RACK Recipe: Baked Broccoli

1200px-Broccoli_and_cross_section_editEvery time I check out of the grocery store with broccoli the cashier asks me, Oh, you’re having a party? We like our broccoli like we like our kids – in abundance. Especially when it’s served like this – here’s the recipe as presented to my 4 year old (minus my commentary, which is in the parentheses): Continue reading

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RACK Recipe: Dump (Crab) Cake

BigCrab_CardwellYou know those popular and delicious dump cakes where you glop a can of pie filling over a box of cake mix, then pour butter over the whole thing and call it a day? This is not one of those, but the premise is similar in that there is a lot of dumping and very little measuring. Unless you count “2 big glops” as a measurement. My spell-check doesn’t, even though I’ve already used that word twice.

A very sweet woman emailed me after I posted my first RACK recipe to both compliment me and ask where I found the time to come up with my kid-friendly cooking activities. And while my stroked ego wanted to respond, “I spend hours thinking of just the right recipe that works on reading, math and practical life skills,” that wouldn’t be true to the nature of the recipe. Or this blog for that matter, which is definitely glopped out one post at a time. So Diane B., if I am being truthful, I usually find the time to write out a recipe about 5 minutes before Margaret begins cooking, though I admit to planning out our meals a week ahead so I kind of know what I’m going to say.

So now, for the ultra-fancy, super secret Searfoorce family crab cake recipe, as originally presented to my daughter this past Thursday:  Continue reading

Oreos are dairy free (and other tasty surprises for the allergy-afflicted)

512px-Happy_Cookie_FridayIan has struggled with allergies since he was 5 months old, the worst ones being dairy and nuts. As avid dairy lovers, we’ve been reluctant to give up our favorite treats, yet it’s hard not to feel a small twinge of guilt every time Ian asks hopefully, “Can I have some of that?” or says “No fank you, those chips will make me throw up in the pool.” So over the last two years we have come up with some easy-to-find, almost-as-tasty substitutes for lots of those puppy-eyed situations. The guilt is somehow less crushing if I can offer an Oreo.

1. Oreos. Have I mentioned Oreos yet? Oreos are dairy free, and let’s face it, delicious and addictive. When I know we’ll be baking “real” cookies or desserts, I make sure to get a couple flavors of Oreos we haven’t had in a while. It usually works, the main problem being that now I’m going to eat twice as many treats.

2. Bagels. Most brands of bagels offer dairy free flavors, Einstein Brothers is a family favorite, but Pepperidge Farm brand is a good grocery store option. I like to keep these on hand as a substitute for the even less healthy freezer waffle.

3. Ghiarardelli 72% Squares and other dark chocolates. Check the ingredients – cocoa butter is not butter. And dark chocolate is more healthy and satisfies chocolate cravings more quickly. Win-win-win.

4. Dole Chopped Sunflower Crunch Salad. This salad is perhaps the Best Salad Ever, with a creamy, delicious, dairy free dressing. Recently, my husband casually asked, “Do you think we could try another kind of salad sometime?” and it was only then that I realized I had been eating this same salad every night for about 3 weeks running. Maybe it was closer to 4. Go pick one up and you’ll understand. Continue reading

RACK Recipe #1: Pinch and Pour Marinade

RACK is short for Reading and Cooking Kids. When you see RACK in front of a recipe title on this site, you can assume:

1. It is a flexible, easy-to-make recipe.

2. The recipe will be easy to read with straightforward instructions and simple measurements.

3. It will still taste good if a couple of mistakes have been made (I’m pretty sure these are foolproof).

4. It can actually be made independently by your kids (except for the fire parts).

5. Your kitchen is probably going to be a mess afterward.

6. But your kids will be practicing reading and cooking at the same time!

7. This is the first step to you lying on the couch playing Word Chums while your kids make dinner on Fridays.

Our 5 year old was a budding but somewhat reluctant reader last year – she could read things along the lines of Little Bear and Frog and Toad but as soon as she got to a word she didn’t know right away, she wanted to “take a break.” After several weeks of frustration I told Margaret, my big helper in the kitchen, that she could cook dinner alone once she was old enough to read the recipes. She was immediately enthused by this prospect and RACK recipes were born. Though she has since become an independent reader and cook, we started out slowly. I used to put all of the ingredients, mixing and measuring implements, and cookware on the kitchen counters where she could find them, then would hand her the instructions I had written on a sheet of printer paper, go into the next room and close my eyes. I’m one of those “clean as you cook” types, so this was really a lesson for me as well.

Margaret has become quite skilled at preparing everything from gourmet pizzas to roast pork tenderloin but I started out with recipes that all but guaranteed her success. Below is what we call “Pinch and Pour Marinade,” meaning “2 pinches of ____” and “1 pour of ______,” in terms of measurements. Approved by Step Into Reading or Scholastic? I like to think they’d appreciate my initiative. Professional chef material? Perhaps not. Tasty with basically any roasted or grilled vegetable you could imagine? You bet. Continue reading