Lily and Chloe’s Fabulous Life: Glitter Play Dough

When I was a kid, my mom and I tried to make play dough with lackluster results. The end product just was not fun. Or particularly colorful.

Once (or more likely a dozen times), I attempted homemade play dough with my best girl Jessie Del Mar (we are the original, albeit overlooked, creators of the Hot Pocket, but I digress). I believe our recipe was baby powder and water. (we made it in the bathroom to avoid detection). As you can imagine, the results were just, well, a disaster.

Lily, Chloe and I have been experimenting with various concoctions for a while. Edible play dough, while intriguing, is just revolting (reminiscent of sweaty peanut butter). Some recipes required exotic ingredients that I had to Google. But the best ones required a little cooking to get that-bought-from-Target level of fabulousness.

I have no idea where this recipe came from, it was just scribbled on a scrap of paper in my to-do pile. Lily (with Chloe in agreement) insisted we use the “good” gel food coloring from Wilton and of course, glitter was required.

The dough keeps great in an airtight container and is truly a fab summer activity. We plan to add a couple colors to our stash each week.

The Dough-stuff:
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Food coloring gel

Mix all ingredients with the exception of the glitter in a sauce pan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a ball (sounds cryptic, but you will know when it happens). Remove from heat, but dough ball in a large bowl. Add the glitter and knead until smooth and uniform. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Cooking with the Kiddos: Kale-tastic Kale Chips

Kale-tastic Lily.

The first time I made kale chips the results were interesting. . .

And relatively disgusting. Some chips were crisp, others were mushy, some were burnt and then the rubbery kale, well, that is just gross.

But, I really wanted to like kale chips, so we experimented. And it really is easy, but took a little finessing.

Lily loves these chips (and she eats nothing). Chloe, not so much. But both girls had fun helping. And it was nice to have them by my side.

Kale before.

1 bunch kale
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt

1. Wash and dry kale (super critical, the kale should be totally dry before baking)

2. Preheat oven to 300F.

3. Cut the kale. Remove tough stems, cutting away the leafy parts. The tough stems get enou tougher and are completely yucky when baked. So, save the stems to make vegetable broth.

4. Cut all leafy parts into uniformly sized pieces. (ensures even cooking!)

5. Toss the leafy pieces in a large bowl with olive oil. I eyeballed it–every bunch of kale will vary in size, slightly. The idea is to coat each piece of kale with olive oil. Start with a tablespoon and add more as needed.

Perfect crispy kale.

6. Now add in balsamic vinegar. I used about 1 tablespoon and tossed it with the olive oil coated kale.

7. Line a baking sheet with either a sil-pat mat or parchment paper. Evenly distribute kale on cookie sheet.

8. Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes, until Kale changes from bright green to a deep olive color. Kale should be crisp to the point of breaking.

9. Remove from oven and salt to your liking.

10. Storage: if you have kale leftover, let it cool completely before storing in an air tight container. If it is stored warm, it will loose its crispness.

South West Jersey No-Tortilla Soup

This soup is heavenly.
My biggest complaint about tortilla soup: often the chicken on top is an after thought. It is either leftovers (I am not really a fan) or rotisserie chicken.
I have been been dreaming of sweet, juicy, pristine shreds of chicken on top of a spicy, veggie filled soup forever.
And finally, my South West Jersey No-Tortilla Soup. As the name implies, there are no tortillas (although feel free to add). And I used lots of local fresh ingredients–local white onion, a prehistorically gigantic zucchini (courtesy of Miranda), fresh Jersey corn, backyard garden cilantro, a Duffield’s jalapeno, local honey from High Trail Honey and Jersey Fresh canned crushed tomatoes (a pantry staple around here).
The poached chicken is juicy and tender. Use leftovers (i can dig these leftovers) the next day for chicken salad or a wrap.
It all comes together in under an hour (I swear, and in my hour, I had a dog and a 5 year old, helping).
And not to get too Next Food Network Star, but MGD Lemonade is the perfect beer pairing for this unconventional summer soup.

