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Rainbow Popcorn

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A good friend of mine had an “UP” themed birthday party for her little girl recently.  To highlight the theme she had rainbows, balloons and colors galore!  I decided to bring along my contribution to her party by whipping up a batch of this super colorful Rainbow Popcorn!

Not only is this popcorn colorful, but each color has a different flavor because to color the popcorn I used none other than a rainbow array of Jell-O.  You could adapt this, of course, to any theme you would like… If you are doing a ‘Lemonade Stand’ birthday party, then just use the yellow… If you are planning a ‘Smurf’ theme, then just the blue… the possibilities are endless.  This is a great activity for kids to help with too!  It’s not complicated at all.

Here are all the ingredients you will need.

Prepare 12 cups of plain popcorn. I did it over the stove with kernels… You might also want to try a plain bag of microwave popcorn… well several bags. Then place 5 cups of popcorn into a large bowl.

Pour half a can of sweetened condensed milk into a small sauce pan.

Pour half a packet of your chosen jello color into the pan.

Pour half a packet of your chosen jello color into the pan.

Mix well to distribute color.

Put the condensed milk mixture over low heat.  If the burner is turned up too high, you'll get a burned pan like you see here.

Put the condensed milk mixture over low heat. If the burner is turned up too high, you’ll get a burned pan like you see here.

Pour the thickened liquid over the prepared popcorn.

Mix in until it coats all the popcorn evenly.

I prefer parchment paper, but if you don’t have parchment, you can line your cookie sheet with foil like you see here and coat with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 18-20 minutes at 175°F.

Once baked, let cool about 20 minutes and then break into pieces and place in bowl.

Once baked, let cool about 20 minutes and then break into pieces and place in bowl.

Mix in each color seperately.

Mix in each color separately.

Cook each color on low heat until thickened... about 10 minutes.

Cook each color on low heat until thickened… about 10 minutes.

Pour each colors thickened liquid over the prepared popcorn.

Place on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake at 175°F for 18-20 mins.

Place each color on the cookie sheet.  Bake at 175°F for 18-20 minutes.

Place each color on the cookie sheet. Bake at 175°F for 18-20 minutes.

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Break up all the popcorn… Place in serving bowl and toss!

Recipe for Rainbow Popcorn:

(serves 24)

30 cups prepared plain popcorn

3 cans sweetened condensed milk

6 boxes of Jell-O, in rainbow colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple)

Directions:

Turn oven to 175°F.  Prepare 6 cookie sheets (or alternate as you go along) with either parchment paper or aluminum foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Prepare fresh popcorn.  In a small sauce pan, pour half a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Then pour in half a packet of your chosen jello into the milk.  Heat over a burner turned to low for about 10 minutes until thickened.  Stir often.

Place about 5 cups of popcorn in a large bowl.  Pour thickened milk mixture over popcorn and immediately stir together with a wooden spoon.  Place on a prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes at 175°F.  Allow to cool about 20-25 minutes, then break up pieces and place into an extra-large serving bowl.

Repeat with each color.  Mix all cooled colors together. Enjoy!

*this is a Gluten-free recipe.

(Recipe variation… this popcorn has an intense Jell-O flavor, which kids love… but if you wish to tone it down a bit, use only 1/4 packet of Jell-O per mixture and add 4 drops of the matching food color to boost the coloring, for adults you could also sprinkle with kosher or sea salt just after baking to balance the flavor)

***This recipe is an adaptation of the Eagle Brand Condensed Milk recipe.

 

peas in a line

Planting Peas – Part 2

peas in a line

Had some fun a few weeks ago planting these pea plants out in the garden and am just getting around to posting about it.  This is the follow up post to Planting Peas – Part 1 that I posted early on this spring!

Teaching kids where food comes from is important in my family.  Growing up my parents and grandparents always had gardens and grapevines.  My parents raised chickens and we got eggs.  They raised goats and we got cheese.  They raised a cow each year and each year we filled our freezer with meat.  With my kids we will start with peas, soon we will be planting my little patch of garden with tomatoes, cucumbers and squash.  And my pear tree is looking promising too!

Lucas loved digging in the dirt.  He especially loved his Mickey Mouse gardening gloves!

Lucas loved digging in the dirt. He especially loved his Mickey Mouse gardening gloves and gardening tools!

I love that he is learning where food comes from!

I love that he is learning where food comes from!

Alaina had lots of fun too!

Alaina had lots of fun too!

We will keep you posted!

