Mary’s Quick Crustless Quiche

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I didn’t have much food in the house so I grabbed the only protein I had, eggs. I also was just given some zucchini squash and had some small potatoes. I sliced the potatoes and squash very thin and threw them on a pan with olive oil to roast Then, put them in a springform pan. Whisked 4 eggs, added a handful of cheese, salt, pepper, rosemary, and poured over the top of the veggies. Oven at 400 for about 15min. Honestly, so good and super easy! And you can use any veggies. Yum!

 

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Samara’s Best Doctored-Up From-a-box Chocolate Cake

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You know how, at kids’ birthday parties, most parents avoid eating the cake? The dry, saccharine taste of most childrens’ birthday cakes is generally not worth the cost of calories. But then, last weekend, Julie tipped me off: “You really should try this cake that Samara made. Ohmigoodness it’s good.” Deeply moist chocolate studded with chocolate chips: I don’t think I can describe it without starting to sound pornographic. I believe every parent at that party ate this cake. When Samara offered to bring the leftover cake to this week’s mom’s night out, some moms said they’d be there just for this cake.

Here are the directions, in Samara’s words

Ingredients

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix, or any chocolate cake boxed mix – I used 3 3/4 cups Trader Joe’s Chocolate Cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups semisweet mini chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and water.  Stir in the chocolate chips and pour batter into a well greased cake pan.  Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean.

And to make the cake moister I wrapped it in plastic wrap just a few minutes after it comes out of the oven and placed it in the freezer to cool down.  This consolidates and traps all of the cake’s moisture and forces it back into the cake.  The results are AMAZING and very RAVE-WORTHY.

Easy Chicken Parmesan Casserole

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This blog may just shift from “Playgroup Recipes” to “Eileen’s Recipes,” because who wouldn’t want to eat this?

Photo: Chicken parm casserole

The whole playgroup keeps clamoring for Eileen’s recipes. Here’s her easy chicken parmesan casserole.

And here’s Meyer Lemon Pasta.

I already linked to her banana bread recipe, but in case you missed it, here it is again.

Vaguely Tuscan Stew

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Another recipe from Eileen. This one I love for the name alone.

Vaguely Tuscan Stew

½ lb turkey sausage
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Splash white wine or lemon juice
Chicken broth as needed- about a cup
1 can tiny white beans, drained
1 bag baby spinach or 1 bunch asparagus (or both)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
Rosemary or thyme, chopped

Remove sausage from casings. Heat large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add sausage and brown well, drain any fat. Reduce heat slightly and add garlic. Deglaze with wine or lemon juice and chicken broth (stir up any brown bits from the bottom) and season with salt and pepper. Add herbs, beans and spinach or asparagus, and tomatoes, then let simmer briefly. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with some nice crusty bread. If you want the tomatoes to disappear, add earlier.

Eileen’s Broccoli Dip

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I didn’t even notice how much veggies my toddler & I were eating.
½ head broccoli, stems trimmed
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons oil
Crushed red pepper (tiny sprinkle)
¼ to ½ cup Parmesan cheese

Steam broccoli about 3 minutes or until tender. Sauté onions and garlic in oil with red pepper until translucent. Put broccoli and onion mixture in food processor and puree for about 30 seconds. Add cheese and continue to puree until smooth. Season with salt & pepper, taste and adjust seasoning. Best served warm. Also makes a great filling for a sandwich.

Karen’s Healthy Cornbread

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Karen makes a tasty cornbread using this recipe for buttery corn bread. But when she’s measuring out the milk, she also tosses in four cubes of frozen pureed chard & spinach, so that she keeps the same overall measurement of liquid while still sneaking some veggies in. She also uses wholemeal flour for half the flour that’s called for. And she tosses in some flax-seed. She’s clever that way. And, at our last potluck, the kids all devoured down this healthy chard-spinach-flax wonderment.

Katie’s Tamale Pie

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Ingredients:

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion
3 lg, or 6 sm, chicken or beef tamales (I get the xcellente tamales sold in the sandwich meat aisle)
1 can whole kernel corn
2 cans tomato sauce
1 cup grated cheese
1 can pitted olives

Directions:

1.  Brown meat and onions, pour off grease
2.  Cut tamales into chunks, add to meat
3.  Add sauce, corn and olives, mix well
4.  Put cheese on top
5.  Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes

Homemade Playdough

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Lately, everyone who comes over has been asking about my homemade play-dough. This play-dough is surprisingly moist, creatively colored, and has a nice smell, although I have to admit that it isn’t the classic smell of commercial play-dough.

