Browsing Category: Lets Eat

Forget pumpkin pie and go straight for the cinnamon rolls…

I woke up early with a to-do list a mile long in my head.

Before you think I am complaining and about to write a minimum of five paragraphs about how much I have to do and how stressful this time of year is and bemoan how many people are about to descend upon casa de phillips over the next few days,allow me to set you straight.

Waking up early with a to-do list involving holiday things makes me a bit giddy.

Sure, I have a lot of things to cram into the next 36 hours before the first batch of company arrives (one being taking my children to the studio for holiday pictures…THIS I am not so giddy about), but such things happen to be fun. Pie baking, last-minute crafting, table decorating, organizing and cooking….all these equal a good time for me.

The best part of my to-do list is that there is very little cleaning involved. We usually pay someone to clean our house on occasions such as holidays or birthdays.

Can I get an “Hallelujah!” for the paid house cleaning?

In honor of Turkey Day, I wanted to re-post the recipe to my “famous” Pumpkin Patch cinnamon rolls. Last week I whipped out six batches of these beauties for teachers and friends. By the end of that day, it looked as if a snowfall and Level Orange emergency had both descended upon my kitchen. I am still finding trace amounts of flour and smeared pumpkin puree, but these beauties are worth it.

Pumpkin Patch Cinnamon Rolls with Gooey

 Cinnamon Icing

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
½ cup warm water
4 eggs
1 cup shortening
1 cup canned PUMPKIN
1 cup warm milk
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup instant vanilla pudding
1/3 cup instant butterscotch pudding
1 teaspoon salt
7 to 8 cups flour

Filling:
¼ cup butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons sugar

Directions:
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast into hot water. Allow to sit for about ten minutes. Add the eggs, shortening, pumpkin, milk, sugars, pudding mixes, salt, and 6 cups flour. Beat using dough hook until smooth. Stir in enough flour (approximately one more cup) until a soft, sticky dough is formed.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface; knead for about five minutes, until smooth. Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover and let sit for one hour or until doubled in size.

Punch dough down. Divide into two parts. Roll each portion out into a 12×8 inch rectangle. Brush with butter. Combine brown sugar, sugar, and cinnamon and then sprinkle over dough.

Roll dough up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side. Pinch seams to seal. Cut each into 12 slices. Place into 13×9 inch greased baking pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 22-27 minutes or until golden brown. Spread icing over rolls. Serve warm.

*For the icing, I simply mix some powdered sugar, some evaporated milk, a dash of vanilla and a pinch of cinnamon together until it tastes good. Sorry there is no exact science to my icing recipe!
Several people have asked me if you can make these in advance and cook them later. I do not recommend it unless you want giant, airy, slightly tasteless cinnamon rolls. In the past, I have frozen homemade cinnamon rolls right before they did the second rise. When it was time to eat them, I thawed them on the counter for a few hours, giving them time to double in size. They were okay. This is not something I would recommend doing without testing it out first.
However, you can cook them until they are just turning very light brown. Pull them out of the oven at this stage, cool and then cover with plastic wrap. When you want to serve them to your family, simply pop them back into a preheated oven for a few minutes until they are brown. Top with icing and serve hot and delicious.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Cooking with Kids 101

If you subscribe to any parenting magazine or even occasionally read a mommy blog, then you have heard that cooking with kids is considered to be a great bonding and educational activity for all involved.

It also is a test in patience, cleaning skills and (did I mention?) patience.

Isaac has always been eager to join me in the kitchen, especially when any sort of baking is involved. Lately Miss E. has been my cooking buddy, always wanting to help me with supper in the evenings.

She is in full question-mode lately and asks at least five questions about every step of cooking. She wants to know why eggs come in shells, why we do not eat the shells and why the shells crack in fifty pieces rather than just two like in books.

In my short years of having a mini sous chef at my side, here are a few tips I have gathered when cooking with children.

1.Relax

  Cooking with kids can be stressful…but only as much as the parent allows. When one of my kids joins me in the kitchen, I try to remember that the cooking process is going to be longer, messier, louder and more complicated than when I cook by myself. I also try to remind myself that if I want my child to know how to cook more than a peanut butter sandwich when I send them off to college, I need to start teaching them how to cook now. Before starting to cook with a child, take a deep breath and remember it is all going to be okay.

