojito Mocktail}

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Sure, I may not have seen many of this year’s Academy Award nominated films, but there’s no reason to let kids keep us from celebrating Oscar night. Most kids are natural performers, after all — so invite some friends over, let the kids walk the red carpet (complete with parents-as-paparazzi, of course), and make some kid-friendly foods. Call it an Oscar Pre-Party (especially if you’re on the East Coast like us) and you can send the kids off to bed well before the good awards are handed out on television.

For this menu, I took my inspiration from the animated film nominees: A Cat in Paris, Rango, Puss in Boots, Chico & Rita, and Kung Fu Panda 2. Fortunately, they are set in some great food locations! The recipes below can be made by older kids, with supervision, and they’ll especially enjoy mixing up their own batch of mocktails.

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Kid-Friendly Oscar Party Menu

mojito mocktails

Mojito Mocktails (recipe below)
Thomas Keller Gougères (Cheese Puffs)A Cat in Paris (Une Vie de Chat)
Nopales (Cactus) Salsa
& ChipsRango
Camarones a la Mexicana con Aguacate (Shrimp-Avocado Tostadas) — Puss in Boots
Mini Cuban Sandwiches Chico & Rita
Noodle SoupKung Fu Panda 2

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Recipe: Mojito Mocktails

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, torn (plus extra for garnish)
  • 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • seltzer
  • Instructions:

    Prepare mint simple syrup: In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil. Boil, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, until sugar is completely dissolved. Add mint leaves, stir, and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Strain into glass jar and let cool to room temperature. (Can make ahead and store in refrigerator.)

    To make drinks: Juice one lime and divide juice evenly among four glasses. Add one mint leaf, 2 jiggers mint simple syrup, 2 jiggers coconut water and stir. Add ice cubes and top with seltzer. Garnish with lime slice and serve. Makes 4 mocktails, with plenty extra mint simple syrup for another round.

    Set the table with gold organza and your sparkliest dishes and serve a bloomy-rind cheese and sparkling wine for the adults. Hostess with the Mostess has Oscar party printables to add more Hollywood pizazz to your table. And if you really want to go all out, make Oscar statue cookies for dessert — or stick with “golden” lemon bars.

    Slow Cooker Paprika Chicken

    Friday, February 17th, 2012

    Now, a confession: I’ve had a life-long fear of slow cookers. We never had one growing up, and the thought of something cooking while I was out of the house for the day made me nervous. Plus, so many recipes I’d seen relied heavily on processed foods — a bottle of this, can of that, packet of something else. But with two kids and an ever increasing number of after-school activities, it was well past time to conquer my fears and embrace the slow cooker. Then, I saw Aviva of The Scramble mention that she’d bought her first slow cooker, and had formed a “slow cooker support group” with another local blogger, Laura of Mother Would Know. They let me tag along (via Twitter) and we first made a slow cooker pot roast that was easy and delicious. The second recipe was for a whole chicken, simply rubbed with spices and cooked with onion — no liquids or anything else.

    slow cooker paprika chicken

    Like Laura, I made many tweaks to the original recipe. My five-year-old is sensitive to pepper, and the recipe called for black, white and cayenne. I omitted them all and upped the paprika instead. (And used a smoked Spanish paprika.) And then I added a lemon, quartered, with the onion in the bottom of the slow cooker. It infused the chicken with even more flavor and the meat was remarkably juicy when the chicken was finished.

