Tag Archives: family

You don’t have to hug a tree to love granola

31 Mar


I love granola. I mean what’s not to like about sweet crunchy whole grains mixed with fruit and nuts. I make granola a lot at work. I serve it to the kids to mix with yogurt and fruit. It holds up well without going stale and it can be flavored in so many ways. Since today is a very rainy day I figured it was a good day to play with the food in the house.

If your pantry is anything like mine, you have a few items in there that are partially used. I always seem to have a 1/4 cup of chocolate chips or a handful of nuts. I also seem to have an assortment of dried fruits left over from different recipes. Granola is great what to use up all those odds and ends. As with most things, granola is a technique. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can tweak the ingredients to customize your mix.

Here’s the basic formula for granola:

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 350. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss until the mixture is crumbly and the syrup has been evenly incorporated. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes. Be sure to stir the mixture every 5 minutes to prevent burning.

Below is a table of combinations to give you an idea of how you can mix and match flavors to make a personalized granola…

Basic Base Dry Goods Syrup Flavor 2nd Flavor Additives
oats no additional maple cinnamon brown sugar dried fruit
oats wheat germ agave pumpkin

pie spice

vanilla powder pecans
oats coconut honey cinnamon brown sugar dried fruit
oats shredded wheat honey nutmeg clove white chocolate chips
oats puffed rice agave espresso powder vanilla powder chocolate chips

Today I made a tropical granola… here’s the recipe:

2 cups oats
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
3/4 cup shredded coconut

Added after the base was toasted and cooled:
1/2 cup dried mango, torn into small pieces
1/2 cup banana chips
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts

I followed the above technique and viola, a yummy granola! I would also recommend using macadamia nuts instead of the peanuts or omitting the chocolate chips for a slightly healthier granola, but ce la vie… This is what you get what you’re cleaning out the pantry

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

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The thing about buttered noodles…

1 Feb

noodlesHere’s the thing. What is so bad about trying something new? I know that the new is scary. When you walk into a dark room you never know what awaits you. It’s the momentary terror your minds spins into reality. You’ve seen way too many episodes of CSI and NCIS to believe that nothing is lurking in the shadows. But wait… what if instead of a horrifying beast or the suspicious murderous foe, waited a surprise party? All your friends joyously welcoming you to a festivity of laughter and merriment. This my friends, is why the new cannot be missed.

Everyday at work I make the obligatory pan of buttered noodles. Not really a big deal but it did get me thinking. Everyday I have kids that choose buttered noodles over anything else. Some of them I truly believe only like buttered noodles, but others take them simply because they don’t know if they will like the other offerings. It makes me wonder what is so wrong with trying something new. I know that when I was a kid we ate what was put in front of us and we were happy. (Well, unless it was my brother and beef barley soup, that combination was more drama then Jersey Shore) Anyway, the point is this: why don’t kids like to try new foods. They try new games, and TV shows. They make new friends and read new books, but when it comes to lunch it seems to be the old standby, buttered noodles.

Do you ever remember looking a food that you had never seen before and then looking at your mom or your dad and asking if you liked it. Usually they would lean down and say yes. In my family when this happened and we did not actually like what we had just tasted, we would say that our taste-buds had changed. And, rightly so as your taste-buds do change over time. What I can’t seem to wrap my head around though, is the complete lack of curiosity. How do you know you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it before. My philosophy is try something twice. Just like when tasting wine, the first taste clears your palette. The second taste is when you really get to know the food. It’s the second date if you will. If the first bite left you unsure, the second will most definitely help you decide.

