Oh, You Don’t Like Kale?

There are so many varieties of kale that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Raw may have too intense flavor for some, so you can also sautee it. Even the most reticent kale eater should try this combination…although the salmon may also be a hurdle for some fussy eaters, lol.
Simply sautee kale, one tomato, red onion, garlic clove and two summer squashes. Add premade quinoa and a piece of grilled salmon. Or a can of tuna can do the trick too.
Colorful, healthy and easy. Oh, delicious too.

Roast Chicken a la Jessica

Summer fun #2

So tasty, with nicely crisped skin and prep takes maybe 15 minutes.  Perfect for a middle schooler to pop in the oven, so dinner’s on the table when the bigguns get home.


– 1 Roast chicken, 3-31/2 lbs

– Salt and pepper to taste

– ½ lemon

– 2 cloves garlic, smashed

– 2 Tbsp softened butter



  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Lightly season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Put lemon and garlic inside the chicken.
  2. Use a butter knife and spread the softened butter on the chicken covering the top of the bird. Season the entire chicken with salt (or seasoned salt) and pepper, place on a baking sheet and bake on the middle oven rack for 25 minutes.
  3. Turn down the oven temperature to 350 degrees and cook for another 30 minutes. If the top still isn’t crispy, put the chicken under the broiler for a few minutes to completely brown it. You will know the chicken is done when you pull at the leg and it feels ready to come off and the juices run clear (not pink) when you pierce the skin with a knife.
  4. Remove the chicken from the oven and cover it with foil in a loose tent shape. Let it sit for about 20 minutes so that the juices can settle into the meat.

Mexican Lasagna

Summer Day #1

Add a little spice to your life! This is crazy good and little ones can easy help older kids prepare this. (Or you can do it yourself in a snap.)


1 package corn tortillas

1 lb ground beef

1 can diced Rotel tomatoes

2 cups orange cheddar

2 cups pepper Jack

1 onion, chopped

3 (or more!) cloves of garlic

Taco sauce

Taco seasoning

Jalapenos (optional)

Half of a can of smoked chipotles

Half brick of cream cheese

Small can of black olives, chopped


Prepare ground beef according to directions on the seasonings packet.

Line 13×9 pan with corn tortillas.

Top the tortillas with half of the ground beef.

Blend cream cheese with chipotles, spread on top of beef.

Pour drained tomatoes on top.

Sprinkle all the cheddar cheese on top.

Place another layer of tortillas on the cheese.

Top the tortillas with remaining ground beef.

Sprinkle onion and olives on top.

Drizzle taco sauce over entire dish, and sprinkle with pepper jack cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.




Nutella Frosted Mocha Cupcakes

Cupcakes are portion-controlled desserts. They are also so adorable, you want to eat them — and you can!

Thank you Sally’s Baking Addiction for this absolutely delicious recipe for the Nutella lover. “Nu-tella” I hear is the correct pronunciation, but it seems so wrong…it’s made of nuts, so why isn’t it, “Nut-tella”?

Enquiring minds…

Here it is, made for a celebration for a wonderful 17-year-old who makes me wonder where all that time went!


  • 1 and 1/4 cups (160g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons (84g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 Tablespoons (85g) full-fat sour cream, room temperature (I used Greek vanilla yogurt)
  • 3 Tablespoons (15g) instant espresso coffee powder (I could NOT find this, so I used 3 packets of Starbuck Via instant medium roast coffee)
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) hot water
  • 6 Tablespoons (90ml) whole milk, room temperature

Nutella Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups (460g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup (225g) Nutella
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) heavy cream or whole milk (I used whipping cream)
  • pinch salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2 liners – this recipe makes about 14 cupcakes. Set aside.
  2. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the granulated sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites and vanilla extract. Beat on high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed so everything is incorporated.
  4. Stir the espresso powder and hot water together until smooth, then stir this into the milk. Set aside for a second.
  5. With the mixer running on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the espresso/milk mixture until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be on the thin side.
  6. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners – fill only halfway with batter to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  7. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. On medium speed, beat in 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar. Add the nutella, then increase to high speed and beat until combined. Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar, cream, and a pinch of salt. Beat for 3 minutes until combined and creamy. Taste. Add an extra pinch of salt if needed.
  8. Frost and decorate cooled cupcakes. The frosting as I made it clogged up the bottles I have that are supposed to be easier to use than pastry bags (a lie). I had to improvise so I used a quart-size plastic bag and cut off the tip. One look at the photo and you can see I not only need practice, but a real pastry bag as well!

The frosting is sweet and creamy and the cake is moist and tasty. Definitely something I will make again.

