Reindeer Food

Right now my house looks like a Michael’s craft store exploded all over it. It’s the bits and pieces that remain after a weekend of DIY mermaid birthday party compulsion and my poor burnt-out self cannot lift a finger to fix it right now. I also can’t write about it yet, it’s too fresh (and too much).

So how does that get us to reindeer food? And what even is reindeer food? Well, it’s pretty much just oats in a bag. With sprinkles…

My son’s school does this thing called The Gingerbread Shop where families bring in little things they’ve made and the school sets up a little “store” and each student gets to bring a couple dollars to shop. They buy the little crafts for 50 cents a piece. It’s sweet, my son came home last year with a little gift for each of us.

AND THIS STUFF IS ALL DUE TOMORROW. So yeah, oats in a bag. With sprinkles.

But as last minute and quick as this little project is, the kids (or at least my kids) like feeding the reindeers on Christmas Eve as much as they like leaving cookies for santa. So I figure the kids at school might like it to.

Reindeer Food

Reindeer Food


REINDEER FOOD
All you do is pour a bunch of oats in a bowl. Both whole oats and the steel cut work great. Have the kids dump in a bunch of Christmas sprinkles and even a little glitter (sure, Santa’s reindeers can eat glitter), and mix it all up. Then put it in a bag, tie it up, and put a label on it.

My husband questioned why I would add additional work with the label. But that’s the key part. That’s what turns oats in a bag magically into “Reindeer Food.”

Breakfast of Champions: Sprinkles, Glitter, Oats

Breakfast of Champions: Sprinkles, Glitter, Oats

Restaurant Challenge: El Caballo Wraps

El Caballo Wraps

El Caballo Wraps


I’ve seen this place many times but never thought to try it because A) the entire point of this restaurant challenge is to break our taqueria pattern and B) I was biased. Sorry, but it has the word “Wraps” in its name. It just reminds me of those chains that wrap things like rice, broccoli, and teriyaki chicken in a sun-dried tomato tortilla. See, now, that’s a wrap. But I was wrong. That’s not what this place has. This place has burritos and other delicious Mexican foods.

To be fair we didn’t pick this out of the bucket. The kids and I went with some friends a few weeks back at their recommendation. BUT we couldn’t count it towards the restaurant challenge until we went as a family. So tonight we returned and it was good for a second time, and we’ll most definitely be back. In fact, I think this might be my favorite Mexican food on the island.

Tortilla Soup & Papusa goodness

Tortilla Soup & Papusa goodness


For me, it was all about the Chicken Tortilla Soup. On this cold night a few weeks before Christmas, this perfect bowl of soup paired with a pork papusa and a plastic bottle full of their amazing smokey hot sauce made for happiness. A few weeks back I tried a carnitas taco and some nachos. Both very tasty.

Here’s what the others thought…

Hoodie and Burrito... Just like his Dad in college.

Hoodie and Burrito… Just like his Dad in college.


Jack: Thumbs up for a bean and rice El Nino (kids) burrito, guacamole, chips. Learning experience: He thought he’d like black beans but tried them and has decided pinto is always the way to go. Agreed.

Elise: Bean (pinto) and Cheese El Nino Burrito and side of rice. She ate it all but said she didn’t like it. Standard mixed bag reaction. Remember Thanksgiving?

Mike: Burrito Al Pastor which he thought was just ok. I took a bite and liked it.

Bottom Line: We’ll return. Super friendly owner and staff, great food, DELISH Chicken Tortilla Soup.

El Caballo Wraps
1108 Lincoln Ave
(between Bay St & St Charles St)

It's cold out!

It’s cold out!


No pictures!

No pictures!

THANKSGIVING COOKING: KID COOKS RULE

Our Thanksgiving cook-off was a major success. So much so that we unanimously voted it the 1st annual Family Thanksgiving Cook-off (we need a better name). The food was great, the kids really helped with every dish, and nobody got hurt except me who managed about five minor burns while trafficking pies in and out of the oven. It’s probably a good thing that I never rounded up that brulee torch.