I can’t knock buttered noodles completely. There was a time during my college career that buttered noodles made up at least 70% of my diet. And, now and then, I love a little butter and parmesan on my pasta. But, if I was presented with the choice of buttered noodles or something much more glamorous, the noodles would fall to second place in a heartbeat. I know what you’re thinking as you read this. If it bothers me this much, why not stop making them. The real answer is that there are kids that will not eat anything else. Literally these kids would rather starve without lunch then eat what else is for lunch. So, I must continue with the buttered noodles. Just in case you’ve never had them and are wondering what’s the big deal…

Buttered Noodles alla Katie

1 pound pasta, cooked
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

in the microwave melt the butter with the salt and garlic. Pour the butter over the cooked noodles and stir to combine serve hot, garnish with grated parmesan cheese if desired. (the last step classes it up a bit)

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Week 2… Let the criticism begin

24 Oct

So this week was all about the trials and tribulations of learning on the job. As previously mentioned, this job came with no manual or instructions. As long as the kids received a hot meal things would be good. My menu was creative and filling. I had some classic dishes as well as some new things. The kids seemed excited. Quite frankly, I was too. It was my first week on my own and I was full of adrenaline. I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but my parents were helping me shop, so at least that part was going faster. I had know idea what was to come…

Monday- Mac ‘n’ Cheese. I figured this was a no brainer. All kids like mac and cheese. I inherited 3 cases of goldfish crackers and needed to use it up. (No amount of tomato soup could use up these goldfish) I saw on TV that there is a restaurant out there that makes a crust for their mac and cheese using goldfish crackers. I thought, Brilliant! I’ll borrow the idea, and the kids will love it. As soon as I started serving, the kids revolted. “Why are there goldfish in the mac and cheese?” “Can I have mine plain?” “Why would you do that?” The list goes on. I knew going into this job that my creativity would be limited, but I never thought something as small as goldfish crackers on baked mac and cheese would have such a negative result. I served peas and oranges a long side as well as shortbread cookies. Even with all this, it was apparently not enough to please.

Tuesday- French Bread pizza. Who didn’t like French Bread Pizza Day when they were in school. I remember thinking it was one of the best days. We didn’t have homemade FBP though, we had frozen, re-heated Ellio’s. It was good, but nothing beats homemade… or so I thought. I was really excited for this day. I made the turkey sausage from scratch and was working the sauce. I took a little shortcut and used canned tomatoes to save time. I flavored the sauce with onion, garlic, spinach and mushrooms. I pureed everything together so the kiddies didn’t see the vegetables. I thought it was great. Everything tasted wonderful and looked perfect. I served fruit on the side. I really thought this was going to be a homerun. Each pizza was about 7 inches in length and piled with toppings and cheese. The comments were shocking. Not enough food. The kids are still hungry. Well, that is the worst. I never want anyone to be hungry. But, seriously these pizzas were huge. And they were heavy. They probably weighed a 1/2 pound each. But… the kids were still hungry.

Wednesday- Meatloaf. It’s strange… I grew up with meatloaf. My mom made it a lot. Apparently it’s no longer the dinner time staple it was. The kids actually liked this one. My problem… I had no idea how much to make and I was really close to running out. The kids were used to having corn and mashed potatoes on the side. Personally, I’m not sure how you can count either of these as a vegetable, but the woman before me did. I added peas to the mix and oranges for dessert. Again the biggest comment, not enough food. At this point I was going crazy. Yes, I’ll admit the meatloaf portions were a little small, but I was really tight on servings and I had to make it work. I figured with all the starches on the side that it would be OK. After all, this was only my second week and I’m still adjusting to my portioning. Little did I know that the portion sizes of the sides were getting so big that I was running low on those as well. My volunteers seem to think that more is better, but in reality, it’s not. First of all, kids don’t need to each a cup of corn, a cup and a half of mashed potatoes and 4 oz of protein. Plus, they had the option of peas and oranges. The trays are getting so heavy that the kids are dropping them. I just don’t understand. Size wise, this should be plenty but parents are saying no.

