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Archive for the ‘Fun Activities with Kids’ Category

Creative Cooking

One of my favorite things to do is to look in my refrigerator with the goal of creating something delicious from whatever I find there. Using up leftovers makes me feel thrifty. Often, they even taste better because the flavors have had a little time to develop.

Here’s a perfect example of that. For dinner the night before this project, I had made chicken breasts dipped in egg and sprinkled with cheese. Two were leftover. I had also made corn on the cob and cut off the extra kernels from extra cobs. I found some extra dried cherries, left over from a diabetic cake I had made my mom and a number of staples, like onions. All of this turned into a flavorful chicken salad that could become sandwiches for lunch or a nice side for dinner. Another possibility was to make “deviled” eggs without yolks by filling the eggs with the salad. Believe me; it quickly disappeared! Simply warming up those chicken breasts and over cooking them would not have been the same.

"Deviled" Chicken-Cherry Salad Eggs, with Heirloom Tomatoes and Yogurt Dip

“Deviled” Chicken-Cherry Salad Eggs, with Heirloom Tomatoes and Yogurt Dip

Here is the salad recipe and some tips for using it as an egg filling for a healthy after school snack!

Chicken-Cherry Salad(Makes about 6 cups)

2 large chicken breasts, cooked

½ large yellow onion, diced tiny

½ cup cooked, fresh corn, sliced off the cob

1/3 cup pine nuts

1 cup dried cherries, chopped small

¼ cup cheddar cheese (This was already cooked onto my chicken as indicated above.)

Salt and pepper

Optional Garnishes: Sliced garden onion, red bell pepper, diced small

Method:

  1. Thinly slice the chicken, and then cut across the strips to make a tiny dice. (Chopping all ingredients very small protects your finishing options – especially if you think you want to fill eggs.)
  2. Mix all ingredients together except the garnishes (toppings). Taste it and if necessary add more spices.
Chicken-Cherry Salad as a Side Dish

Chicken-Cherry Salad as a Side Dish. Garnished with sliced garden onions.

Notes:

  1. You can mix the salad ahead and chop the garnishes. Cover and refrigerate. If making deviled eggs, make them up at the last minute. If serving as a side, add garnishes at the last minute.
  2. Older eggs peel better than really fresh ones. Every carton has a sell by date on it. Just make sure you stay within that time frame.
  3. Think of a boiled egg simply as a container. They can be filled with your favorite tuna or any other salad for variety. Make a small slice on the bottom of each egg half so it will sit on a flat surface and won’t go sliding around on your plate.

    Thinly Slice Egg Bottoms

    Make a small slice on the bottom to “anchor” your eggs and keep them from sliding around on the plate.

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Wacky Frozen Banana Tortilla Desserts

This is the fourth and last in the series of four WACKY things to do with tortillas! So of course it’s a dessert… and what a dessert! These healthy treats will keep in an airtight container in the freezer for several months. They are always great to pull out and enjoy… not just in the hot, summer months! These tasty treats contain only 350 calories per huge serving… enough to satisfy sweet tooth, although the main ingredient is a healthy banana! Great for an after school snack or as a make ahead dessert for a party!

Frozen Banana Desserts

Wacky Frozen Banana Tortilla Desserts

Serves: 12

Ingredients:

12 six inch MexAmerica flour tortillas

6 large bananas

24 Tablespoons Weight Watchers Cream Cheese

3 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk or white)

4 cups ground pecans

Method:

  1. Cut each banana in half. Lay the banana piece on a tortilla and trim it at each end of the banana.
  2. Remove the banana and spread the tortilla with cream cheese. Place the banana on the end of the tortilla and roll it up tightly. Place seam side down and repeat for all bananas.
  3. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler. Brush melted chocolate on each tortilla roll; then roll in the ground nuts.
  4. Push a Popsicle stick half way into each one. Freeze for at least two hours before serving or up to 1 month.

Chef Lynn’s Tip:

You can also melt chocolate in a microwave. Zap it in spurts starting with 20 seconds and reducing to 10 seconds each, stirring in between. Chocolate burns VERY easily, so zap it in moderation!

Build a castle in your kitchen!

Here’s an idea for another fun filled afternoon in the kitchen with your kids.
Even little kids can join in to create an edible castle!

full cake

First, bake your castle cake!

First, bake your castle cake!

First, make your favorite cake recipe using a castle mold. This one came from Wilton. You can find it at cooking stores like Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table or on the http://www.wilton.com site. It comes with a recipe that works great, but I lost it so I simply used an old Betty Crocker Devil’s Food cake recipe. You can also use your favorite boxed cake mix. I will tell you, though, that denser cakes like pound cakes or gingerbread cakes are better because they won’t sink down in the pan as they cook. Make whatever kind you like though, because that doesn’t really matter! The one in my picture sank big time. I almost threw it out half way through cooking because it looked so bad. I finished it just to see and when I flipped the pan over, it was just fine. The cracking was all on the inside. So if you use a regular mix, don’t give up! Just make the cake and flip it out onto a wooden or Styrofoam board covered with Pretty foil paper that you can get from any cake supply store. (In my area, that’s Kitchen Creations in Farmington Hills or Heineman’s at 10 and Van Dyke. If you want to keep your costs down, just use tin foil.