 

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Popcorn Chicken w/ Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

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If your house is anything like mine, chicken nuggets are a staple.  With two toddlers it’s easy and nutritious.  Popcorn chicken is a fun new way to present your chicken nuggets!  Kids love crunch and they love to dip things.

Maybe my kids are odd, but they LOVE veggies, it’s almost hard to get them to eat protein!  However, chicken nuggets and fish sticks are two that I can always count on without question. Although fast food stops are few and far between,  I have to say I am guilty of having a kid who calls out “chocolate milk!” every time we pass by those golden arches.  Eh, no one is perfect. So, when I can make them from scratch, I do.  I love being able to control the ingredients and know exactly what my kids are eating.

Just a quick note before we get started.  Although my kids are big fans (and they are yummy), sometimes I want an adult version of the meal, so take a look under the recipe for a quick and easy adult adjustment.

chicken breast

I have two toddlers, so I start with one chicken breast and that can feed them both for two meals. This recipe is very easily doubled though.

chop chicken

Chop up the chicken to the size you best think your kids would like. I find this (between the size of a quarter and a nickel) works for us and that is what the cook time is based on. If your kids prefer tenders or a classic nugget size, just adjust the cook time by 5 mins more. If you find they truly like them the size of popcorn, then reduce cook time by 5 mins.

soak chic

I find this step to be absolutely necessary when working with boneless skinless chicken of this size. Soak bits in about a cup of buttermilk for a minimum of 30 mins and up to 8 hrs. This both tenderizes the chicken and gives it some juicy flavor.

panko

Next, measure out about 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs.

plain bc

And, half a cup of plain bread crumbs.

bc in bag

Place them in a bag with a pinch of kosher salt, some fresh cracked black pepper and a pinch of plain paprika just for color. (if your kids like spice, you could also either add in a dash of cayenne pepper or switch the paprika to Hungarian paprika)

drain chic

Remove from buttermilk with a slotted spoon. The goal is to drain the buttermilk away from the milk, otherwise you’ll create a gloppy mess.

chic in bag

Add chicken into bag. (Now, if you have kids helping with this you may want to do this in divided amounts so everyone gets a turn)

close

Zip up bag. Kid’s love to help with this part! Shake it up!

coated in bag

This is what you should start to see.

coated on tray

Spread out on a parchment covered sheet pan. Separate the pieces as much as possible. This one chicken breast was enough to cover an entire sheet pan. So, if you are doing more than one, plan accordingly.

crispy on tray

Place the bits in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 minutes. And here is the result. (If you like them to look a bit more browned, spray with a canned canola oil before placing in the oven. I don’t find that my kids care, so I don’t. They are certainly crispy enough without it. It’s just a matter of color.

Now onto the dipping sauce, we are making a Honey Mustard dipping sauce:

mustard

I start with about a half cup of dijon mustard.

add honey

Add in a quarter cup of honey

add sour cream

Add in a dollup of sour cream (1 heaping tablespoon)

sauce done

Stir together and wala! Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce. These three ingredients can definitely be adjusted to accommodate your taste, so play with it until you find that it works for your palate. You could also add in a pinch of salt, although I did not.

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Recipe for Popcorn Chicken:

(serves 2-4 kids or 1-2 adults)

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped

1 c. Japanese Panko bread crumbs

1/2 c. plain bread crumbs

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. paprika

For the dip:

1/2 c. dijon mustard

1/4 c. honey

1 heaping Tbs. sour cream

Directions:

Chicken:

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

In a gallon size zipper bag, add in bread crumbs and seasoning.  Combine.  Add in chicken bits, shake.  Place on a parchment lined sheet pan.  Bake for 25 minutes.

Dip:

Add all ingredients to a small bowl.  Stir.

Enjoy!

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Here is the adult version I promised you!

adult 2

To make this chicken: * Soak chicken in buttermilk (and a dash of hot sauce if desired) for at least one hour. * In the bread crumb mixture add in 1 tsp. Hungarian paprika for spice if desired. * Bake for one hour or until the chicken comes to 160°F with a meat thermometer.

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Hotdog Griller

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My love for cooking began when I was a kid.  I think I made my first batch of brownies by myself when I was about 8 years old.  I made all manner of things from grilled cheese to pancakes from scratch… mac and cheese from the box and PB&J on Ritz crackers! And by the time I was 11, I made a full pot of Portuguese soup for my Vavó on a trip to Portugal.  I was always curious.  Always wanting to learn.  I don’t quite remember how I came upon this recipe.  It could have been on T.V. or in a kid’s magazine or a cookbook somewhere.  But, I vividly remember this concoction on a summer vacation when I was a kid.  And I loved it!

