Picnic Time: Savory Cheddar Muffins

Cheddar-Bacon Muffins

This past summer the San Jose Mercury featured several recipes that we created specially for them, for picnics and pool time adventures.  In the Bay Area, the months of September and October bring us some of our best weather.  It has been so super hot on some days the past weeks few, that some of us have found ourselves (secretly) wishing for fog.  However, while it is warm, and before the rains come (fingers crossed), some of these grab-and-go snacks are great to have lying around.  These cheddar-bacon muffins are a fun cooking project to do with the kiddos on the weekend, before you head out on an adventure. Continue reading

Kitchen Playdate: Banoffee Pie

banoffeepie

Banoffee Pie Collage_A Little Yumminess

It’s hard to go wrong with a concoction that includes sliced bananas, dulce de leche, pie crust, whipped cream and chocolate shavings.  We are a little obsessed with this British treat and made it recently after school with a friend as part of a super fun kitchen play date.

The whole pie making process can me made easier and less daunting if you use store bought pie dough. (Making your own is easy enough, but in a pinch, store bought works just fine!) The kiddos had a blast whipping the cream, cutting the bananas, baking the store bought pie dough, shaving the chocolate (fun and messy!) and spreading the dulce de leche.  It is basically an assembly project, but the end result is ridiculously yummy. Continue reading

Picnic Time: Greek-Inspired Sandwich

Greek Inspired Sandwich by A Little Yumminess

Our picnic series continues with some our top tips for successful picnics and a sandwich inspired by Greece!

Make a checklist. There is a lot to bring, so a list will help you get organized. Don’t worry if you forget something—as long as it’s not the food!

Make finger food. The fewer utensils you need, the better. Lay out containers of food on your picnic blanket and call it a “garden buffet” so children can pick and choose what they like. Kids love to just pick up and eat their food.

Buy food. If you don’t want to wake up and cook before you head out, stop at your favorite deli or supermarket, and pick up your picnic. Purchase prepared sandwiches or wraps, some fruit, cereal bars, nuts and water, and you will be all set.

Bring plenty of cleanup supplies. You will need more of these than you think Bring a whole roll of paper towels or several dishcloths and perhaps even some wet wipes. Also, bring hand sanitizer if you are going to be somewhere you cannot wash hands. And don’t forget extra bags to collect your trash.

Bring safety items. Make sure you have a first-aid kit in the car or in your basket/backpack. Scrapes and cuts are inevitable, and it is best to be ready for them. Sunscreen is also essential, as are hats and bug repellant.

Bring games or toys. You can spend your time exploring nature, or bring some toys and games along. A travel-size board game or deck of cards will be easy to carry. Or bring a bat and a ball or football for some more active fun.

Select an enclosed space. To reduce your stress level, find a park or area that is enclosed. That way you won’t have to worry about your children wandering away.  Particularly helpful when you have younger kids in your picnic party.

With July 4th coming up – head doors on a fun picnic!

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Snack Time: Quick Cheese Straws

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Store bought puff pastry is one of those things that makes cooking so many dishes so much easier.  We always have some in the freezer to turn into a variety of dishes like these portable stuffed puffs we love,  the best homemade chicken pot pie, and tarts of all kinds.  Our latest snack time addition, are these quick cheese straws that the little ones can make almost entirely by themselves.  I am loving that as the kiddo gets older, I can give her a simple recipe and she can work on it by herself.  I am not ready to let her handle the oven, but perhaps over the summer we will make that leap as well….

After the kids are in bed these are great with some bubbles or a cocktail.  A friend of mine makes a yummy version of these with prosciutto. Yum.  Who needs dinner?