    There was one other change I made that I probably wouldn’t do again. I had a half can of Great Northern beans leftover from something else, so I dumped them in thirty minutes before the end of the cooking time. There was a lot of liquid in the bottom that I figured they’d cook in …. but it didn’t occur to me that that liquid was largely grease. The lemon juice helped, but I probably wouldn’t include the beans again. Aside from that misstep, both kids ate the chicken without complaints, so that’s a definite win in my book. We had this for Valentine’s dinner, so I served it with sweet potato tots and strawberry-watermelon salad for an all-red meal. In the future I’ll add a little green to the menu.

    slow cooker paprika chicken 2

    Recipe: Slow Cooker Paprika Chicken
    Makes 4-6 servings.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 (3.5-4-pound) roasting chicken
    • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
    • 1 lemon, quartered
    • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 3 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
    • 1 teaspoon thyme

    Instructions:

    Mix together salt, paprika and thyme in a small bowl. Remove giblets from chicken, if included, and pat chicken dry. Rub spice mixture into skin, and inside cavity. (Optional: place chicken in a large plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.)

    When ready to start the slow cooker, arrange onion slices and lemon quarters across bottom. Place chicken on top, cover, and set slow cooker on low. Cook for 5 to 6 hours, until juices run clear when you cut into the leg. (Mine took 5 1/2 hours.) Remove chicken to paper-towel lined platter to absorb some of the grease from cooking and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

    If you’re a slow cooker fan, please tell me your favorite things to cook. More ideas are definitely welcome!

    Julia’s Child {Book Review and Giveaway}

    Monday, February 13th, 2012

    {Admin Note: Voting is now open in the DC Lamb Pro-Am. I’d be oh-so-flattered if you’d take a moment to vote for FoodieTots’ Lemon-Mint Crusted Leg of Lamb. Thank you!}

    It’s not often I find myself in the kitchen, a novel in one hand, sautéeing apples with the other while steering the toddler towards her refrigerator magnets and out from underfoot. And I’m pretty sure this is the first adult fiction book review I’ve done here on FoodieTots. But when I read the description of Sarah Pinneo’s Julia’s Child, I couldn’t resist: “A delectable comedy for every woman who’s ever wondered if buying that six-dollar box of organic crackers makes her a hero or a sucker.”

    Julia's Child

    I did have a little apprehension, though. Those of us on the whole foods-local food-organic food bandwagon can be a little, well, sensitive about our food choices. But I follow Pinneo on Twitter (@Julias_Child) and was reasonably certain she was on my side. Sure enough, the novel was an enjoyable read about a woman out to “save the world one bite at a time.” It’s good to laugh at ourselves once in a while, and I found myself laughing out loud at the main character, Julia’s, conversation with her husband about recycled toilet paper. Let’s just say we may have had that exact conversation in the FoodieTots’ house.

    In the novel, Julia is a mother who leaves behind a corporate paycheck to launch an organic toddler food business, and moms of all types will relate to her struggles as she attempts to balance the needs of her own family with the demands of her growing business. Even better, a few recipes from the fictional business are included, and it was the Apple and Cheddar Muffets that I found myself baking first. A “muffet” is a savory muffin, the primary product Julia is producing and, at the start of the book, selling to the stereotypical moms of Brooklyn (of course). Aside from the cutesy name, I liked the “muffet” concept and appreciate that they are a low-sugar but still full-flavored kid-friendly snack. (With whole milk, butter and sour cream, they are not a low-fat snack, which is fine for the toddler crowd but may make you feel a smidge guilty after polishing off two in a row. Hypothetically speaking.) As I write this, the kitchen smells amazing, and just look how lovely they are.

    julia's child apple cheddar muffets

    If you own a Bugaboo (er, “Frogaboo”) or are a perky blonde co-host of The View (er, The Scene) the satire may hit a little too close to home, but otherwise I think many foodie mamas will appreciate this funny and engrossing read.

    The author has also offered one lucky reader a free copy of Julia’s Child, along with a basket of mom-made food products. (Not sure if that includes the muffets…but once you have the book, you can bake them yourself.) Leave a comment below telling us one of your children’s favorite after-school snacks, and I’ll select a winning commentor at random. Comments are open until 11:59 pm Eastern time this Friday, February. 17.

    Learn more about Sarah Pinneo on her own blog or Facebook page. And of course, look for Julia’s Child at your local bookseller or online.

