Kid-friendly

Cheese Tacos

Simple and easy cheese tacos recipe, made with corn tortillas, fried in a little butter, folded over grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese. Also known as quesadillas.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes

Most kids grow up learning how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so they can help themselves in the kitchen when they want some lunch. In our family, it was cheese tacos.

Cheese tacos are our stand-by what-do-you-make-when-you-haven’t-really-thought-about-it-in-advance lunch.

There’s always a stack of corn tortillas in the fridge. There’s almost always cheddar or jack cheese.

I’ve noticed that most of my friends regularly make a quick sandwich for lunch. Maybe once a month I’ll make a sandwich. Three times a week I’ll make cheese tacos. (What? You don’t have a stack of tortillas in your fridge?)

You can put anything in a tortilla and call it a taco

Usually cheese tacos just have cheese in them. Add some salsa and you’re done. My cheese tacos tend to be a little more elaborate. I stand by my rule that you can put almost anything in a tortilla and call it a taco.

(Note that in many parts of Mexico, what we are calling a cheese taco would be considered a quesadilla. In Northern Mexico however, and for most of in the U.S., quesadillas are made with flour tortillas, not corn tortillas.)

Here’s my very special cheese taco recipe. My grandmother made cheese tacos this way; my mother still makes cheese tacos this way.

Cheese tacos secret ingredient

What’s the secret ingredient that give these cheese tacos such good flavor? The ingredient my mother, grandmother, and I have insisted on using with these tacos our entire lives?

Butter.

Butter usually does make everything better, right? There’s no exception here. We butter the corn tortillas before softening them up in the frying pan.

We usually eat corn-on-the-cob with butter, don’t we? Same idea.

As for the extra cheese taco fillings? I’m the only one in the family who puts slices of apples in her tacos which usually prompts turned up noses from everyone else. Like I said, you can put anything you want in a tortilla and call it a taco, and I like apples and avocados in my cheese tacos.

This method makes delicious, buttery, cheesey tacos. If you are avoiding butter, or frying oil (which you could also use), you could make these in a microwave. Soften the tortillas first in the microwave. We use 20 seconds on high per tortilla, with the tortillas sitting on a paper towel in the microwave to absorb moisture. Once they’ve been softened this way you can add cheese and fold them over and heat them a few seconds more, just until the cheese melts.

Ingredients

  • Corn tortillas (as many as tacos you want to make, packaged or homemade)
  • Butter
  • Cheddar or jack cheese
  • Salsa (homemade or prepared)

Optional:

  • Avocado
  • Apple
  • Lettuce
  • Strips of cooked chicken, beef, or pork (a great use of leftovers)

Special equipment:

  • A large cast iron frying pan
  • A metal spatula

Method

1 Heat the pan, prep the ingredients: Heat up the cast iron frying pan on medium high heat. While the pan is heating, prepare your ingredients. Cut some slices of cheese. Get the salsa out of the fridge. Thinly slice as many slices of apple as you want tacos. (3 tacos, 3 apple slices). Cut, remove seed, slice, and remove from skin the avocado slices you want. Slice some lettuce and any leftover meat you want to add in.

2 Butter a tortilla and heat it in the pan until it bubbles: When the pan is hot (sprinkle a few drops of water on it, they should sizzle) lightly butter one side of one tortilla and place it in the pan, butter side down.

Using a spatula, quickly flip the tortilla over to the other side, and back again, repeating until there is melted butter on both sides of the tortilla.

Let the tortilla sit in hot pan until pockets of air start to form bubbles in the tortilla.

3 Add cheese: Add slices of cheese to one side of the tortilla. Make sure to allow room for the cheese to melt and not spread all over the pan.

4 Flip half of the tortilla over the cheese side: Flip the side of tortilla without the cheese over the side with the cheese, as if you were making an omelette.

Posted by gen_gen - 2019 at 

Categories: Kid-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Caramelized Onion English Muffin Pizzas

Extra special English muffin pizza made with English muffins, grated Mozzarella cheese, diced ham, tomatoes, and caramelized onions.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 12 English muffin pizzas

Back in 7th grade home-economics, the cooking segment consisted of learning how to make pizza with English muffins, some spaghetti sauce, a little cheese and a toaster oven.