Mr. Mascaro’s Irish Soda Bread

This recipe originally came from an Irish nun, who gave it to an Italian cop. ‘Nuff said.

4 cups flour

¾ cup sugar

2 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 10.16.21 AM

1 egg

¼ lb butter (1 stick), plus a bit for brushing.

2 cups buttermilk*

Optional: One cup raisins

(Super easy, should take less than 15 minutes to assemble, even with wee little helpers.)

Mix dry ingredients together, cut in one stick of butter.

In a separate bowl mix one egg. Mix together with buttermilk and add to dry ingredients. Stir in optional raisins.

If too dry, add milk (either reg or butter).

Put the sticky dough in a ball (more or less) onto a greased or no-stick foil-lined cookie sheet. (You can also use a cake pan.) Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes. At 30 minutes, brush top with melted butter. Check doneness at 45 minutes.

Have a top o’ the mornin’ day.

*Don’t have buttermilk? Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice to 2 cups milk. Let stand 5-10 minutes. It will be curdled. Use as is.

If you live in the Ridgefield, CT are and are interested in having your child learn to cook up some fun in the kitchen, check out our offerings at www.cookitupkids.com.

Aunt Kathy’s Birthday Pie

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 large egg yolks, beaten

2 (or 3) tablespoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups whole milk

1 cup smooth natural peanut butter

One 8 or 9-inch chocolate Oreo crust (see recipe below)

1 cup heavy cream or can of whipped cream

Mini chocolate and peanut butter chips, for garnish

Normally, I do not write about peanuts because so many kids are allergic to them. But myScreen Shot 2016-02-22 at 1.08.52 PM bestest friend’s birthday was recently, and her favoritest thing is peanut butter pie. So….that’s what I made. And really, you can too. (If someone in your family is allergic to peanuts, I recommend using Wow Butter. It’s a terrific tasting substitute.)

The entire pie making is about 45 minutes, including the crust. The chilling takes a minimum of 4 hours.

(Photo credit: My talented niece, Claire D’Alessandro)

Make the crust:

25 Oreos. I used peanut butter filled Oreos. Any kind will do.

5 TB melted margarine or butter

Crush the Oreos. I used a food processor. Little ones can help out by putting the Oreos in a plastic bag and rolling over them with a rolling pin. Alot. Remember to keep the bag open a tiny bit to let the air out. Otherwise, the bag will pop and you’ll have an Oreo mess.

Add the melted butter to the Oreos. Press into a greased 8-in pie plate.

You are done. (If you want a crisper crust, like I do, bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees. But it’s unnecessary and if it’s hot out, completely forget I said anything.)

Now, the pie.

  1. Whisk together the granulated sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch, salt and 1/3 cup of the milk in a large bowl.
  2. Heat the remaining 2 2/3 cups milk in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Remove from heat.
  3. Now you are going to temper the liquid and it is not hard at all. Just GO SLOW. If you do not go SLOWLY, you will have scrambled eggs.
  4. Gradually whisk one cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture until smooth. Then gradually whisk that egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk. There, it’s tempered. (If there are small bits of egg, start over. Eggs are cheap, don’t worry about it.)
  5. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, and cook, continuing to whisk, until the mixture thickens, 6 to 8 minutes. It should be thick like a runny pudding, coating your spoon nicely. It’s not too far from finished at this point. BUT: If you think it’s too runny, put a couple of tablespoons of the pudding mixture into a small cup. Add 1 TB cornstarch and stir until smooth. Slowly pour that back into your egg and milk mixture and cook another 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter half a cup at a time until melted. Transfer to a non-metallic bowl and let cool slightly, stirring a few times to prevent a skin from forming. Non-metallic helps the pudding cool faster. For a super smooth filling, use a stick (immersible/hand) blender and blend the ingredients for about a minute. This also helps to cool the filling.
  7. Pour the pudding into the crust, and smooth it out so that it goes right to the edges of the pie crust. Press plastic wrap onto the surface and chill until set, at least 4 hours.
  8. When ready to serve, whip the heavy cream in a large, chilled mixing bowl with a hand mixer until peaks form. You can add light corn starch or confectionary sugar while beating if you want it sweet — but the pie is (for me) sweet enough especially after you garnish it. (If you’re pooped, just use a can of whipped cream.)
  9. Top the pie with the whipped cream and sprinkle generously with peanut and chocolate chips.

Elsa’s Portuguese Green Soup

I like to freeze things. Sort of like Elsa from Frozen, only I freeze food. I especially can’t resist freezing leftover food, particularly chicken or turkey carcasses. The trouble is, they take up room in my cramped, bottom-loading freezer. Once the ice cream has nowhere to go, the carcasses must leave, and soup must be made. Priorities are important!

