Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kids Cook.

I homeschool my kids. I made an assignment. Each kid was to plan a menu, develop the shopping list and execute the meal. City Girl is 16, loves to eat nummy food, and loves the farm critters. When they end up on her plate. Farm Girl is 11, loves to eat, and doesn't mind large cows up close and personal.

City Girl's Menu

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Homemade Bread
Bratwurst with Fresh Tomato, Basil and Garlic over Pasta
Cheesecake with Mixed Berry Sauce

Links are to the original recipes.
Here's what we did different, and what we thought should be changed.
Spinach Artichoke Dip. We used homemade bread to dip with (we use the Artisan in 5 base recipe). She used the whole 33 ounce jar of artichoke hearts (I bought them at Sam's). They needed to be in the oven a bit longer to start browning the cheese on top. Almost everything should be a finer chop which may fix the issue of graininess. Otherwise, I think the other option is to use more mayo or cream cheese. We're gonna play around with different recipes.

Brats and Pasta Folks, we hate tomato sauces. (At least, my hubby and I do). The recipe was executed perfectly. Presentation (I shoulda took pics) was awesome. She needs a little work on her chiffonade, but hey, first time for doing it. We used dried herbs as we don't have any available fresh at the moment (except the basil). We used spaghetti instead of angel hair, as it was cheaper. (Any pasta will work). We just used plain Johnsonville brats. She over cooked the brats a bit (hubby doesn't mind). I wanted to like it, I really did. But I really don't like tomato sauces. However, she did it well, and she and Farm Girl really liked it.

Cheesecake We had 2 graham cracker pie crusts on hand. The recipe filled both of them. Make sure you use the bain marie method to cook cheesecake. The crusts got a bit overcooked, which may also have been because the thickness of the cheesecake was a lot less than it would normally be. It tasted great.

Berry Sauce The original was supposed to be strawberries. The strawberries at the store were either moldy or not fully ripe. Off to freezer section we went. So, I had originally requested raspberry sauce, and she couldn't find a recipe that was what she wanted, and the strawberry fit her requirements. I saw the bag of mixed berries, and we made the change right there. Bought some blackberry jam to pump the flavor a bit, and OMG, what a nummy treat. Use this on ice cream, cheesecake, a spoon or whatever.

Farm Girl's Menu

Stuffed Mushrooms
Shepherd's Pie

Stuffed Mushrooms. We used plain button mushrooms for these, and there was not enough space in the caps for the filling. Next time, we'll use bigger mushrooms. Maybe even Portobellos. They were tasty. We didn't measure the seasoning (used Italian seasoning, not thyme) and didn't use nutmeg. We just kinda mixed everything up (including the 'shroom stems). Totally used the recipe as a guideline for ingredients rather than an actual recipe.

Shepherd's Pie Alright, I'll be honest here. We used the recipe as a guideline for the shopping list. Here's what we did.

5 lbs ground pork
3 - 4 lbs red potatoes
2 lbs frozen green beans
1/2 large red onion, diced small
1 lb frozen corn kernels
2 small (8oz) cans tomato sauce
1 pound carrots, sliced
Italian seasoning, salt, pepper to taste
6 oz Asiago cheese, grated
as much garlic as you want
about 1/2 cup cream
4 TBSP butter

1. Peel potatoes, dice small (~1/4" to ~3/8" dice, they cook faster). Put in salted water, let come to a boil, and simmer until fork tender.
2. Raise and butcher 1 pig. While potatoes are boiling, grind about 5 pounds of pork. Or, just grab 5 lbs from the meat section of the store. Your choice. Mine's tasty. Takes a bit of space and time, though.
3. Drain potatoes, and put back in pan. Mash them with the cream, butter and 4oz of the Asiago. And as much garlic as you like. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Brown the pork. Salt, pepper and Italian seasoning to taste. Add garlic if you like.
5. In a LARGE bowl, put the meat, frozen veggies, tomato sauce and onion. Mix like the dickens. I suggest starting with the meat and mixing with each individual vegetable, but that's just me. Check seasoning. Yes. Again.
6. Foil or otherwise ensure easier clean up in your large roasting pan. I mean the turkey roaster. There's a HUGE amount of food here. That's by design.
7. Pour meat mixture into pan. Top with potato mixture. Sprinkle remaining Asiago cheese on top. Put it in a 350 degree oven (or whatever, really, it's not fussy) for about 30 minutes or until the cheese and potatoes start to become that lovely goldeny brown color. Yes, the veggies will be crisp. You don't like that? Cook 'em till they are dead before you add them to the meat. They will be hot. I promise.
8. Serve with the other 1/2 of last night's cheesecake as dessert. What? You didn't have cheesecake last night? I'm sorry. My bad. What WERE you thinking?


Well, I've given some examples of how we change things up by providing you the original recipes. Why did I make so dadgummed much Shepherd's Pie? (Cottage Pie for you purists out there. Damn you, Gordon Ramsey.) Because although its easy, it's tedious. And it makes GREAT planned leftovers. You don't want to throw so much in one huge pan? Fine, use a few smaller ones. They may fit in your freezer easier. And we don't actually mind eating the same thing for several days in a row. And we have a crazy ass schedule where we aren't home until 9pm several days of the week (Ok, that's CITY girl's fault. But we love her, so we'll forgive her.) And either way, SHE and her DAD don't get home till then the rest of the week. So, if it just has to get warmed up...BONUS.

Ok, I think I've bent your eyeballs enough today. Enjoy!

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