Relax. These aren’t those pizzas.

These are cool, a little fancy, English muffin pizzas.

When my father came home with a bag of English muffins announcing that he was going to make pizzas with them, I sort of rolled my eyes and stepped away. (Okay, dad, whatever you want.)

But when the aroma of caramelizing onions, ham, bubbling Mozzarella wafted through the house, I got my plate ready. We’ll be having these again soon.

Ingredients

  • 6 English muffin halves
  • 1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese, packed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup diced ham
  • A pinch of chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon stoneground mustard
  • Optional: A few slices of fresh tomato

Ingredients

  • 6 English muffin halves
  • 1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese, packed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup diced ham
  • A pinch of chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon stoneground mustard
  • Optional: A few slices of fresh tomato

Method

1 Preheat oven to 425°F.

2 Cook the onions and ham: Melt butter in a medium skillet on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the diced ham, cook 5 minutes more. Mix in the sage and mustard. Remove from heat.

3 Assemble the muffin pizzas: Put muffin halves, open side up on a sturdy baking pan. Distribute the cheese evenly, sprinkling over the muffin halves. Put the onion ham mixture on top of the cheese. If you want to use tomato slices, layer them between the cheese and onion mixture.

4 Bake: Bake at 425°F for 8-9 minutes, until the muffins and toppings are nicely browned, but not burnt. Cut into quarters for appetizers or just leave whole for a meal or snack.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Kid-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Skillet Tortilla Pizza

Super easy individual pizzas made with flour tortillas, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and basil, in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: Each tortilla pizza serves one

When I was a kid, Home Ec was a required course in junior high, and we all had to learn how to make English muffin pizzas in a toaster oven.

Did you make English muffin pizzas? Or bagel pizzas?

A tortilla pizza is the same thing, but made with a flour tortilla, or “wrap” as they are called in some parts. Easy peasy!

A cast iron skillet works best for the stove top, as it has a more even distribution of heat and holds the heat well. Once the tortilla is bubbly, sprinkle on the cheese first, and then spread with sauce. This way the thin tortilla bottom is more likely to stay crisp.

In this recipe we are using the most basic of ingredients—shredded mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil.

But you could easily use other favorite pizza toppings, such as caramelized onions or basil pesto. Just use a light touch. The tortilla is thin and can be easily weighted down.

Do you like making tortilla pizzas? If so, please tell us about your favorite version in the comments.

Ingredients

  • Flour tortillas (about 8-inches diameter)
  • Grated mozzarella cheese
  • Tomato sauce
  • Fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Ingredients

  • Flour tortillas (about 8-inches diameter)
  • Grated mozzarella cheese
  • Tomato sauce
  • Fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Method

1 Heat flour tortilla on skillet until it puffs up: Heat a large cast iron skillet or griddle on medium high to high heat. Place a flour tortilla in the center of the skillet.

When the tortillas begins to puff up or form air bubbles, flip it and turn the heat down to medium low. Pierce the air bubbles with a knife tip or the tines of a fork to deflate them a bit.

2 Add toppings: Sprinkle the top of the tortilla with a thin layer of grated mozzarella cheese. Once the cheese is about half-way melted, spoon on a thin layer of tomato sauce, using the back of the spoon to spread over the cheese. Sprinkle the top of the tomato sauce with a little more cheese.

3 Remove from heat and cover to melt cheese: Once the edges of the tortilla are browning, indicating that the bottom of the tortilla is getting nice and brown, remove the pan from the heat.

Cover the top of the pan with a cover for about a minute or so, so the cheese on top can melt with the residual heat from the pan.

4 Sprinkle with fresh sliced basil. Remove to a plate and cut with a pizza cutting wheel or sharp knife.

Serve immediately.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Kid-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Brownie in a Mug

Easiest brownie ever! Single serving brownie microwaved in a mug. Takes 5 minutes to make.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 3 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 minutes
  • Yield: Makes one serving

Oh my. We’re doomed. My young friends Reilly and Alden just showed me how they make single serving brownies, in a mug, in a microwave. Takes 5 minutes.

We did experiment a bit. Turns out that you really should not use extra virgin olive oil for this recipe, it’s too strongly flavored. A neutral oil or melted butter work best.

A pinch of salt helps make the chocolate more chocolate-y. I’ve added some vanilla and a tiny bit of cinnamon; you could also add a speck of instant coffee to take it up a notch.

The brownie lacks for structure (no egg) but that’s okay because it’s contained by the mug. When it’s done, it’s HOT. Perfect for topping with a little vanilla ice cream or whipping cream.

The trick is getting the cooking time right for your microwave. Every microwave oven model is different.

One 1000 watt microwave we tested cooked these brownies in a mug perfectly at a minute 40 seconds. Our 1650 watt microwave cooked them in 1 min 10 seconds. So you may need to adjust the time to get the brownie to cook properly with your microwave.

Enjoy!

I made a quick little video to show how to make the mug brownie, check it out!

How to make the best mug brownie

Some mugs don’t microwave well because there is metal in their ceramic glaze. They’ll work but they may get very hot. Best to use a plain old everyday un-fancy mug. A regular 12 to 16 ounce mug will do fine.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup flour (30 g)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (50 g)
  • 2 Tbsp (13 g) cocoa (natural, unsweetened)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Tiny pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup water (60 ml)
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil, vegetable oil, or melted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 small scoop of ice cream or 1 or 2 teaspoons heavy whipping cream to serve

Method

1 Add the dry ingredients to the mug and stir: Place flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and cinnamon in a microwave safe ceramic mug. Stir with a fork or spoon to mix well and break up any clumps.

2 Add the wet ingredients and stir: Add the oil, water, and vanilla to the cup and stir until the mixture is smooth and there are no lumps.

3 Zap in microwave: Place in microwave and heat on high until the mixture is cooked through, about a 1 minute and 40 seconds for a 1000 watt microwave, or 1 minute 10 seconds on a 1650 watt microwave.

You may have to experiment and adjust the time for less or more powerful microwaves. If you don’t know the power level on your microwave, start with 60 seconds and increase until the brownie is done. It should still be moist when cooked through, not dry.

4 Top with ice cream! Let cool for a minute and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a teaspoon or two of whipping cream poured over.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Kid-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Cheesy Bread

A cross between garlic bread and pizza, cheesy bread is a quick, easy, and delicious party snack.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 20 slices

My friend Michelle loves to throw big parties, with plenty of food and plenty of friends. I think it must be the large Italian family thing, one is never at a loss for food or great company at her house.

One of my favorite dishes that usually makes an appearance at Michelle’s is this “cheesy bread”, a sort of cross between garlic bread and pizza. It’s a great way to help feed a lot of hungry people, and easy to pull together, even at the last minute.

I’ve shown them sliced, but you could easily cut them crosswise again for smaller appetizer bites. But watch out, they’re addictive!

Have a variation of cheesy bread that you love? Tell us about it in the comments!

This recipe can easily be doubled or scaled up to make even more.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz shredded Mozzarella cheese (1 cup)
  • 8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped green onion (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp sour cream (optional)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (1/4 cup, 2 ounces), softened to the point of being slightly melted
  • 1 loaf of French or Italian bread (I used Ciabatta)

Method

1 Make the cheesy topping: In a small bowl, mix the butter and garlic together until smooth. In a separate large bowl, mix together the cheeses and the green onion. Stir in the mayonnaise and sour cream. Add the butter mixture to the cheese mixture.

2 Spread cheese over bread: Preheat broiler. Slice loaf of bread in half horizontally, lay crust side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spread cheese mixture over the bread.

3 Place under the broiler until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.

4 Slice: Remove from broiler and let sit for 5 minutes until cool enough to handle. Slice the bread with a bread knife. Serve.

Variations:

Try mixing in other ingredients with the topping mixture, such as chopped black olives, chopped canned artichoke hearts, minced shrimp, or crab meat.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Kid-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Applesauce

Delicious homemade applesauce recipe! There is nothing better than homemade applesauce with hand-picked apples, and it is so easy to make!

