Snow Day Circuits

Spending a snow day with three high-energy kids is a lot like circuit training at the gym. Our typical snow day workout goes like this:

Wake-up to a quick warm-up of milk and cartoons. Then it’s time to fuel up before heading out to shovel. Breakfast is important because getting on snow pants is a workout in itself. At best a 20 minute exercise, at worst a 45 minute drenching cardio segment. After driveway is cleared, it’s back inside for some hockey practice. No relaxing, maybe a quick water break to rehydrate. Once someone gets hit with a stick it’s time to move on to another activity. From the basement we rotate to the kitchen station for a little upper body work. A recipe involving dough is my preferred mode since there’s lots of kneading and rolling involved. And if we make the dough from scratch it means we can get in some dough punching after it rises. Bonus!

After kitchen time and a quick lunch we clear up and prepare for another cardio burst. With the lure of hot chocolate or a pack of Pokemon cards it’s back into snow pants for a brisk walk to town. Getting them back home needs another incentive. Promises of ice cream or a yummy dessert usually does the trick to motivate them to pick up the pace.

Back home the dough punching or rolling usually turns into “brother punching”. To cool things off we get in some mental exercise with a board game or two. This is the toughest part of the workout – but we are heading into the home stretch. After our last burst of energy we settle in for some screen time. While the boys zone out to TV or video games I can get dinner on table. Our last activity? A much anticipated dinner of serious carbo-loading and off to bed. And hopefully to school the next day!

Leftover Deep Dish Pizza (a perfect snow day recipe)                

Ingredients

For the dough:

½ cup warm water, about 105 degrees

½ packet active dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

¾ cup room temperature water

3 Tbsp. olive oil

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1 ½ tsp salt

For the toppings:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup tomato or pasta sauce

1 cup roasted sweet potato cubes (optional)

1 cup chopped leftover meatballs (optional)

1 cup shredded mozzarella

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Method

Mix warm water, yeast and sugar in a measuring cup. Let stand and dissolve until yeast starts to bubble and swell, about 5 minutes. Add room temperature water and oil, stir to combine.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and mix until a ball is formed. This can be done in a food processor as well. Dough will be very sticky and might need a little bit more flour but add in small amounts. Dust work surface with flour and knead dough to form a smooth round ball. Add a few sprinkles of flour as needed.

Place dough in a large bowl coated with oil and cover with plastic wrap.

IMG_1983

Let rise for at least 2 hours until doubled in size.

IMG_1985Punch dough down and divide in half, reserving one for another snowy day. Simply wrap the extra dough in plastic and refrigerate or freeze. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly oil a round cake pan, 9” diameter. Press the dough to fit evenly into the pan building up a lip around the edge of the pan. Let the dough rest a few minutes if it is snapping back. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork several times and then bake for about 5 minutes until dough is set.

IMG_1987Remove from oven and gently press down any bubbles that have formed.

Brush crust with the olive oil and add toppings. First layer the sauce and about half of the mozzarella.

IMG_1994Then toppings of your choice.

IMG_1995IMG_1996

Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan.

IMG_1997

Return to oven and bake until crust is lightly browned and cheese is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

IMG_1998

IMG_2001And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Wow, work of art”

Dylan (age 5): “That rised!”

Liam (age 5): “You gotta love cheese!”

Snow days are never easy but if you have this to look forward to they’re not so bad!

 (recipe for pizza dough adapted from The Cook’s Illustrated)

Thanksgiving Fever

We’ve managed to use the kids as an excuse for the last seven years but now our time has come. Thanksgiving will be at our house this year and we’re definitely getting Thanksgiving fever. I’m receiving an email every hour with a mashed potato recipe or reading a blog post boasting of the perfect brining method. The chatter is endless. The momentum that surrounds this day, the holiest of cooking holidays, is mind boggling.

Finally, I sat back, took a deep breath and broke it down.

Turkey, gravy, some form of potato (sweet, mashed or both), vegetable, another vegetable, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, which I count as optional since hardly anyone even eats it. Appetizers are fairly easy, we’re just talking some cheese, dips, and chips. Most guests can be counted on to bring a dessert, so I’m not even stressing about that.

Since I can do the sides ahead I’m fairly confident I can pull those off. If I screw a dish up I can remake it, not a problem. It’s really all about the #$^%$^% turkey. Sink or swim, there are no dress rehearsals. But before I even cook one I have to figure out all the other stuff. To brine or not to brine? Wet brine or dry? Organic, heritage, locally grown, antibiotic-fee? How many pounds??? Well, I did what any self-respecting home cook would do – let the experts do it for me! Some might say it’s a bit of a cheat but if the turkey can come pre-brined in a roasting pan already done for you – why not???

So the focus at our house will be coming up with some delicious sides that hopefully will become tradition. And I’m even getting the boys in on the action, they are responsible for a desert. More on that later in the week…

Sweet Potato Crumble (recipe serves 8-10)

Ingredients

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

3/4 cup mascarpone cheese

¼ cup maple syrup

2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 stick butter, cold

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup walnuts, rough chopped into small pieces

Method

Place sweet potatoes in large saucepan and cover with water. Boil until they are fork tender. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl. Add mascarpone cheese, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Mash or blend with a food processor until smooth.

IMG_1067

Spread the sweet potato mash in a large shallow baking dish and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the butter, flour, brown sugar, and chopped nuts until the topping is a crumbly texture. The best method is to use your fingers to work the butter into the sugar and nuts. Arrange the topping evenly over the sweet potatoes.

IMG_1080

At this point you can refrigerate the dish until the big day or bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until edges are bubbly and topping is crispy, about 35-40 minutes.

IMG_1109

IMG_1132

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “The top is quite good”

Liam (age 5): “I kind of like it”

Dylan (age 5): “Not sure – top’s okay”

Hmmmm, hope the family likes it a bit better!

 

 

Sideshow

It’s time to start planning the big meal!

Need a little inspiration for some kid-friendly Thanksgiving side dishes?

See our latest post on Kidville: Voices from the Ville:

Thanksgiving Sideshow

voices-logo-blue-400x100

Till next season…

After much anticipation Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone. To mark the occasion the boys wanted to have a football party.  Since bedtime coincides with halftime, I was not sure how much game watching would take place. But I knew it would be quite the celebration as the build-up has been BIG around here leading up to game day.

A typical football party for all intents and purposes would be watching the game and having some great food but not at our house. Our party was three little boys running around screaming, jumping off furniture, tackling each other, and throwing footballs. Come to think of it, this is a typical day around here … Mostly this goes on until someone starts crying or gets is a bloody nose.

And while that is exactly what occurred the boys also surprised us by expressing interest in watching the game! To hear them discuss which team was going to score, the potential to win our boxes, cheering for the coin toss was hysterical. It must be instinctual because they were talking as if they have been watching football for years; there was even some trash-talking going on as they cheered for their teams. I was half expecting them to ask me to get them a beer!

On the menu for the party were turkey sliders. I wanted to stay true to typical football party fare but come up with something a little healthier. Easy to make, fun to eat, a formula for success (hopefully) I also planned on getting a lot of vegetables into this recipe – sweet potatoes, onions, AND tomatoes.

I am dedicating this recipe to our friend Becca who has recently become a sweet potato fiend!

Sweet Potato Turkey Sliders

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 onion, peeled and diced

2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing

1 lb. Ground turkey, preferably dark meat

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cumin

Mini buns (Martin’s potato rolls are perfect)

Optional topping:

“ Ketchup “– puree can of diced tomatoes, add salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss sweet potato and onion with olive oil and spread in single layer on baking sheet. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Roast, stirring once, for approx. 30 minutes until caramelized. Set aside and let cool. Dice vegetable mixture into very small pieces before adding to turkey.

IMG_3116

In a large mixing bowl add turkey, sweet potato, onion, salt and cumin. Mix together, but do not overwork. Form between 12-14 small patties, about 2” in diameter. Place patties on baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook patties until browned and cooked through, about 5-6 minutes per side.

IMG_3122

IMG_3128

Add the buns to the skillet during the last minute of cooking to slightly toast them. Assemble burgers with your choice of toppings.

IMG_3142

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew: “Mommy, I like it, but it is not your best”

Liam: “ I can’t wait to try my Crabby Patty!”

Dylan: “Real ketchup please! I am digging those orange things out….”

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE GAME:

IMG_3215

IMG_3233

IMG_3197

IMG_3190

Sunday Breakfast

Sunday breakfast in our house is usually an elaborate affair. We break out the silverware and fancy plates (no Thomas Train plastic) and cross our fingers that the boys don’t break anything.  To date, there has only been one plate casualty, not bad considering the clientele!

I used pumpkin in this recipe but sweet potatoes work too if there are any leftovers still sitting in the fridge from Thanksgiving.

Making them small takes forever but it’s worth the extra effort. Plus, using the pumpkin adds some cooking time so silver dollars are the way to go.

These were so good the boys never even asked for syrup! Of course there was a little in the mix but it was a lot less then they would have normally poured over them…..

Pumpkin Cranberry Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 3/4 cup 2% or whole milk

4 Tbsp butter, melted

2 eggs, beaten

3-Tbsp maple syrup

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup dried cranberries

 

Directions:

Combine puree, milk, butter, eggs, and syrup in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl mix flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir just enough to combine. Fold in cranberries.  (Batter can be made and refrigerated overnight – just leave out the cranberries till the next morning)

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Scoop a heaping tablespoon onto griddle or pan. Brown pancakes on both sides.

Extras can be frozen and popped into toaster to reheat. Cool completely before freezing.

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (big brother): Not as yummy with the raisins – but still delicious.

Liam (little brother): Maybe I do like the raisins, I need a toothpick

Dylan (littler brother): I only want crabby patties for breakfast! (hmmmm, too much Spongebob maybe?)