For the soup:
  • Honey and Lime Poached Chicken, shredded, broth reserved(recipe below)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 5 cups (approx) reserved stock from poached chicken
  • Salt/pepper
  • 2 ears of grilled corn, cut from cobs (if you don’t have it grilled, just use cooked)
  • Handful of cilantro
  • 1 avocado sliced
  • zest of one lime
  • 1 green onion, sliced
1. Prepare poached chicken. Reserve stock.
2. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat.
3. Add veggies in layers. First carrots, for about 3 minutes, then onion, garlic and peppers. Last, add zucchini. Cook together until soft, about 7 minutes.
4. Add tomatoes, stock and salt/pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
5. Stir in corn.
6. Serve it up: top with avocado, shredded chicken, cilantro, green onion and a little sprinkle of lime zest.
Honey and Lime Poached Chicken
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tsp. dried cilantro (or 3 T. fresh, chopped)
  • Zest of one lime
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 lb thin sliced boneless skinless chicken breasts
1. Whisk all ingredients (except for the chicken breasts) together in a large pot.
2. Bring to a boil; add chicken.
3. Reduce heat, poach until chicken is cooked through 4 minutes.
4. Use tongs to remove chicken. Reserve poaching liquid. Shred chicken.

Breakfast Tostada

Tostada means “toasted” in Spanish. For this breakfast tostada, you toast a flour tortilla with some gooey cheese in a skillet and then top it with eggs, black beans, avocado and other delights.

This recipe is the perfect solution to a fun breakfast-for-dinner night or a perfect Sunday Brunch. The recipe below makes 4 tostadas. It can easily be halved (or quartered!) or doubled. I sprinkled some chopped red pepper, sweet onion and romaine on the side. If you don’t have these in your produce draw–don’t fret. Use what you have.

4 flour tortillas
1 cup of Cheddar-Jack shredded cheese
Non-stick cooking spray
8 eggs
1 T. Olive Oil
1 cup canned black beans (I love Ortega brand with jalapenos-grab a can in the Mexican aisle)
1/2 cup of diced vegetables–red pepper and onion (or whatever you have)
1/4 cup lettuce shreds (any variety, even spinach!)
Your favorite tomato salsa
1 avocado, halved, peeled, sliced
4 black olives

The work:
1. Heat a medium sized skillet over high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Place flour tortilla in skillet, cover and turn heat to low. Give it five minutes or until cheese is melted. Repeat with remaining tortillas, in between making the eggs.
2. Heat 1 T. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Beat eggs until fluffy and light yellow. Season with salt and pepper. Add to skillet with 1 cup of black beans.
3. Cook eggs (scramble with a spatula as you go) until firm. Remove from heat.
4. Assemble your tostadas: place egg/bean, mixture on top of melted cheese, then add avocado slices, a spoonful of salsa and a black olive. Sprinkle peppers, onions and lettuce on the outside edge of the tostada.

Room Service French Toast

This french toast recipe is better than Room Service and infused with oranges that will delight your taste buds. The recipe can be made with a fresh baguette or one that is stale, making it a great way to use up fresh bread (and it is way yummier than croutons). It can also be frozen and warmed up on a cookie sheet–making it a make ahead go-to recipe for special occasions or for the everyday.

Top it with your favorite jam (or whatever you have on hand). Apricot jam is my favorite topper. 

The stuff:
1 french baguette, sliced to about 1/4”
1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs, beaten until frothy
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
1 orange–the juice, plus zest
Vegetable oil for frying

  1. Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in large skillet on medium-high heat
  2. Combine milk, eggs, sugar, nutmeg, orange juice and zest in dish.
  3. Dip the baguette slices in the egg mixture. Allow excess egg to dip off slices.
  4. Fry baguette slices on both sides until golden brown, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  5. Top with your favorite jam.

Grilled Asparagus Soup with Brie Toast

Asparagus is my favorite vegetable.

When I was a kid, we never, ever had asparagus on our table. My father grew up next to an asparagus farmer during the Great Depression (my Dad is nearly 91). According to my Pop, he had asparagus for breakfast, lunch and dinner all Spring long–and well, he hasn’t had a spear in 60 years.

I, on the other hand, love Asparagus–on its own in, in a salad and of course, in soup! Jersey asparagus is in-season now. I found some at Duffields last week. It is so great grilled–and you can grill one enormous batch and use it in recipes all week long. Eat on the side, pop it on a pizza and use some to make this yummy Spring soup, perfect for rainy days.

I started with a homemade veggie broth base–this time around it included leek tops, asparagus bottoms, leftover sliced tomatoes, red onion garlic, parsley stems, salt pepper, bay leaves zucchini ends and other odds and ends from my produce drawer. You can use any store bought veggie broth or even chicken broth. I would just stay away from any broth that is tomato based–I think it messes with the natural asparagus flavor.

The stuff:
2 leeks, just the light green and white parts, quartered and sliced thin
1 shallot diced
2 cloves garlic diced
3 T. butter
1 T. olive
1-2 lbs of grilled asparagus, tips cut off and reserved. Stems, diced.
6 cups broth of your choice
1 cup heavy cream

For the brie toast:
Six 1/2 slices from a fresh baguette
Six 1/4 inch slices of brie

Get to work:

1. Butter 3 T butter into 1 T olive oil
2. Add shallot and garlic, cook until soft over medium heat, about 5 minutes.
3. Add bottoms from grilled asparagus. Cook 1 minute, until warmed through
4. Add broth. Bring to a boil, simmer 15 minutes.
5. While soup is simmering, preheat your broiler.
6. Place baguette, with one piece of brie on each slice under broiler. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until cheese melts and edges of bread are browned.
7. Season soup with salt and pepper. Stir in heavy cream.
6. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.
8. Stir in reserved asparagus tips.
9. Serve immediately with brie toast on top. 

Only here for the food: Asian Inspired Super Bowl Menu

I am not so much an NFL fan–in fact, I did not even know which teams were in the Super Bowl until church this morning and Reverend Bill’s children’s message.

However, I love mini food–appetizers, sliders, small bites of this and that–it is all novel and absolutely delicious. And I love any opportunity to cook and eat mini bites.

Lily helped me with this last minute Super Bowl Sunday menu. We don’t have big plans; just the four of us hanging out. I expect oodles of leftovers–perfect for mid week snacking and delicious left overs. The Asian inspiration just sort of happened and I love the idea of having a theme–Lily says it makes it fancy!

Click on the links for the recipes!

Our Menu

Honey Mustard Chicken Wings and Drumsticks
I love Rachael Ray’s recipe–it is slightly sweet and slightly spicy. Plus it way healthier than the traditional hot wings. Instead of serving with celery and carrot sticks, slice up some cucumber. The recipe is here.

Lily’s Mango Salsa
Lily and I learned this easy and kid friendly version of mango salsa at a Wegman’s cooking class. It is so simple, chop the following: 1 mango, 1/2 red pepper, 1 shallot and a couple leaves of fresh mint. Mix together with 2 tablespoons of apricot jam and 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar. Serve with multigrain chips.

Mini Salmon Burgers
I adore a good burger. Try this recipe for soy glazed salmon burgers and make the patties mini. Serve on buns or go naked (I vote go naked leaves more room for other stuff.)

Black Bean Wontons with Green Salsa
Black Bean Wontons rock and they freeze great! Snag a pack of wonton wrappers, 1 cup of prepared black beans (homemade or from a can), and some feta. Mash up the beans. Then, put 1 teaspoon of black beans and a sprinkle of feta in the middle of each wonton wrapper. Follow the directions on the wonton package to fold. Then fry or bake until golden. Serve with either jarred green salsa or my favorite Green Salsa from the fabulous Beekman Boys .

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

My Nana was not Italian Wedding Soup

My Nana was Danish. And despite living in South Jersey for at least 40 years, did not really cook Italian. I honestly cannot remember one lasagna or one spaghetti and meatball meal at her table. And her recipe boxes, while filled with food from around the world, make no mention of anything remotely close to marinara.

However, I grew up completely fascinated by all things Italian. My father would share stories of his travels to Venice and Sicily during World War II. I would gaze endlessly at photos of Roman architecture, planning someday to write or build or create something Roman. Once a week we had spaghetti and meatballs–homemade slow cooked red sauce with homemade meatballs. And Mike and I honeymooned in Rome, savoring the food, the wine, the architecture, the churches and the leather. I love Italian!

Italian Wedding Soup is a classic and so many of my friends, whose Nana’s were actually Italian, shared their tips and tricks for this recipe. My recipe is like a wedding of all that heritage and knowledge and culinary genius.

Some notes: I had a big bag of baby spinach, so I used it in place of escarole. I also used orzo, but as Mike’s Aunt Lydia suggested, those tiny little ball pastas, Acici de Pepe, would be excellent in place of the orzo. One old school addition is to drop a couple eggs beaten with Parmesan cheese into the hot soup and stir with a spoon until thin strands appear. I did not do this for my recipe, but think I will try the next go around.

The stuff:
Olive oil
3 large carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups orzo, cooked as per package
4 cups baby spinach

For the meatballs:
1 lb ground beef
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 clove of garlic, grated
1/2 Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 grated locatelli or parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
2 T. Olive oil

Grated locatelli or Parmesan cheese for serving

1. In a large soup pot, heat about 1 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, garlic and onion. Cook, stirring, until onion is softened and garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, make meatballs. Combine beef, eggs, garlic, breadcrumbs and cheese in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Form mixture into small meatballs (1/4 – 1/2 inch in diameter).

4. In a large frying pan, over medium heat, warm 2 T. of olive oil. Gently add meatballs to frying pan and brown on all sides. Use a slotted spoon to remove meatballs from frying pan to simmering broth.

5. Heat meatballs in broth until cooked through about 10-15 minutes.

6. Stir in orzo and baby spinach. Stirring to wilt spinach. Top with a sprinkle of locatelli cheese.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday Dinner: Lemon Rosemary Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Carrots

The first time I made a whole roast chicken, it was a massive disaster. First, I think my chicken may have been partially frozen. Second, I was following some complicated French recipe that appeared to be written in Franglais–a hybrid of French and English that was impossible to decipher. And finally, I was in a rush and charred the outside beyond recognition. The result: a charred, raw, inedible bird. I still feel bad for the chicken gave who gave his life for that complete catastrophe.

However, the kitchen is a forgiving place and luckily, my oven easily forgets. After much obsessing and planning, I finally made this juicy, savory, lemony roast chicken which may be worthy of place on a French country table. The recipe is simple, but does have oodles of steps–which is why this is a meal ideally prepared on a Sunday.

On the side roasted potatoes infused with lemon and carrots, plus a yummy green salad with pan fried croutons and dijon vinaigrette. Grab a bottle of French wine and you will send all you will send all your dinner guests swooning.

Dedicate some time to this recipe and savor a nice, slow meal with all your favorite people next Sunday!

The Stuff
One 4-4 1/2 lb chicken, giblets removed
4 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 whole lemon
6 cloves garlic, peeled
Zest of one lemon
2 T. Unsalted butter, softened
1 T. dried Rosemary; plus 1 T.
1 T. Honey; plus 2 T.
1 t. dried thyme
1 cup baby carrots

The Work
1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Salt and pepper inside and outside of chicken. Let rest at room temperature.
3. Boil 8 cups of water in a large pot. Add potatoes, whole lemon and whole garlic cloves. Boil for ten minutes.
4. While potatoes are cooking, prepare an herb butter. Mix butter, lemon zest, 1 T. Rosemary and 1 t. Honey.
5. Rub herb butter underneath chicken skin, loosening as you go.
6. Drain potatoes. Remove lemon and garlic. (set potatoes aside) Poke holes in lemon with a fork and stuff inside chicken cavity, along with garlic, 1 T. Rosemary and 1 t. thyme.
7. Cover outside of chicken with remaining 2 T. of honey.
8. Place chicken and 1 cup baby carrots in a roasting pan. Cook 45 minutes.
9. After 45 minutes, add potatoes to the roasting pan and spoon juices over top. Roast an additional 45 minutes or until potatoes are golden and chicken is cooked through.
10. Let stand 10 minutes before carving.

Serve with a simple greens salad and pan fried croutons. (recipe coming soon!)
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Grocery Store Tourism: Houston

While to some, grocery shopping while on vacation may seem completely contradictory to the very concept of vacation, for me it a much anticipated piece of my itinerary. I’ve brought pasta from Italy, spices from Greece, deli meat from New York, deep dish pizza from Chicago and tortillas from Texas. I love foraging the spice aisles for items I’ve never seen and perusing the bakery to see what fresh breads I can grab.

There is no better way to get to know the locals than to check out what they eat at home. From local wines to fresh bread, prepared specialities and local, super fresh produce, the local grocery store and farmers market are both prime tourist spots for the aspiring ecotourism interested in getting to know everything through the eyes of those who live there.

One of my favorite grocery destinations is Houston. We lived there for a summer when Lily was a proton radiation patient at MD Anderson. My mother in law, Olga, was the perfect tour guide, introducing me to all the many amazing Tex- Mex delights. There are barbecue sauces and rubs, a plethora of hot sauces, a multitude of Mexican seasonings and my favorite: fresh made HEB tortillas.

HEB, which stands for “Here Everthing’s Better,” is a stellar combination of Whole Foods and for those of you blessed to be in the north east, Wegmans. There are amazing prepared foods, beautiful, local produce, great meal ideas and of course, my beloved Tortillas. For a little over $3, you can snag a 20- pack of warm, tender, flakily melt in your mouth tortillas. Olga also have a stack waiting for me– and I can eat these beauties straight out of the bag. And I always bring back a supply, to keep me remembering all that delicious Texas food.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad