Caprese Toast

I came home one night last week and the girls begged me to make them a snack.  Most mothers do not want to make teenage girls snacks at 10 p.m., but I realized I had a forgotten fresh Semifreddi baguette and didn’t want it to go to waste because they are so good (click here to read more on Senifreddi’s  http://www.yelp.com/biz/semifreddis-bakery-kensington).  

This took only a few minutes and the kids were ecstatic.  There is nothing like a little late night carb after a workout.  

Caprese Toast

Caprese Toast

Caprese Toasts

1/2 baguette sliced

1 small tomato finely diced

1 clove garlic finely chopped 

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar

Basil leaves 6-10 washed

Salt and pepper to taste 

Mozzarella Cheese (small balls)

 

Preparation

Preheat oven on broil.  Cut bread into slices.  Dice and chop tomato and garlic and place in a small bowl.  Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar and stir.  Tear basil leaves into small pieces.   Place bread on a cookie sheet and spoon tomato mixture onto bread.  Add several cheese balls and a few basil leaves.  

Place under broiler and cook until cheese is melted.  I would try really hard not to walk away from the oven, but to be patient and keep a close eye on these so they don’t burn.  If your wondering, yes I have done this.  And people get really upset when this happens. 

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@ My House Summer 2014

Summer Entertaining – Roasted Vegetables & Salmon for the Teens

Sara & Siena @ my house summer 2014

Sara & Siena @ my house summer 2014

The kids and a few friends decided they wanted salmon for dinner, so we headed to Whole Foods where I spent $33 on just the salmon, but because it’s less expensive than pizza I didn’t care.  I love it when I can make something really healthy that they like.  I let them pick out some vegetables and because they were so varied I decided to roast them.  I added some brussels sprouts that I made in the microwave and some jasmine rice with butter, lime and cilantro and served it all on small plates.

The small plates allow the four girls to serve themselves and not be overwhelmed by foods they were unfamiliar with and/or did not like.  I like using small plates with kids and letting them serve themselves.  They can have as much as they like and there isn’t any wasted food.  Especially with teenage guests I dislike guessing what they might like.   This is also an excellent menu for teen athletes.

More on cooking for athletic kids later…

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Sara’s Plate

Roasted Vegetable Platter

2 small sweet potatoes

1 pepper (this one was orange)

1 bunch asparagus

2 small zucchini

Good olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and poke sweet potatoes with a fork and place on oven rack until fork tender.  Meanwhile wash and cut pepper and zucchini and set aside.   Trim asparagus.   Using hands toss vegetables until evenly coated with oil and arrange on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper (I omitted the pepper due to the kids) and cook for about 25 minutes.  Keep an eye on the asparagus as cooking time will vary depending on the size.  Smaller stalks cook faster.  Once the sweet potatoes are tender remove from the oven, allow to cool, peel and cut into coins.  They are really good with butter and brown sugar, but for the platter I just added them ungarnished.

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Broiled Salmon

With really good salmon like this the less you do the better.   The only really important thing is to make sure you do not overcook it.

Ingredients

2 lb. salmon

1 lemon

1/4 stick of butter

Salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to broil.  Cover the top portion of your broiling pan with tin foil for easy clean up.  Rinse salmon and place  (skin side down) in the center of the broiling pan.  Cut the lemon in half and squeeze over the salmon.  Cut butter into tiny cubes and arrange evenly over the top of the salmon.  The butter will help the top brown.  Salt and pepper to taste and cook for 10 minutes or until fish begins to flake.  For large pieces like this I allow the center to not be totally cooked when I pull it out because the fish will continue to cook on the pan once removed from the heat.

 

Creating the Menu

All of the flavors in this menu compliment one another.  The cilantro and lime in the rice, the sweetness of the roasted vegetables and the earthy salmon all come together and create a very delicious meal.  And the kids loved it and that is all that matters.   Happy summer.

 

 

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Summer Entertaining – Casual Dinner for Family & Friends

IMG_3764I had wanted to do a casual dinner for family friends, but before I knew it my children had invited the neighborhood and the guest list looked more like a party than a casual sit down dinner for eight.  I decided to just roll with it because it was summer and it’s so much fun to open the house up and have friends over.  I also hate to ask the kids to tell people they can’t come when it is so easy to make a little extra food.

Organizing dinners with very busy people can be a challenge. This party was complicated because my husband and one of our guests could not be there until 7 p.m. and I also had a 7 p.m. car pool pick up.  We explored different dates, but several of the guests were leaving the next day for a 2 week vacation and on and on.  Sometimes, you just have to make things work, so I greeted my guests, threw the lasagna in the oven and then left to pick up my daughter and a friend while my husband entertained everyone.  I was back before the lasagna was bubbling and I was able to toss the salad while the pasta noodles cooked.

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I’m going to do this post quickly because I have a soccer tournament to attend, so I don’t have time to rewrite the recipes.  But, I wanted to get this posted to inspire you to host a fun party like this.  You can use the Cheese Stick Lasagna recipe in my cookbook, Real Food For Real People (Amazon),  and one of the many salad recipes also in the book.   This salad consisted of spring greens with red peppers, avocado and goat cheese and tossed with my homemade white balsamic vinaigrette.   I will write the lasagna recipe in the next few days, but this one was made with a Ground Turkey and Italian Pork Sausage Red Sauce (recipe to follow) and lots of fresh mozzarella cheese.  It was a huge hit with the kids and the Dads.

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Butter Noodles with Fresh Grated Cheese

When cooking for kids it’s a good idea to have a dish for the unadventurous eater.  I often do a mac and cheese version of this, but due to time constraints described above I made this very easy pasta dish that everyone loves.

Ingredients

2 boxes of good quality Penne Pasta

1/2 stick of butter cut into small pieces

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup good quality Parmesan

Preparation

Cook noodles as per package directions.  While noodles cook cut butter into small pieces and place in the bottom of a pasta bowl.  When noodles are cooked, drain them and stir them into butter to melt.  Add cheese and sea salt toss with tongs and serve.

I like to put out the grater and cheese, so guests can help themselves to a topping of fresh grated cheese.

 

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I then followed it up with S’mores which the kids always beg for.  I can do an entire blog on S’mores, so look for that in the weeks ahead.

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Happy summer.

 

 

 

Flower Arranging 101

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When I started my blog, I wanted it to be about all of my favorite things, but because my cookbook, Real Food for Real People (available on Amazon), was launching I naturally wrote mostly about kids and food. Now that the book has been out for a while, I would like to write about other topics close to my heart.  I love food, kids, flowers and black dogs.   I also love white cotton sheets, good books and wine (more on these topics later).  Today, I would like to focus on improving our lives with flowers.

Flowers

Nothing lifts the spirits like beautiful flowers.  It’s easy to stop and smell the flowers when you are cutting them and putting them in fresh water.   I love a home filled with flowers.  A close friend of mine taught me to arrange flowers and it’s not difficult.   I use whatever I can find in my backyard.   A vase full of lemon branches are also lovely and fragrant.  Clip the stems, start with the longest in the middle and work your way around the vase.

Fresh flowers are such a small thing, but they make an enormous difference when you walk into a home.  I do a large arrangement for my kitchen table, which is the center point of my house and arrangements for my bedroom and each of my daughters bedrooms.

If you do this often enough it makes sense to grow as many cutting flowers as possible.  Heirloom roses and bulbs are especially easy to grow (anywhere in the country) and make glorious arrangements.  They also make a nice hostess gift.  Jars and inexpensive vases can be collected for this purpose.

Daffodils

I planted these from a bag of mixed daffodils bought at my local hardware store.  I planted them in the fall and they came up like little presents in the spring.  I avoided the traditional yellow daffodils in favor of these. Nothing could have been easier and it was miraculous to watch them pop up in different places around my backyard.  I had so many flowers I was able to give them to friends.  These are the little vases I made for my daughters below.

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Heirloom Roses

I purchased several bushes about five years ago, and even though I don’t have a ton of sun, they give me flowers for several months in the spring and  early summer.  What a blessing to have these all over my house.  Because they are so gorgeous, and also smell like heaven, you can stuff them in a mason jar and make a statement.  I used to feed them, but these just grow with little help other than a container of live ladybugs.  After blooming I cut them back and then cut them again in February after the last threat of frost.

 

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Summer Flowers

I inherited these Giant Allium flowers when I moved into this house a decade ago.  They grow without any type of assistance and are gorgeous in a large vase with the hydrangeas that I’ve planted along the way.  Hydrangeas do require some tender loving care.  I put my coffee grounds on them to make them very purple (like these) and keep them well watered and out of the hot sun.

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I will post more as the seasons progress.   Happy summer.

 

 

 

 

7 Kids, 5 adults, 1 dog and a Rabbit or Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Happy belated 4th of July. Back from the wilds of Tahoe with a nice large group of houseguests and some pets. Could not have been more fun, but with a houseful to cook for it can be busy. Pulled pork is the answer to any large group of hungry kids and adults, not only because it’s a big hit but because it can be made in advance (while you sleep) and then leftovers make a really nice lunch a few days later.

 

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Pulled Pork Sandwiches 

4-5  lbs. pork shoulder

2 oranges or 3 tangerines

2 cups white wine

1/4 cup BBQ sauce

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves

Salt and pepper

 

Preparation

If you have time to do this during the day go ahead, but be warned that it takes 6-8 hours.  The oven as opposed to the crock pot gives the pork a wonderful caramelized texture.  I am usually busy during the day and like to do it at night.  This recipe is perfect for ski trips or summer days when you are out and about all day and then back in the evening with a group for dinner.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Wash and place pork shoulder fat side down in a large baking dish. Squeeze citrus on pork and add squeezed citrus rinds to the pan.  Pour the wine over the pork.  The acid in the citrus and the wine help to break down and tenderize the meat.  Next, drizzle BBQ sauce over the pork and sprinkle with brown sugar and tarragon leaves.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place in the oven at 275 degrees and allow to cook for 6-8 hours basting as needed until pork is falling off of the bone.  Add extra water to the pan if needed to keep the pork from drying out.  When meat is falling off the bone take out of the oven and allow to cool.  Once cool pull pork into shreds and then place back into liquid.  The meat is easily reheated, so you can serve it whenever it is convenient.  For large groups I refridgerate and then put it back in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes before serving.

Serve with crusty rolls with monterey jack cheese and fresh cilantro leaves.