Elise was proud of herself for: chopping, whipping, stirring, sautéing, rolling, and peeling herself through 2 pies, sourdough-sausage stuffing, and green beans with bacon.

Jack came in strong with brining and roasting the turkey, peeling and sautéing glazed carrots, putting together a caesar salad and making whipped cream for the pies.

Of course there were needed breaks along the way… a game of kitchen wall-ball, a trip to the park, some make-believe dress up princess thing, a wrestling match… But they always came back to it. They didn’t want to miss having a hand in each dish. It was pretty cool.

As for a winner, well, in the end it was a tie until Jack made a good point that his sister pretty much voted against every one of her own dishes (pie and bacon aside). Let’s just say she had way more fun making the food than eating it.

The Feast!

The Feast!

Chopping, a pairing knife works well for little hands.

Chopping, a pairing knife works well for little hands.

Sauteing veggies for stuffing

Sauteing veggies for stuffing

Cooking.  Everyone's into it!

Cooking. Everyone’s into it!

Can never be too dressed up.

Can never be too dressed up.

Kitchen Wall Ball Break.

Kitchen Wall Ball Break.

Apple and Pumpkin Pies

Apple and Pumpkin Pies

Whipping Cream

Whipping Cream

The Final Voting

The Final Voting

Thanksgiving Cooking: Kids + Knives + Fire. This will end well.

Who out there watched Masterchef Junior? Seriously, if you didn’t you should. And if you did, you are probably thinking what underachievers your own kids are at this point. I kid, I kid… but these were some pretty amazing 9-13 year old kids wielding some serious cooking skills and restaurant quality dishes.

This is the first “show” we watched as a family. Meaning, not an on-demand age appropriate cartoon that the kids zone out on as we quickly move around the house getting tasks done. No, I mean a show we actually sat down together to watch, stayed glued to throughout, and discussed together. It was the most interactive TV that exists.

I say this because it’s left a lasting, ACTIONABLE impression on my kids. My son, a traditionally “focused” eater, has started asking to try new things. Things like roe at sushi and stuff with herbs on it. Trust me, this is BIG. And both kids have been popping into the kitchen more, asking to help. I think it really empowered them to see kids near their own age doing stuff we typically associate with adults (and kicking butt at it.)

So this Thanksgiving, inspired by the show, the kids decided they want to make our own cooking contest.

Thanksgiving Cooking Contest 2013
We’ve split into two teams, secret recipes are in the works. We will make a full traditional turkey dinner with an abnormal pie-to-people ratio. Kids will chop, sauté, brine, and roast. There might even be a blow torch in the mix.

Team 1: Mike & Jack
Team 2: Kristin & Ellie

Stay tuned…

Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!

Halloween: Pt 1

Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat


Remember Halloween when you were a kid? How good was Halloween. Throwing together some funky diy costume, grabbing a pillowcase for your candy haul, running around with the neighborhood crew until well after dark… adult-free. Then coming home, dumping out your candy piles, trading with your brother while your mom checked for rumored razors. Good times. I loved it. LOVED it.

I was feeling nostalgic about it today while at our school’s Fall Halloween Carnival. I mean, while we live mere miles from a major metropolis, Halloween is still much the same all these years later. Old-school style carnivals, pumpkin patches, trick or treating, candy… it’s still going strong.

Halloween is also obviously a really perfect holiday for making stuff. This week I’ll try to post some of our favorites, starting with stuff we’ve made in the past.

Mummy Cake
Ok, this isn’t from the past, this is from today. My daughter and I made it for the carnival cake walk. We totally cut corners because she’s four and I work full time. So I got a box of Red Velvet (mwahaha, blood) Cake mix, a jar of vanilla frosting, and was all set to bust out some mummy wraps with a piping bag when I stumbled upon a mummy cupcake kit at Target. White sour gummy strips! Like striking gold.

MMM, delicious mummies.