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 quarts

Nothing beats the taste of homemade applesauce, and it’s so easy to make! Every year, starting in mid summer with the Gravensteins, and through late fall with Granny Smiths and Fuji apples, my father processes dozens of batches of applesauce from apples picked from his trees. He freezes them in large quart-sized mason jars for us to enjoy all year long.

The secret to my dad’s applesauce is that he adds a couple strips of lemon peel to the apples while they are cooking, as well as some lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.

The tartness of the lemon or vinegar serves to intensify the taste of the apples, and helps balance out the sweetness of the sauce. The result is a refreshing, utterly delicious applesauce.

He also likes to mix other fruit in with the sauce. He’ll mix fresh cranberries in with the apples for cranberry applesauce, or stalks of rhubarb for rhubarb applesauce. Plums and pluots sometimes find their way into his applesauce too.

Love Apples? Try These Recipes, Too!

  • Apple Pie
  • Pressure Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
  • Triple Apple Snack Cake
  • Apple Cobbler
  • Baked Apples

Recipes and photos updated, first published 2014.

Apples vary in their sweetness level, depending on the variety and how late in the season they are picked. The amount of sugar you will want to add will depend on how sweet your apples are, and how sweet you would like your applesauce to be. This recipe is just a guideline, please adjust the sugar amounts to your taste. You can even leave the sugar out all together if you are using sweet apples.

If you use less sugar than this recipe suggest, you will likely want to reduce the amount of lemon juice or vinegar as well. The acid in the lemon juice or vinegar brightens the flavor of the apples and balances the sweetness.

In place of the ground cinnamon you can cook the apples with a stick of cinnamon, just remove it before puréeing.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds of apples (about 8 to 10 apples, depending on the size), peeled, cored, and quartered* (use apples varieties that are good for cooking such as Granny Smith, Pippin, Gravenstein, Mcintosh, Fuji, Jonathan, Jonagold, or Golden Delicious)
  • 2 strips of lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler to strip 4 lengths, zest only, not the pith)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Up to 1/2 cup of white sugar (can sub half of the white sugar with brown sugar)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

*To prep the apples, use a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife and cut away the outer peel. Then quarter the apple and use a paring knife to cut out the tough core parts from the quarters. Or use an apple peeler corer.

Method

1 Boil peeled, cored, quartered apples with lemon, cinnamon, sugar, salt in 1 cup water: Place the peeled, cored, and quartered apples into a large pot. Add the strips of lemon peel, the lemon juice or vinegar, cinnamon, sugar, water and salt. (You might want to start with half the sugar at this point and add more to taste later.)

Bring to a boil on high heat, then lower the temperature, cover the pot, and maintain a low simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the apples are completely tender and cooked through.

2 Remove lemon peels, mash the cooked apples: Once the apples are cooked through, remove the pot from the heat. Remove the lemon peels.

Use a potato masher to mash the cooked apples in the pot to make a chunky applesauce. For a smoother applesauce you can either run the cooked apples through a food mill, or purée them using a stick blender or a standing blender. (If you use a standing blender, do small batches and do not fill the blender bowl more than halfway.)

If the applesauce is too thick, add more water to thin it out.

If not sweet enough, add more sugar to taste. If too sweet, add more lemon juice.

This applesauce is delicious either hot or chilled. It pairs well with pork chops for savory dishes, it’s terrific with cottage cheese as a snack or light lunch, and it’s great with vanilla ice cream or yogurt.

Freezes well and will last at least a year in a cold freezer. If you freeze it, make sure to allow enough headroom in your jar for expansion. At least an inch.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Kid-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Easy Chicken Mac and Cheese

Chicken and cheese are made for each other in the ultimate comfort food — easy chicken mac and cheese. Top with crispy breadcrumbs for the perfect finish!

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings

As I’ve grown as a home cook, prioritizing flexibility in recipes is something I’ve learned to truly cherish. Especially now that I’m a busy parent, I find myself asking a series of questions any time I approach a recipe:

Can I substitute leftovers for an ingredient in a recipe I want to make? Can I serve this meal in a variety of ways? Is it doable to make this on a weeknight, or can I change it a bit to make it special for a weekend dinner party?

When it comes to this Easy Chicken Mac and Cheese, the answer to all of those questions is “yes!”

We make this recipe frequently at my house because it’s so flexible and delicious. My kiddos like it right out of the pot—it’s so creamy and cheesy!

Meanwhile, my wife and I usually like it dressed up a bit, either by adding a handful of crispy breadcrumbs as a topper over each bowl for a little texture, or by mixing in some roasted veggies.

The leftovers also reheat well. Add a splash of milk and heat it in a pan over low heat until it’s melted and creamy again, or microwave to reheat.

What to Serve on the Side!

  • Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan
  • Cucumber Salad with Grapes and Almonds
  • Roasted Zucchini with Garlic
  • Caesar Salad with Creamy Parmesan Dressing
  • Roasted Cauliflower

For the chicken, you can use leftover chicken, a rotisserie chicken from the deli, or quickly poach a few chicken breasts.

Oven-baking instructions: If you’d prefer a casserole-style mac and cheese, you can transfer the contents to an 8×8 baking dish, top it with breadcrumbs, and bake it at 350°F for 20 minutes. This is a great option if you want to make the dish in advance.

Ingredients

For the Chicken Mac and Cheese

  • 8 ounces dry macaroni
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole or 2% milk
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard (optional)
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (See Recipe Note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the Crispy Breadcrumbs:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs, such as panko

Method

1 Cook the pasta: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, or according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and keep the pasta from sticking together. Set aside.

 2 Cook the onions and garlic: In a large pot over medium heat, add butter. Once the butter is melted, add chopped onions and cook for a few minutes until they turn translucent. Then add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir the flour into the onion and garlic mixture and cook for a minute.

3 Stir in the milk, mustard and cheese: Slowly add the milk while stirring. The flour and onion mixture will thicken as you add the milk.

Once all the milk is added, stir in the grated cheese and mustard. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cheese has melted.

4 Stir the chicken and pasta into the sauce: Once the cheese is melted, stir in the chicken and cooked pasta. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

5 Cook the breadcrumbs: Whenever you have a few spare moments while assembling this pasta (like, while cooking the onions or while waiting for the cheese to melt), cook the breadcrumbs.

Melt the butter in a small skillet over low heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs until well combined. Continue to stir over low heat until the breadcrumbs are browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Breadcrumbs can also be toasted ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.

6 Serve: Ladle the cheesy chicken macaroni right out of the pot when it’s super creamy, and top it with crispy breadcrumbs.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Kid-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Apple Chicken Quesadilla

Kid-friendly Chicken Apple Quesadillas! Toasted flour tortillas with melted cheese, apple slices, chicken, and salsa.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 12 quesadilla triangles

I was charged with providing lunch for several kids (ages 4, 6, 7, and 9) a few days ago and prepared for them one of my favorite quickie lunches—chicken and apple quesadillas.

Kids love apple quesadillas

The kids gobbled them up, and one of them, Teddy, exclaimed loudly after the first one, “Elise, you HAVE to put these on your website!” The others nodded in agreement, while busily chomping away.

Quesadillas are typically made with just tortillas and cheese (in Mexico typically one would use corn tortillas, closer to the border flour tortillas are often used).

I first started adding thin slices of apples to my quesadillas decades ago. Apples and cheese naturally go well together in general, and they are just as good together in a quesadilla.

Add a few strips of cooked chicken and a little salsa, and you have a perfect easy meal!

So for all you quesadilla-loving kids out there, here you go!

Ingredients

  • 4 Flour tortillas (approximately 8-inches wide)
  • 1 cup cooked, shredded or chopped, chicken meat
  • 1/4 lb cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, sliced or grated
  • 1 apple, sliced
  • 1/4 cup salsa

Ingredients

  • 4 Flour tortillas (approximately 8-inches wide)
  • 1 cup cooked, shredded or chopped, chicken meat
  • 1/4 lb cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, sliced or grated
  • 1 apple, sliced
  • 1/4 cup salsa

Method

1 Heat the tortilla until puffy: Heat a large skillet on medium high heat. Place one tortilla in the skillet.

Flip it a couple of times with a spatula, then let it sit in the pan heating up until air pockets form and parts of the tortilla begin to puff up. Flip it again.