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Snack Time: Chilli Cheese Toasties

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We are currently addicted to this “Indian” variation of a simple grilled cheese sandwich.  It’s always fun to take something familiar and mix it up just a little bit.  We enjoyed these cheese toasts recently before a family hike and they kept us satisfied as we got some exercise and fresh air.  It was also a fun little cooking project with the little one.  For kids, feel free to omit the chillies altogether – the tomatoes, onions and herbs are enough of a twist.  Another thing we like about this recipe is that you can make multiple cheese toasts at one time by using a sheet tray and the oven, versus slaving over each grilled cheese over the stove.  This is the perfect after school snack for a playdate.

Next time we make these, we are going to try different types of cheeses – goat cheese, gruyere, mozzarella or perhaps even some fontina.  Or maybe even a variety of leftover cheeses that seem to always languish in our fridge.  Another yummy addition could be finely chopped colorful bell peppers.

A throwback to my childhood that I had forgotten all about…excited to have it back :)!
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Treat of the Month – Bizcochitos

biscochitos

These cookies are delightful and I always love discovering regional American recipes and often wonder why some the good stuff never makes it across state borders.  For example, why is loco moco not available in at more breakfast/brunch places across the United States?  There could a whole separate blog on “A Little Yumminess Around the USA”, so we can learn more about regional/state specialties.

We first heard about these cookies on a trip to Santa Fe and before I could get round to learning more about them, Stacie had already tried them.  I bet they taste better with lard, but we stuck to good ol’ butter.  This Spanish influenced cookie was developed by people living in New Mexico over the centuries.  It is typically served during the holidays (Christmas in particular) and special occasions such as weddings and baptisms.  It’s lovely with a cup of strong coffee, or for the kiddos with some milk.  This is a neat one to make with kids (they are the “State Cookies” of New Mexico) and talk about the unique regional recipes of our country.

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Fun with Flavor: A Winter Orange Tasting

Winter orange Tasting_A Little Yumminess.jpg

Fun with Flavor_Winter Orange Tasting

The food-related thing that we’re talking about most at my house lately is a little impromptu orange tasting we did after dinner the other night. I sliced up a few different varieties of oranges  that we had on hand and we took a few minutes to really look at them, smell them and taste them and then capture our thoughts. Beyond just being an easy and fun thing to do, it sparked some interesting conversation and it has made us all want to taste more and more more things which, it turns out, is quite different than just eating them. You could do this with just about anything carrots, jelly beans, cheese, tomatoes, soy sauce, chocolate…… would make a fun kitchen play date activity too. Continue reading

Cooking with Kiddos: Finger-lickin’ Good Superbowl Wings

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We have tried many a wing recipe in the past, but these ones by Emeril kind of win.  I may be suffering from a bout of the “recency effect”, but we are definitely making these again for Superbowl Sunday.  The best part is they are so easy, that my little one may be able to make them almost entirely by herself.  I am sure someone will pry themselves away from the TV and help her out with getting the wings “in-and-out of the oven”.  Lining the pan with foil is a must – otherwise scrubbing the sheet pan will be a total drag.

We had these for dinner and Ria and her friend who was over ended up having a kitchen playdate.  You always run the risk that when you come to our house you will be “coerced” into cooking dinner with us.  Plus, the kids get quizzed on how to scale recipes – and hence a free math lesson!  We enjoyed these with fried rice and given how simple this recipe is, it is going to be added to our regular rotation for sure.
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Trending Now: Frittatas!

frittata

Summer break is upon us and someone is always hungry or constantly opening the refrigerator, looking for a snack.  My plan over the summer to keep the hunger pangs at bay and to keep the snacks relatively healthy, is to regularly have a frittata handy.  The variations are endless and with bounty of summer vegetables, I am sure we will come up with many new concoctions.  Frittatas are also a good vehicle for various odds and ends and cooked leftovers.  In fact, in Italy, occasionally before serving lunch or dinner, a small amount of the meal is purposely set aside for a frittata the next day. Leftover frittatas also make the best school lunch/summer camp sandwiches.