2. Establish a good cooking environment.

The new location of casa de phillips has an island in the kitchen, something that we did not have in our previous home. I love the island for many reasons (its four outlets being the first reason), especially how it makes a great space for the kids to pull up a chair and help me cook without fear of being too close to the oven or stovetop. Create a good environment for kids to cook in by decluttering the workspace, having a safe place for kids to stand to work (I would love one of these or simply one of these) and making kid-friendly tools accessible (Never underestimate the power of the wooden spoon).

3. Give the child specific jobs.

I must confess, when I first started letting the kids in the kitchen with me they were mainly spectators. Maybe…maybe…they got to stir something but for the most part they simply watched. That scenario was not really working for anyone, so I decided to relax (see number 1) and let them have their own jobs. I send them to the refrigerator to retrieve needed items. I let them crack eggs. I have them pour and measure. I give them specific jobs and do not follow up behind them, correcting any mistakes. If an egg shell lands in our food, I teach them how to retrieve it. If something is not mixed well enough, I ask if they would like for me to show them how to mix it better. However, I try really hard not to simply step in and take over their assigned job. I want them to own the job and be proud of it.

4. Discuss the process of cooking.

Sometimes it is easy to go through the mundane tasks of cooking and not really think about the process. However, when cooking with children it is important to explain the process. When a pot of water is put on to boil spaghetti noodles, explain why noodles taste better boiled than raw. Talk about food safety issues, such as always washing hands after touching raw meat. Take time to talk about what you are doing when cooking with children.

5.Have fun.

The other day Miss E. was helping me cook supper, which included making a few loaves of banana bread. At some point handfuls of oats ended up on my newly mopped floor and an egg was “dropped” on the counter top. Sigh. Instead of letting my frustrations show, I laughed. I told E. stories of my own personal kitchen disasters, which she found funny to know that even mommies make messes in the kitchen. Enjoy the time in the kitchen with your children. Make it a fun and happy time and one that occurs frequently.

My question for you is “Do you cook with your kids?”

If so, how often and what kinds of things? How do you make a fun experience for everyone involved?

Save the Phillips goes to cooking school

A few weeks ago, an evite popped up in my email inbox from my good pal, TexasHolly, inviting me to spend a Friday morning with her and some other blogging gals at a local culinary school.

The mission: Learn about the 29 cuts of lean beef from the Texas Beef Council and local chef, Richard Chamberlain.

The bonus: Eat lots of yummy food and have a good time chatting with people I usually only “see” behind a computer screen.

Continue reading

Deconstructed Philly Cheese Steaks

The beginning of a new school year inspires my inner chef…the inner chef who seems to have been snoozing all summer.

With the faint (very faint) promise of cooler temperatures and the approaching of fall, my kitchen almost begs to come alive with fun and fresh foods.

Who am I to argue with a kitchen begging to come alive?

A fun new food that we had at casa de phillips recently was deconstructed Philly cheese steaks. Imagine grilled steak meats kabob meets fondue…then you get the deconstructed philly cheese steak.

First begin with your ingredients:

  • quality steak, cubed
  • bell pepper, cubed
  • onion, cubed
  • french bread (one day old), cubed

Once everything is nice and cubed, thread each ingredient onto their own skewer. When working with wooden skewers, be sure to soak them for at least 20 minutes in water or you might have to call the fire department.

I thread about four pieces of meat per skewer. If they are too close, the meat will actually steam rather than grill. Steamed steak does not hold an appeal for me.

Brush the meat and bell pepper/onion skewers with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Brush the bread with melted butter and sprinkle with garlic salt.

Toss everything on the grill.

Note: I am grilling inside on a grill pan. If you have a gas stovetop, indoor grilling is the way to go (especially when it is 107 degrees outside…as it was the day that I made this lovely dinner). My cast iron grill came from Bed, Bath, and Beyond years ago.

Another grilling tip…leave room between your items. Again, if things are too close on a grill they will steam rather than grill.