2 Add cheese and chicken, fold over: Place cheese slices on half of the tortilla, at least 1/2-inch from the edge of the tortilla. Add chicken pieces on top of the cheese. Fold the tortilla over like an omelette, and press down on the folded tortilla with the spatula. Lower the heat to medium.

At this point, if you have enough room in your skillet, you can add a second tortilla to the pan to begin to heat it up.

3 Add apple slices and salsa, cut into triangles: When the cheese inside the quesadilla has melted, remove the quesadilla to a cutting board. Open it wide and layer on apple slices and salsa.

Fold the tortilla back again, and cut it into 3 triangles, as if you were cutting a pie. (You don’t have to cut the quesadilla into triangles, it just makes it easier for kids to eat.)

4 Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Kid-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

Looking for a quick cookie that’s both gluten-free and vegan? Check! Cut it into wedges and serve with (vegan!) ice cream.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 large wedges

I always feel such a mad rush to get “thank you” treats out to teachers, friends, and babysitters, but recently I realized that I haven’t had a chance to bake much for myself or my own family lately.

So this month I’ve been fixing that, starting with this family-friendly and allergy-friendly chocolate chip skillet cookie that’s just begging to be shared with friends and loved ones.

There’s something delightful and unexpected about clearing the dinner table, bringing out this skillet cookie, and letting everyone dig in and slice off their own wedge (preferably with a glass of milk at the ready).

I opted to make this dessert gluten and allergen-free because our little guy has egg and nut sensitivities and many of his friends have other allergies. To play it safe, I wanted to bake a cookie everyone could enjoy.

Making one big cookie in a skillet is quicker than portioning out individual cookies, plus the edges get nice and crispy while the center remains soft. It’s the perfect marriage of textures, if you ask me.

Coconut Oil in Place of Butter

I love baking with coconut oil, so I used that here. It does impart a subtle fragrance and flavor, but I think it makes a good compliment to the chocolate and other flavors of the cookie. Make sure the coconut oil is very soft (but not liquidy) so that it blends easily with the sugars.

Choosing Your Gluten-Free Flour Mix

There are dozens of gluten-free flour blends to choose from these days and many are great; I happen to like Bob’s Red Mill’s 1:1 Gluten Free Baking Flour Blend. It’s a great all-purpose choice and doesn’t have chickpea or legume flours in it, which I find often impart a savory flavor to baked goods that I don’t always love. Some other gluten-free blends may impart a sandier texture, which isn’t as desirable in most baked goods.

Bob’s blend contains xanthan gum, which acts as a binder in gluten-free baking recipes like this one. Before baking, check the ingredients in your own gluten-free flour blend and if it doesn’t contain xanthan gum (or another binding ingredient like guar gum or psyllium husks), I recommend adding 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum to ensure success.

The Finishing Touch: Sea Salt!

Finish your skillet cookie with some flaky sea salt sprinkled over top. If you’ve never tried this trick before, you’re in for a treat! It helps balance the sweetness and add a little surprise to each bite. Use a big flaky salt like Maldon—I sprinkle a little on before the cookies head to the oven and a little more as they’re cooling.

You can never have enough of a (very) good thing.

If you’ve never baked gluten-free before, we highly recommend using Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten Free Baking Flour Blend for this recipe.

If you’re using a different blend, double check the ingredients. If it doesn’t contain xanthan gum (or another binding ingredient like guar gum or psyllium husks), we recommend adding 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum to ensure success.

Note that the FDA does list coconut as a tree nut, though many people with tree nut allergies are fine with coconut. If you’re not sure if the person or people eating your cookies has a tree nut allergy that includes coconut, check with them before making this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened at room temperature (but not melted or liquidy)
  • 1/4 cup (54g) packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup (170g) gluten-free flour blend, like Bob’s Red Mill (See Recipe Note)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (125g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (allergy-friendly, if needed)
  • Flaky sea salt (like Maldon), to top

Special equipment:

  • 1o-inch cast iron skillet

Method

1 Preheat the oven and prepare pan: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 10-inch cast iron skillet with nonstick cooking spray.