    Lemon-Mint Crusted Leg of Lamb with Spiced Fig Stuffing {DC Lamb Pro-Am}

    Friday, February 10th, 2012

    While lamb stew is a Foodie Tots favorite during the cold winter months, roast lamb is one of my favorite celebrations of spring. In my inter-faith household, lamb is one of the rare shared culinary traditions and is frequently served for our Easter supper. Easter has a tendency to fall during Passover, which can pose a menu planning challenge as leavened breads and such are forbidden. Fortunately, some investigation of Sephardic Jewish cooking traditions has led to delicious discoveries – like the spiced dried fruit charoset that I’ve used here as a stuffing for my leg of lamb. (Sephardic Jews typically eat rice and other grains during Passover, though since Israeli couscous is technically a pasta, it’s not exactly kosher. Close enough in our household, but you may want to check before serving to more observant Jewish guests.)

    With the spring-like winter we’ve been having this year, I’ve been day-dreaming of planting my herb garden and had mint on the mind, so I added a lemon-mint pesto crust to the lamb. All we need are some daffodils in the garden and we’ll be set for spring.

    foodietots roast leg of lamb recipe

    I created this recipe as part of the DC Lamb Pro-Am – 13 local bloggers are competing for the best leg of lamb recipe, and a chance to cook our dish with DC chefs at the March 4 event. I’d be honored if you’d take a moment to vote for FoodieTots — thank you!

    dc lamb pro-am

    Let’s get started. First, take your leg of lamb out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature while you prepare the pesto and filling. Start with the pesto — fresh mint, parsley, lemon zest, half a shallot and pistachios are finely chopped, then add butter to form a thick paste.

    lemon mint pesto

    For the filling, we combine dried figs, apricots, shallot, and a Middle Eastern-inspired spice blend: coriander, cumin and cinnamon. A little red wine is the finishing touch. (I used a Coteaux du Languedoc, Cotes du Rhone or another medium-bodied red wine would be fine.)

    spiced fig and apricot charoset

    Next, press the stuffing into the lamb. Roll it up, press the pesto on top, and into the oven it goes… Voilà!

    preparing a stuffed leg of lamb

    Recipe: Lemon-Mint Crusted Leg of Lamb with Spiced Fig Stuffing
    Lamb sustainably-raised on Border Springs Farm in Southwest Virginia

    Ingredients:

    1 (4.5-5.5 pound) boneless leg of lamb
    kosher salt
    lemon-mint pesto (below)
    spiced fig filling (below)

    Lemon-Mint Pesto

    1/2 shallot
    1 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
    1 cup fresh parsley leaves, loosely packed
    1/3 cup shelled pistachios
    zest of 1 lemon
    2 tablespoons butter, cold

    Place all ingredients except butter in food processor and process till finely chopped. Add butter and grind to a thick paste. Remove from processor and set aside.

    Spiced Fig Filling

    1/2 shallot
    6 ounces dried apricots
    7 ounces dried figs
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 cup red wine

    Place all ingredients except wine in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Remove to a bowl, pour wine over and toss to combine. Set aside.

    Instructions:

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

    Rinse lamb and pat dry. Trim of any excess fat. Unfold leg and make a cut into the thicker side so that lamb can open flat (or, ask your butcher to butterfly the leg for you). Press fruit mixture into lamb in an even layer. Roll back up and place seam side down on rack in roasting pan.

    Season lamb with kosher salt. Press pesto mixture over top. Cover loosely with foil and roast for 1 hour 45 minutes. Remove foil and cook an additional 30 minutes (total cooking time 2 hours and 15 minutes, or until meat thermometer reaches 145 degrees for medium rare). Remove and let stand for 15 minutes before carving.

    Note: I had a hard time slicing my lamb without the crust crumbling. I’d suggest slicing it part way, then transferring the remaining leg to the serving platter to display to your guests before slicing the rest. Serve with Israeli couscous, garnished with mint, and roasted carrots.