I made sure to place my meat in the middle (hottest part), then moved the bread and peppers around accordingly. Turn everything over after about 3 minutes (check the bread to make sure it is not burning, as it will likely cook faster than the meat).

While everything is grilling, whip up some cheese sauce. I know that traditional Philly cheese steaks are covered in Cheese Whiz.

Yeah, I can’t go there.

So I make my own cheese sauce.

Ingredients for Cheese Sauce:

*3 Tblsp flour

*3 Tblsp butter

* 1 1/2 cups milk

* 1 Cup shredded cheddar cheese

*salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Melt butter over medium heat, wisk in flour. Let cook for one minute while constantly wisking.
  • Slowly add milk while wisking
  • Cook over low heat, while STILL wisking, until smooth
  • Add cheese…whisk some more.
  • Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste

Once the kabobs are done, serve immediately with a cup of cheese sauce. You can eat each item individually (dipped in cheese, of course) or pile them together for the complete cheese steak sandwich experience.

This meal was so yummy that I forgot to take a picture of it before we ate.

I did, however, managed to snap a shot of what remained after we feasted.

Obviously, the deconstructed Philly cheese steak was a hit at casa de phillips.

Happy “Hot Wheel/tortilla/pool” Party

As mentioned, last week the boy turned five.

Five? Really? Didn’t I just come home from the hospital with him?

When asked what he wanted to do for his party this year, Isaac informed me that he wanted a pool party and for there to be tortillas. Oh..and a Hot Wheels theme.

Hmmm…how does one incorporate tortillas, water fun, and Hot Wheels all into one party?

The answer is “they don’t.”

Because of the crazy heat we are experiencing in our area, we figured that we should have two parties for the child. A friends party at the pool and a family party in the comfort of our air-conditioned house.

Behold, the birthday boy on the morning of his actual fifth birthday:

A few days later we headed out to the local pool and enjoyed some quality swim time with good friends and grandparents.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves in the water…especially the adults who managed to sneak in a few rides down the big water slide. A swim party with preschoolers can be a bit hectic, but fortunately we had enough adults to keep up with all our active swimmers.

Want to know my smart mommy tip that was the lifesaver of the party?

I pre-packaged the lunches for the kids.

The plan was to swim some, eat lunch, and then swim some more before calling it a day. When it was time to dine, all I had to do was pull the boxed lunches from the cooler. Easy, stress-free and everyone had a container of leftovers for the car ride home.

The following day we had a family party at home.

It was at this party that I incorporated in tortillas with a taco bar.

Behold the Hot Wheels cake (which was red velvet with cream cheese icing…yum!)

After two parties in less than 24 hours, we were a pretty tired group.

With a pretty happy boy.

Picky eating 101

Allow me to pull back the curtain here at casa de phillips….we have a picky eater.

Yes, despite my attempts to expose the children to a variety of food and to not fix special meals at dinnertime, somehow we have still managed to have a picky eater residing under our roof.

At least she is cute, so we think we’ll keep her.

Her pickiness is exacerbated by her stubbornness, which makes a force few want to reckon with at the dinner table. As I mentioned, I do not cook separate meals for dinner. Everyone eats the same thing or one simply does not eat. Guess who simply does not eat some nights?

Again, thank goodness she is a pretty funny individual.

In fact the other night the girl refused to sample a bite of dinner (the rule is to try something once before deciding if you like it or not). There were tears. There was whining. There were threats issued.

Then I took a deep breath, channeled my inner Jim Fey and said, “You can either eat some supper or go ahead and go to bed.”

Guess who chose bedtime at 6:00pm at night?

She is nothing if not consistent.

Question: How do you deal with a picky, stubborn eater?

 Do you give them something they like paired with something they don’t like?

Do you cater in Chick-fil-a?

 Do you make them eat the same thing for meals on end until their will is broken?

I have a mini-solution I am going to discuss in a post later this week, but wanted to hear some of your ideas.

Hurry up and share before the next mealtime rolls around!

Let them eat (tie) cake!

Every time a “dad” holiday pops up (Christmas, birthday, Father’s Day), I find myself always going towards the men’s ties.

The necktie is a pretty simple gift. Elegant, yet practical for every day use. It is easy to wrap, comes in a variety of colors and styles and can be purchased regardless of one’s budget.