Thursday- Tacozagna. This was a gamble. I was trying a recipe that I had never made before. It’s a Rachel Ray recipe that I adapted to fit my needs. I over made. I wanted to make sure there was more than enough for everyone. I served chips on the side and fruit, and the PTO was providing ice cream. As I was portioning out the trays, some moms were watching what I was doing. I laughed a little and said, “Wow, these are huge portions.” Each serving was at least 8oz. The dish was made with ground turkey, beans, cheese and flour tortillas. It was a hearty meal to say the least. Then they were given the option to top it with lettuce, tomato or salsa. The moms’ reaction? “Actually, it’s just enough.” Are you kidding me? Maybe it’s just enough for an 8th grade boy… but that it a lot of food for a kindergartner. The kids really liked it. A few of them can up to me and said thank you and said it tasted really good.

I’m finding it really hard to keep my food costs down and give the kids enough to eat and give them enough variety that if they don’t want fruits or vegetables, that they aren’t going hungry. The frustrating thing is that I have no control over what they choose to eat besides putting it on their plate. If they get to the table and don’t eat something or don’t like it, I can’t help it. I can’t force feed these kids. I seem to have a mixed support. People believe in my fresh foods philosophy, but are stalling process by telling me to offer chips and cookies at every meal. Portion size is a huge issue in this country. Everything is super-sized. This week’s menu is challenging. Not only, because it’s just me doing it, but because some of my choices don’t have a lot of side with them. I’m going to have to pull out some miracles and hope that what I offer is enough and that the kids like it.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Week One…Do and Do Not try this again!

17 Oct

“Woke up in the morning. Put on my new plastic glove. Served some re-heated salsbury steak
With a little slice of love. Got no clue what the chicken pot pie Is made of.
Just know everything’s doing fine Down here in Lunch Lady Land.”

So week one. I have to say that I had no idea how hard this job was going to be. This past week I was helped by the guy who was filling in for me over the past 5 weeks before I was able to move down. The weekly menu was: Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese, Chick-fil-a, Chicken Teriyaki with fried rice, and Baked Ziti. I was feeling pretty confident in my menu choice. I knew that I had made all of these dishes before and that they were all successful. There was no need for doubt, I had blind ambition and engine full of steam.

Monday- Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. I thought this would be a piece of cake. Toast the sandwiches in the oven and make soup. I even took the sandwiches to a fun new place by using 1 slice of whole wheat bread and 1 slice of white bread. The soup was made from canned tomatoes, condensed tomato soup (only because I inherited some and needed to use it up), Italian herbs and spices, salt, pepper, onion, garlic and water. Since the soup was cooking for 4 hours I figured the water would simply stretch the canned tomatoes and not lessen the flavor too much. After I received my lunch count for the day I panicked. I wasn’t going to have enough soup for all the orders. My counterpart suggested I add more water to the soup to stretch it and then correct the seasonings as necessary. What choice did I have, I didn’t have anymore tomato product and there was no time to run out for more. I added water and corrected the seasoning. The flavor was actually very good. It was the texture that was off. The extra water made the soup too thin. It was more of a tomato broth than a tomato soup. At the time, I didn’t have a food processor, blender, or immersion blender so there was no incorporating air for added volume. I had no cornstarch, butter or flour to thicken it with. So it was served as is, along side of perfectly toasted cheese sandwiches. The kids said the soup was perfect for dipping and the grilled cheese was the best they ever had. Day One… 7 out of 10

Tuesday- Chick-fil-a Day. This day happens on the second Tuesday of every month. I provide chips, fruit and a dessert, and the fast food joint provides the chicken. It makes for an easy prep day for me. Although no one told me that I needed to provide the extras until the day before, it all turned out fine. Day 2… 9 out of 10