Fortunately for me, we are having our first snow storm of the season, and there is nothing better than a bowl of soup and binge-watching Parks & Rec with the kids on a day like that! So I had my motivation to get moving on making soup.

I had made the chicken broth during the week actually, and it is simple. Good project for kids to help with because the chopping is minimal. You are going to toss the veggies away so no need to labor over chopping.

Broth recipe
1 chicken or turkey carcass
1 onion, cut in half, or diced in large pieces
2 ribs celery, cut up or whole
2 carrots, cut  up or whole
2 tsp salt
couple cloves of garlic (optional)

Put all the ingredients in your pot and cover with water. It’s probably about 10 cups. 8 is fine, so is 12. Boil and then simmer for two hours. Drain off the veggies, because you don’t want them anymore. And that’s it! Let it cool in the fridge and then in a few hours skim the fat off and put it in your dog’s food. Done and done.

Now I had the broth, but didn’t feel like chicken noodle, etc., so it was sitting in the fridge waiting for a decision to be made as to its final disposition. This morning, I happened upon a recipe for Portuguese Caldo Verde (green soup). Delicious, and if you already have the broth, it’ll take about an hour to make if you are a slow chopper, like I am. Could be faster if you’re a speed demon. (I like all my fingers.) With kids, I’d use a chop box for onions and potatoes, or I would supervise really carefully.

Portuguese Caldo Verde
1 bunch of collard greens
4 onions
4 Yukon Gold potatoes
2 Yukon Gold potatoes
9 cups of chicken broth
12 oz package of chorizo sausage
1/4 cup olive oil

  1. Peel 4 potatoes and roughly chop.
  2. Rough chop onion.
  3. Put potatoes and onion in pot, add broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Peel and chop 2 potatoes and cook separately, about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove rib from greens, and thinly slice. Do not be lazy 🙂 (Kids can do this easily with a pair of kitchen shears)
  6. Thinly slice chorizo.Collard.chorizo
  7. After broth has cooked 15 minutes, use an immersible stick blender to blend it into a smooth texture. Add sausage, olive oil and greens. Cook covered on medium heat for 12 minutes. Add the two reserved potatoes. We add the chopped potatoes to the individual soup bowls because not everyone here is a fan of boiled potatoes.

Nice, rich flavors. Hits the spot on a cold, wintry day, even in Arendelle, I bet.collard.chorizo.soup


Mason Jar Salads: Bottled Up Creativity

Today during a cooking class we made those Mason jar salads that seem to be everywhere on social media. These are assembled in layers, starting with the dressing and then ending with the fragile lettuce leaves on top. So, how’d it go, assembling salad with kids ranging from age 8-10, and promoting the idea that they might want to actually eat it with dinner?

In the words of my 18-year-old helper, Nick: “Mom, I’ve never seen kids so excited to make SALAD.”

Yep, they loved it. I think it’s because it’s part salad bar, part art project and completely creative. They get to choose what to put in and how much of each ingredient. Jar_salad

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 quart wide mouth glass mason jar. These are standard issue.
  • Salad dressing
  • Assortment of hard veggies — Carrots, celery, cucumbers, onions, cherry tomatoes
  • Assortment of less sturdy or oddly shapped veggies — zucchini, mushrooms, chick peas, corn, black beans, kidney beans, olives
  • Lettuce (we used iceberg, romaine and an assortment of small “fancy” heads. You could use spinach, too.)
  • Topping: Sunflower seeds, raisins, craisins, granola, nuts. (We used sunflower seeds only.) No croutons because they’ll absorb the moisture from the lettuce, etc. and become weird bread pieces.


  • Cooked pasta (Rotini, fusilli, elbow work well)
  • Cheese
  • Meat (chicken, turkey, tuna, or even hard-boiled eggs)

By “sturdy,” I mean veggies that don’t soak up dressing. The important part of this is the attention to the layering process, so the final product isn’t pickley and soggy. Yuck. Instead, let’s make something that’s “yum”:

  1. Add dressing. We made oil and vinegar using 3 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp vinegar. Stir with a fork to emulsify.
  2. Add sturdy veggies. We used cucumbers, carrots, a little bit of onion and cherry tomatoes.
  3. Add next group of veggies. We used beans and corn.
  4. Add lettuce. Some used all different kinds, others none.
  5. Add pasta. We used rotini. Those that opted against lettuce used pasta.
  6. Finish with topping. If you are using cheese and meat, put those in and THEN the topping.

Pictured is one made for my hubby’s lunch tomorrow, using pasta and tuna. Aren’t they pretty? The kids today made really beautiful jarred salads. Using different types of lettuce really gives the meal a richer look, I think.