Next, make a drawbridge for your castle.

2-cut tortillas

Cut your drawbridge…

Tortillas are perfect for this! Using clean hands and clean kitchen scissors,simply cut around a Hershey candy bar. It’s just the right size. We made two, just to be sure we would get a good one and you can easily make two from one flour tortilla.

Add cheese and bake!

…Add cheese and bake!

Then cover the drawbridges with cheese and bake it at 350ºF for about 10 minutes. This will make them sturdy and crispy.

Now you need some frosting for “glue” to hold your decorations onto the castle, some blue frosting for “water” and some green frosting for “glue” to hold up landscaping and other things. To make the frosting, simply mix a cup or two of confectioner’s sugar with the color your want and then add very small amounts of water, whisking until it’s the consistency that you want. It should be fairly think because you don’t want it to drip.

5-make blue frosting for water

Blue frosting for water

12-make green frosting

Green frosting to “glue” the landscaping down

You also need some brown frosting to match the cake to hold the decorations on the cake. To make brown, mix one cup of confectioner’s sugar with 4 Tablespoons cocoa. Then add just a bit of water at a time until it’s a thick consistency again. Use some of the brown frosting to “glue” the castle to the board. Then it won’t slide around when you move it.

"Glue" your cake down with frosting so it won't slide around.

“Glue” your cake down with frosting so it won’t slide around.

Now you are ready to add the water to the moat around your castle. Just paint on the blue frosting!

7-add water around the castle for the moat

Then I added circles of red licorice (they come that way) for the side cranks of the drawbridge.

8-add drawbridge cranks

Adding drawbridge licorice cranks

8-add drawbridge

Adding the drawbridge…

It’s fun having other people around because everyone comes up with great ideas. Your imagination is your only guide! As Emmi puts the drawbridge in place, Birgit is already thinking about her next idea… a tortilla path that winds around the front of the castle, outside the moat… She cuts curved pieces around the tortilla and then cuts them into the shapes she needs to fit on the board.

11-cut tortilla paths_1

Cutting the path…

After the path is “glued” down with frosting, Emmi lines it with little Hershey bar rectangles to give it the look of bricks…

16-add hershey bars to path

Adding Hershey bar “bricks” to the path.

14-cut chocolate licorice sticks for fire logs

Adding logs for the “fire”

…and I (Chef Lynn) cut some chocolate Twizzler licorice sticks into little logs for a fire. We also put a stack of logs around the back of the castle for future use by its occupants.

Emmi had a lot of fun “gluing” lifesavers on the windows, lifesavers and white chocolate kisses on the turrets, adding gumdrops, broccoli and cauliflower for landscaping and yogurt covered raisins for stones…

19-landscaping of vegetables, gum drips etc

Landscaping!

…and filling them with treasure!

15-fill the middle with the treasure

We tried to make a swan to put in the water by cutting it our of a really large marshmallow. It was no problem with all of these wonderful ingredients though. When all else fails, just eat the evidence! 🙂

17-just eat it if it doesn't turn out

I have to say that quite a few Gummi Bears got eaten in the process too 🙂 Emmi added them around the campfire and they are also guarding the front door. She also added edible glitter to the fire and the drawbridge.

18-add gummy bears

Not to mention the delicious MexAmerica tortillas… great even just plain… and you don’t even need any front teeth to enjoy them! 🙂 Thanks Emmi and Birgit for bringing your smiles and fun to the Test Kitchen! XO

Emmi-You can even eat tortillas if you don't have your front teeth!

3 Bears Kitchen Fun!

Everyone has special childhood memories of  mom or dad in the kitchen and family dishes they enjoyed. The kitchen is also a great place for kids to have fun! It’s an amazing activity center that feeds creativity and encourages camaraderie among the family. Following is an afternoon of fun for the little ones! We’re going to create Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear in their beds. I’m going to tell you how to make one set, so just multiply by the number of kids participating.

Here’s what you’ll end up with! 3 different sized bears on Quesadilla beds:

14-decorate blanketsTo make the beds and blankets for the bears, you will need:
8 MexAmerica flour tortillas, 1 MexAmerica corn tortilla
3 hot dogs, 6 Lit’l smoky Links
9 pieces of American cheese slices – or other cheese
1 cup grated cheese
Decorations for the blankets
(I used life savers, yogurt covered raisins and dark raisins)
6 dark raisins for eyes, 2 Maraschino cherries for mouths,
3 Extra-Extra-Large marshmallows for pillows
2  pieces chocolate licorice for bed posts

To make the bears, you will need to make some chocolate cookie dough with no leavening so it doesn’t rise. This is also a great dough (without the chocolate) for making decorated sugar cookies – particularly because they stay flat, which is perfect for decorating. I always use this recipe for decorated cookies at Christmas time. Plus, you can make the cookies, freeze them in air tight containers ahead and then thaw however many you want to decorate, which really helps out at that busy time of year. You can make just a half recipe if you only want to make a few bear heads – or make more and freeze them for another fun afternoon.You will need:

1 cup butter (at room temperature), 1-1/2 cups sugar, 3 eggs,
2 teaspoons vanilla, ½ teaspoon salt

4 ounces cocoa (to make it brown),
4 to 4-1/2 cups All Purpose flour (Make a soft dough)

Baking spray, A small amount of soft butter.