Wednesday- Chicken Teriyaki with Veggie Fried Rice. Ok so I was really excited about this day. It was a brand new menu item that the kids had never had before. The thought process was to bake the chicken in the oven and then serve with the fried rice. As a side I had orange slices and for dessert, fortune cookies. I was like a little kid at Christmas. Who wouldn’t be excited about this for lunch. Little did I know the horror that awaited me. I had marinated the chicken over night and it smelled awesome. I started cooking the rice and prepping the fruit. The chicken went in the oven and we were rocking and rolling. 35 minutes into the cooking process, the chicken still wasn’t cooked. I started to panic… This was only the first batch of 3 and the clock was ticking. I had finished the rice and it tasted delicious. I was stuck on the chicken. Everything else was on it’s way, but the chicken was no where near done! There is a flat top in the kitchen that had never been used by the school before. It’s always been used be the Knight’s of Columbus for their pancake breakfasts, so I figured it was my only option. I started throwing the chicken on the flattop and bada bing it was beautiful. The searing made the whole kitchen smell like ginger and sweet soy sauce. I was feeling better. What I didn’t realize was that the kids have the choice of what they want to eat at lunch. So, each kid gets the main dish from me but then can choose from the offered sides that are offered by the volunteers. The lesson here is that these kids don’t like rice. Not many of them took it, and some of them didn’t have oranges either. This left them with a lunch of chicken and cookies. I was heartbroken. I thought for sure this would be a huge hit, but alas, not so much. Day 3… 3 out of 10

Day 4- Baked Ziti. I knew the baked ziti would be a hit. My counterpart had made it the week before and the kids went gaga for it. My version was a little different and I was not offering garlic bread. I did offer instead the school’s first salad bar. I’ve applied for a grant through Whole Foods that would provide the school with a salad bar. I wanted to test out the theory of the bar before we had one and then the kids weren’t interested. Well, they LOVED it. Despite seeing 1 kid eat ranch dressing and bacon bits as his salad or the kid who only had plain pasta and and croutons on his plate, everyone seems to be eating veggies. This is a huge step in the right direction. Day 4… 9 out of 10

I’m not what to expect out of this next week. There are lots of new recipes and I’m not sure how the kids will react. I have vendor meetings and inventories to do. When I first got married I thought it was had cooking or 2 people. Little did I know 5 years later I’d be cooking for 300.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what does a bushel a day keep away?

21 Sep

IMG_0844This past weekend my family was in town for my cousin’s wedding. The following day we were all looking for a fun outdoor activity to do together. We took some suggestions from everyone but the winning suggestion was the surprising one from my dad. We decided to go to the Linvilla Orchards and pick some apples.

This thought was originally a good one. I mean who doesn’t love running up and down the sweet smelling aisles looking for the biggest and best apples. The bonus was the bluegrass and craft festival, and being a festival junkie, I couldn’t resist. Like I said, this was a good idea. My folks were leaving for Orlando later in the afternoon and my brother and his girlfriend were  both heading home as well. This left me and my husband with a LOT of apples. Don’t get me wrong I love apples, but the picture to the left is what we had minus 9 that were baked into pies.

So now the question is no long what should we do, but what should we do with all these apples? Since we picked golden delicious, jonagold, and courtlands, we knew that we wanted to makes pie. These varieties hold up well to the heat of the oven. They cook down slightly, making them soft to eat, but they also retain their shape so you can see the big chunks of apple in your pie. So I made 2 apple pies this afternoon with streusel topping (recipe below) and my hubby has requested apple sauce.

Still I think that there are about 100 things or more that you can do with apples. Apple butter is one of my favorites, and although I’ve never made it before, I like a good challenge. I’ve also been thinking about apple slaw, roasted apple vinaigrette, and an apple cranberry chutney. But before I get too ahead of myself, here’s the apple pie recipe:

Homemade apple pie:IMG_0845

For the filling:
8-10 large apples, peeled and sliced to 1/4 inch thickness
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup apple cider
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Put the apples in a large pot with the sugars and cinnamon. Cook just until the fruit starts to soften. Add in 1/2 of the apple cider and continue to cook on medium heat. Take the other half of the cider and wisk it in with the cornstarch in a separate bowl. Slowly add it to the cooking apples and allow to simmer. Watch the thickness of the syrup. If it looks too thin add more slurry, if it looks too thick add more cider. The liquid will thicken more during the baking process.