MMM, delicious mummies.

All we did was cut a top of a cardboard box and wrap it in foil for the tray. We then baked the cake in a 7″ Corningware dish so that it would be tall. Then frosted it with the white frosting, leaving the eye area bare. My daughter plopped some sugar eyes on, and we wrapped it like a mummy with those gummy strips. So easy.

Candy Eyes

Candy Eyes


frosted, ready to wrap.

frosted, ready to wrap.

Crafts of Halloween Past
A few other Halloween things from years past…

Mummy Dogs
These are so easy and kinda rad so I make them every year. Use full hotdogs, or cut them in half, or get lil smokies, they all work. I’ve wrapped them in strips of Trader Joe’s pizza dough and I’ve tried breadstick or other pre-made doughs. I like the look of the pizza dough best but I recommend brushing them with some melted butter before baking. So pick your dough, cut it in strips, wrap the dogs, bake at 375-ish until the dough looks done. Dot mustard or ketchup for eyes.

MMM, more mummies

MMM, more mummies

Alien Cupcakes
These were from the Hello Cupcakes book. They were hard. Don’t start them at 10PM.
http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com/2009/10/21/more-halloween-cupcakes.aspx

MMM, delicious aliens.

MMM, delicious aliens.

Dalmation (Cow?) Costume
White onsie, black fabric paint… all planned around a cute hat she already had. She was a cute little Cowmation.

Puppy? Cow?

Puppy? Cow?

Just Don’t Call It A Party: DIY Pokemon Non-Party

When Jack’s birthday rolled around this year I asked him what he’d like to do:
“No party.” was his response.
“No party?” (can’t quite compute)
“No.” (adamant)
“Well, we don’t have to have that party” I said.

See I knew what was wrong, no need for him to elaborate. It was the confirmation that yes, I had indeed scarred him over past years with what has been deemed “Birthdaypalooza.”

Birthdaypalooza started out innocently enough back in preschool when a group of us parents with October birthday kids pulled together and threw one big bash. Brilliant! Four b-day kids, ONE party! Done.

We pulled this off in various forms for four years in a row. It got so big after the first year that we had to move subsequent years to a park. It swelled to a point where last year there were 40+ kids, 40+ adults, a jumpy house, a Pirate who did magic, twisted balloons and painted faces, a pinata so big you could shove a small child in it (we went with 10lbs of candy), lots of BBQ. We had to hire a backup face painter.

I loved this party. Loved prepping with the moms. Loved making the favors. Loved watching the kids have so much fun. Loved catching up with all the parents we don’t get to see too often. But after the last one, I knew it wasn’t really Jack’s thing. Don’t get me wrong, he had a blast every year, but I knew it wasn’t the birthday party he would choose for himself.

And this year he chose the opposite. NOTHING. It’s official: I scarred him for life.

So let’s rewind a bit:
“No party.” was his response.
“No party?” (can’t quite compute)
“No.” (adamant)
“Well, we don’t have to have that party” I said.

And at this point I threw out some options:
“Invite a couple of buddies over and play pokemon?”
No.
“Take a small group of friends mini-golfing, to the movies, or to the pinball museum?”
No.
“Is there anything you’d like to do for your birthday?”

The answer was 1) Go with one friend to The Winchester Mystery House & 2) Have our regular neighborhood crew over for movie night + birthday cheesecake. But don’t call it a party.

Pokemon Pizza Night
We’re lucky to live on a block with a group of kids that have grown up to this point together. They are a tight group that hang together often. So we invited them over for a pretty typical movie-pizza night. As it grew closer, Jack started getting into a few “party-ish” elements. He put together gift boxes for them, filled with Pokemon things. He sought out cards he knew his friends needed and put those in their pokeball boxes. He didn’t protest when I brought home some Pokemon decor. And I think he genuinely got excited when the following two things rounded out the emerging theme:

Easy Pokeball Pizza

Easy Pokeball Pizza


Pokemon Pokeball Pizza:
This was a super easy way to integrate some Pokemon power. I cheated a bit and bought a couple of large pepperoni take-n-bake pizzas from Costco. I figured the kids probably weren’t craving the grilled pizzas. I simply took off half the pepperoni, put a slice of onion in the middle of the pizza, then used olives to make the black lines. voila!
cooking Pokeballs

cooking Pokeballs

A little overcooked, cheese got too brown.