Here are some combinations I am considering – please share your ideas and favorite combinations with us as well in the comments section.  Kids will enjoy coming up with their own special combinations/masterpieces.  Have the kiddos come up with a creative name for their frittata, and perhaps if they are keeping a summer journal, they can write the recipe in it.

Think vegetables, cheese, herbs and perhaps some kind of meat and put together ingredients in any combination that sounds good.  It’s tough to go wrong.

  • Asparagus, red onions and feta cheese
  • Potato and bacon
  • Caramelized onions and parmesan cheese
  • Mushrooms, broccoli and asiago cheese
  • Kale and/or chard with garlic and onion
  • Onions, peppers and crumbled sausage
  • Ricotta with roasted vegetables and herbs

If you feel so inclined the kiddos (and everyone else) always enjoy hash brown potatoes with their eggs.  Breakfast for dinner anyone?

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Frittata
Ingredients by Claire Robinson
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1/2 small purple onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 10 eggs, well beaten with 2 tablespoons water (can be done with hand mixer or in blender)
  • 4 ounces goat cheese

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Slice the zucchini lengthwise in half and cut each half into very thin half moon shapes.
  3. Melt the butter in a large (preferably nonstick) skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Saute the onion and then add the zucchini. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and cook just until slightly tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Spread the onion and zucchini evenly over the bottom of the pan and top with the beaten eggs.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and allow it to cook until just starting to set at edges.
  7. Crumble the goat cheese evenly over the top, and put it in the oven until golden on top, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Slightly cool the frittata in the pan before slicing.
  9. Serve it from the pan or invert it onto a plate, then slice and serve.

Fun Pocket-Portable Food: Empanadas

many empanadas

Children love “pocket-portable” food and if you make these empanadas with them, they are a guaranteed to be a hit. They can be filled with virtually anything – catering to the pickiest of eaters.  Even sweet things like caramelized bananas and chocolate 🙂.  An empanada kitchen playdate is super fun and we have the kids design their own empanadas, give them creative names and roll and fill their own dough.  While the empanadas bake, the munchkins get some play time before snack or dinner.

The dough recipe below is fantastic, but if you aren’t in the mood for making dough, store bought is just fine.  Lucca Deli in the Mission stocks some pretty good empanada dough disks in the back.  These empanadas freeze really well.  Throw some par-baked ones on a tray to freeze and then store them in baggies. To re-heat just bake for a little longer, and you have a really yummy school lunch.

Empanada Dough from Gourmet

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Method

  1. Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
  2. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.)
  3. Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together.
  4. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour

Baked Meat-Filled Empanadas

This is a really delicious and traditional Argentinian filling from the NY Times.  One of our favorites.  You can leave out the raisins or olives, if you desire.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lard (we use olive oil)
  • 1 cup fine-chopped onion
  • 1/2 pound lean beef, minced
  • Salt and fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste
  • Empanada dough (see recipe above)
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
  • 12 pitted cured black olives, sliced
  • 30 raisins
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Method

1. Melt lard in a 10- to 12-inch skillet. Add onion and sauté on medium until it barely starts to color. Add beef. Cook until ingredients are lightly browned. Add salt and pepper to taste, cumin, paprika and hot sauce. Set aside. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Roll dough as thin as possible. Cut 6-inch circles. Scraps can be re-rolled one time. Place some meat mixture on one half of each circle, leaving a 1/2-inch border around filling. Top with a slice of egg, some olive pieces and a few raisins. Brush egg on empty side of circle, fold dough over to make a half-circle and crimp edges. Traditional squared empanadas can be made by folding an inch or so of each of the pointed ends of the half-circle over to make straight sides, then folding up the rounded bottom to square off the empanada.

3. Arrange empanadas on a baking sheet. Squared empanadas should be placed with folded side down. Bake 10 minutes. Turn empanadas over, bake 5 minutes longer, until lightly browned on both sides. Allow to cool briefly before serving.

Yield: 8 to 10 large empanadas.

flaky empanada

empanada Collage