Ideally, this should fill the glass jar, eliminating any air gap. If you are eating within the next day, a gap shouldn’t matter. I know people who pack five of these on Sunday and use one a day for lunch. If that’s your plan, fill it to the top. Either way, use glass jars because the contents keep fresher longer. Remember too, to dump it on a substantial size plate, that way the dressing will be on top. Of course there’s nothing wrong with eating it upside down (especially if you’re at work and forgot the plate. Not sure I’d want to eat on one of those “community” plates in the lunchroom!)

Now enjoy your work and eat!

Look Mom, No Eggs: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough You Can Eat Out of the Bowl

Don’t fear the cookie dough.

There is a meme going around the Internet, and it poses the question: “Has anyone ever gotten salmonella from eating raw cookie dough, or are people just trying to stop me from living my life?”Real-Cookie1


It is possible you could get salmonella from eating raw eggs; according to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 10,000 eggs contain Salmonella. The chickens themselves carry the disease, but they may or may not appear sick from it. Also, the disease is inside the eggs, so egg color, size, shape, texture, taste or farm source are unimportant. Backyard birds are less likely to have salmonella than big farms because, generally, they are cleaner. Cleanliness is key.

Most of us go to the store for eggs and not the chicken coop, however. And many us have eaten raw cookie dough — but feel like it’s Russian Roulette: “Will this be the one time I get violently ill after having that one tiny spoonful left on the beater?”All that worry can really put a damper on that tasty treat.

The good news is, I can take the worry out of your day. Sure, you could buy pasteurized eggs, but that’s kind of a hassle, and you’ll need to go out to the store to hunt them down. Instead, try this kid-approved recipe for cookie dough — which uses NO eggs.

Of course, you can bake ’em if you wish — or just make the dough and eat it. Just like you did with grandma. Up to you…!
Here’s the recipe:

Makes 2 dozen (Dough can also be frozen and used later)

1 stick margarine or butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt if shortening is salted, 1/4 tsp if not
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
2 TBSP milk (we used whole)
1 cup chocolate chips (we used minis)

Cream butter and sugar. Add salt and vanilla, blend.
Stir in 1 cup of flour. Dough is very crumbly, so add milk. Mix.
Add in chips.
Bake at 375 10 minutes.
Let cool 10 minutes.
Now, enjoy and eat!

The Wow Factor of Rice Paper

One awesome part about cooking with kids happens when you can “wow” them with food — and not because of the taste of it, but because of the preparation. That’s what happened when I taught a class recently and we used rice paper wrappers.

Rice paper wrappers are found in the Asian section of your supermarket, right by the cellophane noodles (which we also used). They are very thin, hard disks that look like poster board. But when you place one in a shallow bowl of luke warm water for 10 seconds, they become an “Asian tortilla.” Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 1.14.52 PM

The kids were absolutely amazed at the transformation. They (the disks, not the kids) are a bit tricky to handle, but all of this group — which ranged from ages 6 to 10 — were able to place the moistened rice paper on a cutting mat, lightly pat it dry and fill it with goodies.

My goal was to get them to try something new, and I did it by including very familiar foods with it. Many of them had never had spring rolls, but all had eaten sandwich wraps. We used cellophane noodles, cooked chicken and cucumbers, but the filling combinations are endless. Anything you can put in a wrap you can use here. One idea we came up with was to use Thanksgiving  leftovers as filling!

The wrappers are more durable than you’d think, but do require care so they do not end up like cheap cling wrap — all crumpled up and useless. One the insides are set, fold the right and left edges toward the center and them roll from the top toward yourself. Cut them in half and enjoy with dipping sauce.

They wanted to test the hard disks (sure, why not?) and did not care for them at all (of course not). This is a great meal for kids to create virtually all by themselves. And maybe even make one for mom or dad one too! Who says cooking isn’t about giving?

Ingredients (very flexible, but here is what we used)

  • Cooked chicken or turkey
  • Cucumbers diced or cut into sticks. We use a chop box, so even the littlest chef can participate.
  • Cooked cellophane noodles
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Rice paper wrappers

Soften rice paper according to package directions. (Good to show kids how to do this once. You won’t need to do it more than that!)

Carefully place the moist disk on a clean tea towel (preferred) or plastic cutting board. If using a cutting board, lightly pat the disk dry.

Put a spoonful or two of chicken in the center of the disk. Top with a stick of (or diced) cucumber and some noodles. Fold the right and left edges toward the center and them roll from the top toward yourself.

Cut in half (optional) and dip in the cranberry sauce. Enjoy and eat!