The only problem with the necktie…it is slightly boring.

Okay…it’s really boring.

This year, step away from the tie section at your local department store and make a tie cake for dad instead.

Take a deep breath (or twenty) and invite the children into the kitchen with you. Start by making your favorite cake, whether it comes from a box or from scratch. I love the recipe Hershey’s chocolate provides on their website. Once the cake is baked and cooled (never forget the cooling step or the icing will melt), give everyone a knife and start icing. I find peanut butter icing to be quite delicious on a chocolate cake.

Once the cake is iced, let the creative juices flow. Outline a necktie on the top of the cake and fill in with candy. Some great choices for fillers include M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, Jelly Beans, Jr. Mints or even blueberries (for the health-conscious dad). Let the children really take charge of this task and encourage them to design a patterned tie. Consider writing something corny, yet affectionate on the cake, such as “Dad, you tie us all together!”

Most likely the Dad in your life will be quite impressed with his tie cake, likely more so than opening another rectangle box filled with another boring tie.

May the force be with…your pancakes

Last Thursday I was weeding through my email inbox when something caught my attention. A newsletter I subscribe to had a link for pancakes.

Here at casa de phillips, we *heart* pancakes (with the exception of Miss E. who only has eyes…and a stomach…for waffles) so any link with a mention of these tasty treats immediately gets my attention. When I saw the particular type of pancakes this newsletter was promoting I knew we must have them.

Here are the pancake molds said newsletter was telling me I must purchase that instant.

Yes, these are Star Wars pancake molds.

Casa de phillips has one adult male born in the 1970’s, thus he loves all things Star Wars. Casa de phillips also has one 4.5 year old little boy, whose father has shown him all three Star Wars movies.

Now he loves Star Wars.

The minute I saw that my favorite kitchen storewas carrying molds that would enable me to make Star Wars pancakes at home, I knew I must purchase them ASAP. I told the husband I was running an errand, kissed the children and raced to the nearest Williams Sonoma.

My two boys looked at me quizically when I arrived home, carting a large sack from a kitchen store and telling them I had a surprise for them inside the bag. Those looks of confusion changed quickly into joy when I pulled out the new Star Wars pancake molds.

A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach…especially when Darth Vader-shaped pancakes are involved.

Behold the molds:

I immediately set about whipping up my famous pancake batter. Then I transferred the mix into this special pancake bottle.If you have ever attempted to make pancakes from a mold, then you understand that this little bottle is a necessity.

Yoda, Darth Vader, and misc. storm tropper looked good as they sat cooking on my griddle.

Then I attempted to pull off the molds so I could flip the pancake.

This was what my pancake looked like:

I realized I forgot to spray my molds with non-stick cooking spray beforehand. Oops. I trashed the first batch, pulled out my Pam and started again.

The second time was successful. Sure there were a few Yoda’s with funny shaped ears and a storm trooper missing the bottom part of his face, but this little boy did not seem to mind one bit.

PS. I also scooped up this panwhile shopping at Williams Sonoma. Can you say delicious???

PPS. This post was in no way sponsored by Williams Sonoma. I just heart them. A lot.

PPPS. If Williams Sonoma does want to sponser something on my blog, I am dying to try this out. Just sayin…

Friday Night is Pizza Night

A few months ago a dear friend of mine wrote on my Facebook wall.

She left a few sentences about life happenings, commented on a picture I had posted and then ended by saying: “We had pizza last Friday night and it made me think of you. Do you still eat pizza every Friday night?”

Why, yes… yes, we do!

Typically we consume some sort of pizza product here at casa de phillips every Friday evening. Growing up, my parents would always spring for pizza on Friday evenings. Living “in the country”, this meant that someone had to drive “all the way into town” to retrieve said pizza and hurry home with it before it cooled. (Such distances have now become meaningless to me since I reside in a large metropolitan area where crossing suburb lines on a daily basis is as common as taking out the garbage). I have carried on the Friday night pizza tradition into my adult life.

When the husband and I were newlyweds, it was pizza made with instant crust and turkey pepperoni.

Once we hit the double-income, no kids, minimal student loans stride, it was $5 gourmet bake and take pizza from the local grocery store.