My self-imposed rule for this blog is to only post recipes that at least one playgroup member has asked for from another playgroup member. This precludes a lot of the things that Sophie and I cook together, because we usually eat up our pancakes or homemade apple-sauce before getting a chance to share them. But folks have been requesting my play-dough recipe, because our playdough lasts long enough to share. So here it is, adapted fromthe King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook, my go-to guide for anything involving flour.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt (a lot, I know. One reason is to discourage kids from eating the playdough. The other reason is that salt is hygroscopic, attracting water, keeping the dough moist)
  • 1 T cream of tartar (optional, but helps preserve the play dough)
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 2 cups boiling water — or cold water if that’s all that’s available
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional, for the nice smell)
  • food coloring — or, if you want a totally chemical-free playdough, use beet, spinach, carrot, or other vegetable juices

Mix everything together except for the food coloring. Knead for 7 minutes or so. Then divide the dough into balls and give each ball the color you want it to have.

There’s my daughter, after mixing in the food coloring. She likes to help count out the cups of flour, tip in the tablespoons of ingredients, and then sniff the various extracts in my cabinet (almond extract, peppermint extract, vanilla extract) because she gets to choose how each batch of playdough will smell. Then we knead & mix in the food coloring, and the whole process is gloriously fun.

The biggest challenge is finding enough containers to keep this in. Our homemade playdough lasts about 3 months, which is longer than the storebought stuff endures in our house.

This homemade kind is not only cheaper, more supple, and chemical-free, it’s also water-soluble, so it cleans up nicely off our various cookie-cutters and playdough-shapers.

UPDATE: Kristen pointed out that the other recipe every parent should have in their repertoire is slime gak. That link will take you to a recipe nicely written up as a science experiment.

App Ideas for Toddlers

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Okay, it’s not a recipe for food — but our playgroup has been sharing tips about what to download for your ipad or iphone or iwhatever, before any long trip.  And this is a list that we need to refer to as often as recipes.

I don’t like frenetic video games, and I’m opposed to excessive screen-time in general — but something like “puppetpals” feels just like paper dolls to me. Something like “sketchbook” is really finger-painting without the mess. I don’t need it to be explicitly educational, but “word wizard” has the patience to pronounce any word my four-year-old cares to write, which is more patience than I have — and it happens to be educational. And “magic puzzles” truly are magic, and free. Where else can a four-year-old find a puzzle of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” that she’ll enjoy?

So these are the games we all like for kids aged about three- to six-years-old. These are non-frenetic, semi-educational, just plain creative fun. They’re also mostly free apps or at least low-cost apps. They’re a way to begin exploring the giant app store. I boldfaced the ones that are most popular in our household.

ART

  • glitterdraw
  • sketchbook express
  • doodlebuddy
  • art of glow
  • photo booth

ART WITH MUSIC

  • falling stars
  • singing fingers

SPATIAL REASONING

  • magic puzzles – especially castles, art, seven wonders of the world, and nature versions
  • uconnect

MATH

  • kindergarten math
  • math puppy
  • dots 4 tots
  • plain calculator

MEMORY

  • matchanimals
  • amazing match
  • memory train

LITERACY

  • word wizard
  • plain notepad

STORY-CREATION

  • puppet pals
  • wanderland

Any other suggestions, dear readers? Leave us some comments. I’m still hunting for some good low-cost music-for-toddlers apps, and I’d like suggestions about that or anything else.

Aimee’s Rice Torta

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This is another recipe that falls under the heading of “21st-century casseroles.” It’s the perfect thing to take to anyone who needs a meal dropped off.

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 1/2 packages frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out

2 small zucchini, shredded

2 Tbsp. chopped garlic

4 Tbsp. olive oil

3 cups milk

1 cup water

1 cup white rice

1 cube butter

2 1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese

6 eggs (you will add 5 at one point and 1 at the end)

 

Brink milk and water to a boil, add rice. Stir, turn down to low/simmer, and cover for 15 minutes. Take off heat and add butter. The rice will still be quite runny.

 

Meanwhile:

 

Saute onion, chopped parsley and garlic in olive oil until soft.  Add spinach, zucchini and salt.  Add 1 beaten egg at a time for a total of 5 eggs, and stir well.  Add parmesan cheese and stir.

 

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and pour into a buttered 9″ x 13″ pan.

 

Beat 1 remaining egg well and spread over mixture in pan.

 

Bake at 425 degrees for about 35 minutes.