Jennifer Mastroianni: Baking for kids, parchment-wrapped fish and more
Baking for kids
If your holiday gift list includes a kitchen-craving kid, a sure bet present is the cookbook “Baking Kids Love” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $20).
The new spiral hardback is from author Cindy Mushet and Sur La Table, the national culinary retail mecca. Its 30 kid-inspired recipes include PB&J Muffins, Gotchya Focaccia, Brownie S’mores Bars and Secret Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies (see recipe).
Directions in “kid-speak” help kids feel less intimidated. Such as a step in the recipe for chocolate chip cookies below, where the authors describe the dough as looking “like a mess, but that’s OK.” Add easy reading to the colorful photography and clear instructions, and your kids will be cranking out mouthwatering baked goods in no time.
SECRET INGREDIENT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup canola or corn oil
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 cups tightly packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 cups old fashioned rolled oats or quick oats (not instant)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (for best results, stick to this brand)
1 (12 ounce) bag miniature semisweet chocolate chips
Position one oven rack in top third of oven, and one in bottom third of oven. Preheat to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Put butter, eggs, and vanilla in large bowl and stir with wooden spoon until blended. Add oil and beat well until combined. It will look like a mess, but that’s OK.
Put flour, sugar, brown sugar, oats, salt and baking soda in another large bowl and whisk until blended. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir well with the spoon. You can even use your hands to squish all the ingredients together.
Put corn flakes in a resealable plastic bag. Squeeze out all the air and seal the top. Squeeze until flakes are broken into tiny pieces. Add flakes and chocolate chips to dough and stir until evenly blended.
For big cookies, use large (3 tablespoon ) or small (1 tablespoon) ice cream scoop to shape dough into cookies. Or use measuring spoons in those amounts, then roll dough into balls. For large cookies, bake six cookies at a time on baking sheet, spacing balls 4 inches apart. For smaller cookies, place 12 on a sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. Press down balls with palm to flatten slightly.
Bake large cookies for 7 minutes, small for 6 minutes. Then switch the pans on the racks and bake until light golden brown, another 7 to 8 minutes for the large, and 6 to 7 minutes for the small. Transfer pans to cooling racks and cool completely. Cool pans completely before putting more dough on. Makes about 25 big cookies.
A good catch
Birds Eye now offers a line of “chef-inspired” frozen seafood entrees cooked in the microwave using parchment paper. I recently tried the Steamfresh Mediterranean tilapia dinner, and it was delicious.
It takes about 10 minutes, but the parchment steaming bag cooks it delicately while keeping flavor and moisture locked in.
The Meal-For-One I tried (they also come in meals-for-two) featured a nice-sized filet of mild and tender white fish, along with a vegetable blend of tomatoes and squash, plus white rice with sun-dried tomato sauce. If you like spicy foods, I also recommend the Spicy Tomato Shrimp. Be warned, the heat level is significant.
Other varieties include honey tarragon salmon, lemon pepper salmon, garlic herb shrimp and garlic herb tilapia. Price is about $5.99, but you can get a $1.50 coupon at www.birdseyesteamfresh.com/seafood.
Let’s face it, few of us have dining room seating for more than eight. So when entertaining a crowd, most of us do what we can to accommodate. Often that means pulling up mismatched chairs to our dining table.
However, you can spruce up those chairs with inexpensive covers from Sure Fit, a company that specializes in slipcovers and home solutions. We found several varieties on their Web site at www.surefit.com, including folding chair covers for $9.99. If you are a hostess most particular, these are worth a look and might be worth the investment.