If you want to get your kid’s started on learning to be self-sufficient in the kitchen, the best place to start is with things they love.  Then you can work up from there.  Then you get a little more adventurous asking them to pick out veggies at the market and make creations.  So, to start them off, this is a no brainer.  What kid doesn’t love hotdogs?  What kid doesn’t love grilled cheese?  And what kid doesn’t love being creative?  And so the Hot Dog Griller was born.

ingredients2

Start off with these simple ingredients. A non-stick skillet, spatula and some patience.

butter bread

The first thing you are going to want to do is warm up your bread if it’s not fresh from the bakery. 5-10 seconds in the microwave should do it. Then butter one side.

cook hotdog

Next, cook your hotdog in which ever method you like best. Here, I am steaming it in the same skillet I will use for the grilling. There is about 1/8 c. water. The same amount can be used for two hot dogs. I would add a bit more for any more than that.

finish hot dog

Once your water is just about gone, your hotdog should be ready. If kid’s are doing this with you, let it cool for a minute before working with it.

cut hotdog in half

Cut your hotdog in half lengthwise.

add cheese

Place one piece of sliced American cheese on the unbuttered side of your bread. (American cheese bends best, but if you prefer something else, go for it)

add hot dog

Now, place one half the hotdog in the center of the bread and cheese. Fold diagonally and grill like a grilled cheese.

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And here is what you get. The hotdog is cooked, so really you just need the cheese to melt and the bread to brown. Hotdog Griller!

 

Recipe for Hot Dog Griller:

(serves 2)

2 slices whole wheat bread (any square sliced bread will work fine)

1 hotdog (regular size, any brand)

1 T. margarine

2 slices American cheese (or whatever you like best)

1/8 cup water (if steaming hot dog)

Directions:

Steam hot dog in 1/8 cup water.  When water fully evaporates, the hot dog should be done.  Cut in half lengthwise. Set aside.

Spread margarine on one side of each of the slices of bread.  Turn over, place cheese and half a hot dog.  Fold in half forming a triangle.  Grill as you would a grilled cheese until both sides are golden brown.  Cut in half making two smaller triangles or leave as one large triangle.  (If your child loves mustard either use as a dipping sauce or place on hot dog when building sandwich, my suggesting would be to try as a dipping sauce first to ensure they still like mustard with the cheese.

Enjoy!

lucas

Planting Peas – Part 1

many plants

My kids love peas! They especially love Sugar Snap Peas.  For a regular week night dinner, I am not opposed to popping a frozen bag of steamed veggi’s in the microwave.  We probably have steam in the bag veggi’s 3x per week in the winter.  But, when spring comes, I can’t help but get the gardening bug!  I am so tired of the dreary weather that winter brings and living in the Northeast, this year is a prime example of how nasty winter weather can be.  But, I digress.

Spring is a happy time.  A time of green!  This year, I decided to get my kids involved.  My son is loving this gardening project.  We planted a whole garden full of veggi’s in our front bay window.  (Our dog’s favorite spot to lounge out… Sorry Rocky!)

Peas are a GREAT starter vegetable if you’ve never planted a garden before.  And an especially great one if you’re getting your kids involved.  They germinate quickly and give you lots and lots of yummy veggi goodness in not such a long time.  And if you are in the northern part of the country, they are one of the first plantable plants outside.  They are actually considered a spring veggi as they don’t do so well in the extreme heat of summer.  Peas are a wonderful source of Vitamin K, fiber, manganese, B-1 (all the B’s really) and Vitamin C to name a few!

Today, I will show you a little of how we have started our garden.  Disclaimer… Peas normally get planted right outside, but we wanted to start early and inside when it was much too cold, so I’ll show you how we will remedy that at the end.

dirt

We started with some ‘starter soil’ that is good for seeding your own vegetation. Placed that in a recyclable paper pot.

peas

We put two little peas in the dirt. My son loved this part!

small plant

It took about a week before we saw a little green coming up through the dirt. And about 5 weeks later we saw this.

big plants

A week later we saw this!  Peas are vine growers, and these are ready to start grabbing on to something!

lucas

My son reminds me every day that we need to water the plants. (No, that is not actual spring water he is watering with… we recycled the bottle and it gives him a lot of control over where the water ends up)

lucas2

Our next step, is to bring the plants outside each day this week and plant them next week sometime…  Stay tuned!