2 Prepare the flax “egg”: Combine the flax with 2 1/2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Let stand for 7 to 10 minutes to thicken. (This will be used as an egg replacer in this recipe.)

3 Combine the coconut oil and sugar: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using electric hand beaters), beat the coconut oil, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth and combined. The mixture will be a little clumpy and grainy—that’s ok.

4 Add the flax egg and vanilla: With the mixer running on low, slowly add the flax egg and vanilla and beat until combined, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides as needed.

5 Add the dry ingredients: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cornstarch and salt. With the mixer on medium, slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until smooth. The dough will look like large pebbles at first, but keep beating and it will eventually become smooth and uniform in 2 to 3 minutes.

6 Add the chocolate chips and transfer to the skillet: With a spatula, fold the chocolate chips into the batter, then scrape the mixture into the 10-inch cast iron skillet. Using your hands, press the dough evenly into the pan. Sprinkle the top with flaky salt.

7 Bake the cookie: Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until outer edges are golden brown. The cookie will still feel soft and even a little wet to the touch, but it’ll firm up as it cools.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Kid-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Crispy Panko Fish Sticks

Hello, homemade Panko Fish Sticks! Say goodbye to soggy fish sticks from the freezer! These fish sticks are ready for the table in about 30 minutes and are sure to please the whole family.

Ready in:

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings

Fish sticks were a top three dinner in my house growing up. Not that they were top three for being a favorite or delicious, but just that they were a constant.

I’m sure you know the fish sticks I’m talking about: the kind that come straight from the freezer and are made with some sort of strange mush?

Fish mush? YUM!

KID-FRIENDLY HOMEMADE FISH STICKS

I grew up on fish sticks, though, and let’s face it—they’re a great way to get kids comfortable with eating fish because most are made with very mild varieties.

My kids know the mass-produced frozen version and like them, but I hadn’t made fresh fish sticks for my two-year old before I tested this recipe. I was fairly certain she wouldn’t eat them because she subsists on blueberries, milk, and re-readings of Brown Bear Brown Bear.

But there’s no need to raid the freezer for fish sticks!

You can make these delicious panko fish sticks using real fish filets in about 30 minutes. I can do it faster, actually, but I’m a kitchen ninja. Keep practicing and you can get your kitchen ninja award also!

Panko Bread Crumbs

$4.65 on Amazon Buy

THE BEST FISH FOR FISH STICKS

If you ever find yourself looking at a variety of fish that you’ve never cooked before, it’s a good bet that you can make it delicious by breading and frying it. Actually, maybe that goes for any food, but definitely for fish.

You can use a huge range of fish for these fish sticks. Keep a few things in mind though:

  • First, stay away from fish with strong flavors for this recipe, like salmon, mackerel, or tuna. There’s nothing wrong with frying these fish into fish sticks, but I personally just prefer a milder fish. I suspect my children would, too.
  • Second, and more importantly, think about texture. You want a fish that is firm and won’t fall apart when sliced and fried.

This is why cod is the standard for fish sticks and what I use. If you use something like tilapia, it will have a mild flavor, but is a pretty delicate fish and can break apart more easily.

If you’re in doubt and can’t find cod, ask your butcher counter or fishmonger for help to find a white fish that will fry up nicely.

MASTER THE SHALLOW FRY

The trick to making this recipe in 30 minutes is to master the shallow fry. Fish cook quickly and there’s no reason to heat up a big pot of oil for deep frying unless you are making a boatload of these.

To do the shallow fry, I add a few cups of oil to a wide skillet over medium-high heat. That will heat up fast!

Test the oil by tossing in a few spare breadcrumbs. They should sizzle and float immediately. Then fry the fish for about 5 to 6 minutes total, flipping them halfway through.

Mastering the shallow fry is actually something I recommend all home cooks try to do because it limits the oil you need to use, heats up faster, and makes clean up easier.

Safety note: If you are cooking around children, make sure to keep them clear of the splatter zone around the stove.