Mix it up like a regular cookie dough. First the butter and sugar; then add the eggs, vanilla and salt. Then the dry ingredients – the cocoa and enough flour to make a soft dough.

2-Draw around formsNow you need to make some patterns for the bear heads. You only need the heads… You’ll see what I mean in a minute. So take a bear cookie cutter and draw just around the head on a sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Then connect the chin and simply make a straight neck. That’s your Baby Bear head. Cut it out and use it as a pattern to make the Mama head. But draw this head about 1/8″ bigger, using the Baby Bear head as a guide and cut it out. To make Papa’s, use the Mama head as a guide and make it 1/8″ bigger than that. Cut it out as well. Now you have your patterns.

Roll the cookie dough out to 1/4″. Cut out the heads using a knife and place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Don’t worry if the edges are a little ragged. These are BEARS! They have fur, so jagged is good.

3-Roll out dough and cut forms

Now make the faces. I cut raisins in half for the Mama and Papa and smaller for Baby. Then I made little round noses from cookie dough, wet one side of it and pressed it into the nose area. The mouths are little slivers of Maraschino cherries. Press your index finger into the ears to shape them a bit. Press your index finger into the ears to give them some shape. Use a sharp knife to cut in eyebrows and other lines. Then bake the heads in a preheated oven at 375 F for 10-12 minutes, just until set. Let cool on the cookie sheet.

4-Make faces

Next, cook the hot dogs and smoky links either on a grill or in boiling water. Drain if you use water and place them on paper towels so the moisture will be absorbed.

8-Grill hotdogs

Now comes the three Quesadillas for the beds. The fillings can be as simple as 3 slices of American cheese between two flour tortillas, cooked in a Panini press or on a frying pan (and flipped over to brown both sides). Or you can use any fillings your kids like. Here’s where they can use their imagination and have some fun making the beds out of combinations of things they like to eat. The beds can be thick or thin so don’t worry about that. Let them make the Quesadillas any way they want.

5-Make Quesadilla while boiling dogs

I made my Quesadillas in a Panini press.

7-Grill the Quesadilla

Cut slices from the Extra-Large marshmallows to use as pillows. If your knife is sharp and hot, you will have the best luck cutting through the gooey marshmallows. I put my knife under my hot water tap, dry it off quickly and make a cut. I do this each time I need to cut through something like this. It’s a good tip also for cutting clean slices of cake! 🙂

10-Cut Marshmallows for pillows

Now go back to your hot dogs and cut a slit about an inch into each one on the end. then make three sizes of hot dogs. These are  the bear’s bodies. So Papa’s can be a whole hot dog, Mama’s a little smaller and Baby’s about 1/2 a hot dog.

9-Cut slit in ends of hotdogs

Cut rectangles out of the Quesadillas for the three beds, sizing them for each head. In other words, Papa’s will be the biggest, Mama’s a little smaller and Baby’s, of course, smaller still.Stick the cookie head in the slit and lay each one down on the appropriate bed with the heads on the pillows. The smoky links are the arms, so if you put a little butter on one end – just a little bit – it will help them stay in place while you make the blankets.


11-make beds

You should have 2 flour tortillas left, so warm those and one corn tortilla between two pieces of paper towel in the microwave for 40 seconds. (If you don’t have a microwave, heat them on a grill.) Tuck the two flour tortillas around Mama and Papa. For Baby, you will have to cut the corn tortilla circle down about 1/2″ for it to fit, so do that and fold the corn tortilla around the baby. Baby’s is corn just because the tortilla is smaller to begin with. You could certainly cut down a flour tortilla if that’s all you have.

12-make blankets

Cover the blankets with different colors of grated cheese. Place under the broiler, keeping the heads toward the edge of the oven so the marshmallows don’t burn. It’s OK if they toast a bit though. All the better! Watch carefully and take them out as soon as the cheese is melted.

13-add cheese and place under broiler

14-decorate blankets

As soon as your bears come out of the oven, you can decorate the blankets. I used dark raisins, yogurt covered raisins and lifesavers, but use your imagination to make them your own. Add pieces of chocolate licorice dipped in spreadable cheese for bedposts. (The cheese is just to help the bedposts stand up.) I also gave Baby Bear a little red gummy teddy bear for a toy.Now all that’s left is to smile and eat ’em up! Enjoy!

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