A little overcooked


                                              

Pokemon Pokeball Cheesecake:

Pokeball Cheesecake

Pokeball Cheesecake

Here’s a funny thing about Jack: He doesn’t really like cheese, he doesn’t like cake… but he loves cheesecake. I was thinking about making him one and turning it into a pokeball but I wasn’t confident in getting the top super white and free of cracks, so I bought one from Costco. I then covered one half with strawberry spread, made the center button with upside down Hersey kisses, then used black cake decorating gel to finish it off.

Pokemon & friends, what more does a kid need?

Pokemon & friends, what more does a kid need?

Jack had the perfect birthday. He loved it. He loved prepping his gift bags. He loved being surrounded by his neighborhood crew. He loved the little bits of a Pokemon theme. But still… don’t call it a party.

Pokeball non-party party favors.

Pokeball non-party party favors.

Tomato & Bread Salad

Summer. You’re not over yet, and yet you are kinda over. School starts tomorrow, homework too, and I even saw Christmas decor in the aisles of Costco. Which is a kinda WTF early, but, well… you’ll be missed summer.

But before you totally bail on us, I thought it would be nice to hang with you a bit. Enjoy the fruits of your bounty, even if I didn’t actual grow them myself. See, we never quite made it around to the tomatoes this year. Of our micro-garden undertaking, we ended up with a handful of peas and green beans and a crap-load of plums. Though a pesky possum pretty much gnawed through most of the plums leaving sticky, smashed remnants all over our yard.

mini-bounty

mini-bounty

Our Peas, all six of them

Our peas, all six of them


But I digress.

So tomatoes… we were backup babysitters for our neighbor’s chickens and in addition to some fresh eggs, we also got to help ourselves to some lovely ripe tomatoes. Additionally, I had pilfered a left over loaf of bread from a work event that was too stale to eat but perfect for croutons.

BINGO: Tomato & Bread Salad!

I am not really sure how you make a traditional bread salad. I didn’t even really want to know. I just wanted to make it up as I went and see how it all came out.

(Didn't end up using the olives)

(Didn’t end up using the olives)


Tomato & Bread Salad
– Loaf of day (or so) old bread
– Lots of Olive Oil
– Three finely diced cloves of garlic
– Course Sea Salt
– 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
– Five or so large tomatoes
– Olives (optional, in fact I didn’t even end up using them)

How To:
– Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
– Slice the bread into large cubes.
– Whisk together garlic and 1/4 cup Olive Oil
– Toss together the olive oil/garlic mix and the croutons with your hands in a large bowl.
– Generously sprinkle salt, parmesan
– Toss and add Olive Oil until all cubes have a light coat
– Bake for 8ish mins, then toss them and sprinkle more parmesan and back for another 8-10 mins. They should be a golden brown.
– Remove from oven and put in a bowl, save the little crumb pieces to sprinkle on the top at the end
– Slice the tomatoes into large chunks and, in a separate bowl, toss with a little olive oil and salt
– Then toss it all together with the bread, sprinkle the crumbs on top, and let it sit for awhile before serving

Croutons

Croutons


It turned out ok. Maybe a little dry. I wonder if I should have put something like a vinaigrette over it and really let it soak. Or maybe it just needed to sit longer in the tomatoes. My goal was for it to be moist but with some crunchiness. All in all though, it was a super easy summer dish that could morph with varied ingredients like fresh mozzarella, basil, various salad dressings, olives, etc.

And not bad for a leftover loaf of bread and some tomatoes from the garden.

Tomato Bread Salad

Tomato Bread Salad