The DAD ADD: Chili Malt Vinegar!

If you’ve ever had classic fish and chips at any legit chips spot, you know you eat them with malt vinegar. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me in my life to try, and immediately embrace, the concept of vinegar with fried foods.

It’s truly wonderful though and this chili oil addition adds a spicy element that makes it even better. Personally, I like Sun Luck brand Chili Oil which is pretty easily available at most grocery stores in the Asian foods section.

Sun Luck Chili Oil

$7.40 on Amazon Buy

THE REPORT CARD

What you are looking at in this photo is documented evidence that my two-year old daughter eats food. She can be such a terrible eater that I find myself actually shocked when she eats something. Like these fish sticks! She totally loved them, and by that I mean she ate half of one.

After all, I mean, what’s not to love? They are crispy, mild flavored sticks that you can dip in sauce. They just might be the perfect kid food!

My four-year old also crushed these and has requested them a few times now. High fives all around, right?!

MORE KID-FRIENDLY RECIPES

  • Sheet Pan Fish and Chips
  • Cheesy Baked Hot Dogs
  • Pepperoni Pizza Penna Pasta
  • Broccoli Cheddar Quesadillas
  • Herbed Tomato Chicken Tenders with Tomato Sauce

These fish sticks are best when eaten immediately if possible, or store them for no longer than a day or so in the fridge and reheat for 10 to 15 minutes in a 350°F oven.

You can certainly freeze these fish sticks after you make them but just know they won’t have the same crispy texture. Bake them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350°F.

Ingredients

For the quick tartar sauce:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup minced pickles, about two small pickles diced
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

DAD ADD: Chili Malt Vinegar

  • 1/4 cup malt vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chili oil

For the fish fingers:

  • 1 pound firm, skinless white fish, such as cod, pollack, or haddock (ask the fishmonger to skin the fish, if needed)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, whisked
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying

Method

1 Make the tartar sauce: Stir together the mayonnaise, pickles, and lemon juice. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, taste, and add more seasonings if you like.

I like my tartar sauce very chunky. Use fewer pickles if you like or substitute up to half of the mayonnaise with Greek yogurt if you want to reduce calories in the dip. This dip will keep well in the fridge, covered, for at least a week.

2 Make the chili malt vinegar: Stir the malt vinegar and chili oil together in a small bowl. You can use the mix as a dip for fish sticks or French fries or also lightly brush it on freshly fried fish sticks.

3 Cut and season the fish: To prep the fish, first make sure fish has no bones. I usually just run my hands along the filet and you will be able to feel any bones that might be there. If you do find some, you can use a pair of clean tweezers to pluck them out.

Cut the fish into strips about 3 inches long strips and 1/2-inch thick. Season fish strips well with salt and pepper.

4 Coat the fish: Place the flour, whisked eggs, and panko crumbs in three separate bowls. Set a baking sheet nearby.

First, toss fish with all-purpose flour to coat. Shake off any extra flour. Then transfer fish to eggs. Coat well. Finally, move to panko breadcrumbs and really press the breadcrumbs on the fish so they have a good crust.

Transfer the coated fingers to the baking sheet. Let the fish sticks rest while you heat the oil.

5 Heat the oil: Over medium heat, heat enough oil in a skillet to fill the the skillet about 1 1/2- to 2-inches deep. (I use about two cups of oil in my large skillet.) The oil doesn’t need to completely cover the fish sticks.

The oil is ready when you can add a few breadcrumbs and they sizzle immediately and float to the top.

6 Fry the fish sticks: When oil is hot, add fish sticks in a single layer in the skillet without crowding the skillet. You will probably need to cook in two batches.

Fry for 3 minutes, after which the fish sticks should be nicely browned on the underside and can be flipped. Flip and cook for another 3 minutes on the second side. Then remove and let cool on a few paper towels while you cook the second batch.

7 Serve! Serve fish sticks while warm along with tartar sauce and chili malt vinegar, if using. If you make the fish sticks in advance, reheat them in a 350°F oven for a few minutes until they are warmed through.

Posted by gen_gen -  at 

Categories: Kid-friendly   Tags: , , ,

Next Page »