For the crust:

I used the crust recipe from an earlier post about pie

The strusel topping was unmeasured. I just combined flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter until the mixture looked like cornmeal and sprinkled it on top of the pie before baking.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour and let cool completely before serving

Apples are one of the fantastic ingredients that lend themselves to be sweet an savory. They pair beautifully with bacon, sausage, chicken and many cheeses and well as the obvious sweet treatments. I saw a recipe on epicurious earlier today that was kielbasa with shaved apples and onions. It sounds to me like a great fall dinner! I’m sure I’ll be posting about the rest of my apple adventures during the remainder of the week so keep checking back!

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

Stressed spelled backwards is Desserts!

3 Aug

Vegetables are a must on a diet.  I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie.  ~Jim Davis

So on the topic of getting your dailies… Yesterday I made a Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake. It was made with all those things, blueberries (fruit), sour cream (dairy), sugar (uh…that’s good right?).

It’s IMG_0715amazing to me the effect that a dessert can make. I know that my mother-in-law loves blueberry cake. And since I was heading up there today I thought I’d make one. She makes a great version, but I didn’t have any fresh or frozen blueberries. What I did have was some homemade blueberry preserves. I decided to follow a Barefoot Contessa recipe for a starter. Instead of the streusel center and topping, I layered the blueberry preserves in the middle.

The other change was the pan. The recipe calls for using a tube pan. That’s the pan that is typically used for making Angel Food Cake. I, surprisingly, do not own a tube pan. So, I opted for the next best thing, a bundt. If you decide to make this recipe, keep in mind that a tube pan typically hold more by volume. I had a memory malfunction and forgot this before baking. Thankfully I remembered before the cake had erupted all over the oven. If you are concerned like I was, just put a cookie sheet under the bundt pan before baking. So enough suspense, here’s the recipe:

Sour Cream Coffee Cake – Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the streusel:

  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.

Always thinking of the next meal,

-Katie

Sprechen Sie Deutsches?

31 Jul

Nine. But I can cook a darn good German meal. Last night we have Ryan’s brother and girlfriend over for dinner. The menu?

Schweinefleisch Schnitzel (pork schnitzel)

Apfelmus (applesauce)

Grüne Bohnen mit Knoblauch (green beans with garlic)

Himmel und Erdekartoffeln (Heaven and Earth potatoes)

Sauerkraut (sauerkraut…that’s a hard one)

Brezelbrot (Pretzel bread)

So how was it? Delicious. In fact, I meant to take pictures to post here, but it was eaten so fast I didn’t get a chance.

How do you make schnitzel? It’s super simple…

Schitzel for 4

4 pieces of veal, pork, or chicken approximately 5 oz each pounded to 1/4 inch thickness

Standard breading procedure:

1 1/2 cups seasoned flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs

Dip the pounded meat into the flour, then the egg, and then the breadcrumbs. Add 3 tablespoons of canola oil into a hot sauté pan. Add the breaded meat and brown on both sides (approx. 1-2 minutes on each side) Put the schnitzel into a 325 degree oven and cook until the meat is cooked through. (8-12 minutes depending on the meat) Serve hot.

German food is very high ranking on my list of favorites to make. Having German relatives and German blood running in my veins, there is nothing in my mind that couldn’t be improved with a good strong mustard. Here’s the thing I find really interesting…

Almost every culture has a very similar menu. If you were making Italian, you’d be making Pork Milianese. (i.e. breaded pork chop) If you were making American, Shake and Bake. (just kidding on the last one.) Anyway, the point is that sometimes you think that you aren’t going to like something, when in reality you are already eating it. It’s all about knowing how dishes are made. Doing a little research and making small substitutions like roasted rosemary potatoes and sautéed escarole, leaving out the applesauce and pretzel bread and you’d have a classic Italian meal. Give it a try.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie