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4 posts from March 2009

March 29, 2009

Ready, Steady, Spaghetti - Cooking with Kids


Every once in a while I run across something I really like, and if it involves something that I can do with my kids that is fun and educational - well, you can bet I'm going to try to get my hands on it.  Or, in this case - "get my hands in it," and if you would like this great book for yourself, then read on ...

This is one cookbook that, if you have kids, you'll be pulling out often, especially if you like working with them in the kitchen.  Kids love anything creative, and I have found that when I get them involved in the cooking process, they feel accomplished and want to get their hands into all the ingredients.  Now, with a little help from Author Lucy Broadhurst, you will find some new and tasty recipes that are not only fun and easy to make, but healthy too!

There are 6 sections to her cookbook -


Little Food:  This section includes some great recipes like berry couscous, french toast, ham and corn muffins, blueberry pancakes, nachos, and many more.


Dinnertime:  Many of the staples that children like already are in the book - like pizza and spaghetti - with a twist on the recipe to add some character to it.  But, you'll also find some interesting and easy to make recipes too, like fettucine carbonara, pork and chive dumplings, chicken and leek risotto, or a burger with the works.


Eat Your Greens:  This cookbook would not be complete without a section on greens.  Kids are just not eating enough greens.  Maybe, by having some delightful recipes with bright colorful images and easy-to-understand instructions, kids will be more apt to try something new.  I know my kids like "color" and if we add something colorful to their meal, their apt to try it.  Now, if I get them involved in the process of making the meal, they are even more apt to try it, and like it too!


Sticky Treats:  Okay, this has to be my favorite section.  I mean, with recipes like jam upside-down cakes, lemon cheesecakes, fruit jelly, and chocolate-honeycomb mousse - oh golly, comfort food take me away.  Yummmmmy.


Cookies, Cakes, and Sweets:  Then again, maybe this section is my favorite - especially since it has a fabulous recipe for chocolate cake.  I'm sorry, but I need an almost daily fix of chocolate.  I admit, it's a huge weakness of mine. 


And, if you look through Lucy's cookbook, you'll see adorable children smiling ... and I'll bet it had nothing to do with the fact that they were having their picture taken either.  Just take a look at those gingerbread people - if that doesn't make a kid smile, nothing will.  You'll also find some great recipes in this section like anzac cookies and muesli bars, caramel bars and jam thumbprints, or how about rocky road or coconut ice


Let's Party:  Okay, so you're planning a party for your little one and you want to make something special for everyone, or maybe you thought it would be a great idea to invite some of your children's friends over for a cooking session in your kitchen.  Mess aside, you are going to brave the chaos because of all the smiles that will ensue as a result.  Right?  Be prepared, because this will make everybody smile and laugh - how about whipping up milk chocolate banana bites, or frozen fruit kebabs, or maybe you'll want to make some swamp mud or chocolate cherry spiders.  The boys will want to make the pirate face cookies or the martian cookies, While the girls will definitely want to make the fairy wands  and the chocolate truffles.  I don't know about you, but I think I better plan something with my kids because this is just too fun.

Now for the best part - Do ya want the book?  Do ya do ya do ya?  Then answer the following question in the comments for your chance to get your fingers into all the great recipes in "Ready, Steady, Spaghetti" -

Do you have any memories of cooking with your mother (or maybe your father?) or your nanny, or your brother, or your sister - oh heck, when you were a kid, did you cook and make memories with someone special? 

Then tell me in the comments below. 

We Have a Winner!  Our Ready, Steady, Spaghetti lucky reader is ...

Denis!  Congratulations!  Isn't this fun? 

Thank you Random.org for choosing the winner out of the thousands, oops, I mean 11 (ha ha) comments on this silly post.  Hey, the fewer the comments the better the odds, right?  


So Denis, You are the lucky winner.  Now all I need you to do is send me an email at susan@raisin-toast.com to claim your prize, and send me your shipping information too.  By the way, to see who you are I stopped on over to your blog (anyone can click on Denis's name in the comment and go to his blog) and happened across a video of your little girl asking you questions about the birds.  That was too cute.

Okay - I've now watched the video of Denis's little girl telling the knock-knock joke and then asking if Bird's talk at least a dozen times.  I'm hopeless.  I just want to pick her up and hug her and pinch her cheeks.  Denis, if you are reading this, I would love to post that video on my blog.  So I can watch it another dozen times - or whenever I just need to smile.

Thanks to all who entered!  More contests in the coming week.

I love sharing good things with my readers!


March 15, 2009

Chimney Fires and Local Heroes


Our house is never short on excitement, and Saturday night was definitely exciting - but not in a good way.  We were all snuggled up in the family room enjoying a movie "The Bourne Identity" that we had seen a number of times before.  The lights were out and we had a roaring fire burning in the fireplace.  It had been cold and rainy all day.  The fire felt good.  Until ...



Until Big Bear pitched a Wendy's bag into the fire.  Two seconds later, with the movie on pause, we heard a "Woooooosh,"  but until Bob looked at me with grave concern, I hoped it was nothing serious.  Suddenly, Bob went running through the kitchen and I jumped up from the couch screaming "Oh My God" knowing that it was serious, and yelling for the children to get outside - NOW!  As I ran outside with Bob and the children, yelling for Adolf and Hannah to follow suit,  I saw what I hoped I would never see in my lifetime - my chimney was on fire.  Flames were shooting up to 5 feet out of the chimney and flames and sparks were pouring onto the roof, the deck, and the backyard.  I prayed - oh - and screamed too.  I'm emotional like that.



Kathleen said to me "Mom, calm down, it'll be alright" but with Bob frantic and running around trying to get the hose hooked up, I felt helpless.  We called 911 and I prayed some more - that the fire department would arrive before my entire house was on fire.  Could this get any worse?  You're damn right it could!  The house was filling with smoke.  I'm a crazy person, so knowing the children were safe, I grabbed my computer, my purse, oh, and of course my camera from our upstairs bedroom.  Hey!  The house wasn't burning down yet, so I got it, okay?!!!  I did touch the wall, though, that backed up to the fireplace below, and it was hot.



Bob stayed on the phone with the 911 operator.  I knew that the fire department from Wesley Chapel had to respond, but I never expected that the Providence fire department which was just down the street, would respond quickly.  Why?  Probably because I never see anyone there and have heard through the grapevine that they are slow on responding.  So, to my surprise, not only was the Providence Fire Department the first to arrive about 2-3 minutes after the call, but Wesley Chapel was right behind them.  "Thank you God" was all I could say, and then tears started streaming down my cheeks as I held my grandson close to me.



Matthew, Sarah, and our wonderful pets, Adolf and Hannah, ran to the neighbor's house.  It was late when all of this occurred, about 9:45 in the evening, and Jan and Dan were probably asleep as their lights were out and the children and dogs were at their door ringing the doorbell.  But they let them all inside and comforted the children.  Jan later told me that when she looked out her bedroom window, she saw flames coming from our chimney - she couldn't believe what she was seeing.  Jan and Dan are such wonderful neighbors.  It's like having family right next door.



The firemen were on the job, putting a heavy ladder up to the side of the fireplace.  As the minutes passed, fortunately, the flames shooting out of the chimney had turned to flames and sparks, then to sparks.  Now, my worry turned to the brave fireman who were on my roof.  It had been raining all day (Thank God for that too, as that probably prevented our roof and deck from catching fire), so I was concerned that it was slippery up there.  Our roof is steep as well.  Next thing I noticed was that I was not the only one outside taking pictures of this event.  There was a young guy with camera and bag in hand taking pictures in my backyard.  He looked at me and said "Are you a reporter, who do you work for?"  I responded "No, this is my house and that's my house on fire."  He looked at my camera and said "Nice camera."  Naturally, I thanked him and then told him this was all happening for the purpose of having something to write about in tomorrow's post on my blog.  Of course I was kidding, and the fire had calmed down quite a bit by then.  I had a chuckle.


Ya think I should tell these guys that Big Bear regularly starts the fires in our fireplace with a blow torch? 



The firemen were wonderful, professional, hard-working, and fast at what they do.  Josh Dye, one of the fine heroes from Providence Fire Station wanted me to know that he was from Providence and that they do respond quickly.  I noted that they had, and told him how appreciative I was that they were fast in responding.  It eased my mind greatly.  "Thank you Josh.  Thank you to all the wonderful men of the Providence Fire Department and the Wesley Chapel Fire Department for being prepared, prompt, and professional.  For making me feel safe.  For protecting my home from near disaster.  Thank you so much - for being our heroes."


And as for Grumpy here - he was so excited to meet a real live Fireman that he has decided that he wants to be a fireman when he grows up. 



March 03, 2009

Swiss Cheese Quiche with Spinach - Yum!

Real men eat quiche - and your kids will too!

Beth always has a way of making my stomach growl.  She'll pop a recipe over into my inbox with her lovely pictures, and instantly my stomach starts growling.  I really need to be a better cook.  No, I take that back - I really need to cook.  ha ha.  Yeah, right.  As long as Big Bear harbors the kitchen, I think I'll stay clear of it until it needs cleaning.  I know, it sounds silly, but I like the arrangement.  Fortunately for me, Big Bear loves to cook Beth's recipes, and that's how I know first hand that you'll love it too.  Growl.  I'm hungry.

Ready for a great recipe?  I thought so ...

The Players:

One single frozen deep dish pie shell, or make your own
2 cups of shredded Gruyere or any very good Swiss cheese
1/4 lb. of diced or chopped ham
1 small chopped onion
1 Tbs. of oil
4 cups of packed fresh spinach leaves
A few dashes of thyme, salt and pepper
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups milk
3 big Tbs. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Start with a deep-dish pie shell or you can make your own if you're really adventurous in the kitchen.  America's Favorite since 1948! That's good enough for me!

Aaah, lovely easy deep dish pie crust. 

Cover the bottom of the pie crust with 2 cups of Gryere swiss cheese or any good Swiss Cheese.

Chop 1/4 lb of ham (you can omit the ham if you prefer), then ...

Top the cheese with the 1/4 lb. of diced or chopped ham.  Lookin' good!

Sauté until soft 1 small chopped onion in a 1 tbs. of oil. Mmmmm. Doesn't that smell great?!!!

Stir in 4 cups of packed fresh spinach leaves, a few dashes of thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook and stir until spinach is just wilted, only a few moments.

Spread the onion/spinach mixture over the grated cheese and diced ham into your unbaked pie shell.

I just love things like this - Specimen A. My blender that came over on the Mayflower. (Mother's Day is not far away!)

Now, mix together and beat well:   For a light and fluffy quiche, add the eggs ...

the milk ...

the flour ...

the dry mustard ...

And, the hot sauce.  Blend until light and aerated.  You can also skip this entire blender thing and just mix all the custard ingredients in a bowl with a whisk if you prefer.  (Hmmm.   Beth - are you taking these pictures with your teeth?   ha ha ha)

Set your quiche on a baking sheet to avoid oven spills, then pour the custard mixture carefully into the pie crust with the cheese, ham, and onion/spinach mixture. 

Until it is just about to the top of the pie crust.

Distribute the Parmesan cheese evenly and generously all over the top of the pie.

Bake at 375º  for approximately 55 minutes, test the center with a knife.  It should come out fairly clean when inserted and you'll know it is done. 

Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a good 10-15 minutes before slicing.   It will be oh so golden!
Like this.. If you feel so inclined, you can crimp the edges of your pie crust before filling to give it a more "homemade" look, like I did. (But I'm not foolin' anyone with this tin pie plate, am I....) Someone! Tell me it's okay to use frozen pie crusts!!!

Serve this yummy quiche to your entire family. Men eat this stuff too!  Real men... Serve with a green salad, fruit, etc.  Quiche is very friendly and gets along very well with others.

(And Beth - I'm insisting that we have this for dinner tonight!  I had better get to the grocery.  My stomach has not stopped growling.  See what you do to me!!!  I love ya, Susan)



March 02, 2009

Snugglin' By the Fire on a Snowy Evening


I love sitting by the fire on a cold, cold night with a cup of hot cocoa and the lights on out back just watching the snow flakes fall.  Having moved to Charlotte from Woodbine, Maryland, we know how much fun it is to play in the snow.  But, in Charlotte, we don't get a lot of snowfall.  So, when we do, the kids get so excited. 


I love to see the joy on their faces and the spring in their step when they press their noses up against the window and dream of building a snowman, or making snow angels, having a snowball fight, or sledding down a hill on an inner-tube. 


In Maryland, we had lots of snow.  Every winter we had several snowfalls that would result in pulling out the sleds and the inner-tubes and haul-tailin' it down our front yard.  We had 3 acres in Maryland and the front yard was most of it.  We had a great downhill slope and the kids could get a great ride.  Getting off the sled and hiking up the hill again for another go at it was what we all disliked the most about it, but hey, the excitement of sliding down that hill made it all worth while.


All the kids would trample in the back door soaked to the core.  They'd drop their snowsuits and their boots and hats and gloves in the laundry room and with rosy-red cheeks and frozen knuckles, they'd all gather in the kitchen for a mug of hot cocoa.  They always knew, too, that Dad had built a great big fire in the fireplace for them to warm their hands and toes.


All the while I'd be sitting nearby listening to their stories and admiring the gleam in their eyes, remembering clearly my own childhood escapades with a sled and a snowsuit. 


I think the best thing about being a parent is the ability to relive our own childhood memories and joys through our own children.  I know what they are feeling.  I know how exciting it is to see the snow coming down flake after flake after flake.  I know that they will have gone to bed this evening dreaming of playing in the snow tomorrow and all the hopes that come along with it. 


So, on this snowy, snowy night, I wish you all some glorious memories of your own childhood.  Sit back for a moment and reflect on all those fun times you had with family and friends playing in the snow.  Then warm up your toes by a fire with a cup of nice hot cocoa.

You'll thank me in the morning.



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