Now that we have children and I have truly figured out the complexities of yeast (always use water the temperature of a baby bottle), I fashion a variety of pizza-type substances on Friday evenings.

I construct pizza braids, pizza rolls, pizza rings and pizza calzones.

On occasion, I make the standard pizza pie.

The great thing about Pizza Friday is that the entire family wants in on the action. Sure, four chefs in the kitchen can get a bit crazy and someone inevitably will consume far too much of the mozzarella. However, it provides for some fun bonding time.

Last Friday, I rolled out the pizza crust and layed out a buffet of toppings. I then called in the family to each construct their own perfect pizza.

I think the pictures show that this family tradition is keeper.

What traditions do you and your family enjoy honoring?

Steak Tacos.. with a side of banana spaghetti pie

 

I find it a bit humorous that little girls spend a majority of their play time pretending to be an adult. While Isaac is off playing with a Batman figurine or crafting another piece of art to hang from our mantel, Miss E. is busying herself with making sure all her animals are asleep, whipping up such delicacies as banana spaghetti pie and dusting anything she can find. She received a coffee pot for Christmas, which has been one of her favorite gifts by far. Most days she can be found either brewing coffee or washing the coffee pot so she can brew more coffee.

Little girls devote all this play time to imitating real life…until suddenly they are adults and the tasks of putting babies to sleep and doing laundry do not hold quite the same appeal as it once did (okay…putting babies to sleep still holds some appeal but laundry not so much).

Perhaps girls start practicing for their future roll as “mom” because mommyhood happens to be terribly busy.  It takes a lot of skill to change diapers, vacuum up Goldfish crumbs, help Thomas navigate a wobbly wooden track, administer kisses to bumped knees and banged heads, cheer on the latest accomplishments, cook supper that is both healthy and acceptable to the delicate palates of young children, find creative ways to say “no” to the latest wild idea (catapult your sister off the end of a yard stick, anyone?) and keep up with the aspects of life. People often wonder how moms do it. Perhaps it is because we have been practicing from the very beginning.

I practiced cooking many a meal on my Little Tikes kitchen growing up. Perhaps such practice lead to my success in the kitchen last night. I whipped up a tasty little dinner for casa de phillips in record time, despite the fact we were gone all morning, I had spent the majority of the afternoon writing and one child had attended school that day (Do school days make things a bit crazy at your house or is it just here?).  After I posted my dinner success on Facebook, I decided I should share it with the blog world as well. It may not be banana spaghetti pie, but it is pretty good. And it is easy, which always wins an award in my book.

Steak Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Rice and homemade pico de gallo

Step One: Sprinkle salt and pepper over a nice quality steak (Tip: wait for a sale and buy quality meat. Cheap steak is cheap for a reason). Chop up about 1/4 of an onion and toss it in the bottom of a crock pot. Throw the steak on top of the onion, cover with either beef broth or water. Cook on low about five hours, depending on thickness of steak.

Step Two: Continue on with life as normal while the steak simmers away in the crock pot.

Step Three: Make up a big bowl of Pioneer Woman’s pico de gallo, taking care when handeling the jalepeno.

Step Four: Toss a bag of Bird’s Eye frozen brown rice into the microwave and cook according to directions (Moment of honesty here: I cannot cook rice to save my life. I have no idea why. I cannot even cook it in a rice cooker. Thus, I have turned to frozen steamable rice. Please don’t judge my lack of rice making skills.).

Step Five: Heat up whole wheat tortillas in the microwave. Sprinkle water on two paper towels and wrap around tortillas before placing them in the microwave for 22 seconds. (We only eat Central Market tortillas here, which I purchase fresh on the day we plan to eat them. Yes, I am a tortilla snob. You will be too once you try these lovelies.)

Step Six: Chop up a bit of cilantro and juice half a lime. Stir into cooked rice, adding butter and salt as needed.

Step Seven: Pull out cooked steak from crock-pot. Shred with two forks.

Step Eight:Lay everything out on the table “family style”. Let everyone build their dream taco with ingredients provided (I also put out sour cream and cheese). Listen to the appreciative oh’s and ah’s come from your family’s lips.

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